In 18th-century East Anglia, agricultural workers often performed in the streets disguised in blackface and women’s clothing in exchange for largesse; this practice became known as Molly dancing. The dancers, who were often drunk, disreputable, and destructive, were regarded as degenerate by preservationists, and the practice died out in the 1930s.
Four decades later an expansion of the English folk revival fostered an interest in obscure traditions, and a resurrection of Molly dancing ensued. Its new incarnation is marked by a completely different cultural context, improved status of the dancers, and an emphasis on creativity.
This according to “Molly dancing: A study of discontinuity and change” by Elaine Bradtke, an essay included in Step change: New views on traditional dance (London: Francis Boutle, 2001, pp. 60–85). Above, Gog Magog Molly; below, the Ouse Washes Molly Dancers.
Filed under Dance, Europe
The arc of Kodály’s career as an ethnomusicologist appears to have been a consciously, even artistically, designed path.
In the early 20th century he traveled the Hungarian countryside along with Béla Bartók to document and research Hungarian musical traditions; both composers were influenced tremendously by this pursuit.
After World War II, the focus of Kodály’s ethnomusicological activities was the publication of A magyar népzene tára/Corpus musicae popularis Hungaricae, the critical edition of all Hungarian traditional music. For this undertaking he established the first scientific research group for ethnomusicology in Hungary, the Népzenekutató Csoport, which served as a workshop for the modern Hungarian school of ethnomusicologists.
This according to Kodály, a népzenekutató és tudományos műhelye by Olga Szalay (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 2004).
Today is Kodály’s 130th birthday! Below, two of his settings of traditional songs that he collected in Zobor, from 1908.
Related article: Kodály and somatic eruption
Arapīdes, also known as Carnival, takes place on 5 and 6 January (Epiphany Eve and Epiphany Day) in Monastīraki, Greece. Rooted in ancient Dionysiac worship, the ritual involves performances by four groups: arapīdes, masked men in black capes holding wooden swords; gkiligkes, men wearing women’s local dress; pappoudes, men wearing men’s local dress; and tsoliades or euzōnoi, men dressed as guards.
Starting in the morning, the assembled troupe visits each house in the village and dances with the head of the household, who then presents a donation. In the afternoon the troupe performs in the village square; then all of the villagers join in the dancing, which lasts into the night.
This according to “Ritual acts and dance: The case of the Arapides in Monastiraki” by Ioannis Prantsidis (Studia choreologica VIII , pp. 81–120). Below, the troupe dances in the village square in 2011.
Established in 2009 by the Archives Internationales de Musique Populaire at the Musée d’Ethnographie in Geneva, Le fonds Brăiloiu is an open-access collection of 3028 recordings by the Romanian ethnomusicologist Constantin Brăiloiu (1893–1958) and his colleagues. The collection has also been issued by VDE-Gallo as Collection universelle de musique populaire/The world collection of folk music: Archives Constantin Brăiloiu, 1913–1953, a set of four CDs.
Above, Brăiloiu records Gheorge Musuleac in Romania in 1928. Below, one of Brăiloiu’s 1941 recordings of the Serbian flute player Milan Trandafir.
The earliest known ancestor of Old MacDonald had a farm is A charming country life in Thomas D’Urfey’s Pills to purge melancholy (1719–20); while the verses have no resemblance to the later song, the chorus of “Here a ___, there a ___, everywhere a ___” is structurally identical.
Further eighteenth-century versions appear in other collections, and in the nineteenth century others, always with the same stock chorus but differing in other particulars, emerged in blackface minstrelsy. A version from a 1917 book of soldiers’ songs produced in London gives the first direct predecessor of the modern version, with a similar tune for the chorus and an identification of the farmer as “Old MacDougal”; it also explains the nonsensical “ee-i-ee-i-o”—Old MacDougal’s farm was “in O-hi-o-hi-o.”
This according to “Farmyard cacaphonies: Three centuries of a popular song” by Vic Gammon (Folk music journal XI/1, pp. 42-72). Above, D’Urfey, who claimed—perhaps unreliably—to have written the original song. Below, Sesame Street’s justly neglected Old MacDonald cantata.
