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Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?

theleveller 18 May 10 - 05:03 AM
greg stephens 18 May 10 - 05:05 AM
Valmai Goodyear 18 May 10 - 05:12 AM
Richard Bridge 18 May 10 - 05:17 AM
Jim Carroll 18 May 10 - 05:38 AM
Leadfingers 18 May 10 - 06:10 AM
Dave the Gnome 18 May 10 - 06:19 AM
IanC 18 May 10 - 06:22 AM
Valmai Goodyear 18 May 10 - 07:47 AM
Richard Bridge 18 May 10 - 07:54 AM
Jim Carroll 18 May 10 - 08:53 AM
Jim Carroll 18 May 10 - 08:56 AM
Rapparee 18 May 10 - 09:50 AM
Fi 18 May 10 - 09:52 AM
Flashmeister 18 May 10 - 10:27 AM
GUEST,leeneia 18 May 10 - 11:28 AM
Bonzo3legs 18 May 10 - 11:43 AM
Leadfingers 18 May 10 - 11:49 AM
GUEST,Russ 18 May 10 - 01:05 PM
GUEST,Gabriel Hound 18 May 10 - 01:24 PM
Bonzo3legs 18 May 10 - 02:02 PM
Jim Carroll 18 May 10 - 02:49 PM
Bert 18 May 10 - 03:01 PM
Herga Kitty 18 May 10 - 03:41 PM
Herga Kitty 18 May 10 - 03:42 PM
Jim Carroll 18 May 10 - 04:50 PM
GUEST,^&* 18 May 10 - 05:08 PM
oldhippie 18 May 10 - 05:20 PM
Herga Kitty 18 May 10 - 06:54 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 18 May 10 - 07:07 PM
Charley Noble 18 May 10 - 08:31 PM
Janie 18 May 10 - 10:14 PM
mg 18 May 10 - 10:22 PM
*#1 PEASANT* 18 May 10 - 10:24 PM
GUEST,Carollizc 18 May 10 - 11:20 PM
GUEST 18 May 10 - 11:26 PM
dick greenhaus 19 May 10 - 12:16 AM
GUEST,^&* 19 May 10 - 02:35 AM
Jim Carroll 19 May 10 - 03:25 AM
GUEST 19 May 10 - 06:12 AM
Marje 19 May 10 - 06:15 AM
GUEST,Ian Hendrie 19 May 10 - 11:22 AM
theleveller 19 May 10 - 11:39 AM
GUEST 19 May 10 - 02:33 PM
Jim Carroll 19 May 10 - 03:03 PM
GUEST,Goose Gander 19 May 10 - 03:12 PM
The Sandman 19 May 10 - 03:27 PM
GUEST,Goose Gander 19 May 10 - 03:34 PM
Jim Carroll 19 May 10 - 04:16 PM
GUEST,Goose Gander 19 May 10 - 04:32 PM
mousethief 19 May 10 - 05:05 PM
Art Thieme 19 May 10 - 05:10 PM
Stringsinger 19 May 10 - 05:49 PM
Rapparee 19 May 10 - 06:27 PM
The Sandman 19 May 10 - 07:03 PM
The Sandman 19 May 10 - 07:12 PM
The Sandman 19 May 10 - 07:16 PM
GUEST,Goose Gander 19 May 10 - 08:55 PM
theleveller 20 May 10 - 03:32 AM
Bert 20 May 10 - 03:40 AM
theleveller 20 May 10 - 03:42 AM
Marje 20 May 10 - 04:10 AM
The Sandman 20 May 10 - 08:06 AM
Marje 20 May 10 - 08:20 AM
Brian Peters 20 May 10 - 08:56 AM
theleveller 20 May 10 - 09:05 AM
GUEST,Jon Dudley 20 May 10 - 09:27 AM
The Sandman 20 May 10 - 11:00 AM
theleveller 20 May 10 - 12:27 PM
GUEST,Goose Gander 20 May 10 - 12:30 PM
GUEST,Gabriel Hound 20 May 10 - 01:27 PM
Marje 20 May 10 - 01:46 PM
olddude 20 May 10 - 01:57 PM
GUEST,mg 20 May 10 - 03:11 PM
Bonzo3legs 20 May 10 - 03:55 PM
GUEST,mg 20 May 10 - 05:10 PM
Jim Carroll 20 May 10 - 05:26 PM
Stringsinger 20 May 10 - 05:40 PM
Jim Carroll 21 May 10 - 03:45 AM
theleveller 21 May 10 - 03:46 AM
Bonzo3legs 21 May 10 - 09:55 AM
GUEST,Steamin' Willie 21 May 10 - 10:22 AM
Art Thieme 21 May 10 - 05:34 PM
The Sandman 21 May 10 - 06:03 PM
GUEST,Curtis 21 May 10 - 07:23 PM
GUEST,mg 21 May 10 - 07:50 PM
Dave MacKenzie 21 May 10 - 07:57 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 22 May 10 - 05:53 AM
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Subject: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: theleveller
Date: 18 May 10 - 05:03 AM

What's your opinion on changing, adapting or rewriting traditional songs?

There are already numerous versions of Raggle Taggle Gypsies, Seven Yellow Gypsies etc. and I've tried to find a version that was set in Yorkshire that might fit in with the long history of "Egyptians" and travellers in the county. Having failed to do so, I decided to adapt the song and called it The Scarborough Gypsies and, at the same time, add a suitable ending to round the story off.

I'm certainly not going to try to pass this off as a traditional version, but is it sacrilege or just another chapter in the history of a fine song?


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: greg stephens
Date: 18 May 10 - 05:05 AM

There is no rule book, luckily. Do what you like. There is the folk process that shapes our ends, rough-hew them as we will.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 18 May 10 - 05:12 AM

It's always been done, consciously or subconsciously, and if it ever stops the tradition will die. If the rewrite is good it will live on, and if not it will fade away. It won't destroy the original. Go for it!

