English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians

122 Songs and Ballads, and 323 Tunes With Lyrics & sheet Music - online book

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Whenever possible they used the open strings as drones, tuning the strings—which, by the way, were of metal—in a particular way for each air they were about to perform. I have not included any of these in this collection, but I hope, later on, to publish some of them when I have had further opportunities of examining this peculiar and unusual method of performance.
Many of the singers whose songs are recorded in the following pages had very large repertories. Mrs. Reuben Hensley, with the assistance of her husband and her daughter Emma, sang me thirty-five songs; while Mrs. Sands of Allanstand gave me twenty-five; Mr. Jeff Stockton of Flag Pond, Tenn., seventeen; Mr. N. B. Chisholm of Woodridge, Va., twenty-four; Mrs. Tom Rice of Big Laurel, twenty-six; and Mrs. Jane Gentry of Hot Springs, no less than sixty-four. Attention has often been called to the wonderful and retentive memories of folk-singers in England, and I can vouch for it that these American singers are, in this respect, in no way inferior to their English contemporaries.
None of the singers whom I visited possessed any printed song-sheets but some of them produced written copies, usually made by children, which they called "ballets", a term which the English singer reserves for the printed broadside.
It will be seen that in many cases we give several variants or different versions of the same song and that we have made no attempt to dis­criminate between these. The fact that no two singers ever sing the same song in identically the same way is familiar to all collectors, and may be interpreted in either of two ways. The upholder of the individ­ualistic theory of origin contends that these variants are merely incorrect renderings of some original, individual composition which, never having been written down, has orally survived in various corrupt forms. On the other hand, there are those—and I count myself amongst them—who maintain that in these minute differences lie the germs of development; that the changes made by individual singers are akin to the "sports" in the flower or animal worlds, which, if perpetuated, lead to further ideal development and, perhaps, ultimately to the birth of new varieties and species. There is no doubt that if this problem is ever to be solved it will be through the examination and analysis of genuine, authentic variants, such as we have done our best faithfully to record; and we make no apology, therefore, for printing so many of them.
For very much the same reason, in addition to the variants derived from different singers, we have in many cases recorded the changes made by the individual singer in the successive repetitions of the tune