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Why should we sing folk music at all?

MaineDog 10 Jan 08 - 03:52 PM
Amos 10 Jan 08 - 04:05 PM
Little Hawk 10 Jan 08 - 04:13 PM
katlaughing 10 Jan 08 - 04:14 PM
John MacKenzie 10 Jan 08 - 04:15 PM
Waddon Pete 10 Jan 08 - 04:22 PM
Little Hawk 10 Jan 08 - 04:23 PM
Georgiansilver 10 Jan 08 - 04:52 PM
kendall 10 Jan 08 - 04:56 PM
Charley Noble 10 Jan 08 - 05:04 PM
Megan L 10 Jan 08 - 05:10 PM
Richard Bridge 10 Jan 08 - 05:13 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 10 Jan 08 - 05:24 PM
The Sandman 10 Jan 08 - 06:09 PM
GUEST,leeneia 10 Jan 08 - 06:22 PM
Joybell 10 Jan 08 - 06:45 PM
Amos 10 Jan 08 - 07:00 PM
Rabbi-Sol 10 Jan 08 - 07:00 PM
Bat Goddess 10 Jan 08 - 07:18 PM
Beer 10 Jan 08 - 07:26 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 10 Jan 08 - 07:41 PM
Little Hawk 10 Jan 08 - 07:46 PM
dick greenhaus 10 Jan 08 - 08:03 PM
Ernest 11 Jan 08 - 02:21 AM
Murray MacLeod 11 Jan 08 - 03:36 AM
John MacKenzie 11 Jan 08 - 05:37 AM
matt milton 11 Jan 08 - 05:40 AM
kendall 11 Jan 08 - 05:58 AM
Backwoodsman 11 Jan 08 - 06:46 AM
Schantieman 11 Jan 08 - 07:07 AM
TheSnail 11 Jan 08 - 07:41 AM
mattkeen 11 Jan 08 - 08:26 AM
Murray MacLeod 11 Jan 08 - 09:08 AM
topical tom 11 Jan 08 - 09:20 AM
GUEST,leeneia 11 Jan 08 - 10:00 AM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 11 Jan 08 - 11:11 AM
Little Hawk 11 Jan 08 - 11:26 AM
GUEST,The Mole Catcher's Apprentice 11 Jan 08 - 11:44 AM
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Big Al Whittle 11 Jan 08 - 02:32 PM
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matt milton 12 Jan 08 - 09:09 AM
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Kara 12 Jan 08 - 10:01 AM
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GUEST,The Mole Catcher's Apprentice 12 Jan 08 - 11:59 AM
Ernest 12 Jan 08 - 12:15 PM
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Big Al Whittle 13 Jan 08 - 11:44 AM
Gene Burton 13 Jan 08 - 11:57 AM
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Gene Burton 13 Jan 08 - 12:14 PM
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the lemonade lady 13 Jan 08 - 12:31 PM
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Big Al Whittle 13 Jan 08 - 05:29 PM
Stringsinger 13 Jan 08 - 05:52 PM
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Little Hawk 13 Jan 08 - 06:32 PM
Gene Burton 13 Jan 08 - 06:51 PM
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synbyn 14 Jan 08 - 10:59 AM
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GUEST,Nigel Spencer (at work and cookieless) 14 Jan 08 - 11:37 AM
synbyn 14 Jan 08 - 11:44 AM
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Gene Burton 14 Jan 08 - 06:44 PM
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Jim Carroll 15 Jan 08 - 02:58 AM
Big Al Whittle 15 Jan 08 - 04:08 AM
GUEST 15 Jan 08 - 08:38 AM
Brendy 15 Jan 08 - 08:53 AM
Brendy 15 Jan 08 - 08:54 AM
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GUEST, Sminky 15 Jan 08 - 10:01 AM
Big Al Whittle 15 Jan 08 - 10:04 AM
Peace 15 Jan 08 - 10:09 AM
Richard Bridge 15 Jan 08 - 10:22 AM
Peace 15 Jan 08 - 10:34 AM
Brendy 15 Jan 08 - 10:40 AM
GUEST, Sminky 15 Jan 08 - 11:51 AM
Peace 15 Jan 08 - 12:42 PM
Richard Bridge 15 Jan 08 - 01:21 PM
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Banjiman 15 Jan 08 - 01:29 PM
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Brendy 15 Jan 08 - 02:04 PM
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Jim Carroll 15 Jan 08 - 02:46 PM
Brendy 15 Jan 08 - 03:01 PM
Banjiman 15 Jan 08 - 03:06 PM
Brendy 15 Jan 08 - 03:08 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 15 Jan 08 - 03:41 PM
Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive) 15 Jan 08 - 03:56 PM
GUEST,robinia 15 Jan 08 - 04:36 PM
Brendy 15 Jan 08 - 04:44 PM
Richard Bridge 15 Jan 08 - 08:22 PM
Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive) 16 Jan 08 - 02:52 AM
theleveller 16 Jan 08 - 03:24 AM
Waddon Pete 16 Jan 08 - 04:38 AM
Jim Carroll 16 Jan 08 - 04:47 AM
Big Al Whittle 16 Jan 08 - 04:49 AM
GUEST,Nigel Spencer (cookieless) 16 Jan 08 - 06:11 AM
Banjiman 16 Jan 08 - 06:22 AM
Jack Blandiver 16 Jan 08 - 07:12 AM
Jack Blandiver 16 Jan 08 - 07:19 AM
Jack Blandiver 16 Jan 08 - 08:29 AM
Richard Bridge 16 Jan 08 - 11:31 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 16 Jan 08 - 11:57 AM
Jim Carroll 16 Jan 08 - 01:16 PM
M.Ted 16 Jan 08 - 01:35 PM
Don Firth 16 Jan 08 - 02:32 PM
Jim Carroll 16 Jan 08 - 02:41 PM
Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive) 16 Jan 08 - 03:52 PM
PoppaGator 16 Jan 08 - 05:20 PM
Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive) 16 Jan 08 - 06:25 PM
Jim Carroll 17 Jan 08 - 03:22 AM
Jack Blandiver 17 Jan 08 - 05:30 AM
PoppaGator 17 Jan 08 - 05:15 PM
Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive) 17 Jan 08 - 05:49 PM
Little Hawk 17 Jan 08 - 06:54 PM
Peace 17 Jan 08 - 07:00 PM
GUEST,Sue 17 Jan 08 - 07:10 PM
Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive) 18 Jan 08 - 03:16 AM
Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive) 18 Jan 08 - 03:17 AM
Brendy 18 Jan 08 - 03:38 AM
GUEST, Sminky 18 Jan 08 - 05:45 AM
Banjiman 18 Jan 08 - 05:58 AM
melodeonboy 18 Jan 08 - 09:16 AM
RTim 18 Jan 08 - 09:50 AM
Peace 18 Jan 08 - 09:52 AM
Jim Carroll 18 Jan 08 - 02:49 PM
Peace 18 Jan 08 - 02:59 PM
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GUEST,Sue 18 Jan 08 - 05:27 PM
Jack Blandiver 18 Jan 08 - 06:19 PM
Peace 18 Jan 08 - 07:02 PM
Gene Burton 18 Jan 08 - 07:35 PM
GUEST,Sue 18 Jan 08 - 08:04 PM
Jack Blandiver 19 Jan 08 - 07:40 AM
Richard Bridge 19 Jan 08 - 01:44 PM
Don Firth 19 Jan 08 - 02:49 PM
Brendy 19 Jan 08 - 03:49 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 19 Jan 08 - 05:15 PM
Brendy 19 Jan 08 - 05:20 PM
Jim Carroll 20 Jan 08 - 04:53 AM
Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive) 20 Jan 08 - 03:59 PM
Gene Burton 20 Jan 08 - 04:50 PM
Tootler 20 Jan 08 - 04:54 PM
Peace 20 Jan 08 - 04:57 PM
GUEST 21 Jan 08 - 04:07 AM
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Subject: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: MaineDog
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 03:52 PM

Since it's mostly about old fashioned racist sexist non-politically- correct stuff that we don't want our kids to know about..


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Amos
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 04:05 PM

OF course, one must suit oneself. For my part, I sing it because it reflects certain truths about my species and their tribulations and their feelings, loves, hatreds, conquests, and overwhelms. I guess you could say I sing them in order to honor the spirit they embody in their words, and the gumption of those who chose to write them and sing them instead of cry.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 04:13 PM

Why, MaineDog? Because it drives people who like Rap music slowly out of their tiny minds. ;-)

Anyway, your original point is absurd. It's a non-sequitor, frankly.


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: katlaughing
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 04:14 PM

How about not caving into generalisations?


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 04:15 PM

Well that's all right for you to say.


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 04:22 PM

Define folk music!.......(sound of running feet dodging hastily thrown old shoes etc.)

:0)


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 04:23 PM

Anyway, if kids don't get to KNOW about all the stuff that went on long before they were born, then how the hell would they be able to develop any real perspective on what's happening NOW????

Remember, Pol Pot wanted to sanitize and erase the past too in order to make a "brave new Cambodia". Ha! Such impulses are highly misguided.


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Georgiansilver
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 04:52 PM

I don't sing Folk music at all! I sing it to the chosen ones.


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: kendall
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 04:56 PM

I sang it because it covered a broad range of subjects. Certainly not restricted to non PC, sexist whatever.


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 05:04 PM

I live. Therefore I sing.

No one has to listen, and frequently they don't.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Megan L
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 05:10 PM

All music offends someone and should therfore be banned. Please line up to place your instruments on this here bonfire for the sake of world peace. Starting wie those folk whit have fancy expensive guitars and keep forgetin tae pit oan new strings .

*Heads for under the table wie the popcorn tae watch the fireworks :)


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 05:13 PM

Because if you don't know who you have been you don't know who you are now.

This explanation however also requires that you know what folk music is.

Why is this below the line?


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 05:24 PM

I can certainly think of a few sexist songs - I can also think of several songs which feature strong and resourceful women ('Lovely Joan' or 'The Broomfield Hill' for example). Give me time and I might be able to think of some racist ones (but I'm struggling at the moment).

I don't think that any of the songs in my repertoire fall into those categories - and there are plenty more to learn which avoid those topics.

I suppose that most of my songs are quite old and could be described as 'old-fashioned'. Strangely, they don't feel old to me - not in the way that 70s pop music feels old ...


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 06:09 PM

http://www.dickmiles.com
why not,I find it more enjoyable than Pop, CW,Reggae,Rap,Punk.


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 06:22 PM

Oh, I go to Peter's fountain
and what do i hear?
From the misty swamp far away
cuckoo calling clear.
YODEL

Hi, li, ra
hol di ra hol di ra
hol di ra cuckoo
repeat 2x
hol di ra hi li ra o!

What's sexist or politically incorrect about that?


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Joybell
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 06:45 PM

Who is "we"? How can I answer? I'm only me. If "we" feel that way then "we" shouldn't -- since I don't -- I do -- but that's just me.
Joy in happy confusion.


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Amos
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 07:00 PM

Oh, I dunno -- singing about cuckoos is tricky, you know -- they're symbols after all, and the symbology has sexual connotations which might get associated with things that might remind listeners against their will that they have something a little warmer than a frozen mackerel in their pants, and that might offend them.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Rabbi-Sol
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 07:00 PM

We sing folk songs because we want to tell it like it really is and not like the powers that be would have us believe that it is.

                                                      SOL


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 07:18 PM

Charley, I like your answer.

Also, those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.

Not all folk songs are sexist, racist -- and most of the ones that we perceive as such, weren't by the mores of the era they were from.

And a LOT of the themes are the common themes of the "folk" today and can on some level still be identified with. Besides, there's some really good turns of phrase,, good singable tunes that make you WANT to sing, and they tell a good story.

And my taste runs towards songs with a good melody and a good story to tell, unlike what's most commonly heard on the airwaves.

Linn


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Beer
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 07:26 PM

Not all, but most of the music I sing is about things that happened. I look for songs that have a story to tell and I look for them constantly.
Beer (adrien)


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 07:41 PM

Playing folk music fulfills a need in my life that has absolutely nothing to do with owning a pet aardvark.


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 07:46 PM

In reference to this thread, please consult the "In order not to offend..." thread. It makes a strong argument in favor of not singing folksongs...or doing anything else either that might offend someone.


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 10 Jan 08 - 08:03 PM

Dunno about "we", but I like it. So I sing it.


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Ernest
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 02:21 AM

We should sing it JUST BECAUSE it is old fashioned racist sexist non-politically-correct stuff that we don`t want our kids to know about...

...to show them that there was racist sexist non-politically-correct stuff before rap.


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Subject: RE: BS: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 03:36 AM

It seems perfectly obvious to me that MaineDog is being ironic , in the wake of the Amazing Grace thread.

If I am mistaken, Jim, I am sure you will correct me...


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 05:37 AM

Jings but you're awfu busy rinnin' roon detecting irony lately Murray ma freend!
G ¦¬]


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: matt milton
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 05:40 AM

"Why, MaineDog? Because it drives people who like Rap music slowly out of their tiny minds. ;-)"

I like hip-hop as well as folk. They have a fair bit in common.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: kendall
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 05:58 AM

Like what?


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 06:46 AM

Why shouldn't we?
I do it for the best reason of all - because I can.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Schantieman
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 07:07 AM

Cos it's fun


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: TheSnail
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 07:41 AM

Cos it's there.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: mattkeen
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 08:26 AM

Origins of rap music has a lot in common with the folk "process"" as far as I am concerned. And there is a lot of very good and meaningful music in that style and, of course , a lot of garbage.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 09:08 AM

I am very good at detecting irony, Giok,
sometimes I can find it in places where nobody else can, (including the author ) :-)


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: topical tom
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 09:20 AM

Because most of it is more enlightening, meaningful and moving than the rest of the crap that is out there.And it's fun to sing something that doesn't depend almost entirely on rhythm, screaming of words (often unintelligible),and special effects.The lyrics are all-important as a rule.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 10:00 AM

oops! I didn't read the Amazing Grace thread.

I've told my husband that if they sing that stupid song at my funeral, I will come back and haunt him. It's not so much the song itself - it's the way the author's life gets more colorful with every telling.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 11:11 AM

To very loosely paraphrase Popeye the Sailor Man, I like what I like, and that's what I like!


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 11:26 AM

Yes, I think MaineDog may indeed be lampooning the "Amazing Grace" thread (which is well deserving of being lampooned). If so, well done sir! ;-)


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,The Mole Catcher's Apprentice
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 11:44 AM

Is this more irony? ;-)


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 01:49 PM

I sing what I sing and I play what I play because it gives ME pleasure.

Most of my repertoire is "traditional" because I derive a special type of pleasure by being part of a musical tradition.

