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Lyr Add: Imaginary Trouble

Lonesome EJ 03 Apr 02 - 08:58 PM
wysiwyg 03 Apr 02 - 09:12 PM
catspaw49 03 Apr 02 - 09:14 PM
Lonesome EJ 03 Apr 02 - 09:21 PM
Jeri 03 Apr 02 - 09:47 PM
masato sakurai 03 Apr 02 - 10:05 PM
Lonesome EJ 03 Apr 02 - 11:09 PM
Lonesome EJ 03 Apr 02 - 11:24 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 03 Apr 02 - 11:47 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 03 Apr 02 - 11:58 PM
Les B 04 Apr 02 - 12:08 AM
masato sakurai 04 Apr 02 - 01:12 AM
GUEST 04 Apr 02 - 01:41 AM
CapriUni 04 Apr 02 - 02:34 AM
Mark Cohen 04 Apr 02 - 02:54 AM
Deckman 04 Apr 02 - 03:14 AM
masato sakurai 04 Apr 02 - 07:27 AM
Jeri 04 Apr 02 - 05:46 PM
McGrath of Harlow 04 Apr 02 - 06:44 PM
CapriUni 04 Apr 02 - 07:54 PM
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Subject: Lyr Add: IMAGINARY TROUBLE
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 03 Apr 02 - 08:58 PM

I heard the Cordelia's Dad version of this traditional folk song on their album Spine, and it struck me as one of the strangest lyrics I've heard. Th song is both surreal and tongue-in-cheek humorous at the same time. If you aren't familiar with it, here it is :

Imaginary Trouble

There lived, as I've heard say
Down by a running water,
An old man and his wife
Who had a charming daughter.

One night Kate said to John
"I've had a troubled fancy,
I heard the waters roar
And thought upon our Nancy."

"If Tom and Nance should wed
And such a thing there may be
Their marriage might bring about
A prattling little baby."

"When that dear babe could walk
And just begin to waddle
Perchance he might come hear
And in the water paddle."

"I know he will be drowned
I hear those waters calling,
O pretty sweet baby."
And both began a-bawling.

No doubt it was but fate
That brought those lovers walking
To where old John and Kate
Were a-sighing and a-talking.

They all sat on the green
While Katie told her fancy
How they did weep and wail
Tom, old man, Kate and Nancy.

They all went crying home
Tom, old man, wife and daughter
Each night the ghost doth come
And cries upon the water.

From Traditional American Folk Songs, Warner and Warner Collected from Lena Bourne Fish, 1940.

What we have here basically is a group of neurotics. The strangest lines are those at the end..."each night the ghost does come/ And cries upon the water"...and there the twist comes in. What or who is the ghost? The specter of what could happen? An embodiment of their paranoid delusion? OR, has the song jumped ahead in time to explain the presence of the ghost by detailing the premonition?

Anyway, does anyone know anything about this song or have their own interpretation?


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Subject: RE: Imaginary Trouble : A Question
From: wysiwyg
Date: 03 Apr 02 - 09:12 PM

No, but I saw an online version of the Warner collection yesterday, if I could only get back to it....

~S~


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Subject: RE: Imaginary Trouble : A Question
From: catspaw49
Date: 03 Apr 02 - 09:14 PM

I don't have any more idea than you do about this one Leej, but......LMAO here........."What we have here basically is a group of neurotics...." describes the characters in a LOAD of songs!!!!!!

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Imaginary Trouble : A Question
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 03 Apr 02 - 09:21 PM

What cracks me up is the elaborate morbid fantasy the old lady has. What if our daughter gets married, and what if they have a baby, and what if the little tyke wanders down here, and suppose he wants to play in the water. I mean you KNOW the kid doesn't stand a chance!

This thing strikes me as very different from most Folk Songs, and really bears the mark of one author (one slightly twisted author). I'm trying to figure out whether the damn thing is a cautionary tale against needless worry, or what?

Anyway, I've been losing some sleep over it.


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Subject: RE: Imaginary Trouble : A Question
From: Jeri
Date: 03 Apr 02 - 09:47 PM

From Traditional American Folk Songs:
More often known as "The Crying Family," a version under that title was collected by Mrs. Flanders in Vermont. The Vermont version has a refrain which Mrs. Fish did not use. The story line is very much the same concept except for Mrs. Fish's last two lines: "Each night the ghost doth come / And cries upon the water." Since the babe whom they are all lamenting has not yet been born, the "ghost" seems well ahead of its time.

Mrs. Flanders compares the song to Grimm's folk tale No. 43, "Clever Else." The story is remarkably the same except that the death of the child is to come about, it is feared, from a pickaxe left sticking in a beam in the cellar ceiling, rather than by drowning.

Grammy Fish, though she did not give us the source of her information, told us that this song was "often sung in Revolutionary War camps."


Reminds me of the title of another song "Never Trouble Trouble, 'Til Trouble Troubles You."


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Subject: RE: Imaginary Trouble : A Question
From: masato sakurai
Date: 03 Apr 02 - 10:05 PM

Flanders' "The Crying Family" is HERE (PDF file). Grimm's "Clever Else" is Here (PDF file) & HERE.

