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Oldest European Folk Song

Tweed 17 Aug 02 - 02:12 PM
MMario 17 Aug 02 - 02:43 PM
Tweed 17 Aug 02 - 04:17 PM
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Tweed 17 Aug 02 - 04:52 PM
Sorcha 17 Aug 02 - 05:03 PM
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Subject: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Tweed
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 02:12 PM

Anybody know what would be the oldest European-descended song(s)? Are there any that pre-date the Roman Conquest or even the Holy Roman conquest and still sung? Just wondering as it occurred to me that there seems to be very little left of beginnings of this particular tribe of humans, other than cookin' out in the backyard and I think we got that from the Mongols;~)


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Subject: RE: BS: Oldest European Folk Song
From: MMario
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 02:43 PM

I believe the oldest English (secular) song is suppossed to be "Sumer is acumin in" - I don't know about the rest of Europe. Suppossedly there are some older songs with what are suppossed to be musical directions in the mid-east


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Subject: RE: BS: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Tweed
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 04:17 PM

How old is that one MMario? Does it pre-date the Roman invasion?


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Subject: RE: BS: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Amergin
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 04:22 PM

well there was no england til the angles and the saxons came.....


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Subject: RE: BS: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Tweed
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 04:52 PM

Before all that,Amergin. Is there anything that remains other than Beowulf and some of the Norse verses that managed to escape the bishops and monks?


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Subject: RE: BS: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Sorcha
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 05:03 PM

There are Hebrew chants if you want to consider them Euro.


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Subject: RE: BS: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Tweed
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 05:31 PM

Well, the thing is Mz.Sorchy, that I was thinkin' about was why do other more ancient cultures still have old songs and ways somewhat preserved and the traditions held by the Northern European tribes seems to have been completely crushed and lost. Hebrews were able to record their works via the written word and Native Americans seemingly have passed it down from generation to generation from their beginnings, but white folks' stuff seems to begin somewhere in the Middle Ages and everything prior to the Christianization of those tribes and clans seems to be gone. I thought maybe someone here who is schooled in this sort of thing properly would know of something that might have slipped through the cracks and been preserved. Or could it possibly be that our (mine anyhow) ancestors were so barbaric and savage that there were no songs to preserve?


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 05:50 PM

"Sumer is icumen in" is Old English, is it not? Certainly not pre-Roman invasion, in that form, but who knows what its antecedents were?

The oldest-rooted one I happen to be aware of is "Lord Randal, My Son", which I understand goes WAY back, and through MANY countries.

And how about the golden-ball songs, whose descendant I know as "Slack your rope, hangs-a-man". I've been told that goes WAY back, and widespread too.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Tweed
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 06:11 PM

Oh, what will you leave your brother, Lord Randal my son?
Oh, what will you leave your brother, my handsome young man?
My horse and the saddle, mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm sick to my heart and I fain would lie down.


Thanks Uncle Dave. I found "Lord Randall" in the digitrad but I suspect that mebbe it's from a more modern timezone than what I'm thinking of because of the reference to saddles. I believe horses and saddles came into use after the Romans took over, but could be wrong there. Neat song though and I'd hazard a guess that it might have inspired a well known Dylan number.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 06:15 PM

It's going to be a bit hard to pin this one down. The first manuscript ever found that contained an anywhere near understandable system for writing music came from sometime in the mid-eleventh century. Lots of chants and liturgical music were extant, of course. The trouvères and troubadours were roaming all over Europe about that time. Fascinating history, really—all tied up with monasteries, Latin scholars, Roman poetry, horny young monks, and Viking raids. Many scholars maintain that some of the older traditional ballads and secular songs were put together by wandering troubadours and minstrels, but most of the ones that survived did so through oral transmission. When you can find many of the older folk ballads in England, France, Germany, and Scandinavia that tell the same stories and have the same verse structure, it tends to support the troubadour / minstrel authorship theory.

The Greeks and the Romans had music, of course (instruments survived, but no written music as far as I've ever heard) and lots and lots of poetry. It's pretty certain that much if not all poetry was intoned, chanted, or sung, usually to the accompaniment of a lyre or similar instrument. I've heard that many Greek scholars and music historians maintain that portions of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey and other epic poetry were recited or chanted to the accompaniment of a lyre or harp.

I think the oldest European song was probably sung by some anonymous Neanderthal.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 07:18 PM

http://www.webster.sk.ca/greenwich/evidence.htm

ljc


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,ljc--cookie gone.
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 07:31 PM

Song of Solomon


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 07:38 PM

I believe "Sumer is icumen in" only dates back to the Middle-English period. It seems like we studied it in Chaucer class on college.

I'm sure that one reason that there are so few really old English folksongs is simply that the English language has had such a dynamic history. Fifty percent of the words in the language were changed as a result of the Norman Conquest, and that was only one of several linguistic upheavals. It's hard to pass songs down when the language that they are "written" in changes out from under the singer, particularly if continuing to use the "older version" of the language is not socially acceptable.

On the other hand, Hebrew chants are still around precisely because the Hebrew language has remained essentially unchanged since Biblical times.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: toadfrog
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 07:51 PM

Yes. It is hard to ascertain how "old" a song is unless the words, at least, are written down. It is said that "Judas" dates from ca. 1300, and is the oldest recorded Child Ballad. That would make it "older" than Lord Randall.

Historically, liturgical pieces are the oldest recorded. Biblical psalms are surely very old, but no one knows what tunes, if any, they were sung to. It is safe to say that if there are songs, that is, poems or whatever with identifiable tunes, from Europe or from anywhere else that are older than 1100, we have no way of knowing what they are. That is, any identifiable song, from anywhere on Earth, not just "this particular tribe" is at the very least a thousand years more recent than the "Roman Conquest," (assuming you mean conquest of England).

It is not clear what "Holy Roman Conquest" you would have in mind. The "Holy Roman Empire" dates from aroung 1100-1200. There may be songs that old, although that is stretching things.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Gray D
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 08:14 PM

My greatly-missed friend Edisher Garikadnitze was an ethnomusicologist from Georgia in Eastern Europe. The oral song tradition there is still much prized and has been for some time (as you will see).

The first time that we met was when he and his colleague, Josef Giordanskia, were teaching a week-long workshop in Cardiff, Wales. They taught us many songs that week, one of which was, how shall we say, a little tricky. The song was called "Lilé" and is from the Svaneti region of Georgia. Even though it is in a language that nobody speaks any more Edisher explained that the song was still sung there because it was a song that was sung, just that. So the ethnomusicologists and linguistic archaeologists studied the words to try and trace the song's roots. They worked out that the language in which the song was sung was last in common use . . . about three thousand years ago.

Gave me the chills when he told us.

There's a version of it on the Rustavi Choir CD "Mirangula" - Sony St. Petersburg Classics label SMK66 588.

