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New Book: Folk Song in England

Brian Peters 08 Nov 17 - 01:21 PM
Jim Carroll 08 Nov 17 - 02:47 PM
Brian Peters 08 Nov 17 - 03:11 PM
Lighter 08 Nov 17 - 07:16 PM
Jim Carroll 09 Nov 17 - 03:11 AM
Jim Carroll 10 Nov 17 - 05:33 AM
GUEST,Derek Schofield 10 Nov 17 - 07:49 AM
Jim Carroll 10 Nov 17 - 08:09 AM
Jim Carroll 10 Nov 17 - 08:40 AM
Brian Peters 10 Nov 17 - 11:10 AM
Jim Carroll 10 Nov 17 - 12:11 PM
GUEST,Derek Schofield 11 Nov 17 - 08:13 AM
Jim Carroll 11 Nov 17 - 08:44 AM
Jim Carroll 13 Nov 17 - 03:58 AM
JHW 13 Nov 17 - 06:22 AM
Jack Campin 14 Nov 17 - 08:51 AM
Jim Carroll 15 Nov 17 - 03:34 AM
GUEST,Martin Ryan 15 Nov 17 - 04:06 AM
Jim Carroll 15 Nov 17 - 05:20 AM
GUEST,Martin Ryan 15 Nov 17 - 06:21 AM
Jim Carroll 15 Nov 17 - 06:47 AM
Jack Campin 15 Nov 17 - 08:46 AM
Jim Carroll 15 Nov 17 - 09:24 AM
Vic Smith 08 Dec 17 - 09:04 AM
Vic Smith 08 Dec 17 - 09:08 AM
Jim Carroll 08 Dec 17 - 09:21 AM
GUEST,Jon Dudley 09 Dec 17 - 05:01 AM
Jim Carroll 09 Dec 17 - 05:25 AM
Vic Smith 09 Dec 17 - 06:31 AM
Jim Carroll 09 Dec 17 - 07:41 AM
Jim Carroll 09 Dec 17 - 08:18 AM
Brian Peters 09 Dec 17 - 11:17 AM
Jim Carroll 09 Dec 17 - 11:59 AM
Brian Peters 09 Dec 17 - 01:08 PM
Jim Carroll 09 Dec 17 - 01:31 PM
Billy Weeks 11 Dec 17 - 07:20 AM
Jim Carroll 11 Dec 17 - 07:46 AM
Billy Weeks 11 Dec 17 - 11:37 AM
Billy Weeks 11 Dec 17 - 11:39 AM
Jim Carroll 11 Dec 17 - 12:37 PM
Jim Carroll 11 Dec 17 - 12:59 PM
Howard Jones 12 Dec 17 - 06:14 AM
Vic Smith 12 Dec 17 - 06:24 AM
Vic Smith 12 Dec 17 - 06:39 AM
Jim Carroll 12 Dec 17 - 07:04 AM
Jim Carroll 12 Dec 17 - 08:10 AM
Richard Mellish 12 Dec 17 - 09:29 AM
Jim Carroll 12 Dec 17 - 09:52 AM
Jim Carroll 12 Dec 17 - 10:29 AM
Steve Gardham 12 Dec 17 - 03:33 PM
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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 08 Nov 17 - 01:21 PM

"I question the claim that the broadside version of the Demon Lover is definitely the first - the story is quite popular as ain international tale"

I did wonder at one point whether the seven familiar verses from 'A Warning for Married Women' might have been part of an earlier undetected version around which Laurence Price erected a massive scaffolding of unneccessary verbiage, but there's no evidence for that.

'Hind Horn' is one that did exist as a medieval romance, and harks in one respect back to the Odyssey. But that kind of reworking of an older tale suggests to me a poet's hand (just as Shakespeare rehashed older plots) more than anything.

'Golden Vanity - was the broadside definitely the original?'

I don't know - I just used it as an example of an older broadside that reads very much like the sung versions.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Nov 17 - 02:47 PM

"I don't know -"
Neither do I
"'Hind Horn' is one that did exist as a medieval romance"
And was also found in Europe
In the other hand, it also shares its motifs both with folk tales and at least one ballad, Lord Bateman - lover returning in disguise demanding the fulfilment of a promise
When we firsts recorded singers in Clare we hit a rich seam of 'big' storytellers, particularly i the Burren area of North Clare
The first story we recorded was about an hour long and started with the 'Gawain and the Green Knight' 'year and a day' motif and ended with the lover returning in disguise on her lover's wedding day claiming her promise of marriage.
The teller's nearest neighbour gave us a magnificent version of 'Lord Bateman' which ended with exactly the same motif.
You really do need a crowbar to separate songs and stories, especially in areas like this.
The area as a whole was once the stamping ground of Seamus Delargy, the founder of The Irish Folklore Society - some of the finest tales collected in Ireland were taken from there, from both singers and storytellers.
The non-literate Travellers sang the big ballads because they liked long stories - we are the beneficiaries of that good taste
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 08 Nov 17 - 03:11 PM

Fascinating, Jim.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Lighter
Date: 08 Nov 17 - 07:16 PM

Fascinating histories, Brian, esp. that of "The Wild Rover."

I know a lot less than I thought.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Nov 17 - 03:11 AM

"I know a lot less than I thought."
We all do L
What pissess me off about these arguments is how far away from the dream of the early days we have drifted.
I was part of a scene that included nights of ballad evenings, themed, poetry and song performances, calls from the club platform for volunteers to take part in fishing expeditions to uncover children's songs in local schools, workshops to help aspiring singers....
We had our own magazines and record labels and a wealth of programmes on every aspect of folk song and music under the sun, freely available on the radio....
Now we're reduced to arguing whether the composer of 'The Cat's Meat Man' might also have written 'Lord Gregory'!!

Even if we want to keep up with current research we have to consider re-mortgaging the house to buy the literature!
As for magnificent productions like MacColl's, 'Song Carriers' and Lloyd's 'Songs of the People' - you can't even give 'em away to modern 'folk' enthusiasts' who appear to believe that Bob Geldof is a folk performer and composer
Did we really manage to make such a ****-up of the folk revival?

I remember Pat and I taking Kerry Traveller Mikeen McCarthy to a local children's literature festival in Deptford, South-East London, some time in the early 80s.
Mikeen was a singer, storyteller tinsmith, caravan builder, horse dealer, street singer and 'ballad seller'.... - you name it, he did it.
He sat in front of an audience of mainly pre-teen schoolchildren and sang, told stories and talked about fairy lore, pishogues, fairs and markets, tinsmithing, thatching, gladdering, life on the roads of rural Ireland..... for well over an hour and a half.
The teachers had carefully arranged the chairs in lines with Mikeen sitting formally at the front - a big gap between him and them.
Gradually they abandoned the chairs, slid across the floor on their bums and finally formed a tight circle of rapt faces around Mikeen's feet, completely engrossed in what he had to say.

