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definition of a ballad

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The Sandman 27 Aug 08 - 12:35 PM
Terry McDonald 27 Aug 08 - 12:36 PM
kendall 27 Aug 08 - 12:49 PM
Uncle_DaveO 27 Aug 08 - 01:12 PM
Don Firth 27 Aug 08 - 01:24 PM
kendall 27 Aug 08 - 01:33 PM
Terry McDonald 27 Aug 08 - 02:18 PM
Jim Carroll 27 Aug 08 - 02:36 PM
Bill D 27 Aug 08 - 02:51 PM
Fred McCormick 27 Aug 08 - 03:10 PM
Jack Blandiver 27 Aug 08 - 03:13 PM
Jack Blandiver 27 Aug 08 - 03:14 PM
Jack Blandiver 27 Aug 08 - 03:14 PM
kendall 27 Aug 08 - 03:25 PM
Jim Carroll 27 Aug 08 - 03:53 PM
Don Firth 27 Aug 08 - 04:03 PM
maire-aine 27 Aug 08 - 04:24 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 27 Aug 08 - 04:36 PM
Big Al Whittle 27 Aug 08 - 04:40 PM
Richard Bridge 27 Aug 08 - 04:57 PM
curmudgeon 27 Aug 08 - 05:40 PM
Dave the Gnome 27 Aug 08 - 05:40 PM
Bill D 27 Aug 08 - 05:53 PM
JHW 27 Aug 08 - 07:17 PM
Leadfingers 27 Aug 08 - 08:08 PM
Big Al Whittle 27 Aug 08 - 08:15 PM
Bill D 27 Aug 08 - 08:15 PM
curmudgeon 27 Aug 08 - 09:05 PM
Richard Bridge 28 Aug 08 - 02:21 AM
Valmai Goodyear 28 Aug 08 - 03:18 AM
Big Al Whittle 28 Aug 08 - 03:28 AM
Jim Carroll 28 Aug 08 - 03:28 AM
Jim Carroll 28 Aug 08 - 03:48 AM
Jack Blandiver 28 Aug 08 - 04:23 AM
The Sandman 28 Aug 08 - 04:46 AM
Fred McCormick 28 Aug 08 - 05:30 AM
Big Al Whittle 28 Aug 08 - 06:12 AM
Jim Carroll 28 Aug 08 - 07:10 AM
The Sandman 28 Aug 08 - 07:26 AM
The Sandman 28 Aug 08 - 07:32 AM
Richard Bridge 28 Aug 08 - 07:38 AM
Big Al Whittle 28 Aug 08 - 07:43 AM
Silver Slug 28 Aug 08 - 08:15 AM
Jim Carroll 28 Aug 08 - 08:48 AM
peregrina 28 Aug 08 - 09:12 AM
peregrina 28 Aug 08 - 09:22 AM
Jim Carroll 28 Aug 08 - 09:27 AM
Big Al Whittle 28 Aug 08 - 09:32 AM
JohnB 28 Aug 08 - 10:38 AM
Richard Bridge 28 Aug 08 - 11:25 AM
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Subject: definiton of a ballad
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 12:35 PM

can anyone define a genuine ballad?.
by that I mean,ballad in the way folk enthusiasts,understand the word.[eg Barbara Allen,LordRandall]
does it matter,if the ballad has been written,and is it important that it should have been sung and or altered by the folk or numbers of people.


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Subject: RE: definiton of a ballad
From: Terry McDonald
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 12:36 PM

I've always taken the term to mean that the song has a narrative.


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Subject: RE: definiton of a ballad
From: kendall
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 12:49 PM

I've always thought it was a particular form of writing. For example:

Charlie had a herring weir down to Bailey's Bight
And he got up to tend it in the middle of the night.
Late October, midnight black as tar
Nothing out the window but a big cold star.


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Subject: RE: definiton of a ballad
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 01:12 PM

The "classic" ballads, of Scotland and England, have a number of characteristics--not all NECESSARILY in one ballad, but typically as follows:

Of course, to be a ballad, it tells a story, and almost always in the third person.

Typically four-line stanzas
Commonly rhymed ABAB
Often with refrain or burden lines in lines 2 and 4, although sometimes with a separate burden stanza of two or even four lines. The burden lines are sometimes in plain English (or Scots), and sometimes in nonsense syllables, or "mouth music". When in plain language, they often seem to have little to do with the story.

