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New Book: Folk Song in England

Brian Peters 08 Jul 18 - 05:14 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 08 Jul 18 - 05:59 PM
Jim Carroll 09 Jul 18 - 02:09 AM
GUEST,Jack Campin 09 Jul 18 - 08:20 AM
Jim Carroll 09 Jul 18 - 08:54 AM
GUEST,Mike Yates 09 Jul 18 - 10:28 AM
The Sandman 09 Jul 18 - 10:55 AM
The Sandman 09 Jul 18 - 10:57 AM
Howard Jones 09 Jul 18 - 01:04 PM
The Sandman 09 Jul 18 - 01:57 PM
GUEST,uniformitarianit 09 Jul 18 - 02:33 PM
Jim Carroll 09 Jul 18 - 03:38 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 10 Jul 18 - 05:54 AM
Vic Smith 10 Jul 18 - 06:33 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 10 Jul 18 - 07:13 AM
Jim Carroll 10 Jul 18 - 08:58 AM
GUEST,just another guest 10 Jul 18 - 09:13 AM
GUEST,just another guest 10 Jul 18 - 09:24 AM
Jim Carroll 10 Jul 18 - 09:32 AM
Jack Campin 10 Jul 18 - 09:54 AM
Vic Smith 10 Jul 18 - 10:08 AM
Steve Gardham 10 Jul 18 - 04:52 PM
Richard Mellish 10 Jul 18 - 05:04 PM
Brian Peters 10 Jul 18 - 05:43 PM
Jim Carroll 10 Jul 18 - 08:48 PM
The Sandman 11 Jul 18 - 12:36 AM
Jim Carroll 11 Jul 18 - 02:58 AM
Jim Carroll 11 Jul 18 - 03:40 AM
Jack Campin 11 Jul 18 - 04:27 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 11 Jul 18 - 04:55 AM
Richard Mellish 11 Jul 18 - 06:16 AM
Richard Mellish 11 Jul 18 - 07:10 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 11 Jul 18 - 07:23 AM
Vic Smith 11 Jul 18 - 07:53 AM
GUEST,just another guest 11 Jul 18 - 08:41 AM
Jim Carroll 11 Jul 18 - 08:54 AM
Jack Campin 11 Jul 18 - 09:15 AM
Vic Smith 11 Jul 18 - 09:18 AM
Jim Carroll 11 Jul 18 - 09:40 AM
Jack Campin 11 Jul 18 - 10:20 AM
Vic Smith 11 Jul 18 - 10:21 AM
GUEST 11 Jul 18 - 10:33 AM
GUEST,Brian Peters 11 Jul 18 - 10:48 AM
Jim Carroll 11 Jul 18 - 02:22 PM
The Sandman 11 Jul 18 - 02:31 PM
Lighter 11 Jul 18 - 02:49 PM
Jim Carroll 11 Jul 18 - 03:04 PM
Steve Gardham 11 Jul 18 - 06:34 PM
The Sandman 12 Jul 18 - 01:32 AM
Jim Carroll 12 Jul 18 - 02:54 AM
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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 08 Jul 18 - 05:14 PM

Re Gammon, Atkinson, Boyes & Harker, Jim wrote: "I'm not aware that any on the top list (not sure about Vic) spent any real time questioning traditional singers face-to-face - if they have, I have come across no accounts of it."

None of the above is a song collector, so this is hardly surprising - you could say the same of F J Child, but that wouldn't disqualify him as a ballad scholar.

Dave Atkinson has however published some fascinating material regarding the 'backstories' that singers interviewed by collectors used to contextualize their songs. His account of the 'Shakespeare's Ghost' version of 'Unquiet Grave' is intriguing and rather moving.


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

Vic Gammon has always performed. That seems important.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Jul 18 - 02:09 AM

"but that wouldn't disqualify him as a ballad scholar."
No, of course it wouldn't Brian, but it would limit his scope of information, as it would all academics
My point has been, from the beginning, that our assessment of folk song has to be based on a sum of all knowledge and opinion
If we don't attempt that, the further in time we move from our living traditions, the less becomes the likelihood of reaching a satisfactory conclusion
I've always been amused by the "a camel is a horse designed by I committee" saying, but I've never really believed it.
I can't help but remind people that Child's scholarship has come into question here when it has suited people's arguments to do so.

I believe that a great number of opportunities have been lost by treating our understanding of folk-song as a fashion item and replacing one theory by another, rather than incorporating them all into a grand whole - I think that the former my be what is happening here.
An example; when Sharp and his colleges were doing their bit for folk culture, a popular concept was the 'communal origins' theory - 'Some Conclusions' advocates it to a degree, shortly afterwards, Gummere wrote about it at length.
Next minute - pouf - it was gone
Three quarters of a century later groups of Irish Travellers were found to be composing their own folk songs communally within a still living tradition - the same appears to have been the case in rural Ireland

For me, this is the importance of MacColl's 'Song Carriers' statement; all aspects of song-making need to be examined
Once you start insisting on definititive 90% plus origins based on one single theory of song-making, advocating for any other aspect is pissing in a very high gale.
I think it's time to move on from single-minded theories and unassailable academics and genuinely start to co-operate to pool our ideas.

"Vic Gammon has always performed. That seems important."
I agree absolutely Pseu; I think it is when you put the songs in our mouth and actually taste the flavour, it is then you come to realise the thought and emotion that is gone into their making

I think that, had Bert Lloyd come onto the research scene later, when younger singers in the revival were actually thinking about the songs they were singing, he would have been a better scholar than he was; as it was, he was one of the best popularisers of serious folk song I ever came across.
MacColl got a lot of things wrong about his songs, but he got far more right about them - he did his homework and he put the results into their singing

I found some of the booklets of notes that came with the early albums - Folkways, Riverside and to a lesser extent but still high up the scale, Topic, almost as enjoyable as the albums themselves.
On the other hand, I know of researchers who sing who leave me cold, sometimes on both aspects of their work

Must go - shower - breakfast - Codeword and off to a singing workshop
Have a great day all
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 09 Jul 18 - 08:20 AM

Once you start insisting on definitive 90% plus origins based on one single theory of song-making

That isn't based on a theory (unlike the "everything was created by the common people" dogma). It's based on all the available evidence.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Jul 18 - 08:54 AM

