TRADITIONAL BALLADS by EWAN MacCOLL
"Defined in its simplest terms, the ballad is a folksong that tells a story. Whatever may be added to this statement is by way of amplification, to explain and clarify, merely, since the whole truth of the matter is in it. What we have come to call a ballad is always a narrative, is always sung to a rounded melody, and is always learned from the lips of others rather than by reading."
Gerould: The Ballad of Tradition.
Gerould might also have added that the traditional ballad form is one which has proved extremely durable. Not only has it survived social upheaval, revolutions in science and technology, profound changes in public taste and fashion; it has even survived the collectors, anthologists, 'improvers' and concert singers.
This extraordinary capacity for survival appears to have escaped the notice of the most brilliant ballad scholars. Professor Child in a letter to the Danish savant, Svend Gruntvig, wrote: "The sources of British ballads are dried up forever." Thirty five years later Cecil Sharp observed: "The English ballad is moribund, its account is well nigh closed."
Fortunately, these obituary notices have proved premature for while it is true that the TV set has usurped the function of the village storyteller and ballad singer, it is equally true that the occasional intelligent use of TV and radio has introduced the traditional ballad and ballad singer to a large new audience. Furthermore, with the advent of the tape-recorder and the LP disc, the story of the complete ballad form (words and music together) has reached a completely new stage.
Same as Volume Two