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If you don't like ballads......

Big Al Whittle 07 May 19 - 12:40 AM
Deckman 07 May 19 - 01:08 AM
punkfolkrocker 07 May 19 - 01:13 AM
punkfolkrocker 07 May 19 - 01:18 AM
Jim Carroll 07 May 19 - 02:48 AM
GUEST,matt milton 07 May 19 - 03:54 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 07 May 19 - 03:54 AM
Dave the Gnome 07 May 19 - 03:56 AM
Jim Carroll 07 May 19 - 04:09 AM
GUEST 07 May 19 - 04:12 AM
Dave the Gnome 07 May 19 - 04:13 AM
GUEST 07 May 19 - 04:23 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 07 May 19 - 04:32 AM
Joe Offer 07 May 19 - 04:42 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 07 May 19 - 05:00 AM
Jim Carroll 07 May 19 - 05:27 AM
Dave the Gnome 07 May 19 - 05:54 AM
Howard Jones 07 May 19 - 06:04 AM
Jim Carroll 07 May 19 - 06:06 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 07 May 19 - 06:09 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 07 May 19 - 06:14 AM
Dave the Gnome 07 May 19 - 06:28 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 07 May 19 - 06:33 AM
Jim Carroll 07 May 19 - 06:41 AM
Dave the Gnome 07 May 19 - 06:46 AM
Dave the Gnome 07 May 19 - 06:51 AM
Big Al Whittle 07 May 19 - 06:57 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 07 May 19 - 07:08 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 07 May 19 - 07:21 AM
Howard Jones 07 May 19 - 08:25 AM
DMcG 07 May 19 - 08:48 AM
punkfolkrocker 07 May 19 - 09:23 AM
Brian Peters 07 May 19 - 09:36 AM
Howard Jones 07 May 19 - 10:22 AM
CupOfTea 07 May 19 - 10:35 AM
Dave the Gnome 07 May 19 - 11:04 AM
GUEST,some bloke 07 May 19 - 11:15 AM
punkfolkrocker 07 May 19 - 11:23 AM
Big Al Whittle 07 May 19 - 11:30 AM
Jack Campin 07 May 19 - 11:34 AM
Dave the Gnome 07 May 19 - 11:35 AM
punkfolkrocker 07 May 19 - 11:48 AM
Dave the Gnome 07 May 19 - 11:54 AM
Joe Offer 07 May 19 - 02:32 PM
Steve Gardham 07 May 19 - 04:16 PM
EBarnacle 07 May 19 - 10:51 PM
Gurney 07 May 19 - 11:10 PM
Deckman 08 May 19 - 01:21 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 08 May 19 - 01:27 AM
Dave the Gnome 08 May 19 - 03:55 AM
DMcG 08 May 19 - 04:07 AM
Dave the Gnome 08 May 19 - 04:21 AM
GUEST,JHW 08 May 19 - 05:53 AM
punkfolkrocker 08 May 19 - 10:20 AM
punkfolkrocker 08 May 19 - 10:27 AM
DMcG 08 May 19 - 10:29 AM
GUEST,Andy7 08 May 19 - 10:48 AM
Dave the Gnome 08 May 19 - 10:58 AM
Bill D 08 May 19 - 11:09 AM
punkfolkrocker 08 May 19 - 11:17 AM
punkfolkrocker 08 May 19 - 11:31 AM
Stringsinger 08 May 19 - 12:05 PM
Dave the Gnome 08 May 19 - 01:19 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 08 May 19 - 02:00 PM
punkfolkrocker 08 May 19 - 02:05 PM
Dave the Gnome 08 May 19 - 03:43 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 08 May 19 - 03:47 PM
keberoxu 08 May 19 - 07:37 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 10 May 19 - 05:51 AM
Howard Jones 10 May 19 - 06:53 AM
DMcG 10 May 19 - 06:57 AM
Jim Carroll 10 May 19 - 08:55 AM
Dave the Gnome 10 May 19 - 08:59 AM
Jim Carroll 10 May 19 - 09:14 AM
punkfolkrocker 10 May 19 - 09:15 AM
punkfolkrocker 10 May 19 - 09:16 AM
punkfolkrocker 10 May 19 - 09:17 AM
Jim Carroll 10 May 19 - 09:22 AM
Dave the Gnome 10 May 19 - 10:05 AM
Jim Carroll 10 May 19 - 10:59 AM
punkfolkrocker 10 May 19 - 11:09 AM
Dave the Gnome 10 May 19 - 11:28 AM
Jim Carroll 10 May 19 - 12:00 PM
punkfolkrocker 10 May 19 - 12:03 PM
Dave the Gnome 10 May 19 - 01:27 PM
punkfolkrocker 10 May 19 - 01:39 PM
Steve Gardham 10 May 19 - 02:48 PM
Jim Carroll 10 May 19 - 03:08 PM
Steve Gardham 10 May 19 - 03:16 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 10 May 19 - 05:42 PM
Andy7 10 May 19 - 06:22 PM
saulgoldie 10 May 19 - 06:41 PM
Acorn4 10 May 19 - 06:56 PM
Dave the Gnome 11 May 19 - 02:11 AM
Dave the Gnome 11 May 19 - 02:21 AM
Jim Carroll 11 May 19 - 03:14 AM
Jim Carroll 11 May 19 - 03:15 AM
Dave the Gnome 11 May 19 - 03:41 AM
Jack Campin 11 May 19 - 08:30 AM
Big Al Whittle 11 May 19 - 08:31 AM
Dave the Gnome 11 May 19 - 08:48 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 11 May 19 - 09:39 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 11 May 19 - 09:52 AM
Jim Carroll 11 May 19 - 10:15 AM
Jack Campin 11 May 19 - 10:55 AM
punkfolkrocker 11 May 19 - 11:11 AM
Jeri 11 May 19 - 11:39 AM
GUEST,Hilary 11 May 19 - 11:52 AM
Jeri 11 May 19 - 11:58 AM
Steve Gardham 11 May 19 - 03:00 PM
Big Al Whittle 11 May 19 - 04:45 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 11 May 19 - 05:21 PM
Big Al Whittle 11 May 19 - 07:14 PM
Jim Carroll 12 May 19 - 02:57 AM
Iains 12 May 19 - 04:46 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 12 May 19 - 06:07 AM
Jim Carroll 12 May 19 - 06:15 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 12 May 19 - 06:51 AM
Jim Carroll 12 May 19 - 07:07 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 12 May 19 - 07:16 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 12 May 19 - 07:18 AM
GUEST 12 May 19 - 09:26 AM
Jim Carroll 12 May 19 - 09:34 AM
GUEST 12 May 19 - 11:01 AM
Steve Gardham 12 May 19 - 11:24 AM
Jim Carroll 12 May 19 - 11:26 AM
Jack Campin 12 May 19 - 11:51 AM
Steve Gardham 12 May 19 - 01:07 PM
GUEST,Some bloke 12 May 19 - 01:37 PM
punkfolkrocker 12 May 19 - 01:41 PM
Dave the Gnome 12 May 19 - 01:59 PM
GUEST,Swingin' Dick 12 May 19 - 02:00 PM
Steve Gardham 12 May 19 - 03:05 PM
Jack Campin 12 May 19 - 03:28 PM
Steve Gardham 12 May 19 - 03:59 PM
Steve Gardham 12 May 19 - 05:16 PM
Andy7 12 May 19 - 06:54 PM
Dave the Gnome 13 May 19 - 02:20 AM
GUEST 13 May 19 - 04:12 AM
Iains 13 May 19 - 04:18 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 13 May 19 - 05:56 AM
GUEST,Kenny B ( Inactive) 13 May 19 - 07:01 AM
GUEST,Jack Campin 13 May 19 - 07:03 AM
GUEST,Some bloke 13 May 19 - 07:12 AM
Iains 13 May 19 - 07:27 AM
Iains 13 May 19 - 08:45 AM
punkfolkrocker 13 May 19 - 09:01 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 13 May 19 - 09:37 AM
Iains 13 May 19 - 09:50 AM
Steve Gardham 13 May 19 - 02:49 PM
Steve Gardham 13 May 19 - 02:55 PM
Steve Gardham 13 May 19 - 02:57 PM
Steve Gardham 13 May 19 - 02:59 PM
Steve Gardham 13 May 19 - 03:04 PM
Big Al Whittle 13 May 19 - 03:07 PM
keberoxu 13 May 19 - 03:08 PM
Steve Gardham 13 May 19 - 03:17 PM
Steve Gardham 13 May 19 - 03:20 PM
Steve Gardham 13 May 19 - 03:29 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 13 May 19 - 03:35 PM
Steve Gardham 13 May 19 - 04:00 PM
Dave the Gnome 13 May 19 - 04:49 PM
Jack Campin 13 May 19 - 04:56 PM
Steve Gardham 13 May 19 - 05:06 PM
Big Al Whittle 13 May 19 - 05:16 PM
Steve Gardham 13 May 19 - 05:16 PM
Iains 13 May 19 - 05:18 PM
Big Al Whittle 13 May 19 - 05:21 PM
Steve Gardham 13 May 19 - 05:48 PM
Steve Gardham 13 May 19 - 05:54 PM
Richard Mellish 13 May 19 - 06:12 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 13 May 19 - 06:50 PM
GUEST 13 May 19 - 06:51 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 13 May 19 - 06:52 PM
Iains 14 May 19 - 02:57 AM
Dave the Gnome 14 May 19 - 03:10 AM
Jim Carroll 14 May 19 - 03:49 AM
GUEST 14 May 19 - 04:42 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 14 May 19 - 05:38 AM
GUEST 14 May 19 - 05:51 AM
Jim Carroll 14 May 19 - 06:16 AM
Iains 14 May 19 - 06:16 AM
GUEST 14 May 19 - 07:09 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 14 May 19 - 07:16 AM
GUEST 14 May 19 - 07:37 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 14 May 19 - 07:39 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 14 May 19 - 07:53 AM
Jim Carroll 14 May 19 - 11:06 AM
Dave the Gnome 14 May 19 - 11:49 AM
punkfolkrocker 14 May 19 - 12:30 PM
Iains 14 May 19 - 12:52 PM
Steve Gardham 14 May 19 - 02:24 PM
Jim Carroll 14 May 19 - 02:29 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 14 May 19 - 02:53 PM
Steve Gardham 14 May 19 - 03:45 PM
Richard Mellish 14 May 19 - 04:04 PM
Steve Gardham 14 May 19 - 04:18 PM
Jack Campin 14 May 19 - 05:22 PM
Steve Gardham 14 May 19 - 05:41 PM
Steve Gardham 14 May 19 - 05:41 PM
Steve Gardham 14 May 19 - 05:50 PM
Reinhard 14 May 19 - 06:28 PM
Jim Carroll 15 May 19 - 03:13 AM
GUEST,Jack Campin 15 May 19 - 04:43 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 15 May 19 - 07:20 AM
Jim Carroll 15 May 19 - 07:33 AM
GUEST,Jack Campin 15 May 19 - 07:44 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 15 May 19 - 07:59 AM
Jim Carroll 15 May 19 - 08:20 AM
Jim Carroll 15 May 19 - 08:26 AM
GUEST,Jack Campin 15 May 19 - 08:31 AM
Jim Carroll 15 May 19 - 08:39 AM
GUEST 15 May 19 - 09:23 AM
Jim Carroll 15 May 19 - 09:23 AM
Iains 15 May 19 - 09:40 AM
bbc 15 May 19 - 09:51 AM
Richard Mellish 15 May 19 - 10:17 AM
Jim Carroll 15 May 19 - 10:40 AM
Jim Carroll 15 May 19 - 10:43 AM
GUEST,Jack Campin 15 May 19 - 11:19 AM
Jim Carroll 15 May 19 - 12:17 PM
Richard Mellish 15 May 19 - 12:47 PM
Jim Carroll 15 May 19 - 02:58 PM
Steve Gardham 15 May 19 - 04:21 PM
Steve Gardham 15 May 19 - 04:28 PM
Steve Gardham 15 May 19 - 05:46 PM
GUEST 16 May 19 - 09:54 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 16 May 19 - 10:07 AM
Steve Gardham 16 May 19 - 10:18 AM
Jack Campin 16 May 19 - 10:20 AM
Steve Gardham 16 May 19 - 10:21 AM
Steve Gardham 16 May 19 - 10:35 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 16 May 19 - 11:13 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 16 May 19 - 11:26 AM
Jim Carroll 16 May 19 - 02:44 PM
Steve Gardham 16 May 19 - 03:38 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 16 May 19 - 04:22 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 16 May 19 - 04:36 PM
Jack Campin 16 May 19 - 04:57 PM
Steve Gardham 16 May 19 - 05:01 PM
Steve Gardham 16 May 19 - 05:21 PM
Jack Campin 16 May 19 - 05:22 PM
Jim Carroll 17 May 19 - 02:32 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 17 May 19 - 02:47 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 17 May 19 - 02:48 AM
GUEST 17 May 19 - 03:34 AM
Jim Carroll 17 May 19 - 04:20 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 17 May 19 - 09:31 AM
Steve Gardham 17 May 19 - 09:41 AM
Jim Carroll 17 May 19 - 10:17 AM
Steve Gardham 17 May 19 - 10:50 AM
Jack Campin 17 May 19 - 11:17 AM
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Subject: If you don't like ballads......
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 07 May 19 - 12:40 AM

Recently the proposition was put to me that if you didn't like ballads, you didn't like folksong.

I'm not sure I agree. I like The Nightingale (both versions) The Nutting Girl, the new Deserter, come all you fair andtender maidens, brigg fair and many others.
Are they not folksongs?
In my youth I studied English and used to like reading Sir Patrick Spens...............

I confess my heart sinks rather when Matty Groves shows his face. usually someone with the words in a ringbinder. And we all know whats going to happen   The Lord offers him his choice of swords. He never says, no way chum! Custard pies, and feather dusters...the decider being the red hot poker up the bum...you first mate. .... there's never a surprise ending.

The House carpenter never points to the hills of hell and says (Chris tarrant style)...but we don't want to take you there, we're off for two weeks in Benidorm!

Got to admit, I'm rarely on the edge of my seat with these things.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Deckman
Date: 07 May 19 - 01:08 AM

You might consider getting a better seat! These tales, ballads, stories, legends, histories are what gives us our depth of understanding of what went before and what we can expect next. bob(deckman)nelson


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 07 May 19 - 01:13 AM

I'm a music person...

Words in songs usually just wash over me..
unless they are so badly written they are just too jarringly obtrusive and distracting...
Then I get irritated..

I am very happy with songs written in languages I don't understand...

I have in my vast collection, some excellently arranged musically captivating recordings
ruined by shite lyrics...

Even worse if they are sung in a glib fashion...

British bands from the 1970s tend to be guilty of these crimes..


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 07 May 19 - 01:18 AM

I ususlly listen to singers as if they are another instrument in an arragement...

That really makes the best solo unaccompanied folk singers so special
when they command my attention on their terms...


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 May 19 - 02:48 AM

"Recently the proposition was put to me that if you didn't like ballads, you didn't like folksong."
A bit of an over-simplification of what was said Al -
Ballads are regarded by those who like them as the high point of English-language folk song - Hamish Henderson described them as 'The Muckle (big) Songs, and MacColl and others as "The high-watermark of the tradition" - works for me
Saying you don't like them is like saying "I like theatre, but I don't like Shakespeare" or "I like reading but I don't like Dickens"
Ballads are not for reading or studying - they're concisely and movingly constructed sung stories about every aspect of human emotion and experience - from love to murder - and they do all of these in a myriad of ways, from high tragedy to humour.
The tunes tend to be plain and repetitive - they're there to carry the story, and once you get into them, they do so as brilliantly as any great work of literature - what's not to like ?
The fact they have been around as long as they have means that they satisfied a lot of people for a very long time
The most important carriers of the Ballads in these islands are the lrgely non-literate Travellers - "because we like a good story" we were told on numerous occasions
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 07 May 19 - 03:54 AM

There are good ballads and bad ballads - or I should say ones that interest me and ones that don't. Just like there are some Dickens novels that I really enjoyed reading and others (generally the earlier ones) that seem a bit like hackwork to me.

