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New Book: Folk Song in England

Jack Campin 05 Jul 18 - 12:00 PM
Jack Campin 05 Jul 18 - 10:16 AM
GUEST,Mr Objective 05 Jul 18 - 09:19 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 05 Jul 18 - 08:59 AM
Jim Carroll 05 Jul 18 - 05:35 AM
Jim Carroll 05 Jul 18 - 05:09 AM
Jack Campin 05 Jul 18 - 04:33 AM
Richard Mellish 05 Jul 18 - 04:26 AM
GUEST,John Bowden (not a typo!) 05 Jul 18 - 04:25 AM
Howard Jones 05 Jul 18 - 04:23 AM
The Sandman 05 Jul 18 - 04:18 AM
The Sandman 05 Jul 18 - 03:59 AM
Jim Carroll 05 Jul 18 - 03:43 AM
Jim Carroll 05 Jul 18 - 03:43 AM
Jim Carroll 05 Jul 18 - 03:34 AM
Steve Gardham 04 Jul 18 - 06:17 PM
The Sandman 04 Jul 18 - 05:31 PM
Vic Smith 04 Jul 18 - 04:25 PM
Vic Smith 04 Jul 18 - 04:22 PM
Richard Mellish 04 Jul 18 - 03:22 PM
GUEST,Jack Campin 04 Jul 18 - 02:55 PM
Richard Mellish 04 Jul 18 - 02:54 PM
Jim Carroll 04 Jul 18 - 02:52 PM
Vic Smith 04 Jul 18 - 02:26 PM
The Sandman 04 Jul 18 - 02:15 PM
GUEST,Guest John Bowden 04 Jul 18 - 02:02 PM
Jack Campin 04 Jul 18 - 01:39 PM
The Sandman 04 Jul 18 - 01:10 PM
Jim Carroll 04 Jul 18 - 12:59 PM
Jim Carroll 04 Jul 18 - 12:47 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 04 Jul 18 - 12:21 PM
RTim 04 Jul 18 - 12:21 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 04 Jul 18 - 11:32 AM
Howard Jones 04 Jul 18 - 10:29 AM
Jim Carroll 04 Jul 18 - 09:49 AM
GUEST,just another guest 04 Jul 18 - 09:10 AM
Jim Carroll 04 Jul 18 - 08:58 AM
Jack Campin 04 Jul 18 - 08:09 AM
GUEST,just another guest 04 Jul 18 - 08:02 AM
Jim Carroll 04 Jul 18 - 05:26 AM
Howard Jones 04 Jul 18 - 05:00 AM
GUEST,Jack Campin 04 Jul 18 - 05:00 AM
Jim Carroll 04 Jul 18 - 03:53 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 03 Jul 18 - 03:56 PM
Richard Mellish 03 Jul 18 - 03:26 PM
Jim Carroll 03 Jul 18 - 02:37 PM
Jim Carroll 03 Jul 18 - 02:37 PM
Jim Carroll 03 Jul 18 - 01:49 PM
The Sandman 03 Jul 18 - 01:25 PM
Jim Carroll 03 Jul 18 - 12:27 PM
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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jack Campin
Date: 05 Jul 18 - 12:00 PM

Dick Miles's sockpuppet writes:

without reading carefully the post by [Dick Miles]

Of course I didn't read it.

Nobody here did. It wasn't formatted in such a way as to be readable, and most of the content quoted was completely irrelevant to this thread.

So I found a better source for it (maybe not the same one Dick used, but he's never going to tell us) and read it there, at the links I gave (at least the bits that seemed to be on-topic).


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jack Campin
Date: 05 Jul 18 - 10:16 AM

I thought there might be a picture of Wittgenstein on a summer holiday but I don't think there is. Did get this though:

If a banjo player could speak, we would not understand him.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Mr Objective
Date: 05 Jul 18 - 09:19 AM

The problem with having an agenda is that it tends to illustrate that the person with an agenda has pre judged the post before they have read it. This is illustrated beautifully by Jack Campin, who stormed in all guns blazing, without reading carefully the post by The Sandman


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 05 Jul 18 - 08:59 AM

On Jim's voulez vous...

I am at the age when Ou sont les toilettes? is a more useful phrase. I have it in three languages.


I rather like the horserace analogy, but this just brings us to the equally tricky questions of evidence and dating.


Changing the subject, in the musical chapters Julia Bishop discusses how various folklorists have applied the concept of 'modes' to folk songs. For example, one person decided that anything in a major key was ionian and modal, rather than, let's say, 'scale-based', possibly from a belief that modes were older and there was a desire to provide old origins for tunes. Then somebody suggested that the concept of separate modes did not really fit the data, which was in any case somewhat floored for various reasons, including practical ones.
I thought of discussing this on one of the mode threads, but these are various and I cannot see an apt one. Some get too technical for me.

It interests me because half a lifetime ago, before I had any understanding of modes (I now have some basic understanding of what they call 'church modes), somebody told me that folk music was modal as if this were a well established fact. Yet Roud's book seems to challenge this idea. Need to go back and re-read, but finding it a valuable and interesting part of the book as a whole. My guess is that somebody with little musical knowledge could get to grips with it if they persevered. It seems quite well explained.   

So if anybody wanted to discuss this should it be here or a new thread or one of the existing mode threads.

?????Wittgenstein in this heat?????


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Jul 18 - 05:35 AM

Didn't quite finish Howard
I have always accepted that Broadsides played a large part in the passage of our songs, and have been happy to accept that some of those songs originated from them
I also agree that their influence increased in the latter half of the 19th century - it has always been an accepted fact that the advance of technology and literacy played a major part of the shift when our singers became listeners rather than performers of our songs - passive observers rather than active creators
To judge the dying embers of our tradition with it at its most active is not unlike judging the performance of a racehorse after it has been turned out to stud.
I think I've already said that more than once, butt it's worth repeating in my opinion
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Jul 18 - 05:09 AM

"Jim disputes the percentage Roud gives for the contribution broadsides made,"
I dispute that the figure represents folk song in its entirity, which is what was implied when I was accused of "starry-eyed" naivety when I quoted MacColl' final song carriers statement
THat claim seems to have shrunk to those songs collected in the late 19th?early twentieth century songs
Even so - appearance in print is in no way prooof that that version is the first
Steve Gardaham has described the folk/broadside process as a two-way street but given the 90+% (and at one angry stage) 100% claim, this appears to be little more than lip service
Let us be clear - the only way this claim can be substantiated is to prove beyond any doubt that the printed version was the first one
Until that happens, we know nothing and we have to work it out by common sense

Can I suggest that, for the sake of peace and quite, Dick should be left to his own devices.

Talking of agendas, I began to suspect one, possibly unfairly, when this 905 plus claim was extended to folk tales and tunes
I still feel more than a little uneasy that this might become the new - new kid on the block

Thank you Jack and John - you have both helped extend my skill with languages beyond 'voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soire'
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jack Campin
Date: 05 Jul 18 - 04:33 AM

The quote is the punchline of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Jim's translation gets the basic meaning but it has been done more elegantly - best to just google the whole phrase rather than feed it into a translator. (The musical setting is by Elisabeth Lutyens, her "Wittgenstein Motet").


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 05 Jul 18 - 04:26 AM

What's wrong with having an agenda here, provided the discussion remains civil?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,John Bowden (not a typo!)
Date: 05 Jul 18 - 04:25 AM

Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Jul 18 - 03:43 AM

Was sich überhaupt sagen lässt, lässt sich klar sagen...
Don't have German Jack - do I have this right ?
"If you have something to say, say it clearly - if you can't do that, don't say it"
Google is a crappy translator
Jim

Pretty much, Jim - it's the last line of Ludwig Wittgenstein's "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus", usually just known as the "Tractatus", and is usually translated as: "What can be said at all, can be said clearly; and whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

Not sure why Jack decided to quote the original, knowing that many mudcatters won't know German, when the English translation is (fairly) well known, and I'd be very surprised (and impressed!) if he'd read the Tractatus in the original German! There's another Wittgenstein quote which might be apposite: "When we can't think for ourselves, we can always quote"!

