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Origins: Do they matter

Torctgyd 13 May 05 - 08:19 AM
GUEST 13 May 05 - 08:28 AM
GUEST,MMario 13 May 05 - 08:40 AM
GUEST,Blowzabella at work 13 May 05 - 09:09 AM
Torctgyd 13 May 05 - 10:07 AM
GUEST,Steve - Acton 13 May 05 - 10:47 AM
Hamish 13 May 05 - 11:00 AM
GUEST,MMario 13 May 05 - 11:09 AM
Torctgyd 13 May 05 - 11:30 AM
GUEST,MMario 13 May 05 - 11:39 AM
susu 13 May 05 - 11:40 AM
Torctgyd 13 May 05 - 11:51 AM
Uncle_DaveO 13 May 05 - 12:09 PM
Goose Gander 13 May 05 - 12:38 PM
Dave Swan 13 May 05 - 01:18 PM
Goose Gander 13 May 05 - 01:49 PM
GUEST 13 May 05 - 01:50 PM
GUEST,Allen 13 May 05 - 02:26 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 13 May 05 - 05:37 PM
Azizi 13 May 05 - 05:58 PM
Azizi 13 May 05 - 06:51 PM
Azizi 13 May 05 - 07:02 PM
Goose Gander 13 May 05 - 07:02 PM
McGrath of Harlow 13 May 05 - 07:11 PM
Azizi 13 May 05 - 07:19 PM
Joe Offer 13 May 05 - 07:33 PM
GUEST,David Ingerson 13 May 05 - 08:25 PM
Uncle_DaveO 13 May 05 - 10:18 PM
Azizi 13 May 05 - 10:24 PM
Azizi 13 May 05 - 10:28 PM
Azizi 13 May 05 - 10:37 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 13 May 05 - 11:02 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 13 May 05 - 11:04 PM
Azizi 14 May 05 - 01:04 AM
Wilfried Schaum 14 May 05 - 06:10 AM
GUEST 14 May 05 - 08:23 AM
GUEST 14 May 05 - 08:32 AM
Goose Gander 14 May 05 - 10:04 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 15 May 05 - 01:57 AM
Azizi 15 May 05 - 06:37 AM
Leadfingers 15 May 05 - 07:58 AM
Guy Wolff 15 May 05 - 12:14 PM
GUEST 15 May 05 - 07:11 PM
GUEST 16 May 05 - 02:29 AM
Gurney 16 May 05 - 05:58 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 16 May 05 - 01:30 PM
Guy Wolff 16 May 05 - 01:33 PM
GUEST 16 May 05 - 01:43 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 16 May 05 - 01:49 PM
Bob Bolton 16 May 05 - 07:02 PM
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Subject: Origins: Do they matter?
From: Torctgyd
Date: 13 May 05 - 08:19 AM

In reading a number of threads on Mudcat there appears to be a distinct split between those who want to know the origins of songs and tunes and those who don't.

For example, I am interested in finding out all about the traditional songs and tunes of my own culture yet many on this forum would seem to class me as 'anally retentive' and subscribe to the opinion that as long as it's good enough I'll play it, I don't care where it comes from.

Now, while I'm not saying for a moment that a song or tune's origin should be the only criteria for playing it if these things are ignored then the world would be an impoverished place. I shall tell you why I think knowing the origin of a tune or song matters.

1) If we all stick to the "top 100" songs and tunes I would presume that for most Mudcatters this would be Anglophone songs and 'celtic' tunes. This immediately cuts out a huge proportion of other music from around the world. Okay you may hear a tune you like and find out it's Swedish and from that delve further into Swedish or Scandinavian music. But if you're not interested in where the tune is from would you bother to look for other good stuff from the same source? Or are you happy to pick up a tune from someone else, mis-remember or even not bother about the name and play it in ignorance of gems you may have missed?

2) A major problem in this shrinking world of ours is the cultural colonisation of it by the USA. What with MacDonalds being on every street corner to Hollywood to Rock'n'Roll to baseball caps much non-US culture is disappering from the world. Now to citizens of the USA this probably doesn't signify too much but for the rest of us it means OUR roots being dug up and replaced by US roots. By knowing where the music comes from we can keep at least some of these cultural roots separated from what is rapidly becoming a bland, world wide culture.

3) Personally, I find that knowing as much about a song or a tune, its origins, the context it was written in, who wrote it, who recorded it etc etc add to the whole experience of the music. If I hear a tune I like I'd much rather hear some of its personal details rather than:
"It's called ********"
"What's that mean?"
"Dunno"
"What's it about?"
"Dunno"
Not a very interesting conversation is it?

It may be just me but it seems to me some one who is not interested in the origins of a song or tune is happy for another to come along and donate a song or tune to them; a person who is interested in the origins of a song or tune is more likely to go out and actively look for new material.

T


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: GUEST
Date: 13 May 05 - 08:28 AM

Let's keep this straight though--the imperial road to cultural colonisation was built by the British. A tremendous amount of cultural knowledge had already been destroyed and lost before the Americans followed the Brits down the cultural colonisation road.

IMO, most searches for "origins", especially here in Mudcat, is done to prove that a song "belongs" to one cultural group (like the English) by disproving the cultural claims another cultural group (like the Scots or the Irish) has to the song or the tune.

