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Historical Essay

Wisconsin Folk Music Project Images - Image Gallery Essay

Wisconsin Folk Music Project Images | Wisconsin Historical Society
Emil Boulanger, staring straight into the camera, is posed holding his violin in playing position.

Emil Boulanger, 1946

Dyckesville, Wisconsin. Fiddle player Emil Boulanger played for dances since he was a boy. He played entirely by ear, and on a violin that he made. He was born in Dyckesville (a Belgian community) and neither spoke nor understood English. View the original source document: WHI 25394

EnlargeOtto Rindlisbacher, folk singer and maker of stringed instruments, sitting in his shop holding a Hardanger fiddle.

Otto Rindlisbacher with Hardanger Fiddle, 1941

Otto Rindlisbacher, folk singer and maker of stringed instruments, sitting in his shop holding a Hardanger fiddle. View the original source document: WHI 25413

During the summers of 1940, 1941 and 1946, University of Wisconsin School of Music faculty member Helene Stratman-Thomas traveled throughout Wisconsin with recording technician Bob Draves, capturing nearly 800 performances by more than 30 ethnic and regional singers and musicians. Included were Belgian, Cornish, Czech, Dutch, French-Canadian, German, Norwegian, Swedish and Swiss immigrants, transplanted Kentuckians, and native Ho-Chunk. They sang and played — solo or in groups — everything from the standard keyboard, fiddle or accordion, to the more unusual wood flute, psalmodikon or bells.

More than 80 photographs were taken of the artists, their instruments, and the environments in which they lived and performed. These images augment the large collection of recordings and documents housed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Mills Music Library.

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