The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #157878   Message #4029383
Posted By: Brian Peters
21-Jan-20 - 06:27 AM
Thread Name: Dave Harker, Fakesong
Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
Steve G wrote:

"I don't completely disagree that 'folk' is a middle class construct..."

Nor do I completely disagree with it, especially in the drawing-room piano arrangements that Lee, Broadwood and Sharp applied to some of their material - though overall they published a greater proportion unembellished, and recorded in their notebooks as faithfully as they could the raw material.

What is not a middle-class construct, though, is that people sang songs for their own entertainment, and that in many cases these were passed down orally through one or more generations. You can of course argue about the selectivity of the Edwardian collectors in terms of material and geography, but even in this area there was a logic at work: to qualify as 'folk' a song had to have been passed on generationally (even today Steve Roud cites two generations' transmission as being a desirable qualification) which meant that songs composed during the lifetime of an informant - which would include a lot of the music hall stuff - wouldn't pass muster. Aesthetic preference was no doubt an element as well. It's a fact acknowledged surprisingly infrequently that music hall or minstrel songs generally used language (musical and/or textual) and subject matter different to those of the older songs the collectors defined as 'folk', and a field worker would be able to distinguish the two with some degree of accuracy. So, while a modern ethnomusicologist would disapprove of Sharp's having spurned all those versions of 'My Grandfather's Clock' he so despised, there was a rationale behind the selectivity.

Naming the phenomenon 'folk' is arguably a middle-class construct - since no singer predating the revival would have used the term - but no more so, I suggest, than calling it 'vernacular singing' or 'workers' culture'. Observers studying something generally need to find a name for it.

"It seems clear, at least to me, that any nationalist, imperialist, racialist, reactionary, elitist, or similarly unsavory motives the collectors may have had were no greater than the average person's of their day, and far less consequential than those of some."

I agree with that, Lighter. And regarding your point about the possible anger of the Copper Family a he mediation of heir songs, of course Bob was delighted to find out about Kate Lee: "Don’t think that Ron and me as kids were brought up thinking our grandfathers were this or that. We existed!"