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How do we know which is genuine?

Bert 01 Apr 14 - 03:31 PM
Jack Campin 01 Apr 14 - 05:13 PM
Bert 01 Apr 14 - 06:09 PM
Steve Gardham 01 Apr 14 - 06:47 PM
Big Al Whittle 01 Apr 14 - 08:05 PM
MGM·Lion 02 Apr 14 - 12:08 AM
Steve Gardham 02 Apr 14 - 03:21 AM
Richard Bridge 02 Apr 14 - 03:40 AM
MGM·Lion 02 Apr 14 - 03:52 AM
Dave the Gnome 02 Apr 14 - 04:49 AM
Leadfingers 02 Apr 14 - 05:17 AM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 02 Apr 14 - 06:26 AM
Big Al Whittle 02 Apr 14 - 08:18 AM
Dave the Gnome 02 Apr 14 - 08:31 AM
Allan C. 02 Apr 14 - 08:44 AM
Musket 02 Apr 14 - 09:01 AM
GUEST,Grishka 02 Apr 14 - 09:25 AM
Will Fly 02 Apr 14 - 09:46 AM
Tradsinger 02 Apr 14 - 12:29 PM
MGM·Lion 02 Apr 14 - 01:12 PM
Weasel 03 Apr 14 - 11:35 AM
Will Fly 03 Apr 14 - 01:10 PM
Steve Gardham 03 Apr 14 - 01:56 PM
GUEST 03 Apr 14 - 03:20 PM
Steve Gardham 03 Apr 14 - 04:23 PM
Big Al Whittle 03 Apr 14 - 05:56 PM
Steve Gardham 03 Apr 14 - 06:24 PM
GUEST 03 Apr 14 - 06:57 PM
Bert 03 Apr 14 - 07:03 PM
Brian Peters 03 Apr 14 - 07:05 PM
Brian Peters 03 Apr 14 - 07:06 PM
Rob Naylor 03 Apr 14 - 07:43 PM
Bert 04 Apr 14 - 02:10 AM
Brian Peters 04 Apr 14 - 04:23 AM
Big Al Whittle 04 Apr 14 - 04:59 AM
Steve Gardham 04 Apr 14 - 02:01 PM
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Subject: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Bert
Date: 01 Apr 14 - 03:31 PM

A common theme in Folklore is that of Country Folk and

Towns Folk, pitting their wits against one another.

It crops up in songs like The Hayseed and The Zebra Dun, and stories such as The Cloud Puncher.

Over sixty years ago, one such story was told by an entertainer in Hampshire named Tiny.

He told of a Squire who's chickens were getting stolen.
He didn't mind too much at first but it eventually got out of hand, and try as he might, he couldn't catch the culprit.

Eventually he hired a private detective, who came down from London to investigate. Well this investigator decides to start at the local pub. So he goes in and talks to a couple of guys at the bar. He buys them drinks and eventually brings the conversation around to the chickens.

They deny any knowledge of the missing birds, but one of them says "You should ask Old George over there, he knows pretty much all that goes on around here." and points out a grizzled old fellow sitting over in the corner.

So, he goes over and talks with George. Of course he starts out by buying him a pint. Just as he manages to turn the conversation around to the missing fowl, George pointedly puts down his empty glass and says "Aaar, I know who 'ad 'em".   So our gallant detective does the right thing and gets him a refill, and carries on the conversation. But every time he manages to work in the subject of the chickens, George's empty glass, gets plonked down heavily on the table with the remark ."Aaar, I know who 'ad 'em".

Well soon our detective gets annoyed and says "Come on now, WHO HAD THEM".

George replies "Aaar, The Squire, 'ee 'ad 'em, but 'ee ain't got 'em now 'as 'ee".


Well I got to thinking that as similar stories are not rare; just how many times did folk song collectors run into this problem.

You know, a well spoken gentleman goes into a pub and starts asking about folk songs. Soon word gets around and the locals decide on a monumental leg pull. They get together and contrive a ridiculous song, which they pass off to the unsuspecting Townee, as a genuine folk song.

It had to have happened, so which song was it?


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 01 Apr 14 - 05:13 PM

Probably it didn't, or very very rarely. Folk songs come in herds of variants, and collectors realized that very early on. A song that was quite unlike any other would have stood out like one sheep in a flock that had been painted blue.


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Bert
Date: 01 Apr 14 - 06:09 PM

You may be right Jack, but I only asked for one.


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 01 Apr 14 - 06:47 PM

Doesn't quite fulfil all of your requirements but what about the story of Child Ether and Peter Buchan?


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 01 Apr 14 - 08:05 PM

I heard exactly that legend about Pratty Flowers.


