User talk:DrBaldhead

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Welcome!

Hello, DrBaldhead, and welcome to Wikipedia! Thank you for your contributions. I hope you like the place and decide to stay. Here are some pages that you might find helpful:

I hope you enjoy editing here and being a Wikipedian! Please sign your messages on discussion pages using four tildes (~~~~); this will automatically insert your username and the date. If you need help, check out Wikipedia:Questions, ask me on my talk page, or ask your question on this page and then place {{help me}} before the question. Again, welcome! Pinkstrawberry02talk 22:27, 15 October 2011 (UTC)

Your GA nomination of Sea shanty[edit]

The article Sea shanty you nominated as a good article has been placed on hold Symbol wait.svg. The article needs some work before it meets the good article criteria – there are changes or clarifications which need to be addressed. If these are fixed within seven days, the article will pass, otherwise it will fail. See Talk:Sea shanty for things which need to be addressed. Jezhotwells (talk) 01:13, 19 December 2011 (UTC)

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A barnstar for you![edit]

Writers Barnstar Hires.png The Writer's Barnstar
For your work in the area of sea shantys. Your work is very informative. Guerillero | My Talk 07:07, 14 January 2012 (UTC)

Moving Bhangra music article[edit]

Sat Sri Akaal! Thanks for your last message on my talk page. Thanks for informing. It'll be done soon. Thanks! TariButtar (talk) 07:58, 18 April 2012 (UTC)

Shenandoah origin[edit]

Dr Baldhead, as a non-musical person I'd appreciate your help. A while ago I came across correspondence in The Times (London,England) from 1930, debating the origin of the song 'Shenandoah'. Although some of the contributions struck even me as far-fetched, a couple are from men experienced in the folk-song field (A.A. Brockington and Clive Carey), and one is from an R.L. Andrewes, who sailed between Britain and Australia in the 1880s on wool clippers. Briefly, Carey leans to the idea it was a ballad of Euro-American origin later corrupted and shortened into a shanty: the other two are convinced it was African American (and in Andrewes' experience not a capstan shanty, but often used by men loading cargo bales with wood screws.) I've tried to add some of this to the article on 'Shenandoah' but not to much effect. Might you help to put it in context?RLamb (talk) 08:33, 18 January 2014 (UTC)

