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The Oral Tradition

Ged Fox 24 Oct 17 - 10:10 AM
GUEST 24 Oct 17 - 10:13 AM
Ged Fox 24 Oct 17 - 10:39 AM
Jim Carroll 24 Oct 17 - 11:12 AM
Jack Campin 24 Oct 17 - 11:56 AM
Jim Carroll 24 Oct 17 - 12:02 PM
GUEST,12:08 24 Oct 17 - 12:32 PM
The Sandman 24 Oct 17 - 12:50 PM
Jim Carroll 24 Oct 17 - 02:34 PM
Jackaroodave 24 Oct 17 - 02:46 PM
GUEST 24 Oct 17 - 04:22 PM
RTim 24 Oct 17 - 04:45 PM
GUEST,pauperback 24 Oct 17 - 05:52 PM
GUEST,Hilary 24 Oct 17 - 06:56 PM
Jack Campin 24 Oct 17 - 08:51 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 24 Oct 17 - 09:12 PM
Gibb Sahib 24 Oct 17 - 09:27 PM
Jim Carroll 25 Oct 17 - 04:08 AM
Ged Fox 25 Oct 17 - 04:17 AM
Jim Carroll 25 Oct 17 - 06:47 AM
GUEST 25 Oct 17 - 07:28 AM
Ged Fox 25 Oct 17 - 07:29 AM
Jim Carroll 25 Oct 17 - 07:38 AM
Ged Fox 25 Oct 17 - 09:01 AM
Jim Carroll 25 Oct 17 - 10:25 AM
Jack Campin 25 Oct 17 - 11:01 AM
Jim Carroll 25 Oct 17 - 11:11 AM
GUEST,Morris-ey 25 Oct 17 - 11:51 AM
Ged Fox 25 Oct 17 - 12:34 PM
Jim Carroll 25 Oct 17 - 12:54 PM
Gibb Sahib 25 Oct 17 - 11:04 PM
Jack Campin 26 Oct 17 - 08:44 AM
Jim Carroll 26 Oct 17 - 10:23 AM
meself 26 Oct 17 - 10:44 AM
GUEST,saulgoldie 26 Oct 17 - 11:35 AM
GUEST,12:08 26 Oct 17 - 12:42 PM
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Subject: The Oral Tradition
From: Ged Fox
Date: 24 Oct 17 - 10:10 AM

"[The oral tradition] is very much an essential element of what constitutes our folk music and has been since the genre was first documented"

Indeed, the term "oral tradition" is oft used and the concept is probably fundamental to any discussion of folk music. The meaning of the phrase should be self-evident, but in practice it is one of those terms that seems to shift its meaning as soon as it is used. I, at least, have never understood where the boundary, if there is one, is set between, say oral tradition and literate transmission.

X sings a song collected by Sabine Baring-Gould "from the mouths of the people" (and published by him as closely to the original as possible - let's not go into a discussion on all those that he "improved.") Is X then continuing the oral tradition after a gap of a century and a half?

Y learns "I'm for ever blowing bubbles" from the local village folk as they sing it at leisure in the pub. When Y sings it to his children as a lullaby, has that song entered the oral tradition?


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Oct 17 - 10:13 AM

Is this not being done to death on another thread. Surely you know that this "new" thread will provoke the same circular discussion a sis now dominating the other thread!


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Ged Fox
Date: 24 Oct 17 - 10:39 AM

Maybe, Guest - I just got a server error when I tried to search for "the oral tradition." Perhaps I should have taken that for a warning.

Perhaps you could p.m. me the answers to my questions, just Yes or No in each case should do.

Joe, or whoever, feel free to delete this thread.


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Oct 17 - 11:12 AM

The oral tradition in relation to folk song refers to oral creation, not simply repetition otherwise we would be left with a tradiion made up of 'Chinese Whispers'
A pretty fair examination of the term is to be found in David Buchan's 'The Ballad and the Folk' where he argues, not always convincingly, that there were no set texts to the ballads, just plots and commonplaces which were used to re-create the ballad each time it was passed on
A strong support of this argument is to be found in the fact that the most important sources of our Traditional "big" ballads are the English and Scots Travellers who are 'preliterate' (the communities have not accepted literacy as part of their culture)
Sorry, don't agree with 'Guest' - there is no reason why this interesting subject should not be allowed to continue - the one on folk clubs is in a big enough mess as it is
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Jack Campin
Date: 24 Oct 17 - 11:56 AM

the most important sources of our Traditional "big" ballads are the English and Scots Travellers

That's like saying most lost keys are dropped under streetlights because that's where people find them.

