Sharp, Cecil (James)

(b London, 22 Nov 1859; d London, 28 June 1924). English folk music collector and editor. He was educated at Uppingham and Clare College, Cambridge, where he read mathematics and took the first part of the MusB examination. At the end of his life Cambridge made him an honorary MMus (1923). He began working in Australia, where among other activities he played the organ at Adelaide Cathedral and became a partner in a music school. In 1892 he returned to England and became music master at Ludgrove Preparatory School (for which he edited a collection of national songs) and then in 1896 principal of the Hampstead Conservatory, a post that he held until 1905.

Two events turned his attention to folk music: on Boxing Day 1899 he saw the Headington Morris side at Oxford dance Laudnum Bunches and four other traditional dances; and in the summer of 1903, while staying at Hambridge, Somerset, he heard a gardener sing The Seeds of Love as he mowed a lawn. He quickly realized the potential significance and value of traditional arts, dance as well as song, for musical, social and educational purposes and thereafter devoted his life with missionary fervour to their preservation and propagation. Although not the first English folksong collector (the Folk-Song Society had been founded in 1898), he soon became the most important.

His first publication was Folk Songs from Somerset, issued in five parts between 1904 and 1909. English Folk Song: Some Conclusions (1907) was the first serious comprehensive study of the subject and remained so for half a century. His first publication on the dance was The Morris Book (1907–13). From then on he continued to collect both songs and dances, enlarging both categories to include carols and shanties in the one and John Playford’s social dances in the other. By 1911 he was convinced of the need for a society to treat traditional dance as the Folk-Song Society, of which he was a member, treated folksong; he conceived the English Folk Dance Society though as a more active body that practised as well as collected and studied the surviving traditional dances. In 1914 he was able to provide traditional songs and dances for Granville Barker’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in London and later in New York, which he visited during a lecture tour after the outbreak of war.

Sharp’s visit to America had far-reaching consequences. It led him to make a large collection of songs of English origin and local ‘square dances’ in Appalachia. This in turn gave impetus to American efforts, subsequently taken up by American universities, to collect and publish their traditional ballads and songs, both English and indigenous, and to conserve their other traditional arts. Maud Karpeles accompanied him as amanuensis and assistant on his three later wartime visits to the USA, and after his death she edited and published two volumes of his English Folk-Songs from the Southern Appalachians in a library edition; Sharp himself published several books of these and other Appalachian songs between 1917 and 1923. After the war he devoted himself to re-establishing the work he had started: he founded vacation schools, gave lectures and demonstrations and revised earlier publications. He also did research on the history of the dance in collaboration with his friend Paul Oppé, who provided the illustrations for Sharp’s posthumously published book on the subject. His aim of ‘restoring their songs and dances to the English people’ was further advanced by his appointment by the Board of Education as occasional inspector of training colleges. Sharp made a unique contribution to the movement to preserve and disseminate the heritage of English folksongs and dances: he collected 4977 tunes, of which he published 1118 and provided accompaniments for 501. This was not only an outstandingly valuable achievement in itself; he also gave an impetus to the renaissance of English art music through the use that composers such as Vaughan Williams, Holst and Butterworth made of material that he had collected and made known to them.


English Folk Song: Some Conclusions (London, 1907, rev. 4/1965 by M. Karpeles)

Folk-Singing in Schools (London, 1912)

Folk-Dancing in Elementary and Secondary Schools (London, 1912)

The Folk-Song Fallacy: a Reply’, English Review, xi (1912), 542

Some Notes on the Morris Dance’, English Folk-Dance Society’s Journal, i/1 (1914), 6–8

English Folk Dance: the Country Dance’, MT, lvi (1915), 658–61

with A.P. Oppé: The Dance: an Historical Survey of Dancing in Europe (London and New York, 1924/R)

