Fonds S1994001 - Ken Perlman fonds

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Ken Perlman fonds

General material designation

  • Moving images

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on the provenance of the fonds

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Reference code

CA PCNCU S1994001

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • 1991-1992 (Creation)
    Perlman, Ken

Physical description area

Physical description

79 videocassettes (ca. 110 hr.)

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Archival description area

Name of creator

Perlman, Ken (b. 1949)

Biographical history

Ken Perlman was born in New York City, New York, in 1949 to Harry Perlman and Mary Bransky Perlman. He grew up in New York and attended Francis Lewis High School and Cornell University. In the late 1980s, Perlman completed a Master of Music degree with an Ethnomusicology specialty from Brown University.

Perlman is an accomplished banjo and finger-style guitar player and is considered a pioneer of the five-string banjo style known as the "melodic clawhammer". Perlman's influences include the traditional music of Scotland, Ireland, Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, and the American South. He has released six albums to date, and has written several banjo and guitar instruction books. Perlman has also served on the staff of various teaching festivals.

In addition to being a professional musician, Perlman is also an active folklorist, and has spent several years studying traditional fiddle playing on Prince Edward Island. During the summer of 1989, Perlman was staying with Dan Gillis in Fairfield, PEI when he attended the local "Monticello Tea Party" town day. He met several fiddlers at this event who in turn introduced him to other Island fiddle players. Within a matter of days, Perlman had met several fiddlers from all across the Island and was highly impressed by the quality of their playing.

In 1991, Perlman received a grant from the Massachusetts-based Earthwatch Organization to collect and record musical performances and oral histories of Island fiddle players. During the summers of 1991 and 1992, he traveled across the Island with a group of volunteers, creating audio and video recordings of interviews with local "old time" fiddlers. Perlman and his volunteers also attended and filmed local fiddle festivals, ceilidhs, and house parties as part of their study of the PEI fiddle culture.

Perlman's study of traditional Island fiddling has resulted in several major projects. In 1993, he produced a booklet and accompanying audio cassette entitled The Old Time Fiddlers of Prince Edward Island (Crown Point, IN: Marimac Recordings, 1993). In 1996, he published a tune book entitled The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island: Celtic and Acadian Tunes in Living Tradition (Pacific, MO: Mel Bay Publications, 1996). This book contains transcriptions of over 425 tunes performed by 60 Island fiddle players recorded during the summers of 1991 and 1992. In 1997, he released The Prince Edward Island Style of Fiddling (Rounder Records, 1997), a two CD collection of Island fiddling recorded during an eight-day period in the fall of 1996. In 1997 and 1998, Perlman received publishing awards from the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation for his active work in preserving and promoting Island culture. Perlman has also published several articles related to his Island fiddle research in both Canada and the United States. His passion for traditional Island fiddle tunes can also be seen in his own commercial recordings, particularly Northern Banjo (Copper Creek Records, 2001), Island Boy (Wizmak Recordings, 1996), and Devil in the Kitchen (Marimac Music, ca. 1994), which feature traditional PEI and Cape Breton fiddle tunes arranged for banjo.

Perlman lives in Leominster, Massachusetts.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The fonds consists of 79 videocassette tapes filmed by Ken Perlman and a group of volunteers. Most of the tapes were filmed during the summer of 1992; however, the fonds includes some tapes from 1991. The videocassettes have been divided into the following series:

Series 1: Interviews
Series 2: Festivals, ceilidhs, and house parties

Notes area


Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Location of originals

Original videocassettes are held by the donor

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Finding aids


Associated materials

Books and recordings by Ken Perlman about Island fiddling as well as other records relating to fiddling on Prince Edward Island can be located through the Robertson Library online catalogue and the PEI Special Collections card catalogue under the subject headings PEI—MUSIC and PEI— VIOLIN

See also Bowing Down Home, an online repository of sound and video recordings, photographs, and essays created by Perlman during his 1991-1992 and 2006 research visits to Prince Edward Island.

Related materials


General note

Located in Special Collections 4-L D-2 and 4-L D-3

Alternative identifier(s)

Robertson Library accession number

SMI-ARCH 1994-001

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Description record identifier

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Language of description

  • English

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