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Dave Harker, Fakesong

GUEST,Pseudonymous 14 Feb 20 - 04:17 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 14 Feb 20 - 04:15 AM
Jim Carroll 14 Feb 20 - 03:40 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 14 Feb 20 - 03:17 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 14 Feb 20 - 03:08 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 14 Feb 20 - 03:01 AM
Jack Campin 13 Feb 20 - 05:19 PM
GUEST,jag 13 Feb 20 - 04:13 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 13 Feb 20 - 03:41 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 13 Feb 20 - 03:14 PM
Jim Carroll 13 Feb 20 - 02:58 PM
Brian Peters 13 Feb 20 - 02:39 PM
Steve Gardham 13 Feb 20 - 02:19 PM
Steve Gardham 13 Feb 20 - 02:10 PM
Jim Carroll 13 Feb 20 - 01:37 PM
Jim Carroll 13 Feb 20 - 01:34 PM
GUEST,jag 13 Feb 20 - 01:28 PM
Brian Peters 13 Feb 20 - 01:15 PM
GUEST,jag 13 Feb 20 - 01:12 PM
GUEST,jag 13 Feb 20 - 01:09 PM
Jim Carroll 13 Feb 20 - 12:34 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 13 Feb 20 - 12:00 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 13 Feb 20 - 11:46 AM
Jack Campin 13 Feb 20 - 10:12 AM
Brian Peters 13 Feb 20 - 10:05 AM
Brian Peters 13 Feb 20 - 10:01 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 13 Feb 20 - 09:56 AM
Brian Peters 13 Feb 20 - 08:54 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 13 Feb 20 - 08:33 AM
GUEST,jag 13 Feb 20 - 08:29 AM
GUEST,jag 13 Feb 20 - 08:28 AM
Jim Carroll 13 Feb 20 - 08:14 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 13 Feb 20 - 08:12 AM
Jack Campin 13 Feb 20 - 07:52 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 13 Feb 20 - 07:51 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 13 Feb 20 - 07:45 AM
Jim Carroll 13 Feb 20 - 07:23 AM
GUEST 13 Feb 20 - 07:11 AM
GUEST 13 Feb 20 - 07:10 AM
Jim Carroll 13 Feb 20 - 07:06 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 13 Feb 20 - 06:45 AM
Jim Carroll 13 Feb 20 - 02:34 AM
Jim Carroll 13 Feb 20 - 02:34 AM
Jim Carroll 13 Feb 20 - 02:28 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 12 Feb 20 - 06:56 PM
Jim Carroll 12 Feb 20 - 03:02 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 12 Feb 20 - 02:10 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 12 Feb 20 - 01:59 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 12 Feb 20 - 01:38 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 12 Feb 20 - 01:35 PM
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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 14 Feb 20 - 04:17 AM

@ Jim

Perhaps you could refer us to some of your journal articles? I have asked before.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 14 Feb 20 - 04:15 AM

Originality has nothing to do with accuracy and are invariably awarded by people who have no knowledge of the subjects they are marking

Thank you for this contribution to the debate.

This might explain why Bearman got a doctorate; I think read somewhere that Vic Gammon was his external examiner.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Feb 20 - 03:40 AM

"Had Harker done nothing original he would not have got his doctorate."
Originality has nothing to do with accuracy and are invariably awarded by people who have no knowledge of the subjects they are marking
That it not unlike the argument put to us by a paper-pushing academic who told us during a debate over Traveller's songs that she knew more on the subject because "I studied it in university" (even though she had never met or spoken to a Traveller)

Harker took a well-known problems concerning Sharp's generation of collectors - basically, their class background, and their total unfamiliarity with the task they took on - and exaggerated them to distortion in order to say something 'new' rather than accurate - that is what distinguishes Harker's work
His work was so imbalanced that, not only did it queer the pitch for future work on this important aspect but it placed a huge question over the validity of the idea 'a people's creative culture'
He attempted to undermine over a century's understanding of 'The Voice of the People' (song is only a part of this voice, of course)
He never discussed the songs, of course, nor did he discuss the par they played in lives of the people who sang them
Instead, he targeted those who did the work, rather like a seedy lawyer would set out to destroy the reputation of a victim in court

In some ways, Bearman overstated his case in the opposite direction, but he appears to have both accuracy and history on his side
Harker flew in the face of over a century's study of the folk arts and tried to prove that the folk world was flat after all
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 14 Feb 20 - 03:17 AM

Royal families and the nobility were in the past much more of an international clique than national leaders are today? So the Kings of England after 1066 did not even speak English as a first language for a few generations. Going back further, some of them will have spoken a version of Danish.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 14 Feb 20 - 03:08 AM

Had Harker done nothing original he would not have got his doctorate. You have to be able to argue that you have made a substantial contribution to knowledge. His analysis was a new way of approaching the textual material about the collectors. I don't think it is right to say that he didn't say anything new. You have to do something new, even if it is a new synthesis. And it has to be in some sense original; mere plagiarism is not allowed!


