Anna Kearney Guigné. The Forgotten Songs of the Newfoundland Outports: As Taken from Kenneth Peacock’s Newfoundland Field Collection, 1951-1961. Music re-edited and transcribed by Evelyn Osborne. Mercury Series, Cultural Studies Paper 87. (Ottawa: Canadian Museum of History and University of Ottawa Press, 2016)
By Peter G. Toner
Kenneth Peacock’s three-volume Songs of the Newfoundland Outports (1965) is well-known among Atlantic Canadian folklorists and ethnomusicologists as an important contribution to the collection of Newfoundland folksongs, following on the heels of academic collectors like Elizabeth Greenleaf and Grace Mansfield, Maud Karpeles, MacEdward Leach, and Margaret Sargent McTaggart, as well as local folksong promoters and popularizers like James Murphy, John Burke, and Gerald Doyle. Peacock, working on behalf of the National Museum of Canada, made six field trips to Newfoundland between 1951 and 1961 and collected a total of 766 songs and melodies from 118 singers in 38 communities, of which 546 were published in Songs of the Newfoundland Outports.
Much recent scholarship on folk music and other aspects of folk culture (for example, Neil Rosenberg, Transforming Tradition: Folk Music Revivals Examined, 1993 and Ian McKay, The Quest of the Folk: Antimodernism and Cultural Selection in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia, 1994) quite correctly scrutinizes the curatorial and editorial choices that underlie field collecting, sound recording, musical transcription, festival organization, radio broadcast, album production, and the publication of folksong collections, each of which is an activity that engages a process of cultural selection on the part of the collector/recordist/impresario, both in “the field” and afterward. There always appears to be a gap between the total repertories of folk singers, the subset of those repertories chosen for collection in the field, and the even smaller subset of the latter chosen for publication, and at each stage certain songs are canonized as “authentic” and “traditional” while others may be quietly forgotten. Gaining a clear perspective on the nature of those curatorial and editorial choices is still a pressing challenge for contemporary folksong scholarship.