It's a turf war, in other words, and not at all productive. While the story surrounding the song is something I often find interesting, I rarely care about the origins of tunes and songs where the composer isn't known. IMO, people want to know about the origins to lay claim to the thing--just as true with trad material as it is with stuff composed and copyrighted today.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: GUEST,MMario
Date: 13 May 05 - 08:40 AM

well - considering that "US culture" is an amalgam to begin with -

never mind - I'll ignore the fact that this seems to be a thinly disguised US bashing thread and address the issue as stated.

For myself - I am interested in the source of songs - it is intrigueing to find out known authors of songs that you see listed and listed over again as "trad" - and likewise to find copies 150 to 200 years old of songs copyrighted in the 60's and 70's. The country of origin doesn't matter much to me if a song interests me - but it can be an interesting addition to the song. "Irish" songs that orginated in the US or in England. "scots" songs by English authors. US ppop songs with souyth American, Caribian or African roots.

heck - I'll steal from any source.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: GUEST,Blowzabella at work
Date: 13 May 05 - 09:09 AM

I like to know the origins of songs, and I like to be told them by the performer - as a listener, I find it adds enormously to my experience. Not, necessarily, the whole story in great detail, but a synopsis is nice. As a sea-song and shanty fan, the stories are part of the context - often there are words in them which have been lost to our vocabulary - or place names I haven't heard of, so it helps me to understand the song - knowing where Maui is, for instance or what a kanaka is....or the fact that Three Score and Ten was written as a broadsheet to raise money for the families of those who died in the storm, but the date was changed because the real date didn't scan! It all adds to my enjoyment of hearing the song.

I suppose I most enjoy performers who are also interested in imparting some of the story of how a song has been handed down, rather than just giving a striaght performance, to be judged on their musical ability. It also enables me to enter into the tradition and pass on some of their knowledge, in telling other people.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Torctgyd
Date: 13 May 05 - 10:07 AM

Guest: Yes the British did influence the cultures of many other countries (how many Scots or Irish songs are in their own language rather than English?) as did the French, Dutch, Chinese, Roman or any other 'power' you'd care to name. The difference is that the US culture is bombarded at non US citizens like no other culture has had the ability to do in the past through radio, TV, films and the internet etc.

And yes in some respects it is a turf war over where something came from. For example, it may not matter to you (I am assuming you are American btw) whether a song is Irish, Scottish or English in origin but when you grew up in England, as I did, and was told by many English people that the English had no folk music of their own; it was all Irish or Scottish in origin. In fact, this is still a prevelant notion amongst the 'uneducated' English. So yes I think a turf war, as you put it, can be necessary.

MMario: No this thread was not set up as a thinly disguised US bashing but as an argument about whether it can be important to know the origins of a song or tune. My argument is that it is important and one of my reasons for arguing this is the seemingly all pervaisiveness of US CULTURE. How many times on TV have you seen film of people in Asia, Afica or Europe wearing New York Yankees baseball caps or UCLA tee shirts? This is NOT the same thing as US bashing.

Do we want to see a world where everyone eats Big Macs, drinks Budwieser, sings Woody Guthrie songs, watches Friends on the TV and Meet the Parents at the cinema? No, we don't because if it was like this the world would be a much poorer place.

And I'm not saying that people outside of the US should not eat Big Macs, drink Budwieser, sing Woody Guthrie songs, watch Friends on the TV and Meet the Parents at the cinema. But I am saying they shouldn't do those things to the exclusion of their own culture. Personally I play stuff from England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Sweden and the USA, all tunes I really love. There are many English tunes I don't play because I don't particularly like them.

T


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: GUEST,Steve - Acton
Date: 13 May 05 - 10:47 AM

In my view the extent to which an individual perfomaer takes an interest in the background and origin of a song as a matter of personal preference, as is my choice of who I want to listen to.

I would have a great concern if no-one carried out any research whatsoever, or if, as often happens with maritime songs, the authenticity and accuraccy of the material performed is blindly accepted without referring back to source material; a bit like chinese whispers.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Hamish
Date: 13 May 05 - 11:00 AM

Yes. I have seen some acts who say "I don't know much about this song - I got it off a Martin Carthy/Joan Baez/Soft Machine*/Steeleye Span album" and I immediately detract 10 points from their score.

Contrary-wise too much info can be dull. But it's nice to be able to find out more/tell more during the break or after the gig if anyone's interested.

Oddly enough, I'm often surprised at the number of times people ask a question of me which I'm sure I answered in the intro.

Hamish

*Only kidding. Just seeing if you were paying attention.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: GUEST,MMario
Date: 13 May 05 - 11:09 AM

And in the us there are Thai, chinese, Indonesian, Korean, Japenese, French, Italian, etc retsaurants, Many popular TV shows are made in Canada or the UK. Fashions come from France and Italy. Actors, singers and other entertainers from the UK, Australia or elsewhere. Hell - our POLITICIANS are not always even native born!

the fact that many people outside the US tend to follow US "culture" is that those portions of the so called culture they emulate are those that are geared to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Guess what? it works. In the US as elsewhere. Doesn't mean anyone has to like it - but unless someone offers a viable alternative it is going to happen.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Torctgyd
Date: 13 May 05 - 11:30 AM

MMario - I agree totally with what you're saying. We are, and cannot be, culturally isolated from each other and I for one don't want to be. To me one of the reasons for knowing the origin of a song or a tune is as a small step along the way to answer your last sentence.

