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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Grimmy What IS Folk Music? (132* d) RE: What IS Folk Music? 16 Mar 07

Had he [Cecil Sharp] lived longer, we might have other conclusions to consider.

It's unfortunate that practically any discussion about folk music history eventually lapses into 'the Gospel According To Cecil Sharp', the man revered as a god, whose every utterance is taken to be the unquestionable truth.

Let's explode a few myths here - most of the famous collectors were educated 'gentlemen' who went amongst the 'plebs' to collect songs in much the same way as their peers collected fossils, butterflies or Egyptian artifacts. They were treated with suspicion and even, in some cases, hostility by the local people, to the extent that many songs/ballads were withheld from them.

Their methodology was far from scientific; Baring-Gould butchered many of the songs he collected, that's if he bothered to record them at all (it is well known that he would note only one verse of a song if he thought it crude in either its poetical merit or its 'indelicate' content), he would subsequently 're-write' or compose his own verses if he thought fit.

To his credit, C# did at least attempt to trace the ancestry of the songs he collected and in that sense he was a pioneer - and he conceded that there was much more to be done.

Well, here we are 80 years after his death, with a wealth of information and research at our fingertips/keyboards that C# could only have dreamed about - and yet we still hang on his every word.

As I have stated in earlier posts, the folk music tradition is an evolving one; it has evolved since its pagan origins, it has evolved since C#'s day, it has evolved since 1954, it will continue to evolve after we are gone.

Those who fear this evolution can cling to the writings of Cecil Sharp and his ilk if they wish. But any definition of what folk music is or is not, that is more than one day old, is out of date.

Since I am likely to be burned as a heretic, this weekend will be a particularly boozy one. I'm going to listen to Hendrix playing 'Hey Joe' (which, according to Colin Harper's bio of Bert Jansch, was written by two Scottish folksingers in Edinburgh). I reckon C# would have approved (eventually) ;-)

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