The word "Klugscheißer" springs to mind!


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Howard Jones
Date: 05 Jul 18 - 04:23 AM

I didn't intend my description of Jim as a "purist" as a criticism, but he has stated very clearly his point of view and his motivation for it. I respect his desire not to see the creativity of "the People" diminished, but I feel there is an element of wishful thinking there. I don't deny for a moment that the People were capable of creating songs, but the Songs of the People came from a variety of sources. The dispute appears to be over their relative contributions to the total repertoire.

A fairly cursory glance through the track listings for Topic's "Voice of the People" collection (the Musical Traditions website has comprehensive indices and notes) shows that a large number of the songs were found on broadsides. Jim disputes the percentage Roud gives for the contribution broadsides made, but that claim is based on evidence. Jim has produced nothing to counter that evidence, and his objection appears to be based more on his wish that it were not so rather than the production of facts.

It is a bit too easy, and anyway unprovable, to say that broadside writers were all hacks and anything of quality must have been taken from the People. However even where the broadsides were recycling existing folk songs, this perhaps explains how these songs could have become so widely disseminated.

The VotP track lists also include a fair number of what Jim prefers to call 'popular songs', from music hall, minstrelsy and other sources. I agree that "Put a Bit of Powder on it, Father" and "Down the Road" are not 'folk songs'. But when they were sung alongside folk songs, by the same singers, in the same context and for the same purposes, and quite possibly were passed on by oral transmission, then it seems to me that they cannot be ignored. Perhaps, if we still had a properly functioning oral tradition, in a hundred years or so they might evolve into folk songs.

Roud takes the wide view to look at the totality of what the People sang. Jim prefers a more focussed view. They are both valid ways of looking at the same thing, and each gives a different perspective. One point of view should not be seen as an attack on the other but complementary to it.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Jul 18 - 04:18 AM

JACK, As requested saying it clearly and another thing hopefully that is clear if you have an agenda ,take it somewhere else


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Jul 18 - 03:59 AM

Jack, take heed of your own advice,get some new glasses and learn to read properly.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Jul 18 - 03:43 AM

Was sich überhaupt sagen lässt, lässt sich klar sagen...
Don't have German Jack - do I have this right ?
"If you have something to say, say it clearly - if you can't do that, don't say it"
Google is a crappy translator
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Jul 18 - 03:43 AM

Was sich überhaupt sagen lässt, lässt sich klar sagen...
Don't have German Jack - do I have this right ?
"If you have something to say, say it clearly - if you can't do that, don't say it"
Google is a crappy translator
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Jul 18 - 03:34 AM

" but that would not diminish their usefulness."
That depends how you use it Steve
I would have been totally lost without Steve's list when I was annotating our website - I am now putting together a possible book of Traveller songs and Stories and again, it is proving invaluable (I find myself wishing he'd done the same job on traditional stories)
He has given many of the songs we recorded Roud Numbers, some of them are the only ones under his number.

To say they are not selectively chosen is inaccurate - at one time the list didn't include parlour songs and Victorian tear-jerkers - it does now.
I seem to remember that he (rightly) didn't include a couple of our songs earlier on because they were not traditional - he hadn't reached the (everything that the singers sang' stage then.

For this side of his contribution I am not belittling Steve's list in any way
I was a fly on the wall at a Sheffield Conference when my friend, Prof., Bob Thomson met Steve and discussed his list - Bob was as staggered at Steve's work as we ll were - I still feel the same

Having said that, one of the other uses I made of Steve's list wa, when I was asked for examples of folk songs I would automatically say - "go and work your way through the Roud Index; that's an excellent overview of what a folk song is".
I can't do that any more with all honesty - I don't want people thinking 'Put a Bit of Powder on it Father' is a folk song - that would not be accurate

Richard
Can we drop this 'origins' bit - we don't know for certain where any of these songs originated, we can only guess - that is my point
It would be insane for Roud to choose his songs by origins - it would contain very few songs if he did

Can I make clear why this subject is so important to me
I have always considered that our folk songs represent the emotions, aspirations and experiences of 'ordinary people' (horrible phrase, but 'working people tends to raise hackles among some) - 'the voice of the people' as it has been known for a long, long time.
To attribute 90+%those songs to a commercial industry returns those people to the place they have occupied throughout history 'voiceless' repeaters of something that has been sold to them
I am not prepared to accept that without being given sound evidence that that is the case.

I know beyond reasonable doubt that Irish rural dwellers were producing songs as a reaction to what was happening around them in their many hundreds right into the middle of the twentieth century
They did so under the most unimaginable conditions - starvation, mass evictions, forced emigration, land wars, fights for independence, bloody civil war... all produced masses of songs
On top of this, they made songs about local railways, drownings, drunken sprees, enforced marriages, the weather, everyday work.... all recorded locally in song throughout Ireland
I was told by a 'print origins' advocate that 'The English were too busy feeding their families to make songs"
I don't believe that for one minute - do you?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 06:17 PM

The Roud Indexes are tools for finding information. Like Child's work in ESPB they are inclusive rather than exclusive. They do not follow any debatable or proscribed definitions. They deal in published and unpublished collections of songs that someone has nominated as 'folk songs' in the English language. Despite what one person has stated, we all who are interested use these indexes and are deeply grateful for them. We can disagree as to what should or should not be included but that would not diminish their usefulness.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 05:31 PM

JACK ,go and visit specsavers,"an article by martha bayles this is interesting for many reasons it illustrates that the term purist was used in folk music before the 50s uk folk revival, it is a fascinating article. from the michigan quarterly review.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 04:25 PM

i.e. at 04 Jul 18 - 02:52 PM


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 04:22 PM

Jack wrote:-
"Was sich überhaupt sagen lässt, lässt sich klar sagen; und wovon man nicht reden kann, darüber muss man schweigen."


I know that this was directed at Dick, but the way I translate this, it would seem to be in agreement with what I wrote at 04 Jul 18 but more succinct, better expressed and in a different language.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 03:22 PM

OK, next point.

Jim quoted Phillips Barry:
"Popular tradition, however, does not mean popular origin. In the case of our ballad, the underlying folklore is Irish de facto, but not de-jure: the ballad is of Oriental and literary origin, and has sunk to the level of the folk which has the keeping of folklore. To put it in a single phrase, memory not invention is the function of the folk".   

Jim then comments "Everything I have experienced in working with singers has confirmed this to be offensively inaccurate."

Blame Phillips Barry for a false claim but please don't attribute the same to anyone here. Steve Roud makes no such categorical claim in his book, nor has anyone made it in this thread. We agree with MacColl's summary that Jim has quoted: all sorts of people have made songs.

The collectors of a hundred-odd years ago were selective in their collecting, because they were specifically seeking certain attributes in the songs and mostly had little or no interest in the singers except as sources of the songs that they wanted. Collectors in recent years have taken much more interest in the singers, and that has generally meant collecting whatever the singers chose to offer. In both eras the singers themselves have been selective, both in which songs they have chosen to learn and in which of those they have offered to the collectors.

I don't think Jim has answered my question from yesterday, so I will repeat it.
Jim, you claim that Roud has departed from a previously widely accepted definition of folk song, but exactly what definition have you in mind, who used it and where did they state it? You can't mean the "1954" definition because that one is not restricted by origin.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 02:55 PM

Jack, you appear to have an agenda.

You bet.

Was sich überhaupt sagen lässt, lässt sich klar sagen; und wovon man nicht reden kann, darüber muss man schweigen.

It's even been set to music.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 02:54 PM

I started this post several hours ago, responding to one point of Jim's, but then got multiply sidetracked. So there will be more to say, but let's do this bit first.

Jim said
"Roud has cornered the market on the term 'folk song' - he is rightfully highly regarded for his work - now he has shot off at a tangent by lumping folk and non-folk material into this numbering system.
The Roud index has not suddenly changed its scope around the time of publication of the book. If it errs on the side of being too broad, including some songs with dubious claims to being "folk" songs, that's surely better than being too narrow and failing to assign numbers to songs that we may wish to investigate and discuss. Inclusion in the index indicates that a song is putatively a folk song according to some criteria but surely does not constitute a claim that "This is a folk song and anyone who disagrees is wrong".