It is not what I would call easy listening, but I like it.

His group Mtiebi are still together and have been touring Britain recently. If you get the chance to go to one of their concerts, I recommend them. If they don't sing it in concert, try asking them afterwards. Georgians don't need much encouragement to sing. I can just about guarantee that the experience will overwhelm you.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 08:45 PM

Last in common use that long ago, perhaps, but obviously still in use somewhere when the song was noted; when was that? To make assumptions of great antiquity based on "evidence" of that kind really is rather dicey. Liturgical music apart (about which I know nothing) there is no conclusive evidence that there is any music surviving in tradition anywhere in the world (as Toadfrog said earlier) that is of any great age. Some of it may be, but without evidence that can only be supposition.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: The Pooka
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 09:03 PM

*Thank you* for this (and this bedrock genre of) thread, Mudcat scholars. Remarkable & excellent, as always. (Note to well-intentioned 'off-topic-thread' protesters: remember that we BS-thread types, while we often may be unqualified to contribute to these *real* Mudcat threads, can & do read 'em, value 'em, marvel, & even learn.)


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Gray D
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 09:03 PM

Malcolm,

Get in touch with the university of Tbilisi and ask them. I shall be interested in your report back to the thread.

Gray D


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 09:14 PM

I'd be more interested in what you have to say about it, since you posted the information. As I asked; when was the song noted from tradition? If you make a claim, it's for you to back it up!


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: masato sakurai
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 09:49 PM

On "Sumer Is Icumen In," see this thread: Lyr Req: 'Summer is a comm?in in' ?. The manuscript is HERE. The "Judas" manuscript is HERE (Click on "Folio 34r" to see the enlarged image). One of the earliest known musical manuscripts of European songs is of the late 9th century French liturgy, about which this site (MS 096: ANTIPHONAL: OFFICE OF ST. REMIGIUS (1 OCTOBER)) says, "A rare survival from a very early French musical liturgy, probably among the earliest extant." The "earliest known songs of what might be broadly termed Western culture are the Biblical Psalms." (from HERE) See also this thread: Tune Req: Original Psalm Tunes.

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Sorcha
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 10:11 PM

Dumb question here--isn't "Pre-Roman literacy" in Europe likely to be an oxymoron? Were not most European Pre Roman cultures basically without any written language? (Yes, I know about the oral/aural tradition, but who can we trust to accurately transcribe oral/aural stuff? Not the Romans, that's for sure.)

Sure, the "Celts" had Ogham, the Vikings had runes, but were any of these actually used for poems/songs/folktales? I doubt it. These all seem to be transmitted by the oral/aural tradition.

Seems to me they all had to wait for the Romans to arrive, add an alphabet and get Interested. Then, after that, bother to write things down. (Uh, that means the things that didn't have to do with war, conquest or politics.)


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Tweed
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 10:32 PM

Thanks Gray D, "Lilé" would seem to be the one that answers my question. I'll tell you that it gave me chills reading your reply. A Three Thousand year old song and still sung because it always has been sung. And Toadfrog, re: the Holy Roman conquest, I was just referring to the mop-up and general Christianization of Gauls and Celts and Teutonic tribes whose culture and beliefs were dumped, much like the missionaries of more recent times have erased other "primitive" people's beliefs and traditions. It's a shame that so few knew how to write back then.
Don't stop now though, I'm getting a free education with this.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Tweed
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 10:49 PM

Here's a midi from LJC's link to the world's oldest song transcribed somehow from a 3,400 year old cuneiform tablet. Thanks John, hope you find yer cookie.
The Syrian Song


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,CC Rider
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 11:35 PM

Look to Homer the blind poet.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: The Pooka
Date: 17 Aug 02 - 11:43 PM

Sorcha (who has *never* asked a "Dumb question", while kindly answering many) - re Celtic Ogham - I did a quickie-clickie scan of some seemingly-pertinent links at Every Ogham Thing on the Web; and, provisionally, you seem to be right as usual. Didn't see evidence of Ogham transmission of poems/songs/folktales. Now Viking runes, I didn't do. Yo, MudNorseCats! Get in here. Out-and-out scholarship is being committed.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Tweed
Date: 18 Aug 02 - 12:08 AM

The Ogham link got me thinking some more. I'd forgotten about the Basques, who seem to have stayed fairly uncontaminated by the outside world and speak a language that isn't based on Latin, or any other root language I guess. Anyhow, here's a link to all things Basque. There's even a predecessor to Cleigh O'Possum on the Instruments page and an 8,000 year old three holed bone flute too.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: The Pooka
Date: 18 Aug 02 - 12:39 AM

Thanks Tweed. By God, the more you find, the more there is to seek. Wonderful. / Uh but "...an 8,000 year old three holed bone flute too." -- y'mean, mr. catspaw is represented on the Instruments page? Oy, such an Instrument. :) Woops: ThreadCreep. Sorry. No BS here. Back to scholarship.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 18 Aug 02 - 01:11 AM

The question was "What are the oldest European-descended songs?" Trouble is, songs were around long before they was any way to make a record of them.

I'm not going to be scholarly here, just chatting. Today I saw a picture of musicians playing in the court of Asshurbanipal. (He was a tyrant in the Fertile Crescent, 'way back, B.C.) One musician was playing a harp, the other was either playing a percussion instrument or brushing flies off sausage rolls. I'm sure that if they had harps, they had tunes, but we have no way of knowing how they sounded.

The Icelandic sagas are very old. 1000? 1200? I have a tape from Iceland (Melodies in the Midnight Sun, very enjoyable) that plays melodies from the sagas.

Of course, "Sumer is i-cumin in" is very old, but who said it was Old English? It's Middle English. If it were Old English, it would be totally unintelligible to us.

