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Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs

Phil Edwards 10 Aug 15 - 05:52 AM
GUEST,Lew Becker 10 Aug 15 - 08:06 AM
Phil Edwards 10 Aug 15 - 08:59 AM
GUEST,Lew Becker 10 Aug 15 - 02:26 PM
Steve Gardham 10 Aug 15 - 05:05 PM
Steve Gardham 10 Aug 15 - 05:25 PM
Phil Edwards 10 Aug 15 - 06:13 PM
JeffB 10 Aug 15 - 07:53 PM
MGM·Lion 11 Aug 15 - 09:45 AM
Jack Campin 11 Aug 15 - 09:57 AM
JeffB 11 Aug 15 - 11:31 AM
Steve Gardham 11 Aug 15 - 01:11 PM
Steve Gardham 11 Aug 15 - 01:18 PM
GUEST,Lew Becker 11 Aug 15 - 04:50 PM
Jack Campin 11 Aug 15 - 05:45 PM
Steve Gardham 11 Aug 15 - 05:50 PM
JeffB 11 Aug 15 - 05:58 PM
Steve Gardham 11 Aug 15 - 06:27 PM
JeffB 12 Aug 15 - 03:28 AM
Richard Mellish 12 Aug 15 - 06:23 AM
John Minear 12 Aug 15 - 08:27 AM
Marje 12 Aug 15 - 12:00 PM
Richard Mellish 12 Aug 15 - 03:20 PM
Steve Gardham 12 Aug 15 - 06:46 PM
GUEST,Infrequent but always polite guest 12 Aug 15 - 07:15 PM
Steve Gardham 13 Aug 15 - 03:21 AM
GUEST,Infrequent but always polite guest 13 Aug 15 - 04:33 AM
John Minear 13 Aug 15 - 07:17 AM
Steve Gardham 13 Aug 15 - 05:11 PM
Jim Carroll 14 Aug 15 - 04:05 AM
GUEST,Grishka 14 Aug 15 - 04:50 AM
Jim Carroll 14 Aug 15 - 07:49 AM
GUEST,Grishka 14 Aug 15 - 08:20 AM
Jim Carroll 14 Aug 15 - 09:09 AM
GUEST,Grishka 14 Aug 15 - 01:30 PM
Jim Carroll 14 Aug 15 - 08:18 PM
GUEST,ripov 14 Aug 15 - 09:54 PM
Jim Carroll 15 Aug 15 - 04:02 AM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 15 Aug 15 - 04:44 PM
Marje 16 Aug 15 - 10:55 AM
Jim Carroll 16 Aug 15 - 11:46 AM
Marje 16 Aug 15 - 05:57 PM
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Subject: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 10 Aug 15 - 05:52 AM

Here's a question: how many currently well-known traditional songs verifiably originated in the nineteenth century? There's a (revived) thread at the moment about Lord Franklin, which is one example (the expedition itself was in 1845) - but how many others are there?

I'm talking, loosely, about the kind of songs that survived long enough to be revived; the kind of songs you'd find in the repertoire of Peter Bellamy or Shirley Collins or the Dransfields, or in Jon Boden's AFSAD, or in the new PBEFS.

Thinking about this category the other day, I wondered if the Greenland Whale Fisheries was an example... it isn't (eighteenth-century). The Dolphin? Eighteenth century. Sam Hall? Eighteenth century. 'Historical figure' songs are effectively date-stamped, and several of them are nineteeth-century - see Lord Franklin, or anything about Nelson or Napoleon. What else, though?


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Lew Becker
Date: 10 Aug 15 - 08:06 AM

Your question brings up, again, the issue of what is meant by "traditional." Certainly there are many songs (including poems that picked up tunes somewhere) that are sung today as traditional that were written during the 19th century and whose authorship is known. Rose of Allandale, Three score and ten, Rising of the Moon (as well as many other Irish nationalistic songs), etc.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 10 Aug 15 - 08:59 AM

Fair point - Stephen Foster comes to mind as well.