On the sbuject of The Seven Yellow Gypsies, I wonder if the The Gypsy's Wedding Day could be considered a possible prequel to it ('Once I was a gypsy girl, but now a squire's bride').

Valmai (Lewes)


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 May 10 - 05:17 AM

THat is the folk process. GO for it.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 May 10 - 05:38 AM

'Tisn't the tradition IMO, but nothing wrong with it.
Jim Caroll

The Hippies and the Beatniks, O
Miles Wooton.

Rather late last night, Mr. Jones came home
On the 8.45 from Victoria-O.
He was rich and fat, with a big bowler hat,
And he hated the hippies and the beatniks, O.

Well, he put his key in his mock-Tudor door,
and he called to his wife, "Well, I'm home, dear-O;
The train was late and I had to wait,
It must be the hippies and the beatniks-O".

But no answer came as he stepped inside,
But his daughter came to meet him-O.
"O, mummy's not here - she's gone, I fear,
Away with the hippies and the beatniks-O".

"Go fill up the tank in the 4-litre Jag,
For the Mini is not so speedy-O,
And I will drive till I find her alive,
Or dead, with the hippies and the beatniks".

Well, he drove north and he drove south,
Up the motorways and the byways - O;
Till he came soon to a hippie commune
And there he espied Mrs. Jones, O.

"What makes you leave your house and your car,
The washing machine and the telly-O;
Your children three, (not to mention me)
To go with the hippies and the beatniks-O ?".

"What care I for my house and my car,
The washing machine and the telly-O.
The children three - for now I am free
To go with the hippies and the beatniks-O".

"And as for you, well, the day I rue,
That ever we got married-O.
I'll grow my hair and I'll travel anywhere,
Along with the hippies and the beatniks - O".


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 18 May 10 - 06:10 AM

Why do you think there are so many variations of Traditional songs ?
People have been adapting/rewriting old songs for ever !


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 18 May 10 - 06:19 AM

Folk processes withing folk process!

Geoff Higginbottom does a very similar version to the one Jom noted but it is 'The hippies and the hairies-O'. Contains the line 'Prepare for me the MGB-GT, the Rover is not so speedy-O'. I think it may have come from Fred Wedlock who probably got it from Miles Wooton.

Just out of interest :-)

DeG


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: IanC
Date: 18 May 10 - 06:22 AM

There's also the Sid Kipper version "Raggle Taggle Travellers".


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 18 May 10 - 07:47 AM

'He put his key in his mock-Tudor door' was a show-stopping line when Miles sang it. I would rate it alongside 'So - with the tears still streaming down her pullover -' in the monologue The Wedding That Wasn't, and the poet Barker's immortal 'Sex with a concertina is rarely accomplished discreetly.'

Parody is a special class of adaptation; it doesn't usually move the song on or lead to further growth. Some parodies come to displace the original: Tom Brown has pointed out that 'I'm a Mortal Unlucky Old Chap' was collected from a great many English country singers, but the song it parodied ('I'm a Happy-Go-Lucky Old Chap', about an improbably cheerful farmer) didn't survive. The spoof opera The Dragon of Wantley apparently killed Handel opera stone dead for a generation.

The Sussex source singer Gordon Hall used to extend and parody his traditional songs: listen to his version of The Constant Lovers, which has a magnificently raucous happy ending, or his versions of To Be A Farmer's Boy or The Farmer's Toast:

'I have lawns, I have bowers,
Jacuzzis and showers,
Two yachts and a villa in Parma;
I have videos and tellys,
Wax jacket, green wellies,
Sod you, I'm all right, says the farmer.'

Valmai (Lewes)


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 May 10 - 07:54 AM

I thought it was the Daimler that was not so speedy as the MGB.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 May 10 - 08:53 AM

"The hippies and the hairies-O'"
This was adapted from Miles Wooton's version by Donal Maguire.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 May 10 - 08:56 AM

In Ireland, Leo Maguire's popped up The Whistling Gypsy was so popular it more or less killed the traditional version over here.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Rapparee
Date: 18 May 10 - 09:50 AM

Gee, and below the salt is that thread on fusion....


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Fi
Date: 18 May 10 - 09:52 AM

Show me an original version of any song.......


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Flashmeister
Date: 18 May 10 - 10:27 AM

I think that in order for songs to evolve and be pertinent to the singer/musician performing them then a certain amount of tweaking is ok - I do it as do lots of folkies I know.
It'd be very boring if we all sang the same song by rote - I've had a session before where someone did 7 yellow gypsiesm then another did Raggle Taggle and before long it bacame the running joke of the night with the likes of Gypsy Davey and others cropping up too!


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 18 May 10 - 11:28 AM

I think that the reason we sing trad songs is to communicate ideas and give musical pleasure. If a feature of a song interferes, I throw that feature out. It may be a word nobody knows or a note nobody can play, so out it goes.

Thus 'ilka bird' becomes 'ev'ry bird', etc


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 18 May 10 - 11:43 AM

Nothing wrong with old English - it was used throughout The Mysteries as adapted by Tony Harrison, to great effect.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 18 May 10 - 11:49 AM

Dialect is fine as long as it sounds natural !


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 18 May 10 - 01:05 PM

For what it is worth.

I know and know of traditional singers who would not dream of changing anything.

I am not one of them.

Russ (Permanent GUEST)


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,Gabriel Hound
Date: 18 May 10 - 01:24 PM

Walter Pardon always maintained that his songs were proper folk songs because they were exactly as written on the old broadsheets and not mucked about with and changed - although listening to old Walter he did have his own distinctive style of singing so I suppose he unconsciously changed them anyway to his own internalised version. Old pre 'revival' singers often had views about folksong and tradition at odds with some of the views many people have today.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 18 May 10 - 02:02 PM

Roger Watson started "updating" folk song lyrics such as Lovely Joan in which the milk white steed is changed to XR3 - to make it more relevant for today's youngsters. I'm not convinced! Ashley Hutchings was rather more subtle.