Russ (Permanent GUEST)


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 02:32 PM

Well of course most of don't sing folk music, we're just into singing egocentric twaddle. I have that on good authority.

No MBE's for you shower of sell outs and 'head' music afficionados.

There are very few people who really sing 'real' folk music, and they wouldn't be caught dead hanging round with the scufflers on mudcat.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 02:37 PM

Hey, man, egocentric twaddle is what it's, like, all about! Are you totally out of touch or what? Get a life! ;-)


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: reggie miles
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 03:07 PM

I hate ironing! I like folk music because I like wrinkles.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Pete_Standing
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 05:37 PM

Because I like it.

Opera singers like opera, blues singers like the blues, .....


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 06:19 PM

Speaking of opera.

Why do I sing folk songs? Well. . . .

I like music and I like stories. I have occasionally commented here on how similar the plots of ballads and the plots of operas are (case in point, compare Lucia di Lammermoor and Annachie Gordon).

If I want to sing a ballad, all I need is my voice and my guitar. And I don't really need the guitar. If I want to sing an opera, I need a full orchestra and anywhere from a dozen to several hundred other people who also sing and who might have to be rehearsed a lot.

It's less expensive to sing a ballad than it is to sing an opera, and I'm not a wealthy man. And the neighbors don't complain as much about the noise.

Same problem with symphonic music. The last time I played Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, the authorities got all snarky about my firing off cannon inside the city limits.

Folk music is relatively inexpensive to perform, which is probably why it's folk music.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,Volgadon
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 06:23 PM

Because I like the way the music sounds?


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Peace
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 06:25 PM

I sing folk songs I like because I like folk songs I like.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Bert
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 06:26 PM

Dashing away with the smoothing irony.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: RTim
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 07:08 PM

Because we love it!

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: MaineDog
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 07:09 PM

Right on, Murray, you got me.
BTW, Murray was the first person I noticed on Mudcat whom I knew from the real world, and his presence here induced me to join.
We can't be too picky, or thin-skinned. I even sing pagan songs for the solstice, but I don't worship pagan gods.
Peace to all
MD=Jim+Dex


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Gurney
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 07:18 PM

I started singing it because it was so much more powerful than the beige, ice-cream music that was pop then.

I carried on singing it because I could get away with my level of musicianship, and I couldn't/can't play jazz well enough.

I still sing it because I'm human, singing songs about humans, written by humans, and I'm old enough to generally ignore the PC brigade. Or abuse them, if they ask for it.

As Bat Goddess says up there, those who ignore history are destined to repeat it. Additionally, however, there are, IMO, worse consequences than repeating history, such as being PC with non-PC enemies.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: katlaughing
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 07:29 PM

Don, exactly! I am going to tell my brother he needs a guitar...forget the singers and the symphony orchestra for his new opera...turn it into a ballad! **bg** It could start a new trend...instead of composers using trad/folk songs in their compositions, they can forget the "long hair" stuff and write their own roots. Hahahaha!


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Gene Burton
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 07:34 PM

Because, pound for pound, it is certainly melodically (and arguably lyrically) more resonant with the human ear and human condition than any other genre of music. But folk could be so much more than just a genre of music (and vastly more popular) were it not for the nefarious influence of it's self-appointed custodians.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Janie
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 07:48 PM

We is folks so we sing folk songs. If we was turtles we would sing turtle songs.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 12 Jan 08 - 03:40 AM

QUOTE: "But folk could be so much more than just a genre of music (and vastly more popular) were it not for the nefarious influence of it's self-appointed custodians."

Who are these people? What are the nefarious things the nefarious bastards are up to now? We should be told!

People will continue to sing folk music for as long as they feel the urge to apply the term to the music they play. Regardless of what folk music is...


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Darowyn
Date: 12 Jan 08 - 04:20 AM

Clearly we should not sing folk music at all. Nobody should ever take pleasure in their long cultural heritage in case that causes offence to people who have no culture.
(and where is the "irony" smiley when you need it?)
Bert, thanks for "Dashing Away with a Smoothing Irony"- brilliant!
cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 12 Jan 08 - 06:23 AM

"But folk could be so much more than just a genre of music (and vastly more popular) were it not for the nefarious influence of it's self-appointed custodians."

These "self-appointed custodians" are, of course, "The Folk Police". People who have the temerity to have opinions on folk music and to express those opinions on forums like this (oh, the evil bastards!!).

These opinionated monsters, by preferring older, traditional forms, and not enthusiastically endorsing the latest fads and fancies, are often seen to be, by implication, 'criticising' other people's tastes in music. This is, of course, anathema to those who either have no opinions of their own or are insecure in their opinions.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: matt milton
Date: 12 Jan 08 - 09:09 AM

I think I have quite a different attitude to folk to a lot of musicians: I don't really relate to the custodial aspect of folk musicianship. For me folk's just one music among many others that I enjoy and play – the one I listen to the most, sure, but nevertheless just one among many.

So for me this is an interesting question and has nothing to with devil's advocacy or irony. I could never find it satisfying to just play traditional material. While I can sort of understand why other people do, I can't imagine ever really wanting to do this myself. I like writing songs; I love traditional material, but I don't perform any and doubt I ever will.

Obviously, most musicians do a bit of both. But every now and then I've seen gigs from singers who are quite clearly very talented and creative of exclusively traditional material and I've thought it's almost a bit of a shame that they're not actually writing their own songs. As if they're conserving a body of song at the expense of their own. One example: I love pretty much everything Anne Briggs recorded, but I think the songs she wrote herself are head and shoulders above the rest of her repertoire and wish she'd written more.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 12 Jan 08 - 09:56 AM

"I've seen gigs from singers who are quite clearly very talented and creative of exclusively traditional material and I've thought it's almost a bit of a shame that they're not actually writing their own songs."

And I've seen (why "seen" - surely "heard" is more appropriate?)gigs from talented singers doing their own material and thought, why aren't they doing traditional material? To me, "contemporary folk" (can such a beast exist?) does not have the pedigree and 'universality' of traditional material. There is obviously a place (or there should be) for contemporary songwriters - and some of them are quite brilliant - but I don't go to folk clubs to hear these people - I'm much more interested in traditional song.

And before anyone starts - I would not 'ban' anyone from performing in folk clubs - in fact, unless a club has a specific policy (a perfectly reasonable thing to have, in my opinion) I would defend anyone's right to sing anything they like. Nevertheless, the 'anything goes - it's all folk music' crowd should not expect automatic approval from me, or anyone else who believes, like me, that folk music is a distinct genre with reasonably well defined parameters.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Kara
Date: 12 Jan 08 - 10:01 AM

Because it make you feel good, and HERE is a great place to have a sing
all the best
Kara


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 12 Jan 08 - 10:43 AM

Matt - I think the traditional singer is more of an 'interpreter' of song - a very different beast than a singer songwriter. Without wanting to go anywhere near the dreaded 'what is folk?' debate, and not wanting to create a heirarchy of value bewteen traditional and non-traditional music, I think some people are singers and not songwriters, and unfortunately the primacy of the singer songwriter as the pinnacle of everything worthy and creative in the post-Dylan era means that the role of the skilled interpreter has been somewhat downgraded and demeaned: the old "What? Who don't write your own material?" attitude, usually served up with a dollop of condescension and sniffiness (not that you were doing this, I hasten to add!). Personally, I love a well-interpreted song (conversely, I find traditional songs sung as if they were the phone book deeply depressing)... and to draw a parallel outside of the folk tradition, some of Scott Walker's greatest work was his interpretations of the songs of Jacques Brel.

Cheers

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,The Mole Catcher's Apprentice
Date: 12 Jan 08 - 11:59 AM

*sits back with popcorn and watches the show*


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Ernest
Date: 12 Jan 08 - 12:15 PM

POPcorn is not allowed here: you have to take folk-corn instead

;0)

Ernest


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 12 Jan 08 - 03:39 PM

I do believe there is a special area outside where you can eat POPcorn without offending anyone.....

:0)

Peter


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 12 Jan 08 - 04:14 PM

I like to spice my folkcorn up with a decent sized helping of primal four-to-the-floor fuzzed-out garage rockcorn. Popcorn's for wusses.

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Gene Burton
Date: 12 Jan 08 - 05:24 PM

"...the nefarious influence of it's self-appointed custodians."

By which I mean those who construct an artificial divide between traditional and contemporary folk songs, discount the possibility anybody could similtaneously perform their own songs AND traditional folk songs (most of the singers and musicians I admire most do/did both); and apparently believe that the traditional songs so beloved of them somehow appeared by magic out of the ether without ever having to be written or composed by anyone. Doh! This attitude alienates many, especially the young, and is a principal factor in the decline in popularity and knowledge of folk music (including traditional songs.)

(from Shimrod) "These "self-appointed custodians" are, of course, "The Folk Police"."

If the cap fits...


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Peace
Date: 12 Jan 08 - 05:26 PM

Well said, Gene.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Gene Burton
Date: 12 Jan 08 - 05:27 PM

You're too kind :)


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 02:26 AM

well I think just the opposite Shimrod.

I think most traditional folk is very poor stuff. Its a tradition that has bypassed most people in the land, and very often they reject it just because of the sound of it. Someone who can make those old songs live is a bit of a rarity. Without those admittedly talented few, most of the stuff would be in libraries.

The universality belongs to contemporary folk. that is what most people try and perform when they call themselves folksingers. This is the common tongue.

It grabbed peoples attention as the sound of their own thoughts put into music at the time of the cold war. And it remains the most attractive aspect of folk for the vast majority. People kicked about by authority, like the miners in the miners strike, responded at a visceral level with a song like Athenry and Irish rebel songs. People at odds with the enforced jollity of Yuletide responded to Fairytale of New york.

Most contemporary singers songwriters find no place in the review section of folk magazines or on folk radio programmes or on folk festival platforms. the music lives and breathes in England without subsidy by virtue of the folk clubs.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 04:22 AM

I was just singing some folk music at home in my music room.


I sure hope no one finds out...!


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 04:41 AM

"The universality belongs to contemporary folk."
Sorry WLD; no it doesn't. As a general tendency contemporary song is introspective self examination couched in a private language and using references quite often understood only by the singer (armpit music, as somebody once described it). Time and again I have come away from such a performance feeling like a voyeur who really shouldn't have been listening to something so personal, also with the impression that the singer resents, or at best is indifferent to my presence. I have often felt that, had it not been for the fee, they really wouldn't have bothered turning up in the first place.
Traditional song is the opposite; it has been something that anybody can relate to should they be given the opportunity; that's why it survived as long as it did without outside intervention.
That it no longer does so is a reflection of what has happened to us and our relationship to our culture rather than a comment on the song form.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 05:36 AM

Look, there is nothing wrong with contemprary music simply because it is contemporary. Some of it of course is crap and some is excellent.

But the context of the question is "why should we sing FOLK music", not "why should we sing" so it necessitates a distinction between folk music and other music.

I am happy to see you here, Gene Burton, and I don't want to stop you performing contemporary music (nor do I want to stop you performing traditional music). But you are talking nonsense.

"Folk" music must have a meaning synergetic with "folk arts" and "folk lore". I happen to think that the 1954 definition is very close to right for that purpose, but whatever defintion you wish to apply, there has to be one for the purpose of the thread and it has to work consistently. If you think you can formulate one,please do so.

Your music, Al, excellent though it is (and I mean that most sincerely, folks), is based more closely on the practices and in some cases folk traditions of the USA than England. That is why your assumption that something is "folk" music just because it happens to be a war-chant on the association football terraces is inappropriate. If you want to be colonised (as in "colonies", not "colons" nor "Co-Lin Powell") feel free, but I don't.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 05:46 AM

Gene, forgive me if I'm being naieve, but are you really suggesting that every time a singer-songwriter's career fails to take off it's somehow the fault of people who enjoy listening to traditional music?

That seems to be the logic of your argument. And there was me assuming your average singer songwriter hoped to make it or otherwise on the basis of his or her talent, luck, charm etc, etc. But no, they've got to fight their way through hordes of traditional music fans intent on screwing things up for them.

Now, I know plenty of people who perform their own material on largely acoustic instruments (most of them wouldn't be seen dead in a folk club, mind). Some of them are incredibly good at what they do. I've never once heard a single one of them complain about their careers being threatened by these powerful and malign creatures and their supposed nefarious influence!

Shouldn't decent singer songwriters just ditch the paranoia and hostility and get on with what they do best?

Cheers,

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Banjiman
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 06:08 AM

Hey guys a good song is a good song......in my experience the best folk clubs "allow" and encourage both traditional and contemporary songs & singers.......why seek to put in false divisions?

Can we not just sing (and play) because we enjoy it....we had a little singaround at ours last night (Front Room Folk as we call it in these parts) one of our "acts" followed "Cold Haily Rainy Night" with an amusing Mandola & Mandolin take on "Sweet Caroline" complete with folky harmonies(Trad. arr. Rossi & Parfitt....according to some).

In the context of a social singaround (can you get more "folky" than that?) both were hugely enjoyable and worthy.

I come back to a good song is a good song (and even some bad songs can be enjoyable in the right context).

Paul


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 06:21 AM

Well said Banjiman!

Best wishes,

Peter


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: The Vulgar Boatman
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 06:25 AM

Correct me if I'm wrong Rabbi, but I believe there's an old, typically Jewish, saying:
"Keep one eye on the past and you're blind in one eye. Keep no eyes on the past and you're completely blind..."


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Gene Burton
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 07:00 AM

My posts were concerned with factors affecting the popularity and knowledge of folk music (however you define it), not with factors affecting singer songwriters and whether or not their careers "take off", whatever that means. I think, as a folk music fan, I have the right to express my opinion on that. For my own part, I just sing for the love of singing whatever it is I'm singing...and even if I was looking to forge professional career in music, I wouldn't be doing it through the folk club scene.

"Can we not just sing (and play) because we enjoy it...."

Yes. We can. And I think that just about takes care of the matter.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: TheSnail
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 09:05 AM

So let me get this right -

weelittledrummer -

The universality belongs to contemporary folk. that is what most people try and perform when they call themselves folksingers.

And it remains the most attractive aspect of folk for the vast majority.

Gene Burton

But folk could be so much more than just a genre of music (and vastly more popular) were it not for the nefarious influence of it's self-appointed custodians.

This attitude alienates many, especially the young, and is a principal factor in the decline in popularity and knowledge of folk music (including traditional songs.)

This isn't a problem, it's a business opportunity.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 10:11 AM

.....I'm not at all sure that the young are alienated.......


