Folk Songs of the Catskills
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Part of the ancient Appalachians and just a few miles up the road from a massive metropolitan area, the Catskills have been home to the variety of people who have made the history of the New World.
The songs collected here reflect this history. They are songs of rafting and lumbering, war and railroads, prison and hard times, and nonsense and drinking. And they are songs of love—tragic love, thwarted love, foolish love—and sometimes even true love.
Collecting the songs began in 1941 when educator Norman Studer and composer Herbert Haufrecht led a group of young people on folklore trips through the mountains. The distinguished musician Norman Cazden continued the collection, adding his research and scholarship. The book is the cumulative work of these three colleagues. Useful as an annotated archive of regional lore, Folk Songs of the Catskills traces roots to early Scottish, Irish, Welsh, English, and American sources. Both texts and musical structure are compared to other traditional songs. Extended search for tune relatives is directed towards tracing the known use of each tune strain, whether in variants with similar texts or quite different texts.
Some of the Catskill versions of tunes have not been found elsewhere, and others are rarely encountered. Whether related to others or unique to the Catskills, the commentary on the songs in this collection contributes to a more general theory of the nature of traditional tunes and their transformation.
The late composer/musicologist and university professor, Norman Cazden, worked meticulously over a period of many years to trace traditional melodies and texts. Both Cazden and fellow composer Herbert Haufrecht were music directors of Camp Woodland, a unique summer school in the Catskill Mountains which acquainted students with the folklore of this musically rich region. The late Norman Studer, one of the founders and for many years the director of Camp Woodland, was also an ardent folklorist who spent much of his life in the hills and hollows of the Catskills looking for folksingers and yarnspinners. Together, these devoted scholars have created a work that is as enjoyable as it is rare.