The claim is that that percentage was created outside the communities - there is no evidence whatever to even begin to back that up
Our knowledge of the oral tradition dates back only to the end of the 19th century
I have no problem with the suggestion that that many songs appeared on broadsides but that doesn't prove that they first appeared there
Steve Gardham has accepted thaat broadside makers were taking songs from the tradition, but there is little sign of that in his claims
We actually recorded a ballad sheet seller who described taking his father's songs to the printer and reciting them over the counter so they could be sold around the markets
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Mike Yates
Date: 09 Jul 18 - 10:28 AM

I keep, occasionally, dipping into this thread. And something recently caught my eye. One of the reasons that I stopped collecting songs (and began working in the so-called art-world)was because of a conversation that I had with a couple of academics. Basically they said that as I had never studied folk music at university I was not qualified to speak on the subject and that I should cease do so. The same applied to my writing about the subject. Frankly, I felt rather let down by people who I believed should have shown some encouragement. Over the years I have been approached by several people who were working on university degrees in folk music and I have always tried to help them - by allowing them to use some of my recordings in their dissertations etc. Now, if anyone rings me, I just put the phone down! This probably sounds like sour grapes, but it is really a sadness that things have come to this. When I first started getting interested in folk music the experts were Ewan MacColl and Bert LLoyd, both self-taught. I got to know Bert very well - a lovely, friendly and ever helpful man. But he was no sooner in his grave before people started criticising him. Over the years I have watched the folk scene turn into something very different from what it was in the 1950's, when I first became aware of the subject. I suppose that this should not surprise me, as change is a condition of all living things. But, like I say, it does sadden me.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Jul 18 - 10:55 AM

Over the years I have watched the folk scene turn into something very different from what it was in the 1950'
i blame agents and the attitudes of some performers who treat the songs and performing as if the only thing that matters is the furtherance of their own career.
Howver,Martin Carthy encapsulated the attitude IN A COMMENT when he described how he was travelling on a train[ in the late fifdties or early sixties] and pete stanleys sister was playing freight train and refused to show him how it was played.So it seems that even back then not everybody was helpful and not everybody shared information or techniques


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Jul 18 - 10:57 AM

to continue, today, in 2018 there are some wonderfully helpful tuition clips some brilliant people who are trying to hwlp otherswith you tube tuition clips, apologies for thread creep


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Howard Jones
Date: 09 Jul 18 - 01:04 PM

Is it likely that music-makers in the past were very much different from those today? Of course music-making (as opposed to passively consuming music) has become restricted to a much smaller proportion of society, but that still spans all social classes. Entirely empirically, it seems to me that far more people perform songs which have been written by others than are composers themselves. Whilst composition can be learned, up to a point, it takes a certain spark which not all singers and musicians have, and I would say most do not. We only have to look around us to see that whilst we may all be capable of turning out the occasional song or tune, only a handful are doing so on a regular and consistent basis.

I have no evidence for the actual ratio, but to say that maybe 5%-10% of all singers and musicians are composers seems about right to me. I don't believe that essential spark would have exhibited itself any differently amongst previous generations. This suggests to me that the majority of singers, across all classes, have always been reliant on a small number of composers to supply them with songs.

Looked at this way, the claim that most folk songs were written by outsiders is less surprising. Otherwise we would have to believe either that the working classes were somehow isolated from other musical influences and could rely for songs only on what could be created from within their own communities, or else that they were somehow disproportionately gifted when it came to composing songs. Roud shows how the first was not the case, and the second seems unlikely simply on normal statistical distribution grounds.

I don't think such a ratio would be thought surprising for the music played by the middle and upper classes. Although there would have been some who composed for themselves, most of what they performed would have been by professional composers. Why should the sources of folk music be different? What characterises folk song is not where it came from but what then happened to it.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Jul 18 - 01:57 PM

Although there would have been some who composed for themselves, most of what they performed would have been by professional composers"
OCarolan springs to mind, a composer who relied on upper class patroinage


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,uniformitarianit
Date: 09 Jul 18 - 02:33 PM

Is it likely that music-makers in the past were very much different from those today?

Way, way back in this discussion (4 Nov 2017) I asked

Do those who make an academic study of these things have anything similar to the geologists concept of "uniformitarianism"?

If so the recent evidence that those at the 'humblest' levels of society do write songs allows us to ask "do we have any evidence that 'ploughboys, milkmaids, weavers, etc, ' didn't write songs?" rather than having a strict requirement for evidence that they did.


I can't remember how far I was through the book at that point, but on finishing it I was left with the feeling that music-makers were much the same in the past as now.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Jul 18 - 03:38 PM

What Mike says - than really needed saying
Thanks to Ewan, Bert, Bill Leader and Mike himself, our generation were given access to a world we would never have known existed - and we got great pleasure from if (some of us who survived what came after, still do)
I
t was Mikes generosity when we both lived in Manchester that awoken my desire to learn from the old singers and they, in their turn convinced me that their claim to the songs they sang were fully justified
Nobody hes conceded one inch that the old singers might have made the songs yet have offered no explanation why they didn't
It seems to me that some people don't want them to have made them - all I can say is that it's a pity people were never able to spend time with them

By the way - regarding 'music making' - this tends to ignore the fact that as far as songs are concerned, we are being invited to share ideas and experiences, not watch musical performances
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 10 Jul 18 - 05:54 AM

"Nobody hes conceded one inch that the old singers might have made the songs yet have offered no explanation why they didn't"

I am quite happy that old singers might have made the songs.

But I also think that people singing songs *might* not always be clear about the origins of those songs. An example may be some friends of Irish origin who sometimes sing The Mountains of Mourne and I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen because their parents, who were born in Ireland, sang these songs. They regard them both as Irish. And given the context in which they were passed on, perhaps they were.

The first was written by somebody from an Anglo-Irish landlord family called Percy French. His family appears to have bought land from the Trustees of Irish Forfeitures. According to wiki he also wrote Abdul, Abulbul Amir.

The second was written, again according to wiki, by Thomas P. Westendorf in 1875. (The music is loosely based on Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Flat Minor Opus 64 Second Movement).

