compiled by Kelly Roubo

A selection of abstracts from papers presented at various conferences in 2003 are included here.  For people entering the MUN Folklore department this fall who have not had previous experience with Folklore, this gives the opportunity to see some areas of contemporary folklore studies that are being undertaken by those in our department.

Abstracts from the Canadian Society for Traditional Music Conference 2002, November 1-3, held at Memorial University, St John’s, Newfoundland

The Many Lives of ‘Cotton Eyed Joe’
by Holly Everett

Rednex’s 1995 hit dance mix of “Cotton Eyed Joe” has been a favourite at country dance clubs and hockey arenas internationally, and featured on the Fox TV series “Malcolm in the Middle.” The tune has been played in Canada for at least 60 years. The Canadian variants are often traced back to Don Messer, who recorded and published it as sheet music. This fiddle favourite has also been committed to vinyl by Saskatchewan Brian Sklar, Quebecers Ti-blanc Richard and Bill Sawyer, Ontarians Dan Penny, Gerry Seaboyer and Graham Townshend, as well as by Carl Elliot and his Nova Scotians. Newfoundland fiddlers Don Randell and Ted Blanchard, and Barachois’s Louise Arsenault also play it. Joe Pancerzewski, the North Dakota-born “Fiddling Engineer,” knows it as a Canadian tune, which he probably picked up in Saskatchewan. Ed McCurdy used “Cotton Eyed Joe” as the theme song for his CBC radio and television series in the forties and fifties.

Folklorist Dorothy Scarborough was one of the first to publish the traditional song in an academic work, noting that it predated the American Civil War. In her 1925 collection of African-American song, Joe is a “hoodoo” man who rolls into town with the travelling medicine show. Other variants cast Joe as a slave, a hired hand, or a talented fiddler. Michelle Shocked has recently theorized that Joe could perform abortions. Regardless of the particulars, “Cotton Eyed Joe” appears to have become a staple of both African and Euro-North American musical traditions by the mid to late 1920s, and was commercially recorded at least six times in that decade alone.

This paper, through the presentation of several North American tune and text variants, will argue that the song’s enigmatic title character, much like Foucault’s “author” (1984: 101-120), embodies multiple, sometimes disparate meanings which may be utilized in diverse performance practices (Ake 2002; Burton 1978; Radner and Lanser 1993). As with many traditional songs, the ambiguity of the variant texts and the polysemic nature of the protagonist are precisely what enable Cotton Eyed Joe¹s chameleon-like transformations--from tragic tale to dance-floor favourite--and easy adaptation to regional musical styles.

Forgotten Folklorist: Charlotte Burne and Shropshire Song
by David Gregory

The paper will explore the contribution of Shropshire folklorist Charlotte Burne to the Late Victorian folksong revival in England. It will examine which ballads and folk lyrics she obtained from local villagers and from travellers who passed through the region, and it will discuss her method of presenting this material in her major publication on Shropshire folklore. The selective use of her work made by Francis Child in “The English and Scottish Popular Ballads” will also be analysed. The paper will be illustrated by sung examples of two of the songs she collected, a ballad and a carol.

An Operative Model for Analyzing Kenneth Peacock’s Newfoundland Song Collection
Anna Kearney Guigné

Between 1951 and 1961, Kenneth Peacock, a classical musician and composer visited Newfoundland 6 times to collect songs on behalf of the National Museum of Canada later publishing two-thirds of his field collection in a 3-volume collection Songs of the Newfoundland Outports (1965). The work was pivotal to the shaping of the Newfoundland-centered folk music revival, providing source material by way of songs and singers for those interested in discovering their own musical heritage. As I discuss, despite its on-going popularity, the published collection has always presented considerable difficulty for researchers because Peacock had a propensity to create composites and because of his editing practices. As I show Outports is an interesting case-study of the kinds of intellectual and artistic agendas collectors have always brought to their work. Considering its size and magnitude, folklorists and other researchers cannot readily dismiss the importance of Outports as by simply calling it a collection. But in their attempts to use it as a resource, the publication’s limitations in terms of Peacock’s subjectivity and editing stand out. I show how the creation of an operative analytical model and a new working tool, in the form of a computerized data base that integrates Peacock’s published materials with his field collection, provides a tangible method for both evaluating and accounting for Peacock’s treatment of the Newfoundland collection. This specific approach serves to illustrate that there are viable ways we can overcome the limitations imposed by the makers of such collections, in turn opening up new avenues for exploration and interpretation.

