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folk process: tune evolution?

Pamela R 26 Dec 15 - 10:09 PM
Joe Offer 26 Dec 15 - 11:36 PM
Steve Shaw 27 Dec 15 - 06:20 AM
GUEST 27 Dec 15 - 06:34 AM
Will Fly 27 Dec 15 - 06:40 AM
Les in Chorlton 27 Dec 15 - 06:53 AM
gillymor 27 Dec 15 - 07:16 AM
Richard Mellish 27 Dec 15 - 11:37 AM
Jack Campin 27 Dec 15 - 11:57 AM
Jack Campin 27 Dec 15 - 12:05 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 27 Dec 15 - 12:47 PM
Brian Peters 27 Dec 15 - 12:54 PM
Pamela R 27 Dec 15 - 12:55 PM
The Sandman 27 Dec 15 - 01:05 PM
Brian Peters 27 Dec 15 - 01:06 PM
GUEST,John from Kemsing 27 Dec 15 - 01:07 PM
Jack Campin 27 Dec 15 - 02:22 PM
The Sandman 27 Dec 15 - 02:37 PM
Steve Shaw 27 Dec 15 - 02:58 PM
Pamela R 27 Dec 15 - 03:12 PM
GUEST,Ripov 27 Dec 15 - 03:18 PM
GUEST,Anne Neilson 27 Dec 15 - 03:26 PM
GUEST 27 Dec 15 - 03:30 PM
Steve Shaw 27 Dec 15 - 03:36 PM
Pamela R 27 Dec 15 - 04:03 PM
Pamela R 27 Dec 15 - 04:18 PM
Steve Shaw 27 Dec 15 - 04:43 PM
GUEST,leeneia 27 Dec 15 - 05:42 PM
Jack Campin 27 Dec 15 - 08:45 PM
Pamela R 27 Dec 15 - 11:30 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 28 Dec 15 - 02:11 AM
Tattie Bogle 28 Dec 15 - 05:47 AM
GUEST,Howard Jones 28 Dec 15 - 06:58 AM
Jack Campin 28 Dec 15 - 08:30 AM
Lighter 28 Dec 15 - 09:53 AM
Jack Campin 28 Dec 15 - 10:03 AM
GUEST,DrWord 28 Dec 15 - 11:28 AM
Lighter 28 Dec 15 - 01:28 PM
GUEST 28 Dec 15 - 01:44 PM
Jack Campin 28 Dec 15 - 02:19 PM
GUEST,Stim 28 Dec 15 - 06:05 PM
GUEST,Stim 28 Dec 15 - 06:33 PM
Jack Campin 28 Dec 15 - 07:52 PM
Pamela R 29 Dec 15 - 01:27 AM
Mr Red 29 Dec 15 - 04:42 AM
Brian Peters 29 Dec 15 - 04:48 AM
Jack Campin 29 Dec 15 - 05:04 AM
GUEST,Achy Pete 29 Dec 15 - 03:27 PM
Pamela R 02 Jan 16 - 01:05 PM
Steve Gardham 02 Jan 16 - 01:45 PM
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Subject: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Pamela R
Date: 26 Dec 15 - 10:09 PM

Hi all.
In the Spring I'll be teaching an Ethnomusicology class about how folk songs evolve through oral tradition. The students are asked to listen to and analyze a number of versions of the same song, as collected from far flung locations from sources believed to represent orally transmitted tradition. We'll look at the similarities and differences between the different versions to find evidence of common origin, evidence that songs gradually change when passed on by oral tradition, and observe how the interaction of culture and folk songs impacts this process. (Being a Biologist by training, I apply concepts from evolutionary theory: mutation, migration, isolation, drift, fixation, extinction, selective pressure, divergent vs. convergent evolution, etc.).

I have lots of great examples, but they are all text-based - songs that share a common origin of the text/story, while diverging greatly in tune and more or less in textual details.

Given that the course is being offered in the Music department, however, I feel I should have at least some examples in which we examine the evolution of *tunes* - where the same melody is used, but gradually morphed and mutated, resulting in local variants; or where other cultural factors such as dance traditions, religion, contact with other cultures, etc., systematically altered the tunes; and/or where the same tune is used to set entirely different texts. My knowledge is much weaker on this point, so I'd like to study up.

Can anyone suggest good examples, or a good reference work on this topic? Is there a melody equivalent of textual concepts like commonplaces and floating verses?

Since I am teaching in English, I'm restricting myself to English language folk traditions for the textual examples. But tunes that crossed language barriers would be of particular interest.

Many thanks,
Pamela


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 26 Dec 15 - 11:36 PM

Interesting question, Pamela. I'm a lyrics man myself, so I can't offer much expertise. I'm aware of many songs that use a variety of melodies to match the same set of lyrics Since we're in the Christmas season, maybe "Away in a Manger" would be a good example.