It doesn't support the argument at all. It says they retained them and sang them to collectors, but says nothing at all about how they were created in the first place. And almost everything collected from Travellers has also been collected elsewhere, usually many times.

David Buchan died too young to be confronted with the silliness of his argument. There are two major groups of songs that don't fit. One is ballads created by broadside publishers, maybe by versifying pre-existing folktales - these account for most of the Child corpus. Another is songs which have been reduced to fragments from a once-continuous work on an epic scale - A.L. Lloyd argued that "The Outlandish Knight" was one such, riddle songs are often in the same category (where the riddle marks a moment in a complex plot). This certainly is a Chinese-whispers process, driven by social changes that made the performance of an hours-long epic out of the question.


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Oct 17 - 12:02 PM

"but says nothing at all about how they were created in the first place."
Nobody suggests that it does Jack - but it does suggest that the oral tradition is a major factor in their transmission
Nobody knows who created them; we have to use a little common sense and work with what we have to even hazard a guess at that one
I have yet to find Buchan's arguments "silly" - I find them, as I do with most academic arguments, good in parts
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: GUEST,12:08
Date: 24 Oct 17 - 12:32 PM

It's not just collectors who write things down. People who are literate write things down in case they forget them. They also write things down so that can learn them. Or because the person who knows won't be with us for ever - for example the song that granny sings at Christmas.

A family member writing down the songs that granny sings may not need ot want to distinguish between an old Wassail song or "I'm for ever blowing bubbles"

I am suggesting that the moment there are literate people around a pure 'oral tradition' is unlikely to exist.


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Oct 17 - 12:50 PM

"I am suggesting that the moment there are literate people around a pure 'oral tradition' is unlikely to exist."
CORRECT, that is why so many pop songs will not and cannot have the lyrics altered, when performed, because they are set in stone, other than on football terraces where people alter the songs to insult the opposite team and suchlike, however the quality of these masterpeices is sometimes somewhat unimaginative.with this exceptionFormer sports journalist and current Norwich City and FC St Pauli fan, Andrew Lawn, has a bachelor?s degree in Politics and Media from the University of East Anglia and researches football chants...

He explained to the Official Site why the Wheelbarrow Song is the perfect football chant?

Notts County fans, like fans of football clubs across the UK, and indeed the world, have a proud tradition of chanting.

These chants are hugely diverse and can be; supportive, critical, hostile, crude, humorous, and on occasion seemingly pointless.

They contain within them words, ideas or themes that could be deemed offensive. Why do we do it and what do our chants tell us about ourselves as individuals and about society as a whole? n essence football fans chant in support of their team. Fans of all clubs know that being a football fan is not (all) about winning; it?s about coming together with a common bond; be it geographical, historical or cultural. Chants are the embodiment of this; by singing together individuals within a crowd become one voice and one entity.

That togetherness is already being hailed at Notts this season and held up as one of the reasons that hopes are high that this season will be more fruitful than last year?s relegation scrap.

Not all football chants are a positive expression of identity however, because whilst accentuating similarities within a community can create a collective identity, that identity is sustained by an opposition to a different ?other?.

From the names; ?Notts? County, never Nottingham County for example, to the chants, the rivalry Notts fans have with Forest provides anexample of this.

While I agree that some chants are always unacceptable - those ridiculing characteristics individuals cannot choose; race, gender or sexual orientation for example - to completely remove chants would irrevocably alter and damage a valuable tradition, a tradition which also brings out more positive traits; camaraderie, loyalty, humour and the ability to face adversity.

The ?wheelbarrow song? is a perfect example of this and for me sums up all that is good about football chanting.For those who haven?t heard it, to the tune of ?Old Smoky?, it is simply;

?I had a wheelbarrow, the wheel fell off, I had a wheelbarrow, the wheel fell off, County, County, County?

Why then is that the perfect football chant?