In spite of its German-American origins, it is widely mistaken to be an Irish ballad. ... It's in the form of an "answer" to a popular ballad of the time, "Barney, Take Me Home Again," composed by Westendorf’s close friend, George W. Brown, writing under the nom de plume of George W. Persley.

I found out about these origins accidentally while searching for chords to accompany the songs.

I have to disagree with Jim's final comment on 'music making'. These occasions were not poetry recitals or storytelling demonstrations. For me, the clue is in the word 'song'.

It is clear to me that music can and does express ideas and experiences, though how we interpret its messages will be culturally determined, and vary through time. I guess that how much people care about which tune they are singing will change over time. As Roud and Bishop point out somewhere, certain sorts of tune became associated with certain sorts of topic over time.


If you make up a song, it has to fit to some extent to a new tune or you have to improvise a tune for it. And if you are singing something based loosely on Mendelsshon, then the music gives a clue about dating.

I cannot help also wondering whether, if a friend with a clear interest in song lyrics enjoys hearing lots of lyrics, this is what you will offer them. If that friend's interest had been in tunes, you might offer something else. Just wondering.

Some of the early collectors were rather more interested in music and tunes than in words. Whereas, as I understand it, Child had little or no interest in words, being an expert in philology and medieval English literature, including Chaucer. I think Sharp may be an example of a collector interested in the music. There are some interesting passages in *Roud's book* about the relationship between words and music as discovered by some song collectors. For example, some tradition bearers, it seems, simply could not hum the tune, they had to sing the song. Some had to be moving about doing various jobs before they could/would produce the words.

Howard's point about early singers being isolated within their communities is interesting, but I guess we don't know. My thought is that in Medieval England (I am English, so I focus on that) there was a feudal system and 'peasants' were tied to their feudal lord, who might have been one of the powerful monastaries which owned and managed the farming of much of the land. I'm guessing that in the latter case they might have had some religious music around them. I'm guessing that servants in the great halls would have heard whatever music went on at banquets. They'd move about a bit if participating in some power struggle or other, I guess.

Also, the terms 'ploughboy' and 'milkmaid' seem to me somewhat romantic. I would be thinking a song with these characters in might be post-medieval or at best very late medieval (?). I imagine it took a strong man, rather than a boy, to handle a medieval plough, and ploughing was just one of many tasks to be done over the year. Not saying Howard is romanticising, just aware of how words conjure up images which may muddy our thinking.


This, just maybe, is one area where, say, an academic with an interest in history can clarify matters, by sharing with us what is known about social and economic history.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 10 Jul 18 - 06:33 AM

Jim wrote -
"It seems to me that some people don't want them to have made them"


... and by his first them he is referring to the 'traditional singers' and by the second them he means the 'traditional songs'.

My main objection to this would be that we are are not dealing with what people want to believe. Roud's book makes it clear that he is following the modern academic approach to historical study when the researcher concentrates on evidence that can be quantified and not on any conjecture or personal preference. If anyone approached this subject saying, "I want to believe...." etc.etc. then they would find that their position would be difficult to maintain. The gap between "Belief" and "Knowledge" is a wide one based on different approaches to learning.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 10 Jul 18 - 07:13 AM

Vic: I agree generally that Roud is trying to focus on what we have evidence about.

On the interlinks between non-literate and literate in terms of traditional singing, I recently came across a piece which demonstrates convincingly (to me, anyway) that a song collected from a non-literate traveller, whose father was also non-literate originated in a Broadsheet.

http://www.mustrad.org.uk/letters.htm

The piece provides examples of the range of methods used to reach the conclusion, which I found interesting, as I had been wondering about these. An example is good to see, and hopefully, relevant to the debates on this thread.

Maybe, since this is a controversial subject, Roud might helpfully have spent longer discussing the methods behind some of the quoted percentages. Sorry if I said this before. Trying to bring the discussion back to Roud.


I discovered the mustrad site recently; bit of a mixed bag, maybe, but vast amounts of fascinating material is there.

Tzu


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Jul 18 - 08:58 AM

"originated in a Broadsheet. "
Is there any evidence that the broadside hack didn't get the song from the oral tradition?

"the modern academic approach to historical study"
I'm afraid that very phrase has set my hackles rising
This seems to be exactly what Mike and I experienced - "I am an expert and my methods are unassailable because my methods are......."
As we are dealing with something centuries old, that requires taking into account all past research, not screwing it up and throwing it in the waste-paper basket, as seems to have happened far too much here
Until somebody provides firm evidence that these songs either didn't or couldn't have originated from the people whose experiences are described in the song. this remains an unproven theory - nobody ever has
No more convinced than I was at the beginning
Some people have always wanted to believe that the folk were incapable of making the ballads - that has now been extended to the songs

I've just returned from a head-spinning workshop on Irish language singing and song-making
Even apart from the few Child ballads that have passed into Irish tradition, the parallels of uneducated peasant poets making some of the most complex and beautiful songs, and the transmission of those songs if staggering.
One graat morning - another four to go
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,just another guest
Date: 10 Jul 18 - 09:13 AM

“ploughboys, mikmaids, miners and weavers” is a quote from Roud. In the context it is used I think it could be read as something like ‘the common folk’.( am not going to stirr the pot with a full quote...)

‘Medieval ploughs’ - with the sort of ploughshare you could beat a sword into - are still used behind oxen in the developing world. Sometimes by boys.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,just another guest
Date: 10 Jul 18 - 09:24 AM

Forgot to say that medieval peasants had to go to church. How much music that put them in touch with would depend on time and place.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Jul 18 - 09:32 AM

Pseu
Can I suggest you look out Steve Gardham's script - I think he distils the argument down pretty well
It's linked above - I'm sure Steve or someone with guide you to it
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jack Campin
Date: 10 Jul 18 - 09:54 AM

originated in a Broadsheet.
Is there any evidence that the broadside hack didn't get the song from the oral tradition?


One reference point is whether the existence of the song was ever noted before it was published.

This does sometimes happen, as with "The Braes of Balquhidder" or the song that was the model for "Johnny Cope", but it isn't anywhere near as common as the situation where nobody at all had ever heard of it before Stationer's Hall did.

And I don't see why you want to insult someone like John Hamilton (who wrote the first known version of "The Braes of Balquhidder") by calling him a "hack".


