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folk process: tune evolution?

toadfrog 02 Jan 16 - 02:21 PM
GUEST,Gibb Sahib 02 Jan 16 - 07:16 PM
Steve Gardham 03 Jan 16 - 04:24 AM
Steve Gardham 03 Jan 16 - 04:32 AM
Richard Mellish 03 Jan 16 - 08:22 AM
Jack Campin 03 Jan 16 - 08:54 AM
Mysha 03 Jan 16 - 01:07 PM
Jack Campin 03 Jan 16 - 01:51 PM
Lighter 03 Jan 16 - 02:40 PM
Mo the caller 03 Jan 16 - 03:19 PM
Steve Gardham 03 Jan 16 - 04:06 PM
Steve Gardham 03 Jan 16 - 04:17 PM
Rumncoke 03 Jan 16 - 07:18 PM
GUEST,leeneia 03 Jan 16 - 09:53 PM
GUEST,Ted Crum (Steamchicken) 04 Jan 16 - 08:30 AM
Richard Mellish 04 Jan 16 - 01:35 PM
Lighter 04 Jan 16 - 01:59 PM
Steve Shaw 04 Jan 16 - 02:01 PM
Tattie Bogle 04 Jan 16 - 05:11 PM
Jack Campin 04 Jan 16 - 06:00 PM
Steve Shaw 04 Jan 16 - 06:47 PM
Jack Campin 04 Jan 16 - 08:13 PM
GUEST,leeneia 04 Jan 16 - 09:58 PM
GUEST,Stim 04 Jan 16 - 10:37 PM
Pamela R 05 Jan 16 - 09:24 PM
GUEST,Stim 06 Jan 16 - 01:01 AM
Jack Campin 06 Jan 16 - 06:13 AM
Lighter 06 Jan 16 - 08:53 AM
Pamela R 06 Jan 16 - 12:32 PM
Jack Campin 06 Jan 16 - 01:19 PM
Steve Gardham 06 Jan 16 - 04:18 PM
Steve Gardham 06 Jan 16 - 04:23 PM
GUEST,Anne Neilson 06 Jan 16 - 04:36 PM
Lighter 06 Jan 16 - 05:44 PM
GUEST,Anne Neilson 06 Jan 16 - 06:04 PM
The Sandman 06 Jan 16 - 06:04 PM
Lighter 06 Jan 16 - 06:05 PM
Steve Shaw 06 Jan 16 - 06:48 PM
Pamela R 06 Jan 16 - 09:05 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 07 Jan 16 - 12:18 AM
GUEST,Howard Jones 07 Jan 16 - 04:53 AM
Jack Campin 07 Jan 16 - 05:03 AM
Lighter 07 Jan 16 - 06:37 AM
Lighter 07 Jan 16 - 07:15 AM
Steve Shaw 07 Jan 16 - 08:02 AM
Lighter 07 Jan 16 - 09:06 AM
The Sandman 07 Jan 16 - 09:13 AM
Jack Campin 07 Jan 16 - 10:03 AM
Jack Campin 07 Jan 16 - 10:08 AM
Steve Shaw 07 Jan 16 - 11:12 AM
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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: toadfrog
Date: 02 Jan 16 - 02:21 PM

Bronson has v. interesting things to say on evolution of tunes.
Readings
Bronson, Bertrand. "Folk-Song and the Modes," "Habits of the Ballad as Song," and "Words and Music in Child Ballads." In The Ballad as Song. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969, pp. 79-132.

1. General theory about tunes shifting as they slip from one mode to another.
2. Comparison of "Captain Kidd," "Sam Hall," and "Admiral Benbow," all ballads written to the "same tune" (according to Bronson) from around 1700. But the tune does change, at least based on the way these are sung today.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,Gibb Sahib
Date: 02 Jan 16 - 07:16 PM

Why is the starting assumption that tunes evolve? Not everything "evolves" as such.

Without Darwin, perhaps, there would have been none of the academic folklore or comparative musicology of the late nineteenth - early twentieth century. The concept of natural selection was an inspiration to them, even if its application to culture wasn't necessarily sound. But scholarship moved beyond those models. "Folk" aficionados of today, especially of an English leaning, might still be enamored by the Anglocentric gentleman/lady folklorists of that early era, yes. But this is hardly "ethnomusicology"—the founding of which field was in large part a statement of opposition to evolutionary models.

In that light, I'm puzzled why this is "an Ethnomusicology class" or why, by the same token, reference material by ethnomusicologists on musical change has not (evidently) been sought. (I'll say that it doesn't have to be an ethnomusicology course; it could be an English Literature course, Folkloristics, etc. - to each discipline its own methods. But to call it an ethnomusicology course sets up certain expectations.)

One will find that ethnomusicology hasn't been waiting around for people in the hard sciences to come and bring the answers to music through application of superior scientific reasoning :-) (If one doesn't see current ethnomusicologists discussing evolutionary theory, it's not because they haven't found it yet, but because they left it long in the past.) It's probably your responsibility, Pamela, to figure out WHY this is if you're presenting such a course.