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Imaginary Trouble : A Question
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 03 Apr 02 - 11:09 PM

Thanks masato. I couldn't open either pdf file for some reason (and I would like to see Flanders' version) but the Clever Else story is at least as bizarre as the song. Jeri, I'm curious if the song is indeed as old as the American Revolution, and I wonder if it could be found in song collections of that era. If Ms Fish tacked on the ghost lines, the song makes more sense but is also slightly less interesting.


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Subject: RE: Imaginary Trouble : A Question
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 03 Apr 02 - 11:24 PM

Here's a turn-of-the-century piece of sheet music that has a more elaborate version with an even more peculiar "spoken" line at the end. click


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE CRYING FAMILY
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Apr 02 - 11:47 PM

"The Crying Family" impresses me as a good example of New England humor. It deserves to be in the DT. Here is the version found by Masato (it's in Acrobat format, which some may not have). An easy one to fit a melody to.

Lyr. Add: THE CRYING FAMILY

There lived as I've heard say
Down by a running water
An old man and his wife
Who had a beaut'ful daughter
So charming and so fair.
A young man loved her dearly
Who often wandered there
Through groves and fields of barley.

Li tull lull lull lull lull
Tinkum rinktum foo nafoodle.

We leave the young folks here
To find the old lady
So busy with her tasks,
Says she, "As quick as may be
I'll take the water pail
And fetch a pail of water,"
Musing as she went
She thought upon her daughter.

The old man John was there
To realize her wishes,
With hook and line and fly
To catch some little fishes.
Quite tranquil in his mind
While on the bank as he's lying,
He cast his eye behind
And saw old wife a-crying.

"Oh, what's the matter, Kate?
O, what's the matter, woman?
There's something in your mind
I see, that's more than common."
"Ah, true," old Kate replied,
"I've had a troubled fancy.
I've heard these waters roar
And thought upon our Nancy."

"If Tom and Nance should wed
And such a thing there may be,
Their wedding might bring forth
A pretty little baby.
And when the babe was born
And just begin to waddle,
Perchance it might come here
And in these waters paddle."

"And then, you know, perchance
That baby might be drowned
And cast upon the shore
And afterwards be found,
And buried it might be--
That's common after dying."
"Ah, true," old John replied,
And he began a-crying.

They all went crying home,
Tom, old man, wife and daughter
For fear the baby's ghost
Might cry upon the water.
They sighed and cried and mourned.
How they did weep and wail o'er
That pretty little babe
That ne'er yet was seen or heard of.

Collected in Vermont by Helen Hartness Flanders and given to me by her granddaughter, Nancy- Jean Seigel.
From Judy Cook's cd, "If You Sing Songs..." Website : www.judycook.net.


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Subject: RE: Imaginary Trouble : A Question
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Apr 02 - 11:58 PM

The version found by Lonesome EJ goes farther. Even the ghost becomes a presence and cries as well. I wouldn't be surprised if this song has English antecedents.


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Subject: RE: Imaginary Trouble : A Question
From: Les B
Date: 04 Apr 02 - 12:08 AM

I remember having read to me a nursery rhyme as a child (late 1940's) that had somewhat the same idea -- probably the Grimm's tale referenced above. Even as a kid I thought it was mildly silly, but amusing.

To me the humor of the ending is that ghosts are (in theory) imaginary, and this is an "imagined" ghost - sort of a double negative.


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Subject: RE: Imaginary Trouble : A Question
From: masato sakurai
Date: 04 Apr 02 - 01:12 AM

Imaginary Trouble (Mrs. Fish version) is already in the DT.

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Imaginary Trouble : A Question
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Apr 02 - 01:41 AM

From the Cordelia's Dad website (www.cordeliasdad.com):

Imaginary Trouble

Lena Bourne Fish of East Jaffrey, New Hampshire sang some great songs, including some she made up. Like a lot of them, this story goes back 200 years or so, and she said it was sung a lot in Revolutionary War camps. The best place to find out more about her is Anne Warner's Traditional American Folk Songs.

Anne and Frank Warner met Grammy Fish towards the end of her life in 1940, and the attention they and Helen Hartness Flanders called to her helped create a regional interest in her and her songs. She even made a little hand typed collection for people who were interested.

The Warners weren't professionals, but it seems the importance they placed on values like friendship and respect led them to conclusions and practices that are still fairly novel in academic methodology 60 years later. For example, they kept in contact with their singer friends and their families, valued their ideas about things and paid attention to the ramifications, economic and otherwise, of their work.

It also seems they were more interested in hearing a wide range of the songs people liked and learning what they meant to the singers and their communities (the sorts of things you want to know about your friends), than in looking for songs that suited one position or another in the various debates and theories of the day.

I made the tune for this one too, not that there's anything wrong with the regular one. The music is sort of an experiment we hope to do more of.


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Subject: RE: Imaginary Trouble : A Question
From: CapriUni
Date: 04 Apr 02 - 02:34 AM

I've always liked the story Clever Else and this song does strike me as a cousin (or sister) to it.

