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changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs

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The Sandman 18 Nov 13 - 03:54 AM
GUEST,Andrea 18 Nov 13 - 04:18 AM
SPB-Cooperator 18 Nov 13 - 04:44 AM
Jack Blandiver 18 Nov 13 - 05:15 AM
GUEST,Grishka 18 Nov 13 - 07:00 AM
The Sandman 18 Nov 13 - 09:01 AM
GUEST,Grishka 18 Nov 13 - 10:13 AM
johncharles 18 Nov 13 - 11:10 AM
GUEST,sciencegeek 18 Nov 13 - 11:45 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 18 Nov 13 - 11:50 AM
GUEST,sciencegeek 18 Nov 13 - 12:07 PM
The Sandman 18 Nov 13 - 12:16 PM
GUEST,sciencegeek 18 Nov 13 - 12:48 PM
GUEST,Grishka 18 Nov 13 - 06:57 PM
sciencegeek 18 Nov 13 - 08:09 PM
Artful Codger 18 Nov 13 - 08:11 PM
GUEST,Grishka 19 Nov 13 - 04:48 AM
GUEST,sciencegeek 19 Nov 13 - 09:10 AM
GUEST,Grishka 19 Nov 13 - 11:39 AM
GUEST,sciencegeek 19 Nov 13 - 01:14 PM
Joe_F 19 Nov 13 - 02:00 PM
GUEST,sciencegeek 19 Nov 13 - 02:28 PM
GUEST,Grishka 19 Nov 13 - 02:49 PM
GUEST,sciencegeek 19 Nov 13 - 03:32 PM
GUEST,Grishka 19 Nov 13 - 05:41 PM
mg 19 Nov 13 - 05:45 PM
The Sandman 20 Nov 13 - 03:17 AM
GUEST,sciencegeek 20 Nov 13 - 09:02 AM
Jeri 20 Nov 13 - 09:34 AM
GUEST,sciencegeek 20 Nov 13 - 09:55 AM
GUEST,Grishka 20 Nov 13 - 10:37 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 20 Nov 13 - 11:43 AM
The Sandman 20 Nov 13 - 12:19 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 20 Nov 13 - 12:57 PM
GUEST,sciencegeek 20 Nov 13 - 01:44 PM
The Sandman 20 Nov 13 - 02:00 PM
GUEST,sciencegeek 20 Nov 13 - 02:57 PM
The Sandman 20 Nov 13 - 03:06 PM
Jeri 20 Nov 13 - 03:19 PM
GUEST,sciencegeek 20 Nov 13 - 03:28 PM
The Sandman 20 Nov 13 - 04:08 PM
Jeri 21 Nov 13 - 12:08 AM
The Sandman 21 Nov 13 - 01:11 AM
The Sandman 21 Nov 13 - 04:55 AM
The Sandman 21 Nov 13 - 05:31 AM
Keith A of Hertford 21 Nov 13 - 05:47 AM
GUEST,sciencegeek 21 Nov 13 - 08:44 AM
Jeri 21 Nov 13 - 09:45 AM
The Sandman 21 Nov 13 - 11:11 AM
Jeri 21 Nov 13 - 12:49 PM
GUEST,Stevebury 24 Nov 13 - 04:43 PM
sciencegeek 24 Nov 13 - 05:28 PM
GUEST,Grishka 25 Nov 13 - 10:13 AM
Charley Noble 25 Nov 13 - 09:50 PM
GUEST,sciencegeek 26 Nov 13 - 10:58 AM
Charley Noble 26 Nov 13 - 11:11 AM
Charley Noble 28 Nov 13 - 06:02 PM
Charley Noble 29 Nov 13 - 04:48 PM
McGrath of Harlow 29 Nov 13 - 08:02 PM
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Subject: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 Nov 13 - 03:54 AM

In my opinion this should not be done,she wrote certain words, that was her intention.
C Fox Smith, was a minor poet and unlike Hardy does not have a society to protect her work, she is unfortunately no longer with us, by all means promote her work, but please keep it in its original form when adding a musical score.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: GUEST,Andrea
Date: 18 Nov 13 - 04:18 AM

Totally agree.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: SPB-Cooperator
Date: 18 Nov 13 - 04:44 AM

If it is a case of putting the poetry to music, a good singer/song writer should have no problem in making the tune fit the words - Doerflinger spoke about his admiration of how his informants could do this.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 18 Nov 13 - 05:15 AM

Agree.

It's like Sherlock Holmes counselled : fit the THEORY to the FACTS, not the other way round.

Some poems were never meant to be songs. Other poems reveal their true inner glories only when they're sung...


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 18 Nov 13 - 07:00 AM

We had threads about "folk processing" existing songs by known songwriters. The case of poems by known poets is not essentially different, but there is an important additional point: the stanzas of a regular poem will have identical verse structures, but may differ in their rhetorical stress pattern. (This is particularly marked in French poetry.)

Composers who insist on a key mark of folk songs may find a melody that somewhat fits all stanzas (but none really well).

However, in contexts of modern stage performances, it is quite justified to vary the melody slightly or even radically from stanza to stanza, as classical composers frequently did.

GSS, can you give us examples of what changes have been suggested, and why?


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 Nov 13 - 09:01 AM

no, i do not wish to personalise the discussion.
These are originally poems, that the author wrote carefully, presumably with a specific intention in the words, would it be justified to change the words of this hardy poem.

    Had he and I but met
    By some old ancient inn,
    We should have sat us down to wet
    Right many a nipperkin!

    But ranged as infantry,
    And staring face to face,
    I shot at him as he at me,
    And killed him in his place.

    I shot him dead because —
    Because he was my foe,
    Just so: my foe of course he was;
    That's clear enough; although

    He thought he'd 'list, perhaps,
    Off-hand like — just as I —
    Was out of work — had sold his traps —
    No other reason why.