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 02:52 PM

"actually carries a degree of speculation."
It does, I suppose, but I think that in the circumstances anything anybody claims is based on speculation, most certainly attributing any song to print origins if you have no proof as to whether it appeared in an earlier form
I have never claimed that any specific accepted English folk-song began orally - I know many Irish ones must have.

Martha Bayles:
She is/was an American academic from Boston College - her usage was Ameican and referred to Lomax and later to Pete Seeger's alleged attack on Dylan's (or should that be Zimmerman's :-)) sound system
My reference was to the use of the term in the British revival
Can we leave it at that please?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 02:26 PM

Jim wrote:-
As I said before, once we accept that country people were capable of and inclined towards song making, then surely it is logical to accept that they could and probably did make a great number of them, if not most.


I have been enjoying the more thoughtful approach that Jim Carroll has been bringing to his recent posts but though they require a more considered response, there are still some things that I must disagree with in what he writes.
I'm afraid that my copy of Roud is currently on loan to a friend so I cannot quote pages here as Pseu has been doing so effectively but I remember clearly that somewhere near the beginning of the book, he writes that his arguments in the book will be based on evidence and that if he cannot back up what he says with any evidence then he will not be saying it.
It follows from this that any criticism of Roud should carry the same weight of precision of thinking and writing. To my mind this renders a statement that includes surely it is logical to accept that they could and probably did make a great number of them, if not most. inadmissible because rather than being logical, it actually carries a degree of speculation.
I seem to remember that I made this point several hundred posts ago but it seems to need reiterating here.
I would say that some years ago, I would have found very little to argue with what Jim says above but as a result of reading a number of books in recent times by the likes of Gammon, Roud and Graebe that I try now to bring more rigour to what I write (though I am likely as the next person to lapse into humour when It seems to be needed!)


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 02:15 PM

Jack, you appear to have an agenda.
I stated quite clearly
"an article by martha bayles this is interesting for many reasons it illustrates that the term purist was used in folk music before the 50s uk folk revival, it is a fascinating article. from the michigan quarterly review.
   
THE STRANGE CAREER OF FOLK MUSIC
MARTHA BAYLES
Volume XLIV, Issue 2, Spring 2005
Permalink: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.act2080.0044.212


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Guest John Bowden
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 02:02 PM

From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 01:39 PM

"You didn't write any of that, garbled it badly, and didn't say where you got it. Links would have been more appropriate".

Oh really?

From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 01:10 PM

"an article by martha bayles this is interesting for many reasons it illustrates that the term purist was used in folk music before the 50s uk folk revival, it is a fascinating article. from the michigan quarterly review.
   
THE STRANGE CAREER OF FOLK MUSIC
MARTHA BAYLES
Volume XLIV, Issue 2, Spring 2005
Permalink: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.act2080.0044.212


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 01:39 PM

You didn't write any of that, garbled it badly, and didn't say where you got it. Links would have been more appropriate.

Wikipedia

Martha Bayles


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 01:10 PM

The earliest written record of the song is under the name "The Lucky Farmer's Boy" in an 1832 catalogue of street ballads printed in London by James Catnach.[1] In 1857, the compiler of a book of "Songs of the Peasantry of England" wrote; "There is no question that the Farmer's Boy is a very ancient song; it is highly popular amongst the north country lads and lasses. The date of the composition may probably be referred to the commencement of the last century... The song is popular all over the country, and there are numerous printed copies, ancient and modern."[2] Frank Kidson the English musicologist and folk song collector wrote in 1891, "Even now, the popularity of 'The Farmer's Boy' is great among country singers". Although he said that there was little variation in the text, he included three melodies and a fourth in an appendix, none of which is the most widely known one today.
The Baptist Church at Little Leigh where Thomas Fownes Smith preached. He is said to have been the original "Farmer's Boy"

A legend in Little Leigh, Cheshire, suggests that the song is based on the life of the Reverend Thomas Fownes Smith (1802-1866) and was written by his brother-in-law, Charles Whitehead (born 1792). Smith was the minister at Little Leigh Baptist Chapel for more than 30 years, where a plaque in his memory is located on the inside rear wall.[4] It is one of three folk songs traditionally sung by participants ahead of the Haxey Hood, a traditional mob football game held annually in North Lincolnshire at Epiphany
Jim Crrolls quote of Walter Pardon does not proves anything, and in the context of the background of the song illustrates Walters ignorance about the song and its authorship.
2 an article by martha bayles this is interesting for many reasons it illustrates thst the term purist was used in folk music before the 50s uk folk revival, it is a fascinating article., from the michigan quarterly review.
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THE STRANGE CAREER OF FOLK MUSIC
MARTHA BAYLES
Skip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
Volume XLIV, Issue 2, Spring 2005
Permalink: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.act2080.0044.212
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It is a quiet evening. The stars are bright, and the meal has been eaten. The city, if there is one, is far away. There is no electricity, no media. It is not yet bedtime, so someone picks up an instrument and begins to sing. The song is old, but nobody has ever written it down. Rather it has been transmitted orally through many generations, with many different versions, some preserved and some lost. No one knows who first created it. But everyone can and does sing it.

Is this a folk song? If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears, does it make a sound? Folk music has existed for ages, but to the people who first played it, it was just music, without an adjective like folk to distinguish it. To be folk it has had to be heard, self-consciously, by an outsider. And so, in a curious turn, the story of folk music is never really about the folk. It is about the outsiders. And in this country at least, that has meant not just the musicologists marching into hill country with their dusty recording devices, but a variety of highly opinionated listeners, by whose attentions folk music has come to be defined.

It was Europeans such as the English music transcriber Cecil J. Sharp (1859-1924) and the Hungarian collector and composer Béla Bartók (1881-1945) who first worked out the basic definition of folk music. Roughly, they understood folk music to be (1) rural and slow to change, not urban and dynamic; (2) continually varied, with no definitive version; (3) simple, straightforward, and plain; (4) transmitted orally, not through formal training or writing; and (5) focused more on group sharing than on individual expression.

These criteria were never strict, but their influence lingers. For example, the Folk Song Society of Greater Boston (FSSGB), a forty-five-year-old organization devoted to traditional folk repertory, mostly British and British-American, ignores the first, treasuring many songs from urban settings. But the members do adhere, more or less, to the other four.

This emphasis was on display recently at a home in Concord, Massachusetts, where thirty or forty members of the society, mostly people who looked as though they could remember the 1960s counterculture, showed up for an FSSBG house concert. They were there to hear Louis Killen, a native of Gateshead-on-Tyne in the industrial northeast of England, tell dialect tales, sing, and accompany himself on the English concertina. Killen introduced one old chestnut as a song he'd collected from a Northumbrian shepherd.

Is this an accurate portrait of the contemporary folk scene? Not really. Groups like the FSSGB have always been part of the scene—as one member commented, "We were here first." But unlike Boston's WUMB-FM ("folk radio") or the folk-oriented Club Passim in Harvard Square, the FSSGB does not look all that kindly on what is now the dominant figure in contemporary folk music: the singer-songwriter.

According to member Ruth Perry, who is also a professor of literature at M.I.T. and (together with Northeastern University musicologist Judith Tick) teaches a graduate seminar on British and American folk music, "The best folksingers are interested in preserving for people and passing on the music that is their free and common heritage. . . . People used to sing more than they do now. And what they sang and traded around and learned from each other is folk music." Indeed, some of the members present that evening took a very dim view of the whole singer-songwriter movement. To them it has negative connotations—of ego and (as one person put it) "navel-gazing"—that cut against the grain of folk music as community expression.

Is this fair? Every art form has its characteristic vice, and if one were pressed to describe the vice of the singer-songwriter, navel-gazing would not be far off. But the singer-songwriter tradition has many virtues as well, not least of which is a voracious openness to musical sounds.