So...take heed and hither hie


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 May 10 - 02:49 PM

"Walter Pardon always maintained that his songs were proper folk songs because they were exactly as written on the old broadsheets and not mucked about with and changed"
Sorry Gabe, he didn't; he never saw a broadside in his life and learned all his songs aurally from family members.
He started to write his family's songs out in 1948 by piecing them together from surviving family members, and he memorised the tunes on his melodeon. When he started to sing at folk clubs, he took a number of songs he only had in fragmentary form and filled in missing verses from printed versions.
One of his best songs IMO, Down By The Dark Arches, was rebuilt from 2 and a half verses he got from his uncle, the rest came from a printed text. Similarly, he only had two verses of The Parson and The Clerk, again from his Uncle, the rest he filled in from Phil Tanner's version (from a book he found on our shelves).
He was very specific about what he believed to be folk songs, but this had more to do with the general poetry and the tunes rather than the accuracy of text.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Bert
Date: 18 May 10 - 03:01 PM

It's fine, go for it.

You all remember the Mudcat Radio episode where Max played different versions of Stagolee.

Sheesh, even I sang a version.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 18 May 10 - 03:41 PM

Jim

You're assuming that Walton Pardon meant he'd learnt the songs from old broadsheets. I seem to remember hearing (from Tim Laycock) that the songs were handed down orally, but so faithfully that the wording was still the same when compared with old broadsheets.

Kitty


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 18 May 10 - 03:42 PM

Walter Pardon as described by Gabriel, that is!

Kitty


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 May 10 - 04:50 PM

Kitty,
Walter actually assembled his repertoire after the main singers of the family had died by going to his mother and his aunts.
As I said, he didn't place a great deal of value on accuracy and was happy to collate texts if he didn't have full ones.
He regarded the stories of the songs far more important than the 'accuracy' of the text.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,^&*
Date: 18 May 10 - 05:08 PM

It's back to the distinction between "preserving" and "keeping alive". It is at least arguable that when a traditional song ceases to adapt or be adapted, it ceases to be traditional. Adaptation is no guarantee of survival, - but it's absence guarantees death.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: oldhippie
Date: 18 May 10 - 05:20 PM

It's OK. Dropkick Murphys won an award for their adaption of "Amazing Grace". The arrangement, not the lyrics. A lot of purists don't care for it, but that's to be expected.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 18 May 10 - 06:54 PM

Jim - it might have been the Suffolk woodshed boys rather than Walter Pardon that I remembered Tim Laycock was talking about,

Kitty


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 18 May 10 - 07:07 PM

I have to say that many 'updated' folk song texts seem a bit 'crass' to me. Something that interests me about folk songs is that they can be both old and timeless. What I like about them is the sense of seeing another, older culture's 'take' on common human experiences. I'm sorry, but 'bolting on' bang-up-to-the-minute, contemporary concerns sets my teeth on edge - as does fitting double-glazing to a Tudor mansion or performing Shakespeare's plays in contemporary dress.

Speaking personally, I'm not just interested in texts and tunes but also in background and context. I find myself feeling very resentful when performers, who can't imagine anything but the world that they inhabit now, insist on substituting their own, rather narrow, temporarily constrained attitudes for the old songs that I want to hear for their own sake (I have enough imagination to be able to see the relevance of such songs to the modern world, thank you very much!).


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 18 May 10 - 08:31 PM

Leveller-

Do what you feel compelled to do and if it is "an improvement" your version may survive for a generation or so. More likely it will be ignored beyond your immediate circle of friends.

But that's what many folk artists do, rather than repeating what has been done before verbatim.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Janie
Date: 18 May 10 - 10:14 PM

My 16 year old has completely eschewed trad music (I like your voice mom, I just can't stand the songs you sing or listen to!) In the past year, however, he has discovered 'Celtic Punk.'

Lo and behold, he is starting to ask me if certain songs are traditional. Maybe Celtic Punk will be to him what PPM and the KT were to me.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: mg
Date: 18 May 10 - 10:22 PM

I am of the try to preserve it as you found it belief system. Of course, there is room for all sorts of people..some preserve, and some modify..although I think rarely with good results..at least to my ear.

What drives me crazy is when they change the men to women and back and forth it goes, each time getting worse I think.

And someone said the below:
It's back to the distinction between "preserving" and "keeping alive". It is at least arguable that when a traditional song ceases to adapt or be adapted, it ceases to be traditional. Adaptation is no guarantee of survival, - but it's absence guarantees death.

I totally disagree. A traditional song can stay quite traditional without being intentionally altered. And I think it goes not happen to be so that absence of adaptation guarantees death.

I know of people who think they can improve on things. I usually cringe but I am fairly polite in person. But I am inwardly thinking what did they do that for?

As for parodies...that is not really adapting a song. It is usually more of a joke..cute the first time but painful the 15th...

It does not matter a bit to me if I have no idea what a davit tackle is or what a doffing mistress does...and I don't need to take the town I loved so well and make it into Kelso or Bellingham (WA, USA) to localize it..and let's make Kelso a pulp mill and Bellingham a cement mill rather than a shirt factory....and I don't need to make the shoals of herring into schools of salmon although I have never seen a herring in my life and am surrounded by salmon on three sides...

So that is my contribution. mg


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: *#1 PEASANT*
Date: 18 May 10 - 10:24 PM

Adaptation which is the result of the operation of the many folk processes over time works. It is very slow often subtle and the finished product still sounds 2/3 or more trad.

These days under cover of adaptation artists are creating music that literally buldozes the original, over night and the finished product may have a few lines of lyrics that are the same but is generally fuzed beyond recognition.

It is ok when it is subtle and understanding and sacrilege when it is over done, over night and takes the song into a different genre.