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 14 Feb 20 - 03:01 AM

@ Jag

You asked why songs were so often collected from people down at the bottom of the social scale. This is an interesting question.

I think one of Harker's point is that often we simply do not know about the people who provided the songs. We know that Rankin provided a lot of songs, but he was treated as a 'source' so where he got them isn't clear.

It is also interesting to ask where you draw the line that puts people at the 'bottom' of the scale. Do we put skilled artisans there? Do we put smallholders there? Does a 'peasant' have to be landless to be there? Would somebody who had served an apprenticeship be there? Would the many self-employed workers there? Do we include only the strictly non-literate?

Bearman raises the question of social mobility within Sharp's groups of respondents. He does this because he wants to demolish a 'class' analysis. But it might apply to this question. This has happened to some extent throughout the centuries. This complicates attempts to say which social stratum people came from.

It may be that people from differing social groups provided different sorts of songs?

One thought I had here was that the make up of society has changed over the years. Once English society had a far smaller 'middle class',
Then it got more onion shaped, as the economy changed and more educated and skilled people were required. So once there were more people 'at the bottom' in terms of stratification?

We also could consider questions of gender and race, two socially important factors in society but not ones that appear to have exercised the minds of early collectors.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Jack Campin
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 05:19 PM

Kodaly, working at about the same time as Sharp, had a phrase "the hundred steps". People who wrote about Hungarian music before his time did it from the comfort of a castle or country house, getting their information from visiting professional musicians (who, unlike in the British Isles, would often have been Gypsies). Whereas the farmworkers on their estates had exactly the sort of vital and autonomous musical culture any collector would want - but it was outside the courtyard. All the would-be collector needed to do was take 100 steps out through the gate and listen - but just about nobody did.

This is not to say that the situation Sharp worked in was really very comparable to that, but he bet a tremendous amount of labour on the guess that it was.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 04:13 PM

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 emperical 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. The collector of butterflies or songs who has an inquiring mind, or wishes to commune with scholars, will start to theorise. The theories may advise - or interfere with - later collecting.

The theories may be superceded. The century-old habitat observations (songs or bugs) may now be more important. Little point in wasting time over defunct theories. 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?


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 03:41 PM

@ Steve. *Grey cells/fingertips malfunction alert*. Of course I should have typed "I cannot disagree" as I think you are right that most of the middle class in Sharp's day would have had not notion of what the 'peasants' were singing. I apologise profusely for this mistake. Typo.

Also: I did indeed get some Harker titles muddled up earlier on.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 03:14 PM

@ Brian, interesting points, and apologies if I/we have made you repeat stuff you said before. However, this idea about ballad hawkers would seem to me to be at odds with the idea of some purely oral tradition of song transmission, which is what Sharp himself seems to have been arguing for in his definition of the 'common people'. Am I not making sense? Sorry if not. And of course people are free to disagree with me.

@ Jag: again interesting points; I had not picked up on Harker's dissatisfaction with the '54 defn, though I was aware from his overall arguments that he would think this way, especially about more modern contexts. So I think you have made a good point, but, alas, discussions of definitions as we all know, tend to lead to fallings-out.

@ Steve. "The vast majority of the middle class had no notion of what the 'peasants' were singing at that time." I cannot agree, but depending upon how you define 'middle class' maybe some did?

Sharp collected from 311 singers. Bearman provides a study, giving various amounts of information for up to 278, including occupations for 238. So there were 5 women of 'independent means' which of course might include servants given a pension by former employers etc. One woman is listed as 'daughter of vicar'. Bearman argues (using a dictionary definition of 'working class' that it is not possible to decide whether some respondents were 'working class' as they might have been 'self-employed'. Conversely some blacksmiths might have been employed (as a blacksmith ancestor of mine was at one point).

I'll quote Bearman. Please don't assume this means I agree with him:

"A substantial minority of the singers were not by any definition 'working class', and this group included some of Sharp's best sources, such as William Spearing … At the highest level this group shaded into the local elite... Templeman had a mixed farm of 630 acres and employed 14 people."

