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folk process: tune evolution?

Steve Shaw 27 Dec 15 - 02:58 PM
The Sandman 27 Dec 15 - 02:37 PM
Jack Campin 27 Dec 15 - 02:22 PM
GUEST,John from Kemsing 27 Dec 15 - 01:07 PM
Brian Peters 27 Dec 15 - 01:06 PM
The Sandman 27 Dec 15 - 01:05 PM
Pamela R 27 Dec 15 - 12:55 PM
Brian Peters 27 Dec 15 - 12:54 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 27 Dec 15 - 12:47 PM
Jack Campin 27 Dec 15 - 12:05 PM
Jack Campin 27 Dec 15 - 11:57 AM
Richard Mellish 27 Dec 15 - 11:37 AM
gillymor 27 Dec 15 - 07:16 AM
Les in Chorlton 27 Dec 15 - 06:53 AM
Will Fly 27 Dec 15 - 06:40 AM
GUEST 27 Dec 15 - 06:34 AM
Steve Shaw 27 Dec 15 - 06:20 AM
Joe Offer 26 Dec 15 - 11:36 PM
Pamela R 26 Dec 15 - 10:09 PM
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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 02:58 PM

"(which prompts the idea: to the extent that notation is adequate it should be possible to analyse tune relatedness computationally -- might be a good student project! but surely it has been done before)."

Unfortunately, notation, at least of traditional tunes, is far from adequate. The rhythms employed by traditional musicians rarely lend themselves to the mathematical requirements of notation. Not only that, there is ornamentation and variation, so hard to pin down even when played by the same musician or bunch of musicians on more then one occasion, but which are the main drivers of the evolution of tunes. Give it a whirl, but I wouldn't be optimistic.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 02:37 PM

"No. Rhythms can be varied enormously while still keeping the tune recognizably the same."
examples are lakes of ponchartrain and blarney roses.
then we have trad tunes like the musical priest, and the strathspey the north edinburgh bridge.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 02:22 PM

I am confining myself to songs for this class. but some (carols?) may have dance origins

That's a relatively recent phenomenon (e.g. Burns's "Frae a' the airts", using William Marshall's "Miss Admiral Gordon's Strathspey"). Dance tunes predating Burns's time are much more often derived from songs than the other way round.

that affected the allowable rhythms.

No. Rhythms can be varied enormously while still keeping the tune recognizably the same.

I have a zillion examples of this sort of process in my "Embro, Embro" pages.

One angle I find fascinating is the contrast between deliberate and accidental re-use of tunes (this is in situations of punctual change rather than imperfect attempts at faithful transmission). If you parody or bowdlerize a song, you will know exactly what tune you're using: there is no point in a parody or allusion if the listener can't identify the original. But there are quite a few examples of unconscious adaptation where the composer clearly didn't realize what they were half-remembering - two examples: Phil Cunningham's tune "Sarah's Song" (recycled from the music-hall song "She was poor but she was honest") and Dick Gaughan's "Both Sides the Tweed" (a slowed-down modal variant of "Rosin the Beau"). I haven't asked Cunningham about the first (maybe you could?) but I did ask Gaughan about the second, and the resemblance hadn't occurred to him.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,John from Kemsing
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 01:07 PM

Pamela,
       Try this for an immediate example of evolution. Ask your students to listen to a particular song a number of times, them not having the written score at their disposal. Then record them individually singing the song. Compare their versions to the original and note any differences - I reckon you would have a fine example of how tunes change with the listener.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 01:06 PM

What are the methods for validating an exclusively 'oral' tradition? eg: If reference sheet music and/or audio recordings do exist, how does one parse/quantify their influence on the evolution/transmission of the song under study?

It's wise to be very wary before describing any musical tradition as exclusively oral, but the main reason for that is the existence (in huge numbers) of printed copies of the texts from at least as far back as the 17th century. However, these were scarcely ever provided with sheet music, and there's no evidence that singers (as opposed to instrumentalists) would have been able to read it anyway. It's also wise to be aware of the possible effects of broadcast or recorded music on singing tradition, but Sharp's collection and others of the period predated that development.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 01:05 PM

Perhaps a good place to start might be the tramps and hawkers tune, this tune has been used over and over by songwriters for different lyrics, but gets altered slightly for different sets of words, take a look at the following songs that use this tune some with variation and some without, homes of donegal, rocks of bawn.
now try the dick darby the cobbler and its variants.
then we have lakes of pontchertrain , blarney rose.
Sweet thames flow softly,and trad tune used for recruited collier.
my opinion is that the tune gets altered slightly by the songwriter[ who is using a trad tune to fit the mood of the song and the lyrics


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Pamela R
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 12:55 PM

thanks everyone, this is great information to get me started!

to answer someone's question, I am confining myself to songs for this class. but some (carols?) may have dance origins that affected the allowable rhythms.

regarding the input of trained expert musicians vs impressions of untrained practitioners, I'm happy to listen to both and sort it out. I'm just asking for leads.

(which prompts the idea: to the extent that notation is adequate it should be possible to analyze tune relatedness computationally -- might be a good student project! but surely it has been done before).


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 12:54 PM

Hi Pamela, good to hear you're busy with your research. This is the kind of thing I've always thought I should set time aside for, but never got round to. What I would do is to pick a song with a lot of variants, then try to correlate the range of melodic variation with their geographical spread. Often you will find that two variants from the same community are very similar (although sometimes they can be quite different), but the same song collected 20, or 100 miles away might show more variation. You might also be able to find a version of the same song collected in the same area say thirty years later and see how much it had changed.