But for the most part, I haven't noticed evolution in melodies to any great extent. Every musician alters every tune in subtle or not-so-subtle ways, but the basic structure of the melody stays more-or-less the same and each artist builds on that basic structure.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 06:20 AM

Hmm. Try playing the tunes from O'Neill's, as written down, in a modern session and you'll quickly find out how much tunes can evolve over just a century and a bit.

Bad advice, actually - never try to play ANY tune as written down!


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 06:34 AM

Try "Sources of Irish Traditional Music", by the Irish guy with the German name I'd have to google for.

    Aloys Fleischmann? -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Will Fly
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 06:40 AM

You could look at the medieval Scottish tune "Gilderoy" which, in twists and turns has formed the basis of later variations such as the tune used for "Dives and Lazarus" and "The Star of the County Down", etc. Just one example.

The other interesting fact (to me, at any rate) is the way in which comparatively modern tunes with known composers - such as Tom Anderson, Andy Cutting or John Kirkpatrick - can slip seamlessly into "traditional" music sessions.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 06:53 AM

I think the biggest problem you may have is determining how valuable or appropriate the advice you may get from people who play tunes.

Some are musicians who know, understand and can play from music, from memory and on one hearing of a tune and can draw on a vast collection of tunes and some can do almost none of this but offer extensive advice based upon almost no evidence at all.

Best of luck


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: gillymor
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 07:16 AM

If you're not aware of it already The Contemplator site might be of some interest to you, Pamela R, with histories, variants,and alternative names for numerous tunes and songs from the British Isles.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 11:37 AM

Pamela said
> Given that the course is being offered in the Music department, however, I feel I should have at least some examples in which we examine the evolution of *tunes

Do you want to do this for song tunes, dance tunes, "listening" tunes or all of those?

Julia Bishop has done some work on song tunes, including the tricky issue of how one might decide whether two specimens are different tunes or different versions of the same tune.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 11:57 AM

GUEST above was me.

For ballad tunes in the British tradition, the most extensive work in this area was by S.P. Bayard, who classified all the Child ballad tunes (those later anthologized by Bronson) into 56 "tune families" which he thought were genetically related. (References in Bronson, "The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads", which you will need for this sort of study and which you can buy from CAMSCO). He got the idea from Bartok and his associates in Hungarian musicology; if you listen to enough Hungarian songs it's fairly obvious that they don't really have an individual identity, they sort of blur into each other.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Preston_Bayard


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 12:05 PM

This is the guy I was thinking about when I posted as GUEST above:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aloys_Fleischmann

That 2-volume book is ridiculously expensive, half the size of Bronson and several times the price. It would be great if CAMSCO would reprint it.

When I was researching this stuff, the most useful tool I had was Charles Gore's "Scottish Fiddle Music Index", which includes theme codes so you can see when the same tune has been given different names over the years. A similar index, covering English music as well but with a slightly smaller time scope, is the "National Tune Index" microfiche set. Its theme code system is different but they both work.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 12:47 PM

OP: "...how folk songs evolve through oral tradition... believed to represent orally transmitted tradition."

Curious:
What are the methods for validating an exclusively 'oral' tradition? eg: If reference sheet music and/or audio recordings do exist, how does one parse/quantify their influence on the evolution/transmission of the song under study?


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 12:54 PM

Hi Pamela, good to hear you're busy with your research. This is the kind of thing I've always thought I should set time aside for, but never got round to. What I would do is to pick a song with a lot of variants, then try to correlate the range of melodic variation with their geographical spread. Often you will find that two variants from the same community are very similar (although sometimes they can be quite different), but the same song collected 20, or 100 miles away might show more variation. You might also be able to find a version of the same song collected in the same area say thirty years later and see how much it had changed.

An obvious place to start would be Cecil Sharp's collection from the Appalachians, all of which is available online. Within it you can find multiple variants of the same song, and could then compare (say) the variation between versions from NC, KY and TN, as against variations within a small area like Madison Co., NC., where Sharp really concentrated his early efforts.

On the question of tunes that carry several songs, Will Fly has already pointed out that 'Dives and Lazarus' has done service for a whole number of textually unrelated songs from the British Isles (Cecil Sharp found it in Virginia, come to that). The tune often referred to as 'Villikins and his Dinah' is another common one, and in 'The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs' you can find three songs sharing the tune best known from 'Flash Company'.

As far as I know, no-one has yet invented software that will analyse points of similarity and difference between melodies. Now that would be a handy thing.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Pamela R
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 12:55 PM

thanks everyone, this is great information to get me started!

to answer someone's question, I am confining myself to songs for this class. but some (carols?) may have dance origins that affected the allowable rhythms.

regarding the input of trained expert musicians vs impressions of untrained practitioners, I'm happy to listen to both and sort it out. I'm just asking for leads.

(which prompts the idea: to the extent that notation is adequate it should be possible to analyze tune relatedness computationally -- might be a good student project! but surely it has been done before).