Consider the lineup of performers appearing at the 2004 Boston Folk Festival. Most are singer-songwriters, but that phrase does not begin to describe the music. Some are identified with a particular style: Sam Bush with bluegrass (and "newgrass"); Cephas & Wiggins with Piedmont blues; Mark Erelli with Western swing; Natalie MacMaster with traditional fiddle music. But none is a strict traditionalist. And most range widely, as reflected in these thumbnail sketches of other acts listed in the festival program: "pumping new life into traditional bluegrass, old-timey, and roots music"; "drawing on jazz, rock, and pop"; "span[ning] the genres of honky-tonk, acapella, and swing"; and "fusing the traditional music of Ireland with American ballads and the dance tunes of French Canada, Cape Breton, and Normandy." If adherents of folk music have any doubts that the music continues to grow and evolve, these musicians should put them at ease. While respecting the tried and true, they also fly free, avoiding all pigeonholes.

Americana, roots, and acoustic are all terms folk performers and critics have devised for folk music in this country. And, of course, each term suggests a different understanding. Americana keeps it within the United States, while roots extends to music from around the globe. Acoustic excludes any music in the other two categories that uses electric instruments. No wonder, after forty-five years of devotion to the subject, Sing Out! magazine editorialized in 1995: "Our community vehemently refuses to take responsibility for defining folk music."

Yet this has not caused Sing Out! to cease publication. The idea of folk music proves amazingly persistent. Why? For many folk music buffs, the answer is bound up with politics.

The appropriation of folk music for political purposes dates back to mid-nineteenth-century Europe, where folk songs became a means to express nationalist sentiment. During the twentieth century, European ideologues across the political spectrum laid claim to the music of the folk. In Germany the left created many highly political songs based on folk music, and so did the right. Indeed, when the Nazis came to power in 1933 they put the folk song, or Volkslied, at the center of their public spectacles celebrating the superiority of the "Aryan" race. They also, in process, poisoned the well for future generations of German folkies. (As one young Berliner said to me a few years ago, "Around the campfire we sing mostly American songs.")

Communist regimes took similar advantage. From the 1930s forward, folk music was exploited as a way of defining—and controlling—the various "republics" making up the Soviet Union. In the 1970s the American ethnomusicologist Theodore Levin traveled in Central Asia to observe this ongoing process. While Levin found a subterranean musical life that was "complex, alive, and intimately linked to the innermost lives of people," he also measured the gap between that and "the glitzy professional folk troupes that became the official cultural ambassadors of the Central Asian republics." One aspect of the gap was the elimination from official folk music of all religious references.

No one on the American left ever manipulated folk music on such a grand scale. But most labor and other activists believed that music was very important. As Mike Gold of the Daily Worker wrote in the early 1930s, "Songs are as necessary to the fighting movement as bread." The only question was, which songs?

In the 1920s, any song would do, as long as the tune was familiar enough so that people could sing it with new lyrics. The master of this trade was Joe Hill of the communist-led Industrial Workers of the World, who added political lyrics to all sorts of American songs, from hymns to Broadway show tunes to popular ballads. ("Nearer My God to Thee" became "Nearer My Job to Thee," "Everybody's Doing It" became "Everybody's Joining It," and "Down by the Old Mill Stream" became "Down in the Old Dark Mills.") This same art is still practiced today by the octogenarian Joe Glazer, "Labor's Troubadour."

This casual approach changed in the early 1930s, when the official party line, straight from Moscow, said that artists must create a whole new "proletarian culture." It was never clear what this meant, but as the musicologist Judith Tick explains, one thing it did not mean was "Broadway, or commercial music tied to the Capitalist economic machine," as the Daily Worker put it. In New York, reports Tick, a group called the Composers' Collective worked on what they called "mass song," a new type of art song combining modernist technique with "militant protest lyrics." Several of these efforts were published in the collective's Workers Song Books, with titles such as "Lenin! Who's That Guy," "Mount the Barricades," and "Song of the Builders," by a Harvard-trained composer named Charles Seeger.

In 1935 the party line changed again, and the idea of modernist "proletarian culture" was discarded in favor of the Joe Hill philosophy—it's OK to use anything, as long as it helps the cause. The cause, of course, being the fight against fascism in Europe. This phase of leftist strategy was called the Popular Front, and its impact on American music was profound—and, thanks to the efforts of two families, one named Seeger and the other named Lomax, profoundly positive.

In 1935 Charles Seeger went to work for the federal government. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal was underway, and one of its many projects was to have experts go into the field and record all sorts and conditions of first-growth American folk music. Prominent among these were Charles Seeger and his wife, the composer Ruth Crawford Seeger; their children Peggy, Michael, and Pete; and the father-and-son team of John and Alan Lomax. Neither family was from the folk—indeed, they came from fairly privileged backgrounds. But like their nineteenth-century European counterparts, they respected the folk and tried to preserve its precious musical heritage when it was in danger of being lost.

What is most impressive about the Seegers and the Lomaxes is their refusal, in countless ways over many years, to subordinate music to politics. They were all consistently leftist in their views, and whenever they got the chance they would repeat the sentiment expressed by Alan Lomax in the preface to the 1941 edition of Our Singing Country: Folk Songs and Ballads: "Most of these singers are poor people, farmers, laborers, convicts, old-age pensioners, relief workers, housewives, wandering guitar pickers." But Lomax, who started collecting folk songs with his father at age eighteen, loved and respected his singers too much to even think of forcing their music into an ideological mold. Indeed, if Lomax had a fault, it was that he was too purist about the way people performed these odd, quirky, rough-hewn songs.

And therein lies a tale. Without the efforts of Alan Lomax, the so-called Folk Revival of the 1940s and 1950s would never have occurred. But Lomax's reaction to what he saw as the commercialization of the music was quite negative. Today, of course, a lot of the music recorded by him and others is preserved in the Smithsonian Institution and available on CD from Rounder Records. Here are just a few of the titles you can order: "Negro Blues and Hollers," "Railroad Songs and Ballads," "Afro-American Spirituals, Work Songs, and Ballads," "Anglo-American Ballads" (2 volumes), "Cowboy Songs, Ballads, and Cattle Calls from Texas," and "American Fiddle Tunes."

But back in the 1940s and 1950s, when most Americans were just beginning to discover folk music, it was harder to get them to appreciate the original, raw version. The tendency, deplored by Lomax at every turn, was to sweeten the sound, so that it sounded like commercial "pop," meaning recordings by such polished veterans of the big band era as Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Ella Fitzgerald. Today these singers are considered the gold standard of American song. But back then, many people on the left dismissed pop as "commercial music tied to the Capitalist economic machine." For Alan Lomax, the issue was less political than musical: "When a so-called folksinger, with no respect for or knowledge of the style or the original emotional content of the song, acquires the shell of the song merely and leaves its subtle vocal interior behind, there is a definite expressive loss."

The trouble with this view is that it does not allow for change—including change brought about by the folk themselves. For example, the 1940s was when a lot of Americans discovered the blues, a type of music that previously had been considered low entertainment. The left embraced the blues largely because of Lomax's tireless showcasing of such masters as Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter. But here the rejection of "commercial music" played a role, as many people on the left, taking their cues from Lomax, found only one type of blues acceptable: the "country blues," played by solo acoustic guitarist-singers and focusing on hard times—or better still, on protest.

The darling of the protest blues was Josh White, a native of Greenville, South Carolina, whose first political album, Southern Exposure (1941), contained such political titles as "Jim Crow Train," "Bad Housing Blues," "Defense Factory Blues," and "Uncle Sam Says" (about segregation in the armed forces). Curiously, White's protest blues did not attract a large black audience. This was because, as Elijah Wald of the magazine Living Blues writes, "By the 1940s. . . blues had become a band form, the Chicago sound of Walter Davis, Big Maceo, and Sonny Boy Williamson, the Kansas City shouts of Jimmy Rushing and Joe Turner, or the smooth combo style of Louis Jordan and T-Bone Walker." In other words, the popular black audience was embracing the urban blues, played by electrified bands focusing on good times—while the predominantly white folk audience rejected this type of blues, on the grounds that it was (guess what?) "commercial music."

