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The Advent and Development of Chanties

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Gibb Sahib 20 Mar 10 - 12:33 PM
Lighter 20 Mar 10 - 01:35 PM
Les in Chorlton 20 Mar 10 - 01:56 PM
Gibb Sahib 20 Mar 10 - 11:23 PM
Gibb Sahib 21 Mar 10 - 12:42 AM
Charley Noble 21 Mar 10 - 11:01 AM
doc.tom 21 Mar 10 - 12:06 PM
Gibb Sahib 21 Mar 10 - 01:03 PM
mikesamwild 21 Mar 10 - 01:23 PM
Steve Gardham 21 Mar 10 - 05:21 PM
Lighter 21 Mar 10 - 08:33 PM
Gibb Sahib 21 Mar 10 - 08:59 PM
Gibb Sahib 21 Mar 10 - 09:14 PM
GUEST,Gibb Sahib 22 Mar 10 - 09:12 AM
Lighter 22 Mar 10 - 09:34 AM
Lighter 22 Mar 10 - 11:20 AM
Morris-ey 22 Mar 10 - 11:41 AM
Gibb Sahib 22 Mar 10 - 09:03 PM
Gibb Sahib 22 Mar 10 - 09:22 PM
Gibb Sahib 22 Mar 10 - 09:51 PM
Gibb Sahib 22 Mar 10 - 10:15 PM
John Minear 22 Mar 10 - 10:23 PM
doc.tom 23 Mar 10 - 05:28 AM
mikesamwild 23 Mar 10 - 06:17 AM
GUEST,Gibb Sahib 23 Mar 10 - 09:16 AM
GUEST,Gibb Sahib 23 Mar 10 - 12:32 PM
Lighter 23 Mar 10 - 02:58 PM
Steve Gardham 23 Mar 10 - 04:03 PM
John Minear 23 Mar 10 - 04:43 PM
John Minear 23 Mar 10 - 04:59 PM
Steve Gardham 23 Mar 10 - 05:10 PM
Steve Gardham 23 Mar 10 - 06:26 PM
Lighter 23 Mar 10 - 07:40 PM
Gibb Sahib 23 Mar 10 - 08:58 PM
Gibb Sahib 23 Mar 10 - 10:39 PM
Gibb Sahib 23 Mar 10 - 11:08 PM
Gibb Sahib 23 Mar 10 - 11:17 PM
Gibb Sahib 23 Mar 10 - 11:23 PM
Gibb Sahib 23 Mar 10 - 11:53 PM
IanC 24 Mar 10 - 04:58 AM
John Minear 24 Mar 10 - 06:45 AM
GUEST 24 Mar 10 - 09:08 AM
GUEST,Gibb Sahib 24 Mar 10 - 09:21 AM
mikesamwild 24 Mar 10 - 09:22 AM
Steve Gardham 24 Mar 10 - 05:25 PM
Steve Gardham 24 Mar 10 - 05:34 PM
Steve Gardham 24 Mar 10 - 05:39 PM
Steve Gardham 24 Mar 10 - 05:45 PM
Gibb Sahib 24 Mar 10 - 05:46 PM
Gibb Sahib 24 Mar 10 - 05:55 PM
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Subject: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 20 Mar 10 - 12:33 PM

Recently there has been some good discussion and research on the emergence of chantey (shanty) forms in the 19th century. Much of it has been going on in this thread:

From SF to Sydney - 1853 Shanties Sung?

Because that thread has other specific goals and because it is just getting too large due to the related but more general, theoretical discussion of chantey origins, I am initiating this one.

By focusing on some of the aspects of chanties that have not been considered much before, and by digging deep into the now-more-than-ever available references, we are getting a more detailed picture of how chantying may have emerged.

Please note that the focus here is not on the ancient origins of work-songs, shipboard or otherwise. It is not on the origins or earliest references to singing/chanting to coordinate labour at sea.

Rather, it works from a hypothesis that at some point in the first half of the 19th century, a distinguishably new paradigm for maritime work-songs appeared or was developed. This paradigm corresponded most closely to what was to be known by a new term, "chanty." Factors such as the demographics of workers on ships and in port cities, labour flow (especially with regards to geography, like rivers, plantations), and the advent of new kinds of labour or new needs in style of conducting pre-existing labour (e.g. the need to run large packet ships with square sails, quickly, but with small crews) all look to have played a role in the advent of a new-ish method of work-singing. The idea is that, though singing at work aboard ship existed prior, at this time a huge new body of repertoire, of a particular form, was introduced/developed. Moreover, while it was introduced over a certain period of time, and then developed for another, within the span of a few decades it also stabilized. After that "generative period," the notion of chanties had perhaps become very broad and mixed, and few new songs were developed of the same form. The earlier-developed chanties were perpetuated, while new songs adopted/adapted for sea labour tended to be of a different form. The latter were "chanties," to be sure, but according to an expanded concept.

I hope it is obvious that the preceding are only my views (while nonetheless piggybacking on others'). People who have been and who would like to discuss this will definitely have others; perhaps they will refute the hypothesis altogether. However, it was necessary for me to lay out some working model to begin this thread and give a sense of the focus.

One of the methodologies has been to take stock of and analyse the known references to various instances of chanties and chantying. With this detail, I feel confident that a picture will emerge that shows the changes decade by decade.

Most likely, we will have to add links to or copy-paste from some of the other postings, to this thread, in order to get discussion rolling, but I just wanted to get it started. Plus, my slow Internet/browser at work doesn't like loading up that ginormous other thread -- which is particularly inconvenient when I am trying to skylark from my paid duties for a quick peek.

Happy discussing! And please: spell "schantee" any way you like! (Sometimes I try to use all the different spellings in one post.)

Gibb


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Lighter
Date: 20 Mar 10 - 01:35 PM

Thanks, Gibb. This gives me the chance to blather on.

The real mystery of the rise of shantying is probably the invention of the halliard shanty. Any song could be sung at the capstan, and the short-haul and bunt shanties could easily have developed from a single chanted line followed by a single syllable indicating the pull. Such "songs" would not have been noted by writers because they were just one trivial line repeated no more than once or twice.

As for the halliard shanty, here's my theory:

A sailing vessel large enough to require a crew of at least a dozen or so men is preparing to leave port in the year 1820 or so. One group is heaving anchor at the capstan, singing some song or another that has a chorus. The paractice of singing at the capstan is not universal but is not considered odd or peculiar either.

While one team heaves the anchor, another team is pulling on halliard to raise sail. It is usual for there to be a leader in such a group who calls out something trivial, like "One! Two! Three! Haul!", the sort of cry that no writer would consider to be of the slightest interest.

At some point, the leader of the halliard gang gets tired of "One! Two! Three! Four!" and starts to call out something arbitrary but amusing because it isn't just counting, something like, "Sally Brown, O Sally Brown O!" and everybody hauls at the end.

Because the capstan gang is singing, the leader at the halliards decides at some point to sing too. He sings something like "Sally Brown, O Sally Brown O!" to a simple rising and falling tune, almost the simplest possible. At some point, maybe that day, maybe the next time a yard or sail had to be handled, during a pause for breath between hauls, somebody else decides to chime in with a line like "Way-ay-ay-ay!" Eventually the leader develops his tune a little further and eventually a second refrain gets added.

