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Thursday, 10 December 2015

Cecil Sharp: Photographs




From Somerset to the Appalachians

A fascinating archive of the photographs taken by pioneer folk-song collector Cecil Sharp

English Folk Song on the Margin, Yvette Staelens (pdf)

All Among the New Mown Hay, Alfred Edgell/Edgehill -
recordist Cecil Sharp, 1907, folk-song on wax cylinder - Chew Magna, Somerset, December 26, 1907


Folk Songs from Somerset - full text

From the Introduction:

"Folk-song, unknown in the drawing-room, hunted out of the school, chased by the chapel deacons, derided by the middle classes, and despised by those who have been uneducated into the three R's, takes refuge in the fastnesses of tap-rooms, poor cottages and outlying hamlets. It harbours in the heathen kingdoms and the wilder parts. It is a treasure to be sought and found in nooks and corners, underneath much mental and some moral lumber. It comes out very shyly, late at night, and is heard when the gentry have gone home to bed, when the barrack-room has exhausted its Music-hall menu. It is to be found when men have well drunk. The parson hears of it, but rarely hears it. Domesticated and holy Penelope does not sing it at her loom. She invites you to gather up the sunbeams, or to be a Daniel. You must ask our Arcadian Aspasias if you want to get news of it. Those who shelter it the most, will often be the first to assure you that they have never heard of such a thing. They will not sing at all, cannot indeed ; or if their scruples are outweighed by silvery arguments, they will oblige you with the tale of " Grandfather's Clock " or of his " Cottage by the Sea." Just as you are wearied out with " Uncle Jeff," or the strokes of the " Village Blacksmith," and are about to abandon the search and to dismiss the songster with a begrudged fee, he or she will rather apologetically remember a fragment, or maybe a complete ballad, which " grandfather used to sing," and there all at once you are face to face with some modal melody, some Aeolian or Mixo-Lydian air from the spacious days of Elizabeth, possibly from the wars of the Roses or earlier than that. Stories, which the Scotch have claimed for their peculiar heritage, mated to airs which could never at any time have been groaned from the bagpipe, fall from the lips of carters and labourers, who have relegated them to their mental attics and far prefer the shoddy furniture which they shew you to begin with".

"The collection here made is presented to the public as nearly as possible just as it was taken down from the lips of the singers ; in the tunes with exact fidelity. We have not tried to reproduce by spelling the Somerset dialect, because such attempts are useless to those who know, and merely misleading to the ignorant. But anything like a peculiar use, which is characteristic of the speech, we have carefully kept, as we have done with archaisms and rare words. We have reluctantly changed the weak perfects into strong ones, but this can easily be seed and knowed and changed back again by the reader who chooses to do so. In a few instances the sentiment of the song has been softened, because the conventions of our less delicate and more dishonest time demand such treatment, but indication has been given, and we plead compulsion and not desire in these alterations. Things which were obvious slips of grammar we have corrected, but not until all other excuses for them had been tried". 

Charles L. Marson, Vicar of Hambridge , 1904.


Meanwhile, in Hungary, Béla Bartók was collecting folk music on phonograph cylinders, as in this photo of a 1908 collecting trip:


And in the USA, J.W. Fewkes was active


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