    Yes, quaint and curious war is!
    You shoot a fellow down
    You'd treat if met where any bar is,
    Or help to half-a-crown.
Under the Waterfall

"Whenever I plunge my arm, like this,
In a basin of water, I never miss
The sweet sharp sense of a fugitive day
Fetched back from the thickening shroud of grey.
    Hence the only prime
    And real love-rhyme
    That I know by heart
    And that leaves no smart,
Is the purl of a little valley fall
About three spans wide and two spans tall
Over a table of solid rock
And into a scoop of the self-same block;
The purl of a runlet that never ceases
In stir of kingdoms, in wars, in peaces;
With a hollow, boiling voice it speaks
And has spoken since hills were turfless peaks."

"And why gives this the only prime
Idea to you of a real love-rhyme?
And why does plunging your arm in a bowl
Full of spring water, bring throbs to your soul?"
"Well, under the fall, in a crease of the stone,
Though where precisely none ever has known,
Jammed darkly, nothing to show how prized,
And by now with its smoothness opalised,
    Is a drinking-glass:
    For, down that pass,
    My love and I
    Walked under a sky
Of blue with a leaf-wove awning of green,
In the burn of August, to paint the scene,
And we placed our basket of fruit and wine
By the runlet's rim, where we sat to dine;
And when we had drunk from the glass together,
Arched by the oak-copse from the weather,
I held the vessel to rinse in the fall,
Where it slipped, and sank, and was past recall,
Though we stooped and plumbed the little abyss
With long bared arms. There the glass still is.
And, as said, if I thrust my arm below
Cold water in basin or bowl, a throe
From the past awakens a sense of that time,
And the glass we used, and the cascade's rhyme.
The basin seems the pool, and its edge
The hard smooth face of the brook-side ledge,
And the leafy pattern of china-ware
The hanging plants that were bathing there.

"By night, by day, when it shines or lours,
There lies intact that chalice of ours,
And its presence adds to the rhyme of love
Persistently sung by the fall above.
No lip has touched it since his and mine
In turn therefrom sipped lovers' wine.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 18 Nov 13 - 10:13 AM

These poems, and some of C. Fox Smith's that I just read (never heard of the lady before - shame on me), lend themselves perfectly to songs, though not exactly folk songs. CFS seems to be slightly more "folk" than Hardy.

Now, if you do not want to mention persons, would you hint us to the sort of changes you are warning against, and the reasons the composers or performers may have had? Old-fashioned language? Bad poetry? Or just not fitting my ingenious melody ("Cinderella's sisters' method", as SPB and Blandiver seem to think)?


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: johncharles
Date: 18 Nov 13 - 11:10 AM

People have altered the words when putting them to music.
Here is an example, which shows respect for C Fox Smith, and explains that in some cases the words have been altered.

foxsmith


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: GUEST,sciencegeek
Date: 18 Nov 13 - 11:45 AM

some of her poems fit nicely to traditional tunes - sometimes to ones created for the poem... and I take it these are the only ones acceptable to some.

I would note that poetry recitations seem to be almost a lost art... if heard at all, they tend to be loose, free form works by local "talents" of their own works performed at open mike sessions and never include works of any others. If you think a session filled with aspiring singer/songwriters can be a bit much... poetry performed by folks who have little or no sense of presentation can be the pits.

That said, I have heard a number of wonderful songs that have been adapted from the works of people I would have never heard of otherwise - AB Paterson, Henry Lawson and C Fox Smith are three that come immediately to mind.

I should also add that the hubby, Mike, fell in love with her poetry and has set a number to music... some quite haunting & beautiful - and, yes, adapted from the original work.

If you consider her poems to be her intellectual "children", then perhaps you might think of the adapted songs as her "grandchildren"...
her legacy continues....


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 Nov 13 - 11:50 AM

Charles Ipcar has simplified and changed the words to fit tunes; the first song in his Sea Songs of Cicely Fox Smith, "Outward Bound," is an example.

His title should be "Revisions of Cicely Fox Smith Sea Songs for Voice" or some such.
The texts are NOT her words, and the title and could mislead one who wants her original poetry.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: GUEST,sciencegeek
Date: 18 Nov 13 - 12:07 PM

I do agree that a more fitting title would have been songs adapted from the poetry of...

but to be fair, Charley and Jim Saville have also spent a great deal of effort compiling "The Complete Works of Cicely Fox Smith" - though another 60 or so have subsequently surfaced & will eventually be added I believe.

the geek does appreciate the need for proper credit and context.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 Nov 13 - 12:16 PM

kiplings poems have been set to music too.
guest grishka, if you would supply an email adress, I will contact you privately and be more explicit., but without going into too much detail, changing the meaning, and altering descriptions etc
I am not very familiar with charlie ipcars, adaptations, at all, apart from a request he sent to me to alter Sailortown, which since i was only responsible for the musical setting, it was hardly up to me to say yea or nea,I happened to prefer the original[ Charlies alteration was fairly small anyway], so being unfamiliar with charlies adaptations i cannot comment.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: GUEST,sciencegeek
Date: 18 Nov 13 - 12:48 PM

yes... Peter Bellamy did a great job with the Barrack Room Ballads - note to self... track down those CDs.

The hubby, Mike, actually set Charge of the Light Brigade to music... and I tried to do the notation... yikes... need more lessons before I can do that!

Mike & I were just discussing High Noon yesterday... one that brought back his own similiar memories, including badly stuffed flying fish in a junk store/pawn shop and being onboard ship in the Indian Ocean. The song he wrote is an adaptation and very effective... and I'll also add that Mike is very adament about providing the original poem along with his adaptation and explaining why he did what he did... guess he has a little geek in him.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 18 Nov 13 - 06:57 PM

Sciencegeek, would you be so kind as to give us a summary of your husband's explanations why he did what he did?