These ballads just report the incidents, to tell the external story. That is, they don't say, "Oh, ain't it awful?" or "Oooh, wasn't she mean?" They leave the reaction to the listener. One exception I think of is in Eggs and Marrowbone", where the last line of the next to last stanza is the punch line to the joke: "Wasn't she a blamed old fool, that she didn't grab that pole?" I see that kind of comment, a wry joke, as a sort of standard exception. There's a similar exceptional line in The Molecatcher's Wife.

Similarly, they don't report what's in a character's mind as (s)he does whatever it is. That's for the listener to infer.

As to the origin and status of the classic ballads, we're getting close to the immemorial argument about "what's a folk song?" about which the less said, the better. Personally, and not claiming that I am "RIGHT", I tend to go with the Child, Sharp et al. parameters of what they were studying. They were studying the evidences of a culture, defining "folk song" for their purposes to mean a song found in the mouths of the unspoiled folk, as it were, passed down and modified by oral tradition among the musically and literarily unschooled, in order to divine the cultural traces untainted by learning or training.

The main aspect in which I strongly disagree with Professor Child and his ilk is the claim that a folk song had no individual author--ever.
Not just that the author was unknown, but that there was none. Folk songs, by their lights, as I understand it, sort of spontaneously appeared. That seems like so much bushwah, to me.

I expect others can point out other classic-ballad characteristics that I'm not thinking of right now.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: definiton of a ballad
From: Don Firth
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 01:24 PM

Uncle Dave's comments just above are essentially what Prof. David Fowler outlined in his course, "The Popular Ballad," that I took in the U. of Washington English Department in 1958. Works for me.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: definiton of a ballad
From: kendall
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 01:33 PM

I'm reminded of that old mountain banjo picker when asked if he could read music, "Not enough to hurt my playing."


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Terry McDonald
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 02:18 PM

I like the point about the song being in the third person - I'd not noticed that before.


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 02:36 PM

This is the start of a six page definition from Funk and Wagnall's Standard Dictionary of Folklore - fairly comprehensive, but doesn't suit everybody, especially those who don't hold withnew-fangled gadgets like dictionaries
Jim Carroll.

Ballad - A form of narrative folk song, developed in the Middle Ages in Europe, to which has been applied very ambiguously the name ballad (Danish vise, Spanish romance, Russian bylina, Ukrainian dumi, Serbian junacka pesme, etc.). This type of folk song varies considerably with time and place, but certain characteristics remain fairly constant and seemingly fundamental: 1) A ballad is narrative. 2) A ballad is sung. 3) A ballad belongs to the folk in content, style, and designation. 4) A ballad focuses on a single incident. 5) A ballad is impersonal, the action moving of itself by dialog and incident quickly to the end.
A ballad is story. Of the four elements common to all narrative—action, character, setting, and theme—the ballad emphasizes the first. Setting is casual; theme is often implied; characters are usually types and even when more individual are undeveloped, but action carries the interest. The action is usually highly dramatic, often startling and all the more impressive because it is unrelieved. The ballad practices a rigid economy in relating the action; incidents antecedent to the climax are often omitted, as are explanatory and motivating details. The action is usually of a plot sort and the plot often reduced to the moment of climax; that is, of the unstable situation and the resolution which constitutes plot, the ballad often concentrates on the resolution leaving the listener to supply details and antecedent material.
Almost without exception ballads were sung; often they were accompanied by instrumental music. The tunes are traditional and probably as old as the words, but of the two—story and melody—story is basic. Many ballads were sung to a variety of melodies. Unlike lyric songs in which the meaning is not so important and which are consequently subordinated to the music, ballads, in which the contrary situation obtains, always subordinate the melody to the words. More variety exists in ballad music than in ballad form and content, for it ranges from the modal types of the West, based on the Gregorian, to the more florid and ornamental types of Greece, the Balkans, and Russia owing much to Byzantine tradition. Here and there, as for example among the South Slavs, instead of melody the ballad is often accompanied by rhythmical chant, almost recitative. The point is, of course, that the ballad is not simply recited or told, but given interpretation and emotional power by the accompanying melody.
The ballad belongs to the folk, but it is by no means primitive or barbaric; rather it is the product of accomplished and often literary-conscious poets.