There does seem to be one hallmark of the ballads that do it for me personally: they have a sense of the epic to them. Done well, like Martin Carthy singing 'Willie's Lady' they can seem like a magic spell or a cathartic tragedy. The repetition, the fact that they do take a long time, that's all part of it.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 07 May 19 - 03:54 AM

Shakespeare and Dickens, perfectly valid to make the statements held up here for ridicule.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 May 19 - 03:56 AM

I like reading but I don't like Dickens. Not fond of Shakespeare either but am I not a big theatre fan. I do like ballads but they need to be performed well and not many people can carry it off. I can't, so I don't sing them. Some people think they can but can't. Which can be very off-putting.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 May 19 - 04:09 AM

" perfectly valid to make the statements held up here for ridicule."
Didn't understand that at all, I'm afraid
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST
Date: 07 May 19 - 04:12 AM

I believe the red hot poker is in Shakespeare too, by the way. The interesting question is how Shakespeare came to be so venerated, Christopher Marlow is thought by many to have been a better writer; how to explain the Shakespeare phenomenon. Interestingly, Shakespeare's plays include allusions to popular culture, with the rude mechanicals' play in Midsummer Night being an example. Bottom says he will get his friend to write a ballad about his experiences.

It shall be called “Bottom’s Dream” because it hath no bottom. And I will sing it in the latter end of a play before the duke. Peradventure, to make it the more gracious, I shall sing it at her death.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 May 19 - 04:13 AM

Just to emphasise the point, I love Steeleye Span's version of "Tam Lin". I once heard someone sing it unaccompanied at a folk club and they absolutely murdered it. The timing was all to pot, the words were garbled and if I was asked what key they sang in I would have to say all of them and more! Yet there are those who would have us believe that the folk club one is somehow better folk music than Steeleye's. It beggars belief.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST
Date: 07 May 19 - 04:23 AM

Sorry Jim.

"Saying you don't like them (ballads) is like saying "I like theatre, but I don't like Shakespeare" or "I like reading but I don't like Dickens"

It is perfectly valid to state that, despite being a fan of theatre, one doesn't not like the works of Shakespeare. It is perfectly valid to assert a dislike of Dickens despite being a reader.

This may come as a shock to you, but these are valid positions. You appear to subscribe to some sort of orthodoxy to the effect that S and D are 'great literature' and that appreciating them is the mark of a literate, cultured person. Not liking them may be a mark of the same qualities.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 07 May 19 - 04:32 AM

Sorry the guest above was me.

The term 'ballad' is itself an interesting one. Students of poetry may have encountered the term 'ballade', a name in prosody for a particular form of lyric poem believed to have originated in France and popular in the 14th century.

The term appears to derive from a word for 'dance', which suggests to me that rhythm was an integral part of the original form. Interesting that it came to be used specifically for narrative poetry, as well as for some traditional song forms.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 May 19 - 04:42 AM

It's hard to dislike a ballad sung by one of the great ballad singers. I don't udually like ballads, but I love them when Frankie Armstrong is singing.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 07 May 19 - 05:00 AM

I am thinking that it is possible to like folk music while not especially liking ballads. But so much emphasis has been put on 'ballads' i.e. narrative songs with other stuff (eg 'lyrics' ie poems expressive of feelings/states of mind) being downplayed.

The quality of the music has to be key: downplaying music as merely a vehicle for the story won't do for me. For it would appear that if we go back far enough stories were told in poetry without music at all. Anglo Saxon alliterative verse, for example.

Why bother with a vehicle for something that can carry itself?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 May 19 - 05:27 AM

"This may come as a shock to you, but these are valid positions. "
Of course they are - if you've tried Shakespeare and Dickens in full - few people I've met have read or watched either
I'm not suggesting for one minute that you have to like either, but I do suggest that you have to have read or watched enough of them to dismiss them all out of hand
Ballads are the same there are good and (nearly wrote bad, but I probably mean not-so-good)
Their longevity and popularity within the oral tradition puts them head and shoulders over most song forms
That society is changing in a manner that people are no longer able to appreciate ballads (or Shakespeare or Dickens) doesn't devalue them in the slightest - that is a more a comment on what's happening to us.
Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but an appreciation of literature and the fine arts is an indication of a literary and cultured person
It may not resonate with you personally but an acknowledgement of its importance in the development in human society goes without saying
I don't like football and I detest rubby, but I don't hesitate to regard them as an essential part of people's culture

"Steeleye Span's" approach to ballads it the antithesis to ballad singing
Wrapping a ballad in loud, intrusive accompaniment totally gets in the way of following the stories of the ballad an the tensions and emotions they promote
Steeleye turned intricate stories into loud music
I feel the same way about intrusive instrumental accompaniment where the listener could go for a pee and a pint during the long, totally unnecessary guitar breaks
Accompaniment should accompany - not dominate

I know quite few ballads, though I don't sing them as often as I would like to
They were easy to learn and easy to remember - if you learn to make them part of yourself, they are quite easy to sing - but like all singing, that depends on how much work you are prepared to put in

If people would like to hear singing at its very best (in my opinion, of course) try Sheila Stewart's 'Tiftie's Annie' (easy enough to come by) ot Martin McDonagh's 'Lady Margaret - Young Hunting (only available of 'Songs of the Irish Travellers)
Both are examples of folk creation at it's very best
Jim Carroll
I'm not going to be able to continue this - off to enjoy the tree-lined beauty of Easy Clare for a few days - we don't have trees in West Clare, as Cromwell pointed out.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 May 19 - 05:54 AM

I disagree about Steeleye Span, Jim, but each to his or her own. In my opinion, Maddie's vocals and passion come through very clearly and the instrumentation adds to the excitement. Just opinion and musical taste of course. Thanks for putting "in my opinion, of course" in your comment about the very best of singing. As we have just seen our opinions differ and that is good thing. If we were all the same it would be a boring old world.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Howard Jones
Date: 07 May 19 - 06:04 AM

Al, I would guess that you are perhaps also a person who won't re-read a book or watch a film twice. My wife is like that - what's the point, she says, when you know how the story ends? Whereas I enjoy doing both - often during the first time through I am impatient to find how the story ends, whereas on subsequent visits I can sit back and enjoy how the story is told. Ballads are the same.

Shorter folk songs can be equally predictable. You can be confident that when a man meets a fair maid and they start discussing sporting guns, card games, agricultural activities or winding wool that by the fourth verse they will be engaged in metaphorical rumpy-pumpy. Or if she spurns his advances he will turn out to be her long-lost love, unrecognised until he produces a glove, broken ring or some other token.

Like any good story, a ballad can be spoiled by a poor storyteller. The same is true of novels, films and plays. How many good jokes are spoiled by someone who cannot tell jokes, but insists on doing so anyway? Many club singers don't know how to put across a ballad, but in the hands of someone who understands how to sing them they can be electrifying.

For me, the sparse language and dispassionate way they they can tell the most harsh stories is compelling. The grisly fate which meets Childe Owlet and the manner of his betrayal never fails to send a shiver down my back, even though I know full well what happens to him.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 May 19 - 06:06 AM

"I disagree about Steeleye Span, Jim, but each to his or her own. In my opinion, "
I have no doubt you do Dave
You need to work out what ballads do to appreciate them
They are word-based stories stripped down to the bare bone - very little description, very little commentary - just plot
If you cough and miss a word you can losee the whole ballad - if you have to climb a wall of sound to hear what is being sung, you don't stand a chance
You keep using teh term "boring" - I can't remember being bored since I wass a teenager - lucky I guess
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 07 May 19 - 06:09 AM

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but an appreciation of literature and the fine arts is an indication of a literary and cultured person and is perfectly consistent with not liking Shakespeare and or Dickens.

I am surprised that such a critic of England should be so uncritical of a man who was paid to write plays by a monarch of England (and Scotland) and who, for example, produced history plays which portrayed 'the spectre at the feast' in a good light precisely because the monarchs of England traced their ancestry back to him.

In my view, claiming that literary and cultured persons must as a matter of definition "appreciate" (in the sense of 'like') Shakespeare is not the mark of a literary or cultured person.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 07 May 19 - 06:14 AM

patronised by a moron ….. mutters darkly


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 May 19 - 06:28 AM

You keep using teh term "boring"

Do I? Can you point out where please?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 07 May 19 - 06:33 AM

Jim,
Perhaps, to start your education, some early Terry Eagleton might suit you? Surprised to find you so steeped in 'peti-bourgeois' ideology in respect of 'literature and culture'! Or perhaps not.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 May 19 - 06:41 AM

"Do I? Can you point out where please?"
No time now - bt you just have
"I am surprised that such a critic of England "
I've never criticised England - just its politicians
As I an English it would be self-harm to do so
If that is your analysis of Shakespeare - you really haven't beren apying attention
Shakespeare humanised Royalty and nobility and created some of the most evil villains in literature of them - he used them as the makers of our folk tales did (also full of kings, princes and the like)
You didn't really call me a "moron" did you ?
"I believe the red hot poker is in Shakespeare too, by the way."
Can'rt remember that
Edward II gets a poker rammed up his bum for taking a male lover (used to think his name was Gaviscon, but that's for indigestion - not piles!), but that was Marlowe
See ya Friday (can't remember the D J who used to say that
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 May 19 - 06:46 AM

No time now - bt you just have

Did I? I think you just made that up but, when you have time, feel free to disprove that theory. I shall remind you tomorrow if you have not done it by then.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 May 19 - 06:51 AM

Ah - OK. I did use the word 'boring' at 05:54 AM in the phrase "If we were all the same it would be a boring old world." Is that what you were referring to? If so, why object to it? It would be a boring old world if we were all the same wouldn't it?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 07 May 19 - 06:57 AM

no howard i'm a sucker for old films and i've read some books repeatedly. i suppose the difference is - i don't struggle with so called magnum opuses these days.

i struggled through Dr Faustus by Thomas Mann, the philosophical bits of War and Peace, Ulysses (even the bits where the language started eating itself and I didn't understood what was going on), The Naked Lunch by William Burroughs took me nearly an entire month.

Nowadays I regard that as a waste of my life. I wish I hadn't bothered.

I used to like Taff Thomas/Tim Laycock enterprise Magic Lantern's version of Long Lankin. I appreciated MacColl's Tam Linn, because I knew about ballads and the legend of Proteus from Stuart Gilbert's book about Ulyssses - but I found it hard going.

No one's made a special effort to get my music - so why do I owe a duty of respect to people who make no effort stylistically to communicate with me.

And i love Shakespeare, the parking attendant outside the RSC in Stratford used to keep my parking space free. Skespeare is abit like ballads only working folk clubs, it only works in the theatre with actors who can speak blank verse. On video, it usually sucks. It nneeds a guy there onstage telling you the story.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 07 May 19 - 07:08 AM

Patronised again by a moron.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 07 May 19 - 07:21 AM

Are you suggesting Thomas McCarthy isn't appreciate in Ireland, Jack?

He was given a Gradam Amhránaí, possibly the highest token of appreciation given to any singer in this country.

I am not sure bookings at clubs quite measure up as a token of appreciation.

I think things are done differently in Ireland and do not feel a club system like the British one is a superior way of going about things. But don't let that get in the way of a good old rant, so carry on.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Howard Jones
Date: 07 May 19 - 08:25 AM

I certainly wouldn't agree with the proposition that if you don't like ballads you don't like folksong. I do agree that they represent the pinnacle of the tradition.

Like any work of art, they do require a bit of effort, but really all that is needed is the ability to concentrate for a few minutes. Few ballads take more than 7 or 8 minutes to perform, most only 4 or 5 minutes. Of course when they are performed badly concentrating for even that length of time becomes an effort. A poor singer can ruin any song.

Taste is very personal. If you just don't "get" ballads, that's fine. We all have our blind spots.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: DMcG
Date: 07 May 19 - 08:48 AM

I don't understand the proposition that if you don't like ballads you don't like folksong. Ballads are part of folksong, but even if you generally like ballads (as I do), there are likely to be some you dislike (child 95: The Maid freed from the gallows -- an exercise in dullness to me!) or can't be bothered with (the whole child section of Robin Hood ballads, for example.)

Nor do I get the business of the expected ending: I think it pretty clear how a lot of songs not classed as ballads are going to end, and irrespective of that, most people enjoy hearing songs they have heard many times and certainly know the ending to - to reference an example above: "The Nutting Girl" for some people.

How and why we like the music and songs we do, and why we don't like others, is rather mysterious, but I am always wary when people dislike a whole category, irrespective of what it is: ballads, sci fi, white wine, classical music …   It make life simpler perhaps, but I think most people will find things they like (and dislike!) in all such categories if they are open minded.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 07 May 19 - 09:23 AM

"Are you coming out tonight to see that new band all the music media are raving about..
There's a party for them after, we'll get in with the sound crew.
Btw, we're thinking of driving down to the coast tomorrow.
That nudey beach the arty farty student girls sunbathe at.
Are you up for that as well..???
"

"Sorry mates, can't do any of it...
I've got to stay in all weekend reading bloody Macbeth again,
writing a 4000 word essay on it for Monday morning..
bollocks.. bollocks.. bollocks..
Don't have too much fun without me you jammy bastards...
"

Shakespeare in the 21st Century...


At worst, Folk music can be a bit like that..
Ballads as badges of middle class peer group status, elitism and superiority...
Unenjoyable but good for showing you conform to expected 'higher' standards
that set you apart from the lower masses...

Posh grub that tastes like shite,
but one must pretend to have an enthusiatic palate for...

Folk ballads, the oysters of song entertainment...

...But that's exagerating the worst function of ballads in our modern culture...

Some working class folk genuinely do enjoy the flavour of oysters...

Likewise, Jim and others do make a positive case for continuing to value and apreciate ballads as expresssions of folk art,
all can enjoy with the right positive motivation...


As I said earlier, for me the music arrangement of a song is usually more important than the words.
Especially when the words and singer are the weakest link in a good ensemble performance / recording...

However, I did study English Lit and Poetry..
So I'm not completely indifferent to expertly crafted song writing..

Ivor Biggun for instance...


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Brian Peters
Date: 07 May 19 - 09:36 AM

Personally I love ballads when engagingly performed (which isn't always the case, of course), and I do think they're the creme-de-la-creme of the traditional song repertoire.

But when I first started going to folk clubs all I wanted to do was join in chorus songs, and a ballad would have been a massive turn off - yet I would still say that, back then, I 'enjoyed folk song'.

As a ballad fan I would prefer not to hear a whole evening of them and - even in a session dedicated to ballads - I always hope that someone will have the good sense to throw in one of the lighter ones to balance out all the blood-soaked epics.

Finally I must give our OP, Big Al, due praise for a line that made me laugh:

"The House carpenter never points to the hills of hell and says (Chris tarrant style)...but we don't want to take you there, we're off for two weeks in Benidorm!"


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Howard Jones
Date: 07 May 19 - 10:22 AM

Brian, although he is too modest to say so, is a superb interpreter of ballads to which he gives sensitive musical arrangements. It was his CD of Child Ballads that I reached for to quickly check the timings I quoted above. The longest on it, Sir Aldingar, clocks in at 7.34, which is probably less than the ad breaks in most TV shows these days, and considerably more interesting.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: CupOfTea
Date: 07 May 19 - 10:35 AM

Well, I do. Yet I do not see why someone's preferences would either qualify or disqualify them as lovers of folksong. One's taste is a personal thing that is only partially informed by their education, literacy, or exposure to "classics" of literature, music, song, or art. If a short attention span is the problem, this is a limitation to their experiences that I pity.

There was an "ah ha" moment for me when someone drew a parallel of listening to ballads we know to re-reading a loved book. I've always done that, with unfortunate heavy toll should they be paperbacks! But, with ballads, hearing them performed in different styles, is much like the way Shakespeare's plays have been produced in a great variety of interpretations, periods, staging. I am fond of Steeleye Span's Tam Lin, swept away in the story as completely as possible. I was also enthralled the time a storyteller friend sang it acapella (and impressed, hugely), with the eye contact and performance feel of it. I don't class one as 'better' - or more authentic, or correct, or pure - I'm not sure being a purist is any help to being an enthusiast. I do appreciate the value of acadenmic traditionalists who can give the lineage and relatives of a ballad or song; that is part of my enjoyment, but not the whole of it.

Comparing versions of ballads is perhaps the only sport I engage in, and do enjoy that there ARE differences even if I do not like the result of those differences - it means it is a vital, living, piece of culture and musical history.

Joanne in Cleveland


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 May 19 - 11:04 AM

Well said, Joanne and if I may make so bold with your Mudcat handle, the biggest criticism I ever give anything is "it's not my cup of tea" :-) Just because I may not like something doesn't mean it is not good or in some way inferior to what I do like. It is, as you say, all a matter of taste.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,some bloke
Date: 07 May 19 - 11:15 AM

I was quite looking forward to joining in Al's game till Jim popped up with his usual irrelevant twaddle. "Ballads are not for reading or studying.."

