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Thursday, November 10, 2011
Songs on karaoke CDs cost close to $1 each. Because public domain songs are royalty-free to the publisher, they are often included as bonus songs on karaoke CDs, in order to bring the cost of each song down to $.50 or less.
Emerson karaoke machines often include public domain selections.
Public domain songs are usually characterized as "traditional." Such songs may seem uninteresting to a karaoke singer who has a certain genre in mind. . . at first.
Certain things we eventually come to treasure may be not readily seen as important, when we first encounter then.
Here's an example of how value may be discovered:
On a vacation in England, my traveling companions and I found ourselves in the Chiltern Hills, near the West Wycombe Caves. This was an area in the Southern England Chalk Formation, known also as "chalk downs." I found myself wishing it to be well-foliaged like the Lake District. I wished it to be quaint. It was a very plain landscape.
I stood in a very plain field enclosed by inhospitable barbed wire, looked at the dirt, and, being unread about the region, was ready to ask why we had traveled so far to see this part of England.
I stooped to examine a chunk of conglomerate rock, and experienced a thrill of sudden discovery: the conglomerate contained flint.
Somehow I was aware that flint was used in making fire in primitive Britain, although I knew no details of that process. I knew of flint by reputation only, but recognized its similarity to chert and obsidian of California.
So there I was, in the midst of an ordinary-appearing field, realizing it was a field of flint. I experienced a feeling of privilege, and of amazement at how I could have wished for a greener location.
There were more surprises to come: ancient small homes constructed of the flint conglomerate; and chalk caves in the vicinity. But the contrast of my first impression of a monotonous landscape with the thrill experienced when I discovered the flint left an unforgettable mark.
This transformation of a seemingly insignificant experience into an experience of much importance (for me) is how many traditional songs included in karaoke music CDs may come to be seen by a singer. As karaoke singers, our interest in a specific style or content may cause us not be aware of the value of traditional songs. Initially, we at times recognize that the software publisher added those songs as bonus songs without extra cost to the publisher, but regret they are not songs in the style of music we prefer.
The truth is that traditional songs have many dimensions. They communicate real experiences through music, even though those experiences might be outside of our own experience. A family audience will have members who appreciate a traditional song, and often be familiar with it, and may sing along with lyrics on the TV monitor.
To make the most of the storytelling qualities of a traditional song, when planning a social event where karaoke is an activity, it can break the ice to assign each person a song to research and present. If the event does not allow for advance assignments of songs, short written histories might be provided for the presenters to read before traditional songs telling unfamiliar stories are sung.
A singer's preparation of the song might involve searching for renditions on YouTube, and selecting a favorite as a model for a performance. Because traditional songs reflect real history, it is best to use a straight singing style for these songs. Even so, singers will sometimes apply a style to them, and such possibilities may present themselves after watching several YouTube renditions.
GoKaraokeMachine.com researched renditions by famous artists of the traditional song, Nine Hundred Miles.
Nine Hundred Miles appeals to all ages. It appears on a K-1 Learn, Read, and Sing CD by Forever Hits. It is contained in an Emerson Plug 'N' Sing microphone song collection, and as a permanent song in an Emerson All-In-One karaoke machine. At GoKaraokeMachine.com, a search on "miles" will bring up these products.
In a video included with this article, one may hear an excerpt from a rendition of Nine Hundred Miles sung straight, by Tom Joad.
On a children's karaoke disc, a traditional song will usually be presented in a quick tempo, and will be appropriately performed as:
-an activity song,
-a piece of history,
-a song best presented with introductory remarks,
-a song inspiring audience participation,
-a duet or group song.
A MIDI accompaniment for Nine Hundred Miles played at a quick tempo typical of children's versions, is heard in this article's included video.
The wonderful website, Second Hand Songs, provides links to many versions of the song, Nine Hundred Miles, some of which appear in videos on YouTube. Some are mentioned below. You may be required to join as a member, but there is no charge.
Straight renditions by female vocalists include those by:
-Judith Durham (The Seekers),
-Mary Travers (Peter, Paul & Mary),
-Hedy West (wrote The Journeymen version), and
Straight renditions by groups include those by:
-The Brothers Four,
-The Seekers, and
-Peter, Paul & Mary.
Stylized renditions include:
-Country: Reba McIntyre, Bobby Bare
-Idiomatic (belonging to a certain time or place): Woody Guthrie
-Soul: Mary Wells.
To summarize, while we might think we prefer stylized singing with karaoke, at other times, style can detract from a story. Traditional songs, sung straight, can be of great interest.
A karaoke singer should remember that singing "straight" and "out of genre" is always a choice.
All of the above artists' renditions are available on YouTube except those of:
-Woody Guthrie, and
If you lose track of this article on the web, you can find it again, along with YouTube links at www.GoKaraokeMachine.com, in the Articles section, How To Choose a Karaoke Machine - Article #3, on traditional songs.