Where have all those flowers gone, I wonder?
Him Carroll


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE MERCHANT AND THE FIDDLER'S WIFE
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Nov 17 - 05:33 AM

To continue this 'chicken or egg?' song/story theme
Below is a story we recorded from a retired Irish building worker we met in Deptford in the 1970s; as far as I know, the song never entered to oral tradition, if such a turgid piece was ever sung.
Mikey Kelleher was originally from Quilty, the next village from here Clare, a small coastal fishing village; he moved to England and in the 1940s and never returned home
The village was renowned for stories like these' basically jokes, often without punch lines
Mikey gave us dozens of these 'yarns' including a story version of 'The Bishop of Canterbury' (Child 45) and a convoluted tale of a young woman presenting a mouse in a matchbox to a former lover who she had promised her maidenhead to, as substitute for her sexual parts
MacColl traced this to the writings of Spanish playwright, Rojas (1465/73)
The area Mikey came from was totally devoid of literature such as this; as far as the songs are concerned, its overwhelming literary influence would be the 'ballads' sold by non-literate Travellers who would go to a printer, recite songs from their own oral repertoire and sell them at the fairs and markets; this continued right up to the 1950s, when the last 'ballad' found as 'The Bar With No Stout', a parody of one of the latest pop songs.
The point I am trying to make is that to consign our traditional repertoire to the broadsides seems to me an exercise in the facile by desk-bound researchers who simply haven't done the math
The link reall is far more complicated than that.
Jim Carroll

The Fiddler's wife
There was two old walkers and they wanted to go across to America and the hadn't enough money
So she went down to the captain and she was a lovely piece, and he said, "Oh, I'll be all right there"
She asked him to now would he take here across
"All right", he said, himself and herself and the man went in and he was playing the old fiddle, you see.
They had travelled away, of course, and she didn't like to refuse him, you know, in case he wouldn't let her off, you know.
She carries on with him and he went up to the old boy and, "I'll bet you this ship" he said, "and cargo, against your fiddle", he said, "That I'll have her before I land".
The old boy bet the fiddle with him anyway; and up they goes, he called them in.
The old boy was frettin', he knew she was inside.

"Hold tight my love", he says, "hold tight", (he was singing a song)   
For just a half an hour
Hol tight my love, hold tight
And the ship and cargo will be ours

She said:

"You're late my love, you're late my love," she said
He has me by the middle,
"I',m on my back, we're havin' a craic,
And you have lost your old fiddle"   

The Merchant and the Fidler's Wife.
From 'D'Urfey's Pills to Purge Melancholy, (Vol 5 pp77-80) (1719)
It was a Rich Merchant Man,
That had both Ship and all;
And he would cross the salt Seas,
Tho' his cunning it was but small.

The Fidler and his Wife,
They being nigh at hand ;
Would needs go sail along with him,
From Dover unto Scotland.

The Fidler's Wife look'd brisk,
Which made the Merchant smile ;
He made no doubt to bring it about,
The Fidler to beguile.

Is this thy Wife the Merchant said,
She looks like an honest Spouse;
Ay that she is, the Fidler said,
That ever trod on Shoes.

Thy Confidence is very great,
The Merchant then did say;
If thou a Wager darest to bet,
I'll tell thee what I will lay'.

I'll lay my Ship against thy Fiddle,
And all my Venture too;
So Peggy may gang along with me,
My Cabin for to View.

If she continues one Hour with me,
Thy true and constant Wife ;
Then shalt thou have my Ship and be,
A Merchant all thy Life.

The Fidler was content,
He Danc'd and Leap'd for joy ;
And twang'd his Fiddle in merriment,
For Peggy he thought was Coy.

Then Peggy she went along,
His Cabin for to View ;
And after her the Merchant-Man,
Did follow, we found it true.

When they were once together,
The Fidler was afraid ;
For he crep'd near in pitious fear,
And thus to Peggy he said.

Hold out, sweet Peggy hold out,
For the space of two half Hours;
If thou hold out, I make no doubt,
But the Ship and Goods are ours.

In troth, sweet Robin, I cannot,
He hath got me about the Middle ;
He's lusty and strong, and hath laid me along,
O Robin thou'st lost thy Fiddle.


If I have lost my Fiddle,
Then am I a Man undone ;
My Fiddle whereon I so often play'd,
Away I needs must run.

O stay the Merchant said,
And thou shalt keep thy place;
And thou shalt have thy Fiddle again,
But Peggy shall carry the Case.

Poor Robin hearing that,
He look'd with a Merry-chear;
His wife she was pleas'd, and the Merchant was eas'd,
And jolly and brisk they were.

The Fidler he was mad,
But valu'd it not a Fig;
Then Peggy unto her Husband said,
Kind Robin play us a Jigg.

Then he took up his Fiddle,
And merrily he did play ;
The Scottish Jigg and the Hornpipe,
And eke the Irish Hey.

It was but in vain to grieve,
The Deed it was done and past;
Poor Robin was bom to carry the Horn,
For Peggy could not be Chast.

Then Fidlers all beware,
Your Wives are kind you see ;
And he that's made for the Fidling Trade,
Must never a Merchant be.

For Peggy she knew right well,
Although she was but a Woman ;
That Gamesters Drink, and Fidlers Wives,
They are ever Free and Common.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Derek Schofield
Date: 10 Nov 17 - 07:49 AM

If we printed all these messages in a book, it'd be as long as Steve Roud's 750 page tome!
Derek


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Nov 17 - 08:09 AM

"If we printed all these messages in a book, it'd be as long as Steve Roud's 750 page tome!"
And maybe the two Steves might learn from them
Waddya think Derek?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Nov 17 - 08:40 AM

Just checked again
The only reported sighting of Mkey's story as a song is an unpublished version from Newfoundland
Memorial University Folklore Archive (MUNFLA) (St. John's, Newfoundland)"
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 10 Nov 17 - 11:10 AM

Very interesting account of 'The Fiddler's Wife', thanks Jim.

I have to say I find it sad that this debate has got so polarised, especially since some of the harshest words here have been exchanged by people with very similar enthusiasms. I'm sure you know, Jim, that Vic Smith has spent a lot of time with traditional singers from Sheila Stewart to Bob Copper, and that Steve Gardham has himself collected many songs in the field. These are not people who wish to destroy the notion of traditional song just for the sake of iconoclasm. They, and I, and others here, would enjoy listening to Mikeen McCarthy, or Walter Pardon, just as much as you. For me, the pleasure of hearing a recording of Phil Tanner or Sam Larner sing a version of 'Henry Martin' is completely unaffected by whether the song came to them via (or originated on) a broadside - I just marvel at the artistry of the performance. And there is still a hunger for traditional song out there in the wider 'folk' world, even though some of the younger enthusiasts may have heard traditional singers only through recordings. Do not despair.

I could go on, but that'll do for now.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Nov 17 - 12:11 PM

If I despaired I wouldn't bother arguing Brian
I too respect the work of those you mention and am tired of these discussions ending up in cat-fights, but I believe traditional songs to be important enough to get things right - it's been gotten wrong so often before.
For me, one of the most fundamental things has been whether singers were also composers, as I believe they were.
I too got enormous pleasure from listening to Sam, Harry, Walter, et al, and from singing the songs (I sill do), but taken as a whole, the tradition is far wider than that,
The overturning of an entire belief, over a century's research seems so important a step as not to be taken lightly and certainly without examining all the facts and implications
I can't see any other way other than thrash it out - sorry
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Derek Schofield
Date: 11 Nov 17 - 08:13 AM

There's a review of Steve's book (remember that? It's in the subject line...) in today's Guardian. Support the newspaper by buying a copy .... or alternatively read it here, with quite a number of comments.
Guardian review of Folk Song in England

Derek


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Nov 17 - 08:44 AM

" This isn?t to deny that oral transmission was key in disseminating folk songs around a community in which few people could read, but the fact remains that the material was just as likely to have first slipped into the village on a piece of paper rather than on the tip of someone?s tongue."
I hope the authors and their support are happy to see the credit for making these songs gradually being eased away from working people 'the folk' and handed over to notoriously bad poets - without a shred of proof of who actually made them.
Based on the amount of evidence they have presented to back up their claims, i find it utterly irresponsible
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Nov 17 - 03:58 AM

I'm reluctant to let this slip out of sight without a final word on my position on this subject, so here goes
I have yet to read Roud's book from cover to cover, personal commitments have prevented me from doing so, but I will do in the near future
I do feel I have read enough to form an opinion on some of the subjects covered to have drawn some conclusions.