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 10:36 AM

I think what set me off on that train of thought was actually a little quote from Martin Carthy on greatest hits album cover:-

"To begin with I tried to make the music fit into what I already knew, but gradually it became apparent that it doesn't work like that and actually its a language all on its own. you've got to try and make it work on its own terms, and if you don't know what those terms are, you've got to try and find out. That's the adventure."

I really don't think an appreciable number of people are taking that adventure trail with him. And meanwhile what the rest of the population has to say is being neglected, and told moreover that their contribution isn't folkmusic.

I love quite a lot of traditional songs, and I even try to play some of the simpler and more well known ones. We can all join in a sea shanty, and the easier stuff. But even well known traditional songs are so different from modern songs that most people can't sing them well. I'v got recorded versions of The Plains of Waterloo and The Bonny Bunch of Roses - and you can see the songs have defeated professional singers who have applied themselves to learning this language that Martin was speaking about.

Yeh you're right Jim, i suppose my main influences are American - but I think you're a bit late to worry about the invasion....haven't you heard we re-invaded them in the 1960's. I'm reminded of the what Doc Watson said on hearing the Rubber Souls album for the first time. he said that is the way music is going - you can't get out the way of a hurricane.....


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 10:37 AM

If you don't know what it is, then you can hardly pontificate on why it is or is not popular, or indeed why one should sing it. Not dissing your music, Gene, indeed I think you do credit some to "trad". I may or may not like it and you'd be welcome at any folk club I ran, but since the thread is "Why should we sing FOLK music at all?" the answer to that depends on identifying FOLK music.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Brendy
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 10:44 AM

... where's that popcorn...?

B.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 10:45 AM

Now then, Brendy, I AM KEEPING VERY CALM ABOUT THIS SO FAR!


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Brendy
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 10:47 AM

I'm with you on this 100% Richard... It's a well beaten path, this one...

B.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Brendy
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 11:26 AM

"Why should we sing folk music at all?"

Where should the boundaries be drawn in order for us (presumably) to stay clear of it?

B.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 11:44 AM

well this is the trouble, I'm not the one setting out the boundaries - saying what you do isn't folk music.

all I can say is, its meant to be.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Gene Burton
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 11:57 AM

"If you don't know what it is, then you can hardly pontificate on why it is or is not popular..."

Oh, I know what it is. But why should I tell you? :)

(Nice try, Richard, but I'm not gonna take the bait)


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 12:08 PM

Banjiman, I wouldn't want to police what anyone sings, plays, puts on in their club, enjoys in the privacy of their own home. I don't even really care what they chose to call what they do. If I buy an album or see a gig I don't enjoy because its mislabelled it's not the end of the world, just a bit annoying. I just struggle a bit with 'contemporary folk' types taking a pop at people who prefer traditional music as Gene appeared to be doing (but has since assured us he's not)... and for that matter I struggle with 'traditional folk' types taking a pop at people who prefer contemporary music. However, there does seem to be a lot more of the former than the latter on Mudcat. Thank god I have considerably better taste than anyone else, that's all I can say!

The answer to the original question, of course, is: if anything becomes about what we should or shouldn't do we're past the point of it really mattering anyway.

Cheers

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Gene Burton
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 12:14 PM

I mean, OK, everyone with an interest in folk music thinks they KNOW what it is (and isn't), and I'm no different. But the only purpose of debating The Meaning of Folk here would be to turn the thread into a big pissing contest between the (opposing?) sides with nobody actually changing their position or giving an inch...which might be fun, I suppose but I'm not quite THAT bored...


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 12:29 PM

Its not a pop - its just an observable phenomenon.

Its supposed to be our national folk music, and its not connecting with many of the people.

For god's sake don't stop doing whatever you're doing, theres few enough people at it already.

I think some of us are allowed to express our doubts about the present situation.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 12:29 PM

Neither am I... well, I am a bit, or I wouldn't be on here at 5.30pm on a cold January night... having said that, I'll second that emotion, Gene (the one about pissing contests).

However... this thread has given me an idea about how I can magically double the size of my folk CD collection without adding a thing to it that I don't already own. Now there's a thought and a cunning plan...

Cheers

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Banjiman
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 12:30 PM

Nigel,

My point is that life is to short to argue about the definition of folk (or take a pop at one group or another) and it seems completely irrelevant to my everyday experiences of attending, performing at & running "folk" clubs and events. There is almost universally "Trad" and "contemporary" music represented...and if it is well done (and sometimes not!)I usually enjoy it and if I don't enjoy it I can still appreciate the effort a person is making.

A good song is a good song......let's just get on with doing our thing...whatever that is and stop agreeing so violently..

I'm off to play my banjo a bit more (isn't that a bit American....or West African or whatever?).

Cheers

Paul


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: the lemonade lady
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 12:31 PM

It's also a way to pass on history?

Bit like nursery rhymes.

Sal


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 12:34 PM

Sorry the 'neither am I' at the start of that last post refers to Gene's post not the one from WLD that snuck in while my back was turned.

Touching on WLD's post, and a discussion for a different thread perhaps - but I wasn't around at the 'heyday' of the folk club scene, WLD, so I'm curious. Did what was happening then 'connect' with the wider population much more than - say - the current festival scene does? Or was it still a bit of a minority sport? I'm not trying to be smart here - it's just that you were obviously part of that scene and I was a wee bit too young.

Cheers

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 12:43 PM

Paul, I do agree with virtually every thing you just said (apart from I'd call the debate 'robust' rather than 'violent'...). And I'd suggest your good lady wife's CD is a great example of how to combine quality interpretation of traditional song with excellent contemporary songwriting.

I too own an evil b**jo, by the way. No talent for anything but the most criminally basic frailing, though... one day!

Cheers

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 01:43 PM

Considering that this thread was launched as a joke, an exercise in ironic comment directed tongue in cheek at the "Should we be singing Amazing Grace?" thread...it's amazing what legs it has grown. ;-)


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Banjiman
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 01:53 PM

Little Hawk,

It's all good, harmless fun and allows us all to state why we do what we do...

Nigel,

Nigel, I can't really say a lot about your comment on Wendy's album except thanks!

Bring your banjo over to KFFC sometime...we can have a basic frailing session while discussing the merits of trad versus contemporary!

Cheers

Paul


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 02:50 PM

Well yes, the point at which I accepted the King's shilling and signed up to become folkie footsoldier was around 1964.

By 1965, every town had two or three folk clubs. People used to organise tours of just the folk clubs in one major city. The late Barrie Roberts told me about a guy who actually sold folk clubs as thriving businesses.

What had sparked all this was the American folkscene. The music charts had acts in it like Peter Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon Bob Lind, Leonard Cohen, John Sebastian's The Loving Spoonful, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez - all big names on the American folk scene.

John Lennon said one week that his favourite album was Blues, Rags and Hollers by Koerner , Ray and Glover - and straight into the English top twenty went their album. The American bands like the Byrds were copyng English bands like the Searchers and tackling Dylan material, and that was the first time I heard the phrase folk rock.

More important than all that was the fact that everywhere you looked - people all around you were having a go. Folk music was a genuinely exciting artistic movement, embracing just about everybody and everything.

Cotrast this with the exclusivity of today. People being told as I have been on this thread(albeit in a kindly way) what you have done with your life isn't folk music.

Theres a book called Baby Let Me Follow You Down by the late Ric Von Schmidt - its just been reissued in paperback and you can get it on Amazon. Its about the generous spirited people who got that ball rolling. And its that folk revival I have kept faith with, long after its demise. It was to my my mind jealousy and self interest that set up all these boundaries, and thats when folk clubs got all sneery and unpleasant.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,The Mole Catchers Apprentice
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 03:20 PM

This path is so well beaten it should be declared a motorway *LOL


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Peace
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 03:30 PM

Al, if you ain't folk, who is?


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Don Firth
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 03:38 PM

". . . all big names on the American folk scene."

Except, WLD, in the list of names you presented, several of them were not regarded as folk singers this side of the water, save by a few wide-eyed teen-agers who didn't know any better. Singer-songwriters where regarded as in a separate catagory. This did not mean that what they wrote was not worthy. Some songs, like those written by, say, Tom Paxton, were immediately taken up by other singers. But many singer-songwriters insisted that they were writing folk songs; and it was something of a joke when one of them would introduce a song by saying, "This is a folk song I wrote while riding on the bus yesterday."

Ethnomusicologists have a fairly specific definition of what constitutes a folk song, and a song that was written recently and, so far, is sung only by the person who wrote it doesn't fit the definition.

What mystifies me is this:   why do so many singer-songwriters feel so strongly that they want what they write to be immediately classified as "folk music?" Do they feel that identifying a newly written song as a "folk song" gives is some sort of "stamp of legitimacy?"

By the way Baby, Let Me Follow You Down is an excellent book–full of great photos–but you have to go back quite a bit further to find the people who actually did get the ball rolling. It was already rolling by the time most of these people came along.

If things are getting compartmentalized in a fairly unpleasant manner, at least here in the Seattle area, it may be because a very large number of places here want only singer-songwriters. It fact, believe it or not, the Seattle Folklore Society–a big organization originally dedicated to the collection and presentation of traditional music–turned down a chance to sponsor a concert by a singer with impeccable credentials as a singer of traditional songs because he didn't write any of his own songs! That's partly why another organization dedicated to traditional music has been started (actually, resurrected) in this area.

Just to clarify where I stand. I sing mostly traditional material. But I also sing a number of non-traditional songs as well. I do not, however, write songs myself.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Gene Burton
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 03:38 PM

100.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Don Firth
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 03:44 PM

Sorry, Gene. Beatcha by --->||<--- that much!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Gene Burton
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 03:45 PM

Does it count if you don't claim it immediately??


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Don Firth
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 03:48 PM

Not if it's 101. I wasn't trying for 100. It just happened that way.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Gene Burton
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 03:49 PM

Oh.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 03:51 PM

I do sympathise Don. It seems like its in some people nature to reject and dismiss creative effort, and you can always rationalise and invent a need. I'm sure you'd be welcome in any folk club I had a part in.

I'm surethere WERE people singing folksongs in America prior to te 'Cambridge years'. but seriously has the ball ever rolled that big before, or ever since.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Peace
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 03:55 PM

I understand the need to 'classify' songs according to type. I don't understand the need some people have to be arrogant about it. WLD's song about Wyatt Earp is as folk as anything else I've heard that is folk. That's my opinion and I'm stickin' to it.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 04:14 PM

That's very nice of you to say. I've got to admit I never thought of that as folk when I wrote it - although now you mention it, I nicked the music of the Days of '49. My big thrill came when they played it on Wyatt's birthday in his birthplace, Monmouth, Illinois.

I wrote it about my father, who was a policeman - I suppose that's pretty folky!


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 04:19 PM

Okay.

I sing it because I like it.

Now most of the stuff I write...I think it's folk music. That's my opinion. There are those, I'm sure, who would differ.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Don Firth
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 04:59 PM

You don't want to be deceived by a certain provincialism which occurs even in fairly large metropolitan areas like Boston/Cambridge, or New York (especially New York!). I forget which page it's on, but there's a "folk music map" somewhere in Baby, Let Me Follow You Down that purports to represent where folk music activity in the United States was happening. And it leaves the Pacific Northwest out entirely, despite the fact that we had a very active scene here. It's sort of like those "New Yorker's view of the United States" maps that show a lot of detail around the East Coast, but west of the Hudson river, they show two or three log cabins labeled "Chicago" and the rest is "Terra Incognita. Here be Dragons!"

I got involved in the very early 1950s, and by the mid-Fifties there was an active folklore society here (the one that we just resurrected), and there were folk festivals, concerts, and other performances. I think that none of this registered on the bunch back East for a couple of reasons. First, a lot of Easterners were (and maybe still are) under the impression that Seattle was nothing but a bunch of log cabins and igloos instead of a major West Coast port city. Seriously! When I was in Denver in 1955, I met a couple of New Yorkers who, when I assured them that we did indeed have a whole bunch of buildings over two storeys in height (at the time, the tallest was 42 storeys), they were sure I was pulling their legs! In fact, when they first arrived in Denver, they were surprised to find that it was a big city, not just a frontier fort and a few ranches (!). And second, there were several record companies here in the Seattle area, but they were into "do-wop" and soft-rock, and were positively hostile toward folk singers, so despite the fact that there were singers here as good as those anywhere else in the country, no recordings. Nobody anywhere else knew about them. Damned shame! Judy Flenniken, Nancy Quensé, Bob Nelson, Walt Robertson (the only one recorded), early on, Sandy Paton, and several other really fine singers I could name.

The Chicago scene was massive, with the Old Town School of Folk Music and several clubs. Berkeley/San Francisco. Los Angeles, Denver, and Portland, Oregon. These were all off and running pretty early on. By the mid-1950s.

Nobody much has written anything about the Pacific Northwest folk music activity. But I'm workin' on it.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Peace
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 05:02 PM

Yes, and there were places in Montreal and Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton, Winnipeg and Vancouver, Halifax and St John's--and it's as if Canada never existed in terms of folk music. Too bad.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 05:02 PM

Yes, but excellent though WLD's Wyatt Earp song may be, whose history is Wyatt Earp?


For once I am not simply saying that there s folk adn there is other music (although I belive that to be so, and it is interesting to see Don Firth's confirmation that ethnomusicologists maintain a distinction).

The point here is the thread. "Why should we sing FOLK music at all". The answer to that is different if you take the 1954 defintion, the horse defnition, or the WLD definition (which is, I think, "whatever type of music most people sing, excluding opera") or the Gene Burton definition which is top secret.

I gave my answer to the question asked in my first post to this thread, but if I was answering questions about horse music, WLD music, or Gene music (or Dylanist music or snigger snogwriter music) the answer would differ.

Horse music I might sing because it sounds fun. I have done the Reuben James for exactly that reason.

WLD music might be because the song tells a tale of the modern human condition. As close as I get would be "Love has no pride" (not one of his, but the sound is similar, and a damn good song it is, albeit not folk). I've also done "Yellow Submarine" 'cos people join in with gusto (not Bisto), and "Play with Fire" which always seems to get people going.

Gene music I don't know, because we have no litmus test.

Dylanism tells of the folly of the world. I have heard a practising Dylanist defined as a person who believes that it is possible to cause social and political change through song. For precisely those reasons, but without much hope any more, I do "We shall overcome" "With God on our side" "So Long" "Eve of Destruction", "the Cat came back" "Anthem of the Rainbow" and "Come away Melinda".

Snigger snogwriter - I do Richard Matthewman's "Bernadette" (very different from the Four Tops, I can assure you) - because it is a nice melancholy love song.

Some I sing because my late wife used to.