This is from Bearman's article "Who Were the Folk..." which I got from JSTOR.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 02:58 PM

"I much prefer this Jim Carroll of the last 2 posts, "
I'm sure you do Steve, no difficult questions to duck
"but heartily wish we could delete the alter ego"
No alter ego - it's all part of what I have always argued
If you see any contradictions - feel free to point them out
I've always said that Harker never wrote anything else has - I don't believe originality was his strong point
My point is that his 'wrecking ball' delivery negates anything he might haves said of interest

"I don't think anyone here would or even could argue with what you are saying here (or the way you are saying it!)"
Do you prefer discussions where we all agree with each other (whether we really do or not)
Sorry - not why I signed up for this man's army
What's the point of us all gathering here if all we need to be is a bunch of nodding dogs
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Brian Peters
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 02:39 PM

"Did Sharp change his collecting practices - ask more of his singers where they learned their songs or about their own backgrounds for example - as his theories developed?"

I argued exactly this about the Appalachian collection (the last serious song collecting he did) in my article in FMJ 2018. With each successive visit he noted down more 'non folk' material - i.e. recently composed songs etc - and more detailed pen-pictures of at least some of the singers. Whether this had anything to do with his modifying his theories I don't know, since he didn't write about it at the time, though I haven't checked the post-Appalachia correspondence so can't be sure. He did write in 1918, "I would that I had visited America twenty years ago before my character and habits had been so fixed," but it's difficult to know exactly what he meant.

Revisiting my research on Sharp in Appalachia has reminded me of a quote that might interest those critical of Sharp's allegedly conservative politics, regarding a miners' strike in Wales in 1920:
"I feel that the organization of industry... has to be radically changed. Men won't any longer work like slaves with he fear of unemployment constantly before their eyes... the economic principle on which he world is run at the moment is fundamentally unsound."


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 02:19 PM

>>Do people agree that there existed in part of the population a body of material and performance practice that another part of the population didn't know about?<<

Absolutely. The vast majority of the middle class had no notion of what the 'peasants' were singing at that time. Sharp's reaction to hearing John England sing is a prime example.

Baring Gould was an exception. He was priest in a small parish in Yorkshire in the 1860s and he married a mill girl if I remember aright, and he certainly heard traditional singing there, before he even became interested in collecting in Devon much later on (20 years later).


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 02:10 PM

I much prefer this Jim Carroll of the last 2 posts, but heartily wish we could delete the alter ego. I don't think anyone here would or even could argue with what you are saying here (or the way you are saying it!)


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 01:37 PM

Can I just add that it is not so much the points Harker made, some of which are valid, but the heavy handed and over-stated way in which they were delivered which made the book an exercise in the negative
Sharp's work has always needed critical examination but not in this butchering manner
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 01:34 PM

The Collectors went out to head-hunt songs in the belief that the tradition was dying (which it was)
I've always understood that Sharp was at first looking for tunes to assist creating an 'English' classical music, but began to realise that they had an intrinsic value in their own right
I also thought that of all the collectors, Grainger was the one who did his best to bolster this, particularly by using recording equipment
I have to admit that these are gathered impressions rather than having been researched
I would help if Sharp's diaries were available on line in a reader-friendly form
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 01:28 PM

Do people agree that there existed in part of the population a body of material and performance practice that another part of the population didn't know about?


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Brian Peters
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 01:15 PM

"What, for me Yates perhaps lacks is a sense of how much Bearman mounts an attack on second-wave folklore as well as on Harker? It seems possible to me that people who disliked Harker may have latched on to the fact that Bearman disliked Harker without realising how convervative Bearman was?"

I can't speak for Mike Yates, but people who enjoy the performance style of singers like, say, Walter Pardon are no necessarily interested in, or delighted by, the second revival and its own performance conventions. All of us who are interested in the sort of discussion we're having here were well aware of Bearman's conservatism and vituperative outbursts (though personally I never met him) and his remarks about Lloyd's politics, though much kinder than those directed at Harker, are not surprising. All who have looked into his scholarship, however, have been impressed.

"As I understand it, Sharp did ask some of his informants where they had learned their songs."

He certainly did in Appalachia (although not in every case), usually getting the answer 'from my mother / grand mother', but occasionally 'from a negro', etc. He also recorded some of the singers' feelings about the songs, such as the famous, 'If only I were driving the cows home I could sing it at once' or, 'It must be true because it is so beautiful'.

"This lack of concern for the voices of singers is precisely one of the complaints made by Harker."

But he ignored instances in which he singers' voices were available for inspection, made no comment on changes in collecting practice post-Sharp which made a point of recording singers' opinions, and had apparently never met a traditional singer himself.

"if Sharp wants to argue that these villages were somehow cut off from outside influences...how to explain how come they were singing much the same songs as people all over the country?"

