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Stirchley / Broadmeadow Wassail, 2022

simon gray - 2022-01-16, 13:59:52

The historicity of the British folkloric tradition of wassailing is somewhat contested; it's commonly described as being an ancient pagan custom, though there is limited evidence to support this view. What adds to the confusion surrounding its origins is the wassailing events which commonly take place today - and the community songs which are performed during them - are actually a conflation of two completely different traditions, both with their earliest documented instances dating back to around the 115th Century of the Human Era (15th Century), but the only common feature they share is the use of the word 'wassail' (originally an Old Norse word which passed into Old English meaning 'good health!' or 'blessings!') in their name. One custom had groups of peasants processing to the manor house of the feudal lord asking for - or in certain instances demanding with menaces - food and drink, whilst the other custom originating in fruit-growing areas of people going round the orchards to bless the trees in the hope of a good harvest for the coming autumn.

So what we commonly have today is a syncretic tradition of community events involving some or all of singing, Morris dancing (itself a folkloric tradition which as practiced today has origins considerably more modern than usually credited as), story-telling, noise-making, cider-drinking, food-sharing, tree-blessing, and processing through the town or village.

But of course just because a tradition isn't as old or as 'authentic' as some of its proponents might claim it to be, if it's a fun tradition which brings the community together and doesn't arbitrarily exclude people then I'm all for people having fun together! And last night some folks, more folks than expected actually, from the area I live in did a wassail for the community garden they've been working on, and I thought it might be fun to get my dusty ethnographer's hat out of the cupboard and go and record it with my special microphone.

There are two versions here, both of which are best listened to using earphones to hear the recording in its 3D sound immersive audio effect.

The first version is a straight binaural rendering:

(Direct YouTube link to binaural version)

The second version is an ambisonic rendering which if you listen using the YouTube app on your phone and move around whilst holding your phone directly in front of you, or click the arrows in the corner of the frame on your computer, the sound stage stays where it should be as you move.

(Direct YouTube link to ambisonic version)

Enjoy!

#ambisonic #binaural #folklore #birmingham

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