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 01:05 PM

Perhaps a good place to start might be the tramps and hawkers tune, this tune has been used over and over by songwriters for different lyrics, but gets altered slightly for different sets of words, take a look at the following songs that use this tune some with variation and some without, homes of donegal, rocks of bawn.
now try the dick darby the cobbler and its variants.
then we have lakes of pontchertrain , blarney rose.
Sweet thames flow softly,and trad tune used for recruited collier.
my opinion is that the tune gets altered slightly by the songwriter[ who is using a trad tune to fit the mood of the song and the lyrics


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 01:06 PM

What are the methods for validating an exclusively 'oral' tradition? eg: If reference sheet music and/or audio recordings do exist, how does one parse/quantify their influence on the evolution/transmission of the song under study?

It's wise to be very wary before describing any musical tradition as exclusively oral, but the main reason for that is the existence (in huge numbers) of printed copies of the texts from at least as far back as the 17th century. However, these were scarcely ever provided with sheet music, and there's no evidence that singers (as opposed to instrumentalists) would have been able to read it anyway. It's also wise to be aware of the possible effects of broadcast or recorded music on singing tradition, but Sharp's collection and others of the period predated that development.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,John from Kemsing
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 01:07 PM

Pamela,
       Try this for an immediate example of evolution. Ask your students to listen to a particular song a number of times, them not having the written score at their disposal. Then record them individually singing the song. Compare their versions to the original and note any differences - I reckon you would have a fine example of how tunes change with the listener.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 02:22 PM

I am confining myself to songs for this class. but some (carols?) may have dance origins

That's a relatively recent phenomenon (e.g. Burns's "Frae a' the airts", using William Marshall's "Miss Admiral Gordon's Strathspey"). Dance tunes predating Burns's time are much more often derived from songs than the other way round.

that affected the allowable rhythms.

No. Rhythms can be varied enormously while still keeping the tune recognizably the same.

I have a zillion examples of this sort of process in my "Embro, Embro" pages.

One angle I find fascinating is the contrast between deliberate and accidental re-use of tunes (this is in situations of punctual change rather than imperfect attempts at faithful transmission). If you parody or bowdlerize a song, you will know exactly what tune you're using: there is no point in a parody or allusion if the listener can't identify the original. But there are quite a few examples of unconscious adaptation where the composer clearly didn't realize what they were half-remembering - two examples: Phil Cunningham's tune "Sarah's Song" (recycled from the music-hall song "She was poor but she was honest") and Dick Gaughan's "Both Sides the Tweed" (a slowed-down modal variant of "Rosin the Beau"). I haven't asked Cunningham about the first (maybe you could?) but I did ask Gaughan about the second, and the resemblance hadn't occurred to him.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 02:37 PM

"No. Rhythms can be varied enormously while still keeping the tune recognizably the same."
examples are lakes of ponchartrain and blarney roses.
then we have trad tunes like the musical priest, and the strathspey the north edinburgh bridge.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 02:58 PM

"(which prompts the idea: to the extent that notation is adequate it should be possible to analyse tune relatedness computationally -- might be a good student project! but surely it has been done before)."

Unfortunately, notation, at least of traditional tunes, is far from adequate. The rhythms employed by traditional musicians rarely lend themselves to the mathematical requirements of notation. Not only that, there is ornamentation and variation, so hard to pin down even when played by the same musician or bunch of musicians on more then one occasion, but which are the main drivers of the evolution of tunes. Give it a whirl, but I wouldn't be optimistic.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Pamela R
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 03:12 PM

Regarding Phil's question:
> What are the methods for validating an exclusively 'oral' tradition?

That's the rub. In the English language printed broadside ballads go back to the 1500s so we can never exclude that the orally transmitted versions passed through print versions from time to time. But that's ok.

The premise would be that orality exists on a spectrum, and the more oral the transmission has been the more the song would evolve. With respect to evolutionary change of songs, if it is the ephemeral nature of oral events that is important, then perhaps the more ephemeral a written version is (e.g. broadsides more ephemeral than books or recordings) the more fluid the song remains.

Although there were broadsides in the 1500s, only 15% of the population of Great Britain was literate*, and those would be mainly in urban populations and upper classes. Generally literacy is much lower in rural populations, the poor, and disenfranchised populations (such as women and blacks in 19th c America); but these gaps have closed with time. The implication would be that songs collected from the rural poor before widespread literacy and before the dissemination of recordings and broadcasting, are the most likely to have been transmitted primarily orally.

Even with the likely involvement of written versions along the way, however, it is not at all difficult to find evidence of song evolution among versions of the same song collected as late as the 1950s from England, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, United States, and Australia, and from different regions within those countries. So "pure" sources are not required to make the point. Clearly Barbara Allen has diverged far more than, say, a Bach Oratorio, over the same time period.

