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International Music

Resources for research and listening for folk and popular music from around the world.


American Folk Music

American folk music styles originated with European genres, depending on the immigrant population of each region.  The Smithsonian Institution documented music of the early 20th century using field recordings under the direction of Alan Lomax.

One of the earliest folk song collections was The American Songbook compiled by the poet Carl Sandburg.  In Appalachia, immigrants from the British Isles brought fiddling traditions.  Adding the banjo, which was an African-American instrument, resulted in "bluegrass."

In the South, slaves from Western Africa blended African sensibilities with ideas and harmonies drawn from protestant church music, forming spirituals.  In a similar vein, there were work songs and other genres of slave songs before the Emancipation of 1865.  After Emancipation, traveling musicians developed the "Delta Blues," in the Mississippi Delta region.  In New Orleans, African-American bands blended European popular music styles with African-American styles to create the music that would eventually become jazz.  For more information, see the Subject Guide for African-American Music.

In the Southwest, Spanish, German, and English ranchers created the border music styles of Texas.

In the 1950s and 1960s, American experienced a folk music revival.  Musicians such as Pete Seeger, The New Lost City Ramblers, the Kingston Trio, inspired by Woody Guthrie, released hit records that in turn influenced other musicians.  Peter, Paul, and Mary, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan are the most famous of the 1960s folk stars.

Use these subject terms in OneSearch to find books, songbooks and compact discs:

  • Folk Songs, English -- United States
  • Folk music - United States -- History and criticism
  • Indians of North America -- Music -- History and criticism
  • Folk Music -- Social Aspects -- United States
  • Songs -- United States