Renovations of Whittaker Library at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2000 involved dismantling a “robust but not particularly beautiful cupboard” and storing its contents—mostly old sheet music—for later inspection.
Entirely by chance, the librarian and scholar Karen McAulay discovered therein three manuscript collections of traditional Scottish flute tunes notated by one James Simpson. Her subsequent research enabled her to establish some details of Simpson’s identity, including his residences, occupation, and birth and death dates (1806–73).
This according to McAulay’s “From Dalfield Walk, Dundee, to Renfrew Street, Glasgow: The James Simpson manuscripts” (Brio XL/1 [spring-summer 2003] pp. 27–37). Above, Simpson’s notation of the Strathspey Maggie Lauder with variations.
The manuscript Original Highland airs collected at Raasay in 1812 by Elizabeth Jane Ross, which is preserved in the archives of the School of Celtic and Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh, is now available for downloading at no cost, both in facsimile and in an extensively annotated typeset edition prepared by Peter Cooke, Morag MacLeod, and Colm Ó Baoill.
The earliest known staff-notated manuscript collection of Scottish Gaelic music, it contains 92 songs, 51 dance tunes, and 6 pibrochs; it probably represents well the musical repertory of Raasay, one of the islands of the Inner Hebrides. A major task for the editors involved locating, documenting, translating, and underlaying song texts which might have been known to Ross; she provided titles or first lines of verses or refrains for her airs, but not the texts themselves.
The Raasay residents James Macleod and his wife Flora were excellent musicians, and their niece Elizabeth Ross, who lived with them, was clearly a competent transcriber. Raasay was also the home of the great piper John MacKay, from whom Ross learned to play several pibrochs.
Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Eireann, the largest group worldwide devoted to the preservation and promotion of Irish traditional music, is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.
With hundreds of branches in 15 countries on 4 continents, the non-profit organization sponsors classes, concerts, and sessions in local communities. It also hosts a website, which accounts for its presence in RILM. A page on their site titled The music includes links to tracks from their CDs, recordings of sessions, and tracks from the Comhaltas Traditional Music Archive; video recordings of some of today’s foremost performers; selections from their own tune books, as well as other tunes from historical sources; a photograph archive; and Treoir, the Comhaltas journal.
Below, Emma O’Sullivan dances a reel at a Comhaltas event. Note that this is not the rigid-posture style popularized by shows like Riverdance, which is considered by many to be a more recent development; this style is known as sean-nós, which means “old style”.
The Filarmonikīs Etaireia Kerkyras (Φιλαρμονική Εταιρεία Κέρκυρας, Philharmonic Society of Corfu) launched the book series Dīmosieumata tou Mouseiou Mousikī “Nikolaos Chalikiopoulos Mantzaros” (Δημοσιεύματα του Μουσείου Μουσική ‘Νικόλαος Χαλικιόπουλος Μάντζαρος’, Publications of the Nikolaos Chalidiopoulos Mantzaros Museum) in 2010, in conjunction with the museum’s opening and the society’s 170th anniversary.
The first volume in the series, Exi meletes gia tī Filarmonikī Etaireia Kerkyras (Έξι μελέτες για τη Φιλαρμονική Εταιρεία Κερκύρας, Six studies on the Corfu Philarmonic Society), includes an overview of the society’s history, a report on its archive, and explorations of selected topics in its history.
Below, the Filarmonikīs plays for the Holy Friday procession, Easter 2010.
Sponsored by the English Folk Dance and Song Society, Take six is a searchable online database of the manuscript archives of seven of the U.K.’s most prominent folk song collectors— Janet Blunt (1859–1950), George Gardiner (1852–1910), Anne Gilchrist (1863–1954), Henry Hammond (1866–1910, Sabine Baring-Gould (1834–1924), Francis Collinson (1898–1984), and George Butterworth (1885–1916).
Each of the archives has been completely catalogued and digitized. Most of the documents are songs and tunes, but other manuscript items, such as dances or correspondence, are also included. Many thanks to Tim Radford for bringing this resource to our attention!
Related post: An early Gaelic manuscript