J. Marshall Bevil, Ph.D.
  "A Paradigm of Folktune Preservation and Change Within the Oral Tradition
of a Southern Appalachian Community, 1916-1986"

Read at the 1987 National Convention of the American Musicological Society, New Orleans

        Madison County, North Carolina typifies a mountain community in which the long residence of its principal families and their frequent mergers through marriage are paralleled by, and contribute to, the preservation and popularity of their songs. The present inquiry was undertaken to test three hypotheses concerning folktune centonization. These were 1) that at least in some regions the tendency toward change and loss is still countered by the penchant for preservation; 2) that this preservation is primarily a communal act resulting from and reciprocally assuring the sustained popularity of a melody among singers; and 3) that tune preservation, which relies on awareness of scalar and melodic contour norms, has been aided within individual communities by close familial and residential ties.
      The repertory surveyed includes tunes collected by Cecil Sharp from 1916-1918, the author of the current study (1986), and others during intervening years. Ninety-two variants from six melodic sets served as controls and tests in 2,010 computer-assisted comparisons. Illustrations include musical examples, select test results, video displays of computer-generated contour graphs, and isogloss maps. The last device, which is borrowed and adapted from descriptive linguistics, shows separated and overlapping geographic areas within which particular types of melodic behavior have occurred.
        Both the analytical procedure used in this investigation and the supportive computer software were developed by the present investigator in connection with his doctoral dissertation on folktune centonization  (University of North Texas, 1984 - see below), and they have undergone continuous revision and refinement since the completion of that project.

List of References on Oral-Aural Folktune Transmission
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