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How traditional should it be?

GUEST,Faye 18 Nov 08 - 01:29 PM
Spleen Cringe 18 Nov 08 - 01:41 PM
GUEST,Arnie 18 Nov 08 - 01:41 PM
folkypaul 18 Nov 08 - 01:42 PM
The Sandman 18 Nov 08 - 01:42 PM
Ernest 18 Nov 08 - 01:42 PM
VirginiaTam 18 Nov 08 - 01:44 PM
Lizzie Cornish 1 18 Nov 08 - 01:45 PM
Sleepy Rosie 18 Nov 08 - 01:46 PM
GUEST,leeneia 18 Nov 08 - 01:52 PM
Suegorgeous 18 Nov 08 - 02:01 PM
Will Fly 18 Nov 08 - 02:16 PM
dick greenhaus 18 Nov 08 - 02:53 PM
Banjiman 18 Nov 08 - 03:07 PM
McGrath of Harlow 18 Nov 08 - 03:24 PM
GUEST,Girl Friday sans cookie 18 Nov 08 - 03:30 PM
Penny S. 18 Nov 08 - 03:35 PM
McGrath of Harlow 18 Nov 08 - 03:39 PM
Phil Edwards 18 Nov 08 - 03:42 PM
VirginiaTam 18 Nov 08 - 03:44 PM
Maryrrf 18 Nov 08 - 03:59 PM
McGrath of Harlow 18 Nov 08 - 04:02 PM
VirginiaTam 18 Nov 08 - 04:03 PM
greg stephens 18 Nov 08 - 04:14 PM
Dave the Gnome 18 Nov 08 - 04:15 PM
greg stephens 18 Nov 08 - 04:15 PM
Ruth Archer 18 Nov 08 - 04:15 PM
greg stephens 18 Nov 08 - 04:25 PM
VirginiaTam 18 Nov 08 - 04:34 PM
Bill D 18 Nov 08 - 04:35 PM
The Sandman 18 Nov 08 - 04:41 PM
Gervase 18 Nov 08 - 05:26 PM
Nick 18 Nov 08 - 05:45 PM
VirginiaTam 18 Nov 08 - 05:47 PM
Nick 18 Nov 08 - 05:47 PM
Richard Bridge 18 Nov 08 - 05:48 PM
Dave Sutherland 18 Nov 08 - 05:59 PM
GUEST,Captain Swing 18 Nov 08 - 06:28 PM
Nick 18 Nov 08 - 06:54 PM
Jack Campin 18 Nov 08 - 07:05 PM
Betsy 18 Nov 08 - 07:13 PM
Suegorgeous 18 Nov 08 - 07:48 PM
GUEST,Faye 18 Nov 08 - 08:17 PM
GUEST,Faye 18 Nov 08 - 08:20 PM
GUEST,Faye 18 Nov 08 - 08:25 PM
M.Ted 18 Nov 08 - 08:43 PM
Maryrrf 18 Nov 08 - 10:18 PM
Art Thieme 18 Nov 08 - 10:49 PM
Derby Ram 18 Nov 08 - 11:29 PM
Gurney 19 Nov 08 - 12:37 AM
VirginiaTam 19 Nov 08 - 01:55 AM
VirginiaTam 19 Nov 08 - 01:58 AM
Spleen Cringe 19 Nov 08 - 02:44 AM
Gurney 19 Nov 08 - 03:14 AM
Anne Lister 19 Nov 08 - 03:17 AM
pavane 19 Nov 08 - 03:35 AM
pavane 19 Nov 08 - 03:36 AM
Phil Edwards 19 Nov 08 - 03:37 AM
treewind 19 Nov 08 - 03:43 AM
Will Fly 19 Nov 08 - 04:36 AM
pavane 19 Nov 08 - 04:39 AM
Will Fly 19 Nov 08 - 04:53 AM
Sleepy Rosie 19 Nov 08 - 05:14 AM
Terry McDonald 19 Nov 08 - 05:23 AM
The Sandman 19 Nov 08 - 05:28 AM
Will Fly 19 Nov 08 - 05:37 AM
Musket 19 Nov 08 - 05:41 AM
greg stephens 19 Nov 08 - 05:53 AM
Ruth Archer 19 Nov 08 - 06:13 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 19 Nov 08 - 09:47 AM
Maryrrf 19 Nov 08 - 11:28 AM
Mysha 19 Nov 08 - 11:29 AM
VirginiaTam 19 Nov 08 - 11:57 AM
greg stephens 19 Nov 08 - 12:03 PM
GUEST,Faye 19 Nov 08 - 12:39 PM
Spleen Cringe 19 Nov 08 - 01:40 PM
GUEST,Faye 19 Nov 08 - 02:36 PM
Art Thieme 19 Nov 08 - 03:25 PM
Gurney 19 Nov 08 - 03:38 PM
Richard Bridge 19 Nov 08 - 07:24 PM
Big Al Whittle 20 Nov 08 - 02:33 AM
Will Fly 20 Nov 08 - 04:52 AM
Richard Bridge 20 Nov 08 - 07:56 AM
Jim Carroll 20 Nov 08 - 07:56 AM
Jim Carroll 20 Nov 08 - 08:24 AM
Banjiman 20 Nov 08 - 08:53 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 20 Nov 08 - 09:07 AM
Big Al Whittle 20 Nov 08 - 09:28 AM
Banjiman 20 Nov 08 - 09:29 AM
Jim Carroll 20 Nov 08 - 10:06 AM
greg stephens 20 Nov 08 - 10:17 AM
Mysha 20 Nov 08 - 12:03 PM
Jim Carroll 20 Nov 08 - 12:50 PM
Maryrrf 20 Nov 08 - 01:46 PM
Maryrrf 20 Nov 08 - 01:51 PM
GUEST,Faye 25 Nov 08 - 06:59 AM
Sleepy Rosie 25 Nov 08 - 07:49 AM
Faye Roche 25 Nov 08 - 09:13 AM
Faye Roche 25 Nov 08 - 09:32 AM
Richard Bridge 25 Nov 08 - 09:53 AM
Richard Bridge 25 Nov 08 - 09:56 AM
GUEST,glueman 25 Nov 08 - 10:23 AM
GUEST, Sminky 25 Nov 08 - 10:43 AM
Richard Bridge 25 Nov 08 - 01:06 PM
VirginiaTam 25 Nov 08 - 04:04 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 25 Nov 08 - 06:02 PM
Richard Bridge 25 Nov 08 - 06:11 PM
Snuffy 26 Nov 08 - 04:01 AM
Faye Roche 26 Nov 08 - 04:08 AM
Phil Edwards 26 Nov 08 - 05:57 AM
Dave the Gnome 26 Nov 08 - 06:32 AM
Richard Bridge 26 Nov 08 - 06:46 AM
GUEST,glueman 26 Nov 08 - 07:36 AM
Richard Bridge 26 Nov 08 - 07:53 AM
GUEST,glueman 26 Nov 08 - 08:42 AM
Phil Edwards 26 Nov 08 - 09:17 AM
GUEST, Sminky 26 Nov 08 - 09:28 AM
Sleepy Rosie 26 Nov 08 - 09:41 AM
Phil Edwards 26 Nov 08 - 10:03 AM
GUEST,glueman 26 Nov 08 - 10:32 AM
Jack Campin 26 Nov 08 - 10:52 AM
Phil Edwards 26 Nov 08 - 11:47 AM
Phil Edwards 26 Nov 08 - 11:53 AM
Richard Bridge 26 Nov 08 - 11:58 AM
Gedi 26 Nov 08 - 12:00 PM
Gervase 26 Nov 08 - 12:05 PM
Spleen Cringe 26 Nov 08 - 12:45 PM
VirginiaTam 26 Nov 08 - 01:21 PM
Phil Edwards 26 Nov 08 - 02:17 PM
Spleen Cringe 26 Nov 08 - 02:51 PM
Sleepy Rosie 26 Nov 08 - 02:53 PM
Spleen Cringe 26 Nov 08 - 03:07 PM
GUEST,glueman 26 Nov 08 - 03:19 PM
Phil Edwards 26 Nov 08 - 03:37 PM
Richard Bridge 26 Nov 08 - 04:29 PM
GUEST,glueman 26 Nov 08 - 04:57 PM
Gurney 27 Nov 08 - 02:26 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 27 Nov 08 - 05:28 AM
greg stephens 27 Nov 08 - 05:39 AM
Richard Bridge 27 Nov 08 - 06:06 AM
GUEST, Sminky 27 Nov 08 - 06:51 AM
GUEST,Working Radish 27 Nov 08 - 08:22 AM
greg stephens 27 Nov 08 - 08:25 AM
GUEST, Sminky 27 Nov 08 - 08:44 AM
greg stephens 27 Nov 08 - 09:05 AM
Spleen Cringe 27 Nov 08 - 09:33 AM
GUEST,Working Radish 27 Nov 08 - 11:29 AM
Sleepy Rosie 27 Nov 08 - 11:53 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 27 Nov 08 - 12:03 PM
GUEST, Sminky 27 Nov 08 - 12:03 PM
Dave the Gnome 27 Nov 08 - 12:04 PM
Spleen Cringe 27 Nov 08 - 12:20 PM
greg stephens 27 Nov 08 - 12:43 PM
Phil Edwards 27 Nov 08 - 12:59 PM
Suegorgeous 27 Nov 08 - 03:22 PM
Phil Edwards 27 Nov 08 - 03:26 PM
VirginiaTam 27 Nov 08 - 03:55 PM
Phil Edwards 27 Nov 08 - 04:56 PM
VirginiaTam 27 Nov 08 - 05:03 PM
VirginiaTam 27 Nov 08 - 05:07 PM
Phil Edwards 27 Nov 08 - 06:04 PM
Richard Mellish 27 Nov 08 - 06:51 PM
Suegorgeous 27 Nov 08 - 07:59 PM
Phil Edwards 28 Nov 08 - 04:15 AM
Jack Blandiver 28 Nov 08 - 05:13 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 28 Nov 08 - 05:16 AM
Terry McDonald 28 Nov 08 - 06:01 AM
Phil Edwards 28 Nov 08 - 06:31 AM
Phil Edwards 28 Nov 08 - 07:03 AM
Banjiman 28 Nov 08 - 07:32 AM
Banjiman 28 Nov 08 - 07:36 AM
Jack Blandiver 28 Nov 08 - 09:28 AM
Spleen Cringe 28 Nov 08 - 09:32 AM
Spleen Cringe 28 Nov 08 - 09:34 AM
Sleepy Rosie 28 Nov 08 - 09:48 AM
Spleen Cringe 28 Nov 08 - 09:52 AM
Phil Edwards 28 Nov 08 - 10:56 AM
Banjiman 28 Nov 08 - 10:59 AM
GUEST,Spleen Cringe 28 Nov 08 - 11:03 AM
GUEST,Spleen Cringe 28 Nov 08 - 11:26 AM
VirginiaTam 28 Nov 08 - 03:03 PM
Jack Blandiver 28 Nov 08 - 03:15 PM
Tootler 28 Nov 08 - 07:00 PM
Phil Edwards 30 Nov 08 - 10:21 AM
Richard Mellish 30 Nov 08 - 07:23 PM
Phil Edwards 01 Dec 08 - 03:53 AM
Tootler 01 Dec 08 - 06:04 PM
trevek 02 Dec 08 - 06:46 AM
Sleepy Rosie 02 Dec 08 - 07:00 AM
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Subject: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,Faye
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 01:29 PM

I sing mainly traditional English songs and play guitar. Sometimes I go out with a friend who plays flute and pan-pipes.

We're touting ourselves around getting the odd gig here and there and meanwhile having a lot of fun playing floorspots and singarounds. However, I had an odd conversation last week.

We'd done a spot at a club and after the organiser thanked us gave him our card and suggested that he book us.

His reply was that, although he liked us, his club existed for the promotion of traditional English music and music that was "derived" from it – Scottish, Irish, Appalachian, etc. (I'd dispute that they're all derived from English music but we'll let that pass.) He wouldn't book us as:

i) Apart from our strictly trad. stuff, we do a song which consist of original words to a trad. tune.

ii) We do another trad. song that we sing to a tune that normally belongs to another song, and

iii) We sing some trad. lyrics to a tune of our own composition.

According to this guy, all that is not in the tradition, so his club cannot support it. He also objected to the pan-pipes as they're not "traditional" instruments. (We only use them on one short instrumental section of one song, where we think they work well.)

I was a bit surprised as I've never come across this attitude before and the audience at the club were very appreciative. Is this sort of attitude common? After all, there are many variations of songs to be found; "John Barleycorn" has several different tunes, and I've heard "Pleasant and Delightful" sung to the tune of another song (can't remember offhand what it was.) At some time someone must have thought "What about inventing a new tune for that?" or "I wonder if those words would go with that tune," and the results have passed into the tradition. And I've heard Pete Coe, to name but one, sing lyrics of his own to a traditional tune; he can't be the only one.

Also, if no-one ever sat down to invent words and tunes in the first place, we wouldn't have a tradition!

