Mudcat Café message #3936806 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3936806
Posted By: Jim Carroll
12-Jul-18 - 02:54 AM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
"The same goes for the 19th century broadsides, no?"
From my experience as a singer look for songs who trawled though interminable numbers of the collections, YES, YES, a hundred times YES
The bulk of them are trite, facile and totally uninspiring - a pale shadow of our traditional songs
This doesn't mean they are valuless - they most certainly are not - they are an important view of past tastes and events.

I have more and more come to realise through the course of these arguments that the suggestion that our folk songs originated from the writers of this (largely) doggerel is unsustainable.
Their relationship with the oral tradition came into its own when that tradition was in severe decline - when the supply of traditionally created songs were drying up and was being replaced by a bombardment of street literature
Add to this the rise of the Music Halls and a commercially produced 'popular music' and you end up with a people who received or even bought their culture as passive recipients - the final nail in the coffin was was the arrival of radio and television

We once went to look for songs in Sam Larner's village, Winterton, and were lucky enough to find a few, and a fair amount of background information.
While we were there, we met a non-singing local man sharing Sam's surname, Jim Larner, who we became friendly with
He told us a story which I think has something to say about this subject

Sam and his friends and fellow fishermen used to meet weekly in the local pub, 'The Fisherman's Return' to sing songs
One afternoon a retired fisherman went in for a pint and saw a strange gadget on the shelf behind the counter
Enquiring what it was, he was told it was something for bringing in talk and musc from London, a "wireless"
The old man reached across the counter with his walking stick and hooked the gadget down to the floor, smashing it to pieces, then he turned around, saying, "we don't want that messing up our Saturday nights"
The landlord got the message and the 'wireless' wasn't replaced.

From our own experiences, when we started to record Travellers, our recording sessions would invariably end up around an open fire where everyone on the site would gather to talk, bargain horses or goods, pass on information, tell stories or sing.
The sites were always a hive of activity, day and night (certainly up to the hour when people went to the pub)
We were forced to stop our work for a period - the night we restated, 18 months later, as we entered the site we were puzzled to discover there was not a soul in sight - not even children - all the vans were lit up with a strange glow - the Travellers had all got portable televisions
From then on, everything we recorded was being remembered from a past oral tradition rather than reccounted from an active one

We didn't spend the same continuous lengths of time in Ireland as our recording was done during annual trips, but we understand from what we've been told that the disappearance of the oral and musical traditions happened in a similar way, with the additional problem of Clerical opposition to folk culture supported by Government collusion.
The Dance Halls Act of the 1940s which replaced first the crossroads dances and later the weekly 'country house gatherings' with the commercial and clerically supervised 'Ballrooms of Romance' rang the death knell of traditional cultural activities.

I have become tired and more than a little insulted to be told that my views during this argument are what 'I wish was true' rather than what I believe to be true based on research and experience.

I believe it to be academic kite-flying to trace published songs to their earlies dates and take that as an indication of how these songs originated.
While print most certainly aided the transmission of songs, it brought with it the risk of freezing them in the form in which they were printed
The increase in the sales of broadsides gradually edged out natural songmaking until it eventually helped to kill it off altogether
The coup de grāce came with the formal seal of ownership being put on songs - the definitive little (c)

Dick - you asked me what evidence I have that I am right
I can't prove anything definitively - nobody can - but that is what I have based by beliefs on, first as a singer getting a taste of the songs by singing them, then as someone with a burning curiosity who was lucky to have met and been helped enormously by people with much more experience, ability and knowledge than me
Finally from thirty years research among field singers
Most importantly, all these experiences have been held together by half a century's reading up the subject

It really is going to take me more than one book which has found it necessary to move the goalposts to encompass songs that have, up to now, been considered totally different in nature and in function from our traditional songs, by some of our finest folk-song scholars for over a century hand a half.

I've shown you mine - now you show me yours - anybody
Jim Carroll