Blog post by Dr Meraud Ferguson Hand
The Broadside Ballads Project brings together three contemporary English folk artists, giving them access to the Bodleian’s printed ballad collections, online digital ballad archives, and hands-on experience of past printing techniques. The aim was not to reconstruct ballads as they were originally sung, but to allow the artists to respond to the physical archive, the songs, and the history of how they were made, in whatever ways their own creative interests led them.
What is a ‘broadside ballad’? A broadside is just a single printed sheet of paper: a cheap format because there is no need for folding, collating, or binding. The broadside was used for a variety of purposes: news of strange events, the texts of royal proclamations, and notices of auctions or trials and executions, among other things.
The most well-known use of the format, though, was for ballads. A ballad is a song that tells a story, usually in the form of short four-line verses. They were composed on a range of subjects from love affairs to murder and other extraordinary or historical happenings; they were often accompanied by woodcut illustrations which add their own layer of eccentricity to the overall effect.
Printed ballads were produced from the sixteenth century onwards (though the most recent ballads in the Bodleian collection date from the 1950s). For much of their history they were sold not just by booksellers but on street corners by itinerant peddlers, who travelled the country selling (and singing) the songs. The ballad-seller must have been a familiar character: Autolycus, the ‘snapper-up of unconsidered trifles’ in Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale, roams the country in a peddler’s guise picking pockets, cheating the unwary, and cheerfully mixing this with singing snippets of ballads he seems to have picked up along the way.
Ballads seem to have been enjoyed by a broad social range: though they were cheap and non-literary in content, the majority of printed ballads survived because they were collected by relatively wealthy and well-read individuals (Samuel Pepys being the most famous).
Communal singing is an ancient practice; in the past, people would sing at social gatherings, but they would also sing while they worked. Many songs were passed by word of mouth, but it is human nature to be eager for novelty: printing a new song, a new story to sing, made good commercial sense. Though public literacy was increasing, in the early centuries of ballad printing many people would still not have been able to read the ballad themselves: access to them would have been aural, so they were a crossing-place, a permeable border between the printed word and the oral dissemination of traditional songs.
In the 19th century, industrialization changed England’s social fabric beyond recognition and thousands of families migrated from rural areas to find work in the expanding cities. Communities in cities came from dispersed traditions; jobs were found in factories where the din from the machinery made singing redundant. The rhythm of work became the rhythm of the machine, not of the voice.
It seemed that traditional songs were endangered as a result of these changes, so collectors set out to catch them while the traditions were still alive. The social trauma of the industrial revolution meant that these songs, which reminded collectors of a dying pace of life, became somewhat romanticized. Ascribing increased cultural value to these traditions was at the heart of English Romanticism: Wordsworth and Coleridge’s ‘Lyrical Ballads’ (DATE) attempted to rehabilitate the aesthetic of the popular ballad in the eyes of the cultural elite.
The process of collecting added to the mystique: collectors were mostly middle-class, and would have little personal contact with working-class people other than as servants or a distant ‘mob’. Travelling into the depths of the countryside (via the new railway system), seeking out elderly singers in small, smoky inns, was in itself a form of exotic activity, a transgression of middle-class (and urban) social norms.
As a result, traditional songs (christened ‘folk’ songs in the 19th century) gained a touch of mystery, and the opaqueness of some of the phrasing or subject matter encouraged folk-song enthusiasts to look for a deeper, older, pre-industrial wisdom in the material. Collectors were working with what appeared mainly to have been an oral tradition: songs passed down by word of mouth, sometimes over a number of generations. This, too, added to the sense of mystery and exoticism for educated, highly literate people whose schooling had taught them to venerate the oral sources of ancient Greek literary culture. Many ballads, however, turn out to have moved in and out of the printed and oral traditions at various points in their history.
Spending time among the ballads, seeing the broadsides themselves, you almost feel you can hear and touch the world that made them. This almost-ness, the alienation effect of looking into this sometimes forgotten world from a modern perspective can become a fascination in itself. Now that the broadsides are digitised and online, they are freely available to millions more readers: but fewer people than ever will seek out the real thing, and know how they feel to the touch, how papery they smell.