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 02 Apr 14 - 12:08 AM

I take it, Al, you mean the aka Holmfirth Anthem. It has indeed always struck me as oddly over-literary, with its "most beautiful damsel", "shepherd swain", "fairest evening e'er I beheld thee", "can I leave thee thus, my dear?' "thees & thous" generally, &c. Never rung true as being other than, perhaps, something a village schoolmaster or curate had knocked together & spread about the parish.

Pretty tune, tho: nice to sing and pleasant listen. I remember John Tams & Ashley interpolated it into that National Theatre Lark Rise To Candleford* those years back where it fitted OK. But still & all...

~Michael~

*Drift:- Trouble with that was that it was an early example of the fad for 'promenade productions'. I loathe & detest 'promenade productions'. Always remind me of Mr Knightley in Jane Austen's 'Emma" about surprises, that they are "foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable": perfect summary of prom prods for my money...


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 02 Apr 14 - 03:21 AM

There is no leg-pull or suggestion of deception with Pratty Flowers. We know the author and the history. Like many another folk song its origins are in art song albeit on a local level. I can't believe there isn't a thread on it here somewhere.


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 02 Apr 14 - 03:40 AM

I always make a point of singing "Lamenting her unpleasant swain".    A bit like "the sharks they played melodeons".


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 02 Apr 14 - 03:52 AM

I always long to kick anyone who sings 'the sharks they played melodeons' mercilessly in the bollox with hobnailed boots till they are dead!

Steve -- I was not querying the passing of the song into tradition; merely recording my initial reaction on first hearing it; later, as you say, confirmed.

~M~


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 02 Apr 14 - 04:49 AM

How do you feel about 'the larks they were malodorous' then, Michael?

Back to the thread - Wasn't Darcy Farrel passed off as traditional at one time? Maybe not quite the same thing but similar. Ish...

DtG


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 02 Apr 14 - 05:17 AM

A LOT of 'written' songs have been accepted as 'Trad' - sometimes even passed as such by the author - Keith Marsden for one ! And I wish I had a pound for everytime I heard 'Dark as a Dungeon' introduced as 'Trad' back in the sixties


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 02 Apr 14 - 06:26 AM

"You know, a well spoken gentleman goes into a pub and starts asking about folk songs. Soon word gets around and the locals decide on a monumental leg pull. They get together and contrive a ridiculous song, which they pass off to the unsuspecting Townee, as a genuine folk song."

Dunno that it ever did happen in quite that form, although various examples of instant extemporisation exist. EG., John Davis of the Georgia Sea Islands was once asked by Alan Lomax to sing Go Down Moses. Davis said "everybody knows that one", and launched into something which he just called Moses. Lomax said he was convinced that Davis had made it up on the spot and if he did then it's one mighty performance. You can hear it on Georgia Sea Island Songs. New World LP NW 278 (or whatever the equivalent CD number is).

On another occasion, Lomax was recording Aunt Molly Jackson and he asked her if she had any Robin Hood ballads. Aunt Molly's response was "What's a Robin Hood?". Lomax explained and the next time he called on her, she had a Robin Hood ballad all made up, ready to sing to him.

But the example I'm most reminded of was something which Joe Heaney told me about many years ago. He said that an American had gone to Connemara looking for songs and was paying good money. One guy jumped on the pub table and leathered the living bejasus out of a bodhran, while singing in Irish and to the tune of Keep Your Hands Off Red Haired Mary;

"As I went out on the bog one morning,
On the bog one morning as I went out",

over and over again until the American thought he'd got an entire Gaelic folksong and paid him the money.

Personally, I don't think the incident ever happened and I don't think most collectors are quite that daft. But that's the folk process for you.


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 02 Apr 14 - 08:18 AM

who wrote Pratty Flowers then. I know a bloke who has been going round for years telling a story about some blokes who Cecil Sharp met outside a rural Yorkshire pub, pulling a fast one on Sharp.

and when I say years - fifty years that I know of.


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 02 Apr 14 - 08:31 AM

They are a funny lot in Yorkshire though and I should know, I live there now!

I met a bloke sat outside a pub in Kettlewell, rolling little pellets on a cloth on the table.

"What are those?" I asked.

He said, "Them's larnin pills."

Well, I asked to try one and he agreed. I instantly spat it out.

"That's sheep shit!" I exclaimed.

"Tha's larnin" he replied.

