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What makes it a Folk Song?

Related threads:
Popfolk? (19)
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Subject: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 12:18 PM

What makes it a Folk Song?

Age, provenance, endurability, popularity?

As I may?fve stated in other threads, in my own opinion, a folk song is any song most ordinary people know & can join in with.

Some?fve these may be considered by some to be ?epop?f rather than folk

But for me, when singing so called ?efolk songs?f in public, scarcely anyone knows ?eem, but when I do stuff from the Eagles, Beatles, Stones, BeeGees, Drifters etc, everybody knows ?eem.

Lately a song, which has become popular round my way, is ?eBaby can I hold you?f [Tracy Chapman]

Ms. Chapman is designated as ?econtemporary folk?f, so does this mean all her popular compositions are ?efolk songs?f?

And continuing in the same vein, rock, blues, jazz etc songs and classical tunes in ?etuney?f sessions [Carolan etc] are all popular in ?efolk?f events, but are they folk or not?

Up to you?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Sooz
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 12:24 PM

Not necessariy that much to do with the song but rather the interpretation.
Thinking of Dave Burland's version of I don't like Mondays as a good example


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 12:50 PM

Meeting the 1954 definition. It is the only correct test.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 01:00 PM

I made the mistake of posing that query to an older singer circa 1958. His answer? "It's whatever I bloody well say it is!" I have a feeling there are as many definitions as singers, though the 1954 version should offer arbitrary relief.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 01:09 PM

"It's whatever I bloody well say it is!"
now this works for me.
if my performing went according the "1954 definition" the I've never played a "folk song" in my life. ooops! *LOL*
Anyway I plugged in along time ago, and 1954 be damned!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Auldtimer
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 01:12 PM

Interpretation and intention. Two singers can perform the same song one can be folk and the other not. Even when the song is generaly though as being a folk song, even when the singer is/is not thought of as Folk. I despair at so much of what is being recorded and promoted as folk music, a CD containing a selection from the book of Forty-Fabulous-F'ing-Folk-Faviourites, does not make it a folk album.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 01:50 PM

Some songs are promoted commercially so well that everyone knows them. They are not
really folk songs because they are manufactured for the market. That doesn't mean they're not good, it just means that they are intended differently.

A folk song reflects the tradition of a specific community that is not part of the commercial music industry. It is generated from families in a specific (usually isolated) locale and
many of the voices are not trained but retain the musical nuances of the folk style they represent ie: Southern US mountain, field hollers, rural blues, Southern chain gang,
early spirituals, certain songs from Ireland, and the other British Isles, (not usually done by professional entertainers or performers), the same applies to all over the world.

As they say in politics, follow the money. In folk music, follow the tradition.

Frank


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 02:30 PM

Oh blister it. I cannot abide wilful stupidity. Not reading this thread again.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 02:38 PM

I suppose it's only "wilful stupidity" if you ignore the so-called 1954 definition of what is a "folk" song.1954 was 1954, we're now in 2009.
From what I understand this arguement has raged before, it wasn't settled then, and it's unlikely it'll be settled now.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 02:58 PM

"I suppose it's only "wilful stupidity" if you ignore the so-called 1954 definition of what is a "folk" song.1954 was 1954, we're now in 2009."

It occurs to me that the word 'book' means the same today, in 2009, as it did in 1954 - or do we have to re-define every word in the dictionary because most of them were coined in the past? How old does a word or term have to be for it to become out-dated?

Just because 'now', in 2009, you happen to like rock or pop music, 'Rifleman' (and are probably not very keen on folk songs) doesn't automatically turn the music that you like into 'folk music'.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: TheSnail
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 03:06 PM

GUEST,Shimrod

It occurs to me that the word 'book' means the same today, in 2009, as it did in 1954

Wow! I didn't realise the 1954 committee defined the meaning of 'book' as well.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 03:15 PM

STRIPED SHIRTS------3 of 'em usually---on guys. 3 chords only.

And updated lyrics because nobody wants to hear the real stuff anymore.

;-)

;-(

Art


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 03:36 PM

"What makes it a Folk Song?"
A process called 'The Folk Process' - easy as that.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 03:58 PM

As Les Barker perceptively pointed out "It is impossible to experience Deja Vu for the first time"...


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Bill D
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 04:02 PM

If it is old, and hasn't been all folked up, it qualifies.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 04:10 PM

I didnt get involved in Folk Song till 1964 - Could someone please tell exactly what IS the 1954 definition ??
In Search there are Lord Knows how many posts , but all the ones I have looked at merely refer to '!954' !


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: John P
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 04:18 PM

I'm with Jim Carroll on this one.

I don't much care about the instruments being used, the venue, or the mode of delivery. If it comes from the folk process, it's a folk song. Steeleye Span rocking out on a folk song is still doing a folk song. Tracy Chapman singing a self-composed song -- even if the only accompaniment is acoustic -- is still singing a pop song.

There are big differences musically and lyrically, and they are (to me at least) very obvious. "Folk song" and "contemporary acoustic music" are very different genres.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Alec
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 04:37 PM

I'm not familiar with the 1954 definition either but, though perhaps not ideal, the Folkfile entry reads as follows:" folksong, definition few subjects can cause such hot debate among folkies. Everyone knows what a folk song should *sound* like, and what one *shouldn't* sound like, but a firm definition eludes all.

There is a tired and unhelpful homily attributed to both Louis Armstrong and Broonzy, Bill, along the lines that all music is folk music, since horses don't make it. T'ain't so. There *is* such a thing as a folk song. Pinning down the characteristics is the difficulty.

The favorite characteristic would be a song that has filtered through a certain amount of oral tradition and folk process. This shows us what it's made of, as opposed to a modern flash-in-the-pan (as Michael Cooney once wrote, "if some of these [contemporary] songs were to go through the folk process, nothing would come out"). Yet there are many excellent songwriters who can compose in the traditional vein and make you swear that a song composed yesterday is centuries old. Also, we can't dismiss a song simply because it was released on record and simply faded away - this happened to many of the old broadside ballads, but they were revived by collectors to join the folk tradition.

There are certain characteristics, called markers, that define the type of song and let the audience relate it to it (and each other). Many of these are archaic expressions, locales, customs, etc., but their presence is no guarantee of anything. Skilled songwriters who write in the older styles can often fool anyone.

Some feel that the song should be anonymous. Other than the fact that this indicates the song has been in circulation long enough for people to have forgotten the author's name, it isn't really important. "My Grandfather's Clock" would pass inspection as a folk song, but it was written by Work, Henry Clay - the authorship makes no difference at all. The same could be said for many of the songs by Paxton, Tom or Foster, Stephen.

The basic problem is that people want a simple, concise definition for an enormously complicated subject. Not only are there centuries of different types of music packed into folk, but it's an ongoing, living tradition that changes all the time. See moldy figs for a relevant quote from Bronson, Bertrand. Much related information is available in the book "The Study of Folk Music in the Modern World", by Philip V. Bohlman, Indiana University Press, 1988. No Golden Rule emerges, but it does put things concisely into perspective.

Various writers have taken a stab at the definition. Here are the characteristics of folksong listed by "Introducing American Folk Music" (see books). Proving or disproving them is left as an exercise for the reader:

    1. Music that varies over distance but not time.
    2. Music from a specific, identifiable community.
    3. Authorship is generally unknown.
    4. Folksongs are generally passed along by word of mouth.
    5. Folksongs are most often performed by non-professionals.
    6. Short forms and predictable patterns are fundamental.

There may not be an answer. Let it be." I wouldn't treat this as "Holy Writ" but it at least describes the terrain.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 06:01 PM

Been here many times before and I'm bloody-well bored with the usual run of arguments, many of which are little more that whining.

I believe Alec has pretty well summed it up just above.

I find that those who insist that a folk song is any song they say it is either want to stamp themselves?or the songs they have just written?or certain songs they want to sing?with an imprimatur of tradition, longevity, and quality that they haven't earned yet.

Flopping down on the floor, kicking your heels, and screaming in a loud voice that a particular song is a folk song does not make it so.

I'm outta here. Thank you very much.

(Who was that masked man, anyway?)

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Joybell
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 06:03 PM

Alec's 1-6 definitions work well. To put it even more simply:

A folk song is a song that comes out of a folk community.

Today the term has become meaningless. So has the term "folk" in relation to music. It hasn't in the case of "folk art". "Folk dance" still has the old meaning. "Folk culture" still works pretty well. "Folk community" -- that still works except in the case of music.

You only need to take a look at a program from a "Folk Festival" here in Australia to see just how meaningless the term "Folk Music" has become.
Cheers from Joy -- a singer-of-old-very-old-and-extremely-old songs.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Gurney
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:18 AM

Folksingers make a folksong. Not necessarily write it. Make it.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:25 AM

5. Folksongs are most often performed by non-professionals.
Hmmmm I like that one


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 04:17 AM

This is the 1954 definition as adopted by the International Folk Music Council.
It has nothing to do with personal preferences or tastes, nor how successful or otherwise your club is.
It's what I signed up for when I enlisted back in the early sixties and it has never been replaced by anything resembling a workable alternative (unless you count arm-flapping and "I don't know what folk music is so I won't bother defining it").
It's what you'll find thousands of examples of in folk songs collections, from 'Folk Songs of The Upper Thames, right through to 'The Penguin Book of English/American/Australian/Canadian Folk Songs' and what has been defined, analysed, discussed and reconfirmed at great length and in minute detail in Lloy'ds, 'Folk Song in England', Buchan's 'The Ballad and The Folk', Bartok's 'The Hungarian Folk Song'......... and many other academic and introductory descriptive works.
It is by no means a perfect definition, and might well need adapting, and even re-defining, but until somebody does, it's the one were stuck with.
Jim Carroll
"Folk music is the product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission. The factors that shape the tradition are:
    (i) continuity which links the present with the past;
    (ii) variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group;
    (iii) selection by the community, which determines the form or forms in which the music survives.
The term can be applied to music that has been evolved from rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by popular and art music and it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community.
The term does not cover composed popular music that has been taken over ready-made by a community and remains unchanged, for it is the re-fashioning and re-creation of the music by the community that gives it its folk character."


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 04:24 AM

So apart from the arbitrary '1954' thing, no one really knows?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 04:40 AM

By that reasoning, isn't every definition 'arbitrary'?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 04:58 AM

The "1954" definition is not arbitrary - it encapsulates what a lot of people are interested in (for listening to, performing or reading about), and THAT, ultimately, is what you want from such a definition.

I'll give pretty much anybody a listen if they're doing Scottish or related traditional material, and have a look at pretty much any traditional song I find transcribed in a book. Stuff in the Dylanoid idiom is irrelevant to me, leaves me totally cold, and my only interest in it is how to avoid having it inflicted on me. So I support any effort to give *that* an acccurate label too.

But in practice "folk" is now a useless term - you have to look at the details, like the tradition a peeformer saya they come from. Whatever they describe themselves as, if they say their major influence is Jeannie Robertson I know I'll probably like them and if it's Richard Thompson I'll be bored out of my skull.

"Traditional" still has some life left in it.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 04:59 AM

"Wow! I didn't realise the 1954 committee defined the meaning of 'book' as well."

You know what they say about sarcasm, Snail?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 05:10 AM

Jim,

Due to the 'quick off the button phenomenon', your post preceded mine above, so mine looks daft - it wasn't intended that way


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Will Fly, on the hoof
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 05:15 AM

Whatever they describe themselves as, if they say their major influence is Jeannie Robertson I know I'll probably like them and if it's Richard Thompson I'll be bored out of my skull.

What a sad statement - to have what appears to be a blanket like of one musical genre and a blanket dislike of another. Naturally we all have our likes and dislikes - and we're entitled to them - but I would never totally laud or totally condemn one form of music because I "probably" would or wouldn't like them. I'm not, on the whole, particularly enamoured of rap, hip-hop or grunge (for example), but I have heard things in those genres which have caught my interest or touched a nerve. Jeannie Robertson's work is excellent - and I can't hear Richard and Linda Thompson's "Dimming Of The Day" without profound emotion. Equally, there are some performances of Jeannie Robertson and Richard Thompson I don't care for - but to praise or damn out of hand doesn't make sense to me.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 05:16 AM

Jim,


Also, thanks for the '1954' thing in full

Best to have that clarity, even if imperfect as you allude, than vague references to something unknown by most respondents, inc me.

Cheers


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 06:25 AM

"Due to the 'quick off the button phenomenon', your post preceded mine above, so mine looks daft - it wasn't intended that way"
Never thought for a minute that it was.
"Also, thanks for the '1954' thing in full"
You're welcome.
'Blanket likes and dislikes'
The sooner we learn to seperate likes and dislikes fom definition, the sooner we start having intelligent discusions on this (or any) subject.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 06:52 AM

A Folk Song can be any song sung in a Folk Context, by which I mean a Folk Club, Singaround, Folk Festival, Folk Concert, Folk Party, Ceilidh, Morris Moot, Folk Custom, or any otherwise denominated Folk Event. Such a song need not exclusively be a Folk Song - at other times, and in other contexts, the same song might be something else entirely, a Pop Song for example, or yet a Jazz Standard, or even an Operatic Aria. All of these I have heard sung in Folk Contexts and have, by dint of that context, accepted them as being Folk Songs. So what makes it a Folk Song is the context in which it is being sung.

*

As for the 1954 definition:

Folk music is the product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission.

No musical tradition has ever evolved without the process of oral transmission.

The factors that shape the tradition are: (i) continuity which links the present with the past; (ii) variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group; and (iii) selection by the community, which determines the form or forms in which the music survives.

All musical traditions are thus shaped - from Hip-Hop to Free Jazz, from Karaoke to Gamelan, from Drum & Bass to Dub Reggae, from Elvis Impersonators to Crusty Didgeridoo Players, from Trad Jazzers to George Formby Enthusiasts, from Neo-Medievalists to Death Metal Headbangers. This is the very nature of musical tradition, simply to be utterly dependent on the people playing it, who, in being fully conversant with the past are nevertheless re-determining it for both themselves and thus assuring its future survival.   

The term can be applied to music that has been evolved from rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by popular and art music and it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community.

All music has evolved from rudimentary beginnings and I very much doubt there has ever been any such an uninfluenced community except in the twisted fantasies of academics who postulate such bullshit. Otherwise - all music has thus originated and been absorbed and transformed. In the composing of a Pop Song, for example - an idea becomes a composition, which is then further interpreted by a community of arrangers, session players, engineers and producers ever before the finished product hits the shelves. There we have The Folk Process in a nutshell. Was anything ever unwritten? Hell, even The Copper Family sing from a fecking book!   

The term does not cover composed popular music that has been taken over ready-made by a community and remains unchanged, for it is the re-fashioning and re-creation of the music by the community that gives it its folk character.

No music ever remains unchanged, however so conveniently one might qualify the word change; each performance is a renewal within the expectations of its community which are further transfigured by its corporeal & empirical experience. A performance of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas in 2009 will be, out of necessity, very different from a performance of Dido & Aeneas within the same community from 40 years earlier. Ditto a rock band comprised of variously talented 14-year-olds going over Eleanor Rigby in a garage are re-fashioning a music, re-creating it, and giving it its folk-character. Likewise, a Folk Singer adapting Eleanor Rigby to their own needs and abilities for performance at his local Folk Club is effecting a transformation over a given piece of music, thus giving it its Folk Character.   A Karaoke singer singing Eleanor Rigby is doing exactly that too, likewise the worker who whistles the melody of Eleanor Rigby as they go cheerfully about their daily business, or else the schoolboy singing Eleanor Rigby as he walks to school.

So is there much of a difference between the 1954 and Horse definition after all?

As for what makes a Traditional Song, the lines are clearer with respect of a canon of a material collected, recorded, catalogued, cut and dried, sourced and analysed, numbered, indexed, with occasions, performers and variations duly noted. Sometimes Traditional Songs might be sung as Folk Songs, other times they might be sung as Classical Songs, or as Rock Songs, or Wyrd-Folk Songs, or Jazz Songs, or Pop Songs - I often sing them in the context of Free Improvisation (check out Wife of Usher's Well on my Myspace Page). Anything is possible with Traditional Song - but the song, essentially, remains the same. That said, even I get irked when I hear Child #10 sung to the melody of Child #1, but there are times I might sing it with no melody at all...


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 06:57 AM

It's more honest to admit that likes and dislikes are the main point of a definition. If the definition doesn't do anything to tell you whether you'll be interested in what it defines, why have it?

The main thing the "folk" label has done, for me, is to make me totally ignore the bins labelled as "Folk" in record shops. I'm sure there's plenty I'd be interested in somewhere in there, but mixed up with so much I don't care about that I just don't have *time* to wade through the whole lot alphabetically. If there's a "Scottish" or "World" section I'll look there instead.

Jim, I get the impression that you want a specific definition of "folk" to be understood. What do you then want the general public to DO with that definition? How would the world change?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 07:29 AM

It strikes me that language being what it is, the term 'folk song' irrespective of it's 1954 definition, has well and truly evolved in contemporary understanding into something far broader and more inclusive.

And now that it is so completely owned by a more popular understanding, there seems IMO little point in attempting to reclaim it, or preserve whatever integrity it may (?) have once possessed.

If academics want a term that isn't open for evolved reabsorption into the language, probably better to utilise a far less ambienced word than 'folk' for starters, preferably one with lots of unfriendly syllables, and a very stingy amount of entries in the dictionary... ;-)


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: TheSnail
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 07:39 AM

GUEST,Shimrod

It occurs to me that the word 'book' means the same today, in 2009, as it did in 1954 - or do we have to re-define every word in the dictionary because most of them were coined in the past? How old does a word or term have to be for it to become out-dated?

I was under the impression that dictionaries derived their definitions from the spoken language not the other way round and, yes, dictionaries are updated as usage changes. I don't think there are any other words in general use apart from "folk" that have had their meaning defined by a committee.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 07:41 AM

Jim - Thankls for the '1954 Definition' ! At least I now know what people are talking about when it is mentioned !

It works for me , as far as Traditional Song is concerned , but there are a lot of contemporary songs that I feel fit under the Umberella of "Folk" , some of which I like , and some I DONT like .

In the same way , as an Ex Jazz player , there are Jazz styles I enjoy , and there are other Jazz styles that leave me cold ! but they are ALL Jazz , arent they ?

'Folk' has in fact become an Umberella Label that covers a VERY Wide variety of music , which now HAS to include Music Hall , Blues , Old Timey , and Singer/Songwriter in all THAT Genres various forms .

Gets complicated , doesent it >???


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 08:25 AM

Gets complicated , doesent it >???

Au contraire - I'd say it say it was simplicity itself; just sit back and savour. If you don't like it, go to the bar.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 08:35 AM

I note another thread on which chatter is taboo, is entitled, 'Feral Folk'. Now whether that's a freshly coined term or been with us since ye fifties, I could rather take to it... It smells of beer and muddy fields, which is pretty much as good as life gets in my ferally inclined opinion.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 09:33 AM

Feral folk is the stuff I like, especially as it lacks a definition. I suspect any music played in a 'folk club' is by definition not folk because 'club' however you define it is the antithesis to the folk experience.
Indeed one might say folk clubs nearly killed folk music. Fortunately the music defies institutional ghettos and worthy taxonomy.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 09:41 AM

It smells of beer and muddy fields, which is pretty much as good as life gets in my ferally inclined opinion.

I used to use the term Feral Folk to describe to sort of stuff we were doing out and about in the rare owld times when I was more inclined to get out and about and do such things than I am now. Feral Folk was wild, of the earth; it was ceremony and ritual; it was tied directly into seasons and the land; it was wild, licentious, and fraught with dangers. Sadly, in the context of that thread, Feral Folk simply means those who are performing or organising a public folk gig outside of the normal Folk Club / Festivals structure . Methinks we should claim it back to give it the significance it deserves!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 09:47 AM

' Indeed one might say folk clubs nearly killed folk music'

Well said!! [IMO]


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 11:08 AM

"Methinks we should claim it back to give it the significance it deserves!"

Aye! Well of course, now that I know the correctly disambiguated and authenticated provenance of the term, I realise that I've probably already participated in one or two of these shambolic rites...


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Bill D
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 11:47 AM

1)Look at the songs in the Mudcat Database.
2)Make a list of the common characteristics in them.
3)Use those to decide the relative 'folkishness' of one you're not sure about.

4)I'm not kidding. Dick & Susan, with help, have compiled a very large list of songs which 'almost' any of us would agree ARE folk.....or very closely related to folk....or very likely to be accepted AS folks in the future.

By extracting the defining common concepts of a huge number, one automatically has a working definition.

Thus, stuff 'written' by Ewan MacColl usually gets in, while "Nine-Inch Nails"...not so much.


There...now isn't that easier than trying to create a single definition and argue forever about precise wording?












Hark! Do I hear dissenting voices mumbling, "yeah, but..." in the distance?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 11:57 AM

Duh!!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 12:12 PM

"(and are probably not very keen on folk songs)"

Oh dear me, is that really the best you can offer in response? *LOL*

However, having said that, I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a folk singer, I'm a singer of traditional songs, both as a solo artist and as part of a couple of bands. I play acoustically and electrically (mandolin, piano and guitar) AND I've been playing for a fair number of years now.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 01:43 PM

The problem lies with those who insist that "If I like it, it's folk!" or "If I wrote it, it's folk!"

A definition that includes everything defines nothing.

(Okay, take your best shot!)

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Bill D
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 01:47 PM

"A definition that includes everything defines nothing."

No 'shot' from me, Don...that's one of my favorite sayings.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 01:55 PM

a perfect quote, Don! Mind if I use it?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 02:27 PM

"I wrote this folk song two years ago for my first million-seller CD...."


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 02:36 PM

Be my guest! It's out there. Part of the definition of "definition."

A definition consists of a genus, which delineates a broad category of like entities, and a differentia, which distinguishes the specific entity being defined from other members of the genus.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 02:54 PM

So, Snail, are you saying that the word 'book' (or 'snail' or 'plate' or 'tree') has a different meaning to the meaning it had 55 years ago (or 155 years ago, for that matter)?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:04 PM

Snail,you are up Barking creek without a paddle.
Folk music is the product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission. The factors that shape the tradition are:

      (i) continuity which links the present with the past;
      (ii) variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group;
      (iii) selection by the community, which determines the form or forms in which the music survives.

The term can be applied to music that has been evolved from rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by popular and art music and it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community.
The term does not cover composed popular music that has been taken over ready-made by a community and remains unchanged, for it is the re-fashioning and re-creation of the music by the community that gives it its folk character."


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:14 PM

Me? I'd rather listen to the likes of Harry Cox, Cyril Poacher, Bob Hart, Walter Pardon and Sam Larner, oh..and right at this moment Fairport Convention's take on The Bonny Bunch of Roses, than some quite nebulous definition


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:23 PM

It ain't bound and made of paper, but it's a book... Or so they say.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:31 PM

"Gets complicated , doesent it??? "
Not really - as somebody has pointed out, nobody expects to come away with a complete understanding of a subject just by looking it up in a dictionary.
The 1954 definition, as far as I'm concerned, does the job adequately, even without adjustment, in outlining an identifiable and unique body of material, but if you are going to understand the subject fully you have to look at it in the context of relative factors, for instance, folklore, extensively accepted and in use since it was first coined by William Thom in 1846. Also via the thousands of volumes of literature on the subject.
Anybody wanting to stretch and adapt the term to include new factors, as far as I'm concerned, has to present those factors for consideration, not by wishing a re-definition into place.
"I'd say it say it was simplicity itself; just sit back and savour. If you don't like it, go to the bar"
You mean you can't do these things and attempt to understand the music?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:37 PM

I think I'll just listen to the music (reaches for Hidden English
A Celebration of English Traditional Music, and puts in the player)


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:39 PM

I think some people want to use the word "folk" as some sort of stamp of respectability, like the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval." The songwriter seeks immediate acceptance of his or her work by labeling it a "folk song," attempting to give it an illusion of longevity and respectability, even if it was written only last week and the songwriter is the only person who sings it (or wants to). Likewise, someone who performs in folk venues might feel his or her status among their peers will be diminish if they like to sing songs that are patently not traditional. They try to justify what they want to sing (and also keep their place in a specifically folk venue) by insisting through convoluted reasoning that what they sing are folk songs.

If the Kingston Trio recorded "They Call the Wind Mariah," from the Broadway musical, "Paint Your Wagon," or the Brothers Four recorded "Try to Remember," from the off-Broadway musical, "The Fantasticks," that did not make them folk songs. When singing in coffeehouses in the early 1960s, I got requests for these and similar songs from people who didn't know where they came from and assumed they were folk songs because they had heard them sung by nominally folk groups. I sang them. But I told the audience where the songs came from. I didn't fell that I had to justify the fact that I was willing to sing them by insisting that they were "folk songs."