Broadside Ballads tours 25 Feb - 01 March
Take a sneak peek into the Bodleian Libraries' printing workshop with Lisa Knapp, Sam Lee and Nathaniel Mann as part of the development of Broadside Ballads.
Don't miss their uniquely contemporary take on these songs on tour from 25 February - 1 March.
We've made a short film about the project and would love for you to watch it.
Last year, The Paper Cinema brought to life local tales of the supernatural through live film and music. We toured to Devon, Cornwall, Shropshire, Wiltshire and London introducing new audiences to their fascinating and innovative world of witches, ghouls and ghostly apparitions.
Artist Nathaniel Mann gives us an insight into the Broadside Ballads project research...
In what's become a bit of a folk tradition in itself, Sam, Lisa and I spent time delving into the Bodleian's ballad archives. Spanning more than 500 years of music and verse, it feels essential that each generation of folk-inspired musicians revisits these sources directly. To re-read a verse 400 years later is to re-write it with through the eyes and ears of today. As we touch, smell and breath-in these sheets we draw fresh meanings from these old pages, reinterpreting and revaluating them as we go. We're not at all interested in attempting to historically recreate these songs, we are excited about how we can make them resonant in completely new ways. – Nathaniel Mann
We are very excited to announce Pete Flood (percussion) and Seth Bennett (double bass) and will join Sam Lee, Lisa Knapp and Nathaniel Mann on the Broadside Ballads tour.
Pete Flood is a drummer, percussionist, composer. A member of Bellowhead, he contributed numerous arrangements to their output, and has written for other ensembles ranging from orchestras to jazz trios. Pete also started the Anglo-Japanese project Setsubun Bean Unit which mixed Bon-Odori dance music with electronica and jazz to great acclaim on their one, eponymous release on Matthew Herbert’s Accidental imprint.
'Pete Flood’s arrangements have already long given Bellowhead their left field edge, but here he enters darker territory entirely…hugely entertaining' - FRoots
Seth Bennett is one of the U.K.'s pre-eminent improvising double bass players. Currently based in London, his work involves free improvisation and composition for improvisers. Recent works include En Bas Quartet, a low string quartet for improvisers, plus CD releases by improvising sextet Sloth Racket, the Julie Tippetts/Martin Archer Ensemble, and the ensemble Six of One.
A broadside (also known as a broadsheet) is a single sheet of inexpensive paper printed on one side, often with a ballad, rhyme, news and sometimes with woodcut illustrations. Broadside ballads, from the 16th to 20th centuries, contain words and images once displayed and sung daily in Britain’s streets and inns. Although part of living traditions of folksong, popular art and literature, these illustrated printed sheets are now rare and preserved in only a few libraries.
Digital collections and catalogues have improved access to these fragile survivors of popular culture in print. The Bodleian Libraries holds nearly 30,000 broadside ballads, many of them unique survivals, printed from the 16th to the 20th Centuries. Digital facsimiles and an online database were first made accessible in 1999. In 2013, the Libraries launched Broadside Ballads Online, which is a digital collection of the Bodleian’s broadside ballads together with links to digital collections at other libraries and institutions. ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk
A don't miss double bill of electronic musician and former Battles front man, Tyondai Braxton and startling original trio Dawn of Midi - tour dates just announced!
Three of the UK’s most innovative folk artists reinvent a collection of British broadsides – low cost daily song sheets sold for pence - giving a rare insight into Britain’s music, literary and political history.
Delving into the collection of Broadsides at the Bodleian Libraries and beyond, Sam Lee, Lisa Knapp and Nathaniel Mann lead a five-piece band, and bring to life Broadside Ballads for a new generation.
With almost two weeks to go excitement is mounting about The Paper Cinema's fantastic new show Ghost Stories. To whet your appetite check out this trailer filmed at recent rehearsals at the Puppet Centre, Bristol.
Don't miss the live shows from 19 - 23 October in the lead up to Halloween. Waa ha ha!