Setting old poems to music inevitably poses problems. I did it myself and was courageous enough not to change a word, however archaic, even though my music style does not claim to be as timeless as the typical "folk revival" styles do. The discrepancy must be made plausible by emphasizing the modernness of the lyrics.

Other decisions may be justified in different cases; I would be interested in reading such justifications from the horse's mouth.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: sciencegeek
Date: 18 Nov 13 - 08:09 PM

Grishka, the simplest answer is that Mike works hard to create the best song he can that stays true to the poem. And the list of her poems that he has worked on is not short... but they all speak to some viewpoint that is as meaningful now as it was when she wrote them.

If the poem works well with a tune, there is no need to change anything and he doesn't. You don't make changes for changes sake.. and some of her poems he does as recitations. Mike does not rewrite her poems, he adapts them to music as songs.

We first heard of C Fox Smith from Stan Hugill at Mystic as the best poet on maritime themes... no mention of a first name, so it did come as a bit of a surprise to learn the C stood for Cicely. And it's been twenty plus years that he's been interested in her work.

But a song needs to be heard to be understood and I can't help you there yet.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: Artful Codger
Date: 18 Nov 13 - 08:11 PM

I think you hold the words of poets as being too sacrosanct, especially when it comes to (dare I say) second- or third-tier poets like C. Fox Smith. Inspired, yes; gifted, unquestionably; infallible, hardly. Considering her output, she hardly had time to labor greatly on each line and word choice, and it shows. So there's still room for improvement, even if purists will object that any variance is some corruption.

The necessity to rhyme also lowers the bar somewhat—in reading rhymed poetry one is often struck by overly contorted sentence structure or infelicitous word choices. With free and non-metric forms, one can make a much stronger case that the poet's words should not be altered; that they say just what was intended in the form intended (even though any honest poet would scoff that such a goal is ever achieved).

In the conversion of a poem into a song, one also has to contend with what is lost: punctuation on the page, a large degree of intonation in recitation. It's often desirable to rephrase passages for listeners who have no opportunity to rescan for sense or even pause for reflection.

One also has to consider whether to replace outdated, obscure, vague or colorless verbiage, discriminatory sentiments, and expressions which might now be laughably misconstrued. I've run into all these problems in setting old poems to music.

When Charles Ipcar (Charlie Noble on Mudcat) has posted his settings of CFS's poems, he's almost always posted her original versions as well, even when they'd been posted previously. He has never portrayed his settings as completely faithful. Few other setters have been as forthright about their changes.

As to whether an altered version should be classified as an adaptation rather than a setting, that's a highly subjective call, which depends on the extent and nature of changes.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 19 Nov 13 - 04:48 AM

If we want to discuss justifications, we should do so separately for the various motives given by Artful and mentioned in my post of 18 Nov 13 - 10:13 AM.

1. Bad poetry/crafts(wo)manship: certainly the most controversial question. My personal taste, in particular for old poems, tells me to refrain from trying to improve them - if only for the reason that this would drag the poems out of their historic context.

2. Archaisms: dto.

3. Passages that cannot be understood when sung: quite a problem indeed, even with excellent poems, even with poems that were meant to be recited or even to be sung. My advice: slow them down, treat them with individual care (- deviate from the stanza pattern if necessary -), concentrate on the principal emotion even at the expense of some words not being understood exactly.

4. Rhetoric stress patterns differing between the stanzas: if you do not find a melody that fits all stanzas, use variants or "bridges". See my above comments.

Studying Schubert and other 19th century classics is an excellent school, since they had all the necessary techniques at their hands. (Of course, many of them did change the poems, mainly because they had a different notion of authenticity from ours.)

If I had a reason to set CFS's poems to music, I would certainly keep every single word, even if laughably misconstrued. The message of such a song is never "I say:", but "CFS said in her days:".

Of course I am not criticizing different approaches by the gentlemen mentioned in this thread, all the less since they seem to have given account of their changes. If someone posts specific examples, we may have interesting illustrations of criteria, though it would be pointless to argue about tastes.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: GUEST,sciencegeek
Date: 19 Nov 13 - 09:10 AM

thank you, Artful, for your sage comments.

as long as he stays true to the intent of a poem, Mike is comfortable with adapting it to music for singing... if he can't accomplish that, he leaves it alone. The tune must fit the emotion and support the meaning of the work.

now, for an historical perspective... who the heck would remember Schiller, if not for the musical adaption of his Ode to Joy. A young Ludwig fell in love with the piece and its message and took a long time, but managed to give it a musical setting that is beloved 2 centuries later. And its message inspired other composers to also adapt the work.

A good idea refuses to die if it can be taken up by others. We believe that setting some of her work to music has helped introduce her work to others and keep her memory alive.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 19 Nov 13 - 11:39 AM

In principle I do not object at all against creative adaptations of old stuff. My remarks are about my own personal reluctance to do it in cases when the idea is to set a poem to music (as opposed to, say, quoting poems in a larger work such as a symphony).—
who the heck would remember Schiller, if not for the musical adaption of his Ode to Joy
The effect does exist, but Schiller is one of the worst examples for it, being among the most cherished poets of all times, not only by native speakers of German. I could elaborate on the relation between adaptation and respect, but if you feel criticized, I'd rather not.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: GUEST,sciencegeek
Date: 19 Nov 13 - 01:14 PM

LOL.. I had intended to add - at least in the non-German speaking world... but didn't... my bad

there was a time when every school child had to recite poetry or a speech... and keeping a diary and writing letters was commonplace. Now written correspondance seems to consist more of a scribbled note in a pre-printed card or part of the junk mail that gets tossed.

And texting is a whole new animal... lol

All that aside... C Fox Smith had more than a passing interest not just in maritime subjects, but the music in particular. Reading some of her works can cause a shanty tune to pop into your mind - and not leave. So is there any wonder that folks who love sea music are attracted to her work and have a strong urge to add music?