These days adaptation is not so much part of the folk processes but part instead of the money making and marketing processes

Conrad


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,Carollizc
Date: 18 May 10 - 11:20 PM

My dad used to do that, in a song about a fox, the book lyrics read
"Old Mother Flipper=flopper" but Dad found that too awkward, especially when getting an audience of kids to sing along, so the old lady became "Old Mother Jones". We all sing it that way now. Of course, our kids look at us funny when they do, then go on to listen to whomever the flavour is this week.

Go ahead and change the lyrics, the tune too, if the new lyrics don't fit. Some day, someone's dad will send them looking for "the right words" to it, meaning yours. My dad sent me for the right words to a version of Barbara Allen he'd learnt from a gypsy boy before the War.
Carol


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST
Date: 18 May 10 - 11:26 PM

I think that osme adaptation is sometimes necessary. If you look at "The Rigs of the Time", it becomes a litany of mid-Victorian moaning about price increases. However, in Martin Carthy's hands, it becomes a tool for expressing, and even inciting, anger - something the song was meant to do in the first place. If we cling slavishly to the old lyrics, it not only becomes stale but irrelevant. Updating it renews that relevance.

Carol


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 19 May 10 - 12:16 AM

The folk process is something like wearing old socks--you throw it up against a wall, and what sticks, is folk.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,^&*
Date: 19 May 10 - 02:35 AM

mg

It's back to the distinction between "preserving" and "keeping alive". It is at least arguable that when a traditional song ceases to adapt or be adapted, it ceases to be traditional. Adaptation is no guarantee of survival, - but it's absence guarantees death.

I totally disagree. A traditional song can stay quite traditional without being intentionally altered


We're not really disagreeing all that much, mg. When I talk of the song "adapting" (as against "being adapted") I mean unintentional alteration!


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 May 10 - 03:25 AM

"These days under cover of adaptation artists are creating music that literally buldozes the original, over night"
I think I agree with this.
I see nothing 'wrong' with re-making old songs such as 'Hippies and the Beatniks/Hairies' - a bit of fun really. I certainly see nothing 'wrong' with creating brand new songs using old forms and styles; these can fit comfortably into a singing evening next to the earlier ones, though I wouldn't in a thousand years count them as being, nor ever likely to become traditional - not since we lost the process which made them such. Change is not tradition, which is much more than adapting a song to incorporate new trends or poetic fashions.
But as happy as I am to sing and listen to newly-composed songs, I find myself always falling back on the old ones: for their stories and characterisations, for their beautiful and oh-so-subtle poetry, for their use of language, accent, commonplaces and similies, and, as Shimrod says, for the important place they occupy in our history and culture.
As an atheist, I occasionally read bits of The Bible - for the beautiful use of language, for the stories, and sometimes for annotating and referencing songs and stories in our own collection. I am always struck by how superior the old King James translation is to the modern re-write. The new one maybe more concise, but 'Lost in Translation' just about sums it up for me.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 May 10 - 06:12 AM

OK, I think it's time to release this version of Raggle Taggle Gypsies into the wild. I wrote this in collusion with my daughter, who was then a student with hippy proclivities, in the mid-1990s. The "Spice Girls" reference dates it a bit, and can be replaced with whatever seems appropriate at the time (or just use "boy band"). Other social details are also showing their age a bit, which only proves that topical versions like this have a limited shelf-life.

I give you my word that we hadn't heard any other parodies at the time - this story just begs to be updated. The final two lines were supplied by my daughter, in deference to Planxty's version ("I'd rather have a kiss from the yellow gypsy's lips..").

THE RAGGLE TAGGLE HIPPIES

Three hippies stood at the garden gate,
With hair down past their shoulders-o
The schoolgirl sat in her bedroom late,
Her heart it melted away as snow.

She plucked off her new school shoes,
All made of scuffproof leather-o,
She ran to the street in her combat boots,
And off with the new age travellers-o.

It was late that night when her Dad came home,
Inquiring for his daughter-o,
Her sister cried, with her head in her hands,
"She's gone with the new age travellers-o."

"O fetch me the keys of the Mercedes,
The Skoda's not so speedy-o,
That I may go and fetch her home
From the convoy of new age travellers-o."

So he set out on the M25,
And got held up in the contraflow,
But at last he came to a festival field,
Full of vans and tents and travellers-o.

And there were the hippies spread all around,
Smoking and drumming and juggling-o,
And there was his daughter lying on the ground,
In the arms of a new age traveller-o.

"What makes you leave your stripped pine bed,
With the duvet plumped up ready-o,
Your Laura Ashley furnishings,
Your Spice Girls posters and your teddy-o?"

"Oh what care I for my stripped pine bed,
My duvet or my teddy-o?
Tonight I will sleep out under the stars,
With a vanload of new age travellers-o."

"What makes you leave your private school,
Where they'll turn you into a lady-o,
Your boyfriend with his well-paid job,
Your CD player and your radio?"

"Oh what care I for my private school,
I know this may sound funny-o,
But I'd rather have a joint from the hairy hippy's lips,
Than all your gifts or money-o".

Marje


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Marje
Date: 19 May 10 - 06:15 AM

Oops, that Guest was me. For some reason I had trouble loading the post, and then I found my cookie had crumbled into cyberspace. All sorted now, I think.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,Ian Hendrie
Date: 19 May 10 - 11:22 AM

Some time ago I bought the following CD :

STREET CRIES: ASHLEY HUTCHINGS & VARIOUS ARTISTS TSCD535

whose publicity blurb states :

An outstanding new album conceived and produced by one of the most significant creators in the folk music field. Traditional music has always changed and adapted to fit and respond to the society that it reflects. Ashley Hutchings has re-written a dozen traditional songs and set them in the present day - don't be alarmed, the experiment has worked beautifully and the results may well pass into tradition themselves.