I'm not an academic, but I have always been an avid reader on folksong pretty well from the mid-sixties and have acquired a substantial library on the subject - fully read.
It seems to me based on that reading that one of the points of Roud's book turns one of my gained opinions on its head - that we can no longer believe folk song to be 'the voice of the people' it was previously believed to be, but that it was created by proven unskilled, desk bound urban hacks scribbling verse for money.
A pretty serious claim and one I'm not prepared to accept without full explanation or at least, minute examination on my part - I have no right to demand an explanation from anybody.

There has always been a tendency from some quarters to suggest that 'the folk' were not skilful enough to have written the ballads, mots clearly put in Phillips Barry's statement in 1939 that To put it in a single phrase, memory not invention is the function of the folk?.   
Now that attitude has spread to include to include virtually all our folk songs - a serious charge, and one too important to let though on the nod.

All our folk literature has, as far as I can make out, regarded that our folk songs were created by the agricultural working people - Child, Sharp, Lomax, Gummere, Wimberley....
Child dismissed the broadsides out of hand, Sharp wrote at length about their malign influence.
From the large number of broadside collections we have on our shelves here I think the quality of hack writing makes it nigh impossible that they could have been the authors of the songs found in collections like Sharp, Greig, Buchan, Child.... dry crumbly chalk compared to fine cheese.

When I have attempted to debate this with one of the main proponents of this argument I have been met with evasion, feeble excuses and often on-the-spot inventions - "English workers were too busy earning a living to make songs", ""hack" doesn't really mean bad writing", "broadside writers gained their knowledge of working practices by serving time at sea or working on the land", "Child was beginning to change his mind about broadsides"....
Examples of working people actually making songs were passed off as "the scribblings of retired people"

Our personal researches over thirty odd years, both in England and Ireland, comprised initially collecting songs, but eventually in interviewing our sources to see where they stood on their art.
In Ireland, we uncovered a large number of local songmakers making songs on any subject that caught their fancy, from local day-to-day experiences to national events viewed locally
That was swept aside by, "it was different in Ireland" - another excuse when you consider that Ireland was under English influence for eight centuries and her song repertoire is loaded with songs and particularly ballads that originated in England and Scotland.

In 1985. Dave Harket published 'Fakesong', a work largely setting our to undermine the work of early collectors by taking it out of context of the time it was carried out.
As the title makes clear, it questions the existence of folk song as a genuine workers culture.
It seems to me that setting out to show that our folk songs originated on the broadside presses is a further step along that road.
It is a serious stap and one that needs carful consideration
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: JHW
Date: 13 Nov 17 - 06:22 AM

'I have yet to read Roud's book from cover to cover'
Thank goodness I'm not alone, I've only read half an inch, its really hard work even to hold up!


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jack Campin
Date: 14 Nov 17 - 08:51 AM

The Guardian review mentioned by Derek Schofield also includes a cut-price offer for the book (£21.25).


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 03:34 AM

" a cut-price offer for the book (?21.25)."
The Book Depository have it for ?18.63 - post free, which is a considerable saving for a book this size
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Martin Ryan
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 04:06 AM

I've only read half an inch, its really hard work even to hold up!

I bought the Kindle edition - and really enjoyed being able to pick it up at any stage and read a chapter or two. Got through it relatively quickly and found it both informative and enjoyable. An Irish perspective would be rather different, methinks - but that's to be expected.

Regards


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 05:20 AM

"An Irish perspective would be rather different, methinks - but that's to be expected."
The only major difference between England and Ireland is that the Irish tradition lasted far longer as a living entity, where even in Sharp's time singing was on its last legs - a constant comment by Sharp and his contemporaries
Britain and Ireland shared a large number of traditional songs - many of the Irish versions of ballads had disappeared from the repertoires elsewhere in the English speaking world.
Mid twentieth century rural Ireland presented a picture of what life must have been like half a a century earlier in Britain
The repertoires were different because the social situation they represented were different
I think the problem with Roud is that he has arbitrarily decided to re-define folk song (apparently without consulting anybody else working in the field)
I have constantly argued on the importance of definition and have been happy to point to the Roud index as a guide to what I mean - no longer the case.
Out of interest, I looked up one of Walter Pardon's songs, 'Put a Bit of Powder on it Father', composed by Harry Castling & Fred Godfrey ? 1908.
It fits no existing definition of 'folk' I know of, yet Roud has assigned it a number, Roud No:10671, in his index attributed to Walter's singing of it
Walter was insistent that this and all songs of the same ilk were not
folk song and went to great lengths to explain why - but as always, the traditional singers' opinions carry no weight if they don't follow the academic's rule-book.
Vic Smith's quoting him as saying "A traditional folk song is a song sung by a folk singer. What a folk singer sings is traditional songs" apparently wasn't a joke.
We recorded an Irish Traveller whose repertoire included Seven Gypsies and Edward, which, I would say makes him a "folk singer"
He sang for us 'Roses of Heidelberg' and 'You Will Remember Vienna'.
Can we now expect these to be assigned Roud numbers - if not, why not?
This I believe, not only debases folk song, but it makes nonsense of the English language when people can seriously use it irrespective of its meaning - Stanley Unwin rides again!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Martin Ryan
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 06:21 AM

The only major difference between England and Ireland is that the Irish tradition lasted far longer as a living entity

Gotta love that "only" ! ;>)>

Regards


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 06:47 AM

Don't kow what differences there were in the the way the two traditions were made and transmitted Martin
The repertoires were different, sure, but rhe social circumstances in which they were created were almost identical
I'm referring to the English language tradition of course - the Gaeilge was totally different, I'll give you
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jack Campin
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 08:46 AM

Sharp and his contemporaries found an English folk song culture which was very much alive in melodic invention - the tunes they wrote down were very different from anything you could have found in print in Chappell's books. And that process continued much longer in North America.

I get the impression that the English-language Irish song culture was pretty much dead as far as melodic invention went at the same time, and hasn't shown any signs of coming back to life since. Jim never mentions tunes at all - when he finds interesting current material in rural Ireland, it's all about verbal content. So I guess they just rehash a small fixed repertoire of commonplace tunes.

What does Roud say about the evolution of melodies?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 09:24 AM

"when he finds interesting current material in rural Ireland, it's all about verbal content"
Every single singer we interviewed on the subject regarded themselves as storytellers whose tales came with tunes.
This includes Walter Pardon.
The older generation of singers confirmed that over and over again with their narrative approach to their songs
This is what Tom Lenihan said on the subject

Tom Lenihan talking about singing. 2m 31s
J C        What?s the word you used Tom, this afternoon; ?blas? * what??
T L        The blas, that?s what the old people used to use; if you didn?t put the blas in the song.
The same as that now the?..as we?ll say ?Michael Hayes?, ?The Fox Chase?:
I am a bold and undaunted fox that never was before on tramp,
My rent, rates and taxes I was willing for to pay,
I lived as happy as King Saul, and loved my neighbours great and small,
I had no animosity for either friend nor foe.
You have to draw out the words and put the blas in the song. If you had the same as the Swedish couple:
Now I am a bold and undaunted fox that never was before on tramp.
The blas isn?t in that, in any bit of it. You see now, the blas is the drawing out of the words and the music of it.
J C        What do you think you?re passing on with a song Tom; is it a good tune, is it a good story, or nice poetry or what?
T L        It is some story I?m passing on with the song all the time. In the composition that was done that time, or the poets that was in it that time, they had the real stuff to compose their songs; they had some story in it.
As I tell you about ?The Christmas Letter?, they had some story, but in today?s poets, there is no story but the one thing over and over and over again, you see. But that time they had the real story for to start off the song. And the same as the song I?m after singing there, ?The Fair Maiden In Her Father?s garden?, well, that happened sometime surely; the lover came back and she didn?t know him of course, but yet he knew her and there he was, and that happened for certain. ?Michael Hayes? happened. ?The Christmas Letter? as I say, all them old traditional stuff; that old mother that got the letter for Christmas from her family; all them things happened.
It was right tradition down along; it was a story or something that happened.