Yes - What might be more interesting, assuming this is a course is the humanities, is to ask more "why?" questions. Such as my opening question: "Why the starting assumption that tunes evolve?" Most students have probably never considered how people with different worldviews—including a group of people roughly characterized as "Western atheist scientists"—think differently about how music works. I think such discussion can ultimately be more transformative for students than studying someone's theory of how tunes evolve. Indeed, there is no set canon to be imparted on "How Music Changes," so it might be better rather to explore the topic of musical change while leaving it open to different approaches—wherein evolutionary theory would be just one. I appreciate that it's your preferred way of thinking about the topic, but I don't think it's appropriate (at least not typically) for this type of humanities course (ethnomusicology particularly) to say, "OK, everybody, here's how this phenomenon [probably] works." Show different sides.

As a guide to further reading:
I'd say this topic generally ceased to be discussed in ethnomusicology by the 1960s, so look before that for literature. 1930s-50s is probably your best bet. You might see what the different approaches were as represented by European comparative musicology (Erik von Hornbostel as a representative scholar), Continental musical folklore (Bela Bartók as a representative), and post-Boas, Euro-American early ethnomusicology of the likes of George Herzog and M. Kolinski. Bruno Nettl, who was around during the founding of the Society for Ethnomusicology in the 1950s, would remember these trends and one or more of his retrospective books (_31 Issues in Ethnomusicology_ or something like that) would somewhere survey "musical change" in an accessible way. See also the entry for Ethnomusicology in the 2001 edition of the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Good luck.

Dr. Gibb Schreffler (Music Dept.)
Director of Ethnomusicology Program
Pomona College


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 Jan 16 - 04:24 AM

Happy New Year, Gibb

If indeed ethnomusicology scholars have left behind evolutionary theory I would say (IMHO) this is a great shame. Folklore studies were blighted for a number of years by the arguments between the comparative approach and the contextual approach to folk literature but around about the 60s they began to appreciate that both approaches were equally valid and indeed complementary, which I believe is still the case.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 Jan 16 - 04:32 AM

Pamela,
It might not be immediately obvious to your students that the most drastic changes in both tunes and texts occur when particularly creative and relatively sophisticated redactors become involved. Obvious examples are broadside rewriters, ballad editors, ballad chaunters, composers like Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Britten, Butterworth.

Many folksong scholars are not always aware of the extent that these sophisticated people can take a folk item, seriously alter it and then that item can come back into oral tradition.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 03 Jan 16 - 08:22 AM

I'm perplexed by Gibb Sahib's dismissal of the notion of evolution. There are countless instances of what is evidently the "same" tune existing in different versions, which must have come into existence through a process of some sort. If you don't call that process "evolution" why does that term not fit, and what do you call it?

Is the objection to that concept based on an understanding that "evolution" implies "improvement" in some respect? In the case of biological species it typically does imply improvement in their fitness for their particular niches, but not necessarily in any wider sense.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 03 Jan 16 - 08:54 AM

He may be implying that tune evolution only covers a minuscule fraction of what ethnomusicologists want to look at, and hence it doesn't make sense to present it as a central problem requiring a massive investment of intellectual energy.

On the other hand, ethnomusicology is mostly conducted by raiding operations. A PhD student isn't likely be around long enough to study diachronic phenomena.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Mysha
Date: 03 Jan 16 - 01:07 PM

Hi,

I can't really contribute much to the original question, but I find it fascinating. Obviously, a song would be on the level of species, whereas the specimen would be representations, on paper or in performance. Hm, but what about the tunes versus the lyrics? Are they separate domains, with the songs being symbioses between species of the two? Apart from the literal meaning of the word, it would allow for lyrics without tune and v.v., and the song does display how a symbiosis may cause differences in the species, then subspecies, and maybe eventually new species. Does this approach work?


I find the approach of Dr. Schreffler interesting as well, even if to me it seems the first question ought to be:
Is this "Ethnomusicology class about how folk songs evolve through oral tradition" intended as an introduction to Ethnomusicology in general, or is it specifically an Ethnomusicology class that focuses on evolution?

I'm not sure his mention of Darwin is relevant here, as I've yet to encounter any concept in the evolution theory that was actually contributed by Darwin. Still, "How Music Changes" would be the definition of evolution for music. Someone in this thread mentioned the linearity of the evolution theory, but it's good to realise that that is only temporal: The evolution theory is, after all, as much a theory of history as it is of biology (maybe even more so), and the linearity lies only in the way that an earlier form has changed to reach the current form. Nothing in this study of changes says that any factor governing those changes has to remain constant or linear over time (or place).

But regardless, I find his application of the evolution theory to the evolution theory interesting: What changed that caused Ethnomusicology to no longer consider the evolution theory very relevant? Or to use the natural selection abbreviation: Why is the evolution theory no longer the fittest in that environment? Of course, as always the easiest assumption is the change in the environment: Maybe the specimen of discussions on musical evolution became rare when Ethnomusicology was no longer looking for the answers they provided. E.g. if Ethnomusicology is now looking into the reasons for making music in the first place, then evolution theory telling how pieces changed afterwards isn't currently much help. Anyway, it's an interesting approach, and if the premise is true, I hope those with meta-knowledge of Ethnomusicology will be able to fill in the factors that contributed to it.