Sharp didn't argue this. 'Remote' is not the same as 'cut off', and I've already quoted the passage from his Conclusions about he role of ballad hawkers in disseminating the songs 'all over the land'.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 01:12 PM

(I crossed with Pseudonymous' last two posts - mine would have been better put if it had followed on!)


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 01:09 PM

Did Sharp change his collecting practices - ask more of his singers where they learned their songs or about their own backgrounds for example - as his theories developed?

Harker points out that Sharp collected from a wider 'target population' than the illiterate peasants (his usage) that his "Some Conclusions" identified as ideal. However, a lot of the collecting was done to get the 'data' that he used to reach his conclusions.

The idea of a "community uninfluenced by popular and art music" (in the 1954 defintion) is one of the main targets of Harker's criticism. He asks "How can any community remain uninfluenced by 'art' or 'popular' music, and what are they anyway?" Sharp having to reject songs and give examples of what he was after clearly shows some or all of his singers had other influences.

If Harker is arguing that the 'folk' as theoretical constructs were flawed ("fake") then I think he has some fair points.

Getting back to the opening question above - if not why not?


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 12:34 PM

"He then says that the question about whether 'ordinary people' had poetic ability has nothing to do with this discussion."
No I did not - it has everything to do with argument - where the hell do you get this stuff ?
It has been my point from the beginning that Working People have always made songs to express their feelings
I spent six months in Manchester Central Library once wading my way though the song columns that regularly featured in the old Chartist and other campaigning newspapers - many of them made by textile workers
I mentioned the paper on workwer poets because it reinforces my point

My argument regarding who mde our folk songs has always been that once you accept that workers were capable of making songs, you have to accept that they almost certainly made our folk songs - why should they pay anybody to express their feelings ?

'Peasant', as technically innacurate as it was, was a fairly common way of describing rural working people - certainly not exclusive to Sharp
The fact that Harker took these people out of context as often as he did is what makes Harker's book wildly unreliable - it lays all the sins of post Victorian at the door of a group of people who respected 'the lower classes' enough to roll up their sleeves and labouriously collect examples of their culture, sometimes in extremely difficult circumstances
They deserve mor than snideswipes and accusations of 'fakery' for having done that
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 12:00 PM

The other thing is that Bearman is focussed on the word 'peasant' as used in Victorian times. I have already mentioned what I think is a much better discussion of this by Vic Gammon. Better perhaps than both that of Harker and that of Bearman.

But the key think about Sharp's conception is the idea about non-literate, untrained people, whose knowledge is limited to that gained from the ups and downs of life, and who had not been close enough to educated people to be influenced by them. Sharp regarded his informants as 'remnants' of this peasantry. On both Bearman's and Harker's account, this idea is brought into question, even were it clear what Sharp meant by 'remnants'.

Moreover, if Sharp wants to argue that these villages were somehow cut off from outside influences, then for me they are left with the problem of how to explain how come they were singing much the same songs as people all over the country?


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 11:46 AM

I did look at Mike Yates' piece. I had read this before I even looked at Harker. It might be this piece that piqued my interest in the first place. What, for me Yates perhaps lacks is a sense of how much Bearman mounts an attack on second-wave folklore as well as on Harker? It seems possible to me that people who disliked Harker may have latched on to the fact that Bearman disliked Harker without realising how convervative Bearman was? This is just a thought, put out for discussion.

This lack of concern for the voices of singers is precisely one of the complaints made by Harker.

As I understand it, Sharp did ask some of his informants where they had learned their songs.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Jack Campin
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 10:12 AM

Brian's description of Harker's take on the Radio Ballads is accurate - except that Harker clearly DOES think they were great regardless - not as big a step forward as we might have liked, but a big step considering the historical circumstances.

However, his treatment of Parker really is inadequate. You get practically no biographical detail, and the way he got dumped by the Beeb for standing by his principles should have been described - it was surely relevant to the story Harker was telling.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Brian Peters
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 10:05 AM

Just to clarify, the para beginning 'Harker and crew...' is Mark Wilson, and 'Still apposite...' is me.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Brian Peters
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 10:01 AM

17 years ago, Mark Wilson, a highly-respected North American field collector and anthologist, who recorded legendary musicians like J. P. Fraley, Buddy Thomas, Asa Martin and Buddy McMaster, supervised Rounder Records' 'North American Traditions' series, a somehow found the time to be a professor of Philosophy at Pittsburgh, had this to say about Dave Harker and his ilk:.

