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Reviving the past

GUEST,Rahere 23 Sep 14 - 11:58 AM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 23 Sep 14 - 12:11 PM
GUEST,Rahere 23 Sep 14 - 12:23 PM
GUEST,leeneia 23 Sep 14 - 05:39 PM
Bill D 23 Sep 14 - 06:44 PM
michaelr 23 Sep 14 - 07:56 PM
Manitas_at_home 24 Sep 14 - 12:54 AM
Manitas_at_home 24 Sep 14 - 12:55 AM
Musket 24 Sep 14 - 02:25 AM
GUEST,Rahere 24 Sep 14 - 12:12 PM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 24 Sep 14 - 12:32 PM
GUEST,Rahere 24 Sep 14 - 06:09 PM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 25 Sep 14 - 06:33 AM
Howard Jones 25 Sep 14 - 09:17 AM
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Subject: Reviving the past
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 23 Sep 14 - 11:58 AM

The discussion on Lovely Joan brought something else to the front: whether we should come back to the warhorses, because they've been out to pasture for too long.

The National Song Book provided generations of middle-class kids tubes which were mismarketed as one-size-fits-all instant culture for upwardly mobile working-class-made-good families in the 1930s through to the 1950s. It was entirely made up of folk songs, nd became overdone - massively so.

However, I was astonished to discover in a newly-established club that nobody under 50 knew any of them, they had been too successfully expunged, even in the Clubs.

Is it time to rework them, and begin afresh?


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Subject: RE: Reviving the past
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 23 Sep 14 - 12:11 PM

The trouble with those National Song Books is that a lot of the material was awful and unreliable. Plus, I recall they contained quite a few "national" songs, such as Tom Bowling.

In these days, when so much better stuff is so readily available, and so much better presented, I'd be inclined to look elsewhere.


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Subject: RE: Reviving the past
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 23 Sep 14 - 12:23 PM

See what I mean, why it needs work? Sure, there was a lot of banale crap, but that's simply the definition of raw material.


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Subject: RE: Reviving the past
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 23 Sep 14 - 05:39 PM

I found the National Song Book from 1905 on Google Books. What a treasure! 200 pages of tunes. If the words seem banal, they can be ignored.

So what you do, Rahere, is play the tunes out of the book, and if you like one, you share it here by posting a Tune Add. If it's a good tune, people will do things like add chords, make an ABC, make a MIDI, etc.

I've been exploring the Welsh tunes. Of the five I've played, I already was familiar with four as dance tunes.


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Subject: RE: Reviving the past
From: Bill D
Date: 23 Sep 14 - 06:44 PM

It may depend on where you expect to do them. Some groups or clubs would gleefully join in, while some would go 'huh?.

(I am going to be at the FSGW Getaway (thread now active) this weekend, where almost anything is welcome, and the old ones get smiles.)


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Subject: RE: Reviving the past
From: michaelr
Date: 23 Sep 14 - 07:56 PM

Might someone who has the book be kind enough to post a table of contents? Thanks in advance.


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Subject: RE: Reviving the past
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 24 Sep 14 - 12:54 AM

http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/national-songbook/national-songbook.html


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Subject: RE: Reviving the past
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 24 Sep 14 - 12:55 AM

That didn't seem to work
http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/national-songbook/national-songbook.html


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Subject: RE: Reviving the past
From: Musket
Date: 24 Sep 14 - 02:25 AM

I'd take heart by the observation there are quite a few people under 50.


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Subject: RE: Reviving the past
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 24 Sep 14 - 12:12 PM

Most of them are already on the cat, but forgotten about. Don't do it in f'in Listen-with-Mother mode, though. Some are on the edge of being downright sexy, adjust the metre and backing.


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Subject: RE: Reviving the past
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 24 Sep 14 - 12:32 PM

Ye Gods, what a cavalcade of crap. 3/4 of it seems to have been written by Thomas Moore, A P Graves and several other worthies. Polite drawing room ballads they may be. Folksongs they are not.

The problem is that the few folksong texts which are in there are in all probability highly unreliable, and so are the tunes - especially the Thomas Moores.

Please, folks, don't go putting any of that stuff back in circulation. If you want good traditional songs from unimpeachable sources, there is any number of CDs, such as Topic's monumental Voice of the People. And if you want to learn folksongs from print (and that's no bad idea at all), go down to your local library and see if they've got any of the collections by Sharp, Kidson, Broadwood etc. In fact you couldn't do much better than acquiring a copy of the New Penguin Book of English Folksongs, edited by Steve Roud and Julia Bishop. It's chock full of really good songs, often in unusual versions, and none of them   have been mucked about with by the editors.


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Subject: RE: Reviving the past
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 24 Sep 14 - 06:09 PM

