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New Book: Folk Song in England

Jim Carroll 21 Aug 18 - 12:12 PM
GUEST,Nemesis 21 Aug 18 - 12:27 PM
Vic Smith 21 Aug 18 - 12:31 PM
Jim Carroll 21 Aug 18 - 12:31 PM
Vic Smith 21 Aug 18 - 12:36 PM
GUEST,jag 21 Aug 18 - 01:00 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 21 Aug 18 - 01:08 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 21 Aug 18 - 01:17 PM
Jim Carroll 21 Aug 18 - 01:48 PM
GUEST,jag 21 Aug 18 - 02:00 PM
Lighter 21 Aug 18 - 02:49 PM
Jim Carroll 21 Aug 18 - 03:04 PM
GUEST 21 Aug 18 - 03:16 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 21 Aug 18 - 04:15 PM
Jim Carroll 22 Aug 18 - 02:55 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 22 Aug 18 - 03:46 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 22 Aug 18 - 03:46 AM
Jim Carroll 22 Aug 18 - 03:48 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 22 Aug 18 - 04:04 AM
Jim Carroll 22 Aug 18 - 05:25 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 22 Aug 18 - 09:18 AM
Vic Smith 22 Aug 18 - 11:22 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 22 Aug 18 - 11:58 AM
Richard Mellish 22 Aug 18 - 12:48 PM
Vic Smith 22 Aug 18 - 03:22 PM
Dave the Gnome 22 Aug 18 - 03:32 PM
Steve Gardham 22 Aug 18 - 06:04 PM
GUEST,guest 23 Aug 18 - 02:32 AM
GUEST,CJ 23 Aug 18 - 03:09 AM
GUEST,jag 23 Aug 18 - 03:10 AM
GUEST,jag 23 Aug 18 - 03:15 AM
Steve Gardham 23 Aug 18 - 04:09 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 23 Aug 18 - 07:01 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 23 Aug 18 - 07:34 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 23 Aug 18 - 08:09 AM
GUEST,Harry 23 Aug 18 - 08:44 AM
GUEST,jag 23 Aug 18 - 09:16 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 23 Aug 18 - 09:30 AM
Vic Smith 23 Aug 18 - 09:36 AM
GUEST,jag 23 Aug 18 - 09:58 AM
GUEST,jag 23 Aug 18 - 09:59 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 23 Aug 18 - 12:54 PM
Howard Jones 23 Aug 18 - 03:40 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 23 Aug 18 - 08:48 PM
The Sandman 24 Aug 18 - 02:03 AM
Howard Jones 24 Aug 18 - 02:42 AM
Vic Smith 24 Aug 18 - 07:11 AM
Vic Smith 24 Aug 18 - 07:40 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 24 Aug 18 - 07:46 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 24 Aug 18 - 08:02 AM
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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Aug 18 - 12:12 PM

By the way Lighter - I'll give Molly your love when I see her in Dublin on Wednesday, shall I?
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Nemesis
Date: 21 Aug 18 - 12:27 PM

Jim
Some come here to read and write some come here to ponder.....


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 21 Aug 18 - 12:31 PM

The post at 21 Aug 18 - 11:35 AM reminds me that in the 1940s when I was a boy in Edinburgh, the character that is depicted in that statue in Dundee was in his relative youth. He first appeared in the Dandy in 1937.
I had bought a copy on this comic with my very small amount of pocket money and had it with me when I went to some sort of family gathering at at my Granny's flat in Leith. I tried to show it to a number of my heavily unionised uncles who were there; they were not impressed and didn't want to look at it. Eventually, one of them took me aside and told me that before I bought any comic, I was to turn to the back page and look at the very bottom line. If it said, "Published by D.C. Thompson of Dundee" that I was never to buy it because no-one in that firm was allowed to join a trade union. I was devastated! No only would this cut me off from from the Dandy and the Beano but also from the Broons and Oor Willie who were in the Sunday Post which was also a Thompson publication.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Aug 18 - 12:31 PM

"Some come here to read and write some come here to ponder....."
And some just come to stand and stir
Not particularly brave or intelligent
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 21 Aug 18 - 12:36 PM

The above post sent in error before I had finished what the point was!