"No doubt all of these authors trust that they are striking some significant blow against societal oppression by diagnosing the upper-class foibles of folks like Sharp. I believe the hard facts are quite otherwise. As Mike [Yates] notes, 'Sharp was lax in asking singers where they learnt their songs.' This was generally true of the collectors of that era, for reasons that are perfectly understandable in the context of the time, but wants remedy insofar as it is still possible (this is particularly true of the instrumental music in which I largely deal). But, insofar as I can see, direct folk music scholarship of the sort required has fallen to negligible levels here, at the same time as the literature of righteous critique has abundantly flourished. Plainly, the latter exerts a profoundly chilling effect upon the former. In future years, when interested parties look back on our era, they will no doubt ask, "How is it, at a time when important tradition bearers were still active, that academic folklorists wasted their time in such relatively insignificant veins of criticism?"

Harker and crew plainly intend to complain of this class-based detachment, but their own efforts, it seems to me, have unwittingly contributed to an oppressive present day climate likewise disgraced by non-engagement with the very people to whom we should be paying the most attention... The lack of basic human sympathy and understanding is quite palpable throughout this moralizing literature."

Still apposite, perhaps? Wilson's letter appeared in correspondence on the Musical Traditions site, in response to Mike Yates' reappraisal of 'Fakesong' in the light of Bearman's research. Worh a look if you aren't familiar with it already.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 09:56 AM

Interesting post, Brian.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Brian Peters
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 08:54 AM

To remove any possible doubt, my quoted example of snidery was from Fakesong, and a response to Jack's question: "Is there anybody Harker shows actual dislike or disrespect for, rather than saying they had limitations that need to be recognized?" My own view is that the comments about Baring-Gould and Sharp went way beyond describing limitations, and into disparagement of them personally.

I don't have 'One For the Money' and Jack has already pasted what it has to say about the Critics Group. However, Vic Gammon's review (discussed further up the thread) has this to say about the treatment of MacColl (who I believe like Lloyd was CPGB and therefore a sectarian enemy for a start):

"But this is not criticism, it is character assassination masquerading as criticism; and for all its socialist rhetoric what criticism there is is of a very old fashioned and discredited type."

He supported this by quoting passages such as:

"The radio ballads, according to Harker, were 'a series of programmes celebrating the "worker as hero" in which they [MacColl and the producer Charles Parker] romanticised, over-elaborated, indulged stylistic whims, and generally intellectualised and mediated the taped material given to them by workers'"

"Parker and MacColl are said to have 'foisted their version of the Big Hewer myth on working miners as a whole' and never to have thought that 'the mythical figure might have been a deliberate and grotesque caricature of the self-exploitative worker'." [my italics]


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 08:33 AM

Jim introduced the specific topic of 'labouring people' being 'poetically inclined' and I followed this up. He then says that the question about whether 'ordinary people' had poetic ability has nothing to do with this discussion. This seems to me to be an example of what Jim calls 'ducking and diving'.

Further, when I asked what had annoyed Jim about what Harker said in his book, the answer I got made no mention at all of disagreements about whether surreptitious recordings had been made. It gave an account of what Harker's book that misrepresents what it turns out to have said.

If they were surreptitious, then how would anybody know about them?

This is my last off-topic post. We did not get around to discussing Harker on Lloyd, so if anybody who has read Harker recently enough to comment on this section, I would be interested to hear what different views there are on it, but I predict that the discussion may turn fiery as I have read a biography of Lloyd which refers to previous Mudcat discussions on that topic.

"We are talking about the existence of a specific form of song which represented a specific section of society." At what point in history did this belief emerge, and which sections of society are the songs supposed to 'represent' at which points in time? These are the questions that Harker addresses.

I think Harker and Bearman are right to state that the view that these old songs in some sense 'represented' 'the labouring classes' emerged most significantly with Lloyd: they are certainly not in Child or in Sharp.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 08:29 AM

should be "... was nothing surreptitious about them ..." (on phone)


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 08:28 AM

I read the "surreptitiously recorded" as snide. I guess that's because Jim has mentioned the recordings here many times in a way that makes clear there was surreptitiously about them. Harker seems to be an able researcher - if he knew enough about the group to comment on it at all he should have known that.

(I do have something constructinve to say about the book, but I am waiting for the discussion to go into a more constructive phase)


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 08:14 AM

"but, fortunately, some of his training sessions were surreptitiously recorded."
That was what kicked off our argument at the symposium
"Some of the meetings" were not "surreptitiously recorded" - most of them were recorded openly by Charles Parker who was asked to do so by the Group
When Charles died they were deposited in Birmingham Central Library and eventually became part of the Charles Parker Archive, but Ewan and Peg Kept copies of most of them at Beckenham for people like me to come and make copies of them
Making the Critics sound like a secretive sect, as Harker set out to do is as snide as it gets
"I have taught poetry (and guitar) to lots of working class kids."
That's very commendable, but it still has nothing to do with this discussion
We are talking about the existence of a specific form of song which represented a specific section of society - it is this which Harker shrouds in fog by suggesting it to be "fake"

"Betz includes Dave Harker as a source."
Why wouldn't he ?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 08:12 AM

Thank you Jack.