Just why that should have happened is not clear, but if it hadn't, maybe the halliard shanty would still be thought of as a mere "chant." The four-line structure could have encouraged the development and importation of more or less stable verses as the "chant" became a real "song."

By the end of the voyage, at least one shanty has been composed. The chants of cotton-screwers may have inspired the first shanty or not: they certainly contributed to the practice.

This could easily have happened more than once in a period when more than one gang had to work at once so as to get a big clipper underway. That polygenesis would help explain the rather sudden rise of shantying and the rapid rate at which individual shanties seem to have appeared. An important contributing factor was the singing that was already semi-customary at the capstan. Thus the first halliard shanty developed in the spirit of a singing contest.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 20 Mar 10 - 01:56 PM

I guess many sailors came from a community in which singing was much more common than today. Most people leading or driving some kind of work on board would have access to a store of songs and tunes on which to draw?

L in C


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 20 Mar 10 - 11:23 PM

Ooh, this is fun! -- So, we start off, not with the nitty-gritty evidence, but with some sketches of how we might imagine it all happening. I am in total agreement with Lighter's opening statement,

The real mystery of the rise of shantying is probably the invention of the halliard shanty. Any song could be sung at the capstan, and the short-haul and bunt shanties could easily have developed from a single chanted line followed by a single syllable indicating the pull. Such "songs" would not have been noted by writers because they were just one trivial line repeated no more than once or twice.

and with some of what immediately follows. However, here is my imagined scenario of the rest.

First, I'd push it forward into at least the 1830s. There may be evidence I al overlooking that says it would have had to have been earlier. However, I want to argue that that may have been reflecting some of the earlier work-singing ("cheerly man" era, during which, yes, maybe a "Sally Brown" chant had also come into use). In my scenario, it was an *adoption* of chanties, followed of course by further development -- as opposed to an initial development. I don't think the halyard chantey was invented so much as revolutionized by a new method.

In my scene, I envision a small crew in the 1830s, one with a Black watch.   This was a high point for African-Americans in the merchant service; after the Civil War, their numbers had greatly declined. When confronted with the halyard hoisting, the hands found it only natural to raise a song. On shore, these men would never have done labour without a song, which was as much an inseparable tool of work as anything else. In light of the constant labour experience through slavery, work had developed in a way where pacing and coordinated exertion were particularly important. Men were familiar with the technique of working in gangs, as in the cotton-screwing gangs, and they knew with their familiar method they could make short work of this task.

One man, perhaps an ex-cotton hoosier "chantyman," called out, "Stowmy's gawn, that good ol' man...!" To which the others instinctively responded, "WAY storma-LONG john!," giving two coordinated pulls, steadily. The chantyman called "Oh Stowmy's gawrn, that good ol' man!" And again they pulled, "WAY hey mister STORMalong, john."

It quickly came apparent that this was a superior method for raising halyards, and the many previously created songs that fit this style of work -- whether from rowing, cotton-screwing, or loading up steamboat furnaces -- were called into play.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 12:42 AM

In addition to these sort of hypothetical mock-ups -- that we can test as the evidence is presented-- I have an idea how to move forward. I propose we trace the trajectory of chanties by presenting information from each decade. We could start with the 1810s (although there will be very little). Confining ourselves to that decade, we cite references to chantying generally, specific songs, etc., perhaps along with relevant details of geography, demographics, and technology of merchant sailing.

To start off the 1810s:

LANDSMAN HAY, though not published until 1953 (?), consists of the memoirs of one Robert Hay, 1789-1847. In them, Hay is supposed to have reported seeing/hearing stevedores in Jamaica in 1811. To me the reference (which I've not seen first-hand) is vague, but it seems like they are using a capstan to work cargo. Hay notes their in chanty-like song "Grog time of day," which turns out to have been a popular song associated with the Caribbean region through the early 19th century.   

Grog time of day, boys
Grog time of day,
CH: Huro, my jolly boys,
       Grog time of day

[I don't know if the chorus marking is in the original. I've taken this from Hugill. In other references to this song, this whole bit makes up the chorus]

It's possible that such a form was at that time distinct (or fairly distinct) to either the specific region or the specific ethnic group (Afro-Caribbeans). I say this because the way in which it is described, it is as if only "others" (with respect to the author) were engaged in the practice.

For some framing context, the packet ship trade began after the War of 1812 (I don't have specific dates), with the Blackball Line for example starting in 1816. The packet ships are thought (e.g. Hugill) to have necessitated a different way of handling work with smaller crews.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 11:01 AM

Excellent work, lads!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: doc.tom
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 12:06 PM

Just to help set the context, may I quote from the Short, Sharp Shanties presentation that BB & I have been doing - quoting greater authorities than us!

"Hugill tells us that: 'the cessation of the American War of 1812 and of the Napoleonic Wars brought about a great impetus in merchant shipping. The early packet ships, not clippers by any means, began to come to London. They carried, in the main, emigrants to the New World'."

"The wooden walls of the Napoleonic period were now obsolete. America built faster, new design ships, and peace led to an economic boom as trade expanded world-wide. And with it the great period of the development of shantying had begun".

"According to Kinsey, the most creative period of shanty-singing was between 1820 and 1850. Doeflinger agrees, saying that: 'Most seem to have originated between about 1820 and 1860. They were the product of a revival in shantying in the peaceful decades between the war of 1812 and the Civil War which saw the swift rise of the United States to leadership in the deep-water shipping trade.'"

"But the British soon caught up, building ships with hardwoods rather than softwoods. Ships that would outlive the Yankee packets by decades! The glorious years of shantying were actually very short-lived. Cicely Fox-Smith points out that: - 'Shantying was at its best roughly between 1850 and 1875.' Hugill that: - 'It can safely be said that from 1860 onwards the production of new shanties ceased completely', and Whall says: 'Since 1872 I have not heard a Shanty or Song worth the name.'

The other Shanty Short heard in Québec was Cheer'ly Man. He told Cecil Sharp it was – "One of the first shanties ever invented - and the one I learned first." Hugill does not disagree, saying: 'Cheer'ly Man is only just faintly removed from singin'- out and is probably the most primitive, and one of the oldest shanties'."

Great thread - let's carry on!

TomB


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 01:03 PM

Thanks for that important context, TomB.

I have been finding that the statements of Hugill and Doerflinger about a "creative period" (or what I called "generative period" etc) are supported by the evidence. So I am hoping to take that as a starting point, and see how it is born out as we look at the evidence again and find more. In addition, I'd like to break down that "creative period" into chunks to really see the trajectory.

If anyone can speak specifically to the mechanics of sailing at specific moments, that contribution would be most welcome. I myself am unclear whether the shift in sailing methods -- specifically with respect to raising yards -- was a matter of new vessels or of new conditions aboard those vessels. In other words, did the packet ships in and of themselves (in their design) require/inspire a different approach to raising yards (e.g. due to size)? Or was it the conditions aboard them: smaller crews and the need for speed? And, in which years precisely did this kind of shift begin? I realize that generally it is after the War of 1812, and that 1815 is often a date used to mark the beginning of this new "Golden Age." However, specifics would be helpful. I think it is quite probable that when Robert Hay heard the Jamaican stevedores sing "Grog time of day," there was not yet any precedent aboard ship with which to compare it.