That didn't mean that they weren't good songs. They were just not folk songs. Besides, if they liked those, they might want to listen to some of the other songs in the musicals.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:40 PM

and there's this perfect quote from Bob Copper in 2002

""We just sing for the joy of singing. We love to sing these songs, and see the people join in and the atmosphere it creates."


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:51 PM

You mean you can't do these things and attempt to understand the music?

I've no bother with understanding or appreciating anything myself, Jim; I don't harbour those sort of prejudices. Otherwise see my earlier post Here.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:51 PM

"and there's this perfect quote from Bob Copper in 2002"
And an even better one IMO from Lowry C Wimberly's 'Folklore in the English and Scottish Ballads (1928):
An American Indian sun-dance or an Australian corroboree is an exciting spectacle for the uninitiated, but for one who understands something of the culture whence it springs it is a hundred fold more heart-moving."
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 04:07 PM

For all those who subscribe to the folk-song-is-anything-you-wanna'-make-it crowd
or the "cherry pickers" who classify the music they like as folk, you are all throwing the baby out with the bath water.

The continuity and the tradition still prevails. BTW there's some pretty boring and bad folk music that falls into this classification. Just 'cause it's "folk" doesn't always make it good.

And music of the past was not always the best just because it was old.

Still, the early traditional singers of folk songs have been marginalized by the pop music industry and the so-called singer/songwriter. This is true for the traditional folk songs as well.

I don't think a date-oriented definition defines anything...1954...2009.

Traditional folk music is different than the manufactured songs by contemporary artists.
Some of either is good or bad depending on aesthetic values such as melodies, musicianship, lyric content etc. But a good traditional folk song has a durability that you won't find with many contemporary attempts at songwriting. It's a folk song because it
stands up over time.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Bill D
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 05:06 PM

...and, there's not not a neat, simple cut-off point. Musical categories are on a continuum.

There's real, genuine, old traditional songs that no one would doubt, and then there's stuff with obvious 'folk roots' that has been processed and 'modernized'....either by messing with the tune, the words, the pace... or just the type of instruments used for accompaniment. This leaves us with stuff at both ends of the scale....and a gray area in the middle. I can usually tolerate the gray area being passed off as folk/trad...but some people want the gray area expanded as far as THEY define it- possibly because 'folk' is such a nice, easy, handy word.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: John P
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 07:49 PM

I have, in my mind, a clear distinction between a traditional song in a musical sense and a traditional song in the manner of its presentation. Messing around with the instrumentation, harmony, speed, or style of singing doesn't change the melody or the lyrics, which remain traditional.

A traditional presentation (if that's the right word) is, for me, a different animal. My problem with trying to quantify that is that we start talking about history: which instruments are traditional for that song? Do we have to find out which instruments were in use when the song was first being sung? If so, what does that do to the living tradition? I perform songs that cover a range of about 700 years, and come from most of Europe and half of the United States. In order to be "traditional" in the presentation of all these songs, do I have to go around with a truck full of different versions of historical instruments? Should I dress the part for each era and country?

Which venues are traditional for the playing of traditional music? If I'm trying to be traditional in my music making (as opposed to playing traditional music), should I only play dance music in barns or village dance halls? What about using a PA system?

Trying to play music traditionally opens a huge can of worms that doesn't exist if I define traditional music in a musical sense but don't worry about doing it in a traditional way.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: TheSnail
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 09:08 PM

GUEST,Shimrod

So, Snail, are you saying that the word 'book' (or 'snail' or 'plate' or 'tree') has a different meaning to the meaning it had 55 years ago (or 155 years ago, for that matter)?

Are you saying they always existed? Are you saying their meaning was decided by a committee? The time scale varies. Has this word stayed the same?

I just get the impression that some people are more interested in the word and the definition than they are in the music.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 10:21 PM

"Folk" as an adjective is almost completely worthless. Take any phrase that has it and remove the word "folk" and you'll find that the phrase still means exactly the same thing, without the excess verbiage. People only add it because they've fetishized the word; for them in connotes some extra-special-good quality, one that really doesn't exist, but one which they and others with the same fetish have convinced themselves exists. When they use the word, they are communicating to those "others" that they share the sentiment/fantasy; it helps them identify one another, puts them in the same club.

Q: "What is a folk song?"
A. It's a song.

The characteristics of a song --how it was learned, who wrote it, what is its intent, how fast is it, what instruments is it played on, what gender performs it, etc etc etc-- are all different and notable. But once you've slapped it with the "folk" label, you've stopped saying anything objective about the song and started saying how you feel it fits the fantasies of a particular set of people.

Gibb


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 05:06 AM

"Q: "What is a folk song?" A. It's a song."
What is 'Banks of Sweet Primroses' - It is a folk song; What is 'Come Into The Garden Maud' - it is a parlour song by Tennyson.
Song = general, folk = specific.
We specify our requirements so we don't end up with a tin of mulligitawney soup when we'd rather have mushroom.

"Has this word stayed the same?"
According to my dictionary it has.
Gay (gay) adj. gayer, gayest.
1. Showing or characterised by cheerfulness and light-hearted excitement; merry.
2. Bright or brilliant, especially in colour.
3. a. Homosexual, b. Of, pertaining to, or for homosexuals. 4. Full of or given to social or other pleasures.
5. Rare. Dissolute; licentious.
As with many words it has several definitions, all totally independent of and unaffected by one another.

"I just get the impression that some people are more interested in the word and the definition than they are in the music. "
And I get the impression that some people are constantly attempting to seperate the music from its origins, its form, its social, historical and cultural implications in order to put bums on seats.
As far as I'm concerned, people are welcome to become involved in folk music from whatever aspect they choose, as a listener, as a performer, particular or easy-going in what they listen to or play.
Some of us have stretched that activity to include taking a closer look at what we are involved in.
Yes, it's about the music, but it's also about the people who made it and kept it alive, and passed it down, about the circumstances and conditions that gave rise to it, and all the other cultural baggage that the music carries with it.
IT IS NEVER JUST ABOUT THE WORD.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 05:45 AM

What is 'Come Into The Garden Maud' - it is a parlour song by Tennyson.

The words were extracted from Tennyson's epic Maud presumably by the composer of the song, one Michael William Balfe. For the full text begin Here - you'll find the Come Into the Garden sequence at line 850. Seems he wrote it at Brancepeth Castle, in Country Durham - one of my own former residences...

As for the song, I have sung it myself in Folk Clubs very much as a Folk Song (though not, of course, as a Traditional Song which is a very different beast). Parlour Songs, it would seem, can be Folk Songs too.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 06:20 AM

"Parlour Songs, it would seem, can be Folk Songs too."
Only if you abandon any definition or replace the existing one with one of your own - I do neither.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 06:49 AM

Inputting Folk & 1954 into Google I came up with this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pq65UvyX1uM


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 07:16 AM

Only if you abandon any definition or replace the existing one with one of your own - I do neither.

All I'm doing is reporting on what I've see around the UK Folk Scene for the last 35 years, which leads me to say that:

A Folk Song can be any song sung in a designated Folk Context. At other times, and in other contexts, the same song might be something else entirely, a Pop Song for example, or yet a Jazz Standard, a Victorian Parlour Ballad, a Musical Hall Song or even an Operatic Aria. All of these I have heard sung in Folk Contexts and have, by dint of that context, accepted them as being Folk Songs. So what makes it a Folk Song is the context in which it is being sung and appreciated as such.

As for what makes a Traditional Song, the lines are clearer with respect of a canon of material collected, recorded, catalogued, cut and dried, sourced and analysed, numbered, indexed, with occasions, performers and variations duly noted. Sometimes Traditional Songs might be sung as Folk Songs, other times they might be sung as Classical Songs, Rock Songs, Wyrd-Folk Songs, Jazz Songs, or Pop Songs. Anything is possible with a Traditional Song - but the song, essentially, remains the same, whatever the context.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 07:36 AM

Sorry SS - utter gibberish and totally at odds with anything I have experienced either on the folk scene, among traditional singers or in anything I've read - a typical case of make-it-up-as-you-go-along-to suit-your-own-particular-circumstances. (Lack of) reasoning like that makes communication between people totally impossible.
Re your somewaht apt Marx Brothers clip - as much as I love them, I'd rather go to a more reliable source for my information.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 08:28 AM

I fully understand the definition as applied to a lot of the 'trad' and even 'trad/arr' songs that appear regularly at folk venues. I am a little unclear about some of the more contemproary ones. Can I go through an example with you please? The factors, as detailed above, are -

(i) continuity which links the present with the past;
(ii) variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group;
(iii) selection by the community, which determines the form or forms in which the music survives.

So, let us apply these to a particular song regularly performed by a friend of mine - American Pie.

Does it have continuity which links the present with the past? Yes. In two ways - It has been performed in various ways for over thirty years while pertaining to events that occured half a century ago.

Dose it have variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or group? Yes. They way it is performed by this particular person (Phil Atkinson - he will not mind the mention:-) ) it varies wildly from the original. The group eoften add to these variations. And on occasion it varies from performance to performance but that's another story...

Has the form in which it survives been selected by the community. Yes. No-one else can ever get away with another version at our folk club and one or two other venues Phil has made it his own at:-)

So, is Ameriacn Pie a folk song? By the above definition, yes it is. As is The Beatles 'Blackbird' and McPeakes 'Wild Mountain Thyme' and a host of other contemporary songs, including most of MacColls.

Have I got the gist or am I barking up the wrong tree? Or barking mad? Well, I suppose that goes without saying but you know what I mean...

Cheers

DeG


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 09:47 AM

Dave - the definition states: "The term does not cover composed popular music that has been taken over ready-made by a community and remains unchanged, for it is the re-fashioning and re-creation of the music by the community that gives it its folk character".

A wonderfully vague expression which can, and doubtless will, be interpreted differently by various protagonists.

With regard to the example you gave, a "composed popular" song has been "re-fashioned" "by a community". It therefore qualifies as a folk song according to the definition.

Now wait for the howls of indignation.....


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 10:46 AM

utter gibberish and totally at odds with anything I have experienced either on the folk scene, among traditional singers or in anything I've read - a typical case of make-it-up-as-you-go-along-to suit-your-own-particular-circumstances. (Lack of) reasoning like that makes communication between people totally impossible.

Nice one, Jim. What I'm saying is that whilst we might be clear on how we define a Traditional Song, any definition of Folk Song has to be more inclusive to reflect the realities of what actually happens in the name of Folk. I'd say Jim Eldon is a perfect example of this, taking Pop Songs and shaping them to his particular idiom. Here he is singing his reworking of a Pop Song by Jim Holt, made famous by Blondie:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_ovw1-Zjsw

In no way Traditional, but most certainly Folk, even by the somewhat vague standards of the 1954 definition, which, as I've shown above is utterly meaningless in outlining how so-called Folk Song is different from any other.

Now, please, if you will, and without resorting to personal insults, kindly explain your objections.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 12:19 PM

I really do dislike those (and you know who you are)who try to tell me thatI must follow certain rules/definitions. Balderdash, rubbish and poppycock are three words that come immediately to mind, there are others, but my mother taught me to be polite. lease don't try to tell me that I must follow some damned definition that was cobbled together 50 some odd years ago, engraved in stone and trumpeted as the be all and end all.It wasn't then, it isn't now, and it never will be. I am very very aware of from whence I come, I am very aware of my cultural heritage..yes, unlike some I actually do come from a rural background (not that really matters) Please don't tell me that I must follow the somewhat vague standards of the 1954 definition in order to "undertand" and thoroughly appreciate the songs and tunes I sing and play, because that truly is utter and complete balderdash.

Oh heavens, I'm getting as wordy as Jim Carroll *LOL*


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Don Firth
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 12:31 PM

Sir Isaac Newton formulated the math for the Law of Gravity back in the late 1600s. Anything over a few years old is obviously irrelevant for our times, so let's just rescind the Law of Gravity and then we can all fly!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 12:50 PM

to misquote Richard Thompson/Dave Swarbrick, The Journeyman's Grace.

And if the anti -1954s won't depart,
drive a stake into their collective hearts
And leave me to my leisure


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 01:41 PM

Please don't tell me that I must follow the somewhat vague standards of the 1954 definition in order to "undertand" and thoroughly appreciate the songs and tunes I sing and play

I've no idea what you're talking about - can you explain? I mean, as far as I can see the 1954 definition is a way of telling one set of material from another. You've said that you play traditional material, so, er... what's the problem?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 01:59 PM

I'm not interested in definitions, it's that simple.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 02:08 PM

Well, I've learned that I don't really want to go to "folk" concerts any more, because they're all that singer-songwriter stuff. I have to go to "traditional folk" concerts - many, maybe most of the songs I hear have been written in the last half-century, but they're in a traditional, mostly story-telling style - and they can be sung by anyone, not just by the songwriter.

Definitions help because they define the market. They help audiences find the music they want, and they help performers find audiences that will appreciate them.

That being said, any old definition of traditional folk music will work pretty well for me. The definitions presented here all have more-or-less the same elements, and I think we all know more-or-less what we're talking about.

I'm happy with the 1954 definition, although I suppose it does not include most of the "traditional-style" music I listen to.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 02:31 PM

"Please don't tell me that I must follow the somewhat vague standards of the 1954 definition in order to "undertand" and thoroughly appreciate the songs and tunes I sing and play, because that truly is utter and complete balderdash."

'Rifleman', no-one is telling you to do, or not to do, anything! Sing what you like, and "thoroughly appreciate" what you like, but if you sing recent pop songs (or jazz standards, or operatic arias, or Victorian parlour ballads etc., etc.) in a folk club, and I'm in the audience, don't expect me to greet your efforts with much enthusiasm.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 02:51 PM

actually we, one of the bands I play with, on occassion, have been known to do a Victorian parlour ballad or two, but then again we also have the song Long Black Veil by Marijohn Wilkin and Danny Dill in our repetoire. The Tradition is but a part of what we do.

We look forward to you complete lack of enthusiasm! *LOL*


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 05:28 PM

Please remember, 'Rifleman', that these endless 'definition' threads have absolutely nothing to do with what you (or I, for that matter) like or dislike. And I repeat, in speaking up for the 1954 definition no-one is questioning your taste or telling you what to sing or what not to sing.

The point about pinning down a definition is that it has a bearing on what is sung, or not sung, in folk clubs. In the past many artists and agents saw folk clubs as easily accessible launching platforms for the careers of people who struggled to find such platforms elsewhere. It was a crucial part of their agendas to convince everyone that 'all music is folk music' and, hence, 'anything goes in a folk club'. In some cases 'real' folk music completely disappeared from certain clubs to be replaced by a sort of 'mush' of pop, comedy and introspective singer-songwriter stuff. Nowadays, of course, a younger generation have convinced themselves that their particular 'acoustic' effusions are 'folk music' too. In short 'real' folk music is fragile and can easily be displaced (from folk clubs) by the latest non-folk fad(s).


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 05:31 PM

Here's the problem. There is a body of traditional material that has been eclipsed by the performance rights societies who derive income from the use of copyrighted songs on the media. Many of these traditional songs have become obscured and like folk tales or stories which have become replaced by sit-coms and t.v. dramas, these songs and the style of presentation has been pushed aside. Nonetheless, these songs and styles (folk songs) remain as do the legendary folk tales and stories. They will continue regardless of all the other songs written and performed by entertainers who are generally professional or semi-pros. The issue transcends mere definition.

In the last decades because of the recording industry, T.V. and now the net, a kind of
musical "imperialism" has taken hold. Publishing a folk song runs the same risk as the
"definitive" song which as a folk song, it can never be. Sam Hinton's metaphor about a printed folk song like a picture of a bird in flight is apt.

There is another notable problem. Songwriting has suddenly become so ordinary in the
music field that the quality of the music and lyrics has been dumbed down for the marketplace. This is often what passes for "folk song" these days. So anyone can write a folk song? I don't think so.

If you listen and research a good amount of traditional field recordings of folk songs (and by research, knowing how they came about) you will find that folk songs and their singers have a different quality then the modern interpreters or singer/songwriters. Not all of it
is wonderful, some are boring, but mostly vital and reflective of a cultural past or tradition. Tradition means something that extends over time.

So it's not just about definitions but preserving something worthwhile that is getting
lost in the commercial economic shuffle.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 05:48 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0zAr1t6nTE&feature=channel_page how about this


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 06:07 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0zAr1t6nTE&feature=channel_page how about this

Lovely!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Don Firth
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 06:30 PM

"I'm not interested in definitions, it's that simple."

. . . living in a world made of Silly Putty. . . .

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 08:02 PM

I'm not interested in definitions, it's that simple.

In that case you are a folksinger.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Musket
Date: 21 Mar 09 - 02:51 PM

Definitions?

A few years ago, I thought that elitist waffle had gone for good.

Then came along the likes of iTunes and it's fascination with genre. Bad enough when a song I wrote was classed as celtic because the band playing it were Scottish, but Bob Dylan albums seem to be classed at random from folk, rock, world, etc etc.

Folk music as we experience it, (perhaps the best test?) tends to be in folk clubs. Therefore, over the years, I would have said that despite people saying it should be about recording traditions, how communities evolved etc etc zzzzzzz   folk music tends to be defined by any song that can be played in a pub without amplification, with a polite audience.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Mar 09 - 04:03 PM

"A few years ago, I thought that elitist waffle had gone for good."
Because there a still people around who believe that the ideas you have just put forwards are not only wrong, but are detrimental to the future of the music we are involved in, this subject is still relevant and will come up continually until some sort of consensus is reached, or until the whole house of cards crashes about our ears - count the number of threads and postings on this and similar subjects.
You may be satisfied with what is happening - some of us ain't.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 21 Mar 09 - 04:09 PM

"In that case you are a folksinger"

not at all, as I said somewhere, traditional music is but a small part of what I play and sing, both as a solo artist and a member of a couple of bands.

The tradition will survive regardless of the sky is falling, the sky is falling Chicken little attitude of some.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Don Firth
Date: 21 Mar 09 - 06:04 PM

The vast majority of the songs I sing are traditional songs and ballads.

But not all. I also do a few poems set to music (such as Byron's So We'll Go No More a-Roving, or Yeats's The Song of the Wandering Aengus, or James Joyce's Golden Hair [melody composed by a friend of mine], along with couple of songs from Shakespeare's plays?and so on. I don't try to pass these latter off as "folk songs." I tell my audiences what they are.

I try not to bill myself as a "folk singer." Other people usually do that for me. But I consider myself to be a singer-guitarist who sings a variety of songs and plays a bit of classical guitar, but the majority of the songs I sing are traditional songs and ballads; what most people refer to?or, at least, used to refer to?as "folk songs." I want people to know what I do so they can come to a performance with a fairly good idea of the kind of songs they're going to hear. I don't want people to come if they are expecting me to do a program of songs I have written, because (unlike many) I know my limitations and, although I write other things, I don't write songs.

I especially don't want them to stay away because they think they would be hearing songs written by me instead of hearing an evening of primarily traditional material.

Likewise, I don't want to go to a concert or other venue where the performer is billed as a "folk singer" expecting to hear traditional folk songs and ballads, and instead I hear only songs that he or she wrote, with nary a traditional song or ballad all evening.

I will, however, go to a performance by a singer-songwriter whose songs I like.

I do not want to go to an open mike which, I am told, is devoted to folk music, and be told that I can't sing because they want only singer-songwriters.

Time was when if someone says to me, "I hear you are a singer. What kind of songs do you sing?" I could respond that I sing folk songs, and that person then has a fairly good idea of what I do. If that same conversation occurs now, they haven't a clue as to what I sing.

Likewise, I don't like pop a couple of pieces of bread in the toaster, then open a jar of orange marmalade (according to the label) and find it's actually a jar of gherkins.

Clear?

Don Firth

P. S. Also posted on the other thread currently running.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,gmatkin
Date: 21 Mar 09 - 07:16 PM

Jim's right. The 1954 definition has meaning. Words have to have clear meanings so that we can understand what we mean. Change them to suit our own purposes and we can get into trouble, because people will be able to interpret what we say in ways that suit them...

There's folk music as understood by the 1954 definition and the similar concept outlined in Folk Song in England. The rest is stuff we enjoy - or not.

Gav


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 06:31 AM

I have little patience with people who don't like definitions - 'anti-analytical primitivists' I think they have been called. Wilfull ignorance is not an attractive trait and is, in my opinion, the cause of many of the world's problems.

Nevertheless, such people should be aware, as I have stated above, that we wouldn't need to endlessly agonise about this if the 'it's all folk music' brigade weren't so all-pervasive and intrusive.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 07:44 AM

I wonder, did the people of olden, ?f traditional?f times know that the songs they enjoyed were ?efolk?f songs or that they were traditional?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 08:21 AM

The ones we recorded tpd us the folk songs were different from other types they knew of and may have even sung - ie music hall, Victorian parlour songs, early pop songs etc.
They often used different terminology - my Daddy's songs (even though they may not have learned them from the family), come-all-ye's - fireside songs, (in the case of the Travellers 'Traveller's songs (which included standard folk songs) or simply the old songs.
Walter Pardon used the term folk songs and was catergorising them as early as 1948 when he started writing his family's songs down in a notebook. We have half a dozen tapes of him talking at length on the differences between all his types of song.
See my article on Musical Traditions web-site on the subject under the title 'By Another Name' in the Enthusiasms section.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 08:42 AM

I wonder, did the people of olden, ?f traditional?f times know that the songs they enjoyed were ?efolk?f songs or that they were traditional?

Just as the Blackbird doesn't know that it's a Blackbird, much less carries the beautiful Latin name Turdus merula. So I'm out there, watching birds on the salt marsh when up comes a Twitcher asking what sort of birds I've seen today. Just birds, I reply, not knowing their names, much less their rarity value, or nothing of the nerd-like tedium that goes with enthusiasm of any persuasion. It's not birds they're interested in, it's the taxonomy.

I like Folk as Flotsam because, although a traddy, I like people - everyday people, coming to a folk club after a hard day's work in the fields (or on the cabs, the Job Centre, the hospital, the school, the building site, the ministry, or computer terminal) to sink a few pints and sing whatever the fuck they want to sing without some tosser telling them it isn't folk. This is where the Horse definition wins out, because it comes from the folks themselves, not the academics telling us how it ought to be, but obviously isn't.

Although a Traddy, I'm with the folks on this one; the academics can go fuck themselves. And that's not by way of 'anti-analytical primitivism' - just that the 1954 definition only works if you want it work, otherwise it's very much The Horseshit Definition and means nothing at all without being complicit in the sort of academic fantasising that gave rise to such nonsense in the first place.

Is Folk Music of the Folks or the Academics?

*

Folk music is the product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission.

No musical tradition has ever evolved without the process of oral transmission.

The factors that shape the tradition are: (i) continuity which links the present with the past; (ii) variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group; and (iii) selection by the community, which determines the form or forms in which the music survives.

All musical traditions are thus shaped - from Hip-Hop to Free Jazz, from Karaoke to Gamelan, from Drum & Bass to Dub Reggae, from Elvis Impersonators to Crusty Didgeridoo Players, from Trad Jazzers to George Formby Enthusiasts, from Neo-Medievalists to Death Metal Headbangers. This is the very nature of musical tradition, simply to be utterly dependent on the people playing it, who, in being fully conversant with the past are nevertheless re-determining it for both themselves and thus assuring its future survival.   

The term can be applied to music that has been evolved from rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by popular and art music and it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community.

All music has evolved from rudimentary beginnings and I very much doubt there has ever been any such an uninfluenced community except in the twisted fantasies of academics who postulate such bullshit. Otherwise - all music has thus originated and been absorbed and transformed. In the composing of a Pop Song, for example - an idea becomes a composition, which is then further interpreted by a community of arrangers, session players, engineers and producers ever before the finished product hits the shelves. There we have The Folk Process in a nutshell. And was anything ever unwritten? Hell, even The Copper Family sing from a fecking book; and there are both Chapbooks and Broadsides to consider.   

The term does not cover composed popular music that has been taken over ready-made by a community and remains unchanged, for it is the re-fashioning and re-creation of the music by the community that gives it its folk character.

No music ever remains unchanged, however so conveniently one might qualify the word change; each performance is a renewal within the expectations of its community which are further transfigured by its corporeal & empirical experience. A performance of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas in 2009 will be, out of necessity, very different from a performance of Dido & Aeneas within the same community from 40 years earlier. Ditto a rock band comprised of variously talented 14-year-olds going over Eleanor Rigby in a garage are re-fashioning a music, re-creating it, and giving it its folk-character. Likewise, a Folk Singer adapting Eleanor Rigby to their own needs and abilities for performance at his local Folk Club is effecting a transformation over a given piece of music, thus giving it its Folk Character.   A Karaoke singer singing Eleanor Rigby is doing exactly that too, likewise the worker who whistles the melody of Eleanor Rigby as they go cheerfully about their daily business, or else the schoolboy singing Eleanor Rigby as he walks to school.

