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Historical song accompaniment?

stormalong 12 Sep 06 - 04:49 AM
Fred McCormick 12 Sep 06 - 05:06 AM
Leadfingers 12 Sep 06 - 06:05 AM
GUEST,Dazbo 12 Sep 06 - 07:58 AM
stormalong 12 Sep 06 - 09:25 AM
GUEST,Ian Pittaway 12 Sep 06 - 04:14 PM
Tootler 12 Sep 06 - 06:58 PM
The Fooles Troupe 13 Sep 06 - 07:07 AM
leeneia 13 Sep 06 - 08:48 AM
Leadfingers 13 Sep 06 - 11:31 AM
greg stephens 13 Sep 06 - 01:04 PM
GUEST,thurg 13 Sep 06 - 01:14 PM
Kaleea 13 Sep 06 - 01:41 PM
GUEST,Scotus (minus cookie) 13 Sep 06 - 01:54 PM
BB 13 Sep 06 - 02:58 PM
GUEST,thurg 13 Sep 06 - 03:54 PM
Tootler 13 Sep 06 - 06:38 PM
Thomas the Rhymer 13 Sep 06 - 07:44 PM
curmudgeon 13 Sep 06 - 08:09 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 13 Sep 06 - 08:16 PM
GUEST,thurg 13 Sep 06 - 08:25 PM
The Fooles Troupe 14 Sep 06 - 01:48 AM
GUEST,Scotus (minus cookie) 14 Sep 06 - 01:48 PM
GUEST,Brian Peters 14 Sep 06 - 02:06 PM
GUEST,Ian Pittaway 14 Sep 06 - 02:56 PM
GUEST,Scotus (minus cookie) 14 Sep 06 - 07:02 PM
Rumncoke 14 Sep 06 - 07:48 PM
GUEST,thurg 14 Sep 06 - 09:33 PM
Paul Burke 15 Sep 06 - 03:39 AM
GUEST,Jack Campin 15 Sep 06 - 05:53 AM
GUEST,Dazbo 15 Sep 06 - 06:16 AM
stormalong 15 Sep 06 - 09:41 AM
stormalong 06 Apr 08 - 04:24 AM
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Subject: Historical song accompaniment?
From: stormalong
Date: 12 Sep 06 - 04:49 AM

When the 'remnants' of English traditional song were being collected, the circumstances were such that the vast majority of the source singers sang unaccompanied, but what do we actually know about song accompaniment in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries when the corpus of what we now call traditional folk music was in its heyday?


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 12 Sep 06 - 05:06 AM

Highly unlikely that traditional songs were accompanied even then. Poverty, if nothing else, would have made it so.

There's also the problem of singing style. English traditional singers typically sang in a free rhythmic style, with frequent and spontaneous changes of time signature. Something that is very difficult to do while singing accompanied. I'd think it unlikely that such styles could have developed in the timescale you mention.

Also, contrary to what contemporary collectors believed, they weren't dealing with the remnants of tradition. At that time it was still fairly vigorous. And if people could have afforded instruments in C18, surely they would have still been using them in the somewhat more affluent era when Sharp and his contemporaries were collecting, and perhaps on a greater scale.


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 12 Sep 06 - 06:05 AM

There are a number of instances of 'source' singers who also played assorted instruments , bu NEVER played when they sang ! The instruments were for either Dance , or Church music , seperated entirely from the 'folk' songs .


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: GUEST,Dazbo
Date: 12 Sep 06 - 07:58 AM

Are you suggesting that folk music is only folk music if it is sung by the poorest and least educated people in the society? To suggest that instruments were rare as they were expensive is rubbish. (It's like suggesting that cars are rare as hardly anyone can afford a Ferrari!) Okay, they wouldn't have had professionally built violins and flutes but many people are very capable of knocking up some sort of instrument from the materials they have available to them.

Bob Copper said that his father used to sing in time with his hammer whilst mending shoes and boots and I'm sure many others did too at their various occupations. So yes they were accompanied.

Whilst the point above about the freedom singers used in phrasing and rythmical changes making accompaniament difficult is true, many, if not all, popular songs of the time WERE written 'musically' and only later would the singers have varied the tempo, rythmn etc to add interest to the song when it wasn't accompanied.


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: stormalong
Date: 12 Sep 06 - 09:25 AM

I agree that English traditional singers typically sang in a free rhythmic style, but that descibes how they sang when they sang solo and unaccompanied. When they sang choruses with other people they would naturally have had to adopt a a more regualar rhythm if only for the chorus part.

Indeed, I suspect that it is being free of other people (i.e. singing solo) - rather than being free of instruments, that facilitates a freer rhythmic style.

If you're a lone singer accompanying yourself on say a fiddle or a squeeze-box you can vary the accompaniment to fit your irregular signing. The instrument wouldn't prevent this unless somebody else is playing it.