T


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: GUEST,MMario
Date: 13 May 05 - 11:39 AM

I think we're both saying about the same thing in different ways.

On the otherhand - am I going to stop singing a song I love because it turns out the origins are totally different from what I thought and or imagined? I doubt it.

Am i going to sing a song I don't like because of its origins? I doubt it.

I might sing a song I don't like for enough money - or because someone I care about really wants to hear it - but because it was written by a particular person or orginated in a particular country. no.

So in that sense I don't care about origins of music. Interest in the origns is seperate. At least for me.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: susu
Date: 13 May 05 - 11:40 AM

I think it is interesting to know the origins of a song, and if it has historical value then I would like to see that information preserved and passed on i.e. Amazing Grace and The Star Spangled Banner come to mind, but it is not an absolute necessity. I find it intriguing but not knowing will not keep me from performing a song the content of the song is what has the most impact, that and conveying to the audience that you are somehow connected to the song as though you have lived it. But that is MHO. Susu


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Torctgyd
Date: 13 May 05 - 11:51 AM

I wouldn't want anyone to stop singing a song or playing a tune just because they didn't know where it came from or turned out to be something different to what they'd thought.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 13 May 05 - 12:09 PM

As some of you know, I sing on Paltalk a lot, in the live rooms.
It is my habit, with most songs, to give a little spoken introduction before I sing a song. Sometimes I'll refer to what country the song comes from, sometimes I'll define some obscure word that comes up in the song, and so forth. It gives a frame of reference for what they are about to hear.

Many's the time I've had heartfelt compliments from listeners for this practice. Especially with the kinds of folk songs I sing--almost always with a story, which needs to be followed consciously--such an introduction is a great help to the listener in getting focused.   

On the immediate subject of this thread, a certain amount of knowledge about the cultural background from which the song comes is very helpful, both to me as a singer and to the listeners.

I'll refer you to a thread which I think just started today, called something like "my vision". I won't try to repeat or summarize the story of the initial poster's message, but it has to do with the value of the story or vision inside the performer's head.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Goose Gander
Date: 13 May 05 - 12:38 PM

My experience is that if the demonstrated source of a song confirms an individual's gut feeling or bias, they are likely to say that origins matter. If not, they are more likely to say origins are less important than where the song has been along the way. Yes, it is often a turf war. Personally, I like to know as much as I can about my favorite songs and ballads, but I understand why for some people this sort of thing may take some of the fun out of enjoying traditional music.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Dave Swan
Date: 13 May 05 - 01:18 PM

Origins are quite important to me. I want to know both the meaning and the cultural context of what I'm singing.

I never want to answer with "I dunno", nor do I want to attribute a song incorrectly. That's not to say I haven't, but I try very hard to avoid it.

A few years ago we were given a song which, on the face of it, appeared to be a hunting song from the American south. Something gave me a funny feeling and I began to dig. One of the opinions I gathered about the origin of the song was "It doesn't matter what the song's origin is, figure out how the song makes you feel, make it yours, and then sing it". Had I heeded that advice, we would now be singing a song celebrating the delights of capturing runaway slaves.

Origins matter.

D


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Goose Gander
Date: 13 May 05 - 01:49 PM

Dave-

Out of curiousity, what was the song?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: GUEST
Date: 13 May 05 - 01:50 PM

No Dave, I disagree. It isn't the origins that matter, it is cultural sensitivies of the singer and listener that matter.

The issue of "origins" and the nationalist turf wars I mentioned, my experience has been that the origins debate tends to rise to the level of obsession with some nationalist oriented Anglo folkies, who are very keen to "prove" the origins of a song/tune as "English not Irish" or "English not Scottish". The obsession with whether a song/tune is English or Irish, or English or Scottish doesn't seem to matter near as much to the Irish and Scottish folkies.

As an American, I've also been involved in many US cultures' trad music communities, and I have to say, from the perspective of someone familiar with the music traditions both sides the pond, nobody can beat the English tendency/obsession with identifying nationalist origins to songs (to "prove" they belong to English). Perhaps that is because the English no longer have much of an indigenous living tradition, I dunno.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: GUEST,Allen
Date: 13 May 05 - 02:26 PM

But a problem does occur when there is a song like Geordie, and some of the place names have been changed to Irish ones so everyone thinks ooh those evil English oppressing the poor Irish.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 13 May 05 - 05:37 PM

Origins matter!

If we don't know the history of the song, we could bring up songs like Dave Swan did.

It's ALWAYS nice to KNOW the information, so that even if you DON'T normally tell it, you CAN when someone DOES ask. It shows a decided lack of respect to the song if you were to always say "Dunno", when asked about the song's history.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Azizi
Date: 13 May 05 - 05:58 PM

Torctgyd wrote that when he was growing up he was told "by many English people that the English had no folk music of their own; it was all Irish or Scottish in origin."

When I was growing up I was told that Black people in the United States and where ever, never had ANY culture apart from "Negro" spirituals.

