Mudcat Café message #3897893 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3897893
Posted By: Howard Jones
07-Jan-18 - 09:32 AM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
"The last thing we need to be told is that our tradition was created for money and is no different than the output of the pop industry - which doesn't make sense anyway."

Why doesn't it make sense? I understand why Jim may find the idea distasteful, but unless folk culture existed in a bubble cut off from all outside influences it seems entirely plausible to me. Roud's case is that there was an extensive musical culture comprising both performance and publication, and that the 'folk' weren't isolated from this but were active participants. Perhaps the more remote rural areas were cut off from this, but even these had opportunities to hear new songs at fairs and from travelling players, or they may have got them second-hand from itinerant workers who brought songs with them. In a society where nearly everybody sang, it seems entirely probable to me that they would seize on the latest songs. Most of these would rapidly drop out of fashion, but some would last.

This does not rule out that some songs were composed within the community itself - even though a large proportion of collected songs can be traced back to printed versions, that still leaves the rest, and many printed songs weren't original but had been collected from singers. And whilst printed versions may have first disseminated the songs, from then on they would probably be passed on by oral transmission.

Roud's other point is that origin doesn't matter, it is what the folk then did with it which makes it a folk song. The issue of new songs doesn't undermine this. A brand-new song in the mouth of a folk singer nevertheless isn't a 'folk song' because for it to be adopted and taken up by the community takes time. However at any one time there will always be a number of new-ish songs in the repertoire on their way to being adopted (or being dropped) which fall into a grey area - still new enough to be distinguishable as such, and not yet fully-fledged folk songs. Had the English tradition continued uninterrupted we would probably have found by now that the music hall and minstrel songs of the 19th century had become fully integrated folk songs, just as their 18th century and earlier counterparts had been by the time the first collectors got on their bikes.

As an aside, ?17.99 is a fairly standard price for a hardback book of this size. Not cheap, admittedly, but hardly unaffordable for most people with an interest in the subject. Compared with the price of most academic publications it is an absolute bargain. My paperback copy of Lloyd's 'Folk Song in England' is priced at 12/6, which would be around ?10 today.