So, if "folk" means one of those things, that's why we should sing folk music.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 05:29 PM

I'm not sure I have a definition of folk music. When I was a teacher in the inner city, I saw a lot of kids excluded from what society had to offer - without even knowing it was happening to them.

I just think exclusivity and exclusion is the wrong way to go for all of us. Folk music should reach out. In a way its bigger than what we are, and our opinions and likes and dislikes - and you have to get over that.

I wonder how many of you have come across Steve Tilston's version of Streams of Lovely Nancy - totally different from any other version I've ever heard of that song - rather snappy bluesy accompaniment. I can imagine many people thinking it was sacrilege. But the point is that the song called out to him - and he put his interpretation forward....surely when you're holding the guitar or standing up singing in the pub - you make your mark - and its folk music.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 05:52 PM

the reason to sing folk songs is that they are honest, and reflect the lives of real people.
Also, they are accessible to all who want to sing them. They tell of history of countries and cultures. They are not censored or on some station's playlist. They are a great way to introduce those who have never thought about it much to making music for themselves and deriving much enjoyment from it.

Folk music is not about the bad stuff that Maine says it is. In context, it provides an insight into how people feel at various times.

The most important thing is that people can make music for themselves and not have to
depend on canned music for their entertainment. Besides, people can choose for themselves which songs they want to sing that reflect their values.

The question posed on this thread is a good one. I hope I have helped to answer it.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 06:02 PM

"I just think exclusivity and exclusion is the wrong way to go for all of us."

Who's excluding anyone, WLD? We keep coming back to this 'beef' that you have about these 'wicked' traddies excluding you - but, digging deeper, your real beef seems to be that some people on this forum don't accept that what you do is folk music:

"People being told as I have been on this thread(albeit in a kindly way) what you have done with your life isn't folk music."

But, if you're, "...not sure I have a definition of folk music" how do you know whether or not they have a valid point?


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 06:26 PM

very true....very valid.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 06:32 PM

Be warned, Richard, that people who use the term "snigger-snogwriter" in my presence are in danger of getting something thrown at them!

You wouldn't HAVE any folksongs now if not for the past existence of generations of singer-songwriters.

And if I don't write new songs about what I personally am moved by, and nobody else does either, you can just kiss a permanent goodbye to the ongoing folk process.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Gene Burton
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 06:51 PM

Dead right, LH.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,Peace
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 06:52 PM

The term snigger snogwriter as used is fine with me. My rough guess is that about 95% of all the songs ever written are tripe. That includes traditional songs, too. But for Jaysus sake, Richard: Eve of Destruction?


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,Peace
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 06:53 PM

PS, I'm a snigger snogwriter.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Gene Burton
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 06:55 PM

Valid point that not every surviving traditional song is exactly a gem. I for one would be happy never to hear "The Whistling Gypsy Rover" again...


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 07:36 PM

Yes, a majority of what is written is quite amateurish, and you could call it tripe...

But we all have to learn to crawl before we learn to walk. It's precious few who start out like Mozart. I don't see why people should be denigrated for taking their first few inexperienced steps on a creative path. How will they ever get good at anything if they don't try?

If they are pretentious about stuff that is in fact mediocre...well...(smile)...put it down to their insecurity and inexperience, I guess. I'd rather focus on what's truly good, and there's always some wonderful new stuff being done. You just have to look for it, and you'll find it.

Folk never dies.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Peace
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 08:30 PM

I hear THAT gentlemen.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 08:40 PM

LH, write what you like. Nowhere have I even hinted you should't. It may be bad, it may be good, I might like it or not. But what's that got to do with the ongoing folk process? The folk process is the transmission, modification, and adoption of work. I am also baffled why you wnat what you do to be called "folk". Call it what you like, but don't mislead. You also don't give a reason or explanation why we should sing your music at all - which was the OP's question.

Peace, the one thing we have modern politicians to thank for is that they have made 60s protest songs apt and relevant again. Yep, Eve of destruction. It may be right, and I'm not the only person reviving it.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Peace
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 08:45 PM

Hell, I heard that Havens is doing/releasing one of mine from 40 years ago, too. That said, some of the songs being written by people like Moore, McKeever, Whittle, Burton, Moorhouse, Coventry (to name a few) will someday be considered folk songs. That's the way I see it.

My remarks about '95% of the songs ever written being tripe' still stands. I include many of my own in that--I just hope I have the 'sense' not to release them. Been there and done that.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Peace
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 11:09 PM

And Richard, keep doing those songs. Much like chicken soup: may not help but it won't hurt. G'by all.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 11:23 PM

Richard, I refer to my stuff as "folk" because it carries that vibe. And why is that? Because about 90% of my listening attention when I was a young person growing up was given to folksingers...as opposed to rock and rollers, jazz musicians, blues, pop, classical, country, etc...

I listened to folk and folk-influenced stuff almost exclusively from age 10 to 20, and that shaped my approach to composing simply by osmosis.

It was inevitable what happened. As a result, other people I've been around when I've played have always noticed right away that I am basically in a "folk" mode...I'm not a rock mode, not a blues mode, not a jazz mode, not rock n' roll, not country, not pop....folk. I like folk type instrumentation. I focus very much on lyrics. I instinctively move away from most other styles of music and toward folk. That does not mean that everything I listen to or play sounds like it came from prior to 1910 by the way...but it connects back to a folk origin in its sound and structure.

That's why I say it's "folk" because I really can't say it's anything else.

It might be "pop" to you...but it sure as hell isn't to anyone around here. I know pop music. It's on the radio. I mostly ignore it, although there are undoubtedly some very well crafted pop songs. There are some well crafted songs in any style of music.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: RTim
Date: 13 Jan 08 - 11:26 PM

It seems that people lik to talk about it too!
T.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 01:51 AM

I've been thinking about what you said Richard.

For myself, I'm not upset if people tell me what I do isn't folk music. One's influences are as much about what you reject as what you take on board, and if some people feel the influence of American music is so pernicious that they have to try and eliminate it to connect with a truly British muse - so be it.

You see, I've been able to work as a musician for a large part of my life doing all kinds of different acts, making various kinds of records when the chance presented itself. I've diversified. Being a professional musician wasn't a first choice career for me.

I'm upset though for the people who gave everything for the folk club movement in this country - and ended up being excluded from the action for stylistic reasons. Despite being brilliant, like Jack Hudson. I think its monstrous.

In spite of all that, I still think folk music is the last best hope for all of us. And wherever your niche is, you should keep doing it.

PS Many thanks Bruce, it was nice to be included in such august company.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Brendy
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 03:42 AM

I'm not hung up on definitions of Folk...., I can't really say, though where Irish Trad and 'World Music' (now there's something worth defining....) meet..., or if indeed they separate at all..... ;-)

I wouldn't book ACDC for a Folk Club, but I would, John Martyn, for instance.

I generally stay away from 'defining' Folk Music, but I know this debate intimately, and if we are going to start 'defining', then 'definitions', as Richard points out, have to be made, and the first analogy that springs to mind is that it can be as difficult as describing the colour 'Blue' to a blind person.
... on both sides of the argument.

The 'Folk Police', though ... a different body of people altogether have not been effective (in Ireland, anyway) since the Bothy Band split up.
Folk music in whichever pigeon hole one cares to put it in, will continue to evolve, and in 2054 we may have a totally new concept of the 'genre'

A lot of our World, however, will be Museum exhibits at that stage, and hopefully I'll have learned to play the Harp by that time... ;-)

I join Al, too in thanking Bruce for his inclusion of me in his '... to name but a few..' list.
I'm speechless.
... for once in my life....

Thanks a million Bruce
... now there's a pro...

B.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 04:20 AM

I wonder whether I think that American music is all so "pernicious". After all, I do sing a few American songs (including those already mentioned, and Tom Dooley, and Fall River Hoedown). For the avoidance of doubt, Al, the few bits of your stuff I have heard are excellently done, but to me sound very American, even "new-country". I think it's maybe a good job that our attempt to meet up near Nottingham failed, since I don't think I'd have wanted to put myself in a position where my performance could be measured against yours.

But I do try to do as much traditional English as possible - because I am English. I would not like to see the English culture die out, and I would not like to see a homogenised style of acoustic music across the world (presumably influenced largely by American styles, a fair dollop of of African thythms, a nod at the minor sounding scales of the Oud, maybe a hint of Celtic, some central European - good heavens, apart from the fact that they amplify it to a high degree, and it's not so American, I think I've just described Whapweasel)

LH, if your music is not folk (which I think it isn't, from your description) then I'd probably call it "contemporary acoustic", since my suggestions for a label of "neofolk" or "nu-folk" seem to have fallen on deaf ears.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 05:00 AM

I should still like very much to meet up Richard - you seem like a nice chap with interesting ideas.

I'm the least competitive person in the world - particularly where music's involved. I just do my thing. Ialways do my best -but like most people who've done it for a living - while its nice to go down well, sometimes the magic doesn't work and it won't ruin my day.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: synbyn
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 10:59 AM

Why should we sing folk music?

Because we must...

imho there's no other answer.

Anyone who does it for profit or for status is doing that for their own reasons, and you'd like to assume that they were interested in the first place to preserve and augment the traditions of their own people.

Imho we all have from within an urge to express and preserve our own heritage- those who don't are among the quacks and dictators who seek to cut us off from ties of family and friends, usually to insert themselves in some way to profit from the lack. Cults do it all the time. Making money out of the unsettled is one of the growth industries of our time.

Which imho is why those who use smoke and mirrors for gain are eager to excise the traditional warnings inherent in the old stories. Who can hear Long Lankin without thinking of the dangers in taking insufficient precautions against thieves in the night? And the world is full of false nurses who take some cash to let the predator in.

So we sing them because their is an urge to communicate the old stories. Because we must...


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 11:05 AM

Personally, I never hear Long Lankin without thinking of the honest stonemason who built the great hall, was swindled out of his fees and expenses, reduced to penury, whose wife was forced to become a wetnurse, and whose revenge got him burned at the stake. A great homily for a worker to learn, about trusting the rich.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 11:20 AM

Richard, my music comes more out of a North American tradition than out of a British or Irish tradition. Therefore, it might not sound like "folk" to you, as I gather that you are based in the British tradition.

I was, of course, affected by the British tradition to a considerable extent, because the North American folksingers sang a lot of the old English and Scottish (and Irish) ballads, so that influence was present as well in the music I was listening to as I grew up...but it was perhaps a bit secondary to the homegrown North American music which grew out of American, Canadian, and Mexican social experience...from the frontier, through the 1800s, the War Between the States, the War of 1812, the migration west, the cowboy era, the Mexican Revolutionary period, and so on.

North American folk music has a great deal to do with history and social struggle in the 3 great countries that make up North America. It did then, it does now.

Folk music was the only popular style of music around when I was a kid that was often overtly political. It was a movement in music that engaged in a great deal of social comment. That suited me to a "T". I use music to express philosophical and social and spiritual issues. Music is serious business to me, not just entertainment.

That's where folk music was different from the other styles, and that's why I was drawn to folk music.

Jazz - off in its own world. A head trip. A sort of technical appreciation of a certain kind of instrumental virtousity. Didn't interest me.

Classical - Beautiful stuff, but it didn't draw too much of my attention, because it wasn't contemporary enough for me. And it didn't have much to do with lyrical content.

Big Band - I detested that sound, and it the lyrical content of it seemed to me to be utterly frivolous.

Country - Emotional music. It's powerful in its own right, but I found most of it too maudlin, too simple-minded...I wanted something that would make me think, and folk music made me think. (I have lately developed more respect for some of the country music than I had as a youngster, however.)

Rock n Roll - Fun, I guess, but pretty frivolous. Great if you wanted to dance and party...I didn't. I wanted to think, comprehend, question, analyze, understand, revolutionize, change society!

Rock - Some good stuff, but mostly just an excuse for giant male egos with cucumbers stashed in their pants to gyrate around on stage and keep focused on SEXANDDRUGSANDROCKANDROLL!!!! Bloody stupid, in other words...

Pop - The endless, saccarine, homogenzized bla-bla that saturates the airwaves! The final enemy of all original thought. Mind you, there is the odd very good pop song...and it appears like a momentary gleam amongst a sea of utter dross. God save me from pop music!

Blues - Relentless stuff. The same damn riffs again, and again, and again, and again....yet it has a certain gritty honesty to it, no doubt, and there have been some wonderful blues players. The lyrics are usually pretty lamentable. I can stand about 20 minutes of well-played blues...then I get very, very bored and I go somewhere else. I have had all the blues I need for about a month after that.

Now, what music in North America offered something to really chew on, combined with lyrics that really meant something, for someone who cared deeply about politics, history, philosophy, revolutionary movements, literature, spirituality, and every deep question that has ever concerned mankind?????????

Folk music. The lyrics are the key. You can tell by the LYRICS if it's a folksong. That's my opinion. Folk music is the music of poets, ancient and modern.

The instrumentation? Well, you could sort of say that it's acoustic instrument music (usually, but doesn't absolutely have to be) and it tends not to have a drummer...because when you add a drummer you are moving more into a different kind of music...BUT...again, not necessarily. Folksongs can have drums too. It's just not so typical of them, I'd say. As time goes by, all these things change a bit.

The one thing that remains crucial is....the lyrics. Folksongs tend to be very substantial when it comes to lyrical content, and they attract people who LISTEN to the words. (and most people, I've noticed, don't really listen to the words when they listen to music).

View some videos of the Newport Folk Festival in the early 60's, observe the audience...they are listening to every word of the singer with rapt attention. They're not just there to "party", they are there to think about every kind of question that has ever lit a light in the human mind. That's folk music...for me, anyway.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,Nigel Spencer (at work and cookieless)
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 11:37 AM

I'm not going to add anything constructive, just say that in the last 24 hours or so this has turned into a really interesting, informative and thought provoking thread, where people are throwing all sorts of different opinions into the pot without getting bad tempered about it... cheers, everyone!

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: synbyn
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 11:44 AM

which only goes to show, Richard, that each song has a different resonance for each listener! There's nothing in the Penguin version, ie the most often encountered, which speaks of the stonemason, though, nor anything which connects the nurse in a revenge tragedy. Shows the importance of textual revision. Spin striketh!
This is one reason why I enjoy the width of folk music- it often starts with some actual occurence, but widens into a discussion of moral significance. It doesn't hammer us with answers. It provokes us to ask ourselves questions.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 12:50 PM

weelittledrummer,
I sing 'real' folk music.
I love mudcat.

"most traditional folk music is very poor stuff"
is just wrong.

Maybe your "traditional folk music" sucks, but mine is great.

Russ (Permanent GUEST)


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 01:06 PM

obviously speak as you find....

The common ones tend to be very good, a lot of the rest I find unmemorable - as do many of the performers apparently, from the frequency with which they forget the words.

