ISSUE 3 - JUNE 2002
Australian Folklore Network
Australian Folklore Research Unit
Curtin University of Technology
FROM THE CONVENOR
Welcome to the third edition of Transmissions. The AFN newsletter is expanding somewhat and this time includes Hugh Anderson reviewing four CDs of traditional song, raising a number of difficult issues relating to folklore and intellectual property and appropriate – or not - ways to re-use and represent traditional culture.
We also present some thoughts on the possibility of a national centre for folklore and encourage feedback from our readers on this long-running issue.
As well there is the usual selection of informative items about and links to the wide world of folklore.
Thank you to contributors and please send in any activities, productions, publications, etc. that might be of interest to the growing readership of Transmissions. (We now go to over 100 addresses).
A NATIONAL FOLKLORE CENTRE?
One aim of the AFN is the establishment of a national facility for folklore. Australia is one of very few countries without an institutionalised body for fieldwork, preservation, dissemination, research etc. into its own extensive and diverse folk traditions. Over the years a number of attempts have been made to establish such a facility, most notably through the work and report of the Committee of Inquiry into Folklife in Australia Hugh Anderson, Gwenda Davey, Keith McKenry) in the late 1980s.
However, in 2002, there is still no central facility, although there is a great deal of activity and interest in one or more aspects of ‘folk’, folklore, folklife, folk culture, etc., with a great number of successful folk festivals, numerous associations, a number of archives, books, journals and magazines, tertiary teaching and many individuals involved in the collection, performance, preservation or presentation of one or more aspects of national tradition. It seems that this is the most likely moment for the establishment of a national facility for twenty years. Consequently the AFN seeks input from its affiliates and elsewhere along the following lines:
Responses to be published in the next Transmissions.
- Should there be a national folklore facility of some sort?
- If so, what form(s) should it take? There are various models such as the American Folklife Centre in the Library of Congress or Office of Folklife at the Smithsonian in USA; Ireland had a Folklore Commission for many years, though this has long been folded into a university department; the Centre for English Cultural Tradition is part of Sheffield University; Wales has its Folklife Museum and there is a School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University and the Elphinstone Institute at the University of Aberdeen. Most European countries have some facility(ies) often, though not always, linked to a university(ies). Naturally an Australian centre would cater for Australian needs, but how?
- What should it do, or not do? (Archives, collecting, research, promotion, publication, education, official representation of Australia in international forums, etc.)
- Where should it be located? (is it inevitable that such a centre would end up in Canberra?). In which institution(s) would it best be located – National Library, Museum of Australia (which did briefly have a similar body in the early 90s), a university, some combination of these; somewhere else?
- What resources (staff, facilities, money, etc.) would be required?
- Anything else?
THE AUSTRALIAN RAILWAY STORY from Brian Dunnett
50 significant songs, poems and stories that reflect on the contribution railways have made to the social history of Australia.
The Australian Railway Historical Society, the Bush Music Club, the Rail Tram and Bus Union and the Australian Bush Poets Association are launching a project to publish a book of Australian Railway Australian Railway songs, poems and stories
The book of song, poems and stories will be published to coincide with the opening of the Alice Springs Darwin Railway Line that is expected to open in late 2003. This railway line will be the first major railway line to be constructed in Australia in over eighty years and is seen as the opening another chapter in the rich history of Australian Railway.
It is felt that a book of Australian Railway Song Poems and stories will have a wide appeal to Australian and overseas readers. The fifty significant songs poems and stories will be drawn from both historical and contemporary sources and be supported with photographs.
At this stage of the project while the publishing group is still discussing the possible format of the book and other issues such as copyright we are asking several things from those who may be interested in becoming involved in the project.
Performers, Collectors and Researchers
If you are a performer, collector, or a researcher of Australian Railway songs, poems and stories and interested in having your material considered for the book, we are asking that you provide us with a brief description of the material that you may have. This description should included titles and its source if known. While your list may not be used in the 50 items to be chosen, we feel that a reference section of authors and titles of all known Australian Railway songs poems and stories would be useful for those interested in Australian Railway history and is well overdue.
Songwriters, Writers, and Poets
Many contemporary Australian songwriters, writers, and poets have chosen Australian Railways or incidents connected with them as a theme for their work. In the main these items are one off items or a small number of items that would be enhanced by appearing in a major collection on the theme or in a reference document. We would be interested in hearing from you and discussing how your material could be included and the copyright that is involved. We are particularly interested in hearing from the Northern Territory people such as Aboriginal Railway workers and their families who may have written material on their experiences with Australian Railways. Writers intending to develop material about the Alice Springs Darwin line and its social effect should be aware that the project committee has established cultural and industrial contacts that may be useful to your work.