THE PAPER CINEMA – GHOST STORIES
FREE ANIMATION WORKSHOP FOR AGES 8 - 10
1.30PM – 5.30PM, SATURDAY 1 OCTOBER, FREE ADMISSION
STUDIO 3 ARTS, BOUNDARY ROAD, BARKING, IG11 7JR
Learn how to create your own hand drawn animation short live film in this workshop with internationally acclaimed live film and music company The Paper Cinema.
With the help of three Paper Cinema professional puppeteers and composer / musician, create hand drawn puppets and perform your own live animation show based on a local ghost story.
Participants also get half price tickets to The Paper Cinema’s Ghost Stories at Studio 3 Arts on 23 October, a stunning new live animation and music show that brings local ghost stories - including the Barking Boiler Explosion by local crime writer Linda Rhodes - to life.
Generously supported by: Arts Council England, Barking & Dagenham Community Music Service. Produced by Sound UK in partnership with Studio 3 Arts.
Here are just a few pictures of the amazing night that saw 150 Year 5 students from Gascoigne Primary School and Studio 3 Arts' community group, perform alongside workshop leader Paul Griffiths and saxophonist Iain Ballamy and accordionist Stian Carstensen from The Little Radio.
The concert on 22 June was the fruition of 5 weeks workshops undertaken by Paul and each group creating brilliant new songs such as Future Rock and The Time is Now, performed alongside The Little Radio's repertoire. A hugely inspirational night!
The Little Radio was produced by Sound UK in partnership with Barbican Centre, Guildhall School of Music and Drama and Barking & Dagenham Music Service. Supported by Arts Council England and PRS for Music Foundation.
We've been thrilled with the coverage Sonic Journeys: Gavin Bryars + Blake Morrison has achieved so far. Journalists from BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 3 and The Guardian have all taken the train from Goole to Hull to experience the piece and here's how they reported back:
• Why the Memorymoog - what is the significance of that particular instrument over the piano with this project?
I’ve always had a love for analogue/vintage synthesisers of any kind and, the Moog Memorymoog was one of those instruments I’d only ever heard about so, when one came up on eBay, and local to me, I jumped at the chance. On collecting it, I met Phil Manchester - an amazing person and keyboard player with a vast musical experience. He’d owned the instrument for 25 years (from new), and occupied a special place in his life. It was then modified by Rudi Linhard in Germany a few years later, making it a Lintronics Advanced Memorymoog (LAMM). This project is all about that instrument, the human story of the people that have been involved with it, and places that have provided both direct and indirect inspiration of some kind. There’s no significance over the piano, here, it’s just a project centred around the narrative of what is now a LAMM.
• How did you and Michael first start working together? How did you become aware of his work?
Michael and I have known each other for a number of years, and had met through mutual friends in Manchester. I asked him if he would work on designing the cover for the moogmemory album (it was Michael who came up with the album’s title), and went from there. I’ve always loved his work; be it graphic, film or anything else - the majestic detail that goes into each piece of work is mind-blowing. We’d always wanted to work together on something and now, we’re finally getting round to doing something. Hopefully it’ll be the first of many things to come. He’s been a real inspiration to me...
• Location and place seem to hold a special significance to the moogmemory project. Can you tell us why?
Sure. As touched on above, it’s chiefly about the people involved: the engineering of Bob Moog and Rudi Linhard, the loving care bestowed on it by Phil James for half of its life, and its subsequent modification (by Rudi), and finally, to the present, where the album and live project has emerged. It was Michael who was excited by the idea of tying together a human/geographical narrative to everything - the design of the album, the photographs (taken on the moor above my home in Airedale - where all of the music was recorded), filming the reunion between Phil James and his old Memorymoog, my correspondences with Rudi whilst the instrument was undergoing repair; all of these strands will feed into the narrative of the show in one way or another. Michael was also keen to capture the place where my own personal musical turning point began in 2009: in Montauk, NY - and travelled there especially to capture footage for this show, as well as additional filming on the beautiful Yorkshire moors.
• How do you approach composition and has the process changed on this project?