Don mentioned Neanderthals. Whistles have been found in Neanderthal occupation layers. (Read the book "Secrets of the Ice Age.") I, for one, am sure that if they had whistles, even if they were mostly for signalling, that they would have fooled with them and produced lines of music. Man, the Tune-Maker.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Kaleea
Date: 18 Aug 02 - 02:45 AM

The oldest song is an interesting topic, especially for students of Music History, who study primarily the history of "Western Music" inasmuchas the hand written & printed documents of music are more likely to be from "Europe" since written languages go back only so far in history, and "The Church" had the money to pay persons to transcribe texts, and later to hire musicians. Therefore when "we" study Music History, we are mainly studying the history of the music of "The Christian (mainly Catholic) Church." There have been found pictoral records of history in the form of carvings on rocks, cave & temple walls, tablets, blocks of wood, etc. We do not study ancient music--middle & far east music-- for the simple reason that there is little or no recorded history. Some Hebrew scholars maintain that the Old Testament is "Jewish Mythology" and not to be accepted as fact, but as stories handed down from generation to generation by oral means. Whether the stories are fact or based upon partial facts if unknown. If we are to accept the Old Testament as recorded history, there are many passages referring to music--instrumental & song. As a guest pointed out The Song of Solomon, it has been considered by some to be song, but by others to be verse. If we accept this, there are many singers such as David, and Deborah of ancient times. There have been heiroglyphics from temples & pyramids translated which are believed to have been songs--especially when the writings or pictorals are interjected with drawings/carvings of humans playing musical instruments. There was even an ancient roman song about how to make beer found! Perhaps this is old enough to be considered "European" since the Biblical passages take place in what we now call the middle east. The songs from Egypt would also be considered the middle east. The oral tradition was the best they had at one time, but when writing began, they could truly record history. The first known recorded date was 4241 BC from an Egyptian calendar; 3760 is the first year of the Jewish canendar. The first known writing of phonetic sounds, not actual "language" was @3500 BC. The Assyrians were in power in Egypt & had a 24 character alphabet in @ 2000-1500 B.C. It is believed that @1500-1000 B.C. Charleton Heston (lol)aka Moses left Egypt & got the 10 commandments--supposedly written by God. In order to read them, there would have to be an alphabet & written language. Then about 900-1000 B.C. David wrote songs & Solomon took over the throne from David. SO---somewhere in there was song first recorded, BUT--western europe was pretty much uncivilized with no known written language. SO, that would take us to maybe the early Phoenicians @ 800 B.C. Scholars think that The Illiad & The Oddessey were published in Greece about 810 B.C. The Greeks had written language by then. I learned in Music History class that the earliest known written music was Greek, in about 700-800 B.C. Therefore, the earliest known written European music would have to be around there, if one considers Greece to be a part of Europe. The song about making beer would be around 800 B.C. We don't really have much knowledge of the ancient music of Sumer, & Babylonia, and just a little of Egypt. However--A quote from Boethius, a Roman from @480-524 B.C. is translated as: "Nothing is more characteristic of human nature than to be soothed by sweet modes and stirred up by their opposites. Infants, youths, and old people as well are so naturally attuned to musical modes by a kind of spontaneous feeling that no age is without delight in sweet song." We know that there has probably been music & song since there was language. The voice is considered by some to have been the first instrument, followed by hand clapping & slapping, then sticks & rocks, then drumlike & flutelike instruments. Some say it was the hands & then sticks & rocks. We will never know, because the ancient music went unrecorded & has fallen into eternity. I guess the best answer to the question is, "we aren't sure!" The only songs from ancient times still sung are probably in Hebrew. Who really knows?


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,Gurney
Date: 18 Aug 02 - 03:54 AM

I have a LP of 'The Gaels,' of which Sean Cannon was a founder member, which includes a number called 'Kishmul's Galley,' and sleeve notes say it is one of the oldest songs in the tradition. From the Hebrides, it sounds primitive. Gurney. P.S. Should that be "An L.P?


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Jim McLean
Date: 18 Aug 02 - 12:34 PM

Hi Gurney, there's a version of Kishmul's Galley here:
http://www.cyberstudia.com/ogmios/audio/kishmul.html
You'll see that it was collected in 1909 and the singing version is of a rather classical soprano nature. Nigel Denver recorded this years ago and gives it a powerful, mystical treatment. It seems to date from the times of viking warriers fighting jsut off Barra and was written in Scottish Gaelic but ususally sung in English. Slainte, Jim Mclean


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Memphis Mud
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 08:57 AM

The ooooldest European Folk song could've gone something like this:

uh Fug wuh wuh uh Fug wuh wuh Fug rmmmmmmmmmmmm Fug rmmmmmmmmmmmm blunn Fug Fug Fug Fug

Translation: There once was a hunter named Fug. There once was a mighty hunter named Fug. Fug could run as fast as the Deer. Fug could catch Deer for tribe. We're glad Fug is in our tribe.

You europeans go way back.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: pavane
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 09:10 AM

In Karl Dallas' book The Cruel Wars, there is a song 'Three Danish Galleys', collected in Porlock in 1919, which he claims is possibly the oldest (UK) folk song, as it seems to correspond to events described in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 918. Maybe not the oldest song, but relevant to the thread, anyway.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: The Pooka
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 09:20 AM

Memphis Mud: Cool, 'cat. I *knew* there must be *some* ancient song written in Ogham. Ya found it! Good work, deer.
---Fug the Pook


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 09:24 AM

For more on Three Danish Galleys, see this discussion: Love and Death on the Shore.

The (alleged) circumstances of its collection are given there.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Snuffy
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 09:28 AM

Pavane,

I seem to recall that one being discredited in a thread some time ago. Apparently the lady who "collected" it was not above making up her own stuff, and is considered less reliable than McColl or JJ Niles.

WassaiL! V


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 10:34 AM

One of the problems as usual is defining a FOLK song. The special thing about "Summer is icomen in" is that the music was collected as well as the lyrics. These days we have a high percentage of literacy, but the percentage of these who can notate music is quite small. In "Olden Days" ordinary literacy was a rare commodity and therefore musical literacy would probably have been even rarer. I would expect that anyone who did collect a folk song was hoping to introduce it to the world of "Art Music" and the song therefore lost it's FOLK status. Songs like "Watkin's Ale" abound, but it is hard to define their source.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: pavane
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 02:09 PM

Just shows you can't believe all you read!


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: katlaughing
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 02:53 PM

It would seem logical that some of the very earliest, yet undocumented, songs would be lullabies.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Crane Driver
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 05:15 PM

Those of you that remeber the LP will recall that it produces sound by the vibrations of a needle in a groove in something spinning quite fast. The same principle lay behind the old way of recording music on the wax cylinder (which even I don't remember). Now, pottery is made by spinning a lump of clay on a wheel and shaping it. In theory, ambient sounds at the time the pot was thrown should be recorded in the clay. All you need is a way of playing it back, and you might catch the tune the potter was whistling as he worked .....

In theory.

Andrew


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 05:36 PM

Pavane said:

In Karl Dallas' book The Cruel Wars, there is a song 'Three Danish Galleys', collected in Porlock in 1919, which he claims is possibly the oldest (UK) folk song, as it seems to correspond to events described in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 918. Maybe not the oldest song, but relevant to the thread, anyway.

This raises a troublesome point: Can we date a song by the date of the incident(s) it purports to chronicle? Seems questionable.

But if your answer is no, or maybe, then I can nominate "The Cherry Tree Carol", which tells a story related in one of the apocryphal books (False John? I forget right now) which was written in the sixth century, and of course refers to a putative miraculous incident which would have happened, if at all, 4 BC. Now it would clearly be wrong to date the song to 4 BC, but just MAYBE the song could be coeval with the apocryphal writing. Sounds pretty shaky to me, though.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 05:38 PM

I meant to start that last paragraph with "if your answer is yes or maybe"....

