The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)
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Information: Albert Lancaster (A. L.) Lloyd, author of books about dance.
ESSAY BY DR. PAUL J. NIXON
From: "Dr P. J. Nixon"
Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999
Subject: Harmony: Blacking, Lloyd Nettl, Merriam.
A simple point raised concerning John Blacking's enthusiasm for the Bulgarian Bistritza diaphonies is that he was never there to investigate anyone's realities, to find out for himself how anything actually operated for (or against) anyone! Neither was he anywhere else for research in Eastern Europe. His advocacy was on the basis of hearsay, wishfulness, and sampling of officially-approved recordings. For sure he liked those sounds . . . Why not? It's a good start but no finishing point, if one seeks to explain something. It is no attack upon his person to note that he had the freedom to express his likes and dislikes. Others were not so fortunate.
In 1950s to 1980s Britain, many folkmusic buffs (and Blacking) were captivated by the dexterous pronouncements of the late A. L. Lloyd, folklorist, successful journalist who dressed down a bit like a 'worker'; and he was a professional 'folksinger', card-carrying Party member and Stalinist to the very end. British audiences and students (myself among them) were intrigued by the then rare sound recordings he commanded. Though many here didn't know it at the time, he had privileged access to the fruits of Eastern European State Researchers and their archives. And, as some may recall, he gave well-polished talks on vernacular harmony which he often idealised as oppositional to elaborated polyphony of the notated heritage of European music this seems silly now, and was probably reflecting his soft-spoken Class-War and anti-religion approach as I recall it.
However, he would come home from banqueted trips to emergency-stricken Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania armed with tapes of material from hand-picked rehearsed performers drilled to record in the radio studios where non-stop streams of approved 'spontaneous' Folk Music were pumped out for hours every day. As I discovered in my year's stay in Romania ten years before the changes, some people detested 'folk music' in Eastern Europe but Lloyd never mentioned that as a university teacher and broadcaster, though these aspects were worth knowing about. (The facts must NOT be allowed to get out of hand! Dreams were more important then.)
His television and radio broadcasts (e.g., on Bartík) were engaging but scientifically inadequate, I now see. He could not tell us much factually because he had never done the hard graft of gathering the material in and sorting out anyone's history of involvement in any topic of enquiry. That takes staying power and self-control, not utopian zeal and rhetorical sleight of hand. As I know from his talks, he would pass off recordings from the 1930s as if they represented social realities of the 1970s; likewise dazzling and highly competent stars of the mammoth Folk competitions which dominated Communist lands were presented (unidentified) as if we were listening to genuine examples of village togetherness, equilibrium, social harmoniousness in action.
Now all are freer to ask: When was Lloyd in a village for more than a few hours of CP visitation listening to performances on command? Never, I am told by those who managed his tightly-ordered routines. This all adds up to what I can only regard as the pollution of knowledge, whether used for broadcasts, gramophone records, university teaching, or persuasive articles. Very real social and musical connections, power relations and their palpable impact on imaginative products, were kept hidden in his presentations presumably they were judged unacceptable. I recall how people could be led to assume the best when Lloyd's lecture examples of folk harmony were used almost as an opiate, numbing critical senses, obscuring human realities which in themselves are STILL interesting if they can be openly admitted to. Myths of origin often held the day, and who could counter them? Wishful theories were not submitted to the control of facts.
Lloyd's recordings of Albanian polyphony (on Topic records, of which company he was a senior manager) are not possible to explore with any certainty. I never doubted his enthusiasm for these sounds. He liked them. The material sounds so rich! Intriguing! Compelling to ears unused to them! But what did those performers think about it all? Shall we ever know? Tirana's major scholar Ramadan Sokoli seems to have assisted Lloyd with sound examples, under orders from the CP authorities otherwise his actions would have been treasonable, punished under law. Sokoli, it is now asserted by colleagues, was never a Party stalwart but was obliged to provide Lloyd with what he wanted! This too is interesting, very interesting; some of us like to know the operational realities (who does what, for whom and why?); it is factually informative. Some of like to know what we are listening to and who has shaped it. It need not spoil our enjoyment of anything.
As regards the techniques, singers, methods of continuing the tradition, balance of the recorded sound, approval of the finished product, and so forth, we can learn little from Lloyd, because he had to be sole mediator (or obscurer?) of all. Keen on idealised vernacular 'tradition', he seldom introduced the solid tradition of intellectual enquiry on these matters. He was doubly privileged: in Eastern European former polities he was a welcome envoy of the Communist Party of Great Britain; in Great Britain he was sole purveyor of uncheckable exotic materials. He had a skilled journalistic touch a gift indeed. But was it put to best use?
As we see, music-making and music scholarship can indeed be studied as well as its fruits enjoyed. Like others in various fields of enquiry, I seek realistic knowledge, palatable or unpalatable. Why did Lloyd the university teacher and lecturer exclude all references to important map-making and non-partisan socio-musical scholarship from, say, Bruno Nettl or Alan Merriam, denying their contributions when students raised questions? It seemed strange that he closed his eyes and ears to conscientious writing elsewhere. Not a good idea in education. This approach would not take anyone far in natural sciences or legal studies.
Good wishes for tolerance and open-minded experience.
Dr. Paul J. Nixon
Faculty of Social and Political Sciences
University of Cambridge
From: "Dr P.J. Nixon"
Date: Thu, 25 Mar 1999
Dear Ron Houston,
Thank you for your enquiry. No, this material is not put together as such. Use my comments as you will, please. I had first-hand experience of Lloyd as teacher, and powerful CP proponent he was not universally liked in Eastern Europe, I discovered. Many of these issues and more arise in my book "Sociality-Music-Dance," Gothenburg U., 1998, c.700 pages. I discuss socio-cultural material and problems of scholarship on matters Eastern European. Lots of dance commentary.
Am glad to say that the New Grove is revising its entry on Lloyd. Stanley Sadie (editor-in-chief) let me know how uneasy he had always been at Lloyd's inscrutable formulations on Eastern Europe. One knew it needed to be challenged, but how? Few people really know the scene where Lloyd moved. He didn't quite ring true, it seems. Likewise the entries on Cecil Sharp, Maud Karpeles, Lucy Broadwood, Mary Neal, and the Morris Ring are being prepared afresh. Your dance colleagues should find better material to hand quite soon.
If you don't have details, I can let you have referencess for G. Boyes and D.Harker both critical of Lloydspeak in an informed scholarly way even if Harker is avowedly an activist member of the Socialist Workers' Party (deadly rival of Lloyd's CPGB, we are reminded!).
Do you know Dave Arthur? He is preparing a monograph on Lloyd and, like Harker, has much to say regarding Lloyd's evident skills and subterfuges. Over here people can often be a little religious when Lloyd's name is mentioned. He was very kind to those who looked up to him. But Brotherly Love was withdrawn from all who doubted the CP paradise to come. Dave was an old friend of the Lloyd family. They have permanently closed the door to his face because of a non-adulatory radio broadcast made after Bert's death. Again, Dave was quick to say that my observations on Eastern Europe and Lloyd are exactly what he has been searching for in terms of local knowledge. Nobody quite knew what the master had really been up to all these years! There are many myths.
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