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System for title of ballads & folk songs

Richie 22 Dec 14 - 04:21 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 22 Dec 14 - 05:10 PM
Richie 22 Dec 14 - 05:20 PM
Richie 22 Dec 14 - 05:33 PM
Richie 22 Dec 14 - 05:44 PM
GUEST 22 Dec 14 - 06:00 PM
Richie 22 Dec 14 - 06:37 PM
Don Firth 22 Dec 14 - 08:14 PM
Richie 22 Dec 14 - 10:07 PM
Brian Peters 23 Dec 14 - 07:45 AM
GUEST 23 Dec 14 - 12:03 PM
GUEST,LIGHTER 23 Dec 14 - 12:03 PM
Richie 23 Dec 14 - 12:34 PM
Steve Gardham 23 Dec 14 - 01:38 PM
Richie 23 Dec 14 - 04:13 PM
Richie 23 Dec 14 - 04:22 PM
Richie 23 Dec 14 - 04:34 PM
Steve Gardham 23 Dec 14 - 04:37 PM
Reinhard 23 Dec 14 - 04:51 PM
Richie 23 Dec 14 - 04:56 PM
Richie 23 Dec 14 - 05:08 PM
Steve Gardham 23 Dec 14 - 05:57 PM
Richie 23 Dec 14 - 09:04 PM
Reinhard 24 Dec 14 - 03:00 AM
Steve Gardham 24 Dec 14 - 08:20 AM
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Subject: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Richie
Date: 22 Dec 14 - 04:21 PM

Hi,

Since I'm working on putting versions of Child ballad on my site, it occurred to me that there should be a system for titling ballads and folk songs that should be recognized as an accepted way to title ballads and folk songs.

Is there a system? What is it?

For example, many of the folk songs collected, do not have a local title. So collectors would say, "That's Child 74; Fair Margaret and Sweet William. They would assign the name of ballad the generic Child ballad title.

If there's no local tile, what title should be assigned? What if the title has completely different names that the generic title?

Should the title be based on what is sung? the way the informant sings (pronounces) it? After all this is how Mike Yates got his "Far in the Mountain" title (Fire in the Mountain/ Fire on the Mountain).

What if the local title is wrong (like "Far in the Mountain")? should it be changed?

Should local tiles be used over generic ones?

TY

Richie


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 22 Dec 14 - 05:10 PM

I think the title the performer knew should be given priority. To give an example, I don't think Hobart Smith used the title "K.C. Moan," and therefore I don't think a performance by him should be titled that.


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Richie
Date: 22 Dec 14 - 05:20 PM

I agree- so the local tile (title performer knows) is given precedence.

So Cecil Sharp, EFSSA 1917, 1932 did not give local titles; and many collectors didn't give them either.

Should a local title be created?

Richie


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Richie
Date: 22 Dec 14 - 05:33 PM

A title based on what the singer sang can be created from 1) the topic 2) reoccurring names in the song 3) the first line of the song.

Is it right for collectors and publishers to assign titles not based on what the singer (informant) sang? What if the collector never asks the singer what the tile is? This is different than if the singer doesn't know the title. This is a collector tell the singer what the title is. Is that right?

Richie


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Richie
Date: 22 Dec 14 - 05:44 PM

As an example John Stone, collected ballads for the Virginia Folklore Society. The ballads he collected were published in "Traditional Ballads of Virginia" edited Kyle Davis Jr. 1919.

All (or nearly all) of the versions he collected use the generic Child title. I think he didn't try to collect a local title, the ballad was "Lady Isabel and the Elf-knight" and "Lady Isabel" is a name not used in tradition.

Should we fix this now-- should it be "Pretty Polly" or the "Six Kings' Daughters"?

Richie


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Dec 14 - 06:00 PM

What's the difference between the collector inventing a title and you inventing one?

If you can find the title that the source singer used then fine but to invent one of your own because you don't think FJC is good enough for you smacks of hubris.


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Richie
Date: 22 Dec 14 - 06:37 PM

That depends- on whether you think the title should be based on what the singer sings. It doesn't matter what I (or the collector) decide to do - it matters what the title should be.

And it gives no solution to whether it's correct for anyone to assign a title not based on what's sung.