If this is not the case, then please tell me why. If it is the case, then what use is the 1954 definition?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 09:06 AM

Hear, hear!!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 10:14 AM

When Martin Carthy collected 'Rose OF Allendale' from the Coppers , it was a Folk Song - Now that we know it was an early Victorian parlour song , does that stop it being a Folk Song ?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 10:14 AM

100


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 10:29 AM

SS, I don't have the patience to refute your lengthy post in detail. Here are are few brief comments:

Interpretation is not the same as variation. Of course there is scope for individual interpretation, whether it is a violinist playing Mozart, an Elvis impersonator singing "Blue Suede Shoes" or Hendrix doing "All along the watchtower". However in all these cases there is an original version which they are consciously interpreting. This is not the same as a variation, whether deliberate, or through forgetfulness or misinterpretation, which is then passed on because there isn't an original definitive version to go back to.

You can tell if someone is singing the wrong words to "Streets of London" or "American Pie", because there is a single, correct version of those songs. It is not possible to sing the wrong words to a folk song, because there is no correct version.

Writing down a song or a tune doesn't stop it being traditional. The Copppers wrote down their songs as an aide memoire, just as numerous country musicians wrote down their tunes. However those are just their versions of songs and tunes, which existed, and still exist, alongside theirs in other versions. The Coppers' version of "Claudy Banks" is not the "correct" version, it is simply one version of many.

Just because a song is in widely known among the general public doesn't make it a folk song. "Happy Birthday" is widely known throughout the world, and passed on by oral transmission, but the words and tune remain unchanged.

I think you are confused on two counts. Firstly, if you take the eclectic, anything goes approach then you don't need a definition - if all music is folk music then the term is redundant. Secondly, you are confusing a process with a genre. There is nothing to prevent jazz, or George Formby, or heavy metal songs from becoming folk songs by the processes outlined in the 1954 definition. The obstacle to this is the existence, and awareness of the existence, of "correct" versions of these songs, but given time it is possible that these will be forgotten and new versions will emerge.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 10:34 AM

"Just as the Blackbird doesn't know that it's a Blackbird, much less carries the beautiful Latin name Turdus merula. So I'm out there, watching birds on the salt marsh when up comes a Twitcher asking what sort of birds I've seen today. Just birds, I reply, not knowing their names, much less their rarity value, or nothing of the nerd-like tedium that goes with enthusiasm of any persuasion. It's not birds they're interested in, it's the taxonomy."

A perfect description of 'wilfull ignorance' if I ever read one! Note that even "enthusiasm" is dismissed as "nerd-like tedium". Are you so god-like, 'Sinister Supporter' that you're above us ordinary mortals and our enthusiasms? Still, I can't help noticing that you do actually know the Latin name for the Blackbird - although, of course, it is only the hapless "Twitcher" who is the 'tedious nerd' - not you.

I also notice that you're not above analysing the 1954 definition - but then you're a morally and intellectually superior being, who is free from the 'taint' of enthusiasm, aren't you?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 03:25 PM

Still, I can't help noticing that you do actually know the Latin name for the Blackbird - although, of course, it is only the hapless "Twitcher" who is the 'tedious nerd' - not you.

Touché!

Thing is, we did a song a few years back based around a sort of folk-dream I once had which became a story. I did the storytelling & my wife sang all these Latin bird names over it as a sort of hymn to our feathered friends and a lot of the names stuck fast. You can hear this at our Myspace Page as BIRD (selection #2 on the music player).


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 03:46 PM

"When Martin Carthy collected 'Rose OF Allendale' from the Coppers , it was a Folk Song - Now that we know it was an early Victorian parlour song , does that stop it being a Folk Song ?"

Funnily enough I was thinking something along those line about Blue Murder's recording of the gospel song No One Stands Alone by Jimmie Davis. Does This make the song a folk song or does it make Blue Murder a gospel as opposed to a folk ensemble?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 03:56 PM

You can tell if someone is singing the wrong words to "Streets of London" or "American Pie", because there is a single, correct version of those songs. It is not possible to sing the wrong words to a folk song, because there is no correct version.[quote]
Howard,no,that only applies to a traditional Folksong,not a contemporary folksong,the writer of the song has every right[IF HE /SHE WISHES] to turn round and say,no, you are singing the wrong word, which is altering the meaning,example Cyril Tawneys, chicken on a raft[NAVAL SLANG egg on toast],becomes meaningless if sung as Chicken on a Rat.
haul away the diso [daighso],[SammysBar] becomes meaningless,if you sing haul way the Dino,or haul away the tiso.
with contemporary folk song there are correct versions,   or perhaps you dont think Sammys Bar/ chicken on a raft are folk songs.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 04:18 PM

"with contemporary folk song there are correct versions,   or perhaps you dont think Sammys Bar/ chicken on a raft are folk songs."

Actually, Dick, I don't think they are folk songs, in the strict sense. They're damn fine songs, and have enough in common stylistically with traditional songs to not seem out of place in a folk club. But they're not folk songs, although they may be well on their way to becoming that.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 05:17 PM

so do you say,that only traditional songs are folk songs.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 04:47 AM

From '1954'

'The term can be applied to music that has been evolved from rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by popular and art music and it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community.'

The above then means that even if the composer is known, the work can be a folk song?!?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 05:32 AM

Yes indeed, but there are people around here who don't like that. Look how sneeringly often the term 'singer-songwriter' is used (which presumably includes people like Nic Jones and Martin Carthy).

It reminds me of my local car-boot sale - there are signs everywhere saying 'NO NEW GOODS'.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Musket
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 08:27 AM

Funnily enough, if we MUST use definitions, then any piece of music is a folk song. Period.

All this 1954 nonsense fits if it happens to agree with your own definition, but as there is no one person who can say "I coined the phrase, therefore I decide what is and what isn't" then the only thing that makes it a folk song is if you think it is one.

I still say that here in The UK, folk music has many definitions. Funny that to hear an old recording of Benjamin Britten at the piano makes me want to polish my guns but hear the same song sung by a few mates with guitars and beer at the ready and I enjoy it as much as the next guy.

I say it again, (at the risk of Jim Carroll saying I am wrong, which I find a rather strange word to use when we are all giving opinions of something with no real answer??)

For me, folk music is amongst other things, any piece of music that tends to be played acoustically in an informal setting, usually within spitting distance of beer.

After all, everything is what you experience it to be?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: greg stephens
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 08:34 AM

What I alway say is(along with Bert Lloyd) is that if someone wants to include modern written songs in the category of folksongs, then they are duty bound to think up a good word to describe the things that used to be called folk songs.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Gedi
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 09:25 AM

"I wonder, did the people of olden, if traditional, times know that the songs they enjoyed were "folk" songs or that they were traditional?"

I'm sure they didn't think in those terms, but then, they didn't have all manner of recorded songs/music coming at them day in day out from various sources to influence their own traditions, so they didn't have to 'protect' it as such.

It's only in relatively recent times that we have been able to hear music from all over the country, and indeed the world. In days gone by the only songs most people would ever hear would be those sung by themselves and their mates down the local pub. They did not need to worry about old traditions dying out because then the tradition was very much alive.

Nowadays if it wasn't for a small handful of folk then many of these old songs and tunes would never see the light of day. And I for one like to keep that link with my heritage and not have it overrun by singer/songwriters and pop music covers. I think there is a place for such music but to me it is not 'Folk' in the sense that I think of it.

And thats why I feel it is important to have these definitions of what is and what isn't Folk Music.

Ged


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 09:46 AM

All folk songs were "modern written songs" at one time or another.

I wonder how many would have survived if certain people on this forum had been around then.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 10:58 AM

What I alway say is(along with Bert Lloyd) is that if someone wants to include modern written songs in the category of folksongs, then they are duty bound to think up a good word to describe the things that used to be called folk songs.

Then that word would be Traditional song, which the evidence would suggest is in no way synonymous with Folk song which research has shown can include any song of any genre sung in a designated folk context by designated folk singers, including, of course, Traditional song. Furthermore, any Traditional song can be sung in any other musical context - rock, classical, jazz, experimental, pop &c. - without any loss to its essential integrity. Again, this isn't idle theorising rather an observance of the available evidence.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 11:01 AM

I said '1954' not '1984' - so Big Brother hopefully isn't watching!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 03:02 PM

Isn't there something in 1984 about bogus Folk Songs written by the government? I've never read it, but have a vague recollection of the Peter Cushing film...


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 05:42 AM

"Then that word would be Traditional song, which the evidence would suggest is in no way synonymous with Folk song which research has shown can include any song of any genre sung in a designated folk context by designated folk singers, including, of course, Traditional song."

Whose research? Please cite references!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 07:11 AM

'Folk' refers to the 'common', ordinary, working people -however you want to phrase it - tras=dition to the process that forms the song.
As I sauid elsewhere, joined at the hip.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Musket
Date: 30 Mar 09 - 05:33 AM

Folk also refers to rich businessmen, members of the House of Lords and frankly anybody.

Rock stars singing about the ills of stuffing powder up your nose has every resonance with somebody singing about it being cold hard work on a trawler boat.

I could be mischievous and say that if you are happy, you don't whinge. So, a lot of what are called folk songs are a way of expressing unhappiness with your lot. The music of envy?

it really makes me smile to read the above post claiming you have to fit some social stereotype (common ordinary working people) to have some relationship with "folk."

i used to work down the pit and enjoyed a lot of what I call folk music. I am now comfortably well off, apparantly in a socio economic group my parents would never have believed possible, and still enjoy the same music.

So, that buggers up that theory!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 30 Mar 09 - 07:43 AM

Some 'ordinary working folk' on the TV prog 'Trawlermen' were heard singing the traditional fishing shanty, 'Take me home, country roads'??


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: greg stephens
Date: 30 Mar 09 - 07:59 AM

I must support Shimrod on his last sceptical post re Sinister Supporter's bizarre remarks.
"with Folk song which research has shown can include any song of any genre sung in a designated folk context by designated folk singers" (Sinister Supporter, March 2410.58AM
"Resaerch has shown"? Researched by whom?"Designated folk context" ? Designated by whom? Possibly the elusive "distinguished international experts" who regularly appear in the popular press or news broadcats. Or perhaps it means "I read it in Wikipedia".


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 30 Mar 09 - 08:44 AM

How many times will we try to define
the music we all love to sing?
How many threads will it take to describe
how long is this one piece of string?
And how many words will it take to agree
and for argument to lose its sting?
The answer, my friend... etc

Greg, you say "...if someone wants to include modern written songs in the category of folksongs, then they are duty bound to think up a good word to describe the things that used to be called folk songs". But by the same token, anyone who wants to hijack the word "folk" for the specific category of traditional songs, is also duty bound to think up a good word to describe the things that used to be called folk but are not traditional.

I know it's a circular argument, and therefore absurd. But for me the origins of this controversy are in the very fact that a group of people, no matter how learned and trustworthy, decided to pin a word of the English language down to a specific meaning, flying in the face of common usage (which is the proper way for language to evolve). Ever since then, the two worlds - common usage and rigid definition - have been drifting apart, and will continue to do so until one or the other becomes irrelevant. No guesses for which I think it is likely to be.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 30 Mar 09 - 10:45 AM

I must support Shimrod on his last sceptical post re Sinister Supporter's bizarre remarks.
"with Folk song which research has shown can include any song of any genre sung in a designated folk context by designated folk singers" (Sinister Supporter, March 2410.58AM
"Resaerch has shown"? Researched by whom?"Designated folk context" ? Designated by whom? Possibly the elusive "distinguished international experts" who regularly appear in the popular press or news broadcats. Or perhaps it means "I read it in Wikipedia".


I'm counting 35 years of frequenting folk festivals, folk radio, folk clubs, folk singarounds, folk record shops, folk websites, folk fora, and other Designated Folk Contexts* as research, by way of observing the empirical evidence from which I conclude that Folk song can include any song of any genre sung in a designated folk context by designated folk singers. Now, which bit of that statement do you find difficult to understand, or disagree with? Or for that matter find bizarre?

* Desinated by whom? The folk singers, festival organisers, folk club residents, organisers, punters, floor singers etc. - in short - the Folk, without whom there would be no Folk Music.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 10:05 AM

Well, SS, Ive been doing 'research' for longer than you (42 years, to be exact) and I've come to a different conclusion - funny that! Oh yes, and I bet you haven't published your 'research' in a peer reviewed journal, either!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 08 May 09 - 09:36 AM

.......so you're a 'traditional researcher' ?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 08 May 09 - 11:14 AM

Having thought carefully, recently,

(I said that one reason why my Beloved and I don't go to folk clubs any more is that good manners . . .has gone to fuck . . . )

I decided to give a local folk club another try. I'm not for saying where.

There was a singer, an extremely accomplished instrumentalist, who sang self-composed material. I did not hear a single tradsitional song.

Out of courtesy I waited for the break, and went home, sadder but (I hope) wiser.

If that's folk song - and I went to my first folk club in the Old Moat Conservative Club in 1964 - it isn't what I call folk song, and you can keep it for me. It was bad enough, as far as I am concerned,

in the late 60s to early 70s, when the three chord wonders in the denim caps started infesting the clubs.

I wonder what the "all song is folk song" merchants who saw Harry H. Corbett as 'Steptoe' would make of him as a shantey man ?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 08 May 09 - 01:10 PM

I've heard "folk-like," "folk-derived," "faux folk" and several other unfortunate labels which attempt to separate composed or popular music from traditional music as defined by the innumerably mentioned "1954 definition." I'm content to go with the old sixties mantra, "different strokes for different folks," and let it go at that.

Looking at the argument from an economic point of view, what is the "utility" of resolving this issue? Artistic arguments almost never end anyway.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 May 09 - 01:17 PM

BrynPugh,you should go to one of my gigs,I sing 98 per cent traditional material,Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 08 May 09 - 02:25 PM

Oh shit I knew I should not have read this thread.

"Folk" does not mean "good" or "bad".

It doesn't mean you have to do it, or not do it.

It is nothing to do with whether you like it or not.

It's not about a particular sound.

It is to do with cultural absorption transmission and evolution OF THE SONG OR MUSIC.

Jim I may disagree with you about whether we are allowed to sing folk song or only to listen to it, but I admire your patience on this thread.

Gone again before I give myself a heart attack!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 11 May 09 - 10:59 AM

I shall do that next time you're over, Dick. Any chance you might PM me with the tour places and dates ?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Musket
Date: 11 May 09 - 11:48 AM

I do tend to agree with a lot that Richard Bridge has just said, above. I would add though that a style may invoke nostalgia and you may like a song because it echoes familiar themes, causing you to decide in your own mind it is ergo a folk song.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 11 May 09 - 12:15 PM

What shouldn't be underestimated is the sheer pleasure it gives some of us baiting 1954 protagonists. Is this pleasure hatred of our fellow man? Of course not, is the sheer pomposity of people who use the definition as a stick to beat singers they don't approve of while huddling close to the words to validate what they do. Whatever that might be.

The same people will be heard dismissing 'academic' readings of the definition in a 'we've got no time for that fancy white collar smartarse stuff' way, while simultaneously swatting away genuine enquiry like a Dickensian despot with an ignorant servant.
I've repeatedly pointed out the logical holes in 1954 but fans of the thing have a blind spot and it heals by the next thread. It's useless as more than the vaguest attempt to identify a tradition and seems to attracts bullies in its wake. If it were qualified by 'revival' in twenty foot high neon letters it may act as a signpost but does none of the things it says on the tin.
So in answer, a folk song is anything an informed person says it is.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 11 May 09 - 12:53 PM

"So in answer, a folk song is anything an informed person says it is."

That, of course, is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a definition. It is pure wish fulfilment and an infinitely wide net to catch any music you like so that you can attach the label 'folk music' to it. An infinitely wide net with an infinitely wide 'logical hole' in it - perhaps you shouldn't be preaching to other people about 'logical holes', glueman!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 11 May 09 - 01:47 PM

Having read some other posts I am very upset that Mather can purport to agree with anything I say and then go on to gainsay the core of it.

And the other thing is that those who purport to pick nits out of the 1954 definition are then the very people wo fail to attempt or seeek to improve it, but put forward idiocies like the horse definition.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Musket
Date: 11 May 09 - 02:13 PM

Well, Richard Bridge, or just Bridge to return the compliment, is upset by me agreeing with part of what he said.

Gainsaying has me reaching for the dictionary these days, as it is used for more than the original definition...

Talking about definitions... My dear Bridge, there is no definition of folk, so you do not have to get all upset.

There is a definition from 1954, (I reckon I just put 1959 on another thread, but never mind, it is all irrelevant anyway,) and there are other definitions, but they are all either personal or self serving.

As Richard Dawkin recently almost said, "There probably is no Folk. (So get on and enjoy your life.")

Or put it another way, go to a folk club and enjoy the experience for the spontaneous sport it is.

Sir Thomas Beecham, the conductor, said it all. "The English don't understand music, but they love the sound it makes." That'll be me then.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 May 09 - 03:09 PM

Ian:
"Or put it another way, go to a folk club and enjoy the experience for the spontaneous sport it is."
Perhaps you can explain something that others have been unable to.
Why is it not possible to do both - does understanding and taking a music seriously automatically prohibit somebody from actually enjoying it?
I have been involved in folk music for nearly fifty years, mainly as a listener and singer, but over the last thirty odd of those as a collector and researcher.
I write on the subject, talk on it, read about it, argue about it, issue CDs of our field recordings, archive it and am now preparing to publish a couple of books on Traveller songs and stories.
After all this time, Sheila Stewart singing 'Tifties Annie' still brings a lump to the throat and I can still fall out of my chair listening to Sam Larner sing 'Butter And Cheese And All'.
Do you think it's a genetic flaw - or what?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 11 May 09 - 03:10 PM

"That, of course, is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a definition."

Because it's people based rather than an abstract construct by a bourgeois Victorian musicologists examining an artifact of the great unwashed?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: michaelr
Date: 11 May 09 - 06:35 PM

The silliness of the whole argument becomes clear when one substitutes "tune" for "song".

Plenty of people are composing new jigs, reels, hornpipes etc. all the time. Are these compositions not "folk"? To which the answer can only be:

"Of course they are; don't be daft."

Music is folk music if it sounds like folk music; i. e. if it uses the familiar language: the folk idiom, as it were.

End of discussion. Now run along and play some music.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 May 09 - 04:08 AM

I never cease to wonder why people resort to archaic terms like 'Noble Savage' and 'The Great Unwashed' - suppose we've got to win our arguments somehow!
"End of discussion. Now run along and play some music."
Now why didn't you say this in the first place - would have saved us all the trouble of thinking for ourselves.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 04:08 AM

Folk music attracted collectors and historians who wanted to fix the music in their own 'image': a finite, retrospective and sealed diegesis with them as the filter. Of course it's nonsense.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 04:12 AM

"suppose we've got to win our arguments somehow!"

It's as useful a method as hurling insults then playing hurt.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 May 09 - 04:54 AM

I would say it is much easier to write a convincing sounding folk tune than a song.
if we analyse both songs and tunes in the irish scots english welsh tradition,the melodies of both use four modes,major mixolydian dorian aeolian.
the tunes are often 32 bar double jigs slip jigs reels hornpipes.
writing convincing words that have the true feel of a traditional song[imo]is much more difficult.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: greg stephens
Date: 12 May 09 - 05:30 AM

"a finite, retrospective and sealed diegesis with them as the filter. Of course it's nonsense."
Couldn't have put it better myself.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 12 May 09 - 06:09 AM

A diegesis does not require a filter, and to assert that the narrative or continuity with history postulated by the Karpeles 1954 definition is necessarily sealed, retrospective and finite is only true if you accept the Sharp conclusion (which I do not) that a folk song must be anonymous. Otherwise, it follows from the Karpeles definition that the body of "folk" may continue to benefit from accretion.

It also follows from the Karpeles definition that the composed "folk-style" tunes (and equivalent songs) mentioned by michaelR may accrete to the body of "folk" when they have been adopted and modified in transition, as say "Ride on" has been.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 12 May 09 - 06:14 AM

As I've said on other threads, and here, it's largely a focus on the TUNE - rather than the sophisticated harmonising etc. that characterise the classical music scene.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 06:28 AM

I ask again, who decides? Victorian neo-medievalists? Edwardian sentimentalists? post-war ruralists? alienated Beatniks? All folkish accretions rely on the dubious provenance of 'the people' which is itself an arbitrary romantic construct. If a Show of Hands tune (God help us all) were accomodated into the folk garden at what point would it be attested? Would the people who currently believe it is be proved correct and vindicated, or were they wrong until a committee decides?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 May 09 - 06:32 AM

What's diegesis - dictionaries didn't help?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 May 09 - 06:34 AM

WAV,
style does play some part,which is why thislose the essence
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gHTw9XjKMc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gHTw9XjKMchttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gHTw9XjKMc
but it is not just the inapproprate harmonies,but the style of the singing.
however you are wrong,in condemning all harmony.
drones and harmony have been used for centuries in folk music.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 12 May 09 - 06:44 AM

I again said that, CB, "with the understanding that English folk-music, for centuries, has entertained people, with telling and/or dancing, via, mostly, the repetition of tunes: more-sophisticated polyphony and chords being found, rather, in church and court - eventually, i.e." (here).


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Working Radish
Date: 12 May 09 - 06:46 AM

What shouldn't be underestimated is the sheer pleasure it gives some of us baiting 1954 protagonists.

What unpleasant people some of us must be, or play at being when they're on the Internet.

I've repeatedly pointed out the logical holes in 1954

Good for you - I wish I'd been there. Perhaps you could try doing it on Mudcat.

You can't have it both ways - you can ask questions and take note of the answers, or you can wind people up and run away. Up to you really.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 06:56 AM

"What's diegesis - dictionaries didn't help?"

The word roughly means 'story world', one created by the teller. A fiction so apparently complete it draws the listener in so he believes the tale. The beguiling story here is mysterious, unknowable individuals created a music that was adopted seamlessly by society until an apocalypse (industrial, communications or in some other way post-Edenic) atomised a nation until rescued by seers. Research with a dusting of the numinous if you like. Tweedy shamen capturing the dying flames of a disappearing world backed up by a committee who bought the idea.

You couldn't make it up, but someone did.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 12 May 09 - 07:05 AM

> You couldn't make it up, but someone did. <

You.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 May 09 - 07:13 AM

"It's as useful a method as hurling insults then playing hurt."
Not convinced that I ever did the first, certainly not the second.
However - have resolved to be more careful in future in order not to upset people - perhaps you'd like to join me?
On the other hand:
"End of discussion. Now run along and play some music."
Hav never attempted to issue direct orders - wouldn't dare for fear of being branded a member of the FP
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 07:23 AM

You're tangling people again Jim. Those of us with doubts about the folk process (sic) as laid down by the 54 definition aren't some hydra-headed enemy waiting to spoil the party. I think it's wooley, relies upon wishful thinking and attracts sentimental adherents who lose all sight of what they're on about. Slim facts mixed with value judgements.

I never said 'run along'. I try to avoid Pip Radish style snippiness at all times while still making the point.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Smedley
Date: 12 May 09 - 07:27 AM

The '1954' thing surely falls apart for the simple reason that a committee cannot define any cultural form, unless their aim is to freeze-frame it and stop any future evolution.

Oh, of course, that is *exactly* what some folkmeisters want to do..........


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Working Radish
Date: 12 May 09 - 07:45 AM

I try to avoid Pip Radish style snippiness at all times

Sure you do.

glueman, every time you've raised a specific issue with the 1954 definition I've responded. Every time I've asked you a straight question you've ignored it. This has made me suspect that you weren't entirely serious about wanting to have a debate about definitions. Your admission that what really floats your boat is ringing people's bells and running away tends to confirm my suspicion.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 12 May 09 - 07:49 AM

"Tweedy shamen capturing the dying flames of a disappearing world backed up by a committee who bought the idea."

Perhaps glueman should get hold of a tardis on Ebay, set the controls for the heart of 1907, and make his concerns known to Cecil Sharp. Who knows, he might even have a case!

As to the present, he came rather unstuck (geddit?!) last time he tried to convince this forum of his 'music ruled by committee' conspiracy theory, and if the best he can offer us now is: "So in answer, a folk song is anything an informed person says it is", then the imaginary army of "1954 protagonists" that he so enjoys "baiting" are more likely to be rolling their eyes to heaven than girding themselves for battle.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 08:13 AM

I've asked repeatedly what terms like 'the people' really mean. What the transference process is and how many stages are necessary to comply. Why anonymous means a damn to a music. How reliable are the collectors and how scruplous their methods. How peer reviewed (to use a modern term) the 1954 committee were, etc, etc.