Bye,
                                                                Mysha


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 03 Jan 16 - 01:51 PM

The "evolution" of songs doesn't include anything like Darwinian selection. If it did, The Star-Spangled Banner and Flower of Scotland would be disarticulated bones in a layer of mud.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Lighter
Date: 03 Jan 16 - 02:40 PM

Part of the problem - if it is one - is that "evolution" usually implies an increasing complexity or sophistication over time.

Do traditional tunes and songs really exhibit this? A few songs do generate new stanzas over time, but these rarely get combined into a single version. (Think, for example, of "The Frog and the Mouse" and/or "Three German Officers," both unusually popular for decades or centuries.

Tune "evolution" is even more problematical. Chronologically "The Three Ravens" and "John Anderson" come long before "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again." But has a single tune actually "evolved"? Has the "Ravens" tune somehow "improved"? And how do we know that these recognizably distinct tunes, despite their similarities, are genetically related? They may be, but then again they may be the result of independent, or nearly independent, inspiration. Would that count as "evolution"?

Look at the various tunes related to "Captain Kidd" and "Wondrous Love." They're certainly related in form, and "Ye Jacobites by Name" was even said in the 18th century to go to a (lost, perhaps) version of "Captain Kidd." Some - or even all- of these tunes may have resulted from preconscious influences (i.e., not "unconscious" but just under complete awareness). Others may have been intentional improvements. Do these dynamics count as "evolution"?

Folk song "evolution" - even if clearly defined, as it usually isn't - is rarely an obvious or straightforward process. Did "Wrap Me Up in my Tarpaulin Jacket" really derive or evolve in any meaningful way from the Unfortunate Rake"? Or are they simply quite different songs on broadly similar subjects?

Folk songs and tunes are certainly subject to individual and collective variations, alterations, omissions, intentional deletions, additions, distortions, rewriting, parodies, etc, etc. But do these "folk processes" count as "evolution"?

BTW, one of the attractions of folk song to beginning students is the idea that these songs were so widely known among "the folk" that they represents some sort of communal view of things, or at least communal taste. But what percentage of the population really sang, or even cared much about, any given piece?

That question seems to be unanswerable. All we can say for sure, think, is that traditional songs/tunes in general were in wide circulation for centuries, and some (like "Barbara Allen" and "The Unfortunate Rake") were very popular indeed.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Mo the caller
Date: 03 Jan 16 - 03:19 PM

Not what you want perhaps, but a very good example of the what the thread title suggested to me are the tunes for Cotswold Morris Dances. Each village seemed it's own version of the tunes as well as differing dances to go with them.Lots of them here


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 Jan 16 - 04:06 PM

The simple meaning I understand to 'evolution' is 'gradual change over a period of time'. Whether any change is for the better or worse is simply a matter of opinion surely and subject to fashion. Gibb is referring specifically to Darwin's theory and the spin-offs from it. Whilst some aspects in the methodology of studying biological evolution can be applied to folk music there have to be obvious differences. Scientists have tried to use the disciplines of evolution theory to study ballad evolution and some have been shot down and shown not to work. However, some very clever scholars have had a significant degree of success when applying the theory to a range of literature including ballads.

The way I see it, the evolution of any given folk song could include all of the processes, oral, print, scribal, editing, forgery etc.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 Jan 16 - 04:17 PM

I might add that part of the problem with folk song scholarship is that some very influential scholars have in the past tried to deny/hide/downplay the influence of some of the processes I have just listed.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Rumncoke
Date: 03 Jan 16 - 07:18 PM

I tried playing baa baa black sheep and twinkle twinkle to the tunes I know, and although similar they are not the same and just the first ten notes allowed them to be distinguished by a three year old.

Maybe you have to get old to fail to notice the differences?


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 03 Jan 16 - 09:53 PM

Tunes don't evolve, but sometimes people change them. Take a tune.

Musician #1 is a beginner, and he makes it easier to play - skips ornaments, makes big jumps smaller, ignores dotted timings, drops accidentals, omits pick-up notes, plays slow.

Musician #2 is in a polka band, and he makes it hop up and down more.

Musician #3 wants a tune for a class of six-year-olds, so he moves it from minor to major.

Musician #4 wants authenticity, so he revives Version 1. (He is lucky to find an old version in a published book.)

Musician #5 wants a barbershop sound, so he throws in new sharps and flats.

Musician #6 wants to impress music critics, so he plays it fast with lots of ornaments.
==========
Let this go on for 100 or 200 years, and chances are nobody will know what the original tune was like.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,Ted Crum (Steamchicken)
Date: 04 Jan 16 - 08:30 AM

Just read down this thread, and am surprised no-one has brought up the effect of playing the same tune on different instruments can have. I am best known as a harmonica player, but if I am playing melodeon, I will sometimes vary timing and sometimes melody to suit the nature of the instrument. Probably not very PC, but it works for me.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 04 Jan 16 - 01:35 PM

Lighter said
> Part of the problem - if it is one - is that "evolution" usually implies an increasing complexity or sophistication over time.

