Published Shanties: Models

Publications devoted to Sea Shanties generally follow the format of folksong collections: One or two verses of musical notation with text underlay with additional text printed as stanzas. In many cases the notations are idealized or composite melodies from sources which are sometimes identified, sometimes not. Examples of this type include Bullen and Arnold, Colcord, Harlow, Hugill, Shay, Fox Smith and Whall. I include Sharp in this category as well as his notations derive from an identified singer but present only a single verse with no variations – unlikely to represent the song precisely as sung by his collaborators.

Specific transcriptions are rare in this genre. Doerflinger presents those done by Hally Wood. These generally include one example verse with additional notation of significant (in Ms. Wood’s view) variation. Her transcriber’s notes provide additional detail (Doerflinger, W. M. Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman. New York, Macmillan, 1972 pp. 360-362)  Early contributors to the Folksong Journal took a similar approach.

Percy Grainger’s transcriptions of  shanties are, to my knowledge, the most detailed examples of shanty transcription and these, too, present one complete verse with extra staves for noted melodic variation (Journal of the Folk Song Society 3 (1909): pp. 229-242).

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