This leftist purism was skillfully manipulated by Big Bill Broonzy, a Mississippi native who grew up playing acoustic blues but then recorded small combo jazz for the Bluebird label in Chicago. According to music historian Robert Palmer, Broonzy sized up the growing audience for the Folk Revival and changed his act, with the result that "a left-wing and generally naive young audience accepted him, along with Leadbelly, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGhee as true folk artists. Broonzy's dozens of Bluebird records with bass, drums, and jazz-band backing were conveniently forgotten, and he played the role of the folk bluesman fresh from the cotton fields to the hilt."

When asked about his authenticity, Broonzy's standard reply was: "I guess all songs is folk songs. I never heard no horse sing 'em."

A similar story could be told about other folk styles. For example, it has long been an article of faith among song collectors that one of the oldest folk traditions in America was found in the southern Appalachian Mountains during the first decade of the twentieth century, when a number of song collectors, many of them women, uncovered a rich deposit of Scots-English ballads preserved there in communities that had existed in relative isolation since the eighteenth century. The discovery attracted none other than Britain's Cecil Sharp, who visited the area in 1916 and, with Maud Karpeles and Olive Dame Campbell, produced the magnum opus English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians.

The story of the Appalachian musicologists is nicely dramatized in the movie Songcatcher (2000). But, as the movie suggests, not even this music was totally "pure." For one thing, it was ethnically mixed. The African-American musician Taj Mahal makes a cameo appearance in Songcatcher as a banjo master—a reminder that this much-favored instrument originated in Africa, not Britain. Also in the movie, the song-collecting heroine decides at the end to start her own record label—a reminder that this music was swiftly commercialized. As Tick observes, "The record labels were in the mountains at the same time as the collectors."

Here we encounter a major complication on the American scene, one that has been there from the beginning: America has never had folk music in the classic European sense. How could it, when its people are descended from Indians, settlers, slaves, and numerous different immigrant groups, rather than from peasants who have tilled the same soil, spoken the same language, and sung the same songs for generations? Some folklorists, notably the late Gene Bluestein, accept this fact about America and argue for a different term, poplore, to describe America's dynamic blend of ethnic traditions and its wide-open market for entertainment.

The concept of poplore becomes more compelling when we look at what happened in the 1960s. Here we see the other folk dynasty, the Seegers, helping not only to preserve a legacy but also to make it popular—and profitable. Indeed, Charles Seeger was the father (and Ruth the stepmother) of a new paradigm: the outsider as commercially successful folk singer.

In 1936, when seventeen-year-old Pete Seeger was about to enter Harvard, he traveled with Charles and Ruth to Bascom Lunsford's Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville, North Carolina. In her biography of Ruth Crawford Seeger, Judith Tick writes that for Pete this was "like visiting a foreign country." And when he and Ruth first heard the five-string banjo, they vowed to start "learning this idiom." Needless to say, no born-and-bred folk musician would have put it quite that way.

Pete Seeger also learned the idioms of bluesman Leadbelly and Oklahoma-born Woody Guthrie, both authentic folk in the sense of coming from hardscrabble backgrounds and singing traditional material. But significantly, both Leadbelly and Guthrie also added political lyrics to old songs and wrote their own songs. It was not long before all three were commercially successful recording artists. And the same was true of the Carter Family, Jean Ritchie, and many other leading lights of the Folk Revival. As celebrities who freely adapted traditional material, wrote their own material, and achieved solid recording careers, these people are the embodiment of American poplore.

With this background in mind, it is fascinating to recall how hostile the Folk Revival of the 1940s and 1950s was toward rock'n'roll. Having rejected pop as "commercialized music," many folkies took the same dim view of the raucous blend of country, rhythm & blues, and gospel that came roaring out of the South in the mid-1950s. Some record company executives felt the same way, and as soon as the original rock'n'rollers quit recording (Elvis because he went into the Army, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry because of sex scandals) the labels began to push what they saw as more dignified alternatives. The first was calypso, a brief fad starring Harry Belafonte that quickly fizzled. The second, wildly successful, was folk music.

But this was a different kind of folk music—not pop, exactly, but equally inauthentic. Alan Lomax (who actually liked rock'n'roll) described it this way: "Under the smooth bland surface of popularized folk song lies a bubbling stew of work songs, country blues, field hollers, hobo songs, prairie songs, spirituals, hoedowns, prison songs, and a few unknown ingredients." To him, the Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul & Mary, Judy Collins, and Joan Baez were nice college kids with pretty voices who just didn't get it.

This attitude had a lot to do with the sudden rise of Bob Dylan. All of these early 1960s folkies were more political than any rock'n'rollers. But to the older generation of leftist folk adherents the fact that a bland folkish song like "Tom Dooley" could become a number one hit (for the Kingston Trio, in 1958) was an embarrassment. The older folkies kept the pressure on, and in 1962 a new magazine, Broadside, began to publish pacifist, union, and civil rights songs under the editorship of the once black-listed musician Sis Cunningham and her husband, the leftist journalist Gordon Friesen. Along with the older Seegers, Cunningham, and other Folk Revival veterans such as Malvina Reynolds, Broadside also gave a platform to younger protest voices: Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Janis Ian, and Dylan.

All of these young performers had solid followings, but Dylan was the only one to become a superstar. His singular accomplishments, unrecognized at the time and still not well understood, were that he understood and deeply appreciated the fact that American music is poplore, not folklore; and that like the Lomaxes and Seegers he followed the music instead of the party line.

Dylan's first album of acoustic, original material, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963), contributed four classics to the folk canon: "Masters of War," "Ballad of a Thin Man," "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," and "Blowin' in the Wind." His next, The Times They Are A-Changin' (1963), carried him to triumph at the Newport Folk Festival as the unchallenged bearer of the Guthrie-Seeger mantle.

But then a strange thing happened: the mantle-bearer became a turncoat. First, he stopped singing protest songs. His next album, Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964), contained songs about personal relationships, which irked the editors of Sing Out!, who accused him of "selling out." Second, Dylan gave up his original acoustic sound and took up with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, a young white group who played the fully electrified Chicago blues style identified with figures like Muddy Waters.

Most music fans know, or think they know, that by appearing with the Butterfield band at the 1965 Newport Blues Festival, Dylan scandalized his elders and forged a brave new link between folk music and rock. The story is a bit more complicated, actually. The electric blues was pretty well accepted by then—in fact, earlier in the program Alan Lomax had appeared onstage discussing the fine points of that and other blues styles. Some in the crowd booed the electrified Dylan; Pete Seeger declared himself and angry"; Sing Out! issued another denunciation. But this time, the purists were outnumbered. Most listeners welcomed the new sound, and Dylan's career took off.

Yet it's worth noting that throughout that career, Dylan's greatest contribution has been to swim against the rock current. Most people think of him as the artist who merged folk with rock, and this is true if rock means the blues-based music he played in the 1960s. But Dylan did not sire hard rock, psychedelic rock, art rock, shock rock, heavy metal, glam metal, thrash metal, speed metal, death metal, punk metal, or any other of rock's squealing progeny. Indeed, the true measure of his standing as an American folk artist is how consistently he has returned popular music to its roots.

In 1968 hard rock was reaching its apogee, psychedelic rock ruled the drug scene, heavy metal was starting up, and the last thing the hippies and radicals cared about was country music. So what did Dylan do? He made two country-influenced albums, John Wesley Harding (1968) and Nashville Skyline (1969). A new genre was born, country-rock, which despite its later blandness did reconnect popular music with some of its roots. In the late 1970s, it became fashionable to pickle Dylan as a countercultural relic, holy and dead as Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin. But once again he defied the spirit of the age by announcing that he had become the most uncool thing imaginable: a born-again Christian. He began to make gospel albums, the best of which, Slow Train Coming (1979), impresses even secular critics with its musical quality. In 1999 he told Newsweek: "I find the religiosity and the philosophy in the music. I don't find it anywhere else." As a credo for America's best-known folk singer, this keeps the focus where it belongs: on the music.

So what is folk music today? As always, the definition is somewhat arbitrary. Hip hop, for example, is not considered folk, even though it grew out of a certifiable folk tradition ("dub" music and verbal "toasting" in the West Indies). Perhaps because it is both high tech and highly commercial, hip hop has little or no appeal to the keepers of the folk flame.