Gosh. There's a whole library of study at the next book burning. If it wasn't for study, we'd not know how Sir Patrick died nor whether the famous flower of serving men served men....

Still, there's one in every village. I reckon there's a British commune of them over in Ireland....


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 07 May 19 - 11:23 AM

If you are bored with ballads...

Don't ask why, I've somehow ended up wasting the last few minutes playing

"what's the least unamusing anagram of BALLADS..."...???


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 07 May 19 - 11:30 AM

Well yes Brian Peters is quite wonderful and can sing anything.
A great instrumentalist and imterpreter of folk music.

I'm not unaware of the virtues of the ballads. However they remain some of my least favourite music.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 May 19 - 11:34 AM

The oldest and most widespread kinds of folk song are not ballads.

Lullabies, incantations, children's game songs, war cries, work songs, songs to animals.

I particularly like the way the Chuvash have a genre of songs you sing to barrels of beer to make it ferment properly.

The folk-club/concert scene has never figured out a way of presenting this sort of material, except by over-arranging it to hell and back first.

Many ballads are about the internecine struggles of the landed aristocracy, and we know a lot were performed for them and were appreciated because they presented those thieving thugs in a heroic light. They're not unlike the genealogical praise songs of Malian griots - basically arty arselicking.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 May 19 - 11:35 AM

Does anyone here perform any bad salads?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 07 May 19 - 11:48 AM

I've been down in the kitchen waiting for a full kettle to boil...

So I asked Alexa to play track "Tam Lin"
She immediately obliged with the Fairports from "Liege & Lief"...

Yeah.. that was good..
.. My attention was automatically drawn to the lead guitar,
though the singing was a fine supporting accompaniment.
Guitar and voice working together to make this a classic recording...
But apart from the occasional word popping out over the arrangement,
she might just as well have been singing backwards or in Russian to my ears...

The music appeals and means more to my emotions than the words...

Maybe that's just my individual relationship with folk songs,
Maybe there's also many more folks like me...?????


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 May 19 - 11:54 AM

There is a version of Fairport's "Matty Groves" where the words are changed to,

"How do you like my feather bed
And how do you like my sheets
And how do you like the nice curtains
That I bought in the sales last week"

Just shows. Nothing's sacred :-D


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 May 19 - 02:32 PM

I suppose the best-known ballad singer in California, is Lani Herrmann (now mostly in Hawaii, I think). As a graduate student, Lani did the music notation for Bronson's The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads, and she really knows how to make a ballad interesting. I once asked her why we don't hear many of the Robin Hood ballads. Her response: "Well, you know, some of them are really boring."

There's a lot of truth in that. Many of the ballads in Child's canon are just plain boring. Others tell such fascinating stories that they have been performed over and over again, in countless versions.

So, for people to enjoy ballads, they need to have:
  1. A good singer
  2. A good ballad

Keep that in mind.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 07 May 19 - 04:16 PM

We don't hear many RH ballads because most of them were never part of oral tradition as far as we know. IMO the best of the Child Ballads are those that have gone through a long period in oral tradition and had the edges rubbed off, one reason why American versions have been so popular even in this country.

Those with only 4 or 5 versions that have not been part of oral tradition for a couple of centuries should be left like that. Those that have endured in oral tradition have done so for good reasons. Those that are non-pc can still be sung with a few minor alterations. 'Maid Freed' is dismissed as repetitive and boring but one man's meat. It is a survival from a cantefable and as a song it remains popular for the same reasons as chorus songs do. It has endured pretty well in the revival repertoire.

I have sung the more popular ones like, Mermaid, Golden Vanity, Henry Martin in the past but those that I could sing at the drop of a hat are Elfin Knight, Cruel Mother, Cruel Sister and Maid and the Palmer.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: EBarnacle
Date: 07 May 19 - 10:51 PM

Of course, the great ballads are story songs. If the singer has taken the effort to reassemble the song it can be wonderful. Take Patrick Spens as an example--The version you caught school was probably three or four verses long and except for the intro and the drowning is pretty dumb. The story is long [about 28 verses at least] and tells the whole story of why they were thrown out of Norway in Winter. It even makes sense.

I was playing Arragon in Merchant of Venice and the director asked me why I was getting the poetic part of the role when I had so much trouble with the early part. It was all about the rhythm. Much the same can be said about the Porter's role in MacBeth. The music of the words is one of the things which makes Shakespeare great.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Gurney
Date: 07 May 19 - 11:10 PM

Joe Offer said it for me up there at 4:42.
However, the original premise was about liking folksong, and some ballads and singers will bore you to your boots, regardless of what they sing. Some will convert you to folksong. Been there, found that, about 55years ago.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Deckman
Date: 08 May 19 - 01:21 AM

A good ballad needs a good singer, a good story, a good actor, a good storyteller, a good dramatist, a good elocutionist, and a good audience! bob(deckman)nelson


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 08 May 19 - 01:27 AM

Why aren't many English ballads written in dialect, which would have been spoken by most people?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 08 May 19 - 03:55 AM

There is the Jone (John) o' Greenfield songs. Classed as ballads in various places but I think some here may dispute that! I am sure there must be some more.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: DMcG
Date: 08 May 19 - 04:07 AM

Two factors in why songs are seldom in dialect is to do with what the collector felt and understood, and the intended audience. My favourite dialect issue is in "English County Songs" by Lucy Broadwood. One of the northern songs refers to 'marra', which is term usually meaning workmate but often a more general friend. This is rendered as 'marrow', so we have the wonderful line:

As me and my marrow were going to work ...

which conjures up an image of a miner with a large green vegetable under his arm.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 08 May 19 - 04:21 AM

Just remember my mate Ged doing John o'Greenfield's ramble at the club one night when there were a couple of French people in. When he got to what was potentially a controversial line he seamlessly changed it to

"Ah'll fayt eyther t'Spanish or t'Welsh"

:D


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,JHW
Date: 08 May 19 - 05:53 AM

It was hearing Nic Jones sing Annan Water on a Dansette record player first turned me on to ballads. Agree with Joe - good ballad and good singer needed. Maybe only one in a set and I'd only do Tam Lin/Lane on the very night of Halloween.
The comment 'go for a pee' reminds me of a night in the Southfield, Girvan where someone sang a very long song about a boxing match. Someone did indeed go out and return to the continuing song asking 'Are we still winning?'


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 08 May 19 - 10:20 AM

Kettle boiling time again..

So.. "Alexa, play Folk Ballads.."

The first track she selected is the Eagles "Desperado"...???

Now the fun begins..

"Alexa, play next track.." listen to the intro.. repeat... "Alexa, play next track.." and so on..

I can keep doing this until boiling water hits the teabag...


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 08 May 19 - 10:27 AM

so.. the Folk Ballad Playlist consists of only 3 tracks...

The Eagles, Ed Sheeran, and some French language singer songwriter from the 1970s...

Alexa is the future of music curation...


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: DMcG
Date: 08 May 19 - 10:29 AM

I don't have Alexa but am not sure I would risk asking for Child Ballads...


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Andy7
Date: 08 May 19 - 10:48 AM

If Alexa ran a folk club it might get a little boring after a few months.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 08 May 19 - 10:58 AM

Some French language singer songwriter from the 1970s

Probably Jacques Brel

Well worth a listen but if, like me, you don't know French try versions by Scott Walker or Marc Almond


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Bill D
Date: 08 May 19 - 11:09 AM

At the FSGW's annual Getaway for the last few years, there has been a "ballad channel" in one cabin on one day. All afternoon, ballad aficionados take turns leading/hosting for an hour. There are always other topics elsewhere, but this way it is easy to share/listen for at least ONE hour.
In years past, there was usually only one hour devoted to ballads, but we have enough aficionados to make the new schedule work. Sometimes there are only 3-4 folks.. and sometimes 8-10... but everyone has an opportunity, and we have several younger folks (ages-12-25 or so) who have been really learning and appreciating ballads...(even some of the more rare & obscure ones).

There may be 40 people in "Sea Songs" or "Parodies"...etc, but we in FSGW have no fear that ballads are in danger of demise anytime soon.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 08 May 19 - 11:17 AM

DtG - nah.. I asked Alexa.. it's Francis Cabrel...

Bugger, now I've got to do googling time to find out if he's any good or not...???


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 08 May 19 - 11:31 AM

google and listening to intros of his songs later...

No.. he's not any good...[imho..]...

Alexa needs to sort herself out...
she's not the only AI looking for work in the entertainment industry...


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Stringsinger
Date: 08 May 19 - 12:05 PM

I've always liked to interpret ballads by attempting to offer an interesting but germane musical accompaniment that doesn't detract from the words and the story.

Some traditionalists would not like this. The prefer to have sparse music and melody only enough to carry the story.

Since I'm predominantly a musician who loves folk music and ballads, I am not opposed to a tasteful accompaniment even on other instruments that are not considered folk.

But as Shakespeare said, "The play's the thing"....I think the story is the thing in ballad singing. Anything that gets in the way is wrong.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 08 May 19 - 01:19 PM

I guess Jim is away somewhere with no time to tell me of what I was being accused on 07 May 19 - 06:06 AM.

I can wait


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 08 May 19 - 02:00 PM

While he is away, Dave, in that post he gave an account of what a ballad is. The way he gave it suggested that people who did not agree with it had not been paying attention properly. And while the post is to some extent ambiguous about the addressee of some sections, it might have been you.

It is an interesting account but I feel it might be improved.

It's a bit contradictory, for it says 'just plot' while also emphasising small amounts of description and small amounts of comment. But 'just plot' would presumably mean no description or content.

The account also says something about 'bare bones' and here I disagree. But this could lead to debate about what 'bare bones' means.

The account has nothing to say about the rhyme, rhythm or music, reflecting perhaps Jim's approach to the genre. But all these seem to me to be more than 'bare bones'.

The narratives relate to characters, and these are often described to some extent. As are places.

Eg

THERE lived a wife at Usher's Well,
And a wealthy wife was she;
She had three stout and stalwart sons,
And sent them oer the sea.

What are the 'bare bones' of this bit of plot? Three men went to sea? A married woman sent her sons to sea? It seems clear to me that we are getting more than just plot: we get some indication of social rank, and some indication of the character of the three young men, all of which is 'description'.

Not to mention the alliteration, lots of w sounds and then lots of s sounds, which add to the sound patterning.

Bare bones of plot? I don't think so.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 08 May 19 - 02:05 PM

While Jim's away, the electric folk rockers will play...


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 08 May 19 - 03:43 PM

He confirmed it was addressed to me at 06:41 AM pseudonymous. At least I think so!

You have a point about ballads but, if you think about it, any story does the same. If you stripped out all the descriptions and irrelevant bits most books would probably fit on a couple of pages :-)


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 08 May 19 - 03:47 PM

D the G
Good point. But I guess for me, ballads are more than just 'plot'. This is part of their appeal.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: keberoxu
Date: 08 May 19 - 07:37 PM

I wish we could hear, at some point, from
Mudcatter Thomas Stern,
who knows more repertoire and artists than I do.

From my angle,
which is a classical-music education,
I can imagine those who are partial to the German Lied
engaging in a similar discussion within that specialty.

The Lied has many other song types than the ballad;
having said that,
there is no shortage of ballads in Lieder,
and some of them are really memorable work
(if they are done with inspiration, they could give you nightmares).

For all that, I can easily imagine
some people who love classical singing
who, like others here,
cringe at the thought of sitting through
performances of certain Lied ballads.

Not to mention the pianists who have to accompany them.
Some of the great ballad settings are the kind of piano-writing
that separates the professionals from the amateurs,
as some composers of genius -- Schubert is a good example --
respond enthusiastically to the challenge of
an atmospheric, stirring musical setting for a ballad lyric.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 10 May 19 - 05:51 AM

The more I think about it the less sense the idea of 'just plot' makes. I don't want to get into narrative theory, but surely character is important, and setting. What sense does the wife of usher make if you take away the fact that she is a wife and that the other characters in the 'plot' are a) male and b) her sons and c) loved by her?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Howard Jones
Date: 10 May 19 - 06:53 AM

The first verse of 'Ushers Well' sets the scene and puts the characters in context. It tells you very little about them, other than their relationship to one another, and that the sons were stout and stalwart. It doesn't tell you why they were sent to sea, or anything about their characters or even occupations.

The version I know, learned from Chris Coe, refers her as "a carlin wife", meaning witch, or unpleasant or disliked old woman. That is the only hint of characterisation.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: DMcG
Date: 10 May 19 - 06:57 AM

That's a bit harsh, Howard. The first verse is 26 words. We agree it sets the scene. What literary forms manages to set the scene and characterise four people in 26 words?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 May 19 - 08:55 AM

"I guess Jim is away somewhere with no time to tell me of what I was being accused on 07 May 19 - 06:06 AM. "
You really are obsessiver about incidentals aren't you
How about your responding to the damage you and yours have done about substituting popp dross for genuine folk songs
I asked firsdt and have been awaiting an answer for a very long tome

Regarding 'The Wife of Usher's Well
It is oftebnn suggested that it is part two of a longer ballad, the first part being listed as 'The Clerk's Twa Sons of Owsenford'
In the first part, the two sons are sent away to college and attract the afefction of the daughters of a wealthy and powerful local dignitary - despite the girls' pleading, the lads are executed.
The second part involves the mother's mourning the deaths of her sons for too long (sometimes longer than a year and a day in popular folklore)
THe linking of the two stories makes perfect sense - a 'squaring of the circle
The 'overmourning' theme is shared by numerous ballads, 'The Unquiet Grave' probably being the most popular
Jim Carroll (glad to be back)


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 10 May 19 - 08:59 AM

You really are obsessiver about incidentals aren't you

No, I just like to know what I am being accused of.

You just like to divert attention from the fact that you were wrong.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 May 19 - 09:14 AM

"No, I just like to know what I am being accused of."
I have not "accused" you of anything Dave - I mentioned in passing that I believed you to have indicated your being 'bored' - not an accusation
You have once again made an issue of something unimportant (like my pun on Morris Dancing)
You have consistently avoided answering the point I have made about the enormous damage being done to folk song by passing off non folk music in folk clubs
You want to make a n issue of my 'bored' comment - feel free - every little helps to avoid the serious stuff, I suppose
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 10 May 19 - 09:15 AM

I think there's much potential for sequals to popular ballads..

"Matty Groves 2: Revenge From The Grave"


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 10 May 19 - 09:16 AM

.. even Franchises...

Matty Groves parts 1 - 7 Boxset...


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 10 May 19 - 09:17 AM


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 May 19 - 09:22 AM

Liked the third suggestion best PFR
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 10 May 19 - 10:05 AM

You have once again made an issue of something unimportant

I don't consider people making up things I have said as unimportant. I am sure if I were to put words in your mouth you would have something to say yet you repeatedly do it to me. I always ask you to link where I have said what you indicate and you then repeatedly avoid doing so because you know you are wrong. In this case:

From: Jim Carroll - PM
Date: 07 May 19 - 06:06 AM
...
You keep using teh term "boring"

From: Dave the Gnome - PM
Date: 07 May 19 - 06:28 AM

You keep using teh term "boring"

Do I? Can you point out where please?

From: Jim Carroll - PM
Date: 07 May 19 - 06:41 AM

"Do I? Can you point out where please?"
No time now - bt you just have

From: Dave the Gnome - PM
Date: 07 May 19 - 06:46 AM

No time now - bt you just have

Did I? I think you just made that up but, when you have time, feel free to disprove that theory.


There you have it in full. Making up things I have said, again, and not even having the decency to admit you were wrong.

May be trivial to you but I value the truth.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 May 19 - 10:59 AM

Sorry Dave - I really don't care
I was left with the impression that you were bored with folk song whan you said 'we decided to widen what clubs put on' (in case you take me up on that that is a paraphrase of what I remember you saying
I did not mean it as a criticism - I said it in passing, you are blowing it out of all proportions (pretty much as you did with my ‘Morris Dance’ pun
If it helps in any way, I withdraw it – I have no doubt it will bring us no nearer to your commenting on the damage that has been done by running folk clubs that don’t do folk songs because of “changing musical trends “ (that I have no doubt you did say
I’m really not interested in your increasingly evasive trivia        
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 10 May 19 - 11:09 AM

I'm trying to figure out how I submitted a blank post...