I have to say that I absolutely hate this recording and the chances of any of these tracks surviving long into the future is nil. Others may disagree.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: theleveller
Date: 19 May 10 - 11:39 AM

Thanks for the advice, folks. I've done my adaptation - just really relocating it rather than updating it and certainly not a spoof. Now we'll have to learn it!


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 May 10 - 02:33 PM

Jim:
As an atheist, I occasionally read bits of The Bible - for the beautiful use of language, for the stories, and sometimes for annotating and referencing songs and stories in our own collection. I am always struck by how superior the old King James translation is to the modern re-write. The new one maybe more concise, but 'Lost in Translation' just about sums it up for me.

Yeah, both a history teacher and an English teacher in my high schools told us to read Song Of Solomon as a lesson in how to write a love song. It doesn't have the same beauty in the NIV. Bleagh. Just as I would never alter something as lovely as "Dark Eyed Sailor". I'd likely run screaming from the room if anyone ever did.

I'm just not against making songs relevant. I agree with some others here that such relevance is short-lived, but I like *some* of it. And yes, parodies are cute, once. Altering a song for location is something that's always been done, as has altering for an audience. Look at the tales of Robin Hood, and King Arthur, or even Dick Turpin. My dad played at being Dick Turpin, then was shocked as an adult to find that his hero was simply a sheep rustler and all around villain. Things take on lives of their own, once people get hold of them. They should, or they don't deserve to last. (Take that, Justin Bieber!)

Carol


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 May 10 - 03:03 PM

Carol,
Whether we like them or not, folk songs are part of outr culture and our history - they are relevant for what they are. I happen to like them as they were passed on to us, but it doesn't mean we can't change them - just personal preference.
It doesn't mean we can't have both - nobody would dream of scrapping Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet because Sondheim and Berstein came up with a more modern (relevant) version (I hope).
Folk songs have proved their worth by lasting as long as they have.
Ji Carroll


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,Goose Gander
Date: 19 May 10 - 03:12 PM

My opinion: if you're not adapting a trad song, it's just a cover. The question should be, are you doing it tastefully? Are you making it you own while keeping close enough to the spirit of earlier variants?

Re: the Bible, I once saw a bumper sticker that read, "If it ain't King James, it ain't the Bible." I didn't understand what that meant until I read one of those awful, 'modern' translations.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 May 10 - 03:27 PM

cant you go away and write your own songs and leave the traditional songs alone,is nothing of any value any more.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,Goose Gander
Date: 19 May 10 - 03:34 PM

The Good Soldier has reminded us that by adapting a traditional song, you are destroying all value in the world. To whom should I go for absolution?


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 May 10 - 04:16 PM

"My opinion: if you're not adapting a trad song, it's just a cover."
Nonsense, there is a difference between adaptation and interpretation.
Shakespeare can easily be adapted, but it doesn't have to be in order to be relevant; it stands on its own merits (with or without Leonard de Capricio).
Our folk songs have evolved - MacColl's comparison of stones being worn away by the constant action of running water always works for me.
A couple of friends of mine have made their names by turning Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear (and even Ben Hur) into songs - magnificently hilarius, but no longer Shakespeare or Lew Wallace; enjoyable but different.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,Goose Gander
Date: 19 May 10 - 04:32 PM

I suppose it's a matter of definitions, but I would say that a subtle interpretation is still an adaption. What I mean is that there's no reason to attempt a slavish recreation of your source.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: mousethief
Date: 19 May 10 - 05:05 PM

Indeed why bother with a slavish recreation of the source? Pipe your iPod through the PA system and go have a fag.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 19 May 10 - 05:10 PM

check out Bob Gibson's version of Sweet Betsy From Pike. A good song but a whole other tune and attitude.

Someone put together the song I got from old cowboy Del Bray and I called it and recorded it as The Cowboy's Barbara Allen. --- BA is a great old folk song. C.B.A. is just charming, and rather bizarre.

Spider John Koerner doing Shenandoah ain't nothing like the Norman Luboff Choir---but it is pretty wonderful.

The best Shenandoah I ever heard was Jo Stafford's---with her husband Paul Weston leading the orchestra.

One guy's opinion. When it's done well, it is simply done well!!!! A rose is a rose...

Art (I like my Shenandoah too.)


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 19 May 10 - 05:49 PM

Bess Lomax Hawes in her wonderful autobiography says that the nature of the folk arts
is based on stability and change. Stability identifies the art form. Change must be there to ensure its continuance.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Rapparee
Date: 19 May 10 - 06:27 PM

Let's see: "Greensleeves" dates about the time of Hank the 8. How do we know that the words and melody are the same as when it was first played/written?

I'm reminded of the story of the old abbot down in the manuscript storage room, weeping and saying, "It says 'celebrate'!"


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 May 10 - 07:03 PM

its worse than sacrilege,its vandalism.
I suppose the next thing will some bright Spark will rewrite Lord Randall,and we will all have to be bored to death with 21st century Ennui,instead of ancient Ennui,God spare us.
I thought this music was supposed to be enjoyed


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 May 10 - 07:12 PM

Sorry,but these rewrites of the raggle taggle gypsys,dont meet up to the original,lets take MARJES,all these os just sound incongruous in a modern setting,and then we have lady o rhyming with RADIO, ready o and teddy o,its like Enid Blyton,please desist.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 May 10 - 07:16 PM

Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Richard Bridge - PM
Date: 18 May 10 - 07:54 AM

I thought it was the Daimler that was not so speedy as the MGB
why not the funeral hearse?the song has been destroyed why not bury it for ever,its outrageous


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,Goose Gander
Date: 19 May 10 - 08:55 PM

What exactly is the 'original' of Raggle Taggle Gypsy?


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: theleveller
Date: 20 May 10 - 03:32 AM

"What exactly is the 'original' of Raggle Taggle Gypsy?"