First, its origins are disputed, rooted in folklore and the memories of famous comebacks at Shrewsbury Town or misfortune depending who you believe.

Secondly, it?s simple and inclusive. It uses no divisive language or themes, but it brings a community together, finishing with a rousing rendition of ?County, County, County?.For those who haven?t heard it, to the tune of ?Old Smoky?, it is simply;

?I had a wheelbarrow, the wheel fell off, I had a wheelbarrow, the wheel fell off, County, County, County?

Why then is that the perfect football chant?

First, its origins are disputed, rooted in folklore and the memories of famous comebacks at Shrewsbury Town or misfortune depending who you believe.

Secondly, it?s simple and inclusive. It uses no divisive language or themes, but it brings a community together, finishing with a rousing rendition of ?County, County, County?. For those who haven?t heard it, to the tune of ?Old Smoky?, it is simply;

?I had a wheelbarrow, the wheel fell off, I had a wheelbarrow, the wheel fell off, County, County, CountyThirdly, it is self-deprecating; the inference being that as a club we are so unfortunate that even our wheelbarrow is broken.

Finally, it is completely irrelevant.

It has nothing to do with football, until the final reference to County, and is all the stronger for it.

The sole point of the song is the singing of the song itself. It expresses no particular support, derision, masculinity or geographical relevance and yet perfectly encapsulates what it is to be a football fan; you get a new wheelbarrow, bundled up in it are ideas of potential, excitement and achievement, then just as everything looks good, the wheel falls off, the promise remains unfilled, the excitement turns to abject disappointment.

Yet, despite all that, we still love the wheelbarrow. We?ll get a new wheel, it?ll be as good as new. We believe again.

That is not to say that football chanting and those who engage in it, should be given carte blanche to sing whatever they want, and the continued crackdown of abuse which draws on prejudice should be wholeheartedly supported.

It is by no means all bad, however, and any group of people who can sing publically about their broken wheelbarrow or lose 6-0 at Rotherham and respond to the home fans taunts with; ?We lose every week, you?re nothing special, we lose every week?, is worth saluting.


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Oct 17 - 02:34 PM

"I am suggesting that the moment there are literate people around a pure 'oral tradition' is unlikely to exist."
Travellers come as near to one as dammit
The question of literacy is a complex one when it comes to folk song and lore, especially in a country like Ireland that has two languages
Singers we recorded bought books and ballad sheets, often to confirm or fill out texts they half remembers, but we found a general mistrust in them from the older generation
A classic example was when we recorded an hour-long tale from an old man, The Gille Dacker and his Horse'
We discovered it later in Joyce's 'Old Celtic Romances' and when we told him we had we were a little deflated when he told us he ewe aware of it until he said, "ut he has it completely wrong"
You are right of course, a pure oral tradition is a rare bird nowadays, but so is a living tradition
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Jackaroodave
Date: 24 Oct 17 - 02:46 PM

The dictionaries and usages I'm familiar with--like GedFox--contrast "oral" with "written." But doesn't the current controversy largely concern face-to-face vs. mediated oral transmission?

An "oral agreement," for example, can be reached over the telephone--even a cell phone, which is a radio--Skype, or, presumably, by exchange of tapes, podcasts, or youtube clips. And oral transmission of songs composed by the folk persists in these ways.

However, I'm guessing the framers of the 1954 folk music definition tacitly interpreted "oral tradition" as directly from mouth to ear and may (I don't know) have considered transmission by contemporary recordings or live broadcasts grounds for disqualification.


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Oct 17 - 04:22 PM

"Travellers come as near to one as dammit" Yes, I think your accounts of people who lived a partially pre-literate (and pre-portable TV) life could be something of a window on the past. Especially your quote (I think it was you), in another discussion, about someone getting the family songs printed to sell at the fair.

However, I was also thinking of people in earlier times doing what many did before one could just download lyrics - writing it down (for the ring binder...) from an oral source, learning it, singing it and then later someone else writing it down and the cycle repeats.

I know of one song collected from an oral source in the 1950's where, unbeknown to the collector, the family of the singer have a few handwritten versions, with assorted misshearings and corrections, going back over four or five generations. A child learns to write, takes down granny's song, sings it herself and then her daughter writes it down after hearing it. Is that oral transmission?


