Mudcat Café message #3879562 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3879562
Posted By: Jim Carroll
01-Oct-17 - 04:39 AM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
"Ne'ertheless 'broadside hacks' definitely wrote many of what we now call folk ballads. "
Again Steve, we can't be certain of anything - Mayhew may well have well met the writer of Bonny Bunch; he equally might have met somebody who claimed he wrote it - the same goes for any song
Can you say for certain there were no preceding versions of Demon Lover - there are enough traditional commonplaces and general human experiences within the song to suggest there might have been
When we began recording source singers we more or less decided from the start that our work would have no meaning unless we recorded what we could of the context in which the songs were sung in an attempt, not to find who made them, but to get some idea why they might have been made and what purpose they served in the communities in which theey circulated
Probably the most important discovery we made was that a significant number had been made within the lifetime of the singers
A 90 odd year old singer told us a couple of years ago that "In those days, if a man farted in church, somebody made a song about it"
You've written this off as what happened in this part of rural Ireland, but we know that Travellers made their own songs, English Scots and Irish
Walter Pardon talked about the Union songs his Uncles sang which were made at the time Georhe Edwards was reforming the Agricultural Workers Union
These are all later songs, but there is no reason to believe that most of our traditional songs started in the same way - or if there is, it escapes me.
It seems that working men and women were natural songmaker with a desire to record their lives and opinions in verse; there is no reason to believe that they always have been
The Travellers we recorded still had a living, functioning tradition in the first three years of the 1970s (put a sudden stop to with the advent of portable televisions) - they were still making songs
The song traditions in rural Ireland still functioned as living entities into the 1950s though they had faded somewhat thanks to the conscious destruction of music and dance by the Church, with the aid of the State a few decades earlier
Both the rural and urban Irish continued to make songs because the political and cultural situation demanded them.
Walter Pardon sang songs he had assiduously gathered from his family memories, so his repertoire and his opinions represented his two uncles' experiences rather than his own - dating back to the late 19th, early 20th centuries.
Sharp and his colleagues always claimed that the traditions they were collecting from were on the wane - the English song traditions almost certainly began to die when the Industrial Revolution smashed up the rural communities and drove the people into the towns and the demands of the new society began to change the lives of the remaining rural dwellers radically
Irish collector Tom Munnelly described his work as "a race with the undertaker"
Claiming we still have a living tradition is a revival fantasy - modern technology has made us passive recipients of our culture rather than part of it.   
Basing opinions and making definitive statements about something that stretches back centuries, possibly millennia, on something that is on its last legs is crazy
Our classic ballads have been dated to the 17th and 18th centuries, but we know they contain motifs and references that date back as far as Boccachio, Homer and maybe beyond, giving rise to the possibility that some may have been around a lot longer than we think.
You suggest we all go and read Steve' book as if it is somehow going to suddenly cause the scales to fall from our eyes and we will all be enlightened
I suggest we have enough collective knowledge between us here to slug it out whenever the fancy takes us
Personally, I'm tired of putting these serious debates "on the long finger" (a local folk saying btw)
Personally I need to put our findings and opinions together as soon as possible - I'm far too old to risk doing otherwise
Jim Carroll