Mudcat Café message #3946090 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3946090
Posted By: Vic Smith
24-Aug-18 - 06:49 PM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
Right, home again. Can I take you back to my post at 24 Aug 18 - 07:40 AM where we were getting in the way that dance tunes and song tunes were interchangeable and in many cases changed their function from rhythmic dance tune played for their function and freer way they were used by singers and the question was asked Am I incorrect in noticing a lack of rhythm? because this question implies that the answer should be 'yes' or 'no'.
There are a number of points I want to make about this and other things that Pseudonymous mentioned in that post:-
* Tunes interchanged between folk song and dance but that was only two aspects of their interchangeability. Other tunes that were taken for for song and dance came from a variety of sources - the more obvious would be those the tradition obtained from the stage hornpipes that travelling companies took to towns and villages throughout the country, mainly for an ' entr'acte' function. This was a two-way process as folk tunes were adopted by those who wrote for stage shows with John Gay's Beggers' Opera being a prime example.
* Songs that first appeared in the Pleasure Gardens also made this two way adaptation.
* In the early days of that most amazing resource of English dance tunes The Village Music Project, I was interviewing the originator and director, John Adams. Towards the end of the interview after we had covered a great deal of the methodology, I asked John if there were any initial conclusions that he could draw from his work so far. He must have anticipated that question because his immediate reply was:-
Napoleon called England 'a nation of shopkeepers' but if we are talking about the music of English dance - and many songs for that matter - we are a nation of soldiers. So many of our dance tunes came from those that were made for the militia bands that each town and county had to raise to encourage young men to 'take the shilling'.

This struck a bell with me straight away as in a much earlier interview with the great concertina player Scan Tester, he told me that as a boy, probably in the 1880's and '90's he had played the keyed bugle in a militia band. Many of the unnamed polkas that Scan played for dancing seemed to me to have been adapted from marches as John Adams was suggesting to me.
So when Pseu suggests I found myself thinking that the strong sense of rhythm in USA folk versions of British originals must have come from African influences. he can only be talking about the era of recorded sound and any strong rhythmic influence was, in my opinion, more likely to have come from military bands who had playing for marching as their functionality.
We are very fortunate that some of the earliest recordings of English singers, those made by Percy Grainger at Brigg were of singers who almost certainly never heard a recording of music so only had ever heard other singers and musicians. Listen to Joseph Taylor, George Wray et al. and then try and reproduce their sense of rhythm in your own singing afterwards. If you are like me, you will find the way they wander between a strict rhythm and some freer passages very difficult to reproduce.
Hamish Henderson (another interviewee) said to me, "Listen to Jeannie (Robertson), to Jane (Turriff) and you will find that the words that they need to tell their story are what comes first.... the tune just has to fit in with what the words demand."
Think of the carol, Whilst Shepherds Watched... At school we were told that this carol was sung to either melodies called 'Cranbrook' or 'Winchester Old' but the common metre of the carol means that it fits to very many tunes and many village carol singers have used different tunes for it, There used to be a time in folk clubs when every Christmas folk club meeting had it sung to the tune of Ilkley Moor Bar 'tat though a personal favourite of mine is the devastatingly funny way that Vic Legg sings this carol to the tune of The Laughing Policeman!

A lot of what I am trying to say here has been well stated by Richard in his response to Pseu where he wrote (more succinctly than I do):-
Rhythmic or not varies a lot, depending on the particular song and the particular singer. Instrumental accompaniment, which is very common in the revival and was pretty rare in the tradition, tends to impose a fairly regular rhythm, though there are accompanists who can avoid that.

Finally in this overlong post could I link you to the Introduction to Music on the 'Sussex Traditions' website. I was asked to write the draft introduction and then to circulate it to other committee members. They all seemed to think that it was OK apart from one.... the person who really mattered and that was Steve Roud. He said that would have to be totally rewritten, I felt rather miffed at this. A couple of days later I received another email from him apologising and saying that actually at 75% of it was fine but he did not want to have the quotation from John Kirkpatrick at the start and that what I had said about church music was largely wrong.
In the end we had a meeting and thrashed out the final wording between us. The John K. introduction. Steve accepted when I gave my reasons for it but there were areas where his knowledge was far superior to mine. In the end we thrashed out the wording and both our names were put to it. Working closely with him in this way was both stimulating and very demanding and I learned never to make any suggestion in what I wrote that could not back up with evidence. Coming to understand his methodology in this way increased the impact of his book when I read it later in the year,