Pamela


*interesting literacy data


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,Ripov
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 03:18 PM


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,Anne Neilson
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 03:26 PM

In Bronson's great work 'The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads', he found that 'Barbara Allan' was the ballad with the greatest number of tunes -- but I have a wee notion that many of them are close, based on no evidence other than my own ear and the several times that I've heard a version from a distance so that I couldn't detect the words; the giveaway is always the phrasing of the final line with the words 'hard-hearted Barbara Allan'.

If you can find it, a great example is Dolly Parton's version -- starts with someone else singing a verse a cappella in Irish Gaelic and segues into Dolly singing a full, traditional American version with accompaniment.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=087p-Wpkyog


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 03:30 PM

I'm not convinced that ornamentation does have much to do with evolution of tunes, at not in European traditions.

I doubt if the influence of songs on tunes has been adequately investigated yet. I play a number of instrumental tunes that were used for songs by Hamish Henderson. I annoy the heck out of piping purists because the way I play those tunes mixes in the adaptations Henderson made to make them fit his words. This isn't because I belong to a purely oral culture - I know the originals, I've got them in books and could play them if I wanted to, but I don't. I am far from alone in doing that.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 03:36 PM

I did say ornamentation and variation.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Pamela R
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 04:03 PM

regarding the problem of ornamentation, variation, and notation:

If I were to attempt a computational classification I'd probably start with an impoverished representation that omits ornaments but preserves variability within singer (from verse to verse and from singing to singing) as well as across singers. So I'd have to rely on an expert musician to decide which notes are ornaments, and extract the pitches and durations that should be considered the underlying 'melody'. A theory of ornamentation could be layered on later. Other than note bending (which could be considered an ornament), mathematically it's no problem to define both pitch and duration of each note on an analog scale without reference to any theory of tuning or time signature. But again expert judgement might be valuable, for example in discerning whether variations in the pitch of a note in the melody in different verses or repetitions or persons is attributable to pitch inaccuracy ("noise") or drift in the singer's implicit key ("nonstationarity"), versus a meaningful modulation ("signal"). I suppose one could postulate that any drift is accidental, and impose a global correction so that the tonic note remains stable for the duration of the song; and then compare the pitch of the same note in the tune from singing to singing to determine what the "intended" pitch is for that singer, and whether any deviations from verse to verse are systematic or random. My guess is that variations in the note duration are usually either text-driven or expressive and therefore more likely to be consistent from singing to singing.... but this is turning into more of a PhD thesis, and I don't have a PhD student just a bunch of Freshman undergraduates.

I suppose the advent of digital recording, pitch analysis software, music editing software and computer science/artificial intelligence make possible today an analysis that would've been impossible for S.P. Bayard et. al. So maybe it hasn't been done.   Interesting.

Pamela


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Pamela R
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 04:18 PM

regarding contemporary songwriters using traditional tunes, knowingly or not, a few more examples (without formal analysis, just by ear):

Guy Clark's recent "Death of Sis Draper' melody resembles Matty Groves/Shady Grove.

the tune of Cyril Tawney's "Gray Funnel Line" bears a striking resemblance to the tune of "William Taylor" (as per Brian Peters & Jeff Davis)

Steve Goodman's 'Penny Evans' melody resembles the tune of "The Flying Cloud' (as per Louis Killen)

Don't know if any of those writers acknowledged a traditional source for the tune.

P.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 04:43 PM

I don't want to talk at cross purposes, as you are referring to songs rather than tunes much of the time. I would just say that ornaments and variations are not add-ons to tunes. They are the tunes. A traditional tune can't be defined as an entity which is designed to yield to crude representation as notes on a page. Chicken and egg and all that. The "bare notes of the tune on the page" are no more the tune than my skeleton is my body.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 05:42 PM

Pamela, I think you don't realize that you have selected a topic (the evolution of tunes) which will be quite a challenge to research and to teach. For one thing, there are many sets of lyrics with no tune. (say on broadside sheets). For another thing, when someone collected a tune, it was hard to say whether the tune had been around five years or two hundred.

I think you should get confident with the lyrics part of your class first, then move on to tunes after you have done a lot of reading and learning.

And unless all your students can read music and know basic music theory, it will be impossible for them to discuss tunes intelligently. In college, I planned to take a music history class before I had ever had a music lesson. I found it so opaque (What does he mean by anticipating the 10th?) that I dropped out immediately.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 08:45 PM

There is no need to go into a PhD level of detail to teach the students something that might be new and interesting to them. If their background is in popular music, jazz and art music, it may be news to them that:

- texts can have multiple tunes, which may be similar or very different

- the reasons for that are sometimes deliberate acts of creation and sometimes not

- it doesn't make sense to think of this process of variation as either corruption or evolution

- the process is not significantly a result of market forces

- it may be the result of variations in extra-musical human culture and human need rather than simple musical preference

- it largely disregards the ethic of intellectual property.