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Bill D
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 02:51 PM

practical working definition

A song that, if you announce it IS a ballad, all but the dedicated find they need to be elsewhere.


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 03:10 PM

Bill, I'm afraid that few things get up my nose faster or further than ballad denouncers, so I looked a couple of your previous Mudcat postings. Turns out in one of them you mention Doc Watson, Dan Crary, Merle Travis and Norman Blake in the space of a few dozen words. Just think of a ballad as the Doc Watson of folksong and you won't go far wrong


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 03:13 PM

I'd not noticed that before

Certain ballads aren't - the so-called Goodnight Ballads - such as Tyne of Harrow, Captain Kidd, and Hanged I Shall Be. Also certain of The Bothy Ballads,such Lamachree & Megrum and Scranky Black Farmer.


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 03:14 PM

All in the fist person that is!


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 03:14 PM

first person


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: kendall
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 03:25 PM

I like ballads, but those that go on and on and on get to me after the 42nd verse...and what will you give to your second cousin's left handed hairdressers step friend...BORING


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 03:53 PM

"I like ballads, but those that go on and on and on get to me after the 42nd verse...and what will you give to your second cousin's left handed hairdressers step friend...BORING"

Inevitable as 'It's going to piss down with rain tomorrow".
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Don Firth
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 04:03 PM

This sort of thing enrages the purists, of course, but that's why I edit. In the way I sing Lord Randal, for example (which I believe is what kendall is referring to), the dying Lord Randal bequeaths his gold and his silver to his mother (the rest of his many relatives, his horses, his hounds, and his retainers all get short shrift) and then leaves his sweetheart "a rope from hell to hang her!" Keep the essentials of the story, but cut endless repetition that doesn't add much to what is already there. Audiences of former times probably enjoyed this sort of thing, but modern audiences, used to songs that seldom last more than three minutes, seem to have a low boredom threshold.

Early on, I compared versions of ballads sung by Richard Dyer-Bennet (who also tends to enrage purists for a number of reasons) with the texts I found in ballad collections, and noted that he had a real knack for presenting the complete story, but in a singable length.

Nevertheless, I was (am) often accused of being a purist myself. . . .

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: maire-aine
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 04:24 PM

If the ballad writers/publishers were getting paid by the word, that would explain the length.

Maryanne


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 04:36 PM

By the simplest definition it is "a song that tells a story."
Many traditional ballads may be ancient and full of boring detail but there are also more recently written ones that I love. Marty Robbins "Gunfighter Ballads" told some great stories, some were old, some were more recent and some were written by Marty himself. Tom T. Hall wrote some great "story songs" in the first person, and I would call them ballads as well. Johnny Cash's "Dorrain" was also a great one in the first person as well. On the other hand I have heard mushy love songs referred to as ballads although they contained little if any story line. If a song tells a good story and the story, not the music, is what first catches your attention I would call it a ballad.


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 04:40 PM

I think we're talking about folk ballads as opposed to pop ballads.

Although a lot of what the dictionary definition says could be applied to say Edith Piaf songs.

I'm not really sure its definable easily.


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 04:57 PM

I am by no means clear what "of the folk" means. It may mean that a ballad is not a ballad unless it is a folk song, or it may mean that a ballad is not a ballad unless it sounds like a folk song, but I would not see that either test was necessary.


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: curmudgeon
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 05:40 PM

I do like the explanations of Uncle Dave, Jim Carroll and Sandy McLean. I would add that some time in the late 30s/40's the music industry misappropriated the term to refer to any slow love song they wished to perpetrate on the public.

But further, we should differentiate between the longer narrative, Child/Big bBallads,Muckle Sangs and the more down to earth folk ballads of later creation. I'll give examples if anyone's interested in pursuing this - Tom Hall


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 05:40 PM

Barbara Allen is a ballad?

You mean like

Ba ba ba. Ba ba b'ra a'n
Ba ba ba. Ba ba b'ra a'n
Ba ba ba. Ba ba b'ra a'n
You got me rockin an' a' reelin
Swingin' from the ceilin'
Ba b'ra a'n

Well! You learn summat new every day...

:D


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Bill D
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 05:53 PM

*tsk*... Fred McCormick...I see my attempt at cynical humor went a mite astray. *little grin*...