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 10 Jul 18 - 10:08 AM

Jim wrote:-
"Is there any evidence that the broadside hack didn't get the song from the oral tradition?"

No there isn't - not in many cases anyway.
Is there any evidence that the broadside hack did get the song from the oral tradition?
No there isn't.

Therefore until this can be settled one way or another, why don't we stick to what we do know for certain which is that a high percentage of what was passed on and developed in the oral tradition was in print at a very early stage in the circulation of what we now call folk songs. Surely, this could summerise the thinking behind the book under discussion?

In addition, I would say that you are confusing and conflating two attitudes expressed in this thread towards academia:-
1] That you and Mike and others that I could mention have met with objections and obfuscation by degree-qualified 'experts' to your considerable song-collecting achievements. To me and I would imagine to others who have posted here this attitude is despicable and smacks of jealousy and smugness.
2] That modern academic approaches call for a rigour and backing of evidence in contemporary research and that whilst respecting the achievements of pioneers in their field, that the same levels of severe examination should be applied in reassessing and evaluating earlier publications and attitudes. To me and I would imagine to others who have posted here this is entirely admirable.

Pseu wrote
http://www.mustrad.org.uk/letters.htm

The piece provides examples of the range of methods used to reach the conclusion, which I found interesting, as I had been wondering about these. An example is good to see, and hopefully, relevant to the debates on this thread."


Pseu's link to Musical Traditions (which I have made clickable) takes us to a short series of posts under the title of Old Songs. If this is what he is referring to, I am not sure that that it reaches any conclusion, surely that we were just sharing information on a particular song in the way that also happens on Mudcat (with Jim Carroll being a notably useful contrubutor to these).
Also my description of the MT website would substitute "essential" for your "bit of a mixed bag, maybe,"


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 10 Jul 18 - 04:52 PM

Hi Vic,
I assume what Pseu meant by 'a mixed bag' is that there is a wide range of articles by a mixture of academics, scholars, enthusiasts. None of the people involved pretend to be experts and the papers are not peer-reviewed in the normal sense of that, a bit like Wikipedia perhaps, or the DT.


Jim, Not sure what you mean by 'Steve Gardham's script' but thanks for the plug anyway. If I can be of any help I will be. Probably the most lucid explanation I have written on the subject is the intro to the new edition of 'The Wanton Seed' 2015. Unfortunately it's now OOP until the publisher decides there's demand for a new run. There is something like it, with examples, on the TSF website, Tradsong.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 10 Jul 18 - 05:04 PM

I was wondering about that link to mustrad letters. I think that can't be the dicussion that GUEST,Pseudonymous intended to point us to. Please come back here and try again.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 10 Jul 18 - 05:43 PM

“ploughboys, milkmaids, miners and weavers” is a quote from Roud. In the context it is used I think it could be read as something like ‘the common folk’.

If that isn't a direct quote from Lloyd (I don't have the reverence material in front of me) then I suspect it's a case of Roud paraphrasing him. Incidentally, I'd always assumed 'ploughboys' were young men in their physical prime, who would have had no difficulty manipulating agricultural equipment.

Agree 100% with both comments of Vic's re the academic approach.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Jul 18 - 08:48 PM

"by calling him a "hack"."
The common name for broadside sellers - you mean
I am not referring to one individual writer - not have I ever implied that no songs produced on the broadside presses were hacks
This asise, you put the situation in a nutshell Jack with your phrase "the first known version" - does that mean there were no previous versions?
Ay - there's the rub.
"Braes of Balquidder" is an interesting example - the MacPeake's claimed ownership of the song and said it originated with their family, they believed it so strongly that they took the case to court.
I'm not suggesting for one moment they were right, but it is an indication that these songs were claimed
This is one description of the tangled history of the song (which I always attributed to Tannehill)

"Wild Mountain Thyme" (also known as "Purple Heather" and "Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?") is a Scottish folk song that was collected by Francis McPeake 1st, who wrote the song himself for his wife. The McPeake family claim recognition for the writing of the song. Francis McPeake is a member of a well known musical family in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The lyrics and melody are a variant of the song "The Braes of Balquhither" by Scottish poet Robert Tannahill (1774–1810), a contemporary of Robert Burns. Tannahill's original song, first published in Robert Archibald Smith's Scottish Minstrel (1821–24), is about the hills (braes) around Balquhidder near Lochearnhead. Like Burns, Tannahill collected and adapted traditional songs, and "The Braes of Balquhither" may have been based on the traditional song "The Braes o' Bowhether"."
The implication here is that it was adapted from the oral tradition and passed though numerous adaptations.
Your Jacobite poet takes us back to Steve Gardhams original reaction to the entire repertoire from 'Frog and the Mouse' to a song about an Irishman killed in the Birmingham Blitz during W.W.2. - Steve has now adapted his argument to those song made in the latter half of the 19th century
What are we talking about here - all the repertoire or Just Steve's adaptation.?

Vic
If you want firm evidence there isn't a shred of it either way, so all the modern scientific methods have nothing to work on apart from tracing first printed versions unless you have any way of showing these to be the first, first printing means nothing whatever.
That the broadside writers were poor poets is beyond question - I assume that Ashton, Ensworth, Hindley, et-al chose to fill their collections with the best current examples - the common feature of all these collections is that they are overwhelmingly clumsily unsingable doggerel - that's why their creatrs were referred to as hacks(said to be adapted in the 18th century the description of the overworked 'hackney carriage' - "tired, overused, unoriginal, trite; (similar to jaded and nag)
(Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins)
Child put this somewhat more succinctly and less diplomatically when he described the outpourings of these people as "veritable dunghills"

Were such writers capable of making our folk songs ?
Not in my opinion, they weren't

One of the features of writers writing on subjects outside their own experience is to produce pastiche - plenty of examples in the broadsides and from the songs of the stage and pleasure gardens - Dibden made his name producing such dross.
Victorian parlour ballads, the Tavern songs listed in the diaries of Charles Rice (1840/50), music hall compositions and the sentimental syrup that has now been given Roud numbers are more of the same.
Comparing these with our folk songs is the only "evidence" we have - circumstantial but far lass so than early published dates.

