About This Site | Bowing Down Home

Bowing Down Home is a project to document the fiddling traditions of Prince Edward Island.

Role of Ken Perlman

At the core of this site are the recordings of Island musicians made by Ken Perlman, a musician and ethnographer from Boston. In 1991 and 1992, Ken  brought several teams to the Island and collected musical performances and oral histories from well over 100 fiddlers and musicians from Souris to Tignish. He was able to continue these activities in 2006, when he was able to raise the total number of Islanders recorded to over 150. The resulting material - videos, audio recordings, and photographs - as well as Ken’s musical and ethnographic analysis, form the basis of this collection.

Ken studied Island fiddling intensively, and is known on the Island for his book of musical notation, The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island.  He has keen ear and excellent musical skills, and documented the regional differences in style and technique across the Island. He also describes the cultural history of fiddling on PEI, and how it evolved from the early 20th to the 21st century. This cultural history is also the main focus of his new book Couldn’t Have a Wedding Without the Fiddler: The Story of Traditional Fiddling on Prince Edward Island. Ken continues to serve as the site curator.

Open to expansion

The musicians featured on this site do not represent an exhaustive survey of talent on the Island, nor is the inclusion/exclusion of any musician an indication of merit. Fiddlers and other members of the community were interviewed if they were available, interested, and made known to the curator. If you can provide information on someone you think should be on this list, please let us know!  

We’d love to expand the material available on our site and we welcome the submission of additional items – not only audio and video recordings but also diaries, newspaper clippings, photographs, and anything else that helps tell the story of Island fiddlers past and present. Please see our contribution page for more details.

Sources of Support

The 1991 and 1992 collecting projects were funded by grants from the EarthWatch Organization of Watertown, Massachusetts. The 2006 project was funded by a grant from  the Canadian Museum of History (then, the Canadian Museum of Civilization). In 2007, the materials recorded in 1991 and 1992 were given in trust to the Canadian Museum of History, which set the Bowing Down Home project in motion shortly thereafter. Bowing Down Home was within months of completion in 2011 when the project was postponed indefinitely. In 2013, under the direction of Mark Leggott, the Robertson Library developed a dual-sponsorship arrangement with the Museum of History to develop Bowing Down Home under the umbrella of the Island Archives project. Thanks to Bishop Faber MacDonald’s generous financial gifts, the library brought in a librarian and Islandora programmer, Rosie Le Faive, to put the project together in August 2014.

Technical Infrastructure

Bowing Down Home is built on Islandora, an open source digital repository (i.e. archiving) software that was developed at UPEI. As part of the Island Archives project and other work, UPEI has hosted many digital repositories, but most were not so rich in different types of media that were related to each other. The modules enabling these features will soon be released on Github.

Future Goals

Bowing Down Home’s goal was to collect, promote and document the historical traditions of fiddling. PEI has a dynamic music scene, and we think the technical framework developed for this site could be a great platform for also documenting the current music traditions and tunes. This will require a significant expansion in mission. If you’d like to help us with this project please contact us.