People made their own fiddles and there seems to have been quite a lot of cheap Anglos about in the later Nineteenth Century, so did ordinary people actually sing with them or were they used just for dance music? Do we have any historical references?


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: GUEST,Ian Pittaway
Date: 12 Sep 06 - 04:14 PM

stormalong, what an interesting question. Tangentally (if that's a word), back in the late 16th and early 17th century, some lute players arranged traditional tunes for their instrument. However, this was certainly not the 'play the tune 4 times' style as per today's sessions, but a once-very-popular challenge to make ever more complicated arrangements and variations of relatively simple traditional tunes. I know of no examples of lutenists (or players of anything else) from that period or later arranging songs for instruments as *accompaniments* to singers, so even then the distinction Leadfingers suggests was there in another form. However, one of the Stewart family (I forget his name, but he wore a cloth cap!), the Scottish travellers who sang trad. songs, regularly accompanied himself on accordion, and he was considered a source singer, as was the banjo player/singer Margaret Barry. I wonder if they ever spoke about whether the folks they got the songs from accompanied themselves, or how far this went back, to their knowledge?


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: Tootler
Date: 12 Sep 06 - 06:58 PM

I know of no examples of lutenists (or players of anything else) from that period or later arranging songs for instruments as *accompaniments* to singers

There was quite a rash of publication of lute songs in the late 16th century. John Dowland and Thomas Campion among others produced several books of songs with lute accompaniments. The lute was a very popular instrument for accompanying song in 16th century. Admittedly these publications were aimed at a middle and upper class audience, but they were still arrangements of songs with lute accompaniment. It is also likely that many accompaniments for songs were never written down. Lutenists, like guitarists today were probably able to improvise accompaniments or kept a note of them rather as guitarists today will write chords above the words.

Also in the 16th and 17th century there was less of a distinction between tunes for dancing and song tunes than there is today. Many tunes were used both for singing and dancing and it was common practice on broadsheets to name the tune to which the ballad was to be sung. Certain tunes came to be associated with certain subject matter; Packington's Pound with crime and retribution, Stingo with beer and drinking, Daphne with love songs for example. It was only later that sing and dance tunes drifted apart.

Also there was the provision of church music from the early 18th century onwards when bands (now referred to as west gallery bands) grew up to accompany singing in church. Often the instruments for these bands were provided for by the parish and even if indiviuals owned instruments the parish would help with their maintenance. The existance of the west gallery bands also probably meant that there was a higher degree of musical literacy than we nowadays give credit for. If you had an instrument for playing in church on Sunday, you almost certainly would use it to play for dancing on Saturday night.

I can recommend Thomas Hardy's book "Under the Greenwood Tree" which was about the last days of a West Gallery band in the mid 19th century. Though he does not have anything to say about singing he does say quite a bit about playing traditions. The Hardy's themselves were church musicians and kept manuscript books with hymns at the front and dance tunes at the back.


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 13 Sep 06 - 07:07 AM

"If you had an instrument for playing in church on Sunday, you almost certainly would use it to play for dancing on Saturday night."

... and took them home to practice...


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: leeneia
Date: 13 Sep 06 - 08:48 AM

Thanks for that interesting post, Tootler. I had never heard of a west gallery band before.


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 13 Sep 06 - 11:31 AM

Tootler - Dowland and co were producing 'Court' music , some of which may well have got into the Folk repetoire , but was NOT in general the music of the pre Industrial rural people .


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: greg stephens
Date: 13 Sep 06 - 01:04 PM

The poverty argument doesnt hold up. England was chock full of fiddlers who played folk tunes. Whether they all sang with the fiddles is a question it would be very difficult to answer now: but if they wanted to, they certainly had the instruments. Blind Willie Purvis(Newcastle street singer,early 19th century I think) certainly sang with the fiddle. One of Samuel Pepys' maids sang traditional folksongs accompanying herself on the guitar.
    Collectors sometimes only saw what they wanted to see, you know. I seem to recall Cecil Sharp roamed through the Appalachians looking for folksongs and never even mentioned anyone playing the banjo and singing. In fact he specifically said that the songs were all sung unaccopmanied, as far as I recall. Now, you cant kid me there werent any banjo and guitar players singing songs then.
   Evidence in English histroy is not easy to come by, really. There are plenty of pictures of fiddlers, but it's difficult to deduce from this whether ever sang with them.
    It is, of course, not that easy singing with a fiddle, but plenty of people can(Eliza Carthy, Kate Barfield and Jackie Oates spring to mind). So it's hard to believe the practise wasnt widespread a couple of hundred years ago. Just think of the simple economics of performance: fiddlers were trying to make a living in the streets and pubs: would nt you think that they would be singing those thousands of entertaining ballads that existed at the time, specifically written to fiddle tunes?


