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Why should we sing folk music at all?

Peace 21 Jan 08 - 01:23 PM
GUEST 21 Jan 08 - 01:21 PM
Jack Blandiver 21 Jan 08 - 05:15 AM
GUEST 21 Jan 08 - 04:07 AM
Peace 20 Jan 08 - 04:57 PM
Tootler 20 Jan 08 - 04:54 PM
Gene Burton 20 Jan 08 - 04:50 PM
Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive) 20 Jan 08 - 03:59 PM
Jim Carroll 20 Jan 08 - 04:53 AM
Brendy 19 Jan 08 - 05:20 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 19 Jan 08 - 05:15 PM
Brendy 19 Jan 08 - 03:49 PM
Don Firth 19 Jan 08 - 02:49 PM
Richard Bridge 19 Jan 08 - 01:44 PM
Jack Blandiver 19 Jan 08 - 07:40 AM
GUEST,Sue 18 Jan 08 - 08:04 PM
Gene Burton 18 Jan 08 - 07:35 PM
Peace 18 Jan 08 - 07:02 PM
Jack Blandiver 18 Jan 08 - 06:19 PM
GUEST,Sue 18 Jan 08 - 05:27 PM
Brendy 18 Jan 08 - 03:14 PM
Peace 18 Jan 08 - 02:59 PM
Jim Carroll 18 Jan 08 - 02:49 PM
Peace 18 Jan 08 - 09:52 AM
RTim 18 Jan 08 - 09:50 AM
melodeonboy 18 Jan 08 - 09:16 AM
Banjiman 18 Jan 08 - 05:58 AM
GUEST, Sminky 18 Jan 08 - 05:45 AM
Brendy 18 Jan 08 - 03:38 AM
Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive) 18 Jan 08 - 03:17 AM
Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive) 18 Jan 08 - 03:16 AM
GUEST,Sue 17 Jan 08 - 07:10 PM
Peace 17 Jan 08 - 07:00 PM
Little Hawk 17 Jan 08 - 06:54 PM
Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive) 17 Jan 08 - 05:49 PM
PoppaGator 17 Jan 08 - 05:15 PM
Jack Blandiver 17 Jan 08 - 05:30 AM
Jim Carroll 17 Jan 08 - 03:22 AM
Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive) 16 Jan 08 - 06:25 PM
PoppaGator 16 Jan 08 - 05:20 PM
Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive) 16 Jan 08 - 03:52 PM
Jim Carroll 16 Jan 08 - 02:41 PM
Don Firth 16 Jan 08 - 02:32 PM
M.Ted 16 Jan 08 - 01:35 PM
Jim Carroll 16 Jan 08 - 01:16 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 16 Jan 08 - 11:57 AM
Richard Bridge 16 Jan 08 - 11:31 AM
Jack Blandiver 16 Jan 08 - 08:29 AM
Jack Blandiver 16 Jan 08 - 07:19 AM
Jack Blandiver 16 Jan 08 - 07:12 AM
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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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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: 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 - 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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 - 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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 - 09:52 AM

SCUBA gear.


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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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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 - 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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 - 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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