To add to the 1810s:

I forgot to note the other Jamaican stevedore song from 1811, in HAY:

Two sisters courted one man,
CH: Oh, huro, my boys
And they live in the mountains,
CH: Oh, huro boys O.

Next,

In SERVICE AFLOAT (published 1833), a British sailor describes observations from during his service during the Napoleanic Wars. So, 1815 or earlier (probably not much earlier). In Antigua, he observed a song for rowing. It was another version of "Grog time of Day," showing that that song was spread through the West Indies. His transcription gives a better idea of the complete form of this work song:

Massa lock de door, and take away de key
Hurra, my jolly boys, grog time a day
CH: Grog time a day, my boys, grog time a day,
       Hurra, my jolly boys, grog time a day

To give a sense of how that form MAY have worked, I've created this example (no melody was given, but I set it to the matching tune of "Doodle Let Me Go":

Grog Time of Day

And in the Virgin Islands, the same author observed another boatmen's song:

Jenny go to market for buy me yarrow prantin,
Heigh me know, bombye me takey.
      Chorus—Heigh me know &c.
               Heigh me know &c.

Me nebur know before Jenny bin a bad gal,
Heigh me know, bombye me takey.
    Chorus—Heigh me know, &c.
             Heigh me know &c.

Remarking on the practice of New World Blacks, the author has this commentary. Note that he describes the basic call and response format of a chantey, though he does not compare it to anything in his own tradition.

Some of their airs are exceedingly plaintive, and the manner of singing in chorus evinces no small degree of natural taste : rowing in boats or other kind of labour, when a simultaneous effort is required, they have generally a song formed of extempore verses, the improvisatore being the stroke oar, the driver, or one supereminent among the rest for the talent. He in a minor key gives out a line or two in allusion to any passing event, all the rest taking up the burthen of the song, as a chorus, in a tenor, and this produces a very pleasing effect.

Note also the emphasis on improvisation. This is important to note re: the aesthetic of this music as well as something to remember when looking for references.

It would be great to find more references to work-songs (maritime, or, of similar form) in the 1810s. With the slim evidence so far, my contention would be that work-songs of this type had not yet found their way aboard ships in the early 1810s. It doesn't say much, but is notable nonetheless, that the British Naval officer does not compare the songs to practice on his ships even by the time of publication, 1833.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: mikesamwild
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 01:23 PM

When I worked in Sierra Leone in the 1960s I lived by a beach near Freetown and when the village was hauling in nets which stretched right across the bay they sang call and response'shanties'.I wish I'd had a portable tape recorder


In the 1950s I heard some railway workers near sheffield shifting steel rails and they were singing a work song . I wonder if any railway shanties got to sea?

I've lawaysthought a lot of shantioe shave tunes reminiscent of Irish Polkas from the Cork area e.g. Yellow Girls


Could it have been a fusion of cultures?

All I've seen about 'shanties' from earlier English times were songs like Cheerly Men and Off She Goes


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 05:21 PM

Hi,
Excellent thread. Keep it going. As soon as I get some time I'll look out my early articles on the history of shantying. You might already have them but I'll offer them anyway. I know I have a series printed in 'Mariners Mirror' somewhere, and some articles in Sea Breezes. They may or may not be useful. I often come across snippets in Victorian nautical novels, such as those by W H G Kingston. In Hull, Yorkshire where I am I've spent a lot of time in local history records
and the Maritime Museum, though have not come across any shanties or references, some bits and pieces of ballads though and things to do with whaling customs.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 08:33 PM

Bullies, I will go out on a limb to say that no earlier commentator, including the great Hugill, Whall, Colcord, and Doerflinger, knew anything significant about shantying before the 1830s (its rise or anything else) that we have not already covered on the "SF to Sydney 1853" thread.

Even Whall and Robinson were far too young to have observed the early years of shantying-as-we-know-it. The same goes for Sharp's and Carpenter's singers. Dana might have learned something useful at second hand if he'd thought to ask.

Everything they say about it is hypothetical. (Which is not to say it is necessarily wrong.) When Doerflinger writes of a "revival of shanty-singing" after the War of 1812, he's making the unwarranted assumption that shanties (songs, not singouts, made specifically for shipboard work) were well-known before the war - a statement for which we have no evidence at all. I believe these authorities were placing too much significance on the scattered references to sailors chanting or singing in ancient and medieval times.

Patterson (who gives some unique and therefore questionable info)claimed that "Whisky, Johnny" was originally sung in Elizabethan times as "Malmsey, Johnny." He gave no evidence, and there doesn't seem to be any.

Hugill showed that while the "anatomical ptogression" of the bawdy "A-Roving" did appear as a song in Heywood's "Rape of Lucrece," Heywood's song wasn't presented as a sea song and there's no reason to assume that it was. The song itself is not identical to "A-Roving."

Gibb, my placement of the dawn of the shanty around 1820 may well be a few years too early, but shanties seem to have been frequent enough on the brig Pilgrim in 1834. With no media coverage, telephones, or downloads, it must have taken at least a few years for the practice to become a custom. My guess is that that happened during the mid to late 1820s, but admittedly that's just a guess based on insufficient evidence.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 08:59 PM

Great to have a lot of voices here.

A couple things I encourage here:

1) Though I am very often guilty of "vagueing up" my statements, particularly when I'm unsure... let's to to specify time period when we talk about things, when possible. A couple decades in either direction could make a huge difference (e.g., a couple decades ago, I wasn't using the Internet). I personally I looking for "Ground Zero" of what I think was a "new" phenomenon --post-Cheerly Man. Perhaps it was not, but still I've got to "zoom in" to see.

2) Let's use previous writers' thoughts as springboards or reference points, but not accept their assumptions. Let the evidence speak fresh.

mikesamwild--
By "Yellow Girls" do you mean the shanty AKA "Doodle Let Me Go"? That may be something to pursue.

And I am sure it was a fusion, but then again, what is not? The tunes may very well be of Irish derivation. The challenge will be distinguishing what precedents are most relevant to the historical context. The melodic influences on, say Jamaican stevedores, may have included Irish polkas, since what is "Jamaican culture" --or any culture-- but a fusion of past influences?   This influences become relevant when they suggest something of significance at that historical moment.

In my working sketch, the most important aspect of it all at this "moment" was a paradigm for singing while working. The non-Black commenters have remarked on Black work-singing as if it were a practice distinct from their own. My contention is that there was something culturally remarkable about African-American work-song practice. One aspect, for example, was the feature whereby a gang of workers might have an individual who *only* sings (and gets paid for it!). Another aspect is the specific *form* of these songs.

So I've an open bias towards looking to African-American work-singing for some answers, at this point. This does not mean I think "chanteys are African"; on the contrary, I think they are fusion. However, my hypothesis is that the "new phenomenon" of "chanties" was based in what at the time was a work-song practice of the African-American community.

Looking for antecedents --in a different world than The Complaynt of Scotland -- we have for example the account (published 1800) of Scotsman Mungo Park, who visited the area of Africa that is now Mali in the 1790s. He observed of the people there that, "They lightened their labour by songs, one of which was composed extempore, for I myself was the subject of it."