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 13 Sep 06 - 01:14 PM

I once had a postcard-sized print of a painting of a wild tavern scene ca 1700 in which a young blade is standing on a chair while playing a fiddle (rested low on his arm) and apparently singing out with some gusto. Seems to me it was an English scene, and English artist, though I can't remember who. FWIW.


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: Kaleea
Date: 13 Sep 06 - 01:41 PM

One thing I have noticed is that many people I've known, Traditional Music friends included, here in the USA have a tendency to be unaware of printed music and historical references of Music going back many hundred years-- possibly because we are a young country by world standards. This is by no means a put down of anyone or anyplace!! MEACULPA--I am including myself in the category of good people who just don't have as much knowledge of literature as perhaps those who have been educated abroad.

If one is really interested in this, one could go to the Library at a University Music dept. & find lots of examples of songs with accompaniment going back a few centuries. Tho I'm not a serious Musicologist, I have seen arrangements of composed as well as folk songs arranged with and without accompaniment. In literature, one often reads references of people in all walks of life who sing, accompanied or not. I sometimes think of what an amazing thing it would be to live across the pond and be able to go to a big library which houses books going back hundreds of years--and read and read. But then I'd realize that I'd want to be out amongst the people there, jammin!


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: GUEST,Scotus (minus cookie)
Date: 13 Sep 06 - 01:54 PM

Two thoughts - The Stewart mentioned earlier was Davy Stewart, who did indeed accompany himself on the accordian. He was also a piper and it has been said that his very strange chording on the accordian was because of that background. His accompaniment of singing may have been because his usual audiences (cinema queues and the like) would expect that. It's worth hearing his version of 'MacPherson's Rant'.

and - Tom Speirs (lately of 'The Gaugers), although not a 'source' singer stays very close to his Aberdeenshire traditions and he accompanies himself on the fiddle.

Jack


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: BB
Date: 13 Sep 06 - 02:58 PM

It's certainly true that most traditional (i.e. 'source') singers seem to sing/have sung without accompaniment, but I'm not convinced by the argument that says that this is because they don't use fixed rhythm in their songs. In listening to the 'Voice of the People' CDs, I was quite surprised at the number of songs sung in strict rhythm - it seems to depend entirely on the song and how it works best. And Stormalong's right about choruses, even when the verse is taken freely - I noticed that with Belle Stewart, for instance, who incidentally I seem to remember singing with her husband Alex accompanying her on the pipes!

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 13 Sep 06 - 03:54 PM

Since we've gotten into 20th century "source singers" - in the field recordings of Helen Creighton, Sandy Ives and MacEdward Leach done in Atlantic Canada, there are a number of examples of people singing trad. songs to instrumental accompaniment. It's certainly not the norm, but the examples are there.

In Manitoba, I knew a Metis family in which the mother had passed down a number of trad. ballads; she sang unaccompanied; her sons sang the same songs accompanying themselves on guitar. These were far from being revivalists; they were just guys singing some songs they had learned literally at their mother's knee.

Not sure that says anything about the tradition(s) pre-20th century, but it does say something about the tradition(s) by mid-20th century.


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: Tootler
Date: 13 Sep 06 - 06:38 PM

Leadfingers, I was aware of who Dowland was writing his music for. I think if you read my post, you will see that. I was responding to a post that seemed to imply that the lute was not used for song accompaniment when the opposite was true.

Following that theme, I suspect that the publication of song books by a number of composers in the late 16th early 17th century probably brought the music to a wider audience. Despite the turmoil that often occurred at the top, the 16th and 17th centuries were a time of growing prosperity in England and there was a growing middle class with money to spare.


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 13 Sep 06 - 07:44 PM

Hail Britannica!


The songs of the trouvères were monophonic (consisting solely of melodic line). Their exact mode of performance is not known. The form of the instrumental accompaniment is unknown, but it almost certainly included preludes, postludes, and interludes.

Trouvère lyrics were intended to be sung, probably by the poet alone or with instrumental accompaniment provided by a hired musician. Although originally connected with feudal courts, around which the trouvères traveled looking for patronage, their poetry was not just popular with aristocratic circles, and they tended increasingly to find their patrons in the middle classes.

...11th through 14th centuries
ttr


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: curmudgeon
Date: 13 Sep 06 - 08:09 PM

Davy Stewart's "... very strange chording on the accordian ..." was due to the fact that, if memory serves, he played a diatonic melodeon, which severely limited what chords he could use, depending upon what key he was singing in -- Tom


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Sep 06 - 08:16 PM

Most of what is called traditional song came from the stage or was heard from wandering players who showed up on market days and holidays with, not only their voices, but a small variety of portable instruments. They sang a repertoire gathered from other performers, including those higher up the food chain, and perhaps a few of their own songs or parodies, if talented.
Simple wind and stringed instruments and drums are easily made and would be used whenever a gathering took place, either at home or outdoors. The few paintings we have of medieval social gatherings of peasants show this.