Age creeps up.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: EBarnacle1
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 05:53 PM

I agree that these are all old. I also agree that it is unlikely that we will ever know the oldest Euro song. A big part of the problem is that people would often not write down what was a part of their daily lives. As Child said: The rude utterances of the common folk. How far back does Gilgamesh go? If you don't mind slipping over to the other side of the supercontinent, how far back do the Indian (Aryan pre-migration) and Chinese recorded songs go? Mea culpa, I have no answers, only questions.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: firínne
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 06:13 PM

Romans and their alphabet not withstanding, it stands to reason that folk songs were handed down by oral tradition - up to the last century the majority of people couldn't read or write!! The same applies to old stories and sagas. How else would great events have been remembered long ago if there had been no bards appointed to celebrate them in song! Every tribe worth its salt had a bard!


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,CraigS
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 07:38 PM

I had a book about English song which I've lost - so I may not be too accurate - but as I remember it, the earliest documented secular song in English was in a Scottish source of about 1240, and the earliest English source for a secular song was around 1310.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Tweed
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 08:28 PM

Well, I think the point is proven, or almost anyhow, that the song culture of melanin deficient Northern Europeans was nearly stamped out from the sixth century back, and I would go so far to say that it looks like it was the work of missionarys bent on refining the heathens. It's interesting to wonder what their songs might have sounded like and I reckon that Memphis Mud ain't too far off on a fair translation of one. Still don't have a clue as to what sort of beat there mighta been or what naturally occuring sound in their world might have inspired it. I've been hypothesizin' lately that the pounding of corn into meal might have been the backbeat for Native American songs and locomotives for Blues music. Water sounds for Eastern music, but can't quite fantasize far back enough to hear anything in the villages of the tree worshipping, blue painted wild peoples. Any ideas on that one?


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,Malcolm Douglas
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 09:05 PM

You're looking for the wrong things, and using the wrong terms of reference. There is no question here of "missionaries" "stamping out" anybody's traditional song culture; that culture was oral and unrecorded in the first place; from the point of view of a literate person, there was nothing to suppress. The fact that monks (as a rule, the first literate people in Europe) failed to record it is completely irrelevant. Why would they bother, even if they were aware of its existence? I'd suggest you read up a bit on medieval history before getting too involved in uninformed theories.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: michaelr
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 09:28 PM

Crane Driver -- that's a great theory! Now how do we play back that urn?

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: toadfrog
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 10:38 PM

Thanks Malcom. A little bit of common sense.........


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Tweed
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 11:16 PM

Dear Malcolm,
How the heck could I be looking for the wrong things? I'm looking for a link to something that may or not be there, but won't know unless I look. And why is it that Inuit and Native American and some African cultures were able to be handed down and somewhat preserved while Northern and Western Europe's savage past was completely obliterated save for a couple of chapters in Tacitus' Germania?
It's true I'm probably not as literate as you (mebbe), but I have looked into medieval history on my own and came away with the sense that when large portions of a population are set on fire or flayed alive for their primitive beliefs, the old customs are set aside and forgotten pretty quick. Early Bishops and monks, being the literate folks that they were, probably did record something regarding habits and customs of their converts. They would have recorded their observations simply because they could, just like any learned person of today would. Question is, where would these eye witness accounts be kept? There's gotta be something left somewhere.
I ain't gonna go off on that last "uninformed theory" jab as I may only be partially literate but I know when somebody's just tryin' to piss me off for the hell of it;~)
Yerz,
Tweed


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: toadfrog
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 11:56 PM

Tweed: Golly. I don't know what Malcom is saying, but that is an extremely romantic and one sided view of the Middle Ages. That is a time for which there are very few written records, and virtually none which relate to the survival of oral tradition. Because that did not come up until people took an interest in that, which was pretty late. And there are people who say things like that about the Middle Ages. Mostly the people who say things like that have axes to grind and do not know a whole lot.

Even less do we know how much of Inuit or Native American cultures is "handed down" from a long time in the past. It is quite possible for an oral culture to change beyond all recognition within two generations. Anthropoligists say that's just about how long it takes two offshoots of the same Apache tribe to become completely incomprehensible to one another.

It is just plain wrong to say that Western Europe's "savage past was completely obliterated," because there is evidence that this is not so, but even more because the kind of evidence you could base such a sweeping assertion on just does not exist -- could not exist.

There is also something of a failure of imagination here. You are unable to believe that the past was different, or that people in the middle ages might not have cared about the stuff that interests you. In say, 1000 a.d. it required an enormous effort to preserve information. People did not make that effort unless there was extreme need. Such as who had a right to own what property, or what was the will of God. The monks of the middle ages were not "just like any learned person of today." This is true, not only because their ideas were drastically different, but also because their resources were scarce. To write that paragraph you just inserted in the thread would have required the efforts of a specially trained scribe -- one man in a hundred, perhaps -- over a period of several weeks, and the efforts of many, many peasants, cooks and the like, to feed that scribe. And maybe to protect him, too, for those were extremely violent times. It was not only for "primitive beliefs" that people got killed. Those are the gut facts about the Middle Ages you have to understand before you are in a position to form an opinion on anything else about those times.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Tweed
Date: 20 Aug 02 - 12:28 AM

Dear Toadie,
Please pardon my overactive imagination. I reckon there were no scribes of that time who wrote anything down without embellishing it with extravagent penmanship and picture stories in the sidelines. Is that correct? None at all right? How about going back a little farther than 1000 years? What was going on 1500 or 1600 years ago? Were there no educated people from Rome who might have kept diaries or logbooks of their travels? And why the hell do some people get so uptight at the mere mention of such things? I'm just wondering here, I ain't lookin' to be flayed alive or to be set on fire for just wondering about it. Take it easy Bub. It ain't no big deal.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: katlaughing
Date: 20 Aug 02 - 04:00 AM

Crane Driver...I love your theory, too! Pots! Le's hear more pots!

Anyone know anyone who has access to the depths of the Vatican library? If there IS any evidence, as Tweed posits, that would be a likely repository. I've heard rumours, for years, that therein lies many, many treasures with no hope of public exposure.

kat


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,Gurney
Date: 20 Aug 02 - 07:34 AM

What an ants nest this turned out to be! Another thought. As the thread specifies FOLK song, how can you tell at this distance whether it was written or performed by a troubador or minstrel, or other professional, and is so automatically a pop song? Just being miscievous. Wassail.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,Davetnova
Date: 20 Aug 02 - 08:07 AM

Didn't St Patrick make references to the Irish music of that time something along the lines that you could enjoy music but must be careful not be seduced by the Fairy magic. There may have been some supression by the Christians as this early music was viewed as somewhat magical.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,fretless, at work
Date: 20 Aug 02 - 11:58 AM

There are ancient Greek hymns inscribed, with musical notation, on the south wall of the Athenian Treasury in the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi. The building is late 6th/early 5th century BC; the inscriptions Hellenistic. Here's a site that claims to offer the music in real player and midi: http://www.oeaw.ac.at/kal/agm/. The inscription at Delphi is, I think, the earliest European music notation. Do anonymous religious hymns count as folk music? If so, then the Greeks at Delphi probably get to claim Tweed's prize. There are earlier music notations from the Middle East, but Tweed was asking for a European folk song.