That was in Africa. Here's an observation from the New World a decade later, on the island of Martinique, in BELL'S COURT AND FASHIONABLE MAGAZINE, May 1806:

"The negroes have a different air and words for every kind of labour; sometimes they sing, and their motions, even while cultivating the ground, keep time to the music."


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 09:14 PM

Lighter,

Our posts crossed a bit.

my placement of the dawn of the shanty around 1820 may well be a few years too early, but shanties seem to have been frequent enough on the brig Pilgrim in 1834.

I follow. My present belief is that the worksongs on the Pilgrim may not have been of the "new" (later to be called "chanties") type. So for that reason, that date is not as significant to me just yet; I am leaning towards the 1830s cotton-stowing observations as indications that things had not come together yet ship-board. But that is also why I think it may be fruitful to review and search the hell out of the 1810s-20s-30s!

If we've not any more 1810s stuff for now, we can move onto the more plentiful 1820s.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: GUEST,Gibb Sahib
Date: 22 Mar 10 - 09:12 AM

Here is another reference to add to the possible context from which these chanty forms emerged.

It is John Lambert's TRAVELS THROUGH CANADA AND THE UNITED STATES...VOL. III, published in 1810.

The event referred to, I believe, happened in 1806. The narrator is going by boat down the Savannah River.

We started from Purrysburgh about two o'clock and were rowed by four negroes, for canoes are not paddled here as in Canada. They seemed to be jolly fellows, and rowed lustily to a boat song of their own composing. The words were given out by one of them, and the rest joined chorus at the end of every line. It began in the following manner:

Chorus.

" We are going down to Georgia, boys,
CH: Aye, aye,

To see the pretty girls, boys ;
CH: Yoe, yoe.

We'll give 'em a pint of brandy, boys,
CH: Aye, aye.

And a hearty kiss besides, boys.
CH:Yoe, yoe.            
&c. &c.

The tune of this ditty was rather monotonous, but had a pleasing effect, as they kept time with it, at every stroke of their oars. The words were mere nonsense ; any thing, in fact, which came into their heads. I however remarked, that brandy was very frequently mentioned, and it was understood as a hint to the passengers to give them a dram.


Note again the incidental nature of the text. It is impossible to identify this as the progenitor to any one specific chantey, however the basic form is that of a chantey and the ad-libbed nature is also in keeping with the tradition. Again, no analogy is made to other work-song practices in the author's own tradition or aboard sailing vessels.

More boat/rowing references to come, as that seems to be where these sorts of songs were used at this point in time.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Lighter
Date: 22 Mar 10 - 09:34 AM

A great discovery. In form it looks indistinguishable from a halliard shanty. Such rowing songs almost certainly influenced shanty development. The transference of such songs to halliard work as needed may have been inevitable and must have happened independently a number of times.

Interesting that these early travelers found the rowing songs notable despite the unanimous comments that they were unmelodious, with improvisational and trivial lyrics.

It certainly does support the idea that call-and-response rowing songs were not native to Britain and were presumably an African holdover.

One can move plausibly from African call-and-reponse work songs to New World call-and-response rowing songs to cotton-screwers' chants to halliard shanties.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Lighter
Date: 22 Mar 10 - 11:20 AM

See the end of my last post to the "SF to Sydney" thread.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Morris-ey
Date: 22 Mar 10 - 11:41 AM

Call-and-response goes back to ancient Greek theatre: it is, as a form, very old.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 22 Mar 10 - 09:03 PM

More descriptions from the decades before I allege the "new chanties" came in.

The first reference is not very insightful re: chanties, however, such early references to African-Americans singing during work are hard to locate, so I give it FWIW. It comes from "Abridgment of the Minutes of the Evidence Taken Before a Committee of the Whole House," including depositions from 1789. In one passage, the following bits of info are given with respect to African slaves working sugar cane fields in Grenada.

The cutting of canes is not very hard, tying them easy; the feeding the mills and sires are the most laborious. The rest of the work is very easy. On the whole, thinks the negroes are most healthy in, and like the crop best. Never knew them complain of work then. The mill- gang commonly sing all night. Certainly labour in crop is the hardest, as 1/2 their time, out of crop, is weeding. Holing is the most severe work out of crop.
...They often give holers weak grog twice a-day. Holing does not occasion sickness. Negroes seem fox'd of it, and commonly sing at at.


Of course, the assumption that the slaves were having fun --more so because they were singing-- was probably misguided. (Many years later, Frederick Douglas attempted to correct this assumption, arguing that the singing was not to express joy but rather to overcome sorrow.)

Next reference is to another rowing song reference. It is interesting for what seems to have been a transitional part-English/part-African dialect singing, and for the spread of this practice throughout the African Diaspora.

NOTES ON THE WEST INDIES... VOL. 3, by George Pinckard, pub. 1806.

The author's observations appear to be from the English West Indies Expedition of the 1790s.   He is traveling by boat down the Demerara River towards Georgetown (then known as Stabroek). Black slaves are manning the oars. Here is the passage, pg. 322:

Observing that they rowed with languor, and that we made but little progress, the cockswain was desired to exchange the helm for an oar, and to enliven his comrades with a song, encouraging them to join in chorus, and to pull together in musical time. This operated with magic effect. Every slave was inspired, and forgetting all sense of fatigue, they again pulled with unwearied vigour. We were not more pleased with the result of the expedient, than amused by ihe ready ingenuity with which our wizard cockswain composed his appropriate song, and gave it all the effect of enchantment. Resigning the helm to the weakest slave, he placed himself amidst the crew in the centre of the boat, and pulling his oar stronger than the others, he invented extempore lines for a favorite African tune, finishing each stanza with "gnyaam gnyaam row" "gnyaam gynaam row" in which all were to join by way of chorus; and we found that " gnyaam gnyaam row," never failed to give additional force to the oar—and consequent head-way to the boat.

The names of the slaves, their wives, their food, drink, and all their pleasures were introduced in song, and tuned to the pulling of the oar : likewise the names of each of the party whom they were rowing, their professions, qualities, and occupations, and their several intentions towards the crew, all made a part of this inspiring air, which, however ridiculous in the words and music—in its effect succeeded even to a wonder. The pulling of the oar, the directing of the helm, even the position of the slaves in the boat, and the compensation each might expect as the reward of his exertions were all adroitly included, and "gnyaam gnyaam row" accompanied each stretch of the oar in chorus. Led on by these persuasive themes, each seemed to emulate the exertions of the all-animating cockswain, and, throwing off the heavy marks of fatigue, they conducted us merrily and speedily to "Garden-Eden."


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 22 Mar 10 - 09:22 PM

A NARRATIVE OF A VOYAGE TO SURINAM.., by Albert Sack, pub. 1810. Translated from German notes.

The place is Surinam, 1805.

We continued our journey very easily. The tides in these rivers
flow, five hours and a half, and ebb six hours and a half. The
spring tides are twice a month, at the new and full moon; the
tide runs at the rate of about seven miles an hour, and as we only
pursued our course by it, our boatmen in these short stages were
not in the least fatigued: they are eight stout negroes, who sing in
chorus all the way.