What's the feeling about this amongst other Mudcatters? Does preserving the tradition mean never changing anything, or is it OK, provided that when you introduce the songs you explain what you're doing? Or do you feel that anything goes as long as it sounds right?


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 01:41 PM

Fuck 'em!

If you're good and you believe in what you do that's half the battle - and it's eejits like the one you cite who lose out.

As far as I'm concerned, a traditional instrument is anything you can bang out a melody, accompaniment or drone on. And 'the tradition' is strong enough to stand a bit of messing with: most folk revival singers have done this somewhere along the line.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,Arnie
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 01:41 PM

If the booker wants only strictly trad music in their club - well that's their decision. But I believe musicians should play whatever they whatever the heck they play. People will like it if it's good music. It's one thing to love and honour music traditions, but it's my belief that anyone can take those anywhere and anyway they want. We are an evolutionary species. Trad music came from somewhere - and all those songs and tunes were brand new once. In the grand scheme it doesn't pay to stick your head in the mud - move forward!!!!!!!


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: folkypaul
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 01:42 PM

It's not the sort of club I'd go to.

I thought that sort of thinking went out in the 60's.

I bet they don't do amplification of the music either (although not always nescessery).

Does this person ever go to a concert.

Etc, etc, etc.

PaulO


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 01:42 PM

Faye,I have been gigging for over thirty years.
sometimes you cant win,
there are clubs where I should have been booked,but the oragniserhas taken a dislike,and clubs where I wasnt really suitable,but the organiser liked me.
it swings and roundabouts,play the music youreally like,and it will be reflected in your performance,ignore the comments of organisers.
also ignore all reviews,whether they are good or bad,good luck and success to your singing.Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Ernest
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 01:42 PM

The guy has a very limited definition of "traditional". As you already have pointed out adding new words to existing tunes, singing songs to different tunes etc. has done before many times (we have a word for it: folk process).

I guess the club in question won`t get to many performers if they stick to such a limited definition. A real strict traditionalist would perhaps (but only perhaps) allow a hollow logbanged with a stone... ;0)

BTW pan pipes might not be traditional in England but they are definitely traditional somewhere - even in the US (think of Henry Thomas`s "Fishing Blues").

Don`t let that stop you!

Best
Ernest


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 01:44 PM

New Thread of Worms Alert!

From what I have been reading here and what makes sense is that folk tradition is a constantly morphing animal.

If everything had to be done in it's original state there would be no folk. Because (duh) everything was passed down orally and (thank gods) imperfectly through generations and across cultures.

That club manager sounds like an idiot. If people appreciate your tunes during sessions, start chatting to regulars about where and how to promote your act and how to get gigs.

Good luck


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 01:45 PM

Music is music...

The 'Traditionalists' are quite frankly, killing off English folk music, with their rules, regulations and pedantic ways. They'll be the only ones left listening to it shortly, but that's what they want I guess...

Did he subscribe to fRoots, I wonder? ;0)


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 01:46 PM

Very interesting question.
And I've had similar ones but for other reasons.

From what I can tell from my own peers at least, some of the percieved 'rigidity' in strictly traditional camps can be a turn-off to those of my own and younger generations. No-one I know beneath retirement age, is interested in trad songs. Of course I cannot know if I'm alone in that. Yet world or fusion folk is booming with the 'young people', my musician friends included.

A degree of this seeming rigidity reminds me of ex-pats who fiercely defend their origonal culture by strictly living according to the memories that they have 'snapshot-like' retained from the day they left their native lands - while at the very same time, their origonal culture in their native lands, simply keeps moving on and evolving, thereby leaving the ex-pats looking like strange, comical echoes from the long dead past.

Not attempting to offend a soul here. Merely sharing an observation. Which may or may not be utterly groundless and isolated to me...


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 01:52 PM

Panpipes not traditional?

'Of Chinese origin, the instrument was known to the Greeks (who connected its origin with the legend of the god Pan and the nymph Syrinx who was changed into reeds). It survives in some parts of Europe, South East Asia, and South America.'

What the organizer means is 'not in line with my impression of what my great-grandparents played, based mostly on what I've seen in movies.'

What we have here is a little person making the most of a little bit of power. I hope you find places where you can play your music, Faye. The world needs more good music.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 02:01 PM

Bloomin' 'eck! leave him to his fixed notions of folk, plenty of other opportunities by the sound of! move on!


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 02:16 PM

Faye - there are always some clubs that have a strong leaning towards a particular genre of folk music - and you have to put up with that. But I've rarely been in one (though I know of them) that is so excluding. However, you have to accept that what may be OK in a floor spot in these clubs, i.e. your own stuff, may not be OK as a paid guest spot. I actually agree with Spleen C. - F'em!

The answer is to find clubs with a more humane and eclectic philosophy, and strutt your stuff there!

Best of luck.

Will


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 02:53 PM

While I don't agree with the club's philosophy, I find it refreshing that a venue exists where patrons can know in advance what they're paying for.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Banjiman
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 03:07 PM

You get turned down for all sorts of given reasons (not all of them rational; too trad, not trad enough, not established enough, not local enough, not English sounding enough..... ).

You just have to learn to enjoy this as part of the rich tapestry that are British Folk Clubs and accept that not everyone is going to book you however well you went down!

That was spoken from the point of view of someone trying to get gigs for both our band and my other half.

With my folk club organisers hat on I would find it impossible to fit in everyone who wants a gig....... how do you politely turn people down?

You have an idea of what sort of programme you want to put on over a year (balance of new/ established acts, trad/ contemporary, male/ female) and then someone comes along and although they are good you know you can't fit them in........


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 03:24 PM

I imagine you could find another club where someone who sang traditional songs and played a melodian would be told they didn't suit because the club had a policy of favouring world music...


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,Girl Friday sans cookie
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 03:30 PM

Go for it guys. If you have found clubs that like you then you will eventually get booked if that's what you're looking for. Keep visiting other clubs. If the club(s) that only book traditional can keep thriving, that's good too, because the purists will have somewhere to go too.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Penny S.
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 03:35 PM

It's amazing that we use the solfa scale since it was the thing those Neanderthals tuned their pipes with. Not OUR tradition at all.

On the other hand, perhaps a perceived impression that those under retirement age are not interested in traditional music might lead to a determination to preserve it while it can be preserved.

Penny


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 03:39 PM

Lots of Neanderthals around the folk scene. (And I never use that term disparagingly.)


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 03:42 PM

Personally I'd be overjoyed to find a club where the bill of fare was that heavily biased towards the trad repertoire, although my feelings would be tempered with dread that they might not think my own versions were quite traditional enough.

In other words I agree with nearly, but not quite, everyone.

Genuine sighting of the Folk Police - check
The music always has grown and changed and been played on whatever's handy - check
That kind of attitude's bad for the music - check

But is this kind of attitude killing the music, or killing the clubs? I don't see much sign of it either way. On the contrary, I'd say the clubs are either thriving or at least ticking over - and that almost none of them take this attitude or anything like it. Getting back to the OP, I'm sure plenty of places will welcome you with open arms; in fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if some folk clubs turn you away for being too traditional.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 03:44 PM

ugg

ugh gnuh ugh

hire me please

No! Because I grunt with a southeastern Virginia drawl.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 03:59 PM

??? Not sure I understand what the above comment by VirginiaTam is supposed to mean.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 04:02 PM

It took it to be a Virgineanderthal greeting...


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 04:03 PM

Just following through on all of thread.

I am neanderthal trying to sing trad English with my virginia accent. No one will hire me cuz it don't sound right.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: greg stephens
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 04:14 PM

Where is this club, let's have the facts? It sounds very interesting, I didn't know such venues existed. I must say, draconic as its rules sound, I can see the point of one or two places like that. As 99.9999% of music venues would not countenance putting on someone singing traditional folk songs, I don't suppose it'll will cause the end of the world of just one little place puts on only trad folksongs.
Let's face it, there are Tiddly Winks clubs, where presumably they play tiddly winks. And Pigeon Fanciers societies, where presumably you can escape from budgies and vultures for a pleasant evening. So why shouldn't someone set up a traditional folksong club, if that's what turns them on? A little tolerance wouldn't come amiss.
I play in a folk type band. We don't get booked much at DJ nights. That's the way it is.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 04:15 PM

He could of been trying, and failing in my opinion, just to be tactful. He may just not have liked your stuff, which he is perfectly entitled to do so, but found it dificult to say as much. I know, as a club organiser, it is far easier to say 'not our style' than 'sorry, but I don't like what you do'. I handed over the bookings many years ago to a very good friend who can be firm but genuinely tactful as well. Not my bag and I am happier doing other bits.

There will be many clubs who will book you so don't let it put you off. There will also be a good few who, for genuine reasons, cannot book you. Lack of funds, lack of time and other priorites are the bain of most organisers lives so try not to give them too hard a time. Just accept that you are good in the right place, at the right time but those circumstances did not occur at your example club.

Cheers

DeG


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: greg stephens
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 04:15 PM

I should add, we play comntemporary material as well as trad folk in our band, so we won't get booked at this Purity Club, wherever it is.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 04:15 PM

Greg Stephens and Banjiman: very sensible.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: greg stephens
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 04:25 PM

Bit of a side issue, but extremely relevant I think. Sleepy Roasie says:
"No-one I know beneath retirement age, is interested in trad songs"

Rosie, you must live in a world that has no contact with the folk scene: the place is infested with youngsters singing trad songs at the moment, and playng trad tunes too.Listen to the Folk Awards, listen to the radio, look at the Tv, go to a folk festival. Yoof are everywhere. Every other month fRoots has the latest Brit traddie on the front cover. Where are you hiding?


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 04:34 PM

I was introduced to traditional folk of all Great Britain and Ireland by my daughter when she was 15. She loved it and learned and performed it miles better than me. Manys the time she groaned at my pronunciations in Suil a ruin. Her dream was to move to Ireland to teach music and be in a band.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Bill D
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 04:35 PM

Greg Stephens said it quite well, as did Dick Greenhaus.

There are very few places where one can go...especially in the USA... and hear mostly traditional music. To me, a perfect club would aim toward traditional, yet allow & encourage 'some' new stuff that is clearly based on trad or uses similar tune style, themes and instrumentation.
There are many, many places where 'newer', vaguely folkish music is done, and that is fine.... it suits the majority. But some of us in the majority love the idea of one little oasis where we can soak in tradition when we have a mind to.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 04:41 PM

I know exactly where this club is.
but the organiser has a right to book who he /she likes,and was probably fobbing Faye off with an excuse[The first one that came into his /her head].
its happened to all of us at some time.
the real reason is possibly nothing to do with Faye,could be lack of money[doesnt want to book guests because the club is not doing well].,could be a lot of things.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Gervase
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 05:26 PM

I think Dave and Dick have hit the nail on the head - it's often difficult for someone to say 'no', and they will concoct all sorts of reasons to qualify their answer. Don't let it get you down - there are plenty of other venues out there, and if you're halfway decent you'll get bookings.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Nick
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 05:45 PM

It's not in the North West is it because I came across somewhere very similar?

Once.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 05:47 PM

Be careful not to be specific about idividuals and places. Doing that closes down threads.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Nick
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 05:47 PM

Sorry that should have read:

It's not in the North West is it because I came across somewhere very similar once?

We live in a world of narrowcasting and it's great to find someone sticking to their guns and specialising in what they believe in. Whether it happens to be my own cup of tea or not.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 05:48 PM

"Folk" music has a definition. It is the 1954 definition. But the comment above that the changing of the songs and tunes (new instruments, new tunes to old words, new words to old tunes) is indeed the "folk process" and it is how we got what we have, how we get what we will have, and why the tradition will never be stale.

Youth the world over is in part fascinated by its traditions - "the old ways" - the old religions - its "roots" - new age paganism - Wicca - the Norse mythologies (and cod variants) - the Irish mythologies (and cod variants).

There is no good reason why that should not be the same for the English (and other British) traditions.

I'm a traddie (and nearly but not quite of retirement age) - but I re-arrange and re-invent if I can. Go thou and do likewise!


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 05:59 PM

I would certainly agree with those who say that the organiser was trying to let you down lightly although in doing so he was in danger of getting the sort of place that presents traditional folk song a bad name. Our club is called Traditions at the Tiger which should give some indication of the sort of music that you could expect to hear there. I have had people tell me that we are "too traditional" (they probably think that the BNP are too right wing as well) however none of the committee there would use the excuse that you were given to refuse a request for a gig. Having said that we are booked well into 2010.
BTW I once read a piece by Bert Lloyd where he said that no portable instrument is any more "traditional" than another.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,Captain Swing
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 06:28 PM

Try the open mic scene - it's more relevant ( ie, you play to a live audience) and extremely welcoming. All genres are accepted.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Nick
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 06:54 PM

DaveS - >> (they probably think that the BNP are too right wing as well)

And they wouldn't be wrong on that one. Opens the possibility that they might be right on the other one too :)
Did you make the list? - BNP list leaked online...