  • Hello! I have studied many historical versions of "Shenandoah." There is much to say, and little time to say it! - perhaps more to the point: in the "no original research" environment of Wikipedia, it's hard to lay it out, because it involves a synthesis of much information. A few points of context can be made though. 1) In the 19th century, the song has documented many times, yet only ever as a shanty. I believe that "lay people" who started to sing it in the 20th century received it via the shanty-collectors' books. 2) Shanties and river songs of America - for rowing boats, stoking steamboats, loading cargo - have overlaps in style in repertoire, so to imagine 'Shenandoah" may have been earlier a river song is plausible. However, there is no direct evidence of this. 3) The large body of information about "Shenandoah" and similar chanties suggests to me that the name sung in the song was not "Shenandoah" - that is, it did not refer to the other stuff identified by that name/spelling. I believe that the word sung, one of any number of variations/transformations of "Shannydo", was something of the lore of African-Americans that was not recognized by writers, and that some of these writers on chanties presumed it must be the "Shenandoah" they knew. After that was assumed, writers started to construct a narrative about what they thought the song was about. However, the familiar 'Shenandoah" chanty is just one of several with similar themes. 4) The various chanties with these themes are, as a whole, notably connected with African-American work contexts. 5) Stevedore work was closely associated with sailors' work; chanties were the worksongs of sailors AND stevedores. Many sailors' chanties are demonstrably taken from stevedores' songs. However, the familiar "Shenandoah" is not directly in evidence in a stevedoring context — though "relatives" of it are. 6) "Shenandoah" was definitely a capstan chanty. 7) Very few chanties were derived from ballads; "Shenandoah" is not in the style of a ballad-derived chanty at all. However, Anglophile writers of the early 20th century were often keen to claim they were, with various motivations. These same writers were unaware of the common understanding in the 19th century that chanties were closely linked to African-American songs. Sailors who had sailed at that time were aware, but the collectors didn't always listen to them! It's always better to take the direct statement of what the sailor saw first hand, than the fanciful ideas of the "folk-song" crowd! DrBaldhead (talk) 08:18, 19 January 2014 (UTC)
Yes, I thought I might be in over my head discussing the origins of a shanty with you. Still, here goes.
Your point about the 'lay versions' taken from printed books unduly influencing ideas about origin I think is borne out by Clive Carey's letter. Really his argument for a corrupted Euro-American ballad source is based on the text in Whalls (1910), which he takes to be an earlier, more complete version. He therefore doubts black American origin, since that ethnic group is unlikely to have made up a ballad about a white man and an Indian. But obviously Whalls' book came quite late in the song's history, with plenty of time for a gentrification process to make 'Shenandoah' more suitable for a middle-class audience.
Carey though also supports his argument for a non-black origin by a comment I can't evaluate, but you perhaps can:'...the tune, though in most variants it contains all the notes of the modern major scale, is definitely built on the pentatonic, a scale commonly found in folk music as widely diverse as that of the Hebrides and the American Indians.' Then he goes on to suggest in view of the words, it may owe something to the latter, i.e. Indians. Likely?
The Brockington and Andrewes letters might interest you more because their information looks back to the 1880s-90s. 'R.L. Andrewes' it turns out was a rather educated British sailor (Robert Launceston Andrewes MBE, for more on him see [1]; then click the link to hsbc-cutty-sark-booklet.pdf, and see biog on page 18.) I misled you, Andrewes doesn't actually say it was never a capstan shanty, he says 'more a wool and cotton chantey than a capstan chantey', adding that in his experience it was used in the hold on the wool screws by Sydney waterside workers, mostly ex-sailors and 'many of them full-blood negroes'. These - he believes - brought their songs off the cotton ships. I admit his observations spring from experience limited to 1885-7 on the Britain-Australia run.
Brockington's connection with the song is that he took down a verbatim version from a noted British shantyman for Cecil Sharp in 1914, and was therefore responsible for using the shantyman's own pronunciation, 'Shanadar', as its title. (Sharp wanted to call it 'Shenandoah', perhaps already aware of it via Whalls? There'd been at least one public performance in 1911 by English Folk Music enthusiasts.) Also, one of Brockington's two letters on 'Shenandoah' includes information from a friend, J. E. Laidlaw of San Francisco, who sailed during the 1890s. Laidlaw records a brief version - eight lines - which he says he first heard sung in 1894 by a sailor from Barbados: then in America in 1926 he heard a (white?) officer of a traditionally black regiment (U.S. 9th Cavalry) sing the same version 'almost word for word'.
Almost finished. A man named Thomas Carr wrote to The Times during this debate to say he'd often heard the song used as a capstan shanty by American sailors weighing anchor, in Shanghai in the 1870s. He had never heard it as a hauling shanty and thought its rhythm unsuited for that.