My reasons for writing the above was to bring to the attention that fact that these comics were not the product of the people but were devised by desk bound hacks.
Worse than that; they were the work of non-unionised desk bound hacks.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 21 Aug 18 - 01:00 PM

There is a statue of character from a song (maybe) on a castle in Scotland and a statue of a character from a song on a street in Dublin.

Where does that get us?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 21 Aug 18 - 01:08 PM

Vic

Yes, your point about non-unionised rings a bell, I think.

And lots of what they produced seems inappropriate through modern eyes.

But then, that's 'folk' for you.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 21 Aug 18 - 01:17 PM

I thought Lighter was being light-hearted, myself.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Aug 18 - 01:48 PM

"I thought Lighter was being light-hearted, myself."
I thought he was representative of much that has gone on here "all wind and pee like the barber's cat",
as my mother used to say
He certainly wasn't being helpful
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 21 Aug 18 - 02:00 PM

Whatever the purpose I took from it that a statue doesn't mean someone is not fictional. That some people think the one in Dublin is not fictional, as contributed by Jim, further points to the unreliablity of accounts relating to statues.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Aug 18 - 02:49 PM

Please do, Jim.

Molly and I go way back - to elementary school, I think.

In fact, I was being light-hearted *and* informative, which isn't easy to do.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Aug 18 - 03:04 PM

"I took from it that a statue doesn't mean someone is not fictional"
A bit to convoluted for me I'm afraid so I'll state my position agai
THere is no evidence connecting the statute of Molly Malone to a single historical figure including the 18th century prostitute some people once claimed it was
The matter has been discussed in length in The Irish Times and the suggestion was that the claim was first made to a visiting Yank by a piss-taking Dub in an effort to sell it to him
Though I firmly believe that the feller with the wings in Piccadilly Circus was England's first Prime Minister!!
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Aug 18 - 03:16 PM

Turning back to Roud; he says something that might possibly be relevant to the song about Annie from the Mill of Tifty. He says that in the 17th century there was a phenomenon called 'ballading' whereby if people disliked somebody they would concoct a ballad about them. Some law cases relating to this are recorded because they ended up in the Star Chamber. Now this is where the use of a Scottish example in a discussion about Folk Song in England becomes problematic, because, of course, Roud does not mention whether something similar happened in Scotland. I don't see why not.

It appears (and I think this was in the Folk Song Journal that we were referred to earlier) that contemporary documentary evidence shows that Smith, the miller of Tifty, was in effect himself accused of witchcraft in respect of a neighbour's cows, a complaint which was referred back to the local kirk to deal with. So he seems to have been unpopular in some circles. We know this because Amanda MacLean refers to the case as mentioned in Presbytery records. And we have a song which accuses the miller, his wife, and two of his children of brutality and ultimately, murder. These are serious accusations, and ones for which there appears to be no justification. So just maybe the song was written out of spite?

According to MacLean, the 'ferm toun' of Tift was on the Fyvie estate: the Smiths appear therefore to have been tenants of the estate.

I am not arguing against Mr Carroll's interpretation of the song in terms of character being suffiently high-ranking to aspire to marry his daughter to the heir in waiting of the local castle, though I think one could reasonably do this. I think people are entitled to interpret songs however they like.

Just in case there is any misunderstanding, I have never said that people of that time might not have objected to their daughter marrying a person simply because he was a soldier: what I think I may have said is that in respect of the actual people believed by MacLean to be in some sense the 'sources' of the characters, the tenant of a mill would probably be glad to marry his daughter to somebody like Lammie, who was a member of the gentility as evidenced by his job in the Royal Guard. MacLead explains that because it did the job of guarding royalty they didn't let riff raff in (or words to that effect). The man had two wives and a fair few children and lived to a ripe age in Edinburgh.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 21 Aug 18 - 04:15 PM

An old ballad writer once had a day out
Looking for something to ballad about

He say Fyvie Castle with its turrets so tall
And the sad old gravestone beside the kirk wall.

