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Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages

GUEST,beginner 13 Mar 12 - 04:27 PM
GUEST,Lighter 13 Mar 12 - 04:58 PM
GUEST,leeneia 13 Mar 12 - 04:59 PM
Joe Offer 13 Mar 12 - 05:48 PM
Bert 13 Mar 12 - 06:50 PM
Jack Campin 13 Mar 12 - 07:20 PM
Steve Gardham 13 Mar 12 - 07:35 PM
GUEST,beginner 13 Mar 12 - 07:43 PM
TheSnail 13 Mar 12 - 08:59 PM
GUEST,leeneia 13 Mar 12 - 10:45 PM
Marje 14 Mar 12 - 05:48 AM
Phil Edwards 14 Mar 12 - 07:02 AM
GUEST,sciencegeek 14 Mar 12 - 01:03 PM
Bert 14 Mar 12 - 01:24 PM
GUEST,beginner 14 Mar 12 - 02:56 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 Mar 12 - 03:31 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 14 Mar 12 - 03:38 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 14 Mar 12 - 03:46 PM
TheSnail 14 Mar 12 - 03:54 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 14 Mar 12 - 04:46 PM
Tootler 14 Mar 12 - 07:41 PM
Little Robyn 14 Mar 12 - 08:34 PM
Jack Campin 14 Mar 12 - 08:51 PM
GUEST,leeneia 14 Mar 12 - 10:02 PM
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Subject: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: GUEST,beginner
Date: 13 Mar 12 - 04:27 PM

Hello everyone!
I'm so glad I found this resource. Currently I am doing a research project on the evolution of a folk song from the middle ages until now, or somewhat recently. I have to pick one song to trace, and it's proving to be more complicated than I had expected--lots of dead ends, lots of similar songs, lots of indeterminable suppositions.

I've tried to narrow it down but am finding it difficult to find songs that are as old as the middle ages (truly, not just advertised as such) that have survived in any recognizable form. The songs I'm considering are:

-The Hern, as performed by John Fleagle. this song seems to be unique or nearly unique in its melody and words, which can be a good thing (narrow research topic) but may be too obscure, as the supposedly closely related "Down in yon forest" seems loosely related...I have found that it was adapted from Richard Hill's Commonplace book (c. 1500) but have found very little information on the song other than that. Do you have suggestions for me on where else to look?

-Maid in Bedlam- some sources claim this is medieval but the earliest date I've found is 1787. The tune supposedly is the "same" as Gramachree Molly but I find they sound very different. The song is intriguing though, the story captivating and the tune beautiful. I have found it was a reworking of "The Black's Lament" but that the tune may have been invented around 1787 or so.

I also found an article on this concept of tracing songs, and in the article they traced the song family of John Barleycorn, so a similar project to what I'd like to do.

Lastly--maybe I am approaching this all wrong. Is there a better way to find an appropriate song for this assignment? My initial interest was in tracing a *modal* song as it developed or survived through the centuries, but I am willing to go with any piece that is traceable.


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 13 Mar 12 - 04:58 PM

Part of the problem is that there are only handful of English-language folksongs that have survived from the Middle Ages (which are usually reckoned to have ended by 1500).

"Sir Patrick Spens" may have begun before 1500, but it might well be an 18th Century creation. The same is true of "The Battle of Harlaw."

"Lord Randall" seems to be based on an early Italian song.

Other examples might be "Riddles Wisely Expounded," "Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight," and "The Elfin Knight." Robin Hood song go back before 1500, but the few that survive today also seem to of later composition.

"Lady Isabel" might be a good choice because it was the subject of a book-length study by Holger Nygard called "The Ballad of Heer Hallewijn" (1958). I can't remember if European versions are really "medieval" but they're centiries old.

"Judas" existed only as a poem in a medieval manuscript. John Jacob Niles claimed that he'd collected not one but two versions of it as sung in the Appalachians in the early 20th century. Not everybody believes these songs are actually survivals of the medieval "Judas."

Anyway, good luck!


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 13 Mar 12 - 04:59 PM

I gave my love a cherry that had no stone
o come, o come Emmanuel
salve regina

What's the definition of medieval? Truly medieval stuff (which to me would mean before 1500) is rare.

I've heard that 'Billy Boy' is a parody of the old ballad of Lord Randal. Maybe you could follow it from the lugubrious to the ludicrous.


