The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #18331   Message #181438
Posted By: Sourdough
19-Feb-00 - 09:58 PM
Thread Name: Is there a future for traditional music
Subject: RE: Is there a future for traditional music
A few people seem to have understood what I was (apparently clumsily) trying to say. I'm going to give it another whirl.

I am not wondering whether traditional music will be sung in the future. Those who wrote something to the effect that "quality will out" I think are saying that it will and I agree. I'm asking something different. Maybe an example will help.

There are wonderful traditions of music sung by sailors of the "Iron Men" days, sailors on naval vessels, on whalers, on schooners, herring boats, codfishers, pirate ships, etc. There are people today who have caught the excitement of that music and some of them have the skill to communicate that to others even if their audience doesn't have much of an understanding of the life being sung.

However, that's different than a living tradition. There are no crews of sailors who are polishing the old songs, writing new verses, trading them as they move from ship to ship and passing them on to the next generation of sailors. The old songs now either get preserved like flies in amber or they get reworked by people who have little understanding of the lives sailors lived (imagine almost anyone today being tansported back in time to a mid-ocean forecastle gathering and announcing that he, too, was a real sailor. I suspect there are few alive who could carry that off if they had the oportunity.

Those who care about old songs and try to get to original collected versions often find they need to smooth out the melodies, change vocabularies to make the meaning more accessible, etc.

When songs travelled from the British Isles to the US, the lyrics went through a pattern of changes that was determined by the new culture they were coming in to. But they filled a need and were taken up in the churches, farmhouses, fields and forests of the new land. It was not performance music, it was home made, a part of daily life. Can this kind of music survive as a living tradition rooted deeply and widely in the culture today?

Are there songs being written today that will be around in years to come. However, it is hard for me to imagine what it is a collector would be collecting fifty years from now. Will the songs go into a widespread oral tradition and be subjected to the editing and innovation of tens of thousands of people over several generations? Can that happen in the technological world of today.

That is what I was asking, not "What is Folk Music" or "Is there good music being written today that will be around several decades from now?"

Where will these groups be that rely on themselves for entertainment, on music for self-expression - in our prisons? On our Rugby teams?