Exactly! There must be dozens of quite different versions. Adapting a song doesn't mean writing over it and destroying the original, so Dick's cry of 'vandalism' is a blatant over-reaction. People have talked about the King James Bible, but others would contend that it is a modern translation of the Latin, Greek or Hebrew texts. When Tyndale's Bible first appeared, people were burned as heretics just for posessing a copy. I think Dick wants that to happen to anyone who changes a traditional song (does that include adding a concertina accompaniment?). Put the thumbscrews away, Dick, and save the bonfire for Guy Fawkes night - I thought this music was supposed to be enjoyed.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Bert
Date: 20 May 10 - 03:40 AM

What exactly is the 'original' of Raggle Taggle Gypsy?

Why the FIRST ONE of course.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: theleveller
Date: 20 May 10 - 03:42 AM

My 10-year old daughter has commented that my version won't be a patch on the Waterboys' recording! Cheeky minx!!!!

I'm also reminded that that vandal, Robbie Burns, used the song for his poem Sweet Tibby Dunbar. Sacrilege!


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Marje
Date: 20 May 10 - 04:10 AM

Listen, Dick, I'm very pround of getting lady-o and radio to rhyme. In many versions (and in some of my other verses) nothing rhymes at all except the "O".

I think your remarks are also something of a slur Enid Blyton, who would be quite shocked to be associated with a tale of an immoral runaway girl who ends ups smoking god-knows-what with the hippies. If Enid Blyton had re-written the tale, the girl wouldn't have gone further than the end of her back garden, perhaps with a bottle of ginger beer and her pet dog for company.

And if you can't see that the "incongruous" sound of the modern details is part of the fun, you're really missing the point.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 May 10 - 08:06 AM

you are of course free to do what you like, whether your efforts will stand the test of time remains to be seen.
what has adding a concertina part got to do with this?
I thought we were talking about rewriting traditional songs, and it seems like you are talking about modernising them.
I am of the opinion that good traditional songs have a timeless quality they do not need to be modernised.
it is good job I am not in charge of running the world I would have ,all the Rupert Bear doggerel merchants put in the stocks.
   Most of the efforts I have heard to date have been unconvincing,the result is similiar to people putting in plastic mock georgian windows on a genuine Georgian house.
by modernising a song you can easily lose the timeless quality of the song


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Marje
Date: 20 May 10 - 08:20 AM

I offered my version simply for comparison because the other, better-known "modernisations" of the tale had been quoted or alluded to. I said in my post that it wouldn't, and wasn't intended to, stand the test of time - it was very much a song for the time when it was written and is getting out of date already (as are versions that refer to "beatniks" etc).

I didn't mention concertinas, but presumably the person who did was suggesting that adding a concertina accompaniment might not be strictly traditional either, in a song that's old enough to pre-date concertinas.

But fortunately most of us are not such purists that we'd take that attitude, are we?

Marje


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 20 May 10 - 08:56 AM

"I decided to adapt the song and called it The Scarborough Gypsies"

That doesn't seem any more objectionable than taking an old ballad about an Elfin Knight and rewriting it as 'Scarborough Fair'....


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: theleveller
Date: 20 May 10 - 09:05 AM

"it seems like you are talking about modernising them"

No, I never mentioned that. This is what I wrote: "just really relocating it rather than updating it and certainly not a spoof".

Please don't put words in my mouth.

And what's this obsession with standing the test of time? I write songs for me and t'missus to sing. I couldn't give a stuff if no-one's interested in them after we're gone. If they are, fine - if not, nothing lost.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,Jon Dudley
Date: 20 May 10 - 09:27 AM

We heard Tony Barrand and John Roberts' parody of 'Thousands or More' whilst on the East Coast of the USA and enjoyed it enormously, eg...'if you ask for my credit cards, you'll find I have nine, but they are maxed out for most of the time'...and more in that style. I don't know if they wrote it.

For his writing in the traditional vein, a very distant relative of my wife's, Mr.Sid Kipper of Trunch has created some excellent material.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 May 10 - 11:00 AM

leveller here is your original post.
What's your opinion on changing, adapting or rewriting traditional songs?
I am giving you my opinion, on one particular aspect of that on rewriting songs in a modern manner,if you dont want different opinions why ask for them.
I believe rewriting traditional songs is a dificult thing to acheive successfully.
Bert Lloyd managed to pass off songs as traditional[we think], it is something that is not easily done successfully ,neither is altering traditional songs and making them still sound as if they were traditional an easy task.
if you are determined to do it anyway why ask for others opinions?


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: theleveller
Date: 20 May 10 - 12:27 PM

"I am giving you my opinion, on one particular aspect of that on rewriting songs in a modern manner,"

Fine, but, as I have pointed out, I said nothing about modernising and you implied that I had. Perhaps if you read other people's posts before replying you might understand what they are saying before you jump in with both feet.

"if you are determined to do it anyway why ask for others opinions?"

Becasue I wasn't asking for permission, I was asking for opinions.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,Goose Gander
Date: 20 May 10 - 12:30 PM

You brought up the example of Raggle Taggle Gypsys. There are literally hundreds of versions of this one, we don't even know what the 'original' is, but it's clear that there's been plenty of changing, adapting, and rewriting of this one.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,Gabriel Hound
Date: 20 May 10 - 01:27 PM

Thanks Kitty. It is not always easy for me to get on the internet to defend myself.

Jim

I am certain that he was proud that his songs were the same as the printed versions. Unfortunately most of my life is in boxes at the moment otherwise I would be able to quote to you verbatim. He did believe from what I read of what he said that he believed his songs were proper folk songs because they were exactly the same as the printed sources - whether you would choose to call them broadsheets or not. I remember reading that one member of his family could read music. I don't disagree with you that he got the songs and tunes off members of his family, however, he did not think much of people altering songs from the printed versions. He might have been too polite to tell you - he was quite shy and introverted - and like many Norfolk people inclined to keep himself to himself.