The answers were either superficial or insulting. I never run away from anything BTW Pip, least of all keyboard warriors.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 May 09 - 08:17 AM

"You're tangling people again Jim......"
I'll take that as a "no" to my invitation then - in which case I'll leave you to it.
"I never said 'run along'"
No, you didn't - and that's what I responded to.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 08:19 AM

Jim, you don't make the rules.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 12 May 09 - 08:37 AM

Glueman invents meanings to suit himself -both for "diegesis" and for "folk".

"Diegeses" - a narrative, a statement of a case". Oxford English Dictionary.

Glueman, if the above questions are representative of your questions generally, then they are plainly self-serving irrelevancies, and no basis for rejecting the Karpeles defintion out of hand.

I know of no-one who has rejected out of hand as flawed in its nature the famous US definition of a democracy - government of the people for the people by the people - the expression "the people" is in widespread current use, and I know off hand of no wide divergence about its meaning.

But even more damning of Glueman's bona fides, the word "people" is not actually part of the Karpeles 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."

Likewise, the absolute requirement of anonymity is not part of the Karpeles definition. It was a conclusion of Sharp's.


In short, Glueman, you are not a builder but a despoiler and there is no reason to listen to you on this topic.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: greg stephens
Date: 12 May 09 - 08:46 AM

"GUEST Smedley" says "The '1954' thing surely falls apart for the simple reason that a committee cannot define any cultural form, unless their aim is to freeze-frame it and stop any future evolution."
A singularly ill-informed remark, as the 1954 describes a system undergoing continuous eveolution. In fact continuous evolution is the basis of the defintiion.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 09:18 AM

"The answers were either superficial or insulting" - Glueman 8.13am

"In short, Glueman, you are not a builder but a despoiler and there is no reason to listen to you on this topic." - R. Bridge 8.46am

Still waiting for precise answers pertaining to the 1954 definition, not hocus pocus.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 12 May 09 - 09:20 AM

glueman wrote:
"How reliable are the collectors and how scruplous their methods."

There's plenty of published material available to those who want to read and learn, rather than merely "bait". Read Harker, Boyes, Bearman, and others on Sharp, for instance, but don't expect consensus. Baring-Gould is controversial, too. Later collectors have learned from their mistakes and prejudices.

Here's a couple of articles just a mouse-click away:

Yates on Sharp
(scroll down left column and click on #36)

Baring-Gould

Or you could try asking Jim Carroll, who is a distinguished collector himself. I'm sure he could give you an answer on the identity of 'the people' - oh, but he already did, and you ignored it, preferring instead to indulge in provocative cliches about "the great unwashed".

Here's an interesting snippet from Wikipedia's page on Sharp - any attitudes here we can recognize?

"Dave Harker's harsh criticisms... reflect an idiosyncratic Trotskyist Marxist framework that views any and all folk song collecting, scholarship, and attempts at revival as malign forms of appropriation and exploitation by the bourgeoisie of the working class."


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 09:30 AM

So I'm a Marxist now to add to my faults?

1) I enjoy traditional music
2) I see it for what it is
3) I don't base any kind of lifestyle upon it
4) I believe the folk revival gives but a passing nod to what ordinary people would have understood by 'their' music
5) That's fine by me
6) Collectors do interesting and useful work
7) It doesn't make them right
8) The 54 definition wouldn't be written in that form now, it would be more intellectually and academically rigourous
9) It requires specific rather than notional claims for completeness
10)I don't like the company it keeps


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 12 May 09 - 09:31 AM

1954 Folk music definition


This is the 1954 definition as adopted by the International Folk Music Council.

"Folk music is the product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission.

The factors that shape the tradition are:

(i) continuity which links the present with the past;

(ii) variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group; and

(iii) selection by the community, which determines the form or forms in which the music survives.

The term can be applied to music that has been evolved from rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by popular and art music and it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community.

The term does not cover composed popular music that has been taken over ready-made by a community and remains unchanged, for it is the re-fashioning and re-creation of the music by the community that gives it its folk character."


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Smedley
Date: 12 May 09 - 09:33 AM

"GUEST Smedley" says "The '1954' thing surely falls apart for the simple reason that a committee cannot define any cultural form, unless their aim is to freeze-frame it and stop any future evolution."
A singularly ill-informed remark, as the 1954 describes a system undergoing continuous eveolution. In fact continuous evolution is the basis of the defintiion.

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

Ill-informed ? Not really, merely my interpretation. But I admire how your absolutism keeps the spirit of 54 alive and well.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 12 May 09 - 09:38 AM

I agree completely with 1-3 and 6-7.

4 I suspect is dead right in some cases and dead wrong in others, although either way I agree with 5.

I'm agnostic on 8.

I think 9's a mistake on your part - there will always be grey areas and borderline cases which some people call just-about-trad and others call not-quite-trad; that doesn't mean there's no difference between trad and not-trad.

No idea what you mean by 10, although it does seem to be a self-fulfilling prophecy - if you start by setting out to provoke and antagonise, people will tend to be unpleasant to you in return.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 09:50 AM

"if you start by setting out to provoke and antagonise"

It's entirely an acquired skill from spending 60 seconds on Mudcat. Absolutism (good word Smedley) of the kind found here is rarely encountered in modern liberal democracies, at least without a barrel of salt. It's quasi-religious, old testament judgements handed down in unalloyed form on a daily basis from desert-minded fathers with a definition fixation. That's where my amusement comes from, not provocation but swing-jawed amazement of a 'did he really just say that' kind, over and over again.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 12 May 09 - 10:01 AM

"So I'm a Marxist now to add to my faults?"

I've no idea and wouldn't count it a fault anyway. I just noticed a similarity between "folk song collecting, scholarship, and attempts at revival (are) malign forms of appropriation and exploitation by the bourgeoisie of the working class" (wikipedia pp Harker), and "the middle classes nicked the tradition" (glueman) - not to mention sarcastic remarks about "noble savages" and "the great unwashed".


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 12 May 09 - 10:28 AM

Don't you get it? It's not about "form".


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 10:39 AM

It's not about form for you. Everyone else gets on fine with form as part of the mix of identifying characteristics. Some even bristle at being told what constitutes historical common music. There are too many elements of myth making in the definition for me and it seems, for many others.

1954 has become a gate to keep things out which will never be folk however you look at it.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 12 May 09 - 11:46 AM

Form is indefinable. That was the problem the "anti-rave" legislation faced. You would replace a definition that you would criticise as inexact (although I think you are wrong) with one inherently indefinite.

The function of a definition is to enable determination of what falls within it and what without. Your problem with that is?

It also of course helps if the definition correctlyspecifies the subjectmatter, and I can see no fundamental defect in parameters addressed by the 1954 definition. They might be capable of more precision - but actually you don't seem to want that, do you?

I am reminded of the argument between Manfred Mann and Sonny Boy Williamson, about how many bars there were in a 12-bar blues. To MM (all trained musos) the answer was "12"! To SBW it was "as many as I want".


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 12 May 09 - 12:49 PM

Compare and contrast the following two statements from 'glueman':

"So in answer, a folk song is anything an informed person says it is." (11th May 09 - 12:15 PM)

But on the 1954 definition:

"I think it's wooley, relies upon wishful thinking and attracts sentimental adherents who lose all sight of what they're on about. Slim facts mixed with value judgements." (12th May 09 - 07:23 AM)

Is it just me but isn't the first, so-called, 'definition' about as "wooley" (sic) as you can get? Doesn't it depend COMPLETELY on wish fulfilment, no facts whatsoever and value judgement?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 01:05 PM

Here's some of my issues with the 1954 definition (for the umpteenth time). It assumes one moment in time, the mid-late C19th, was an uncompromised window on common popular music and the recorders of it were impartial. If true, they would be the only historical sources I can think of which are beyond reproach and untainted by the scientific, social and political mores of their time.
It's extraordinary that a definition which grew from the work of such collectors has survived intact until the present day without revision. It offers a closed world to all intents and purposes - read the consequences of it in entirety - an historic one that deals in centuries in an age where proliferating means of popular expression and exchange have changed the rules in unimaginable ways. It also has romantic undertones in keeping with the period that spawned it.

It contains interesting ideas, a challenge to authorship in a period marked by personal rather than community expression but takes the point to absurdity insisting anonimity is of the essense, not a consequence.
My personal opinion is the definition is either irrelevant or in need of rewriting, it is a product of its time and certainly insufficient as a tool to browbeat doubters with.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 01:11 PM

'Shimrod' my answer of 11th May attempts to show the absurdity of pinning down something indefinable, namely what the music of the people 'is'.
Why do all the 1954 types throw insults into their posts? Does it make you feel part of some common good? Is it cynicism? Patrician values before us undeserving thickos? Is it a rule like something out of the '54 definition?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 12 May 09 - 01:25 PM

It assumes one moment in time, the mid-late C19th, was an uncompromised window on common popular music and the recorders of it were impartial.

How does it assume this?

It offers a closed world to all intents and purposes

Two questions. Firstly, how does it do this? Secondly, I am personally of the opinion - although this is nowhere in the 1954 definition - that there probably won't be any more folk music in Britain or Ireland; the conditions under which the process described by Karpeles could work don't obtain any longer. But if I'm right, so what? What do you object to in the idea that the folk process as described by Karpeles is a thing of the past? I'm genuinely curious - this is a real stumbling-block for me in understanding some of the arguments made here.

It contains interesting ideas, a challenge to authorship in a period marked by personal rather than community expression but takes the point to absurdity insisting anonimity is of the essense, not a consequence.

It doesn't do this, as has already been pointed out on this thread. Anonymity is precisely a consequence, not of the essence.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: greg stephens
Date: 12 May 09 - 01:34 PM

GUEST GLueman says:"Here's some of my issues with the 1954 definition (for the umpteenth time). It assumes one moment in time, the mid-late C19th, was an uncompromised window on common popular music and the recorders of it were impartial."

Well, Glueman, if you read the 1954 definition in a little more detail than you have obviously managed so far, you will find it was written in 1954 (as it says on the tin). Not in the mid-19th century. And I have read it quite carefully(there is a lot wrong with it, it's worth a close look), and I can't find anything that claims, or even implies, that it is about the mid-late 19th century. Perhaps you could point us to the relevant bit, if you are so sure? I may well have missed something, I am a musician, not an academic.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 01:53 PM

Right now gents I don't have the time to give the subject the linguistic clarity it warrants as it'll probably end up in a circular discussion and nitpicking and I have a publisher on my case but when I do, you'll hear it if I can be arsed.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: greg stephens
Date: 12 May 09 - 01:55 PM

Come on Glueman, won't take a minute to explain why you think 1954 is in the mid-late 19th century. (Was it the 19 that confused you?)


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 02:05 PM

Greg Stephens look up romanticism, neo-romanticism, new visionaries and see a link between late victorians and sentiments of the post-war period, esp with regard to folk song and dance. Or hang onto the idea I fluffed sixty years and snort to yourself, up to you.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 12 May 09 - 02:24 PM

One of the most important characteristics is that you can change it. That's why folk songs
have "variants" and run afoul of copyright laws. But these changes keep it alive over decades. Most of them are composed by Anonymous.

Accessible, simple, direct, sometimes narrative, and easily singable.

Some may have been written to make buck but that's not the reason they survive.
It is a way to make them popular on the media though.

Frank


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 May 09 - 02:43 PM

"Why do all the 1954 types throw insults into their posts?"
Do they? Point out where that is the case - (when you get the time and the inclination).
On the other hand - why do the antis always approach it as it has been presented as a gospel writ in stone - it never has been in my experience.
The definition was a not-too-far-off-the-mark attempt by people working in the field of folk song to make some sense of their findings. It worked for us, particularly with the Travellers, a non-literate community with , certainly up to the mid-seventies, a living, active tradition, still taking in and adapting songs and making new ones using the old forms.
As people have said, the definition is by no means perfect and is in need of a re-visit, but this needs to be carried out with far more care than the "out with the baby and bathwater" - or 'Somerset chainsaw massacre') approaches of the past.
Glueman wrote (before he took his vow of silence) "How reliable are the collectors and how scruplous their methods."
Perhaps he'd like to specify which collector and what particular reservations he has, then we might be able to help.
For me, the gravest charge that we can lay at the door of the early collectors is that they didn't get it completely right first time round, but given the time and circumstances, they will always have my admiration and gratitude.
It would be nice to get some reasonable alternatives to consider from Glueman, Sinister Supporter (can't get my tongue around his new persona just yet,) et all, but the latter dropped the ball in such a spectacular manner on the '1956 and all that' thread that it will be some time before I can take him seriously again.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 02:56 PM

Fight on, fight on says Captain Ward. In your case Jim, he'd have thrown himself overboard. Happy to swap insults so long as they're short.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: greg stephens
Date: 12 May 09 - 03:02 PM

Just tell us where the 1954 definition refers to the mid/late 19th century, as you claim.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 12 May 09 - 03:03 PM

Right now gents I don't have the time to give the subject the linguistic clarity it warrants as it'll probably end up in a circular discussion and nitpicking and I have a publisher on my case but when I do, you'll hear it if I can be arsed.

It's déjà vu all over again!

glueman, every time you've raised a specific issue with the 1954 definition I've responded. Every time I've asked you a straight question you've ignored it.
- me, a few hours ago


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 12 May 09 - 03:05 PM

I agree with it but feel the following part needs to be clarified: "it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community."...I think known composers should always be recognised, even though their songs may be leant and performed in a traditional style.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 12 May 09 - 03:14 PM

"why do the antis always approach it as it has been presented as a gospel writ in stone - it never has been in my experience."

You can say it as often as you like, Jim (you and others have done so repeatedly), but glueman is never going to listen to your denials. He knows the truth: you, Pip, Greg and your ilk are an all-powerful committee who rule the world of folk music and can decree that nothing is performed that fails the 1954 test.

"Fight on, fight on says Captain Ward."

Indeed he does. Perhaps someone with time on their hands might like to tot up the number of postings our adhesive friend has made on the subject of '1954' (not excluding threads that started out with no apparent reference to the subject) and wonder who is the obsessive around here.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 03:18 PM

GS do the homework I suggested, it'll make sense if you do and won't if you can't be arsed.
PR for people to get what the fuck I'm talking about, I mean people who might be interested rather than those who think pedantic is a complement and obsessive compulsion is a lifestyle aspiration, would need something lengthy and occupying the same head space though different subject matter to important stuff that pays bills. So by all means throw rocks - I'd expect no less - but be wary of putting a full stop under the conversation. Then I'm off to a folk festival for the weekend so it'll have to be ya-boo for a while. BTW you didn't answer my questions.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 03:22 PM

Brian Peters why do you think you're a friend of mine. Someone said 1954 to my first post on Mudcat (about Rachel Unthank IIRC) and they've been banging on ever since. I wanted to know what was so precious and having read it every time someone's posted the definition still can't see it. And I ain't that fick.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 12 May 09 - 03:42 PM

To try and shed some light on my last post:

"FORKS: folk music may usefully be divided into two main categories ? Traditional (unknown composer), & Composer (known: either deceased or contemporary, which appear as self-penned or covers)." ( from here)


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: greg stephens
Date: 12 May 09 - 03:52 PM

Simple question Glueman. If you can't answer it, fine.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 03:55 PM

Make the link. Learn. Open your eyes. See the folk revival in context, not isolation.
You have to see the connection.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 12 May 09 - 03:57 PM

It would be nice to get some reasonable alternatives to consider from Glueman, Sinister Supporter (can't get my tongue around his new persona just yet,) et all, but the latter dropped the ball in such a spectacular manner on the '1956 and all that' thread that it will be some time before I can take him seriously again.

Nice one, Jim. Hardly the wonder folk's dying on its arse with such charming sleights being hurled around without provocation.

Otherwise, the 1954 definition has been quoted in full on Mudcat several times today. Here's another:

All music is folk music. I ain't never heard no horse sing a song. - Louis Armstrong


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 12 May 09 - 04:05 PM

"It [the 1954 definition] contains interesting ideas, a challenge to authorship in a period marked by personal rather than community expression but takes the point to absurdity insisting anonimity is of the essense, not a consequence." 'glueman'

Well, here's the relevant part about authorship (as recently posted by Mr Happy):

"The term can be applied to music that has been evolved from rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by popular and art music and it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an INDIVIDUAL COMPOSER and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community."

So where's the insistence that "anonymity is of the essence", 'glueman'?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 12 May 09 - 04:10 PM

On a lighter note, did Mr. Ed ever break into song?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 12 May 09 - 04:20 PM

Well it's 1954 okay
War across the UK
It's another year
For me and you
Another year
With folk all to do

Iggy Pop, screwed up by the folk process. Ok, by me.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 04:24 PM

"it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an INDIVIDUAL COMPOSER and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community."

What does unwritten mean? Never written? Once written but now mostly sung? Written but changed? How much change until it becomes unrecognisable? If I turn Captain Ward into Captain Peace who says, 'Hey man, like don't give me that heavy cannon shit' and change the tune to Colonel Bogey is that a folk tune and who decides (don't tell me, the people. Well the people can kiss my fat white arse until one talks to me directly and not part of some people shaped committee). Can the individual composer be known and how if not through an attributed song? So how is a written down tune that is unchanged a folk song and are the changes also folk songs. You can tell I'm barely started here.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: greg stephens
Date: 12 May 09 - 04:29 PM

Don't ask Glueman difficult questions, he needs a bit of a rest before he tackles the last batch. Actually, Glueman, have you ever actually read this famous 1954 definition you are so obsessed with? You seem quite unfamiliar with what it actually says. Read it, it's quite interesting.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: greg stephens
Date: 12 May 09 - 04:32 PM

Because of Mudcat's strange habit of changing names retrospectively if pseudonymous posters redisguise themselves, threads can become remarkably incomprehensible. References to Sinister Supporter seem somewhat irrelevant, unless you know he regularly transmogrifies.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 04:33 PM

How can one avoid reading it, it's posted once a week on average and I read it every time to see the magic dust that got sprinkled on the words and I'm still missing them.
So can you answer my last questions please re. attributed folk songs? With examples preferably.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 12 May 09 - 04:37 PM

Of course Mr Ed did. Don't you remember the theme song?

I suggest that the notion that the horse definitioners (by which I include Gg) have anything useful to say has been found wanting.

They have nothing to offer.

They have no coherent and relevant criticism of the 1954 definition.

On the one hand they pretend to be academic authors (academic authors who confuse "compliment" with "complement"!) - while on the other hand they sneer at pedantry.

Pip Radish: well spotted. I'm still waiting for him to revise his definition of diegesis.

Oh, and Gg "academically rigourous"? That one's a hoot. I teach at two universities. Put that in an assignment or exam I mark. Please.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 12 May 09 - 04:38 PM

"How reliable are the collectors and how scruplous their methods."

Depends whether we judge them by early 21st century standards or the standards of their own times. There is an interesting discussion on this very point in Georgina Boyes' "The Imagined Village" which I would recommend to you, Gluem.

Meanwhile, looking at contemporary(ish) collectors, my understanding is that people like Jim Carroll were entirely reliable and scrupulous, and more centrally ethical in their approach. Go to the Musical Traditions and look at the bit about the singers in the booklet notes for the "Around the Hills of Clare" CD of recordings Jim made of traditional singers. His respect for and affection for the singers he recorded comes across very strongly and genuinely.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 12 May 09 - 04:47 PM

But more to the point, how would it invalidate the Karpeles definition if the collectors had been unreliable or unscrupulous?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 04:51 PM

I'll follow up the links Spleen. Never had any problem with Jim Carroll's working method or contribution to the tradition, he pulls the trigger too quickly on internet message boards and usually at the wrong target.

Greg Stephens, you either understand a movement like neo-romanticism and the work of RVW or you don't. I'm not going to post a potted thesis. The preoccupations of the movement informed the IFMCs words. There's your context. It's not the Song of Songs, it ain't a love letter, it's a kind of mischief, even for those of us who admire the neo-romantics.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 12 May 09 - 05:45 PM

by all means throw rocks - I'd expect no less - but be wary of putting a full stop under the conversation

Come down off that cross, we need the wood. I'm not saying you never will answer a direct question, just that you never have up till now. I hope you'll surprise me some time.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 12 May 09 - 05:56 PM

Of course Mr Ed did. Don't you remember the theme song?

If Mr Ed did sing, he didn't sing the theme tune:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_PZPpWTRTU


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 06:50 PM

"On the one hand they pretend to be academic authors (academic authors who confuse "compliment" with "complement"!)"

Me Bridge? I'm dyslexic and not an academic author, pretend or otherwise. Glad you find amusement in that. I do have a book our this year and have promised one each to two different publishers in the near future.
You really can't see past the end of your own prejudice can you? What has all that got to do with my opinions on folk music?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 06:56 PM

BTW Bridge I'm fully aware of the meaning of diegesis, its application and origins, are you?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 12 May 09 - 07:23 PM

My new thread just disappeared. Any reason?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 12 May 09 - 09:13 PM

Diegesis is a transliteration from the classical Greek


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 13 May 09 - 03:07 AM

Nicely Googled. I sill want to know where my new thread went. It asked a perfectly reasonable question - why are folkies at large a nice bunch and the ones on Mudcat such vile shits - though in nicer words than that.

Seems until we answer that the board is screwed by bullies and people working out their issues on others.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 13 May 09 - 03:14 AM

"I still want to know where my new thread went"

Down there below the line...


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Bert
Date: 13 May 09 - 03:27 AM

A folk song is a song that folk are singing.

Look here This is what folk are really singing.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 13 May 09 - 03:29 AM

Bad guess


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Bert
Date: 13 May 09 - 03:38 AM

...don't really want to go to "folk" concerts any more, because they're all that singer-songwriter stuff...

Joe, don't bash singer songwriters, I'm a singer songwriter and I also sing folk songs, they are two different things.

If you want to bash singer songwriters go start your own thread and I'll give you a hard time there.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Slag
Date: 13 May 09 - 03:40 AM

I've been accused of not posting above the line very much and that is true. And now I will show you why!

By way of prologue to what will probably be the prolegomena, let me say that definitions are by stipulation, via negativa, authority, debate, history, analogy, all, some, or none of the above!

As I read through the posts I thought of the problems C & W has endured in defining itself. Roy Acuff fought long and hard to keep drums and brass off the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. In the end his efforts to define and keep Country music pure failed. Well, for him it failed. What was he to do with Bob Wills and the Texas Troubadours or Johnny Cash with his Ring of Fire? And while all the steam was rising about Country music, what happened to Western music? I think Marty Robbins was the last soul on the planet to have any real success with a Western song.

Be that as it may, while reading down through the posts I kept looking for the words "banjo" or "Mandolin" or "French Harp" or even "guitar"! Or maybe even electric guitar if you happen to be Bob Dylan. Zither would have been a nice touch. Does instrumentation have anything to do with the subject? Dulcimer? Acapulco?

1954 seems to be a magic date. What was it about 1954 that what was said and thought then was so much more influential than anything being said today? Pre 1945 would seem to me to be a much likelier date. Sure a war was going on. A war like no other but the atomic bomb had yet to be revealed. No, THAT little item really changed things...forever! A lot of "folk" music came to the fore AFTER that revelation.

Does folk music have to address social problems? Seems a popular theme in many folk songs. Slavery, unions, wars, justice, injustice, lost love, suicide, murder, mysticism. I think even Toplady's Rock of Ages might qualify. Folk music appears to be a quite broad genre with a lot of sub genres besides. Historical songs, ancient songs , native or aboriginal songs (and instrumentation), new songs about old things and re-visions. Man what a fascinating genre.

Folk seems to defy definition and maybe that is one of its hallmarks. The art lover cannot tell you exactly why one painting would be called a work of art and another just an illustration. He might just tell you that art is that thing of which "he knows it when he sees it" and just like that, I know folk music when I hear it. And maybe that is the best definition.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Bert
Date: 13 May 09 - 03:50 AM

Where did your thread go?

How should we know? If you don't give us the title, how can we even look for it?

