Mudcat Café message #3879564 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3879564
Posted By: Richard Mellish
01-Oct-17 - 04:50 AM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
The sorts of songs that originally captured our interest and that were the main subject of Lloyd's book covered more or less the same range as those that the collectors in the late 1800s and early 1900s regarded as folk songs; but those were already not all of a single sort.

The big ballads tell stories that are often many centuries old. Many of them deal with the affairs of kings, queens, lords and ladies. Some involve magic. The earliest known versions as ballads typically date from the 1600s or 1700s.

The songs about shepherds, sailors, lovers separated by class-conscious parents, etc first appeared (as far as anyone can tell, pace Jim) in stage plays or in the pleasure gardens in the late 1700s or early 1800s and then on broadsides, or else originally on broadsides having been written specifically for that market.

Those two genres are fairly distinct, although there is some overlap. But both met the collectors' ill-defined criteria, both appeal to us nowadays, and both would presumably have qualified for Walter Pardon etc as proper folk songs.

What they have in common is that, by the time they were collected, they had knocked around for long enough to benefit from some continuity and selection, and generally from some variation. Continuity is implicit in the fact that they survived to be collected. Selection caused huge numbers of other broadside ballads to fall by the wayside. Variation is a mixed blessing. With some songs it has given us numerous delightfully different versions, but it has also caused some of them to be manifestly incomplete or not to make sense.

Nowadays we delight in singing and listening to these songs (as well as studying them); but in the same performance situations we also sing and hear songs from the music halls and songs written in modern times. The music hall songs were too new to be of interest to the early collectors but by now they have at least been subject to continuity and selection, if not to much variation. The same is already happening with some of the songs written by such people as Ewan MacColl and Cyril Tawney (and Woody Guthrie over the Pond). We are already selecting those that have sufficient appeal. And variation is happening: I have heard small changes in some of Cyril Tawney's songs as now being sung.

As I observed above, however, there have often been few steps of continuity and variation. Joe Rae's (Gutcher on here) present-day version of the Daemon Lover is almost word for word as printed by Scott, even including the four verses due to Laidlaw that Child saw fit to exclude.