If you are interested please forward your expressions of interest, lists of potential material for the book or enquiries to:
“ The Australian Railway Story”
C/O the Rail Tram and Bus Union
83-89 Renwick St Redfern NSW2016
or phone Brian Dunnett 0296689051
NEW AUSTRALIAN FOLKLORE RESEARCH UNIT WEB PAGES
The Australian Folklore Research Unit has a new – and searchable - website at:
The site contains information about the Australian Folklore Network and its projects, folklore research, teaching and related activities, links and the current and archived Transmissions.
MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY POST-DOCTORAL FELLOWSHIP IN ETHNOMUSICOLOGY
Memorial University of Newfoundland is pleased to announce the inauguration of a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship in Ethnomusicology for the academic year 2002-03. The Fellowship is established in conjunction with the newly established Canada Research Chair in Traditional Music. The research program encompasses many issues raised by the circulation of "traditional music" via new media and trans-local audiences. A one-page summary of the research program is available to prospective applicants upon request from email@example.com.
Applications should be addressed to:
Dr. Beverley Diamond,
School of Music,
St. John's, Newfoundland,
Applicants are encouraged to send an electronic copy of their application to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications should be post-marked no later than April 30, 2002 for a Fellowship to commence in September 1, 2002.
PhD Studentship - Oral Heritage of Scottish Travellers (Closing date 1 July 2002)
Applications are invited for a 3-year PhD Studentship commencing October 2002 under the provisions of the George Reid Memorial Fund. Full fees at the Home/EU rate and maintenance of £5640 will be provided. The successful applicant will contribute to the HLF-funded Oral and Cultural Traditions of Scottish Travellers Project based at the Elphinstone Institute. The studentship will be based in the Elphinstone Institute, Faculty of Arts and Divinity. Further details and informal enquiries: Dr Ian Russell - 01224 272996, email email@example.com or visit the website www.abdn.ac.uk/elphinstone.
A SMALL HARVEST - Reviews by Hugh Anderson.
CDs mentioned in this review:
The last few years have seen an increasing number of CDs produced with relative ease and at a reasonable cost, but unless promoted and well advertised most people will never hear them. As in book publishing, short runs mean higher unit costs, difficult distribution and little chance of review. In the instance of ephemeral CD production, as well as in publishing, the production standards and quality of the product vary widely. So it is with the discs discussed here, where the focus is on the notes accompanying the recordings.
- LIFE ON THE GOLDfIELDS Being a musical entertainment drawn from the songs of Charles Thatcher, by Graeme Adler and Chris Hood. Currie Music, 12 Northcott Street, Queanbeyan, NSW 2620. Price not available.
- MUSIC OF THE DIGGINGS Songs and tunes of the Central Victorian goldfields. Friends of the Mount Alexander Diggings, 25 Farnsworth Street; Castlemaine, Vict. 3450. $25
- HARRY COX The bonny labouring boy. Traditional songs and tunes from a Norfolk farm worker. Topic TSCD 512D. Price unknown.
- SHARING THE HARVEST Field recordings from the Meredith Collection in the National Library of Australia. Canberra. ACT 2600. $19.95 from NLA Bookshop.
LIFE ON THE GOLDfIELDS
"Life on the Goldfields" arose from the performances of Graeme Adler and Chris Hood between March and June 2001 at the National Museum of Australia in conjunction with the exhibition "Gold and Civilisation". Musically, the singing and instrumentation is impressive, and I can well imagine people asking where they can obtain a recording of the Thatcher items, whose "wonderful songs have fallen into relative obscurity". As a collector and publisher of the Thatcher song book (with music) I can say they have been obscure since the 1850s and 1860s, and this Charles Thatcher's Gold Diggers' Songbook (Red Rooster Press, 1980), a recently out-of-print publication, only sold about 1000 copies over 20 years.
The fact of the matter is, Adler and Hood have been constrained in their chosen songs by simply taking seven of them. I know this because they have also included one of my mistakes-"The Ballarat Man" is the work of William Coxon not Thatcher--and ignored the dozens of other Thatcher songs not published that could have been made available.
Worse, in my opinion, is the lack of a single word of attribution or sourcing of their material. The 14 page booklet compiled by Gillian Currie is adequate in saying a little about Thatcher and the songs used, but does not attempt to explain any of the local references in the texts, and maintains "only two Thatcher songs are commonly heard in the broader folk repertoire" and names these as "Look Out Below" and "Where's Your Licence", but does not include the latter on the recording. It is impossible to see where the "extensive research" came in, but the record is well worth buying for the singing.