As I said some people can make them come alive - but many of the songs are as the Martin Carthy quote I put in a subsequent thread says - not really user friendly, shall we say. they come from a time when the rules of music and the idea of what constituted a song was very different.

Be honest, very few people go round singing Shakespeare's songs. they're different. Some of the songs we are talking about are that old and older. Who knows, perhaps you are one of those few who can hold a room in the palm of your hand with your pwerformance. But I have observed its a rare gift. Rarer, i fancy than most traditional singers realise.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Brendy
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 01:47 PM

"Valid point that not every surviving traditional song is exactly a gem. I for one would be happy never to hear "The Whistling Gypsy Rover" again..

Not valid at all, Gene, I'm afraid. You may not think that it is a gem, but to apply the generalisation to it, and by allusion, make that decision for other people, is being 'Folk Policey' in itself.

B.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 01:50 PM

Why play folk? Chacun a son gout, I reckon. I play mostly Blues and some faux-celtic stuff. Would I call it folk? The blues, certainly-if by folk you are defining music written as a result of human experience.
Also, I have no idea what ethnomusicologists have to do with performing arts and, frankly, couldn't care less what their 'definition' of folk is.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: TheSnail
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 01:52 PM

...and it isn't traditional any way.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Whistling_Gypsy


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Brendy
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 01:57 PM

The song has variants in most European countries. I imagine that Mr Maguire didn't write the first one in existence.

B.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 02:01 PM

I like Brendy's new definition of the 'folk police' and I'm going to start using it immediately: we are ALL the folk police...

How does the laughing policeman fit into all this?

Cheers

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Banjiman
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 02:03 PM

He probably plays a banjo-ukele, it is after all a comedy instrument!

Stands back as offended banjo-uke players the world over defend their chosen weapon.......

In fun

Paul


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Brendy
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 02:04 PM

What's new about it?

B.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Brendy
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 02:07 PM

Cross-posted, there, Paul... I was asking Nigel...

B.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Don Firth
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 02:33 PM

Why do I sing folk songs?

Can't remember words for s**t, but if the verses consist of one line followed by five lines of "Re-fol-re-fol, fol-de-diddle-digh-do," I can usually manage that. . . .      ;-)

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 03:05 PM

Once again the 'what is folksong' argument raises its lovely head, which is only right and proper when discussing the subject of - well, folksong.
As usual, much of the argument is based on two false premises:
(a) that there is no existing definition of the term, and,
(b) that any perception of what that definition is revolves around personal likes and dislikes.
As Richard Bridge has lucidly pointed out, a perfectly workable, clearly worded, widely accepted definition has existed for over half a century and any discussion on the subject has to start with that – either by accepting it or dismantling it with argument. That what you are singing falls under the description of folksongs depends on whether you can put a tick in enough of the relevant boxes; if you can, it is, if you can't, it isn't – simple as that.
The accepted definition is to be found in various publications; in its concise form in A L Lloyd's 'Folk Song In England' and in an extremely detailed 16 page, double-column one in Funk and Wagnall's 'Standard Dictionary of Folklore. This is adequately backed up by hundreds of published song collections, and countless reference and research works, many bearing the term 'folk song' on the spine. Those who have any problems with part or all of the existing definition are perfectly welcome to question any or all of it, and even replace it with their own suggestions. I do not believe anybody is entitled to reject or ignore it out-of-hand.
The old usual – "I'm not great with definitions" is illogical, dishonest and not a little cowardly. We put labels on things so we know what tins to open, otherwise we hand the choice of what we eat, drink, read, wear, listen to, think – to others, many of whom have a vested interest in persuading us that what they are selling is exactly what we are looking for.
So far, nobody has put forward the asinine (no pun intended) 'talking horse' statement mentioned by Richard Bridge, but I'm sure it's lurking out there somewhere, as is the equally facile Humpty Dumptyish, "words mean what I want them to mean" argument.
Why is a definition important?
i. Many of us find arguments such as this one enjoyable, stimulating and educational, but in order to get the most out of them it is necessary to define our terms so we know we are speaking the same language. Throw away the definitions and you throw away communication, therefore forums such as Mudcat become meaningless and unworkable.   
ii. Everybody needs to know that what they are subscribing to conforms, more or less to what it says on the tin.
Our local newspaper recently carried an advert for a folk song club over the other side of the county. The fact that there are so few such events around here tempts me to jump in the car and drive the twenty-odd miles in the (at present) pissing rain and howling gales to attend. On the other hand, the chance that when I get there I will, more likely than not, find something which bears no relation whatever to what I understand as folksong, makes me more inclined to stay at home and watch Taggart.
Throughout the eighties and nineties we watched the gradual haemorrhaging of folk club audiences, when me and thousands like me voted with our feet and walked away from the folk scene exactly for this reason. We really were not prepared to sit through yet another evening at a folk club and not hear a folk song.
iii. More immediately; the thread on 'the PRS Gestapo' has brought into sharp focus the current activities of this august body, who are apparently claiming payment from folk clubs "on the off-chance that copyrighted songs 'might' be sung during the course of the evening". Folksongs proper are in the public domain, singer/songwriter compositions are not; therefore, those of who prefer what we listen to; to be the real thing will run the risk of losing our venues in the interests of those who are, quite reasonably, trying to earn a few sheckles out of their compositions.
These are only a few of the problems thrown up by the present situation; there are plenty more, proving, to my mind at least, that a great deal of damage has already been done to our appreciation and understanding enjoyment and passing on of folk music in the name of "let's not bother our tiny heads with understanding this music.
If anybody has an alternative working definition of what they mean by folksong for us to consider, I would be pleased to hear it. On the other hand, if it's just a case of using the term as a cultural comfort blanket, as has been suggested, perhaps it's time that those concerned face up to the fact that what they are doing is not, never has been and never will be folksong.
If they wish to keep the term in their CV as a job description, perhaps they might add "wannabe" in front of it.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 03:32 PM

I know what I like when I hear it. Most of what I hear at local "folk" music gatherings, I like....although it's a pretty eclectic mix, that's for sure. Most of it you will never hear on your radio or TV. Not a chance. Whether that means that any of it's really "folk" music or whether it fits the Funk and Wagnall's official definition of what "folk" music is, I don't frankly give a toss...


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Gene Burton
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 04:26 PM

Brendy: I don't see that expressing a personal dislike of one particular song, in itself, puts me in the F*** Police; nonetheless I am touched and honoured by the invite (snigger)... although actually, by a curious quirk of fate (well, OK, I won their inaugural songwriting competition last year-sorry) I AM a life member of the EFDSS...does this qualify me??


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 04:29 PM

For goodness sake, whether something is "folk" or not is nothing to do with whether you like it or not, or whether it has merit or not.

If I "should" sing folk (to come back on topic), how do I know what it is I "should" sing if the word "folk" has no meaning?

I bet you, LH, I could find you a folk song you hated, and also a snigger snogwriter song you hated, and a Dylanist (not necessary Dylan) song you hated etc etc.

In some cases it isn't the song, but the delivery. To me, Young Tradition's performance of "Henry the Poacher" is wonderful and vibrant, but Ewan MacColl's leaden and plodding.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 04:40 PM

Indubitably, Richard. ;-) Thou makest a great deal of sense, verily and forsooth! How could I disagree with any of that?

Are we actually arguing about anything here or are we not? I confess that I'm beginning to be quite unsure as to whether we really differ about any of the vital points...or we just think we do.

I explained to you already in a very lengthy post what "folk music" means to me, and how I find it different in certain respects from most other generalized categories of popular music.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Gene Burton
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 04:51 PM

Seriously, having given the matter a fair amount of thought in the last 24 hours, I think I am ready to offer my (admittedly highly personal and subjective) definition of folk song; since others have set the ball rolling and also to defend myself against the charges of dishonesty and cowardice implied by one or two recent posters. Before I proceed, let me reiterate...this is my personal and subjective view, not one I'm trying to impose on anybody else.

***

A folk song, to me, is a song with a strong (ie. readily hum-able) melody and intelligent lyrics, sang either with optional acoustic backing or unaccompanied. This may be a Traditional song (by which I mean an old song still widely sung and composed by somebody whose name is lost to posterity and thus credited to Trad); or it may be a song written by someone whose name is known and may be either dead or alive, however recent or otherwise. But the two most important identifying features of a folk song are a strong melody and intelligent lyrics.

***

For what it's worth, I think the above definition can reasonably be applied to MOST Traditional songs, SOME of the revival-era protest songs, and SOME post-Dylan confessional-songwriter-type songs. And arguably some from other genres too. Perhaps it is more helpful, then, to view "folk" more as an indicator of quality than as a genre classification.

(posted in a sincere effort to explain what I think folk music is, as requested by at least a couple of posters...NOT in an attempt to start World War Three!)


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 04:56 PM

Sounds quite reasonable to me, Gene...although I think that the strong melody part, though unquestionably desirable, is not absolutely obligatory in all cases.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 05:53 PM

I reckon the 'intelligent lyrics' bit is optional too, judging from a few efforts I've heard recently and judging from a few of my favourite traditional songs... but, taking account of Little Hawk's post as well, where would that leave us?

Brendy, probably nothing at all 'new' about your FP definition, so read that as 'new to me'... I enjoyed it, is all.

Cheers

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 06:25 PM

"A folk song, to me, is a song with a strong (ie. readily hum-able) melody and intelligent lyrics, sang either with optional acoustic backing or unaccompanied. This may be a Traditional song (by which I mean an old song still widely sung and composed by somebody whose name is lost to posterity and thus credited to Trad); or it may be a song written by someone whose name is known and may be either dead or alive, however recent or otherwise. But the two most important identifying features of a folk song are a strong melody and intelligent lyrics."

Sorry, Gene, but no it isn't! Your 'definition' is what you would like folk song to be - not what it is.

For more information on what folk song is, please read Jim Carroll's post above.

The 1954 definition (quoted in Bert Lloyd's book and in a number of previous threads)with its three elements of continuity, variation and selection is, in my opinion, elegant and illuminating but doesn't include all of the types of music arbitrarily lumped into your definition.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Gene Burton
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 06:44 PM

I've said all I want to on this thread, so I'll leave all you experts to fight it out. Goodnight gentlemen.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 14 Jan 08 - 10:34 PM

(chuckle) Oh, to be in "the know". What a glorious feeling it must be to have such total certainty.

I'm gonna go play some folk music. Cheerio, chaps!


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 01:33 AM

Comes with youth.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 02:10 AM

So what you're saying is Jim, you're at home watching Taggart (insisting you know what folk music, but the rest of are deluded) and what the public have decided is folk music goes ahead without you.


As tony hancock said (in 12 angry men); if that was an election mate, you'd have lost your deposit...

Does Magna Carta mean nothing....? Did she die in vain? Brave Polish girl who made King John sign the paper and close all the boozers at ten o'clock...

There has indeed been a moider......


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 02:58 AM

No WLD
I said I'm not prepared to drive across the county to to buy a pig-in-a-poke - a decision I took 20 years ago when I stopped going to clubs. Whether I know what folk is or not doesn't come into my decision, but if I think I don't know, I know a man who does and am prepared to ask him.
I like it therefore it must be folk - now where did I put Carmen?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 04:08 AM

okay, but remember to use a conditioner first.....


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 08:38 AM

The 1954 definition eh? Well, it may have escaped a few people's notice but in the intervening half-century or so musical styles, definitions have moved on and evolved a bit.
Folk music evolves, story's change, like Chinese whispers, in the telling. When did the definitive version of any song you care to mention get written or first sung? Is the version collected in 1954 the definitive? I doubt it as it probably evolved over many years prior; how many versions of Arthur McBride have you heard and which one is definitive? The answer is none of them; they are all variations on a theme.
I really dislike narrow, exclusive definitions written by some dusty academic type and I absolutely disagree that, somehow, they are essential to understanding what defines the genre. Folk music is not about intellectual discourse but about performance. Categorization invites a narrow-minded attitude to music, encourages divisiveness and musical elitism.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Brendy
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 08:53 AM

Yes, but versions of songs aren't really the issue, neither. Was Lizzy's 'Whiskey in the Jar' a Folk Song, or a Rock Song, for instance?

Categorisation does not lead to a narrow-minded view of music, in my opinion, if that is what one does with the music one hears; it does not mean that you should be confined, as a musician or fan to operating within that box.

Nor should it?

B.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Brendy
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 08:54 AM

... that was meant to be an exclamation mark.... :-)

B.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 09:09 AM

I absolutely agree with your last; look at what Vaughan Williams did with his interpretations of English folk tunes. I would contend, however, that categorization leads to an expectation of a stereotypical musical form-sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy if you like. If that then falls within the parameters of the 'accepted' definition of the form a variation of that form is, by definition, incorrect and frequently, in my experience, is disregarded by the folk intelligentsia.

I have a feeling I may be talking myself into a corner here; let me just say that, to me, it's the song/tune and not the vehicle of delivery which matters, whether it be a solo voice in a folk club or a chamber ensemble at the Royal Festival Hall.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 10:01 AM

The 2008 definition

A folk song is:

"any song which is regarded as a folk song in 200 years' time"


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 10:04 AM

'If that then falls within the parameters of the 'accepted' definition of the form - a variation of that form is, by definition, incorrect and frequently, in my experience, is disregarded by the folk intelligentsia.'

Well yes, but surely the more ingenuous the reinvention - the further we are getting away from what is a fundamental of folk music. Namely that relationship of the broad mass of people, and the artist who is one of them, expressing something of their society.

And the ingenuity of the present revival far out-sophisticates Vaughan Williams (Mantovani style orchestral arrangement), Britten. (plum inserted in the cakehole variations) et al.

For example the rhythmic complexity of of the famous Carthy/Swarbrick Byker Hill always reminds me of something from Bartok. Its a very clever piece of music, but its one hell of a long way from the folksong as I first heard it. And when you start applying those rules of folksong - to songs people aren't familiar with, in the first place. Who apart from the slavish follower is following?

I know you lot always think I'm grinding an axe - its not that - its the distance between ordinary people and folk music which genuinely troubles my thoughts.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Peace
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 10:09 AM

As long as the music is kept, I don't really care which box it's put in.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 10:22 AM

Why is a variation "correct" or "incorrect"? Nothing about that in the 1954 definition, or your Funk and Wagnalls!

That's the root of the misunderstanding. Horse definitioners (etc)are always assuming that users of the classic definitions are disapproving of music that is not, by those definitions, folk music. IMHO that is absolutely not the case.