Get real guys, we ain't psychic?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 May 09 - 04:12 AM

Glueman
"Happy to swap insults so long as they're short."
Shortened version - part of your case appears to be that you question the methods of collectors (presumably leading to the distorting of information) - which collectors, what methods?
Otherwise your argument appears to be based solely on innuendo - nothing more.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 13 May 09 - 04:27 AM

"You can tell I'm barely started here." 'glueman'

Barely started to make sense, perhaps? But then I'm a "vile shit" aren't I? I happen to disagree with your opinions - which, apparently, according to you, is a heinous crime and a grevious moral failing on my part. Actually, 'glueman', considering the 'tosh' that you write, I think you get off fairly lightly. When I read through the contributions from the likes of Greg Stephens, Richard Bridge, Jim Carroll, 'Pip Radish', Brian Peters etc., etc. I don't encounter anything particularly offensive and nothing to get particularly upset about - robust good sense and plain speaking, mainly. Unless, of course, you know that you're out of your depth and are flailing around trying to score points. It's your constant accusations of moral turpitude, your lapses into 'academic speak' when you're challenged and feeble attempts at political point scoring that I find most offensive. Well, OK 'offensive' is a strong word - how about 'pathetic'?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 13 May 09 - 04:30 AM

Here's my response to a thoughtful PM enquiry from last night. It sums up where the thread was going again,

"There are two problems IMO, first a small number of aggressive bullies one of whom bounced me on the first post, the kind of playground sharks who get in early to make sure nobody steals their territory - they're unmoderated which raises the general temperature, and second the board has a large number of professional promoters and working musicians with an agenda rather than people who are fans of the stuff and have been for many years.

That leads to a disparity and the kind of 'nobody knows what they're talking about but us' stuff that fills threads. If you try to open the debate out into wider issues they bring it down to incidentals, if you talk specifics they say you don't understand the big picture. They get away with it because they always have. I have broad shoulders but have seen good musicians like SS openly insulted by these so called gurus and I find that very annoying.

Thanks for enquiring anyway,"


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 13 May 09 - 04:45 AM

"you know that you're out of your depth and are flailing around trying to score points"

Out of my depth at what exactly? Liking music? Challenging the shibboleths of a self perpetuating folk elite? Here's a story - many years ago an old friend with a huge music collection, 10s of thousands of recordings covering every aspect of C20th music going back to wax cylinders, found I had a modest collection of folk music. 'Nice one', he said, 'you do realise you won't find a bigger bunch of c***s than folkies, don't you?'

At the time I didn't know what he meant. I'm learning.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 13 May 09 - 05:16 AM

On another lighter note - fancy Glueman's thread not sticking..?!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 13 May 09 - 05:18 AM

"working musicians with an agenda rather than people who are fans of the stuff and have been for many years"

What makes you think those are mutually exclusive categories?

Since you seem genuinely upset by the responses to your posts, glueman, can I suggest that you:

(a) Refrain from firing off highly contentious statements in the most provocative language ("They seek him here, they seek him there but can't find the noble savage anywhere... uncritical dogma and an appeal to sentiment, beyond any rational discussion..."), and then decline to expand on your reasons for making them ("do the homework, it'll make sense if you do and won't if you can't be arsed... I'm not going to post a potted thesis").

(b) Read carefully and respond to opposing opinions rather than ignoring them completely, or misrepresenting what they've said (e.g. repeatedly making the accusation that "people use the definition as a stick to beat singers they don't approve of" after any number of rebuttals on this specific point), or treating your fellow posters with condescension, contempt and downright abuse ("folk policemen... folkier than thou tendency... Dickensian despot... bullies... quasi-religious, old testament judgements... desert-minded fathers with a definition fixation... pedantic... obsessive compulsion... self perpetuating folk elite... vile shits").

(c) Stop coming over the injured innocent the very day after you boasted of "the sheer pleasure of baiting" other posters.

Then - who knows - you might be able to get your discussion of collecting practices or the influence of neo-romanticism, if that's what you really wanted. Although it might be too late now.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 13 May 09 - 06:47 AM

Brian Peters, thank you for a thoughtful and supportive response.
On the first point I don't believe they are mutually exclusive, on the other hand Mudcat appears to be over-represented in musicians working 'the scene' compared with my experience of festivals (for example) where folk music, traditional and modern, is viewed from the position of folk consumer.
I appreciate there is a contradiction in consuming a participatory music through records and concert tickets, but no more so than presuming sea shanties have universal currency today. Inevitably someone who plays a certain form may not be objective to vying forms, something which is self-evident if you're outside the loop but problematic in a quasi-commercial situation, even if it's only the modest commerce of a folk club setting.

On point a) confrontational positions do not come naturally. I've fought my corner as a folk consumer and been constantly belittled for not understanding. I no longer understand what it is people are getting exercised about so am forced to conclude there are smoke and mirrors involved. Point a) is typical of much of these discussions, an ironic response to what must surely be tongue in cheek points.

Point b) I try not to ignore direct question unless they're in the middle of a general insult, in which case I'm forced to ask what the questioners motivation might be. OTOH I've tried to ascertain what specific aspects of the 1954 definition mean and people have evaded answering. Apparently that's how mudcat works, a bunfight, an attrition. I certainly didn't start it.

Point c) guilty, but in defence preposterous statements deserve outrageous answers. Follow the threads you refer to back and notice whether someone has made an absurd statement previously. You'll find they invariably have. Talk to me straight, without patronising and you'll get an honest discussion.

On the final point you can look at the folk revival in many ways but I don't believe you can fully understand the motivations and methods of collectors like Sharp and RVW without understanding the milieu that informed them. There is a continuous and interesting thread from their work to the present day in which I detect fault lines that have never been resolved. I'm guilt of assuming everyone detects the same fractures - some most certainly do - but I don't have time to develop the theme and I fear it would fall on deaf ears anyway.
Perhaps some other time.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 13 May 09 - 06:54 AM

thread.cfm?threadid=120790


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 13 May 09 - 07:05 AM

As entertaining as watching some of the bickering might be (and I've got to reprise an earlier posting of History Today 'cos squabbles on Mudcat remind me of this something rotten!) I'd actually love to read an objective, non-emotive discussion and analysis of the 1954 definition between supporters, non-supporters, and interested non-partisan others alike...


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 13 May 09 - 07:07 AM

I try not to ignore direct question

Please try harder. Here's the one I'd be particularly interested in getting a response to:

I am personally of the opinion - although this is nowhere in the 1954 definition - that there probably won't be any more folk music in Britain or Ireland; the conditions under which the process described by Karpeles could work don't obtain any longer. But if I'm right, so what? What do you object to in the idea that the folk process as described by Karpeles is a thing of the past? I'm genuinely curious - this is a real stumbling-block for me in understanding some of the arguments made here.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 13 May 09 - 07:12 AM

Thanks Mr Happy. I posted the new thread last night after a particularly trying time on this one - and reading others. When I looked five minutes later it was gone. I tried again in another five and still not there. I assumed it was glitch in the software or more likely I'd been bumped.

Towards the end of the thread you linked this was interesting:
"Aha, you can tell a troll a mile off, he starts a thread and doesn't come back into the discussion.

He has been invited to name the thread where he was attacked and hasn't done so. Most of us here don't like newcomers being attacked for no reason and will be prepared to defend said newcomer to the hilt. But I suspect that that is not the case here.

I'm guessing that if things quieten down on this thread he'll be back like a shot with his wooden spoon."

I don't know where to begin. Someone linked to a thread that wasn't my first but a response to a particularly unpleasant attack on someone else. My first was R. Bridge telling me in the third person 'this one isn't worth it' and mentioning 1954, something I'd been vaguely aware of on the back of my old Topic albums. I had no idea it informed people's judgements and the reason I keep coming back to those threads is to find out where the steam came from.

I do think it's a miserable, aggressive place much of the time and could be far more pleasant. I'm pleased some agree.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 13 May 09 - 07:24 AM

"What do you object to in the idea that the folk process as described by Karpeles is a thing of the past?"

Absolutely nothing. I've said before that IMO the definition read in entirety (and with an appreciation it contains contradictions of an almost biblical dimension) states that folk music is past tense. If that's where you're coming from *I agree on the definition*.

The contradiction is the contemporary folk scene I recognise through concerts and records has grown through the gaps in '54 or ignored it completely. Some of that music is recognisably folk to a large number of people which raises the question whether the 54 definition needs amending in the current climate. For example the role of technology such as youtube and file sharing in establishing new communities that appear at least to be recognisably folk and I'd welcome an intelligent discussion on aspects such as that.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 13 May 09 - 07:49 AM

Baffled!

Why does the fact that there is music that is not folk music but which is inaccurately called folk music mean that that other music is folk music?

Why do the practitioners of that other music feel the obsessive need to be able to call it "folk music"?

With a little sensitive reading (and yes, allowing for the fact that oral transmission has been added to by non-slavish reproduction via modern tehnologies, and that a community may differ from a different community while both are still part of a third, and that communities may exist virtually and in the fleshiverse) the Karpeles definition still seems to me to work just fine.

And I repeat, if you go to pretty well any forum and re-start a well-bashed topic without apparently having any regard to the content of the previous threads you will get jumped on. Go, on, trot over to turbobricks and post "What is Somender Singh's groove theory and does it work?" or "How do I turbo my N/A car?"


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 13 May 09 - 07:50 AM

"the role of technology such as youtube and file sharing in establishing new communities that appear at least to be recognisably folk"

Tentative attempts to raise this question have been made here, but haven't led to much discussion (which I think is a pity particularly considering that Mudcat itself has ironically been with us since the dawn of interweb.)

The potential validity not only of internet fora and music sites as 'communities' (albeit virtual), but the validity of communities such as MySpace and YouTube as virtual vehicles for 'oral transmission' are I think pertinent, and very interesting questions when considered in relationship to the 1954 definition.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 13 May 09 - 07:56 AM

Yes, they are pertinent Crow Sister, I agree.

"I'd actually love to read an objective, non-emotive discussion and analysis of the 1954 definition"
Me too.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 13 May 09 - 07:59 AM

Crow Sister, I came across this recently

https://listserv.heanet.ie/cgi-bin/wa?A2=IRTRAD-L;BfynBg;200302142039530500


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 13 May 09 - 07:59 AM

glueman offered a constructive response, so here's me being civil in return:

(glueman wrote) "I don't believe you can fully understand the motivations and methods of collectors like Sharp and RVW without understanding the milieu that informed them."

I don't think many of us would disagree with that statement, and you would find plenty of supporters for the idea that Sharp was selective in his collecting, or unduly prescriptive in his model for performance. But he published 'Some Conclusions' over a hundred years ago, and things have moved on. I realise that 'The Imagined Village' (which I would guess you're already familiar with) accuses A. L. Lloyd of adopting too many of Sharp's assumptions but, whether you believe that or not, even the 'Second Revival' was fifty years ago, and things have moved on again.

Today's movers and shakers are less likely to be dewy-eyed romantics than hard-nosed commercial interests, and (please acknowledge this, finally) the 1954 definition has precious little influence on what actually gets played now on folk stages here or anywhere else. People who perform traditional song do so because they like the sound of it, or the stories that it tells, and, if they wish to acknowledge their sources, it's out of respect for wonderful traditional singers of the past, not from romanticism or 'noble savage' condescension.

It would be very nice to put 1954 to bed now, but it's worth pointing out that there is an area of agreement between Pip Radish's statement (which I support broadly):

"there probably won't be any more folk music in Britain or Ireland; the conditions under which the process described by Karpeles could work don't obtain any longer."

...and your own: "It offers a closed world to all intents and purposes". (since I wrote that ten minutes ago, I see you're in agreement on that one)

1954 was indeed an attempt to describe a cultural phenomenon which its authors believed was disappearing. Sharp had believed as much in the 1900s and was off the mark only insofar as folksong hung on for longer than he'd expected, either in relatively isolated communties or through the nurturing of individual enthusiasts like Bob Copper and Walter Pardon (whose social group had already given up on it). If you don't accept that it was and is disappearing, then you have to assert that punk rock, or DJ-ing, or karaoke, or the bubble that is the 'folk scene' are the folk music of today and - although there might be a point there in terms of participation - you're still not describing the same process as Sharp.

You might well ask what - if we were to reserve the term 'folk' for 1954-approved songs - we are to call much of the music that is discussed on Mudcat, or played in 'the folk scene'? This breaks both ways, of course: if all of us are 'folksingers', then how do we describe Walter Pardon? If 'folk music' is 'that which is played in folk clubs', then does that mean the vast majority of the world's population have no folk music?

I think we have to accept that 'folk' means different things to different people. To a gathering of folklorists the 1954 definition would be immediately understood. Festival goers will probably accept that anything from Sheila Stewart to the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain can be accommodated under that broad umbrella. To the population at large over the age of fifty (who remember the Spinners and the Clancys on TV), 'folk' will forever mean chunky sweaters and hearty choruses. To a pop journalist, anything with an acoustic guitar is 'folk'. To Ritchie Blackmore, in a hilarious interview given about thirty years ago, everything apart from Deep Purple was 'folk music' (i.e. weedy shite). The US Immigration official who interviewed me at Boston in March responded to my self-description as a 'folksinger' by suggesting "like James Blunt, then?", to which I nodded and smiled (best practice with those people).

Personally, I try to use 'traditional' where possible. Or simply, 'old music'.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 13 May 09 - 08:37 AM

Brian Peters, yes, old music is a term I use too.
Folk has been problematised almost since those collectors and 1954 attempted to identify what was irreducible about the old music. I have an instinctive empathy with the music of the tradition but wonder whether the definition did not allow enough permeability in encountering post-revival attempts to keep it alive. 1954 seems to modern sensibilities to be unnecessarily prescriptive - while recognising the desire to separate what united the ballads and broadsides of the common era, I believe the conditions to extend the 'process' to be limited or non-existent now, in spite of rhetoric that suggests it might be.

If that is the case it marks a radical change from what folk music meant to the common people to what passes for common music now. I wonder whether oral transmission alone is sufficient to separate the impulses and musical modes that gave rise to the old music, or if the emphasis has generated a fortress mentality which restricts folk to historical enactment because 'dilution' is the feared result of musical aperture.
My feeling is the music of the tradition is now safeguarded by the very mechanisms which foreclosed it - systematic and standardised reproduction, and the notion of its survival through playing, though perfectly agreeable, is no longer necessary for its survival. If that's true, might not a modern sensibility encounter those modes and preoccupations without threat to old music?

If it may, old and new can be seen as a stepped (rather than seamless) strand of the same impulse. Resistance to such continuity is complex but perhaps not unbridgable.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 May 09 - 08:42 AM

"All music is folk music. I ain't never heard no horse sing a song. - Louis Armstrong"
Some time ago I was taken to task by an American contributor to Mudcat (I think it was the admirable Don Firth) for pouring scorn on this statement. He pointed out that whoever said it (I've heard it attributed to Armstrong, Broonzy and at least two other singers) intended it as a clever riposte and certainly not a serious statement on their music. I think this is probably right, the real joke being in those who quote it as a basis for their analysis of folk song.
When we started collecting we did so for the usual reason; to gather in as many songs as we could. This changed very quickly when we began to discover how little we understood of the field we were working in, and when we realised how much information was available to us from the singers we were meeting. If our work has any importance, I believe it lies in the extensive interviews we carried out with some of the singers.
From Kerry Traveller, Mikeen McCarthy we got masses of information on the transmission of the songs and stories via the 'ballads', the song sheets sold around the fairs and markets of rural Ireland right up to the mid-fifties, also through his activities as a street and pub singer. He explained how, after he had taught the tunes of the songs to town-dwellers, he heard them "sung back" at him months later adapted to suit their new environment. He also talked about the different styles used for different circumstances ? street selling, pub singing and what he called "fireside singing", that done in the intimacy of his home (caravan) among family and friends.
From blind Travelling woman, Mary Delaney, we got the intense emotional involvement which went into her singing. Mary could have doubled the 100 plus songs she gave us with C&W pieces she had sucked up vacuum cleaner-like, but persistently refused to sing them for us because, as she said, "the new songs have the old ones ruined". The old (folk) songs she referred to as "My daddies' songs" even though she had learned only around a dozen of them from her father.
From West Clare small farmer Tom Lenihan we recorded hours of his emotional approach to his songs and how he adapted that approach when he sang.
From Walter Pardon we got an articulate and extremely intelligent analysis of 'folk song' (a term he persistently used) and how they compared to the non-folk material in his repertoire.

The point I am trying to make (not very well) is that, contrary to the somewhat vacuous use that is made of the 'talking horse' statement, all the singers we questioned had a separate take on the songs we/I chose to refer to as 'folk' and regarded them in a different light than they did their 'other' songs. Contrary to what I have consistently been told down the years, singers did not lump all their songs together as 'songs'.

For anybody who doesn't know what Walter Pardon had to say on the matter, some of it can be found on the Musical Traditions web-site in the Enthusiasms section as part of a reply 'Wot I Rote' to an article Mike Yates had written previously. Mike's piece is entitled 'The Other Songs' and mine, 'By Any Other Name'. There is also an article on Walter by Pat and I in a festschrift for collector Tom Munnelly, ('Dear, Far-Voiced Veteran') entitled 'A Simple Countryman?' This latter is still available on the OAC web-site, but anybody who would like a copy of the article can PM me with an e-mail address.   
I also wrote a piece on Mikeen McCarthy called 'Mikeen McCarthy ? Ballad Seller' which was included in 'Singer, Song, Scholar', edited by Ian Russell and published by Sheffield University (probably out of print, but again, I'm happy to send copies to anybody interested.

I apologise for this bit of 'the articles wot I rote' self-promotion, but I do feel that too often these arguments take place on the assumption that the singers had nothing worthwhile while to say, which is, in our experience, far from the case. The older collectors may have been romantics with all the faults attributed to them, but at least they based their ideas on often hard, painstaking work carried out at the folk-face and not from the comfort of University chairs or from the protective bubble of the folk club.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 13 May 09 - 08:57 AM

Although it is not so convenient to trace the posts of a guest in chronological order as those of a member, it can be done.

I see that Glueman apparently arrived somewhat aggressively to defend Rachel Unthank, but did not start to get really forceful replies until he aligned himself with the OP's thrust on the "Our ghastly folk music" thread.

Since then the vast preponderance of his posts seem to have been to assert that there is no such thing as folk music, or that there is no value in distinguishing it from other kinds of music.

I have not found the specific posts, posts hostile to him, that he seems to complain about yet, although it is fair (and unsurprising) to say that he does indeed seem to have rubbed people up the wrong way from fairly early on. I am not so sure that this demonstrates the greater fault in us, though.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 13 May 09 - 09:04 AM

Talk nice RB and I talk nice back. I've never said there's no such thing as folk music. You're limiting debate as you've always done to your own ends and you get nasty when people disagree. See my exchange with Brian Peters (agree or not) for how it can be done if people want to communicate.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 13 May 09 - 09:05 AM

"If that is the case it marks a radical change from what folk music meant to the common people to what passes for common music now."

Well yes, but what does pass for "common music now"? I was never very impressed by the "Yellow Submarine is today's folk music" argument (no-one ever knew any lyrics beyond the chorus, for a start), but today we don't even have 'Top of the Pops' to establish familiar songs across the breadth of the population. My two sons (teens and early 20s) listen to utterly different music from one another. The only popular songs which everyone knows, are those in the ghastly and bizarre Christmas medley we're assaulted with for three months of the year. And I've yet to be convinced that singing of any kind is any longer a widespread participatory activity outside of the folk scene, the football stadia, some churches and various specialised gatherings.

"a fortress mentality which restricts folk to historical enactment"

That depends what you consider "historical enactment" - does an unaccompanied rendition of an old song automatically qualify for that slur, for instance?. To my ears the folk revival has always been about finding new ways to look at old material, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. And sometimes the old way of doing it can actually be the freshest and most exciting.

"My feeling is the music of the tradition is now safeguarded by the very mechanisms which foreclosed it - systematic and standardised reproduction." A good point, but that doesn't make me less enthusiastic about performing it - it's an enthusiasm, not a crusade or a preservation order.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 13 May 09 - 09:15 AM

I'd actually love to read an objective, non-emotive discussion and analysis of the 1954 definition between supporters, non-supporters, and interested non-partisan others alike...

Me too, so in this spirit I will respond to Pip's statement:

I am personally of the opinion (...) that there probably won't be any more folk music in Britain or Ireland; the conditions under which the process described by Karpeles could work don't obtain any longer.

To my mind what happens at The Beech etc. is the empirical immediacy of Folk Music without which I'm sure I wouldn't be half as bothered with it as I am right now. The fact that people might conduct such a seance at whatever sort of remove from the revival, neo-revival or the conditions that Karpeles fantasised about is miracle enough and the only time it feels in any way alive. Thus the experience of Folk Song is one thing, whilst the definition of it (the Karpeles / 1954 Definition in particular) is something else entirely. It is a sentimental intellectualism born of a particular sort of Fabian paternalism; it stinks, but it's a comforting old smell all the same; the smell of the well-intentioned intelligentsia thinking they know what's best for the people and their culture, of which, of course, the people have little or no understanding themselves and far less any actual appreciation, hence the need to collect and preserve and analyse it before it's lost. And look how easy it is lost; according to Jim Carroll, it might be lost in a matter of months...

Meanwhile, back in the real world, I find myself getting far more excited about the people I know than I do about remote old coves on field-recordings. I find a lasting sense of wonderment in hearing what Spleen or Pip are singing at The Beech (when we get there) simply because that nails the music in intimate human & personal terms and allows one to make a very direct link with something fundamental to the fellow human experience which is essential to the music, or at least a music, or at least one's personal understanding of it. Thus Folk Music is as fundamental as eating, sex and shitting; it's what people have always done & always will do and the continuity of the thing is born from the creative necessity that goes with the territory of simply being born human in the first place. This is why (as an essentially intuitive-improvising musician with an increasingly casual penchant for Traditional English Speaking Folk Song & Balladry) the Horse Definition makes more sense to me than the Karpeles / 1954 ever could, even though, as I've said elsewhere, I feel there is nothing in the Karpeles / 1954 that can't be readily applied to any human music, which brings us back to the poor old horse definition: they'll beat him, whip him, cut him - 'til the huntsmen let him go...


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 13 May 09 - 09:26 AM

I didn't mean historical enactment perjoratively, or as 'a slur'. It was a conclusion I came to some time back and was confirmed by others on this board, mainly those who agreed with the spirit and words of the definition. It's arrived at by a reading of 1954 which sees continuity of process to be unlikely.
The schism, if you can call it that between folk consumers like myself (who plays for and with family and friends FWIW), is partly to do with an appreciation of self expression through folk idioms but without boundaries, no matter how well intended. That desire for creativity, the impulse to let the music take you where it will is genuine and difficult to ringfence.

Example - the other night I went to see Bellowhead again. Personally I prefer the music of Spiers and Boden but they'd become more 'jazzy' which fit their big bound sound, an attractive thing with traces of The Kinks, music of the Bordello and a touch of marching bands. It could accomodate music of the tradition and modern arrangements by Rachael McShane within the same noise. A traditionalist reading would divide the music into folk and non-folk, aurally it was the same stuff.

It's important artists can find expressions within the broader folk umbrella without it being dismissed as just more pop. It isn't pop.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 13 May 09 - 09:27 AM

Amazing that someone can generalize in an inverted-snobbish way about treatment of 'the people' by 'sentimental intellectuals', and then dismiss individual, real people as "remote old coves"!

Off to lay flags now...


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 13 May 09 - 10:30 AM

inverted-snobbish

On the contrary - just all too aware that the history & culture of the working class has been defined & determined very much from the outside. I have every respect for the Fabian tradition, and draw great strength from it, but I'm under no illusions about its provenance, however so well-intentioned.   

then dismiss individual, real people as "remote old coves"!


I'm not dismissing anyone. What I actually said was remote old coves on field-recordings - real people for sure, however so abstracted, collected, collated, catalogued, indexed, filed, and ultimately isolated from whatever context to which they once belonged. How might we access their humanity at such a remove? Seriously, I'm beginning to forget what it felt like to be able to hear people like Willie Scott in the flesh, let alone Peter Bellamy. Call it a crisis of an already perilous faith; one which finds a measure of renewal in the sort of communion I've attempted to describe above.

Watch your fingers with those flags anyway.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 13 May 09 - 11:24 AM

To my mind what happens at The Beech etc. is the empirical immediacy of Folk Music without which I'm sure I wouldn't be half as bothered with it as I am right now.

I've had some great nights at out the Beech, where most of what's sung is Folk A La 54. What that tells me is that Folk A La 54 can make for a great night out. It doesn't tell me that all great nights out are folk.

It is a sentimental intellectualism born of a particular sort of Fabian paternalism; it stinks, but it's a comforting old smell all the same; the smell of the well-intentioned intelligentsia thinking they know what's best for the people and their culture

Maybe I'm being dim, but I can't see any of that in the 1954 definition.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 13 May 09 - 11:29 AM

Thus Folk Music is as fundamental as eating, sex and shitting; it's what people have always done & always will do and the continuity of the thing is born from the creative necessity that goes with the territory of simply being born human in the first place.