Richie


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Don Firth
Date: 22 Dec 14 - 08:14 PM

Standard Operating Procedure is to use the "local title" (I presume that, by this, you mean the title the singer uses, e.g., what Jean Ritchie or Richard Dyer-Bennet call it), followed by the Child designation in parentheses. For example, "Fine Flowers in the Valley (Child #20)." Versions of Child #20 are known by various titles, such as "The Cruel Mother" and "Down by the Greenwood Side-i-o."

I know a fellow who did an exhaustive research paper on "Lord Randal" (Child #12), coming up with references to 1,013 variants of the ballad, ranging through the British Isles, the Scandinavian countries (including Iceland), all across Europe, through the Middle East, and around to North Africa—interestingly enough, just about everywhere the Vikings ranged. Some things he found were downright bizarre. Such as the American variant, possibly a propaganda song put out by the dairy industry, in which Jimmie Randall's sweetheart poisons him by feeding him oleomargarine instead of real butter. AND—the American song "Billie Boy." Upon examination of the verse structure, certain words use at certain places within the verses, the fact that the form of the song is "question and answer," every verse ends with the word "mother," and food is quite prominent in the song, in this case "cherry pie" rather than "eels and eel's broth," it becomes patently obvious that the song "Billie Boy" is a comic variation of Lord Randal (Child #12)! Who'ld have thunk it!??

I first started playing the guitar and learning songs in the very early 1950s, and took an excellent course of study in the Popular Ballad from Prof. David C. Fowler in the University of Washington English Literature Department. I've been singing both professionally and for fun (hard to separate the two) since then, and I have researched a lot of folk songs and ballads. The "Local title" followed by the Child number in parentheses—that it, if the song is a ballad and has a Child number—is the way I've always seen it. The Child number makes it pretty easy to research variants of the ballad. In fact, without it, you're sort of dead in the water. But with only the Child number one doesn't know which variant you're talking about.

If the song is not a Child ballad, I generally use the name that my source (another singer, a song book, or a record) uses to identify the song.

Give this website a look:   Contemplator.   A wealth of good information here.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Richie
Date: 22 Dec 14 - 10:07 PM

Hi Don,

So using the local title and the Child ballad number in parenthesis makes sense - because as we know some titles are exactly the same for two ballads: "Sweet William" can be Earl Brand #7 or Fair Margaret and Sweet William #74.

I would also assume that the Roud number or the Laws designation would be appropriate to be added for ballads and songs that aren't Child ballads. Or the name in parenthesis could be the name the ballad and song is generally known by.

So what do we do with songs that do not have local titles? I have a problem using generic titles like "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" when the singer is singing "Lady Marg'ret." Should titles be assigned to ballads and songs from the song text if either the collector doesn't say or no local title is given?

What I'm getting at is this: If the "local title" presides over a generic title- then if the local title is missing, shouldn't one be assigned? And how do we do that? I think it must, in most cases, come from the singer's text. Using the first line is one obvious way but it may not define what the song is about at all.

Richie


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Brian Peters
Date: 23 Dec 14 - 07:45 AM

The whole thing is a bit of a minefield, which is of course why Steve Roud developed his index. As far as I understand it, most traditional singers did not give titles or, if they did, would most likely use the first line, name of main character(s) or possibly a line from the chorus. There's a great moment in the recordings of Maggie Hammons Parker where the collector asks the singer for the title to her version of 'Marrowbones' and she replies, as if to a rather backward child, "Mercian Tittery-ary-a" - i.e. the chorus she's just repeated several times. Mountain singers called Child 289 "The Sailor's Song' - which makes sense because in those versions there is no 'mermaid'.

Generic titles have their drawbacks - on of the few flaws in the generally excellent 'New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs' is the use of generic titles that clash with the lyrics of the song concerned - such as 'The Lincolnshire Poacher' opening: "I was born a labourer in famous Gloucestershire'.

When you say "the name the ballad is generally known by", would you mean - in the case of say Child 4 - 'Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight', or the more widely used 'Outlandish Knight'? Is Child 2 to be called 'The Elfin Knight', 'Cambric Shirt', or 'Scarborough Fair' (the last being the most famous, but quite atypical in mentioning Scarborough)?