*Blas (Irish) = relish; taste; good accent.

Tom went on at great length about how you had to be careful to maintain the narrative sense of the songs and nor over-ornament
Virtually all singers, bad health excepting, pitched their singing around speaking tones, never broke up words and verbally put the punctuation where it belonged
The Irish language songs were different - a display of technique rather than storytelling, but there are far fewer narrative songs in that repertoire
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 08 Dec 17 - 09:04 AM

As long ago as 05 Sep 17 - 12:07 PM, I posted a link to the first published review which appeared in a rather unlikely place - in The Economist. I commented on the review that it was a factual account and a precis of the contents rather than any statement about the value of the book or a comparison with anything that has been published in the past.
Steve Gardham reacted to this in a rather wise way writing, As you say, Vic, a fair precis, but no critique. Part of the problem we face is there are not many people about who are truly qualified to criticise what it has to say. Where were going to find a person with such qualifications? Well, I think that this person has been found!
Here is the lengthy review published in the Folk Music Journal (Volume 11 * Number 3 * 2018 - pages 127-130).
I ought to point out that in separate conversations with both author and reviewer that both have expressed strong mutual admiration for the work that the other has completed and that they have both been members of the Editorial Board of the FMJ, Britain's foremost academic folk music journal for many years. I do not feel that this in any way invalidates the review:-

Folk Song in England

Steve Roud. London: Faber and Faber, 2017. 764 pp. Bibliog. Index. ISI5N 978-0-571-30971-9. ?25.00 hardback, ?14.99 ebook.

This is the most significant, important, and interesting book on English folk song published in my lifetime. The book is well presented, well organized, and written in a clear and accessible style. Some themes recur in the book, but I never feel this is wasteful. I like Roud's writing style, which is very down to earth, and he has a knack of throwing in pithy comments which are both arresting and get to the heart of the point he is making. Julia Bishop contributes two excellent chapters on the musical aspects of folk song, avowedly not Roud's own area of expertise. Anyone with the slightest interest in the subject should buy a copy immediately, read it at leisure, absorbing its wisdom and reflecting on its contents. Do not let the size put you off - it offers a rich and fascinating body of material that can be returned to again and again.
Let me preface the rest of the review by saying that any disagreements I have with Roud are of meagre significance when balanced against the book's virtues, for they are many. In terms of the broad thrust of the book I am totally with Roud, who has done the folk song research community a great service by pulling together a lot of the ideas and critical points that have been debated over the last few decades. Nor can even a long review compass the richness of his book, so my comments are selective.
Discussing Sharp's 1907 Some Conclusions, Roud comments, 'we must guard against easy assumptions' (p. 444). This is something Roud studiously observes. He is scrupulous in finding and considering evidence and generally coming to well-reasoned conclusions. After an introduction and an introductory chapter, the book is organized in three parts which deal with the history of scholarship and collecting, the ways in which folk song is part of a wider musical world from which it derives .and which contributes material, and a final part that considers how folk song lives in different musical contexts. The book constitutes a very good history of the folk song movement in this country, asks profound questions about the nature of folk song and contributes a whole range of interesting insights.
Unlike some writers who have tried to move away from the term 'folk song' because of its problems with definition and ideological baggage, Roud embraces but radically redefines it. Central to the book is the notion that folk song is not a particular genre but a practice. "It is not the origin of a song that makes it 'folk', but what the 'folk' do with it", he remarks (p.23). For some, wedded to older notions, Roud may seem iconoclastic; to those who have kept pace with changing approaches to the subject, he provides a timely account of where the centrality of the study of traditional song in this country is now located. For Roud, 'the social context of traditional singing is the key to understanding its nature, but is also precisely the component which has often been neglected in past discussions of the subject' (p. 4). To him, it is 'the process through which songs pass, in the brains and voices of ordinary people, which stamps them as "folk". Therefore, songs that the common people have adopted as their own, regardless of origin, constitute in some way or another their collective voice and are "folk songs" (p. 22).
Roud is not interested in condemning the collectors of the past for their shortcomings, though he is critically aware of them; rather, he assesses their strengths and weaknesses without judging them in an ahistorical way. Early in the book he writes, 'they were not interested in documenting the whole range of songs sung by working people, nor were they particularly concerned with the social context of that singing, or the lives and opinions of the singers. But we are' (p. 7). 'The early collectors set us on the wrong track by stressing origin as the main definitional characteristic of folk song, but we now have serious reservations about this approach' (p. 21). '[T]he collectors were so selective that the picture of "folk song" they left us is extremely partial' (p. 23). It is this partiality that Roud strives to correct.
His account of the history of collecting and scholarship comes up to the third quarter of the twentieth century. It is an informative and lively account and I will focus on it in this review. Generally, Roud deals fairly with significant figures in the history of the gathering of English folk song. I was amused by his description of Joseph Ritson as 'the original Mr Angry', but he gives a good appreciation of his contribution to scrupulous editing. At times Roud can get exasperated with some more recent writers: 'Unfortunately, it seems to be de rigueur to take a side-swipe at the early folk-song collectors and to castigate them for not providing what we now wish to know' (p. 530). He describes Harker's work as 'facile bourgeois bashing' (p. 177). Early on he writes, 'we do not hold with the facile notion that the men and women featured in this book operated as a group and worked to expropriate the culture of the working class for their own class purposes, and we believe that the evidence does not support this interpretation of events' (p. 45). What he most resents is the lost opportunity as such negativity 'became the new orthodoxy, and the early collectors came under fire from all sides' (p. 8). This orthodoxy 'is only now showing signs of losing its grip' (p. 177).
I have much sympathy with this assessment, having had barely digested Harker fed back to me by academic colleagues looking for a reason to write off folk song studies. Nevertheless, I think it is a shame that, perhaps so put off by Harker's style and manner, Roud cannot see the good analysis and pioneering nature of some of his work. It is true that later in the book Roud writes appreciatively of Harker's extensive work on Tyneside song. But it should be remembered that Harker was one of the first to deal critically with some of A. L. Lloyd's 'editorial tinkerings and sleights of hand' (Roud's words, p. 21), and to deliver an iconoclastic blast against the almost religious awe in which Cecil Sharp was held in many quarters. Apart from some contemporary critics of Sharp, the only people I know of to have previously attempted any significant (though not extensive) critique of Sharp were those gathered around the magazine Ethnic in the late 1950s, notably Mervyn Plunkett and Reg Hall. The circulation numbers of Ethnic were tiny, but its influence on thought on the subject among a few people was profound. I could be wrong, but I think the influence of these activists was an important element in Roud's intellectual make-up.
Compared to his treatment of Harker, Roud is much kinder to Chris Bearman, who (in the context of criticizing the Grainger biographer John Bird) is said to have led the charge against such myth-making, and in the process swung the pendulum a little too far in the other direction' (p. 145). I think this is rather gentle: Bearman was not beyond making some myths of his own. It is sad that we will never know how Bearman would have reviewed this book, but it is interesting to think about it!
A. L. Lloyd's 1967 book is described as 'highly readable, genuinely inspiring, and admirably fulfilled its purpose as an introduction for beginners', and Roud recognizes that 'those who finally get to the stage of expertise required to offer a valid criticism have invariably got there because of that earlier work' (p. 180). He acknowledges the rising tide of criticism against Lloyd and with a convincing demonstration comes to the view that Lloyd 'is too willing to extrapolate from little or no evidence, which is where the journalist and the romantic take over from the scholar' (p. 181). As someone deeply indebted to, but also critical of Lloyd, I feel Rood pulls off the difficult task of appreciation and necessary criticism very well.
Rood approaches the idea of overlapping multiple musical traditions when he writes, 'there will be more than one tradition within most communities, which can be seen as the individual threads in a woven fabric. Any one person will belong to several groupings, and many allegiances will change over time' (p. 35). This is a fruitful idea, but one that seriously challenges ideas of authenticity, the 'otherness' of folk music, and what being traditional means, as does the whole thrust of Rood?s work.
There is much else I could discuss - unevenness in the ways class is discussed in the book, Rood?s interesting views on folk revivalism, the inevitable emphases and seeming gaps that will exist in any account of the subject, but I must respect editorial limits. Rood really supplies that 'measured and insightful assessment of the history of our field' (p. 177) that he craved in the past but found absent. His achievement is to have written a sort of alternative history of music which is very different from almost everything that has come before. Generally speaking, it is the openness of his approach that I find particularly admirable. Unlike many previous writers on the subject, he asks the questions and considers the evidence before he comes up with answers, and the answers are themselves sometimes quite provisional in nature. There are many passages in the book where he delivers excellent assessments of areas of debate: for example, on Grainger's relationship to the Folk-Song Society, or the nature and quality of Alfred Williams's work.
This is a large book, but no space is wasted. There is some cross-referencing, but this multifaceted subject is dealt with in enough detail to explore different and often fascinating aspects. Readers are guided towards deepening their understanding of the subject through further reading. If I were still teaching university courses on folk music I have no doubt I would make it a set text. I would take a whole academic year over studying it and allow time for students to investigate the primary and secondary material to which Roud refers. Students would be greatly enriched by the experience and emerge with enhanced critical abilities and a good grounding and understanding of the subject. Each individual who delves deeply into a field develops a unique understanding and appreciation of that field; we should be grateful that Roud has shared his with us, for it is rich and enriching. I cannot see the book being matched or surpassed in the foreseeable future.
Vic Gammon
Hexham


