Mudcat Café message #3883816 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3883816
Posted By: Jim Carroll
22-Oct-17 - 04:40 AM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
I don't know who John Robinson is, but for me, he sums up what books like this should be about - an excellent short recommendation to an important book
Can I just reiterate why I find definitions of folk song so important
As someone who came from a working family, I was educated to believe that people like me had no cultural history and if I wished to acquire a culture I had to go to the great writers or painters or composers - in the case of the latter, the best of those were mostly foreigners.
The general thrust of my education was that culture was not for me anyway - all I needed on leaving school was to tot up my pay packet at the end of the week (one teacher actually told me that when I was late for his class because I had been delayed by a music teacher who kept me back to explain something I had failed to grasp.
My introduction to the finer points of folk song came through Lloyd's book, which suggested that working people might have a culture worth talking about.
That was magnified a thousandfold with the nights I spent in Critics Group meetings - beautiful songs and ballads created, sung and passed on by working people.
That became part of my self-identification, something to be proud of.
That has remained with me ever since , through my contact with Irish land labourers and small farmers, the Norfolk fishermen we met, the village carpenter who gave us all those songs and all that information, gathered from his farm-labouring family, and most of all, from the despised, uneducated, non-literate Travellers who have proved to be the saviours of many of our traditional ballads.
Thirty odd years with them has confirmed everything Ewan and Bert were saying all those years ago.
One of the weakest sentences in Roud's book comes on the page Steve G insited I shouldn't read
"Most songs which were later recorded as folk songs were not written by the singing and dancing throng, or by ploughboys, milkmaids, miners or weavers, but by professional or semi-professional urban song-writers or poets."
Our knowledge of our oral folk song tradition goes back only as far as the beginning of the twentieth century, beyond that, all is a mystery
Nobody has the information to quantify how many of our folk songs were created, certainly not "most" - the information does not exist.   
The term 'folk' was first assigned to the culture of the "lower" classes in the 1840s
Before that it was "popular" - of the people and that goes back even earlier, at least to the 1770s, when John Brand put together his 'Popular Antiquities"
Francis Child assigned his Ballads to the "common" people when he entitled them "Popular" - of the people.
The earlier researchers had no hesitation in recognising the creative merits of labouring people, it's taken 20 and 21st century desk jockeys to tear down that suggestion.
For me, most of our folk songs are obviously the creations of people who knew what they were singing about first hand - so many of the songs come with dirt under their fingernails and an intimate knowledge of tools and work practices.
It took someone with local knowledge to know that Oxborough Banks referred to an area settled by returning Australian transportees when 'Maid of Australia was composed - our songs are full of snippets of information like this
That's why I believe most of our folk songs were made by 'the folk' and, my love of them as beautiful songs aside, that's why I believe them to be as important as I do.
Bob Geldof - eat your heart out!
Jim Carroll