These large issues can all be illustrated by specific musical and historical facts, but don't bury the big picture in technicalities.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Pamela R
Date: 27 Dec 15 - 11:30 PM

Thanks for all the advice. Above all I hope I've conveyed that I consider myself ignorant on the subject of tunes much less tune evolution, and my purpose here is to learn something, not to propound anything!

So with all due humility, to respond to just a few points --

Regarding Steve Shaw's point on ornaments:
I am not sure we disagree, perhaps only semantically. Your analogy is apt. If we wanted to determine the relationships among (vertebrate) species, a great place to start would be to compare their skeletons. Obviously a skeleton is not a whole living creature, but by simplifying the problem to just comparing skeletons, we're likely to find some broad and fundamental relationships right away. Then we could look at pigmentation and behaviour and other factors that skeletons fail to capture, and learn even more. Occasionally the skeletons will totally fool us, and then we'll find that out. The idea of successive approximation isn't guaranteed to work, but it's often very productive. Following that analogy, I wasn't suggesting that such a stripped down melodic structure (let's call it a skeleton) would be a song. I was just speculating that it might be one fundamental aspect that could be isolated conceptually for purposes of analysis. There must be a reason ornaments are called "ornaments", to distinguish them from other aspects of the melodic structure. I concede that it might be the case that removing ornamentation is impossible, or that it's impossible to trace the divergence of variants without considering ornaments. My hunch was that tune-skeletons would be instructive to analyze, but you may well know more than I do about that.

Regarding Leenia and Jack's teaching advice:
Rest assured, the digression into "computational ethnomusicology" is meant to be a discussion among us here, not a topic for my class! I am an experienced university professor, I have taught this class before (analyzing lyric variants), and I would never get into all this theory with Freshman. It is indeed sufficiently interesting and new to them to learn what traditional folk songs are like, and to think about the fact that things like writing, recording, broadcasting, global communication, copyrighting, etc, are relatively new and have had an impact on what songs are like and how songs exist within a culture.

I'm pretty solid on the text-based content of the class at this point, so I thought it might be a good time to expand my own knowledge and think about generalizing the concept (of change through oral transmission) to the tunes as well. Most of the students have no knowledge of music theory and no ability to read or write music or play any instrument, so clearly any treatment of tunes within the class would have to be in such broad strokes as to be obvious to the untrained ear. In fact I consider my own ability to read music and my knowledge of music theory to be rudimentary at best. The point of my original question was to learn more about what scholars have said on the matter, and see if I can find any examples that are sufficiently clear and accessible that they are worth touching on in perhaps one lecture in the class. Beyond that I wouldn't be qualified nor would the students be prepared. But I like to read/think significantly deeper than I teach.

As I said, the full blown theory problem I brought up would not be at all appropriate for Freshmen, but more appropriate to a student doing a PhD in the field, precisely because of all the complexities you mention, and at least as many subtleties on the computational side. Neither my Freshman students, nor I, intend to do a PhD on the subject, so I'm well aware that I'm not going to solve this problem through armchair philosophy. I just thought I might learn something by trying to think about it, and it might be interesting to discuss how someone might approach it from the tools of my own field (which you could call computational biology). Apologies, sincerely, if I've stepped on toes by treading outside my professional boundaries by speculating on the idea.

Anyway, you've all given me a lot of leads that will keep me busy between now and when my class begins in April, and if I don't get anywhere with it by then, I'll just stick with the text-based material as usual.

Best,
Pamela


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 28 Dec 15 - 02:11 AM

Brian: "It's also wise to be aware of the possible effects of broadcast ..."
I wasn't even sure how to frame shortwave radio. Is 'oral tradition' exclusively 'unplugged?'


"However, these were scarcely ever provided with sheet music, and there's no evidence that singers (as opposed to instrumentalists) would have been able to read it anyway"

Pam: "The implication would be that songs collected from the rural poor before widespread literacy and before the dissemination of recordings and broadcasting, are the most likely to have been transmitted primarily orally."

The 18-19th century American circus industry had the design intent of mass distribution. In terms of raw headcount and surface area it probably beat print and oral combined. A nice interview with circus bandleader John Robinson:
http://cdnc.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/cdnc?a=d&d=DAC18860709.2.36&srpos=7&e=-------en--20--1--txt-txIN-robinson+music-------1

Anywho... best of luck to you!


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 28 Dec 15 - 05:47 AM

More examples of possibly unknown copying:

The first five notes of Flower of Scotland are identical to the start of Verdi's Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves. (We have played both back-to-back in a session!)

Someone started singing the Burns song John Anderson, my Jo: he continued, and knowing smiles and stifled sniggers went round as he unwittingly morphed the tune into Ghost Riders in the Sky!

A songwriting friend launched a "new" song on us the other week. It had pretty much the same tune as Devonshire Carol by John Tams: he said he had never heard the latter. (I told him privately later that I thought there was a resemblance, and he went away and "discovered" John Tams, admitted the uncanny likeness in tunes, and changed his own).