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 08 Dec 17 - 09:08 AM

I still have not finished reading Folk Song In England - being out of the country for over a month hasn't helped but my instinctive feeling is that this book is best read in small doses, a chapter at the time, to allow the brain time to absorb the implications before moving on to read and digest another aspect.

The day after reading the review by Vic Gammon which I posted above, I read this passage (pages 442 ? 444) which seem to encapsulate very much of the attitude and approach that Steve Roud brings to his book: -
It has been reliably claimed that 90 to 95 per cent of the items at Victorian and Edwardian collectors noted as 'folk songs' had appeared on broadsides in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This in itself no solid indicator of a direct link between print and oral tradition, but coupled with examples of direct testimony from singers about the quality of the songs from broadsides and songbooks, and the growing number of studies using internal evidence, the trend is abundantly clear.
Most of the folk-song collectors were scathing about the quality of the: broadside songs but were well aware of the fact that many of their singers had definitely gathered their material from print. Lucy Broadwood, for example, stated, 'The words of many country ballads are derived. directly or indirectly, from broadsides and Alfred Williams:-
. The songs were mainly obtained at the fairs. These were attended by the ballad-singers, who stood in the market-place and sang the new tunes and pieces, and at the same time sold the broadsides at a penny each. The most famous ballad-singers in the Thames Valley in recent times were a man and woman, who travelled together, and each of whom had but one eye. They sang at all the local fairs, and the man sold the sheets, frequently wetting his thumb with his lips to detach a sheet from the bundle and hand it to a customer in the midst of the singing.
This is not to argue that all singers learntall their songs from print - far from it. Henry Burstow, the singer from Horsham, Sussex, gives direct evidence on this question in his Reminiscences of Horsham (1911). After writing of learning songs from his parents and other people he knew or met, continues:-
The remainder I learnt from ballad sheets I bought as they were being hawked about at the fairs, and at other times from other printed matter. I remember, when quite a boy, buying for my mother of a pedlar, as he sang in the street, the old ballad 'Just Before the Battle Mother'. This was her favourite song.
We have less direct evidence for the earlier centuries, but it is clear the manuscripts which are analysed in earlier chapters that people regularly copied songs from broadsides into their own notebooks.
Two things are now abundantly clear. Firstly, once printing had been invented, there was never again a pure 'oral' tradition, but oral and print were: intimately interwoven. Secondly, the songs that the ordinary people turned into 'traditional' or 'folk' songs were normally written by outsiders and reached them first in printed form.
For these reasons alone it would be essential for us to fully understand the genre, but a close knowledge of the broadside and chapbook trade is also important for more practical reasons. Whatever the characteristics of an 'oral tradition' may be, its undeniable failing for historical enquiry is its almost complete lack of a datable evidence trail, and the temptation this offers for wishful speculation on the part of commentators is enormous.
A song collected from a shepherd or a dairymaid in 1903 might have been knocking around the village for 200 years, or they might have learnt in the previous week, and without this information we have no basis on which to assess or investigate the workings of 'the tradition'.
As the accumulated evidence mounts up, it seems increasingly that the broadside texts were indeed the originals of many songs, because they were written specifically for that medium, and we therefore have a welcome opportunity to get to grips with questions of what really happened to songs when they entered a local tradition. If we know how they started and how they ended up, we can at least start to investigate what happened in between.
Supporters of 'oral tradition' are often understandably wary of such comparative work, because it is so easily couched in terms designed to prove the degenerative and unreliable nature of 'oral tradition', but used sensitively it could actually demonstrate what is built into many a definition of 'folk song' ? that transmission within a healthy tradition is a positive force and, by selection and variation, results in 'better' songs. Or it could simply reveal the essentially conservative nature of the singers? attitudes to song texts and the fundamental fidelity of their memories.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Dec 17 - 09:21 AM

Thanks for that Viv (hope you enjoyed your trip)
I've been doing a fair amount of research on Roud's 'redefinition' of folk song of late and it appears to be based on what 'the folk' listened to rather than something they participated in the creation of
It seems to me that good research on something that is long defunct is based on extending past research rather than turning it on its head and kicking it out of the window, which is, I feel, what he has done.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Jon Dudley
Date: 09 Dec 17 - 05:01 AM

Steve's book has just fallen on my face as I lost my grip on this weighty tome (me - lazily semi recumbent and reading in the Sussex winter sunshine). I'm about one third of the way through and so far finding it fascinating. Much musical stuff goes way above my head of course but there's tons to stimulate the grey matter. Steve reminds us, and we've known for years that 'The Shepherd Adonis' clearly written by someone with more than a smattering of education, transmogrified into one of our favourites 'Shepherd of The Downs' and mysteriously gained a final verse - that's what makes the whole damned thing so intriguing. Unless there were a plethora of 'Peasant Poets' like John Clare knocking about the place I'm inclined to believe that your average farm labourer or industrial worker was not responsible for a lot of original composition, not because he or she didn't have the imagination or intelligence, but because illiteracy was pretty common. There again Steve tells us that we shouldn't underestimate just how literate people were back then...oh dear a lot of my pre-conceived notions are flapping quietly out of the window.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Dec 17 - 05:25 AM

" I'm inclined to believe that your average farm labourer or industrial worker was not responsible for a lot of original composition, not because he or she didn't have the imagination or intelligence, but because illiteracy was pretty common."
I intend to say a bit more on this, but I'm inclined to agree with James Hogg's mother, Margaret Laidlaw, who was part of a song-making tradition, when she warmed that putting her songs into print would ruin them
‘They were made for singing an’ no for reading; but ye ha’e broken the charm now, an’ they’ll never be sung mair.’
Roud has confined his comments to the material gathered in largely Southern England at the beginning of the 20th century when the oral tradition was well into its death throes, but I refuse to believe that rural English workers, even at that time, were any less creative than their brothers and sisters in Ireland and Scotland, who were busily making songs tht reflected their lives, experiences and feelings.
I menat to thank Vic fort re-penin this thread - saved me the trouble
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 09 Dec 17 - 06:31 AM

Jon wrote:-
"I'm inclined to believe that your average farm labourer or industrial worker was not responsible for a lot of original composition, not because he or she didn't have the imagination or intelligence, but because illiteracy was pretty common. "


That's what I would suspect also, but the thing about Steve's writing in this book is that anything that anyone is "inclined to believe" is inadmissible to Steve unless there is firm historical evidence to support each statement. It calls for an entirely different, more disciplined way of thinking and challenges us to re-examine some core beliefs. Your final phrase "pre-conceived notions are flapping quietly out of the window." sums this up perfectly.