Charles (Louis) Seeger

(b Mexico City, 14 Dec 1886; d Bridgewater, CT, 7 Feb 1979). Musicologist, composer, conductor, critic and musical philosopher. His initial interest was in composition and conducting, and he joined numerous young American composers in Europe in the years immediately following his graduation from Harvard (1908). He spent a season (1910–11) as a conductor at the Cologne Opera before returning to the USA as a composer and chairman of the department of music at the University of California, Berkeley (1912–19), where he gave the first American courses in musicology in 1916. Several of his compositions were destroyed in the Berkeley fire (1923). Subsequently he was a lecturer and instructor at the Institute of Musical Art, New York (1921–33), the forerunner of the Juilliard School, and lecturer at the New School for Social Research (1931–5), where, with Henry Cowell, he taught the first courses in ethnomusicology given in the USA (1931). Concurrently he was active in the organization and development of the Composers Collective and other programmes devoted to the growth and dissemination of American composition. One of his outstanding students, ruth Crawford, later became his second wife. His own compositions written at this time include a number of songs, with piano or orchestral accompaniment, as well as many instrumental works. He also worked as a music critic for several American newspapers and journals, including the Daily Worker, for which he wrote under the pseudonym Carl Sand.

In 1935 Seeger moved to Washington, DC, where he served as music technical adviser in Roosevelt’s Resettlement Administration (1935–7), deputy director of the Federal Music Project of Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (1937–41), and chief of the music division of the Pan-American Union (1941–53). Under his energetic and far-sighted supervision, much fieldwork was done in North and Latin America, followed by many publications and recordings. He returned to university teaching, as research musicologist at the Institute of Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles (1960–70), and lecturer at various New England universities, including Brown, Harvard and Yale. He was a founder (and chairman, 1930–34) of the New York Musicological Society, reorganized with his help in 1934 as the American Musicological Society (of which he was president in 1945–6), as well as the American Society for Comparative Musicology (president, 1935), the Society for Ethnomusicology (president, 1960–61; honorary president from 1972), the International Society for Music Educators, the College Music Society and the International Music Council; he was also vice-president of the Gesellschaft für Vergleichende Musikwissenschaft (1934–6).

Seeger concentrated on general ethnomusicology and its theory, in which he had considerable influence as a largely prescriptive and philosophical writer. He pointed out that the evaluation of all music in terms of Western art music is a cultural anachronism, and emphasized that in much non-Western music the performer, rather than a ‘composer’, is the main creator or re-creator. In his ‘Preface to the Critique of Music’ (1963) he criticized the habit of assessing both art and folk music by way of value judgments in the absence of an objective descriptive method, and in ‘The Music Process’ (1966) he approached the fundamental difficulty of describing music through the distorting medium of speech. The same essay set out his strictures on classifying peoples according to social strata, and on the limitations of the expression ‘national music’. In the 1930s he became interested in the development of machines for music analysis, and he considered the value of automatic music writing (using ‘Seeger melographs’) as an aid to the objective perception and understanding of unfamiliar music. His lifelong interest in American folk music has been continued in his children’s work; he recorded and, with his second wife, Ruth Crawford, transcribed and edited American folksongs, and with Ruth, and John and Alan Lomax he produced a major study of American folk music, Folk Song: USA (New York, 1947/R, 2/1975).

The freshness of Seeger’s thinking, his constant concern for the balance between society and the individual, and the extent and variety of his work have made an outstanding impact on both American and international attitudes to music and its place in society.


with E.G. Stricklen: Outline of a Course in Harmonic Structure and Simple Musical Invention (Berkeley, 1913, 2/1916 by E.G. Stricklen as Harmonic Structure and Elementary Composition)

Music in the American University’, Educational Review, lxvi (1923), 95–9

On Dissonant Counterpoint’, MM, vii/4 (1930), 25–31

Grassroots for American Music’, MM, xvi/3 (1938), 143–9

The Importance to Cultural Understanding of Folk and Popular Music’, Conference on Inter-American Relations in the Field of Music: Washington 1939 [last item, 10pp.]