Not at all! Biological evolution can go in that direction, or in the opposite direction to greater simplicity, but changes are often to new forms that are significantly different but much about the same in complexity.

Tunes can likewise evolve in various ways, as vividly illustrated by leeneia, 03 Jan 16 - 09:53 PM.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Lighter
Date: 04 Jan 16 - 01:59 PM

Correct. That's why I said "evolution" instead of "biological evolution."

When people talk about of "evolution," what they usually seem to have in mind is the evolution of complex organisms like themselves from ancient amoeba thingies.

Another common context is to talk about the "evolution" of technologies. There's no doubt that today's cars are more complicated and sophisticated than Henry Ford's.

It is clearer to speak about "change" in folk music rather than "evolution."

Leeneia's helpful lists omits simple forgetting, confusion, and rationalization, two further important sources of change.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 04 Jan 16 - 02:01 PM

Even when you move from blues harp to tremolo to chrom, Ted, though I'll leave the latter to you! ;-) Happy New Year from Steve!


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 04 Jan 16 - 05:11 PM

Spot on, Ted Crum: even played from the same score (if you use one) any tune will sound different on different instruments. A set of guitar chords might work fine with a particular song or tune, and sound awful with piano or box, and vice versa. As for ornamentation, that can be very instrument-specific: partly, being within the capabilities of a particular instrument, and partly what actually sounds both natural and credible.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Jan 16 - 06:00 PM

Against the idea of the capabilities of instruments affecting what happens to tunes: in many traditions, vocal music is considered primary, and instruments simply approximate what the voice can do. So anybody playing the traditional corpus on whatever instrument will always have the vocal model in mind. This is true of Indian classical music, Arabic and Turkish art music, and, if Allan MacDonald is to be believed, piobaireachd. (His thesis is beyond me, but I have reason to believe he knows what he's talking about).

The more familiar a tune, the more likely that is to happen. People playing Scottish singalong tunes on the accordion are not going to leave out notes beyond the pipe scale just because they once heard a piper playing those tunes without them - they'll go back to the way they're sung. And people singing along with a piper will just ignore the funny intonation and octave shifts a piper might have to do; they know how the song goes. (Who would ever sing "Scotland the Brave" the way it goes on the pipes?).

In critical theory, this is the "emic"/"etic" distinction. Comparing sound files with frequency analyzers, or comparing the notated forms of tunes, is research at the etic level; figuring out why people perform them that way is the emic bit.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 04 Jan 16 - 06:47 PM

Dunno about that, Jack. I've been listening to music all my life, and playing some of it for a good bit. I don't understand music at all (I'm not alone: I once heard Vladimir Ashkenazy saying the same thing), but I have a feeling that every bit of it boils down to song and to dance, and that neither has dominion over the other.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Jan 16 - 08:13 PM

I was describing situations where song definitely does provide a norm. Obviously it doesn't always - but where it does, chasing after variant instrumental forms of tunes is missing the point; those different forms all radiate from a common original, maybe one too well known to be written down. This makes obsessing over oral transmission of instrumental tunes beside the point - what is being transmitted is not the tune itself, or an instrumental tradition of playing it, but rather a vocal original and a tradition of ways of rendering songs on instruments. (I'd guess that if you asked any competent Scottish danceband musician to use "Coulter's Candy" for a strathspey followed by a reel, they could do it on the fly, even though there is no tradition of it being used for either).

In a lot of traditions, the words of dance tunes survive as vocalizations done by the caller or the dancers. These may not be the original words (particularly in American old-time) but they do continue a tradition of having words for the tune.

You get a similar situation with bawdy songs. You can often detect the presence of a widely known but unprintable version, where different features of it emerge in different bowdlerizations over a couple of centuries. The bowdlerizers were all working from more or less the same original, though their results looked very different.

The bottom line is that what looks like evolution on the surface may not be when you dig a bit deeper into what's going on.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 04 Jan 16 - 09:58 PM

Re: my list of six things that could happen to a tune. They can happen in any order, they can happen over and over, and any number of them can be happening at the same time. That's just not what we mean by evolution.

Those are good points about tunes being different on different instruments and about forgetting, confusing, and rationalizing.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 04 Jan 16 - 10:37 PM

The obvious question here would be, what do you mean by "evolution"?


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Pamela R
Date: 05 Jan 16 - 09:24 PM

(this forum moves faster than I can. this post is in response to Dr. Gibb Schreffler from Jan 2:)

Thank you for the references; I'd like to be better informed on the topic, which is why I am here seeking reference materials from ethnomusicologists. I've often heard that Darwinian theories were popular in ethnomusicology long ago, fell out of favor, and are not taken seriously now. But I was lacking a concise summary of why, and will be glad to consult references that a professional in the field considers reputable.