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 07:05 PM

From Faye's original message, it seemed like her band could have tailored their act to the club's spec if they'd wanted to. Two or three out-of-line items shouldn't have meant they couldn't do a full-length act.

Did they think of offering?


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Betsy
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 07:13 PM

There's a few megalomaniac Organisers out there - understand that - your "face" won't fit every situation. Move on and don't let this minor knock unduly affect you.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 07:48 PM

Greg - Yes, good point - it's good there are a few places like that to balance the opposite, thanks.

Virginia - sorry, but it's Siul a ruin...


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,Faye
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 08:17 PM

Thanks for all your views.

I wasn't just enquiring from the point of view of looking for a gig- we get other offers elsewhere so I'm not bothered about one place that doesn't like us.

I just wondered what the attitude is towards "messing" with traditional music in this way- is it OK, is it OK if you state what you're doing and don't pass it off as the original thing, or is it completely beyond the pale.

Obviously different people have different views, and they're entitled to them. I'm not taking a stand here, just interested in opinions.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,Faye
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 08:20 PM

PS- If you think you know the club, fine, but I'm not saying where it is!


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,Faye
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 08:25 PM

PPS - The organiser actually said that he liked us, which is what seemed strange- a bit like a vegetarian following a policy of condemning the meat trade while admitting that he likes sausage rolls.

Of course, he's quite at liberty NOT to like us- we are well received wherever we go and we have a realistic idea of how good we are, but you can't expect to appeal to everyone. But the fact that he was complimentary was what made it seem a bit strange.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: M.Ted
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 08:43 PM

Capt'n B may have the inside track on this-- as it seems odd that a booker would decline to book you because there were a couple of things things in your repertoire that he didn't like.

It is generally possible to leave that material that is not appropriate to a venue off the set list--We never, for instance, played "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" at a wedding, and, at least to my knowledge, were never barred from a wedding job because we could play it-


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 10:18 PM

Some interesting thoughts expressed in this thread. I'll just add a few comments. I was dismayed at the attitude of "fuck 'em" and "he's an idiot" etc. directed at the folk club organizer. What is wrong with running a strictly traditional club? There are clubs/venues who book strictly singer/songwriters, strictly jazz, etc. There are also eclectic clubs/venues and that is fine too. If his club specializes in traditional English (or related) folk music and the members enjoy and support it, how does that make him an idiot? It would be entirely possible that he liked what he heard, but didn't feel that it fit well within the definition of what he and the other club members want to support. I run a traditional concert series (not a folk club). I want to maintain a venue that encourages and supports traditional performers, because I just don't think there are enough places around that do (I'm in the USA).   I've had very talented people ask for bookings, saying that, while they weren't really traditional, they could put together a set of traditional material. I don't book them. I usually refer them to another concert venue in the area that mostly books singer/songwriters. I give preference to performers who concentrate on the traditional.   That said, if somebody does a mostly traditional set but throws in a couple of original songs that are in the traditional style, that's fine with me. As for "messing" with traditional music - nothing wrong with that, but different people may or may not like your arrangements or changes.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 10:49 PM

Folks, bear with me, please. I think I'll indulge myself and mix a few metaphors!

-------------------------------------------------------------

Here in the middle of the USA, there is one festival that presents traditional music. The University Of Chicago Folk Festival happens every February. It began in 1961 --- and it continues on...

Other than that one glorious example, I cannot think of another festival or coffeehouse or bar or house concert that is even 50% trad. There is no radio show in the Midwest that features traditional music either.

Granted, I have been out of the loop for over a decade, but no list of venues that I see, and I do see a few, would by any stretch be classified as an example of a traditional operation. I feel that's sad on several levels, but mainly, to me, it is disheartening to see so many being mis-educated. They know not what they do---and that is promulgated and perpetuated as gospel until everyone, thinking they are correct----nay, BELIEVING that they are correct--- everyone loses their houses, banks collapse, GM fails and we are caught in a chaotic downward dumbed-down spiral of depressed and ignorant people.

And it all could be avoided if we stay with the basics, perform with talent and use common sense. Indeed, you cannot sing taditional ballds and not continuously learn great lessons from history. And as we all know, history repeats...(It just costs twice as much, at least, every time around!)

Again, only by using and performing the traditional basics of the game, then, and only then, alas, will the Cubs ever win the World Series.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Derby Ram
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 11:29 PM

Surely, it's not a matter of the validity (or otherwise)of having a strictly traditional music policy - it's more to do with whether the individual concerned fully understands what it actually is and what it's grey area parameters might be. He should understand that there is no clean cut line of definition. Traditional music is not a song or a tune or an interpretational style - it's more a manner of existence and mode of transport - I mean it's more to do with how it got there and what allows it to continue to thrive, develop and progress naturally - that's the oral and 'by ear' bit - and perhaps its simplicity of form. Over sophistication itself can be a 'quick kill' factor for a potential piece of traditional music - making it less accessible to the vast majority of people who might be inspired to have a go at singing or playing it.

Any piece of material that lives among the people by unwitting election and can be performed and passed on without the aid of falsified media promotion campaigning (ie; endless manufactured boy bands, Maria Carey 'sound-alikes' and 'victims' of 'Fame Academy etc;)stands a good chance of qualifying in my book.

On the 'refusal to offer a booking' issue - he had his reasons - even if he wasn't completely sure what they were in tangible terms - Faye, I think understands this and will likely not continue to bash her sword on a rock - go gal - you're music and philosophy appears fine to me.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Gurney
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 12:37 AM

The organiser didn't want to present your stuff. Fair enough, in my opinion. He presents what he wants, and your repertoire didn't meet his stylistic preference. OK, he puts the money out, and quite possibly makes a loss in the running of his club.
I've been on both sides of this dilemma, and (as a singer) worked up a repertoire to fit the occasion, which is easy enough for a trad club, because you don't have to worry about accompaniments.

I've also come to the opinion that altering traditional songs, as well as the singing of obscure variants, to a general audience, is self-indulgence, and I wouldn't do it. Nowadays. Have done, of course. Maybe a lot of people go through it.

I wish you every success. If you go back to the club, ask if he considers the guitar a 'traditional' instrument.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 01:55 AM

See I am hopeless. Can't even spell it properly. Thanks Suegorgeious.

altering traditional songs, as well as the singing of obscure variants, to a general audience, is self-indulgence

Really? I thought I was doing good, seeking out little known versions of trad stuff and learning and performing. Thought this is not the same old same old.

Everything I do is wrong.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 01:58 AM

Damnit! Did not mean to spell you name wrong Sue. Gonna start a BS thread on what the hell is going on with my typing.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 02:44 AM

"is it OK, is it OK if you state what you're doing and don't pass it off as the original thing, or is it completely beyond the pale."

Every singer will have a slightly different interpretation of these songs; every musician will arrange them differently. Even

Maryrrf, the "fuck 'em" was I think a perfectly valid response to the dreary and ahistorical bullshit approach to folksong that appears to have been adopted by this club. One, we can't possibly kow how thesesongs sounded when they were first written and two Fred Jordan doesn't sound like Nic Jones doesn't sound like Mawkin Causley. The interpretation and presentation of traditional music is not and can never be static. Those who would seek to impose stasis are not doing the music any favours.

A few people may like that misplacedly rigid approach - bully for them. Their loss.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Gurney
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 03:14 AM

Another post lost in space.

Tam, you aren't 'wrong' to sing obscure variants, but the blank looks that most of the audience have should tell you that they are wondering why they can't join in, that they came here to be entertained or to sing along. They probably won't leave thinking "That was an interesting variant!" although some of the other singers might just do that. You have to decide if you are singing for your fellow singers or singing for the audience. Self-indulgence or the paying customer. Teaching or entertaining.

This is just my opinion. 40 years in the forming. But I started out thinking as you do.

Unusual, little-known songs are different to obscure variants. IMO.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 03:17 AM

It sounds to me, like Dick and others on this thread, that the organiser was doing a "fob off" line ...after all, if his words are taken at face value that would mean virtually no one could get a gig at his club. Martin Carthy and Nic Jones have both sung trad words to a tune of their own composition or a tune belonging to another song, for example, and although there may be some performers of trad material who have never done this there aren't many of them around.

There are all kinds of "fob off" lines around. Sometimes, as performers, we've compared notes, and almost anything will disqualify you for a gig with some clubs. Being female, being male, being a songwriter, not being a songwriter, being funny, not being funny ... the list is almost endless. Shrug your shoulders and move on!

Anne


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: pavane
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 03:35 AM

Quote "What is wrong with running a strictly traditional club?"
The problem is "Who decides what is traditional?"

1. Most of our songs "as collected" are not. They are often imperfect recollections of printed songs, often with known composers.

2. Most of our instruments are not.
You have to remove all free-reed instruments (Accordion, harmonica, concertina), invented since 1830. Guitar is not traditional either, at least in British folk singing. Maybe harp, whistle and fiddle would be acceptable.

3. Harmony is not traditional either, with a few exceptions.

4. As note above, most of the singers of "traditional" material have altered or replaced tunes.

Doesn't leave much, does it?


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: pavane
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 03:36 AM

Oh yes, bagpipes are also very traditional


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 03:37 AM

If what you're asking is whether we agree with the 'not trad enough' criticism, then:

i) Apart from our strictly trad. stuff, we do a song which consist of original words to a trad. tune.

ii) We do another trad. song that we sing to a tune that normally belongs to another song, and

iii) We sing some trad. lyrics to a tune of our own composition.


ii and iii were good enough for Nic Jones, to name but one, so I wouldn't worry about those for a second. Original lyrics to a trad tune essentially makes a new song, so I guess you might want to drop that one the next time you're trying to impress an ultra-traditionalist. But I find it hard to imagine many FCs objecting - the ones I know certainly don't suffer from excessive traditionalism.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: treewind
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 03:43 AM

I think this thread is mistitled.
The folk club in question is in no position to dictate what's traditional and what isn't (and evidently isn't competent to make that judgement anyway), and there's no point in making an effort to comply with their mysterious code. Not even if you are desperate for a booking at that club. I'd guess that "not trad enough", or "too trad" or any other excuse the club organiser makes really means either "not good enough" (I'm not suggesting this applies to Faye + friend) or much more likely "not famous enough". No point in arguing about it, just look for gigs elsewhere - they will happen! "de gustibus non disputandum"1

As for your choice of material and style, do what works best for you and what you believe in. In the end that's what will work best because it will generate energy and enthusiasm that you can communicate to an audience. I've seen someone trying for a gig at a club, singing material that he evidently wasn't comfortable with because it was what he thought it was in keeping with the club's booking policy. It didn't work; sticking to what he knew best might actually have worked better.

Anahata
1"there's no accounting for taste"


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Will Fly
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 04:36 AM

In my experience, for what it's worth, when you're looking for bookings in folk clubs you might have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince. There's every kind of club under the sun and, as I mentioned above, you simply have to find, by trial and error, the ones that like what you do. Look at what John Kelly (Harmonium Hero) is doing at the moment and take heart.

The folk club in question is in no position to dictate what's traditional and what isn't [Anahata]. I agree - but - they are in a position to dictate who they want, and would-be guests have to accept it. I would also agree with Anahata that you should stick to what you want to play and how you want to play it.

I recall my first experience of the folk clubs of the mid-60s which, at that stage, seemed to be subcutaneously morphing (and I do love a subcutaneous morph) from the original folk song and dance clubs to more eclectic places. I recall sitting through a 24-stanza of "Lord Randall" sung by an educated chappie in Leeds who pronounced it throughout as "Lawd Rwandall" - not quite an R and not quite a W - and thinking, "This ain't for me". Nothing wrong with Lord Randall, I hasten to add - and nothing wrong with the guy's singing. I was young, experimenting with guitar, naive, open to ideas - and I just wanted something different. Like many another I gravitated to the Cousins in Greek Street and lapped up the music of Davy Graham, Renbourne, Jansch, Al Stewart, John Martyn, Mike Chapman, Ian Anderson (Village Thing Ian - not J. Tull Ian), Mike Cooper, Alexis Korner, Duffy Power, Mox, the Pigsty Hill Light Orchestra - and on and on for ever.

I'm not name-checking to be clever, here - just trying to demonstrate that one of the functions of people breaking into the game, into the "tradition", is to invigorate, to synthesise, to change, to add. I was playing in a jazz band in a pub in Peacehaven one evening in the early 80s. Bob Copper was in the audience. I asked him, not too curiously, I hope, whether he was enjoying the evening. He told me he loved jazz, and that the favourite modern song of his Dad - Jim - was "Brother Can You Spare A Dime". Now I WOULD have liked to have heard Jim Copper sing that...

So at the risk of being boring, to recap: Do your own thing, Faye & Friend - stick at it - bring your own sounds and style with you.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: pavane
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 04:39 AM

"Farewell, Farewell" by Richard Thompson, sung by Sandy Denny, is an example of a modern song to trad tune, which might itself pass as trad.

(Not that I fully understand the meaning though.)


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Will Fly
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 04:53 AM

Just a quick footnote to my previous post, with apologies for taking up yet more space.