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 28 Dec 15 - 06:58 AM

Whilst it is a dance tune rather than a song tune, "Hardcore English" by the late Barry Callaghan (published by EFDSS) compares 6 different versions of "Stoney Steps" from different dates and different parts of the country. To quote Barry, "This is one of the 'big'tunes of the English tradition, and it is wonderful to see how generations of musicians have shaped it to their style and taste".


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 28 Dec 15 - 08:30 AM

John Anderson My Jo -> When Johnny Came Marching Home. It might be that Ghost Riders in the Sky derives from the latter, hence the resemblance.

Hymnody was way more important in 18th/19th century Anglo-America than all other musical or verbal artforms put together. But hymn tunes didn't change very fast, and texts hardly at all (except by omission). The congregation mostly couldn't read music, but there was always somebody around who could and would keep the others straight. The same went for tunes: rural musicians kept their own tunebooks (see the Village Music Project for some) and their copies of tunes rarely varied much from the printed books they came from.

On the other hand, the way hymns were sung did change a lot, and so did the style of performance of instrumental dance tunes. Two groups of people can perform from the exact same written notes and diverge so far in their interpretation as to make the identity completely inaudible.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Lighter
Date: 28 Dec 15 - 09:53 AM

I second Will's suggestion of the "Star of the County Down" family.

Many, many variations.

The one popular today is essentially that of an American minstrel song of the 1850s, "The Boy with the Auburn Hair" - but that had totally ridiculous lyrics.

Not to say the tune started there(it seems utterly out of place), only that it's very close to the one internationally recognized as carrying a very different song.

A Confederate officer named C. W. Alexander wrote "The Southern Soldier Boy" to the "Auburn Hair" tune in 1863. It's become a standard among Civil War aficionados.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 28 Dec 15 - 10:03 AM

I occasionally try to morph tunes I really detest into something else. Haven't yet managed to turn "Ashokan Farewell" into a jig so as to get it over with faster, but I recently noticed what happens if you drastically speed up John Denver's "Annie's Song" - it becomes almost indistinguishable from the late 19th century 9/8 pipe march "The Hills of Dargai".


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,DrWord
Date: 28 Dec 15 - 11:28 AM

As you have learned, Pamela, you've come to the right place. I hope you revive this thread [if it moves into the archive] with news of your course and students. Even folk on the forum who don't post much (or often) come out of the woodwork when the topic stirs them, and the collective scholarship is pretty amazing. Thanks for the thread & best of luck with your ethnomusicological adventures.
keep on pickin'
dennis


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Lighter
Date: 28 Dec 15 - 01:28 PM

Jack, if someone could make "The Unfortunate Rake" into a jig, you should have little trouble with "Ashokan."

Whose sole fault, as I see it, is that it's been played to destruction. Thanks to Ken Burns, it's always assumed to stem from the American Civil War.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Dec 15 - 01:44 PM

On the subject of Star of The County Down etc, you'd be surprised how many tunes you can sing Pinball Wizard to.

Evolution is a wonderful thing. I was fascinated watching James May on the telly a couple of years ago, showing how giving a particular computer programme lots of Bach to consider, it "composed" a set of tunes (for piano but you could substitute any key instrument I suppose) that were in the genre, using the cadences typical of Bach.

That principle could more than easily lend itself to jigs reels etc and for that matter, the stanza differences of lyrics that necessitate subtle tune evolution.

A fascinating subject.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 28 Dec 15 - 02:19 PM

I was well and truly pissed off with Ashokan Farewell long before that Civil War series was made. (It's not associated with it in Scotland). It sounds like something that crawled out of a Hammond organ.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 28 Dec 15 - 06:05 PM

A couple not necessarily related thoughts.

Worth remembering that in distant times, those who could read customarily read aloud to those who could not. For that reason, written texts have always been a possible vehicle for dissemination.

Also worth noting that hymns have often been sung to whatever familiar melody lent itself to the meter and was agreeable to the celebrants. A New York City gossip columnist once called out a well known Salvation Army leader for singing "Champagne Charlie" in Central Park, and the gentleman was forced to respond that he was singing a temperance song that had been written to what was then a very popular melody.

Finally, folk melodies are a very good vehicle for teaching music simply because they are familiar.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 28 Dec 15 - 06:33 PM

Also, Pamela, there is an analytical system called Shenkerian Analysis that allows for the sort of comparisons that you're talking about. Here is the Wikipedia Article which explains it--at least sort of. Granted, it is a bit controversial(Among music theorists, it is a "Drink the Kool Aid" sort of thing) but he basically looked at the underlying direction and structure of a melody and the the smaller journeys that it made from each step, I find it very helpful both in writing and performing. It could be said that he took the obvious and made it arcane, though.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 28 Dec 15 - 07:52 PM

Schenkerian analysis is intended to explain the large-scale structure of art music. It isn't really intended to do micro-comparisons between lots of small pieces.