Adaptation by the oral tradition has been put forward as an explanation/excuse, bu even that is a double edged argument
If the people were capable turning sows ears into silk purses, is that not evidence that they possessed poetic skills capable of making songs?
The subject matter, the familiarity with the vernacular, the apparent 'insider-knowledge' the adversarial sympathies for the characters and their travails... all further circumstantial evidence in favour of common composition.
As far as I am concerned, if working people were capable of making their songs (some of you have paid lip-service for them being able to) then they probably did.

We haven't even begun to tackle th complicated and often contradictory subject of literacy and the attitude to it.

The Irish rural poor apparently produced many hundreds of songs describing their lives, emotions and aspirations - in the worst of circumstances
What was wrong with their English and Scots counterparts that they didn't do the same?

It seems to be very much a case of some people here being reluctant to believe they did - nothing more
Enough - off to bed
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: The Sandman
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 12:36 AM

The Irish rural poor apparently produced many hundreds of songs describing their lives, emotions and aspirations - in the worst of circumstances
What was wrong with their English and Scots counterparts that they didn't do the same"
Jim, since i came to irelnd many years ago m,I have been struck, by how literate many ordinary working class irish people are compared to their corresponding English counter parts,I am not sure of the reason but it is a phenomenon, could it stem from the days of hedge schools?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 02:58 AM

"I have been struck, by how literate many ordinary working class irish people are compared to their corresponding English counter parts"
In pockets of rural Ireland the native spoken language was Irish, which was forbidden or discouraged in many areas
Within the lives of several people we knew we were told of a practice of 'the stick', where a child in an Irish speaking area had a short stick hung around their neck, which was notched with a penknife by the teacher each time the pupil was heard speaking Irish - at the end of the week it would receive that many strokes of the cane.

During the Famine, education became a religious weapon in some areas; 'Souper" schools were set up by some chuchmen
The Children would receive a bowl of watery soup if they could persuade their parents to attend non-Catholic schools
There's such a school within sight of our house - it's now (rather symbolically) a business for changing worn tyres.

After independence there was a concentration of education, which is now considered pretty important - most kids learn are educated bi-lingually though there is a running debate on whether Irish is important enough a subject to continue teaching it.
We were discussing the hedge-schools yesterday in the song-workshop, and their influence in Irish song-making
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 03:40 AM

Sorry
That should read "persuade their parents to attend non-Catholic schools"
"persuade their parents to attend non-Catholic services

Re. Braes of Balquither
Tannahill, who was linked to the song, was a weaver
Regarding my calling John Hamilton a hack, I found this interesting piece of correspondance on the song
Craig Cockburn has dealt with "Auld Lang Syne". "The Wild Mountain
Thyme" was claimed as original by Francis McPeake; in fact he did no
more than slightly adapt "The Braes of Balquhidder", a song by Robert
Tannahill from the first decade of the 19th century using a tune called
"The Three Carles o' Buchanan". That song was repeatedly anthologized
throughout the next 150 years. *But*, what nobody seems to have noticed is that Tannahill's song is an adaptation of one in John Hamilton's
"24 Scots Songs" published by Watlen in Edinburgh in 1796. Hamilton doesn't say outright that he wrote it himself, either; his more than usually muddled notation suggests he didn't and was transcribing someone else's work. So my guess is that it started out as a Scots folk song of the late 18th century by a now-unknown composer from somewhere in Stirlingshire not so very far from where Craig hails from.

That fits in pretty well with the idea that folk songs were regularly making their way into print, I think
Sorry about the mess - in a bit of a rush
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 04:27 AM

I wrote the stuff you just quoted from Craig Cockburn. You and/or Craig left out something else I pointed out at around the same time, that there was a "Braes of Bowhether" fiddle tune published by Bremner around 1750. So something related was floating around before Hamilton was born.

Burns has a few examples of material which must long predate him - "Parcel of Rogues" was first used as a tune name in the 1740s, though the tune itself predates 1700.

But these examples doesn't show that folksongs were "regularly" getting into the broadside press, rather the opposite. They're rarities. If it happened regularly there would be many comparable examples (like, say, the list of sailors' calls in The Complaynt of Scotland). If a song was significant in the culture of the time, it would get mentioned in letters, diaries, chronicles and fiction. (Or in lawsuits, as Roud says).


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 04:55 AM

Richard

Sorry if the link did not work or was wrong. As requested I have come back to try again. I can get to the piece by googling. It is called 'From Journalism to Gypsy Folk Song. The Road to Orality of an English Ballad' and it is by Tom Pettitt. I first encountered it on Mustrad but it seems to me on various sites.


Trying a blue clicky: http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/warwick.htm

Pettitt argues convincingly that the words of the song derived largely from newspaper accounts of a specific crime, in 1818 Nuneaton. Pettitt narrows it down to a particular written source by noticing an error on both versions. It was an odd case because the thieves pleaded guilty, thus ensuring a harsh verdict. The song was much later collected from the Brazil traveller family who sang many variations of it. Pettitt can therefore study the history of the song and the way that the collected versions vary, and draw conclusions accordingly.

Pettit says '...the original song, “The Lamentation of W. Warner T. Ward & T Williams,” was a broadside ballad, indeed a classic crime-and-execution news ballad opportunistically presented as a “last goodnight,” ostensibly comprising the confession, regrets and valediction of the condemned criminal(s) on the eve of execution'

Pettitt has traced contemporary newspaper accounts of the indictment and trial, and demonstrates how the writers of the ballad used these in their piece. This is why he calls the piece 'From journalism'.


If I remember aright, he credits Mike Yates for noticing that the Brazil song was more or less the same as the broadside.

This article is not based on 'first printing' data only in claiming a written origin for the song collected from the Brazil family.

When I mentioned ploughboys etc I was taking it from Uniformitarianit's post of July 18th, 2.33. This quoted an earlier post by the same poster, which referred to 'ploughboys, milkmaids, weavers'. I since googled the term 'ploughboy' and it seems to refer to the boy who guided horses pulling a plough, rather than the man who handled it.

This detail may help to date things as early ploughs used oxen, not horses. We could use a dictionary to get an idea of the earliest known use of the word 'ploughboy' but I'm not sure it would get us very far.

