Canadian Journal for Traditional Music (1977)

Canadian Folk Music Holdings at Columbia University

Jay Rahn

Some of the most important collections of Canadian folk music are to be found outside the country and in most cases the contents of such archives are not widely known.' The Center for Studies in Ethnomusicology at Columbia University2 is a good case in point. It contains more than a thousand items of Canadian folk music recorded among Inuit, Northwest Indians, and Iroquois, as well as Polish, Ukrainian, French, Acadian, English, Irish, and Scottish speakers from the Prairies, Central Canada, and the Maritimes.

The bulk of this material was collected by Laura Boulton in 1941-42. During an extended series of field trips, she not only collected several hundred pieces across Canada, but also produced and directed seven short motion pictures for the National Film Board.3 Of these, all except one have survived and are currently housed in the NFB archives in Montreal.4

All of the pieces in Boulton's collection were recorded on 10-inch Presto discs at 78 rpm and have been transferred to 7-inch tape reelsat 7-1/2 ips. The extant films, all completed in 1943, are quite similar in format. Each consists largely of silent action scenes on which narration and incidental music are superimposed. Each begins and ends with indigenous music serving as background to the titles or credits, and towards the end of most there are lengthy scenes of musical events. During the remaining portions of the films there are several more pieces which fade in and out intermittently as the narration begins and ends. Considering their age and the recording equipment used, the fidelity of the accompanying music is quite good even by today's standards.

All of the pieces are catalogued in a typescript binder available on the premises.5 It contains lists of locations, ethnic groups, informants' names, and titles or generic categories for all of the pieces, as well as notes and translations for selected items. To provide some idea of the contents, the following list is offered, together with comments on the accompanying films, where appropriate. Ethnic groups, their location, and the date of the collection are indicated as well as the Center's tape numbers.

*1 would like to thank Maria A. Forde, Audiovisual Archivist with the Canadian Ethnology Service at the National Museum of Man, Karen Wilson of the Center for Studies in Ethnomusicology, Columbia University, and Mme. LaPointe of the National Film Board Archives, Montréal, for their help.

Netsilk (Chesterfield) 63:1, 2, 5, 6; 64: 10, 13, 17-19; 65: 1-2; (Fort

Horizon) 63: 10-12.

Aivilik (Chesterfield) 63: 3, 4, 13; 64: 1, 3-6, 11-12, 14; (Fort Horizon)

63: 8, 9, 14: (Southampton Island) 67: 14-15; 68: 1-19.

Okomuit (Fort Horizon) 63: 7.

Kerningmuit (Chesterfield) 64: 2, 7-9, 15-16; (Baker Lake) 65: 3, 7, 10-

21; 67: 4-13.

Savatomuit (Baker Lake) 65: 4-5, 8-15; 66: 5, 8-9.

Padleymuit (Baker Lake) 65: 6; 67: 2-3.

Tibialingmuit (Baker Lake) 66: 1-4, 6-7.

Boulton's film, Eskimo Summer (16 mm.) deals with various methods of fishing and hunting around Hudson's Bay during the summer. Eskimo Arts and Crafts (22 min.) concludes with scenes of story-telling accompanying the game of cat's cradle, the making of a drum and its stick, and a drum dance complete with wrestling match.

Northwest Indians, June, 1942.

Tshimshian (Port Simpson) 55: 1-18; 56: 1-11; 57: 1-3; (Prince Rupert)


Gitksan (Hazelton) 57: 13-14; 58: 1-8; 59: 1-2, 5-11; 60:1-4.

Carrier (Hazelton) 59: 3-4; 60: 5-6.

Haida (Queen Charlotte Islands) 60: 7-13; 61: 1-12; 62: 1-7.

People of the Potlatch (20 min.) deals with arts and crafts and concludes with scenes of acculturation: a Christian religious service, the school in Morristown, a brass band consisting of native peoples (the background music does not match the visible instrumentation here), and a sports day with foot races, tricycle races, softball games (in uniform), etc. Finally, there are shots of a traditional potlatch with singing and dancing (solo background music accompanying the three performers on the screen). In consultation with Marius Bareau, Boulton also made Totems (11 min.) dealing with totem poles of B.C.

French, August-October, 1941.

St. Pierre (tie d'Orléans) 4: 12-16; 5: 1-10.

St. Hilarion (Charievoix Co.) 5: 11-14; 6: 1-14, 16-18.

Miscontine 6: 15.

Baie St. Paul 7: 1-23; 8: 1-22; 9: 1-23; 10: 1-21.

Chute Naime 10:22-25; 11: 1-2.

Ste. Agnes 11:3-5.

La Malbaie 11: 6-8.

St. PauldelaCroix 11:9-12; 12: 1-17; 13:1-7.

Ste. Anne des Monts 17: 3-18; 18: 1-21; 19: 1-18; 20: 1-18; 21: 1-16; 22:


Port Daniel 13: 8-21; 14: 1-20; 15: 1-21; 16: 1-8.

Ottawa (Juniorat du Sacre Coeur School) 24:4-13.