Maybe the ghost of Matty Groves has posessed my PC..
is it needing to tell us something...???


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 10 May 19 - 11:28 AM

Well thanks for the (un)gracious apology Jim. For what it is worth I did not coin the phrase “changing musical trends“ either. I am not sure how often I have posted the words or the link to the Wiki article that says The number of clubs began to decline in the 1980s, in the face of changing musical and social trends. but here it is again

Folk club - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Nothing to do with me and not my words but I do believe that the reasons given for the decline are far more likely than the one you constantly repeat.

If you do not like me picking up on these 'trivial' points then there is a dead simple solution. Stop making up things that I have said and stop ascribing other peoples words to me. As soon as you do that, I shall stop pulling you up on it.

For what it's worth, I am not really interested in these pointless circular arguments either but when they directly concern me and misrepresent my position, you can be sure I will put the record straight.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 May 19 - 12:00 PM

"“changing musical trends“ "
You used it Dave, and, when applied to something as well established and continually used, it is a nonsensical excuse for the fall of the folk club scene
If you link to something you put them up as your opinion, surely
WE're not here to discuss other people's opinions - just our own
I don't "make things up (you are calling me a liar again)
I make mistakes, but I see no point in taking part in a public forum to 'make things up, that is insulting both to my honesty and my intelligence
We all make mistakes you and me included
A bit different to the persistent suggestion (not by you) that I have ever suggested a tradition only, unaccompanied scene.
You have wrung the last drop ob blood out of a couple of them
If you are not interested in circular pointless arguments - stop riding them and respond to what is actually said and the spirit in which it has been put forward
As far as I am concerned, folk song is still a perfectly viable form of entertainment - the fact that so many clubs have decided otherwise, but have clung on to the title has done a great deal of damage to the venues that were created to promote it
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 10 May 19 - 12:03 PM

So.. have any of the big ballads ever been adapted into movies...???


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 10 May 19 - 01:27 PM

I make mistakes

So do we all, Jim. But this is the first time I have seen you acknowledge one. That you for admitting you mistakenly attributed something to me. That was all that was needed.

You used it Dave, and, when applied to something as well established and continually used, it is a nonsensical excuse

Of coiurse it is. Which is why I did not use it. How many more times do I have to repeat the same phrase

The number of clubs began to decline in the 1980s, in the face of changing musical and social trends.

Indicating that there were a number of factors involved. Which is far more believeable that saying the main reason was that folk clubs no longer present folk music.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 10 May 19 - 01:39 PM

If I go to a Pop Club, that's what I expect..
I wouldn't want to suck on a sherbert fountain and find it full of coal dust...
Bloody folkies and their banjos and fiddles polluting and ruining the top 20 Pop charts...

No wonder "Top of The Pops" is no more, and Pop as we knew it is on it's last legs...

I blame Hobgoblin music shops... and public school music lessons... and BBC4...


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 10 May 19 - 02:48 PM

Pf :)


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 May 19 - 03:08 PM

"I have seen you acknowledge one. "
You are still miligng this and trying to score points Dave
I say what I believe - msitakes and all - you just refuse to respond on ther grounfds that the answer might incriminate you - worse than making a mistake in my book
All of you leapt on the table and screamed your silence when I quoted Martin Carthy's opinion of the how important folk song was - the silence was deafening
Apparently it's okay to lik Carthy's singing but when it comes to resonding to what he says - different matter altogether
The same when you were trying to put over Sheran's pop crap as soounding like folk
When I pointed out all the things that made folk song unique, the subjects they covered - humour, tragedy eroticism, war, seagoing, poaching, transportation.... compared to the whiigeing of an unidifiable feller whingeing about losing his equaklly unidentifiable girl.... total silence again
"The number of clubs began to decline in the 1980s, in the face of changing musical and social trend"
No they.... didn't
Popular musical and social trends have always changed, particularly in the sixties and seventies when the folk scene was at its best
Folk music isn't prone to social and musical pressures - it is and always has been ageless and adaptable
This it utter nonsense - folk music would never have survived beyond the musical revolution of the 'Swingin' Sixties if it could be flushed down the jaxie
People left because they were no longer being given what they were looking for
I was there and saw it happen in club after club - I'm still in touch with many people who went through the same experience - and guess what - Crap really did beget crap
I really don't need any more Wiki links - even you don't believe them and you continue to post them ( tell me you didn't doubt the number of clubs the last one claimed)

"So.. have any of the big ballads ever been adapted into movies...???"
Interesting point - not really as far as I can remember, but I used to wonder why - I came to the conclusion they didn't pad out to well - too precise, economical and impersonal
In the nineties there were two fims using a folk motif - 'The Unquiet Grave' over-mourning one
The Hollywood one , Ghost' was typical Hollywood schmatz, but the British 'Truly, Madly, Deeply' made and excellent job of a centuries old plot - well worth looking out if you haven't seen it
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 10 May 19 - 03:16 PM

Various Robin Hood films?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 10 May 19 - 05:42 PM

Not sure this is wholly coherent:

Folk music isn't prone to social and musical pressures - it is and always has been ageless and adaptable.

Adaptable to what if not to 'social pressures' or, as D the G put it, 'social trends'?

Otherwise, whatever Jim's on, remind me not to take any of it!


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Andy7
Date: 10 May 19 - 06:22 PM

"People left because they were no longer being given what they were looking for"

There's something I don't understand here.

When I was younger, I was a member of, and active campaigner for, a certain political party. (I won't say which one, except to say that it cared quite a lot about the environment.)

During those years, I spent endless hours walking the streets knocking on doors, especially at election time; engaging in many interesting conversations, and trying to persuade people to consider our point of view.

And it used to annoy me no end, when I heard people whining, "That Labour/Conservative/LibDem Party obviously doesn't care much about my vote, none of them has even knocked on my door!"

"Well, if you think that people knocking on doors and sharing their opinions is important," I used to say, "Join whichever political party you do support, and go knocking on some doors yourself!"

The same with folk music. Was there really such a steady stream of people leaving folk clubs, saying, "Oh no, oh dear, no one cares about folk music any more," without any of them ever thinking of putting in the work to set up a new folk club themselves, for the kind of music that they, and apparently so many other people, loved, but which was no longer available in the existing clubs?

"People left because they were no longer being given what they were looking for"

... they were no longer 'being given' it. Interesting choice of words. But none of them could ever do anything themselves, to solve that easily solved problem?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: saulgoldie
Date: 10 May 19 - 06:41 PM

"...And if you did not enjoy my song,
You've yourself to blame if it's too looooong.
You should never have let me begin, begin,
You should never have let me begin."

Saul


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Acorn4
Date: 10 May 19 - 06:56 PM

I would say that it takes a really good singer to deliver one properly. Niamh Parsons probably the best I've heard.

As they are long you need to be able to hold people's attention.

Perhaps something like a driving test?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 11 May 19 - 02:11 AM

If putting the record straight is scoring points, Jim, the, yes, guilty as charged. You will however, hopefully, think again when you try to misquote me or tell people I said something I did not say. But I doubt it. As long as you keep making the same "mistakes", I will keep correcting them.

PFR. Dunno if any movies directly relate to ballads but plenty of the themes are used. Out of interest I once had the Book of Ballads, written by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess. A few of the major ballads, including Tam Lin, in comic book format. Very well written and drawn.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 11 May 19 - 02:21 AM

I have never been one for poetry. I like a good tale and something well written but I could never enthuse over poems like some people did. Until I was introduced to Peter Bellamy's songs putting Kipling's words to music. That really brought the poems to life for me. I guess most ballads may have the same effect.

What has this got to do with anything? Well, for me, neither the words nor the music are more important. It is a combination of the two that does it.

BTW, are the "Barrack Room Ballads" really ballads?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 May 19 - 03:14 AM

"they were no longer 'being given' it. Interesting choice of words."
You miss the point -
The clubs were grass-roots based - many of the people who left had been part of building up the scene that produced and ran the clubs and they relied on others with the same love and enthusiasm taking part in the running and becoming singers themselves
Im my case, and others like me, we visited several, sometimes many clubs, but as those clubs disappeared we confined ourselves to those that did what it said on the tin - we went to the folk clubs that dealt in folk and folk-based songs - they became less and less
The Singers Club lasted from the early sixties till MacColl died at the end of the 80s - doing what it promised the audiences what it would do
The other clubs were were involved in did the same (I understand one died the death a few years ago when two of the stalwarts gave up for health reasons)
The change of direction generally on the scene - the non-folk, folk clubs, are the ones that have killed off the scene

Back to the ballads
The age of mobile phones and television bleepers appears to have produced a generation with the attention span of mayflies
The ballads have been around for many, many centuries; 'Barbara Allan' was "an old Scotch lady" in 1666, when the Great Fire was destroying London
The ballad of 'Hind Horn' telling of the travelling husband returning from his travels to find his wife about to remarry, has its roots in Homer's tale of Ulysses returning from Troy to find his wife, Penelope about to do the same thing.
'Lord Gregory' is linked to Chaucer's tale of the White Queen's sea voyages.
Lord Bateman is associated with the commercial voyages of the father of Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket in the 12th century
The story of 'The Keach in the Creel' was told as a fabuleux concerning an Italian renaissance painter in the 1500s
The ballad Child overlooked, 'Bruton Town', was told as one of Boccaccio's 100 tales in the 1300s
We recorded a cante-fable entitled 'Go For the Water' from a non-literate Irish Traveller in the 1970s - it is a tale version of the ballad, 'Get Up and Bar the Door' which in it's turn is a ballad version of a tale which is related to one being told in Ancient Egypt about two tomb robbers eating stolen figs - Pre Christian         
If ballads no longer have a place in 21st century society, it has nothing to do with their value as pieces of art - it is us, with our memory span of may-flies who has dropped the ball

"whatever Jim's on, remind me not to take any of it!"
And yes - Mr ill-manner poster who chooses to hurl his insulting remarks from the safety of anonymity, our ballads and folk songs have survived and over-ridden social trends and popular fads for many centuries - even millennia in some cases

"I would say that it takes a really good singer to deliver one properly."
Not sure I entirely agree
Good singing certainly helps, but as long as a singer can handle the tune and remember the words, quite often the stories of the ballads are gripping enough for the listener to follow without a high level of skill
I love Niamh Parsons singing (I don't recall her singing too many ballads)
A few years ago, a Wexford couple, Michael Fortune and Aileen Lambert, mounted a project entitled, 'Man, Woman and Child' where they assembled a number of singers and, with the co-operation of the Irish National Library, put on a series of lunchtime concerts of Child ballads in various parts of Ireland (Niamh was one of the singers)
It worked like a charm, in next to no time you started to hear ballads being sung in places were previously there had been hardly any
Ireland has played a very important part in the survival of international ballads (particularly among the Travellers)
Collector, Tom Munnelly, listed fifty Child Ballads still being sung by source singers right into the 1970s
I have recently taken up Tom's original list and added to it considerably, particularly from Irish Emigrants who took some extremely rare ballads to America and Canada when they left Ireland during and after the Famine
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 May 19 - 03:15 AM

"Barrack Room Ballads" really ballads?"
Not really - and they tend to be doggerel
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 11 May 19 - 03:41 AM

I didn't think they were. I think the term has probably become overused and, to many, has lost its original meaning. Much like folk music. What would be a better term to describe a ballad to a non-folky?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 May 19 - 08:30 AM

Is there a Facebook or other forum where this discussion could be carried on with Jim blocked from accessing it? (There are several for local ballad groups, but they focus around local events).


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 11 May 19 - 08:31 AM

To tell the truth I've been surprised at some of the songs described as ballads in this thread.
Henry Martin, the Gallant Frigate Amphitrite - for example. I thought these were just folk songs.

Is there a definition?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 11 May 19 - 08:48 AM

BTW - If making things up is lying then many ballad singers and writers are also liars. Little wonder that people have stopped listening to them. I don't believe for one minute that Tam Lin was taken by the queen of Faerieland :-)


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 11 May 19 - 09:39 AM

I brought up the question of definitions earlier on this thread. Definitions have varied over time. Early uses of the term are, according to the Oxford Dictionary, difficult to distinguish from uses of 'ballade' a word denoting a particular form of verse. In some early uses, it seems, the word denoted a romantic song, which may be why slow pop songs are now called 'ballads'.

In folk circles, the term mostly denotes a narrative song. I'm thinking that Child may have had something to do with the emphasis on 'ballads'.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 11 May 19 - 09:52 AM

Interesting to read a) what the OED has to say on the word and its various meanings over time and b) the discussion on this web site:

http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/ballads/early_child/#what

This web site discusses the poetic form and some characteristic features, while accepting that generalisations are difficult and tend to fall down. It raises questions about how old the 'genre' actually is.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 May 19 - 10:15 AM

"If making things up is lying then many ballad singers and writers are also liars."
If they were passing them off as truth, they would be Dave - same with Grimm
"Is there a Facebook or other forum where this discussion could be carried on with Jim blocked from accessing it? "
Just what we need - Jack with his blue pencil
Finished with this particularly distasteful aspect - back to ballads

"Henry Martin, the Gallant Frigate Amphitrite"
Henry Martin is - 'Amphitrite', as far as I know, has nver been regarded as one
Child was a bit vague as to how he judged them - I've always thought it was the sparse way they were constructed - little description and hardly any commentary, just stories
Pseud's link is a pretty dood summing up
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 May 19 - 10:55 AM

I've found two possibilities: "Child Ballads" and "Ballad Lovers Unite!". Both already have some Mudcat members and obviously won't tolerate negativistic supercilious hectoring.

Problem with FB is that it's so rubbish as a collective memory.. It's a very shallow well, but at least you won't get some grunting poisonous thing every time you lower the bucket.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 11 May 19 - 11:11 AM

"Power Ballads"

Heavy Rock singers doing slow soppy love songs
to get yer mum & old nan buying their records...


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jeri
Date: 11 May 19 - 11:39 AM

Is ballad-l defunct? Listserve - info here: BALLAD-L


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Hilary
Date: 11 May 19 - 11:52 AM

Ballad-L is still going. Here's the link to sign up. https://list.indiana.edu/sympa/subscribe/ballad-l


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jeri
Date: 11 May 19 - 11:58 AM

Thanks!
I think when you send an e-mail to everybody on the list, you're less likely to try to side-track discussions into troll territory and personal battles.
Plus, it's easier for them to kick somebody off the list if they DO consistently go that route.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 11 May 19 - 03:00 PM

Of several definitions of 'ballad' all equally valid, in terms of literature/folk song it does indeed simply mean a song or poetic piece with a discernable narrative. Like anything else this doesn't have finite boundaries. The term 'Child Ballad' sometimes rendered by the Scots as 'big ballad' or 'muckle sang' simply relates to that amorphous collection assembled by Professor Child. Whilst no-one would disagree that he assembled the majority of pieces of literature that would fit certain loosely held criteria, he never qualified what the boundaries were precisely, or fully explained the criteria he used, and indeed his reasons for inclusion seem to have changed as he assembled the anthology, having allowed himself to be influenced by others. However, this collection/anthology has not so far been surpassed, nor has his tremendous knowledge of their histories, and analogues in other cultures. Bertrand H Bronson used Child's selection to supply a study of all the extant tunes to the ballads in 1959 in his 'The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads'.

In summary, in our context therefore, the word 'ballad' describes most of what was printed on broadsides and collected in the folk canon.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 11 May 19 - 04:45 PM

thanks pseud!


http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/ballads/early_child/#what


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 11 May 19 - 05:21 PM

Al, you're welcome. Can't do links like yours, so thanks for giving one.

The OED is interesting, as it gives examples of the various definitions in use: I can get at it by typing my library card into the county library digital link at home. Maybe you can do this where you are?

I looked up this again recently when reading a piece on blues relating to a claim that a 'lyric' by Thomas Wyatt was a) a folk song b) a ballad c) proto-blues. They aren't even sure that at that time (ie Wyatt's) 'lyrics' were to be sung, and today the word can mean something like a poem that isn't a narrative. And the piece in question was not a 'ballad' on any definition! But to claim Thomas Wyatt wrote folk stuff seemed a bit of a stretch to me.

