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Gibb Sahib The Advent and Development of Chanties (875* d) RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties 24 Aug 15

Hi, Steve,

These are just addenda.

I am working on a book dealing with the early goings-on, up to about 1845. I prefer devoting the time to that rather than Mudcat housekeeping.

I have several conference/symposium papers. The latest is from the last Mystic Music of the Sea Symposium, and can be seen here:

Most of what I have to say (though I hope to eventually say it better) about "Cheer'ly Man" is in this Mudcat thread:

I'm not too focused on "Cheer'ly" as such because I don't consider it part of "the chanty genre", but rather one particular shipboard working song that, I think, merely co-exited with chanties. I think it was practically in a class of its own, rather than representative of a genre or a wide-ranging body of songs. And I try to carefully distinguish my main topic, "the chanty genre," from a different topic, vocalizations or singing at work on sailing vessels. They overlap at times, but they aren't the same.

There is much more than port workers in the Gulf to consider. I consider there to be a wide-ranging base of an African-American style work-song paradigm or genre, connected by water indeed, but shared between such contexts as:
Squads of enslaved canoe/boat rowers
Black firefighting companies
Steamboat "deck" crews - firemen, deckhands, and roustabouts
Corn-shucking on plantations

Some of this activity introduced the genre to sailing ship crews before the Gulf ports were operating. I think the plantations and rivers of the Eastern seaboard of the US, which was then well connected to the Caribbean via ports at the mouths of those rivers, provided the first "layer" of chanty-singing to deep sea craft. We are talking end of 18h c, through 1830s.

I suggest some of the prior established customs of vocalizing at work in Anglophone ships, somewhat limited, primed them for acceptance of the chanty genre. I also think that a new found popular/mainstream appreciation of Black American music may have encouraged the adoption of chanties by non-Black seamen. Another factor was the advent of the lever windlass (discussed in my paper, above) by the mid 1840s.

Cotton-screwing remains, along with seafaring, the only of the above mentioned contexts where non-Blacks participated in chanty performance to a degree, and seems to have been a gateway to the shipboard practices. The cultural/ethnic map of the cotton-screwing is complex and varied. It started in the East (before the Gulf ports were established) and began with Blacks only. Enslaved and free Blacks (the latter who were a significant part of the population in the former French/Spanish parts of the Gulf) both worked. Slaves were "leased" out by their masters, so the pay was relevant to all. In New Orleans, Irish and German immigrants had begun to displace Black American cotton-screwers, and an all White (largely Irish) union of cotton screwers founded in 1850 excluded Blacks. But that is late in the timeline. I can't say at what point exactly, whether in the late 30's or the 40's that the Black-White balance shifted, but those years (end of 30s through mid 40s) looks to be when the next "layer" of chanty practice on ships was laid -- when transient White laborers were in most contact with the earlier-established practices of Black laborers. Things became very segregated after the U.S. Civil War, and shipboard chanty customs of European/White seamen would develop in their separate way.

In the big picture, I think shipboard work may have been the least significant context for chanty-singing. It was, however, a context where White people would become most likely to participate or observe it, resulting in that the history of chanties has tended to be told through the narrow lens of where White writers encountered it.

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