Homer's Iliad and Odyssey are earlier, and they were chanted, but the music hasn't survived.

The great harps from the Royal Cemeteries at Ur (3rd millennium BC) are decorated with panels depicting folk tales. Does that mean they were used for folk music? But, again, that's not Europe.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 20 Aug 02 - 12:26 PM

The original question was about the oldest (European) song still sung.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 21 Aug 02 - 10:32 AM

To get back to the original quesion, "Anybody know the oldest European-descended music still sung," I have a couple of nominees.

Before I open the envelopes, however, let me point out that no one is ever going to agree on the exact age of something so old. Therefore, no one will know what's the oldest.

The nominees are: 1. Sumer is i-cumen in. Much discussed already. 2. "The Friendly Beasts." The Sing-out book says the music is German, 12th Century. 3. The Cantigas de Santa Maria, ordered collected by Alfonso the Wise of Spain in the 1200's.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,petr
Date: 21 Aug 02 - 06:14 PM

not european, though supposedly one of the oldest songs still sung, is the Shadoof song of Egypt (shadoof being a water irrigation device) so that would make it a work song. I dont know about the greeks but somewhere(I think it was on Yehudi Menuhins Music of Man series - which came out in the late 70's) there was a greek song that was performed that was at least 2000 years old. (maybe there was indeed a way of writing down notation)Petr


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: dorareever
Date: 21 Aug 02 - 07:31 PM

The oldest still performed today Italian folk song I know of is Donna Lombarda and I suppose it dates back to 900 AD.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Tweed
Date: 21 Aug 02 - 07:57 PM

Here's a link to pic on the page that Masato noted way up there at the top of this thread. It's got staffless notation, it's from the 8th century and claims to be the oldest musical manuscript. I reckon it could still be sung if you drew the lines in the right places.
*Clik to view*


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Letty
Date: 22 Aug 02 - 06:25 AM

Another candidate for the oldest European folk songs still sung today: the Carmina Burana. The manuscript is early 13th century, from Germany, and the songs (and little plays) in it are in (secular) Latin and German. They are part of the 12th-century goliard tradition: wandering poets, educated as clerics but not working as such. The subject material: love (but not the courtly type you get in the troubadour tradition, rather a more earthy type), drinking, gambling, the good life...

The music used today is usually Carl Orff's, who of course is a modern composer, but the lyrics are the same!

Finnish rune songs are said to back a long time (see http://virtual.finland.fi/finfo/english/folksing.html), some say even 2500 years, but of course there is no way to check this (the old literacy problem discussed above).

Letty


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Airto
Date: 22 Aug 02 - 07:05 AM

Some of the flamenco songs of southern Spain must surely go back a long way, but perhaps don't qualify as "European-descended".


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: dorareever
Date: 22 Aug 02 - 10:57 AM

The song has surely the melody and the subject dating to the 900 or 100 AD,but the words changed and there are many versions that surely were born much later.Because the song is in italian or in dialect,not in latin.The melody and the subject are earlier stuff.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: EBarnacle1
Date: 22 Aug 02 - 12:30 PM

There are at least 2 other candidates undiscussed. The Basques definitely lived in Europe. Many Romany, though not necessarily of European extraction (depending on your interpretation) sing the oral tradition of their people. Does that count? Or are we still saying that if someone who came to Europe that far back produced a song does it qualify as a European song?


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Nerd
Date: 22 Aug 02 - 12:38 PM

There are, I think, two problems with Tweed's initial assumptions. First, that no European folksong that has survived is very old. We just don't know. He disqualifies Lord Randall because it mentions saddles, but of course the paraphernalia mentioned in songs changes all the time. Matty Groves, as sung by Dillard Chandler, involves Lord Arnold pulling out a "special" and shooting his wife dead, though we know the song predates the use of handguns. Lord Randall, by the way, is related in theme to the Donna Lombarda song mentioned by Dorareever (both involve men poisoned by women through ingesting snakes or eels, and may both be descended from a truly ancient, pre-roman ancestor. There's no way to tell because the songs weren't written down.

The second problem is the claim that other cultures do have folksongs that have survived that long. Hebrew is mentioned as one category, but no ancient Hebrew song is a folksong carried by oral tradition, because no-one spoke Hebrew as a vernacular language for many years. All Hebrew songs that exist today are either new songs or very old songs re-learned from manuscripts whose origins as "folksongs" cannot be confirmed. Secondly, Inuit and other native American cultures are cited as examples. But there is no evidence whatsoever that any of the songs sung by any of these people is that old. There are only claims made by tribal elders that it has "always been sung." This is no better than the evidence given by Miss Tongue for "Three Danish Galleys."

Basically, Tweed, I think you proceed from a false assumption. Europeans are no better or worse endowed with ancient folksongs than most other peoples. For those who developed writing systems early (like middle eastern and Chinese) you'll find songs recorded in writing very early, and some of those are re-learned today, but that has nothing to do with barabrianism or civilization, just with the mechanics of history. None of these songs have been in continuous oral tradition, or at least there's no evidence that they have.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Don Firth
Date: 22 Aug 02 - 01:08 PM

Nerd, that pretty well sums it up. There is no real answer; the best one can do is speculate, and that sort of thing can go on endlessly. It is worthwhile asking the question though, because the effort to find an answer may turn up a lot of interesting stuff. But in the end (barring any new and amazing archeological finds), the answer will always remain beyond reach.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Tweed
Date: 22 Aug 02 - 07:14 PM

Don , I believe Mz.KatLaughing has devised a way to view these events in action *Here (the time machine thread)*


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Dicho
Date: 22 Aug 02 - 08:19 PM

There is no evidence that the music handed down by aboriginals, Inuit, or any group is "really, really" old. Among the pueblo people of the southwest, with whom I am familiar, there are traditions about previous dwelling sites back to about 900-1100 that have been documented in some cases (they mostly point to the work of the archaeologists for verification and to similarities in culture and artifacts, their older oral histories are very limited and uncertain). When did their chants originate? Not even they claim any certain knowledge here. They could have been re-written and set to new music many times. The basic ideas are handed down, but the custodians added their own embellishments.

