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Tech: Poll re:new ballad book

GUEST,Julia Lane 06 Aug 18 - 09:27 PM
Joe Offer 07 Aug 18 - 02:54 AM
Jim Carroll 07 Aug 18 - 03:01 AM
KarenJoyce 07 Aug 18 - 10:26 AM
GUEST,Julia Lane 08 Aug 18 - 07:32 AM
GUEST,OldNicKilby 08 Aug 18 - 09:51 AM
Stevebury 08 Aug 18 - 02:52 PM
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Subject: Tech: Poll re:new ballad book
From: GUEST,Julia Lane
Date: 06 Aug 18 - 09:27 PM

Hello folks- as some of you know, I have been transcribing source tapes of songs found in Maine pre-1950. I've also been compiling manuscripts of collected songs and trying to identify tunes for the lyrics. In total there are well over 900 songs. I'm almost ready to publish the first volume - Seafaring Songs of Maine. I have decided to print an actual book with an auxiliary website.

My poll question is whether I should include the complete transcripts, warts and all, or an edited collection with lyrics "mended" for clarity and coherence?

Thanks for your thoughtful replies

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Subject: RE: Tech: Poll re:new ballad book
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Aug 18 - 02:54 AM

Both is best, Julia. The "warts snd all" part is hard to read, but valuable for research. Good luck on this project.

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Subject: RE: Tech: Poll re:new ballad book
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Aug 18 - 03:01 AM

Hi Julia
Am fascinated to here what you are doing
From the other side of the pond, Maine and the North Eastern coast has always impressed me as one of the great links to British songs
I'm at present compiling a file of examples of Child Ballads that have been established in the Irish repertoire and 'British Ballads from Maine' has proved the source of a couple of gems that moved on to the U.S.
Perhaps I might pick your brains on a couple of missing tunes of those songsand background to the informants sometime?

I think your query really depends on who you are aiming your work at
If you are doing it for researchers you need to leave the songs as they are i if you are drawing from previous published collections, they have possibly been altered already
If it is for general interest, I see no harm in simplifying or rectifying them
Of course, the original singer's version of text and tune needs to be kept on file intact for consultation so that if you do decide to 'tinker' with them, you tell people what you have done (maybe as a footnote)
THe auxiary website will be an invaluable addition.

I am faced with a similar dilemma as I am hoping to publish our collection of Irish Traveller songs, stories, lore and interviews collected over thirty years

The very best of luck in this fascinating project - I look forward to benefiting from the result
I wonder if you have decided your categories of song yet?
Jim Carroll

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Subject: RE: Tech: Poll re:new ballad book
From: KarenJoyce
Date: 07 Aug 18 - 10:26 AM

Though I am a singer of ballads and not a scholar, I would prefer to have the 'warts and all' versions available. 'Mended' versions would also be nice inasmuch as your expertise (knowledge of context) might make for better 'mending' than what I would do myself if I wanted to sing the song. Thus I am agreeing with Joe Offer.

I may be wading into controversy here but...

I think that singers will, both consciously and unconsciously, do their own 'mending' to make what is, for them, a singable version. I see nothing wrong with this as long as we are not claiming otherwise. In doing this, some of us like to make use of multiple 'warts and all' versions to get a better understanding of how the singers before us have interpreted the story being sung.

So if I had to choose one or the other, I'd choose 'warts and all', with all the versions (when you have more than one), and with any contextual information you might have that would help clarify any confusing aspects of the wording.

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Subject: RE: Tech: Poll re:new ballad book
From: GUEST,Julia Lane
Date: 08 Aug 18 - 07:32 AM

Thanks so much - this is really helpful.

It is absolutely important to maintain the originals as best we can. One problem is trying to codify someone's style and ornamentation which also may have been compromised by poor health. As many of the singers on the recordings were elderly, there is much coughing, wheezing, key changes and memory loss as well as archaic vernacular word usage. It is a shame since one can tell they were mighty singers in their day. Add to that bad recording quality and they are sometimes downright inscrutable!

Anyway,I think it is equally important to present the songs in an easily accessible format, especially for those who are not familiar with the songs and may be turned off by incomplete versions or complex musical nuances. NOT watered down, but intact. The idea, for, me, is to present them so that others will embrace and sing them thus keeping them in the living tradition.

So, yes, both are right. The question is how to present both? I really appreciate your thoughts and ideas.

If anyone wants to PM, my email is
best- J

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Subject: RE: Tech: Poll re:new ballad book
From: GUEST,OldNicKilby
Date: 08 Aug 18 - 09:51 AM

Go on then Julia censor and rape the songs. Leave them as they are. If you look at the originals of the "Collectors" they corrected the songs to suit their tastes and sensibilities
Let the Singers of today interpret the songs please do not impose your tastes on us. Thank You for making these collections available to us. *I remember being on my knees in Avols Bookshop in Madison Wisconsin, when I pulled a volume from the shelf . A second fell out and it was open at a version of Golden Vanity that was collected from an ancestor of mine

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Subject: RE: Tech: Poll re:new ballad book
From: Stevebury
Date: 08 Aug 18 - 02:52 PM

I agree with others above that the ideal answer is 'both'.

For my own purposes, when I'm working up a song I'd rather do my own editing and emending: comparing with other versions to clarify a line, or re-introducing a verse to make the narrative more coherent, all toward my objective of having a good singable version, while not doing violence to the original.

But I'm overwhelmingly persuaded by the objective of providing an accessible format, so that the songs are discovered and sung by more people. (People who don't have a whole library of other versions to do their own research). So that lots of people will buy the book, and not be put off by too much 'scholarly clutter'.   [This from one who fully appreciates, and whose workspace is filled with, 'scholarly clutter.] On balance, I would be happy to see a lightly edited 'accessible' version in the published book, with emendations or insertions clearly marked [in brackets, say], and even including appropriate additional verses sparingly added to incomplete versions. Again: clearly indicated. That said, however, I would want to have (non-cluttery) marginal notes or endnotes documenting any changes.

And I would want the complete (or incomplete) original transcription available in the companion on-line site. Along with some assurance that the on-line site has a permanent home and archive. [A scholarly website, with an auxiliary book?]

I have to say, Julia: I'm very much looking forward to seeing the results of your efforts!!


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