But I suppose, without in any way being a purist about this, what I'm talking about here is songs that have been accepted as 'traditional' to the point where it would be really surprising to hear of a named author. Somebody must have written Plains of Waterloo - just as somebody must have written Searching for Lambs or The Outlandish Knight - but having an author's name put to it would be a real jolt.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Lew Becker
Date: 10 Aug 15 - 02:26 PM

Well, as you point out, one clear category of songs that fit this requirement are songs commemorating a historical event that did not happen before the 19th century. For example, again from the Irish tradition, songs about Robert Emmett or the Manchester Martyrs. Otherwise, it is harder to prove a negative - i.e., that a song whose authorship is not conclusively known was not written before the 19th century. One that I think meets your requirements is Spencer The Rover. I will try to think about others.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 10 Aug 15 - 05:05 PM

Sorry, Phil, Greenland Whale Fishery is 18thc.

A simpler jumping off point would be about 1780 upto about 1840 for the origins of most of them.

As Lew said the historical ones are easily dated and others can be reasonably dated by the language used or references to certain fashions. Then again don't forget some of them were rewritten from earlier versions.

Some of the 'Plains of Waterloo' songs have known authors. There are about 20 songs with that title. 'Searching for Lambs' likely came from the pleasure gardens of the late 18thc and 'The Outlandish knight' is likely a broadside hack's rewrite of one of the earlier versions of 'Lady Isabel and the Elfin Knight'.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 10 Aug 15 - 05:25 PM

'The Dolphin' is a multiple rewrite by the hacks of a song written by Capt Phil Sumarez in 1745 re his own part in a skirmish his ship HMS Nottingham was involved in. 'Sam Hall' is a supper room piece sung by W G Ross in the early 19thc but based on a broadside song 'Jack Hall' a true story from about 1706.

As for those in the PBEFS I'm sure Steve would have given notes on their probable origins.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 10 Aug 15 - 06:13 PM

Steve - you've just confirmed the datings I gave in my original comment! Is the Saumarez text published anywhere, btw? Always been intrigued by that younger brother - I read somewhere that the original line was (in the voice of the captain) "if it had been my younger brother, this battle would still have been tried", or something along those lines.

Anyway - where's the indisputably 19th-century song of whaling/piracy/etc, that's the question. Flash Lad: 18th century. Bill Brown: 18th century... Aha! The Poor Murdered Woman: 1834. So there's another.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: JeffB
Date: 10 Aug 15 - 07:53 PM

Steve - I wouldn't like to cause too much thread creep so early, but I am very intrigued by your comment that Philip de Saumarez actually wrote the original version of "The Dolphin", as I would have thought that it would have been an unusual thing for a gentleman to have done in the mid-17th century, or at least to have put his name to.

Saumarez's most famous fight was with the French man-o-war "Mars" in 1746, and I have a feeling that "Warlike Seamen", which shares some verses with "Dolphin", is about this action. There is nothing in the "Dolphin" which links it with de Saumarez or any specific event. In fact, there's precious little in "Warlike Seamen" either. In the Coppers' version, (also used by Peter Bellamy, other names being found in other versions) the ship is commanded by "an Irish captain, his name was Somerville". I wonder whether Somerville could be a corruption of Saumarez, and though Saumerez was not Irish, he was an "island captain", coming from Guernsey. It's just a curious point of course, not the kind of thing which can be taken too seriously when looking for a song's origin, so I just mention that by way of being an interesting point. But there is certainly is an very odd feature about about "Warlike Seamen", which is the way the ship's name changes. In verse 1 she is "Nottingham", Saumarez's ship. In verse 3 she is "London", one of the ships involved in the Spithead Mutiny of 1797, and a name which would have been very much common knowledge at the time. It seems to me that "Warlike Seamen" was a recycled version of an older song, the most likely candidate being Saumarez's. So with Phil Edwards I look forward to seeing the text. Can you definitely confirm de Saumarez was the author?


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 11 Aug 15 - 09:45 AM

By coincidence, Jeff B, I have just put a post on the People Named In Songs thread, making v similar points about Warlike Seamen & Captain Somerville, and what Bob Copper said when I pointed out this inconsistency to him.

≈M≈


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Aug 15 - 09:57 AM

Anyway - where's the indisputably 19th-century song of whaling/piracy/etc, that's the question

The Bonny Ship the Diamond? I think that's quite precisely datable.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: JeffB
Date: 11 Aug 15 - 11:31 AM

Gosh, so you have. Almost enough to make one believe in Jungian synchronicity. If you and I both suspect the same thing, MGM, surely the inescapable conclusion is that it must be so.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 11 Aug 15 - 01:11 PM

The Diamond took at least some of its stanzas from a 17thc century London broadside.