It was the Mystic Sea Music festival that we were chatting with Stan Hugill and first heard of C Fox Smith. Any changes that Mike makes are purely to make the song the best it can be. Just a book can be adapted to film, the transposition to a different medium requires some alterations. As long as the meaning stays true, I believe a good song is its own justification. imho


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: Joe_F
Date: 19 Nov 13 - 02:00 PM

It all depends.

I agree that Charley Noble has done a service by setting Smith's poems to music, and it is commendable that he specifies that he has done so. The only one I am actually familiar with is "So Long" ("All Coiled Down"). I see no harm whatever in his turning the first verse into a chorus. However (as I think I have mentioned on another thread), it was IMO a mistake to change "Another ship for me" to "Another ship for us"; there, Ms Smith had logic on her side.

Kipling is a special case. Very many of his poems have "song", "ballad", etc. in their titles; one can scarcely complain if people set them to music, as they have been doing since well back in his lifetime; and it is reasonable to make minor alterations to fit a tune. I have done it myself, for the entertainment of the small participatory sings I frequent. We are all richer for Peter Bellamy's efforts and for most of Leslie Fish's, tho a couple of the latter make me cringe because she could not be bothered to look up the pronunciations of some of the words.

A more delicate question is revising in the interest of good taste ("political correctness", if you insist). I don't believe in doing that for historic songs such as "Marching through Georgia"; there, the bad taste is part of the history. Convivial songs, however, are fair game. I have not scrupled to rewrite the ungallant third stanza of "Time, Gentlemen, Time" to apply to both sexes, nor to add a stanza to "Fathom the Bowl" to let the lady of the house tell her side of the story.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: GUEST,sciencegeek
Date: 19 Nov 13 - 02:28 PM

"good taste"... I think that the key point is respect along with understanding... the value of Child's collection is dimininshed by the censorship he imposed.

and historical revisionists do not respect honesty... or understand the disserve they are doing when they alter things to suit the current PC dictates.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 19 Nov 13 - 02:49 PM

Aside: Schiller is still cherished in France, perhaps even more than in Germany. For example, arbitrarily chosen among countless Google hits, see Mary Stuart - definitely not relying on support by Donizetti (who the heck remembers Donizetti, anyway? Or would, were it not for Walter Scott with or without kilts, Maria Callas, and Joan Sutherland?).


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: GUEST,sciencegeek
Date: 19 Nov 13 - 03:32 PM

then again... thank goodness they recovered those lost works of the red haired priest... LOL

Schiller's support of republican ideals endeared him to many besides Beethoven - including members of the French Republic.

And C Fox Smith's empathy for sailors and the sailing trade endeared her to generations of mariners and others who love the sea.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 19 Nov 13 - 05:41 PM

sciencegeek, I trust you are an expert on CFS and sea folk. As for Italian music and continental European political/cultural history, ehmehmehmehmehmehm (my cough is getting worse, sorry).


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: mg
Date: 19 Nov 13 - 05:45 PM

I see no harm and much good in what Mike and Charlie are doing. It is not like changing words to fairly well known songs, which I generally do not like the idea of, except to make things scan better and change racist words....but if someone has a body of work that a lot of people are just not familiar with, and they are true to the original, acknowledge the original, I think it is basically a good thing. I would not update words, grammar etc. but would edit for singability..that would mean generally removing verses, combining verses, perhaps shortening lines etc. Some poems are just too long to sing. Some songs are just too long to sing. We do not feel obliged to sing all of Matty Groves so I don't think we should feel obliged to sing all of Kipling or Fox.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Nov 13 - 03:17 AM

We do not feel obliged to sing all of Matty Groves so I don't think we should feel obliged to sing all of Kipling or Fox." that is in my opinion comparing oranges to cauliflowers, kiplings work is his work,authors of poetry intended it to be performed as they wrote it, or to be able to agree with alterations,it is their artistic work.
MATTY GROVES is a traditional song that has undergone the hands of the people, in other words[excuse pun] it has been folk processed.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: GUEST,sciencegeek
Date: 20 Nov 13 - 09:02 AM

I didn't realize that one needed a resume to post... but with only one lifespan, I'll admit to placing more emphasis on the sciences and a few other interests. A jack of all trades rather than a master of one- but trying for mastery in some.

However, as a North American that has listened to classical music her entire life and having more than a passing interest in history, I'm not an ignoramus either. And it has been my observation that no matter the field... expert opinion is rarely unanimous and often quite contentious. This whole thread being a small scale example.

As for my point about Vivaldi... it doesn't take much to be "lost to history" even in a civilization with extensive written records. So if adapting some poetry to music - we are NOT talking about rewriting the poems themselves as poetry- helps keep a person's work alive for new generations, this is not a bad thing. Lack of interest, for whatever reason, can accomplish as much as the burning of Alexandria's library.

There would be no compilation of C Fox Smith's work if not for the efforts of many, like the Old Poetry website, and the hard work done by Charlie and Jim to get it into print.

And if alteration of a poem for any reason is offensive to some, they are not obliged to listen. Buy the book and curl up with that.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: Jeri
Date: 20 Nov 13 - 09:34 AM

You don't have to be an expert. It's all part of how songs get into the process.

What I've been finding humorous about all this that discussion about what should or shouldn't happen have no affect except to get people involved excited for a few minutes.

Even the poems get folk processed. Consider "Overseas in India..." which originally was "Behind a trench in Flanders..." (CF Smith's "Homeward") It DOES exist along side of the original work just fine.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: GUEST,sciencegeek
Date: 20 Nov 13 - 09:55 AM

LOL funny you should mention the issue of Homeward... Mike mentioned it the other night when I read him some of the posts...