I don’t compose in the traditional sense of the word. If I can’t capture something more or less as it emerges, subsequent repetition of the idea proves to be fatal, and the impulse/energy dies, and withers as I struggle to dissolve the consciousness that has arisen, the awareness of what I am doing. Personally, the more contrived something becomes, the less true it feels, to me. So, I have to trick myself into capturing these ideas by stealth - almost by accident, if you like. So, for the pieces on the moogmemory album, most of them are either first takes, or, were completed in ‘one hit’: finished within a very short burst of time, so as to not lose focus, or open the door to compositional contrivance and design. As a result, many ideas that arose in this period, died in the flames of repetition… Preparing to perform this music live has presented considerable challenges in that there is a tightrope to be walked between the specificity of already-established material and the familiar spontaneity that live performance affords. I have to practice performing the structural arc of the original, whilst retaining enough room for variation, difference, and the chance for something new to happen in the performance arena. Playing something in the exact same way, over and over again, is a false trail. I’m sure that, if I were a better musician, I’d make much lighter weather of it all...
• Which one moog / synth tune would you have loved to have written?
Theme from Fletch, by Harold Faltermeyer, and Spaced (from the album Gandharva & In a Wild Sanctuary), by Beaver & Krause.
• Are there specific tunes, tech or performers in particular that got you hooked on the analogue synth sound?
Musically, it was probably something from Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi band. The albums Crossings, Sextant, Inside Out and Realization (the latter two are under trumpeter Eddie Henderson’s name), are all amazing - and made quite an impression on me - particularly the work of Patrick Gleeson (listen to Water Torture from Crossings), whose work is prevalent on much of this material (and who also first introduced Hancock to synthesisers). Gleeson is a much overlooked figure in the cannon of analogue synthesiser recordings. I started off with a Moog Prodigy (who I later sold to Glenn Armstrong, of Coup D’Archet records - and, incidentally, became great friends!).
• What can people expect from the tour?
• What are your plans for the rest of 2016 - involving / after Moogmemory?
Well, maybe a little live album of the moogmemory tour, as there’s a few new pieces, and very different/reworked versions of a number of the album tracks. We’ll see. I’ve already got another album (piano & cello) in the can, so to speak. It’s a much slower and bleaker sister to Montauk Variations. All of the tracks were recorded at home - most of them in very bad weather! You can hear one of them, here: https://soundcloud.com/matthew-bourne/isotach
*** Matthew Bourne and Michael England's Moogmemory tour continues with dates in Brighton (17 March), Southampton (18 March) and Glasgow (23 April). Click here for details ***
We're delighted to share this lovely film about The Little Radio's recent rural tour and workshops in Wiltshire, Cornwall, Devon and Shropshire. It was our first project where we delivered our own workshop programme and heralds an exciting way for us to work in the future. We can't wait to get started on the Barking workshops culminating in a performance at the Broadway Theartre on 22 June.
Ahead of the much awaited UK dates for Arve Henrksen's Places of Worship (11-13 May), we're delighted to share these gorgeous images from Anastasia Isachsen's video that form part of the performance.
Check out more and full details about the tour here
We're very excited to share the trailer for Moogmemory with you today.
UK tour dates for this special collaboration between genre bending pianist Matthew Bourne and his visual cohort Michael England kick off in just over 2 weeks from 4 March to 23 April.
Together they'll explore the resonant, spacey qualities of analogue synths taking audiences on an audiovisual journey from Montauk, New York to the Yorkshire Moors.
Hear Matthew Bourne's live interview and exclusive track on BBC Radio 3 Late Junction at 11.30pm tonight.
We hope you had a great festive break and wish you a superb 2016.
The year gets off to a great start for Sound UK with the announcement of a special London premiere for Matthew Bourne and Michael England's Moogmemory at BFI Southbank on 5 March.
An evocative audiovisual journey, Moogmemory explores the spacey, resonant qualities of analogue audio and video synthesisers in this exciting first time collaboration.
As part of our One and All coastline project with Trust New Art we have had the pleasure of working with the legendary founder of Heaven 17/ The Human League, renowned producer and sound artist Martyn Ware.
We put a few questions to him about his new work for One and All (available to experience here, and we are delighted to share these unique insights with you:
- What's your earliest memory of the seaside?
My earliest memory is riding on a donkey called Ringo on Cleethorpes Beach – and wondering where the sea was (it goes out about a mile), and being ecstatically happy…
- How do you think our relationship with the coast has changed over your lifetime?