In the following decades, more rowing references will come.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 22 Mar 10 - 09:51 PM

In tracing the advent of the "chanties," it is important to distinguish the songs used for halyards from those used for capstan. For as a chantey designed for halyards, with modifications, might work for capstan, it rarely goes the other way. The forms are different. Halyards required quite a strict form; most of those chanties are of uniform...er, form. Capstan work could use material from many sources. This is what makes halyard chanties distinctive and potential revealing with respect to their origins. The form of the rowing songs appears to lend itself better to halyards this was the song format that appeared relatively new to the scene, from the perspective of the Euro-American commenters.

Capstan songs, on the other hand, had been around longer, though I cannot say specifically what their form may have been like from one period to the next.

I suggest we maintain a distinction between the songs for capstan and the ones potentially used for halyards, lest we muddle the stream of development of these different kinds of work-songs.

Here is a reference to singing at the WINDLASS from the beginning of the 19th century.
It is found in an edited volume of a poem THE SHIPWRECK by a sailor, William Falconer. This edited edition is from 1806; seems the first edition was probably 1803. It is a footnote reference to the old spoke windlass, in which one must continually remove and replace one's handspike.

As the Windlass is heaved about in a vertical direction, it is evident that the effort of an equal number of men acting upon it will be much more powerful than on the Capstan. It requires, however, some dexterity and address to manage the Handspec, or Lever, to the greatest advantage; and to perform this the Sailors must all rise at once upon the Windlass, and, fixing their bars therein, give a sudden jerk at the same instant; in which movement they are regulated by a sort of Song pronounced by one of the number. The most dexterous managers of the Handspec in heaving at the Windlass, are generally supposed to be the Colliers of Northumberland; and of all European Mariners, the Dutch are certainly the most awkward, and sluggish, in this manoeuvre.

[Was the action anything like cotton-screwing?]

For an illustration of this kind of windlass (not sure just how realistic?) see here, at 2:40:
old fashioned windlass


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 22 Mar 10 - 10:15 PM

That is it for my 1810s and earlier references, for now. I am moving on to the 1820s. Please join in! I imagine many of these will be pilfered from the Sf-Sydney thread, including one that Lighter mentions a few posts up.

The first rowing reference comes from TRAVELS IN NORTH AMERICAN IN THE YEARS 1827 AND 1828, by Basil Hall. It's March 1828, and the author has headed into the interior of Georgia from the sea islands area.

On reaching Darien, a neat little village on the left bank of the gigantic Alatamaha, one of the largest rivers in America, but the name of which I had never even heard of before, we were met by a gentleman we had formerly known, and at whose invitation we were now visiting this part of the country. Under his escort we proceeded down the current in a canoe some thirty feet long, hollowed out of a cypress tree. The oars were pulled by five smart negroes, merry fellows, and very happy looking, as indeed are most of their race, in spite of all their bondage. They accompanied their labour by a wild sort of song, not very unlike that of the Canadian voyageurs, but still more nearly resembling that of the well-known Bunder-boatmen at Bombay.

Interesting comparisons: "Canadian voyageurs" and "Bunder-boatmen at Bombay."


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: John Minear
Date: 22 Mar 10 - 10:23 PM

This is great stuff, Gibb! I like the approach and am rowing fast to catch up. I'm afraid I wasn't paying attention and you got launched without me realizing it. Thanks for doing this and for keeping this very important discussion alive and well.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: doc.tom
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 05:28 AM

Just chuck this in to test others' opinions - it derives from analysis of dear old John Short's repertoire (which he aquired between 1855 and 1875): The capstan/windlass stuff seems to tend (yes, deliberately imprecise) to utilise shore-song narratives (often Anglo-Irish except where they derive from contemporary American popular song) whereas the shorthaul stuff seems to use much more discontinuous texts deriving from hoosier/river sources (the latter also being the opinion of Short himself given to Sharp).

We're also currntly having fun with the fact that A Hundred years Ago and Tommy's Gone Away effectivly use the same tune. And have you noticed that Santy Anna, Whip Jamboree and the Irish tune King of the Fairies (A-phrase) all share a majority of melodic phrases too!

TomB


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: mikesamwild
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 06:17 AM

The song I mentioned, Yellow Girls is the Doodle let me go one.

'It's of a Captain's daughter belonged to Callao etc'

I have been struck by the similarity of some shanty tunes to Irish polkas which came in during the mid 19th century boom of Quadrilles across society worldwide. London, Bristo, Liverpool and Cork could be jumping off points


Dan Worrall has just produced a good book (2 vols)on the Anglo Concertina which explores playing in various comunities amongst which is the work on black African players who use songs as an essential part of all aspects of life.


He has done a lot of work , based in Texas.using digital archives . The section on the concertina at sea is excellent ( no evidence of concertina accompaniment to shanties but used in 'forebitters')


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: GUEST,Gibb Sahib
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 09:16 AM

Next reference from the 1820s. I am suspending my judgement as to how "Cheerly Man" fits into all this! Where did it fall along the hypothetical "transition"? It was used for halyards, and had the "extempore" quality, yet its form was not like later halyard chanties. Had it really been around a VERY long time, or was it perhaps among the earliest of the newer songs? Are there any earlier references (i.e. that I'm overlooking) for "Cheerly Man"?

The text is JOURNAL OF A VOYAGE TO QUEBEC IN THE YEAR 1825, by P. Finan.

The narrator is leaving Quebec in a brig in July 1825.

A ship getting under weigh displays a lively, active scene. "Man the windlass !" was the first order of the mate: the windlass was quickly manned, and the seamen commenced weighing the anchor—and, as the great chain cable clanked along the deck, and the sailor sent forth his long and slow-toned "yeo— heave — oh!" the sounds reached the ear with more important meaning than merely that the anchor was raising from the bottom.

...

"Man your topsail sheets, and overhaul your clue-lines and buntlines!" cried the mate; the seamen sprang to their places with the greatest alacrity, and the command was soon executed. The topsail haliards, or rope by which the topsail is hoisted, was next ordered to be manned, and the hoisting was accompanied by a lively song, the words of which, being the extemporary composition of the seaman who led, afforded me a good deal of amusement.— One.man sung, and the rest joined lustily in the chorus. The following is a specimen:—

Oh rouse him up, .
Chorus—Oh, yeo, cheerly ;
Newry girls,
Oh, yeo, cheerly;
Now for Warrenpoint,
Oh, yeo, cheerly;
Rouse him up cheerly,
Oh, yeo, cheerly;
Oh.mast-head him,
Oh, yeo, cheerly;
Oh, with a will,
Oh, yeo, cheerly;
Cheerly men,
Oh, oh, yeo,
Oh, yeo, cheerly ;
Oh, yeo, cheerly.


I'm not sure if I have parsed the verse/chorus structure as intended. See the original on pg. 329, HERE


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: GUEST,Gibb Sahib
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 12:32 PM

Another early rowing reference that I think is really important --perhaps the earliest setting so far-- is one I've discovered in this article:

http://www.jstor.org/pss/895685

(I don't have access to read it all. If someone else does, perhaps they'd like to scan it for other gems.)