Pseud


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 11 May 19 - 07:14 PM

the only one of his works i can call to mind is the one he wrote in the Bell Tower of the Tower of London when he witnessed the execution of poor Anne Boleyn and her alleged lovers.

i distrust experts. that work of Wyatt is so btilliant, if you compiling a collection, who wouldn't want it, or a veriant of it inside their bailliewick.

why wouldn't a country and western singer, a blues singer ot a folksinger want a great story like that as part of repertoire?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 May 19 - 02:57 AM

" having allowed himself to be influenced by others. "
A little dismissive of a great and highly respected scholar, I think
Child was not 'influenced' by others any more than anybody who co-operates with fellow scholars is
He didn't define his criteria, but they seem pretty obvious - he called his ballads 'Popular' - "of the people", and he drew them largely from collections assembled by others working in the same area
To undermine his conclusions is to undermine those of all of them - something nobody has ever been able to do, in my opinion
No work on the 'Popular' ballads has been carried out to challenge his choice and he remains unchallenged, head and shoulders above the rest
Child, like Sharp and his colleagues, was a pioneer breaking new ground - all need to be respected and treated as such
For me, the highest compliment he ever received was to be placed on Dave Harker's hit list - praise doesn't come any higher than that.

The term 'ballad' has a further definition in Ireland - mention it to the older generation and they immediately associate it with the ballad sheets sold around the fairs and markets of rural Ireland right up to the 1950s   
These consisted of random songs gathered and sold by unlettered Travellers - we recorded descriptions of these being printed and sold.
A Traveller friend described how he took his father's songs to a local printer, recited them over the counter and negotiated a number to be printed and a price
He would then sing them on the streets or around the pubs on market day - a perfect example of the oral tradition being put into print
There is an hilarious description of the singer, Mikeen McCarthy trying to teach the air of a song to a well-paying customer on the double CD of Traveller songs, 'From Puck to Appleby'
Mikeen described how he would put his father's songs on 'the ballads' when requested to by local people - "Why don't you put 'The Blind Beggar' on them - I'd love that one?"
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Iains
Date: 12 May 19 - 04:46 AM

A broad view:

https://www.loc.gov/collections/songs-of-america/articles-and-essays/musical-styles/traditional-and-ethnic/traditional-ballads/


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 12 May 19 - 06:07 AM

Hootennany, sounds like an interesting read. I agree that it is generally accepted that Afro-Americans often sang pieces derived in part from British ballads.

On Child, what he said about ballads in the encyclopaedia article he wrote has been discussed on another thread. Suffice it to say here that he explicitly rejected the idea that ballads were composed or written by what he calls the 'lower orders' of society. But his views on their origins generally seem based upon what has to be guesswork about the social structure of pre-literate societies, so to be taken for what they are: conjectural. Yet in places he states them as if they were proven facts.

An interesting point is that he asserts that rhyme came into use in the 9th century, the age of Alfred the Great and Viking presence in the British Isles.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 May 19 - 06:15 AM

Some of the most entertaining uses of ballad experimentation are to be found in the magnificent HARRY SMITH COLLECTION
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 12 May 19 - 06:51 AM

I like the versions of Gallows Pole by Led Zep and Robert Plant.

Leadbelly did a version called 'Mama Did You Bring me any silver'.

But I think, and I am happy to be corrected, that an earlier version than either of Leadbelly's was recorded. Leadbelly's second version is lovely.

I don't think Child liked any of the English versions of the song, but again, I would be happy to be corrected.

But it does have the 4 stress, 3 stress, 4 stress 3 stress of 'classic' ballad metre. It also has the repetition of particular phrases that is typical of some ballads, and which tends to undermine a view that ballads are just pared down narratives: for me they have what I'll call for the sake of argument 'poetic' features as well as narrative and music.


There is of course a lot of discussion of this song on mudcat.


For me the story of this song illustrates a good point about ballads; they can be interpreted by musicians and performed in a range of musical genres effectively.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=76&v=X9DuDgzGjtE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzTX9NFBJWo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muGN_1N_ykI


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 May 19 - 07:07 AM

"I don't think Child liked any of the English versions of the song, but again, I would be happy to be corrected."
Must admit, it's my least faourite ballad - though the Irish offshoot, Streets of Derry is exquisite
I wonder how many people know Child wrote a song on The American Civil War - had he vere sung it, he would have been classed as a singer/songwriter
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 12 May 19 - 07:16 AM

Ah, Hootennay, but my library is good at borrowing stuff for 50p a time, and I have a card so I get a free one every so often. This is how I got to read a copy of Sharp's (or Karpeles' rather) songs from the Appalachians.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 12 May 19 - 07:18 AM

Just to be clear, they, the library, borrow it on 'inter library loan' then I borrow it from them and they charge me 50p towards their costs. I think they like doing it as it makes work a bit less boring for them.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST
Date: 12 May 19 - 09:26 AM

I just came from a ballad workshop hosted by Elizabeth LaPrelle. If her singing doesn't touch your heart, you are not alive.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 May 19 - 09:34 AM

"Elizabeth LaPrelle."
Just looked her up - gorgeous singer
Thanks for that
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST
Date: 12 May 19 - 11:01 AM

The library of Congress link provided above says that some ballads were written by minstrels working in the houses of "noblemen". It provides no references for these assertions. I know that many people have a romantic image of the 'minstrel' of old but it may not reflect reality.

A book I have by an expert in Medieval English poetry says that some people believe that minstrels may have played purely instrumental work, not 'ballads' or songs of any sort at all. It also says there are no accounts of 'minstrel' performances or of their repertoires.

The reference given for this view is Greene R L (Ed) (1962) Selection: A Selection of English carols, Oxford.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 12 May 19 - 11:24 AM

Whilst there is minimal evidence for the assertion that minstrels made some of the ballads, they were still around when the earliest ballads were being made, say 16th century. They were indeed patronised (old meaning) by the nobility in earlier centuries and provided family entertainment of all kinds. It seems reasonable to suppose they made up pieces in the current style that flattered their patrons and insulted the patrons' enemies. However, by the 15th century the nobility were turning to other newer forms of entertainment, and the minstrel was forced to find new audiences and employment. Some will have taken their talents into London and large cities where the rising middle classes were becoming a lucrative market. People like Wm Elderton took to writing ballads for the presses, still flattering the nobility but also the newer markets.

All of this is pure conjecture, based on reading about the history of the period, and what survives. Please feel free to pick it apart.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 May 19 - 11:26 AM

Nobody actually knows who wrote either the ballads or the folk songs
Work has been done to establish the earliest printed versions of them, but that in no way guarantees the 'author' didn't copy them down from elsewhere
In my opinion, logic suggests that 'the folk' were as likely to have made them as anybody
The 'insider knowledge', use of vernacular and folklore and the 'democratic' and partisan nature of how the plots were handled makes that a strong likelihood
Thee can be no doubt that 'ordinary' people (especially the non-literate ones) were more than capable of song-making - if they could, they probably did
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jack Campin
Date: 12 May 19 - 11:51 AM

We know about the lutenist who called himself "Graysteil" and performed his eponymous epic for James IV of Scotland around 1500 because the Lord High Treasurer kept track of his wages. (A musician/dancer called "Wantoness" got paid similar amounts; we don't know her repertoire but she seems to have danced in the nude).

Didn't the English aristocracy track their expenditure on song and dance?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 12 May 19 - 01:07 PM

They did, Jack, but many of these records still reside in the libraries and archives belonging to those families. We do occasionally come across them when a family ceases to exist. I have seen some 16th century ones that itemise costs of providing equipment for servants and younger family members for a sword dance team. The only word we have left to describe these entertainment organisers is unfortunately 'minstrel' which tends to conjure up somebody playing a lute. The truth was more likely someone with multiple talents in entertainment.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Some bloke
Date: 12 May 19 - 01:37 PM

The myriad ballads being written by folk singers today add to the folk process of course. MacColl and Seeger's output being a case in point.

I doubt the ability to write folk songs stopped in 1954, eh?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 12 May 19 - 01:41 PM

"The Ballad of Batman and Joker"... that'll be a favourite 200 years from now...


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 12 May 19 - 01:59 PM

Oh, don't start that again Ian!


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Swingin' Dick
Date: 12 May 19 - 02:00 PM

Here's a ballad, with nearly 1 and a quarter million "hits" on "Youtube" :

https://youtu.be/j0kJdrfzjAg


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 12 May 19 - 03:05 PM

SD, Richard Thompson. Okay extremely popular, very talented.
Taking the very basics of what a ballad is in folksong terms, yes it could creep in, it seems to be telling a story, the bits I could follow anyway. What detracted from what we expect of a ballad are the vocal gymnastics and the elaborate accompaniment. One of the main characteristics of the big ballads is that they tell the story in an impersonal way in the third person. The narrator is generally not part of the story, merely an observer.Please don't take this as a criticism of the performance: I enjoyed the video. A modern ballad? Yes! But it has little in common with the older folk ballads.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jack Campin
Date: 12 May 19 - 03:28 PM

Another one maybe: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Standard metre, strong story and characters, but too long (the wedding frame has to go). Has anybody collected an orally transmitted version with a tune?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 12 May 19 - 03:59 PM

Jack,
One of the many inspired by the Percy explosion, but nearly all of them fall down for one reason or another, usually too clever by half, too much description or too elaborate. There is a book on the literary ballad. I did have a copy but it had little to do with the folk ballad so I got rid of it. I think possibly the nearest thing written by a literary giant sometimes found in oral tradition is Scott's 'Jock of Hazeldean' based on bits of Child Ballad John of Hazelgreen. When teaching about traditional ballads in English lessons I used to use 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci' by Keats to demonstrate how the literary ballads differed from the traditional, in fact Coleridge's 'Rime' as well. I seem to remember playing a video of a Rime recital illustrated. It was all a long time ago.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 12 May 19 - 05:16 PM

This first person/third person difference makes for an interesting comparison. Very few of the big ballads are written in first person and those that are usually start off with the narrator in first person but soon disappear to let the story unfold in third person. Likewise the broadside ballads, many start 'As I walked out' but it soon develops into the narrator describing what he has observed and the narrator takes a back seat. Many of MacColl's Radio ballads are essentially written in first person for a good reason, they are an attempt to put the listener alongside of the narrator as in Shoals of Herring, and this style has been followed by numerous songwriters since, particularly those writing about occupations. Pop song ever since the days of Music Hall and probably earlier has been overwhelmingly dominated by first person, even those that vaguely resemble ballads.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Andy7
Date: 12 May 19 - 06:54 PM

"What detracted from what we expect of a ballad are the vocal gymnastics and the elaborate accompaniment. One of the main characteristics of the big ballads is that they tell the story in an impersonal way in the third person."

Yes, a very good point.

We want ballads to be well told, and we really appreciate that. But we don't want, or need, the performers of those ballads to try dazzling us with their vocal and instrumental skills ... impressive though those skills may well be!

There's a fine line to be trod, between drawing in, and engaging, your audience with your skill in performing a ballad, and allowing that skill of yours to become the main focus, rather than the ballad that you're singing.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 13 May 19 - 02:20 AM

I mentioned Jaques Brel earlier and just did a little more research on him. On Wiki it says "He is considered a master of the modern chanson". I then went off to learn more about the chanson and found the following. "A chanson (French pronunciation: ?[??~s?~], "song", from Latin cantio, gen. cantionis) is in general any lyric-driven French song, usually polyphonic and secular."

From the same article, "The earliest chansons were the epic poems performed to simple monophonic melodies by a professional class of jongleurs or ménestrels. These usually recounted the famous deeds (geste) of past heroes, legendary and semi-historical. The Song of Roland is the most famous of these, but in general the chansons de geste are studied as literature since very little of their music survives." I

So, is a chanson also a ballad and is, as I suspect, Jaques Brel a modern Ballad singer?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST
Date: 13 May 19 - 04:12 AM

Richard Thompson's song is a contemporary ballad from the late 20th century, using guitar accompaniment. Why should he write one that sounds 300 years old if it isn't ?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Iains
Date: 13 May 19 - 04:18 AM

Can the original performance of Beowulf be classed as a ballad?


https://www.bagbybeowulf.com/background/medieval_epic.html


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 13 May 19 - 05:56 AM

The link provided by Iains above contains ideas that one could pick away at. For example, it discusses medieval performances, yet Beowulf is believed by many to be older than medieval originally. There are many academic controversies, some of them echoing the sorts of discussion that are had about the origins of folk song. I am not aware of any evidence that it was sung. I was ht about it on a history of English Lit course, where it was given as an example of 'alliterative' verse, with other features being marked out as typical of material produced at the time eg the use of litotes and kennings and the caesura.


My view is that not all narratives count as 'ballads'. The ballad song generally has a specific form, verse lengh, rhyme patterns.

I don't think one could mount a convincing argument that Beowulf is an example of a ballad.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Kenny B ( Inactive)
Date: 13 May 19 - 07:01 AM

Where do the ballads of Robert service stand in the realms of Balladry.

The Cremation of Sam McGee - Johnny Cash

Are they considered as unworthy works as a bored but talented scotsman trying to make a bob or two, or the subsequent barrack room ballads which were recited by servicemen in messes and barrack rooms for centuries to relieve the tedium particularly in the days of national service in the years before the juke box.

Are music hall monologues considered ballads or possibly mere unworthy trash.

How are the works of J Milton Hayes and Rudyard Kipling regarded in terms of ballads.

Im interested to see current views on the subject


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 13 May 19 - 07:03 AM

I then went off to learn more about the chanson

What you should have learned is that (like "lied" in German, "song" in English or "canto" in Italian) it has no very definite meaning, and people have applied the word to unrecognizably different things over the centuries.

Brel was not doing anything like what a Renaissance composer did.

There are languages that have hard and fixed terms for different kinds of vocal music - Turkish is quite good at that. Western European languages prefer to leave you guessing.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Some bloke
Date: 13 May 19 - 07:12 AM

AH bugger! It's ok Dave, the fish aren't biting.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Iains
Date: 13 May 19 - 07:27 AM

Pseudonymous
There are no absolute answers. At what point does narration actually morph to acting/singing. Recitation accompanied by changes of intonation, gestures, twanging a "harp" were all used to create an "ambience" for delivery of the story/saga/history etc.
If a balladic presentation worked it is more thanlikely it was used.


http://www.timsheppard.co.uk/story/dir/traditions/europe.html

. The (Welsh) Laws of Hywel Dda, originally compiled around 900 A.D, identify a bard as a member of a king's household. His duties, when the bodyguard were sharing out booty, included the singing of the sovereignty of Britain—possibly why the genealogies of the British high kings survived into the written historical record.

“...a profoundly important truth about musical instruments everywhere: they are intimately connected in folktale, myth, and legend to local symbols of rebirth. Thus, legend relates that Hermes made the first lyre from a turtle carapace; similarly, the first Arab lute was modeled after the body of a beloved male child; the Finnish culture hero Väinämöinen made the first zither, kantele, from the body of a giant pike; the Celts made their first legendary harp from whalebones. In each case, the symbolically significant creature is "reborn" as an ”instrument which "sings" as well as appears in a shape reminiscent of the creature modeled.”

https://www.libraryireland.com/Druids/Irish-Bards.php


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Iains
Date: 13 May 19 - 08:45 AM

From: GUEST,Pseudonymous - PM
Date: 11 May 19 - 09:39 AM
Further to your post the OED defines a ballad as:
ballad noun
    1 A poem or song narrating a story in short stanzas. Traditional ballads are typically of unknown authorship, having been passed on orally from one generation to the next.

      2 A slow sentimental or romantic song.


Origin

Late 15th century (denoting a light, simple song): from Old French balade, from Provençal balada ‘dance, song to dance to’, from balar ‘to dance’, from late Latin ballare (see ball). The sense ‘narrative poem’ dates from the mid 18th century.

So coming back to the original post if one does not like ballads,
is this the entire genre, or the presentation?
Surely ballads comprise an extremely healthy percentage of folk music, both ancient and modern?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 13 May 19 - 09:01 AM

Here's a youtube video...

I'd considered starting a thread for it, but never bothered..
So it might fit in here for additional contextual material.
I can't vouch for the academic quality, but it's an interesting half hour documentary
on the history and social status of the Hurdy Gurdy and it's players
over several centuries..

It might be slightly relevant in this thread...???

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xv52jaxkHPw


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 13 May 19 - 09:37 AM

@ Iains

The version I have been looking at is the online equivalent of the old hard copy multiple volume (30 plus) one, and it has a lot to say. The first recorded written use of the term ballad in the sense of song is in the phrase 'ballad book'. Because the dictionary gives examples of usages over time, it hints at attitudes to ballads. A lot of the quotations criticise 'ballads' for being 'lewd' for example.