Someone will be along any minute to tell us that it's all the fault of academics and their butterfly-collecting obsessions, but the truth is that for many of us it useful to have a means of comparing what may be very different versions of essentially the same song. I think I'd go for local name (where available) or common name (if not), followed by Roud or Child number as you suggest.


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Dec 14 - 12:03 PM

> I think I'd go for local name (where available) or common name (if not), followed by Roud or Child number as you suggest.

Me too.

Rather dull, but it does short-circuit confusion. Of course, you can always refer to it later by some familiar generic title as well, depending on the context.


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: GUEST,LIGHTER
Date: 23 Dec 14 - 12:03 PM

Me again. No cookie.


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Richie
Date: 23 Dec 14 - 12:34 PM

"Pretty Polly" is the most common name in North America of "Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight"- a Child title that is not used in tradition.

A half-dozen different ballads are titled "Pretty Polly" which makes that local title almost meaningless.

I'm in favor of creating a local title (if none has been given - Cecil Sharp's EFSSA) from the text sung in tradition, unless there's no good title provided from the text (which is sometimes the case).

I think the assigned titles may use as a default local title - the first line of the song - which may need to be shortened. This has been used but in certain cases the first line tells nothing about the ballad/song: "There was a man/woman lived under a hill" for example is found in variations in a number of ballads- I usually associate it with Farmer's Curst Wife.

So I think it should be:

1. Local title (Child #; Roud #)
2. No Local title; assigned title from text (Child #; Roud #)

The question is how do we assign a title? And should the first line be included (which makes it long)?

Richie


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 23 Dec 14 - 01:38 PM

Sorry to disappoint, Richie, but by assigning titles arbitrarily to untitled songs you are making things worse unless you clearly state, in very close proximity to that title, what you have done. Standard practice in the case of Child/Laws ballads would be to use the generic title and simply state 'No Local title recorded', or even 'Source singer had no title'.

As you correctly state there are numerous problems with existing titles, titles that don't relate to that version, multiple use of a title with different songs, first lines being common to several songs etc. This is why, not ideal I know, that Child, Laws, Roud Numbers were created.

For the vast majority of the 305 you have the generic title, and in the absence of a local title that should be sufficient.

For other ballads I've been working on a Master Titles Index for some years and it was intended to incorporate this into the Roud Index, but for various reasons this has not happened yet.

If you're interested I can let you know how the Master Titles are chosen. It's not rocket science. BTW it only applies to folk songs found in English oral tradition. I would not presume to impose master titles on songs only found in Scotland/Ireland/America. Laws has already done this to a degree with American ballads.


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Richie
Date: 23 Dec 14 - 04:13 PM

Hi,

I'm interested in learning how the master titles list is chosen.

An informant from the early 1900s, may not know much about titling what they are singing. So the collector (not Sharp and some others) should ask him/her what the title is. They may know a title but in some cases clearly both the collector and informant came up with a local title.

So if the informant can make-up a title or the collector can make-up a title- why can't someone else make up a title? Whether it's a generic local title or a name or the text of an event found in the song. The reason? It helps identify the song to that particular informant or specific version.

The point: being the informant gives the informant no particular knowledge of titling the song. It may be the wrong title- it make make no sense at all- so why does the informant make that decision? Why can't there be as system that titles ballads and song so that the title reflects what's being sung?

I think we need to look at some examples of titles, by informant, by collector and without title.

Richie


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Richie
Date: 23 Dec 14 - 04:22 PM

So for example: Sir Lionel means nothing to the average picker and singer from the mountains. But if you say "Wild Hog" or "Old Bangem" everyone know what the song is.

So if the song has no title you's rather have me list it as "Sir Lionel." The song has nothing to do with Sir Lionel and the average person would not know what song it was.

So if I titled it "Wild Hog in the Woods" or "Wild Hog" there's a good chance everyone would know what song we are discussing. In my opinion it only makes sense to re-title certain song and ballads because the generic title does not convey the song.

Richie


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Richie
Date: 23 Dec 14 - 04:34 PM

When I re-title a song or ballad the first thing I put is:

[My title. No title given- "or" My title, replacing the generic title "Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight" supplied by Sharp.