We are all more familiar with the coast then when I was young – generally people can afford holidays or day trips now, whereas we were so poor (cue violins) that one day trip a year was all our family could afford
- What was your favourite memory left by a participant in the beach hut?
Definitely a father in Seaham talking to his small daughter – he was clearly embarrassed to be speaking, so he said to his daughter "come on then – hurry up – they’re your memories not mine” - she sounded about 5 years old so I don’t think she had many memories to share!
- Did any of the public's recordings particularly strike a chord with you, or stir up forgotten memories?
I think in general just the fact that so many people referred to the ‘peace’ they found being by the sea and looking at the sea – it’s kind of therapy for the working classes…
- How do you see the link between sound and memory?
Sound is a critical part of our memories, but usually we associate the senses with visual memories taking the lead role – all that is required is to point out to people how their memories would feeel without sound – then they realise…
Martyn's 3D soundscape work is best experienced with headphones for the full immersive effect. Go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/oneandall to experience it and then share your thoughts with us on twitter using the hashtag #oneandallUK
We had a fab few days with Iain Ballamy and Stian Carstensen last week who touched the hearts of all ages across rural England. People of Shropshire don’t miss their show at SpArC Theatre, Bishops Castle on 27 November
Take a voyage around our coast in the heart of London: immerse yourself in One and All after hours; dive into a programme of pop-up talks and poetry; chill out watching slow film in our Screening Room; and enjoy a sea-inspired cocktail the Moby Dick for just £5.00 at Pennethornes Café Bar.
The Manchester Science Festival is underway now and features a wonderful new commission from Tania Kovats, alongside a whole host of other exciting events.
Head to Manchester to see Tania’s new commission ‘Evaporation’, which takes Gaia Theory as a starting point to explore our seas. Gaia Theory was created by James Lovelock and suggested that the oceans are a barometer of the planet’s health. The installation is part of climate art project ArtCop21.
Kovats’ work is always exploring our relationship with the ocean, from the All The Seas commission seen at the @fruitmarketgallery to her new piece for our online art experience One and All, which investigates tides.
Follow this link to find out more about how you can see her new installation in Manchester and even hear her in conversation as part of the Science Festival.
And follow this link to see her brand new commission Tide, launching online on 4th November 2015.
Tania will also have new work on show at our One and All exhibition at @somersethouse in London, launching on the same day.
At this year’s autumnal equinox, leading artist Tania Kovats cast her bronze bell as the sun set on Porthcurno Beach. The tidal bell will be rung at high tide on the River Thames as part of the National Trust’s One and All exhibition at Somerset House from 4 November to 13 December. Members of the public are invited to volunteer to ring the bell each day. You can sign up online at from midday on Thursday 22 October.
One and All is a digital voyage through sight, sound and sea by three leading artists – Tania Kovats, Owen Sheers and Martyn Ware. Working across art, language and 3D sound, with award-winning film maker Benjamin Wigley, they capture the powerful connection we all have to our coast.
One and All is available to experience online at www.nationaltrust. org.uk/oneandall, plus Somerset House hosts a dramatic staging of these digital artworks that invites visitors to take this evocative journey around our shores in the heart of the city.
Visit our Live Events for full details.
One and All is a Trust New Art and Sound UK co-commission. Produced in collaboration with artdocs and The Swarm.
Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and by PRS for Music Foundation.
Somerset House exhibition is sponsored by Panasonic, Official Partner of the National Trust.
Martyn Ware’s speakers kindly provided by Bowers + Wilkins.
As today is National Poetry Day we thought we would share a little bit more insight into our work with Owen Sheers as part of our One and All project with the National Trust – a digital voyage through sight, sound and sea.
Owen Sheers is a novelist, poet and playwright who has been commissioned as part of One and All to write a new piece of poetry about the coast of his Welsh homeland, which we can exclusively reveal will be called “On The Sea’s Land” (“Ar-for-dir”) and will be linked with a digital journey along the coastline.
Owen is an interesting figure in literature, working across various literary formats, from poetry to longform fiction, plays and even ballads. He also is Professor in Creativity at Swansea University and an accomplished TV host.
