English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians

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

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xii                                 Introduction
in the course of his song. These are often of great interest and signifi­cance and sometimes show an inventiveness on the part of the singer that is nothing less than amazing as, for example, in Mr. Jeff Stockton's version of "Fair Margaret" (No. 17, A).
Mrs. Campbell and I have together collected 450 tunes. For the purposes of this volume, we have selected 325 of these, which are asso­ciated with 122 different sets of words—55 ballads and 67 songs.
The distinction between the ballad and the song is more or less arbitrary and is not easy to define with precision. Broadly speaking, however, the ballad is a narrative song, romantic in character and, above all, impersonal, that is to say, the singer is merely the narrator of events with which he personally has no connection and for which he has no responsibility. The song, on the other hand, is a far more emotional and passionate utterance and is usually the record of a personal experience —very frequently of an amatory nature.
The Ballads. The ballads have, probably, the longer history behind them; at any rate, they attracted the attention of collectors earlier than the songs—the reason, perhaps, why the ballads have suffered, far more than the songs, from the unscrupulous editing of literary meddlers.
The ballad air is necessarily of a straightforward type, as it is sung indifferently to verses often varying very widely in emotional character. Nevertheless, many of the ballad tunes are very lovely, as the musician who studies the contents of this volume will readily perceive. Such airs, for instance, as Nos. 3, 15, 19, 20, 27, 29, 35, 37, 39 and 47 make really beautiful music and are fully capable of standing alone, divorced from their texts, and of being played or sung as absolute music. The most perfect type of ballad, however, is that in which the tune, whilst serving its purpose as an ideal vehicle for the words, is of comparatively little value when divorced from its text. "The False Knight upon the Road" (No. 1) is a good instance of this and, in my opinion, a splendid example of the genuine ballad at its highest pitch.
It is greatly to be deplored that the literature of the ballad has, in the past, attracted so much more attention than the music. Properly speaking, the two elements should never be dissociated; the music and the text are one and indivisible, and to sever one from the other is to remove the gem from its setting. Early poetry, to which category the traditional ballad belongs, was always sung or chanted; it was addressed to the ear, not the eye. While language appeals primarily to the intelli-