There is a quite comprehensive website regarding the Saumarez ballad which you can propbably get by Googling but it's been discussed before here. I think I wrote an article on the evolution of many of the songs that derive from it but I'd have to check that and get back.
The family are still around on Guernsey or Jersey and featured on a recent episode of Antiques Roadshow. Jeff, unusual yes, but certainly not unknown.

There are lots of 19thc songs about piracy but they are the sentimental parlour song type glamourising it. They have been found in oral tradition mostly in America and don't usually form part of the English corpus of FS.

Whaling, there are some 19th century but again American/Pacific. Whaling was already on the decline in this country in the early 19thc.
I'm sure there a few. I'd have to check. Gale Huntington's 'Songs of the Whalermen' is sure to have some but these were all taken from American whaler journals.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 11 Aug 15 - 01:18 PM

I was right, the notes in the new edition of 'The Wanton Seed' to 'The London Man o' War' give a potted history of the ballad and its offshoots. It's that long since I wrote them I'd almost forgotten.
P178


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Lew Becker
Date: 11 Aug 15 - 04:50 PM

There may be whole classes of songs that would seem to generally meet the criteria posed -of unknown authorship but written originally in 19th century. I am thinking here of Irish emigration songs, transportation songs (Australia) as well as perhaps the majority of songs coming out of Australia. Perhaps bothy songs as well (for example, Bogie's Bonny Belle has been attributed to the mid 1800's). Still, the authentication could be the problem - demonstrating conclusively that the songs in question had no antecedents before the 19th century. So I think that Phil's initial question is an interesting one but it could be a bear to research a bunch of specific songs.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Aug 15 - 05:45 PM

Another whole class: sea shanties.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 11 Aug 15 - 05:50 PM

That's correct, Jack.
According to the many threads here by very well-researched people (Gibb Sahib for one) there are no records of shanties being sung prior to 1800 and precious little before the 1830s.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: JeffB
Date: 11 Aug 15 - 05:58 PM

Thanks Steve. Your Wanton Seed note sum up the case well, and confirms my and MGM's hunch too. However, the note doesn't actually say that de Saumarez composed the original ballad. I'm sorry if you think I'm being tedious (I suppose I am): it's just that I've been compiling a personal song book with their histories for the last ten years or so, and it has become something of a (possible unhealthy) compulsion. If de Saumarez really was the author I should amend my notes. (Though what on earth I'm going to do eventually with all this material I have no idea.)

Lew's comments are all pertinent.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 11 Aug 15 - 06:27 PM

You might get what you want from the website. I think the current Saumarez family are happy to claim he wrote it and I see no reason to deny them this fact. I can't remember seeing any of these verses in any sea-fight ballad earlier. If I had it would have jumped out at me.
Also despite the many rewrites one can trace a gradual change of personal names from version to version and as you say some versions still retain original details whilst changing names half way through the ballad. Even Phil's surname can be seen evolving --Saumarez, Sommers, Sommerswell, Somerville....

Regarding your histories, you might like to discuss this with Dick at Camsco. He's always on the lookout for fresh material of this sort. I'd be happy to check it over for you.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: JeffB
Date: 12 Aug 15 - 03:28 AM

Thanks for that Steve. I'm going away for a week and will PM you when I get back.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 12 Aug 15 - 06:23 AM

I consider Steve as the expert here.

My understanding is that, of the songs collected in the late 1800s and early 1900s and sung nowadays in the revival, the largest proportion started life in the 1700s but most of the rest in the 1800s. (A few even come from the early 1900s, such as "We'll All Go A-Hunting Today", Roud 1172.) Not a lot go back before 1700 in anything like their present forms, though some of the ballads tell stories that are older.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: John Minear
Date: 12 Aug 15 - 08:27 AM

Without creeping this thread, which I really appreciate and which is talking about things which I know very little about, I just wanted to say that I am always interested in documentation about if, when and how any of these songs reached America early on. I am especially interested in those 1780 to 1840 songs. From what i have been able to discover so far, there seems to be very little documentation for any of them prior to the middle of the 19th century, on this side of the Atlantic, other than the "songsters". I would love to be told I'm wrong about this and to be steered in the proper directions. Thanks and I hope this thread has a long life.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Marje
Date: 12 Aug 15 - 12:00 PM

It's worth bearing in mind that some songs about 19th century events may have been written considerably later, e.g. Stan Rogers' "Northwest Passage" about the Franklin expedition, or Graham Moore's "Tolpuddle Man".