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: RTim
Date: 24 Oct 17 - 04:45 PM

The Copper Family still sing from the book that Old Brasser Copper wrote out years ago...I am not going to be the one that says theirs is not an Oral Tradition.........
Yes - it is only the words, no tunes.......

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: GUEST,pauperback
Date: 24 Oct 17 - 05:52 PM

A child learns to write, takes down granny's song, sings it herself and then her daughter writes it down after hearing it. Is that oral transmission. only if written on slate


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: GUEST,Hilary
Date: 24 Oct 17 - 06:56 PM

In the original post, it seems like "oral tradition" is contrasted with "literate transmission" as if the only variable changed is the manner of communication (oral vs. literate), but tradition and transmission are not the same thing. Transmission is how things are passed between people. Tradition is a process of recycling of preexisting materials to meet present needs (often with changes). The answer to both of the questions is we don't have enough information, although I'm inclined to answer yes in the second case, since I take it that singing in pubs and singing lullabies are traditional practices.

My impression of Buchan's work is that he was writing about people who were in primarily an oral society. But people in literate societies can still transmit things orally (and change them to meet present needs). They just might not use the same kinds of formulaic structures that Buchan writes about.


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Jack Campin
Date: 24 Oct 17 - 08:51 PM

I'm guessing the framers of the 1954 folk music definition tacitly interpreted "oral tradition" as directly from mouth to ear

After looking at that in a blur over the top of a pair of the wrong strength of glasses, I am never going to forget the image of folk transmission from mouth to rear.


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 24 Oct 17 - 09:12 PM

I have stories, told to me from my mother, who lived with her Civil-War grandfather.

I have audio recorded tapes, of my mother's's brothers singing songs in the 1960's

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

An awful lot f UK clap-trap seems to constipate the free flow of n formation


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 24 Oct 17 - 09:27 PM

Not sure what "THE" oral tradition is. There is oral/aural transmission, which is [nearly?] always involved when it comes to acquiring music.

I'm an ethnomusicologist, from the USA, who spent a solid decade working on music traditions of the Punjab region of India and Pakistan. (I still work on, it, but I'm much less intensely engaged at the moment.) That was a situation where some of the traditions I was dealing with were more-or-less entirely aurally transmitted. The participants learned the music only through direct contact with others. For instance, the drumming genres I studied were widespread across the region, however, each regional and even family group that practiced them had a somewhat different way of doing it because they mainly interacted with each other (in their area, in their extended family or tribe) and less infrequently encountered other practitioners. Note that all these people were considered professionals, who performed music for pay. They were specialists and would be insulted if in anyway one suggested they were amateurs or practicing a "folk version" (?) of something. They WERE the tradition. I never felt any need to describe what they were doing as "folk"; it was a music tradition that happened to be transmitted entirely aurally.

Anecdotally: I studied drumming through the observation of a wide range of folks across the region, though I had a primary teacher in the form of a man who never learned reading/writing of any sort, and was rarely exposed to TV or recordings. My primary teacher and his cohort were probably the greatest influence on my own style of performance. Once, when visiting a group of practitioners from a different area and playing for them, an individual who had some broad experience throughout the region correctly identified the "accent" in my playing and guessed the area in which I was based.

The musicians at that time did not have access to internet or camera phones, etc. Now, I believe that many in the younger generation do, and performances have been posted to YouTube, etc. Soon I will return to the site of research and I'll be interested to see if/how the access to these media has had an effect on their traditions.

Even in the past, without interaction with media, the Punjabi musicians sometimes had a sense that some parts of their tradition were being "forgotten," while at the same time, individuals were creating new forms that, with recent decades, had caught on and spread. One cause of "forgetting" was economics: Up and coming musicians who had perhaps not learned "all" of the tradition found that certain items worked just fine to cover a range of activities for which they were paid. Unless some conscientious elder implored a youngster to learn a certain item purely for the value of knowing it as part of the tradition, the youngster might only bother with a reduced set of items needed or a less-nuanced way of playing so long as it served them economically. On the other side, because non-musicians with comparatively ignorant of the tradition, a professional might make up something new that suited his fancy and passed it off as "traditional" to bourgeois patrons, who were none the wiser and assumed everything musicians did was traditional. If this was effective, others in that creator's social sphere might adopt the item and it would spread, perhaps "replacing" alternative, older items. Note as well that these musicians' repertoire was very resistant to being transcribed and disseminated by people in the society who were more "literate." Such people lacked the skills to transcribe (or "collect"?) the items, and even if they did, what they might write down had nowhere to go -- no audience.