I was amused by the following 17th century quotation:

To thrum a Guitarr to 2. or 3. Italian Ballad tunes, may be agreable for once, but often practised is ridiculous.

And this quotation was sad:

The last refuge in their life (beggery excepted) the poore helpe of Ballad-singing


Maybe this latter indicates where we shall end up when the present 'austerity' programmes hae done their worst? Back to singing for your supper, if, that is, you don't get banned from anywhere where the people might cough up a coin or two?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Iains
Date: 13 May 19 - 09:50 AM

@ Pseudonymous.   In Shakespearean times a performer was required to be licensed by the nobility or the crown. They were regarded as a threat.
Perhaps they are still a threat today if departing from the given narrative.

The link below gives further confusion( I found the link while trying to establish if the rime of the ancient mariner was a ballad)



https://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-ballad-and-vs-epic/


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 May 19 - 02:49 PM

As is obvious from the last dozen or so postings there are many types of ballads and to make things a little clearer the use of a qualifying adjective would help, folk ballad, broadside ballad, traditional ballad, literary ballad, Child Ballad, big ballad, etc.

Though we get several writers claiming that a ballad is not a ballad unless it is sung, this is actually wrong. A good percentage of ballad performers recited their ballads, and this was very likely more prevalent in earlier centuries. Bell Robertson, Greig's most prolific source for ballads couldn't sing a note and recited all her ballads.


Big Al was actually referring to the big ballads (Child Ballads) in his original post and he was comparing them with folk/broadside ballads and songs.

Beowulf can't be a ballad for a number of reasons. Firstly it was written long before any ballads were in existence, and secondly although it has narrative it has none of the other attributes of a ballad. There are plenty of threads that list the characteristics of the majority of Child Ballads, which themselves can be split up into a number of categories. As I wrote earlier Child felt obliged to include items in his canon that only had a few of the characteristics mainly because his most pressing remit was to be inclusive rather than exclusive, although personally I'd rather he'd gone for the latter.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 May 19 - 02:55 PM

Iain
Rime is indeed a 'ballad', a 'literary ballad' and that's official.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 May 19 - 02:57 PM

Likewise Service.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 May 19 - 02:59 PM

Guest 4.12. Don't follow. Has anyone said otherwise?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 May 19 - 03:04 PM

Dave,
your comparison of 'earliest chanson' with 'modern chanson' is like comparing 'Chevy Chase' with Richard Thompson's ballad. Chalk and cheese comes to mind.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 May 19 - 03:07 PM

Theres a book about Ulysses by Stuart Gilbert.
He traces the origins of the big ballads to in the history of Dublin to the Vikings. Apparently the Vikings,when they had a knees up, had scary minstrels called Bareserks who would embark on an improvised ballad under the influence of strong drink. The performance could go on for several days and was punctuated with the minstrel killing members of the audience when performing particularly moving passages of his ballad.

So Beowolf, why not?.... But warn me in advance and I'll slip out for a pee,


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: keberoxu
Date: 13 May 19 - 03:08 PM

did you mean Guest 5.12??


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 May 19 - 03:17 PM

Those minstrels very likely did improvise some sort of song, but very unlikely it was a ballad. It's also quite likely that the ballad form spread from France to Scandinavia in about the 13th century. Were there any 'Vikings' in the 13th century? We tend to think about 10th century and earlier for Vikings. Is the Gilbert book a historical fiction? Certainly looks that way. You use the phrase 'big ballads'. Very few of OUR big ballads can be traced back beyond 1500. There is also very little evidence for the Danish ballads before that date, though some refer to events in the 13th century. Methinks you're pulling our legs, Al.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 May 19 - 03:20 PM

Is this a guesting game?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 May 19 - 03:29 PM

Okay, Al, you have succeeded in exposing my lack of literary knowledge. Joyce's Ullyses of course. Never read it. Does it contain any actual history as opposed to fiction?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 13 May 19 - 03:35 PM

Steve G's post on different senses of the term 'ballads' was interesting. For me, since the word can refer to a poem written in ballad form and metre, I don't think that it has to refer to something sung.

On people reciting ballads, mentioned by Steve, I had learned that this was the case from the online OED, which has the compound 'ballad reciter' as one of its entries. But sadly that source doesn't help us to know which were recited, and which were sung.

I wouldn't have any problem with the idea that sometimes people would 'recite' words intended to be sung, or conversely that they might produce sung versions of pieces written to be read or recited.

This thread really has drifted, but I would be interested to know more about the 'reciting' and what sources there are on it if nobody objected to yet further drift. Often it is when things drift that interesting snippets like this come up.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 May 19 - 04:00 PM

Ps,
Since attention spans have deteriorated much in the technological era it's difficult to conceive of being entertained with stories that lasted over several days, and 50-verse narratives, but yes these must have been common in earlier centuries. Tunes were by no means essential but they obviously had advantages. A survival is probably the monologue most often of a comic nature in recent times. The early Scottish collectors like Scott, Kinloch and Motherwell often referred to ballads being recited. I'm sure there will be references to this practice in Child and in Bronson. A good story teller would want to put across plenty of dramatics and variation in metre and a tune might get in the way of this. Bell Robertson's repertoire is given in the 8 vol set of the Greig-Duncan collection, but also her big ballads are in Keith's 'Last lays' which might well be online somewhere. If you can get access to Greig-Duncan you will see many of those versions without tunes were likely recited. Some of course may just have been sent to Greig by post without the tunes. Best to look at the notes to the songs and indeed the notes to the singers in the last volume.

Thread drift?? We've done nothing but write about ballads. Where's the thread drift?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 13 May 19 - 04:49 PM

Thanks, Steve

Chalk and cheese comes to mind

Surely that is just the same as trad folk and contemporary folk is it not?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jack Campin
Date: 13 May 19 - 04:56 PM

Since attention spans have deteriorated much in the technological era it's difficult to conceive of being entertained with stories that lasted over several days

Aren't they showing Game of Thrones where you are?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 May 19 - 05:06 PM

Not quite, Dave. There's a big gap of several centuries with the chansons. Trad folk and contemporary sit happily alongside each other in most places.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 May 19 - 05:16 PM

Well they claim you could reconstruct Dublin - the Dublin of 1904, from a close study of Joyce's masterpiece - such was his attention to factual detail.
But that's the Irish for you - I make no comment.

JJ wrote the book while he was living abroad - apparently he sent his family who were still living in Dublin scurrying round the city checking up that his memory was completely precise.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 May 19 - 05:16 PM

I should have said 'the spoken word'. Anything aided by shitloads of technology bears very little comparison; both story telling of course but in very different ways.

Having said that, my grandson would love his bedtime story to go on for days, and it sometimes does carry over from one night to another. He dictates half-a-dozen ingredients and the main characters, and I have to weave them all into one story. Great fun!

The most rapt attention I ever had from pupils was when telling them off-the-cuff stories. They got extra fun from guessing which ones were true, which ones false and which ones a mixture. Oops, thread drift!


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Iains
Date: 13 May 19 - 05:18 PM

@ GUEST,Pseudonymous - PM
Date: 13 May 19 - 03:35 PM

A partial answer buried within.

https://www.dias.ie/wp-content/uploads/webstore/celt/pubs/celtica/c21/c21-61.pdf


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 May 19 - 05:21 PM

The only ballad I can remember referred to in Ulysses was The Night Before Larry Was Stretched. A song called Joking Jesus is also mentioned. I bet there are others. I don't know if either of those qualified as a ballad.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 May 19 - 05:48 PM

Al. 1904, highly likely, but not 904!

Iain, not Mr Spring by any chance? Bruford's piece very interesting particularly relevant towards the end, but necessarily an awful lot of conjecture and guesswork. To the best of my knowledge Irish language poetry has no bearing whatsoever on the 'ballad' form and Bruford bears this out. The word 'ballad' is not used once.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 May 19 - 05:54 PM

Al, Don't know the other song but 'Night Before' is definitely a ballad, strong metre, abab rhyme, strong narrative, includes dialogue.
Fits perfectly into the broadside ballad genre.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 13 May 19 - 06:12 PM

A couple of days ago Jim said
> 'Amphitrite', as far as I know, has nver been regarded as one

Certainly not a "big ballad" or "Child ballad", but surely a song that tells a story, and presumably (though I haven't checked) printed on broadsides and so a "broadside ballad".

As so often, and as mentioned above, there are no hard and fast lines. Taking the first few songs in the New Penguin Book:
The Bold Princess Royal: broadside ballad
Bonny Bunch of Roses, O: broadside ballad
Captain Ward and the Rainbow: Child ballad
The Dolphin: broadside ballad
Faithful Sailor Boy: broadside (late): ballad? If one characteristic of ballads is that the stories are pared down to the minimum, this could qualify, but to my mind there is too little story.

Not finding much variety in the first section of the book, so on to the next.

Bold Fisherman: broadside yes. ballad? More concerned with the details of the romantic encounter than with action.
Cupid the Pretty Ploughboy. broadside yes. ballad? Same comment as Faithful Sailor Boy
Cupid's Garden. ditto

I could go on, but I think that's enough examples for now. Most of us would count all of them as folk songs, though Jim would probably exclude Faithful Sailor Boy and possibly some of the others. Some are indisputably ballads, but opinions will differ as to how many of them.

One characteristic that they all certainly share is that "the folk" liked them: a prime criterion for inclusion in the book is that they were widely collected.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 13 May 19 - 06:50 PM

Steve: thanks for the additional information. Responses like that that help make this forum so interesting to be part of.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST
Date: 13 May 19 - 06:51 PM

Re long stories in 'spoken word': does The Archers count?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 13 May 19 - 06:52 PM

Sorry, last post was me and intended to be a joke.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Iains
Date: 14 May 19 - 02:57 AM

Perhaps not the Archers but how about the prophecies of Nostrodamus and his cryptic quatrains?(which, according to some points of view, form the core structure of a ballad)


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 14 May 19 - 03:10 AM

Al Stewart - Nostradamus

:D


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 May 19 - 03:49 AM

"though Jim would probably exclude Faithful Sailor Boy"
I'm not particularly interested in 'discounting' any individual pallads Richard - it's the ballad form as a specific genre, and its social and historical importance that interests me
I wish Child had written more on what he meant by the term, but we have what we have and need to work it out for ourselves rather than speculating - most of the time, his choices seem pretty clear
I've been working my way through some American collections containing ballads from Famine Refugees from Ireland and am astounded at some of the Ballads that were taken to the East Coast of America and to Canada in the latter half of the 19th century - Cork and Waterford seems to feature largely - long ballads from people who could hardly read, or, if they could, to whom English would have been their second language
Ben Henneberry had a number of Robin Hood Ballads, for instance
New England singers, Mrs Sullivan and Mrs Welch sang or identified some rarities - 'Braes of Balquidder', Famous Flower', 'Young Hunting', 'The Demon Lover'......
Henneberry sang a superb 'False Knight on the Road' and describes his father (from Kerry, I think) 'stepping out' (dancing) to the refrain - an interesting echo of the dance origins of ballad making theory
The ballads are not only extremely enjoyable to sing and listen to, but they come with loads of important information
   
I stumbled across Helen Harness Flanders's collection on line - poor quality, as you would expect from the technology of the time, but a revelation - well worth searching out
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST
Date: 14 May 19 - 04:42 AM

D the G
Had not thought about that Al Stewart for ages. Sorry to say, I never really liked that particular song because we used to end up arguing about whether he had supernatural powers, some I knew at the time thought he did, I did not. But I liked his music. Wiki says he bought his first guitar from a member of the band 'The Police'. Small world, wasn't it?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 14 May 19 - 05:38 AM

“The word ‘ballad’ in English signifies a narrative song, a short tale in lyric verse, which sense it has come to have, probably through the English, in some other languages. It means, by derivation, a dance-song, but though dancing was formerly, and in some places still is, performed to song instead of instrumental music, the application of the word in English is quite accidental. The popular ballad, for which our language has no unequivocal name, is a distinct and very important kind of poetry. Its historical and natural place is anterior to the appearance of the poetry of art, to which is has formed a step and by which it has been regularly displaced, and, in some cases, all but distinguished.”


I interpret this bit of Child as showing he was influenced by the social Darwinism that was influential at the time in folkloric circles, as well as more generally. This view that society and indeed 'races' evolved was one of the ideological beliefs underpinning the denial of equal rights to African-Americans.

So he is viewing the ballad as a step on the social evolutionary chain towards the poetry of art. Child claims, with no evidence, and entirely unconvincingly as far as I am concerned, that at a certain point in the development of societies verse and not prose is the natural means of expression.

He claims that at this point the society is unified with no social divisions and that therefore the verse expresses the whole of the society. The whole society forms an individual he says. Again, there is a distinct lack of evidence. However, this fantasy view of the primitive society allows Child to explain what he calls an absence of subjectivity and self-consciousness. (this idea links to the 3rd person form of many traditional ballads).

Child goes on to say that as the society develops the traditional verse is abandoned to the less educated.   I could summarise more but I have already quoted some of what he says on this thread. The article is relatively easy to find. I think I learned about it somewhere on this forum.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST
Date: 14 May 19 - 05:51 AM

Incidentally, and this is thread drift, I keep finding articles that state that Child was a great and important student of the work of Chaucer, but he doesn't seem to have published much on the subject. I ended up doubting that he was all that important in the history of Chaucerian studies. He seems to have taught a variety of subjects, including maths, at his university, which suggests to me relatively low levels. Can you imagine today a don teaching such disparate topics? As a 'philologist' Child did write a piece, which I found, in which he drew inferences about the grammar of the "English" used by Chaucer, but I think it is perhaps worth saying that his approach was not a 'lit crit' one. I am sure he was as sensitive a reader of art poetry as anybody else, but this was not an area where he claimed expertise. So on the topic of Child's contribution to Chaucerian studies, happy to have more information.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 May 19 - 06:16 AM

"Can you imagine today a don teaching such disparate topics"
Child in fact worked his way up through various disciplines to arrive at Literature as his main subject - there is no suggestion anywhere that he ever taught them all at the same time
his general editorial supervision of the publication of a 130-volume collection of the works of the British poets along with his fifve volume work on Spenser suggests that he found his mojo pretty conclusively in literature
He intended to carry out a critical survey of Chaucer but, deciding this was not possible due to the sparseness of Chaucerian writings available so instead, published a commentary on Chaucer's use of language in order to make future work feasible - he certainly was no 'dabbler' in his subjects
He, like Sharp, was subject to the ignorances and pressures of his time - who isn't ?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Iains
Date: 14 May 19 - 06:16 AM

Wiki
Child planned a critical edition of the works of Chaucer, as well. He soon realized that this could not be done, however, since only one early (and faulty) text was available. He therefore wrote a treatise, blandly titled "Observations on the Language of Chaucer", published in the Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1863), intended to make such an edition possible.

Child's linguistic researches are largely responsible for how Chaucerian grammar, pronunciation, and scansion are now generally understood.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST
Date: 14 May 19 - 07:09 AM

@ Iains

I read the Observations on the Language of Chaucer. That is why I can say with some confidence that he did not take a 'lit crit' view. I believe he called himself a 'philologist', nomenclature which is itself no longer used for academic fiends, as understandings have moved on.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 14 May 19 - 07:16 AM

I guess Chaucer does link to some ballads as he took stuff from Boccaccio as, I believe, do some ballads. Some of Boccaccio's tales, by the way, have been given a modern treatment and can be found on Radio 4 within the BBC Media Player ap. Terry Jones of Monty Python fame is associated with the project.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST
Date: 14 May 19 - 07:37 AM

As it happens, for me, and others may have different opinions, Child's 'snobbery' for lack of a better word, comes over in the piece on Chaucer. He thinks that certain characteristics which he identifies as grammatical flaws in the texts available result from lazy scribes replacing the 'noble' English of Chaucer with inferior constructions from their own 'vulgar' dialects. Obviously, in terms of his view of history, by Chaucer's time the days of the undifferentiated 'people' who wrote the ballads as an expression of their unified culture had long gone.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 14 May 19 - 07:39 AM

In other words, Child seems to be of the view expressed to me by a young person some decades ago, that 'You shunna say dunna, it inna polite'.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 14 May 19 - 07:53 AM

And a very brief comment on Child in one of my books on Chaucer basically says he is now mainly seen as an example of 19th century dogmatism based on artificial reconstructions of what Chaucer wrote. So I think that the Library of Congress account of him quoted further up this thread which triggered this line of thought (I had read the stuff Child wrote on Chaucer some time before) 'bigs Chaucer up' and lacks scholarly objectivity in claiming more for him than he achieved. Obviously not everybody will agree but this is my view.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 May 19 - 11:06 AM

Not particularly convinced by any of this, but none of it challenges Child's work on the ballads, as far as I can see.
I occurs to me that one of the main problems with folk-song scholarship often works the same way as 'THE ONE TRUE GOD religion'
Instead of taking all the work carried out holistically, one school of thought is is discarded to make room for another - sort of like putting on clean socks
Sharp's crowd tended towards 'group composition' but that was thrown out for the next fashion
When were were recording, both from Travellers and in rural West Clale, we were given a number of instances where songs had been made by groups of people
Dance was once considered an origin for ballads - gone now
Ben Henneberry and other Newfoundland singers showed that people were
still dancing to ballads in 19th century Ireland.
David Buchan's 'improvised rather than set text' theory was challenged by many, though when we recorded numerous versions of songs from some of the larger repertoire singers we noted significant changes each time.
It seems to me that rather than going for definitive answers, any understanding of the folk arts has to be based on a critical examination of everything researched.
It seems that the present crowd have adopted Harkerism big-time and in throwing the baby out with the bathwater have robbed folk song of much of its uniqueness and social significance.

