1st Edition

Desire, Drink and Death in English Folk and Vernacular Song, 1600–1900

ISBN 9781138278332
Published November 29, 2016 by Routledge
282 Pages

USD $62.95

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Book Description

This much-needed book provides valuable insights into themes and genres in popular song in the period c. 1600-1900. In particular it is a study of popular ballads as they appeared on printed sheets and as they were recorded by folk song collectors. Vic Gammon displays his interest in the way song articulates aspects of popular mentality and he relates the discourse of the songs to social history. Gammon discusses the themes and narratives that run through genres of song material and how these are repeated and reworked through time. He argues that in spite of important social and economic changes, the period 1600-1850 had a significant cultural consistency and characteristic forms of popular musical and cultural expression. These only changed radically under the impact of industrialization and urbanization in the nineteenth century. The book will appeal to those interested in folk song, historical popular music (including church music), ballad literature, popular literature, popular culture, social history, anthropology and sociology.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: exploring old songs; Song, sex, and society in England, 1600-1850; Such a merry tune: musical instruments, and dance as sexual symbols; Echoes of the Siren: music, charm, and seduction in British traditional songs and ballads; 'Nothing like drinking': English vernacular song and strong drink; Singing and popular funeral practices in the 18th and 19th centuries; Child death; Song, experience, and authenticity; Indexes.

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Dr Vic Gammon was Senior Lecturer in Folk and Traditional Music in the International Centre for Music Studies, Newcastle University, UK. His D.Phil., completed at the University of Sussex, was on vernacular and religious music in nineteenth century Sussex and his research interests centre on British and North American vernacular and popular musics. He is a performer of English traditional music (mainly on the voice, anglo concertina, melodeon and banjo) and has composed music for a number of stage and radio plays. He retired from Newcastle University in 2010.


Shortlisted for the 2008 Katharine Briggs Award. ’Here is a publication long looked for, come at last. ... of all modern-day scholars, Vic Gammon perhaps more than any other may truly be said to have altered the perceptions of anyone who gives more than a passing thought to the content and context of folk and vernacular song in England. His frank analysis of concepts which seemed largely taboo to earlier generations of commentators are like refreshing gusts of wind on a summer's day. ...You are unlikely to find a more ground-breaking, thought-provoking and challenging publication on folk and vernacular song this year, or perhaps for some time to come. An essential read. ’ Musical Traditions ’This is a significant book - a study of folk song, written and revised over a twenty-five year period, although over sixty percent of the book is new material. ...Throughout, the text and argument are liberally illustrated using texts of folk songs ...The result of this well-researched study is scholarly and authoritative. ... an accessible book which folk song enthusiasts will find fascinating.’ English Dance & Song magazine, www.efdss.org, Derek Schofield ’... extremely useful.’ NABMSA Newsletter ’... a welcome and refreshing new study. It is readable by all, regardless of academic training or familiarity with the material, but it is also rigorous enough to lead even those with considerable experience to new connections and thoughts.’ Lied und populäre Kultur ’... extremely interesting and an important collection of essays...’ History Workshop Journal 'Gammon, a leading scholar in the social history of the English-language traditional song repertory, shows an encyclopaedic knowledge of the acres of source material with which he engages, as well as an unabating enthusiasm for the tracing of homologies and the mapping of trends within that material.' Ethnomusicology Forum ' ... anyone interested in the study of English folksong should have a copy