The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #130927   Message #2949453
Posted By: GUEST,David Wylde
21-Jul-10 - 08:52 PM
Thread Name: Review: Killing folk
Subject: Review: Killing folk
My wife introduced me to the folk scene five years ago. Before that, the only time I consciously heard any of the music, was at primary school or at a country pub when a morris side was performing.(and yes I have asked "which one is Morris")
So there I was at the local folk club thinking; so where's the manual! I asked my wife and she said "You just learn by listening and then giving it a go" So for six months I listened, joining in with the choruses when I could. Then I asked how folkies got their songs and the answers I got back were:

The internet
Song books
Recordings
Collections
Live concerts
Sessions
Passed down by teachers or family
Self penned.

I looked on the internet and found this site.(Sigh)midi files, give me a break, I'll name that tune never. Though fair play, some searches have samples of every Tom, Dick and Helmut that has ever use that search phrase in a song. Just pick one and sing it next time at the club and see what the folk Nazis do to the chorus.

Song books, nice if you are one of the 2% who read music. Probably explains why we all sing different versions of the same songs in this age of mass media. As a newbie, all I wanted was a singer under 90 with a vocal range of more than two notes, to give a fair representation of how the song was supposed to sound. Give us other 98% a fair reference, maybe start with the collections of Cecil Sharpe.

Sting is a closet folky, who would have guessed? Someone must have put on his red light. Maybe he is on to something? Put enough 21st century studio know how, add a few exotic instruments and it could be a stadium filler. Joking aside, the crossover artists are the only ones selling folk to the masses. The converts are filling the folk clubs up and down the country or not as the truth be told. We see them on stage at the festivals, hear them on the radio, we see their CD's in the shops and they are happy to do a guest spot in between gigs but like Sting they have their red lights on and only perform for the money. Give it another forty years and they will croaking at some session and dropping names like the rest of us.

Collections: Academics do a great job of finding lost treasures that were about to be lost to the nation. They spend long hours cataloguing and restoring them, then take great pleasure in say singing all 26 verses of medieval dirge at the next folk night. Somebody save me! They should be left in museums for the amusement of said academics and specialist S&M concerts or maybe school detention. Open them up to the people in a format that is useful or bury them.

Is folk a performance art? I say it is the blogs of times past. People sang for many reasons; to get their work done, to pass the time whilst walking from place to place, to comfort themselves in times of stress, to vent their anger, express their love and to pass the time until radio was invented. More like thinking aloud for the uneducated classes. Education has made us quieter in that respect. So what about the rest of the family we call folk? Call it bygone pop, propaganda, parlour or religious but it's lazy to call it folk. So are we just mouthing the words? Probably.

I think sessions are the bedrock of the folk tradition. You never quite know what will come out of the next mouth. The song sayers, where the message is important but the tune monotone. The tune singers, where bugger the words, listen to my opera trained voice and then the singers of songs where you just smile. Some sing too loud to drown out the distractions, some too soft like delicate flowers and some you question their hearing but all share a love of singing. The only free love most of them get since the sixties.

Most folkies under 60 are probably graduates, who got into folk because it came with subsidised beer. Singing is not a required subject at school, so unless you count Puff the magic non racist, non sexist, vegetarian Dragon as a folk song, the tumble weed of talent is going straight to DVD (or X Factor)

A rhyming dictionary and history of Britain and away you go. Just add some misery and sing it through your nose for that added authenticity and you're a member of folks top table. No more for you the waiting your turn in the sing around. I cut too deep. The rule of thumb seems to be that talent and humility is dished out in equal measure to but a few.

So who is killing Folk? You are by keeping it elitist.

We expose the masses to the music by opening the box and giving it back to the people. Get good singers recording the standards, then give them away free on the internet, place them in television and radio programmes. Members of folk clubs sing in schools and go busking. Raise your voice and singout, because without a new wave of interest, you will be singing alone sooner than you think.

These ramblings were made at two in the morning, by a very unbalanced individual and should not be taken to heart, however, should you feel the need to buttonhole me at some future event, be warned, I am deadly if attacked from behind.

David