The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #143708   Message #3338976
Posted By: Jim Carroll
16-Apr-12 - 06:48 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Child Ballads: US Versions Part 2
Subject: RE: Origins: Child Ballads: US Versions Part 2
"did go to some lengths to talk to particular singers about their sources"
My point was Steve:
"one of the greatest voids in our understanding of the song traditions is the fact that, with a tiny number of exceptions we have no idea of what our traditional singers knew or thought about their songs simply because hardly anybody bothered to ask them, assuming that all they had to offer was the songs."
Sources was usually one of the standard questions - "where did you get that?" It bothered me more than a little, as it obviously did Brian, that even this basic piece of information should be treated with suspicion - "unless there's a contemporaneous record."
Not trying to over-stress this Lighter; I take your point about your remarks being "dashed off", but it does help to highlight the practice of treating the singers as sources of songs only, and disregarding anything else they might have to say.
For me, rather than tilting at unmoveble (or unprovable) windmills of "original versions", one of the greatest contributions to the significance and function of our traditional songs would be to gather together every statement that has been made by a traditional singer on how they feel and what they know of their songs - then we might have a basis of an understanding for our traditional songs "with nowt taken out" as the man in the bread advert said.
For those interested in the possible origins of our ballads, I would heartily recommend David C Fowler's 'The Literary History of the Popular Ballad", an extremely readable work, painstakingly researched, by a writer who is, refreshingly, not afraid to admit that he doesn't know, when he doesn't.
Jim Carroll