It refers to observations by W.J. Grayson (born 1788) of South Carolina, who "from his boyhood" --1790s or 1800s-- remembers African-American oarsmen that would bring people to Charleston. He describes their call and response canoe-rowing songs as "partly traditionary, partly improvised" and goes on to relate their incidental themes, as have the other authors.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Lighter
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 02:58 PM

The most significant "gem" follows. I'm taking it directly from its original appearance in James Kennard, Jr.'s article, "Who Are Our National Poets?" (Knickerbocker, Oct. 1845, p. 338):

"One day during the early part of the Indian war in Florida [i.e., 1835] we stepped into a friend's boat at Jacksonville, and with a dozen stout negro rowers, pushed off, bound up the St. Johns with a load of muskets, to be distributed among the distressed inhabitants, who were every where flying from the frontier before the victorious Seminoles. As we shot ahead, over the lake-like expanse of the noble river, the negroes struck up a song to which they kept time with their oars; and our speed increased as they went on, and become [sic] warmed with their singing. The words were rude enough, the music better, and both were well-adapted to the scene. A line was sung by a leader, then all joined in a short chorus; then came another solo line, and another short chorus, followed by a longer chorus, during the singing of which the boat foamed through the water with redoubled velocity. There seemed to be a certain number of lines ready-manufactured, but after this stock was exhausted, lines relating to surrounding objects were extemporized. Some of these were full of rude wit, and a lucky hit always drew a thundering chorus from the rowers, and an encouraging laugh from the occupants of the stern seats. Sometimes several minutes elapsed in silence; then one of the negroes burst out with a line or two which he had been excogitating. Little regard was paid to rhyme, and hardly any to the number of syllables in a line: they condensed four or live into one foot, or stretched out one to occupy the space that should have been filled with four or five; yet they never spoiled the tune. This elasticity of form is peculiar to the negro song."

In other words, a halliard shanty without the halliards. Such rowing songs must have been just as important to shanty development as were the cotton-screwing chants.

I'll revise my theory of shanty creation. Regardless of how later shanties were "composed," the first "halliard shanty" may have been nothing more than a rowing song sung in a new context. And maybe "Cheerly Man!" was that song!


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 04:03 PM

Okay, I've managed to get time to start looking at some of my references. One interesting and tantalising reference I have comes from the Times Aug 15th 2008. It refers to a sailor's journal up for auction, George Hodge, and covers the period 1790 to 1833. Apparently he was in the RN from 1790 to 1815 then joined the MN. Quote 'It includes everything from the lyrics of sea shanties to a picture of the first ship on which he served.' The auction was at Northeast Auctions in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and the whole collection of his memorabilia was estimated to fetch about $50,000. I didn't manage to find out anything further, but Googling might bring up something. It would be great if the journal had been published???? or was on its way to being published.
Anybody else spot this one or know what happened to the journal?

I must add that journalists and those with a passing interest often mistake sea songs for shanties, so it may be a red herring. Even if it is it would be interesting to see what the sea songs were.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: John Minear
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 04:43 PM

Here is a link to Dena Epstein's book. Only parts of it are on line, but if you scroll down to Chapter 9, you will find that it is on "Worksongs" and has many of the quotes and references that we have been working with so far.

http://books.google.com/books?id=WUHaLYzhiSoC&pg=PA68&dq=Worksongs&cd=5#v=onepage&q=Worksongs&f=false


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: John Minear
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 04:59 PM

With regard to Steve's note on "George Hodge", I came across this on Google Books. However, the very page referred to is "not available". Perhaps someone has this book and can take a look.


ENTER THE PRESS-GANG: NAVAL IMPRESSMENT IN EIGHTEENTH -CENTURY BRITISH LITERATURE‎ - Page 140
Daniel James Ennis - Literary Criticism - 2002 - 219 pages
"The case of George Hodge, as related in his unpublished diary, is instructive.
... By the late eighteenth century, the Royal Navy began showing signs of ..."


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 05:10 PM

I just Googled Hodge but all that came up were references to the auction, nothing on what happened to it after the auction. I doubt if the Ennis mentions give any detail on what's in the diary. It seems to be dwelling on impressment and his time in the RN which would not include refs to shanties. It's the 1815-33 period refs that would be of most interest.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 06:26 PM

Just been rereading the articles by L G Carr Laughton in Mariner's Mirror for 1923 Vol 9 No 2. He sets out an excellent case for the slaves' shanties origin and the whole custom originating with the cotton ships coming across from the southern states post 1815 to Liverpool and then it spreading from there into the packet ships. He mentions several examples of 'Cheerly men' in use as possibly the earliet example. He also postulates there may be something more to Stevenson's 'Fifteen men on the Dead Man's Chest' it being a Caribbean island. I assume you have the references from the United services Journal for 1834 which give the account of shantying on a revenue cutter. Here 'Cheerly men' as with Dana is given as an example. The author claimed then that CM had been attached to revenue cutters 'for time out of mind', 'and sometimes the burden is not celebrated for its decency'.
Later Carr Laughton suggests the approximate order of development for the shanty being, the cotton trade as already mentioned; then the Packet service; the emigrant ships to America; the California gold rush round the Horn; the Blackwall East Indiamen; the tea clippers, and finally the Colonial clippers. he then goes on to link individual shanties with particular periods, largely according to their origins and content.
In a later article (1952) another writer puts forward an extremely strong case for the development of the word 'shantying' from the French in New Orleans, quoting 2 contemporary accounts. I can post this if required.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Lighter
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 07:40 PM

Steve, I for one would love to read the etymological conjecture on "shantying."


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 08:58 PM

1820s, continued.

Capstan shanty description!

Fiction, from 1829: "Tales of a Voyager to the Arctic Ocean" -- excerpts discovered in THE LADY's MAGAZINE. Full context not given; a whaling vessel. :

Our visitors were particularly animated in their extemporaneous effusions, and ran round the capstan rapidly, to words signifying their hope of soon sharing an allowance of spirits; a luxury of which our prudential regime had deprived them whilst we remained beset, occasionally varying their exclamations with anticipations of the other benefits which they expected to obtain by the deliverance of the vessel from her icy fetters. The limit of the choral expression is always marked by the velocity with which the leader of the band, that is, the individual who first gives out the stave, completes a circle on the deck as he heaves round his bar, and he recommences his chant at the same spot at which it was begun. Hence, when the circumvolutions of the performers are quickened by the yielding of the obstruction to the winding-in of the warp, and the velocity of the turns will not allow the repetition of the canticle first set up, the choir break into a more brief outcry, suited to their movements; and at times, especially when reinforced by an accession of hands, they whirl round the capstan with the utmost swiftness, shrieking, laughing, dancing, and flinging out their heels, like a company of savage revelers capering about some object of convivial worship with extravagant demonstrations of mental and bodily excitement. Such was the glee of our Hialtlandmen, when they found the Leviathan, so long immovable, and consequently unprofitable, now gliding onward with increasing speed toward freedom and the possibility of exercising her whale-capturing functions. No sooner had they got the ship under weigh, and felt her yield to the impulse of their warp, as if she gradually awoke from a deep lethargy, and slowly resumed her suspended faculty of motion, than they began their song, one of them striking up, seemingly with the first idea that entered his imagination, while the others caught at his words, and repeated them to a kind of Chinese melody; the whole at length uniting their voices into one chant, which, though evidently the outpouring of a jovial spirit, had, from its unvaried tone and constant echo of the same expression, a half-wild, half-melancholy effect upon the ear. The foreign accent of the singers contributed not a little to invest their music with a strange imposing character, while the strong contrast between the import of their exclamation and its somewhat dirge-like accompaniment of voice, gave their stave a serio-comic air, well illustrated by the ludicrous display of joyous feelings depicted on the habitually grave and simple countenances of the performers. As the vessel advanced, the momentum she had received from the previous exertions of the capstan-heavers, and the strain upon the warp, yielding readily to the increasing resolution of the men, allowed them to run round with their bars at a more soulstirring pace, and the song grew fast and furious. It had begun with "Yah! yah! here's a full ship for the captain, and a full pannikin for Peytie Pevterson, la— la—lalla—la—leh; but this sentence, after many repetitions, was changed for others of briefer duration and more expressive import, as they coursed after each other with intoxicating rapidity; their steps grew frolicsome, and their voices were elevated till they cracked with energy; they shouted, shrieked, and capered ; and at length they wanted nothmg requisite to make them true representatives of a troop of roaring bacchanalians but old Silenus perched upon the drumhead of the capstan, and some of that good liquor whose very expectation had thus inspired them with frantic mirth.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 10:39 PM