Currently music books still feed into that erroneous conclusion by continuing to abitrarily categorize many non-religous songs of African American composition as 'folk', 'traditional', or United States {American} folk music, while appropriately crediting a few to us {African Americans}.

As others on this thread have written, knowing the origin of songs helps the listeners to understand the context and meaning of the song.

I would also add that knowing the origin of a song may help enhance the self-concept and group concept of members of the group who composed the song...And it may also correct ethnocentric misinformation that all too often was the standard practice in the past.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Azizi
Date: 13 May 05 - 06:51 PM

As a follow-up to my previous post, below is a list that I compiled last year from a book called the 'Folksong Fake Book'[sorry I didn't record the editor, publisher, publication date of that book}.

IMO, this list serves as a representative sample of folk songs that I believe are of African American origin, and which are categorized by state, or nation with no mention of their African American origin. At the same time other songs in that book are credited as being of African American composition. Most of the songs in that book that were categorized as being of African American origin were "Negro" spirituals. However, there were a few secular songs in that book that were listed as being of African American origin.

It is my contention that such inconsistent categorizing can be interpreted as meaning that the only songs that we {African Americans} only composed religious songs during the three centuries of American slavery.

IMO, it is important to correct this misconception to give credit where credit is due and to honor and celebrate the creativity of those who created these songs. In addition, iI believe that it is important to credit these songs as being of African American origin and showcase other antebellum African American songs that don't usually get included in mainstream folk music books because knowing about the full range of African American songs from those times- including protest songs-presents a FAR different picture of slave culture than that which is usually taught.

Note-I have placed the category that the editor gave for each song in parenthesis:

All The Pretty Little Horses {listed as "Southeastern American
                              Lullaby"}

Bile Them Cabbage Down {listed as "19th Century American"}

Cotton Eyed Joe {listed as "Folksong from Tennessee"}

Frankie and Johnny {listed as "Anonymous Blues Ballad, possible from
                   St. Louis or Kansas City"}

Freight Train {listed as "American"}

Grizzley Bear {listed as "Southern American Chain Gang Song"}

Hush Little Baby {listed as "American from the Carolinas"'}

John Henry {listed as "folk ballad from West Virginia circa 1870s"}

Michael Rowed The Boat Ashore {listed as "Traditional American"}

Midnight Special {listed as "American"}

Mister Rabbit {listed as "Southern American"}

Nine Pound Hammer {listed as "American"}

Old Aunt Kate {listed as "American Children's Song"}

Old Joe Clark {listed as "Tennessee Folksong"}

Oh Mary Don't You Weep {listed as "American Gospel Song") *

One More River {listed as American Gospel Song}*

Polly Wolly Doddle {listed as "Southern American"}

Railroad Bill {listed as "American"}

Run, Children, Run {listed as "Southern American"}

Shortnin' Bread {listed as "Plantation Song from the American
                South'"}

Take this Hammer {listed as "Work Song from the South"}

The Boll Weevil {listed as "Folksong from Texas"}

The Paw Paw Patch {listed as "Southern American Singing Game Song"}

The Ole Grey Goose {listed as "19th century American"}

* "American Gospel Song" is listed separately from the
"Negro traditional spiritual" category


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Azizi
Date: 13 May 05 - 07:02 PM

One other point, I am NOT saying that the information presented in that list of songs is wrong-I am saying that the information is incomplete because it doesn't include race.

In this case, the failure to include race, can {and I believe often does} lead to erroneous conclusions.

IMO, the erroneous conclusion is not only that Black Americans hardly created anything of value, but that {as is the case on the Internet}, it is my opinion that in the absence of racial designation, "White" is the default racial cultural category. If that is so, than the conclusion I believe that many people reach {perhaps unconsciously} is that a White American composed most American folk songs.

And I don't believe that is the case.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Goose Gander
Date: 13 May 05 - 07:02 PM

All of these songs of course are in the African-American oral tradition, but they most have parallels in white folksong as well. Now consider that the first collections of African-American folksong were printed in the early 19th century. That leaves unrecorded about 200 years of hybridization and cross-fertilization among black and white musicians of various backgrounds. Something that always must be taken into account when considering origins of native American songs and ballads.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 13 May 05 - 07:11 PM

Origins are interesting - but the idea that the origin implies some kind of exclusive ownership that holds it diwn in one time and place is nonsense.

More often than not it's not a matter of origins, it's a matter of sources. A source is where a particular song, or a particular version of a song came from. But typically there will have been some earlier source from which some song that helped give rise to that version came, and so on down the line.

Even when a song has an identifiable individual who wrote it, that person will have have had all kinds of influences from earlier somgs and earlier singers.

There are plants growing in our gardens that came originally from all over the world. But I've never heard about Americans getting all patriotic and exclusive about potatoes, or people over here scorning them as decadent foreign importd that we ought to avoid.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Azizi
Date: 13 May 05 - 07:19 PM

I'm sorry that I didn't preview my last post-not because I would retract from anything that I wrote, but it should have been written better.

Let me try again:

IMO, the absence of racial designations for folk songs can lead to a number of erroneous conclusions. One conclusion is that prior to emancipation, Black Americans seldom created any music of value besides spirituals.