To clear up a few things:
Maybe I shouldn't have said "ethnomusicology class". My class does not claim to be an introduction to, or summary of, the field of ethnomusicology nor of its history; the word "ethnomusicology" does not appear in the course title or description. I only used the term here because I believe the topic I cover is considered a part of that field -- but only a very small part of that field.

This is a one unit (one class-hour per week), pass-fail seminar for Freshman titled "Folk Songs Change Through Oral Transmission". I had originally proposed to teach it in one of the non-academic series, but the Music department claimed it and reviewed and approved its curriculum. So that's how a Biology professor comes to be teaching a class in the Music department.

It's an extremely simple, basic class. Most of the time is spent listening to examples from which the students discover first-hand that when people collected folk songs in the English language from around the world, they found the same songs cropping up all over the place, but the versions varied quite a lot. For most students, this is the first time they encounter this observation, and like me, they think it's fascinating.

Regarding teaching I think we are on the same page. I would think the primary goal of any teacher in any discipline -- even the hard sciences -- is to engage student's critical thinking, rather than to pass down any dogmas.

In my first class I play them a lot of versions of "Barbara Allen" (as many field recordings as possible, as well as early revival recordings). I ask the students to listen and decide if they think these are unrelated independent songs that just coincidentally bear similarities, or if they derived from some common source. Generally they think the similarities are not coincidental so I ask them why. I hand out the transcribed texts of the ones they heard and several more collected versions. Then the students come back to the next class with their observations or evidence -- what names, plot events, etc seem to recur in nearly every version, which ones crop up in many yet are completely absent in many others; what seems completely unique to single versions and/or generic to any song.

Then I share the fact that this song has been around for hundreds of years and was largely transmitted orally over that time, and that it has been argued that oral transmission could explain the fluidity of folk songs: renditions purely from memory may change from telling to telling, from person to person and generation to generation, whether intentionally or accidentally (by analogy to a game of Telephone or Chinese Whispers). I go out on a limb and suggest that the presence of this song in remote rural Appalachia was probably due to its being passed down from immigrants from the British Isles (by which I mean England Ireland and/or Scotland). Is any of this so far inaccurate/controversial?   

We do the same thing for a new song every class, starting with ones that to me are more obviously related (Barbara Allen, Twa Sisters, Cruel Mother) to others I find much less obvious (Broomfield Wager/Maid on the Shore; Unfortunate Rake/Streets of Loredo/St James Infirmary). Along the way, things like commonplaces, cliches and floating verses are noticed and discussed; the question eventually arises whether there are universal themes (c.f. Jungian archetypes) that might make remarkably similar stories re-appear independently without being from any common descent; etc; and in light of these points we may revisit our evidence and conclusions about the earlier songs, and consider whether "same song" should even mean "of common origin" or just "common theme". It's pointed out that even oral traditions have been influenced/punctuated by written versions (broadsides) scholarly interpretations (classical composers) and later on, influential recordings; what impact might that have had? How could we look into that?

I don't think I'm making any assumption about folk songs evolving that I am bent on proving. I find that many of the phenomena that are observed and questions that arise in collected folk songs are analogous to phenomena and questions also studied in biological evolution (or really, population genetics). I'll stand by that statement, but that's clearly another long conversation in which I'm not sure you are interested. For now I'll just clarify that the theory of evolution (as used in biology today) does not make any assumptions about anything improving, approaching a goal, or becoming more complex with time.

By the way, the other main theoretical thread that I introduce throughout my class is one I take away from Walter J Ong's theory of Orality and its implications for culture. Most students have never considered the fact that things like writing, widespread literacy, recording, broadcasting, copyrighting, urbanization, rapid travel, and global communication are relatively new to the human race, and that these developments might have had a qualitative impact on the structure or content of songs, or culture in general. I personally found Ong's ideas quite interesting when I learned them; I would be grateful to know whether the ethnomusicology field is sympathetic to, divided on, or uniformly opposed to, Ong's theoretical constructs?

I've also considered reading or handing out excerpts of the writings of song collectors about their observations of the communities from which they collected and the role of singing in their community life (as well as critiques by some that the early collectors were motivated by nationalism and ideology and failed to show interest in or concern for the people from whom they collected). Is there a classic essay we could read about what are the responsibilities of a collector, or whether the act of observing (collecting, recording) changes that which is being observed? This might be beyond the scope of what I can get in to my class, but at least it could go on a list of 'further readings'.

IN SUMMARY
I can well imagine it would be irritating if people from the hard sciences thought they could waltz in and solve your problems. That's not my intention. I come to this topic because I love and sing traditional folk ballads, and for that reason I have read, attended workshops, and spoken with music scholars to learn more about their origins. I know that I'm not an ethnomusicologist, nor do I think I can solve problems in ethnomusicology better than ethnomusicologists, nor that I can solve them at all. I am an outsider fascinated by what I have learned from ethnomusicologists so far and interested in learning more, as well as sharing what I have learned. I am naturally inclined to relate what I learn to my own fields of academic research, and I personally find the analogies rich and thought provoking, even if ethnomusicologists are not interested. Given that biology has seen many revolutions in the past hundred years, however, there exists a possibility that the discussion could be different now than it was previously.