Systematic and Historical Orientations in Musicology’, AcM, xi (1939), 121–8

Contrapuntal Style in the Three-Voice Shape-Note Hymns’, MQ, xxvi (1940), 483–93

Folk Music as a Source of Social History’, The Cultural Approach to History, ed. C.F. Ware (New York, 1940), 316–23

Music as Recreation (Washington, 1940)

Music and Government: Field for an Applied Musicology’, PAMS 1944, 11–20

Music in the Americas’, Bulletin of the Pan American Union, lxxix (1945), 26–8, 149–52, 290–93, 341–4, 521–5

The Arts in International Relations’, JAMS, ii (1949), 36–43

Professionalism and Amateurism in the Study of Folk Music’, Journal of American Folklore, lxii (1949), 107–13; repr. in The Critics and the Ballad, ed. M. Leach and T.P. Coffin (Carbondale, IL, 1961), 151–60

Music and Musicology in the New World’, HMYB, vi (1949–50), 36–56

Systematic Musicology: Viewpoints, Orientations and Methods’, JAMS, iv (1951), 240–48

Music and Society: some New World Evidence of their Relationship’, Latin-American Fine Arts: Austin 1951 [Latin-American Studies, xiii (1952)], 84–97; rev. version pubd separately (Washington DC, 1952)

Preface to the Description of a Music’, IMSCR V: Utrecht 1952, 360–70

Folk Music in the Schools of a Highly Industrialized Society’, JIFMC, v (1953), 40–44

Music and Class Structure in the United States’, American Quarterly, ix (1957), 281–94

Toward a Universal Music Sound-Writing for Musicology’, JIFMC, ix (1957), 63–6

The Appalachian Dulcimer’, Journal of American Folklore, lxxi (1958), 40–51

Prescriptive and Descriptive Music-Writing’, MQ, xliv (1958), 184–95

Singing Style’, Western Folklore, xvii (1958), 3–11

On the Moods of a Music Logic’, JAMS, xiii (1960), 224–61

The Cultivation of Various European Traditions in the Americas’, IMSCR VIII: New York 1961, i, 364–75

Semantic, Logical and Political Considerations bearing upon Research in Ethnomusicology’, EthM, v (1961), 77–80

Introduction’, ‘Preface to the Critique of Music’, Conferencia interamericana de etnomusicologia I: Cartagena, Colombia 1963, 9–11; 39–63; ‘Preface’ pubd separately as Inter-American Music Bulletin, no.49 (1965)

Tradition and the (North) American Composer: a Contribution to the Ethnomusicology of the Western World’, Music in the Americas: Bloomington, IN, 1965, 195–212

The Folkness of the Non-Folk vs. the Non-Folkness of the Folk’, Folklore and Society: Essays in Honor of Benj. A. Botkin, ed. B. Jackson (Hatboro, PA, 1966), 1–9

The Music Process as a Function in a Context of Functions’, YIAMR, ii (1966), 1–36

Versions and Variants of the Tunes of “Barbara Allen” in the Archive of American Folk Song in the Library of Congress: with Comments on the Words by Ed Cray’, Selected Reports, i/1 (1966), 120–67

Factorial Analysis of the Song as an Approach to the Formation of a Unitary Field Theory’, JIFMC, xx (1968), 33–9

On the Formational Apparatus of the Music Compositional Process’, EthM, xiii (1969), 230–47

Toward a Unitary Field Theory for Musicology’, Selected Reports, i/3 (1970), 171–210

Reflections upon a Given Topic: Music in Universal Perspective’, EthM, xv (1971), 385–98

World Musics in American Schools: A challenge to be met’, Music Educators Journal, lix/2 (1972–3), 107–11

In memoriam: Carl Ruggles’, PNM, x/2 (1971–2), 171–4

Tractatus Esthetico-semioticus’, Current Thought in Musicology, ed. J.W. Grubbs (Austin, 1976)

ed. with B. Wade: Essays for a Humanist: an Offering to Klaus Wachsmann (New York, 1977) [incl. ‘Sources of Evidence and Criteria for Judgment in the Critique of Music’, 261–76]

Studies in Musicology, 1935–75 (Berkeley, 1977)

with M. Valiant: Journal of a Field Representative’, EthM, xxiv (1980), 169–210

ed. A.M. Pescatello: Studies in Musicology II, 1929–1979 (Berkeley, 1994)

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