The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #128220   Message #2868148
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
20-Mar-10 - 12:33 PM
Thread Name: The Advent and Development of Chanties
Subject: The Advent and Development of Chanties
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.)