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Oct 17 - 04:08 AM

My experience of the oral tradition relates only to the folk traditions relaing to singing ans storytelling , though I am aware of things like 'jokes' (there's a thread on that at present) which is interesting in itself
We met and recorded an old Irish dancer in south east London back in the seventies who, though not recognised as a singer, had acquired a large number of songs aurally which he gave us sitting in tha back of our car over a number of months because he was shy of singing them at home
When we finally met his wife she told us that he would come home from our recording sessions, sit up in bed and sing through the songs of his youth so he would have them right for the next session
Not understanding why he was acting as he was, she told him "you're going cracked, just like your mother"
He remembered around fifty songs he had never sung publicly
One of the most frustrating aspects of our time with him was, after a session we would head for a pub, where he would regale us with dozens of "yarns", which were basically shortened versions of folktales told as funny stories
These included a version of 'King John and The Bishop of Canterbury' (Child 45), a bawdy tale he called 'The Mouse in the Matchbox' which we traced to 'Rojas's 'The Spanish Bawd' (1499) and a story with 2 sung verses he called 'The Merchant and the Fiddler's Wife' which is to be found in D'urfey's 'Pills to Purge Melancholy' (1719/1720)   
The two sung verses coincided with the text of the published song even though, as far as we know, the song has never been collected from traditional singers.
Our friend, Mikey Kelleher, was a retired building worker who left Ireland in 1947 and never returned home
He was still a superb traditional dancer and had taught maay of the dancers we later met here in Clare
He learned all his stories and songs back home at house sessions
His grasp of literacy was somewhat basic and his family history had much to do with that
They were Irish speakers who came from a small Island, Mutton Island or Enniskerry, just off this coast - you can just see it on a clear day from our house.
Mikey was brought up on the mainland and was educated in English - he was raised in a situation where he had difficulty communicating with his parents because they spoke Irish as their natural language.
And there he was, telling us these ancient "yarns" in a pub in Deptford.
The links between the oral tradition is a complicated subject and very easy to misunderstand if you over-simplify it
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Ged Fox
Date: 25 Oct 17 - 04:17 AM

"Not sure what "THE" oral tradition is."

Nor I, but it's a phrase the recurs in discussions. Also "in the tradition" but that might mean something quite different.

However, I think I have gleaned two things from the discussion so far. For there to be a "tradition" there must be a more than average degree of isolation, and "oral tradition" implies original composition within the isolated community followed by continuous aural/oral transmission. Simple really, and the answers to my original questions are "no" and "no."


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Oct 17 - 06:47 AM

Too mucch of a simplification Jed
As Dick |Miles has pointed out, a football crowd can improvise a verse or a rhyme which is then passed on orally - the same with crowds of children in a schoolyard - all orally transmitting (and creating)
Shantymen orally created on the spot to get a job of work done.
We have two examples of groups of men (in rural Ireland and in the travelling community) who composed on the spot by throwing verses at each other until they arrived at substantial songs.
I'm in the process of preparing a talk on collecting which, part of which, I believe, shows what happened to the oral tradition among Travellers when their tradition came to a screeching halt in the mid 1970s
We started recording Irish Travellers in London in Summer, 1973 - we got so much information that we had to call a halt and form a plan of work - we didn't restart until 18 monthes later

" In 1973, we would turn up at a site, find a singer, record him/her for as long as it was comfortable, then adjourn to the pub with them and chat, hopefully gathering information that would enable us to pick up next time.
Occasionally, when we were thrown out of the pub at closing time, we would return to the site to find a fire had been lit and the families had gathered around to chat, tell stories and, on several occasions, sing ? when this happened, we were invariably invited to join them and, if we were really lucky, to record.
When we turned up on spec on Easter Sunday, 1975, we were greeted with an empty site, not a soul to be seen, all doors closed and strange flickering lights in all the windows ? ?progress? in the form of portable televisions, had arrived with a vengeance and the song and storytelling traditions had fled ? virtually within eighteen months.
We had to sit through the western. Rio Bravo (for the umpteenth time) before we could tempt somebody to sing into the mike for us.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Oct 17 - 07:28 AM

I don't know about the shantymen but it other 'traditions' where often topical or gossipy verses are improvised much of the interest is that they are done on the spot. So they are ephemeral. Transmission is not part of the tradition.


