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Gibb Sahib The Advent and Development of Chanties (875* d) RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties 12 May 18


We are already aware though, I think, that chanty singing is non-narrative. As I put it in my teaching: There's a start and a stop, but not a beginning and end. We know it both from earlier authors' statements and from the direct evidence of the texts themselves. What would be notable (though not terribly) about Bowling's statement, in my opinion, is he is saying this in the context of an article that is presumably about the "passing" of the genre/practice and in which one might expect a similar idealization and romanticization as one sees in many other writings of that style/time period. But he doesn't do the latter.

The typology / categorization of chanty repertoire by task, as a concept, may have been put on the table by certain writers (as I outline in _Boxing the Compass_). The truism of "things can vary" is another one but there e.g. by Hugill as a response, something I also address in BTC. The truth is somewhere in the middle. It's clear that certain items of repertoireŚmore to the point, certain styles of songŚwere predominantly applied to one task or another. "Blow the Man Down" is overwhelmingly attributed to halyards, specifically topsail halyards, and I think for Hugill to say one might also sing it at the capstan is true but disingenuous, and maybe even part of his M.O. to constantly assert his superior (e.g. more nuanced) understanding over other plebs'. Go ahead and apply lots of different songs to capstan, sure... but try doing the "reverse" and applying them to halyards--Nope! Doesn't work. The "Misleading Capstan Issue" (as I'll call it) causes a lot of confusion; because it appears that one can sing nearly "any" song at the capstan, and because people apply a definition to "chanty" that identifies its place of practice (shipboard) rather than its sound-form, you get this situation where it appears "Tiny Bubble" could be a chanty and where chanties can be said to have come from every cultural group in the world and where they can be any speed and any meter and whatever form, etc... and where ultimately one who asserts some borders may be called (in Hugill's words) "too dogmatic". But that weird dogmatism was some by product of the Revival that Hugill had to deal with. I don't think we are being dogmatic if we are being descriptive, accurately. And anti-dogma rhetoric from Hugill, in my opinion, keeps us from being accurate.

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