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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Rich Does it matter what music is called? (451* d) RE: Does it matter what music is called? 18 Jul 08

As much as I didn't want to enter this debate, something odd just struck me. This is just a question, so please don't shoot me.

Jim C, you refer to (a long way up the post, I know, apologies):

"...The manner of their transmission and because those who made and transmitted them were almost certainly illiterate"

regarding traditional folk songs, which is similar to a number of comments in similar threads recently about passing down orally, and songs not having a single (unknown) author. These just seem to be very strong statements with little to support them. At least with reference to ballads there seems to be evidence to the contrary, for example the Bodleian Library in Oxford holds:

"over 30,000 ballads in several major collections. The original printed materials range from the 16th- to the 20th-Century."

Given that thousands of these ballads were written down and passed on via a written medium from the 1500's onwards, suggests that (at least some of) the performers of these songs were not illiterate. In addition, this was, during the time, a commercial venture, as they were sold (although the performance of them may not have been). Indeed, some people may have learned the songs just from listening, but the number and longevity of this medium suggests that lots of people were using the written form.

So I suppose the question is just are we so sure about the statements we make regarding the nature and transmission of music, the further we move back. The 20th century may be one thing, but how confident can we be about the methods 2, 3, 4 hundred years ago?

This is just a question, not a criticism, because I am interested (in the history I suppose than the definitions).

I'm sorry if this has been asked before, it's just something I have been thinking about. The following is a summary from the website regarding the project of bringing them together (again apologies if this has all been discussed before). Also, look at the first five words, interesting stuff:

"Broadside ballads were popular songs, sold for a penny or half-penny in the streets of towns and villages around Britain between the sixteenth and early twentieth centuries. These songs were performed in taverns, homes, or fairs -- wherever a group of people gathered to discuss the day's events or to tell tales of heroes and villains. As one of the cheapest forms of print available, the broadside ballads are also an important source material for the history of printing and literacy. Lavishly illustrated with woodcuts, they provide a visual treat for the reader and offer a source for the study of popular art in Britain. held in collections at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford."

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