Mudcat Café message #3898261 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3898261
Posted By: Jim Carroll
09-Jan-18 - 04:58 AM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
"But Jim is especially concerned with origins. "
No I am not - stop misrepresenting me Richard
I am not "concerned" with origins - I go along with all the researchers up to now who had litle doubt that the bulk of the folk songs originated with the people who sang them - they never questioned that idea, neither do I
Some of these people, Child, Sharp, Motherwell, Burns (who was a very underrated collector) went out to the people to get the songs from the 'horses mouth' - none of them ever suggested that they had ever originated from printed texts, though some acknowledged that they ended up in print.
I've asked that people say whether or not they believe country people were capable of having made the folk songs - so far no takers
Until there are I will assume that people here believe they were
The problem with this discussion so far is that it has centered around songs as printed texts just that.
I see no attempt by either of the Steves to examine why the songs were sung or why they might have been made - they have treated them as printed products made for sale.
We have discussed 'Maid of Australia' as a printed text - what is is in reality?
It is a sexual boast of the type that could and still can be heard in virtually every working class pub throughout Britain - a man boasting about he once got is leg over - as simple as that.
There is no reason whatever to believe that a 'simple' countryman couldn't have made that song   
Banks of Sweet Primroses the same - a young man going out, buzzing with testosterone, tries to hook up with a previous girlfriend and gets the brush off because he has given her the elbow in the past - how humanly commonplace is that?
Steve describes the sunshiny day' as a broadside commonplace.
It is a common vernacular way of dealing with rejection - "plenty more fish in the sea" - plenty more where she came from"...
Again, how humanly commonplace than that?
From Mary Delaney's 'I've buried Three Husband Already, which, as 'Primroses', is about sexual relationships

"Wherever there's a goose, here's a gander
Wherever there's a will there's a way
But the sun will be shining tomorrow
And we'll call it another fine day"

This is not a printing commonplace, it's a common human attitude to life
Once you divorce these songs from the what the singers felt about them and treat them as cold print, you could prove they were all written by anyone you care to name if you had a mind to
Both the Steves have done that - they have treated them as cold, printed texts
Steve Roud chose not to include texts - I have little doubt that Steve Gardham will continue to attempt to prove his theory that they all originated as literary pieces by putting them up as texts without attempting to discuss how they might have been made by the people who sang them.
Over the time I was singing I accumulated a repertoire of over three hundred songs
I stopped singing them a couple of decades ago in order to come to terms with the information we had recorded from traditional singers
Over the last year or so I have started to sing again and I find that, after a couple of scans through old texts, the songs spring to life again - not as memorised printed words but as what they actually are - stories that happen to have tunes attached to them
Each song I have revised in this way is now firmly set in my memory because of my emotional attachment to them - not because they were good poetry or even good stories, but because I can relate them to myself as a human being
We noticed with Walter Pardon, Mary Delaney and others, how emotionally involved they got with their songs
Mary regularly broke down when she sang her "heavy" songs - not because she couldn't handle them technically but because she became overcome with their emotional content
This was especially apparent with her 'Buried in Kilkenny' (Lord Randal) but it also happened with her humorous songs - it took us numerous goes before we got full versions of 'Kilkenny Louse House' and 'Well Done Donnelly' (The Tinker) that weren't interrupted by her bursting out laughing.
Her songs had become a part of her life - I don't believe desk-bound broadside hacks were capable of creating such high art - their working conditions would never allowed them to have done so anyway.
You can only begin to understand these songs when you take them from being cold text and add the human element to them
The Steves have done exactly the opposite - they have ignored the reason for their existence and continuance and have centered their attention to the printed word
There was no effort made in Roud's 'Folksong in England' to include what little we have of singers talking about what the songs meant to them socially or even personally - there is enough from Sam Larner, Harry Cox and Walter Pardon alone to fill a whole chapter - all freely available for the asking.
Treat these songs simply as texts, divorcing them from the singers intentions, and you debase them.
For me, it is what makes Bert Lloyd's 'Folk Song in England' a vastly superior book, for all its faults.
Roud has dealt largely with the nuts and bolts of the tradition while Lloyd treated it as an expression of humanity rather than a literary phenomenon.
Roud had bundled the unique folk songs in with commercially produced pop songs, stage songs, middle-class Tavern Songs, classically based glees..... and in doing so, for me, he has failed to capture their uniqueness.
Lloyd, on the other hand, made a point of just that with his magnificent statement in the last chapter - one more time   
"If 'Little Boxes' and 'The Red Flag' are folk songs. we need a new term to describe 'The Outlandish Knight'. Searching for Lambs' and 'The Coal-owner and the Pitman's Wife'.
In my opinion, anybody who fails to spot or ignores that uniqueness has no claim to knowing what folk song is about
Jim Carroll