The songs of the shantymen : composition and performance in a nineteenth century tradition

Moreira, James (1984) The songs of the shantymen : composition and performance in a nineteenth century tradition. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

[img] [English] PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.

Download (92MB)


The study is an attempt to analyse the nature and function of formulaic composition in the performance of shanties, which were worksongs used to accompany manual labour on board merchant sailing ships in the last century. The primary objective is to examine the stylistic and conceptual alterations that occur in a singer's approach to performance during the "transitional” phase between the non-literate and literate stages of a society, for although formulaic composition, or "re-creative performance," can exist in both non-literate and literate contexts, researchers have shown that the methods of performance differ significantly between the two phases of culture. -- Although some textual material has been garnered from published shanty collections, the analysis centres mainly on the repertoires of Richard Maitland, whose songs were collected by William Doerflinger and also by Alan Lomax, and another of Doerflinger’s informants, Capt. Patrick Tayluer. Since the study is confined to a very specific context, a great deal of data pertaining to the tradition has also been obtained from the autobiographies of former seamen. -- Following the theoretical precepts of Milman Parry and Albert Lord, as well as other writers, such as John Barnie, David Buchan, David Evans, and John D. Niles, whose works are extrapolations of the “oral theory,” the study examines how literate attitudes, particularly the concepts of memorization and "improvisation," affect the shaintyman’s approach to performance. The study also examines how the singer must modify his method of performance to satisfy certain functional conditions or to cope with the structural and stylistic differences in the songs themselves. Generally speaking, literacy may be said to have a broad, conceptual effect on the shantyman's method of performance while the functional and poetic aspects of literacy affect the performance of specific songs in specific situations.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 5493
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 427-437.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Folklore
Date: 1984
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Sea songs; Oral tradition

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over the past year

View more statistics