Mudcat Café message #3938092 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3938092
Posted By: Howard Jones
18-Jul-18 - 08:41 AM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
Jim said:

"We don't know who made the songs - we probably never shall
All we can go on is logic and what little information we have.
From day one I have accepted that singers supplemented their home-made repertoires with marketed songs - we all have done so up to now
What new information has been provided to make us change our minds and why did the old researchers get it so wrong - especially those who were around while the broadside presses were still rolling?"

The disagreement is over the proportion of home-made songs to composed ones. What appears to be relatively new is the large number of songs found in the tradition which are now known to have been published in print. This may not be news to researchers and collectors, but for a general reader such as myself to read this in Roud this was something new.

"I can see no greater evidence of an agenda than a significant number of singers and enthusiasts grabbing the suggestion that the folk made hardly any of their songs so readily and being so keen to prove that fact"

I don't think it is so much a question of being "keen to prove that fact" than following the evidence that has been put to us. I find Roud's conclusions interesting, but they don't change how I feel about folk song from an aesthetic point of view. I am entirely open to alternative views but I would like to see some evidence to support them. All Jim has produced is evidence that the folk were capable of creating their own songs (which no one, including Roud, has disputed) and the suggestion that as broadside writers were all hacks those songs which show any quality must have been collected from the folk in the first place.

I must say that I found Roud's comment that the songs sung by the folk were normally composed by outsiders rather startling. But if some 90% of traditional songs had appeared in print, even if some of those were existing folk songs, then it is perhaps a justifiable conclusion. I don't recall that Jim has suggested an alternative proportion, although I have not re-read this thread so I may be mistaken. If we could concentrate on trying to determine this proportion, based so far as possible on evidence, then this discussion might start to get somewhere.

I think it is accepted that both home-made and composed popular songs were sung by the folk. It is in the nature of the folk process that only the best songs, songs which meant something to the singers and their audience, survived. It is that survival rather than their origins which made them folk songs and is what I believe make them special and interesting.