Scope and Contents note
The collection documents banjoist Paul Cadwell (1889 1985). Most of the material originally belonged to him; exceptions to this include photographs of Frances Reed (Cadwell's first wife), travel ephemera of Frances Reed, banjo music of William Brewer, and banjo history writings of Brewer. British banjoist William Brewer corresponded regularly with Cadwell through the 1950s. Though they never met, a close friendship developed between the men. After Brewer's death, Brewer's son mailed his father's banjo materials to Cadwell (see correspondence from Basil Brewer). Series 8, "Reed Travel Ephemera," is largely unrelated to both Cadwell and the banjo most items date from before Reed's marriage to Cadwell. This series is unprocessed as of this writing. Most of Cadwell's audio recordings (both discs and tapes) fell outside the museum's collections scope and so were not kept. A complete inventory, however, has been attached at the end of this register.
The bulk of the collection consists of music for the five string banjo, often with piano and/or second banjo accompaniments. The Cadwell and the Brewer banjo music have been placed in separate subseries. The Cadwell music is organized alphabetically by title of composition; much of this material is fragile and a majority of the music is in manuscript rather than published scores. The Brewer subseries maintains his careful organization: alphabetical by composer or arranger separating the American from the British composers/ arrangers. Almost no sheets have cover illustrations. Many of the editions are British (which rarely give a copywrite date).
Bluegrass and folk banjo music from the second half of the 20th century, when written, was written in tablature. "Classic" five-string banjo music is written in standard notation with some adaptations. The Brooks and Denton compositions were given in both standard notation and tablature and an arrangement of "Dueling Banjos" is in tablature. All other banjo compositions are written in standard notation. Some compositions are in C notation, others were transposed to A. Earlier in the 19th century, the banjo sounded in A and the music was written in A. With the technological changes in banjo construction of the late 19th century, the pitch of the banjo went up and generally sounded in C. The British were quick to switch to C notation, but American banjoists, wedded to tradition, were slow to make the change.
Cadwell had music in both C and A notation; presumably, he could play both. Adaptations to standard notation include the following indications for which finger should pluck the string: + = thumb, = first finger, = second finger. "12 B " indicates that the marked section should be played using a barre at the 12th fret. A sixteenth note flag up high G (high E in A notation) is used when the note should be played on the short thumb string.
Most of the music is for standard five-string banjo. There is a small amount of music for four-string tenor or plectrum banjo (as well as a few selections for mandolin and guitar). Two forms of the five string banjo appear in the music collection: the banjeurine and the zither banjo. The banjeurine was popular in banjo clubs, slightly smaller, tuned higher, and usually played lead. The zither banjo is peculiar to Britain. The two highest strings are of metal and the lower strings of the "classic" standard gut, nylon, or wound silk. The banjo has a resonator, but unlike American banjos with resonators, the head sits flush with the resonator. Many of the British compositions are labeled for zither banjo and are intended to take advantage of the peculiarities of that instrument's sound.