The thing is, if you're using the horse definition the word 'folk' in that sentence is redundant. And if you took the word 'folk' out, then I'd agree, wholeheartedly and enthusiastically - yes, making music is something people always have done and always will do, and the more the merrier. I don't know what you gain by adding the word 'folk', apart from an opportunity to start arguments.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 13 May 09 - 11:42 AM

Here's something folkie. When we were kids we'd stand on a low wall, the kind with the iron nobbles where the railings had all been taken for the war effort and dumped in the Thames, and play King of the Castle. This involved trying to remove the 'king' who occupied the wall but with an impediment, usually the use of only one arm.

This discussion is based on similar strategies, a pre-determined position with an artificial construct - the castle - being defended under the rules of the game while opponents are only allowed to use certain weapons or be called cheats.
I preferred looking at dirty pictures to my mate's sister's Dave and Ansel Collins records. Or trading American civil war cards. Tied to the cannon was a good'un and still inspiring.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 13 May 09 - 12:47 PM

I've had some great nights at out the Beech, where most of what's sung is Folk A La 54.

True for yourself maybe, but one man's Folk A La 54 is another man's Folk A La Cheval 2009, or whenever it happens to be. The moment is the key, I feel, and the experience is the whole of its meaning, which arises from a certain faith in the potency of the material which lives by being sung. Otherwise, why bother? We could just sit and read about it in books and listen to it on old field-recordings.

I don't know what you gain by adding the word 'folk', apart from an opportunity to start arguments.

By adding the word Folk I gain the very essential notion that music might be something people participate in creatively rather than something they consume as a ready-meal. Not all people, but some, which is to say those who are moved to do so. I think of this as Folk Music because as a Folk Musician I don't dig the rarefied intellectual atmosphere of the 1954 Definition which runs contrary to the very essence of the thing it attempts to define. Certainly it doesn't bring me any closer to it, rather it pushes it ever further away.

Not looking for an argument, just dreaming of an objective, non-emotive discussion and analysis of the 1954 definition between supporters, non-supporters, and interested non-partisan others alike...


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 13 May 09 - 02:49 PM

True for yourself maybe, but one man's Folk A La 54 is another man's Folk A La Cheval 2009

No, not really. I've been to 'singing horse' clubs and I've been to 'mostly traditional', and the Beech is very definitely the latter. If what you want is an exuberant moment of music in performance - and why wouldn't you - you've got a much broader choice than those of us who like to hear traditional songs.

By adding the word Folk I gain the very essential notion that music might be something people participate in creatively rather than something they consume as a ready-meal.

It's not the word 'folk' that makes the difference, it's all the other words. As you very nearly said,

"Music is as fundamental as eating, sex and shitting; it's what people have always done & always will do and the continuity of the thing is born from the creative necessity that goes with the territory of simply being born human in the first place."

With which I agree completely.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 13 May 09 - 04:36 PM

If this board were the totality of folk music a casual reader might imagine it was a total commitment, like the Jesuits or the Moonies, something you signed up to, bought the outfit and signed your life away. Fortunately it isn't, it's just more music and people are free to dip in and out. You don't have to believe anything, just listen.

As a relativist that suits me fine.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 13 May 09 - 04:37 PM

I give up.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 13 May 09 - 05:49 PM

"If this board were the totality of folk music a casual reader might imagine it was a total commitment, like the Jesuits or the Moonies, something you signed up to, bought the outfit and signed your life away."

No they wouldn't! You're over-dramatising again,'glueman'.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Diva
Date: 13 May 09 - 06:15 PM

I;m so glad someome asked
The word roughly means 'story world', one created by the teller. A fiction so apparently complete it draws the listener in so he believes the tale.>

Haud on......that could be a definition of a ballad!!!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 13 May 09 - 07:26 PM

I gave the Oxford English Dictionary meaning of diegesis a very long time ago.

I cannot see Gg's effusions above as anything other than irrelevancies. Certainly I have never suggested that only 1954 definition folk should be all that is sung in folk clubs (or anywhere else). Equally I positively enthuse about reframing the delivery of folk song. There seems to be more than a touch of Don Quixote about Gg's attack.

The parallel with "King of the Castle" seems utterly false.

I still don't see any beneficent intent.

I still can't trace the early posts of Gg's where he was so abrasively treated. All I can find is him rubbishing folk music.

As for the poster formerly known as Sinister Supporter, it is surely inherent in the 1954 definition that the members of the community participate in the delivery and therefore evolution of folk song - one of the main factors that distinguishes it from consumerist music.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 13 May 09 - 07:31 PM

Only a touch of the Quixotic Richard, you musical Onanist? Surely a dollop, slap or cornucopia? If only you were were important it might matter. Fortunuately you are a musical irrelevance and your opinions meaningless.
Have a nice folk day!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Diva
Date: 14 May 09 - 01:02 AM

I know you did Richard, but the earlier definition using "story world......" appealed to my sense of humour and I am aware that my humour is sometimes very strange compared to the norm. (Listen, I can't even pronounce the D word)

Loosen your stays lads.......it matters not a jot what the definition is or isn't. What matters is that it is a broad spectrum..some of it isn't to my taste but thats fine. I have friends who cannot understand my facsination and love of ballads but they are still my friends. What matters is that the music is played and sung and enjoyed.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Musket
Date: 14 May 09 - 03:10 AM

Jim Carroll wrote;
Ian:
"Or put it another way, go to a folk club and enjoy the experience for the spontaneous sport it is."
Perhaps you can explain something that others have been unable to.
Why is it not possible to do both - does understanding and taking a music seriously automatically prohibit somebody from actually enjoying it?
I have been involved in folk music for nearly fifty years, mainly as a listener and singer, but over the last thirty odd of those as a collector and researcher.
I write on the subject, talk on it, read about it, argue about it, issue CDs of our field recordings, archive it and am now preparing to publish a couple of books on Traveller songs and stories.
After all this time, Sheila Stewart singing 'Tifties Annie' still brings a lump to the throat and I can still fall out of my chair listening to Sam Larner sing 'Butter And Cheese And All'.
Do you think it's a genetic flaw - or what?
Jim Carroll

Thanks for that Jim. I agree, there is room for those who enjoy the noise it makes and those who see it as a fascinating study in it's own right.

My concern, and hence the mischievous opinions and provocative comments, is that many people have been driven away in the past by people who fail to make that distinction. As a teenager, I was almost paranoid about playing the wrong sort of song in a club in case some twerp pulled me up. McColl himself spoke of people should sing only what is indigenous to them. Good stuff, from a Salford lad called Jim who effected a Scottish name and sometimes accent.

It is where the technical study and the enjoyment meet that they can clash. How many people (myself included) have problems enjoying certain classical pieces because at school we had to follow a score with our fingers whilst the teacher walked round making sure we were keeping up? Not the best way to learn to love and appreciate artistic wonders! (To this day I turn off if I hear Mozart's 40th, despite knowing I would have loved it otherwise.)

I don't think this (or similar threads) is about spontaneous enjoyment versus study of the art form, but the two aspects (which make up the whole) mean different things to different people.

Hence I feel able to say that if it is played in a folk club it is a folk song, and you are able to say that's rubbish.

C'est la vie.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 May 09 - 03:11 AM

it is surely inherent in the 1954 definition that the members of the community participate in the delivery and therefore evolution of folk song - one of the main factors that distinguishes it from consumerist music.

But isn't consumerist music produced & determined by a community too? A community of writers, arrangers, producers, and artists shaping a traditional genre which is itself determined by historical continuity and broader cultural considerations, such as current trends and market forces. And can it be truly said that any musician is not a part of a community, even if they've learnt all they know from books and records? I think perhaps not.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 May 09 - 03:16 AM

How many people (myself included) have problems enjoying certain classical pieces because at school we had to follow a score with our fingers whilst the teacher walked round making sure we were keeping up? Not the best way to learn to love and appreciate artistic wonders!

Actually, it's only those pieces of classical music I studied at school & college that I've any sort of love for at all. Same goes for Shakespeare - only those plays I did at O & A level have ever made any sense to me or yet had any sort of meaning, emotional or otherwise. Am I unique in that I wonder?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 14 May 09 - 03:37 AM

SO'P,it sounds as if you were fortunate in your music teacher. Like Ian Mather, I was taught by an old-fashioned music teacher who succeeded only in turning me off classical music and teaching me nothing about music theory. It took another teacher, from the French department but an enthusiast for Handel, who let us throw away the scores and listen, and who explained counterpoint by working backwards from boogie-woogie. He was able to put across his enthusiasm and opened my eyes and ears.

To turn to Ian's other point, there should be no need to fear twerps pulling you up if you sing traditional songs. It's when people sing other stuff that they risk treading on thin ice. Different clubs and audiences have different ideas about what they find acceptable, and what might go down well with one audience might be anathema to another. You have to know your audience.

If you sing a traditional song at a folk club then you will still not be immune from the twerps who think they know everything, but you can at least be sure of your ground nd confident that you have a right to sing that material.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 May 09 - 03:38 AM

After all this time, Sheila Stewart singing 'Tifties Annie' still brings a lump to the throat and I can still fall out of my chair listening to Sam Larner sing 'Butter And Cheese And All'.
Do you think it's a genetic flaw - or what?


If it is, then I've inherited it too, Jim.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 May 09 - 03:56 AM

It took another teacher, from the French department but an enthusiast for Handel, who let us throw away the scores and listen, and who explained counterpoint by working backwards from boogie-woogie. He was able to put across his enthusiasm and opened my eyes and ears.

That reminds me, Acis & Galatea is on BBC4 soon (Friday 22nd May, 7.30) - so needs must I set the old box. Despite what I said earlier, I have no problem with Baroque, Renaissance, Ars Nova and other such Early Musics, and regard A&G as the very pip.

Oh, the pleasure of the plains!
Happy nymphs and happy swains,
Harmless, merry, free and gay,
Dance and sport the hours away.
For us the zephyr blows,
For us distills the dew,
For us unfolds the rose,
And flow'rs display their hue.
For us the winters rain,
For us the summers shine,
Spring swells for us the grain,
And autumn bleeds the wine.


Which just about sums up my feelings on Feral Folk actually...


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 May 09 - 04:10 AM

Ian
Thanks for thanks for that.
"Hence I feel able to say that if it is played in a folk club it is a folk song, and you are able to say that's rubbish."
This is a problem that narrowed down, and eventually stopped me (and thousands like me) going to folk clubs altogether. One by one I watched the 30-odd clubs in the London area adopt an anything goes policy until finally my choice was whittled down to around (say - cant remember exactly, three).
By broadening what was on offer, the policy had the opposite effect, audiences dropped, clubs disappeared and the music lost out. The period was recorded fairly comprehensively in the 'Crap Begets Crap' debate in the pages of Folk Review (another eventual victim of the 'anything goes' policy, along with what little access we had to the media).
I never experienced your paranoia at 'playing (or in my case singing) the wrong thing' - most clubs had a policy of sorts, even whan it was a policy not to have a policy - if you know what I mean. The problems rose (for me) when the latter began to float to the top and I would leave home at night not knowing what I was going to be given - and would return after a night at a folk club not hearing a folk song, or anything resembling one (I'm by no means a 'purist' - I was involved with MacColl for 20 years; he wrote more 'folk-based' songs than any other individual singer I knew, and he sang them accompanied, not a tradition of these islands.
I never quite met up with SS's "Blues, Shanties, Kipling, Cicely Fox Smith, Musical Hall, George Formby, Pop, County, Dylan, Cohen, Cash, Medieval Latin, Beatles, Irish Jigs and Reels, Scottish Strathspeys, Gospel, Rock, Classical Guitar, Native American Chants, Operatic Arias and even the occasional Traditional Song and Ballad", but things were obviously heading that way.
In the end it boils down to the freedom to choose what you are going to listen to - for me, you get that by the label you put on your choice.
I can, and do argue for what I believe to be folk music, which, for me remains a constant - SS's non-definition doesn't cut it for me becauseit has no logic, no track record and no documentation to back it up - it suggests that "words mean what we choose them to mean" - doesn't work like that.
Sorry - this is going on too long again.
Re. MacColl's argument about singing from your own background.
Whether it is permissable (never heard MacColl express it as anything but a personal opinion) for a Salford lad of Scots parentage living among exled Scots to sing Scots songs has been debated ad-nauseum - can only say it worked for me (and gave me access to the hundred odd ballads he breathed life into. It was never a directive to anybody; it was a policy for The Singers Club (I was, for a time a member of the audience committee which gave it the nod every now and again).
Suggest you read Peggy' Seeger's letter to The Living Tradition (issue 39)
Best,
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 14 May 09 - 04:15 AM

The revival is heavy with contradiction, men with degrees and clean finger nails sing the painful plough, performers aim for classical virtuosity and ask for riders before they'll visit. It's a game lads, we take our pleasure where we will.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 May 09 - 04:21 AM

That's silly Gg. I play music with others and not just on my own, and with all due humility I have seen some of my musical output bear fruit in the music of others, so the sin of Onan is not in any musical sense my besetting sin.

But in any event, in the words of "Hair", masturbation can be fun.

And I still don't detect any constructive object or effect in your rantings.

The poster formerly known as Sinister Supporter makes a much more interesting point. My immediate reaction is that the main musical purpose of the community he postulates is not continuity, but discontinuity (that is to say the vast preponderance of that community is concerned with originality, not the covering or arranging of existing work) and that as he expresses it the stated community is so fragmented in terms of musical endeavour that he stretches the meaning of the word "community" and takes it outside the reasonable interpretation of the word in the 1954 definition. Indeed the word "community" is one of the pieces of the 1954 definition that probably by now needs a sub-definition of its own, for how far can you sub-divide a community before there is no community left?

Further, until such a community's reframing of existing work is adopted in that community, the reframing would not fall into the 1954 definition.

THere is of course a part of that community that purposefully sets out to play the works of others - tribute and covers bands - but their purpose is not to modify but slavishly to reproduce, so their work is caught by the "composed music" rider to the 1954 definition.

That would seem to leave the very limited range of work in that community that takes existing works and re-interprets them - like the Bonnie Raitt version of "If you've gotta make a fool of somebody" - much better known by Freddie and the Dreamers - or the version of "Wondrous Place" (best known by Billy Fury) used a year or so ago by a Japanese car manufacturer in its TV car ads - both closer in words and melody to their predecessor versions than Seth Lakeman's "Setting of the Sun".

Conversely, however, it leaves the potential for large swathes of recorded output from the blues boom to be debated for inclusion within the 1954 definition.

Well done, Left Jockstrap, possibly the first potentially useful contribution to the debate from an iconoclast (if you are an iconoclast).


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 14 May 09 - 04:30 AM

But isn't consumerist music produced & determined by a community too?

I think it's pretty clear that the definition is talking about a community defined by other things than music - i.e. people living, working, studying, playing rugby (etc) together & making music as an incidental part of that. Something which seems to happen a lot less now than it did even when I was a kid (although admittedly I grew up in Wales).


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 14 May 09 - 04:33 AM

Then we'll settle on Folk Revival music, the Sealed Knot of musicality. You may be a general of cavalry, I shall be a pikeman.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: TheSnail
Date: 14 May 09 - 04:56 AM

"Blues, Shanties, Kipling, Cicely Fox Smith, Musical Hall, George Formby, Pop, County, Dylan, Cohen, Cash, Medieval Latin, Beatles, Irish Jigs and Reels, Scottish Strathspeys, Gospel, Rock, Classical Guitar, Native American Chants, Operatic Arias and even the occasional Traditional Song and Ballad"

Do you still stand by that statement, S O'P, in the light of Sailor Ron's response that "Yes we do get all that he has mentioned, but, and it is a big but, well over 60% of what is performed is 'traditional'[ that is if you include broadsheets, chapbooks, and 'old songs by unknown authors], plus a fair number of what I would call songs written in the traditional style or idiom." in this post or is Ron getting it wrong?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 May 09 - 05:08 AM

"The revival is heavy with contradiction, men with degrees and clean finger nails sing the painful plough,"
No contradiction here; the universal nature of the content of folk songs trancend their settings: it's why they took root wherever they landed.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 14 May 09 - 05:18 AM

'glueman' on Richard Bridge:


"If only you were were important it might matter. Fortunuately you are a musical irrelevance and your opinions meaningless."

I'm sure that Mr Bridge can defend himself - but I find such an outrageous personal attack very offensive. Belittling an opponent in such a way is not going to make you any friends, 'glueman', or persuade anyone that your opinions are worth listening to.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 May 09 - 06:02 AM

I think it's pretty clear that the definition is talking about a community defined by other things than music

I know of no community that is solely defined by music, there is always something else going down which is extra to the music. The musical communities I'm part of extend above and beyond the music, which might rest at its heart, though to an outsider it might appear the music is a secondary consideration to its ultimate purpose of simply being a community. Even with those musicians I work with on-line who I've never met face to face I'm dealing with things other than music; even when I've worked in chamber ensembles with total strangers there is soon established a human contact that defines a sense of community over and above the music.   

Do you still stand by that statement, S O'P, in the light of Sailor Ron's response

It varies I'd say; though I would say 60% trad. sounds about right on average, especially given Ron's special interpretation of the word which many of the 1954 faithful wouldn't agree with. Ron is my mentor in such matters - and it is a wise man who listens to what he says. That said, I wouldn't like to think of anyone coming to our club and being disappointed if they didn't hear everything in that list, but if they fancied singing us an aria from Acis and Galatea accompanied on a ukulele (or whatever) then I'm sure neither Ron nor I, nor anyone else would object.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 May 09 - 06:07 AM

No contradiction here; the universal nature of the content of folk songs trancend their settings: it's why they took root wherever they landed.

So, what you're saying, Jim, is that there is no revival as such, only a continuity of the tradition that has taken root away from its initial context? I'm cool with that, very cool indeed...


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 14 May 09 - 06:09 AM

Hang on a tootin second Shitrod. I've posted opinion, enquiry, gentle digs and been dismissed as an arriviste by people who know nothing about me in the most cynical (or robust as you and your self-appointed gatekeepers like to think) way.
I didn't start the spring offensive or the autumen one either. Why on earth would want anyone such plain nasty bullies as friends. If I post in a spirit of equanimity you perceive barbs and if I reply in kind to Bridge I'm 'outrageous'.

Grow up, be nice and stop playing the lady.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Musket
Date: 14 May 09 - 06:18 AM

It is sad of course that many people stopped going to folk clubs as they did not represent the ideal of the person concerned. As many folk clubs, including the ones I was involved in running, had a commercial aspect to them in order to book artists some weeks, then you could say that the piper calls the tune.

Does that mean that they are not folk clubs or that folk clubs evolve?

Depends on where you are coming from.

Just as an aside, regarding Jim Carroll and I both referring to Ewan McColl and his views. I once interviewed him for a radio documentary where I explored his sometimes intransigent views, (which strengthened with age,) and I asked him about two names, two geographical roots and how that affects his take on promoting indigenous expression through song. He basically said that he is a performing artiste and that requires a chameleon approach. My respect for him grew through that comment. (Politicians take note!)


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 14 May 09 - 06:19 AM

I reget I didn't make the thread title more specific

When I initiated the question, I was looking for a more current designation of 'What makes it a Folk Song?', applying criteria of today, rather than the erudite but rather grey, [& dated] 1954 version.

Little did I imagine the debate would metamophosise itself into a plainly obvious clash of opinions of on the one hand, performers & the other, audients.

The resulting furore is somewhat reminiscent of this debate thread.cfm?threadid=110584
from some time back


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 14 May 09 - 06:38 AM

Definitions throw light on the best and worst in human nature, the desire to cherish and preserve and to place on a pedestal and make untouchable. One detects the lack of a female touch and the pragmatism and immediacy that touch brings.

As a man I say we let the chicks tell us what a folk song is.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 May 09 - 06:39 AM

"So, what you're saying, Jim..."
Nope, sorry - no agreement here.
I'm saying that the content of folk songs (proper), as distinct from pop, singer-songwriter, et al, is one we can all identify with.
The transmission, say, of The Unfortunate Rake, can allow somebody dying of clap to be specifically a soldier, sailor, marine, ploughman, navvy, cowhand, gunfighter, whore (or punter of same) - not part of a definition; just a feature of construction and transmission.
Ian; the piper should always call the tune - certainly not the one who pays (if that's what you mean) otherwise you may as well close the club and install a juke-box.
A folk club should always be a place for creative and interprative artists, not monkeys on barrel-organs.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 14 May 09 - 06:47 AM

I know of no community that is solely defined by music, there is always something else going down which is extra to the music.

OK, then I think it's pretty clear that the definition is talking about a community primarily defined by other things than music.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 14 May 09 - 07:15 AM

Mr H - there's defining and then there's singing. Speaking as a paid-up member of the 1954 Faithful, I'm happy to accept The Scarecrow or Shoals of Herring or Old Molly Metcalfe as a folk song, even though each one of them has a single correct version; at least, if they aren't folk songs I'm not sure what they are. On the other hand, Graham Coxon (of Blur) has just released what's being described as "his first folk album"; I haven't heard it, but I'd be quite surprised if there's anything I'd consider folk on there. (Under the horse definition, of course, all his albums have been folk music, along with all of everyone else's albums.)

Going back a few steps, I think there are two reasons why people like me hang on to the 1954 definition. One is just that it is a definition - it doesn't rely on subjective judgments or circular arguments, which all the suggested alternatives seem to do. But the main reason is that

a) there are bajillions of traditional songs out there; hundreds of songs, thousands of variants, a lifetime of music
b) there aren't that many places where you can hear them sung and even fewer places where you can sing them
c) most of the places where you can carry the label 'folk'
d) an evening at a folk club listening to songs by Ralph McTell and Buddy Holly and here's one I dusted off recently is an evening that could have been spent listening to traditional songs
e) there are lots of folk clubs where you can spend an evening listening to songs by Ralph McTell and Johnny Mathis and here's one I finished this afternoon, and not that many where where you can spend the time listening to traditional songs
f) this is a damn shame

I'm not anti-singer/songwriter - I worship Bob as much as the next man, I've got most of Robyn Hitchcock's back catalogue, I even write songs myself. I just think traditional songs in performance are a scarce and valuable resource - and if people are turning up to FCs not even expecting to hear any traditional material, then we're not looking after that resource very well.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: TheSnail
Date: 14 May 09 - 07:58 AM

Pip Radish

if people are turning up to FCs not even expecting to hear any traditional material, then we're not looking after that resource very well.

I think the key word in that semtence is "we". Folk club organisers aren't some separate species or power mad entrepreneurs, they are, generally, members of the audience who, when the call came for volunteers, stood still while everbody else took one step backward. They are driven by their love of their chosen musical style.

It's no good sitting back and complaining that others aren't providing the music you want. If you want a job done properly, do it yourself.

P.S. I have occasionally heard Ralph McTell songs in a folk club; I can't recall hearing a Buddy Holly song and I'm damned sure I've never heard anything by Johnny Mathis.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 May 09 - 08:13 AM

"So, what you're saying, Jim..."
Nope, sorry - no agreement here.


Glueman said: The revival is heavy with contradiction, men with degrees and clean finger nails sing the painful plough

Jim Carroll replied: No contradiction here; the universal nature of the content of folk songs trancend their settings: it's why they took root wherever they landed.

S O'P concludes, therefore, that Jim Carroll believes there exists a rightful & traditional continuity in which songs once sung by the Hearty Ploughman by the fireside after a hard day tramping the furrows are now sung by the Effete Social Worker in their local folk club after a hard day working through their case-load. Indeed, like he says, that the universal nature of the content of folk song has transcended their setting and taken root where it has landed; the seeds and spores sprouting a whole new harvest.

Like I say, I'm pretty cool with that. The human context of traditional folk song is of great importance to me & forms much of my social life. Living singers have become far more special to me than dead ones; and whilst I respect & acknowledge the sources, I nevertheless recognise a continuity whereby such things still have considerable potency.

I think it's pretty clear that the definition is talking about a community primarily defined by other things than music

All music is an aspect of community, be it the primary defining factor or not; and even then the priorities of that community are in no way static. And the last thing the 1954 Definition is clear - rather it is a grubby paternalistic fantasy that effectively denies the individual creativity of the perceived lower orders of a still feudal society. As such, it is a bourgeois conspiracy that should have been ditched long ago.

I think there are two reasons why people like me hang on to the 1954 definition.

Don't tempt me! ;-]


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 May 09 - 08:18 AM

I've never heard anything by Johnny Mathis.

I occasionally trundle out When a Child is Born, though I tend to sing it to the melody of Mutton Pie (as sung by Jim Eldon) so maybe it don't count...

Its all a dream and illusion now
It must come true, sometimes soon somehow
All across the land dawns a brand new morn
This comes to pass when a child is born

With the fol-the-diddle di-do, fol the diddle-dee!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Musket
Date: 14 May 09 - 08:33 AM

Yes, this thread has strayed somewhat from the original intention.

Maybe it has evolved through the telling down the page?