Let me quote Steve Roud from the General Introduction to that book, whose launch I sang at.
"Performers, of course, are under no such obligations as regards fidelity to source, although in the folk world there have often been strong notions of being grounded in 'tradition', which at least implies a degree of authenticity...
"This divergence of expectation between scholars and performers has resulted in a regular irritating misunderstanding of the question of accuracy and alteration in folk music. One argument runs that because folk songs change in transmission and performance it is therefore perfectly acceptable for collectors and editors to alter the songs they are presenting to the public...
"The fact of the matter is that the editors' and performers' need may overlap, but are very different."
You, sadly, have confused the two. From as far back as we know, performers' editions have been arranged. John Gay did it in The Beggars Opera, at a time when folk songs were in their birth, Edward Bunting did it two hundred years ago, Vaughan Williams did it a hundred years ago, and Steeleye Span did it forty years ago when they published their arrangements. When we sang at the Southbank in Tapping the Source, Steve played the recordings first, then we performed the current arrangements, as did Martin Carthy (and yes, I've studied arrangement under him too). The original notes are there, the modern arrangements are in the Archive too now. That was then, this is now, and where will we be in 2113? Look at Lilibulero, for example, as a tune which has wandered over the years. You cannot freeze the music forever, music in the last thousand years has moved from Psalmic monody to Bach's mathematics, to Fauré's Romanticism, to Cage's asonic tonality, to... The historian has to keep the situation at a given date clean, but the performer can move it on, must move it on, will move it on.
Just because you're not certain about the roots doesn't qualify you, therefore, to make the criticisms you do. Heck, the Americans include things like that ghastly pastiche Ashokan Farewell in their "Traditional" repertoire. Pastiche for all the clichés it nicks, the diminished chord of Give Me Your Hand, for example. There's a lot of work in the Northumbrian tradition whiose composition is known. And on and on we can go.
What you must do, on the other hand, is unknit the perversions previous performers have committed, and then, understanding what the original tune probably was and why, add your own. A Tudor tune is going to be very different from a nineteenth century one, for sure. Should we therefore also perform it in a Staffordshire accent? Particularly when we come from elsewhere? It's why if we take these on board, we make them our own. Nor for that matter do we need to stop there. Look in the Take 6 Archive and you'll see Steve picked just a few of the virtually unknown songs the collectors of a hundred years ago gathered. There is a wealth of others there too.
And just as that is one source, I fail to see how you can say "Vaughan Williams Good, Moore Bad" to another. Much of what RVW arranged was equally bad. What you must do is to see what can be made good for now, music being an ephemeral art, we know it will no longer be the same in a hundred years time.
In the first ten tunes in the Index of The National, I find The Keel Row, The Bailiff's Daughter of Islington, and Barbara Allen. Further on, The Barley Mow, most of the Ravenscroft rounds, Almost all the Welsh tradition, and a big chunk of the Scottish are there. And you'd ban the lot! Poppycock, it never pretended to be only a folksong book, it's just you learned a fairly justifiable prejudice in your youth which needs reexamination now, having swung too far the other way.
If you're performing a folk song, threfore, you must muck about with it. Steve himself was quite happy with that. Now OK, if pretending to be a Victorian gammer floats your boat, good luck to you. I'd hope you had some kind of background enabling you to go there. But me, I'm happy with being me and bringing the songs to me.


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Subject: RE: Reviving the past
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 25 Sep 14 - 06:33 AM

"Poppycock, it never pretended to be only a folksong book." Precisely. That's the problem with it.

"Steve Roud from the General Introduction to that book". Steve and I doubtless agree on a lot of things, and we probably disagree on just as many. Please don't pass Steve's opinions about performance, interpretation or anything else, as tangible facts. They're not.

"You, sadly, have confused the two." Hang on. I've been singing for over forty years, and listening to and studying folksongs for a lot longer than that. I make all kinds of changes to the songs I sing. That is my right and my privilege, but I do not expect to have changes foisted on me by editors who clearly wouldn't know a folksong if it got off the floor and shook hands with them.

"When folksongs were in their birth". What? No folksongs before John Gay. I hardly think so.

"Edward Bunting did it two hundred years ago." Did what? It's early morning, by my standards anyway, and I'm only on my fourth cup of coffee. But AFAICR, Bunting collected harp tunes, not folk tunes, from professional harpers, and published them.

"the Americans include things like that ghastly pastiche Ashokan Farewell in their "Traditional" repertoire." Which Americans? Anybody who knew what they were talking about would know that it was written, and copyrighted, by Jay Ungar. He knows a thing or two about copyright does Jay Ungar.

"Just because you're not certain about the roots doesn't qualify you, therefore, to make the criticisms you do." It's not a question being certain about the roots, or of making criticisms. All I said was that there are more authoritative sources than TNNS.

"There's a lot of work in the Northumbrian tradition whiose composition is known." And.......? We know the authorship of quite a number of folksongs. So what?

"Should we therefore also perform it in a Staffordshire accent?" What's that got to do with anything? Personally I sing in a Liverpool acent, not a Staffordshire one. Or are you saying that all Tudor music was performed in Staffordshire accents?

"Much of what RVW arranged was equally bad." Actually I'm very fond of Vaughan Williams' choral arrangements, although far less so of his English Folksong Suite. However, if I was planning to learn any song which featured in any 'classical' arrangement, I'd prefer to go back to the source, and to any other versions I could lay my hands on. That way, I could compare/collate them and come up with something which I wanted to sing, rather than something which RVW, or anyone else, had arranged.

"Almost all the Welsh tradition, and a big chunk of the Scottish are there!" Whaaaaatttttt!!!! Almost all the Welsh tradition and a big chunk of the Scottish folksong repertory in one tiny little volume. If you want some idea of the extent of the Scots tradition take a look through The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection. 8 very large volumes of songs from one tiny little corner of north east Scotland.

"And you'd ban the lot!" personally I wouldn't ban anything. I would just advise people to show a little circumspection in their choices of where to look for songs. But isn't that where we came in?


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Subject: RE: Reviving the past
From: Howard Jones
Date: 25 Sep 14 - 09:17 AM

I don't think the National Song Book was ever intended, even less regarded, as a source for the folk world. It was for 'community singing', an entirely different thing.

When there were a limited number of books and recordings to provide singers with material it was inevitable that certain songs would be 'done to death' and regardless of their inherent quality people just got fed up with hearing them. In an attempt to create a more individual repertoire singers went in search of less well-known songs, or less well-known versions.

If it's any consolation, the younger generations of singers are now re-discovering these old favourites and thinking of them as hidden gems, and are often surprised when performing them to find that they are actually known to the older section of the audience. They are coming back into circulation.


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