Another conclusion that some might reach is that most antebellum American folk songs were created by White Americans. I believe that people might reach the latter conclusion because in the absence of racial designation, "White" is the default racial cultural category.

[I also believe that "White" is the default racial category on the Internet. And in this case that is probably more often correct than incorrect. But in the case of antebellum American folk songs, I don't believe that one would be correct in assuming that most of these songs were composed by White Americans].

****

Well, I'm still not satisfied with how this is phrased, but I think it's better than my previous attempt.


Azizi Powell


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 May 05 - 07:33 PM

I love to find the origins of a song, but I don't think that's enough - I want to find the story of a song, how it developed and branched off into various forms. One version of a song is never enough for me - I want to see ten of them. When I want to make a song my own, I try to choose the version that's most interesting to me and that best fits my singing - not necessarily the "original" version. Oftentimes, though, the story of the song can be more interesting to me than the song itself. Sometimes, I'll sing two versions of a song, one after another.

Every once in a while, we'll have a great discussion of the various versions of a song, and somebody will post a message saying how boring the discussion is. I suppose they have a right to an opinion, but it seems strange to have people like that at a site that emphasizes traditional music. When I see comments like that, it makes me cringe.

-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: GUEST,David Ingerson
Date: 13 May 05 - 08:25 PM

Thanks, Azizi, for your pespective. I am one European-American who had fallen victim to the misconceptions you pointed out. I'd never thought of the situation like that before. Michael's point about the cross-hybridization is well taken, but doesn't address the common attitudes about ante-bellum slave singing--that it was all (or mostly) spirituals.

David


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 13 May 05 - 10:18 PM

Azizi, let me start by saying I thoroughly agree with you that it seems patently false, if not ridiculous, to think that the black culture produced only religious songs.

You gave a list of songs which you believe to be of black or "Negro" origin, many of which I immediately agreed mentally that I thought they were of black or "Negro" origin. Then there were others that didn't seem so obvious to me, and I'd appreciate your explaining (if it's possible to explain such judgment) why that is your conclusion.

First I'll list the ones that I agree with you right away, to get them out of the way, and then ask you, if you would, to explain a little more about each of the ones in the second list.

My "Accepted" list (Some by style, some because I know who wrote them, and some just on what I've "always" understood--or misunderstood.)

All The Pretty Little Horses {listed as "Southeastern American
                              Lullaby"}
Freight Train {listed as "American"}

Cotton Eyed Joe {listed as "Folksong from Tennessee"}

Frankie and Johnny {listed as "Anonymous Blues Ballad, possible from
                   St. Louis or Kansas City"}

Oh Mary Don't You Weep {listed as "American Gospel Song") *

Shortnin' Bread {listed as "Plantation Song from the American
                South'"}
Grizzley Bear {listed as "Southern American Chain Gang Song"}

Hush Little Baby {listed as "American from the Carolinas"'}

John Henry {listed as "folk ballad from West Virginia circa 1870s"}

Take this Hammer {listed as "Work Song from the South"}

The Boll Weevil {listed as "Folksong from Texas"}

Michael Rowed The Boat Ashore {listed as "Traditional American"}

Midnight Special {listed as "American"}

-----
Second list, which I'd like more explanation why they should be considered of black or "Negro" origin. Some just because I don't know the song, some because the style doesn't particularly suggest (to me) a black origin.

Nine Pound Hammer {listed as "American"}

Old Aunt Kate {listed as "American Children's Song"}

One More River {listed as American Gospel Song}*

Polly Wolly Doddle {listed as "Southern American"}

Railroad Bill {listed as "American"}

Run, Children, Run {listed as "Southern American"}

Old Joe Clark {listed as "Tennessee Folksong"}

The Paw Paw Patch {listed as "Southern American Singing Game Song"}

The Ole Grey Goose {listed as "19th century American"}

Old Aunt Kate {listed as "American Children's Song"}

Mister Rabbit {listed as "Southern American"}

Bile Them Cabbage Down {listed as "19th Century American"}

* "American Gospel Song" is listed separately from the
"Negro traditional spiritual" category

-------
Azizi, please don't think I mean to be hostile in this post. I'm really interested in the reasons for your judgments. Note that I do not assert that you are necessarily wrong as to any or all of them.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Azizi
Date: 13 May 05 - 10:24 PM

David, I appreciate your post.

Inconsistent categorization of African American folk songs in United States music books-and the failure to include other known African American folk songs that don't conform with the stereotypical image of resigned or happy slaves-is a pet peeve of mine.

For an example of the protest rhymes that you seldom will see in any folk music book, see what I believe is a coded message rhyme that is included in Thomas W. Talley's Negro Folk Rhymes, originally published in 1922:

DIE IN A PIG PEN FIGHTING
Dat ole sow said to de barner:
'I'll tell you q'at let's doo:
Let's go an' git dat broad-axe
And die in de pig-pen too,"
"Die in de pig-pen fightin'!
Yes, die, die in de wah!
Die in de pig-pen fightin'
Yes, did wid a bitin' jaw!"

{p. 39 Talley}

****

Of course, "Jimmy Crack Corn" can also be read as an African American protest rhyme. One way to deal with something threatening is to make it safe and funny. And IMO, that was done with the JCC song. Too many people are too stuck in the happy slave motif to realize what that song is really saying.


