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Traditional Tunes and Popular Airs: History and Transmission
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10/6/2017 to 10/7/2017
When: Friday, October 6, 2017
Where: Cecil Sharp House

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Researchers have long been fascinated by the recurrence of tunes in all manner of musical styles and genres, performance contexts, levels of society, historical periods, and geographical locations. But how are we to understand this phenomenon?

The topic raises intriguing questions about the ways in which music is transmitted, experienced and conceptualised. In what sense do tunes ‘recur’? Why are some termed ‘super-tunes’ (Marsh 2016)? Do some tunes possess ‘vitality of melody’ (Kidson 1907)? Where do human agency, social structure and cultural values come in?

The 21st century has seen a renewal of interest in the history and comparative study of melody, no doubt partly due to the increased availability of digitised primary sources and digital tools by which to explore them. We have also seen the growth of interest in the study of musical perception and memory. This conference has been jointly organised by the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, and the Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen, in order to build on this momentum. It aims to bring together those working on ‘traditional’ and ‘popular’ tunes within and across the many contexts in which they have been found. These include dance, instrumental music, ballad operas and theatrical works, religious music, broadside balladry, blackface minstrelsy, music hall, the pleasure gardens, domestic music-making, national and folk song, and children’s songs.

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