Just a thought. But songs about ploughboys and milkmaids, both young people, do suggest to me the romantic pastoral poetry for which there has at several points in time been a fashion. I also stand by my point that the use of the specific words 'ploughboys' and 'milkmaids' reflects romantic thinking about country life. When I did family history, the 19th family who had apparently owned some cows tended to die of tuberculosis. Not so romantic a life. And I am sure that the women of the family did a lot more than milk cows all day; and that ploughing was just one job to be done during a hard agricultural year: the terms smack of romantic views of what was a hard life through the ages. Though milkmaids were believed to be prettier as they were immune to small pox, having had cowpox.

On literacy in Ireland: https://www.nala.ie/literacy/literacy-in-ireland. It says one in six Irish adults has difficulty understanding basic texts. And on page 12 here you will find a comparative chart. Not so much difference between Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the UK then?

Did medieval English peasants really sing at all? Maybe Roud has some evidence on this topic? In which case, yet another good reason to buy this interesting book :) :)

"Your Jacobite poet takes us back to Steve Gardhams original reaction to the entire repertoire from 'Frog and the Mouse' to a song about an Irishman killed in the Birmingham Blitz during W.W.2. - Steve has now adapted his argument to those song made in the latter half of the 19th century What are we talking about here - all the repertoire or Just Steve's adaptation.?" Sorry, I could not quite follow this, but presumably the person for whom it was written will have followed it.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 06:16 AM

I'm afraid that some of this continues to go round the same circles.

(from Jim) "That the broadside writers were poor poets is beyond question"

Many of them, yes, but not all of them. Some known poets turned their hands to broadsides on occasion. And the same poet might produce a gem one day, when inspired and having some time to perfect it, and a pot-boiler the next.

(from Jim) "One of the features of writers writing on subjects outside their own experience is to produce pastiche - plenty of examples in the broadsides and from the songs of the stage and pleasure gardens - Dibden made his name producing such dross."

Many songs that might be considered pastiche or dross nevertheless caught on and eventually got collected.

(from Jim) "As far as I am concerned, if working people were capable of making their songs (some of you have paid lip-service for them being able to) then they probably did."

It is not lip-service. Everyone here agrees that working people could and did make songs.

It is however undeniable that, whoever first made a song, if it was printed on a broadside it stood a much better chance of being widely disseminated and therefore a much better chance of eventually being collected than a song that never saw print. Therefore the songs that were collected were bound to be mostly songs that had been printed. That tells us nothing about who created them; and for most of them there probably never will be definite evidence.

There is internal evidence, in the style of wording, in the use of recycled text and in the subject matter, but that is not conclusive. A good novelist gets inside the characters, making them and the events of the story believable, whether or not based on the novelist's personal experiences. Why should it be different for a good broadside writer? Then again, many of the stories are obviously fictional.

(Now re-typing a chunk that disappeared) To throw in one further thought: there are plenty of songs about the press gang, plenty of "last goodnights", plenty about lovers kept apart by parents or getting together despite parents, umpteen broken tokens. There are songs (widely disseminated if not so numerous) about poachers getting caught or not getting caught. But how many about the Enclosures? There are songs about happy marriages and more about unhappy marriages, but how many about the joys and frustrations of parenthood?

There are songs about hardships at sea but how many about back-breaking toil on the land or in the mills and factories? There are songs about strikes (mostly from known 19th century writers) and mining disasters, but how many about routine work? (There are some.)

People have been building dry stone walls for thousands of years, but as far as I know the only extant songs on that subject are modern ones.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 07:10 AM

GUEST,Pseudonymous, thank you for the new link. I have started reading but need to get on with some other things for a bit.

But I have already noticed one mistake. Footnote 1 refers to "Hamish Hamilton": that surely must be Hamish Henderson.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 07:23 AM

If I understand the last part of Richard's post above 6.16 am, he is commenting that, though 'folk songs' are said to express the experiences of the 'folk', they don't tend to deal with the broad spectrum of life experiences.

I like the dry stone wall example, and at a guess the milkmaids and ploughboys, not to mention the 'bonny shepherd lads', may have built some of them!

So it would appear, then, that were some 'unwritten rules' to the effect that some topics were and some were not, suitable for making songs or ballads about. That it isn't simply a case of songs by the people reflecting the experiences of the people. I am thinking that these rules may have changed over time. So you won't find medieval songs about going on strike. Are there any songs about the Black Death?

Jack: Yes, I enjoyed the bit about lawsuits in Roud.

I worry about the aesthetics/folk poets thing. Partly this is subjective. Also because a lot of collected material is 'formulaic' in parts, with floating verses and floating 'bits', as Pettitt's piece makes clear. Also because if you go back to medieval times, ordinary people would have spoken in a variety of dialects, some more influenced by Viking language than others.

I'm thinking we would struggle to understand 'oral' versions of these, leave alone feel able to make aesthetic judgements about them.

And I'm not sure that Anglo-Saxon poetry/song even rhymed: it is said to use alliterative patterning, and to be highly rhthmical, which links to my point that 'music', which often makes use of rhythm, should be taken account of. And then there are the 'kennings'. But once again, we don't know, we can only guess.

I haven't time to link my points more clearly to the debates on Roud. Sorry.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 07:53 AM

Jim again:-
"Vic
If you want firm evidence there isn't a shred of it either way, so all the modern scientific methods have nothing to work on apart from tracing first printed versions unless you have any way of showing these to be the first, first printing means nothing whatever."

Are you not just rephrasing the points that I was making at 10 Jul 18 - 10:08 AM? The only thing that I would disagree with is that first printing means nothing whatever. It does, Jim. It means a lot. If we can trace the date of first publication (and increasingly, we can) then we know a) the latest date that the song was written and b) how the song has changed and developed in the oral tradition since that date. Both facts would be very helpful.

Jim again
"That the broadside writers were poor poets is beyond question - I assume that Ashton, Ensworth, Hindley, et-al chose to fill their collections with the best current examples - the common feature of all these collections is that they are overwhelmingly clumsily unsingable doggerel."