And for that, it was felt worthwhile to slag him off in public?

It speaks volumes.

As Jim might say 'I think we're done here'.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Jack Campin
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 07:52 AM

I guess I'll have to wait until I have a copy of Harker's other book and make my own mind up about what it says about the Critics Group and the tone in which it was said.

And I shall. For though I asked, politely, no evidence has been provided to me that Harker was 'snide' in this[...


This is all Harker says about the Critics in the earlier book; he's referring to the late 60s. Doesn't look snide to me.

MacColl, meanwhile, spent a considerable amount of time training singers, both at the Singers Club, and at more select gatherings of people (including the embryo Critics group), so as to carry on his methods and techniques. In public, MacColl made no serious theoretical contribution; but, fortunately, some of his training sessions were surreptitiously recorded.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 07:51 AM

As it happens, I have taught poetry (and guitar) to lots of working class kids. I recall one almost non-literate pupil whose guitar work knocked spots off a lot of stuff you see in clubs. I think she could recognise melodic ornamentation when she saw it. She could produce it.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 07:45 AM

Delighted to see that, of course, Betz includes Dave Harker as a source.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 07:23 AM

"Jim was twice involved in somewhat fractious interactions with Harker"
I met him several times
At the last meeting we met he announced that he was refusing to take questions and had cut down on the number of public talks he gave because of the hostility his book had stirred up
Most fokk symposia I attended were pretty friendly gatherings - they still are   

I received this on line this morning from Academia
A Database of British and Irish Labouring-class Poets Tyson Betz

It looks a superb piece of work - anybody who believes England working people weren't poetically inclined should grab a copy
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 07:11 AM

? symposia ?


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 07:10 AM

1 "I attended a talk Harker gabe at MacColl's 70th birthday sypmposium, where some of his descriptions of the work of the Critics Group were so off beam that a number of the Group in the audience shouted out corrections from the floor - this was after the break-up"

Jim Carroll, further up this thread.

2 "I had a run-in with him over my criticising his snide analysis of The Critics Group in my talk at the MacColl symposium"

So,if I listen to 'what I am told', it looks as if Jim was twice involved in somewhat fractious interactions with Harker at this symposium, once at a talk Harker himself gave, and another at a talk Jim gave in which he referred to Harker's book 'One for the Money', criticising the comments Harker made in that book about the Critics Group? It looks as if folk symposiums might be things to stay well away from if you like a quiet life!


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 07:06 AM

"I am afraid I cannot agree with what Jim is saying."
Nothing new there

"Harker made 'snide' remarks about people in his book 'One For the Money'."
I've pointed out how much work MacColl and the critics into researching the voice and passing it on to others to the extent that a dozen or so similar groups using that research, including the one I ran in Manchester, and mor notably, the Birmingham Group which eventually became 'Banner Theatre'
Harker was aware of that work and those groups yet he claimed that MacColl never MacColl made no theoretical contribution to the folk scene
MacColl was noted for this theoretical work - it was as "snide" as it gets to pretend it never happened
You've been told this, now you are ignoring it - what Harker had must be contagious
Your own habit of rejecting what people say and announcing you will go off and read harker to find out if what has been said was true it pretty snide - as is claiming work you have not even read is "unreliable" - such as that Pat and I did,
" This misrepresents the nature of Harker's arguments. "
No it dousn't
The music you are describing is not what Harker concentrates on - it is @Folk Song' - 'The Voice of the People' as it is widely referred to - not "variety theatre" work

If you disagree with what I say about Roud or anything - fine - that's what we're here for
Just stating that you do without counter- argument means squat

I would read, mark and inwardly digest what John wrote - he's a wise man - I spoke to him yesterday and he confirmed his wisdom
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 06:45 AM

I am afraid I cannot agree with what Jim is saying. This is partly, again, because I do not think he has fully taken in what has been said and what has not been said. Just to correct one factual error, at no point has Brian ever provided evidence to support Jim's assertion that Harker made 'snide' remarks about people in his book 'One For the Money'. Neither has Jim. I think Jim's term for the way his posts are going on this topic would be 'ducking and diving'.