Barbeau also served as consultant for Boulton's film Habitant Arts and Crafts (10 min.) which ends with scenes of a worksong accompanying the beating of homespun on Ile d'Orléans.

Acadian, July and October, 1941.

Ottawa 1: 1-21.

Orleans 2: 1-19; 3: 1-20; 4: 1-11.

Chéticamp 22: 5-15; 23: 1-13; 24: 1-3.

English, October, 1941

Gaspé 16: 9-21; 17: 1-2.

Lunenberg 25: 1-2 1; 26: 1-5.

East Chezzetcook 29: 16-17; 30: 1-14; 31: 1-15; 32: 1-12.

Irish, October, 1941.

Blue Rocks 26: 6-11.

Devil's Island 26: 21-24; 27: 1-18.

Chebucto Head Lighthouse 28: 1-12; 29: 1-15.

Scottish, October, 1941.

Salt River 32: 13; 33: 1-11; 34: 1-7.

Baddeck 34: 8-13; 35: 1-12; 36: 1-5.

North River Bridge 36: 6-17; 37: 1-8.

Antigonish 37: 9-15; 38: 1-16.

Sydney 40: 7-15; 41: 1-8; 42: 1-7; 43: 1-2; (St. Andrew's Hall) 38: 17; 39:

1-11; 40: 1-6.

Port Hawkesbury 43: 3-6, 44: 1-4.

Gaelic, October, 1941.

Nova Scotia 32: 13; 33: 1-3; 34: 8-37: 8; 38: 17-40:2; 41:7-43:2.

Ukrainian, January, 1942.

Winnipeg 44: 5-6; 45: 1-2; 46: 1-4; 47: 1-23; 48: 1-12.

Paul Yavarsky and John Taharcyk served as consultants for Boulton's Ukrainian Dance (17 mm.) which, in addition to a shot of ceremonial Christmas songs, is mostly devoted to scenes from traditional dances for soloists, couples, and groups, by children and adults alike. There are some candid shots of the audience and instrumental accompanists and some superb camera work which allows the viewer to grasp the overall patterns of the larger ensemble dances.

Polish, April, 1942.

Winnipeg 49: 1-12; 50: 1-11.

Winnipeg Beach 50: 12-14; 51: 1-12; 52: 1-4.

In addition to these collections, the Columbia Center also holds an exchange tape (arranged by Marius Barbeau) consisting of nine Iroquois pieces which seem to have been extracted from 1) the Gertrude Kurath and Joseph Raben collection made at the Six Nations Reserve in 1950 and deposited at the National Museum in Ottawa (tapes 72-1250 to 72-1253), and 2) the Marcel

Rioux collection in the same archives (tapes 72-1160 to 72-1165).6 Finally, there is a collection of 12-inch 78 rpm records transferred to tape which were made by the Columbia University Anthropology Department7 and which include some Kwakiutl items.

Taken as a whole, these recordings and films represent a remarkable achievement, especially if one takes into account the period when they were made and the time within which they made. Today they stand as important historical documents: one hopes that considerable use will be made of them.8

Columbia University,
New York City

1A noteworthy exception is, of course, the Archives of Traditional Music at Indiana University which houses several collections of Canadian materials listed in . Catalog of Phonorecordings of Music and Oral Data Held by the Archives of Traditional Music (Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., c 1975).

2The full address is 417 Dodge Hall, 116th Street and Broadway, New York, NY 10027.

3Parts of this trip are described in Boulton's book, The Music Hunter: The Autobiography of a Career (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1969), Chapters 22 and 23, "To the Eastern Arctic in Convoy" and "Eskimos of the Eastern Arctic," pp. 345-80, and Chapter 25, "The Queen Charlotte Islands and the Northwest Indians," pp. 393-410.

4Poland on the Prairies.

5Peoples of Canada, s. l. n. d.. [1972+].

6Though the National Museum also has a Laura Boulton collection, Maria Forde has informed me (personal communication, June, 1977) that almost none of the Northwest and Inuit materials and only about a third of the remaining items are housed there (73-2390-9 1; 73-2394-98).

7Concerning these, one should write to the department at 452 Schermerhom Extension, New York, NY 10027.

8To obtain copies from the Center one should supply blank tape. The Center usually copies on one side at 7'/2 ips. Technician's charges are $4.00/hr. for dubbing. Handling charges depend on the manner in which one would like the materials sent (Karen Wilson, personal communication, June 14, 1977).

Résumé: Jay Rahn fait ía description d'une importante collection de musique folkiorique déposée au Centre d 'Etudes d 'Ethnomusicologie a . 'Université Columbia. Elle comprend plus de mille item enregistrés chez les Inuit, les Indiens du Nordouest, et les Iroquois ainsi qu 'un certain nombre dans les colonies Polonaises, Ukrainiennes, Fran çaises, et Britanniques au Canada. La plus grande partie de ce materiel a été recueilli par Laura Boulton en 1941-42, alors qu 'elle fit une série de voyages sur des terrains de recherche a travers le Canada et prépara sept courts métrages pour I 'Office National du Film.