Chinese musical instruments of great refinement have been found in tombs 2500 years old and older. I do not know of any tunes of the time that have been preserved. In a twist, music for these instruments has been written recently by Tan Dun and other composers.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: toadfrog
Date: 22 Aug 02 - 08:45 PM

Dichio and Nerd both said what I should have, and better. What set me off was the idea of a Christian "conquest" ruthlessly destroying old artifacts and cultures, and making the "West" essentially different from everybody else, who retained their robust musical roots from earliest antiquity. That just didn't happen.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,Lucius
Date: 22 Aug 02 - 09:17 PM

If Europe looks to Greece as the boilerplate for its civilization, then the answer would have to be "Anthem to the Sun". Sorry, but I don't know the ancient Greek title, but it is not the Greatful Dead tune, I swear.

If you look to older European traditions, I guess that you'd have to consider un-notated pagan grunts, much in the style and spirit of tunes like "Louie-Louie".


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Tweed
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 07:03 AM

I think the Church had a hand at altering and/or destroying anything that was non-Christian as they gained the spiritual foothold over the "heathens". Was it not the custom to sell real estate in heaven to folks on death's bed in exchange for their earthly holdings? What about the flaggellists who marched around beating themselves to gain entry to the pearly gates? Spanish Inquisition? Jacques DeMolay and the Templars burned alive and slaughtered? Childrens Crusade? The Church had an enormous impact on Northern and Western European culture and I don't think I'd be far off in suggesting that the people's songs were affected along with anything else they'd managed to invent to amuse themselves with that was not Doctrine. Correct me if I'm way off base, but I don't see how you will be able to.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Tweed
Date: 01 Dec 02 - 11:04 AM

Well, I might have found it! Possibly the oldest European Folk Song still sung today. It's from a Saami website and is a wav file of the old way of singing north of the Arctic Circle.
Traditional Jojkt song (WAV file)


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Santa
Date: 01 Dec 02 - 11:37 AM

There seems to be a common assumption here, that pagan music and song were just a series of grunts.

Whatever else we do or don't know, the languages of pre-Christian peoples were every bit as rich and expressive as those that have followed. The arrogance and self-importance of the religious follows us everywhere.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Tweed
Date: 01 Dec 02 - 11:54 AM

Here's a page with a little more info on the Saami people and their music. Seems like if there was any music that the Churchy people didn't understand it got labeled "Devil's Music", worldwide. Glad some of it made it through the blight.
More on Saami (Lapps) Music here.

I hesitate now to use the word "Lapplanders" to describe these folks as I learned today that it is a derogatory term meaning "People with Patches on their Clothes", given by the early missionaries and soldiers.

Tweed


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Allan C.
Date: 01 Dec 02 - 12:34 PM

I believe there may be some argument for "Hangman" as being a candidate for the title. Variants of it have been documented throughout Europe, dating back many centuries.

I cannot attest to the current popularity of another song I know, but it seems to go back quite a way (forgive any spelling errors):

Flevit Lepus

Flevit lepus parvalus
Clamens altis vocibus
Quid fecci hominibus
Quod me secunter canibus? (repeat X2)

Roughly translated:

The Little Rabbit

The poor little rabbit
Exclaims in a loud voice
Why makes men
Always chase me with dogs? (or sticks, depending upon translator)


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Cluin
Date: 01 Dec 02 - 01:39 PM

How about "Young MacDonald just got a farm"?


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 01 Dec 02 - 02:37 PM

Here is a summary, for my own little brain. Comment and argument welcome.
We have poems from the ancient Chinese, the Middle Eastern peoples, Egyptians, etc. and their musical instruments from tombs, at least back to 2500 BC. The complexity of the Chinese instruments found in tombs indicates an advanced musical culture before 2000 BC. But are these songs still sung? No, certainly not to the ancient tunes. We have Greek and Roman poetry, and literary indication that some of it was sung, but the notations are unknown.

We have Christian liturgical music from about 900 AD on, and ancient music groups make a reasonable job of interpreting the directions and early attempts at notation. Much of this can be considered folk, since the authors are unknown. The earliest dated and author-identified European music is from the 1100-1200 AD period, work by Hildegard von Bingen and Leonin (and possibly others in the Iberian area, studies in progress). Some preserved liturgical chant is a little older, but the chanting would not count as music in the sense we are looking for here.
Peoples of the Ukraine and Georgia also may have liturgical music verifiable to the Middle Ages.
Much of what we know of old Hebrew music is from the Sephardic Jews, who were expelled along with the Islamic people from the Iberian Peninsula by Christians, the last gasp in the 1490s. Much interesting music, but is there anything verifiable before about 1200?

North American pueblo culture goes back to at least 1000 AD; material in some of the chants may be this old, but studies show that there have been shifts in belief and therefore in chants.
We have musical instruments from pre-Christian Central and South America. Several groups, including some native, play these instruments but the music played probably doesn't go back more than a few hundred years at most.
Hindu India, because of the nature of their social and religious beliefs, has been called by some anthropologists the only surviving stone age culture, but I can't comment on the antiquity of any of their songs- ignorance complete here. Change undoubtedly occurred here as well, one only has to look at the Mogul and other influences.

The little animal story brought up by Allen C. (often with a moral) is an example of a whole genre of folk tale that undoubtedly is old, but tunes and meters have changed with time and transmission.

Folk music, I think by definition, changes through time. I would not expect any song to persist unchanged over about 1000 years. Music may persist but transferred to new songs, poems are re-written to fit a situation or the nature of the singer. The 1000 year limit is pretty well verified by the music for which we have data. This is liturgical music. Secular music cannot be verified beyond the 13th century.

By the way, when was the tune attached to the Middle English "Sumer is icumen in"??


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 01 Dec 02 - 02:50 PM

Just answered my question. The music is as old as the poem, ca. 1260. Sumer manuscript

What were the other musical pieces (French liturgical) in the Harley Ms? (Probably all published elsewhere)


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: greg stephens
Date: 01 Dec 02 - 04:55 PM

The plasterers working on the walls in eg Pompeii would be singing at their work. The vibrations caused in the trowel are recorded in minute markings in the plaster, exactly like a gramophone record. Play them back with a trowel with attached horn. Easy. Judging by the pictures on the walls, they will probably turn out to be songs of the "Good Ship Venus" type.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 01 Dec 02 - 07:58 PM

The Hilliard Ensemble has put a number of Medieval songs including "Sumer..." on cd, Harmonia Mundi HMC 1154, from "the oldest surviving sources in England." Some interesting listening here. Sumer is a icumen in


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 02 Dec 02 - 03:18 AM

Alan C - The crying rabbit is a song printed in older German student song books of the 19th century. It is a translation of a German child song; all kinds of songs were translated by the students into Latin and Greek because of the exercise in classical languages - somtimes very funny. This usage started in the late 18th century and stopped in the 19th century when the use of Latin as official academic language was abandoned.
On the other side, the academic hymn "Gaudeamus igitur" is a genuine Latin song, going back to the 13/14th century in Paris. It had some bawdy verses included we are told; its final hymnal form it got at the University of Halle, Saxony, at the end of the 18th century, by the late Mag. Kindleben. Maybe it is not the oldest European song, but certainly the oldest one still sung regularly. I do it at least twice a year or more at alumni meetings.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Allan C.
Date: 02 Dec 02 - 08:04 AM

Thanks, Wilfried! It is learning stuff like this that keeps me coming back to the Mudcat.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Declan
Date: 02 Dec 02 - 08:11 AM

Orinoco Flow by Enya. Well it is Celtic Music isn't it.