Both good cautionary tales for banishing those fears that get away from us (and we all have those!), by laughing at the fears.

And laughter is to fear what garlic is to a vampire!


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Subject: RE: Imaginary Trouble : A Question
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 04 Apr 02 - 02:54 AM

Interesting...when I read the first post I found the song a bit chilling, not at all like the silly "Clever Else". Must be all the ghost stories I've been into recently! After reading the Grimm story, though, I was able to see the comic interpretation of the song, especially in the second version.

"Clever Else", by the way, is very similar in tone to the stories in the Yiddish tradition of the wise people of Chelm. (You know, the ones who built a hall without any windows, and then held big sacks open on a sunny hillside so they could bring the sunlight in.)

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Imaginary Trouble : A Question
From: Deckman
Date: 04 Apr 02 - 03:14 AM

I know my comment won't add directly to this song, but compare the story line to the traditional mexican ballad "La Llorona." Bob


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Subject: RE: Imaginary Trouble : A Question
From: masato sakurai
Date: 04 Apr 02 - 07:27 AM

Tales of this type (AT 1450) have been fairly widespread in the world, as is evidenced in these indexes, though there's no mention of this song.

(1) Antti Aarne & Stith Thompson, The Types of the Folktale: A Classification and Bibliography [FF Communications No. 184] (Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1964, pp. 424-425):

1450 Clever Elsie. The girl is to get beer from the cellar. Falls into a study as to what her first child's name shall be. Likewise the girl's father and mother. The suitor departs. [J2063]. Cf. Types 1384, 1387, 1430A.
 *BP I 335 (Grimm No. 34); Clouston Noodles 191; Christensen DF L 35; Coffin 8. -- Finnish 27; Finnish-Swedish 4; Estonian 6; Lithuanian 4; Lappish 1; Swedish 19 (Uppsala 6, Stockholm 2, Lund 2, Liungman 2; misc. 7); Norwegian 3; Danish: Grundtvig No. 125; Irish 54; French 30; Walloon 1; German Archive 3; Italian (Tuscan 1); Rumanian 1; Hungarian 5; Dégh No. 41; Czech: Tille Soupis I 404ff. 7; Slovenian 1; Serbocroatian 5; Russian: Andrejev Ukraine 11, Afanasiev 10; Greek 6, (1450*) 4; Kretschmer No. 20; Turkish: Eberhard-Boratav No. 331 III 4; Jewish: Bin Gorion Born Judas IV 55, 227; India 1. -- English-American: Baughman 6; Sapnish-American: Hansen (Puerto Rico) 1; West Indies (Negro) 5.

(2) Ernest W. Baughman, Type and Motif-Index of the Folktales of England and North America (The Hague: Mouton, 1966, p. 36):

1450. Clever Elsie. The girl is to get beer from the cellar. She falls into a study as to what her first child's name shall be. Likewise the girl's father and mother. The suitor departs. [J2063]. Compare 1384, 1387.
 MASSACHUSETTS: Bergen JAF 11:55-58, 1898; reprinted in Botkin American 459-60, 1944. NEW YORK: Bergen JAF 11:55-58, 1898. Halpert NYFQ 2:89-90, 1946. NEW JERSEY: Halpert Pines 414, 657, 1947 (with 1210, 1384). NORTH CAROLINA: Boggs JAF 47:307, 1934. OHIO: Bergen JAF 11:55-58, 1898. KENTUCKY: Roberts South 131-33, 256, 1955. INDIANA: Brewster HFB 3:18-19, 1944.

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Imaginary Trouble : A Question
From: Jeri
Date: 04 Apr 02 - 05:46 PM

Guest, one thing I love about the Warner book is that it's not simply a collection of songs. There are reminiscences of times spent with the source singers - their friends, their correspondence and the histories of relationships that lasted years.


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Subject: RE: Imaginary Trouble : A Question
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 04 Apr 02 - 06:44 PM

That spoken line at the end of the version in the link Lonesome EJ gave is interesting - "Ah, pooor little baby ghost! that never was born, comes every night when the moon shines bright, puts its little finger in its eye and begins to cry".

The implication seesm to be that, what with all this worrying about what might happen, the normal course of events was altered, and the baby who should have been born never got born. But only had an existence as a ghost instead.

It almost seems to be getting into alternative timelines here as a source of ghosts - almost a Star Trek plotline.


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Subject: RE: Imaginary Trouble : A Question
From: CapriUni
Date: 04 Apr 02 - 07:54 PM

Yes, it is interesting, McGrath... but I don't think its an alternate timeline, as such.

Today, the general cultural assumption seems to be that people's souls come into existance at the moment of conception, or birth. So that if you've never been conceived, you'll never be a ghost (a soul without a body, that for some reason cannot ascend to heaven).

But if you hold that the souls of babies yet unborn live in heaven until their parents conceive them (as I think was one belief in the 19th century), then you can have a "ghost" of a baby yet unborn -- a soul no longer in heaven, but no where to go on earth.

"Puts its little finger in its eye..." is interesting, though... Unless the passage is referring to how babies and small children rub their eyes with their fists when they cry...


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