That makes it a folk thread.......


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 14 May 09 - 08:42 AM

........don't tempt me!!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Compare and contrast
Date: 14 May 09 - 08:45 AM

Suibhne O'Piobaireachd
"a grubby paternalistic fantasy that effectively denies the individual creativity of the perceived lower orders of a still feudal society"

From the 1954 definition:
"(ii) variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group"

Huh???

And did the feudal system still operate in 1954?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 14 May 09 - 08:51 AM

Whether one takes a sealed or open-ended view of folk music there are consequences. If entirely past tense it is re-enactment, jolly re-enactment among friends and perhaps even a community of sorts but positively loaded with contradiction if not irony. The 1954 close readers appear not be big on irony which is a shame because there are worse things than let's pretend, even let's pretend we're hearty.

The open-enders OTOH have the problem of determining what isn't folk. Designated folk context doesn't quite do it for me - though I can totally see where it's coming from - and the solution isn't to return to the Old Irreducibles of 54 if you believe the instinct still runs through living, breathing, folk.
That makes folk easier to discern than define, more an approach than a sound, a mood not a setting, mercurial not fixed. Which is what most living breathing types decided for themselves long ago, so long ago they were still writing and singing the old music.
To paraphrase a kosher desert father, when two or more are gathered and decide it's folk, folk it certainly is.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 May 09 - 09:35 AM

Huh???

The key there is variation, C n' C - origin & composition isn't dealt with in the 1954, whose Faithful would have us believe there will be no more Folk Song because, as Pip says: the conditions under which the process described by Karpeles could work don't obtain any longer. Not sure how this effects the various individuals who continue to create very convincing idiomatic folk songs, nor yet those members of the folk community who take them to their hearts, but I personally can find just as much meaning in The Old Songs, When All Men Sing and Bring Us Barrel etc. as I do in the bona fide traditional numbers, so someone must be doing something right, and thank God they are. As Sun Ra says: Nature never loses anything.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Working Radish
Date: 14 May 09 - 09:41 AM

I can't recall hearing a Buddy Holly song and I'm damned sure I've never heard anything by Johnny Mathis.

A friend of mine regularly does Buddy Holly, when he's not doing Hank Williams or his own songs in the style of Hank (which are excellent - it took me several hearings to realise they were his own).

At Sale Folk Club, just before Christmas, I heard "When a child is born" (complete with spoken section) sung from a music stand because "I'm too busy to learn songs". Good night, though.

And yes, Snail, what any performer - down to rank amateurs like me - talks about on Mudcat is far less important than what we actually perform and where we do it. I still think these threads can be informative.

If entirely past tense it is re-enactment

False dichotomy. An evening of songs by Buddy Holly is "re-enactment" in just the same way. If you can hear new interpretations, new variations and new songs in the same place where you hear trad. songs sung the way Cecil wrote them down, then a "mostly traditional" night is no more "past tense" than a "mostly MacColl, McTell and McCartney" night.

the 1954 Definition is clear - rather it is a grubby paternalistic fantasy that effectively denies the individual creativity of the perceived lower orders of a still feudal society.

Ah, shut up 'n play yer kemence.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 14 May 09 - 09:46 AM

Difference is nobody gathered McCartney and McTell songs together and claimed they were 'special'.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 May 09 - 09:54 AM

Ah, shut up 'n play yer kemence.

Why do people keep telling me that? All apart from WAV that is, whose countenance visibly darkens at the thoughts of any accompaniment, let alone one who dares accompany E. Trads on a Turkish folk-fiddle.

I remember an interview with Martin Carthy & Norma Waterson in (maybe) Southern Rag in which they said singing traditional songs was like living in an old house. The house we're living in now is pretty old - over 120 years anyway, which means the men who laid the bricks and mixed the mortar are long dead, which is more than (perhaps) might be said for the idiots who fitted the double-glazing and installed the flame-effect gas fires. Enough remains however, by way of banisters and plaster work etc. to give me occasional pause to ponder, and feel part of something welcoming that engenders a sense of provenance which is why I sing E. Trads anyway.

Ah, shut up 'n play yer kemence.

All right, all right...


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Robert Black of " Sticky Willie "
Date: 14 May 09 - 10:01 AM

There cannot be a timescale to define a "Folk Song". When Robert Burns wrote " Ae Fond Kiss " there were probably those who said he's just copied his words onto an existing tune. Streets of London..folk song ? Pete Abbot's " Windy Harbour " ... folk song ? Truth be told.... if our grandchidren want to enjoy singing them , then they become "folk music ". The Beatles & Stones are tomorrows folk music !!!   and the list goes on ....   Donovan, Dylan, Credence, Lightfoot,McTell,Croce, Clapton, String Band, John Martin, .........
You can add your own 10 or 20 personal favourites....
I,ve sung "Brown eyed girl" , " Circus of Sour", & "Sweet Caroline".... at "FOLK FESTIVALS " & to date nobody has thrown anything at me.( Except that prat in Path-heid ). A good song or tune becomes folk music by it's quality & appeal. JUST ENJOY.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Compare and contrast
Date: 14 May 09 - 10:52 AM

Suibhne O'Piobaireachd:
"origin & composition isn't dealt with in the 1954 (definition)"

1954 definition:
"it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer"

Huh???

And what about the feudal system, as practised in 1954?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 May 09 - 12:00 PM

Huh???

But only that which has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community, C n' C. Otherwise, the feudal residue lingers yet...


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 May 09 - 12:15 PM

I rather like the idea of a community that is defined by an element of commonality other than its music.

I'm inclined to consider that Gg is slipping further and further into a diegesis of his own...


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 May 09 - 12:15 PM

Sop:
You said:
"The revival is heavy with contradiction, men with degrees and clean finger nails sing the painful plough,"
You then said:
"once sung by the Hearty Ploughman by the fireside after a hard day tramping the furrows"
Content our source - which or both? - I would love to find some point of agreement with you.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 14 May 09 - 12:24 PM

only that which has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community

Yes. Otherwise it wouldn't be folk music (although it might be just as good). I don't see the problem. "Folk is good" doesn't mean "if it's not folk it's bad", and it doesn't mean "if it's good it must be folk".


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 14 May 09 - 01:14 PM

"Definitions throw light on the best and worst in human nature, the desire to cherish and preserve and to place on a pedestal and make untouchable. One detects the lack of a female touch and the pragmatism and immediacy that touch brings."

As a man I say we let the chicks tell us what a folk song is." 'glueman', 14th May 09 - 6:38 AM

Glueman you really do 'take the biscuit'! So far, in order to persuade us that the 1954 definition is rubbish and that folk song is anything you say it is you've tried:

- To send us on a guilt trip because of your hurt feelings (Ahh! Diddums!). Although it sounds like over-dramatisation, foot-stamping and paranoia because you can't get your own way to me.

- To accuse us of being political reactionaries who patronise the singers as you maintain the collectors did.

- To accuse us of being supporters of Victorian romanticism.

- To blind us with science by occasionally lapsing into impenetrable 'academic speak'.

- To directly insult some of us who don't agree with you.

And all that having failed NOW you attempt a feminist critique!

What next? Air strikes?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 May 09 - 01:19 PM

Sop:
You said:
"The revival is heavy with contradiction, men with degrees and clean finger nails sing the painful plough,"


I didn't say that, Jim - Glueman said it, and I quoted it along with your response. That bit about the ploughman was me though; I've got a thing about the way these songs might tie in with the old methods of agriculture and how they might serve to remind even the Effete Social Worker of something long gone yet somehow fundamental to our well-being. But then again, I'm romantic like that and my bookshelves are stuffed with stuff by George Ewart Evans. I'm no ploughman though, nor yet Effete Social Worker, but I can dream with the best of them...

What was your point anyway?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 14 May 09 - 01:24 PM

Shimrod, tell me you're in a job where the sound of your own voice gets a free run.

Chicks get to say is a feminist critique? This would be gender and structuralism by Keef Richard presumably?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 May 09 - 01:28 PM

Sorry, crossed lines
- I thought you were saying that it was incongruous that effete workers (electricians in the building trade (rtd.!!!)) should sing songs about horny handed-peasants; for me, that's not what the songs are about - they transcend their settings.
My bookshelves are stuffed with G. E. E. too.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 14 May 09 - 01:55 PM

Of course songs transcend their setting, to some degree most music does. The issue for me is there's no position of passive appreciation and scholarship doesn't ring true for a living music.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 14 May 09 - 02:22 PM

"Chicks get to say is a feminist critique? This would be gender and structuralism by Keef Richard presumably?"

I don't understand what that means, 'glueman' - is it good ... or bad, perhaps?

Who is "Keef Richard"? Does he write books on "gender and structuralism"? What is "gender and structuralism" ... is it a load of obscure bollocks written by Arts graduates? I'm just a simple Scientist. Help!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 May 09 - 02:29 PM

Are social workers effete? If so why?

It seems to me that assisting a battered woman to leave her battering husband, or an abused child to leave its abusing parents can be a very dangerous trade. Certainly when my late wife (a then social worker) was dealing with one rather savage family from the notoriously dangerous Gravesend Waterdales she received frequent death threats and was more than once followed by car - and she had police advice if threatened on the road to drive directly (and without too much regard for usual road rules) directly to the fortress-like Gravesend police station.

If that's effete to you Gg, you must be well'ard.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 May 09 - 02:34 PM

"Of course songs transcend their setting, to some degree most music does."
Is that true of song?
Pop songs, for me on the outside, have no settings; their characters - where they exist, have no identities, there is no narrative to follow and become involved in.
They are there to be listened to, not identified with IMO.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 14 May 09 - 02:41 PM

This jumbling together of posts and posters suggests premature bewilderment. I've never mentioned social workers directly or indirectly and have no strong opinions on them.

Shimrod, I said women might be a better judge of a folk song than men who are inclined to pedestals of one kind or another and strict definitions, even in the arts it seems. You replied with "And all that having failed NOW you attempt a feminist critique!" Actually, no I didn't. You then said, in a retort worthy of a High Court judge in Private Eye "Who is 'Keef Richard'"?

I'm beginning to understand, slowly, what we're dealing with here.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 14 May 09 - 02:46 PM

"Pop songs, for me on the outside, have no settings"

I'll use that brush to do my yard when you've finished with it Jim. From a cast of thousands I'll choose Gene Pitney's 24 Hours From Tulsa, Don't You Want Me by Human League, This Woman's Work by Kate Bush and anything by Morrisey.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 May 09 - 03:00 PM

Glueman,
Wasn't making a definitive statement - I said I was an outsider - you've given me 4 (3 of which I don't know - the other I only just remember because it's nearly as old as a folk song). Anything a Kate Bush song might contain is obliterated (for me) by the vocal gyrations. The narrative has become secondary to the text.
The only Morrisey one I know is the one where he knocked out the Russian sailor - sorry.
Virtually all the songs I hear today I find as I described; they alienate rather than involve. Trying to follow them is like wrestling with fog.
On the other hand, folk songs (as I recognise them to be), are populated with recognisable, people - that, I believe, is why they have survived.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 14 May 09 - 03:12 PM

Outside isn't always the best place to observe from Jim. It's what makes non-folkies believe we all sing, in the words of Thomas Hardy's Natives, "in the voice of a bee up a flue".


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 May 09 - 04:18 PM

YOu are correct in one thing, Gg (actually, I note you are now "g"). It is Left Jockstrap who is obsessed with the allegedly effete.

You, on the other hand, seem still to be tilting at windmills.

Have you got a constructive purpose, and if so what is it?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 14 May 09 - 04:35 PM

"Have you got a constructive purpose, and if so what is it?"

Now if I'd have said that the battalion of 54 Irreducibles would be wailing like banshees. I'll offer a How Dare You, a half hearted one as I'm feeling generous because your generalisations have found you out.
What's that you say? Everso sorry you didn't mention social workers after all it was just another bile and spleen job? You're forgiven. Try not to do it again and we'll say no more about it.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 14 May 09 - 04:40 PM

Further to the dismissal of Pop song as story. As a lover of fairy tale, folk tale, poetry and mythology, I believe it was specifically the story content which drew me into contemporary music from between around seven years of age (when I discovered the magical fairy tales of Genesis and the rather more 'unexpergated fairy tales' of Alice Cooper) until the present, and the discovery of the same in Folk song about six months ago which drew me here...
While Jim C. might not personally relate to the story content in Pop songs, I believe he must accept the fact that for many, upon many of us (who perhaps are not of his generation?) DO relate strongly to the stories contained in the songs of many excellent contemporary (and arguably 'folk' according to the "non-1954 definition" - any budding theorists fancy drafting this?) lyricists.

Glueman I'll take your Morrissey and raise you a Neil Young 'Southern Man', a Billy Bragg 'Man in the Iron Mask', a Jah Wobble 'A13', a House of Love 'My Love in a Car' and a Beatles 'She's Leaving Home'... ;-)


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 14 May 09 - 04:53 PM

...and before we get to any number of Prog concept albums CS. Can I swap my Morrissey for the Shangri-La's Leader of the Pack? Or Jan and Dean's Dead Man's Curve (that's mostly spoken so no impenetrable noise for seekers of clarity)


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 14 May 09 - 05:04 PM

The song is about a girl named Betty, asked by friends to confirm that she is dating Jimmy, the leader of a motorcycle gang. After singing of love at first sight ("I met him at the candy store/He turned around and smiled at me/You get the picture?/That's when I fell for the Leader of the Pack"), Betty's heart turns to despair as she bemoans her parents' disapproval. The parents claim Jimmy hails from "the wrong side of the tracks" and will be a bad influence on her. They ask Betty to tell Jimmy goodbye and find someone new.

Betty does as she is asked, and an upset Jimmy ? after putting up his bravado ? speeds off on his motorcycle. Moments later, Jimmy crashes on a rain-slickened surface and dies; Betty's pleas for Jimmy to slow down were in vain. In the end, Betty is left to deal with heartbreak but vows never to forget her fling with Jimmy, the "Leader of the Pack."

As told by George 'Shadow' Morton to Cecil Sharp in Ballads of the New World 'A Maid and a Widow I Be.'


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 May 09 - 05:17 PM

Are social workers effete? If so why?

If that's effete to you Gg, you must be well'ard.

It is Left Jockstrap who is obsessed with the allegedly effete.

I do wish you'd play nicely, Richard.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 May 09 - 05:59 PM

Moi? It was not I who accused all social workers of being effete.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 May 09 - 06:01 PM

Oh, which, I think, brings me back to a perfectly reasonable question.

Have you, glueman, a constructive purpose (as far as your postings here are concerned) and if so what is it?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 14 May 09 - 06:04 PM

Drawing a line between art and pedantry.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 May 09 - 06:19 PM

I'll take that as a "no" then.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 14 May 09 - 06:22 PM

"Have you, glueman, a constructive purpose (as far as your postings here are concerned) and if so what is it?" Richard Bridge

I think, Richard, that his 'purpose' is to sing contemporary(ish) pop songs in folk clubs. But he also seems to think that he needs 'permission' to do this. In other words he seems to need his 'theory', that folk song is anything he says it is, sanctioned by 'higher authority' (which, I suppose, is we supporters of the 1954 definition! How weird is that!). What he fails to realise is that no-one is stopping him from singing anything he likes in a folk club but that he must take responsibility for it, and accept the possibility that it might not go down well.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 14 May 09 - 06:24 PM

You'd have thought it was unnecessary. Pointing out the difference between art - songs, dance and all that and definitions and nitpicking but you'd be surprised how much work there is in my line, even in a credit crunch.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 14 May 09 - 06:32 PM

Says Lord Chief Justice "Keef Who?" Shimrod. The chance of me singing anything in a folk club are slim to non-existent. If you want to hear Lord Randall at pub closing time and all the way down our road there may be a small opportunity, especially if the lurcher has caught something nice for me tea.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 15 May 09 - 03:12 AM

It was not I who accused all social workers of being effete.

There was only ever the one, Richard - as in The Effete Social Worker, a drinking / singing pal circa 1982 who was as passionate about Traditional Song as he was inept at his day job. He turned me on to a lot of good old singers but as a fan of The Fall (who in 1982 were on top of their game) I drew the line at Folk Rock (the line is still drawn) though I could dig that Sam Larner & Mark E. Smith were maybe getting at something similar with respect to vocal technique & storytelling. Seminal stuff!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 15 May 09 - 03:20 AM

PS - The Effete Social Worker's party piece was as faithful a rendering of Captain Beefheart's Well as you're ever likely to hear. Suitably impressed, I decided this should be my part piece too, which it was for a while until I neglected it for too long and it passed beyond the point of recall. These days, if pushed, I'll sing McGinties Meal an' Ale instead...


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 15 May 09 - 04:14 AM

Well, whatever the OP's intentions, I think this thread has now drawn to a conclusion. glueman apparently objects to the definition simply because it is a definition and has no interest in formulating an accurate or more accurate definition.

On the other hand, those of us who do think that htere is a difference in kind, not merely sound, betweena fok song and other song have gained a possibly valuable insignt - namely that the expression "community" in the 1954 definition applies best to an community with a commonality afforde other than by its music itself.

It does beg (in both senses) the question of how many people are needed to form a community, but I do think it is a step forwards in improvig the 1954 definition.

THe next question I suppose is whether the transmission element in the definition can be extended to include oral learning from reordings and/or electronic relay mechanisms like say youtube, and/or from writing. I suggest that that too would be an advance in applying the definition in the modern world and consistent with the evolutionary permission inherent in the 1954 definition.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 15 May 09 - 04:42 AM

This social worker's not feckin' effete!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 15 May 09 - 04:58 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FxSM88H


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: TheSnail
Date: 15 May 09 - 05:06 AM

I can drive a tractor or at least I could forty years ago.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 15 May 09 - 05:08 AM

"has no interest in formulating"

You got me bang to rights. It's always about the music. Keep the formulas in Shimrod's laboratory and people in the pub having a singsong.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 15 May 09 - 06:01 AM

I suggest that that too would be an advance in applying the definition in the modern world and consistent with the evolutionary permission inherent in the 1954 definition.

That's the sort of thing The Effete Social Worker would come out with whilst smoking Red Leb skinned up with licorice papers (so as to more resemble cigars) outside The Bridge in Newcastle after another mind numbing set of political proselyting by Ewan McColl. You see, The Effete Social Worker really though he was a traditional singer and such considerations mattered to him. One thing we did agree on was that Henry Cow was dried up Zappa, but we still loved them for it.

Still do.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tl3AXgyzYgs

Situation that rules your world (despite all you've said)
I would strike against it but the rule displaces...

There I burn in my own lights fuelled with flags torn out
of books, and histories of marching together...
United with heroes, we were the rage, the fire.
But I was given a different destiny - knotted in closer despair.
Calling to heroes do you have to speak that way all the time ?
Tales told by idiots in paperbacks; a play of forms
to spite my fabulous need to fight and live.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 15 May 09 - 06:31 AM

I don't think anyone wanted to stop the people in the pub or anywhere else having a singsong.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 15 May 09 - 06:38 AM

By the way, as now an "effete" lawyer, I have, for a living, over the years, at different times

Driven a tractor
Picked hops
Collected rent for landlords
Been a fitter's mate
Worked on an assembly line building fluid control valves
Been a labourer in a paper-mill, mostly throwing logs into grinders
Been an agricultural labourer loading bagged corn onto trailers
Been a car body preparer in a spray-shop
Been white-van-man
Been a mobile disk-jockey


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 15 May 09 - 06:51 AM

Jim's nice wide yard brush will come in handy here because I believe this thread goes some way to confirming a long held suspicion - namely that folk music, especially traditional music attracts people who like RULES! Is it any accident Shimrod subjects an art form to the same scrutiny a scientific experiment would receive?

Traditional music is attractive for all kinds of visceral reasons and also because it's old. Those characteristics make it special. Other less old music has a similar visceral call and I'm content to call that folk song too.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: TheSnail
Date: 15 May 09 - 07:07 AM

glueman

folk music, especially traditional music attracts people who like RULES!

No, Mudcat attracts people who like rules and people who like kicking against them even when they don't affect them at all.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 15 May 09 - 07:39 AM

Is it any accident Shimrod subjects an art form to the same scrutiny a scientific experiment would receive?

Unlike the freewheeling individual who asked for

a suggestion as to what is the minimum amount of change to be considered folk music according to '54. Is it two person transfer, sixty people, one verse change, 5 lines?

(A classic case of sorites - the 'heap' paradox - incidentally.)

Snail:

people who like kicking against them even when they don't affect them at all

I think that's about it. Very punk, which is all to the good, but a bit tedious after a while.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 15 May 09 - 08:06 AM

No more tedious than Moses tablet persuaders surely? You'll find if Bridge and his merry pranksters stopped spreading their fundamentalism people like myself would retire to the happy corner to talk about folk music.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 15 May 09 - 09:11 AM

I don't have a very academic bent, but I'm still taken with the notion of dissecting this 1954 definition and analysing it so that perhaps genuinely curious non-partisan (and not very academic) party - like myself - might better get to grips with some of it.
I was rather hoping that this board, being chock full of academics as it is, might respond to that interest. My questions are not very ordered, or indeed thorough. But here they are CUT & PASTED from a PM to a fellow member:

What are the premises - both explicit and implicit - upon which the conclusions are predicated?
Can these premises be shown to be valid or otherwise?

What methods of research were used in the collating of materials which support the conclusions?
To what degree do these methods stand up to modern scrutiny?

To what extent does the alteration in modern usage of the meaning of such terms as 'community' and 'oral transmission' effect our understanding and interpretation of the conclusions?
(I think RBridge has begun addressing these questions already btw.)

How would modern anthropologists, historians and musicologists view the 1954 definition?

Are there any logical flaws to the 1954 argument?
Where are it's strengths or weaknesses evident linguistically, methodologically, contextually.

And so on..

I wish I had a better grasp of some of the issues which those questions raise. In fact I'm not phrasing the questions all that well (they're only really there as examples of elements I find lacking and thus unsatisfactory and frustrating in discussions like these.) But unfortunately I don't, so I ask your indulgence...

If you were doing a fully objective critical analysis of the 1954 definition, perhaps indeed writing a paper on it, what questions would you posit for that analysis, and how would you address and answer them?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 15 May 09 - 09:17 AM

Crow Sister I suspect any critical analysis of 1954 would be seen as criticism of it in a partisan way - but would love to be proved wrong. Here's hoping.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 15 May 09 - 09:42 AM

A critical analysis would be fine, but what we tend to get are wild, unsupported statements like "grubby paternalistic fantasy" and "bourgeois conspiracy" which (even if intended tongue-in-cheek) don't make for a very civilized discussion. If you take the view that, since 'posh people' or 'academics' wrote it, it must be a load of bollocks which patronized the working class, then you're condemning ethnomusicology, sociology, anthropology and who knows what else to the bin as well.

The idea of 'pure' oral transmission has taken a knock as we've realised the number of the old songs that had been appearing in broadsides or chapbooks for three hundred years before Sharp's time, so the clause in '1954' insisting that the tradition is "unwritten" might need to be modified. On the other hand there's plenty of evidence, from song variants themselves and from the actual accounts of singers, for the importance of oral transmission and the vernacular remoulding of broadside texts. And broadsides rarely included tunes, of course.

It might be worth restarting your discussion on one of the old '1954' threads, Crow Sister - if you can bear to to drag the evil dead from their graves - since Mr. Happy's already told us that a '1954' debate wasn't what he was after when he started this one.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 15 May 09 - 10:07 AM

If you were doing a fully objective critical analysis of the 1954 definition, perhaps indeed writing a paper on it, what questions would you posit for that analysis, and how would you address and answer them?

I think by going to the methodological level you're begging the big question here: what do you mean by a "critical analysis"? What's the question you're asking?

There are any number of questions you could ask. Taking the definition in its own terms, you could ask: does it hang together logically? does it adequately define an identifiable body of music which Karpeles et al were aware of? does it still adequately define an identifiable body of music? what are the problem areas and borderline cases, and do they suggest the need to amend it?

Or you could go down the route of asking whether it adequately defines the thing we call 'folk', and if not why not - although I think this thread and others like it are an awful warning against this approach.

Or you could ask, does the definition describe a body of songs which is still being added to & a process that's continuing? And if not, is that a problem? Does the definition need to be expanded to include new forms of transmission? (My own answers would be a) probably not; b) no and c) no, it defines what it defines.)

Or you could do unpack the underlying assumptions of the text by doing a Szczelkun/Harker job on the EFDSS, which might suggest that great vistas of haut-bourgeois complacency lurk in the gaps between the words (I think they probably do, but I don't find it interferes with my understanding of the words).

Or... dunno. But you've got to have an underlying question - more to the point, you almost certainly have got an underlying question, or you wouldn't be bothered about asking.