Mike & Charlie have done workshops on C Fox Smith songs for a few of years now at NEFFA - New England Folk Festival held near the Boston area each spring for many years now. Since this is an all volunteer music & dance event, it is the musical setting of her poems that got them the workshop and more exposure for her poetry.

Just as there will always be lumpers and splitters, we will always have preservationists vs. conservationists... another point raised by Mike. He concluded with his thought that he doesn't really care what others think as long as he feels that he has done justice to the work. So until her ghost appears to "set him right", Mike will continue on.

I would add that if the critics ever heard him sing his songs, they might well change their minds. So I guess he needs to plug away at his first CD.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 20 Nov 13 - 10:37 AM

What I've been finding humorous about all this that discussion about what should or shouldn't happen have no affect except to get people involved excited for a few minutes.
If that were so, all kinds of discussion would be futile altogether. People who write, say, "Don't smoke!", would be naive to expect that this would save a single cigarette from being smoked. Still, "Who smokes, under what pretext, and for what real reasons, and how much?" and "What are the effects under what circumstances?" are important questions, to which valuable evidence can be hoped for, if not conclusive answers. If some reader happens to take good advice, all the better.

Note that I am not one of "the critics", just a discusser.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 20 Nov 13 - 11:43 AM

Since the first poem or song was written, people have changed words to suit themselves or their perceived audiences. Such variance in the recent period is recognized by copyright.

There is nothing wrong with this, my objection is only to failure on the part of the adapter to indicate that he has made changes.

Getting back to the subject of this thread-

A post above by John Charles links Charles Ipcar's singing versions of Fox Smith as they appear in his "Sea Songs of Cicely Fox Smith."
The title would lead one to believe that the songs have lyrics as Fox Smith wrote them, which is not the case.

The title should be changed, perhaps to "Adaptions of Sea Songs of Cicely Fox Smith for Voice, or similar.

This repeats what I posted before, but most of the posts here are general discussion and not specific to the post subject.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Nov 13 - 12:19 PM

Even the poems get folk processed. Consider "Overseas in India..." which originally was "Behind a trench in Flanders..." (CF Smith's "Homeward") It DOES exist along side of the original work just fine."
   I disagree,Jeri, behind a trench in flanders is correct and is relevant to the first world war and horses being killed in battle, if you think the mention of India is ok, it beggars the question why not overseas in missippi?or overseas in antartica, or oversesas in new zealand.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 20 Nov 13 - 12:57 PM

Jeri posted "Homeward" in another thread.
A terrific evocation of the time of WW1. I can't visualize a transfer to India or wherever.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: GUEST,sciencegeek
Date: 20 Nov 13 - 01:44 PM

years ago and still in school I would go to our local library and take every book on horses to read, and I remember one writer lamenting the changeover from horsepower to mechanized warfare. It lacked the "glamour" of the old calvary and reduced the number of working horses.

My reaction to that viewpoint was disbelief - how could they have been blind to the suffering & misery endured by those poor animals? Memories of the photographs taken of American civil war battlegrounds left little to the imagination as to the carnage done to man & beast. And the medievel section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art displayed not just human armor, but the armor for their mounts and the harsh bits and spurs needed to control them. Some four thousand years of warfare using horses and other critters is more than enough... a pity that humans still can't find better ways to settle their differences.

Given when she lived, the poem is clearly about WWI... but sadly, the sentiment fits far too many other conflicts as well. And that is where to power of the work comes from... it has meaning to people all over the world.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Nov 13 - 02:00 PM

Given when she lived, the poem is clearly about WWI... but sadly, the sentiment fits far too many other conflicts as well. And that is where to power of the work comes from... it has meaning to people all over the world.
point taken,but behind a trench in flanders is much more powerful than overseas in india, whichever person changed it and [it was not sara morgan, who put a lovely tune to the words] they have diluted the meaning of the song [imo]


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: GUEST,sciencegeek
Date: 20 Nov 13 - 02:57 PM

the images of trench warfare are stark - thanks to the photographic record - and will be strongly associated with WWI, despite the fact that trenches and earthworks were hardly a new invention. Regardless, the fact reamins that any mention of WWI will invoke mental images of trenches and barbwired battlefields. So a poem that starts out with that mental image will gain power from that.

Overseas in India has its own power, though not one seemingly directly related to WWI. In fact, it makes one curious as to why the change was made. So I did a little googling and found some info I had been quite ignorant of:

"Indian troops were on the Western Front by the winter of 1914 and fought at the first Battle of Ypres. By the end of 1915, they had sustained many casualties. Along with the casualties from sickness, the decision was taken to withdraw the Indian Corps from front line duty at the end of 1915.

In total, 800,000 Indian troops fought in all the theatres of the war with 1½ million volunteering to fight. They fought in most theatres of war including Gallipoli and North and East Africa. In all 47,746 were classed as killed or missing with 65,000 wounded.

The Indian Corps won 13,000 medals for gallantry including 12 Victoria Crosses. Khudadad Khan won the Corps first Victoria Cross."

British and Indian often fought together and perhaps the change was made by someone who wanted to make the work more personal from themselves. I doubt we will ever know for sure, but I'm glad it kicked me out of my comfort zone & prompted me to look somewhere I never though of before.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Nov 13 - 03:06 PM

I do not think overseas in india has any power in the context of the poem[just my opinion], furthermore it bears no context to indian troops fighting on the western front,neither are they the words that Fox Smith wrote


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: Jeri
Date: 20 Nov 13 - 03:19 PM

The setting of India was relevant to the soldier who sent the poem in. Either he changed it or heard it with those words, but that's the way he remembered it.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: GUEST,sciencegeek
Date: 20 Nov 13 - 03:28 PM

I agree that I have no real idea why someone felt the need to change that line... but obviously someone did. And it persisted long enough to be found decades later. One of life's little mysteries.

