Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)


Music History and Literature

Committee Chairperson

Julian Onderdonk, PhD

Committee Member

Hayoung Heidi Lee, PhD

Committee Member

Jordan Stokes, PhD


Bascom Lamar Lunsford (1882-1973) was a folksong collector, performer, recording artist, festival organizer. Lunsford was at once a mountaineer (a member of the Appalachian culture he collected from) and a college educated outsider. This duality complicates analysis of his views and activities, which exist along a continuum from efforts at near-exactness (preserving folksong repertory and performance practices as exactly as possible) to creative participation (actively making changes to folksong style or repertoire). Lunsford’s views often contradicted other folksong collectors, American and European, during the early 20th century. This includes his apparent assertion that folksong is a living tradition – it has room for alteration and evolution. But living tradition also encompasses conservative notions of non-evolution (near-exactness). Both have elements that do not change, but near-exactness implies changes should be limited or based off model performances. This drives the main questions asked by this thesis – what changes Lunsford found to be acceptable within folk tradition, and where he drew his line in the sand. Lunsford absolutely made departures from the source material across his performances and recordings. As a festival organizer, he also had to contend with the push and pull between showcasing genuine tradition and a tradition which was evolving around him. The question of whether Lunsford was a gatekeeper who sought to freeze tradition, or a radical creative participant, is raised by these conflicting tendencies. I argue that Lunsford drew multiple lines, and his attitudes and activities place him somewhere in the middle of rigid tradition and radical change.