The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #19126   Message #194445
Posted By: Amos
13-Mar-00 - 05:54 PM
Thread Name: BS: What is folk music?
Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
I just had another thought about the changes to "folk music" which have set in since the advent of mass communication, in that the scale and scope of tragedy now has changed dramatically. When all communication was from one mouth to one ear, and even by posted broadsides and the like, a single tragic event -- one woman dying for love, or one jealous husband murdering someone, or one town losing its young men to emigration -- was a major focus, and enough attention was put on it that it acheived scale and stature, and might become immortalized in a ballad.

With the advent of mass communications, wire services, networks, and all, the scale of the communication channel is entirely different -- the murder of five nuns can be lost on the front page or the TV news because of a political flap or the explosion of the Challenger. The story does not linger for weeks or months as it did in the smaller, oral community. As a result poignant and dramatic tales are mere grist for the media mill, and get lost in a way that similar stories in the past often did not, because they were captured however inaccurately in a ballad somewhere.

Obviously the trade-off is that at least we can dig up, with some degree of accuracy, thousands more stories from our electronic morgues than ever made it into song, but the change of scale still says something about the change of the basic conditions which generated so much of our oral legacy.