Ballads & Songs of Southern Michigan-songbook

A Collection of 200+ traditional songs & variations with commentaries including Lyrics & Sheet music

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Voucher Codes



Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
Introduction
15
novelists, and theatrical producers from various parts of the country, for they realize that much of the great urban art of the Old World has developed from folk origins. And reasoning by analogy they feel that American urban art also must derive much of its inspiration from native American folk art and from Old World folk art which has migrated to this country and taken on an American flavor.
As a corollary to the widespread interest in folk song among scholars, who ably present their views in the sources listed in our Bibliography, certain controversial matters relating to the subject were brought up and discussed with fresh zeal. One of these con­cerned definitions, because before one can hope to collect folk songs intelligently, one must be able to differentiate between them and other types of song. And this is not so easy as at first blush it appears. But Professor Louise Pound, a distinguished scholar, simplified the matter by stating that the chief essentials of folk song are "that the people sing it; that it has lived in the folk mouth and has persisted for a fair number of years."12 Mr. Phillips Barry, also an authority to be respected, ignores the element of persistence and defines folk songs as those which are sung by the folk.13 "It matters not," he says, "how they originated nor by what means they have reached the singers."14 His view is the one we have adopted, because we feel that such songs as "Floyd Collins," "Harry Bail," "Jack Haggerty," "Little Mary Phagan," "Nat Goodwin," and "Anson Best" were folk songs as soon as they were composed by someone close to the prin­cipals of the tragedies and accepted by those who sang them. A number of the older British and American folk songs which are represented in our collection, although they may have been created by a more or less skilled minstrel and, during a long period of oral transmission, sometimes subjected to the careless printing of broad­side presses, have undergone unceasing changes. Old stanzas have been dropped, new ones added, rhymes altered, names of places and characters changed, and catastrophes transformed until there is barely enough of the original song left to identify it. Occasional variations in a song may have been conscious, others were uncon­scious; but all in all they amount to a re-creation of a song on the part of the people who sing it. Thus some folk songs are not so much individual creations as communal re-creations.
18 Fol\-Song of Nebraska and the Centtal West, A Syllabus, p. 5.
w Both Pound and Barry appear to interpret "folk" as meaning "the common people," those characterized by Carl Sandburg as "We, the people." For further discussion of "folk" see Helen Sargent and G. L. Kittredge, English and Scot­tish Popular Ballads, p. xii.
" Bulletin of the Fol\Song Society of the Northeast, No. 10, p. 24.







E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III