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Origins: Question about ballad provenance

Richie 01 Dec 11 - 11:46 AM
Lighter 01 Dec 11 - 12:10 PM
Jack Campin 01 Dec 11 - 12:12 PM
Richie 01 Dec 11 - 01:00 PM
Richie 01 Dec 11 - 01:05 PM
Richie 01 Dec 11 - 01:11 PM
Richie 01 Dec 11 - 01:14 PM
Richard Bridge 01 Dec 11 - 02:04 PM
Richie 01 Dec 11 - 02:21 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 01 Dec 11 - 04:30 PM
Lighter 01 Dec 11 - 04:33 PM
GUEST,leeneia 01 Dec 11 - 04:46 PM
Richie 01 Dec 11 - 06:57 PM
RTim 01 Dec 11 - 07:34 PM
Lighter 01 Dec 11 - 08:29 PM
GUEST,SteveG 02 Dec 11 - 04:26 PM
Lighter 02 Dec 11 - 04:43 PM
Don Firth 02 Dec 11 - 05:47 PM
GUEST,SteveG 03 Dec 11 - 02:26 PM
GUEST,SteveG 03 Dec 11 - 02:37 PM
GUEST,SteveG 03 Dec 11 - 02:45 PM
Lighter 03 Dec 11 - 06:28 PM
GUEST,SteveG 04 Dec 11 - 01:00 PM
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Subject: Origins: Question about ballad providence
From: Richie
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 11:46 AM

Hi,

I'm doing some ballad research on the Child ballads. If a person sings a ballad in the US, say Philadelphia that they learned from their grandmother in Ireland.

Wouldn't the providence of that ballad be Philadephia, USA?

Would it's recollection from an Irish source would be the folk process? It would be a version of the the original at that point.

Comments please.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad providence
From: Lighter
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 12:10 PM

I dunno about the providence, but its provenance would be Philadelphia, with an alleged earlier provenance in Ireland.

Its recollection would be an example of "oral tradition." If it had been changed in transmission in some interesting way, that would be an example of the "folk process."

Which can mean forgetting, reinterpreting, adding, subtracting, misunderstanding, you name it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad providence
From: Jack Campin
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 12:12 PM

You mean "provenance".

Why would you want to reduce the song's history to a misleading one-word summary?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad providence
From: Richie
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 01:00 PM

Thanks for the correction.

Not trying to reduce it- trying to establish a criteria for categorization.

Obviously in some cases you can't connect the history. Child does not list

    Thread title fixed. -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad providence
From: Richie
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 01:05 PM

Sorry, hit the wrong button haha- here's the point.

Child lists (Twa Sisters- Child J) a recollection from Philadelphia as an Irish ballad. Doesn't mention Philadelphia. Here's my notes:

http://bluegrassmessengers.com/there-were-two-ladies-playing-ball--1870-child-j-.aspx

So is it Irish or American from Ireland?


Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad providence
From: Richie
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 01:11 PM

Here's the post, it's actually listed by Child under The Cruel Brother Child D, which is debatable. It's a query by Uneda in Philadelphia:

Notes and Queries: Volume 6 - Page 53; 1852


"There were three ladies," §-c. — My paternal grandmother, who was a native of county Kerry in Ireland, was in the habit of singing a song set to a sweet and plaintive air, which thus commenced:

"There were three ladies playing at ball,   
Farin-dan-dan and farin-dan-dee;   
There came a white knight, and he wooed them all,   
With adieu, sweet honey, wherever you be.

He courted the eldest with golden rings,
Farin, &c. &c.
And the others with many fine things,   
And adieu," &c. &c.   

The rest has been forgotten. Can any of your readers furnish the remaining words?

Uneda.    Philadelphia.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad providence
From: Richie
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 01:14 PM

Hi,

So Child says this is from Ireland. Is it?

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad providence
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 02:04 PM

Anyone got a time machine, to make sure?

It seems to be the earliest reportage of that version of that song, so absent a time machine, that's the best evidence.

No?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad providence
From: Richie
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 02:21 PM

Hi,

We don't know the original version from the grandmother, which would be Irish. Since it's a recollection and not necessarily an accurate one, it would seem the location of the recollection is the provenance.

I agree with Lighter: "its provenance would be Philadelphia, with an alleged earlier provenance in Ireland."

Therefore, it would be the earliest US version of Child 11 The Cruel Brother. [Assuming you agree with Child that it is a version of Child 11].

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad providence
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 04:30 PM

Facetiously, Ballad Providence is where all forgotten versions and lost origins go (cf. the sailors' Fiddlers Green).


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad providence
From: Lighter
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 04:33 PM

It's in New England, I think.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad providence
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 04:46 PM

The Free Dictionary gives two definitions of provenance:

1. Place of origin; derivation. 2. a. The history of the ownership of an object, especially when documented or authenticated. ...

When dealers or curators speak of art or antiques, the provenance of a piece is its entire history. For example, the provenence of a fine table made in 1790 would include who built it and all its owners. (Ideally, of course)

If we apply this meaning to this song, its provenance would include both the Philadelphian and her grandmother in Ireland.

We already have a good term for the Philadelphian. She's the source.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad provenance
From: Richie
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 06:57 PM

Thank Joe for fixing the title - haha.

Most of Child ballads collected in the US don't have a direct link- and maybe my thinking is a bit obtuse- haha.

Just trying to come up with a working definition for ballads and folk-songs; which are usually different when passed along.

Not sure why Child didn't mention the source- that seems peculiar.

TY for your replies,

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad provenance
From: RTim
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 07:34 PM

Child was ONLY an Editor and NOT a collector.

He just spend time trying to find songs, from any source, that he could Classify as Ballads, and missed or ignored many songs that should have been classified thus.

