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The Ballad Book by MacEdward Leach

The Ballad Book

by MacEdward Leach

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Let's hear it for step-children.

As a ballad scholar, I have mixed feelings about this book. MacEdward Leach was a great ethnomusicologist, scholar, and collector. He did great work in the field, and his publications are of great value to folklorists. And this book shows his knowledge and skill.

But I can't help but think that it has too much of Child and too little of non-Child. That is, the vast majority of the texts in this collection are of the songs found in Francis James Child's The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, and too few are of ballads not found in the Child collection. Some of the texts are also from Child, or Child's sources, although Leach has often added texts from sources unknown to Child as well.

Leach follows Child's example in another way: He supplies no tunes. Child had a few, but only a few, melodies. Leach's sources, although they include many more tunes, are mined only for song texts. You have to use another source if you want to know how to sing them.

So, even though this is a very learned and wide-ranging book, there really isn't a lot that you can't duplicate by getting a copy of Child. True, this is more portable, and more recent, and covers more of the world. But it has very little that is new. It's not a bad book; it is in fact a very good book. But it is not a very original book. ( )
  waltzmn | Feb 24, 2014 |
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