An obvious place to start would be Cecil Sharp's collection from the Appalachians, all of which is available online. Within it you can find multiple variants of the same song, and could then compare (say) the variation between versions from NC, KY and TN, as against variations within a small area like Madison Co., NC., where Sharp really concentrated his early efforts.

On the question of tunes that carry several songs, Will Fly has already pointed out that 'Dives and Lazarus' has done service for a whole number of textually unrelated songs from the British Isles (Cecil Sharp found it in Virginia, come to that). The tune often referred to as 'Villikins and his Dinah' is another common one, and in 'The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs' you can find three songs sharing the tune best known from 'Flash Company'.

As far as I know, no-one has yet invented software that will analyse points of similarity and difference between melodies. Now that would be a handy thing.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 12:47 PM

OP: "...how folk songs evolve through oral tradition... believed to represent orally transmitted tradition."

Curious:
What are the methods for validating an exclusively 'oral' tradition? eg: If reference sheet music and/or audio recordings do exist, how does one parse/quantify their influence on the evolution/transmission of the song under study?


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 12:05 PM

This is the guy I was thinking about when I posted as GUEST above:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aloys_Fleischmann

That 2-volume book is ridiculously expensive, half the size of Bronson and several times the price. It would be great if CAMSCO would reprint it.

When I was researching this stuff, the most useful tool I had was Charles Gore's "Scottish Fiddle Music Index", which includes theme codes so you can see when the same tune has been given different names over the years. A similar index, covering English music as well but with a slightly smaller time scope, is the "National Tune Index" microfiche set. Its theme code system is different but they both work.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 11:57 AM

GUEST above was me.

For ballad tunes in the British tradition, the most extensive work in this area was by S.P. Bayard, who classified all the Child ballad tunes (those later anthologized by Bronson) into 56 "tune families" which he thought were genetically related. (References in Bronson, "The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads", which you will need for this sort of study and which you can buy from CAMSCO). He got the idea from Bartok and his associates in Hungarian musicology; if you listen to enough Hungarian songs it's fairly obvious that they don't really have an individual identity, they sort of blur into each other.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Preston_Bayard


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 11:37 AM

Pamela said
> Given that the course is being offered in the Music department, however, I feel I should have at least some examples in which we examine the evolution of *tunes

Do you want to do this for song tunes, dance tunes, "listening" tunes or all of those?

Julia Bishop has done some work on song tunes, including the tricky issue of how one might decide whether two specimens are different tunes or different versions of the same tune.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: gillymor
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 07:16 AM

If you're not aware of it already The Contemplator site might be of some interest to you, Pamela R, with histories, variants,and alternative names for numerous tunes and songs from the British Isles.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 06:53 AM

I think the biggest problem you may have is determining how valuable or appropriate the advice you may get from people who play tunes.

Some are musicians who know, understand and can play from music, from memory and on one hearing of a tune and can draw on a vast collection of tunes and some can do almost none of this but offer extensive advice based upon almost no evidence at all.

Best of luck


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Will Fly
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 06:40 AM

You could look at the medieval Scottish tune "Gilderoy" which, in twists and turns has formed the basis of later variations such as the tune used for "Dives and Lazarus" and "The Star of the County Down", etc. Just one example.

The other interesting fact (to me, at any rate) is the way in which comparatively modern tunes with known composers - such as Tom Anderson, Andy Cutting or John Kirkpatrick - can slip seamlessly into "traditional" music sessions.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 06:34 AM

Try "Sources of Irish Traditional Music", by the Irish guy with the German name I'd have to google for.

    Aloys Fleischmann? -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 06:20 AM

Hmm. Try playing the tunes from O'Neill's, as written down, in a modern session and you'll quickly find out how much tunes can evolve over just a century and a bit.

Bad advice, actually - never try to play ANY tune as written down!


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 26 Dec 15 - 11:36 PM

Interesting question, Pamela. I'm a lyrics man myself, so I can't offer much expertise. I'm aware of many songs that use a variety of melodies to match the same set of lyrics Since we're in the Christmas season, maybe "Away in a Manger" would be a good example.

But for the most part, I haven't noticed evolution in melodies to any great extent. Every musician alters every tune in subtle or not-so-subtle ways, but the basic structure of the melody stays more-or-less the same and each artist builds on that basic structure.

-Joe-


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Subject: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Pamela R
Date: 26 Dec 15 - 10:09 PM

Hi all.
In the Spring I'll be teaching an Ethnomusicology class about how folk songs evolve through oral tradition. The students are asked to listen to and analyze a number of versions of the same song, as collected from far flung locations from sources believed to represent orally transmitted tradition. We'll look at the similarities and differences between the different versions to find evidence of common origin, evidence that songs gradually change when passed on by oral tradition, and observe how the interaction of culture and folk songs impacts this process. (Being a Biologist by training, I apply concepts from evolutionary theory: mutation, migration, isolation, drift, fixation, extinction, selective pressure, divergent vs. convergent evolution, etc.).

I have lots of great examples, but they are all text-based - songs that share a common origin of the text/story, while diverging greatly in tune and more or less in textual details.

Given that the course is being offered in the Music department, however, I feel I should have at least some examples in which we examine the evolution of *tunes* - where the same melody is used, but gradually morphed and mutated, resulting in local variants; or where other cultural factors such as dance traditions, religion, contact with other cultures, etc., systematically altered the tunes; and/or where the same tune is used to set entirely different texts. My knowledge is much weaker on this point, so I'd like to study up.

Can anyone suggest good examples, or a good reference work on this topic? Is there a melody equivalent of textual concepts like commonplaces and floating verses?

Since I am teaching in English, I'm restricting myself to English language folk traditions for the textual examples. But tunes that crossed language barriers would be of particular interest.

Many thanks,
Pamela


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