:D tG


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Allan C.
Date: 02 Apr 14 - 08:44 AM

Ah! Another conspiracy theory! The concept seems to me to be highly unlikely. While pranks of various kinds are to this day perpetrated upon unsuspecting newbies and outlanders, and though some are quite ingenious, most require very little if any effort on the part of the initiator. In general the simpler the construct, the more believable it is. Creating a brand new "folk song" out of whole cloth cannot be a simple undertaking and therefore appears to me to be far too much effort for conspirators to spend time constructing. Besides, where is the payoff? If your collector believes it to be a real song then how do the conspirators get the satisfaction of a good laugh? No, I think they would stick with the simpler stuff like having someone fetch a board-stretcher or a bucket of steam or sending the newbie after some gasoline in a Styrofoam cup.


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Musket
Date: 02 Apr 14 - 09:01 AM

Not knowing the provenance of a song makes it a folk song in some ways. After all, if you knew if religion was true or not, you wouldn't need the religion in either case.

There was a singer, an old man, long gone now, bless him who was a hit at festivals and clubs, due to his being able to talk about the industry he sang about from when he was working in it before the war. All good stuff. He used to say he learned this song at his mother's knee. To this day, my collection of Martin Carthy albums have a special shelf in my study, where I have written "Mother's Knee" on the shelf.

No names, no pack drill, but fond memories all the same.


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 02 Apr 14 - 09:25 AM

I think more than half of our cherished folk songs are "fakes" in the sense that they suggest a society context which was not the author's own, and possibly never existed in real life (- not even if we disregard the miracles). This includes old anonymous songs, but has become a real pest since the 19th century, when folk songs were discovered as useful material for nationalist and other ideologies.

Faking convincingly enough to fool a scholar is not all that easy; "genuine country folks" are not as likely to succeed as poets are (including teachers, clergy, fellow scholars).

A similar situation, set in Bavaria about 1900, but with a different ending, is described in "Das Volkslied" by Ludwig Thoma, unfortunately not easy to read, let alone translate.


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Will Fly
Date: 02 Apr 14 - 09:46 AM

I remember passing off an idiotically mock-rural song as an authentic recording in a pub in the 1930s to a folklorist about 10 years ago. Played it to him one evening in his house and pretended it was an acetate copy of a field recording I'd discovered. I then had the decency to tell him it was a fake - the look on his face was wondrous to see.

I did it thus:

1. I sang the idiotic words to my fake song in to my Roland 8-track.
2. I uploaded it to my Mac Book Pro.
3. I recorded some background noise from a village pub one riotous evening using a Sony portable cassette recorder.
4. I uploaded the pub noise into my Mac.
5. I mixed my song and pub background recordings.
6. I "distressed" the recording using a software program.

Lo and behold - a field recording! Unfortunately I didn't keep it but, as I recall, the actual "song" bore a close resemblance to the Peter Sellers parody track of "Suddenly It's Folksong" on one of his early LPs. You know the sort of thing - "I 'ad 'er, I 'ad 'er...' etc.

Wished I'd kept it now - it had all the hallmarks of a classic: lousy singing, indistinguishable words, bad recording quality.


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Tradsinger
Date: 02 Apr 14 - 12:29 PM

As someone who has spent a lot of time recording source singers, I have some thoughts on the subject. I have never come across someone who openly tried to "pull the wool over my eyes" but I always ask where they got that particular song from. Usually the answer is straightforward, i.e. from friends, family, in the forces etc, so no problem. I did once record a source singer singing "Lovely Joan" which he told me afterwards he had learnt a) the tune from the Vaughan Williams symphony and b) the words from a contemporary folk group in a pub (who probably got it from the Martin Carthy recording). There was no intention to trick me as to him it was a good song and part of his repertoire, and from the enjoyment point of view, it made no difference, but it is important to know this if you are trying to research the provenance of a song.

Similarly, I have recorded singers who sing their own compositions, or have written parodies of well-known songs (e.g. the Farmer's Boy). Again, there has been no attempt to try to fool me into thinking it was an old folk song.

However, I did record one singer who had some great material which he told me was from his family but I later learnt (from his brother, among others), that he had learnt the bulk of it from written sources. He was an exception.

Tradsinger


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 02 Apr 14 - 01:12 PM

With 'legendary pedant' hat on --

[Lovely Joan] ... "the tune from the Vaughan Williams symphony"; not actually from a symphony, but theme B from The Greensleeves Fantasia. Martin Carthy presumably learned his recorded version from the original 1959 Penguin Book Of English Folk Songs, co-edited by RVW, who had collected the song in Norfolk in 1908.

~M~


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Weasel
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 11:35 AM

When I was a student we were given an assignment to produce a book/booklet on the folk songs of our home county. Coming from Lancashire there was a fairly rich tradition so I had no problem.