I like ballads. I DO a few ballads. I am one who stays in the room when a ballad is announced.

My posts here go waaaayyy back to '96, and I have posted lyrics to ballads, pieces of some, and some complete MP3s to help folks learn tunes. I am sorry anyone worried for a minute that I was "denouncing" ballads. I guess I gotta be more careful....

(anyone need a tune to a Child ballad? I have some for almost every one for which there IS a known tune.)


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: JHW
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 07:17 PM

My introduction to ballads was Nic Jones singing Annan Water via a Dansette record player. But Annan Water as by Nic or as writ on the walls of the Blue Bell (or Ball?) in Annan both start in the 1st person as border and bothy ballads already mentioned yet must be ballads.
The parameter that the song should contain no comment I hadn't thought of but as I'd never thought of 'Eggs and Marrowbones' or 'The Molecatcher' as ballads perhaps I'd assimilated that feeling without identifying it. 'John Barleycorn' tells a story but because it is clearly a fictitious analogy it doesn't feel like a ballad any more than (for me) Marrowbones or Molecatcher. Perhaps the story has to feel as though it did once happen? But then there's my favourite Tamlane. Tricky. What about scale - fair enough the dread of 42 verses but can just 3 ever be a ballad?

John, I love ballads me.


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Leadfingers
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 08:08 PM

I still call a Ballad a Traditional Song that tells a story .


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 08:15 PM

'I would add that some time in the late 30s/40's the music industry misappropriated the term to refer to any slow love song they wished to perpetrate on the public.'

Are you quite sure its not the world of folk music buffs who have misappropriated a term which is in common usage? If we decided things by democratic means - you lot would have lost your deposit.

Even in the world of folk music - I have heard simple love songs like Plaisir d'Amour referred to as a ballad.

I don't know why we always seem to be engaged in this sort of discussion - folk music means this, and now a ballad means that...

And what of the murder ballads....the fatal summer school of American folksongs - they don't really all fit your blueprint. sometimes they get taken over by another school of music - like Mckinley or White House Blues. Presumably at one time a doleful tale of the assasination - but before long a happy go lucky ragtime and bluegrass favourite.

I think whatever you decide - the folk process will frustrate your plans to confine it to one meaning. If only because of the nature human creativity and ingenuity.


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Bill D
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 08:15 PM

Three could be a ballad...if....

One of my favorites is "The Twa Corbies", and it is only 5.

Most stories take a bit longer to flesh out, and ballads usually need a bit of development or we wonder what happened when....xxxx or yyyyy.

I think "Amelia Earhart" is a ballad of sorts...but one verse is commonly left out,(YouTube clip) making a 4 verse story into a strange 3 verse version.


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: curmudgeon
Date: 27 Aug 08 - 09:05 PM

JHW - Willie MacIntosh (Child 183) is only two verses and chorus. Length doesn't matter.

WLD - As a kid, in the late 40s, I heard DJs misusing the word ballad as I learned the term in school. No "world of folk music buffs" here at that time.

And you must live in a very bizarre "world of folk music" if it refers to "Plaisir d'Amour" as a folk ballad.

If you read all the posts, you would also notice a varied expalnation of the term "ballad."


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 02:21 AM

Ther are just over 3 pages (large book page nearly A4, very small print) in Percy A Scholes "The Oxford COmpanion to Music" 10th Edn, Ed. John Owen Ward, about "ballad" and a goodly chink of that about "what is a ballad" - but it will be a nightmare for me to scan and OCR as it is in columns, and I'm certainly not going manually to type it in.

Is there any good way I can put a graphics file up somewhere convenient?


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 03:18 AM

How about coming to the all-day ballad forum led by Marian Button at the Lewes Arms on Saturday 6th. September?

Lewes Arms Workshop No 97

MARIAN BUTTON : BALLAD FORUM

Saturday 6th. September 2008
10.45 a.m.- 4.45 p.m.
Places £15. Booking form available here .

The Lewes Arms
Mount Place,
Lewes,
East Sussex
BN7 1YH

Marian Button has a glorious voice. She is a powerful & spell-binding performer of ballads & traditional songs, with occasional ventures into jazz. She won the prestigious Song Competition at the 2002 National Folk Festival & is a key organiser & performer at the Tenterden Folk Festival.