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Ged Fox
Date: 25 Oct 17 - 07:29 AM

On the whole, I like simple, but I'm glad it's not too simple 'cos if it had been I'd have looked like an idiot for not understanding it in the first place.

I'll hang on to the isolation aspect for now as all your examples are, in different ways, closed communities.

I'll drop the "original composition." That was a misunderstanding of "oral creation." I assumed it meant "initial creation within the community." It seems that you were referring to the deliberate or unconscious development of a song, tale or tune, putting the community's stamp on it, regardless of its origin. Not to be confused with changing the song as a result of Mondegreens or memory failure.

So, my second example might have a "yes" answer if, for example, the singer changes a line to "hush-a-bye, my baby."

The answer to my first question would still be "no," even if the singer managed by chance to replicate the exact intonation of "poor Will Huggins" because the world of poor Will no longer exists. The song would still be a folk song, but not (if learnt from "Songs and Ballads of the West") part of the oral tradition. n'est-ce pas?


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Oct 17 - 07:38 AM

" It seems that you were referring to the deliberate or unconscious development of a song, tale or tune, putting the community's stamp on it, regardless of its origin. Not to be confused with changing the song as a result of Mondegreens or memory failure."
All folk songs started somewhere Ged - in my opinion within these communities
Some were taken and adapted by other communities to suit different conditions, but even those that remained in the areas where they were created can be described as "folk" or "traditional" as they were from a common source and served the same functions
We live in rural West Clare - along the Clare coast we have recorded around sixty song that were created locally within the lifetimes of the singers and have been absorbed into those communities - we have veen able to trace the authorship of only two of those songs, the ones that were published
Furhter researches facve revealed a further 145 simillar songs on the other side of Clare
It now transpires that this took place throughout Ireland - a hidden traditional repertoire
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Ged Fox
Date: 25 Oct 17 - 09:01 AM

"All folk songs started somewhere Ged"

Granted, but I'd hoped not to drop into the abyss of "the origin of folk songs" only to consider the importance or otherwise of origin when referring to "oral tradition."

From what you've said I understand that the origin only partly determines whether a song can be considered part of the oral tradition of a community. A song originating within a community and continuing in use, whether modified or not, is part of the community's oral tradition. A song originating outside a community can be absorbed into the community and can be considered part of that community's oral tradition when it has been shaped by the community. Yes?


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Oct 17 - 10:25 AM

Yes
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Jack Campin
Date: 25 Oct 17 - 11:01 AM

Oral traditions are not necessarily about the transmission of songs or tunes. In many cultures what is transmitted orally is the musical framework that allow you to compose your own. In many peoples of North and South America is was expected that nobody ever re-used somebody else's flute tune, and much the same happened in eastern Europe with the "doinas" (slow unaccompanied fantasias) of Romania and nearby places (and later, Askenazi Jewish klezmer musicians both sides of the Atlantic) - a doina was composed rather than improvised, and each musician had their own which was played with little if any variation. Learning to play somebody else's, as is usually done today, misses the point.

I can't thing of anything quite like that from an Anglophone culture but it probably happens somewhere.


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Oct 17 - 11:11 AM

Do you know anything about the ballad making 'flytings' in Eastern Europe Jack
Lomax once described (thik it was in his Cantometrics book) how two singers would try to outdo each other in song making while an audience looked on
I know it was once a tradition in Scotland
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: GUEST,Morris-ey
Date: 25 Oct 17 - 11:51 AM

It does not matter. The "Oral Tradition", note the Capitalisation, has no relevance in the day to day performance or appreciation of folk music.

In fact, there is no Oral Tradition today because all of the original Orals are dead and gone and everyone learns from someone who learned from recorded music or cuts out the middleman and learns themselves from recorded music.

Is folk music less enjoyable as a result? Sad if you answer yes...


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Ged Fox
Date: 25 Oct 17 - 12:34 PM

Thanks Jim, that satisfies my original post.

