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CHRIS GOERTZEN - George P. Knauff’s Virginia Reels And The History Of American Fiddling

CHRIS GOERTZEN - George P. Knauff’s Virginia Reels And The History Of American Fiddling
University Press of Mississippi ISBN: 9781496814272

An important book. In September, the EFDSS hosted one of the first conferences here on tunes: their origins, use, repurposing and popularity (amongst other topics) which showed the growing recognition of the importance of this aspect of traditional music and song.  This book is an important study of just such an element, giving a thorough examination of Virginia Reels – “the first printed collection to contain lots of tunes and tune titles known to fiddlers in the American South today”.

Goertzen is once again an engaging and accessible author who makes light of some penetrating and extensive research.  There are fascinating sections on where these tunes came from, with particular study of Speed The Plough and Moneymusk, how titles and tunes changed and were adapted, the influence of blackface minstrelsy on the repertoire of traditional musicians, who played them and how the tunes were used.

Unfortunately, the book penalises the general or independent reader by being very expensive – currently it retails at £52.95 (eBook is £20.95).  Considering this, the reproductions of the sheet music content of Knauff’s publication, plus other illustrations and photographs are really quite poor.  I think this does a considerable disservice to the author who has produced an excellent, interesting and important book.

Paul Burgess

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This album was reviewed in Issue 123 of The Living Tradition magazine.