Mudcat Café message #4034385 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #157878   Message #4034385
Posted By: Brian Peters
15-Feb-20 - 08:47 AM
Thread Name: Dave Harker, Fakesong
Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
‘jag’ asked a number of interesting questions yesterday. For a start:

”I asked about Sharp's collecting practice because I was thinking about his theorising as to why "we must look to the musical utterances of those of the community who are least affected by extraneous educational influences". That the material he was after was best found amongst the peasants could simply be an empirical observation made during his early years of seeking out what he was enthusiastic about - just as a butterfly collector may learn from experience the best hunting grounds for interesting specimens.”

Quite correct. Sharp had no desire to waste his time, and his observations of the best people from whom to collect the kind of songs he was looking for were obviously based on his own experience. One of his American critics complained that he’d avoided more affluent and commercially-active settlements because of bias and preconceptions – I was able to show that and Karpeles had spent days prospecting in such places but had eventually given up after being told at home after home that “no-one around here sings those old songs any more.”

jag: ”So from what we know (or theorise) now why were the songs so often collected from people down at the bottom of the social scale, often very old ones?”

At a guess, those people would have grown up in the period when Sharpian folk songs were popular, would be less likely to have received formal education, would have been less mobile, and less likely to be exposed to art music, parlour songs and the music hall.

jag: ”Has anyone tried to do a 'quantitative' study of the musical life of a village or town? Somewhere way up the thread that I can't find Jack Campin commented that on a Sunday someone in English village could have been ringing the church bells, singing in the choir and then doing something secular that I can't remember. For a lot of this stuff discussions on the web often fall back on fiction, or fictionalised accounts, from writers such as Thomas Hardy.”

There were also church bands in many villages in the early 19th century (as documented by Hardy but also confirmed through research), and those same musicians would have played for local dances (Cecil Sharp did, of course, note instrumental music as well as songs). Somewhere I read an account of a village performance of ‘Messiah’. Many of the musicians would have been former military bandsmen.

jag: ”Even if someone is only interested in 'folk song' how can they theorise about it without knowing what else the folk sang, played, and heard?”

Sharp did speculate about the possible influence of singing in church on rural folk singers:
“On the other hand, the congregations of village churches will take to Plain Song much more readily, and to the manner born. For the Gregorian tones are their own scales, in which for generations past their forbears have been accustomed to sing. The flattened seventh possesses no terrors for the country singer.” And on instrumentalists: “The old men, who used to play stringed or wood instruments in church, may, perhaps, have developed some sense of harmony. But then, they do not sing in the modes—at least, none of them that I have come across.”