Azizi Powell


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Azizi
Date: 13 May 05 - 10:28 PM

My post was in response to GUEST,David Ingerson.

Re Dave Oesterreich's post. Thank you Dave. I can't respond tonight, but promise I'll get back to you.

Azizi


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Azizi
Date: 13 May 05 - 10:37 PM

And Dave Oesterreich, I'm not trying to brush you off, but I am probably not going to be able to provide you with documentation for all these songs right away. And this weekend I will not be able to be here long because I have to help a friend who suffered a loss in her family.

Also maybe this needs to be in a separate thread so words or links if possible to less familiar songs on taht list can be linked or posted.

I'm hoping that other 'Catters and Guest can also help with this documentation, add their comments, and add other exaamples of miscategorized songs.

Thanks.

Azizi


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 13 May 05 - 11:02 PM

BRILLIANT Query!!!!! Mr. Torctgyd !!!!



In the long, long, long distant past the DT and its usurper Maxiumus Mud.....held a common "mission statement."   (The identifiying elements can still be found in the LOC's "WayBackMachine."



Unfortunately, in the interests of convenience and blinded by the googling dazzle of PROFITS......both the trad and blues have been foundering in a forest of "good-intentions."



The web now has a dozen sites which can surpass the DT in many areas.



Don't get me wrong....Max has his priorities straight with mouths to feed and family to engage.



IF---the site set in a socialist scene - perhaps, the government would sponsor it with taxes on each CD sold. (Good Lord Forbid!!!)



Mr. T. The DT in the MC is about as good as you will find in the free-enterprise of the internet......(yeah...we MUST accept 90% of the postings as spam, Spam, SPAM....but what do want for the price?



Sincerely,

Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 13 May 05 - 11:04 PM

Got fired last gig when I barfed on the drum-set.



Sorry, I will be around weekends for awhile.



Sincerely,

Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Azizi
Date: 14 May 05 - 01:04 AM

I just started a new thread on the subject of African American secular folk songs

So as not to distract from the more general topic of this thread, those who are interested in that specific topic are invited to continue that discussion there.

Thank you.

Azizi


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 14 May 05 - 06:10 AM

I think that Mssrs. McGrath and Offer are right in their opinions, as usually.
The problem of the source, on the contrary, is always that you only can get a reference or first record handwritten or printed. This naturally can say nothing about the real place and time of origin. Especially interesting is the wandering of the songs over boundaries - how come? Interesting question.
The story behind a song is the most interesting approach. E.g. when hearing a German masons' song about the dangers upon a scaffold I instantly was reminded of the hard working times of my youth, when I erected scaffolds most carefully, and how insecure I felt on top of them albeit.
Often songs describing historical events, now obscure, initialized me to do some some research, if only to know what people felt at those remoted times. And lo! there seldom is a difference to our times.
All in all, Torctgyd's question is a really good one in my opinion.
(Referring to McDonald may I remind you of another one, the farmer whose song I learned at school some 50 years ago?)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: GUEST
Date: 14 May 05 - 08:23 AM

The story of the song is always a good thing to know--I hope people don't misinterpret the story as being the same thing as the (usually) nationalist origin of a song.

Looking for nationalist origins of songs is something the British folklorists did historically, back in the days when they were distinguishing their imperial, civilized "us" from the conquered barbarian native "them".

That "origins" thing has strong roots in the birth of colonial nationalism, and nowhere is it still more obvious than among the English folk.

While Azizi's point is well taken, it also isn't very well flushed out. Yes, race was used by collectors and folklorists to attribute origins of songs to European Americans that should rightly have been attributed to the US slave culture, but that culture included both African American slaves and European American slave owners and the culture of the antebellum south.

While there is always more scholarly study to be done on the oral traditions, people must also accept that the origins of much that comes from the oral tradition will never be known with certainty. We know songs and tunes could sometimes travel rapidly between cultural groups, and at other times wouldn't cross between cultural groups for a long time or at all.

However, imo, neither the nationalist or racial origins or the story behind the song determines the authenticity of it--that comes from the performance by the artist.

Songs and tunes are the creative work of people who love to play and sing. A great song/tune is a great song/tune, regardless of it's origins or the stories that come attached to it. Place names and people's names in songs are changed all the time by the folk who want to make the song their own. Everyone does it, but usually just with the better quality songs, not the poorer quality ones. So it should be seen as a great compliment that a song gets stolen and adapted by others, not a turf war--which we see happening in nationalist (including American black nationalist) and racial claims to music all the time.

IMNSHO, the beauty and spirituality of music comes from the sharing of it, not the claiming ownership of it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: GUEST
Date: 14 May 05 - 08:32 AM

And please don't get me wrong here--I believe it is because of the appropriation of other cultural groups' creative work by "claiming ownership" to be a damn messy and usually despicable exploitative thing--like the way Leadbelly got his stuff "appropriated" by Lomax. That happened a lot in the early days of sound recording especially, when the big record companies divided the the world up into their market shares, and exploited the indigenous music traditions of the part of the world they claimed as theirs.