Indeed, if there are any authentic folk left, playing orally transmitted music in isolation from the world, it is only a matter of time before they are sniffed out by the ethnomusicologists, followed closely by entrepreneurs waving record contracts. For better or worse, folk music today is part of the commercial mainstream.

But the old criteria—some of them, anyway—still have meaning. Let's look at how well they describe contemporary folk music:

(1) Rural and slow to change, not urban and dynamic: As mentioned earlier, the rural aspect went by the boards a long time ago. Many cities, like Boston, have become centers of folk music, while whole stretches of rural America seem, sadly, to have lost all connection to it. And the dynamism of modern commerce drives folk almost as much as other forms of popular music.

(2) Continually varied, with no definitive version: This still applies, to the degree that folk musicians place more emphasis on songwriting than on record production. Unlike hip hop, electronica, or a dozen other production-heavy genres, most of folk is still based on songs rather than on particular recordings.

(3) Simple, straightforward, and plain: The idea of folk music as simple was discredited eighty years ago, when musicologists began to observe the subtlety and complexity of the music most highly prized by the folk themselves. But this criterion continues to mean something. Much of what now might be called contemporary folk sounds like country, soft rock, even New Age. But every now and then, somebody gets the urge to strip away all the frippery and restore the original grain. The MTV Unplugged phenomenon in the 1990s, distinguished by acoustic performances from rockers like Nirvana and the Pretenders, reflected this urge. And so does the popularity of the soundtrack to the film O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000), the first track of which, "Po Lazarus" by James Carter and the Prisoners, was recorded in 1959 at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Lambert by none other than Alan Lomax. (It would doubtless delight Lomax to learn that, according to Nielsen/Soundscan, that CD has sold seven million copies to date.)

Holding up quite well is (4) Transmitted orally, not through formal training or writing: Most folk musicians, even those who are fully music literate, learn more by listening than they do by reading. Recordings make listening easier, but they continue to be distrusted by folk musicians, who see them as a discouragement to natural variation and as the means to slavish imitation.

(5) Focused more on group sharing than on individual expression: This is tricky, because it seems to set up a dichotomy between music that evolves through some sort of anonymous communal process and music that is created by a single person. Probably this dichotomy fuels the low opinion of singer-songwriters among traditionalists.

But this dichotomy should be set aside. It is the product of late nineteenth-century thought, in which the new idea of Darwinian evolution was pitted against the older romantic cult of individual genius. The trouble is that very little folk music—or art of any kind—has ever been made in either of these extreme ways. Most art is created by individuals enjoying the benefits of association with other individuals. Tocqueville wasn't thinking about folk music when he wrote, "Americans of all ages, all stations in life, and all types of disposition are forever forming associations." But his words certainly apply.

Each year, the National Endowment for the Arts gives an award, the National Heritage Fellowship, to a dozen or so folk artists. (Just to keep it all in the family, the initiator of that award was the founder and long-time director of the NEA's Folk & Traditional Arts Program, Alan Lomax's sister, Bess Lomax Hawes.)

The vitality of the American folk music tradition—and the room for growth within it—can be summed up by a partial list of recipients over the last twenty years: Cajun musician Dewey Balfa, bluegrass master Bill Monroe, Detroit bluesman John Lee Hooker, zydeco king Clifton Chenier, Irish-American fiddler Martin Mulvihill, Appalachian singer Doc Watson, mariachi impresario Natividad Cano, Memphis bluesman B. B. King, gospel singers Clarence Fountain & The Blind Boys of Alabama, Cuban mambo bandleader Cachao Lopez, Puerto Rican bomba star Juan Gutierrez, the klezmer group the Epstein Brothers, new gospel's Pops Staples, Tennessee fiddler Ralph Blizard, and Jean Ritchie, who almost single-handedly brought the dulcimer to popularity in the 1940s and 1950s.

All these people made their careers in the modern world, not in some remote unspoiled rural setting. They've all listened to the radio and gone to the movies. They've all watched television. Some have had a more than passing acquaintance with high culture. Their accomplishments attest to the fact that folk is no longer a term for "pure" music discovered by outsiders. Rather it is a self-conscious designation, a tree that can hear itself falling. But maybe that's good. Because when it comes to bringing forth new growth, self-consciousness can be a blessing in disguise.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 12:59 PM

Sorry Pseu
Cross-posted
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 12:47 PM

"'Popular ballads'."
Of the people - I posted this earlier (01 Oct 17 - 02:49 PM ) - sorry - I post too much
Child appeared to lose interest in the ballads after their publication and much of what he believed is still shrouded in conjecture.
There is no evidence as far as I have ever come across that his 'common origins' belief ever changed, nor is there any evidence that he ever changed his contempt for broadsides (as has been suggested in previous arguments)   
A great deal of information lies in his correspondence with other scholars
Child was of his time and background, with all the restrictions that implies, but on the other hand, he wasn't alone in his belief that these songs belonged to the countryside rather than the towns
Much work has been done since, none of which changes that view in any way apart from the unsubstantiated suggestion that the rural poor were incapable of producing the ballads.

Typical of these was Phillips Barry's note to 'The Lake of Col Finn, in the Vermont collection, 'The New Green Mountain Songster' in 1939:
"Popular tradition, however, does not mean popular origin. In the case of our ballad, the underlying folklore is Irish de facto, but not de-jure: the ballad is of Oriental and literary origin, and has sunk to the level of the folk which has the keeping of folklore. To put it in a single phrase, memory not invention is the function of the folk".   

Everything I have experienced in working with singers has confirmed this to be offensively inaccurate   
Sorry to repeat this as much as I do but I find it cathartic
Ironically, Barry displayed exactly the opposite attitude to other songs in the cllection

As I said before, once we accept that country people were capable of and inclined towards song making, then surely it is logical to accept that they could and probably did make a great number of them, if not most
The the familiarity with the subject matter and the use of vernacular language weighs heavily in favour of that probability.

Howard
My view is no more 'purist' than that of the majority of singers and researchers up to comparatively recently
Up to now, folk song has always been regarded as 'The Voice of the People'
The Topic Records major series drew its title from this description, Lloyd assembled a thirteen programme series of international folk songs entitled 'Songs of the People' back in the 1970s without a hint of protest from anywhere... this is what people thought and believed without question.

The term 'purist' is a revival, one as is 'finger-in-ear' and 'folk-police'
They all came to prominence when the club scene appeared to become bored with the old repertoire and began looking elsewhere.
I've never come across a major opposition to the fact that Topic and Leader Records more or less confined their output to a certain definition.

The first time I ever came across it was when we issued a cassette of Irish Traveller songs and a reviewer complained that there were no Country and Western items included.
The inclusion of Victorian and early 20th century popular songs within the definition really is a new kid on the block

It really isn't a matter of excluding or disallowing anything
MacColl's Song Carriers statement is fairly inclusive of published songs that have been absorbed into an oral tradition
I don't know anybody ever disallowing Wild Rover, though Walter Pardon once said about 'Farmers Boy', "That song was written by someone who couldn't tell the difference between wheat and barley"

It never has been about where singers picked up their songs; rather it is about what they did with them when they got them, particularly how they took ownership of them and treated them as their own
Are there significantly differing versions of 'When the Fields Were White With Daisies or 'Bird in a Gilded Cage'
It's awfully difficult to take ownership of a song with somebody else's name on it and a damn sight more difficult when it has a (c) next to the title.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 12:21 PM

Sorry the quotation marks are a mess in the above. But Child definitely wrote that the upper class wrote the ballads.

Roud's reference is to an encyclopeia article reprinted in the bumper edition 1994 Journal of Folklore Research. Sorry again

I like the idea of songs from an early age being passed down through an oral tradition, and I'm firmly convinced that people who are non-literate can also be capable of producing very good songs, but I'm not sure how we could ever prove a theory of origin one way or the other.


Once a song has been written down, whatever its origin, it becomes very difficult to argue that any later manifestation of it sidestepped the B road written version and took the A road via the oral route.

Even literacy/non literacy are not as straightforward as you might think. My ancestors (due it seems to tuberculosis, widowerhood, the invention of the lathe and other stuff) went from Blacksmith to Parish Clerk/Sexton to illiterate coal miner in one generation. Evidence, cross on certificates. And some people in some eras could read a bit but not write, and some communities had 'scriveners' and so on.