He talked to the locals and the minister, Will
They told him that Agnes was born at the mill.

He went back to Auld Reekie, had a dram with pal Lammie
And together they made a sad ballad about Annie.


That's my theory, and I'm sticking to it.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Aug 18 - 02:55 AM

" Mr Carroll's"
Mr Carroll again - surely a sign of insecurity - certainly one of bad manners
I'd return the favour if you didn't insist on remaining anonymous - it just seems bad-mannered to me

It seems obvious that a group of people who want 'the folk' not to have made folk songs are not prepared to talk it through and argue all the points and it seems equally obvious that those who came up the the idea in the first place haven't thought through the destructive implications of what they are claiming
Not only have they relegated English working people to non-creative customers for their culture and passed the honour over to tabloid-type writers of the past, but by undermining all past scholarship around who created our folk songs they have spancilled future scholarship - who is going to want to bother about the scribblings of past William McGonnigals other than to make fun of them

That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it

There was never was a chance of changing the opinions of those who wanted something to be true, but at least I've managed to confirm n my own mind that I'm not imagining that both the 'broadside origins theory and the re-definition has not been approached with the seriousness such a profound ideas should have been - if it had, those who supporting it would have been prepared to argue for it
A sort of 'moral victory', if nothing else, if a victory were being sought
Off to Dublin for a few days to talk to people who know what their folk songs are and respect them for what they are - and certainly don't lump them in with history's commercial output
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 22 Aug 18 - 03:46 AM

I am grateful to Jim Carroll for his lecture on good manners, a topic on which I am happy to accept he is eminently well qualified to speak.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 22 Aug 18 - 03:46 AM

:D


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Aug 18 - 03:48 AM

"I am grateful to Jim Carroll for his lecture on good manners,"
Somebody had to do it
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 22 Aug 18 - 04:04 AM

:D


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Aug 18 - 05:25 AM

Can I just say that you and others have complained of my being insulting - I have not, or certainly no more than others in this discussion
You have just gone off to another thread (the 'Folk Club' one) and insulted one on England's best and most important traditional performers by suggesting that his singing is the worst thing you can give new people to listen to - it would put them off folk song
I find that totally intolerable
Walter was a fine singer who managed to make all the songs he sang pleasantly listenable and important - even 'Cupid the Ploughboy', that you don't like his singing is something you need to keep to yourself
It has long been a convention in the revival (up to now anyway) that you don't attack our source singers - our benefactors - they are not part of our chosen folk scene -
They came out of generosity to give us our songs; Walter was, in my opinion, among the best and most generous of them
I say in my opinion - I'm no longer sure what some people think about the old crowd and their songs nowadays especially as one of our New Age crowd described one of Ireland's best loved songs as being "bloody awful"
If this scurrilous behavior becomes common the whole folk movement will disintegrate into a back-biting slanging match
I've always lived to see the day when the older crowd moved on with their hatred of Lloyd and MacColl and the newcomers could judge these people on their contribution and abilities
I hope this isn't a sign of their rebirth
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 22 Aug 18 - 09:18 AM

Mr Carroll, sorry,'Jim', you can hardly expect people to come onto this forum using their real names when it is plain to them before they join that they risk being subjected to rejoinders that they might experience as vitriolic and personalised, not to mention heavily sarcastic, that their views will be twisted, misrepresented, and disrespected by posters who appear to have anger management issues.