Integrating Vernacular Dance into Traditional Music Performance: An Ethnographic Account of the Auntie Crae Band
by Kristin Harris

Despite sharing many theatrical, rhythmic and performative qualities, dance and music are often considered separate artistic genres. Dance may utilize music merely as a support, providing background to the movement on display, whereas music stands on its own in terms of both auditory and visual completeness. When dance and music truly merge artistically, then, the result is something quite unique. From an ethnographic and auto-ethnographic approach, this paper examines such an amalgamation between two traditional Newfoundland folk arts, step dance and traditional music, and how the artists involved negotiate these newfound possibilities and boundaries.

Ethnomusicological Observations of African Traditional Music and Its Performance
by Zainab Haruna

Today, despite the threats of globalization, and the homo-genizing effects of modern media, African traditional music is still alive and well. From Egypt to South Africa, and from Morocco to Senegal, one could still encounter this rich and ancient tradition on the African continent. This paper will outline and illustrate (with accompanying videos, tape recordings, and photographs) the performance, collection and study of African traditional music, with emphasis on traditional music in Nigeria. The descriptions would include dimensions of traditional African music events; modes and occasions for performing folk music; types of African music; common traits among African folk musicians, and the social and cultural roles of the performers and their performances. Information provided in this paper is part of the author’s fieldwork data recorded during many years of field observations, and studies of African traditional music.

Ten Things to Consider about ‘The Star of Logy Bay’
by Philip Hiscock

Newfoundland song-maker Mark Walker (1846 - 1924) is best known for two songs that are sung widely today: “Tickle Cove Pond” and “The Antis of Plate Cove.” Several other Walker songs have less fame but are well-known among singers. Among his descendants, he is additionally said to have written one of Newfoundland’s most famous songs, “The Star of Logy Bay.” Nonetheless, there is no direct evidence of his authorship. In this paper, I investigate some of the pros and cons of the family’s claims, looking at the relative weight one can place on style, narrative form and other aspects of the song.

‘The Raiders of the Night’: Residence Songs of St. Peter’s University
by Jodi McDavid

This paper is based on twenty songs that were recorded and documented at residences during field research at a small Canadian university throughout the academic year of 2001-2002. These songs are considered traditional by the participants, and are a major part of the rituals which surround Orientation or “Frosh” Week. The songs have interesting influences and history. Because of a lack of documentation of student life at this particular university, this is the first time that these songs have been examined from an academic standpoint. The lyrics of the songs are especially bawdy in some instances, although many songs are being changed as a result of suggestions of the university community at large. There are specific ways in which residents are instructed songs: they learn techniques and use the songs to “defend” their space on a small campus. Songs are always associated with specific groups and to perform another groups’ songs is unacceptable. At the end of the year, residents of one particular house show their prowess in understanding the genre and become songwriters within the aesthetics of their house.

Regendering The Blues
by Peter Narváez

The winning of the Juno Blues Award in 2000 by Montréal solo blues artist Ray Bonneville for his album Gust of Wind publicly sanctioned a path of intimate, and often gentle, blues performance that has long been followed by singers in Canada such as Bonneville, Ken Hamm, Colin Linden, Mose Scarlett, and internationally, wherever blues is heard. This performance path has contested the macho image and codes of the urban male blues singer, first described by Charles Keil, in his classic study Urban Blues, as accenting “bravado and virility” (71). While such braggadocio epitomizes the posture of many male blues singers, particularly the legendary blues great Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield), many generations of women blues singers (Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Etta James, Koko Taylor) have employed the macho agenda as well, by assuming the “red hot mama” role whereby the singer takes a tough stance in order to kick her man out or at least keep him in line.

This paper will argue that the alternative, more feminine, gentle blues style was popularized in the mid-1960s when a series of senior African-American singers who played at major North American folk festivals (Newport, Mariposa), particularly Mississippi John Hurt (1893-1966) and Elizabeth Cotten (1895-1987), “regendered” the blues.

Conflicting Visions: Don Messer, Liberal Nationalism and the Canadian Unity Debate
by Johanne Devlin Trew

In this paper, the popularity of commercial fiddler Don Messer is explored within the wider Canadian context of the emerging Liberal nationalism of the 1960s. Its legacy of conflict, which has resulted in the suppression of traditional culture in favour of elite culture, is deconstructed by examining the versions of Canadian identity as expressed in traditional or folk culture, as promoted by the government and as portrayed in the media, and their relationship to the current political/cultural crisis in the country.

Special thanks to York University and The Canadian Society for Traditional Music for the previous abstracts.  More details can be found at: http://www.yorku.ca/cstm/conferences.htm


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 version 2003