minstrel: The Ballad Book

mn13189 at WCUVAX1.WCU.EDU mn13189 at WCUVAX1.WCU.EDU
Thu Feb 27 08:35:09 PST 1997

On Thu, 27 Feb 1997, Greg Lindahl wrote:
> The notion of "anonymous authorship" of ballads is a bunch of bull, in
> my opinion. That's what underlies the notion that ballads with known
> authors are not really traditional... But, of course, there are many
> opinions on this topic.

Yes, there are a lot of opinions on this.  And there is no fine line.  It
is instead a very wide fuzzy grey area.  For instance, I (as a researcher
of songs) like to know, to the best of my ability, the origins and history
of a song.  This is because I enjoy studying this sort of thing.  So often
I am not content with the label, "traditional."  For instance, the Burns'
song, "Auld Lang Sine" is known to be based on a traditional song that
Burns knew.  But the earliest *written* song with a title and chorus
similar to "Auld Lang Sine" with the same meter was written in the
early-mid 17th century (100 years prior to Burns) and has a definite
author (I don't know his name, but I have it written down in my notes at
home).  So, is this song "traditional" or not?  
	A lot of people would consider Burns songs "tdaritional Scottish
songs" and indeed, they are part of Scotland's tradition.  But I, as a
student of these songs, would feel inclined to always give Burns credit.
But take into account that a lot of the authors of Scottish songs, even in
the present day, do not really *want* credit for their work (unless they
are in the recording industry and make money off of their songs).  People
such as Mary Brooksbank or Jeanie Ritchardson are more than content to let
their songs slip anonymously into tradition.  I heard a true anectodte
once from Ed Miller where a fellow was competeing in a folk festival in
Scotland.  He introduced his song as "an old peice I learned from my
grandfather,"  he then started to sing, and it turns out that one of the
judges was the author of the song!  And the passage of his song into
tradition meant to him that he actually succeeded as a songwriter.
(Sorry, I don't remember the gent's name).  So where do you draw the line?
Personally, I always give authorship when I know it, because otherwise
this information will not be preserved.  But every "traditional" peice of
unknown authorship does have an author.

> > My article points out
> > and details these medieval qualities of traditional Scottish songs.
> I'd love to see that. I'd also like to see discussion of what
> qualities of traditional Scottish songs aren't medieval.
> Gregory Blount

It's almost ready.  I'm having trouble, for some reason, copying the
article from my text file onto my email.  It jumbles the lines around so
that it's incomprehensable.  As soon as I can figure this out I'll post

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