Mark Wilson, American Fiddleologist

I was introduced to the important work of Mark Wilson the other day by Dr John Shaw of Edinburgh University. Of course, I was familiar with Wilson in passing but had not been aware of the scale of his contribution to fiddle studies until I read this article by him. I am particularly drawn to the following lines which relate to revival:

…Just as importantly from the viewpoint of musical psychology, a “folk musician” typically expects to find his or her audience locally as well–a fiddler strives to play for the local dances, not to appear in vaudeville or the concert hall; a singer’s ambitions reach only as far as singing for her children or for fellow miners during a lunch break. This basic modesty of intent is closely connected, in my opinion, with much of the music’s charm.

…As one who likes to fiddle a bit himself, I am cheered by the vigor of these enthusiasts, but it is an unfortunate fact that these efforts sometimes have the inadvertent effect of pushing genuine traditional music into even deeper obscurity (rather, I’m afraid, as the “cover” recordings of Pat Boone temporarily eclipsed Little Richard’s originals). Indeed, because the “revivalists” are usually better equipped to promote themselves successfully, one often encounters a situation in Appalachia today where “folk festivals” are largely dominated by these groups, even if excellent traditional musicians may live nearby. To my ears at least, the music of the revivalists has become rather ingrown, for they learn mainly amongst themselves, and frequently lacks the virtues that supply
genuine traditional music with its special elan. For example, the fiddle playing one
often hears in these circles ranges from the bland to the pointlessly frenetic,
interpretations that all grow from a failure to appreciate the intrinsic subtleties of
the American dance tradition.

… I have been disheartened by the attitudes current among professional folklorists who, because of unhappy intellectual trends in academia, often regard honest recording work as mildly contemptible. Thus the folklore unit at a university where I recently taught found it far more worthwhile to probe the
attitudes–they call them “social constructions”–towards “things Irish” of the
middle-class burghers of Dublin, Ohio rather than spend any time capturing the old fiddle tunes that can still found in the countryside.

… misapprehensions are largely the artifact of conducting ones research
largely in the library rather than the field.