I didn't wish to imply that performers, by changing, adding to, etc., should not also have a role in preserving the tradition. At the dances where the music is provided by the ceildh band I play in, we play traditional tunes for traditional dances - albeit with a little bit of a groove... In the interval, while people are often eating, two of our players play traditional tunes on fiddle & guitar for 20 minutes or so, then the melodeon player lays down his melodeons, picks up his tenor and alto saxes and does jazz duets with me on guitar. Always goes down well.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 05:14 AM

Greg - I think you're right, it obviously is just me! And I do need to get involved more. Though that in itself's been a source of frustration to me, for as I say, though I have friends who play broadly 'fusion' types of folk, I don't personally know anyone besides myself in my own age range, with any interest in learning more traditional stuff. Bar one lass, who I've kinda encouraged along with me and she was initially disinterested thinking 'traditional' meant formal and stuffy. I do know older friends who used to regularly attend Whitby and dance in Morris Sides and so-on. As said, I believe you are correct, it must simply be down to lack of sufficient involvement. No doubt that'll change in time. I genuinely hope so too, because I'd love to get to know more people that I could learn and sing and play with for fun!
I'll duck out of here now, and let the thread return to topic.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Terry McDonald
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 05:23 AM

Will - you play in a ceilidh band and they don't feed you during the interval? I was in a folk dance band for 18 years and we tended to judge gigs on the quality of the (always provided)supper.

On the main thread, I'm with those who wonder if the organiser, despite the quality of the performance, simply didn't take to it and had to think up an excuse for not offering a booking.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 05:28 AM

I am not saying,where the club is,but I am sure,the reason is nothing to do with Faye,but is for another reason entirely.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Will Fly
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 05:37 AM

Terry McDonald:
Will - you play in a ceilidh band and they don't feed you during the interval? I was in a folk dance band for 18 years and we tended to judge gigs on the quality of the (always provided)supper.

Oh yes - we invariably get fed. We just take it in turns to eat and play! We also tend to judge gigs on the quality of the turnout and the fee! What we often forget to do is go to the Offie (Off-license shop for beer, for US friends) beforehand to get the beer in! So many of our gigs are often in village halls with no alcohol license - it's a case of BYO.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Musket
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 05:41 AM

Ewan McColl always used to say you should only sing what is indigenous to you.

A bit rich coming from a Salford lad who changed his name to something Scottish sounding and developing an accent he never really had. You could forgive him though, as if it wasn't for him, we would not have such incredible songs to learn and play...

Going back 30 years when I first started getting up at a club, I was given a polite welcome despite the (looking back) rather awful quality of what I did and made some real good friends. I was told that a nearby village had a club and perhaps I would go there as well?

I was full of trepidation as I was told they only liked traditional music and hitherto, I had written my own songs. Didn't do anything traditional. However, I borrowed an Ina Campbell song book, found an obscure song, learned it and set off.

Forgot how the words went just as I was starting. Thought b&@ger it, put the guitar down and did Monty Python's Horace Poem.

Went down a treat as I recall....


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: greg stephens
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 05:53 AM

The fallacy that wrecks all discussions like this is the assumption that some people make roughly along these lines: if someone runs a club for traditional song singing, it means they disapprove of non-traditional songs.
Which is transparent nonsense, but it is endlessly repeated, as an attitude to be attacked, often in the most vicious way. Ewan McColl(see remark in previous post), for example, was perfectly relaxed about listening to, and performing, music from outside his own cultural experience.He recorded "John Henry", for example. What he actually did that gave rise to this myth was to be involved in the running of one club which tried out the exclusive policy of singing songs from peoples' own indigenous experience(however you decide the meaning of that is another question!).He never said that other clubs should be like that.
I've got shelves of CDs of trad songs. I've got shelves of Cds of singer/song writers.
I go to pubs that serve beer. I go to Moslem cafes that don't.Each type of establishment has its own style, and why not? Live and let live. surely?


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 06:13 AM

"I just wondered what the attitude is towards "messing" with traditional music in this way- is it OK, is it OK if you state what you're doing and don't pass it off as the original thing, or is it completely beyond the pale."

There isn't an "okay" or "not okay". Do what you want. Some people will like it, some people won't. Just keep singing the songs.

I love traditional music sung absolutely traditionally, but one of my favourite tracks of the year is Jim Moray's grime version of Lucy Wan.

Personal taste, horses for courses, live and let live, etc. It's only when people who don't really understand traditional music are dismissive and disparaging about it, or when someone incessantly shoves their own musical taste down my throat, that I start to get shirty.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 09:47 AM

""While I don't agree with the club's philosophy, I find it refreshing that a venue exists where patrons can know in advance what they're paying for.""

Fair point, Dick, but only if the patrons share the blinkered view of the musical bigot concerned. I would be more inclined to believe that they simply accept what this twit deigns to give 'em.

The test would be their reaction to Faye's performance. If they applauded enthusiastically, rather than a short, polite, ripple, then the music was acceptable to them.

If they did not, I would be surprised if Faye were to ask for a booking.

All in all, it seems that everyone loses except the petty Hitler who runs it.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 11:28 AM

I just don't think it's fair to refer to the organizer as a "petty Hitler" or "musical bigot" or "twit". He probably has more traditional performers asking for gigs than he can realistically book. He has to pick and choose. He made a judgement call which he was entitled to make. He doesn't deserve to be insulted.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Mysha
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 11:29 AM

Hi,

Ooh, this is a biggie. (I had to go to work first, or I wouldn't have had the time to answer.)

Let's see:
On the "rules": I can't imagine anyone to tick off the rules like that; this must be a constructed example. If it's not constructed out of generalisation, I would expect it to be constructed by condensing a much longer conversation. Faye, did you maybe press the man for a more exact justification than just "It's not traditional enough!"? Maybe he came to a point where he had to put it down to these rules, where he wouldn't have done so otherwise.

On the heritage policy: If the club wanted only musicians that specialised in heritage music, the organiser probably would have approached this differently. But if it was just about heritage music, I'm not sure how the organiser got the impression that Faye and her friend would be unwilling to play that. Still, if people feel they ought to be respected for what they believe to be a good choice of music, then the club and the organiser ought to be respected for doing the same. Obviously, they don't all see it the same way, but that's humans.

There's a general issue here, regarding heritage music, that most have probably heard before: Though people can ask for heritage music, music that existed in that shape through the generations, we have very little to determine what music looked like before. Even now, recorded music is only a window on how music is played. So the most we can ask for is actually music as it has been played for the last few generations. And indeed, that's usually what people want when they ask for heritage music, as this basically will give them music that all concerned know in that form.

There's a curious duality in the way heritage influences tradition. Counter to what one would expect, in most cases heritage is the lesser part in tradition: Think of how few traditions we have that existed in that same form even fifty years ago. Indeed, if heritage is the major part, that's an usually an indication a tradition is dying: If there's no interest in it any more, people will no longer add to it, and all that's left is what was done by those who went before. I guess that's part of what in folk music makes some people scared of having stress on heritage music. But the folk tradition, like any other stream of style, is defined in part by its extremes. If you were to outlaw heritage music, you would be narrowing the mainstream of traditional music. Then there would be a new extreme some people would dislike. One could forbid that as well, etc., but there's probably no benefit to folk music to do any such thing; it just makes the stream of folk music narrower. Let people search their own grail in traditional music, whether they're musicians, historians, or organisers.

On doing things outside the main stream: Of course it's OK to do so. If anyone wants to add something new or retrieve something old that isn't in the main stream of traditional music, that just means the folk tradition is alive. It's not messing; it's a kind of evolutionary process. Music historians at one point suggested an as yet unknown historical composer might have written all those great traditional tunes, but what really happens is that everyone in the tradition tinkers with it: Maybe just a word that has gone out of fashion, just a caesura, or equally shifting stuff around or rewriting it. And the versions fittest for survival in the tradition of that time survive, letting the tradition evolve to what fits its day. Those great tunes and songs exist and survive, not in spite of us changing them, because of us doing so. The problem with all this is, of course, that any specific change that is made may actually be worse; something that will eventually be left on the wayside of the road the tradition is travelling. Or it may be an improvement to some, but a destructon to others. So while everyone should feel free to add to the tradition, no-one should expect those changes to be accepted by all.

On the changes Faye and her friend made: Well, personally, I'm not a fan of adding instruments that the music wasn't written for. I feel that, generally, it subtracts from both the instrument and the music. That doesn't mean you can't play pan-pipes in the tradition of the British Isles, but to do it well would probably require developing a British Isles style of playing those pipes, as well as slight changes to the melodies to accommodate the instrument. But the change of the tune, the new lyrics and the new melody, I hope we'll hear more detail about those. Wouldn't it be a bit cruel to tell us about these improvements, yet not actually tell them what they are?

That's the short version of what I wanted to say, I guess. I hope it adds something to the discussion,
                                                                Mysha


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 11:57 AM

You have to decide if you are singing for your fellow singers or singing for the audience. Self-indulgence or the paying customer. Teaching or entertaining.


Well I do both. I do love digging and finding odd stuff. And really like getting people to join in. My problem is there is so much information. It gets a bit woolly what is trad, what is later version or cultural splinter.

Mudcat is the place to go I guess, but then, you get so many differeing views.

Urrgghh


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: greg stephens
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 12:03 PM

You can always tell people have run out of arguments, when they start calling people Nazis. Unless the people are Nazis of course, which is unlikely in the case of a trad orientated folkie club organiser.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,Faye
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 12:39 PM

Phew! Some strong views expressed here!

Let me re-iterate: I don't care about getting a gig at this club. If he chooses not to book me because he doesn't like my voice, guitar playing, choice of songs or the colour of my shoes that's absolutely fine by me- there are plenty of others who do. (Not bragging- just being honest- honestly!) So let's leave me out of the discussion!!!

I'm pleased to see that most people seem to think, to a greater or lesser degree that there is room for individuality in one's performance. That does not devalue the purists (I don't use that word in a negative way), who are also entitled to their opinions.

What bugs me a bit though, is the attitude that ANY kind of change is ALWAYS wrong. Someone once heard "The Blacksmith", for example, and came up with a tune for it which is just as good as the original (imo anyway). I don't know when this was, but does it matter if it was 150 years ago, 50 years ago or last week? What about (wishful thinking coming up) if someone picks up on my tune for "The Outlandish Knight", starts singing it and people are still singing it in 100 years? Will it then become "traditional enough?" Surely some of Ewan McColl's or Cyril Tawney's songs are now traditional? Or is a song only really acceptable by the trad. lobby if no-one knows who composed it?


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 01:40 PM

Hi Faye,

Uh oh...

Is it me or on that last post did you just re-open the bottomless, never-ending, sensational and-another-thing-tastic Mudcat...


Can.



Of.



Worms...

Run! Run for the hills! Whilst you still can...


(only joking. Ish...)


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,Faye
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 02:36 PM

Well I am new round here...


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 03:25 PM

Go Cubs!!!

Art


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Gurney
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 03:38 PM

Faye, the attitude that change is GOOD is always wrong, too.
Change for its own sake is something I've subscribed to in the past, but I'm at the 'mature reflection' time-of-life.

Coincidentally, I was burning copies of some of my old LPs and came across 'Flannigans Ball,' by the stated songwriter, Brendan O'Dowda. Not as complete as, nor as good as (IMO) the presently popular 'Lannigans Ball.'
One case where change is good. It just isn't necessarily, always.

I'm glad you get plenty of gigs. Are you on Youtube yet?


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 07:24 PM

The 1954 definition is the 1954 definition. But you all knew I'd say that.

Mysha, you confuse form or function with derivation and definition.

Don, this would not have something to do with a spat you had about your version of teh Cuddy Wren, somewhere near Rottingdean, would it?


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 02:33 AM

Is Youtube traditional?

I can find no mention of Youtube in the 1954 definition.

Anybody who gets involved with that sort of thing has no place in the tradition. They should have their nobs cut off with a rusty razor, and not be given any bookings - anywhere.

Harsh, but fair when we have a tradition to defend.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Will Fly
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 04:52 AM

I'll get me razor...


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 07:56 AM

Where did I say that? I thought I said quite the opposite.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 07:56 AM

Not advisable with a name like Will Fly
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 08:24 AM

"While I don't agree with the club's philosophy, I find it refreshing that a venue exists where patrons can know in advance what they're paying for."
Agree absolutely - also with Greg Stephens.
While I find the club's definition of 'traditional' debatable, they have the right to put on whatever they choose - would that there were more of them about using ANY definition of folk music.
Some people, me included, believe that the song tradition ceased to be a living entity when the communities with such traditions opted for East Enders and became recipients of rather than participants in their culture. I don't believe that to be a reason for not including songs that have been made using folk forms - but in the end the decision has to rest with club organisers.
That smutty little term 'folk police' often raises its ugly head on such as these debates ; if there is such an animal I suggest they are well represented by those performers who say "we do what we do and that's that - now give us a booking or I'll put your name on Mudcat".
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Banjiman
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 08:53 AM

"That smutty little term 'folk police' often raises its ugly head on such as these debates ; if there is such an animal I suggest they are well represented by those performers who say "we do what we do and that's that - now give us a booking or I'll put your name on Mudcat"."