The purpose is only one thing; to make it clear what the song is. What is the best way to make it clear what the song is- to the most people. Not everyone knows the Child ballads.

Richie


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 23 Dec 14 - 04:37 PM

Not really a problem, Richie. You just use the word 'editorial' if you are putting in a title of your own choice. I would personally say the local title takes priority and the generic title in parenthesis beneath. As long as you are consistent and clearly present explanation of what you are doing there can be no complaint.

People like Sharp were the first in the field, making up new rules. Many of the collectors of his era when collecting a song would just use a generic title if they knew one. others like Hammond and Gardiner noted down the singer's title in their notebooks. Don't forget many of the pieces they picked up were fragments and anyway the collectors of this period were mostly more interested in the tunes.

When I first put forward the idea of master titles for all folk songs about 10 years ago it was taken up by a group of people interested in enhancing the Roud Index. My own idea was to use the earliest broadside titles, or at least the most common broadside titles. The small committee formed at the time, Steve Roud, David Atkinson and Elaine Bradtke preferred using the most common title found in collections of oral folk songs. I was outvoted and immediately set to work and in a short time had completed all of the well-known English folk songs. As I said before I didn't feel knowledgeable enough to do the same for all folk songs in the English language. I have this index on an Excel file and can send it to anyone who might be able to use it. (After Christmas)


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Reinhard
Date: 23 Dec 14 - 04:51 PM

But if you say "Wild Hog" or "Old Bangem" everyone know what the song is.

I don't and have never heard of these titles. I know Roud 29 as "Bold Sir Rylas" or "Rackabello". And both versions don't mention a hog but a wild boar.

Why can't there be as system that titles ballads and song so that the title reflects what's being sung?

The best way to ensure this is to use the whole song text as the songs "title". Any condensation may lead to misinterpretation. But this is a bit impractical ;-)

And what do you do when the same title is used for several songs? I just saw in a blog "Sweet Chiming Bells" (the variant of "While Shepherds Watched") referenced as Roud 24506 instead of 936. But Roud 24506 is a completely different song which just has the same title and the same first line of the chorus.


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Richie
Date: 23 Dec 14 - 04:56 PM

Here are my North American titles of Child 18, Sir Lionel:


    Old Bang 'Em- Purcell (VA) c.1763 Davis B
    Old Bangum- Blain (VA) 1839 Davis D
    Bangum & the Boar- Broadhead (MO) c1851 Belden B
    Wild Hog's Den- Stewart (TX) c.1900 Kestner/Mudcat
    Old Bangum and the Boar- Smith (MO) 1906 Belden
    Bangum and the Boar- Adams (VA) 1914 Davis A
    Bingham- Duval (VA) 1914 Davis E
    Old Bangum- Pittser (OK-IN-MO) pre1914 Moore B
    Bangum and the Boar- (KY) McGill c. 1914
    Old Bangum- Dee Hicks (TN) c1915 Fulcher REC
    Old Bangum- Conway (VA) 1915 Davis C
    Bangry Rewey- Mrs. Tom Rice (NC) 1916 Sharp A
    Bangrum- Betty Smith (VA) 1916 Sharp B
    Old Bangum- Josephine Casey (MO) 1916 Belden A
    Wild Boar- Mrs. Broughton (KY) 1917 Sharp C
    O Bangum- Mrs. Henry (KY) 1917 Sharp D
    Jobal Hunter- Rena Hicks (NC) c.1920 Burton
    Ole Bangum- Dashiell (VA) 1921 Davis F
    Wild Boar- Muir (VA-KY) Roberts 1930
    Wild Hog- Eunice McAlexander (VA) 1932; Yates
    Wild Hog- Ruby Bowman (VA) 1932 Davis DD
    Wild Hog- Gibson (VA) 1933 Davis BB
    Old Bangum- Payne (MO) 1934 Randolph
    Bangum and the Bo'- Stiles (TN) 1934 Niles C
    Old Bangum- Wilson (NC) 1936 Niles A
    Rurey Bain- McCoy (NC) no date c.1936 Niles B
    Bangum and the Boar- G.D. Vowell (KY) 1937 Lomax
    Wild Boar- Samuel Harmon (TN) 1939 Halpert REC
    Old Bangham- Adelaide Hemingway (DC) 1939
    Old Bangum- Jean Ritchie (KY) c.1940 REC
    Old Bangum- Furgeson (VT) 1942 Flanders
    Old Bangum- Hamner (TN) 1953 Boswell Collection
    Old Bangum and the Boar- Hayes (VA) 1956 Chase
    Rach's Spinning Song- Hinkle (WV) 1957 Musick
    The Wild Hog- Brewster (AR) 1958 Max Hunter
    Old Daniel- Claude Graham (IN) c.1960 Winkelman
    Wild Hog in the Woods- Plemmons (DC) 1962
    Old Bangum- Everett (AR) 1963 Max Hunter
    Jovial Hunter- Buna Hicks (NC) Recorded 1964
    Bangum Rode the Riverside- Hightower (OK) 1964
    Bangum and the Wild Boar- Hammons (WV) c.1970
    The Wild Boar- Bobby McMillon (NC) c.1970s
    Old Badman- Winnie Hamrick (WV) 1975 Gainer
    Biler and the Boar- Workman (KY) Recorded 1978
    Old Bangum- Gellert (Va.) Recorded 1981
    Wild Hog in the Woods- Dwight Diller (WV) c.1996
    Wild Hog- Diane Jones (WV) 1997
    Old Bangum- Jodie Stecher- 1999