Phil Taylor (author of the ABC application BarFly) tried adapting the DNA comparison software used by geneticists to work on tunes. It seemed like the right direction but there were oo many differences in the problems for it to work without a lot of tinkering. (DNA codes are exact - melodies often sound the same when you shift a note by a third or a fifth, so the matching rules have be more elastic).

This is a bit of an email exchange between me and Phil (me first) about "The Rocky Road to Dublin" and "Ay Waukin O":

Anent a discussion on ballad-l. These tunes seem to me to be variants of the same thing ("Ay Waukin O" has a longer documented history and is probably older in fact) but I don't see how to prove it. What does your gene-comparison method say?
Well, for two tunes all you would get would be a number representing a degree of similarity. It's difficult to interpret that without reference to a whole lot of other tunes. A small list of tunes could be arranged in a tree to show which ones are the most similar to each other. Otherwise you would have to test a large number of pairs so you could say that the probability of finding a similarity of x is low compared with that of two tunes chosen at random.
Even in the DNA field where people have been doing this for years it's very hard to prove relationships other than very close ones. So, for example you can say if a particular DNA sample belongs to the immediate family of another one, but if they are further apart than first cousins it becomes difficult to determine even if they belong to the same race. (and the forensic people would _really_ love to be able to do that unambiguously.)


Some time before that, I'd given Phil a bunch of tunes which seemed to me to be clearly related, and he got a sensible-looking tree out of them. I can't find the ABC file I sent him just now (it was around 2001), but the tunes included:

  1. three versions of the late 17th century Scottish song tune "Mary Scott", in 3/4
  2. an unnamed reel from the Gairdyn MS of the early 18th century
  3. Carrick's Rant from a late 18th century source
  4. the 19th century song and strathspey "The Smith's a Gallant Fireman"


Theme coding also gives you comparisons, but since it only looks at the start of a tune it will miss a lot.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Pamela R
Date: 29 Dec 15 - 01:27 AM

(now that the holidays are over, I'm back to full time work and I can only check in occasionally, so if I don't respond quickly that is why.)
---

RE circus: interesting, I'll read up.

RE hymnody: offhand I would think church music would be part of the "scholarly" tradition as opposed to oral/folk tradition, yet clearly many "folk" would be exposed to hymns aurally so it's relevant to consider. Vaguely related to this point, I'm told that in hymnals texts are codified by their syllabic structure (8:6:8:6, etc) and tunes likewise, such that any text of a given pattern can be sung to any tune of the like pattern. Which seems a very interesting case to examine regarding the fluidity of tunes being adapted to disparate texts.

RE algorithms trained on Bach to produce "generative models": yes this is one kind of A.I. that is well developed in my scientific discipline, and is considered a strong test of a model (kind of a Turing Test: can the algorithm make a tune that you would mistake for a real traditional tune?).

RE "those who could read customarily read aloud to those who could not.": good point. which reminds me, it's noted that until fairly recently silent reading was rare, and when reading meant reading aloud there was a greater focus on the auditory quality of the text (cadence, alliteration, rhyme, etc).

RE Shenkerian Analysis: I had not heard of that. Sounds very relevant, I'll read up.

RE DNA analysis: this is exactly the type of algorithm I have some expertise in, and was imagining in my speculative fancy; it is true that one needs a substantial data set to get any traction. But large data sets may be available. And the fewer constraints imposed on the tune (e.g., if you don't demand a tempered scale or a strict time signature), the more data you'll need to adequately sample the larger space of possibilities.

Glad to have access to so many well-informed and thoughtful minds!

P.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Mr Red
Date: 29 Dec 15 - 04:42 AM

Modern examples of evolution, folk process, etc

1) John Tams' "(When we go) Rolling Home" these lines exist in the wild:

The rich man in his finery
the rich man in his fine array
The gentry in their fine array etc etc

2) Mondegreens.

And is there not a case for many songs to be preserved as lyrics? Handed on orally or on paper, taught as poems, which musicians then recognise there is a meter and attach to a new tune? Hard to prove but good fodder for speculation.

And half remembered lyrics often get morphed by the singer to suit their diction.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 29 Dec 15 - 04:48 AM

Going back to the idea I floated earlier of comparing variants from different locations, here's a good example from England: You Seamen Bold

What you have there are four tunes for the same song, sometimes known (courtesy of the Penguin Book) as 'The Ship in Distress'. #2 and #3 are from the same village in Sussex, #1 from a village 20 miles away, and #4 from 200 miles away. They are all clearly variants of the same tune, although they are set in different musical modes: Mixolydian,Dorian and Ionian (incidentally a bit of digging in the Full English should get you midi sound files of all four). As you might expect, the two from Pulborough are almost identical, and share the characteristic of the flattened third and sixth notes of the scale (Dorian), which to our ears imparts a darker tone to the melody. But the other two have a major third and a sunnier temperament - despite the sombre theme of shipwreck, cannibalistic inclinations etc.