Lastly, a friend with a deep interest in all black diaspora music has taken the trouble to transcribe two of these letters on her blog, Pancocojams: [2] Unfortunately I confused her by referring to the source just as The Times, which she naturally took to mean the NYTimes - hence the slightly misleading heading.
Sorry for the marathon.RLamb (talk) 13:20, 19 January 2014 (UTC)
Thanks. Yes, there is a lot there. Lots of stuff from the 19th century, as I say, which has to be carefully separated from the later writers. Whall's and R.R. Terry's printed versions (1910 and 1921, respectively) have been the most influential. Terry's was the one most used for popular performances, including Paul Robeson's. It's from this that we get a distinctive phrase in the tune which does not appear in any other version attested in history, but which is now how virtually all performers sing it. Whall's book is quite accurate in many respects, but his "Indian" version seems bizarre because he is the only person claiming firsthand knowledge to attest to such a narrative. For what it's worth, Whall was also notably bigoted against Black culture, and this comes through in his book. He explicitly states that avoided printing "nigger shanties" (or something like that), and that he thought such songs were of an inferior class. The writers of that era were rarely considering African-Americans as original agents of chanty-singing. Part of the reason for this was because the narrative of what a shanty is got so much caught up with images of seafaring, and seafaring, in turn, did not immediately evoke thoughts of Black people. What did evoke thoughts of Black people was stevedoring (despite stevedores being White etc., too, naturally)—conveniently (tragically?) ignored by "shanty-collectors", though the shanty genre was shared between these professions. Earlier writers (19th c.) didn't wrap up shanties with seafaring in their mental concept so much as they connected it with work-singing, and work-singing in those days was always associated with Black labor. Ironically, shanties, being propagated and further developed by White sailors/stevedores, did much to create a vision of White men work-singing, such that (I think) by the 20th century one could think "work-song" and think White (sailors). This created a self-fulfilling prophecy, in that "collectors" of the era then rarely bothered to go to Black people (or to America) to collect shanties. The result is a whole lot of statements by Britons about how they had heard so-and-so shanty sung by Black men in the Americas, etc...and some confused collectors trying to reconcile this with their agenda (a word I use only casually) of fitting shanties into the English "folk" pedigree.
Incidentally, "Shanadoah" (that's the spelling used) was published in a performance-ready version in Old Sea Chanties by Bradford and Fagge (1904). It and other songs from this collection were recorded on gramophone records circa 1905.
As for the pentatonic scale, it was very much associated with African-American music, so I have no idea what Carey was thinking. In fact, pentatonic scale was so much the stereotypical earmark of African-American (and Irish) tunes in the 19th c. that it was employed in minstrel music to that effect. Chinese music is also stereotypically pentatonic...so yeah, I don't know what Carey was on about! DrBaldhead (talk) 08:51, 20 January 2014 (UTC)
Certainly if Whalls had the racist outlook you suggest he's not going to be a very reliable witness about the possible black origins of Shenandoah. I admit the Indian-maiden version always sounded a bit like a parlour ballad to me, but then what do I know.
Another correspondent in The Times' debate, unhelpfully signing himself 'C.N.R.', objected that an 1805 poem by Lieut. Henry Barnet Gascoigne, then serving aboard H.M.S. Melpomene, indicates that shanties were sung even in the Royal Navy. C.N.R. quotes: 'now with a song the bowlines well they haul'. But I found the poem online [3] and Gascoigne also refers in it to 'the Leadsman still continuing his song / 'By the deep Nine'...' It sounds as if by 'song' Gascoigne means only a sonorous, rhythmic chant rather than anything as musically ambitious as a shanty. On the other hand Frederick Marryat in 1837 seems very struck by the singing he heard while a passenger crossing the Atlantic aboard the Quebec, noting in his diary: ‘The seamen, as usual lightened their labour with the song and chorus, forbidden in the etiquette of a man-of-war. … The one they sung was particularly musical, though not refined; and the chorus of ‘Oh! Sally Brown’, was given with great emphasis by the whole crew between every line of the song, sung by an athletic young third mate’. It sounds as if though Marryat was used to hearing (merchant) navy sailors use a 'song and chorus' at their work, this kind of 'particularly musical' song was a new item to him.
Three years later in his novel Poor Jack(1840)[4] Marryat depicts a singing contest between two retired sailors, one white British, one black American. The white sailor sings 'Spanish Ladies' and the black responds with 'General Gabriel', a 23-verse song about the failed slave rebellion in Virginia (1800). Each verse has two lines and a chorus of 'Oh-e-oh! Oh-e-oh!' alternating with a chorus of 'Oh my boys, I'm most done.' So, is that a shanty? A version similar to Marryat's, though not identical, was collected much later, among black Americans in the south, about 1900. (I'm hazy on details because I saw this on the net and will now have to re-find it.) Perhaps it began as an African American work song c.1800, and transferred to sea later.
I think I must be remembering this song [5]RLamb (talk) 19:01, 21 January 2014 (UTC)

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