The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #77728   Message #1389390
Posted By: Stilly River Sage
26-Jan-05 - 04:01 PM
Thread Name: What is wrong with being a purist?
Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?

Interesting that I would address these remarks to someone named "John." That was my father's name also, and he was in many ways a purist. I think this softened over the years, but alas, I wasn't living in the same state and wasn't there to hear the programs he attended or performed at as his interests expanded.

Growing up with a purist meant that some types of music were not appreciated so weren't openly listened to in the house, and biases were established in we children that we didn't understand were biases until our worlds broadened with contact with school friends and we had our own radios. Dad was fond of classical music, as am I. I pride myself still on being able to play a pretty darned good game of "drop the needle." We listened most to classical radio stations at home. His other passion was folk music, as you describe for yourself. His specialties were English, Irish, Scottish, and Early American songs and ballads. He liked to hear the many versions, and I wonder if at times he was searching for the Ur-version of some songs. I also appreciate that folk music, and having grown up around a father who was learning the music and the words, I have lots of those words still rattling around in my head.

But the "purist" stance wasn't always comfortable to live around and I suspect it wasn't an easy one to wear, as your defensive query to start this thread implies. And I say this even as I recognize that when I go out to hear performers, and they mix their songs between traditional and their own compositions, that I'm usually biased toward the traditional songs. I want to hear what their versions of old songs sound like. It's the way I was exposed to music. Somehow if an author is recognizable it isn't "authentic."

This attitude isn't logical, it's just what managed to get hardwired, and it is a struggle to examine it in light of day, then push aside, where I believe it belongs.

If you don't listen to new music, you miss the transmission of so much information. I was never great for knowing who performed what songs I liked on the radio, and I still don't keep good track of that. But I recognise the tunes and words I like. Maybe it's that anonymity of folk music that means I don't pay attention to who wrote songs. Anyway, what I hear now in modern songs on the radio are so many expressions of the humanity of performers that my children are listening to. I also hear lots of references back to the older music, even as far back as anonymous traditional music. The accretion of the human condition's reflection in music is important to note. And if you're stuck in one era, you'll miss it.

I have compartments, moods if you will. Some days I feel like listening to a type of music, and will turn on the radio and go through my pre-sets to find something that sounds good. Sometimes it's new stations, others it is what my kids programmed into the radio. Other times I pull out tapes or albums and listen to those. And the kids enjoy those when they are played. So if I can raise children who understand different types of music and have an appreciation for them all, then I'll have been successful. I have preferences, and they grew up with classical music on their radios in the bedroom at night. But I don't touch their radio dials any more at bedtime. I don't want them to have to "get over" the purist tendencies that I learned as a child. While the ability to focus sharply on a given area in which you choose to study is good, I don't think it's useful to apply to life and music all of the time.

I hope this helps. I'm giving only a brief sketch of what it was like to live with my Dad as a small child, and friends of his may have different views entirely, formed at different times during his career as a researcher and performer. So while I don't want to usurp your thread, I'd be interested in any addition to my remarks. They'd be best shared over at his thread: John Dwyer - Songs and Stories.