For One and All Owen undertook a two week residency on The Gower peninsula in South Wales. This beautiful coastal area was the first to be designated as an Outstanding Area of Natural Beauty in the UK in the 1950’s and hasn’t changed much since.
Owen spent time exploring the history, meeting local farmers and dialect experts, all the while was walking the land and immersing himself in the special atmosphere of the area, from Paviland Cave to Wurm’s Head – which you can see in the photograph taken by Ben Wigley of Artdocs.
The journey between these two locations has inspired his final writings for One and All, which you will be able to discover when the project launches nationwide on 4th Nov 2015. Follow us on facebook & twitter to find out more about the project, our exhibition at Somerset House and the launch.
Owen commented: “Drawing upon local history, anecdote and dialect, On the Sea’s Land seeks to explore and excavate the internal and external geography of this ancient, yet ever-renewing landscape against which our presence, whether communal or solitary, is never less than fleeting.”
A bronze bell, cast at sunset on Porthcurno Beach, will form the central piece of Tania Kovats' work in the upcoming One and All exhibition at Somerset House. Storyteller Nick Hunt will weave tales of bells, tides and local tales whilst Ore + Ingot turn solid metal to molten fire. Come and see this tin and copper casting, a common practice in Cornwall 150 years ago. Dress warmly and bring a torch.
23 September, 6.30 – 7.30pm.
Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall, TR19 6JX.
One and All – a voyage through sight, sound and sea launches online and at Somerset House, London on 4 November. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/oneandall
One and All is a Trust New Art and sounduk co-commission. Produced in collaboration with artdocs and The Swarm.
Generously supported by Arts Council England, PRS for Music Foundation and Bowers + Wilkins.
We've just finished a trip around the coast with What Does the Sea Say?
Sound artist Martyn Ware created a sound installation for a bright blue beach hut which we took to three post industrial coastal locations. Inside people were invited to record their feelings about the sea, as well as write them on the walls.
We started in the north east in the ex coal mining town of Seaham, on the Durham Heritage Coast. Set high on the cliff tops the hut had a stunning position against the backdrop of the drammatic coast line. Hard to believe this was once covered in coal dust!
We then moved south to the beautiful Suffolk coast and the surreal landscape of Orford Ness. This spit of land below Aldeburgh is a nature reserve with some incredibly rare plants and it's own livestock including golden hares and a flock of sheep. Amongst these stand the relics of buildings used when it was an atomic testing site back in the '60s.
Finally, we travelled west to the beautiful harbour community of Porthgain on the Pembrokeshire coast. Once a slate mining and brick manufacturing village, it now attracts visitors from far and wide for its charm, glorious coastal views and of course first class fish restaurant.
SoundUK Arts awarded Strategic Touring funding!
sounduk is delighted to have been awarded a Strategic Touring grant by Arts Council England towards Soil and Concrete, a touring network for new music to rural and urban areas of low provision and engagement from 2015 – 18.
Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said: “We are really pleased to be able to support sounduk’s Soil and Concrete tour. This innovative and adventurous music programme will provide local communities with a really important opportunity to participate in the creation and delivery of new music, introducing them to what may be a new experience and also to variety of different music styles.”
“Through this funding we are delighted to be able to develop our work in partnership with local communities to create excellent art and enable people of all ages to have access and enjoyment of new music ” Maija Handover, co-Director, sounduk.
sounduk will develop a network to commission high quality, innovative music projects in areas of low provision and engagement in the South West, Midlands and London. We are excited to be working in partnership with four rural partners; Beaford Arts in North Devon, Carn to Cove in Cornwall, Pound Arts in Wiltshire and Arts Alive in Shropshire, alongside one urban partner, the Barbican in Barking. Each project responds to place and engages local communities in its creation and delivery.
Alongside each live event a participation programme will be delivered to local people of all ages as well as professional development for local promoters, the majority of which are volunteers.
The first Soil & Concrete project will be Little Radio with internationally acclaimed saxophonist Iain Ballamy and accordionist Stian Carstensen in November 2015 (rural dates) and Summer 2016 (Barking).