"Questioning the term 'folksong' by calling it fake dismisses the idea that the people even had a culture". This misrepresents the nature of Harker's arguments. My understanding is that the book 'One For the Money' is precisely about the culture of 'the people', and that is one good reason for reading it. Some of my family were musicians in local theatres/variety venues, which is another reason I am interested to read it.

For me, starting an argument that there was a long-standing oral culture by referring to two *written* texts in foreign languages, both of which have been translated into English multiple times, isn't a very good beginning. The key here is the fact that they were written.

There is, of course, a discussion to be had about the way in which narratives and narrative elements crop up in different cultures, and I have encountered various ways of analysing these elements in order to trace lineages, though even this is fraught with theoretical difficulties. But I have yet to see Jim engaging with these issues. I believe this is an area where Steve Gardham knows a lot. I have been dipping into some work by Atkinson which touches upon it.

Just to be clear, I have read an adult translation of Odyssey, and had books telling its stories when I was a child. I have also read various 20th century novels whose themes are taken from it. I have a copy of Boccaccio's Decameron. Jim is not 'telling me' anything by mentioning these writers.

Jim's accusations that I am 'stupid' and lacking intelligence and so on are a tad tedious, and I rather wish he would refrain from this sort of post.

I suspect that when Jim posts that I won't listen to what I am told, he means that I won't take what he says on a topic discussed within the world of folk as gospel. I don't see why I should. To given an example, I have read a lot of what Jim said about Roud's book Folk Song in England. My views on this differ from Jim's. I think it is a fine book.

I believe there are some areas in which my understanding and knowledge, while not by any means 'expert' are better than Jim's. The musical side of it would be one. I do recall having to point out to Jim an example of a singer using ornamentation when Jim had denied that the singer in question ever did any such thing.

Otherwise, thank you for sharing, Jim. I hope you have a nice day and that the weather is better where you are than it is here.

(Going out on the porch to ponder John Moulden's thoughts on how to carry out a discussion)


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 02:34 AM

"no evidence has been provided to me that Harker was 'snide' in this, as defined by Brian a few posts ago."
Brian listed some of that in one of his best posts some time ago
The fact that you have chosen to ignore them is your problem
You don't listen to what you are told which is why you know so little about folk song
One of the first things I learned when starting when starting out on all this is 'If you lock an empty room that's what you end up with - an empty room
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 02:34 AM

"no evidence has been provided to me that Harker was 'snide' in this, as defined by Brian a few posts ago."
Brian listed some of that in one of his best posts some time ago
The fact that you have chosen to ignore them is your problem
You don't listen to what you are told which is why you know so little about folk song
One of the first things I learned when starting when starting out on all this is 'If you lock an empty room that's what you end up with - an empty room
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Feb 20 - 02:28 AM

"it is a fallacy to imagine that one can identify some sort of unitary 'a people's culture' stretching back over centuries"
That is exactly what Harker denied and what our ignorant friend put up - "fakesong" puts that stupid philosophy in one borrowed term (those who used it before Harker stole it meant something entirely different)
Questioning the term 'folksong' by calling it fake dismisses the idea that the people even had a culture
The same is implied by those who suggest that 'the folk' didn't make their songs but contacted the job out to incompetent writers to do the ob for them
The same people have also suggested that our folk tales originated from literary sources (if my memory serves me right Steve)
Which more or less reduces the cultural creativity of the English people to scrimshaw and knitting patterns (and who knows, maybe there were long forgotten businesses producing them)
Our folk song traditions died as their exponents turned from being active creators and re-creators to passive recipients, if that had always been the case we woldn't have any folk songs, as someone once argued argued on this forum, they would be no different than the output from the music industry
I think I may still have the quote somewhere Steve - I considered it important to save it at the time
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 12 Feb 20 - 06:56 PM

* "It is utterly stupid to deny there is no continuum to our oral traditions "

What does this even mean?

* Somebody posted the following about Harker:

"I had a run-in with him over my criticising his snide analysis of The Critics Group in my talk at the MacColl symposium"

After asking for more information on this I concluded:

"I guess I'll have to wait until I have a copy of Harker's other book and make my own mind up about what it says about the Critics Group and the tone in which it was said."