MUSIC OF THE DIGGINGS
"Music of the Diggings" might be taken as simply complementary to "Life on the Goldfields", but this would be a mistake. It is a charming recording in most ways, with great variety in singers and instrumentalists and most importantly, in material. Although everything on Thatcher seems to be repetitive and limited to the same few songs this recording has several uncommon items. "Scrumptious Young Gals", excellently sung by Dave de Hugard "has not previously been recorded" simply because the original tune "Beautiful Leaves" was unknown. At a huge cost and many years of searching in the British Library and other repositories, Dawn and Hugh Anderson found it (and dozens of similar tunes), and freely passed it to the producers of this recording. There is no acknowledgement whatsoever of the source.
- 1. The 22 page booklet by Ken Mansell is a good production in content and format, but has the usual shortcomings of being based on extremely limited research, otherwise known as simply taking whatever is to hand. Their view is if it is published they are free to make whatever use of it they care to without specific acknowledgement because
- it is "folk". Everything is apparently thought to be common knowledge, but in fact it is very specialised. For example, the drawings of Charles Thatcher used everywhere on the recording and the booklet are by Ron Edwards (unacknowledged) and based on one particular drawing from a Thatcher songbook owned by the late Stephen Murray-Smith. Now we have an actual photograph of Thatcher (although taken some 15 years later) we can make proper comparisons between the images.
- 2. Since Ken Mansell had the benefit of face to face discussions with me, statements like "it is surprising that more of their ballads have not been recovered" are ridiculous. Recovered from where and by whom? This writer has on hand literally hundreds of Thatcher texts and many dozens of tunes, rediscovered by research over at least 40 years. They have not been published because there is no assistance to do so, as was the case when small grants were available from the Australia Council and/ or Book Bounty for printing in Australia, and commercial publishers find insufficient market for them.
- 3. Mansell copies the view that "Thatcher gave the tune [for 'Look Out Below'] as 'The Smuggler King' but this has never been identified. Anderson, in his books, used 'The Pirate King"'. How does he know they are not the same tunes with different names? He gives no evidence whatsoever.
- 4. Simon McDonald was discovered in the 1950s and recorded by the Folklore Society of Victoria, but I recorded thousands of feet of tape of Simon's life story in the 1960s that is not mentioned, and which appeared finally in an edited form (thanks to printer Bob Cugley) as Time Out of Mind (National Press) in 1974.
- 5. The song "The Good Time Coming", a parody of Stephen Foster by William Coxon, has background notes derived only from our recent publication, Two Goldfields Balladists (Red Rooster Press, 1999), not Mansell's original research, but again there is no attribution.
- 6. The notes to "The Wild Colonial Boy" have virtually every word taken without any acknowledgement or permission from my unpublished draft article, "Wild Colonial Boy Jack Donohoe" which I foolishly showed him.
- 7. Although Anderson dominates the "select" bibliography, some references are inaccurate, like Colonial Ballads 1962 (and subsequent editions here and in the USA) were published by Cheshire and not Rams Skull Press, and Time Out of Mind has also been published as a paperback by Red Rooster Press in 1987. It is all very well to give thanks to "the creativity of musicians and story-tellers", but what about the collectors and publishers of this essential material without whom such a recording could not exist?
"HARRY COX, THE BONNY LABOURING BOY"
"Harry Cox, the Bonny Labouring Boy" is a model for field recordings. Apart from many items of Australian interest, such as "Adieu to Old England", "The Bonny Labouring Boy", "The Maid of Australia" and "The Black Velvet Band", the 60 page booklet is by far the most detailed and the best I have encountered. There is an Introduction by Reg Hall, a piece on Harry Cox by Paul Marsh (27 pages), three pages By Christopher Heppa on "Harry Cox's Friends and Fellow Singers", but at the core of the booklet are the "Notes to the Songs" by Steve Roud (29 Pages), including the texts of the songs, Roud numbers to his Folksong Index and reference to Laws' American Balladry from British Broadsides, as well as the name of the recordist and the date of the recording. The singing on these two CDs is repetitive as it is by one singer, but acceptable in small amounts.
SHARING THE HARVEST
In contrast, "Sharing the Harvest" also on two CDs is, unfortunately, a personal disappointment. As one who had a long and fairly close writing relationship with John Meredith, and who once urged the National Library to issue material from their collection (which was finally squashed by Meredith himself), I looked forward to an improvement on the original double cassettes issued a few years ago. It was quite praiseworthy to try and get a CD out immediately after John's death in February this year, but a total of 99 songs, recitations and music is pretty hard to take as entertainment. The five pages of notes by Edgar Waters are very good on Meredith's collecting procedures and the results, but for those not aspiring to be "scholars" the actual material is a "Curate's egg" of good and bad. Waters correctly summed up the overall quality: "Some of the singers were old when recorded and no longer sang well; some of them had probably never sung well. Some of the musicians had not played their instruments in years and this lack of practice shows; but their feel for the music as music for dancing also shows." Perhaps a more severe selection together with texts, notes and scholarly apparatus like that added to Harry Cox's CDs would have sufficiently widened the appeal of Meredith's collection for most people.