The Irish repertoire tends to by lyrically rather than narratively dominated, yet it has its own big narrative songs/ballads - this is, in my opinion, one of the best
It was made sometime after The Famine when tenants were being evicted in their many thousands and left to either starve on the roadsides or emigrate
The subject, Michael Hayes was a notely harsh Land Agent who, due to his actions, became a folk hero - sort of Gamekeeper turned Poacher

FARMER MICHAEL HAYES
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 14 May 19 - 11:49 AM

Guest, 14 May 19 - 04:42 AM. Do you mean Al Stewart had supernatural powers or Nostradamus bought his first guitar from the Police? :-)


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 14 May 19 - 12:30 PM

Do the Police sell off lost property and impounded items...???


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Iains
Date: 14 May 19 - 12:52 PM

A modern analysis?

https://www.oapen.org/download?type=document&docid=646652


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 May 19 - 02:24 PM

The dance aspect of balladry was thought to be part of the evolution of the ballad FORM but it has not anywhere been related to any British ballad, mainly because the dance connection died out long before our modern ballads were written. They also relate only to ring dances, nothing to do with any solo or stepping. They do survive in the Faeroes which is what much of the conjecture is based upon, and there are a few contemporary accounts which are thought to refer to dancing in a ring whilst one person sings the ballad and the rest join in the chorus. It is conjectured that these ring dances were quite simple, circling round and moving towards and out of the centre. This makes good sense as the dance could be performed without recourse to any instrumental accompaniment. These ballads were similar to the earliest Child Ballads, i.e., those in couplets interspersed with simple refrain, think 'Cruel Mother'. It is also conjectured that in those embryonic ballad days post Conquest, these ballads might have been subject to communal composition, unlike any British ballads known to us today.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 May 19 - 02:29 PM

"but it has not anywhere been related to any British ballad, "
Once again Steve - a detailed knowledge of oral traditions goes back no further than the latter part of the 19th century
It was a passing comment, no more
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 14 May 19 - 02:53 PM

The point of discussing Child's attitudes was that I thought somebody said it was a pity he had not been more explicit about his selection criteria, and I thought his attitudes might throw light on this.

Given that Child states in his encycolpaideia entry that it is plain that 'popular ballads' were produced by an elite it seems to me likely that his opinion on whether some thing might have been produced by the elite he had in mind might have been a criterion?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 May 19 - 03:45 PM

Ps,
There is no evidence anywhere that he used this as a criterion. It was simply an observation that many of those big ballads had the elite as their subject. However, the more likely scenario, as presented by many scholars I have read, is that the earlier ballads were most likely written initially by members of the elite households (I hesitate to use the word minstrel because of what it conjures up). Some were undoubtedly written by the early broadside writers. In fact we even know some of their names.

Whilst it is possible, even likely, that a few of the ballads were written by the elite to amuse themselves (they certainly had the time), why bother when you pay someone to do it for you? A couple of the Child Ballads have been attributed to James VI but I don't think it's proven.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 14 May 19 - 04:04 PM

If Child indeed believed that the 'popular ballads' that he was concerned with were produced by an elite, then the significance of calling them 'popular' would be that, after having been produced by an elite, they had then been taken up by the people. If that was his thinking then it's very close to that of modern scholars such as the two Steves.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 May 19 - 04:18 PM

>>>>>'the significance of calling them 'popular' would be that, after having been produced by an elite, they had then been taken up by the people'<<<<<<. Richard, I don't know anyone, even on here, who would argue with that statement. Whilst there may be one or two exceptions every ballad that is oral-traditional in the Child Collection has been taken up by the people. Those that either have no evidence of oral tradition, or dubious evidence, have been included 'because of a remote possibility that it might contain relics, or be a debased representative of something genuine and better' Child 5, p182.

For me one of the sad things about Child's opinions is that for about the first 150 ballads he was quite scathing about dubious ballads and versions, but then he fell silent on the matter until 5 p182, just before he died. We know from his correspondence that many of the later numbered ballads he only included because of pressure from others or the stated reason above, but he did so without comment.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jack Campin
Date: 14 May 19 - 05:22 PM

The dance aspect of balladry was thought to be part of the evolution of the ballad FORM but it has not anywhere been related to any British ballad, mainly because the dance connection died out long before our modern ballads were written. They also relate only to ring dances, nothing to do with any solo or stepping.

One song which isn't quite a ballad but getting there is the Scottish "Janet jo"/"Jeny jo", in a slightly fuller version as "Irdisches Leben" in the south German "Das
Knaben Wunderhorn". The story is homiletic rather than a real narrative, but it could be part of a real story. As a children's game it seems to go back to the 17th century.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 May 19 - 05:41 PM

Jenny Jones has been recorded all over England and Scotland even in America, but I wasn't aware of the German connection or that it has been dated back to the 17th century. What are your sources for these two facts, Jack?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 May 19 - 05:41 PM

200


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 May 19 - 05:50 PM

Have you got details and a translation of the fullest German version and is it a children's game in the German?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Reinhard
Date: 14 May 19 - 06:28 PM

Das Irdische Leben (Mutter, ach Mutter! es hungert mich)


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 May 19 - 03:13 AM

"then the significance of calling them 'popular' would be that, after having been produced by an elite, they had then been taken up by the people."
Can't see the logic of that at all Richard - can you explain
Child was taking ballads from collectors who regarded them as being products and expression 'of the people" not the 'educated elite'
Motherwell went as far as to warn against altering the people's version and destroying the language                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
Steve may not see why anybody should challenge your statement, but the question of whether 'the people' were capable of having made the ballads is one that has been raised among ballad scholars from day one - hardly a new subject.
As with the folk songs, the ballads have the fingerprints of 'the common people' all over them, folk humour, vernacular and phrasing, folklore long before the subject became a researched and published discipline....
There is no evidence whatever to indicate the folk didn't make the ballads as there is none to that they if'te make the sea, martial, social misalliance...... etcetera songs
That they didn't make them is a recent fashion based on very little, if any real evidence - a modern drive to prove that 'the folk' had no voice of their own
It puzzles my why the Irish 'peasant' should have made so many thousands of songs of their own yet the British shouldn't   
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 15 May 19 - 04:43 AM

The tune for Jeny jo is in Thomson's recorder manuscript of 1702. I don't know an earlier record of the game than the early 19th century (Chambers) but surely the two must have gone together.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 15 May 19 - 07:20 AM

I can only suggest people have a look at what Child wrote in the Encyclopaedia article. It was republished by The Journal of Folklore Research in 1994. You can see it if you register on JSTOR, which costs nothing.

Regarding Child's views on the origins of ballads, it still seems to me to be reasonable to assume that these affected his selections, irrespective of the sources of these ballads in more recent times. He is quite clear that they were not created by the lower orders. He says that the elite moved on as the 'race' developed to art poetry, leaving the ballads to the lower ranks, who often changed them over time.

The article is entitled 'ballad poetry' but almost straight away he introduced the phrase 'popular ballad'. He says he find the nomenclature unsatisfactory because it is ambiguous. He later clearly states that he does not think that the ballads came from the common people. He clearly believes that the ballad represents 'the people' meaning the whole 'race' or 'people' at a particular time in its evolution, and emphasises the 'whole' bit by his assertions that the people was not differentiated at the time.


I am not saying I agree with what Child says in this article; I tend to be a 'nobody knows'. But I think if we assume that by 'popular' he meant something like 'lower orders' 'common man' etc we are making a mistake. He seems to mean 'truly national' when he says 'popular', all the people in one 'nation' or 'race', he uses both terms.

Perhaps if I actually quote his attitudes will be clearer.

"The condition of a society in which a truly national or popular poetry appears explains the character of such poetry. It is a condition in which the people are not divided by political organisation and book culture into markedly distinct classes, in which consequently there is such community of ideas and feelings that the whole people form an individual' (p214 of the Journal)


...' though a man, and not the people, has composed them, still the author counts for nothing, and it is not by mere accident, but with the best reason, that they have come down to us as anonymous'

(NB this seems to suggest Child himself did not subscribe to a 'communal creation' theory, though some close to him did).

"The primitive ballad, then, is popular not in the sense of something arising from and suited to the lower orders of a people .... (over time, with education and societal development) the popular poetry is no longer relished by a portion of the people and is abandoned to an uncultivated or not over-cultivated class..."

Later on, he refers to the 'popular poetry' as being the first bloom of 'national genius'. Several times he says it was replaced by 'art poetry', as if this was an improvement in line with increasing civilisation and sophistication.

He seems to believe that he has discovered a pattern of cultural development which was repeated all over Europe, and that less 'cultured' countries may give hints about how things used to be.

The article goes on to discuss how various European nations have and have not preserved their old myths/culture etc He says the English have preserved very few very early ballads and that the date of many f these is impossible to fix.

I read this article in the first place because I read it was the closest Child came to setting out his philosophy. I think there is a risk of assuming that Child shared a view that ballads were made by the lower orders, a view common today, but not one supported by what he wrote.

As to the point made above why write ballads if you can pay somebody to do it, my first response was because it is fun. Also it seem the case that at some points in history being cultured included having the ability to compose poetry, much Elizabethan poetry was composed by the nobility or as Child might put it the 'higher orders'. The 'complaint' or lyric about courtly love and the unnatainable women is a genre that continued for a long time.

It may be that people have found my comments about social darwinism, racialist thinking and early US folklorists unconvincing: for a good account of this a book discussing early writing about blues by Hagstrom Miller is very good. He has lots of quotations from early folklore publications and many of the articles he cites can also be found on JSTOR for anybody who wishes to check Miller's points out.

I know 'blues' isn't the same as 'folk' but blues was also studied by folklorists so the same 'paradigm' as Miller calls it was applied.

I also once read an interesting piece on Child's selection criteria

Jewels Left in the Dung-hills: Broadside and other Vernacular
Ballads Rejected by Francis Child
Rosaleen and David Gregory

Interesting discussion.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 May 19 - 07:33 AM

The long Johnson Dictionary Child article promotes his 'Popular' opinion, if I remember rightly and reiterated his contempt for the broadsides - despite suggestions to the contrary
As the man in QU says "Nobody Knows" and never will while researchers continue to be denigrated
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 15 May 19 - 07:44 AM

Also it seems the case that at some points in history being cultured included having the ability to compose poetry, much Elizabethan poetry was composed by the nobility or as Child might put it the 'higher orders'. The 'complaint' or lyric about courtly love and the unattainable women is a genre that continued for a long time.

But that kind of poetry was never much like ballads. It seems to have started in Moorish Spain, and spread from there to Persia and France. It typically doesn't tell much of a story and uses very complex verse forms. The Teutonic elite verse forms are maybe a parallel development but also go in for competitively complicated verbal virtuosity. Neither was a candidate for absorption into an anonymized tradition; the whole point of a courtly love lyric was having your name on it.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 15 May 19 - 07:59 AM

A piece on Child by Roy Palmer. I have a book of ballads he put together. It is good.

http://www.morrissey.unibe.ch/lecture/08_Palmer_1996_Vertitable_Dungheaps_Prof_Child_Broadside.pdf

This sets Child's 'dunghills' comment in context, and repeats some of what I have said based on the same encyclopedia source.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 May 19 - 08:20 AM

Thanks for that - new to meLINK HERE


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 May 19 - 08:26 AM

The unsingability of broadsides speaks for itself
That they became more of a feature in tradisional singing as the tradition disappeared is understandable but, unless there was a secret school of traditional songwriters producing a superior quality of song good enough to ba taken up by 'the people' as their own, it is highly unlikely that our folk songs and ballads originated on the broadside presses to any significant extent
Try finding singable songs in Ashton or Hindley or any of the major collections - damned if I could
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 15 May 19 - 08:31 AM

The unsingability of broadsides speaks for itself

What Dick Gaughan sings as "Erin Go Bragh" is only a couple of words different from its first known version as the 19th century broadside "Duncan Campbell". You must be the first person to have noticed it was unsingable. Have you asked Gaughan to stop?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 May 19 - 08:39 AM

"19th century broadside "
Which may or may not have been taken from the tradition - nobody knows
Child did concede the occasional 'jewels' - the 90% - + claim is a totally new kid on the block
Broadside writers earned their "hack" description with honours
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST
Date: 15 May 19 - 09:23 AM

Jack, you are right, but we agree generally that rich people did not always pay others to produce material for reading reciting or singing.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 May 19 - 09:23 AM

Incidentally
'Erin Go Bragh' is an interesting example
I the 19th century, particularly in the latter half, the Irish Labourers were regarded with fear and loathing - dig out some of the writings in Punch and Dickens - Charles Kingsley, of 'Water Babies' fame described them as "white Chimpanzees"
Roadworkers in particular came in for particular targets of hared - read Terry Coleman's 'The Navvies'
A million miles from the heroic 'Erin Go Bragh' figure getting the better of a townie figure of authority
The same goes for seamen - Hugill's 'Sailortown' describes the places were seamen frequented as ghettos to be steered clear of
Again, another species entirely than those logn suffering, hard working and hard done by heroes of our maritime folk songs
If you want a town-dwellers view of a sailor's life, dig out Dibden's pastiche pap
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Iains
Date: 15 May 19 - 09:40 AM

A few sites for those not already familiar:

https://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/page/additional-ballad-sites

and a discussion: "The heyday of the broadside ballad"


https://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/page/heyday-of-the-broadside-ballad


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: bbc
Date: 15 May 19 - 09:51 AM

Sometimes, I think it has to do with the presentation. Sheila Kay Adams & Pamela Goddard really opened up the ballads for me. And, when I spent a week with Sheila at Swannanoa Gathering Traditional Songs week, I realized the ballads are stories set to music. Now, I like quite a few of them!

Barbara


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 15 May 19 - 10:17 AM

I said
> then the significance of calling them 'popular' would be that, after having been produced by an elite, they had then been taken up by the people.
and Jim enquired
> Can't see the logic of that at all Richard - can you explain

I was exploring what Child meant by "popular", if he did not mean "Produced by the common people".

The sort of classless society that he apparently envisaged as the source of ballads would have been hard to find in Europe for more than a thousand years. Some of the stories may perhaps date back to such a society, but certainly none of his ballads.

Back to the nominal subject of this thread: most of us here do like ballads; but not all ballads, not even all of Child's. Some of that is a matter of individual taste but some of it is because he chose, against his better judgement, to include some very poor specimens.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 May 19 - 10:40 AM

"I was exploring what Child meant by "popular", if he did not mean "Produced by the common people"."
"Popular" means of the people - or did did before the advent of 'the charts'
Whatever society Child envisaged, the fact is that one of the main sources of the ballads were the Unlettered Travelling people and the rural working classes - the 'lower ends' of society
The same with the tales - the comparisons with stories from a living or recent tradition and the ballads become obvious
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 May 19 - 10:43 AM

I've always believed there to be a degree of significance in the fact that Child entitled his first published collection 'The English and Scottish Ballads' and the second, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads - a statement of identification, I think
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 15 May 19 - 11:19 AM

I was exploring what Child meant by "popular", if he did not mean "Produced by the common people".
"Popular" means of the people - or did did before the advent of 'the charts


Child was writing well after the inception of the "charts" (like, 200 years after - the idea of the hit song of the moment was commonplace in the late 17th century). His use of the word reflects the way Chappell used it a bit before Child in "Popular Music of the Olden Time".