And I shall. For though I asked, politely, no evidence has been provided to me that Harker was 'snide' in this, as defined by Brian a few posts ago. I don't think I have been provided with any evidence of an 'analysis' by Harker: a couple of factual statements don't really seem to me to amount to an 'analysis'. What I got instead was … well, it speaks for itself.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Feb 20 - 03:02 PM

The first reported singing of rural workers having an oral tradition was when The Venerable Bede (died 735) complained about cattlemen interrupting one of his sermons by passing a harp around and singing disreputable secular songs
The first named folk son 'The wedding of The Frog and the Mouse' was identified as having been sung by 'shepherds' in Wedderburn's Complaynt of Scotland in 1549
It was still being collected in unique versions right into the sedecod half of the 20th century (from virtuoso fiddle player Martin Hayes's elderly father in Clare and from Annie McKenzie in Boho, Fermanagh
The Ballad, 'Hind Horn' which shares its plot with Homer's tale of the return of Odysseus, left Ireland with famine refugees and was recorded still being sung in New England in the 1930s
The non-Child ballad, 'The Bramble Briar' was used as a plot for one of Boccaccio's tales in The Decameron (latter half of the 14 century - it was still doing the rounds in Ireland as 'The Constant Farmer's Son' when we started recording in Clare - (we also got it from Travellers)
Local dancer Mikey Kelleher gave us versions of 'The mouse in the matchbox' story as joke - it was part of Rojas's 'The Spanish Bawd' (1499)
He also gave us a cante-fal version of The Sea captain and the Fiddler's Wife which appeared as a song in D'Urfey's 'Pills to Purge Melancholy' (1707) and a tale version of 'The Bishop of Canterbury' (dating back at least to the 16th century)   
I never get tired of telling of non'literate Traveller telling us the cante-fable 'The Silence Wager' whic has appeared as the song John Blunt (Dorset) and 'Get up and Bar the Door' (Scotland) over the centuries, but has existed as a tale all over the world for seveal millenia, the oldest reported being told as a tale of two Egyptian tomb robbers arguing about who should close the tomb door for fear they would be discovered by the Pharaoh's tomb guards....

These examples can be found one-hundred -fold in our folk song repertoires as oral tales and songs which have existed long before print and mass literacy

It is utterly stupid to deny there is no continuum to our oral traditions when the existence of such examples are as numeous as they are
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 12 Feb 20 - 02:10 PM

Bearman conducted his own analysis of Sharp's editing practices, looking for example at Series 4 of Folk Songs From Somerset.

He found 11 songs with only minor alterations of the text printed as collected, one of which was wholly as collected. He found 8 songs where the text had been augmented either by material from other singers or from printed texts. He found 4 cases of major alteration. He found 2 examples of 'compilations'. He then examines examples of Sharp's best and worst practices.

See page 173.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 12 Feb 20 - 01:59 PM

Did anybody pick up on Bearman's definition of a 'traditional song'? It seem to go something like 'a song that has been in circulation time out of mind'?

Sorry on Lloyd I only got part of the story: he doesn't think that once you have literacy you can have a 'purely oral' tradition, that is part of his point of view.

It may be that Ewan MacColl did make a significant theoretical contribution to the folk movement, but perhaps this should eventually be discussed on another thread?

Have a nice evening everybody.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 12 Feb 20 - 01:38 PM

On those matters, I think I am more with A L Lloyd, who thought many songs had been originally written by minstrels and that literate people (including himself, as far as I can see) produced better songs than illiterate people.


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Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 12 Feb 20 - 01:35 PM

I guess I'll have to wait until I have a copy of Harker's other book and make my own mind up about what it says about the Critics Group and the tone in which it was said.

@ Brian: I don't think anybody is saying that they like Harker's tone in 'Fakesong': my question was specifically about comments relating to The Critics Group and a 'set-to' at a symposium. But thank you for an example of a less than ideal tone! Harker is I suppose making the point that Baring Gould was an outsider, and that he published writing about other people's culture in a commercial context with a middle class market in mind, all of which seem factual points. But the tone does seem intended to mock.

Bearman is full of much the same mocking tone when he speaks of Harker and Lloyd, and some Mudcat posters go above and beyond!

@ Jag: Bearman goes even further than Harker, and is particularly scathing about 'class' analyses.

I think this word 'common' as in 'common people' is worth another look. Sharp defines this in some Romanticised manner, and links it to illiteracy and lack of formal training or contact with the educated as we have seen. This is all too like Child's fantasy about the ballads originating with some ancient classless society where everybody had one culture. One sense of the word 'common people' was and still is in some contexts to differentiate 'commoners' from royalty and the nobility and the church. What's left when you take away the royals and the nobles is the common people. To suggest that there ever was one shared culture, untouched by literacy, or by contact with the educated, even among those whose livelihoods were most closely linked with the countryside seems to me to be unrealistic on various grounds.

Therefore, in so far as Harker might tend to suggest that it is a fallacy to imagine that one can identify some sort of unitary 'a people's culture' stretching back over centuries, then surely we have to agree with him, and I think, with Bearman also.


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