Mudcat Café message #3893504 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3893504
Posted By: Jim Carroll
12-Dec-17 - 07:04 AM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
Once again a positive review without a single attempt to discuss the problems that the claims of this book raises Vic
What underwhelms me about tis discussion is the total absence of any evidence to reservations I have made - an attempt to pass them through on the nod, without debate.
Apart from these, I have no major problem with the book.

Simply put, they are:
Our folk song repertoire is made up overwhelmingly of rural songs and songs concerning occupations such as seagoing and soldiering; they contain many small details of rural life, trades, rural vernacular speech.... knowledge that is not ready available to the outsider.
These songs are so universal and timeless in their makeup, that wherever they may have originally been made, as them move they were taken up and accepted as genuine representations of life and experience - a process that often took place over centuries.
The detail that went into their construction gives them the appearance of having made by the people themselves to express their own lives and emotions.

They express large chunks of our social history with a partisan eye - sailors describing life at sea, soldiers fighting wars abroad, followed by huge armies of camp followers, the effects of the land-seizing enclosures on the rural population, forced marriage in order to better the lot of social climbing families at a time when the nobility was being deposed by the rising tradespeople....

All this is represented generously in our folk songs in such a skilful way that it would take an outsider with the genius of Dickens, or Hardy or Steinbeck to create what are in fact miniature works of art from the point of view of the 'ordinary' people.
We are asked to accept that 90 to 100% of these songs were created by desk-bound, urban-based, notoriously bad poets "hacks", working in conveyor belt conditions for money.
Bring all the recommendations you like (Steve Gardham has already resorted to that one); for me, turning research history on ist head and dismissing the opinions of Child Sharp, Maidment and virtually every scholar that has laid pen to paper on the subject needs much more of a discussion than that   

The only way the claimants of the 'first in print' is by a spectacular and Unilateral exercise in repetition by moving the goalposts in order to include pop songs of the past, music hall compositions, Victorian Parlour ballads - mostly with known composers.
These bear no relation whatever to the folk songs I have been listening to for the last half century
Jim Carroll