Back to the learned discussion ...


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Dec 02 - 08:20 AM

At times this is an interesting thread. However, it has one major flaw, Tweed is woefully ignorant on a number of subjects abd an arguement based on ignorance is a useless one.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Tweed
Date: 02 Dec 02 - 01:58 PM

Dammit GUEST, when yore right, yore right and I sure needed that. Love you baby.

P.S. (pssst, hey also you need to spell "and" wif a "n" and not a "b" but I ain't gonna tell nobody you messed up there. I'll cover for ye, never fret;~)
Yerz,Tweed


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Nerd
Date: 02 Dec 02 - 02:06 PM

Well, Tweed is enthusiastic, perhaps beyond what the evidence supports. The fact is, this has been a problem with a lot of professional folklorists, too, especially early in the discipline. The ideas that "ring around the rosie" date from the Black Death or another plague, or that "John Barleycorn" dates back to pagan times, etc, are all part of the folklore enthusiast's love of old things. Folklorists want so badly for things to be old, that we sometimes have been uncritical, and have accepted whatever explanation allows us to claim the oldest date for an item.

This is intensified when people have something to prove about their culture, eg., when a culture has held minority status in a larger nation. Then the "we must prove that our culture is more ancient and deserving than that of our oppresors" motivation joins the "we just love old stuff" motivation. I suspect this is behind the (apparently) accepted date for the Georgian folksong Tweed mentions; Georgian scholars would have every reason to go for the oldest possible date during the Soviet period. It's also behind such folkloristic projects as the Kalevala; I was watching a National Geographic special where a Finnish scholar states "if it were not for the Kalevala, there would be no Finns anymore. We would all be speaking Swedish or Russian."

So my point is, Tweed may not always be right, but his longing for the old is part of my own love of folksong, too. Let's not be too mean, anonymous guest!


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Dec 02 - 02:45 PM

I was not intending to be mean. Simply to point out that opinions defined by lack of knowledge are of dubious value. I think that we need to be wary of supporting biases with faulty information. I can see that Tweed is enthusiastic, but knowledge requires more.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Tweed
Date: 02 Dec 02 - 07:12 PM

Hmmm....a nerd and a nameless GUEST discussing the nicest way to call me an ignorant fool and then a fellow sends us off to a place so filled up with web spiders, crawlers and cookies I had to take the computer out in the back yard to hose the sonofabitch down. Flame on!

I'm sticking with the Sami people from the Arctic lands for the award of oldest European folk songs still sung. I don't give a shit what's written down or what the f*ck you've read, I can hear "old ways" in that singing. I hear hard work and living conditions that no one else would know how to survive in. I hear the agony of a parent looking for a lost child on a frozen lake. I hear a man's lament of how a religious people came to his land and told him he couldn't cross a river to hunt anymore and that he had to pay for the privelege of living in the land where his people had been for 10,000 years already. Hey I am ignorant I guess, but I got ears to hear with anyhow! What do you learned people hear in the little rabbit song?
Yerz,
Tweed


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 02 Dec 02 - 08:06 PM

"Sumer Is Icumen In," words and music still together, dates from about 1260 according to the best authorities. Gaudeamus Igitur in original form supposedly dates to the same time. The words now sung to the latter are relatively new (18th century). Surely the English song is the oldest one still sung regularly, same words, same tune.   
An image of the original "Sumer..." is on the web (link Sumer Manuscript, above, Dec 01, 02, 2:50 pm). Is an image of the Gaudeamus..." Ms. available?


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: AKS
Date: 03 Dec 02 - 09:19 AM

The Sami singing style (rhythmic patterns, melodies, voicing) is indeed old and archaic, but the joikus (~ yoiku, the song) themselves aren't necessarily that old at all. The 'lyrics' - very scarce, if there are any at all - might only be a couple of lines in length, because the singing mostly is 'impromptu lilting on syllables that are not used in ordinary language'.
And notice that when a Lapp sings, s/he does not sing of, but uses the objective case in order to obtain ownership, ruling or deeper understanding of the issue (this feature can be found throughout the Finno-Ugric shamanistic singing tradition). Thus the singer would answer, if asked "what was that joiku about", e.g: "I sang my driving reindeer of tin plate (=skidoo)".

AKS


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 03 Dec 02 - 10:02 AM

The Apostle Paulus, in his first letter to the Corinthians, rejects a certain everyday philosophy: "Let us eat, drink, and be merry; tomorrow we will de dead".
This refers to a certain kind of Greek drinking songs called skolia (sing. skolion). The oldest one is preserved on a tombstone of the 1st century A.D., with tune.
Transliteration of the Greek text:
Hoson zês, phainou:
Mêden holôs syllypou.
Pros oligon esti to zên,
To telos ho chronos apaitei.

English translation:
As you are living, appear so;
Don't be dreary too much.
Life is only for short,
The end Time will bring.
The tune, though archaic, is easy to sing and not too merry.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 03 Dec 02 - 12:14 PM

Unless both the melody and lyrics of a song have been notated, and you can accurately ascribe a date to them, there is no way of knowing how old it is. As I and others have said previously, probably the very act of notation has altered the song in some way. One has only got to look at the way that many collectors have "corrected" melodies because they didn't think untrained musicians "meant" to sing modal tunes or bowdlerised the lyrics because they offended their sense of decency.

Songs which have been handed down orally will probably have changed even more - I recently heard a group perform "Sally Free and Easy" and I think even Cyril Tawney would have had trouble recognising it - that's in less than half a century - just think what half a millenium would do !

If we listen to how much the style of "Art Songs" haa changed in the last 500 years, it's very unlikely that many of the folk songs in the current repertoire are older than a couple of humded years in the form that we sing them.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: pavane
Date: 03 Dec 02 - 12:47 PM

That is interesting, partly because Mrs Pavane dragged me for a DAY trip to Lapland on Sunday. (3.5 hours on the plane each way, 6 hours there...) We didn't get to hear any traditional song, but we were played some music that I didn't recognise by a trio in the restaurant.

