Mudcat Café message #3935388 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3935388
Posted By: Howard Jones
05-Jul-18 - 04:23 AM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
I didn't intend my description of Jim as a "purist" as a criticism, but he has stated very clearly his point of view and his motivation for it. I respect his desire not to see the creativity of "the People" diminished, but I feel there is an element of wishful thinking there. I don't deny for a moment that the People were capable of creating songs, but the Songs of the People came from a variety of sources. The dispute appears to be over their relative contributions to the total repertoire.

A fairly cursory glance through the track listings for Topic's "Voice of the People" collection (the Musical Traditions website has comprehensive indices and notes) shows that a large number of the songs were found on broadsides. Jim disputes the percentage Roud gives for the contribution broadsides made, but that claim is based on evidence. Jim has produced nothing to counter that evidence, and his objection appears to be based more on his wish that it were not so rather than the production of facts.

It is a bit too easy, and anyway unprovable, to say that broadside writers were all hacks and anything of quality must have been taken from the People. However even where the broadsides were recycling existing folk songs, this perhaps explains how these songs could have become so widely disseminated.

The VotP track lists also include a fair number of what Jim prefers to call 'popular songs', from music hall, minstrelsy and other sources. I agree that "Put a Bit of Powder on it, Father" and "Down the Road" are not 'folk songs'. But when they were sung alongside folk songs, by the same singers, in the same context and for the same purposes, and quite possibly were passed on by oral transmission, then it seems to me that they cannot be ignored. Perhaps, if we still had a properly functioning oral tradition, in a hundred years or so they might evolve into folk songs.

Roud takes the wide view to look at the totality of what the People sang. Jim prefers a more focussed view. They are both valid ways of looking at the same thing, and each gives a different perspective. One point of view should not be seen as an attack on the other but complementary to it.