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Come on over and collaborate. The more the merrier.

Only rules are:

  • bring profiles with you
  • profiles must be set to "public"

This particular project explores the "ballad" form. Feel free to make more specific and linking sub-projects. I am particularly interested in learning about ballad form from the folklore of other countries: what are traditional folk "ballads" in Japan, for instance? Are they similar to the "blues" I love so much? Let's use "project discussions."

  • What is a ballad?

A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative set to music. Ballads were particularly characteristic of British and Irish popular poetry and song from the later medieval period until the 19th century and used extensively across Europe and later the Americas, Australia and North Africa.

Many ballads were written and sold as single sheet broadsides. The form was often used by poets and composers from the 18th century onwards to produce lyrical ballads. In the later 19th century it took on the meaning of a slow form of popular love song and the term is now often used as synonymous with any love song, particularly the pop or rock power ballad.

In America a distinction is drawn between ballads that are versions of European, particularly British and Irish songs, and 'native American ballads', developed without reference to earlier songs.

A further development was the evolution of the blues ballad, which mixed the genre with Afro-American music. For the late 19th century the music publishing industry found a market for what are often termed sentimental ballads, and these are the origin of the modern use of the term ballad to mean a slow love song.


  • Traditional ballads
  • Broadsides
  • Literary ballads
  • Ballad operas
  • Beyond Europe
  • Native American ballads
  • Blues ballads
  • Bush ballads
  • Sentimental ballads
  • Jazz, blues and traditional pop
  • Pop and rock ballads
  • Power ballads


  1. The ballad probably derives its name from medieval French dance songs or "ballares" (from which we also get ballet), as did the alternative rival form that became the French Ballade. In theme and function they may originate from Scandinavian and Germanic traditions of storytelling that can be seen in poems such as Beowulf.[1] The earliest example we have of a recognisable ballad in form in England is ‘Judas’ in a 13th-century manuscript.[2]


  1. J. E. Housman, British Popular Ballads (1952, London: Ayer Publishing, 1969), p. 15.
  2. N. Bold, The Ballad (Routledge, 1979), p. 5.

References and further reading

  • Middleton, Richard. "Popular Music (I)". Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (subscription required). Accessed 2007-04-06.
  • Randel, Don (1986). The New Harvard Dictionary of Music. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-61525-5.
  • Temperley, Nicholas. "Ballad (II, 2)". Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (subscription required). Accessed 2007-04-06.
  • Witmer, Robert. "Ballad (jazz)". Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (subscription required). Accessed 2007-04-06.
  • Marcello Sorce Keller, "Sul castel di mirabel: Life of a Ballad in Oral Tradition and Choral Practice", Ethnomusicology, XXX(1986), no. 3, 449- 469.

this project is in HistoryLink