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 12 Aug 15 - 03:20 PM

> ...some songs about 19th century events may have been written considerably later ...

Yep, loads of those! Some of them (by no means all) seem to me good candidates for the term "fakesong", inasmuch as they purport to be what they are not: the first-person words of someone living back in those times. And some of them are seriously anachronistic, like Fields of Athenry.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 12 Aug 15 - 06:46 PM

John,
Have you seen my articles on the Mustrad website re Bramble Briar/ Bruton Town? The earliest extant version is American and nearly all of the fuller versions are found in North America. The evidence points towards a mid-18thc origin based on a 17thc translation of the Isabella story.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Infrequent but always polite guest
Date: 12 Aug 15 - 07:15 PM

I don't know if this is the sort of reference John Minnear is looking for but I recently read some of A Sailor's Songbag : an American Rebel in an English Prison, 1777-1779, edited by George Carey. Although the song I was specifically interested in is probably datable from 1856 or afterwards.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 Aug 15 - 03:21 AM

Hi, Ibapg
Unfortunately almost all of the Carey/Locke ms is British and whilst Locke was an American sailor imprisoned at Forton during the revolutionary war the pieces are set out very much like the broadsides and songsters they invariably derive from. Many of them show signs of having been in oral tradition but their broadside-like titles are a bit of a give-away. Of course before the revolution Locke could easily have picked up most of these in British ports without them having to have been learnt in America. However after the war when Locke was repatriated the ms found its way to the Woburn Library in Massachusetts.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Infrequent but always polite guest
Date: 13 Aug 15 - 04:33 AM

Steve Gardham, yes to everything you said. I couldn't tell if that was what John Minnear was looking for or not. /thread creep

(I also shouldn't post late at night. The song I was researching is probably datable to 1756 or afterwards and not 1856, clearly.)


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: John Minear
Date: 13 Aug 15 - 07:17 AM

Steve, thanks very much for pointing me in the direction of the "Bramble Briar" thread. I will take a look at that for sure. And thanks for the reference to the Carey item. I have looked at that many times and wondered if it could possibly reflect any knowledge of those songs in the American Colony prior to the revolution. I think I came to the conclusion that it was unlikely. Most recently I've been trailing "The Ladies' Case", which shows up there. But I've not found any evidence of it as such in the US. Of course the first verse became a popular floating verse at some point over here. But when and how? Thanks for allowing a little creeping and crawling here. I will look forward to the ongoing discussion.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 Aug 15 - 05:11 PM

The Ladies Case is largely 'The Wagonner's Lad' Roud 414, which I think can be found in oral tradition only in America, however I have a broadside version from about 1800. It was sung at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, London, in 'Betty, or The Country Bumpkin' 1728.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Aug 15 - 04:05 AM

We appear to have moved away from the idea that our folk songs originated with 'the folk' - the 'common people' who sang them - without a shred of evidence.
Over the last three decades we have recorded or been made aware of several hundred songs that have obviously been made by anonymous local people on local events which have been largely neglected because of their local nature - this appears to have been the case throughout Ireland.
Our findings have suggested that even Gummere's long-dismissed theory of communal creation of songs is in need of a re-visit.
One of the conclusions we have reached is that man is a musically creative being rather than just a passive recipient - a fact largely ignored or dismissed by those who would have us believe otherwise, for one reason or another.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 14 Aug 15 - 04:50 AM

As Richard Mellish 12 Aug 15 - 03:20 PM said, many songs pretend to be older (and more "folkish") than they are. As with all other objects, old folk music was "forged" as soon as it became widely appreciated by collectors. The 19th century marks the climax of that era, starting about 1760 with "Ossian".