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Mar 12 - 05:48 PM

Hi, Beginner-
Sounds like an interesting project you've undertaken. I'd suggest that you go to the "filter" box on our Forum Menu - it's the box at the top of the top of the list of threads. Put the word oldest in the box and set the age back to "all" - then click the "refresh" button. I'm sure some of the threads that appear will be of interest to you, such as this one: How Old Are the Oldest Child Ballads.

Oh, I'll make the Filter thing easy for you -

Search for "oldest" threads (click)


Good luck!
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: Bert
Date: 13 Mar 12 - 06:50 PM

Try Bruce Olson's website


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: Jack Campin
Date: 13 Mar 12 - 07:20 PM

o come, o come Emmanuel

No. Words from 1710, tune not traceable before 1853. (Source: Maurice Frost, Historical Companion to Hymns Ancient and Modern, 1962).


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 Mar 12 - 07:35 PM

As Jonathan has already mentioned the obvious one is Child 1 Riddles Wisely Expounded, but I doubt if any tunes older than recent times survive, and that's about your lot with any discernable survival into modern times. The vast majority of Child ballads simply cannot be traced with any certainty further back than 1500.

Who set your assignment? A carol rather than a ballad might yield more success.


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: GUEST,beginner
Date: 13 Mar 12 - 07:43 PM

Thanks to everyone who has responded!


The assignment is not specific--I can choose any kind of song. A carol would be fine. I think The Hern is a carol.


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: TheSnail
Date: 13 Mar 12 - 08:59 PM

beginner

I also found an article on this concept of tracing songs, and in the article they traced the song family of John Barleycorn, so a similar project to what I'd like to do.

Do you have a reference for that?


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 13 Mar 12 - 10:45 PM

The current hymnal of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America says that the tune of 'O Come O come Emmanuel' is a French processional of the 15th C.

It says that the words are a "paraphrase of the great O Antiphons." I have a feeling they are medieval.

That could be interesting to research, although it doesn't sound like Guest beginner's kind of thing.


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: Marje
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 05:48 AM

Just a few thoughts on this interesting topic:

There's a bit of confusion in the above discussions about whether people are referring to the lyrics, the melody, or both. The words of many ballads can be traced back far further than any of the melodies that may have been used for them, and it will generally be easier to find written words than written notation.

If you go for a church hymn like "O Come O come Emmanuel", you're not looking at a purely folk process - even if the melody goes back a long way, songs like this would have been transmitted and written down in a form accepted by the church and kept that way.

One problem with medieval words is that they are barely intelligible to the modern ear, and you'd have to translate/update them, and/or find other versions that have been updated over the years.

I think the idea of tracing a "song family" of related songs is a good one and would enable you to follow whatever paths your research revealed as being traceable. Starting now and working backwards might be more feasible than finding an old song and working forwards, although that's just my hunch.

Hope you come back to tell us what you find!

Marje


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 07:02 AM

The problem with the Middle Ages is that they didn't speak English - at least, not English as we know it. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, written in a fairly late form of Middle English, begin:

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote        
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,        
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,        
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

('soote' = sweet; 'swich' = such; you can probably get the rest)

Orally, from what we can tell, the language was even more alien to a modern ear: that first line would be pronounced something like

Hwan THat ap-REEL-eh wiTH hiss show-ress SOH-teh

(the capitalised 'TH' stands for the 'th' sound in 'thing', as distinct from the soft 'dh' sound we use now)

You get the picture: Middle English sounds strange. To prove that a song was a mediaeval survival you'd have to have a Middle English version alongside a version in sixteenth-century English (which looks pretty odd, but nowhere near as odd as ME); I can't imagine a song that would qualify. The best example I know of a song from the Middle Ages is "A maiden that is makeles" - and that doesn't qualify for your purposes, because the poem survived in written form (in Middle English) and was set to music much later. I wrote a bit about the difficulty of rendering this song faithfully here.


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: GUEST,sciencegeek
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 01:03 PM

there has been speculation that the shanty "Haul on the Bowlin" harks back to the midieval period because the line refered to was only significant on ships of that period... before some major innovations in shipbuilding. I'm not expert enough to comment on the theory. And have no idea if other versions of the song are out there, but I've only heard the one version.


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: Bert
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 01:24 PM

Pip, That is interesting. In the book that I read it was Shoures sote and they claimed that sote meant wet and is related to our words sot and sodden.