My class is narrowly focused on one observation: that folk songs vary with location and change with time. The curriculum sticks largely to the primary data (collected songs). I bring to the discussion the two theoretical frameworks that I personally know best. I hope this class stimulates curiosity and invites students to ask more questions and to think for themselves rather than buying (or rejecting) any theory based on the current fashion of any academic field.

Respectfully,
Pamela


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 06 Jan 16 - 01:01 AM

Well spoken, Pamela. Your question stimulated a real Mudcat discussion, and that is much appreciated. That said, I think Gibb Sahib came down a little heavy. I understand his points,but from now on, I will remember that that he is "Dr. Schreffler";-)


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 06 Jan 16 - 06:13 AM

I read one of Ong's books long ago and have entirely forgotten it. Might give it another go. But as some of us have been pointing out, the relationship between oral and written traditions is more complicated than you seem to be suggesting. All the songs in Child were created in a literate culture, most of them probably entered the tradition on paper, and paper versions of them have been part of the chain of transmission everywhere. Someone creating a broadside for sale, or making a copy in a commonplace book, is just as likely to introduce changes as somebody reproducing a song from memory, and the changes they introduce are likely to be more drastic. And many of the stories in British folksong have been preserved in writing from millennia before the English language existed - anybody writing a song about a frog courting a mouse could read Aesop.

I would run a mile from anybody proposing to talk about Jung in this context. There are theories of how stories work that employ archetypes of some sort - Child uses them in his classification scheme, Propp developed the idea extensively, they are a commonplace in structuralism - but they don't require the bizarre mixtures of New Age religion and Theosophical racism that Jung was committed to, or his grandiloquent pseudo-messianic pretentiousness.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Lighter
Date: 06 Jan 16 - 08:53 AM

> Is any of this so far inaccurate/controversial?

Pamela, no.

> Broomfield Wager/Maid on the Shore; Unfortunate Rake/Streets of Loredo/St James Infirmary

The members within these groups aren't related in the same way. "Broomfield" and The Maid" address similar (though not identical situations) without being textually (or melodically, AFAIK) related. "The Maid" was conceivably inspired by "Broomfield," but it is probably more likely that both, perhaps coincidentally, reflect a much older motif of a young woman (presumably a virgin) magically outwitting a rapist or seducer. One might also compare "The Twa Magicians." (And "Lovely Joan," if you don't care for magic.)

"Streets of Laredo/ Tom Sherman's Barroom" clearly descends from "The Unfortunate Rake." What makes it especially significant is that there are no broadsides of the cowboy song: the changes were entirely via oral tradition. The alteration of the cause of death from syphilis (shocking) to a bullet (less so) is also interesting as a reflection of the tastes of singers and audiences.

"St. James Infirmary" is only a very distant relative. The situation is barely comparable and the tune is entirely different. The main point of commonality may be the appearance of "St. James" in the name of the hospital.

Best of luck with your course! Your description would certainly lead me to approve it in our English Department!


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Pamela R
Date: 06 Jan 16 - 12:32 PM

"Lighter":   thanks for the comments re the "tricky" cases; your take on Broomfield is how I was seeing it; which is why it adds to the class to compare it.

I did not know the detail abt streets of loredo never existing in print. I've seen it argued (perhaps in the liner notes of the Smithsonian/Folkways album on UR variants?) that St James Infirmary is included as a descendant not only for the hospital name but also that the speaker is visiting a dead/dying lover, and then giving instructions for his funeral; and vaguely blaming a dissolute lifestyle for his downfall ("I've got those gambler's blues".) But to me it's hard to tell if all that is "convergent" (independently arising song on a universal theme). The hospital name seems like the smoking gun.

Point taken that changes made intentionally by broadside writers would have very different motives or causes or constraints.

Which gets around to an idea that folk texts could be more or less descended from one or more earlier text(s) that has/have been transmitted through more or less oral channels. Despite the lack of any purely oral case, it seems that characteristics of folk song texts are distinctive and related to their greater degree of oral transmission.

Getting back to my OP, however, on tunes I'm still pretty unclear what we can say. what the students notice most is
- that they are modal (i.e. they notice the funny sound and we track it down to that); but I don't know why this is more common in old/folk songs than later/elsewhere.

- that they are strophic (or as the kids say "boring" -- they've never heard a song without a bridge). this structural simplicity seems consistent with aiding memorization.

- I think they'll hear that different versions of one song like Barbara Allen have similar but not identical tunes; while other versions have seemingly unrelated tunes. That part seems analogous to the text topic but as we've seen, difficult to pin down.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 06 Jan 16 - 01:19 PM

The reference to St James suggests convergence rather than clade. There are a heck of a lot of hospitals, all over, named after him. This is intriguing:

http://www.rushdenheritage.co.uk/health/StJames%27-hospital.html

as it suggests a specific link with leper hospitals. Syphilis and leprosy were always distinguished in popular culture, but they may well have been seen as related. (OK, what traditional songs about leprosy are there?) Though the patron saint of both syphilis and leprosy is St George.

