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Dutch Song Database

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Collections and Repertories

Middle Ages and Sixteenth Century

The Database of Songs from the Low Countries contains virtually all songs from the Middle Ages and the sixteenth century, from manuscripts as well as from printed sources in libraries in the Netherlands, Belgium and elsewehere. This inventory was made for the Repertory of Dutch Songs until 1600 by Martine de Bruin, Johan Oosterman, Clara Strijbosch and others, and was published in bookform with a CD-ROM in 2001. The Repertory and thus the Database contains more than 11,000 song descriptions which comprise 7,700 different song texts and 1,100 different melodies. The descriptions are comprehensive, i.e. they include keywords, melody norms, strophic forms and many other search keys. Paper copies of most of the sources are present at the Meertens Institute.

The Repertory project lasted from 1993 to 2001. It was funded by the Flemish-Dutch Committee VNC, in which the Dutch NWO and the Flemish FWO cooperated. The project was managed by Frank Willaert (University of Antwerp) and Louis Peter Grijp (Meertens Institute).

Seventeenth Century

The Database contains a great number songs from the seventeenth century - about 27,000 items - but definitely not all that have been preserved. Especially printed songbooks have been excerpted, both religious and secular, both from the Northern Netherlands and from the South. Also a considerable number of songs and choruses from theater plays have been included. Most of the descriptions are comprehensive, including keywords, melody norms, strophic forms and many other search keys. Paper copies of nearly all sources are present at the Meertens Institute.

The foundation for this part of the database was laid during the NWO dissertation project of Louis Peter Grijp at Utrecht University (1986-1991), the so-called 'Feetbank' with the strophic forms of about 5,000 songs. It was enlarged on the Meertens Institute in the period 1990-1997, concentrating on songbooks with music notation. The work was done by many trainees directed by Anne Houk de Jong (project 'Melodicon of the Golden Age'). Theater songs were added by the Ph.D. students Natascha Veldhorst and Ingeborg De Coomen during a project of the Flemish-Dutch Committee VNC (1999-2004). Several thousands of songs from songbooks from the Southern Netherlands were added during the project Database of Songs from the Southern Netherlands at Antwerp University. Finally some 9,400 song descriptions were taken over from the card files of the Dutch Song Archive (Meertens Institute); these descriptions are less extended than the ones mentioned before (e.g. no strophic forms, few keywords).

Eighteenth Century

From the eighteenth century considerably fewer songs are entered than from earlier periods. They include mostly songs from printed songbooks, both secular and sacred, mainly from the Northern Netherlands. In addition, a number of broadside ballads have been included.

Most of the descriptions are taken over from the card files of the Dutch Folksong Archive (Meertens Institute). They are limited to first lines and tune indications. In many cases the melodies have been identified. For about half of the sources there is a copy present on the Meertens Institute. These songs have been described in some more detail, with song titles and basic keywords. Some songbooks have been described more fully by students during a seminar led by L.P. Grijp (Utrecht University, 2005). Street songs have been added via the Broadside Ballads Project.

Nineteenth Century

From the nineteenth century traditional secular songbooks (chapbooks) have been included, and songbooks for 'decent companies'. Edifying and patriotic songs like those by J.P. Heye have been added as well, but few school songs. Songs from the realm of bourgeois entertainment (vaudevilles, operettes, variété, cafés chantants) have not been included, and neither have religious songs from this period. But many broadside ballads were included. A new category are the scholarly editions of folksongs, whether from historical sources or based on fieldwork, mainly in Flanders.

Most of the descriptions are taken over from the card files of the Dutch Folksong Archive. They are limited to the first lines and tune indications. Many of the melodies have been identified using the so-called 'melody norm'. About half of the sources are present at the Meertens Institute. The songs they contain have been described more in detail, with song titles and basic keywords. Most broadsides are also represented by a online scan.

Twentieth Century

From the twentieth century especially folk song editions have been included, scholarly works as well as songbooks for youth organisations, schools etc. Most descriptions are taken over from the card files of the Dutch Folksong Archive. Many broadside ballads are also included, available online as scans. In addition, there are collections with field recordings, the largest of which is the collection Under the Green Linden: recordings made by Ate Doornbosch and Will Scheepers in the second half of the century. All of them can be listened to as audio and for many of the recordings there are also online transcriptions of text and music.