I think Roud made a reasonable decision in deciding to tell us what is known via contemporary evidence about what people did actually sing. Sorry, even if his definition isn't perfect, he does at least discuss the problems of definitions, to be fair to him. I still think this book is full of gems and well worth reading.


The Perfumed Garden! Yes, excellent example. But is it 'folk?' (ducks).


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: RTim
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 12:21 PM

"A song was just a song to me. I never even heard any song called a folk song. After all, every song is a song by the folks and for the folks. I don't recall ever writing any songs for cows, chickens, fish, monkeys nor wild animals of any kind."

Woody Guthrie March 8, 1948


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 11:32 AM

I think the mention of Child cropped up allegedly in the context of Roud re-writing a definition that has held for a century or so.

It has been pointed out that Child called his volumes 'Popular ballads'. What did he mean by this?

Assuming what Roud says about Child is correct, and I suppose he will have looked into this, Roud says Child never wrote the General Preface that people hoped for. Child doesn't go into all this in volume one, where one might expect to find such an introduction.

Roud says on page 112 that 'A small cottage industry developed in articles that tried to reach Child's definition of the genre and his selection criteria by extrapolating from the general text of the volumes, but there has been no agreement on their selections.'

Now that is worth knowing, so thank you Roud.

Roud then says Child did write an article on Ballad Poetry for an encyclopaedia, but himself said not to take this as definitive.

'The crucial point is that for him ballad poetry was the forerunner of art poetry and belonged to a period when there was no or little distinction between popular and art culture.'

Roud on page 113 quotes Child as follows:

The primitive ballad then, is popular, not in the sense of something arising from and suited to the lower orders of people. As yet, no sharp distinction of high and low exists, in respect to knowledge, desires and tastes An increased civilisation, and especially the introductin of book-culture, gradually gives rise to such a division; the poetry of art appears: the popular poetry is no longer relished by a portion of the people, and is abandoned to an uncultivated or not over-cultivated class - a constantly diminishing number...


From what has been said, it may be seen or inferred that the popular ballad is not originally the product or the property of the lower classes of the people. Nothing, in fact, is more obvious than that many of the ballads of the now most refined nations had their origin in that class whose acts and fortunes they depict - the upper class.


Roud (p109) reminds us that Child's interest in ballads arose from a general interest in English Literature, including Chaucer. Child was not interested in the pieces as music. Nor, says Roud, was he interested in performance. Roud says that for some Child pieces there is no evidence that they were ever sung or recited. He saw the ballads as 'literature'.


I have been reading Kittredge's introduction to his selection of Child. He says:

"They belonged, in the first instance, to the whole people, at a time when there were no formal divisions of literate and illiterate; when the intellectual interests of all were substantially identical, from the king to the peasant."

"The homogeneous folk — that is, the community whose intellectual interests are the same from the top of the social structure to the bottom — is no fiction; examples in abundance have been observed and recorded."

I don't believe a word of this. Nor do I share Kittredge's belief that this is clear and unarguable. I would on the contrary be wanting proof that such an intellectually monolithic culture ever existed.

But my main point was that definitions of 'popular' vary and don't seem to be getting me much further.

Now, some have complained that Roud includes a section about writers about folk, but it seems to me that maybe, in view of information like this, it is worth knowing about these writers.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Howard Jones
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 10:29 AM

Jim takes a very passionate but purist view, and I entirely see where he is coming from. However if only songs which originated from within the oral tradition can be admitted, that leaves out a vast number of songs which by most criteria would be considered folk songs. The inconvenient fact is that singers picked up songs from wherever they could find them, and the songs they sang don't always fit in with our ideas of what folk song should ideally be.

A definition of folk song which disallows songs like "The Wild Rover" and "A Farmer's Boy" because of their composed and printed origins seems to me to be somewhat wide of the mark.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 09:49 AM

"How does a title prevent something being judged on its merits?"
By claiming to be what it isn't
That's covered by the trades descriptions act
Jack is right if we are only concerned with those already in the know; we can already see the effect that it has had on those who are not
We can slog it out between us until we reach a conclusion or agree to disagree
That isn't going to help us win or win back those who have been confused by the ambivalence
At one time, if somebody asked me where they are sure to find folk songs I would unhesitatingly point to Roud's numbering system as starting point
I wouldn't do that now and that, for me, is a sad loss

Isn't 'The Perfumed Garden' a book on horticulture Jack? - That explains why I thought I was getting funny looks from Pat!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,just another guest
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 09:10 AM

How does a title prevent something being judged on its merits?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 08:58 AM

"If it were to have a subtitle more acceptable to those who claim ownership of the term 'Folk Song' what should it be?"
Nobody "claims ownership over the term folk song" - well over a century's documentation and research has made that totally unnecessary

In my opinion the book would have been far better named 'A History of Popular Song'
When I was told that over 90% of our folk-songs originated as commercial commodities to be sold, 'no different than today's pop songs' that was the title that was suggested to me.
Using that description would have prevented these disputes and enabled us to judge the work on its own merits

I believe the folk Song revival lost its way because the term 'folk song' lost its meaning - I hope scholarship doesn't go the same way

"Titles don't matter if you have a clue."
We are a dying breed and desperately need new blood - most incomers don't have a clue
The present Irish Traditional music boom was launched on a carefully constructed foundation based on past work
Incomers can do and are doing what they wish with the contents of that foundation, but they will always have a reference point to return to
I never thought I'd live to see that point reached
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 08:09 AM

Perhaps your concept of "traditional" or "folk" is simply irrelevant to what Roud is investigating? He's looking at the songs people actually sang, and the social praxis of singing.
Roud deliberately chose Loyd's title for his book, indicating they are on the same subject - they are not
That is misleading


If you're buying a book that big and expensive, you read the cover blurb, the foreword and maybe a review.

I work in a charity bookshop and have to deal with literal-minded volunteers who file The Photoshop Bible in the religion section. The title doesn't mean Adobe claim to be a religion. (The same people would put both The Secret Garden and The Perfumed Garden next to Alan Titchmarsh). Titles don't matter if you have a clue.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,just another guest
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 08:02 AM

If a reader is interested in the songs people actually sang, and the social praxis of singing (as Jack Campin succinctly put it) they don't neccessarily want yet another assembled assessment of all the work. Roud has clearly read all the previous work and acknowledges that it has helped him; we can read it ourselves if we want to. He has given us an assembled assessment of the 'raw material' that he has been able to source.

It is not an academic treatise. It is his book, giving us examples of his sources and setting out his thoughts.

If it were to have a subtitle more acceptable to those who claim owenership of the term 'Folk Song' what should it be?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 05:26 AM

"Perhaps your concept of "traditional" or "folk" is simply irrelevant to what Roud is investigating? He's looking at the songs people actually sang, and the social praxis of singing."

My point exactly Jack.
Roud deliberately chose Loyd's title for his book, indicating they are on the same subject - they are not
That is misleading and it is exactly this that has been taken up by reviewers - that out folk sons were not made by the folk
What point would there be in adding to that condusion
Roud has cornered the market on the term 'folk song' - he is rightfully highly regarded for his work - now he has shot off at a tangent by lumping folk and non-folk material into this numbering system
His numnbering system is limited to his own personal tastes and will continue to be until 'Oobla Dee, Oobla Dah' and 'The Birdie Song' are given Roud numbers - that's what 'the folk' are singing now
If you believe that is not what he is doing, I think you need to say what you think he is doing.
The fact to phrase what people are sayin as "I don't believe that is Roud's intention' is an indication to me that what he IS saying wasn't stated clearly enough in the first place
There really shouldn't be any room for doubt or misinterpretation in a book of that size and importance.
Folk song scholarship needs to be an assembled assessment of all the work, not the constant replacement of past knowledge with new thoughts - as this one spectacularly is
Definitions on dead subjects need to be 'definite' unless and until new information comes to light otherwise they become opinions based on personal taste of something none of us played a part in the making of
No way to run a piss-up in a brewery, never mind something as important as folk culture
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Howard Jones
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 05:00 AM

I don't think Roud says anything to deny the creation of songs from within the community itself. I agree he could perhaps have placed more emphasis on this, but I think he is trying to challenge the assumption that most folk songs originated this way, whereas he is trying to show how popular songs from a variety of sources entered the repertoire of 'folk singers'.