As a club organiser no one has ever said that to me....... is it supposed to be some form of threat? Can't see that it would achieve anything? All club organosers have to turn people down.

Confused. North Yorkshire


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 09:07 AM

"Or is a song only really acceptable by the trad. lobby if no-one knows who composed it?"

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! I really, really, really don't want to start another definitions thread, but I think that it was Bert Lloyd who said that the fact that many songs in the British Tradition have no known authors is purely an accident of history. It's a 'red herring'. It's like believing that it can't be a sports car unless it's got a 'go-faster' stripe on the side.

The trouble with many 'modernisers', as far as I'm concerned, is that they don't really understand what traditional song is. They set up their own model - and then modernise that - and they always end up with something which sounds suspiciously like rock music ...

Finally,

"...the attitude that change is GOOD is always wrong, too."

Amen to that!


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 09:28 AM

That banjiman!

Don't go near HIS club, I went there and told 'im straight. I said, I'm a modern post punk traditionalist mixing sampled sounds with whalesong. You owe it to the environment to give me a gig.

Wotta bastard!


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Banjiman
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 09:29 AM

Cool!!!!!


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 10:06 AM

Sorry Banjiman - a bit of rhetoric on my part.
I was referring to those artists who appear to believe that the fact that they call themselves 'folk' automatically grants them a right to be considered for a booking, no matter what and how they play.
You may not have encountered them, but we turned enough of them away from the Singers Club - that's how we got the reputation.
Shimrod..... "It's a 'red herring'"
I agree with 'im, and Bert
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: greg stephens
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 10:17 AM

I am getting a little trol-suspicious of this thread. Who is Faye, where does she play gigs, and who is the ultra-traddie club organiser who expressed these slightly unbelievable views? I feel things are perhaps just a little made-up. So if I am wrong, let's hear the actual facts.
Copnversely, I have myself been on the receiving end of a refusal of booking on totally paranoid grounds of non-compliance with the organisations trad standards. But it was a festival, not a folk club.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Mysha
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 12:03 PM

Hi,

Faye, "let's leave me out of the discussion", is something that's not all that common on Mudcat. I'd go as far as to say that in Folk circles in general, keeping something impersonal is rather unusual. I hope that explains why so far we didn't, and probably from now on we won't either.

Faye, "the attitude that ANY kind of change is ALWAYS wrong", I didn't see in your original question. In your example, the organiser appreciated your music, and the club policy as he applied it apparently didn't judge your music in terms of right or wrong either, just in whether it would be appropriate for that club. If you feel that's the wrong way to approach folk music, then don't play there. But more importantly, if you feel like that, realise that the one passing judgement is you, not them.

Faye, "traditional music" is about a style and an approach to music. A variation doesn't get more traditional in that sense over the years, unless the change of style of the tradition over time makes it more main stream traditional music. For a variation to become more acceptable as heritage music, on the other hand, it probably would have to stay in the main stream for one or two generations.

Gurney, I can't agree that "the attitude that change is GOOD is always wrong, too.". There are situations that are so desperate that the attitude that (all) change is good must do more good than bad.
Can we find common ground in "The attitude that change is ALWAYS good is wrong, too"?

Richard, can you elaborate a bit on where I'm confusing things? When I feel strongly about something I write rather a lot, and I don't always get what people are replying to. Yes, I know, it's not a virtue. And don't know about any definition, BTW, and I don't think Folk is about a definition or other rule anyway. Defining a tradition is like taking a picture: at best you catch the moment.

                                                                Mysha


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 12:50 PM

For the record,
A Folklore Festival organisation last/maybe this year in the US refused to book a group on the grounds that they didn't write their own material - or is that an urban myth?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 01:46 PM

"If he chooses not to book me because he doesn't like my voice, guitar playing, choice of songs or the colour of my shoes that's absolutely fine by me- there are plenty of others who do."

Well all I can say is that if Faye just started gigging in early November, which is when she posted that she'd just had her first paid gig, and now "plenty" of folk clubs want to book her, she must be damned good. It isn't easy to break into the folk club circuit when you're not a 'name' performer.

I hate to be suspicious but there have been a lot of wind ups on Mudcat.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 01:51 PM

Jim, that is entirely possible. I've been turned down for gigs in the US for being "too traditional". A lot of people in the US equate folk music with singer/songwriters.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,Faye
Date: 25 Nov 08 - 06:59 AM

Just to correct a few misunderstandings, as it's getting a bit heated round here...

I'm not interested in "trolling" or winding up anyone, which is why I didn't mention the club by name.

I'm not interested in promoting myself here, and I've said so. I never intended this thread to be about me.

Change is not always good- agreed. But it can be good.

Yes, I have other offers of club gigs. You'll see me on MySpace soon- as soon as I have some tracks to put up there. Most clubs book their guests 6-12 monthe in advance.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 25 Nov 08 - 07:49 AM

It seems to me, that this poster posited an interesting question, and offered a personal reason as to why she was prompted to ask that question.

In order to avoid responses to the query becoming overly 'personal' and evoke anxieties over trolling and so-on. The query might have caused less complicating side-debate, if it had remained a "what if?" hypothetical one, rather than a "this happened to me" anecdotal one?


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Faye Roche
Date: 25 Nov 08 - 09:13 AM

Thanks Rosie.

As I said (more than once) this thread was not about me. Maybe I should not have referred to my personal experience.

Thanks to all those of you who posted sensible responses.

By the way, for the more pedantic amongst you, I meant "there are plenty of others who LIKE me", not "who BOOK me", though I have been offered a few gigs for next year. True, it's tough to break into the gig circuit, but, as I said elsewhere, I'm taking it as it comes and enjoying the ride, not wishing and dreaming of becoming an overnight sensation.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Faye Roche
Date: 25 Nov 08 - 09:32 AM

Oh and another thing- no criticism of anyone was intended or implied. If you run a club where you only allow unaccompanied singing, instruments of any kind are barred, and you only accept songs, the exact provenance can be unequivocably be verified, that's fine by me (though you won't find me in there!)

In short, I'm interested in other people's views; I may or may not agree with them, but we're all entitled to our own opinions.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 25 Nov 08 - 09:53 AM

Funny, i posted here a while ago - I'll ahve to go and retrieve the necessary again.

Oh, and 100 (now that's traditional)


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 25 Nov 08 - 09:56 AM

Right, this is for Myssha - notes from a seminar I went to decades ago.....

Folk Song in England

In 1954 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 group:
(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 the rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by popular music and art music, and it can likewise be applied to the 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 refashioning and recreation of the music by the community that gives its folk character.



'Conclusions', by Cecil Sharp~

A folk song is always anonymous.
Modal melodies, set to secular words, are nearly always of folk origin.
Song tunes in the minor mode are either composed tunes, or folk airs that have suffered corruption.
Folk tunes do not modulate.
Folk melodies are non—harmonic: that is to say, they have been fashioned by those in whom the harmonic sense is undeveloped. This is shown:—

a.        in the use of non—harmonic passing notes.
b.        in a certain vagueness of tonality, especially in the opening phrases of modal tunes.
c.        in the use of flattened seventh, after the manner of a leading note, in the final cadence of modal airs.
d.        in the difficulty of harmonizing a folk tune.
e.        Folk melodies often contain bars of irregular length.
f.        Prevalence of five and seven time-measures in folk airs.

In giving evidence in 1835, Francis Place reported that ballads sung about the streets during his youth could not be adequately described in present company. 'I have given you in writing words of some common ballads which you would not think fit to have uttered here. At that time the songs were of the most indecent kind: they were publicly sung and sold in the streets and markets: no one would mention them in any society now!



Another consideration.

"The mind of the folk singer is occupied exclusively with the words, with the clearness of which he will allow nothing to interfere. Consequently, he but rarely sings more than one note to a syllable and will often. interpolate a syllable of his own rather than break this rule.

"O abroad as I was wordelkin'
I was walking all alone
When I heard a couple tordelkin'
As they walked all along"



The Greek/Mediaeval/Folk Song Modes ~

The scales on which many English folk tunes are based are not the same as those with which we arc familiar through classical music.
The Greeks were the earliest musical grammarians in Europe and laid the foundation of the scientific system which was to be, in a modified form, our inheritance for plainsong and folk song.

        There were seven Greek Modes        (The white notes on a piano).
Dorian (Plato considered this the strongest)        D to D
Phrygian.        E to E
Lydian        F to F
Mixolydian        C to C
Aeolian        A to A
Locrian        B to B
lonian (our major modeNodus lascivus)        C to C

"Sumer is a--cumen in", our oldest Mss is in the Ionian Mode.

English folk tunes are most frequently found cast in the Dorian, Phrygian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Ionian modes. Occasionally in the minor: Cecil Sharp wrote: "The majority of our English -folk times, say two~thirds, are in the major mode. The remaining third is fairly evenly divided between the Mixolydian, Dorian and Aeolian modes, with, perhaps, a preponderance in favour of the Mixolydian,

The pitch of the mode may of course be varied, the relationship of the notes being constant.



The Pentatonic_Scale

The pentatonic scale (five notes to the octave) is widely distributed in folk music and is found in the traditional music of many oriental countries. We also know that it was practiced in ancient times in China and Greece. It is common in Scotland and Ireland.

In its most common form it possesses no semitones, the intervals between the notes consisting of whole tones and one—and—a—half tones. It can be played on the black notes of a piano, or on the white notes, omitting B and B.

According to the relative position of the tonic, there are five pentatonic modes, though some scholars prefer to regard them as segments of the same scale.

English songs also show a number of Hexatonic (six—notes) tunes, usually with the sixth missing.

Sharp held the theory that the present seven—note diatonic scale is a development from the pentatonic scale,




Ballads

"'Therefore,' while each ballad will he idiosyncratic, it will not be an expression of the personality of individuals, but of a collective sympathy: and the fundamental characteristic of popular ballads is therefore the absence of subjectivity and self—consciousness. Though they do not ~"write themselves" as Grimm has said - though a man and not a people has composed them, still the author counts for nothing, and it is not by mere accident, but with the best reason, that they have come down to us anonymously." Child.

Romantic Ballads        Child Waters, The Gypsy Laddie, The Maid Freed from the Gallows.

Tragic Ballads        The Two sisters, Lord Randal, Barbara Allan.

Historical Ballads        Sir Patric Spens, Mary Hamilton, Queen Jane, The Hunting of the Cheviot.

The Outlaw Ballads        Robin and the Three Squires, Johnnie Cock.

Supernatural Ballads        Lady Isobel and the Elf—Knight, The Unquiet Grave, The Demon Lover, The Wife of Usher's Well.

Humorous Ballads        Our Goodman, The Farmer's Curst Wife,





Conventional Elements

Conventional_diction        cerbain archaisms not found in common parlance — a song about lords and ladies will use "steed", "morrow," etc.

.Conventional Epithet        "milk—white steed," "Lily—white hand," "Fair Margaret."

Conventional Phrase        Tears "blind the eye," blood 'trickling down the knee."

Commonplace        e.g., the rose—briar stanza.

They buried her in the old churchyard (epithet)
They buried him in the choir
Out of her grave grew a red, red rose (epithet)
And out of his a green briar. -

Opening/Ending Formula         "As I walked out one Nay morning,"
        'It fell upon a..        
        "Come all you young fellows and listen to me.





"Voice and ear are left at a loss what to do with the ballad until supplied with the tune it was written to go with…. Unsung, it stays half—lacking.'

Robert Frost.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 25 Nov 08 - 10:23 AM

Faye, for what it's worth I was treated like a pariah here for expressing things I thought self-evident. Some people will tell you it's fine to change things but not on their shift - they really mean folk is dead and they have the keys to the mausoleum.
There can be no more amusing definition of a genre than you don't know who wrote the music.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 25 Nov 08 - 10:43 AM

Richard, the regular appearance of your seminar notes has itself become a tradition. Please just do me one small favour - correct the original to read "Mixolydian G to G" not "C to C". I'm sorry to be pedantic but it drives me bonkers. Thanks.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 25 Nov 08 - 01:06 PM

Noted!


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 25 Nov 08 - 04:04 PM

RB thanks for posting the notes. Not all of us have been around long enough to have seen them in earlier threads. Content is interesting even if quite a bit goes right over my head. Food for thought.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 25 Nov 08 - 06:02 PM

"There can be no more amusing definition of a genre than you don't know who wrote the music."

For the million, billion trillionth time a song can still be a folk song if it has a known author! It is the PROCESS that the song has been through which makes it a folk song! What's so difficult about that? Which part do you not understand?


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 25 Nov 08 - 06:11 PM

Don't worry Shimmers - they don't want to understand.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Snuffy
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 04:01 AM

And they won't be helped to understand if you keep telling them:

'Conclusions', by Cecil Sharp~
A folk song is always anonymous.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Faye Roche
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 04:08 AM

What is the process?