There are several interesting ideas brought in here so far that I want to pursue. I will be traveling soon, however, so please don't mind me if I seem dis-engaged while just adding a boatload of historical references. I am try to get them up while I still have my "bookmarks" handy!

Here is a poem supposed to have been written aboard a frigate during the tail end of the Napoleonic Wars (i.e. pre 1815). (from an 1825 publication.) Though we know this from elsewhere it serves to reinforce the common use of fife (and drum?) rather at the capstan in that era. There is a line that also might have belonged to a chantey.

"Sailor's Song"

When the topsails are set, and the bars are all shipp'd,
And the drums and fifes merrily play,
Round the capstan we dance, till our anchor is tripp'd,
When the Boatswain bawls, "Heave and away!"
To the fife's shrill sound,
While the joke goes round,
We step with a pleasing delight;
Dry nippers clapp'd on,
We soon hear the song,
"Heave, heave, rny brave boys, and in sight."
[ETC.]


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 11:08 PM

Continuing with 1820s, here are examples already dredged up by folks on the SF-Sydney thread, which I'd like to file here. We begin with another Afro-Caribbean rowing song.

WEST INDIA SKETCH BOOK, vol 1, by Trelawney Wentworth (Published 1834 or earlier?). It appears to refer to events possibly of 1822 or earlier. They are headed for the island of Saint Thomas.

For some distance they had pulled at an easy rate and in silence, as if made unconscious of the work they were engaged in, by the absorbing interest of the passing scenes, but at length they were roused to activity by the word of preparation for a song having been passed among them, and the negro pulling the oar nearest to us, began a singular prelude which sounded between a grunt and a groan, like a paviour's accompaniment to his labour, or the exordium of a quaker, when " the spirit" begins to move. He became more energetic with each succeeding stroke of the oar, which produced a corresponding ardour, and greater precision in pulling among the other rowers, and when this was effected, another negro, whose countenance bore
the stamp of much covert humour and sagacity, and who appeared to be a sort of improvisatore among them, commenced a lively strain which accorded exactly in time with the motion of pulling, each line of the song accompanying the impetus given to the boat, and the whole crew joining in chorus in the intervals between every stroke of the oars. The subject matter of the song was as discursive and lengthy as Chevy Chase; and it showed an aptitude at invention on the part of the leader, as well as a tolerable acquaintance with the weak side of human nature, on the score of flattery: a small portion of it will suffice.


Hurra, my jolly boys
CH: Fine time o' day
We pull for San Thamas boys
CH: Fine time o' day
Nancy Gibbs and Betsy Braid
CH: Fine time o' day
Massa come fra London town
CH: Fine time o' day ETC
Massa is a hansome man,
             Fine time o' day.
Massa is a dandy-man,
             Fine time o' day.
Him hab de dollar, plenty too,
             Fine time o' day.
Massa lub a pretty girl,
             Fine time o' day.
Him lub 'em much, him lub 'em true,
             Fine time o' day.
Him hunt 'em round de guaba bush,
             Fine time o' day.
Him catch 'em in de cane piece,
             Fine time o' day.

It includes musical notation. Incidentally, Roger Abrahams reprinted the score in his whalers' shanties book, and Finn & Haddie used that, I presume, to work up this interpretation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DwR-ADStXQ

****

Back in the United States, this 1820s rowing reference is courtesy of Lighter on 22 March, 2010. [copy/pasted]

*SNIP*
From James Hall, "Letters from the West: Letter III," The Port Folio, XII (Sept., 1821), p. 446. Judge Hall made a trip down the Ohio from Pittsburgh to Shawneetown, Ill. This comes from a letter about Parkersburg, Virginia:

"To the admirers of the simplicity of Wordsworth, to those who prefer the naked effusions of the heart, to the meretricious ornaments of fancy, I present the following beautiful specimen verbatim, as it flowed from the lips of an Ohio boatman:

"It's oh! as I was a wal-king out,
One morning in July,
I met a maid, who ax'd my trade,—
Says I, 'I'll tell you presently,'
'Miss, I'll tell you presently!'"

Obviously the first stanza of a predecessor of the capstan shanty "New York Girls/ Can't You Dance the Polka?"

When Hall revised his article for book publication in 1828, he added a second stanza:

And it's oh! she was so neat a maid,
That her stockings and her shoes,
She toted in her lilly [sic] white hands
For to keep them from the dews, &c., &c.

So it isn't quite "New York Girls." And that unfortunately is that.

Except that Hall also quotes "the words which the rowers are even now sounding in my ears as they tug at the oar,

Some rows up, but we row down,
All the way to Shawnee town
Pull away - pull away!"

I believe Hall makes the earliest reference to the "Shawneetown" rowing song. Its form and the "pull away" chorus brings it very close to the apparently soon-to-evolve halliard shanties.
*SNIP*


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 11:17 PM

More 1820s...

*SNIP*
"Waldie's select circulating library", Volume 1 (12 March 1833)

It's an account of an Italian visitor to London, observing sailors singing in a pub, circa 1826, I believe. Apparently they were singing this idly or for fun. The impression is made that it was a work song. However, it does seem a bit highly developed for that. And the lyrics say "haul," whereas such a long form suggests to me a task like capstan work. It may have been that this was a hauling song, just not a timed-pull one -- i.e. it was a stamp 'n' go. Quite probably these were navy men, as the sentiments suggest.

Here's the first verse.

British sailors have a knack
      Haul way, yeo ho, boys!
Of pulling down a Frenchman's jack,
    'Gainst any odds, you know, boys
Come three to one, right sure am I
If we can't beat 'em, still we try
To make old England's colours fly,
    Haul away, yeo ho boys

The rest can be found here, pg. 133
*SNIP*


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 11:23 PM

And from Lighter again. The publication date is 1826, but Lighter's biographical info suggest the singer might have learned this Sally Brown "sailors' chant" anytime between 1808 and then.

*SNIP*
Isaac Starr Clason, "Horace in New-York," 1826, p. 46: "The present Manager of the Chatham Garden Theatre, was formerly a Lieutenant in the British Navy. He was afterwards on the boards of the Norwich Company in England. He was principally applauded for singing a common sailors' chant in character, having a sort of 'Sally Brown, oh, ho,' chorus; and requiring the action of pulling a rope, spitting upon the hand, and the accompaniment of a horrid yell. In private life, both Mr. and Mrs. Wallack were much respected."

