The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #126347   Message #2855290
Posted By: John Minear
03-Mar-10 - 04:27 PM
Thread Name: From SF to Sydney - 1853 Shanties Sung?
Subject: RE: From SF to Sydney - 1853 Shanties Sung?
Now that we have what I would call a working list of chanties to choose from I would like to propose some criteria for suggesting which ones might have been used on the "Julia Ann" between 1853 and 1855. I'm not saying that songs which are not on my/Gibb's list couldn't have been used on those voyages. I will consider some of them later. But first I want to look at these "hauling" work songs. I am theorizing that they emerged as chanties sometime between about 1820 and 1860. I know that this is debatable, so I'm simply using it as a hypothesis.

I also know that there are very few "proof texts" for dating and locating these songs before the 1880s. So I am not trying to "prove" anything. I want to try to establish a "likely" historical context in which to place these songs. I am using "likely" to mean somewhere between "possible" and "probable". In order to build such a context I want to use what I would call multiple categories of multiple, independent attestations.   

I realize that a category of multiple attestation only proves that something is attested to a certain number of times, which may mean that it was "popular" or available or compatible with those who noted it or any number of other things. There are all kinds of things that could determine why a given song shows up in any given number of places. And I am not suggesting any kind of statistical analysis here. I know nothing about that kind of thing. However, if a certain song shows up in a number of independently different places it does tell us that that song was "around", that it existed at the time it was noted, and where it was noted. By looking at this kind of information, we might get some sense of the "spread" of the song, how broadly it was known and used. This could tell us something useful about its historical context at a particular time.

Using only one such category of multiple attestation would only give us one thin slice and not much in the way of depth for a historical context. This is why I want to use multiple categories. I am hoping that the cumulative information my give us some depth over a period of time. I will present my categories in two parts.