The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #169754   Message #4105112
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
07-May-21 - 03:36 AM
Thread Name: 'Shenandoah' rhythm/meter
Subject: RE: 'Shenandoah' rhythm/meter
Right, jag. Knowing that the windlass works like that is one thing that prompted me to question how on earth sailors would sing "Shenandoah" as modern singers do and keep the coordination. You feel the rhythm in your body so strongly when you do it that I can't imagine trying singing "Shenandoah" all loosey-goosey (as in the modern ballad style) and not feeling confused.

Again, "Sally Brown" -- and "Mister Stormalong" -- present no such confusion, so we were able to simulate them:

Mister Stormalong (our first attempt)
Sally Brown (repeat) (second attempt, better)

There's another glimpse somewhere in the Whaleship Viola video (I just can't find it right now).

When Tom Sullivan recorded his chanty album on UNICORN, the participants sang at the windlass. He says in the liner notes that, for at least one song, having a large number of hands available, they eschewed the two-part action and did just full sweeps of the brakes (i.e. what people do on the newer, smaller windlass). It's not clear to me if it was just for that item... I haven't gone through and analyzed it. Moreover, I don't remember UNICORN having a full size old style windlass, but maybe I remembered wrong. Need to save it for another time though. Not looking for more info on the windlass at the moment; enough is known; trying to know "Shenandoah" in relation to that... and hoping that might open the door to another mystery song: Lowlands/My Dollar and a Half.

Here, by the way, is what the smaller / later windlass looks like:

Here's a rendering of Robinson's (1917) "Shenandoah" variant (concealed under the title of "Sally Brown"). He puts it in 4/4. This is one of the examples of transcribers who put "Shenan-DOAH" with "DOAH" (well, "sally-BROWN") on the downbeat. On paper it works out (e.g. for windlass work). Whether the timing is accurate or just how Robinson squeezed it in to look rational, I can't say.

Steve, I was just saying that the "Screwing Cotton By the Day" paper is just the conference talk-length version. The article manuscript that it was it's condensed from is very long and has all kinds of specifics about the technique of cotton screwing, the profession, the tools, etc. -- but it's a mess now after the journal asked me to cut all that stuff. For the conference paper, I had to cut it for time, but one of the main conclusions is there: Cotton-screwers turned the screw AFTER they were done singing a chorus or verse, rather than in time to a sung syllable. Some are pushing, some are pulling. Having one's song in strict meter throughout is not important.