Mudcat Café message #1837647 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #94776   Message #1837647
Posted By: GUEST
18-Sep-06 - 03:32 PM
Thread Name: Reflections/Criticism of Peter Kennedy
Subject: RE: Reflections/Criticism of Peter Kennedy
Sorry Cap'n, I'm afraid we find ourselves in opposite corners of the ring (again) on this one.
I have no doubt whatever that Peter Kennedy did a great deal of good with his work in the 1950s in collecting singers and musicians, though it is often forgotten that there were others involved: Bob Copper, Seamus Ennis and Sean O'Boyle for instance. I once asked Ennis how he felt about Kennedy; his reply was unrepeatable.
What is highly debatable in my mind is whether that good has been outbalanced by the harm caused by his insensitivity (verging on contempt) for his informants and also for fellow researchers.
His behaviour in getting informants to sign over the rights to their songs (even, in some cases, to songs they may remember in the future) has left a sour taste in the mouth, certainly here in Ireland and I am sure elsewhere in these islands. These agreements are not worth the paper they are written on, but the people he was dealing with were not to know that. He also asked a number of his singers never to sing for anybody else.
His marketing of those recordings without payment, without consent and often without the knowledge of the singers concerned was inexcusable. As well as showing a total contempt towards the singers and musicians concerned these actions have caused problems for many people who tried to follow up the work who often were met with hostility, which lost us a great deal of invaluable material and information. It must be remembered that these trips were little short of head-hunting forays and that in many cases the singers were never re-visited.
Kennedy's insensitivity was summed for me by his FSB themed series where throughout the albums he dubbed accompaniments and choruses onto field recordings. Had they been in any way skillfully done it would have been like painting a beard and moustache on the Mona Lisa, however, some of them were so inept it was like using a spray-can to do the job (can you imagine an appalling fiddle accompaniment dubbed onto the singing of one of Irelands best fiddlers!)
I believe when somebody investigated the idea of releasing albums of Harry Cox, one of his conditions was that accompaniments should be added.
A friend of mine, a collector, once sent him a set of recordings of a very important ballad singer - just for his own interest. The recordings made their way into his catalogue and, despite decades of requests to remove them, they are still available. The collector had donated the proceeds of the recordings to a Traveller children's education programme which of course never saw a penny.
Rod Stradling is to be heartily congratulated in raising this somewhat dark period of the folk song revival. Unfortunately, Musical Traditions policy of 'temporary' censorship prevents me from offering my opinions and information. Thank you Desert Dancer for the opportunity to do so.
Jim Carroll
PS Why am I never surprised when correspondents move into anonymous mode when they behave like illiterate louts?