Make no mistake: even today, masses of "old" songs and dances are newly written worldwide, in order to fake ethnic identities.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Aug 15 - 07:49 AM

" in order to fake ethnic identities."
On the contrary - virtually all written songs nowadays come with a little (c) to prove that they are definitely not old, in some cases, genuinely old songs.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 14 Aug 15 - 08:20 AM

Jim, you are talking about a different kind of business, familiar to all Mudcatters.

The one I was referring to is done more or less secretly by political entities who claim to represent an ethnicity. If these are in power, the "folk" songs and dances produced by them typically appear in school books or song books of official youth organizations.

Often the ethnicity is (re-)invented entirely. Other ethnicities, e.g. Russian or Jewish, already exist and have a rich and old folklore, but not meeting the particular ideological requirements. It is important that the contents appear as parts of the unquestionable ethnic identity, whence copyrighting would be counterproductive.

The trick is not new and has formerly been used in English language as well.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Aug 15 - 09:09 AM

Not sure which organisations or books you are referring to specifically
There's an appalling tendency to label all songs as folk - nothing to do with politics (or folk for that matter), and there has been a tendency of some anthologists to adapt songs to make an academic point, but again, notr necessarily political, but this was never a widespread practice.
On the other hand, people like Harker (and his entourage) have dismissed all folk songs as "fakes" - see 'Fakesong' - presumably to prove that the making of folk-songs was beyond the abilities of working people and to reduce them to passive recipients of culture rather than active participants in its making.
Since my early days in folk song I've been listening to claims that "the folk could never have made the ballads" - that seems to have now spread itself to all folk-songs (or at least 90% of them)
One for the greatest gaps in our understanding of the genre remains the role of the singer in the making and even the interpreting of folk songs
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 14 Aug 15 - 01:30 PM

Jim, I did not want to be too specific, to avoid political discussions. Just some hints: my parents owned a book "Folk songs of Soviet peoples". Half of the content was openly communist. The other half was declared "heritage", but, as I was told later, consisted mostly of songs from the Soviet era as well, artificially aged.
Israel used to have an official authority which officially invented old Israeli folk dances and even Yiddish folk songs praising country life on Our Own Land.

For faked ethnicities, look at the Balkans. There must be many other examples, of which I do not know the details. -

If a song starts, say, "I've been a wild rover", nobody expects that the author or the singer is talking about her/himself. For the song to be "real", it suffices that it describes a reality familiar to the author from contemporary experience. That reality may well consist of a popular reception of an old story or myth, e.g. the birth of Jesus.

A song is definitely a fake if it pretends to be older than it is - the topic of this discussion.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Aug 15 - 08:18 PM

Point taken Grishka, I know exactly the type of songs you mean.
The same can be true of countries which rely on tourism and produce music specifically aimesd at visitors.
The sad thing is that the Balkans, Greece, Spain, etc., have rich traditions which are head and shoulders above the ersatz stuff, yet are often neglected.
We had an experience in Tunisia years ago where the hotel we were staying in presented a 'Folklore' night - complete with 16 year old belly dancer, yet, after a little research, we found a tatty cafe down the road which presented some of the most hair-rising music played, sung and danced by a group of Berbers.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: GUEST,ripov
Date: 14 Aug 15 - 09:54 PM

Sure this is not about 19C folk songs, this is about 19C pop(ular) songs. In the 19C these were not folk songs. 19C folk song would have been much older (possible there is a 1754 definition?) Otherwise we have to accept that many songs written since 1954 are still folk songs,- which no-one apparently will.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Aug 15 - 04:02 AM

" Otherwise we have to accept that many songs written since 1954 are still folk songs,- which no-one apparently will."
I954 is a red herring - it is a date when a definition was agreed on - no more.
Irish Travellers were still making songs about their experiences right into the 1970s and those songs were still being absorbed into their then living tradition, making them folk songs.
The singing traditions were still thriving in communities in the 19th century - many hundreds of songs were still being made in rural Ireland right up to the middle of the 20th century - virtually all anonymous and all reflecting the lives of the communities in which they were made - unfortunately, many of these were neglected as they never moved out of the communities, and often did not fit into the recognised repertoire - The parody on The Buckingham Palace meeting in 1915 (on the "what is a parody" thread) is typical of the genre.
As many singer-songwriters as there are claiming that the songs they write today are folk, there are precious few who would be prepared to agree that their songs no longer belong to them and are now the property of 'the folk', giving the composers no rights over their performance - odd that!!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 15 Aug 15 - 04:44 PM

