Mudcat Café message #3933849 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3933849
Posted By: GUEST,Pseudonymous
28-Jun-18 - 09:39 AM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
My copy arrived this week and I have been browsing in it. So, some initial thoughts.

1 I have to say I think it's good value for money. Paperback novels are nearly a tenner.

2 I welcome the chapters setting out information about pioneers and collectors. This is because when you set out to look into the history of the song, you find pieces about it in all sorts of places, and it may be interesting or even useful to have a source of contextual information about the people whose work you are looking at. I think it is also interesting in itself. For me, the book is worth buying at the set price just for that section.

3 For me, given the influence of Child and other people from the North American continent on thinking about folklore, it was good to see a section on him, and on the lasting influences of his approach, with some critical comments on the strengths and weaknesses of it. As usual, the matter is complicated, with the lack of definitive statements by Child. Frustrating, perhaps, but good to know. One quotation given from Child is to the effect that 'the popular ballad is not originally the product or the property of the lower classes of the people. Nothing, in fact, is more obvious than that many of the ballads of the now most refined nations had their origin in that class whose acts and fortunes they depict - the upper class.' That might be interesting to discuss. Does it reflect Child's overall view, and if so, was Child right? What does the term 'the most refined nations' suggest about Child's world view? The book also suggests that Child thought that the old ballads had more change of being subject to 'wilful change' if transmitted through the mouths of 'unlettered people...'.   

4 I have not had time to do more than glance at the Bishop chapters, but they don't seem to simply rehash her chapters in the Bishop and Roud book of English songs, which is good. I am glad that they are there. Lloyd had a section on modes in his book, and it will be interesting to see how far the discussion has moved on. I would encourage people to persevere with these chapters. That's what I intend to do.


It would be interesting to read some discussion about these chapters. Songs are songs, after all, not poems.

5 Definitions of folk song are clearly contested, and a site of ideological conflict. I am not an expert, but it seems to me that Roud's introduction does acknowledge this, and does set out various points of view for the reader, rather than just hammering away at the definition he decides to go with. To sum up, he goes with a 'use' definition rather than an 'origin' definition.


6 In some ways, the debates about this book remind me about what may in future be called 'blues wars',(along the lines of the 'ballad wars' mentioned by Roud) arising from what has been called 'revisionist' scholarship. But, probably, enough said about that.

7 It is full of gems. It isn't so long ago that I was reading something quite polemic about Scottish snaps, so I was fascinated to see that they crop up in Roud.

8 The book does not have the European sweep attempted by Lloyd, but it does have the advantage of seeming thought-out and planned, with careful referencing of ideas. We aren't treated to comment about how folklore flourishes under communist rule, for example (see p 20 on Balkan collective-farm peasants, which, coming to Lloyd for the first time after the horrors of the break up of the former Yugoslavia, reads as, to put it mildly, dated.)


9 I read somewhere the idea that the musical identity of a person depends upon all the music they experience. On that basis, I find Roud's information about how people embraced aspects of popular culture interesting and valid, as well as his sections about work-related songs.

10 Nice to see some info about women singing, the bit about the use of songs in lace making training was evocative and sad.