    Let's get back to the topic of discussion, please. Personal squabbling is not of interest to anyone but the squabblers.
    Please note that the use of a consistent pseudonym has always been accepted at Mudcat. Indeed, it is a good protection for many people to use a pseudonym instead of their real name. Now, back to our discussion.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 22 Aug 18 - 11:22 AM

For the first time, Pseudonymous, you have allowed yourself to be drawn in, to let it get under your skin. Look again at your post of 22 Aug 18 - 09:18 AM and try and find a reference to anything musical, anything constructive that moves things along and I don't think this has happened before. You have made some very valuable well thought out contributions here - but this was not one of them. I have stated in this thread that I will no longer respond to these provocations and I think that you would do well to do the same and concentrate on your positive thoughtful posts.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 22 Aug 18 - 11:58 AM

Yes Vic.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 22 Aug 18 - 12:48 PM

Sorry, I've been otherwise occupied for the much of the time lately including all day Tuesday, hence a delay in responding to a post from Jim.

On Monday he said (in response to me)
"you have totally ignored the main bit of my question".

I did not deliberately ignore anything. If I overlooked the main bit please point me to it.

In the same post Jim posed some apparently rhetorical questions
"How many of them worked the land to become familiar with the working terms that appear in the songs, the problems of seasonal changes, the pressure of having to pay rent....?
The same with going to sea or to war
How many of them experienced the family life where it is necesary to preserve your good-looking daughter for suitable marriage in order to try and take a tiny step up the social ladder - how many of them experienced the family conflicts that causes?"

All those things happened to people and all those things got written about, but what we're asking Jim for is evidence from within the songs that the people who made them were the people who had experienced the events, or else people close to them in the same social class.

GUEST,jag cited Shoals of Herring and Jim commented that MacColl based it on the words of Sam Larner. Indeed: a skilled song writer who had not worked on a fishing vessel talked to someone who had and thus acquired the material for a song. Sam himself did not (as far as we know) make a song about it. So we have one person with the experience and a different person who was the song writer. Clearly that is not the only possible scenario but it is a very plausible one for a lot of songs.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 22 Aug 18 - 03:22 PM

Richard wrote:-
So we have one person with the experience and a different person who was the song writer.
Another good example would be Generations of Change by the late Matt Armour. He was neither ploughman nor fisherman nor did he work on an oil rig but in that song he wrote knowledgably about each of them incorporating the results of his research skilfully into his composition.
A mark of his success with this song is that it has been taken up by one of the last generation of bothy workers, Joe Aitken. You can hear Joe's very fine rendition by clicking here.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 22 Aug 18 - 03:32 PM

I remember Richard Grainger telling us of his visit to a museum where they were playing his "Whitby Whaler" and someone telling him it was a traditional song. As far as I know Richard has never Whaled!


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 22 Aug 18 - 06:04 PM

Songwriters write songs. Ploughmen plough the land etc ad infinitum. Not rocket science.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,guest
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 02:32 AM

Steve,

Your statement is most certainly not rocket science.

I'm sure there would have been a few ploughmen who wrote songs. And I'm sure some of them would sing their own songs on high days and holidays. I'm equally sure that one or two of these songs have entered the tradition and maybe have been 'borrowed' by professional ballad writers.

But, I have no evidence of it happening.

However, I do know that non-professional songwriters do write and perform their own songs.

I'm an archaeologist - I write songs. As yet, as far as I'm aware, none have entered the tradition but they may yet.

Rattling cages won't get us anywhere.

Harry


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,CJ
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 03:09 AM

Mudcat - A Short Play

Bill - Oh I like folk music and here's a handy looking website
Fred - Hello Bill, welcome on board
Bill - Thanks Fred. Where do you think the old ballad 'Jumping Bananas' originated?
Fred - I think you're an absolute idiot
Bill - Well, I think you smell
Fred - No, YOU smell
Bill - No, YOU smell
Fred - No, YOU smell
Bill - No, YOU smell
Fred - No, YOU smell
Bill - No, YOU smell
Dick - NO YOU SMELL CANT YOU UNDERSTAND TAH,,T

Joe Offer - That's enough smelling now, boys

Curtain Closes: The End.