BTW there is a version of the "Lovely Joan" story in Canteloube's "Songs of the Auvergne" - easily accessible if you're already including that one, and makes the point that the stories told by songs are no nation's property.

La pastoura als camps

(The text and translation are in the sleeve notes of the Netania Davrath recording; Monique here will know more about it).


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 06 Jan 16 - 04:18 PM

It looks to me as if you already have your finger on the pulse, Pamela. The best way we can probably be of help is in trying to answer any of your students' questions you don't feel confident answering. As most people have already said tune evolution is much more problematical than text. Far more variant texts survive than variant song tunes.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 06 Jan 16 - 04:23 PM

Also be aware that although Barbara Allen is the most widespread of English ballads it has been constantly in print for about three and a half centuries, broadsides, popular anthologies, sheet music etc.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,Anne Neilson
Date: 06 Jan 16 - 04:36 PM

Don't know if it's of any help, but I was told of a 'reverse' musical journey back in the 1960s, when the great Scottish ballad singer Jeannie Robertson changed her tune for Musgrave/Mattie Groves to one she learned from the American singer Sandy Paton when he was at a festival in Aberdeen. (I used to think it was Jean Ritchie from which she 'borrowed' it, but have been corrected since.)
If you can access a version from Sandy Paton, you can compare it with several versions from Jeannie on the Kist o Riches site (archive of the School of Scottish Studies in Edinburgh) -- just search either song title or singer.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Lighter
Date: 06 Jan 16 - 05:44 PM

"St. James Hospital" also occurs in a dramatic, minor-key African-American version of "Streets of Laredo" collected by the Lomaxes in the '30s.


The U.S. law journal Northeastern Reporter (1932, Vol. 181, p. 58) acknowledges a 1930 copyright suit concerning "St. James Infirmary."

The court decision notes: "In March, 1929, the plaintiffs revived the old song under the title 'St. James' Infirmary.' *The infirmary heretofore unidentified was given a name* [my emphasis - L]. They put forward an advertising and publicity campaign to sell the old composition under the new name."

The song in question was credited to "Joe Primrose" (actually Irving Mills) of Gotham Music Service. A year later a rival publisher put out a similar song with the same title. Hence the lawsuit.

See also this thread:

http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=46310#2696632.

I've just updated in with new information about the cowboy song.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,Anne Neilson
Date: 06 Jan 16 - 06:04 PM

Re. post at 4.36pm -- try searching for Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard, or enter Jeannie Robertson in search and look for track 379 of 741.

i heard Jeannie sing this around 1962 and when she reached the point in the story when the lord offers Musgrove his choice of two swords, she looked round the room till she saw the host and said, "Well, you see, he wis aye a fair man." and then picked up the song through to its conclusion...


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Jan 16 - 06:04 PM

here is an example, The JENNY LIND POLKA,circa approx 1850,has evolved and is played as a slide in a valley north of Bantry Cork, it is known as the jenny slide.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Lighter
Date: 06 Jan 16 - 06:05 PM

And here is a tune for "The Bad Girl's Lament" (here called "Annie Franklin") collected in Newfoundland in 1959, which is precisely the familiar "Streets of Laredo" / "Bard of Armagh" tune.

http://www.wtv-zone.com/phyrst/audio/nfld/15/annie.htm

Pamela, be ready to answer the question of why certain aspects of the "folk process" are held to differ from simple "plagiarism."


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 06 Jan 16 - 06:48 PM

"The JENNY LIND POLKA,circa approx 1850,has evolved and is played as a slide in a valley north of Bantry Cork, it is known as the jenny slide."

Well slap me face wi' two pound o' thick seam 'til it looks like a well-smacked bum, but I'd never thought of trying it that way. Tomorrow!


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Pamela R
Date: 06 Jan 16 - 09:05 PM

Wow, this is a goldmine! I have been researching song origins on digitrad for years but I didn't realize how much more valuable this forum would be for my class when I became a participant.

re St James Hospital/Infirmary (name): if it's indeed a common hospital name (for such ailments anyway), more so than St George or St Paul etc, then that would make the link rather weak. Hmm, are hospitals referred to by name in any ballads that clearly do not have "Unfortunate Rake" related themes? For example any hospitals mentioned in war/wounded soldier ballads?

re "OK, what traditional songs about leprosy are there?"
Sir Aldingar comes to mind. Not exactly about leprosy, but a leper is important in the plot.

re distinguishing folk process vs plagiarism:
Perhaps there's a subtlety I'm not seeing. I would think that "plagiarism" is claiming something to be one's own original work that is in fact identical to, or derived from, someone else's work (even if that someone else is anonymous). "Folk process" would seem the applicable term whenever a person credits their source(s).