You are invited to bring at least one traditional or modern ballad of your choice to sing & talk about. To avoid clashes with other contributors, please state your preferred ballad in advance. If your choice has already been taken, we will let you know so that you can choose another. If you are in doubt about what counts as a ballad, please use the contact email or phone to ask.

IN THE EVENING MARIAN BUTTON PERFORMS AT THE LEWES ARMS FOLK CLUB

(admission £5; advance tickets available from address at end of the booking form)

Provisional Timetable
10.45         Registration & coffee; order lunch (refreshments are not included)
12.30 - 13.30         Lunch
15.00         Tea/coffee break
16.45         Finish

N.B. Booking is recommended as numbers are limited. Music will be sent in advance.
Maps & accommodation lists will be sent on request.


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 03:28 AM

yeh I'm willing to own up to living in a bizarre world.

I still think if you went out on the streets asking the public to name a singer of ballads - you'd be more likely to get Matt Monro mentioned than Ewan MacColl.

Like I say the blokes compiling The Oxford Companion to Music don't make the rules. the Joe Blogg's out there in the world we inhabit make the rules of common usage. Oxford dons are just crapping themselves trying to keep up.


I seem to remember both Burl Ives and Joan Baez referring to Greensleeves and Plaisir D'Amour as a ballads.

And some people used to talk abot 'ballades' - with an 'e' - is that something different?


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 03:28 AM

I assumed the questioner was referring to 'folk ballads' in which case 'Plaisir d'Amour' or 'Strangers In the Night', as good as they might be, don't get a look in.
Personally I don't think 'a song that tells a story' is enough of an explanation. The English language tradition is basically a narrative one so virtually all the songs tell a story, even if it's only about a young woman looking for her 'Spotted Cow' and spending the afternoon snogging instead. Ballads are more than that, using techniques like incremental repetition, impersonalisation and commonplaces, stripping the narrative down to the action... a whole bundle of distinguishing features which make them unique. There are hundreds of books defining ballads and distinguishing them from the rest of the folk repertoire, among the most enjoyable (though not the most reliable) are probably Evelyn K Wells' 'The Ballad Tree' or Willa Muir's 'Living With Ballads'.
As Curmudgeon rightly says, ballads can be long or short, 'size really doesn't matter'. Personally, I've always found someone who judges a song or ballad by its length, an indication of whether or not they have the retention of a goldfish - a good ballad is as long as it needs to be.
I do think that the longer songs need a little more thought and work in order to put them across, but on the other hand, an indifferent 3 verse navel-gazing singer-songwriter piece badly sung is 3 verses too long as far as I'm concerned - let's not confuse size with quality.
Hamish Henderson described the ballads as 'The Muckle Sangs' (The Big Songs), and MacColl referred to them as being 'the high water mark of the tradition' and 'the folk equivalent of Shakespeare' . They have acted continuously as a major form of entertainment and expression for centuries, far longer than any other musical-oral form, they've been found in the mouths of poorly educated farm-workers, fishermen, servants and millworkers. Right up to 30 years ago they were still to be heard particularly from non-educated Travellers, which, to me indicates thet they must have something for them.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 03:48 AM

WD40
I've always thought that the 'make-it-up-as -you-go-along' and 'words-mean-what-I-want-them-to-mean' philosophy would lead to the death of communication (pretty much as has happened on the folk scene). Definition is about consensus in the long term, misuse of words leads to chaos, the lexicographers arbitrate so we can still keep talking to each other.

A ballade is:
A. A verse form usually consisting of three stanzas of eight or ten lines each stanza, and an envoy, or brief final stanza, ending with the same last line as that of the preceding stanzas.
or
B. A musical composition, usually for the piano, having the romantic or dramatic quality of a ballad.

Got that from a dictionary so therefore is not to be trusted!!!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 04:23 AM

Here's a thing of wonder; Mrs Pearl Brewer of Pocahantas, Arkensas, singing a five verse version of The Cruel Mother (All Down by the Greenwood Side) in 1958 and bringing it in around 2 minutes.

http://maxhunter.missouristate.edu/0277/index.html

This, to my ears, is a consummate reduction to the very essence of the ballad; like the work of a skilled saucier, albeit one achieved by means of the folk process*. First time I heard this my wife was on night shift & I was sitting up in the wee small hours exploring The Max Hunter Archive (as one does) and chanced on Mrs Brewer's superlative rendering - quite chilled me to the marrow so it did.