If it is just a matter of being absorbed into popular culture, a lot of pop songs must now be folk songs.

Not trying to provoke an argument here, just asking!


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 05:57 AM

I believe the folk process is basically over, because the oral tradition is basically dead - killed by the ubiquity of broadcast music and recorded music.

The problem is that the availability of broadcast music cuts away the ground from under the oral tradition. Do you sing while you work? Do your workmates? Do you sing at home to relax? When your friends or family want some music of an evening, do they suggest having a few songs? The oral tradition works in communities and societies where people can, by and large, answer Yes to all four. Those conditions may still obtain in some parts of the world, but they certainly don't in Britain (or the US).

This isn't something that's happened overnight. The uniformity imposed by mechanical reproduction has been eroding the oral tradition for a long time, going back to pianolas and mass-produced parlour songbooks. Ironically, the oral tradition finally gave up the ghost (in this country at least) at around the same time the Revival was really getting going.

Oral transmission among folkies does go on, but we aren't so much a community as a network of hobbyists.

Live music made by enthusiastic amateurs (and a few enthusiastic professionals) is great - it's one of the brighter spots in my life at the moment. Live traditional music, in particular. The songs that have survived from the oral tradition - or survived long enough to be collected - are, by and large, really good songs: in performance, they work in a way that most new songs don't. It's true that there are new songs coming through in the style of the old songs - Shantyman, Bring us a barrel and so on - but they're only ever likely to be heard by a tiny minority of the population.

Does pop music occupy the niche formerly occupied by folk music? No - nothing does. Live music made by ordinary people without making a big deal of it - because it's what you do, because it passes the time, because everyone's got a song in them - has basically died out. A bit of humility, and a bit of awareness of what's gone, are in order. We're not the folk, and any new music we make is never going to be folk music.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 06:32 AM

A folk song is always anonymous.

I love that one. Does it mean I can sing anything as a folk song as long as I have a bag over my head or that I can sing whatever I like as long as I don't know who wrote it?:-D

Cheers

DeG


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 06:46 AM

Oh FFS!

The CONCLUSION (not test) arose from the then operation of the folk process. As a result of transmission through the folk process the song became anonymous. That's a result, not a condition.

Same thing goes for the prevalance of certain modes, if you think modes betoken anything, which I don't.

The folk process now operates by a song going into the folk circuit (or community), people learn it orally in that process (I certainly sometimes do - and it's how common mondegreens result) and it gets stylistically and verbally and melodically (I have a tendency to re-majorise tunes as I memorise them, for example) modified. What does not so frequently happen is the authorship becoming lost.

It's what the 1954 definition allows for as the adoption of composed song with modification.

The process of modification means that the "sound" is not a necessary or sufficient test of whether a song is a folk song, and that is why I explained above that Myssha was confused in the test she was applying. It also happens to be why most "folk metal" I have found is not folk.

DeG - don't give up your day job.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 07:36 AM

I totally agree with Pip Radish's 'network of hobbyists' but that runs counter to the perception within contemporary folk 'revival' (sic) that the music is a) under attack, b) will whither and die if people don't defend 'it'.

By and large I prefer the sound of traditional music to singer-songwriting in a folk mode but that's all it is - a preference. The only qualifying differences are academic and as the academy had no part in the progenesis or dissemination of the form we're back to the elevation of nit-picking or, if you prefer, mutually agreed exclusion by committee: Pip's old music hobby. Fascinating in its own way no doubt but nothing to do with the practice of music, folk or otherwise.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 07:53 AM

But in consequence the derivation but not the form is everything to do with whether it is folk or otherwise. The point surely is that once that is understood the question (the OP's question) of whether the form is traditional is left exposed as purely a matter of taste and preference.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 08:42 AM

A club should have the right to describe itself and book performers in any way it chooses so long as it recognises the subjectivity of that process. If it assumes a mantle of authenticity by that choice it's claiming one modern sensibility rehashing old material is more folkish than another and that's plain bunkum. A performer could write a ballad in a traditional mode, invent a provenance and the vast majority of the audience wouldn't know it wasn't original.

We're left with facets of the music that are beyond the aural reception of it - contexts which are not appreciated in a club environment. Folk in that sense is best appreciated within academia, not performing environments.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 09:17 AM

A performer could write a ballad in a traditional mode, invent a provenance and the vast majority of the audience wouldn't know it wasn't original.

I'm sure that's true, but it's got nothing to do with whether there is a difference between songs that are traditional and songs that aren't. I used to think a friend of mine did a lot more Hank Williams songs than he does - he'd been writing his own without telling me (or the audience). I'm sure the vast majority of the audience didn't know his songs weren't Hank's - and if he'd lied to them about it they wouldn't have been any the wiser. They still weren't written by Hank Williams.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 09:28 AM

They still weren't written by Hank Williams.

And the tragic consequence of this was..........?


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 09:41 AM

A second thanks to Richard Bridge echoing Virginia Tam. Your notes are now cut and pasted to my wordprocessor!

By the way folks, this thread is finally becoming a properly interesting one!

It's helpful for someone like me, who knows so little about any of it, to read the points being discussed here, now that the debate's focused on the OP's initial interesting question :-)


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 10:03 AM

Sminky - there were no consequences at all, since I was talking hypothetically.

Glueman said that "claiming one modern sensibility rehashing old material is more folkish than another" is "bunkum", on the basis that it's possible to pass off new material as trad. But what you can pass off as trad is irrelevant. It's possible to pass off new material as Hank Williams - that doesn't mean that it's "bunkum" to claim that some songs are by Hank Williams and some aren't.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 10:32 AM

The point is most people consume, process, discover (call it what you will) music through their ears, not an academic discourse. There's nothing wrong with critical theoretical dialogues going on around music, it's just not the way the stuff is heard and especially not in folk clubs.
On that basis a pastiche of Hank Williams tune or a drinking song or sea shanty are differentiated only in the expectations that surround them, not through any intrinsic value in the received text. Most bookers are bluffing, they go on what the thing sounds like whatever else they might claim.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 10:52 AM

Surely a lot of bookers DON'T go on what the act sounds like but on their reputation.

We had a posting here a while back from one of the Edinburgh Folk Club organizers asking what Jeff Warner was like - after they'd booked him. (Good decision, as it turned out). I presume they were contacted by an agent, found out that Warner was playing at a number of other venues who knew what they were doing, and just took a punt on him.

It would probably have been easier to find out what Warner's approach to his material was (hard-core traditionalist with first-rate scholarship) than what it actually sounded like (quiet deadpan humour and terrifically effective playing on many different instruments).


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 11:47 AM

There's nothing wrong with critical theoretical dialogues going on around music, it's just not the way the stuff is heard and especially not in folk clubs.

I've completely lost sight of what you're arguing now.

I don't think anyone's saying that everything's traditional, or that nothing's traditional, or that it's usually impossible to say whether a song is traditional or not. You may or may not know whether a song's traditional the first time you hear it, but you can usually find out one way or the other.

(At this point somebody usually says ah but what about... (what about Dirty Old Town, what about Sally Free and Easy, what about Where Have All the Flowers Gone?...). But that's not really saying that we don't know the definition of 'traditional' - it's saying that the definition we've got ought to be changed.)

We know which songs Hank Williams wrote, and by extension which ones he didn't (all the rest). We know which songs are traditional, and we know which ones aren't. What's 'theoretical' about a club saying "This is a place for traditional songs" - or me saying "I wish my local club was a place for traditional songs"?

As for what folk music is, surely every attempt to define it is just as 'theoretical' as any other - people who say "folk equals traditional" have got one agenda, people who say it doesn't have got another, and both those positions are valid. (One of them's wrong, obviously, but they're both valid.)


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 11:53 AM

Most bookers are bluffing, they go on what the thing sounds like whatever else they might claim.

Bit difficult to argue with you on that one...

A Booker writes: "He's right you know. Got us bang to rights."
[Glueman thinks: Ha! He admits it!]

Another Booker writes: "Not at all! We go on our in-depth knowledge of the genre in all its complete and manifold entiretyty."
[Glueman thinks: Ha! Bluffer!]


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 11:58 AM

Are you sure Glueman thinks, or is he just spreading confusion (or manure) to help the horse definition grow?


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Gedi
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 12:00 PM

"A performer could write a ballad in a traditional mode, invent a provenance and the vast majority of the audience wouldn't know it wasn't original."

That brings to mind the stories (which I believe to be true) about Ewan McColls songs written for the Radio Ballads in the 60's. Apparently several of the songs (eg Shoals of Herring) were claimed by some old folk to have always been in their repertoire, having learned them at an early age. Yet they had only recently been written. The songs must really have struck a chord with these people. Not quite sure what McColl thought but I think he was quietly pleased about it.

Ged


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Gervase
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 12:05 PM

I believe the folk process is basically over, because the oral tradition is basically dead - killed by the ubiquity of broadcast music and recorded music.
Within the wider community perhaps - as you say, Pip, 'folk' is now largely the preserve of hobbyists rather than an integral part of our culture. But within that group of hobbyists the oral tradition is alive and well - hence the looks of surprise when some people learn that songs like 'Bring us a Barrel', 'Fields of Athenry' or 'Only Her Rivers Run Free' were written by real people within the past few decades. Some songsmiths - Keith Marsden and Dave Webber spring to mind - must sometimes have smiled rather ruefully at the way so much of their material has been absorbed so quickly into the 'anon.trad.' sphere through oral transmission.
Somehow, though, I can't see Seth Lakeman's 'The White Hare' being adopted, whatever the Radio 2 judges said!
Sorry, I'll get me coat...


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 12:45 PM

So someone with an actual name who exists within living memory is responsible for the sentimentalised excrescence that is 'The Fields of Athenry'? Jeez...

Nothing to do with definitions of folk (which is largely a game for academics and pseudo-academics and "says nothing to me about my life", to quote a quotable non-folksinger) but is not the test of any song first and foremost whether it moves you, touches you, sends you, with the tedious and thankless task of classification, dessication and pinning onto a board under glass an altogether secondary pleasure? Once taken out of the halls of academia, it not a form of intellectual frottage for the sole satisfaction of those who are not content with pleasuring themselves only with the beauty of the sound in the moment? On some level I'm probably glad that the folk world is awash with self-appointed sorters-outers of the wheat from the chaff (once they've reached agreement on the definitions of what is wheat and what indeed is chaff) but isn't it the musical equivalent of smeary, oversized, sellotaped-up, eighties-style, pale brown tortoiseshell horn-rimmed glasses? The sort that keep slipping endlessly down the wearer's nose? Until a groove is worn?

I suppose defining increasingly makes me lose the will to live. It doesn't increase my listening pleasure or help me decide what I should listen to.

Finally, good to hear from you Glueman. Your pithy and usually spot-on interjections have been missed. Funny how when you like traditional music but you don't subscribe to the theoretical orthodoxy you're suddenly a 'horse whisperer' or whatever the put-down of the moment is...


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 01:21 PM

I believe the folk process is basically over, because the oral tradition is basically dead....

Oral tradtion need not be dead. Take knowledge and experience down in print, audio and video files and send them to your local record office. How many songs, poems and local stories (folk knowledge) learned at a grandparent's knee will be lost if we don't do it now?


see this tread

I think I am on a mission now.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 02:17 PM

is not the test of any song first and foremost whether it moves you, touches you, sends you, with the tedious and thankless task of classification, dessication and pinning onto a board under glass an altogether secondary pleasure?

If you don't want to classify music, don't do it. Beats the hell out of me why anyone should care about definitions they don't care about, if you see what I mean.

Besides, the reason why I do care about definitions is precisely about the pleasure of the music. Traditional music, well performed, blows me away - not invariably, obviously, but much, much more consistently than what I hear from singer-songwriters, even the ones with nice hair. As far as I'm concerned, traditional music is to most 'folk' as the Brandenburg Concertos are to most classical music, or See My Baby Jive is to most pop - it's The Good Stuff. The difference is, there are six Brandenburgs and there's only one See My Baby Jive, but there's more traditional music than I could listen to in the rest of my life. There's a huge stock of this particular Good Stuff, and there's only one set of places where you can get it - events, clubs and venues labelled 'folk'. So it matters enormously whether folk clubs are putting on traditional music or not, precisely because it makes the difference between a pleasant way to pass an evening when there's nothing on telly and an evening that I'll remember for months afterwards.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 02:51 PM

You see, I think there are some excellent traditional songs, some dreadful ones, some quite good ones, some mediocre ones and so on. I just can't get excited about genres as a whole. When I say I like traditional music what I mean is I like more of it than I do of most types of music. And, with respect, there's far far more to music than trad vs singer songwriter and most of my tastes lie outside either camp. Whilst most nights when I listen to traditional music I find plenty to love, I don't find it difficult to imagine a night of turgid songs sung badly. There's plenty of them out there.

On some levels, I do care about definitions but find the realisation that I do strangely depressing.

Never cared too much for Wizard, by the way. More of a Sparks man, meself.

Traditional music, well performed, blows me away

Well, me too. As does Indian classical music, prog rock, post bop, psych rock and lots of other things. Even the odd singer songwriter... (preferably very odd - the sainted Michael Hurley springs to mind).