Didn't have time to investigate though.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: pavane
Date: 03 Dec 02 - 12:49 PM

Oh yes, and I forgot, the Welsh have poetry dating back to the 6th Century A.D. I believe. Certainly before the English language existed.
Not sure if it was sung, though.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 03 Dec 02 - 10:44 PM

The "Cantigas de Santa Maria, 13th Century music manuscript of solo songs, contains 43 "profane cantigas." Cantigas
Some interesting information and illustrations here.
When I click on the link to the profane cantigas, I get "Attencion: La direccion pedida es incorrecta." I will investigate further. By profane, I presume they mean secular, but you never know!


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 03 Dec 02 - 10:50 PM

Much at the Cantigas site is not working, but the color illustrations are very interesting. Color illuminations showing musicians, instruments and singers are excellent.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,Allan Terego
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 12:48 AM

I know this kind of give and take must be very difficult for Malcolm, and obviously the anonymous one also knows his traditional European Folklore, but Tweed's been a great addition to Mudcat so perhaps just go a bit easy. A lot of us are looking in here to LEARN because we don't know a lot about this specific topic.

Al


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Haruo
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 01:32 AM

Wilfried, what sort of notation is used for the tune on the 1st-century tombstone that you mentioned?

I know there is musical notation extant (and perhaps deciphered) from Sumer (the original Sumer, not the one that is icumen in); but I hadn't heard about notated skolia.

Haruo


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 02:25 AM

Haruo - I shall look for the book in which I found the transcription of this skolion into modern notation. It was a school book, and if I remember correctly the musical signs were not dots on lines, but figures giving the heights of the tones. I think a picture of the old tombstone was attached. I only copied the melody in modern notation some 40 years ago for my collection.
I hope to find it in the library of my old school; fortunately the librarian is a neighbour of mine.
More when I have found it.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 02:59 AM

May I draw your attention to a related thread: Very old music

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 12:33 PM

johnc, what is it with you and your obsession with posting the link to that lame ass website in all these different threads?


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: greg stephens
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 02:04 PM

Obviously the question is unanswerable, as has been repeatedly pointed out. Dosent mean it's not fun speculating though. Things that are always worth looking at are how widespread a tune is, and into how many variant forms it has mutated. Genetecists do this all the time with mitochondrial DNA/African Eve theories and so on. A quick application of this sort of approach will show that the tune family that includes Dives and Lazarus/Star of the County Down/John Barleycorn etc is probably a great deal older than the "Streets of London". Just where this gets you is open to question, as we don't know how fast tunes change in different social circumstances, but it provides food for thought.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 06 Dec 02 - 04:17 AM

Obviously Greg is utterly right. The question, however, can be specified in
1. the oldest song preserved in writing
2. the oldest song still sung
and so on.
For 2: look for church songs, using such antique browsers as hymnals &c. Gregorian hymns are still in use today, and in my Lutheran songbook there are some tunes slightly changed to the German translations of their old Latin texts, going back to Ambrosius and the like.
The farther some old songs go back the more difficult it is, naturally, to be sure which is the oldest of them.
For questions of this kind the European churches can't be omitted, true to their conservative strains.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 06 Dec 02 - 04:38 AM

Haruo - different kinds of luck:
1. bad: In the old schoolbook I found no picture of this old tombstone.
2. not so bad: Guess where I found a picture? Here!
You can find more looking for Seikilos with Google.
The reference to skolia by the Apostle Paulus is in 1.Cor.15,32.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 06 Dec 02 - 08:32 AM

Haruo - at the bottom of the page I gave in my former mail there is also a link to the original source. Here you can hear a modern performance of the song: click at the link Seikilos-Lied to open a QuickTime file.
Since I have no QuickTime player on my computer I tried the alternative wave file. This link is faulty.
Medicaton: Go to the directory and choose the link to Seikilos without an extension. When saving the file you MUST add the extension *.wav, so naming the file Seikilos.wav. Then it works.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 06 Dec 02 - 09:55 PM

Greek sound files

"Attempts by modern Greek musicians...to reproduce..." Includes Epitaph of Seikilos. Windows Media Player works. How valid these are, I don't know.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: vectis
Date: 08 Dec 02 - 07:35 PM

I once saw the Cutty Wren described as "pre-pagan"?????
I dunno but it's got to be a contender


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 09 Feb 03 - 07:00 AM

Seikilos again:
Here you can see and hear it played on an classical organ and sung.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,Bobdogstar
Date: 30 Oct 06 - 12:29 PM

Lord Randall in Transylvania (muh ha ha).

This business about saddles - they may be post Roman in Britain, but there is no need to assume that Lord Randall originates in any part of the Roman empire - because it is found so widely.

Many old versions do not mention saddles at all.

A Transylvanian version does not mention saddles, and substitutes '4 legged crabs' for eels - but is clearly the same song, verse for verse, in other respects.

How did it get to Transylvania (where they think it is one of their oldest folk songs)? The Austrian Saxons? The Huns? Goodness me - that may be a very ancient song indeed!

Bobdogstar


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 30 Oct 06 - 03:30 PM

If A.L. Lloyd's tracing of its origins is right, "The Outlandish Knight" goes back about 2000 years to somewhere near the Gobi Desert. Carlo Ginzburg has more recently traced a bunch of vaguely related folklore along a similar pathway, so he may have been right. But with so many changes of language and musical idiom there is no way the original could have used a recognizably similar tune.

A few points from further back in this thread.

Romany songs can't be among the oldest in Europe since they only arrived in Europe in the late Middle Ages.

The notation of the ancient Greek music, like the Skolion of Seikilos, is pretty good; we do have a reasonable idea what it sounded like. But none of those ancient songs has been collected in current tradition.

Some kinds of Eastern chant are possibilities. There are liturgical tunes of the Syriac church which have cognates in Western traditions from which they have been separated by shoot-on-sight theological schisms for about 1800 years.

One other candidate to speculate on: there is a Greek lament (from one of the Greek-speaking parts of Sicily, I think) which I came across in a collection of flute tunes by Quinto Maganini in the 1960s. It uses the scale the Turks call "zengule" and the Indians "bhairava" - C Db E F G Ab B c - I forget the Greek name for it. Maganini said the metre of the tune fitted a chorus from one of the classical Greek dramatists. If the metre in question was a *very* distinctive one, he may have been on to something. I think I still have the book around somewhere but it's going to take some finding.

That "Syrian Song" from ancient Assyria starts like the "Ode to Joy" and continues like "Merrily We Roll Along" so maybe one of those is a candidate.


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Subject: RE: Oldest European Folk Song
From: kendall
Date: 30 Oct 06 - 07:49 PM

I'm not a musicologist, but my vote goes to THE FOX. 11th century.


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