Incidently, do you share my difficulty in squaring Steve Roud, the clear, challenging and original thinker that emerges in the pages of this book with Steve Roud, the genial, gentle humourist and good listener that we meet in Sussex Traditions management meetings?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Dec 17 - 07:41 AM

""pre-conceived notions are flapping quietly out of the window." sums this up perfectly. "
Steve and Steve Gardahm's claims, challenge the preconceived notions of Child, Sharp, Maidment, Bronson and virtually every researcher who has ever put pen to paper on the subjet over the last couple of centuries, including those who were working while Britain still had a thriving oral tradition and a prosperous broadside industry.
Unless more evidence than both the Steve's have put forward to date than hss been forthcoming so far, I certainly am not prepared to accept what has been put forward so far, simply because it does not make logical sense.
I still remember the feeling of wanting to find out more I came away with from Bert Lloyd's 'Folk Songs of England' - the enthusiasm generated still remains a part of my life half a century later
I came away from Roud's book in despair - "how could we all have got it so wrong for so long?" - or I would have done if I had taken the claims seriously.
For me, it was the same effect I felt when I read Harker's 'Folksong', though, luckily, then there were enough people around to question Harker's claims and reject them
I think it was Vic who put up the Guardian review - I was immediately impressed with how quickly one of the spokesmen for elitist Art Establishment leapt on the suggestion the 'The Folk' didn't make their 'Folk Songs' - "real" artists have always been uneasy that amateurs could produce what they make their living at - and the idea that illiterate or semi-literate peasants coul write poems and make songs.... welll 'who do these people think they are'
I feel that Roud's book would have been better named, 'English Pop Songs', because basically, that's what it was, with all the differing genres lumped together under the 'Folk' umbrella.
I sincerely hope that these claims do not do the damage to folk song scholarship that similar ones have done to the Folk Song Revival - we will know that they have when 'I Don't Like Mondays' is given a Roud number (given Roud's re-definition - why not?)
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Dec 17 - 08:18 AM

"Harker's 'Folksong'"
Fakesong' of course
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 09 Dec 17 - 11:17 AM

"...when 'I Don't Like Mondays' is given a Roud number (given Roud's re-definition - why not?)"

For one thing, Jim, Roud regards folk song as a historical phenomenon, and makes it clear that the folk revival is outside his field of interest.

For another, even if you accept that the revival repertoire constitutes a tradition of itself, 'I Don't Like Mondays' would be a very weak candidate for canonization. I've never heard it sung from the floor in all the years I've been going to clubs and song sessions, and if the much-respected but famously eclectic Dave Burland hadn't started performing it several decades ago, it would never have come up in these discussions.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Dec 17 - 11:59 AM

Maybe I should have said Hank Williams !
I know Mary Delaney sang some of his, though she refused to sing any of her C and W songs for us as she said they weren't old and they were different from her "daddy's" songs
One Traveller we met grew up knowing Seven Gypsies and Lord Randal - he sang us 'Roses of Heidelberg' and 'You Will Remember Vienna'
Whence "everything a traditional singer sings is a folk song' in these cases?
This 'definition' becomes ludicrous when you examine it closely
" I've never heard it sung from the floor in all the years I've been going to clubs and song sessions,"
In those recent arguments Brian; it was argued that because Dave Burland sang it at a club it merited the title 'folk'
The problem with all this is, of course, tat once an individual or group of individuals unilaterally take it upon themselves to re-define a term that has been around for as long as 'folk' has, they open the door to anybody wishing to do the same
Then the term becomes meaningless and any chance of consensus and communication disappears.
I don't think you knew Walter, but we had long sessions of talk with him where he explains why some of his songs are 'folk' and others are not.
He, like Mary, refused to sing his Victorian songs and early pop songs; "I don't know why people keep asking me for them old things"; yet his version of 'Put a Bit of Powder on it Father' now proudly bears a Roud number.
Walter would have been Mortified, but as far as I'm concerned, he holds a place of honour next to Child, Sharp et-al as having ""pre-conceived notions" that are "flapping quietly out of the window."
I've never spoken to Steve Roud for any length of time, but I have met with disdain, condescension and insults elsewhere when I have challenged some of these ideas - from a major proponent o them - doesn't auger well for a good, flexible discussion on the subject.
One of Steve's co-authors once old Pat and I that all our ideas on the singing of Irish Travellers was "wrong, because she had studied the subject at college"
When we wrote the article on Walter for Tom Munnelly Festschrift, we entitled it "A Simple Countryman!!) in remembrance of the time when we had been told by a well know researcher that that Walter" must have been got at" because of his expressed views on folk songs.
Dangerously elitist stuff, as far as I'm concerned.
Arbitrarily re-defining folk song smacks of the same attitude, in my opinion
If the theories propounded in Roud's book are taken seriously, it marks the end rather than the beginning of intelligent discussion.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 09 Dec 17 - 01:08 PM

"I don't think you knew Walter, but we had long sessions of talk with him where he explains why some of his songs are 'folk' and others are not.

He, like Mary, refused to sing his Victorian songs and early pop songs; "I don't know why people keep asking me for them old things"; yet his version of 'Put a Bit of Powder on it Father' now proudly bears a Roud number."


I didn't know Walter, though I was lucky enough to hear him sing more than once. I don't doubt he, like other singers, could tell the difference between an older and a newer song and express a preference. But I can't see how Steve Roud could not have given 'A Bit of Powder' a number without setting himself up as arbiter of which of Walter's songs were 'folk' and which were not.

Even Cecil Sharp noted down songs that he knew were originally commercial products, even if he didn't usually publish them.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Dec 17 - 01:31 PM

"Even Cecil Sharp noted down songs that he knew were originally commercial products,"
I have no problem with the fact that a number of roadsides and stage songs passed into the tradition, bt the suggestion that has ranged fro 93 to 100 percent it beyond the pale as far as Im concerned
Ironically, non-literate Travellers were responsible for putting many on to ballad sheets.
The oral tradition is an incredibly complex subject which has been componded by the fact that nobody really bothered to ask the singers anything much beyond their names and where they got their songs - little different than butterfly collecting
"'A Bit of Powder'"
it's a composed stage song, just as the two pieces I mentioned earlier were light opera
Different source, different sound, different function
What would have happened if Phil Tanner had sung Verdi arias as many South Welsh miners choirs did - would they merit Roud numbers?
This "anything a traditional singer sings" redefinition is a new kid on the block
We have an agreed definition, flawed as it might be, is as good as any, though that was a compromise to incorporate traditions of different nations.
I'm aware it needs changing, but any changes need to be agreed by all concerned otherwise we lose our base of understanding
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Billy Weeks
Date: 11 Dec 17 - 07:20 AM

I have followed the cutlass play in this thread with fascination. Very instructive at more than one level. But to turn, briefly, to the book itself, I have just read Vic Gammon's review in the Folk music Journal. He says 'This is the most important and interesting book on English folk song published in my life time'. And '[I]t is rich and enriching. I cannot see [it] being matched or surpassed in the foreseeable future'.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Dec 17 - 07:46 AM

I cannot see [it] being matched or surpassed in the foreseeable future'.
Depressing thought-
Neither can I Billy, if it is taken passively and not discussed fully
No good quoting favourable quotes unless you address the contradictions that the book raises.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Billy Weeks
Date: 11 Dec 17 - 11:37 AM

Well Jim, I’m just an infant in this field and I wouldn’t presume to ‘address the contradictions that the book raises’. If it does raise contradictions, they have been examined in detail and at considerable length by yourself and others in this thread. What impressed me in reading Roud’s own words was the respect he had for the opinions of others, insisting on examining the available evidence before reaching his own (often tentative) conclusions. And he always draws attention to uncertainties caused by gaps in the historical record which may never be filled.

