Documenting Transmission: The Rake Cycle

This project displays the folk process in action through the encoding and comparison of audio and text.

The case study for this text is thirteen songs from the 'Rake Cycle', a popular cycle of folk songs. The basic song structure comes from the 'Rake' variant of the song. "The Unfortunate Rake", also known as "The Unfortunate Lad", is a traditional folk ballad, which through the folk process has evolved into a large number of variants. One branch, stemming from "The Cowboy's Lament", includes the song "Streets of Laredo" which is perhaps the most well known version.

The earliest known documentation of the ballad comes from a one-verse fragment learned in Dublin in 1790, titled "My Jewel, My Joy". As the ballad traveled and became popular, a wealth of subsequent variants and parodies were written. The song made its way throughout Britain before making its way to America. The many variants feature various young soldiers, sailors, maids, gamblers, and cowboys being "cut down in their prime" and contemplating their deaths.

You can view each of the versions by selecting them at will. Pressing play will play the audio recording as well as track which lyrics are similar across versions

You can also toggle which motifs appear across which versions of the ballad by using the motifs buttons at the top of the interface

Please click on the file below to view the project in The Versioning Machine

Audio encoding