Wheter it is "folk" or not is nothing to do with whether it is good or not. There is some good in most styles and a lot of dreck in all of them too - but at least folk music (stricto sensu) has demonstrated that it can survive.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Peace
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 10:34 AM

But maybe it won't continue to if it is too narrowly defined.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Brendy
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 10:40 AM

Most; I say most of what I play and sing pre-dates 1900, but my versions of them come from every influence I ever grew up with.

However by making the distinction between Vaughn Williams and the material he arranged (arranged, here, being the operative word), one subconsciously..., at the very least..., makes that separation between Classical and Folk, or as I outlined, between Folk and Rock.

4/4 time is 4/4 time.
It's where you go after that, will I suppose eventually define you, as opposed to the other way around.

B.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 11:51 AM

"As long as the music is kept, I don't really care which box it's put in."

That brings me nicely to a point which is almost always overlooked. British folk songs and ballads were 'rescued' from extinction, at the eleventh hour, by a small band of enthusiasts who thought they were worth preserving.

The songs were created by real people. No-one now knows who they were, why they wrote the songs, what their inspiration was, who or what influenced them. The secret died with them.

And the problem with disregarding 'contemporary' folksongs is that they are liable to go the same way.

In a recent thread there was a debate about which was Ewan MacColl's 'Dirty Old Town'. I was surprised at the number of people who didn't know that it's Salford. Who will know in 200 years?

But many of the modern creators are still amongst us - and some of their works will undoubtedly be regarded as folk songs by future generations (their songs may even go through 'the process'). The time to ask them about their songs is NOW.

We owe it to those who come after. Today is tomorrow's history. Let's not repeat the mistakes of the past.

PS will the 1954 definition still be around in 2208? Yeah right!


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Peace
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 12:42 PM

Sminky, you have written something I have wanted to say but could not find the words for. Thank you.

What is good to see is the recognition from so many people that they have been influenced to one degree or other by songs from the past/present. Whether we continue to go back and forth on the 'true' meaning of folk, it's comforting to know that people from all traditions--new or old--cherish the music they play/preserve. It ain't my place to thank y'all, but I do.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 01:21 PM

But this is one of the ironies of this debate.   I am not yet aware of any upholder of the 1954 definition who uses it to denigrate contemporary song or to say it should not be cherished. Yet always it is the contemporary songwriter who, it is alleged, suffers if his output is not called "folk".    Why?


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Peace
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 01:28 PM

I do NOT know. I am a contemporary song writer and I don't call my stuff folk. It ain't. It's songs I wrote.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Banjiman
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 01:29 PM

Richard,

In my case I put on both contemporary & trad singers and players on at our FOLK club. The strapline    KFFC....it's finger pickin' good!!! wouldn't work if I had to change it to:

Kirkby Fleetham Folk and Some Contemporary Singer-Songwriter Music (that we are not sure what category it fits into) Club

KFFSCCM(TWANSW)C....it's finger pickin' good!!! just wouldn't work.

I take the debate on what is Folk music this seriously.

Paul


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Peace
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 01:47 PM

KFFSCCM(TWANSW)C

Is this a Gaelic word?


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Brendy
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 02:04 PM

In 200 years time, it may be. It will mean: a darned good Folk Club...

B.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Banjiman
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 02:37 PM

OK, seriously tell me how the songs and performances on these links are not folk (ignore the banjo player though!)

Brother Crow

Richard Grainger

Wendy Arrowsmith

Roger Davies

Paul


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 02:46 PM

"In a recent thread there was a debate about which was Ewan MacColl's 'Dirty Old Town'. I was surprised at the number of people who didn't know that it's Salford. Who will know in 200 years?"
If it ever becomes a folk song (which is extremely unlikely) it won't matter, it will be about wherever it lands.
More later - Taggart starts in a minute
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Brendy
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 03:01 PM

... popcorn in hand again.... ;-)

B.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Banjiman
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 03:06 PM

all good clean, harmless fun!


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Brendy
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 03:08 PM

;-)

B.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 03:41 PM

"That's the root of the misunderstanding. Horse definitioners (etc)are always assuming that users of the classic definitions are disapproving of music that is not, by those definitions, folk music. IMHO that is absolutely not the case."

'Nail and head' time Mr Bridge! That's absolutely correct! It's got nothing at all to do with preferences or musical quality.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 03:56 PM

There's plenty of (shall we say) 'largely-acoustic-composed-music-of-the-era-since-the-end-of-World-War-Two' that gets called folk either by the media, or its fans or detractors (for some people f**k will always be a four letter word), or even sometimes its authors. Some of it I don't particularly think of as folk music. That's not to say it isn't, however, just that I personally struggle to connect with it as such.

I'd be loathe, in the 21st century, to be bound by a definition of folk music that is a) absolutely synonymous with the definition of traditional music and b) assumes that people and their music and people's understanding and perception of their music is fixed and unchanging. So... I'd favour having a fairly focused definition of traditional music, but just going with the flow as far as folk music is concerned and accepting that it no longer has that same meaning it might once have had - however much some of us might want to turn back the clock. I also think that whilst the definition of traditional music remains fairly fixed, the definition of folk might vary from country to country and generation to generation.

Also, if comparatively recently composed songs like 'England in Ribbons', 'Fire and Wine', 'The Father's Song', 'The World Turned Upside Down' and 'Traitor's Love' (to name a few favourites) aren't folk songs, I'm buggered if I know what they are. The people who wrote them appear to be folk singers, too. to add to the confusion...

Finally, I reserve the right to contradict myself completely in a single thread, as I have in this one. Shows I'm taking stuff in...

Cheers

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,robinia
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 04:36 PM

What's this "should" business anyway?   Is singing some sort of ethical duty? I always thought it was a joy.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Brendy
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 04:44 PM

I think the preservation of it is.

That enables future generations to also take joy in it :-)

B.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 15 Jan 08 - 08:22 PM

Er - Nigel - time to go and read that definition again.... (sighs)


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 16 Jan 08 - 02:52 AM

I do theoretically agree with you, Richard. And for that 'classic' definition I'd now substitute the word 'traditional' for the word 'folk'. Look around you. There's plenty of music that's labelled folk that nowhere near meets that 1954 definition. There has been for forty-odd years. The world has changed... and Canute demonstrated many years ago that trying to stop the tide is a fruitless excercise.

What exists really exists. I doubt it can be defined out of existence, even if it was desirable to do so.

Cheers

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: theleveller
Date: 16 Jan 08 - 03:24 AM

Why? For pleasure, pure and simple.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 16 Jan 08 - 04:38 AM

Defining Folk......CD Baby lists at least 40 different styles of folk!

Here's a thought....why don't we call in either "Traditional Folk" or "Modern Folk". Both equally valid with an enormous contribution to make.

(.....now...where's that popcorn?)

Best wishes,

Peter


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Jan 08 - 04:47 AM

Unnamed Guest,
"The 1954 definition eh?"
Yes, things have changed since 1954, one of the greatest changes being that in the intervening period we have lost virtually all the singers on which the definition was based, and they have not been replaced by new ones.
Folk song was based - as WLD nicely puts it - on the:
"relationship of the broad mass of people, and the artist who is one of them, expressing something of their society."
The song tradition, as an expression and representation of community and society, has ceased to exist and the members of those communities have become recipients of rather than participants in their culture.
Even back then, with a few exceptions, the singers on whom the definition was based were remembering the songs rather than singing them. In the post-war period, Harry Cox sang only for collectors and visiting folkies; this was the case with Phil Tanner also, (and for the fellow residents of the old people's home in Penmaen); Cecilia Costello, at home – maybe (no information).
Walter Pardon described how the tradition he remembered, died out before he joined the army in the early 1940s (that we have his magnificent family repertoire is due entirely to the fact that he started writing it down in 1948).
In Ireland, where the singing tradition lasted somewhat longer, the old singers were recalling songs they had not sung for decades (I am talking about the English language tradition; the Gaeilge one is somewhat different)). Collector Tom Munnelly (with 22000 songs to his credit), as early as 1975, described his work as being a "race with the undertaker", and by the end of the eighties the race was over and his field work was more-or-less confined to recording revival-driven events like singing week-ends and festivals.
There were some pockets of resistance; the Travellers clung on to their songs longer, mainly due to social conditions, but Pat and I all but witnessed the demise of the Irish Travellers' singing tradition (sometime between the summer of 1973 and Easter 1975) when they all got portable televisions in their vans and stopped singing around the open fire.
The folk clubs, rather than being part of the singing tradition, were life-support systems where the older songs (and very occasionally, the odd source singer) could still be heard. But even this was more-or-less swamped by the influx of singer/songwriters, whose songs were coming into existence still-born, thanks to their introspective, private nature (and to the reliance on copyright laws – don't believe me – look in on 'PRS / Gestapo' thread and see them counting the beans).
It was the dream of MacColl, and others who were creating new songs using the old forms, that this could one day re-establish a tradition of song-making as an expression of 'ordinary' people's lives and aspirations, but it didn't happen. WLDs "relationship of the broad mass of people, and the artist" never re-emerged, not with the singers of traditional songs, nor with the singer songwriters. Nowadays the singing only takes place in freemason-like folkie gatherings.
The 1954 definition may need fine-tuning, but a total re-definition, I believe, would be a revisionist exercise in the re-writing of history.
To those who have suggested that the definition was an invention of dry academics – it wasn't.
It was the thoughtful end-result of the work of people who were not afraid of getting the dirt of fieldwork under their fingernails; Sharp who asthmatically wheezed his way around Southern England an up the Appalachians along with trusty assistant Maud Karpeles, (a collector in her own right in Newfoundland); to Kidson; Broadwood, Gilchrist, Greig, Moeran, Butterworth, Delargey, Ó'Súilleabháin, Vaughan-Williams Grainger........... and all the others who didn't confine their activities to sitting in folk-clubs and were prepared to 'rove out' a little further than the bar to refill their pints, (and were not afraid to open - or even write the occasional book).
Here's to 'em all, I say
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 16 Jan 08 - 04:49 AM

""That's the root of the misunderstanding. Horse definitioners (etc)are always assuming that users of the classic definitions are disapproving of music that is not, by those definitions, folk music. IMHO that is absolutely not the case."

'Nail and head' time Mr Bridge! That's absolutely correct! It's got nothing at all to do with preferences or musical quality."

No not really. I don't suspect Captain Birdseye or Jim Carrol of having bad intentions towards me. That's not the point at all.

The point is that this style of music which is such a minority thing has a prestige out of all proportion.

As such it is used to represent our nation in international forums. It receives financial incentives. It pretty much dominates the 'folk' aitwaves and now there are university courses in the stuff.

The main thing it has to express for most of its followers is - hey I'm not a working class oik. Therefore I sing in a funny way.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,Nigel Spencer (cookieless)
Date: 16 Jan 08 - 06:11 AM

QUOTE 'The main thing it has to express for most of its followers is - hey I'm not a working class oik. Therefore I sing in a funny way.'

Now, call me old fashioned, but (speaking here as someone who loves traditional folk but also has lots of what you could call contemporary folk in his collection) I think that's a bit unfair. I don't understand how the singing style of present day singers of traditional songs can be construed as somehow 'anti-working class'... especially considering those styles are in part influenced by the singing styles of source singers and by the singing style of people like Ewan McColl who as far as I know wasn't exactly a Daily Mail reading suburban middle class Tory! And if some of the singers are from middle class backgrounds, should this somehow mean they should be excluded from singing?

And if we cherish our traditional music, should we not support its study at our universities, its funding by our arts bodies and its elevation to the status of national treasure? They don't struggle with this in other countries, I believe. I don't see how supporting our traditional music can or should have an iota of negative or problematic impact on anyone who wants to write or play contemporary folk at their local folk club or anywhere else. It's not as if anything is being taken away from anyone, is it?

Cheers

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Banjiman
Date: 16 Jan 08 - 06:22 AM

Well said Nigel....why these false divisions?.....A good song is a good song!

In the real world (the one I experience every week) traditional and contemporary folk music feed off rather than damage each other.

.....get a grip!

Paul


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Jan 08 - 07:12 AM

I suppose the problem here is that when Folk Music is taken up by Officialdom (of whatever description) it is invariably done so without the involvement of the rank-and-file local folkies, as is the case in Newcastle, first with Folk Works - who were a select elite right from the start - and then with the Folk Works inspired degree course, which set an academic agenda to a hitherto non-academic subject (or should that be object?) thus creating a further exclusivity that might be based to a certain extent on social class, or else the cultural expectations thereof, and thus does Folk Music become defined by content rather than context, a process which might further remove it from its actual source. Does this really matter? Personally I don't think it does, but then again I'm pretty cool about most things, and I love it when the degree course students get along to singarounds because 1) they tend to sing stuff you never hear anywhere else and 2) it means I'm no longer the youngest in the room.

There does exist a restricted notion of what constitutes Folk Music in the sense of what might be considered admissible in a singaround or a session (though I dare say no one would have dreamed of doing Penguin Cafe Orchestra tunes until Patrick Street did one on an LP) wherein there at least seems to be a higher power at work, perhaps part of the Collective Subconscious which insists on a degree of appropriate decorum or else just common ground / sense. Into such a situation I once (somewhat perversely I admit but I was very drunk) introduced my version of Robert Wyatt's Alifib (from Rock Bottom originally, but based more on the 1974 John Peel Session) which is largely made up on nonsense words. Needless to say my fellow folk singers soon picked on the No-nit-not / nit-no-not / nit-nit- folly-balloley chorus and made it their very own. None of them had heard it before and many thought it was, in some way, traditional, or else early, which, in a way, I suppose it is. I might add that this was before Rachel Unthank covered Wyatt's Sea Song (also from Rock Bottom, and also featured in 1974 Peel Session) on her Winterset album, a fact which I only became aware of upon reading the interview with Robert Wyatt & Alfreda Benge in the October 2007 edition of WIRE magazine upon the release of brilliant Comicopera.

As for the Horse Definition, it was, of course, the late, great (& God-like) Louis Armstrong who said All music is folk music. I ain't never heard a horse sing a song, or else words to that effect - but does anyone know in what context he said it?


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Jan 08 - 07:19 AM

Of course that should Rachel Unthank and The Winterset The Bairns album; Robert & Alfrda loved it by the way though I've yet to hear it myself. I might add that that particular edition of WIRE also featured Cath & Phil Tyler on the coverdisk, which was nice.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Jan 08 - 08:29 AM

Just heard the Winterset version of Sea Song on their MySpace page & very nice it is too. For those who'd like a comparison to the original, do check out that 1974 Peel Session link above (or below if you clicked on the little blue d) - not exactly Wyatt at his most accessible, but this is what I love most about the man...


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 16 Jan 08 - 11:31 AM

Surely Sedayne, you mean "form" not "content". I would not have thought your comments on Newcastle likely to be right, at least not consistently with yoru context, and perhaps you should evidence them if you see it as relevant to this thread.