However, Percy Grainger believed (and I understand Julia Bishop is of the same mind) that the other song collectors of his day were mistaken in their identification of and fascination with medieval church modes in folk song melodies. According to him, precisely the intervals that determine the four commonest modes - the 3rd, 6th and 7th of the scale - were precisely those likely to be varied or sung ambiguously by traditional singers (think of the Blues as well). There's plenty of evidence of that if you listen to enough recordings. So it may be that those modal variations of 'You Seamen Bold' had a lot less significance for the singers who sang them than they do for scholars or modern revivalists.

It's worth mentioning that this particular song wasn't collected very often, but all the versions I can find had a very similar tune. A song like 'John Barleycorn', which was older and much more widespread, had a whole number of quite different tunes, in every shape, mode and time signature you could wish for.

I think Jack Campin had it right in his post of 27 Dec 15 @ 08:45 PM: there was not some linear evolutionary process going on, even thought tunes clearly changed. Cecil Sharp's metaphor of the pebble shaped by the waves of the sea is pretty, but not necessarily apt - in fact he gave the impression that songs could be refined to some high artistic level at the same time they were becoming degenerate.

Regarding the other point about commercial music before the days of broadcasting, etc: there were constant inputs over centuries from pleasure garden performance, glee club repertoire, the church, music hall, minstrel shows and quite possibly circus music as alluded to above. How much all of that contributed to or impinged on what we think of as the folk song repertoire is something I don't think we know yet. However, you wouldn't mistake 'You Seamen Bold' for a music hall song.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 29 Dec 15 - 05:04 AM

RE DNA analysis: this is exactly the type of algorithm I have some expertise in, and was imagining in my speculative fancy; it is true that one needs a substantial data set to get any traction. But large data sets may be available. And the fewer constraints imposed on the tune (e.g., if you don't demand a tempered scale or a strict time signature), the more data you'll need to adequately sample the larger space of possibilities.

There are large data sets - look at the ABC corpus (you could easily harvest all of it). But there aren't large datasets of usable quality for this kind of music. ABC versions of tunes have been coded to wildly varying standards, and no algorithmic comparison could make sense of them all. You would have to edit your own and proofread every bar.

the fewer constraints imposed on the tune (e.g., if you don't demand a tempered scale or a strict time signature), the more data you'll need to adequately sample the larger space of possibilities

ABC (like most other computer coding systems) says nothing about microtonal variations in the scale. I doubt time signature would be much of a problem (see the examples I gave just above, where a tune has a clear identity despite having variants in slow 3/4, medium-pace duple time and fast duple time). But trying to be over-consistent about it may be a problem - the transcriptions on TheSession.org (one of the largest ABC corpora) will be useless, because the site admin enforces loopy restrictions on the metres you can submit, and you can't tell when that policy has corrupted something.

Schenkerian analysis is a black hole of complexity quite irrelevant to this sort of investigation.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: GUEST,Achy Pete
Date: 29 Dec 15 - 03:27 PM

I would refer you to a website called "Remembering the Old Songs," which I think may have some very useful information for you on the musical evolution of many songs:

http://www.lizlyle.lofgrens.org/RmOlSngs/OldSongs.html

Another suggestion I might make is to touch upon how two musicians can interpret the same song and come up with drastically different treatments. Case in point, the song "Fell in Love With a Girl" by The White Stripes was also recorded by Joss Stone as "Fell in Love With a Boy."

They are so stylistically different that upon initial listenings very few people would ever conclude this was the same song.

Good luck with your class,


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Pamela R
Date: 02 Jan 16 - 01:05 PM

Achy Pete wrote:
>I would refer you to a website called "Remembering the Old Songs,"

This is a terrific resource, thanks! It's written at the perfect level for my students. For the songs I already teach in detail (such as Barbara Allen and Twa Sisters), I think the articles do a good job. For other songs for which I don't have quite enough examples, these articles may help me identify variants that I hadn't run across. And some of these songs I didn't know at all, so it's fun to read about them.

Good stuff.


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Subject: RE: folk process: tune evolution?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 02 Jan 16 - 01:45 PM

Pamela,
I'm surprised no-one has mentioned keeping things quite simple to start with considering your level of audience. There are lots of simple universal tunes amongst the nursery repertoire. One of the simplest 'Baa Baa Black Sheep/Twinkle Twinkle Little Star et al' could be a good starting point. There are probably still people about who haven't even realised these tunes are really the same.

'Ach Du Liebe Augustin' is a simple universally used tune, 'So Early in the Morning'. There are lots of examples.

having introduced these you could then move on to something like the ubiquitous 'Villikins and Dinah' tune before venturing into 'Dives and Lazarus' and on the last one Vaughan Williams put together a brilliant piece using 6 different versions of the tune I believe.


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