Just as most poetry anywhere is clumsy and pretty awful, but not all. It was the same with broadsides. Just as most newspapers today carry a lot that is totally ephemeral and is quickly forgotten, there are some articles that stick in the mind and are worth re-writing and reprinting. Some broadside writers had the ability to write something that struck a chord, literate singers learned them from the sheet, non-literate singers learned it from them. The song took on a life of its own and changed in the mouths of the singers. That process is what we can study. The broadsheets would only be reproduced if they sold so it was the ones that had the wider appeal that were re-printed and the ones that had somehow struck a chord that reappeared.

Jim again -
"Were such writers capable of making our folk songs ?
Not in my opinion, they weren't"

Once again, Jim, it is not your value judgements, nor your opinion that carries the discussion forward.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,just another guest
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 08:41 AM

Wriitten and spoken English are grammatically different. Illiterate people would hear the former second-hand - in England maybe mainly from the King James bible and the prayer books.

People who don’t read or write much often write in an awkward style because they are more used to spoken English.

Is there anything gramatically distinctive about songs thought to have started in an oral tradition? I wonder if Jim’s Traveller songwriters wrote in their vernacular style or in something different.

It is fairly common for kids to have one form of English (or Scots etc) for the playground and another more standard version for the classroom.

Maybe the songs written by the common folk that persisted were written by common folk who were more skilled with language than their peers.

Can we tell anything from the style of language?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 08:54 AM

"it is not your value judgements"
Not "value judgements" Vic, and certainly not mine, but whether the songs are singable or not - that is everything
Their chalk and cheese comparison to our folk songs says everything that needs to be said as far as I am concerned
The overwhelming majority of broadside songs are unsingable - pore through the selected collections of (presumably) the most representative of them and see what I mean.
For the hacks to have written them implies a 'school of writers' attempting to write in a certain way - a geographical impossibility

Sorry Vic - you (and everybody here) is ignoring the uniqueness of fok songs and ignoring Bert's closing question - what are we going to call this bunch of unique songs - or maybe they are not unique
Would you like to be the first to say they are not?

"Some known poets turned their hands to broadsides on occasion."
90 plus percent of them? - I don't think so
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 09:15 AM

The overwhelming majority of broadside songs are unsingable

An even more overwhelming majority of songs created by complete amateurs are even more unsingable.

We know broadside songs were sung, because the street sellers sang them. They were good enough to get a paying clientele.


Can we tell anything from the style of language?

There are a few Scottish songs with a mangled-Gaelic refrain. This never goes along with Gaelic influence in the language used in the main text of the song, and usually the content in English/Scots has no relation to any known Gaelic song either.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 09:18 AM

Sorry Vic - you (and everybody here) is ignoring the uniqueness of fok songs
Would it be unkind to ask you to give a definition of what you mean by 'the uniqueness of folk song' - the sort of definition that we could all agree on?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 09:40 AM

" 'the uniqueness of folk song' "
Without going into personal preferences, I think Bert's question summed it perfectly for me.
Extend his examples to music-hall, Victorian Parlout ballads, early pop songs... and there you have it
I'm not sure whether we can ever agree, but there you have mine
Incidentally - my opinion of 'hacks' is contained in the very word 2hack", the historical description of the output of these writers
Child used the less-diplomatic term 'dunghill' - if I am wrong, I am in good company, and proud to be

"An even more overwhelming majority of songs created by complete amateurs are even more unsingable."
And the unsingable ones never became folk songs as far as I know
"We know broadside songs were sung, because the street sellers sang them."
Not necessarily true Jack
Broadside expert Leslie Shepherd suggested that many of them were never sung - Pepys had a huge collection - I've never read thay he ever gave forth vocally
Isaac Walton described in his 'Compleat Angler' their use as ornaments to be pinned to walls.
We know as little about what was sung and what was not on the streets as we do about pre twentieth century traditional singing - very little.

Sorry - must go; the lady pipers are calling

"Can we tell anything from the style of language?"
Absolutely - the familiarity with vernacular usage says much about the songs as does anything else - as does folk humour
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 10:20 AM

We know broadside songs were sung, because the street sellers sang them.
Not necessarily true Jack
Broadside expert Leslie Shepherd suggested that many of them were never sung


So what? Most of the ones we know about were, because the sellers sang them to get sales, and it was the ones that sold that ended up in libraries. The sales pitch was described by John Gay in a piece I quoted a few weeks ago, and much later (in grim detail) by Henry Mayhew.

Typically a song sheet had three songs on it, and the seller wouldn't have sung all of them, but they would have done the headline number.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 10:21 AM

Jim -
Sorry Vic - you (and everybody here) is ignoring the uniqueness of fok songs and ignoring Bert's closing question - what are we going to call this bunch of unique songs - or maybe they are not unique
Would you like to be the first to say they are not?


It would be helpful, then, to identify what Bert's closing question was - and the context he said it in.
Are you talking about the end of his Folk Song In England? He does not seem to be asking anything about the uniqueness of folk song there. To my mind the most telling sentence in that last paragraph is -
Rather than say 'the folk is dead' and attempt to keep folk song alive as something quaint, antique and precious, let us say, 'the folk is changing' - and song with it and then help what it is changing into.

I can go along with that concept of changing. One interpretation of it could be that this statement is anticipating the approach shown in Steve Roud's book.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 10:33 AM

"The overwhelming majority of broadside songs are unsingable"

I think this depends on the era, Jim. The kind of stuff found in the Pepys and Roxburgh collections of broadsides from the late 17th century is indeed unsingable, at least by today's standards. Excessively long and wordy, sometimes with lines that are very difficult to scan. 19th century broadsides, on the other hand, are much more concise, and often correspond very closely to texts collected in the field.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 10:48 AM

Above Guest was me. Buggered up the name box as well as the italics.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 02:22 PM

"I think this depends on the era, Jim"
Our collection covers the Pepys collection up to the end of the 19th century - pretty comprehensive Brian
You may add doorstep of a set, The Universal Songster to that - hardly a singable song amongst them
That applies ti=o Holloway and Black's 'Later English Broadsides' - a few of them would be poor examples of traditional songs if scrubbed up, but by then, the oral process was on its last legs.

