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Oral culture

The research is divided in five projects (B2a-B2e), each highlighting a different dimension of oral culture. Often variation is indicative for changes in morals, culture and society, while the analysis of narratives may give insight into contemporary societal issues like identity, ethnicity, values and beliefs, inclusion and exclusion, fears and prejudices. As all culture, oral culture is inherently mobile, carried by traditional and new media in an increasing speed in all possible intermedial forms, across the globe. The study of oral culture therefore must be placed in an international and interdisciplinary perspective. Simultaneously, in the Netherlands local languages remain central (Dutch and Frisian). The Oral Culture researchers of the Meertens Instituut for one part focus on the relation of language, lyrics and stories in the creation of a ‘distinctive feeling of Dutchness’.

Research into story and song comes together in a shared interest in narrative texts, where the story research places emphasis on narrative aspects and the song research focuses on the poetic and musical aspects. The research is supported by documentation from two similar online databases: the Dutch Song Database and the Dutch Folktale Database, which consist of large collections of songs, stories, and metadata over a long historical period (generally from the Middle Ages to the present). In addition to this support function, the databases are significant as a national heritage archive. In general, the documentation of song and story facilitates the research into the form, function, and meaning of Dutch folktales and songs (and the related instrumental music) through a comparative perspective in both time and place. As always, our specific interest is on oral delivery, but the importance of (the interaction with) written sources is becoming increasingly prominent. In some respect Lied- en Verhaalcultuur is positioned between the ethnological and linguistic research at the Meertens Institute and where possible, involves collaboration between the disciplines. Furthermore, it is becoming apparent that the story and song material is useful for research in the Digital Humanities (as previous projects like FACT, Tunes & Tales, and WitchCraft have demonstrated).