Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

The folk & traditional music of Europe, Africa & the Americas explored.

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

Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
mother. It has even been established that the children's song, "Oh where have you been, Billy boy, Billy boy?" which ends, "She's a young thing and cannot leave her mother" was derived from the more dramatic "Lord Randall," or something like it. Thus it would seem that formulae are verv stable elements, while the details of a story are more subject to change. The lengths of the variants also differ greatly. A story told in one ballad with the use of fourteen stanzas may be, in another version, summarized in four, through elision, omission of events, and omission of stanzas giving back­ground information.
Similar variety is found in the tunes. Bertrand H. Bronson5 has assembled all of the tunes used for the Child ballads, and he finds that for each ballad story there seem to be two or three basic tunes to which all of the variants must be sung. For example, most of the tunes of "The Golden Vanity" (Child 286) are related to one of the two in Examples 4-1 and 4-2.
example 4-1. English folk song, uThe Sweet Trinity," from Jan P. Schin-han, ed., The Music of the Ballads (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1957. The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, vol. 4), p. 120.
While ballad stories evidently moved from nation to nation in the Middle Ages, the tunes did not accompany them. For example, there is the ballad of "Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight" (Child 2), in which a knight courts a lady but really intends to kill and rob her; when she discovers his false intentions, she foils him and causes him to drown. This ballad is known throughout Europe except for the
5 Bertrand Harris Bronson, The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1958—).

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