Mudcat Café message #3898527 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3898527
Posted By: Howard Jones
10-Jan-18 - 09:26 AM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
Jim contrasts broadside compositions which were "unsingably bad" with the folk songs which are "highly singable".

Those broadsides which really were unsingable probably didn't survive very long, and possibly were never intended to be more than briefly topical. However the very high percentage of collected folk songs which can be traced back to broadsides and other printed sources suggests that many of them were singable. In some cases that may be because they were existing songs (or it might be that they were actually quite good) but in others the explanation must be that they were transformed into singable folk songs by folk singers themselves. Like Brian, I regard that process as a creative one, and in the context of what we mean by 'folk songs' arguably more important than the original act of composition. It is after all the 'folk process' which distinguishes folk song from the rest.

The significance to me of folk songs is their staying-power. They clearly contained something which made them relevant and meaningful to generations of people who sang and listened to them. Whether that came from the authenticity of their original composition or whether it was acquired and added by singers along the way, or whether they were simply an escapist contrast to their lives, they came to mean something to those people and perhaps tell us something about them and their lives. For me it is the whole journey which matters, not just the starting point; not where they originated but where they ended up. Of course, this is a purely personal and perhaps an emotional response and others may have very different reactions to mine, but it explains my point of view. I am not indifferent to whether or not these songs were composed by the folk (and certainly not hostile to the idea) but it is not of particular importance to me, as that was only the beginning of the journey.