"Omie Wise"
"Tom Dooley"
songs about President Garfield
songs about Jesse James
"Molly And Tenbrooks"
"Duncan And Brady"
"The Wreck On The C.&.O."
"Way Down The River Road" (L. Hearn 1876)
"The Bully Of The Town" (recollection of James Weldon Johnson)
"The Old Hen Cackle" (recollection of Gates Thomas)
"Rock About My Saro Jane" (recollection of Dave Macon)
"Goodbye Old Paint" (recollection of Jess Morris)
"Stack-A-Lee" (mentioned in Leavenworth [KS] _Herald_ 1/16/1897)
"Roll Jordan Roll"
"Were You There When They Crucified My Lord"
"Roll Down The Line" (Archie Green's research)
.
.
.


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Marje
Date: 16 Aug 15 - 10:55 AM

But Jim, are these two things not compatible? Many songs have been written in England in what is broadly called the "folk tradition" in the last 50 years or so. I'm thinking of people like Ewan MacColl, John Tams, Keith Marsden, Dave Webber, Graham Miles, John Kirkpatrick, etc. They (or their heirs) may or may not claim royalties and PRS dues on their compositions, but in most cases they'd be flattered and delighted to think of their songs being taken on by others and passed on both orally and otherwise; there are instances of some such songs being mistakenly claimed as traditional in the presence of the composer, who may well find the whole thing quite amusing.

Can't a song belong to the "folk" even while the composer or his estate continues to earn a modest income from it? It's not a new phenomenon - e.g.the producers of ballad sheets made money, and may well have composed or adapted some of the songs they printed. This is simply the way songwriting works nowadays, and the fact that money changes hands doesn't prevent the "folk" from taking a song into their repertoire and giving it a life of its own, often with the blessing of the original writer.

I am aware that this is getting perilously close to another "What is folk?" thread, and if anyone mentions singing horses, I'm outa here!
Marje


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Aug 15 - 11:46 AM

Marje:
Can't answer for the others, but MacColl always made a point of pointing out that his songs were not 'folk' and never would be until they had been absorbed into the communities they were aimed at (or were inspired by)
It nearly happened with 'Freeborn Man' but a thriving Traveller song tradition serving the community as a whole ceased to exist in the early 70s (among Irish Travellers in London, some time between 1973 and 1975 - between August, '73 and Easter '75, to be more exact).
You can write songs using folk forms, but 'folk' implies a process, not a form and without the processing plant, it can't happen in my opinion, just as you can't write Elizabethan madrigals, only imitations of them.
The act of copyrighting a song acts as a barrier to any new song being absorbed and claimed by any particular group (unless they are prepared to pay for the privilege)
From the point of view of my personal interest, the claim of new songs being 'folk' has done enormous damage to our understanding and passing on the genre and its sociological role, but apart from that, it has opened the door to the Performing Rights jackals, which has affected impoverished folk clubs leading a hand-to-mouth existence.
One of the great successes of Irish traditional music at present is that it has built a foundation on the real stuff so. wherever the thousands of youngsters coming to it for the first time, choose to go as they develop, that base will always remain as a reference point.
None of this is, or should be a question of one being better, or more important than the other - just a matter of definition.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Nineteenth-Century Folk Songs
From: Marje
Date: 16 Aug 15 - 05:57 PM

Oh, I agree that a new song can't immediately be a folk song, but it may become one in time, and I know some of the songwriters I mentioned are more than happy for the "folk process" to be applied to their works, with or without payment.

It's a bit unrealistic,though, to expect (say) fishermen or rail workers to absorb the songs they have inspired. It's a nice idea, but the sad fact is that working people very rarely sing during, or about, their work nowadays. I know that Dave Webber's May Day song is sung at Padstow and is sometimes claimed by the Cornish as their own, which is close to what MacColl hoped for, but in most cases I think we'll have to make do with the songs being sung by an assortment of people from various walks of life who find something in the songs that they can relate to, albeit indirectly. This has always happened - you don't have to be a murderer to enjoy a murder ballad.


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