But that is a pretty complex subject--and one which the folks battling over the nationalist origins of music don't particularly like to discuss when they get into the origins game, because then they actually have to learn just how horrendously the Europeans and Americans have exploited the rest of the planet's musical heritage.

The appropriation of other cultural groups' musical heritage is a very ugly story. Which is, I suppose, why people would rather go looking for "origins" with their cultural and racial blinders on.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Goose Gander
Date: 14 May 05 - 10:04 PM

"While Azizi's point is well taken, it also isn't very well flushed out. Yes, race was used by collectors and folklorists to attribute origins of songs to European Americans that should rightly have been attributed to the US slave culture, but that culture included both African American slaves and European American slave owners and the culture of the antebellum south."

To flesh (or flush) out the guest's point a little more, remember that African slaves worked side by side with English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh indentured servants in Virginia, the Carolinas, etc. in the 17th and 18th centuries. Certainly these people shared songs and stories from time to time. 18th century religious revivals provided further opportunities for interchange. Impossible to prove, but I think a good argument could be made that a fair amount of the untraceable, anonymous melodies and floating verses in American folk song (both black and white) have there roots in this interchange.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 15 May 05 - 01:57 AM

Azizi, tha list has several that could be argued about with good points on both sides. I think the jury is still out on some of my picks.
With a nod to Michael Morris, lullabies have common themes found in many countries. They also tend to borrow verses (example- "Black Sheep Lullaby," which seems to be black, and "All the Pretty Little Horses." verse which goes a ways back in both B and W.
Old Fiddle tunes- "Cotton-eye Joe" for one- seem to have an old white tune at the base. Many floating verses from many songs. "Cotton-eye" seems to be a white expression for a person with prominent white in the eyeball, or so the language books tell me.
"Frankie and Johnny" is a remake, B, of "Frankie and Albert," whose first writing could be B or W, and based on a still older story, W.
"Oh Mary" is black, but there are possibly some white 'floaters."
Shortnin' Bread- B
Grizzly Bear- the "Preacher and the Bear," W, but variants both B and W.
Note: The grizzly bear never ranged into eastern or southern United States.
John Henry- sung by everybody. Related to John Hardy? No many different verses (???). African-Americans have made it their own, but origin?
Take This Hammer- collected from B, and I think it originated with B.
Boll Weevil- Texas, White, about 1900, but immediately taken up by both B and W since it was a real disaster for both. The composers are named in some books, but I haven't seen proof.
Michael Rowed- B
Midnight Special- B
Nine Pound Hammer- ? I think earliest mentions are B
Old Aunt Kate and Old Aunt Katie- both old fiddle tunes. W origin.
Or is there a song by that name unrelated to the fiddle tunes?
Polly Woddle- A Harvard parody (ca. 1880) of a minstrel tune. The tune is a fiddle tune. W
Railroad Bill- seems to be two stories here, one B, one W. Take a raincheck on this one.
Run, Children, Run- is this R N R? B modified by W in recordings.
Paw Paw Patch- All Georgia white kids know this one. I imagine all black kids too (or they would have when I was a kid). I would guess W but wouldn't bet my savings on it.
Grey Goose- several. But if it is the one sung by Lead Belly, it's B.
Mister Rabbit- B, but first put in print about 1880 by a white author, Joel Chandler Harris. He preserved much of the black storyteller's art in his books.
Bile dem Cabbage. Another fiddle tune. Nearly all floating verses. Who wrote the cabbage verse, B or W, I won't try to guess.

A challenging list.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Azizi
Date: 15 May 05 - 06:37 AM

Thanks Q!

I know too little about this topic to agree or disagree with your points. However, I appreciate your learned opinion on this.

If you have not posted this to the thread I created on African American Secular Folk Songs, may I ask that you please do so?

Thanks again!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Leadfingers
Date: 15 May 05 - 07:58 AM

Origins of songs DO matter and NOT because of any nationalist claims , simply in the caues of Historilcal accuracy ! McGrath has it right - Its the SOURCE that matters - assuming , with contempotatry song , source is differentiated from composer . One of my personal hates is when some says in introduction , this is a 'Whoever' song when I know who actually wrote it ! I am quite happy with 'This is a song I got from the singing of 'whoever'' - And with Trad and Anon , the singer or book the song was collected from is useful as a
reference point for sourcing any similar pices of iterest to the hearer .
Personally , I 'Do' songs and tunes from English ,Irish and Scottish Trad and Contemporary sources as well as from 'The Colonies' and Europe ! The nationalist aspects will have NO bearing on wether it is a good song or tune , and IF someone tells me that a song is from this or that source rather than where I thought , at least it will lead to an interesting discussion , and a possible change of opinion one way or the other !


