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78 An Introduction to Folk Music in the United States
intricacies and fascinations of collecting folk music.
Perhaps a few words should be said about the recording media. Magnetic tape recording is of course the easiest from the point of view of convenience and is preferable for work in the laboratory. In studying a piece of music or trying to reduce it to notation, it is necessary to repeat short bits of it many times, a process which easily wears out a disk recording but not tape or wire. Wire, however, is prone to break under such strain and, once broken, ties itself into little knots which are almost impossible to handle. The result is a roomful of loose wire which can never be repaired, and often several minutes of music are lost in the process. Tape may also break, but it can be spliced very easily.
Tape should move as rapidly as possible on the recorder for best acoustic results. But speed could increase the cost of tape considerably. A rate of 7-1/2 inches per second is suflBciently fast, 15 inches practically ideal. For solo singing and some instruments, 3 3/4 is satisfactory and can be used for anything if necessary, but 1 7/8 is definitely too slow because it reproduces too few cycles. However, even at 7-1/2 inches per second tape is usually less costly than disks, so tape has all the advantages.
Besides making recordings, the collector should also assemble and write down a great deal of information about the music in order to make his collection of maximum usefulness. He must note what songs are sung by each informant, how often, and when. The types and functions of the songs should be reported, and if possible it should be ascertained where the informant learned each piece. Then there is much information about the musical culture of the group, something not directly related to the recordings, which helps nevertheless in their interpretation. For example, there is the question of composition, that is, who composes songs, and how. Furthermore, we are interested in standards of performance, for these, of course, vary from culture to culture. For example, the Plains Indians prefer performance by high voices, but the Pueblo Indians of the Southwest prefer a low, growling rendition. The collector should find out who the good performers in a community are and what, in the minds of