Mudcat Café message #640927 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #11295   Message #640927
Posted By: Nerd
02-Feb-02 - 06:54 PM
Thread Name: Child Ballads: Anyone recorded the lot?
Subject: RE: Child Ballads: Anyone recorded the lot?
The Long Harvest is a different set from the Riverside 9-volume Child series. Actually, Riverside (or some new company who bought the Riverside rights) has been issuing some CDs lately, so it is possible the 9 volume child ballads could be reissued.

I don't think Topic owns the rights. Those records were produced and edited by my late lamented friend and teacher, Kenny Goldstein. According to him they were originally recorded and produced for Riverside. While he was alive, I did a selected discography of his producing work for a book of essays in his honor, and he was pretty clear on this point. So Topic may have 1st UK rights or something, but the original rights (and the right to license or reissue) would belong to whoever owns the Riverside catalog. Now, it's possible Topic bought those rights, but I don't think they did.

By the way, as has been said, there are some "ballads" in Child's collection that we have no real reason to believe were ever sung, recited or performed in any way (except for the general fact that much poetry was performed in olden times). In fact, Child was interested in texts that might be at the root of balladry, and he wasn't interested in the majority of folksongs, so he combed old manuscripts more carefully than he examined the repertoires of singers. Because of this methodology, he included several texts that may never have been sung. "Judas" is a fine example. Never recorded from oral tradition (Richard Dyer-Bennett notwithstanding!), existing in only one 13th century manuscript, bearing no more striking resemblance to a ballad than many rhyming legends or romance texts--indeed, than other texts in the same manuscript which Child did not include in the collection--, it's not clear to me why he even thought it WAS a ballad. Certainly no scholar before him did, as he himself says in the notes.

Many scholars of the Robin Hood ballads regard it as pure conjecture that some of them were ever sung, though others of them survived in the oral tradition to be collected in the twentieth century.

Some of the 305 it would be very difficult to sing because of their length. A Geste of Robin Hood, for example, is 456 stanzas long, and even Child did not believe this text to have been a ballad, strictly speaking--he calls it "a popular epic, composed from several ballads." As this shows, he put texts in the collection that he knew were not Ballads in the strict sense of the term, and certainly many that he had no evidence were ballads apart from the fact that they sound like ballads. But many rhyming poems of those days sound like ballads, and he didn't include all the ones that do!

All this boils down to the fact that it probably wouldn't be practical to make a set of recordings covering all 305 of the ballads--no one would be able to sing the Geste, for one thing. But it would be real fun to do a set of maybe 250 of them! I envision it being sort of like the current Linn project on Robert Burns songs, or the great French "anthologie de la chanson Francaise: La Tradition," but with people from all over the English-speaking world. Jody Stecher meets Martin Carthy meets Alison McMorland meets Christy Moore meets Anita Best meets Barry McDonald....It would be a must-have for many folkies, I bet! Certainly for me.

I only wish Kenny could have lived to see it!