* Another term which has inspired long debate, and rightly so.


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 04:46 AM

lovely song thanks IB.


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 05:30 AM

Sorry Bill. I did get the humorous riposte. But as I said there's few things which produce a faster kneejerk reaction in me than ballad begrudgers. However, when I saw your posting about Doc Watson I thought 'this man can't be all bad'. And of course Doc has made some excellent ballad recordings himself.

Personally I shall ignore the begrudgers and continue to regard the ballads as one of the pinnacles of folk tradition, along with Homeric epics, amhránaí ar an sean nós, and some of the massive and extraordinary folktales of Gaelic Ireland.

But maybe anyone who is less than totally gobsmacked by Ewan MacColl singing Clyde's Water should be somewhere else.


*tsk*... Fred McCormick...I see my attempt at cynical humor went a mite astray. *little grin*...

I like ballads. I DO a few ballads. I am one who stays in the room when a ballad is announced.
y posts here go waaaayyy back to '96, and I have posted lyrics to ballads, pieces of some, and some complete MP3s to help folks learn tunes. I am sorry anyone worried for a minute that I was "denouncing" ballads. I guess I gotta be more careful....

(anyone need a tune to a Child ballad? I have some for almost every one for which there IS a known tune.)


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 06:12 AM

'I've always thought that the 'make-it-up-as -you-go-along' and 'words-mean-what-I-want-them-to-mean' philosophy would lead to the death of communication'

Thankfully words still mean what people want them to mean, not what you want them to mean. This probably ensures the continuation of communication skills throughout the general population. Although it does leave YOU with a problem.

You really need to preface your messages with:-

Amongst the acolytes of the folk cult what we call folkmusic/ a ballad/ etc.....)

Because when Michael Parkinson says to Jack Jones, what i really love is your way with a ballad - you can't get away from the fact that everybody in England and Ireland (yourself included) knows exactly and with precision what he is talking about .....

I still think you would also find many people in folk music who would disagree with your very narrow definition of a ballad. 'balladry' is a skill which has many tangential offshoots.

Ask yourself just what you are aiming for - complete cultural autism for folkmusic. there are simply too many people out there (many in the world of folk music) who have never heard of the ballad of tamm Linn, who use the word ballad. And its their language, and they are entitled to do that.


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 07:10 AM

"Thankfully words still mean what people want them to mean, not what you want them to mean"
Without re-opening old arguments I suggest you trawl through some of the 'folk song definitions' threads. I have always assumed - perhaps wrongly, that Mudcat is folk-song based; never realised we had to prefix all discussions with "Amongst the acolytes of the folk cult what we call folkmusic/ a ballad/ etc......"; thought that was what we were about
As much as I migh admire Michael Parkinson as an interviewer, can't think of anybody I'd be less likely to go to for information on my music (or Jack Jones, for that matter).
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 07:26 AM

can anyone define a genuine ballad?.
by that I mean,ballad in the way folk enthusiasts,understand the word.[eg Barbara Allen,LordRandall]
does it matter,if the ballad has been written,and is it important that it should have been sung and or altered by the folk or numbers of people.
that was my original post,thats pretty clear,what genre I am asking about.
http://www.dickmiles.com


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 07:32 AM

oh on the subject of Tam Linn,the version I sing,which I believe was tampered with by BertLloyd,would not fit Funk and Wagnalls version of a ballad[because it has not been sung by the people but by folk revivalists].
but are not the folk revivalists people?


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 07:38 AM

That Marian Button session should be a cracker - but I bet the death count over the day is huge!

Regrettably the WMD version of "communication" puts me in mind of the chimpanzees who hang over the railings at my local pub and communicate with grunts and leers, punctuated with "fucking" before very noun (much as German starts every noun with a capital letter) so that their "communication" tends to sound like a 2-stroke BSA Bantam in motion (whiiiiiiiine phut phut meaooooooon phut phut phut weoooaw phut phut phutty phut phut phuttedy phut)


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 07:43 AM

Its all arguable really. What constitutes a narrative - could be some very sketchy lyric. What constiutes folkmusic. what constitutes a ballad.