Practically no religious songs from the twentieth century are included in the Database.

Popular music, cabaret songs, tearjerkers, pop music and rap in the Dutch language are only represented by references to the modest CD-collection of the Meertens Institute, which offers a cross-section of these and similar genres.

Dutch Folksong Archive

The card files of the Dutch Folksong Archive (founded in 1954, since 1963 part of the Volkskundebureau which later became part of the Meertens Institute) were produced with Marie Veldhuyzen as director. It included Dutch songs from the Middle Ages through the twentieth century. From the nineteenth century on, the focus was more on 'folksong'. 'Popular' songs belonging to the 'world of entertainment' were left out. This 'light' music would have led (it was thought) to the decline of folksongs. The card files (still preserved in the Meertens Institute) refer to about 80,000 songs. Main entries include first lines, tune indications and melodies. In addition to these card files, the Dutch Folksong Archive includes some 35,000 copies, handwritten or typed out, of songs from all kinds of sources, including the collection Under the Green Linden. These have been scanned only partially.

The card files were digitized in 1999-2002 by a group of eight young collaborators directed by Sasja Koetsier and later by Rozemarijn van Leeuwen. Where possible the original sources were used, half of which were present in the Meertens Institute. These descriptions are considerably more accurate than those which could be taken over only from cards. This vast project was funded by the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences.

Database of Songs from the Southern Netherlands

About 3,000 songs from the Southern Netherlands, expecially from Flanders, were described in projects of the University of Antwerp by Hubert Meeus, Maartje De Wilde and others, 2003-2006. The sources are mainly printed songbooks, especially secular ones. The projects were supported by the Ministery of the Flemish Community and the Max Wildiers Fund of FWO Flanders.

Broadside Ballads

The Meertens Institute possesses some collections of broadside ballads or street songs, i.e. sheets which once were sold at markets and on the streets by professional singers or door-to-door by beggars. The biggest collection is that of Julius Moorman, who collected the songs in the 20s and 30s of the twentieth century. The Meertens Institute also possesses part of the large collection of Douwe Wouters; the other, larger part is in the Royal Library in The Hague. The collections of Wouters and Moorman (who in 1933 together published the anthology Het Straatlied (The Broadside Ballad)) were included in a project funded by the Dutch Ministery of Education, Welfare and Culture (2002-2004), part of the Memory of the Netherlands project. The Broadside Ballads project was carried out by Garrelt Verhoeven, Martine de Bruin and others. In total, some 15,000 songs were covered. Most of the broadside ballads are online in the form of scans.

Under the Green Linden

The Meertens Institute possesses a large collection of field recordings called 'Under the Green Linden', after the radio program for which Ate Doornbosch made the recordings. The program was broadcast by public radio for 37 years (1957-1994). Doornbosch made about 5,000 recordings all over the country. Also the 2,000 recordings made by his predecessor Mrs Will Scheepers in the period 1950-1964 are considered part of Under the Green Linden. About half of the sound recordings are transcribed as texts and notation. All recordings are available online as audio, all transcriptions as scans. The music is being digitized in searchable form.

Doornbosch focussed on ballads, meaning storytelling songs from the oral tradtion. A number of them have been published in a series of three books, also called Under the Green Linden (Onder de groene linde), by Marie van Dijk and others. In 2008 the fourth and last volume will appear, as will a box with 9 CDs and a DVD.

Other collections are field recordings of the Sisters Dings from Liessel in the Peel (in the east part of North Brabant) and recordings of the Sisters Jongbloed from Amsterdam.

CD Collection

The Meertens Institute possesses a modest collection of CDs with Dutch songs, which represent a cross-section of several popular genres. Focal points include early music, folk music, smartlappen (tearjerkers) and contemporary dialect music. In addition the collection includes CDs with cabaret music, soccer songs, mainstream, rap and other genres. More than 600 CDs are included in the Database, with about 13,000 songs, for which the title, authors and singer are given.