Look out for the follow-up: Ewan MacColl, where we discover our hero had a smell that wasn't his.


    That's enough smelling, boys. We're bored. Stay on topic.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 03:10 AM

If a ploughman wrote a number of songs that became known beyond his village then his name might pass into the historical record as a songwriter rather than as a ploughman.

Often we have to happen across a journalistic piece about a modern day singer or songwriter to find out what they do/did as a day job.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 03:15 AM

Though on the other hand we had the ‘Muxton carter’.

and the ‘singing postman’


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 04:09 AM

And the singing nun and Rabbie Burns. Of course there are exceptions but by and large the statement stands. Harry, until others start singing your songs what you have done doesn't apply here. Like it, CJ!


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 07:01 AM

Turning to 'Cupid the Pretty Ploughboy', as sung by Pardon,

First off it has a change from first to third person, which makes it unusual, some people say ballads are traditionally third person narratives.

Secondly it has literacy built into it as both the female character and the ploughboy are literate. The ploughboy sent a 'neat' reply to the letter sent by the woman. I thought that was interesting though I'm not sure what to make of it.

There is a web site seeming to be written by John Howson which says that Sabine Baring-Gold thought it came from a black-letter broadside of about 1670. It also says it was on a number of other broadsides.

But whatever the ultimate origin of the song, for me the references to classical mythology in that song seem to demonstrate links between songs sung by 'traditional' singers and literate traditions, quite apart from the references to literacy of both characters in the Pardon version.

Roud refers to a book by Adam Fox about oral and literate culture 1500 to 1700 and which seems to have a section on ballads. What can people tell us about this book?

Re-reading Roud I was interested to see how much evidence there was for people pasting ballads onto walls. Perhaps the written documents were seen as desirable artifacts even by those who had to wait for somebody literate to come by and decipher them. I believe that the modern 'stigma' attaching to non-literacy is just that, 'stigma', so likely there would have been no 'shame' in asking whoever was literate to decipher something.

They only plough once a year: the ploughboy would have had to find other tasks for the rest of a year. However often there is labelling of people 'ploughboys' in songs seems odd, it could not have been a full time job.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 07:34 AM

Something that came up while researching the covenanters/wars of the three kingdoms in the 17th century (background to the mill at Fyvie, there having been a battle at Fyvie Castle itself and a massacre at Aberdeen) was how many Scottish people were mercenaries in Europe. I wondered how far this might explain Child's finding of ballads in Sweden that were similar to English/Scottish ones. Might this result from the 17th century or are the sources he gives too early in relevant cases?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 08:09 AM

Even more interesting, in the light of Roud's discussion of the way oral and literate aspects of our culture interacted is the information I just found out about the make up of the Scottish Regiments in Northern Europe, gleaned from European records of paying the bills. The officer posts included a 'scrivener'.

This ties in with what I have read in the past that where few people in a village could write, the person who could would write and read for those who could not, including, for example, letters to family members working far away.

Mention has been made of it being unlikely that poor country dwellers would have light to read ballads by after a long day's work. This implies that all work was done away from the home, which is patently not the case. And that there was full employment: not necessarily. And in summer the days are long, and then there are Sundays.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Harry
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 08:44 AM

Steve,

I was in the Navy for 9 years and several of my songs were performed by others as well as myself. One in a show onboard ship with Frankie Howard topping the bill.

I was an electrician back then - never a songwriter.

You are correct, of course, what I have done is of no interest to anyone here. I never thought it was.

However, my point still stands: you were making an absurd statement to be provacative.

Now I'll go back to reading and not commenting. Some of you really don't make this place very welcoming at all.

Harry


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 09:16 AM

"They only plough once a year" I think you will find that that preparation for sowing involves ploughing more that once. Weed control is one reason - plough, wait for the weeds to germinate and then plough again. That's what the ox-ploughman I watched did.

Where ploughboy and milkmaid jobs that younger people did, so making them more likely characters for a romanic tale?