Although admittedly folkmusic is a cosy little enclave with its own buzz words - it really does have to have some confluence with the rest of humanity.

i'm sure i've heard Woody Guthrie's work referred to as folkballads. And Springfield Mountain. is it still a folk ballad when it Earl Scruggs or Mike Seeger - do the tale of the 'sarpint that bit me on the heel' as FOD.

And what of all those Irish ballads of rebellion - we know who wrote most of those.

can you really seriously turn round and say - everybody who called these songs ballads is wrong; it's only me that's that's right.

Dumb question, of course you can.....


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Silver Slug
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 08:15 AM

Is 'The Ballad of Bonnie and Cyde' a ballad? How about 'The Ballad of John and Yoko.' Are you saying "These are 'pop' songs and are not worthy of consideration a ballads." And yet both meet at least some of the criteria which was set out above.


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 08:48 AM

Silver Slug
"Are you saying "These are 'pop' songs......."
Yup, though 'worthiness' doesn't come into it - it's a question of definition, not value. Basically, if it hasn't gone through the 'folk mincer' it isn't a 'folk ballad'. Doesn't mean it hasn't been created using folk forms.
WMD
Most of what you say in your last posting is worth debating - not sure where 'Plaisir d'Amour' fits into all that though.
Of course, you could adopt the 'singing horse' definition, which appears to have crept in here along the way.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: peregrina
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 09:12 AM

The definitions being discussed here are a kind of scholarly construct; that does not make them invalid, but it means they are an attempt to catch the horse after it bolted, to impose one kind of order on a fantastically various, long lasting and evolving group of songs and song-types with diverse origins and transmissions.

The ballad singers themselves also had their own terms.
I think Jean Ritchie has written in her song book about 'ballets' being the printed sheet. And some of the ballad singers of North Carolina called the songs we call ballads 'the old songs' and 'the love songs'. Dillard Chandler says (notes to Dark Holler SFW CD 40159) 'I've always heard it called a love song... Ain't nothing to it, no rhythm, nothing to dance through. It's just an old-timey love song.'

If a language is a dialect with an army attached, is a ballad a certain song type with folklorists attached, in debate?


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: peregrina
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 09:22 AM

A crucial formal defining feature that sets ballads (whatever they are!) apart from other compositions that were transmitted orally, and in oral-print interaction (like the South Slavic heroic songs studied by Lord and Parry) is that they are have verses (or stanzas), rather than being continuous.


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 09:27 AM

Jean Richie gave a wonderful interview to The Irish Times some years ago; her comments on using 'Barbara Allen' to draw out the traditional songs from field singers should be compulsory reading for anybody interested in the subject.
The term 'ballad' is used by older people here in Ireland to refer to the song sheets sold around the fairs and markets up to the middle of the 20th century.
As far as the tradition is concerned, the Famous Three-Hundred-And Five' is as good a starting point as anywhere for debating the ballads.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 09:32 AM

No I don't think we need to call in Mr Ed. we just need to agree that definitions....well, given their history in folkmusic - they're a bit suspect.

Martin Carthy said in his latest DVD - the idea that English folk clubs should be about nothing but English folk music nearly killed the whole movement off at onetime. and on this point (if no other)I agree with him 100%.

I just hope none of this pedanry isn't there in these new University courses in England. Otherwise we will have armies of opinionated twits - none of whom will have spent long enough figuring out and obsessing about guitars, melodeons or whatever. You really do have to put the time in. And my view is that you learn not to be proud - you learn to steal from anyone who's got something to teach you.


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: JohnB
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 10:38 AM

Would modern(ish) songs like:
Leader of the Pack
1952 Vincent Black Lightning
Be considered Ballads? If not now, how about in 400 years?
JohnB


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Subject: RE: definition of a ballad
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 28 Aug 08 - 11:25 AM

Well Al, let me surprise you - most "folk clubs" have never said that an English folk club should hear only English folk songs. But they should know the difference, and hear enough, and those purveying a tradition should have a material or heritable connecion to it.

And as for universities "I just hope none of this pedanry isn't there" too. That's what universities are for, abstract detailed accurate understanding. THeyneed all the pedantry they can get, but if there is not enough room for all of it then some will have to be not there in which case our pious hopes (although you surprise me by putting it so) will be not met.


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