Whatever society Child envisaged, the fact is that one of the main sources of the ballads were the Unlettered Travelling people and the rural working classes - the 'lower ends' of society

Is there even one ballad Child included from a Traveller source? They only got bigged up as a major cultural resource in the British Isles as a result of Hamish Henderson's work after WW2. Child had no reason to suppose they knew anything he needed to care about.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 May 19 - 12:17 PM

"Is there even one ballad Child included from a Traveller source?"
Are you serious /
Try Jeannie Roberson or the Stewarts or John Reilly..... all major sources of Child ballads
Few collectors in Child's time went anywhere near the Travellers - as late as Gavin Greig's collecting, they were being avoided - he managed to miss a Robin Hood ballad from a neighbouring Traveller
There is no question that they had the ballads
Prior to Henderson, et al, the early English collectors, like Charlotte Bourne were finding Travellers a rich source
"Bigged Up"
More than a little dismissive, I think
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 15 May 19 - 12:47 PM

Jim,

You are misinterpreting again. Yes of course loads of Child ballads have been collected from Travellers. But since the time when he was writing. He included few versions from any oral sources (and at least one that he did include was a Baring-Gould construct).


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 May 19 - 02:58 PM

"He included few versions from any oral sources "
Perhaps it might be more polite to suggest I am misunderstanding Richard ?
After all, I'm supposed to be the impolit one
Yes - I did misunderstand - looking at it like that, it seems like a silly question
Child seldom indicated the social or ethnic groupings of many of the source singers
I think one of the few he ever met personally was the housemaid who gave him 'The Cruel Mother'
Since that time, Travellers have featured largely as sources of the ballads
I apologise for any confusion
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 15 May 19 - 04:21 PM

Jack,
Does the 1702 tune for Jenny Jo have any relation to the modern tunes for it?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 15 May 19 - 04:28 PM

Jack
Perhaps I'm missing something but the German piece is a mother daughter dialogue where the mother is harvesting etc and because the daughter has to wait she ends up starving to death. Janet Jo is a wooing song. What is the connection please?


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 15 May 19 - 05:46 PM

BTW the German piece most certainly qualifies as a ballad despite being all dialogue. It has a basic story, moves along in leaps, similar to Maid Freed. The repetition in both is incremental.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST
Date: 16 May 19 - 09:54 AM

I think someone suggested that Child might have changed his views on the question of whether ballads were originally composed by 'ordinary people' as opposed to an elite on the basis of something in the later volume of Child Ballads. I thought that the dates might be helpful in considering this question. The encyclopaedia entry which I have followed more knowledgeable people in taking as setting out Child's explicitly expressed views seems to have been published in 1900.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 16 May 19 - 10:07 AM

Sorry, above post was from me. To continue, Child had died by then (1900 publication date), so it does seem as if the entry was probably written towards the end of his life rather than an early view which he later changed.

I mention this not to question whether he was right or wrong, but as part of a discussion about what he thought, which may well have changed or indeed been a bit vague.

Happy to be corrected :)


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 May 19 - 10:18 AM

Hi Ps,
The best book on Child and his ballad scholarship is by Mary Ellen Brown. 'Child's Unfinished Masterpiece' 2011. At page 154 it deals with Child's struggle to write a preface and then his death before he could do so on 11th September 1896. I'll see if I can find where she deals with the encyclopedia entry.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jack Campin
Date: 16 May 19 - 10:20 AM

I can't find my copy of Chambers right now, but the version of Jeny jo he gives is verse-for-verse parallel to Irdisches Leben - one girl acts the Jenny role asking for bread and the others go through successive reasons why she can't have it just yet, till she dies just when it's baked. I think the dance pattern is rather like a rugby lineout. I don't know the English courtship one of the same name.

Tunes of that name turn up in several sources, I can post Thomson's at least. I haven't looked closely at how similar they are.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 May 19 - 10:21 AM

Starting at p232 the chapter heading is 'Child's Ballad Complex Redux' looks promising. I'll check it out later.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 May 19 - 10:35 AM

p Sorry that should be p231.
At p 232 'Child committed his explicit conclusions about the ballad to print in 1874, in an article 'Ballad Poetry' published in Johnson's Universal Encyclopaedia. Gummere much later considered this a 'provisional statement....it was not final and he wished it to be neither quoted nor regarded as final'. This would have been after finishing ESB and starting ESPB. He learnt a great deal more whilst compiling ESPB so I would agree with Gummere on this point.


Brown concludes, and I concur, the best statements and thoughts on what constituted the ballad are in ESPB itself and in his correspondence much of which has been published. Two significant writers to look out for are Brown and Emily Lyle.

Regarding what Child's pupils had to say, Gummere became embroiled in a discredited thesis on the origins, shot down in flames quite early on (though as Jim often says we shouldn't throw out the baby with the bathwater) and Kittredge was completely overtaken by having to spend the rest of his life putting Child's legacy into some sort of order.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 16 May 19 - 11:13 AM

Steve, thanks, looking forward to response, and have noted your reference.


In the meantime, via a bibliography of Child Studies by Atkinson, I have been reading an article from the Journal of Western Folklore (1988) by one Michael Bell called "No Borders to the Ballad Maker's Art": Francis James Child and the Politics of the People"


I'll quote what he says on Child and the word 'popular'.


"Child wishes to insure (SIC) that his readers do not confuse the common meaning of the word 'popular' with its scientific use. His 'popular' defines a specific constellation in which a whole community knows, wants and values the same things in the same ways, and he needs to make sure that the readers do not mistake his usage for one that would imply that popular culture was either the product or the exclusive possession of the poor. "


Bell suggests that Child used the term 'popular' because it was already linked to ballads when he became interested in them.


He raises the interesting point that Child must have known of the term 'folk' but did not use in connection with the ballads. He says that term also carried a load of baggage that Child would not have wanted to introduce into his discussion.

Aha, it seems the article may have first been published much earlier than the date suggested in the article I have. Mea culpa in that case.

Bell seems to find it amusing that Child basically regards the Renaissance as having signalled the beginning of the end for the ballad, regarding the period before this, starting from early medieval times as one without 'sober intellect' or 'sour national destinies'. He is basically pulling to pieces the outline of European history upon which Child's account is based. Not saying I agree with it all, just sharing the fact that (of course) such matters have been debated in the past and no doubt will be debated again in the future.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 16 May 19 - 11:26 AM

On the 'communal creation' theory of origins, Bell says that Child was not of that view, but that some of those who followed in his wake represented him as holding it because they believed in it and it suited them to represent the 'great man' as agreeing with him.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 May 19 - 02:44 PM

"On the 'communal creation' theory of origins, "
Again, you have the problem of theories being approached as religious creeds and being abandoned when they become 'unfashionable'
I have little doubt that some songs were still being composed by several authors into the 20th century - not everywhere, of course, but it was certainly happening
I see no reason why the some ballads couldn't have come to life in this manner
We'll never know which, of course - I have little doubt the "who made the ballads enigma will still be being debated a century from now
I also have little doubt that 'the folk' were more than able to have done so
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 May 19 - 03:38 PM

Ps
I don't think I have seen the Bell article. Is it online? I have David's bio of Child studies somewhere.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 16 May 19 - 04:22 PM

Steve: I found the Bell article via JSTOR. JSTOR is a free online source for many materials, including that one as it happens. Bell argues that Child was situated within a specific intellectual tradition which he discusses at tome length.

Jim: I agree that stuff can be 'co-written', as I have done this myself. Whatever the rights and wrongs of theorising about the matter, it seems to be a historical fact that there were strong disagreements about this aspect of the origins of ballads, and I do find the history of it all interesting.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 16 May 19 - 04:36 PM

I read on JSTOR the opening section of first ever issue of the Journal of American folklore, which contains some reference to 'ballads' as wekk as some, to put it mildly 'quaint' claims that the contents of the journal will be 'scientific' when some of them look to me plain racist. I imagine that the following extract may raise a few hackles:

"As respects old ballads - the first branch of English lore named - the prospect of obtaining much of value is not flattering. In the seventeenth century, the time for the composition of these had al- most passed; and they had, in a measure, been superseded by inferior rhymes of literary origin, diffused by means of broadsides and song- books, or by popular doggerels, which may be called ballads, but possess little poetic interest. Still, genuine ballads continued to be sung in the colonies; a few have been recorded which have obvi- ously been transmitted from generation to generation by oral tradi- tion. Many of the best Scotch and Irish ballad.singers, who have preserved, in their respective dialects, songs which were once the property of the English-speaking race, have emigrated to this coun- try; and it is possible that something of value may be obtained from one or other of these sources."

After the section on collecting 'folklore' from the native Americans, the author writes:

!There is, no doubt, another side. The habits and ideas of primitive races include much that seems to us cruel and immoral, much that it might be thought well to leave unrecorded. But this would be a superficial view. What is needed is not an anthology of customs and beliefs, but a complete representation of the savage mind in its rudeness as well as its intelligence, its licentiousness as well as its fidelity."

Ugh!


I believe (possibly incorrectly) that Child was a founder member of this organisation.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jack Campin
Date: 16 May 19 - 04:57 PM

JSTOR is not free unless you are a member of an institution that subscribes to it.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 May 19 - 05:01 PM

There's a real irony in there when we look at the current state of the planet and its rulers.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 May 19 - 05:21 PM

In case anyone has access to JStor the article is in Vol 47, No. 4 pp285-307.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jack Campin
Date: 16 May 19 - 05:22 PM

Child may have been echoing Chappell, who argued in Popular Music of the Olden Time that many tunes generally thought of as Irish or Scottish were actually of English origin. He was sometimes right, but much more often wrong.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 May 19 - 02:32 AM

JStor
I have access to a limited number of downloadable articles per month from JStor without being either a subscriber or a student
If anybody is interested, I was given a huge collection of digitised books and journals on the folk arts which I'm happy to pass on
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 17 May 19 - 02:47 AM

Jim and Jack are both partially right about JSTOR. I do not subscribe and am not a member of a subscribing organisation. I cannot access everything it has, only selected stuff, including earl Journal of Western Folklores. You can search it for 'material that I can access' to save yourself getting lots of 'hits' that you would have to pay for on a pay per view basis. I seem to remember that I had to 'register', which costs me nothing. You set your own password when you register. I am limited to a certain number of articles per month. I find that occasional 'print screen' then copy the result into a Word document is useful. You get the whole screen but you can 'crop' out the bits you don't want.

Yes, Steve, if by irony you mean climate change denial by Trump and many on the far right, a rejection of science as opposed to a false claim to be scientific, though some climate denial seems based on pseudo scientific arguments.

It is ironic that Child seems to have objected to bawdy ballads, as he excluded these, since there is a fair amount of bawdiness in Chaucer, some of it from Boccaccio. Incidentally, that example shows how much certain 'narratives' (albeit not in ballad genre) crossed from one language into another in the medieval period.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 17 May 19 - 02:48 AM

They used to say the internet would democratise as it would make 'information' freely available, but for much authoritative stuff you have to pay as the JSTOR example demonstrates. Not to mention all the utter s**t that is on the web.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST
Date: 17 May 19 - 03:34 AM

Just to put the record straight on Child: I was challenged when I said he taught maths at university. It was in fact Harvard 'college' where he had graduated, and the Harvard magazine says that he taught maths, history and political economy, and English (which would have been language not 'literary' approaches, which were not even taught in English Unis till relatively recently, English being English Language more or less). So it seems Harvard was called a 'college' at that time. He was the general editor of a series of books on The English poets, but I can find no indication that he produced anything at all that would count as 'literary criticism' in today's usage of the words. His work on Chaucer was, as I have indicated, basically a form of 'linguistics' ie trying to work out the grammar including phonology of Chaucer's language. Summary of his career here

https://harvardmagazine.com/2006/05/francis-james-child.html

Here is what seems to be an example of one of the books in the poets series, and Child does not seem to have added anything to it, bar whatever general editors do... Very little literary analysis, though some very broad comment on the qualities of the writing.


https://archive.org/details/britishpoets01chilgoog/page/n22


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 May 19 - 04:20 AM

"It is ironic that Child seems to have objected to bawdy ballads, "
Can't think of any that fell into the 'ballad' category (as he appeared to have judged them)
He certainly included ballads with sexual content - rape, imncest, seduction... and occasionally commented on them critically
Censorship was rife right up to the period where the BBC was excluding material on political and sexual grounds from it's 1950s collecting
I seem to remember Legman writing that The Library of Congress did similar with erotic material

"Not to mention all the utter s**t that is on the web."
The lack of folk material on the web and the media has as much to do with the folk scene itself
A scene that has trouble with its own identity is hardly one that is going to win hears and minds elsewhere
I've been pretty impressed what is available on the web - Geoff Lawes thread has pointed that out
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 17 May 19 - 09:31 AM

Sorry Jim for not being clear, I was moaning about s**t on the web in general, rather than the folk content thereof. As opposed to it being a great leveller and spreader of knowledge as it was sometimes heralded to be.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 17 May 19 - 09:41 AM

Even today bawdry only generally exists in specialist volumes/sites. In fact Mudcat is one of the few places where bawdry mixes in with other material, but even then most OPs initially put up some sort of warning or disclaimer. Bawdry is material intended to titivate and/or amuse, and whilst it is unquestionably folk material, it tends to have a marked genre with boundaries. The sexual material included in Child does not come under the heading of bawdry and I believe Child did not deliberately exclude any of it. It was not really part of the collections/manuscripts he was investigating. Even 'Secret Songs' has very little if any bawdry in it. 'Rape, incest and seduction' are dealt with in a very matter-of-fact way in the ballads, (but in my opinion where it does verge on any bawdry it is due to the redaction of some editors). Rape, incest and seduction were responded to in very different ways to today, in past centuries. If you were a rich and powerful male they were seen as perks.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 May 19 - 10:17 AM

"As opposed to it being a great leveller and spreader of knowledge as it was sometimes heralded to be."
Chance'd be a fine thing !!
Some time ago we discussed the possibility of making material generally available - it sort of got bogged down in 'copyright' issues
I've just raised the question again on the Geoff Lawes thread - maybe with more positive results
I mistrust the 'Net' greatly, but I think it holds possibilities we are only nibbling at the edges of at present
Jim


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 17 May 19 - 10:50 AM

Got to agree with you there, Jim. The big problem for me is that there is so much stuff out there even now that it would take me the rest of my life to grub through it. There are similarities with what I've spent the last 40 years doing, sifting through dunghills to find the 'moderate
jewels' in libraries all round the country. At least with the internet we can immediately share our findings and collaborate. Malcolm was a massive loss to me in that respect. He knew the interweb thing inside out, but we still have people like Mick P and Jon L with us which I'm grateful for.


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Subject: RE: If you don't like ballads......
From: Jack Campin
Date: 17 May 19 - 11:17 AM

Going back to the title if the thread, and something I mentioned a while back.

Ballads are a very small part of the range of possibilities of folk song; the wider variety includes all the magical/performative uses of verse and song like incantations, charms and curses;
love lyrics; religious meditations; dance or work songs where the rhythm is the main point; jokes; demonstrations of verbal cleverness; lullabies; funeral laments; recitations of genealogies; election slogans; auctioneers' and race commentators' chants; mnemonics; agricultural calendar sayings; prayers; liturgical songs; cattle calling songs, where the intended audience isn't even human; and so on. So there's a lot there to like if you leave ballads out of it.

And there's a reason why that might happen. That wider class of folk songs also includes a far wider class of formal structures. Compare the variety of verse forms you get in the love lyrics and devotional poems of the late Middle Ages with the range of options used for writing ballads after 1700 - all that variety has gone. (This is not just an Anglophone phenomenon, it happened in most European traditions).

BUT that variety survives outside the folk/ballad idiom - in pop lyrics. These still use an extraordinary variety of stanza forms, as wide as the range employed by a lyricist of the 15th century. And if that's where you're coming from, of course you're going to be bored by the ballad idiom with everything pushed into ABAB quatrains.

Same goes for other popular genres like rap. If that sort of verbal fireworks is what you've come to look for in music, you're going to have to look back beyond the ballad to something like the qasidas of Moorish Andalusia or the show-off songs of the Provençal troubadours to find anything comparable in European tradition.

Ballads don't do it all; they never did; and it's easy to find products of modern mass culture that go beyond them in important respects.


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