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: GUEST,beginner
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 02:56 PM

here is the John Barleycorn article, for TheSnail: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/4522718?uid=3739560&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=55890015643

thanks everyone. I don't feel I'm any closer to my goal, but I do feel I have a lot to explore! it's all so complex. the question of tracing the song forward vs. tracing it back has been on my mind. The reason I chose to trace it forward is just to know for sure that the song was that old, since there are a lot of songs that seem old or are supposed to be old that are actually 20th-century inventions.

I am still very interested in The Hern (John Fleagle recorded it) because the text is found in Richard Hill's book (ca 1500) but was recorded recently, which means it has survived at least in that way since then. Does anyone have any more information on this song?


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 03:31 PM

Monserrat Figueras has recorded songs with tunes from pre-1500 MS., but they don't seem to have evolved into recent usage.

Lyrics of Sephardic songs from their time in Andalucia before the expulsion exist, but all tunes seem to be more recent.

It may be impossible to find a continuous series that can be verified.


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 03:38 PM

Greg Lindahl's page Child Ballads, list the early (pre 1600) Child Ballads. There are (possibly) two with tunes and 15 or so with pre 1600 texts, with a further half dozen possibles from the Stationers' Register.

I also did a quick search on the Bodleian broadsides: nothing returned for 1500, half a dozen or so for 1600.

I just did a very rough check on my copy of the Roud index for those with (an exact) date < 1600 and only got 4 entries. (Though this was very rough - I only checked against the field containing a number only; I haven't checked to see if there are any embedded dates with other info).

The upshot is, as pointed out above, that going back to 1500 is going to be very hard.



Mick


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 03:46 PM

If you're willing to go forward a bit things get easier. For example, The Babes In The Wood traces back to a broadside of 1595 and has 184 entries in the Roud index, up to recent times. Some are probably duplicates, but it still gives you a large corpus to look at.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: TheSnail
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 03:54 PM

Thanks beginner.

Have you come across William Chappell's Popular Music of the Olden Time? Available online here - http://ia600409.us.archive.org//load_djvu_applet.php?file=19/items/PopularMusicOfTheOldenTime/PopularMusicOfTheOldenTime.djvu but still in print in fascimile, available from Amazon and elsewhere - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Chappell-Popnlar-Music-Olden-Time/dp/1402161077.

For The Hern, have a look at The Corpus Christi Carol - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corpus_Christi_Carol.


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 04:46 PM

BTW, I don't know if you found the Richard Hill book, but I posted a link to it last December: Richard Hill Commonplace Book - Luly, Luley, Luly, Luley.


Mick


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: Tootler
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 07:41 PM

O come, O come Emmanuel.

As far as I can determine.

Translated from Latin by John Mason Neale in 1851. The original Latin is, as stated elsewhere, from the O Antiphons and is thought to date from the 12th Century.

The tune is based on a 15th Century Franciscan Processional.


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: Little Robyn
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 08:34 PM

This thread might be interesting. One suggestion there is Summer is acomin in and maybe you can link the old version with more modern spring/summer songs. But it's still sung in it's old form so maybe it remained static - ie didn't evolve very much.
It's pretty old tho'.
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: Jack Campin
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 08:51 PM

Re "Emmanuel" - the Companion to Hymns A&M says that while the 1853 source claimed to have got the tune from an old French missal, nobody had ever found it. Can the folks claiming an older origin actually point to it?

"The original Latin" is ambiguous. The hymn version is the one (in Latin) from 1710. It's a versification of the older antiphons, which don't fit the modern tune.

A different way to look for old tunes. Kodaly in "Folk Music of Hungary" identifies a number of tunes which are found among the Hungarians and also among their closest linguistic relatives, the Mari (a.k.a. Cheremis) of the Volga region. The two groups have not been in contact for about 1500 years, and nobody else anywhere sings the same tunes. So the obvious conclusion is that they predate the westward migration of the Hungarians.


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Subject: RE: Origins: evolution of a song from middle ages
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 10:02 PM

Hi, Beginner. I finally looked up "The Hern." As TheSnail already mentioned, that is also known as "The Corpus Christi Carol."

I studied that in college, in a course in medieval literature. That poem has haunted and mystified people for centuries. But I don't believe it ever evolved into something else. It was and remains medieval. It belongs to an era of huge (and frightening) forests, deep Christian faith, and belief in magic. A modern person may perform it, but it remains a medieval work.

Upthread I mentioned the song "I gave my love a cherry." A version of that poem was in the very college textbook that had the Corpus Christi carol. That is a song (or poem) that has evolved.

As somebody pointed out, we can follow lyrics through time much better than we can follow melodies.


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