It's been up several times Vic, but 'yer 'ttis again:
""If 'Little Boxes' and 'The Red Flag' are folk songs. we need a new term to describe 'The Outlandish Knight'. Searching for Lambs' and 'The Coal-owner and the Pitman's Wife'."
The television programme on the tradition made sometime in the eighties when they chose the title 'The Other Music'
That does it for me
If you don't accept that out folk songs are unique, I don't thin we have a point of reference between us

"Most of the ones we know about were, because the sellers sang them to get sales,"
We have very little record of what the broadside sellers sang Jack, or how they sang them - all we have are the published collections, all of which were taken from print rather than from street singers
We actually recorded Irish ballad singer - he took his father's traditional songs and recited them over the counter to a printer, then went off and sold the sheets in the fairs and markets
I can well believe some of the broadsides came from a similar source

This seems to be getting nowhere fast - nobody is giving a reason why they prefer to believe the hacks made them rather than the people
Maybe it's time to go our separate ways
I'm in the midst of people who are a generation away from a living tradition who totally accept that their songs are folk songs in the tue sense
Our music tradition has an ensured future and, hopefully, the song tradition will catch up with it
That hasn't been achieved by adopting the 'singing horse' theory or quibbling about what "folk song" means
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: The Sandman
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 02:31 PM

This seems to be getting nowhere fast - nobody is giving a reason why they prefer to believe the hacks made them rather than the people"
What are your reasons, Jim, for why you prefer YOUR idea, AND WHAT EVIDENCE DO YOU HAVE THAT YOU ARE CORRECT


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Lighter
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 02:49 PM

> The kind of stuff found in the Pepys and Roxburgh collections of broadsides from the late 17th century is indeed unsingable, at least by today's standards.

Maybe by period standards as well. Relatively few went into tradition (oral or otherwise), and it's likely that the vast majority were rarely (or never) sung at all - at least as printed.

The same goes for the 19th century broadsides, no?

Not to mention 99.99% of songs since.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 03:04 PM

"Jim, for why you prefer YOUR idea, "
It's not "my" idea Dick - it is the idea that has prevailed for centuries and has now done a nosedive among a few
I have selves full of history - what do you have to counteract that?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 06:34 PM

Pseu
I will be presenting a paper which looks at those Music Hall songs that were included in published folksong collections, at the EFDSS/TSF Folksong Conference in November. If you are not already a member membership of the TSF is now free. You can find more info on the Tradsong/TSF website. I have a large collection of original sheet music that relates in some way to folk.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Jul 18 - 01:32 AM

I am asking for fact to back up your opinion. To date I have not been convinced by either sides arguments


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Jul 18 - 02:54 AM

"The same goes for the 19th century broadsides, no?"
From my experience as a singer look for songs who trawled though interminable numbers of the collections, YES, YES, a hundred times YES
The bulk of them are trite, facile and totally uninspiring - a pale shadow of our traditional songs
This doesn't mean they are valuless - they most certainly are not - they are an important view of past tastes and events.

I have more and more come to realise through the course of these arguments that the suggestion that our folk songs originated from the writers of this (largely) doggerel is unsustainable.
Their relationship with the oral tradition came into its own when that tradition was in severe decline - when the supply of traditionally created songs were drying up and was being replaced by a bombardment of street literature
Add to this the rise of the Music Halls and a commercially produced 'popular music' and you end up with a people who received or even bought their culture as passive recipients - the final nail in the coffin was was the arrival of radio and television

We once went to look for songs in Sam Larner's village, Winterton, and were lucky enough to find a few, and a fair amount of background information.
While we were there, we met a non-singing local man sharing Sam's surname, Jim Larner, who we became friendly with
He told us a story which I think has something to say about this subject

Sam and his friends and fellow fishermen used to meet weekly in the local pub, 'The Fisherman's Return' to sing songs
One afternoon a retired fisherman went in for a pint and saw a strange gadget on the shelf behind the counter
Enquiring what it was, he was told it was something for bringing in talk and musc from London, a "wireless"
The old man reached across the counter with his walking stick and hooked the gadget down to the floor, smashing it to pieces, then he turned around, saying, "we don't want that messing up our Saturday nights"
The landlord got the message and the 'wireless' wasn't replaced.

From our own experiences, when we started to record Travellers, our recording sessions would invariably end up around an open fire where everyone on the site would gather to talk, bargain horses or goods, pass on information, tell stories or sing.
The sites were always a hive of activity, day and night (certainly up to the hour when people went to the pub)
We were forced to stop our work for a period - the night we restated, 18 months later, as we entered the site we were puzzled to discover there was not a soul in sight - not even children - all the vans were lit up with a strange glow - the Travellers had all got portable televisions
From then on, everything we recorded was being remembered from a past oral tradition rather than reccounted from an active one

We didn't spend the same continuous lengths of time in Ireland as our recording was done during annual trips, but we understand from what we've been told that the disappearance of the oral and musical traditions happened in a similar way, with the additional problem of Clerical opposition to folk culture supported by Government collusion.
The Dance Halls Act of the 1940s which replaced first the crossroads dances and later the weekly 'country house gatherings' with the commercial and clerically supervised 'Ballrooms of Romance' rang the death knell of traditional cultural activities.

I have become tired and more than a little insulted to be told that my views during this argument are what 'I wish was true' rather than what I believe to be true based on research and experience.

I believe it to be academic kite-flying to trace published songs to their earlies dates and take that as an indication of how these songs originated.
While print most certainly aided the transmission of songs, it brought with it the risk of freezing them in the form in which they were printed
The increase in the sales of broadsides gradually edged out natural songmaking until it eventually helped to kill it off altogether
The coup de grâce came with the formal seal of ownership being put on songs - the definitive little (c)

Dick - you asked me what evidence I have that I am right
I can't prove anything definitively - nobody can - but that is what I have based by beliefs on, first as a singer getting a taste of the songs by singing them, then as someone with a burning curiosity who was lucky to have met and been helped enormously by people with much more experience, ability and knowledge than me
Finally from thirty years research among field singers
Most importantly, all these experiences have been held together by half a century's reading up the subject

It really is going to take me more than one book which has found it necessary to move the goalposts to encompass songs that have, up to now, been considered totally different in nature and in function from our traditional songs, by some of our finest folk-song scholars for over a century hand a half.

I've shown you mine - now you show me yours - anybody
Jim Carroll


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Mudcat time: 22 September 4:06 AM EDT

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