The Wayfarer’s Song, Installment 4

November 6, 2014

An Experiment in point of view

Wayfarers’ songs are work songs, sea shanties, street cries, military cadence and jody calls, and protest songs. Songs for miners, lumberjacks, cowboys and factory workers get sung in rhythmic a cappella that synchronize group action and relieve the loneliness; they are boasts sung during off- hours in social settings. To while away sleepless hours, pitching voices high or low through the intricacies of song, the watchman over time learns to keep in tune. As for me, there has always been a woman to let me be her tom.

Little Tomcat

The wayfarer’s song is seminal to historic memory: the means for groups to remember and perpetuate shared values, experiences, and knowledge. For us to remember, they must have four features: they must be repeated over time and through multiple currents; they must be conspicuousness in intensity to remain in the consciousness; they must be recognizable and standard, and embellish-able; and they must be bold and compelling enough to announce that more complex signal will follow.

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