Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Music

First Advisor

Alan L. Spurgeon

Second Advisor

Michael Worthy

Third Advisor

Alan L. Spurgeon


University of Mississippi

Relational Format



ABSTRACT Thorough examination of the existing research and the content of ballad and folk song collections reveals a lack of information regarding the methods by which folk musicians learn the music they perform. The centuries-old practice of folk song and ballad performance is well-documented. Many Child ballads and other folk songs have been passed down through the generations. Oral tradition is the principal method of transmission in Ozark folk music. The variants this method produces are considered evidence of authenticity. Although alteration is a distinguishing characteristic of songs passed down in the oral tradition, many ballad variants have persisted in the folk record for great lengths of time without being altered beyond recognition. This fact reveals the existence of a formidable teaching and learning method that deserves extensive investigation. This research represents a deeper understanding of how folk musicians learn the music they perform. It includes information about methods of folk music teaching and learning not previously recorded in the extant research. Informants’ statements about their personal learning experiences can be connected to widely accepted theories of learning. These connections are some of the most important findings reported in this research. In addition, this research provides an exploration of folk musicians’ beliefs about the roles of family lineage, places of birth, and methods of transmission in authentic folk music performance. This work contains evidence of a fundamental change in what folk musicians consider authentic methods of transmission. The exploration of authenticity, the effects of technology on folk music learning, and oral transmission provided here is a step forward in the study of Ozark folk music.



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