But the idea of what is acceptable in a singaround or session is little if anything to do with whether something is "folk".

As for you Al, you really are a wind-up. "Folk" is nothing to do with whether you sing through your nose (I admit it, I do) and I have heard some good traditional singers plainly not middle class also singing through their noses - and being wholly exciting in the traditional music they made while doing so.

I was listening to Tom Paxton on the wireless this morning (on some chat programme) and he was talking of "his family" coming from the Scottish lowlands and there being a sense of "coming home" when he went there. That is where folk (1954) comes from - from the sense of ones roots. If it is sense for African-Americans to discover thier roots in Africa, for Irish-Americans to visit their culture in Ireland, etc etc, so may we all revisit our roots and rediscover our heritages in folk (1954) music.

And, moreover, (sorry, is that talking funny? - tough shit, get over yourself) it is complete hogwash to pretend that 1954 definition "folk (not quite the same as trad - the 1954 defintion admits the osmosis of pop ephemera into "folk" - or if you prefer "the living tradition") enjoys unmerited prestige - mostly it gets the unmerited insults of those who think we should forget our past and live, like the grasshopper, only in the present - the mindless insults of the uneducated and ineducable " 'ere, 'ee talks funny" Well listen to yourself, chavvy. It most certainly does not get disporportionately large media exposure. Once again the barrow boys and girls are happy to bury what they do not understand and make no effort to understand.

We have a heritage. It is proper to study it and to be proud of it. It is better still to enjoy it as well.

The 1954'ers do not deny others in any way the freedom to do what they wish. It is the evolutioners who will try to breed out the last of the old ways, as the Australians did when they split up aboriginal families, who will let the lst marsupial wolf die, who will put the old songs at best on reservations as the American settlers did to the native Americans.

But, for the purposes of this thread, having a meaning for teh word "folk" allows you to answer the question "Why should we sing folk at all". My answer is miles above.

I don't deny you your music, WLD, I greatly admire your abilities - but what is the answer to the question? If "folk" is what the working class oik (your words, not mine) is singing, it needs no support. Why "should" we sing it?

And if that is "folk" what are things like "Famous Flower of Serving Men" "teh Wild Boar" "Henry the Poacher" "Ratcliffe Highway" "Gentlemen of High Renown" etc etc? If you say that folk is only what is widely sung, what are they?


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 16 Jan 08 - 11:57 AM

"As for the Horse Definition, it was, of course, the late, great (& God-like) Louis Armstrong who said All music is folk music. I ain't never heard a horse sing a song, or else words to that effect - but does anyone know in what context he said it?"

In the context of an 'off-day' perhaps? Surely the "God-like" are not normally so crass!


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Jan 08 - 01:16 PM

WLD,
"The point is that this style of music which is such a minority thing has a prestige out of all proportion."
You mean like Beethoven, Bach and Mozart - that's before we start on Shakespeare, Dickens, Hardy........
"I ain't never heard a horse sing a song, or else words to that effect - but does anyone know in what context he said it?"
It's apocryphal; I've heard it attributed to Broonzy
Whatever eejit it was, (who never had the bottle to put his name to it) was asked if what he did was folk music, his response was....
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: M.Ted
Date: 16 Jan 08 - 01:35 PM

Just a note to thank Mr. Carroll for sharing more thoughts on the music that he collected and its relationship to now lost sub-cultures.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Don Firth
Date: 16 Jan 08 - 02:32 PM

I first heard it attributed to Big Bill Broonzy. Since then, people have attributed it to just about everybody and his pet chicken. But no matter.

The "horse definition" is not a definition. It's a wisecrack!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Jan 08 - 02:41 PM

"Just a note to thank Mr. Carroll"
Jim please; Mr Carroll was my father.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 16 Jan 08 - 03:52 PM

I'm with Don - its a great quote: pithy, funny and memorable! Whether its right or not is completely irrelevant.

Cheers

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 16 Jan 08 - 05:20 PM

I've avoided this thread for a few days, and just now read just the stuff from the last 2-3 days.

Looks like the topic has changed from "Why should we sing it (folk music)?" to "What exactly is it?" For the umpteenth time, of course, but that's OK.

Must be OK ~ seems to be what lots of folks want to discuss.

Among contemporary songwriters, including "singer-songwriters" as well as non-performing composers, some individuals work in a traditional-folk-music-like style while most others do not. Those whose works arouse such consternation hereabouts are not the rockers or the musical-theater types, they are the folk-ish (usually acoustic-intrumentalist) types.

Songs that will survive another century or so (and thus become "folk") will probably include at least as many "commercially" written songs from our era (Beatles songs, certainly, movie music like "Over the Rainbow," etc.) as songs that we now consider borderline-folk.

In other words, music that we do not now think of as "folk" will become the ancient/traditional folk music of the future, while other current-day work that may claim "folk" status will be forgotten. The proof will be in the pudding, and the songs of our era that survive as "folk" will be the best ones ~ NOT just the ones that we currently wonder whether or not to define as "folk music."

Among current-day songwriters who may or may not "qualify" as folk artists to contemporaray observers are Robert Hunter and the late Jerry Garcia. Jerry was, of course, the world-famous electric-guitar virtuoso and bandleader of the Grateful Dead, and Robert (who is still very much alive) was his lyric-writing partner.

Both have always been serious scholars of all Anglo-American folk music traditions, and Hunter's lyrics, especially, show a tremendously effective effort to utilize folk traditions by recycling/repeating motifs and phrases from the traditional folk "canon." The songs gain a great deal of resonance thanks to this deep involvement in songwriting traditions.

Because their songs were, almost without exception, first performed by a rock ensemble featuring electrically amplified instruments, the Hunter/Garcia catalog is almost never included in discussions of "contemporary folk." However, I would wager that quite a few of their works will survive for a century or more, and many listeners will assume that they were not written in the 20th century for a rock band, but that they share the more ancient provenance of much older songs that traveled across the Atlantic several hundred years earlier.

I realize that many of you are well aware of the Dead and of their members' folk/bluegrass/jug-band histories, and also that many others among you never listened to them and automatically dismiss them as a musically unworthy throwback to a brief and dead era. Perhaps the doubters among you might be interested in reconsidering; that's what Google is for. If you're really interested and have a few bucks to spare, there is a great hardback book entitled "Annotated Lyrics of the Grateful Dead" that you might find very interesting.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 16 Jan 08 - 06:25 PM

PoppaGator - the singing group (not a folky one) my partner goes to already regularly sings the Dead's 'Sugar Magnolia'... you'll probably be pleased to hear!


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Jan 08 - 03:22 AM

Poppa,
Why should age be a factor in definition; you don't really want a list of songs that have reached maturity and are decidedly 'not' folksongs,    (I could start with Ben Jonson or Schubert or Henry VIII - take your pick).
Talking horse...
Of course it is one of the great musical wisecracks-sorry for having suggest otherwise.
My objection is not with the saying and certainly not with either Broonzy nor Armstrong, both of whom are near the top of my all-time favourites.
Like George Bush and Tony Blair; it only becomes a problem when it is taken seriously.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 17 Jan 08 - 05:30 AM

Richard - I mean what I say: content rather than context, which is to say folk music is what folk music does, rather that what folk music is perceived to be doing by those who wish to define what remains ultimately indefinable.

As a somewhat dyed-in-the-wool Traddy myself (with all the weighty issues & morbid afflictions that generally involves) I nevertheless have absolutely no problem with people singing anything they want to sing as part of a singaround - pop, blues, opera, country, psyche, jazz, Dylan, Paxton, Lennon / McCartney, Purcell - because the content of what they sing is rather less important that the context in which they sing it & the contribution it makes to he overall experience. I might kill a singaround stone-dead with a studied rendering of The Tarves Rant, but the next singer will get us all roaring again with Laura Nyro's And When I Die.

In this way I'm happy to be a rank-and-file folkie, as I have been now for over thirty years, enjoying other rank-and-file folkies singing their hearts out in singarounds the world over. To me, it's an ideal of collective music making & a potent personal experience besides; an existential communion with what will always be strictly empirical and, therefore, all too ephemeral but generally rather dependable, or else I'm sure I would have lost faith long ago.

Why should we sing folk music at all?

They will echo onward down the years and never, ever fade,
For fifty thousand singing men will never be afraid
For to raise their lusty voices, their spirits to revive,
And tell to all eterni-tie, 'We're glad that we're alive.'


Or even...

When snow transforms the hedgerow thorn and frost engilds the berry
Good men and true the firelogs hew and in the inns make merry
When singing all as with one voice, it seems the very walls rejoice
And merriment about does spring, when all men sing.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 17 Jan 08 - 05:15 PM

Nigel ~ "Sugar Magnolia" is quite an excellent song, and part of perhaps the Dead's best-ever album, "American Beauty."

Not to be too pedantic about it, but it may be pertinent to note that it was written by Bobby Weir with his lyricist-partner John Barlow. It's not a Hunter-Garcia song, and so not an example of that subgenre of GD songs composed to echo a lot of folk-tradition phrasology (musical as well as linguistic phrases).

Jim ~ You're right, of course, that age alone does not a folksong make. However, there are certainly at least a few cases where an old-enough song eventually becomes "traditional," thanks to its widespread popularity, being kept alive by the singing of "folks" who may not all know the authorship/origin, etc.

Certainly, every song was written by someone, at some past time, whether or not that person publically claimed credit at the time or took steps to "immortalize" his/her name for the future. "Anonymous" traditional songs are simply songs whose authorship has been forgotten.

I was arguing that some of today's music, of whose provenance we are currently well aware, may at some time in the future (even if only the far future) become anonymous, and therefore "traditional." Such a thing could happen ~ and in fact is almost sure to happen, if only in a very few cases ~ when a given song is so intrinsically memorable that knowledge of the song outlives all memory of the songwriter.

Sedayne ~ Right on! You are quite correct to point out that what it's really all about is "singing your heart out." When a singer chooses a song because it has deep meaning to her/himself, and then is able to convey that meaning to listeners, "live" and face-to-face, that's folk music ~ regardless of the origin of the song used by the singer to create that emotional/artictic experience.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 17 Jan 08 - 05:49 PM

Sedayne - you should be immediately awarded a small but meticulously crafted prize. Your post of 5.30 AM this morning is head and shoulders away the best on this entire thread.

Cheers

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 17 Jan 08 - 06:54 PM

Sedayne - Right on!


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Peace
Date: 17 Jan 08 - 07:00 PM

Love what you wrote, Sedayne.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,Sue
Date: 17 Jan 08 - 07:10 PM

Interesting (I think). Ummm, could I interrupt and ask, as a brief aside...Sedayne - what is a Tarve? and what are these particular tarves ranting about? I like the title!

Also - I think the principle of your 2nd para works in reverse at my local open mics... they usually seem to tolerate, nay take me to their bosom as the only trad folkie who ever goes to them, and I trill my maudlin ballads happily alongside all the singer-songwriters and rock n rollers.

Sue


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 18 Jan 08 - 03:16 AM

Tarves Rant - see the Alan Lomax recordings of superb, nay, unique, Scottish traditional singer Davie Stewart. A joy to the ars!

Cheers

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 18 Jan 08 - 03:17 AM

Um, that last word was 'ears'...


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Brendy
Date: 18 Jan 08 - 03:38 AM

So..., let me get this right... Folk music can be anything at all, as long as it means something, and as long as you like singing it?

B.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 18 Jan 08 - 05:45 AM

That's exactly what they did in the old days. Folk didn't sit around analyzing every song to the nth degree. There were no rules or 'definitions'. They sang what they damn well liked (though they did have a preference for the 'old' songs).

It's a tradition - and it's still going on (despite what some people may tell you). And long, long may it continue.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Banjiman
Date: 18 Jan 08 - 05:58 AM

"Folk music can be anything at all, as long as it means something, and as long as you like singing it?"

That definition will do for me!

or...you know it when you hear it.

Paul


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: melodeonboy
Date: 18 Jan 08 - 09:16 AM

"The main thing it has to express for most of its followers is - hey I'm not a working class oik. Therefore I sing in a funny way." says WLD.

Who sings in a funny way? I sing folk/traditional music and I don't see anything "funny" in the way I sing, unless I'm deliberately doing so for comic effect. The same applies to most (although, admittedly, not all) of the people I usually sing with. I can't think of many cultures where someone singing traditional music in their own voice would be regarded as funny.

Those whose singing voice has divorced itself from their speaking voice in order to conform (consciously or subconsciously) to cod-American pop sensibilities (Sting, Elton John, Seth Lakeman et al) could, I suppose, stand accused of singing "in a funny way".


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: RTim
Date: 18 Jan 08 - 09:50 AM

Why do Folk Musicians and singers always have the need to go SO deep - when Jazz people Just Sing & Play and enjoy themselves?

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Peace
Date: 18 Jan 08 - 09:52 AM

SCUBA gear.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Jan 08 - 02:49 PM

Just in case... this is what I signed up for, and, unless somebody comes up with something better it's what I'll continue to enjoy till I run out of puff.

Definition from 'Folk Song in England' A.L.Lloyd 1967
"...... Fortunately, intuition is not all that is left to us. Still, if musical folklore is a science, experience shows that it is subject to sudden caprices and its delineation is very hard to fix. In 1954, after long discussion, the International Folk Music Council adopted this definition:
Folk music is the product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission. The factors that shape the tradition are: (i) continuity which links the present with the past; (ii) variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group; and (iii) selection by the community, which determines the form or forms in which the music survives.
The term can be applied to music that has been evolved from rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by popular and art music and it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community.
The term does not cover composed popular music that has been taken over ready-made by a community and remains unchanged, for it is the re-fashioning and re-creation of the music by the community that gives it its folk character.

From last chapter.
....... Amid the disorders of death and resurrection, the show business corporations add their bit of confusion by annexing the term Yolk song' to describe certain professionally made cabaret-style products that have nothing to do with musical folklore either in the way they are created and spread, nor in formal style, psychological climate or function. Donkey and horse both have four legs and may pull carts but they are not the same beast; nor are the compositions of a Dylan or a Donovan folk songs by any workable definition. They may contain elements of alienation and protest, as certain folk songs do (though in fact the direct protest song is rare outside the radical labour tradition that began to form with the ninteenth century), but they still remain songs that firmly belong to the insubstantial world of the modern commercial hit and in no sense qualify to take their place alongside the home-made lyrics of the working people, any more than - in their different way - the literary proletarian anthems of the "Internationale" kind that are sometimes favoured with the label of 'folk song' by some in the Socialist world whose enthusiasm exceeds their common sense. If "Little boxes" and "The red flag" are folk songs, we need a new term to describe "The outlandish knight", "Searching for lambs" and "The coal-owner and the pitman's wife". In any case, no special mystical virtue attaches to the notion of folk song, grand as some folkloric creations may be. Show-business songs and labour hymns have their own qualities, and neither their mass connections nor their artistic character are satisfactorily suggested and emphasized by emotionally applying the description 'folk song' to them. Indeed, it could be argued that in some respects the term is belittling, seeing that folk song proper, modest article that it is, has neither the colossal acceptability of the com¬mercial product nor the broad idealistic horizon of the political mass song."

