Mudcat Café message #3880672 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3880672
Posted By: Steve Gardham
06-Oct-17 - 01:15 PM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
The 'probably'.

Both Steve and I, sometimes together sometimes independently, have spent the last 30 years and more studying in great depth not only the broadside ballads that became folk songs but others pretty similar that may have become folk songs but didn't make it to be collected as folk songs. We have found some that have named authors but by the very nature of the beast the great majority don't have information on the author.

We found a fair amount of evidence that some of them had indeed most likely been taken from oral tradition, but when we traced them back to the earliest extant version this was overwhelmingly a printed or commercial source. I say commercial, one notable example is the theatre and pleasure gardens. These are often easily noted on stylistic grounds as being somewhat flowery in their language and subject.

The fact that printers all lived in urban areas adds to the fact that their suppliers, the ballad writers were close at hand. I have presented above plenty of evidence that rural working people sometimes wrote ballads but generally speaking they had not got ready access to printers and so those creatively inclined did not very often see their work spread to other areas like our folk songs and printed ballads did. In close-knit communities these songs no doubt will have had some currency but for one reason or another the majority didn't last or were not spread any further than that. There is a good example in Southern Harvest, a local song that survived in 3 versions in villages around Winchester, but these songs are very few and far between in published collections.

I have made it very clear on numerous occasions that our figures apply only to published traditional songs from England. Elsewhere different dynamics produced different statistics as Jim keeps telling us quite rightly. (Hence the title of this thread!)