Has anyone ever totted up the relative frequency of the jobs that characters in songs did?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 09:30 AM

Jag

Some interesting points, but the general point that ploughing in readiness for sowing seeds England is generally an April/May activity as opposed to something done all round stands.

'Milkmaids' may be another misleading term. I'm sure old women also milked cows. But because of the cowpox thing dairy workers may have been less pockmarked than the general population.

But are there nouns to describe other tasks; eg 'seed scatterer'? I think 'harvester' is a pub chain but was it used to describe the workers?

Totting up the relative frequency would be interesting but there would be controversy about which songs to use. Gammon discusses how various workmans' tools incuding some musical instruments are used as the basis forbawdy metaphors; I'm thinking the plough is one of these. But he doesn't I don't hink attempt a relative frequency.

Roud does give examples of ordinary people making up songs, based upon historical documents. I think one instance of this is in the 17th century chapter.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 09:36 AM

Has anyone ever totted up the relative frequency of the jobs that characters in songs did?

I don't think so, but there is a pi-chart showing causes of death in traditional English folk songs

.... and by 'traditional' we mean songs that have been created by .... AAAAARRRGGGHHHH!!!


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 09:58 AM

Hi Tzeu
https://www.historyonthenet.com/medieval-farming-the-farming-year/   February, March, July and 'Autumn' (the last in the text)

I think you will find that, as with modern farm contracting, there were were some fairly complicated and varied arrangements. Not everyone may have had a plough but unlike the oxen that did not need feeding so maybe even less people had there own oxen.

Similary I don't think it is clear to us as listeners to a song where, say, a weaver fitted into the local economy and society. I think some were itinerent, coming to use a housholds loom when required, others may have had their own but maybe wove other people's thread. I think those are the sort of details of social history that might show if a song was written by and for 'the folk' - but also may lead to us missing subleties of the story.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 09:59 AM

And yes, I know, going back to medieval times may be too far.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 12:54 PM

Jag

I guess one problem here is that practices will have changed through time.

So how do you get a match between song and historical context?

Also, if weavers were moving around, this fact cannot have been lost on the rest of society.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Howard Jones
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 03:40 PM

I think we are in danger of taking these job titles too literally. "Ploughboys", however they were known in different areas, were men skilled in handling heavy horses. In addition to ploughing and harrowing, they would also be involved in all the other jobs around the farm which involved horses, which was pretty much everything. In East Anglia they were usually known as "horsemen", which says it all.

Turning back to the broadsides, it is too simple to dismiss them all as hack writers. No doubt many were, but a normal bell distribution curve would suggest the profession contained a range of talents and abilities, as you would expect in any occupation and just as you find in modern journalism. Somewhere Roud makes the point that these writers were only a few degrees up the social scale than those they were writing for, so it is quite possible that some may have had experience of farming, the sea or other occupations, which they were able to write about from a position of knowledge. Besides, I suspect the folk might be quite tolerant of errors provided they did not spoil the overall effect of the song, and if necessary these could in any event be edited out by the singers themselves.

We are only concerned with those songs which found their way into the oral tradition, which probably rules out the worst examples of broadside writing, and certainly those Jim dismisses, with some justification, as unsingable.

Furthermore, the broadsides also published the popular songs of the day, written by professional songwriters and performed on the stage and in the pleasure gardens. Roud describes how the ordinary people could be exposed to these songs, not only through broadsides but from travelling players and performers. It goes against common sense to think that people would not take up these popular songs, and whilst most would be short-lived a few would have sufficient staying-power to remain in the tradition.

Finally, it is probable that the broadsides published existing folk songs, which probably included not only anonymous songs from the tradition but songs composed by ordinary people and offered for publication (which is something Roud describes).

No one has disagreed that the people made their own songs, the question is how much of what is regarded as traditional song originated this way. We are told that as much as 90% of the songs found in the tradition were published as broadsides. That leaves only around 10% where we can say with some confidence that they originated among the people. As for the rest, we can't be certain but they probably comprise a range of origins as described above. If only those songs composed by the people themselves can be regarded as folk song, that excludes a large part of the song tradition and which up until now has been thought of as "folk".