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 02:53 PM

Holy cow mothers, if 'traditional is to folk', what 'See My Baby Jive is to pop' (i.e. 'the good stuff'), seems like it's not only 'the folk process' that's dead, buried and reduced to irrevocable dust.
RIP music... ;-)


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 03:07 PM

Someone buy that woman a pint for reading my mind! And me a Brummie by birth too (and Roy Wood briefly living on my old street, too)...

Pip - here's a thought: if you're really bad you'll do I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day at the Beech Sinaround next week...


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 03:19 PM

Very kind Spleen Cringe, I'll endeavour to put two penn'orth in more often. What pulls my string most is the rarely stated but dearly held assumption that traditional is somehow 'more' in a way that hints at connoisseurship. It's adherents go to great efforts to say how damned cool they are with stuff in the style of, while not wanting anything to do with current acoustic singer songwriting in a folk stylee themselves. It's their prerogative of course, it just doesn't get them a medal.

Dig a little deeper and you'll mine a seam of prejudice about instrumentation and appearance, approach and sound until you're left with folk being pretty much what they want it to be. It's a self fulfilling thing with very arbitrary boundaries. Because I like traditional doesn't stop me picking at its stitches or trusting my ears instead of notional transmission provenance.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 03:37 PM

there's far far more to music than trad vs singer songwriter

Of course, but neither Faust nor National Health have dropped in on Chorlton lately (and if they did it wouldn't be a quid on the door).

When I say I like traditional music what I mean is I like more of it than I do of most types of music.

Since that's exactly what I said about my own tastes, I'm not sure how to argue with that.

But you're wrong about Wizzard. See My Baby Jive, in particular, demonstrably and objectively is the, oh, second or maybe at a pinch third greatest single ever made.

Glueman: since I write songs myself and even occasionally sing them in front of other people, I'll consider myself excluded from whatever group of people it is that's annoyed you so much. Good - they sound horrible.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 04:29 PM

Wizzard were always horrid!

But there is a value to knowledge. When a gene pool is lost a risk arises. Traditions do indeed have a values as such. They may no longer be applicable, but they should not be forgotten.

The position is somewhat different in the USA. The currently dominant cultures there arose out of a much more recent melting pot than most European cultures, most Indian cultures, most African cultures, most Far Eastern cultures, or most Arabic cultures.

None of which restricts how traditional material SHOULD be performed, but does underly where it comes from. Nor does it I think bar accretion to "folk" material although those accretions may be more modern than traditional.

It MAY influence who best performs a given set of material. The blues (which as a young student, I adored) has been experienced in its state of origin within a couple of generations of most African-Americans. That is not so of most white Americans or Europeans. If we import ourselves into that milieu we are cuckoos or colonists (a case to be made for saying cuckoos since there are so few modern African-American blues players, Guy Davis apart).

If Davy Graham can say, as he did, that he (a man of consummate skill) could study the oud for 10 years and still not grasp the antiphonal nature of the treble/bass question and answer, how close to we lesser mortals have to get to someone else's tradition to become competent in it?

The "own tradition" was one of the better ideas of the critics group.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 04:57 PM

As a modern white British sensibility I don't feel proprietorial towards folk any more than blues or rock or soul, it's equally exotic and distant. That's what makes me appreciate it, not it's immediacy or familiarity. All great music has a direct line to the numinous but the pecking order folk assumes for itself is misplaced.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Gurney
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 02:26 AM

I've been thinking about Cecil Sharp's statement, that a folk song is always anonymous. Probably, in his time, and considering what he was collecting, that would be true. He was collecting from non-professionals, i.e. folk singers!
If his research turned up an author, then he could reclassify it, according to his lights.
And back we go to the unanswerable 'What is a f.....

Aaaagh.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 05:28 AM

"I've been thinking about Cecil Sharp's statement, that a folk song is always anonymous."

In some respects Sharp was a scientist who had a scientific view of his collecting activities. What fascinates me is that he attempted to apply Darwinian evolutionary theory to the study of folk song. But no scientific theory is ever the last word; there are always exceptions and if enough of these build up then the theory has to be modified.

The people who built the 1954 definition realised that the bit about anonymity of composition didn't fit so discarded it - there's no shame in that! The theories of people like Newton, Darwin and Einstien have been modified by those scientists who came after - it's in the nature of scientific theories.

PS: "I like folk music and I like rock music, therefore rock music is a form of folk music" doesn't qualify as a scientific theory!


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: greg stephens
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 05:39 AM

Peoiple often speak in a non-rigorous shorthand: eg "Dutch people are taller than Welsh people" (obviously, you need to add "on average").Sharp's statement on the anonymity of folksong should be viewed in that light. A more appropriate version would be "Folk songs are considered anonymous and common property, by the folk who made and sing them". The point is, people singing the Farmer's Boy have not in general been thinking "This was written by X" Clearly, the status of the Farmer's Boy as a folk song does not really change if diligent academic research turns up a putative composer(though the research may not give an accurate result, anyway). It is just a question of attitude. "Searching for Lambs" is a folksong. "Yesterday" is a Beatles song.Simple.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 06:06 AM

Sharp's "conclusion" is not part of the 1954 definition, even though Karpeles was in a sense one of his apostles.

The 1954 definition does NOT say that in order to be a folk song, a song has to be of no known authorship.

Check this above if you wish.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 06:51 AM

What type of song was "Searching for Lambs" before it became a folksong?


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,Working Radish
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 08:22 AM

Before it became a folk song, it was classified (sorry, Spleen) according to whatever set of categories people were using at the time. It almost certainly wasn't 'folk', for the same reason that it almost certainly wasn't 'pop', 'R&B', 'drum and bass' or 'grindcore'. You could say that a folk song is a song that's survived from a period when it wasn't called folk.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: greg stephens
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 08:25 AM

Sminky: no idea, I wasn't there. Probably some kind of composed pop song, I suppose you might consider it? Anyway, in the fullness of time, as many songs do, it evolved by usage into a folksong.(Obviously, I am using the term folksong in my own way, as we all do. Some other people mean completely different things by the term, and believe a song can be a folksong the second it is composed).


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 08:44 AM

Now I'm getting confused. According to Mr Radish it wasn't a pop song; according to Mr Stephens it was (I thought this was supposed to be simple).

I think we're all agreed that no song can become an 'instant' folksong. So - assuming it goes undergoes the appropriate 'process', what is to prevent "Yesterday" by the Beatles from becoming a folksong?


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: greg stephens
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 09:05 AM

In point of fact, Mr Sminky, I said I had no idea what it was.But you could call it a pop song if you like. Quite irrelevant to anything now, what I call it, or what you call it, or what Radish, or any other vegetable call it. What's in a name? None of us have the slightest idea what various people might have classified the original song as, and while we may guess to our hearts' content, it deosn't really affect the price of swedes. How you pronounce the word potato does not affect the taste of the vegetable.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 09:33 AM

"None of us have the slightest idea what various people might have classified the original song as..."

Greg, I think you've hit the nail on the head with this. I reckon if they'd classified it as anything it would have been a "song" (as opposed to a potato or a truncheon, for example). I'd have thought the very notion of "folk song", is really an artificial construct that can only be applied to songs selectively and retrospectively by an almost mystical process (double reverse osmosis is my best guess) by those with an academic or cultural detatchment from the songs themselves. What gets in and what doesn't is based almost entirely on chance and circumstance (if Cecil Sharp hadn't heard his posh mate's gardener, we wouldn't necessarily have 'Seeds of Love' as one of our folk songs - oversimplification, but d'you get my drift?). When not chance and circumstance there's also a healthy dollop of the collector's prejudices, expectations and own tastes and preferences. The exception to this are people who are traditional singers (i.e. have learned songs aurally from family or community or work-grouping) who have, because of the nature of folk music in the post-folk era, been absorbed into the revival (which is arguably just about all we have left - the inevitable reduction of "folk" to a genre and the consequent impossible onslaught of anally retentive genre politics that goes with this).

Meanwhile, the magicians and alchemists of the 1954 conclave may have been a few things, but I doubt they were scientists.

Those who disagree with me are more than welcome to classify this post as a work of fiction. They may be right. I prefer to inhabit the grey areas...


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,Working Radish
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 11:29 AM

assuming it goes undergoes the appropriate 'process', what is to prevent "Yesterday" by the Beatles from becoming a folksong?

Absolutely nothing. If all the radios, TVs, turntables, CD players and iPods in the world stopped working tomorrow, 40 years from now we'd have a fine crop of new folk songs, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Yesterday was one of them. But that's the only way it - or any other song - is going to undergo the appropriate process now.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 11:53 AM

I'd like to ask, what posters think of Virginia Tams suggestion that we may still need to be gathering 'traditional' songs from those who know them.

Supposing I met some elderly lady who sang me a couple of songs she's known from childhood, which had not already been collected to anyone elses's knowledge. And suppose she could tell me the name of the Great Uncle who sang them to her, and who she believes composed them.

Would they not count as 'folk songs' because the cut-off date for that term's applicability has been established at year X?

So does the folk process necessarily have to be dead, or has it been laid to rest prematurely and is there a case for the folk community keeping it alive?

I'm just following on from some of the thoughts that VTam has made on the 'records archive' thread, and thought here was the place to ask.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 12:03 PM

"Ow 'do, Jethro!"

"Ow 'do Garge!"

Oi loiked that song you sung at the 'Arvest 'Ome larst noight; 'ju roihgt it?

"Yes oi did, Jethro, but keep yer voice down!"

"Whoi?"

"'Corse I dun't want nobody to know that oi wrote it - oi wants it to be herrnonymus loike."

"Whoi'je yer want it to be herrnonymous?"

"So people in the future 'ull classifoi it as a folk song."

"Roight! Got yer! Mum's the word. Oi dun't know nuthing."


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 12:03 PM

Barring some global catastrophe that destroys every type of recording/playback device (and leaving only myself and handful of other survivors), that is the end of the folk process as we know it. (Rosie - Latin, Manx and Cornish are dead languages - even though some people still speak them).

This leaves us with a stark choice:

1) We compose some kind of statement for future generations explaining why, after centuries of glorious outpouring, no folk songs were created in the 21st century, or

2) We rethink what relevance the 'folk process' has today.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 12:04 PM

DeG - don't give up your day job.

If only I had one, Richard! If only...

And what's wrong with Wizzard. How can anyone dislike Roy Wood looking like a pixie? :-)

Just reading thhough and the mention of Christmas songs set me wondering if some of our treaditions will be passed on. It HAS to be orally as no one is daft enough to write these things down! Every Christmas I am forced to sing my Christmas Shanty which may be familiar to you as New York Girls. The chorus is changed to

"Away you Santa..."

You couldn't make it up could you:-)

Cheers

DeG


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 12:20 PM

Re Rosie's post above: I think the only way this would happen would be if the old dear in question didn't label them as folk songs - just as old family songs, for example. If she consciously considered them to be folk songs, then the whole experience would have surely been tainted by the archly artificial intrusion that is defined folk. Without wanting to romantically pine for proof of continued existence in 21st Century Britain of a whole caste of naifs, and taking Pip's point about the role of mass technology in seeing off the oral tradition (c/f Jim Carroll's anecdote about the role of TV in finishing off the oral tradition in traveller communities), the conditions in which the old dear lived would have had to be pretty remarkable. It you find her, buy her a pint from me!

Of course, there'd be no guarantee that her 17 year old grandkid with a brand new elecrtic guitar hadn't just written a far superior set of songs - its just that we wouldn't be scratching our heads as to whether to call them folk.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: greg stephens
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 12:43 PM

The folk process is alive and well, though not necessarily producing songs with the incomparable beauty of Searching for Lambs. Go and watch a football match and listen to the crowd.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 12:59 PM

The folk process is alive and well

It's alive in a few, relatively isolated pockets (do kids still sing in playgrounds?), but I wouldn't say it's well.

Rosie - if something appears to be a song that's been preserved through oral transmission, I'd say it's a folk song. As Spleen says, the likelihood of collecting any more folk songs must be pretty slim, but I don't think it's impossible by definition.

Sminky - We compose some kind of statement for future generations explaining why, after centuries of glorious outpouring, no folk songs were created in the 21st century

I already have. (So has Jim Carroll.) The spread of recorded and broadcast entertainment eroded folk song, and the current more-or-less ubiquity of recorded and broadcast entertainment has more or less killed it. It's not a statement about human nature or anything, just historical change.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 03:22 PM

"See My Baby Jive, in particular, demonstrably and objectively is the, oh, second or maybe at a pinch third greatest single ever made."

:0 I think Pip hasn't heard enough pop! :0

:)


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 03:26 PM

Nope, SMBJ it is, a nose ahead of Public Image but trailing behind Strawberry Fields Forever and (sorry to be predictable) Good Vibrations.

Anyway, surely it should be How traditional mote it be?


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 03:55 PM

Well I did not know what people were talking about with Wizzard and See My Baby Jive, so I thought I would google it. Found youtube video. It was dire... I think my ears are bleeding.