Roud’s approach strikes me as honest and refreshing — and Gammon’s evaluation is surely fully justified.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Billy Weeks
Date: 11 Dec 17 - 11:39 AM

Sorry about the question marks. There must be some way of teaching Mudcat to handle quotes and apostrophes.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Dec 17 - 12:37 PM

"What impressed me in reading Roud?s own words was the respect he had for the opinions of others, "
Funny you should say that Billy
Anybody who can arbitrarily discard a century or so's research and unilaterally re-define the term folk-song' without consultation doesn't show a great deal of respect in my opinion
I would say, that these are main quibbles with a somewhat large and otherwise extremely educational work, but they are pretty important ones
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Dec 17 - 12:59 PM

"There must be some way of teaching Mudcat to handle quotes and apostrophes."
It appears to be something we have to learn to live with for the time being
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Howard Jones
Date: 12 Dec 17 - 06:14 AM

There seems to be an element of "damned if you do and damned if you don't". The early collectors have been criticised for being highly selective and only recording those songs which they considered to be 'proper' folk songs. Later collectors saw the importance of trying record a singer's entire repertoire without putting value judgements on the material. The purpose of the Roud Index, if I understand correctly, is to identify songs found in the oral tradition. That necessarily includes songs which which had clearly only recently entered the oral tradition from the stage. However even those often show variations between different singers - at what point do these slight variations become sufficient for them to have undergone the transformation required to become a 'folk song'?

As for them serving a different purpose, whilst Walter Pardon apparently saw a difference between different parts of his repertoire, I wonder whether the same was true of his audience? I suspect for them the purpose of his songs, whether folk songs or not, was simply to provide entertainment on a Saturday night in the pub.

As Jim correctly says, the oral tradition is an incredibly complex subject. Traditional singers performed material from many different sources, sometimes only to satisfy their audience but in other cases because they genuinely liked the songs. It appears to me that definitions should be used for guidance rather than to exclude. I am sure that most scholars are able to make appropriate distinctions depending on what aspects of the tradition they are studying.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 12 Dec 17 - 06:24 AM

The review of this book in fRoots magazine appears on page 65 of the December 2017 issue. In the penultimate sentence of his review, Steve Hunt reaches the same conclusion as Dr. Vic Gammon (above) does in the first sentence of his -

Folk Song In England
Steve Roud
Faber & Faber (ISBN 978-0-571-30971-9)
Pete Seeger, in an interview with The New Republic, once recalled his father saying: "The truth is a rabbit in a bramble patch. And you can't lay your hand on it. All you can do is circle around and point, and say, 'It's in there somewhere'." English folk song is a well-documented subject, yet the truth about its origins, transmission, environment and mechanics often appear contradictorily elu?sive. Originally published by Faber & Faber in 1967, the paperback edition of AL Lloyd's Folk Song In England carried this Melody Maker quote on its back cover. "It is unlikely during your lifetime any book on folk music half so important as this will be published." The arrival, 50 years later, of an identically-titled book from the self-same publisher anticipates something epochal - a book that exists not just to expand previous knowledge but to supplant accepted truths.
With fRoots' resident academics all previously engaged to author lengthy critiques for learned vernacular music publications like Folk Music Review or Metal Hammer, the task of appraising this book has somehow befallen me - a (perhaps) typical folk Joe Soap whose previous study falls well short of extensive research in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, but extends a fair way beyond fleeting Mudcat Cafe visits to confirm the continued absence of singing horses.
Steve Roud is the founder of the Roud Folksong Index (started in 1970 and now standing at 250,000 entries) and co-editor of The New Penguin Book Of English Folk Songs. Folk Song In England, like The Streams Of Lovely Nancy, divides in three parts: "Chart?ing The History Of Folk Study"; "Folk Song In The Wider Musical World" and "Folk Song In Its Natural Habitats", with two chapters (the ones most directly concerned with musical theory) by Julia Bishop. Happily, Roud doesn't view himself as 'an academic' either (he apparently prefers to be thought 'scholarly') so despite the book's daunting scale, it's far more accessible than one might expect or fear. Of course, it's not an airport novel. A typical passage (for those shallow types who like to get straight to the pulse-quickening stuff) reads: "As a rule of thumb, we can suggest three broad divisions characterised by the way the notion of sex is introduced into the song: inference; euphemism; and explicit naming of actions and parts. These three categories can be expanded into seven levels..."
It's that very ability to present complex subjects in easily-digestible, bite-sized pieces that makes Folk Song In England so indispensable. Roud describes his work as "primarily an exercise in evidence-gathering." Whilst that may appear a self-deprecatingly modest assessment, his brilliance is attributable to a long and peerless devotion to the librarian skills of cataloguing, indexing and cross-referencing. Steve Roud has read every one of the publications indexed in this book's 31 page bibliography and for that I thank him most sincerely. In so doing he has enabled me to exponentially expand my understanding of the process of tradition by reading just one.
I'll refrain from calling Folk Song In England "definitive" on the basis that Steve Roud - a man whose entire working life has been driven by the conviction that there is always more to discover, would be appalled by the claim. The plain truth is that there won't be a better or more important book abut English folk song in any of our lifetimes. And you can stick that in your bramble patch and point at it.
www.faber.co.uk
Stephen Hunt


Incidently, on that same page as this review is my review of As I Walked Out: Sabine Baring-Gould And The Search For The Folk Songs Of Devon And Cornwall Martin Graebe Signal (ISBN 978-1-909930-53-7)
My final sentence of my review reads This volume will stand alongside Steve Roud's as major studies of traditional song.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 12 Dec 17 - 06:39 AM

Whilst agreeing with the vast majority of what Howard Jones says in his thoughtful post, could I amplify one point? - that songs recently entered the oral tradition from a variety of sources, the stage being only one of them and comment on one other - whilst I take the point that he makes about an audience's reaction to different aspects of singers' repertoires, I don't think that Walter Pardon was ever much of a pub singer.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Dec 17 - 07:04 AM

Once again a positive review without a single attempt to discuss the problems that the claims of this book raises Vic
What underwhelms me about tis discussion is the total absence of any evidence to reservations I have made - an attempt to pass them through on the nod, without debate.
Apart from these, I have no major problem with the book.

Simply put, they are:
Our folk song repertoire is made up overwhelmingly of rural songs and songs concerning occupations such as seagoing and soldiering; they contain many small details of rural life, trades, rural vernacular speech.... knowledge that is not ready available to the outsider.
These songs are so universal and timeless in their makeup, that wherever they may have originally been made, as them move they were taken up and accepted as genuine representations of life and experience - a process that often took place over centuries.
The detail that went into their construction gives them the appearance of having made by the people themselves to express their own lives and emotions.