It is not a question of wishing to disprove that the folk made their own songs. It is about following the facts, even if they lead us to a conclusion that we find unwelcome. Roud points out that folk song did not exist in a cultural vacuum, and he has provided an explanation of how composed songs could find their way into the tradition, and I for one find it persuasive.

Roud's concluding words are "once we have jettisoned the idea that it is the origin of a song which makes it folk, we are forced to concentrate on the people, and process, rather than the items themselves, to find our difference...put a pleasure garden song into the tradition and if it is not spat out as unsuitable it emerges at the other end as a clearly different type of song... it is now sung in a different way, by different people, in different places, and will never be the same again". This seems to me to be entirely consistent with the 1954 idea of what is folk song.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 08:48 PM

Hello Howard,

I suppose we got sidetracked into the occupational definitions via claims that some songs show insider knowledge available only to those in the job in question, and that this is strong evidence against a 'hack' origin for that song.   

Your last paragraph seems reasonable to me. I have read the 1954 definition, which even Lloyd quotes. Claims that I have read that the 'use' definition of folk overturns a century of scholarship demonstrating or arguing or assuming an 'origin' definition seem to me to misrepresent what people were actually saying.

But I am not quite so sure that there are 'facts' to follow. What Roud makes clear is that we have very little evidence about what practives of 'the folk' - defined loosely as the lower status strata of society - were in respect of singing and repertoire.

For me, as I said before, a judgement that a song is 'unsingable' is in any case a subjective statement. So, I suppose, are judgments that a particular song must have, or could not have been, written by a mediocre professional writer. And judgements will vary.

So maybe it is better to think of different theories, while taking into account what factual information we have. And as Roud says, a lot of the people who wrote about vernacular music and street singers and ballad sellers were unsympathetic witnesses.

I was looking at Roud again and he said in one chapter that a lot of tunes served both as dance tunes and as song tunes. Now dance presupposes rhythm. Yet I could not tap my feet to much of what Walter Pardon sang, and I found myself thinking that the strong sense of rhythm in USA folk versions of British originals must have come from African influences. Am I incorrect in noticing a lack of rhythm, and how typical in your view is that relatively rhythmless delivery of 'traditional' English singing? I think there is some discussion of the need not to apply the values of 'art'music to folk in Julia Bishop's chapters in Roud, but surely people liked to tap their feet. Traditionally, rhythm and metre were supposed to be part of the ways within the oral tradition that supported memory?

Any thoughts?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 02:03 AM

Yet I could not tap my feet to much of what Walter Pardon sang,'
As i jnderstand it Walter was trying to stop the songs from being forgotten and had not sung the songs out very much, perhaps he is not the best example to use, how about listening to willie scott, or bob roberts, plenty of rhythm there, or some of the songs plough boys/farm workers used during work different songs and ryhthms for different jobs, eg hand milking ,ploughing etc how about shanties?tradtional songs were used for work, windy old weather was a net hauling song


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Howard Jones
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 02:42 AM

The facts are that we have a corpus of songs collected from the tradition and which generally regarded as "folk songs", and that the overwhelming majority of them were at some point published on broadsides. There is also evidence from traditional singers themselves that they sourced songs from broadsides. This is not new to Roud, Lloyd made the same point. Are we to suppose that the songs the 'folk' took from broadsides were only those which had been taken from the tradition in the first place, and that they rejected everything else, including the most popular songs of their day? That seems unlikely to me.