I suppose the tricky cases are when someone is unconsciously influenced by a source they once heard, and honestly believes to have originated it; vs. genuinely independently writing something that turns out to be very similar to something that was pre-existing; vs. knowingly copying something and lying about it. Not being schooled in law, my first inclination would be that moral culpability of the person for plagiarism should be according to their intentions and actual past exposure to the earlier work (which may not be knowable to others); legal culpability according to their documentable past exposure and/or intentions; and copyright ownership according to the objective similarity of the new work to the pre-existing one (i.e., even if copied accidentally or written independently). Thoughts?

re copyrights: a similar question has bothered me about songs that are now attr. to Albert E Brumley such as I'll Fly Away. Is it the general opinion that he wrote them, or merely transcribed/arranged existing folk spirituals?

on a related note -- I routinely get hit with YouTube copyright infringement claims that block my videos of trad songs because some pop/country singer sang a version once, and now their agents are claiming the copyright. Happily YouTube invariably rules in my favor and quickly releases the video if I send them a scholarly reference to a source more than 100 years old. (But sadly, when someone falsely claims the copyright to someone else's copyrighted song there is no such recourse to protect the true songwriter).


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 07 Jan 16 - 12:18 AM

Pam: "Perhaps there's a subtlety I'm not seeing. I would think that "plagiarism" is claiming something to be one's own original work that is in fact identical to, or derived from, someone else's work (even if that someone else is anonymous). "Folk process" would seem the applicable term whenever a person credits their source(s)."

It seems the answer would be very different for song-v-process. If one can document with reasonable certainly a song originating from the commercial/pop/art process, one can say the "folk process" itself is adulterated even without assigning a root cause.

Too, if widespread literacy, art, commerical print, &c are a criteria (absence thereof) the internet's modern folk process, if you will, is hard to wrap one's head around even without the legal issues.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 07 Jan 16 - 04:53 AM

My interpretation of "folk process" is the unconscious or largely unintentional changes a singer may make to words or tune as a result of misremembering or misunderstanding the original. Where someone sits down and consciously reworks a song, whether it is pulling together a number of different traditional sources to make it more complete, or by adding bits of their own, that is something different. Whether or not it is plagiarism depends on whether or not they acknowledge their sources or claim it as their own.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Jan 16 - 05:03 AM

re St James Hospital/Infirmary (name): if it's indeed a common hospital name (for such ailments anyway), more so than St George or St Paul etc, then that would make the link rather weak. Hmm, are hospitals referred to by name in any ballads that clearly do not have "Unfortunate Rake" related themes?

Well, there is a workhouse:

A boy to me was bound apprentice
Because his parents they were poor
So I took him from St James's Workhouse
All for to sail on the Greenland shore.


(The Cruel Ship's Captain aka The Captain's Apprentice - originally from East Anglia; the workhouse by that name was in Norwich in the early 19th century, I think).


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Jan 16 - 06:37 AM

> are hospitals referred to by name in any ballads that clearly do not have "Unfortunate Rake" related themes? For example any hospitals mentioned in war/wounded soldier ballads?

Great question. And the answer is No. At least none that's ever had any currency.

> Not exactly about leprosy, but a leper is important in the plot.

It isn't "about" leprosy in anything like the same way that the "Rake"/ "Bad Girl" is "about" syphilis. The "Rake"/ "Bad Girl" is almost explicitly a warning - as is, to a lesser degree, "The Streets of Laredo."

My point about plagiarism is more theoretical than legal. Students are warned against taking even a single sentence from somebody else's work without acknowledgment. (And taking too much even with it!) A student once asked me how altering a just a few lyrics or musical notes in a song in "the folk process" is ethically any different from plagiarism. Not a big question, obviously, but interesting in its own right for reflecting different views of artistic "ownership."


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Jan 16 - 07:15 AM

Two "Barbara Allen" tunes were adopted for two Civil War songs, "Brother Green" and "The Battle of Stone River."

You can download each of them for about a dollar. Oscar Parks of Kentucky delivers "Stone River" in unforgettable high pitch.

Not very musical, but pretty emotive.

One reason that hospitals aren't named in war songs is because soldiers in war songs don't die in hospitals. They die on the battlefield, usually in the arms of a comrade.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 07 Jan 16 - 08:02 AM

Er, yes, actually, there's Lock Hospital, sung by Christy Moore on his album Prosperous (the song's on YouTube). Definitely a fallen soldier song.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Jan 16 - 09:06 AM

It's a version of "The Unfortunate Rake," tune and all.

And the culprit's not the enemy but "the girls of the city."


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Jan 16 - 09:13 AM

st patricks day, set dance tune appears to have evolved from a morris dance tune,or maybe it is the other way round


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Jan 16 - 10:03 AM

"Lock Hospital" is a generic term, not a name. Many cities in the UK and Ireland had one. They were homes for "fallen women", and so-called because they were locked in. Not hospitals in the sense of places to take sick people. "Magdalene" homes were the same thing, but that name was used a bit later.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Jan 16 - 10:08 AM

I've seen "St Patricks Day" in Scottish tunebooks of the late 18th century, labelled as an Irish tune. The Morris dance use must have come later.

Aloys Fleischmann's book (which I don't have, wish I did) will probably trace its history in detail.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 07 Jan 16 - 11:12 AM

Ah, dammit, Lighter, you got me there! :-(


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