I put in some info about the Indian troops (here in the states we often have to differentiate between Native Americans vs. "Indians" - a legacy of our own historical background) because it seems right to acknowledge their contribution and because there may be a commonality between a British soldier,service in India and the "author" of the altered line. Purely conjecture.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Nov 13 - 04:08 PM

"The setting of India was relevant to the soldier who sent the poem in. Either he changed it or heard it with those words, but that's the way he remembered it."
not necessarily "relevant" to the soldier or whoever altered it, you are surmising, the rest of your statement is accurate,
but just because he misheard it or couldnt remember it properly, it is not an excuse for singing what the author did not write, especially, when it reduces the impact of the song.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: Jeri
Date: 21 Nov 13 - 12:08 AM

From the notes to one version of the song in the DT:


"Home Lads, Home" – Cicely Fox Smith and the folk process.

Many people are now familiar with the poet, Cicely Fox Smith (dates), whose work has been set to music by a number of folk performers including Alan Fitzsimmons, Pint and Dale, and Dave Webber. Her poems (like many of Kipling's) seem to have a natural affinity with the folk tradition, and it is interesting to see how the "folk process" has had an impact on one of her poems, "Homeward", published in 1916. A number of people have asked me about the different sets of words that seem to be around for this song, so I hope the following notes will provide an explanation.

The "folk process" is a term often used to describe the subtle way in which songs change when they are transmitted via the oral tradition. Singers "remember" slightly different versions of the tune and words, occasionally changing a word or place name to fit their local context more comfortably, and so on. As a result, we end up with often quite widely different versions of the same song cropping up in different areas. The existence of an original printed source does not seem to be a barrier – if the people want to make a work their own, they will go ahead and do it!

I first came across the words of "Homeward" in 1983, in a magazine called "This England", where they were credited to "an unknown Hampshire soldier" and given the title "Going home together" . The poem simply cried out for a musical setting, so after some time at the piano, the song "Home, Lads, home" came into being. I made one or two alterations to the words while I was in the course of writing the music; some of these were simply to do with scansion. However I must confess to changing the word "river" to "Meon", and the line "riding down from harvest" to "riding down from Swanmore". I also used one verse as a chorus. The reason for the changes was that the descriptions fitted the Meon Valley (where I was working at the time) very well, and I wanted to give the song an even stronger sense of place. The first line in the magazine version, incidentally, began "Overseas in India". This version of the song soon found a home among folk performers and was recorded by Bermuda Quadrangle, Roger Watson, Cockersdale and others.

Some time later, I was told that the words were in fact by Cicely Fox Smith, but it was a number of years before I saw a copy of her original words. In the meantime, Mick Ryan asked to use the song in his World War I folk opera "A Day's Work", and we changed the first line to "Overseas in Flanders" for obvious reasons. I was very surprised when I eventually gained access to the original words, which started – "Behind a trench in Flanders"!

Clearly, the folk process had been at work, as the version published in "This England" had a number of differences from CFS's original. Presumably, someone liked it enough to learn it off by heart, and time and memory (or memories) did the rest of the editing! The next factor in the song's evolution, was when my husband Steve and I decided to do some research into the life of Cicely Fox Smith. We discovered that she had in fact lived very near the Meon Valley in the 1930's, but prior to that she was living in the North of Hampshire. From what we have gleaned from the Records Office, we are now virtually certain that at the time of writing the poem in question, she was living in Chilbolton, at St. Michael's Cottage, a few minutes walk from the River Test. So…in performance I now no longer mention the Meon, or Swanmore, although most other people who sing the song still do! In my own performance of the song I am gradually working back towards the original words, but it isn't easy to change it much now that so many people know it (and lots of them think it is traditional)!

I think it is a tribute to Cicely Fox Smith's ability to touch the heart in simple language, that despite numerous minor alterations, the integrity and essence of her poem has stayed the same. From what I have come to know of her, I think she would not be averse to the idea of her poems becoming part of a living English tradition.

Sarah Morgan 30/8/02


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Nov 13 - 01:11 AM

Jeri,
I have great respect for the singing and musical ability of the late Sara Morgan.
I guess we will just have to agree to disagree, as to whether we prefer, "overseas in india", "or behind a trench in Flanders".
However this discussion is not futile if it brings to the attention of singers the original words, singers are then free to decide which version they might like to sing.
I think we should all be grateful to Sara Morgan for fitting a lovely tune to the words and for putting the song into circulation, Sara was a fine solo singer and a an excellent harmony singer, and all of us who knew her personally or just through her music, miss her.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Nov 13 - 04:55 AM

here are the original words to Sailortown. music dick miles 1987
Along the wharves in sailor town a singing whisper goes
Of the wind among the anchored ships, the wind that blows
Off a broad brimming water, where the summer day has died
Like a wounded whale a-sounding in the sunset tide.

There's a big China liner gleaming like a gull,
And her lit ports flashing; there's the long gaunt hull
Of a Blue-Funnel freighter with her derricks dark and still;
And a tall barque loading at the lumber mill.

And in the shops of sailor town is every kind of thing
That the sailormen buy there, or the ships' crews bring:
Shackles for a sea-chest and pink cockatoos,
Fifty-cent alarum clocks and dead men's shoes.

You can hear the gulls crying, and the cheerful noise
Of a concertina going, and a singer's voice –
And the wind's song and the tide's song, crooning soft and low
Rum old tunes in sailor town that seamen know.

I dreamed a dream in sailor town, a foolish dream and vain,
Of ships and men departed, of old days come again –
And an old song in sailor town, an old song to sing
When shipmate meets with shipmate in the evening.
two words I have altered is "concertina going" to "concertina playing", and added gently in front of blows, in my opinion this does not alter the meaning of the song
charlie ipcars adaptation.
Along the wharves of Sailor Town a singing whisper goes,
From the wind among the anchored ships, the wind that gently blows,
Cross the broad rippling waters where the summer day has died,
As the sun sinks down to China in a crimson tide.