Are there STILL people around for whom 'enjoyment' and 'thought' cancel each other out? How quaint.
I know if I put on a record of Mary Delaney singing 'Buried In Kilkenny', or Sheila Stewart's 'Tifties Annie', the hairs on the back of my neck would still bristle - but I suppose both of these fall into the category of 'long, boring ballads'.
Now where did I put me Jeffrey Archer.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Peace
Date: 18 Jan 08 - 02:59 PM

Neat POV, Jim. Good for you. And less you think all 'modern' songwriters are 'intellectual flakes', please be informed that I cut my teeth on folk music--your definition--and I read mysteries and adventure stories. I love many older ballads. I just write and sing other stuff. I do not claim it to be folk music--not under anyone's definition.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Brendy
Date: 18 Jan 08 - 03:14 PM

Wikipedia's take on the definition of Folk Song....

B.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,Sue
Date: 18 Jan 08 - 05:27 PM

Anyone care to answer my question: what exactly is a tarve? and what are they ranting about?

thanks :)


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 18 Jan 08 - 06:19 PM

Just nabbed the following off the internet, hope it answers your question, Sue (& whets your appetite to hear The Galoot's superlaive rendition...)

The Tarves Rant

Come a ye gey young lads come listen unto me
I'll tell you a story without a word of lee
It happened eenst upon a term-time to Tarves we did go
To hae a spree and get some fun the truth I'll let you know

My name I needna mention it's hardly worth my while
I dinna mean to ruin masel' or spend my time in jail
I canna work your horses lads or I canna hold yer plough
Nor cut and bind and harvest but I can feed a cow

It's Tarves we for treacle came it's we bein' on the brose
There were some lads there for bits and sheen there were others there for clothes
There were few there that I did know and a few knowed me
But there was a lad amang the lave he tried tae bully me

But it's off to Mr Phillip's now to have a little fun
When I sore ensnared wi' the maiden o' the inn
She was a lovely maiden a maiden though she be
She'd twa rosy cheeks twa rollin' een a lovely maid was she

But drunk we were merry men and drunk we thought no shame
Until I left the tavern tae steer my course for hame
There I lost my comrades and on them I did cry
But at that very moment a lad in blue passed by

He told me very quickly if I wouldn't hold my tongue
He'd take me into custody and that before long
He took me by the arm and dragged me towards the inn
Right earnestly we did fight but it didn't end in fun

Now surely I'm a prodigal a villain to the bone
To tear the coat from off his back and it not being his own
But soon assistance came to him they dragged me through a door
They took me as a prisoner and left me to think it o'er

For surely the folk in Tarves they think me a disgrace
For I was pulled up to Aberdeen it was to plead my case
But when I heard my sentence I heard it like a shot
Thirty bob I'd to pay for my fine and fifteen for his coat

So come a' ye jolly ploomen lads a warnin' ye'll tak' by me
If ye gang doon tae Tarves don't go on the spree
It's seek what ye're requirin' and steer your course for hame
If a row gets up in Tarves ye widna get the blame

Flagnote: Tarves lies to the north-west of Aberdeen, between Old Meldrum and Nethermill.The great folk song collector Gavin Greig, writing in 1909, considered the song to be 'quite modern'. Davie Stewart was born at Peterhead in 1901, the son and grandson of two Robert Stewarts, both travelling tinsmiths and hawkers, in the Buchan area. He was only thirteen when the Great War broke out and he enlisted twice at that age before being brought home by his father. However at 16 year old he did manage to join the Gordon Highlanders. He was wounded in action three times before he was transferred to a pipe band, where he had tuition to supplement the knowledge of the pipes learned by ear from other travellers. After his war service Davie went back to his travelling ways. He travelled and busked all his days, sometimes in company with his great friend Jimmy MacBeath and amongst his fellow travellers he was known as 'The Galoot'. During the depression of the 1930s his travels took him to Ireland where he met and married Molly from the Cork area. He didn't return to Scotland until 1950 when he settled in Dundee and first came into contact with folk song collectors including the great Dr Hamish Henderson in 1953.He died in 1972 in St Andrews where he had gone to sing at the folk club. Dr Hamish Henderson wrote of his funeral – 'The very large attendance at his funeral in Dundee bore witness to the real love and affection in which Davie was held, not only by hundreds of his own folk, but also by the entire Scottish folk-song revival.' Like the Stewarts of Blair, Jeannie Robertson, and his friend Jimmy MacBeath, Davie Stewart was yet another traveller who added much to the Scottish Folk Song Renaissance with his wide repertoire of Scottish song.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Peace
Date: 18 Jan 08 - 07:02 PM

tarve—As a verb "to tip, turn"; as a noun "the balance, 'hang' (of something); a good purchase (on something)." The earliest example we have is from 1848 (Cooper's Oak Openings) and the latest from 1917, and there's not much in between.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Gene Burton
Date: 18 Jan 08 - 07:35 PM

"I know if I put on a record of Mary Delaney singing 'Buried In Kilkenny', or Sheila Stewart's 'Tifties Annie', the hairs on the back of my neck would still bristle"

"a record"?? What's that?

Joking aside, long may you continue to be moved by the music you hold dear. It is (or should be) of utmost importance in anybody's life.

Personally, I don't much care whether anything I write will prove to be a "folk song", under anybody's definition. It's a matter which will be determined decades after my death. Concentrate on making the very best of your talents in the here and now, and let posterity take care of itself; that's the way I see it.

(BTW, I've very much enjoyed reading through the developments on this thread over the last couple of days, particularly Nigel's apparent conversion to sanity. Many thanks to everyone for making it such good fun.)


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,Sue
Date: 18 Jan 08 - 08:04 PM

Thanks for the explanation and words. Interesting to me particularly because my grandfather (whom I never met) came from Peterhead.

S


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 19 Jan 08 - 07:40 AM

Nigel's always been sane, Gene; if you look through other theads you see that Nigel is invariably the catalyst for sanity, the voice of reason crying out in a wilderness of invariably discord. In short, when people see Nigel's name on a thread, they behave themselves.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 19 Jan 08 - 01:44 PM

I am of course delighted with both Gene Burton's and Sedaynes formulations of why we should sing music at all - but neither of them address why we should sing FOLK music.

The Wikepedia article slides illogically from a discussion of folk music to a discussion ofosmething else without aparrrent appreciation of theinconsistency. There is some mildly interesting information there, but no aid to understanding of what "FOLK" is.

For the purposes of this thread, the answer to why we should sing FOLK music depends on what FOLK music is. Since I am a 1954 definitioner, for me it is because it connects me to my roots, it enables me to express my appreciation of my roots, and it enables my history to be preserved..

In a singing club of course I am happy to hear almost anything performed.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Jan 08 - 02:49 PM

Jim, thank you for posting the quotes (18 Jan 08 - 02:49 p.m.). That should clear the matter up once and for all. But, of course. . . .

And Richard, I agree about the Wikipedia article. I was with it most of the way, but in the latter part of the article, I found myself saying, "Hey, wait a minute. This person is suddenly getting very vague and contradictory."   More confusion for the innocents.

I don't see why some singer-songwriters are so hell-bent on having something they have just written regarded as a "folk song." It may be written in the style of a folk song (strophic verses, same tune for each verse, etc.), but if they are the only person singing it so far, it is most definitely not a folk song. It may become a folk song, but as to that, only time will tell. I don't think Beethoven ever sat down at the piano, picked up a piece of manuscript paper and a pen, and said, "I'm going to write a classic." He just wrote what he wrote.

I had a friend long ago who painted pictures and occasionally did sculpture. When people asked him what he did, he responded "I paint." "Oh, you're an artist?" "I don't know," my friend would respond. "All I can say is that I paint. It's for others to decide whether what I paint is art or not."

I don't think I've ever heard any of the better known singer-songwriters like, say, Tom Paxton, ever say that he writes "folk songs," even though a lot of urban-born singers of folk songs sing them. There seems to be something more than a little pretentious about people who say "I am an artist," or "I write folk songs." That's not something that the painter or the songwriter is in a position to say. That's for others to determine, and when it comes to a "folk song," only the passage of a sufficient amount of time will tell.

Just because a song is not regarded as a folk song doesn't mean that it isn't a good song. And calling a song a "folk song" doesn't make it a better song.

By the way, I wonder how many singer-songwriters who want their songs to be regarded as folk songs copyright their material!?

Just to clarify my own position as a performer, most of the songs I sing are folk (traditional) songs. But not all. Do I regard myself as a "folk singer?" I am usually called such. But the tightest I can pin it down is that I am a "singer-guitarist." I reserve the right to sing anything that catches my fancy.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Brendy
Date: 19 Jan 08 - 03:49 PM

I have no problem with the 1954 definition myself, actually. More than likely this is because I've never felt affected by having my material defined.
I do a lot of Irish, English and Scottish traditional fare, and depending on who I'm playing with, I switch to Blues and to that newer sub-group commonly referred to as 'Contemporary Folk'.

I agree that the Wiki fails miserably towards the end of the article, but if I can put the 'Blues' genre into a box, 'Traditional' into another, and so on, I should then have no problem putting 'Folk' into its respective 'box'.

If someone says to me, though, that such-and-such a song isn't 'Folk', I'll probably agree... if it doesn't fit the definition; it wont affect my relationship with the song, however, nor stop me singing it

'Contemporary Folk' is a term of convenience, but at least it does differentiate between the old and the new.

Do I regard myself as a "folk singer?" Don asks. "I am usually called such. But the tightest I can pin it down is that I am a "singer-guitarist". I reserve the right to sing anything that catches my fancy."

... simple as that!

"... it is what you do, not the way that you do it..."
(sic)

B.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 19 Jan 08 - 05:15 PM

"If someone says to me, though, that such-and-such a song isn't 'Folk', I'll probably agree... if it doesn't fit the definition; it wont affect my relationship with the song, however, nor stop me singing it"

Fair enough, Brendy! No-one is stopping anyone from singing anything - nor would it be possible to do so or even feasible (or in any way reasonable)to attempt to do so. But I think that it is reasonable, and often necessary, to remind some people, now and again, what folk song actually is.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Brendy
Date: 19 Jan 08 - 05:20 PM

... which I believe is what we've been doing....

B.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Jan 08 - 04:53 AM

"That's exactly what they did in the old days. Folk didn't sit around analyzing every song to the nth degree. There were no rules or 'definitions'. They sang what they damn well liked (though they did have a preference for the 'old' songs)."
Meant to make a point on this earlier.
One of the problems in assessing what the older singers thought about the songs is that nobody ever considered it worthwhile to ask them.
Apart from small pockets of information, there is very little on record, or if there is, it isn't accessible.
We carried out a fair amount of this work, but as far as the tradition was concerned, it was very late in the day so I'm not sure how valid it was.
Walter Pardon had no doubts what as to what was meant by 'folk song'; there are miles of tape in National Sound Archive of him talking about it. He was very clear about the differences between say Music Hall, pop songs of the early 20th century and 'folk' (a word he used regularly). It has been suggested that he picked this up from the revival, but the notebooks in which he was writing out his family's songs, dated 1948, show that he divided the songs into traditional and non-traditional back then. I quoted him at length in something I wrote for Musical Traditions (By Any Other Name - a reply to Mike Yates' 'The Other Songs - Enthusiasms section).
Mary Delaney, a blind Travelling woman with a large repertoire of mainly ballads or narrative songs, referred to her traditional material as 'my daddy's songs' even though she had only learned about half-a-dozen from him. She also had a repertoire of C&W songs which she refused to sing for us as she said they were worthless and had only learned them because they were the ones she was asked for in the pub. When she first sang 'Lord Randal (Buried In Kilkenny)' she told us we wouldn't like it because it was too old.
Traveller Mikeen McCarthy said he didn't know if there was any traditional/non-traditional difference, but it turned out that when he sang the former he had pictures of them in his head ("like being in the movies"), with the latter - no pictures.
Here in West Clare the older singers described the traditional songs as 'traditional' or 'come-all-ye's'.
I know there was some of this work done in the US with Texas Gladden and Sarah Cleveland; I would be interested to know if it has been done elsewhere.
To whoever suggested that jazz enthusiasts 'just get on with it' without bothering about definitions - you must be joking. I've just read Humphrey Littleton's book where he tells of being booed for playing non-traditional music at a concert and there is footage of a very unwelcome R&B performer at Newport on the film 'Jazz on a Summer's Day'.
Peace.
Sorry about my knee-jerk reaction earlier - always happens when somebody suggests that thought and enjoyment don't mix.
Ed McBain's 87th Precinct used to be my reading till I finished them all
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 20 Jan 08 - 03:59 PM

Oi, careful, Gene... I know whereabouts on Myspace you live! I might pop over after...


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Gene Burton
Date: 20 Jan 08 - 04:50 PM

You'd be very welcome...every little counts :) (& there's some fairly amateurish poetry up there now as well (at the blog section), if anyone fancies a cheap laugh at my expense...)Oh what the heck, here's the link:

The Nefarious Gene Burton


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Tootler
Date: 20 Jan 08 - 04:54 PM

there is footage of a very unwelcome R&B performer at Newport on the film 'Jazz on a Summer's Day'.

And by golly didn't he wake them up!!!


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Peace
Date: 20 Jan 08 - 04:57 PM

Jim, thank you, but there was no offense taken here. Have you tried the Nero Wolfe series? Written by Rex Stout.


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Jan 08 - 04:07 AM

Peace,
Nope - given up popular fiction for the time being - I think the Da Vinci Code might have put me off for life.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 21 Jan 08 - 05:15 AM

Jim - I've just a neighbour knock at my door and hand me the disk containing Barley Grain, can't make out the date on the post mark but better late than never! Many, many thanks for this, & for the extras, which I will savour in due course.

As for popular fiction I do love Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins novels; 'As if an episode of The Vicar of Dibley had morphed into Cracker.'


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Jan 08 - 01:21 PM

Sedayne
Enjoy
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why should we sing folk music at all?
From: Peace
Date: 21 Jan 08 - 01:23 PM

That was my first good laugh of the day, Jim. Thanks you.


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