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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
John Moulden Famous Mudcatters (152* d) RE: Famous Mudcatters 05 Aug 00

I don't like the term "source" singer but can understand why it's used. I, like everyone else, give a great deal of authority to the person from whom I first heard a song which is significant for me. They have made clear to me that this is a great song; that is much to their credit. However, I like to unravel, if I can, the way they got the song; so I go back as far as I can and as widely as possible.

What I find out from the past doesn't necessarily have greater authority than the way I first heard it. In this circumstance, the "source" of the song is not necessarily the best example to follow. One of my research interests, a poet called Hugh McWilliams, wrote (among other songs) "When a Man's in Love" but the way he wrote it is so wordy that it is not really singable. It needed all the people who sang it until the present day to turn it into the masterpiece that it is. Those singers made choices. I believe that it is the artistic choices of successive singers that fashion traditional songs.

The appalling thing about following famous singers is that it limits choice. The single most important sentence in all traditional music literature (in my view) is one by Albert B Lord in "The Singer of Tales" - "Songbooks spoil the oral character of the tradition only where the singer believes that they represent the way the song must be sung." (That may not be correctly quoted but it's right in essence.) In the same way, where we belive that the famous singer's performs the song the way it should be sung, we limit our choice.

I run Ulstersongs in order to provide choices; in order to allow singers to hear the singers from whom the famous singers learned their traditional songs and in order to make more songs and information available.

I do not think "source" singers necessarily have more authority than later performers: I do think that every singer should have as much power to make their own choices. Choices made in this way lend each singer's performance an authority which no amount of following another person's performance can - no matter how well it's done.

Information about me and a catalogue is available at Ulstersongs

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