Mudcat Café message #3945017 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3945017
Posted By: Richard Mellish
19-Aug-18 - 04:41 PM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
> You appear not to be reading anything I write Richard try a couple of postings up

Oops. Mea culpa. I evidently failed to refresh the page before posting.

1. Who made our folk songs, what part did the 'folk' play in their making and what are the historical implications of the songs we have up to now described as "folk songs"

That is three questions, and you answered the first one yourself in that same post: "Let's face it - none of us know who made the folk songs - the evidence simply doesn't exist". In fact there is evidence in some cases, but hard evidence not for very many.

What part the 'folk' played varies from: wholly responsible, making the song in the first place, preserving and transmitting it, and possibly changing it (for better or worse); to passively taking up a commercial product and changing it little or not at all. For some songs we can compare the version(s) collected with the first known version and draw some conclusions as to what the folk did with it, but in very few cases can we tell for certain whether the first known version was the original: back to the first question.

Historical implications: again very varied, from eye-witness accounts of battles, through "as I walked out" scenarios that refer to no particular time and place but may illustrate an aspect of social conditions, to ballads set long ago and far away.

2. Is it acceptable to ignore over a century convention of accepting our folk songs as unique by lumping in the products of commercial song making

The distinction is not at all as clear cut as you (and indeed many of us) would like it to be. A few examples have been cited above of songs that were accepted by the old collectors as folk songs but that were definitely the products of commercial song making. You have cited Walter Pardon's distinctions, but as I commented above those seem to have been according to old and not-so-old rather than folk and not-folk.

Anyway I have had a go at answering, and I hope one or two others can also contribute.

Now, please give us some examples of songs where you see internal evidence of familiarity with the lives of the subjects of the songs, familiarity that an urban person writing for the broadside press would be unlikely to possess. That has been a major plank of your argument, so it deserves to be elaborated, even if we can seldom be certain.