Do you think it is possible Jim that Walter picked up the concept of adapting songs etc, the folk process from you or those in the folk world he came into? He did learn/fill out some songs for folk festivals and recordingss etc - but wasn't he nudged in this direction? I think you can be too close to something and see it only through your own window.

I only remember seeing him a couple of times in North Walsham - I think it was at the Orchard Gardens or the Black Boy? I can't remember - not my regular haunts. Cliff Gobold who had brought him to the folk club told me that Walter had at the time distinct ideas of what made a proper folk song and he that he could recognise what he thought were or weren't. He did not think that a lot of the songs he heard at folk clubs were proper folk songs. He had his won sense of tradition.

I read that William Kimber when he introduced people to the concertina, was quite specific about people not mucking about with the tunes adding 'feather notes'etc

Personally I like adaptations and people can do what they like, as Greg says there are no rules. In fact the older books of tunes have divisions and changes of tunes in plenty - it was expected. Perhaps we need some people who are faithfull to the tradition and some who play with it. What is remarkable is the continuity over time of not just songs but ways of life until the 20th century.

By all means have fun adapting and changing put also take care not to loose the links which connect us to our tradition and roots, otherwise I would be tempted to agree with Walter.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Marje
Date: 20 May 10 - 01:46 PM

To take this discussion in another direction:

People do adapt traditional songs for all sorts of reasons. If that never happened, there would only be one version of each traditional song in circulation. "Modernisation" is one reason, and may be done for comic effect. Parody is another (overlapping) reason, and one that requires the original version to remain in good health, otherwise the parody will not work.

But there are plenty of other reasons to change a song:

- people may mishear or misunderstand archaic or dialect words and substitute something that makes sense to them, without realising they're doing so.

- as above but on purpose: if a word or phrase seems clumsy and old-fashioned, or sounds as if it means something else now, the singer will sometimes change it to make the meaning clearer.

- adding or omitting certain verses. These may be "floaters" that don't much alter the song's meaning, or the song may simply be too long/short for the singer or his/her audience, so an abridged or extended version is created.

- place-names or personal names may be changed to make the song seem more relevant to the listeners. The might include changing the gender of the song's main protagonist(s).

- gory or gruesome songs may be softened up a bit by changing the ending or omitting some lurid details.

- songs may be "translated" from one dialect to another, which could entail changing certain words.

- singers may find that the "given" version that was collected doesn't rhyme or doesn't scan at some point, and will tweak the song to their taste.

And so on ... I'm sure there's a thesis there, and it may even have been written. All I can say is that I've done some of the above, and tried hard to avoid doing others (which sometimes means avoiding certain songs rather than mess with them).

There's plenty of ideas there to discuss if you're all getting tired of Raggle Taggle Wotsits.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: olddude
Date: 20 May 10 - 01:57 PM

The songs survived for exactly that reason, they were sung and adapted. I doubt anyone can know what the original really sounded like. It is the folk process. If one does a version and it is great, it will probably survive as another version of song x ... takes nothing away from the 100's of other versions of whatever song it is.
Good Grief how many version and different lyrics are there to Wabash Cannon ball ... you would need a year to write em down.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 20 May 10 - 03:11 PM

Sacrilege. Brendan Grace is on live 365 right now singing Ringsend Rose but he changed it to Irish Rose. Takes so much away from the song once you heard the original, by Pete St. John. If it is about Ringsend, why make it generic? I am going to turn my speakers off for a few minutes. He otherwise does a great job of it. Why did he have to do that? mg


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 20 May 10 - 03:55 PM

Why does he have to do that? Hank Marvin was asked why he changes guitars during a performance, and his answer was because he can!! So that is probably the the answer to your question.

Everybody will have a different opinion of Leveller's question, but nobody's is necessarily the correct opinion.

My opinion is why should he not be changing, adapting or rewriting traditional songs - let's face it some are pretty useless anyway. Fairport made a good living out of it!!


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 20 May 10 - 05:10 PM

Well, this is a recent song. mg


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 May 10 - 05:26 PM

Gabe,
Walter first heard his songs at family parties at Christmas, just prior to WW2. He lived at home with his parents and his Uncles, one of whom, Billy Gee, being the main singer of the family.
Some time in the thirties he began to take an interest in what he always referred to as 'folk songs' - he said other family members of his age "Were not interested in them and went for the modern stuff", and he was afraid of them dying out so, after he returned from the army in 1946 he began to write them in a notebook - he never came across any of them in print (with the possible exception of 'Bonny Bunch of Roses').
Billy was dead by this time and he relied on his mother and an aunt to fill in the gaps in his memory; he got his mother to sing the tunes and he memorised these by playing them on his melodeon.
In the mid seventies his nephew, Roger Dixon, introduced him to Peter Bellamy, and Bill Leader recorded him for two albums. Following this he was asked to a number of folk clubs (the Orchard Gardens was actually set up by Cliff Godbolt and others around the fact that Walter lived a few miles away).
Walter decided to fill in the gaps in the songs he only partially knew to sing them at the clubs; Cliff and others gave him texts and books when he asked for help, but the idea came solely from Walter himself.
He asked us to find him the words of Dark Arches, and he discovered 'Parson And The Clerk' in Peter Kennedy's Folksongs of Britain on our shelves while he was staying with us in London - again, he asked us to copy the text for him - no persuasion from us. One of the last songs he remembered and gave us was 'The Steam Arm', which he recalled for us one night when we were visiting him, but he decided he wasn't quite satisfied with one of the verses, so he went off and found a substitute. Walter was not just a song carrier (rememberer of songs), but a sensitive and creative singer.
He was proud of his family's songs, but not because they were 'accurate', but rather because he believed them to be good songs.
If you met him you would have known him to be a Thomas Hardy fan - he even put a tune to Hardy's Trampwoman's Tragedy and sang it for us.
We were friends with Walter for around 20 years and we sat in his cottage and recorded him singing and talking many times over that period. Most of this information is on those recordings (now housed in The National Sound Archive at The British Library).
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 20 May 10 - 05:40 PM

Stability and adaptation.

