01 November 2011

Raison d'être

"[W]ild chants with doggerel words" was the way one author (Lahee, 1900) characterized the chanty genre at the close of the 19th century, when chanties were already being considered "dead" and would soon after start to be "revived." Confronted by the 20th century Frankenstein, I wondered what his soul might have once been, and in 2007 decided to re-visit the chanties that I knew and hopefully --perhaps with some of my insight as an ethonomomusicologist -- figure out what the "deal" was. My studies of (re)invented "folk" music in India gave me a skeptic's bias, and my recent attempt at doing a very broad/intensive, empirical survey of Jamaican musical grooves showed me the value of, well, considering a very large body of "stuff." Studying in India, too, where the student of music is expected to digest and memorize large repertoires, put in my mind the idea that the best way to "know" chanties -- at least in this day and age when shipping on a windjammer is not an available option -- is to sing as many of them as possible. The goal would be to internalize them, to digest their feel and idioms as a broad whole.

So, for the past 3 1/2 years or so [edit: almost 4 years, by the time of completion] I have been in the process of studying, learning, and subsequently recording all the songs contained in Stan Hugill's "Bible" of chanty-singing, Shanties from the Seven Seas. And I'm not through yet! However, many hermeneutic arcs have already been completed, and this blawg is the start of yet another.

I've not recorded the songs in the order which they appear in the collection -- which itself is rather whimsical. Rather, I've been filling it in as one does a puzzle. In this blawg, however, I return to the beginning and run straight through, presenting the items as they appeared. 
Since recording each song (sometimes immediately after!), I have had more thoughts on them, learned more information about them, or developed my approach to the project and my ideas about chanties in general. However, I let them stand on my YouTube channel as records of what I thought of the time...or what I had time and inclination to consider at those moments. 

Now that most of the puzzle pieces are in place, I'd like to present them in this slightly more coherent form, and invite viewers to follow along. The format of YouTube and the fact that I have many other sorts of videos interspersed on that channel makes it less convenient than I hope this to be.

Some milestones of the project--

First video uploaded: 27 April 2008
First recording with intent to make it a "project": 4 May 2008
Completion (quasi) of learning/recording all the songs in the abridged edition: 10 March 2010
Completion (quasi) of all the English-language songs in the full edition: 8 October 2010
On 25 Dec 2010 I initiated the final "phase," the non-English-language songs; 
13 May 2011, completed all the German songs
7 Aug. 2011 completed all the Norwegian songs
23 Nov. 2011 completed all the French songs
22 Jan. 2012 completed all the Swedish songs
1 Feb. 2012 completed all the Welsh songs
5 March 2012 completed songs whose titles were just mentioned in passing
29 March 2012 recorded the last chanty, learned much earlier, but which had not been recorded by me. This marks the completion of the entire book.

*22 August 2013 completed the rest of the chanties in Hugill's other print collections.

Like the description, "wild chants with doggerel words," I don't romanticize the chanties. With that disclaimer in place, we proceed!

Ranzo :{

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