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Guy Wolff
Date: 15 May 05 - 12:14 PM

There are so many paths or disciplines that help us find truth or validity in what we do or create .. Where something came from is an important part of its story so yes that's give the work power or subtext .The back story on Amazing Grace makes that point ...
             How one has interacted with the song or tune in our lives makes it ours. ( When my Mom died The Circle Be Unbroken became a real song to me and I took possession .). I love blues . I did not grow up on the delta and am not afro american but I need to play blues .They enrich my life . I am not a farmer in west Virginia but if I don't play clawhammer banjo at least some each day my world is a smaller place .. I think to adopt something one is helped by looking for truthful back story .. I just learned The Dreadnought from a Luis Killen cd ( the melody is wonderful ) and did a Google on the boat .. The fact that The Dreadnought sank other ships while trying to race across the Atlantic gives me a darker subtext when I sing about "A health Captain Samuels "
..             Most music I play reminds me of people and times in my life .THe Country Life and Barleycorn are anthems so powerful they will be with us for generations to come .. Its an obligation for us all to honor where they came from and enjoy and add our person history of them .. All the best , guy


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: GUEST
Date: 15 May 05 - 07:11 PM

"Its an obligation for us all to honor where they came from and enjoy and add our person history of them"

An OBLIGATION????

Oh please. Don't try and tell me what I am obliged to honor and enjoy.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: GUEST
Date: 16 May 05 - 02:29 AM

A moral obligation, yes. Why not? We only have the songs because other people have kept them alive for us. Do they not deserve due credit? Don't be so self-important.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Gurney
Date: 16 May 05 - 05:58 AM

Do origins matter? Well, sort of. I do like to know whence they came in case anyone asks, but how many people in an audience are listening to the words well enough to wonder where they came from? So, who are you introducing the song to, other singers? Let 'em do their own research.
I prefer the Vin Garbutt approach to intro's. I defy anyone to listen to his ridiculous dissertations (Not the right word, but I don't know one) and wonder about the origin of the song he's introducing. You are too busy listening for where the gorilla comes in..... But you will be listening, and probably trying to understand the accent.

I wonder if American culture IS replacing indigenous ones. American TV programmes and films are, but how typically American are they? Escapism, mostly.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 16 May 05 - 01:30 PM

THE ORIGINS are what this process called the folk tradition is all about. It's the aspect of our world that makes the treaure hunt for folksongs worthwhile as an academic discipline----and then, tengentially, as entertainment. The search for the origins is, for me, no more and no less than BASIC to anyone who calls themselves a folksinger.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Guy Wolff
Date: 16 May 05 - 01:33 PM

I stand corected ... I am obligated to honor where they come from . Thats what gives demention to the songs for me . . I do use the Royal "we" when I shouldnt .. Its the optomist in me or the sizophrenic.. !!! .. All the best , guy


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: GUEST
Date: 16 May 05 - 01:43 PM

For me, the song is the thing, along with the performance of it by the performer--the same thing I measure a contemporary song by, in other words. The story behind the song is only as interesting as the teller of story makes it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 16 May 05 - 01:49 PM

Gargoyle,

I think I agree with you just about most of the time. If I knew you, I'm just as sure I'd like you. Your frustrations seem to be those that drive me nuts here as well. Those have led me to be here less now. What are the sites you like--the ones you've alluded to? I figure those sites might be where the origins are shown to matter---and where I would like to look in on.

By the way, folks, we are all moved and I'm back on line----but you knew that.

Art


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Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 16 May 05 - 07:02 PM

G'day,

From the other side of the world, to most of you, I'm always interested in origins. We pallid European types have only staked a claim on this dry continent for a little over two centuries ... and we don't pay enough attention to the original inhabitants or their lore, religion. music and song. Almost everything we sing or play has its roots in the northern hemisphere - as do we - but the popular belief that "it's all Irish!" (or: "it's all English!" ... rarely "~... Scottish - or Welsh ... !") is a narrow and uniformed view of our far more intersting origins.

I always want to know how we got hold of any part of our folklore ... and, increasingly, find European ( lots of ~"Germanic" ... mostly refugees from Bismarck's mob) ... smaller amounts of middle Eastern and, in the north, interplay of Lascar & Malay influences on our music - and even that of the original Australians.

Knowing the background of a piece helps understand its individual character and may save you from just squeezing it into spme other style and thus losing its own charm. That doesn't mean you have to lecture an audience on the origins ... as long as you know that you are being fathful and attentive to the material you are closer to doing it justice.

National ownership isn't too big an issue in Australia (except for the most Xenophobic). We know we borrowed the originals ... and we can be proud of how we have moulded them to suit a very different place and time. Sometimes a bit of knowledge can break down silly prejudices!

When I started to take an interest in our folklore about (.. cough, cough ...) years ago many people argued they were searching back for older music and song that wasn't "commercial, American junk" (read: "Good English stuff") - well, a lot of those people might be chastened to realise just how much of our influences came from Americans ... often directly, not via the printed book but through a lot of cross-movement ... Aussies to the California gold rush ... Yanks to the Australian gold rushes of a few years after ... American performers and minstrel troupes.

A fine single example would be the Aussie shearing song Click Go the Shears. It's directly based on the American song Ring The Bell Watchman, written by Henry Clay Work to celebrate the end of the American Civil War, which - unlike his Marching Through Georgia was largely forgotten as it ceased to be topical. However, it was heard in Australia at he time ... and refashioned to a completely different use by some anonymous mob of shearer's. (Interestingly, a similar reshaping also occurred about the same time among British sailors, who recycled the same song as Ring The Bell Second Mate). Knowing its American origins doesn't stop me singing it (although vast overuse will keep me from doing it often!), rather it helps me to see our background as something that is wide and inclusive ... not the exclusive practice of one single source country.

OK ... ramble over!

Regards,

Bob


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