Let us not come down too hard on recording and broadcast entertainment industries. Though they have homogenised folk music they have also preserved some of it. They could be the way to reviving what is fading away.
BBC frequents the Essex Records Office to research all kinds of material. Some of what they research may lead them using to local folk traditions in a project.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 04:56 PM

I dunno - does tin bleed?

Seriously, if you can name a pop single better than the three I've listed above I'll be glad to hear it.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 05:03 PM

maybe I do have a tin ear when it comes to pop! or should I say poop!


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 05:07 PM

sorry that was childish.... please consider it retracted.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 06:04 PM

The tin ear likewise - I'm sure you haven't.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 06:51 PM

Pip said "I believe the folk process is basically over, because the oral tradition is basically dead - killed by the ubiquity of broadcast music and recorded music."

Recordings have not killed the folk process. It can be seen at work in the folk clubs. My namesake Richard Bridge has just admitted to perpetrating it, and I've heard others: e.g. in The Weary Whaling Grounds "the flying jib points home" has been turned into "our fine ship points for home" -- not only a mondegreen but inconsistent with the rest of the song. In The Galway Shawl I've heard "We kept on walking, SHE kept on talking", giving a whole new subtext to the song: the girl was a chatterbox, perhaps better left behind and remembered than she would have been as a wife. The subtle detail in successive verses of McColl's "Schooldays are over" (is that the right title?) -- John is a "pitman", Dai is a "miner", and Jim is a collier, respectively suggesting the North-East, Wales and Scotland -- gets lost in a random interchange of these terms.

But to return to the original subject of this thread, there's one aspect that I haven't seen mentioned yet.

As well as the question whether a change to traditional material is for the better or the worse, which is certainly a subjective judgement, there's also whether it is true to the tradition and to the original material. That is also to some extent a subjective judgement, but not totally. Some collected tradition bearers either weren't very good singers or were long past their prime when recorded. Singing their songs in tune and putting pauses for breath at appropriate points in the text, rather than when one's breath happens to run out, makes an aesthetic improvement without violating any spirit of the original. Adding an accompaniment may or may not be an improvement, depending on taste; but adding a rumpty-tumpty jolly accompaniment to a song of tragedy (such as The Jam of Gerry's Rocks, which I recently heard treated thus) implies a serious disregard for the essence of the song.

Richard


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 07:59 PM

Pip - loads of 'em........but actually it's subjective, isn't it?


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 04:15 AM

Sue - yes, of course; actually that's why I originally nominated SMBJ rather than one of the really obvious choices (like, er, Strawberry Fields Forever or Good Vibrations). Still, that to me is so much the essence of a great pop song that I'm really curious to know what people who slate it would put in its place. Maybe I'll start a BS thread.

Richard - yes, the folk process is still going in a few isolated pockets, but as far as 99% of society is concerned it's gone. Apart from anything else, as folkies we're specialists - it's a bit like saying that people never stopped wearing flares and big collars, because you can see people wearing them at a Seventies Night.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 05:13 AM

if you can name a pop single better than the three I've listed above I'll be glad to hear it.

Here's three to be going on with:

1973 - A Defining Moment in Musical History

1975 - The Best Pop Single of All Time

1985 - Conclusive Proof that God Exists

And, of course...

1978 - For Those Who've Never Heard It (I bet there's a few here anyway...)

But Folk music? God forbid!


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 05:16 AM

Pip,

The trouble is that pop songs are mainly concocted for teenagers and I suspect that most people would choose something that was current when they were young. For example, I like 'The Girl from Ipanema' and 'Penny Lane' - but rather than saying anything about the quality of those particular songs those choices probably say much more about my age!


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Terry McDonald
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 06:01 AM

I was thinking about this thread at Wimborne Folk Club last night because someone sang Eric Bogle's 'Somewhere in America.' It's a song that I also sing, but 'my' version has a chorus, and I accompany myself on guitar. The version sung last night had no chorus, was unaccompanied, the melody was (in places) different to the one I sing, and occasionally the words were slightly different.

Now, I've never heard Eric Bogle's version - I learned it from the singing of the Ennis Sisters of St John's, Newfoundland and have probably altered it slightly. I don't know where the other singer learned his version but it would seem to me that this is an example of a recently composed song, by a well known writer, that is undergoing some sort of 'folk process.' My version is on MySpace (www.myspace.com/terrymcdonalddorset) and will be the opening track of my (vanity published) CD. The 'other' singer is also recording a CD at the moment, albeit as part of a duo, but I don't know whether 'Somewhere in America' will be on it. If it was, we'd have two similar, rather than identical, songs.

I can, if pushed, think of a couple of other examples where this is happening - Darcy Farrow for starters. Again, I've never heard it by its writers, and I've never heard the John Denver version. I learned it from other singers at Wimborne and I sing slightly different words to them. (My knowledge of the geography of California/Nevada is better than theirs....).

So, I would go along with Richard Mellish argue that despite the impact of recordings etc, songs are still being absorbed into some sort of folk tradition and will continue to do so.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 06:31 AM

Some time in the early 60s, someone asked Dylan at a press conference how many protest singers there were. He looked fazed for a moment - How many? - then said, with complete confidence, A hundred and twenty.

How many folkies are there in the world? 120,000? Maybe - probably not many more than that. What proportion of the population of England are folkies - one in a thousand? Yes, oral transmission is still going on, and songs are still developing and changing, within a small network of hobbyists. I don't think that's anything to be ashamed of - if anything it's something to be proud of - but it's light-years away from the conditions that produced and preserved the traditional repertoire.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 07:03 AM

IB - hmmm. I'll pass over 1985.

One of the alternative Youtubes of your 1978 is titled "THE BEST BASSLINE EVER". I'd go along with that, although this is close.

1973 - yeah, I guess, although I was sold in 1972. And I'll see your 1975 and raise you 1990. (Unfortunately they've cut off the octave jump on the last chorus, which is one of the best bits.)

Now I really must get back to work...


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Banjiman
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 07:32 AM

Wedding Present....very cool. But you want the best pop song ever?

I'm with John Peel........Pop as it should be!

Paul


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Banjiman
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 07:36 AM

But it is a toss up with this one . Good year 1978!


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 09:28 AM

Yes, yes & yes...

But, getting back to pop fundamentals - You've Either Got It Or You Ain't (music starts at 1.19!)

And Peel favs - The Official Video

And... The Perfect Folk


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 09:32 AM

Oi Banjiman! Good shout, both of 'em. I'll raise you this little beauty, though: Godlike Genius


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 09:34 AM

One for you, IB:

Contender for the best pop song ever


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 09:48 AM

Thanks for Poptones Pip Radish.

Excellent thread derail too...

Greatest pop songs maybe not, but simply favorite songs:

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=gHYj2HVyMuU

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=p2jyzIrzs5Y

Just beautiful:
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=pYgdQS_jPcc

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=x2KRpRMSu4g

I wear lace and I wear black leather:
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=4mtfJjAR_1M&feature=related

All from my parents old LP's...


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 09:52 AM

My first ever TOTP moment of epiphany


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 10:56 AM

Godlike genius, eh? ("Mama, can you hear me yell? Your baby boy's gone back to hell!")

As for Sparks, I remember that vividly - I was particularly fascinated by the question of whether the singer was a man or a woman. That's proper androgynous.

Rosie - blimey; I never thought I'd hear that Bowie song again. I've actually got it paused now while I check whether I still know all the lyrics (used to be a regular when I was walking the dog on the downs, some ridiculous number of years ago)...

...naah. I'm all right from "It's the madness in his eyes" to the end (although I'd have to check I can still get the high notes), but the second verse is a bit fuzzy. OK, Dave, hit it...

Coo. Actually the version I knew is this one (only without quite so many scratches!) Is that good or what?


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Banjiman
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 10:59 AM

ah Spleeny, yes The Clash, fantastic!....... but does this song fit the academic definition of "Pop"? I'm not sure it does, however great it is.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 11:03 AM

Pip - a truly magic moment. Thank you!


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 11:26 AM

Banjiman - it depends if you subscribe to the 1977 definition or not...


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 03:03 PM

Is this considered pop?


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 03:15 PM

Cheers, Spleen!

I posted a Clash link on the London's Burning

My favourite pop song of all time:

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=zf_TFi0WIGQ&feature=related


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Tootler
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 07:00 PM

The late great one

And a couple of favourites.

A fine live version

And then there's this


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 30 Nov 08 - 10:21 AM

Apropos of nothing much, this was 1979 for me (NB visuals don't accurately represent musicians). That or, slightly more cheerfully, this (NB visuals garish and peculiar).


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 30 Nov 08 - 07:23 PM

Responding to a couple of Pip's comments:

Yes I agree that the folk process is going on only among a fairly small community -- but I strongly suspect that the people who remember songs (especially songs from past centuries) sufficiently to sing them in more or less their entirety, and who change them consciously or unconsciously, have ALWAYS been a small proportion of the population.

When the collectors went out around a hundred years ago, they found very few singers, and thought those were the last survivors of a much greater number in the past, but I know of no evidence that the number actually had ever been much greater than it was then, or is now.

Richard


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 01 Dec 08 - 03:53 AM

I know of no evidence that the number actually had ever been much greater than it was then, or is now.

'Source singers' as we know them now - people who know dozens of songs by heart - maybe not. But there very definitely were more singers, because that was the only way the songs could live - by being sung. A single can sell tens of thousands of copies without anyone singing the song. If a broadside ballad sells tens of thousands of copies (and some of them did), tens of thousands of people were singing that song.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Tootler
Date: 01 Dec 08 - 06:04 PM

My grandmother used to sing as she did her housework as did my mother for many years, though she stopped eventually - why, I don't know, but she did. I once commented to my mother on my grandmother's ability to pick a song that suited something you said to her and she told me that my great grandmother (who I can just remember) was even better at it because she had a larger repertoire. In one sense, none of these women were exceptional and, I suspect were not unusual. While you cannot say that statistically these three people form a significant sample, it may be that they were indicative of more people singing just for the simple pleasure of singing and because it was a good way to make mundane tasks bearable, especially as in their early years there would have been no radio or recordings to listen to.


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: trevek
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 06:46 AM

I was once involved in a theatre project based around the Kalevala, which, as many will know, is a Finnish epic written by Elias Lonnrot (sp)but based on lyrics of runesongs which he collected "from source".

When challenged about his right to deviate from the original lyrics Lonnrot (who never hid the fact that he adapted, and made the originals available to all)commented that the singers themselves adapted lyrics and as he knew had learned these songs from the singers he felt he was simply one of them doing what they did.

When we premiered the work a translator of Kalevala gave a short speech and commented that "When an oral tradition is written down the tradition stops". Now, I disagreed with him, I felt the tradition merely took a different route (shown by the fact there are numerous interpretations, musically, literary and theatrically of Kalevala material).

Terry McDonald's post above made me think about this, as he mentions Eric Bogle.

Let's consider Bogle's "The Bands Played Waltzing Matilda". Obviosly it is a modern composition and is able to be sourced to EB. However, it is a folk-club standard.

Like many people, I first heard the song as performed by the Fureys. I learned the song from a record. Later, when I got the dots to their version, I found that they had learned it from the singing of someone else. Only when I found the dots to the Bogle version did I realise how different the lyrics are. Since then my singing has been based around the Bogle version.

How many of us have been accosted by someone who tells us that we weren't singing the right words because we didn't sing the Furey's version.

What has this to do with tradition? Well, the way I see it is that with so many people knowing the Furey's lyrically different version, am I going against the tradition of transmission by trying to return to the original (superior!) lyrics as learned from a book, rather than aural transmission?

I don't think so, because surely written music is now so established as a tradition in its own right that I'm simply choosing my path.

This brings me to the question of 'anonymity'.
A quick look at Youtube will be revealing in this case. It is amazing how much mis-information is floating around about this song.

There are those who believe that the song was written by a dying soldier, or at least someone who fought in Gallipolli. Others believe it is actually about a specific soldier in an Irish regiment (Enniskillens, I believe)and is an Irish song (apparently this comes froma researcher actually checking to see if there really was a Pvt William McBride who died in 1916 at the age of 19, although Bogle says he just made the details up).

So, the song, despite being modern, creditted to a songwriter, written down, electronically transmitted etc has become (in some cases) anonymous, subject to variation and even mythologised.

Isn't this either becoming a 'traditional' song or alrady one?


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Subject: RE: How traditional should it be?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 07:00 AM

Tootler, yeah, definitely a sharp generational difference in my own experience of people spontaniously singing - both to amuse themselves and to participate in family do's. There's also a cultural difference in my own experience (Irish still plenty singing & dancing with younger folk/English much much less of same with younger generations). But as to the generational difference in particular, my Grandmothers would sing all the time while cooking, cleaning and ironing. But apart from me, I don't hear that happening at all now, in the homes I visit. The vast increase in electrickery powered domestic entertainments/distractions (like stereo's, phones, PC, internet and especially of course daytime telly), must have everything to do with it IMO.


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