Mudcat Café message #3338634 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #143708   Message #3338634
Posted By: GUEST,Lighter
15-Apr-12 - 10:45 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Child Ballads: US Versions Part 2
Subject: RE: Origins: Child Ballads: US Versions Part 2
Jim, Brian, I didn't expect my dashed-off remarks to be scrutinized so closely.

> Only academic types pay much attention to just which forebear sang a song.

What I mean to say is that we see that scholars (especially since Child) want to trace songs or song-versions historically and accurately and as far back as possible. We do not know what proportion of "source singers" share this impractical, inessential, and even pedantic concern. What most appear to be interested in is the song and its associations.

And even those who are historically-minded may not *know* just how long a song (and in what version) has been in their family. If they believe a song to be old, it is easy to assert (not deceptively but innocently) that it's been in the family for a hundred or two hundred years. That's not lying, it's taking something for granted.

> If it's claimed to go back beyond grandma (assuming today's singer really learned it from her), and there's no documentary evidence (and there almost never is), it's pretty untrustworthy.

By "assuming" and "really," I simply meant "when this is really known to be the case." A singer's testimony that grandma sang the song to him directly is ordinarily to be accepted.

I don't suspect that singers are liars, but one can learn a song from mom and easily assume that she learned it from grandma when actually she didn't.

> with a tiny number of exceptions we have no idea of what our traditional singers knew or thought about their songs simply because hardly anybody bothered to ask them.

True.