Collectors prefer unaccompanied soloists because it is easier to follow the music 'line' and comprehend the words. In Sharp's day, most of these singers would be heard at work or in their home, nowadays they would be found in the bathroom.


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 13 Sep 06 - 08:25 PM

Just when I finally got rid of the kids, now I have to worry about collectors barging in? Ya can't win!


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 14 Sep 06 - 01:48 AM

thurg,

that may lead to sudden outbreaks of 'hysterical song accompaniment'...


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: GUEST,Scotus (minus cookie)
Date: 14 Sep 06 - 01:48 PM

Tom - I know that Davy Stewart played the melodian, but he also played an accordeon and I'm pretty sure that his recordings are with an accordeon. Of course he may have approximated what he did on the accordeon when he played melodeon. I remember seeing him at Kinross where (minus either instrument) he accompanied himself by playing the buttons of his waistcoat!

Jack


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 14 Sep 06 - 02:06 PM

Davy Stewart's incredible recording of "The Dowie Dens of Yarrow" is one of my favourite recordings of traditional song (not least because it is a rare example with instrumental accompaniment). I find it hard to believe that the wild, avant garde dissonances he produces could possibly have been made on anything other than a piano accordion with a full set of basses. I only wish I could do the same on my melodeon! I'm not sure how the pipes could have inspired a noise like that, either.


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: GUEST,Ian Pittaway
Date: 14 Sep 06 - 02:56 PM

Tootler, you're quite right, I didn't make myself clear. I should have typed "I know of no examples of lutenists (or players of anything else) from that period or later arranging TRADITIONAL songs for instruments as *accompaniments* to singers", as this is the theme of this thread. Of course, there was Dowland, Johnson, Pilkington, etc., and fab they were (I sing their songs with the lute), but a million miles away from any notion of *traditional* songs with lute accompaniment, which was my intended point. And yes, Scotus, it was Davy Stewart whose name I'd forgotten.


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: GUEST,Scotus (minus cookie)
Date: 14 Sep 06 - 07:02 PM

Brian - I think I read in the notes of the 'Berryfields of Blair' album (written by Hamish henderson) that Davy's accordeon chords stemmed from his piping 'ear'.

Jack


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: Rumncoke
Date: 14 Sep 06 - 07:48 PM

My mother's family were fairly musical, and there was a distinct separation between the music hall type songs which were accompanied on the piano, and the folk type songs which were sung when at work or otherwise occupied.

Even later, when the piano was gone, there was a separation between the types of songs sung in the sitting room and those sung in the kitchen.


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 14 Sep 06 - 09:33 PM

(Warning: thread drift ahead). Re: Davey Stewart's accompaniment. There are other examples of "very strange chording" in accompaniment. One of the more remarkable to my ear is Donald Davidson's second-position chording on diatonic harmonica with The Inverness Gathering - check it out: http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/davidson.htm.


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 15 Sep 06 - 03:39 AM

Polish traditional song (on which I'm an expert since my friend Barbara bought me a CD) is sometimes accompanied, but as a tune played by the musician or band between verses, and is often described as "the xxxx with couplets", where xxx is a dance tune style. I also recall a Yugoslavian (Serbian? Croatian?) on a vinyl record long lost to me, who accompanied himself on (presumably bellows-blown) bagpipes, in a similar fashion, the pipes droning during the sung verse. BTW, the record was referred to by my friends as "that headache music".


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 15 Sep 06 - 05:53 AM

The pipes would have been mouth-blown. That style is also used in Turkey, in the Black Sea area. The bag is enormous (a whole sheep) so you can easily sing a whole verse before refilling. Turkish players do a lot more than just droning.

Yugoslav ballads or topical songs are accompanied the same way on the gusli (small fiddle held like a cello). Apparently they even sing football game commentaries that way.


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: GUEST,Dazbo
Date: 15 Sep 06 - 06:16 AM

Italy too

Italian Bagpipes


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: stormalong
Date: 15 Sep 06 - 09:41 AM

It was rather late in the day, but I suppose the introduction of the autoharp at the end of the nineteenth century suggests that there was a potential market for instrumental song accompaniment...


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Subject: RE: Historical song accompaniment?
From: stormalong
Date: 06 Apr 08 - 04:24 AM

I'm refreshing this thread having just read Dan Worral's study of concertinas at sea on his new website (http://www.angloconcertina.org/).

Besides addressing the issue of its title, it also shows that concertinas and other instruments were used for song accompaniment, at least in this context, but with obvious implications.

The article itself is already the subject of another Mudcat thread at http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=110095.

Richard


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