My mate was from Cumbria and after dismissing "John Peel" and a couple more songs about hunting, he produced a wonderful document full of songs that our lecturer had never come across before. Neither had we. In fact, neither had he - rather than do the research he'd written the lot himself.

Weasel


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Will Fly
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 01:10 PM

Excellent - that man was destined for greatness!


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 01:56 PM

Pratty Flowers, as several people have said, undoubtedly an art song but it does come from an older song of the mid-18thc pleasure gardens.
The oldest copy I have is entitled 'The Maiden's Complaint for the Loss of her Shepherd' and was printed at Aldermary Church Yard in London about 1750 give or take a decade. This entered oral tradition and was later collected under such titles as 'Through the Groves' (Roud 1046).

The version sung as a glee/anthem by the Holme Valley Choir (I have the 78) was rewritten and arranged by J. Perkins around 1870 and was published on sheet music as 'Pratty Flowers, The Popular Song and Chorus known as The Holmfirth Anthem'. Even this version made it onto late broadsides by Harkness of Preston as 'Abroad for Pleasure'. And of course it then became part of the traditional repertoire of the West Sheffield farming/hunting community, and so into the repertoire of The Watersons and why not?

Regardless of the sickly words it's a great song to sing in harmony.


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 03:20 PM

You're right, sad it's taken you twenty years to wake up. Folk music is just a hoax, and always has been. Time you all got a life and found something better to do, like downloading photos of boy scouts.


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 04:23 PM

Got the photos already, Guest. What is this wonderful life you speak of? Is it the afterlife? I hadn't realised I was asleep.


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 05:56 PM

bloody hell! that IS complicated. ........

and your conclusion is that its not a folksong. that song is really old! and loads of people have used it and buggered about with it.

I really can't see what the point of saying that its not a folksong is.


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 06:24 PM

Where did I say it wasn't a folk song, Al? It obviously has gone through at least 2 periods of being a folk song, 3 if you count the wider sense of 'Folk'. As for the 'buggering about' whether it was folk or not would be based on who was doing the buggering about and which meaning of 'folk' you were using.


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 06:57 PM

A Real Folksong dates back to Time Immoral (1954), nobody ever composed it, and only authorised interpreters can be carriers. The rest is pop.


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Bert
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 07:03 PM

GUEST, you are a brat, but funny though. :-)


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 07:05 PM

A Real Folksong dates back to Time Immoral (1954), nobody ever composed it, and only authorised interpreters can be carriers.

Classic Straw Man argument from a contributor so confident of their argument that they feel disinclined to attach a name to it. Who actually ever said this, Mr/Ms 'Guest'? "Contempt" and "deserves" are just two of the words that spring to mind.


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 07:06 PM

Funny??


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 07:43 PM

er, Brian, i think you'll find that "Guest" was ripping the piss with that remark! I can't understand how anyone could read it as anything else.


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Bert
Date: 04 Apr 14 - 02:10 AM

...only authorised interpreters can be carriers...

It is so true that you have to laugh.


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 04 Apr 14 - 04:23 AM

Rob: yes, of course I realise that GUEST's contribution was a clunky attempt to take the piss. Thing is, I'd been enjoying some good posts, especially Steve Gardham's, until one or more anonymous idiots started blowing raspberries.

Mudcat is many things to many people, but having experts who know what they're talking about share their knowledge freely is one of the main things that makes it worth looking at. Anonymous snark is what makes it depressing.

Sorry for being po-faced in response to such dazzling wit.


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 04 Apr 14 - 04:59 AM

sorry - I thought a distinction was being made between an art song and a folk song.

I am not being argumentative. I just don't follow the argument.

from what you are saying a song can go through periods of being a folksong, and periods and situations where it is not a folksong.

something like that.....?


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Subject: RE: How do we know which is genuine?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Apr 14 - 02:01 PM

That's about right, Al. The process has almost always been a two-way affair. When a song is being used by sophisticated people it is an art song. When it is being used by the 'folk' it is a folk song. But nowadays that's all been muddied by the presence of a 'folk scene' which perhaps gives us a 3rd category, or perhaps when it is being used by the folk scene it is both art and folk. Now I'm confusing myself!!!!

There are plenty of fairly uncomplicated examples, 'Barbara Allen' for instance. For most of its life it has been a very widely spread folk song, but Pepys heard it as a very high-class art song being sung in a London theatre, possibly the original. The various sheet music versions I have for singing round the piano I would call art song, and perhaps the versions on Broadsheets. The burlesque versions I would also class as art songs.

To go back to the thread title, I interpret the question as being applied to deliberate deception, not art/folk song.


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