Morris-ey - Yawwn


... exit left humming "I had a wheel-barrow..."


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Oct 17 - 12:54 PM

"Morris-ey - Yawwn"
I'm not sure about that Ged - makes a deal of sense to me
'Progress' particularly technology, has turned us into passive recipients of our culture ((even customers) rather than participants in it
What I described as happening to the Travellers is a microcosm of society as a whole in my opinion
Dosn't mean there ar


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 25 Oct 17 - 11:04 PM

May I suggest you consider adopting, at least in the context of some discussion, a different word than "oral." Maybe, "unmediated"? and/or "without written aid"? (The latter is characteristic of the vast majority of music in the world. The former still characterizes much transmission, but hypothetically that percentage decreases with the proliferation of media.)

"Oral" is causing confusion. It suggests something has to come out of your mouth. What if something else is producing the sound? The common denominator is AURAL.

This "oral" concept -- perhaps borrowed from such dichotomy as "oral history" versus "recorded history" -- is very word-centered. Maybe not the best way to talk about music.

Moreover, one can transmit orally or receive aurally via a medium. If the presence of a medium is relevant to what you're trying to figure out, then you need to be more specific than just oral/aural tradition.

Practically all music transmission relies mostly on aural. A very few -- though indeed these have a powerful place in Western society despite this quirk -- attempt also to convey information in writing. However, the written notation is most often prescriptive and can only be realized using information gathered aurally.

Again, for me, it comes back to ditching such grand constructs as "[the] oral tradition" and "folk music,"** and instead just describing what is going on. Here's a thing. Here's what the thing's form is. Here's how the thing is typically learned/taught.



**footnote: Yes, yes yes: These labels are expedient and fair game when one is having a simple conversation between people who agree on their meaning. But we are not talking about casual conversation here, we are talking about precise ("scientific," if you like) language to describe ideas, upon which base a larger argument depends, accurately.


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Jack Campin
Date: 26 Oct 17 - 08:44 AM

The only flytings we know about in Scotland were done on paper and not improvised. The American "Yo Mama" tradition is the same thing orally, though. Another one is found in Kars, north-east Turkey, where bardic singers do (or did until recently) sung insult-exchange competitions with saz accompaniment.


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Oct 17 - 10:23 AM

"The only flytings we know about in Scotland were done on paper and not improvised. "
According to Britannica verbal contests tool place in Scotland as early as the 15th/16th century
Jim Cattoll


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: meself
Date: 26 Oct 17 - 10:44 AM

As early - or as late? (I know nothing about it, but from what Jack says, 'late' might be more appropriate?).

Btw, and more prominently, this kind of thing seems to be a big element of rap - the climactic scene in the movie Eight Mile involves a contest in which mocking verses are 'improvised' and exchanged.


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: GUEST,saulgoldie
Date: 26 Oct 17 - 11:35 AM

I'm going to read the whole thread at some point, cause it seems very interesting. But to the original question of when The Oral Tradition began.

As I see it the oral tradition began when humans first started making intentional systematic vocal sounds. I am sure that once there was a language of some sort, those early human types were already telling stories. And stories are the original.

Then, of course, there came instruments. And then songs. (And then, the three deadly "B"s--bodhrans, banjos, and baggypipes.) And soon thereafter the whole copyright shitstorm began in earnest. (BBB copyrights were not a problem, however. Because, well, it's obvious why.)

The early copyright battles dwarf what we have today. I somehow do not think that that was what was exactly being asked. But there you have it.


Saul


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Subject: RE: The Oral Tradition
From: GUEST,12:08
Date: 26 Oct 17 - 12:42 PM

The OP's two questions don't cover another possibility.

X sings a song not to Sabine Baring-Gould but to their friends and neighbours, one of whom remembers it and writes it down or badgers them to go through it slowly and writes it down. They then learn it and sing it to the next generation of friends and neighbours.

Y learns "I'm for ever blowing bubbles" from the local village folk as they sing it at leisure in the pub, but as part of doing so writes them down. X then sings it to other people.

In these two situations there is oral/aural transmission. Does it matter that it was written down as part of the learning process? Like making a shopping list, it's what literate people can do for their own benefit.

In a song tradition how does that differ from not using written media? Why does it matter?


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