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76 An Introduction to Folk Music in the United States
Because he was not acquainted with the native system of music and perceived it only by comparing it with his own, he had gradually and unconsciously changed the song to conform to his own ideas and tastes and to what had been his musical experience.
Today's standard collecting equipment is the tape recorder; but in the past collectors have used Edison cylinders, some operated by a treadle similar to that of a sewing machine; then disks; and after World War II, wire. Tape recording did not become popular in the United States until very recently, although it has been used longer in Germany, where the first collection of folk music on tape was probably Dr. Fritz A. Bose's work in 1936 on German folk ballads.^ Collecting is a rather arduous and specialized task, involving more than simply finding a band of Indians and switching on the current. It requires knowledge of the material which is to be collected, acquaintance with the culture of the informants, and a great deal of patience, understanding, and ability to handle people, resembling a combination of public relations and mental therapy. Having decided upon a group, a student must begin by reading the literature on the music and culture of the group, and considering the special problems facing a collector of its music. Collecting Indian music, for instance, involves careful selection of informants, for many Indians today do not know the old Indian songs and only a few remember them well. Let us consider ideal collecting conditions from the research scholar's point of view. Of course, the amateur collector need not feel that he must follow every point brought up here, but if he does, his collection will be more useful and worthwhile.
First, the collector must try to find an informant who is considered an authority on folk music in his community, if possible a person who has not spent much time outside his culture. He should be persuaded to sing as many songs as he knows, even if some are fragmentary. Often such a person is rather old and his voice will not be as good as in the past; but the fact that he knows much material and remembers a bygone era makes him a worthwhile informant. Then the collector should find others and collect from them whatever they know, especially including, if possible, the same material as that collected from the first in-