Verses are changed over the decades. In America, Barbara Allen finds herself walking the highway home. There is a cowboy variant that's interesting, as well.

The cryogenic approach to folk ballads doesn't exist.

Some claim that the printed version of a song determines its origin. Not necessarily.
Variants might exist prior to the printed date.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 May 10 - 03:45 AM

"Variants might exist prior to the printed date."
They almost certainly did.
We recorded a Traveller singer, Mikeen McCarthy, from County Kerry in S. W Ireland who worked at what was known there as 'ballad selling', selling songsheets at the fairs and markets in rural Ireland; the trade lasted there right into the mid-1950s.
He described how, in the 1940s, he and his mother would go into a printers and recite the songs over the counter to the printer, who would write them down and run off a batch to be sold. The songs all came from the family repertoire, and included 17th century pieces like The Blind Beggar right up to pop songs like Patsy Fagan and There's No Place Like Home. Mikeen said he never knew of a song that was specifically composed to be sold on the songsheets.
"cryogenic...."
I hope you mean cryptogenic - don't know many 'cold' songs.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: theleveller
Date: 21 May 10 - 03:46 AM

"I believe rewriting traditional songs is a dificult thing to acheive successfully."

I agree, but that's no reason for not attempting it.

Writing is my profession (although that may be too grand a title) and has, in a wide range of forms, been how I have earned my living for over 40 years. It's also my passion, which has, more recently, taken the form of songwriting – not for profit, but purely for the pleasure of doing it, with the added bonus of being able to perform the result.

I believe that writing is a craft that, on rare occasions, can become an art form. I liken myself to a craftsman who might work in wood, stone, metal, or whatever. My material is words; when people ask what I do for a living, I often tell them that I rearrange the letters of the alphabet. Adapting a traditional song is, as you imply, a particular challenge, and if you can see the joins, or the new bits stand out against the patina of age, you haven't done a good job. So I'm just waiting for the glue to dry on my adaptation, then I'll stand back and see how it looks, listen to how it sounds and perhaps put in a bit more work. Then it may, or may not, get a public airing. Or it might just sit in a corner of my song file until it moulders away, in which case, it will have plenty of company.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 21 May 10 - 09:55 AM

Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny wrote amazingly well in the style of traditional songs!


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,Steamin' Willie
Date: 21 May 10 - 10:22 AM

I remember practicing in the front room when I was a teenager still living at home. I was learning a few traditional songs at the time and happened to be working my way through "Our Captain Cried All Hands," and playing the excellent Therapy version on my mum's old Radiogram.

My mum's friend had turned up and was in the next room with my mum having a cuppa. She heard it and told my mum it was wicked, and nobody should be allowed to use tunes of hymns for non religious songs.

So; of course it is sacrilege to some people. Even if the song is older than the hymn in this case.

A strange example of the traditional song being called the usurper!

(My dear old friend Tom Brown used to have problems with people changing traditional songs, even if they were just parody, such as Land Rover (Wild Rover.) I put it down to his age, just like the old witch who thought my mum had spawned the devil....)


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 21 May 10 - 05:34 PM

...and I used to sing The Fox:

The farmer's wife jumped out of bed,
Out of the window she cocked her head...

Art


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 May 10 - 06:03 PM

I am no longer here,this post is a figment of your imagination.


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,Curtis
Date: 21 May 10 - 07:23 PM

I play a lot of English trad songs, and I love finding and comparing the various incarnations of a song such as Geordie aka Georgie (1 version from Martin Simpson, 2 different versions from Martin Carthy), Clydeswater aka Drowned Lovers (3 versions = Martin Carthy, Nic Jones, Kate Rusby). Changes here and there are part of what makes a song a living breathing thing.

Curtis


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 21 May 10 - 07:50 PM

Undoubtedly true, but if a few people do it over 200 years, probably OK. If everyone and his brother does it willy-nilly, it becomes musical chaos...mg


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 21 May 10 - 07:57 PM

What's wrong with musical chaos?


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Subject: RE: Adapting trad songs - OK or sacrilege?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 22 May 10 - 05:53 AM

It's worth bearing in mind that some trad songs were collected, or otherwise arrived in the 21st century, in a 'damaged' state. But that I mean that they no longer have the integrity and power that the original writer intended.

While this 'patina' has value - (the story OF the song may be as interesting or even more interesting than the story IN the song) we shouldn't forget that if a song is to be sung out (as opposed to merely residing on some dusty shelf in a book or recording) it needs to work as a song, and not just as an historical document.

The oral tradition was often as destructive as it was constructive, and we probably have the 'better' versions of some songs as much because of a bit of judicious repair along the way, by someone who understood how songs work, as by any accidental adaptation.

Obviously if we all radically rework the classics just for the sake of it then we're doing the tradition no service, but if a singer (as opposed to an archivist - though these may be the same person wearing different hats at different times) encounter a rhyme, line or even a whole verse which jars or is unnecessary, then - if they're planning to sing the song out - I think they do have a duty to try to fix it, while admitting the change and the source for anyone who wants to go back to the original, (or decide if the fix works or not)!

Anyone who resists or resents this is failing to take on board the reason that songs exist in the first place.

Also, I'd like to point out that most of the comments in this thread seem to refer to changes made to the well-known, 'good' trad songs.

Most of the major modern reworkings have been made from more obscure songs.

The truth is that a majority of trad songs are neither well-known nor good (I have a shelf full of books here to prove it). Anyone taking one of these (as I did with The Discharged Drummer and The Ballad of Long Preston Peggy, for example) and making a new work from it is committing no crime...

Though, as ever, it's up to the listener to decide if the new version an improvement or not.

On the whole, it's the versions that work best in performance that tend to carry the day

Tom


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