Chorus:
And I dreamed a dream in Sailor Town, a foolish dream and vain,
Of ships and men departed, of old times come again,
And an old song in Sailor Town, an old song to sing,
When shipmate meets with shipmate in the long evening.

There's a big China liner, lovely like a gull,
With her lit ports a-flashing, all along her hull,
And a Blue-Funnel freighter, her derricks stark and still,
And a tall barque a-loading, down at the lumber mill.

Chorus

And in the shops of Sailor Town there's every kind of thing
That the sailors buy, or the sailors bring;
Shackles for a sea-chest, pink cockatoos –
Fifty-cent alarm clocks, sea-boots and dead men's shoes.

Chorus

You could hear the gulls a-crying, crying all day long,
And a concertina piping some old deep-sea song,
And the wind's song and the tide's song, crooning soft and low –
The rum old songs of Sailor Town, so many years ago.

Chorus
of course singers are free to sing whichever version they like, and I am free to question and of course this is only my opinion, why it is necessary to alter "wounded whale a sounding in the sunset tide".


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Nov 13 - 05:31 AM

I must say in case the tone of my post is misinterpreted, what a great job Charlie has done in promoting C Fox Smith.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 21 Nov 13 - 05:47 AM

I suspect the "homeward" poem was inspired by a famous (at the time) event during the retreat from Mons (Flanders) in 1914 .
thread.cfm?threadid=26502#557841


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: GUEST,sciencegeek
Date: 21 Nov 13 - 08:44 AM

one of the new difficulties in tracking down poems & credits - the original ( pre-google) problem was just finding the material, ie. books or magazines, in the first place - is how to set up the search so you do get the hits you want rather than no hits or a gazillion.

When Mike first came across Overseas in India the reference was to a Hampshire noncom whose name he can't remember... (any help here would be much appreciated) He thought it sounded like a CFS poem, but given her title for the poem and the fact that the site only gave the first line, his search failed. It wasn't until much later when doing a workshop on adapted songs that a member of the audience was able to provide more info. So close and yet so far... it still irks him that he couldn't find it despite trying so hard.

It has taken years of effort and not a small amount of money to finally get as complete a collection of her work as we have now.
Kudos to all those involved in the effort.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: Jeri
Date: 21 Nov 13 - 09:45 AM

'I guess we will just have to agree to disagree, as to whether we prefer, "overseas in india", "or behind a trench in Flanders".'

I don't know where you get the idea I prefer that version. I don't. It doesn't make sense to me, and the original words do. It's a natural sort of thing to happen to the words, though, that a person should memorize them and they should morph into something that person's more familiar with.

I don't like changes made so someone can put their own 'stamp' on a song. I'm guessing Charlie removed the wounded whale in favor of the sun sinking to China because sunsets are prettier than wounded whales. But since you've changed words as well, I think what you really dislike are awkward changes for reasons you don't understand, and I completely agree with that.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Nov 13 - 11:11 AM

ok jeri , i misunderstood you , i apologise.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: Jeri
Date: 21 Nov 13 - 12:49 PM

S'ok, Dick.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: GUEST,Stevebury
Date: 24 Nov 13 - 04:43 PM

Someone asked on this thread for some concrete examples. I've found the discussion to date very helpful in clarifying my own thoughts on setting a poem to music. So I'm willing to share my thought processes, and the changes I made, when I set a C. Fox Smith song to music.

After I attended Charlie Ipcar's workshop at the Getaway a couple of years ago, I was very taken by Fox's poem "The Old Fiddle." I thought it would lend itself to performing with fiddle accompaniment and drone. So even though Charlie Ipcar has created a nice setting (see elsewhere on Mudcat), I wanted a setting which lent itself to fiddle (not banjo) and which was in the right range and "fell under the fingers."

I haven't written many songs, let alone settings of existing poems, so I didn't go into this with much experience, or any well-articulated philosophy. But here's what I concluded.

* I won't change the author's words without a good reason. I did change "Full of dinky Chinee houses …" to "Full of Dinky Chinese houses …".   I hear "Chinee" as derogatory. (And I'm careful to say, "words by Cicely Fox Smith; edited/arranged by Steve Woodbury".)

* It's appropriate to take a verse, or lines, of the original as a chorus, to make the song more singable, and to provide for audience participation. I chose to use the two lines
    "Mouldy, musty, dumb and dusty, broken on the shelf,
    I thought I heard the sailor's fiddle singing to itself"
as a chorus, since they capture a key theme of the poem, emphasized after each verse.

* It's OK to leave out some lines or verses, if they make the song too long.
The original poem has eight-line verses and four-line verses; I split the eight-line verses to make all four-line verses.   I ended up dropping 18 lines, which still leaves eight verses plus the chorus. (And one of those verses I can leave out in performance if need be.) The poem is not a narrative, but instead presents a series of images. I don't think leaving out those lines hurts the song, and I don't think it does an injustice to C. Fox Smith.

* The right tune can give a lot of flexibility in adapting a poem to music. I found that by writing the tune in 3/ 4, instead of 2/4, I had a lot of flexibility in fitting the words. Some phrases go faster, some slower; this variability is good if you've got eight verses! I didn't have to change any words in the poem just to make them fit a Procrustean tune. With the lines
      "Ranzo, Ranzo, Reuben Ranzo" — came the sound to me
      Of a chantey chorus roaring with the roaring sea."
I chose go into a 2/4 chantey rhythm for "Ranzo, Ranzo, Reuben Ranzo" -- not the tune to the chantey, but a rhythmic allusion to it.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: sciencegeek
Date: 24 Nov 13 - 05:28 PM

Steve, I just read your post to Mike & he asked me to respond since I'm logged in...

Congratulations! You got it right the first time... all of it.

Mike


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 25 Nov 13 - 10:13 AM

For those who do not know, here is a source for "The Old Fiddle" and an incredible wealth of other English poems.