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Richie
Date: 23 Dec 14 - 05:08 PM

"Fair Margaret" was the title Virgie Wallin gave her version of "Fair Margaret and Sweet William." Why?

She was told what the name of it "really" was. In the recording you can her them taping it and telling her to sing "Fair Margaret."

She sings "Lady Marg'ret" throughout so she might title it "Lady Margaret" or it could be more correctly "Lady Margret/Lady Marg'ret" since that's what is sung, the "a not being pronounced.

So what is the title of Vergie Wallin's ballad?

Richie


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 23 Dec 14 - 05:57 PM

Richie
There is no easy answer to your question. Most collectors, myself included, were complete amateurs with no formal training. It wasn't always felt important to note the informant's own title to a song. The collector quickly recognised the song and in his/her head classified it under a generic title. Rightly or wrongly that's what happened. From what you describe I would say it is reasonable to assume the collectors enforced their title onto the singer. You have decided upon 'Lady Marg'ret' which is fine as long as you state this title is 'editorial'.
Then of course occasionally the singer didn't have a title. Even many of the broadsides just state 'New Song'

Reinhard,
Steve often has to number his songs on very little evidence where all he has is perhaps a title and a first line from a manuscript collection he doesn't have access to. With such a mammoth undertaking there are bound to be many errors. The idea is that if you spot any errors like the one you mention, to contact him with the details so he can investigate and alter it. The project is ongoing and evolving all the time. If you haven't got his email address pm me and I'll give you it.


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Richie
Date: 23 Dec 14 - 09:04 PM

Steve-- With all the titles Steve Roud has categorized it's a wonder there aren't more mistakes.

"Sweet William/Sweet Willie" is the tile of several different Child ballads- "Sweet William and Fair Ellen" he has under Child 74 but it's supposed to be under Child 7 Earl Brand.

If he wants to take the time he can look at my US/Canada versions up to Child 74. He's missing a bunch of versions I have on my site.

I do put- my title- in the versions I title. I look at it from the informant's perspective- if I were singing this song what would I name it.

If there was a universal system for titles that was accepted, just like writing music scores- or tablature, it would provide guidelines. I have my own system and maybe I should put that out to be reviewed.

Also I'd like to look at some of he problems with titles to show why there should be a system in place.

TY everyone for their comments,

Richie


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Reinhard
Date: 24 Dec 14 - 03:00 AM

Steve, that was just an example of how easy it is to confuse two songs just because they seem to have the same title. It was not an error in Steve Roud's database but a mistake of the blogger in question.


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Subject: RE: System for title of ballads & folk songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 24 Dec 14 - 08:20 AM

Richie,
We could perhaps work together on this one. If we had a Scot and an Irishman on the team we could just about cover all bases.


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