They express large chunks of our social history with a partisan eye - sailors describing life at sea, soldiers fighting wars abroad, followed by huge armies of camp followers, the effects of the land-seizing enclosures on the rural population, forced marriage in order to better the lot of social climbing families at a time when the nobility was being deposed by the rising tradespeople....

All this is represented generously in our folk songs in such a skilful way that it would take an outsider with the genius of Dickens, or Hardy or Steinbeck to create what are in fact miniature works of art from the point of view of the 'ordinary' people.
We are asked to accept that 90 to 100% of these songs were created by desk-bound, urban-based, notoriously bad poets "hacks", working in conveyor belt conditions for money.
Bring all the recommendations you like (Steve Gardham has already resorted to that one); for me, turning research history on ist head and dismissing the opinions of Child Sharp, Maidment and virtually every scholar that has laid pen to paper on the subject needs much more of a discussion than that   

The only way the claimants of the 'first in print' is by a spectacular and Unilateral exercise in repetition by moving the goalposts in order to include pop songs of the past, music hall compositions, Victorian Parlour ballads - mostly with known composers.
These bear no relation whatever to the folk songs I have been listening to for the last half century
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Dec 17 - 08:10 AM

"repetition"
Damn spellcheck - should read "redefinition"
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 12 Dec 17 - 09:29 AM

Certainly some songs were written specifically for broadsides, by a range of writers some of whom can only be called "hacks", some of whom had greater skills. And certainly some were written for the stage or the pleasure gardens and then copied for broadsides. And certainly some were made by individuals whom we might identify as "folk". I think the disagreements are only about the relative numbers.

Given that situation, a few examples that fall clearly into one or other category won't prove anything about the proportions. Nevertheless I would be interested to see Jim cite some examples of songs that he believes embody in their words evidence of having been made by the "folk", not ones such as he has already cited about events in Ireland but from the classic late 19th and early 20th century collections.

Taking as an example songs about shepherds, ploughboys or milkmaids, it does seem to me that they mostly paint an idealised version of country life, calculated to appeal to a middle-class urban audience, rather than reflecting the hard reality for most of the people engaged in rural labour.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Dec 17 - 09:52 AM

Will do so later Richard, but I suggest that, if you have it, work your way through the published Sharp/Karpeles collection - plenty of examples there
Harry Cox once sang Betsy the Serving Maid to Alan Lomax and spat out at the end of it, "and that's what they used to think about us" - he found the song convincing
He went into a long diatribe about the seizure of public land when he sand Van Diemen's Land.
Has anybody ever worked out why broadside hacks should take up the cudgels on behalf of criminal poachers or cases of social misalliance?
Damned if I can work it out - they would have to have been social reformers
He same with complaints about seagoing conditions.
If you read Hugill's 'Sailortown' he presents areas frequented by silors ashore as no-go areas, yet we have all these 'landlubber-made' songs    (supposedly) about sailors seducing well-heeled townswomen and getting the better of boardinghouse-keepers, publicans and tradesmen - marvelous examples of "one for our side!"
Why should townies write songs in praise of people who were generally mistrusted and feared?
The same es for the garrison towns where militaery men were regarded the same by the civvies (except in wartime, when they became expendable heroes)
A simple test Richard, just see how a traditional song 'fits the mouth' and is still easy to relate to centuries after it was composed and compare it to the general output of the broadside hacks
Chalk and cheese for me
Jim Carroll


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE MOWING MATCH
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Dec 17 - 10:29 AM

Richard
This is one of the best examples of a rural-made folk-song using vernacular speech and trade terms I have ever come across
It was recorded by MacColl and Joan Littlewood some time in the 1940s (I think) for a radio programme they made called ?The Ballad Hunter?
Seamus Ennis recorded a 6 verse version of it from around the same area for the BBC in 1952 - in both cases it was sung to the tune 'The Nutting Girl'

From the BBC index.
"Singer: Becket Whitehead. 1.52    Delph, nr. Oldham, Yorkshire. 24.5.52 (S.E.)"
Jim Carroll

THE MOWING MATCH
1    Come all you jolly sporting men
Who love good ale to quaff,
I'll tell you of a moving match
Took place at Brindley Croft.

2    There war Kirby up at Tree-end Clough
And a lad from t' lower-end,
And what those two lads did that day,
Their fame'll never end.

3    Now, Kirkby wur a Tunstead man,
Frae t'houses up i' t' wood,
Among then top-end movers
There war not one so good.

4    And of a' these lads i' Friezeland,
And chaps that moved right weel,
There war one ca'd Tom o' Fearny Lee,
?T could make ?em come to heel.

5    They came up out of Friezeland,
Wi' scythes 'bout shoulder height,
The Lanky lad he carried t'sway,
He could all the movers fight.

6    But Kirkby he stepped up and said,
"Tha munna bother me,
For if that does, I'll tan thy hide,
This day I'll let thi see."

7    There were Bill o' Breadstrup, Cowtail,
Delph-Johnny and Singing Tom,
Small Benny and Bold Bowman,
Frae't lower-end did come.

8    There war many an owd trail-hunter,
And many a real owd un,
And t'finest lads at wrestling
For fifty miles around.

9    Free Grange and Castle-Shaw they come,
Horse-whipper lads so strong,
Wi' necks as red as fighting cocks,
And backs as broad's as long.

1O    An? all these short-head starters.
An' gamblers an' all,
And all those privily wives
They were sitting in a row.

11    Then Krkby's wife spoke up in front,
"Now Jack, my lad," said she;
"If that gets licked wi' t'lower-end,
Tha'll bide no more wi' me."

12    Then Bandy Jack o' Waterside,
Be held the starting gun,
"Come on," he said, "you bold young lads,
It?s time to start the fun."

13    T' lower-end lad was up on 'tleft,
And Kirkby down on t'right,
Their scythes were held dipped into t'grass,
A good and manly sight.

14    Then Bandy Jack o' Waterside,
He fired the starting gun,
And off these mighty mowers went,
T'battle had begun.

15    Wi' flashing scythes these two stout lads
Went chargin' up the field,
Each stroke laid low two yards o' grass,
And neither one would yield.

16    Stroke for stroke they both advanced,
Until the turning-row,
Then Kirkby made a wider sweep
An' t'crowd all shouted, "Go!"

17    T' sweat wur glistening on their backs
And running in t'lads eyes,
But neither one'd mop his face
For fear he'd lose the prize.

18    And when t'owd clocker shouted "Time!"
They both were well-nigh done,
T'crowd wur roaring fit to burst
To see which one had won.

19   Then Bandy lack o' Waterside,
And Gibby from Bleak-Hey,
They both agreed that t'Lower-end lad,
Had won the match that day.

2O    But Kirkby wur not satisfied
About his measurement,
So for Harry o' Thurston-Clough
Two willing lads were seat.

21    And Barry wi' his measuring rod,
He knelt down there i' t'field,
And soon he said t'Lower-end lad
To Kirkby'd have to yield.

22    T'Lower-end lad had cut more length,
But Kirkby'd cut more grass;
A mighty cheer rose up from
Every Friezeland lad and lass.

23    So Kirkby won the mowing-match,
And that concludes my tale,
So new we'll toast good sportsmen all.
In a glass of Friezeland ale.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 12 Dec 17 - 03:33 PM

"from the classic late 19th and early 20th century collections". Not pieces by local writers (Jack o' Racker) that had very limited currency then, Richard?

Cracking folksong of course written in 1842, like many another 'Friezeland Ale' etc., in the Saddleworth area. Ammon Wrigley did a great job in writing songs and bringing together local dialect pieces.


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