The measure of whether a song is singable or not is whether it is sung. We are concerned only with those which were found in the singing tradition, so clearly these were singable. We can ignore that part of the output of the broadside presses which may have been unsingable.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 07:11 AM

Pseudonymous writes:-
I was looking at Roud again and he said in one chapter that a lot of tunes served both as dance tunes and as song tunes. Now dance presupposes rhythm. Yet I could not tap my feet to much of what Walter Pardon sang, and I found myself thinking that the strong sense of rhythm in USA folk versions of British originals must have come from African influences. Am I incorrect in noticing a lack of rhythm, and how typical in your view is that relatively rhythmless delivery of 'traditional' English singing?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 07:40 AM

I'll try again and try to press the right key this time....

Pseudonymous writes:-
I was looking at Roud again and he said in one chapter that a lot of tunes served both as dance tunes and as song tunes. Now dance presupposes rhythm. Yet I could not tap my feet to much of what Walter Pardon sang, and I found myself thinking that the strong sense of rhythm in USA folk versions of British originals must have come from African influences. Am I incorrect in noticing a lack of rhythm, and how typical in your view is that relatively rhythmless delivery of 'traditional' English singing?

This is a very interesting question which calls for a thoughtful answer, particularly the part that says Am I incorrect in noticing a lack of rhythm? because this question implies that the answer should be 'yes' or 'no'.

One of the greatest influeneces on my thinking on anything - not just the area around folk music has been the writings of the great American novelist, philosopher and thinker, Robert Pirsig. I read his Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as a young man and I have re-read it more times than any other book I have read. It led me on to read all the other things he has read. I must admit that I sometimes find his ideas difficult and I struggle with the concepts, but usually I find the truth in what he is saying. On this point, particularly if you haven't read his greatest book, you might like to have a look at the extracts that deal with this aspect on the Awakin website. Basically what Pirsig is saying that the answer to a question of this nature should be 'yes', 'no' or 'mu'
Mu means "no thing." Like "quality" it points outside the process of dualistic discrimination. Mu simply says, "no class: not one, not zero, not yes, not no." It states that the context of the question is such that a yes and a no answer is in error and should not be given. "Unask the question" is what it says.

Elsewhere Pirsig suggests that an answer of 'mu' implies that you are asking the wrong question and I believe that you are in this case. I really have to go out now, but I want to try to answer this point more fully when I come back home.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 07:46 AM

Thanks for the responses and suggestions for further listening. Thanks too for not being angry at my responses to Walter Pardon's interpretations, or accusing me of 'attacking him'.


There is a sense of humour in some of his delivery, I know, which is a good point (to me at any rate).

Something about the delivery reminds me of other early 20th century singing I have heard, perhaps some of the stuff my parents' generation might have heard in theatres and on the radio. The emphasis is so much on words, not music. If I remember aright, it has even been asserted that the music is not relevant, that only the words matter, and here again Roud is useful, though maybe there is room for a focus on singing styles, types of ornament (and Pardon does use some) and I don't recall much of this from Roud. I might come back with examples from specific Pardon songs? Or would that be too tedious?

What I am realising is that any 'topic' seems to come with different ideas and approaches and/or with something that almost looks like its own folklore. Two recent examples would be a) Annie of Finty's mill, with people making claims about statues of the character on the roof of Fyvie castle and stones in the church wall which turn out to be untrue in one case and 'Pictish' in another and b) the question of whether Pardon's songs came from broadsheets, with Pardon apparently on record as saying he believed they did to one collector, yet another collector hotly denying that Pardon said this.

I'm guessing shanties would have been rhythmical, the ones (or imitations) we were taught as kids were) but my understanding is that African American sources are now being claimed for many of these with arguments about them as well ..... :) As one prone to sea-sickness I tend to feel a bit quesy at the thought of shanties.

I'm not much of a singer, more of a musician, and I was quite shocked to read on a Mudcat thread that the music wasn't important. Roud points out that some tunes got associated with particular topics, this is obvious when you consider the death march, but I did not know about Lilibullero (can't spell it, sang it often at school, didn't understand a word of it).


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 08:02 AM

I wrote "The emphasis is so much on words, not music." I was referring to the emphasis in discussions especially on Mudcat, rather than to Pardon.


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