Clason's use of the word "chant" is almost as significant as "Sally Brown," "pulling a rope," and "a horrid yell." This could be the earliest clear reference to a "sea shanty as we know it," complete with Hugill-style "hitch"!
*SNIP*


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 11:53 PM

That does it for the references I have, at present, to "shanty sightings" attributed to the 1820s and a few decades earlier. More could turn up if one searches creatively with different criteria. I realize it is not a lot to go on, but I would be interested, at this point, to try to think about the scene only based on the available evidence (there must be a bit more I am overlooking?), and try to block out our later impressions. Pretend the 1830s have not happened yet. What do we have?

1780s-90s:

General references to African and New World Black work-songs, from Mali, Grenada.

1800s:

General references to African-American work-songs and their style, from Martinique;
Rowing songs from Georgia, South Carolina, Guyana, Surinam;
Windlass songs, aboard vessels with sailors incl. from Northumberland and Holland.

1810s:

2 stevedore songs from Jamaica that resemble chanteys;
African-American rowing songs from Antigua, Virgin Islands;
Singing and fife-playing at the capstan on a British war ship.

1820s:

Rowing songs, from Georgia, Virginia, St. Thomas;
A version of "Cheerly Men" for topsail halyards on a brig near Quebec;
Fictional capstan shantying in the Arctic; capstan (?) song of British tars in London; chant for pulling known to an ex-British navy man. [I've also seen another reference to the phrase "British capstan song" from 1825.]

Anything more, strictly from these time periods?
Analysis to come later! ;)


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: IanC
Date: 24 Mar 10 - 04:58 AM

Not sure why people don't read the previous threads here (and there are a lot of good ones about shanties). Here's an entry from then 1540s.

Complaynt

;-)


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: John Minear
Date: 24 Mar 10 - 06:45 AM

Here is some excellent and extended bibliography in AFRICAN-AMERICAN TRADITIONS IN SONG, SERMON, TALE, AND DANCE 1600s - 1920, by Southern & Wright:

   http://books.google.com/books?id=GQC7pBjAsCAC&pg=PA45&dq=Aaron,+The+Light+and+Truth+of+Slavery&lr=&cd=7#v=onepage&q=Aaron%2C%20T

This link gives you the beginning of the section on "The Song", which includes many references to worksongs.

The title of Dena Epstein's book, referred to above is SINFUL TUNES AND SPIRITUALS: BLACK FOLK MUSIC TO THE CIVIL WAR. See Chapter 9.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Mar 10 - 09:08 AM

Here's a reference to singing of Black cotton-stowers in Savannah, in a letter from 1818. No detail, just that,

No business being done in Savannah during the summer, or sickly months, it is now all activity; nothing is heard near the water but the negroes' song while stowing away the cotton...

REMARKS MADE DURING A TOUR THROUGH THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA...(1817-1819), published 1821, by William Tell Harris, pg. 69

So at least we know that as early as the 1810s, the singing whilst cotton-stowing was going on, albeit nothing of its form.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: GUEST,Gibb Sahib
Date: 24 Mar 10 - 09:21 AM

Last post was me, sorry.

John M. -- Thanks for that link to Epstein's book. The section on worksongs that you referenced gives nice context to these late 18th/early 19th sightings of New World Black work-songs. It also provides even earlier references that are very similar. At this point, I don't feel the urge to reproduce any more from these years (unless they have lyrics or great detail.) In fact, they are amazingly consistant (redundant!?). And I don't think I've ever seen the word "extempore" used so many times!

The "extempore" quality was clearly (to my reading) something foreign (or at least very notable) to the observers. I wonder if, in the coming decades, when non-Blacks adopted some of the Black songs/practices, this *aesthetic* was transfered as well. We know there was much *variation* in the chanties shared by later sailors, but was it quite to this degree? Did the process of petrification of verses begin only in the 20th century revivals, or had a sort of standardization already begun as soon as the genre crossed cultures? Something to think about when looking at later 19th century examples of chanties.

John, thanks also for the Southern & Wright volume. I'd found that one earlier, and I've been gradually breaking out the various relevant bits, which I will try to sort by decade as they come.

Gibb


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: mikesamwild
Date: 24 Mar 10 - 09:22 AM

I've just been reading 'Origins of the Popular Style' about popular music by Peter van der Merwe, Oford Clarendon press, 1989


He gives some interesting links to Arab and African worksong and also seesm to think that the middle eastern influence would have spread widely in Europe and Africa and he thinks older Hebridean work songs woud be tied ino that tradition.


So when indentured Irish and Scottish 'servants' met African slaves in the camericas there could have been fertile ground for work songs.

Does anyone remember work songs when Michael Palin was on that Slow Boat from Arabia to India?


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 24 Mar 10 - 05:25 PM

Gibb,
See my post above. It would appear that the revenue cutters were using 'Cheerly Men' for 'time out of mind' prior to 1834. I interpret that to be at least as far back as 1800.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 24 Mar 10 - 05:34 PM

Jonathan,
I just typed out the first paragraph of the MM article, wisely posted it and it vanished. I'll try once more and if it vanishes again I'll have to email it to you.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 24 Mar 10 - 05:39 PM

Shanty term origins.
Letter by John Lyman in MM vol 38 (1952) answering the query of 1911.

This query asked for info. on the source of the word and the date of its first use for a working song afloat. the NED's oldest example is 1869 but Capt Whall recalled its use from his first going to sea in 1861. in vol 9 of MM L G Carr laughton traced the development of shantying to the Gulf cotton trade in the period 1830-60, but was forced to accept rather unconvincing connexions with shanty in the sense of a crudely built house or tavern as the origin of the term.


Fingers crossed!!


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 24 Mar 10 - 05:45 PM

Okay so far, next paragraph.

One of the arguments against deriving shanty as a song from the French 'chanter' is the change in pronunciation; another is the difficulty of explaining how a French word could have crossed the channel as alate as 1830. However, shanty as a houseis from the French 'chantier' (timberyard), via the wood-choppers' cabins in Fr-Canadian logging camps, so there need be no doubts about French 'ch-' becoming English 'sh-'. Mencken, in 'The American Langiage', derives shanty as song from French 'chanter' but calls it 'not American', and the word is not in the 'Dictionary of American English'.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 24 Mar 10 - 05:46 PM

Thanks, Steve, that is useful to have it stated with that phrase, vague though it may be. I have been assuming, too, from other secondary sources, that "Cheerly Men" is "older." However, I would like to build up a picture from the ground, too. I am trying to hold both things in play: intuitive sense of how old things might be, and corroborating evidence.

No doubt as I turn to more literature from later decades there will be additional suggestive phrases such as "time out of mind" that add to the "intuitive sense" side. As for the hard evidence side, I am at least pleased so far to the 1825 reference with lyrics to "Cheerly" which e.g. does not appear in Hugill's work.


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Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 24 Mar 10 - 05:55 PM

I wonder how that article by Lyman compares with his later one:
"Chantey and Limey"
Source: American Speech, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Oct., 1955), pp. 172-175. It may be more accessible on-line, FWIW


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