As far as I read, CFS imagines a clear stanza structure for each of her poems, of exactly equal rhythms. Obviously she suggested them to be lyrics of songs. In the "Fiddle" there are four stanzas of 8 + 4 lines, and a fifth one consisting only of 8 lines. No "Procrusteanism" required whatsoever, just compose 12 distinct lines of music.

A composer has the right to deviate from the poet's scheme, but I would be more careful about it than Steve. Extracting an artificial chorus sometimes works well (as Steve doubtless knows). In this case I am not yet convinced, not having heard the result.

Switching between 2/4 and 3/4 is generally an excellent idea, and so is changing the tempo. Modern songwriting should make sure that the rhythm reflects the stress pattern of the lyrics, but does not exactly reproduce the verse structure. As Steve observed, room to spare allows for flexible rhythms (and for "fill-ins" from the fiddle).

Leaving out verses: alas, sometimes required by today's impatient audiences. CFS imagined sung performances with more patient listeners, as if on long ship journeys or in retirement homes for sailors. In cases of poems not meant as songs, shortening sometimes has a better legitimation. The best classics did it, often tastefully, sometimes with sore losses - the music must make up for these. In other words: if you are Schubert, you can take more composer's licence than if you are Grishka.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: Charley Noble
Date: 25 Nov 13 - 09:50 PM

It's good to know there is continuing interest in the poetry of Cicely Fox Smith, and a spirited discussion of how one adapts her poems for singing. At this point over 100 of her poems have been so adapted and recorded, which I believe is considerably more than from any other poet, and that leaves about 600 more poems for other singers to consider; the 2nd Edition of The Complete Poetry of Cicely Fox Smith, scheduled for release next spring, will be even more complete, since we've been able to harvest another 60 or so poems from what we were able to print in the 1st Edition.

My own thoughts about how other people have adapted CFS's poems and my own perspective is summarized in my CFS Songbook:

"There are various ways that different performers have adapted these poems for singing. Some strictly adhere to the original text. Others take great liberties and cut entire verses while adding new wording and even choruses. I believe that the adaptation process is a delicate compromise of maintaining as much of the original poem as possible while trying to fashion it into something that can be sung well to a general audience. I find that some poems are readily sung as composed while others require major surgery. You are the ultimate judge with regard to how successful any musical rendition of a poem is."

Several people have kindly pointed out that I always include the original poem on my website, so people can see what changes I have made. Here's a link to my website lyrics page: http://www.charlieipcar.com/lyr_list.htm

I note for the record that I have also adapted poems for singing by Hamish Maclaren, John Masefield, Rudyard Kipling, Bill Adams, Burt Franklin Jenness, Edwin J. Brady, Harry Kemp, William McFee, Robert Lewis Stevenson and Angus Cameron Robertson.

Cheerily,
Charlie Ipcar, formerly known as "Charley Noble"


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: GUEST,sciencegeek
Date: 26 Nov 13 - 10:58 AM

hey, Charley... was wondering when you'd be showing up... :)

could you hazzard a guess as to how many of her poems were submitted to newspapers and/or magazines? As opposed to originally published in book form...

The reason I ask is because there has been the implication that each and every published work was the result of long & deliberate labor... which is hardly what I would expect from works done for quick publication in what can be referred to as ephemerial works, such as newspapers and many magazines... which are often subjected to editing prior to printing. Add to that the usual payment was by the word, which hardly encourages brevity when income is on the line.

I'm not suggesting that she didn't care or do her best to sum up her feelings at the time... but I suspect that once it was in a workable form there was little time or inclination to let it sit around for future reworking.

Your opinion would be appreciated.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: Charley Noble
Date: 26 Nov 13 - 11:11 AM

"how many of her poems were submitted to newspapers and/or magazines? As opposed to originally published in book form"?

Certainly more than 50% but we're still finding poems in magazines and newspapers which were later printed in her own poetry books. We've harvested almost everything in Punch magazine but she also was published in some 20 or more other magazines and newspapers and not all of them are available on-line in digital form.

Most of the republished poems have small changes in words and/or punctuation but sometimes there were major changes. Our general rule is to reprint only the newest version of the poem, assuming that was the form she was most satisfied with.

The hand-written manuscripts that we've had access to have no indication of date for individual poems.

Cheerily,
Charlie Ipcar


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: Charley Noble
Date: 28 Nov 13 - 06:02 PM

Here's a good example of how I've used major surgery in adapting a CFS poem for singing, "News in Daly's Bar": click here for lyrics and original poem

The resulting ballad still runs 8.5 minutes, which means I don't get to sing it very much at a regular session.

Cheerily,
Charlie


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: Charley Noble
Date: 29 Nov 13 - 04:48 PM

Well, maybe I'll check back in a few more months for comments.

Charlie


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 Nov 13 - 08:02 PM

Singing a song and reading, or reciting verse are different things. Sometimes adjusting the words as written seems perfectly right to me. Often a song will involve shortening a text, or adjusting the phrasing, or changing it in other ways.

There's no disrespect to the author implied.

It's not that different from the way that in a production of a greatly admired text, say Hamlet, the play is shortened or the words amended. Shakespeare isn't turning in his grave. The performance is what matters.

Sydney Carter had the right of it in my view, when he said that he wanted people singing his songs to feel free to change them as they wished, and that he saw that as a way of keeping the words alive.


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Subject: RE: changing words of c fox smith poetry in songs
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 29 Nov 13 - 09:18 PM

I read the original first, Charlie, and the thought expressed above, that she was being paid by the word, resonated with me.   

You did a wonderful job tightening it up and eliminating the many belabored points. I quite liked the way you adapted it to song, as well. It rolled like the seas. The instrumental accompaniment did much to create that effect. Given that, a bit of accordion would go well in the mix, if only to underscore the text. Very well done.


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