One of the problems with definitions is that they are too definite. Perhaps when talking about folk song we should be looking for guidelines, rather than definitions. I am happy to agree with Jim that many of the popular songs from music hall etc should not be considered 'folk songs' even though they are widely found in the oral tradition and in the repertoire of 'folk singers'. They have not undergone sufficient change through the 'folk process' and can be clearly differentiated not only in style but also in emotional content. But what word should we use to describe those songs which can be traced back to a composed origin but which have been transformed in the hands of folk singers? I am happy to regard those as 'folk songs' and I think the 1954 definition supports this view. I'm not sure Jim agrees, although I will happily concede that I'm not sure I'm understanding him correctly and I'm not trying to put words in his mouth.

Coming back to Roud, the waters are possibly muddied by his "Folk Song Index". This label is a convenient shorthand but is I think misleading. It records and indexes songs collected from the oral tradition, and includes many popular songs as well as true folk songs.    I don't think it should be interpreted as claiming that anything collected from a folk singer is therefore folk song, and I don't believe that is Roud's intention.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 05:00 AM

To continue to sing a song doesn't make it traditional - it's far more complicated than that, but that seems to be what Roud's book is based on.

Perhaps your concept of "traditional" or "folk" is simply irrelevant to what Roud is investigating? He's looking at the songs people actually sang, and the social praxis of singing.

If you want there to be a book about the songs you classifiy as "folk", perhaps you'd better write it yourself rather than complain when other people spend years of their lives and a great deal of original thought writing about something entirely different, and which a lot of us out here want to know about.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Jul 18 - 03:53 AM

"or were transmitted by ordinary people "
That was taken for granted by virtually all the early scholars, there was no reason for it to be said
Child's 'Popular' Ballads didn't refer to how far they got up the 19th century charts - it was the old usage of the term, 'of or belonging to the people'

Motherwell, in his introduction to his 'Minstrelsy', issued dire warnings about interfering with the way the 'common people' sang their songs.
James Hogg's mother accused Scott of ruining her songs by writing them down - hardly the words of someone who had received her songs from print.

Child dismissed the broadside repertoire as inferior dross - "veritable dunghills' - the poets were noted for being poor versifiers, "hacks".

We have a large number of published broadside collections here, Ashton, Euing, Roxborough, Rollins, Ebsworth, Holloway and Black...
What distinguishes them all is, in contrast with the traditional repertoire, there's hardly a singable song in any of them.

I find it very difficult to believe that our beautiful, economically streamlined folk songs sprang from the same school as 'The Cat's Meat Man' or 'The Tragic Case of the Lady Who Plunged to her Death from The Monument' - it's not a case of individual songs; rather it's the overall style which is the greatest giveaway



WE don't know who made the songs but we need to examine all the evidence, instead of discarding it like you would an old pair of shoes to replace them with a pair 'in fashion'

One of the big problems with all this is that too many people don't seem to know the difference between tradition and repetition.
To continue to sing a song doesn't make it traditional - it's farm more complicated than that, but that seems to be what Roud's book is based on.
All our folk songs may not be 'good' but they are nearly all unique in various ways

One of biggest 'finds' over the years at collecting wasn't 'new' or 'more beautiful or important versions' of songs - it was the large number of anonymous locally made songs that were made, largely in the lifetimes of the singers on every subject you cam imagine and every aspect of the human condition - hundreds in this county, now it transpired, common throughout Ireland

Rural working people, and, to a a lesser degree, urban workers, were natural poets with a desire to set down their feelings and experiences in singable verse - for the sheer hell of it - not for money (as one of the advocates of print origin suggested
This is a serious fact to be taken into consideration when we are attempting to assess who made our folk songs

'Ordinary' people have been making songs at least since The Venerable Bede complained about drunken cattlemen passing around the harp and singing some time in the 8th century
Illiterate Shepherds were reported to have been singing 'The Frog and the Mouse' in 16th century Scotland
Some of our folk songs may only date back as far as a little over a century but the motifs in many of them are not only older than literacy but predate the invention of print, some going as far back as far as Homer and Biblical times.

The influence of print is very much 'a new kid on the block' - that is a serious point to be taken into consideration when we are assessing who made our folk song   
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 03 Jul 18 - 03:56 PM

Jim

I apologise for misreading the 'largely disappeared' in your post of 11.07. I thought you were using the disappearing venue as a reason for the decline in folk singing and the need for hearse chasing by Sharp.


I don't know enough about Child to comment on his theory of what folk music was; to judge from what Roud says about it, it was a) not entirely coherent b) elitist, as opposed to seeing folk as the song of the people. Yes, he was looking at old ballads/fables/ but I don't think he was necessarily claiming they originated or were transmitted by ordinary people ie medieval peasants. Not sure how he imagined they were transmitted. In his view, some of them don't seem started out in any historical form of the English language!


For me, as I understand it, one aspect of Roud's definition and discussion that might be one you are unhappy with is the idea that to count as 'folk' it has to be passed on. I don't have my copy in front of me, but he says something like 2 or three generations. That would mean that any songs written by travellers and collected within the same generation would not come within the definition.


On that criterion, Little Boxes Made out of Ticky Tacky could not yet be included, and may never be, unless people are passing it on now.

However, in the case of any such songs you had collected, it would appear that the songs are not in immediate danger of being forgotten as they are published.

I understand you are unhappy with various aspects of it, this is just one part that seemed relevant.

Also part of my point was that as a layman, not used to specialist definitions, I would probably have counted MacColl as a folk singer and Dirty Old Town as a folk song, using not sure what criteria. So my idea would have been in terms I guess of style, mostly as hinted above, relating to denim and guitars. The socks with sandals seem to have gone out of fashion. I was tring to spot some yesterday and there weren't any.)


Tzu.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 03 Jul 18 - 03:26 PM

"Much said about Bert is unproven speculation"

On the other hand much else said about him is supported by reliable evidence.

Neither of which has much to do with either Steve's book or the argument about whether to define folk song by origin, practice or any of the other possible criteria.

Jim, you claim that Roud has departed from a previously widely accepted definition of folk song, but exactly what definition have you in mind, who used it and where did they state it? You can't mean the "1954" definition because that one is not restricted by origin.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 03 Jul 18 - 02:37 PM

Should read
"Much said about Bert is unproven speculation
Jim Caarroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 03 Jul 18 - 02:37 PM

Should read
"Much said about Bert is unproven speculation
Jim Caarroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 03 Jul 18 - 01:49 PM

"MacColl may have denied that he was a writer of songs
Who said he denied being a write of songs?
I said he didn't call the songs he wrote 'folk songs'
"but he did not refuse royalty cheques"
He was a professional singer and song writer - do you object to such people getting paid fro what they do?
You have no idea what Bert did - nobody does
Much said about is unproven speculation
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: The Sandman
Date: 03 Jul 18 - 01:25 PM

I believe it is a failure to do that that sent the folk scene spiraling down in flames in the 1980s.
a debatable remark and one that is an over simpification.
MacColl may have denied that he was a writer of songs but he did not refuse royalty cheques,however Bert Lloyd did pretend that he had not written or added to songs but was concerned only with improving the tradtional repertoire.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 03 Jul 18 - 12:27 PM

I did say "largely disappeared" Pseu
I used to go to pubs in Manchester where they had a pianist and one along the Stretford Road had an amateur night where the Guvnor would pay a prize (£5 I think) for the best performance
I was a regular at that one, but I never tried my hand - you'd be shouted off the stage if you embarked on Barbara Allen or Van Dieman's Land
These were more passively received entertainments' rather than song-swapping and reminiscing with people you knew
Regading definition, if we are going to communicate one with the other we need to do so using the same language
I believe it is a failure to do that that sent the folk scene spiraling down in flames in the 1980s
Jim


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