Thursday, July 16, 2009

Folk Song Index

Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide To The Florence E. Brunnings Collection, volume 252 of the Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, is an indispensable reference resource. This work is actually Florence E. Brunnings' personal index to her personal collection of recordings, books, songbooks and magazines. She wrote in the introduction to her book:
In 1969 I became angry at not being able to find a particular song quickly enough in one of my many songbooks to follow the tune on the radio. So I decided to take a few weeks of spare time and make an index of all the songs in all my books in my books and on my records. The project soon became an obsession and eleven years later I had collected 49,300 cards, one for every song and every variant of a song in the 1,115 books and journals and the 695 records in my collection.
While this index cannot claim to be complete, and may not even be entirely representative, as it reflects a tendency towards Anglo-American folk music, it provides access to many songbooks in our collection or helps us track down songs in collections owned by other libraries. Of particular importance is its cross-indexing of multiple song titles and title variants. Very frequently the greatest challenge in tracking down a folksong is learning its correct title.

The index opens with a numerical listing of the indexed books and journals, a bibliography of these works, a numerical list of recordings and index of performers on these recordings.

The late Mrs. Brunnings came to this task as an enthusiast. While employed at a bank she became active as an amateur folk musician in the Boston area, and was even a library volunteer. According to her obituary in the Quincy Patriot Ledger, "She taught herself to play guitar, autoharp, recorder and the spoons. She even took requests for songs while playing the spoons in front of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston." Her Folk Song Index is truly a labor of love.

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