Tim Radford.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad provenance
From: Lighter
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 08:29 PM

At the time Child was doing his research, "folksong scholarship" was virtually nonexistent except as an antiquarian hobby. In the Romantic era, it seemed unnecessary, even undesirable, to many editors and collectors too document folksong sources very carefully.

Their assumption was that the songs were mainly ancient and untraceable, and they tended to assume also that they were mostly very widely known. So wny bother identifying a text with a particular place? The existence of variants also discouraged attention to details of provenance. Why be specific when words and tunes were constantly changing?

Baring-Gould may have been the first collector to carefully and regularly note the names and dwelling-places of singers. But that wasn't until the 1880s, and Child had begun his work in the '50s.

Unfortunately, Baring-Gould also rewrote any and all verses that he found even mildly "indecent." Fortunately, most of his original manuscripts survive. I don't believe Child had access to any of them.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad provenance
From: GUEST,SteveG
Date: 02 Dec 11 - 04:26 PM

Jon,
Baring Gould actually sent a lot of his ballads to Child. Unfortunately he cobbled some of these himself, 295B in particular, and 200. Child spotted the fake 200 but by the time he got to 295 he'd just about given up as he knew he was printing mainly fakes by then. Harvard has full copies of the various batches of ballads BG sent and the VWML has copies of these and the correspondence between them.

Steve


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad provenance
From: Lighter
Date: 02 Dec 11 - 04:43 PM

Thanks, Steve.

>by the time he got to 295 he'd just about given up as he knew he was printing mainly fakes by then.

You mean BG didn't even say that the texts had been "edited slightly" or employ some other euphemism?

I'd call that reprehensible.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad provenance
From: Don Firth
Date: 02 Dec 11 - 05:47 PM

In a course I took at the University of Washington English Department entitled "The Popular Ballad" and taught by Prof. David C. Fowler, our term paper consisted of tracing the history (provenance) of the ballad of our choice (Child), using whatever resources we could find, such as libraries, ballad collections, regional folklore society bulletins, et al. Dr. Fowler warned us that some of us would find a pretty cold trail, others would be inundated with material.

A classmate and friend of mine decided to research "Lord Randal" (Child #12). He managed to find some 1,013 distinct versions of the ballad. Each one somewhat different, but all telling the same story and all having a similar verse structure. Some were very long, some fairly short, nevertheless, obviously the same ballad.

Now here's where it gets cute:   there were English versions, Scottish and Irish versions, Welsh versions. He also found references to Scandinavian versions (the song was known in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark). The name of the dying young man varied, but it was obviously the same ballad.

In fact, he found versions all over Europe, there were Middle East versions, and it made its way to North Africa.

Then, of course, there are varying versions of it that have been collected in the United States. One version seems to have been adapted by the dairy industry as a sort of propaganda song, in which young Jimmy Randal is poisoned because his sweetheart fed him oleomargarine instead of butter.

And believe it or not, the American comic song "Billy Boy"
"Oh, where have you been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy,
Oh, where have you been, charming Billy?" (Look it up.)
is obviously a comic parody of "Lord Randal."

Note:   It is extreme rare to the point of being essentially nonexistent when a traditional ballad can be traced back to its "original" source, i.e., the scop, skald, bard, gleeman, troubadour, or minstrel who may have written it.

So—is "Lord Randal" an English ballad? Or Irish? Or Norwegian? Or Yugoslavian? Or Syrian? Or—Algerian? Southern Appalachian?

I learned it originally from A Treasury of Folk Songs, a drugstore paperback compiled and edited by John and Sylvia Kolb, that I bought in 1952. I then modified it a bit after hearing a record on which Richard Dyer-Bennet sang it. I don't know where he got it.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad provenance
From: GUEST,SteveG
Date: 03 Dec 11 - 02:26 PM

Don,
It is simply an international ballad, possibly the most international of all ballads (unless you know otherwise!). However most international scholars seem to place the earliest copies in Italy, which would make some sense.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad provenance
From: GUEST,SteveG
Date: 03 Dec 11 - 02:37 PM

Jon,
BG actually gave the name of the alleged singer Ginger Jack Woodrich who lived near BG and from whom he had indeed collected a substantial batch of songs. However it is easy to demonstrate that 295B is a concoction of 2 late 18th century broadsides, the first 295A (also sent to Child by BG) which is quite scarce, sometimes called The Cruel Nymph, the version he found being The Brown Girl; and a very common broadside which continued to be printed under various titles in the 19thc and entered oral tradition, often called 'Sally and her True Love, Billy'. Indeed American collectors upto the 1950s were still giving these common versions as secondary Child ballads. Thankfully that practice has now ceased.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad provenance
From: GUEST,SteveG
Date: 03 Dec 11 - 02:45 PM

I really think I ought to add that I have a great admiration for BG. He was just about the first in the field in England and his Scottish predecessors and ballad editors of the past did lots of this 'editing' and claimed their efforts were straight from the mouths of the peasantry. This includes some editors with much bigger profiles than BG. The great pity here is that a shadow is then cast on the other material sent to Child by BG and most of this could be untampered with. We just don't know. The same goes for the bulk of the material in Child. Child himself was very good at spotting the suspicious material, but he had an impossible task so tried to include everything.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad provenance
From: Lighter
Date: 03 Dec 11 - 06:28 PM

Steve, the world is clearly a somewhat better place because BG (and ALL) lived.

But falsifying the scholarly record and misleading people about the very material one is supposedly trying to preserve is simply wrong, by any standard. Both BG and ALL acknowledged some of their "improvements," but not all and not enough.

But of course, they weren't the only offenders. Far from it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Question about ballad provenance
From: GUEST,SteveG
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 01:00 PM

Absolutely!


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