Personally I've been pleasantly surprised by how well the 54 definition has stood up to the challenges it's received in this and other threads; it seems pretty clear to me that there is an identifiable group of songs which the definition does describe, even if that group is a bit ragged round the edges (as Brian said, it doesn't include all broadside ballads, for instance). Whether we call that group of songs 'folk', 'traditional' or something else again (I've suggested 'Snelgrove') is secondary.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 15 May 09 - 10:40 AM

First off the definition is too unwieldy, reflecting defining processes of its time. If there's a need to identify a 'music of a community' you might begin with something as plain as 'adopted and transformed' as key ingredients. That would included modern football songs and chants which undergo such changes, pub drinking songs (inc. popular songs) modern nonsense songs, etc.

The contradiction in one social group examining the artifacts of another was not problematic then (read any popular boys adventure novel of the period to see how 'ordered their estate' was) and there was an impulse in exclude rather than include - which it seems still goes on.
Society as a whole is more atomised than it was when the definition was drawn up and processes more immediate and proliferating. A comminity definition has to follow those changes.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 May 09 - 12:31 PM

"folk music, especially traditional music attracts people who like RULES!"
It's very difficult to concentrate on the subject of this thread for the sound of grinding axes.
Since when has a definitition been a RULE? If the present definition is rejected, won't this mean it will be replaced by yet another RULE?
A far as I'm concerned, the 1954 DEFINITION, while needing adjustment, has served pretty well as a guide for me, as a field worker, as a singer and as somebody who likes to know where to look when I want to find something.
If it is to be replaced, adusted, or left as it stands at present, it will have to be to the satisfaction of all involved.
The idea that any definition be changed in the interest of a tiny handful on 'anything goes' clubs that wish to include "Blues, Shanties, Kipling, Cicely Fox Smith, Musical Hall, George Formby, Pop, County, Dylan, Cohen, Cash, Medieval Latin, Beatles, Irish Jigs and Reels, Scottish Strathspeys, Gospel, Rock, Classical Guitar, Native American Chants, Operatic Arias and even the occasional Traditional Song and Ballad" who wish to cram their wares under the folk umbrella is, of course, a nonsense - this would not be re-definition or adjustment, it would merely be removing the word 'folk' from the term 'folk music'.
It would be interesting to know where the re-definers are coming from. I'm left with the impression that they are, in the main, not just people who don't understand folk music, but don't really like it very much, nor the "remote old coves on field-recordings" who gave it to us.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 15 May 09 - 12:50 PM

'Glueman' and 'Crow Sister' there's nothing stopping either or both of you from undertaking this 'critical analysis' of the 1954 definition - why dump the responsibility onto someone else? Don't know how much of the orginal documentation survives - but I'm sure that resourceful and motivated researchers could find out.

Of course 'glueman' had already made up his mind that the definition is flawed - it's going to be difficult to maintain your objectivity, isn't Mr 'g'? Still, I'm sure you're up to the challenge - go for it, and I look forward to reading your findings!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 15 May 09 - 02:52 PM

Shimrod: "why dump the responsibility onto someone else?"

Rather loaded terms there Shimrod. I wansn't doing so as I recall, merely asking if anyone was interested in thinking and responding to my poorly articulated queries.

Especially as I assumed that the onus of responsibility, rather aught to belong with supportive academic parties demonstrating the validity of such a theory, rather than the same demanding that the general public must provide rational for a fairly simple and honest "why so?".

Mine was a mere request - as an interested, non-academic and non-partisan observer (who happens to sing folk songs) - that those academics already contributing to this thread, might aid an interested but confused other such as myself, to find better inroads into a topic, which this thread amongst others has unfortunately, continually obsfucated.

I have no better grasp of the value, significance, merit or otherwise of the 1954 definition, than I did upon discovering it debated here, hence my somewhat inept attempt at requesting greater understanding of it.

As an outsider to this debate (as indeed I suspect most folk enthusiasts might well be), it feels utterly nebulous and displaced from anything I can mentally grapple with. No doubt that's my fault. Maybe I'm better off deciding "it's just a load of intellectual middle-class bullshit" rather than asking stupid questions about it?
Who knows..


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 15 May 09 - 03:15 PM

Mine was a mere request - as an interested, non-academic and non-partisan observer (who happens to sing folk songs) - that those academics already contributing to this thread, might aid an interested but confused other such as myself,

I'm an academic - as in, I teach stuff to grown-ups for a living - but I've got zero academic qualifications in the area of folk music. I'm not sure anyone here has.

As an outsider to this debate (as indeed I suspect most folk enthusiasts might well be), it feels utterly nebulous and displaced from anything I can mentally grapple with.

As I said, I can't answer your question if I don't know what it is. Are you saying you don't understand the definition? If so, which bit? Are you saying it doesn't define what gets sung in folk clubs? (True, it doesn't.) Are you saying we need a definition for what gets sung in folk clubs? (Maybe, but that's not it.) Or... er, what?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Frozen Gin (inactive)
Date: 15 May 09 - 03:46 PM

I'm left with the impression that they are, in the main, not just people who don't understand folk music, but don't really like it very much, nor the "remote old coves on field-recordings" who gave it to us.

Now there's a pretty patronising attitude if ever I saw one, it' no wonder people get turned off.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 15 May 09 - 04:20 PM

Dunno about not 'understanding' folk music, I grew up believing folk was not 'our' music but 'their' music, clever people I came across, teachers, clerics, the middle classes generally. I knew no working class people like ourselves who 'appreciated' folk music even though my parents sang (though by no means exclusively) songs that met the definition, even THE definition.

As I got older and began to listen to the stuff more closely it was clear there was a contradiction - this was music of the oiks, talented oiks certainly who came up with the thing but probably the same group as ourselves, but had been adopted/purloined/appropriated (choose your own) by completely different people, those with refined sensibilities. I liked it but was in no way refined which put me out on a limb.

For those reasons I take no lectures on what is inside or outside by those who believe it takes learning and education to perceive properly. A definition that acknowledged what the music was about, how it arrived here and through what processes of mediation and consumption would be more honest and relevant and may give the opportunity for ordinary people to take part again and continue making.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 15 May 09 - 05:17 PM

Chip, shoulder: shoulder, chip.

I think you need to undertake a deconstructive analysis of the work "oik".


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 May 09 - 05:22 PM

Glueman:
I grew up with the idea that people like me had no culture - I was actually told by a teacher a few months before I left school that all I was required to know when I left school was how to tot up my wages on a Friday night.
Having 'discovered' folk songs, it was suggested to me that not only was it unique, but it was created and re-created by people like me. That is why I feel as strongly as I do about its origins, and it's why I have spent the last thirty odd years attempting to find out whether what I had been told had any basis of truth.
I have no 'learning' or 'education' to speak of, nor do I believe it takes such to understand folk music.
It was enough for me to learn that, over the last three decades, if I wanted to find the survivals of the 'big ballads', I would be more likely to get them on my local gypsy site - from a non-literate group of people at the bottom of the social pile - than anywhere else.
That is probably why I argue as strongly as I do when I hear folk song devalued and have the uniqueness taken out of it by junking it together with any other 'popular' music.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 15 May 09 - 05:36 PM

"Chip, shoulder: shoulder, chip."

Yep, that's the standard response IME. Whacking them with sticks was another.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 15 May 09 - 05:52 PM

For those reasons I take no lectures on what is inside or outside by those who believe it takes learning and education to perceive properly.

Not guilty m'lud. I'm completely self-taught in this area and don't think it requires any qualifications in any other area.

A definition that acknowledged what the music was about, how it arrived here and through what processes of mediation and consumption would be more honest and relevant

The 54 definition is precisely about "how the music arrived here and through what processes of mediation and consumption" - that's what it defines. As Spleen said many moons ago, it essentially defines a type of process rather than music (just as Suibhne's DFC defines a type of event rather than music, and what it says on CD racks defines a type of branding rather than music). But it also enables us to distinguish the music that's been through that process from music that hasn't - I guess you could say it's a way of identifying music rather than defining it.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 15 May 09 - 07:11 PM

Sticks? What, like border morris?

What it takes is THOUGHT!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 15 May 09 - 07:17 PM

THOUGHT - and grumpy middle-aged beardy men in pubs. Not especially inclusive, welcoming or progressive. With apologies to folk outlets that serve a different clientele.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: TheSnail
Date: 15 May 09 - 07:48 PM

Jim Carroll

The idea that any definition be changed in the interest of a tiny handful on 'anything goes' clubs that wish to include "Blues, Shanties, Kipling, Cicely Fox Smith, Musical Hall, George Formby, Pop, County, Dylan, Cohen, Cash, Medieval Latin, Beatles, Irish Jigs and Reels, Scottish Strathspeys, Gospel, Rock, Classical Guitar, Native American Chants, Operatic Arias and even the occasional Traditional Song and Ballad"

I think this belongs in this thread especially since Insane Sinister Beard Supporter has conceded that Sailor Ron's assessment was nearer the truth.

Selective reading, Jim. Weak evidence undermines your argument but "a tiny handful of 'anything goes' clubs"! Progress. At least you're not condemning the whole lot on the basis of one flimsy piece of evidence.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 May 09 - 04:00 AM

"What makes it a folk song"
Its origins for a start ? it came from 'the folk' ? it was made and adapted by people described in George Ewart Evans' 'Ask the Fellow Who Cuts the Hay', or George Sturt's 'The Betsworth Book', or George Bourne's 'Memoirs of a Surrey Labourer', or 'When I Was A Child' by 'An Old Potter'. Or those more academically discussed in George Laurence Gomme's 'The Village Community'. The songs are part of their culture and their history ? and of ours. It was how they saw themselves ? not the view of an outsider, but one from the horse's (not the singing one's) mouth.
Don't believe me?
Listen to the Lomax recording of Harry Cox singing 'Betsy the Serving Maid' (son of a well-heeled family falls in love with a servant-girl ? family have her shipped out to America ? son dies of grief). At the end of the singing Cox spits out, "And that's what the buggers thought of us".
In the same session he sings 'Van Dieman's Land', then goes into a diatribe about local landlords who seized and enclosed the land, thus depriving land labourers of taking the odd hare or pheasant to fortify the pot that fed their hungry families.
Not the ranting of a bleeding-hearted liberal or leftie, but that of a land labourer assessing his position in the pecking order and using his songs to do it.
We came across it all the time - from Walter Pardon, who located many of his songs in the fields surrounding his home in North Norfolk, or from Travellers who would sing you a centuries-old ballad and tell you "That was a song made by a Traveller, about what happened to his grandfather". We were told of the rather mawkish 'Banks of the Lee', "she was a Travelling girl who died in a workhouse fire while her husband was working away".
When we first started recording here in West Clare we were being given dozens upon dozens of emigration songs ? I have to say, to my shame I dreaded them? "Oh no, not another one of those bloody 'why did I leave dear old Ireland' dirges". Then we realised that there isn't a family in this area which hadn't lost members to the emigrations, and that these songs were an acknowledgement of that fact. We had described to us a local Christmas party where the elderly father sang 'The Christmas Letter' to a family in floods of tears, remembering brothers and sisters who had gone off to America or Canada, or Australia, and never made it back.
IMO, these songs were made, not just as an entertainment, but as an affirmation of who they/we are, where we came from (my own family, on both sides, left Ireland in the 1840s to escape the results of a lethally mismanaged famine).
I believe the making of these songs stopped when we all acquired televisions and became recipients rather than creators of our culture and our entertainment. It doesn't mean that we can't go on singing the songs, or creating new ones using the (very accessible) forms of composition ? in fact, it would be a god-awful waste not to do so. But we also need to recognise that what we do today is different than what has gone before.
By lumping together the modern compositions heard in folk clubs, no matter how worthy, with those of the anonymous farm labourers, mill workers, seamen, soldiers, miners?. whoever, is, to me, debasing and distorting the coin.
This is doubly true of songs like 'Leader of the Pack' and '24 Hours From Tulsa, the wares of a cynical and avaricious music industry, designed to be milked for what they are worth in the short term, then discarded when there is nothing more to be had from them.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 May 09 - 04:01 AM

If you take the view that, since 'posh people' or 'academics' wrote it, it must be a load of bollocks which patronized the working class, then you're condemning ethnomusicology, sociology, anthropology and who knows what else to the bin as well.

Maybe I am at that, Brian. But one would at least hope that the thing itself is of greater validity than the academic study of it, and that the academic disciplines you mention are at least aware of the ethical issues arising from one lot of human beings aspiring to the heady heights of objectivity which will somehow enable them to study another lot. Again one is reminded of Alfred Kinsey and his team who in their study of human sexuality themselves became impotent.

And the more I read of this discussion, the more I lose the will to folk...


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 May 09 - 04:08 AM

Cross-post with Jim. Nice one, Mr Carroll - a genuine ray of sunshine on this increasingly grey & gloomy thread.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 16 May 09 - 04:15 AM

"The 54 definition is precisely about "how the music arrived here and through what processes of mediation and consumption" - that's what it defines."

Exactly, Pip - of course it does! Unfortunately, 'glueman' would prefer a different process of mediation and consumption - one more in line with his preconceptions.

Right, what label are you going to stick on me now, 'glueman': Middle class? Scientist? Beardy? Kitten strangler?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: TheSnail
Date: 16 May 09 - 05:07 AM

Jim! Why can't you talk like that all the time? You could inspire people instead of driving them away.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 16 May 09 - 05:32 AM

I have never said that the working class can't think. We owe much of our understanding of folk song to Bert Lloyd and Ewan MacColl (although I disapprove of the latter's adoption of a fake identity). Neither middle class scholars, but they thought about what they were doing.

But "grumpy" - yes, label accepted with thanks. As I have said above I can't put up with wilful idiocy.

"Middle Aged" - be buggered, "old", thanks.

"Bearded" - yes, and have been since the age of 17. Your problem is? Hairy too - I'm very fond of my flowing locks (while they last).

"Inclusive" - try one of my song sessions. As it says on the posters "If you can play it, bring it with you (no amplifiers). If you can sing it bring your voice". Not only do I also go to the pub karaoke nights (except for one operator who is a silly young twerp) and sing at them, and get asked to do some of the Chuck Berry stuff, but I also badger the barmaid and any of the younger singers who can sing to come and sing some unamplified stuff at the folk dos. And stick my neck out by asking some of the local travellers to come and sing some of "the old songs". Pretty much the same approach at all the song sessions I know of round here.

"Welcoming" - see above, but I'm sure the people who are less experienced at "folk" don't want to be fawned over.

"Progressive" - ah, well, although I am a limited guitar and mandolin player, actually I do think that quite a lot of what I do, although largely using folk (1954 definition) songs, is pretty progressive in the way I arrange. That however is exactly what the 1954 definition allows for.   I've also taken mandoplank and distortion pedals to full on electric jams, rather to the surprise of some guitar players. Allegedly overheard at Rochester Sweeps fest, while I had got bored sticking to the morris tunes, and was having a little shred (expression learned from a person under 30)around the tune, through my portable Vox amp "Didn't he used to be in ZZ Top?". Also heard from someone else "That's very distracting". I think I am pretty progressive the way I approach folk music, and I also sing in "folk club" and "folk session" situations stuff that is not 1954 folk. I just appreciate that it is different from 1954 folk. So I think I am pretty progressive.

Once again, glueman, you are setting up an Aunt Sally shy.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 May 09 - 05:40 AM

I'm intrigued, Richard - where you at? I might just have a toddle along one day...


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 16 May 09 - 05:52 AM

"And the more I read of this discussion, the more I lose the will to folk..."

Nooooo! Don't do it!

The thing to remember is that if you ever got all these folks together in the same pub at the same time you'd have a cracking night out.

Jim, you last post was excellent. When are you going to write a book? Can I put my name down for one?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 16 May 09 - 06:18 AM

Jim, you said earlier that 'from the outside' pop songs offered no settings. I offered 'Leader of the Pack' as an example of a popular song which has a similar narrative arc to a number of trad songs - transgressive romance, interdiction by authority, warning chorus/commentary, death and loss - as a folklorist might define it. Flip the ending (which folk often does) and we have Tam Lin on motorbikes - at least in plot. "The wares of a cynical and avaricious music industry" won't hold up as an indicator of form or type.

One of the things that surprised me when I first came across these arguments was how reluctant traditionalists were to see the folk revival in context. It resembled a belief system, one that arrived fully formed and worked if you didn't ask the wrong questions. I'm not made of that stuff, I want to subject the thing to all kinds of blows to understand why this music attracts and has been appropriated by such a narrow social group, especially when most of that group do not resemble its originators in any way.

My introduction to the 'debate' was to be told in short order I was one of the many who didn't understand. From that point I've been happy to conflate every last authority figure who told me I didn't understand something and was prepared to use ridicule as their first and last weapon - 54 Mudcatter's haven't let me down.

It's all about the music. It's mine as much as your's.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 16 May 09 - 07:46 AM

Jim, your last post was quite simply the best thing I have read on this subject. I have copied and saved it. Absolutely inspiring.

Glueman, this music hasn't been "appropriated" by a narrow social group. It's open to anyone, and crosses all social classes and backgrounds. It is however a minority group, and the interesting question is why this music has been dropped and ignored by the majority of the working class from which it sprang.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 May 09 - 07:54 AM

"It resembled a belief system, one that arrived fully formed and worked if you didn't ask the wrong questions."
Sorry Glueman - this means nothing whatever to me. I have no idea what 'belief sytem you are comparing our attitude to (get a little tired of being referred to as 'a traditionalist - equally meaningless to me - but let that pass).
I came to folk music largely via the BBC project material: Harry Cox - farm labourer, Jeannie Robertson - Scots Traveller, Sam Larner - East Anglian herring fisherman, Maggie Barry - street, singer Mark Anderson - lead miner, Colm Keane - West of Ireland small farmer.... and all the other 'folk'. I assumed pretty well from the start that it was to people like these I would have to go to if I wanted to learn more about the music and songs that had bowled me over.
If you are trying to tell me that I got it wrong and that I should have taken into consideration Rickie Nelson and Buddy Holly and Sandford Clark and Connie Francis.... and all the other singers I was listening to at the time, I'm afraid you aren't making much of a fist of it.
It is all about the music, and of course it's as much yours as it it mine - we appear to be having trouble deciding which music we are talking about.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 16 May 09 - 08:15 AM

I disagree HJ, accessibility is about more than the noise, it's about the people and locations the noise is heard and whether an individual can identify with those factors. I've spent 30 years avoiding folk clubs because my early experiences suggested the context had nothing to do with people like me so had to content myself with the same sound on recordings.

I attend a few festivals because there isn't the same sense of having to buy the whole package - certainly one attached to an historical definition anyway.

Jim the blief system part comes from discussions like this - you could listen to or make folk music all your life without ever having heard the date 1954 and be at no disadvantage or compromised in the sound you make or words you utter. The definition resembles a creed and I'm not happy with packaging beliefs in that way in any context.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 16 May 09 - 08:38 AM

The idea that 1954 represents a "creed" seems to exist only on Mudcat, and only among those who are opposed to it.

Most of us who play and listen to folk music recognise that there is something about it which distinguishes it from even the best of the other genres of music we may listen to. The 1954 definition is an admittedly imperfect explanation of how that has come about. It is a formal academic description of what is more casually referred to as the "folk process".

I admit my personal preference is towards traditional songs. But a good song is a good song, and if I hear a non-traditional song which engages me then I'll include it in my repertoire, and perform it in folk clubs and sessions. I just don't claim that it's a folk song. Jim's recent post at 04:00 am today explains better than I can why this matters.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 May 09 - 10:33 AM

"But a good song is a good song, and if I hear a non-traditional song which engages me then I'll include it in my repertoire, and perform it in folk clubs and sessions."
Howard is right - sing what turns you on - definitions are for communication of ideas.
Interestingly (to me anyway) every singer we ever interviewed had their own form of defiition; it didn't necessarily express a preference, it just identified their personal relationships to their songs.
It seems to me that if organisers call their clubs 'folk' they have a responsibility (a) To realise the implications of the term in all its aspects, and (b) To ascertain that what they present bears some resemblence to the original meaning. It is not enough - for me anyway, to say "I don't know what folk is" any more than it would be for a carpenter to say "I don't know anything about woodwork" - it's what we took on wen we became involved.
I also believe there is a responsibility to the Harry Coxs and Sam Larners, but that is more complicated, and probably more of a personal thing with me.
Jim Carroll
PS Richard
"although I disapprove of the latter's adoption of a fake identity"
Can I assume you disapprove of Robert Zimmerman (whoops, Bob Dylan) for the same reason


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 16 May 09 - 10:53 AM

" ... why this music attracts and has been appropriated by such a narrow social group, especially when most of that group do not resemble its originators in any way."

First, I do not consider that I have "appropriated" anything! I have always, since childhood music lessons introduced me to them, preferred tradional songs to pop music - that does not make me an "appropriator".

Second, you do not know me well enough to be able to tell if I 'do not resemble the originators of traditional song in ANY way. In fact both of my grandparents, on my mother's side, were East Anglian country people, born in the late 19th century. Although neither of them were singers, when I hear recordings of Harry Cox, Sam Larner, Walter Pardon etc. I hear my grandparents' voices and people who came from the same milieu as they did. And that milieu is still important and relevant to me - as it happens more important and relevant than popular, commercial effusions from the other side of the Atlantic or those produced by British, urban adolescents who went to Art School and think that they're desperately important because they formed a band that produces an incoherent, ephemeral, and often pretentious racket.

Call me whatever names you like but traditional song means more to me than anything the modern, commercial pop industry could ever churn out.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 16 May 09 - 11:15 AM

"or those produced by British, urban adolescents who went to Art School and think that they're desperately important because they formed a band that produces an incoherent, ephemeral, and often pretentious racket." - Shimrod

Folk's barely hidden nonsense rises to the surface once more. So that's the young, the creative and city dwellers removed because their music is verbally unclear, short-lived and pretends to things it doesn't contain. Is it any wonder ordinary people beieve folk is for up-themselves cumudgeons with an axe to grind?
Any other groups in society you want to throw out while you're at it?
I judge the definition by the company it keeps.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 May 09 - 12:00 PM

"Is it any wonder ordinary people believe folk is for up-themselves cumudgeons with an axe to grind?"
Doesn't everybody compare other people's personal tastes to their own? I can recall hearing people - young and old - describe English music in far less complementary terms than Shimrod has just used.
The favourite term for Irish traditional music, usually by media 'authorities' as "diddley-die".
Aren't we permitted to express our own preferences or do we all have to worship at the altar of youth? (you'll have to excuse this jaundiced view of youth as one of the little bastards - probably the one who killed our cat last year - has just passed down our narrow country road at around 90mph).
I totally agree with Shimrod's last sentence on the pap that is churned out by the music industry's sausage machine, which will probably be as much a thing of the past as Lord Gregory this time next year.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 16 May 09 - 12:22 PM

We're so far apart on these issues it's not worth discussing.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 May 09 - 01:10 PM

The favourite term for Irish traditional music, usually by media 'authorities' as "diddley-die".

Some of the finest trad. Irish session players I know call it that too! As for my take on such matters, allow me to repost a wee anecdote from elsewhere...

In the good old days in England Sam Smith's pubs carried music licenses and sold cheap (though barely drinkable) bitter such as Old Brewery, which at one Durham public house could be had for a quid a pint, thus making it very popular with musicians. Thursdays was the Folk Club; Tuesdays the Trad Jazz, and Mondays was the Irish Session, the players of which took themselves Very Seriously Indeed, and rightly so in terms of the impeccable standard of their playing which existed in direct correlation to the utter tedium it inspired in the casual listener, such as myself. Said public house was also the scene of many an hearty outrage; one night, for example, I was in there when a fight broke out in the bar between several inebriated men of the same family after a funeral. It was a Tuesday, and the Dixieland Jazzers played on as the chairs flew, and the men brawled, and the locals stood there as if nothing was happening. A lovely summer night it was as I recall, the sun shining, the doors open, and everything at peace with the world; a peace barely disturbed by the proceedings in the bar.

Anyhoo. One Monday night after an arduous coach journey from London I popped in for a pint (those who say to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive have never travelled by National Express). The Session Musicians were through in the club room, playing their particular brand of music with fierce concentration and earnestness - a music which filtered through to the bar as a mildly irritating ambience: difficult to ignore, but not really loud enough to engage your attention, especially when one was in there on one's own, enjoying a solitary pint of an autumn evening with a half-ounce of Golden Virginia (Job papers & Swan Vesta matches) and a copy of Heart of Darkness (if only to get a literary measure of Apocalypse Now). Into the bar comes an old lady in her slippers, hair-net and dressing gown. In the absence of the barmaid, she helps herself to a large glass of Grouse from the appropriate optic. Taking a sip, she savours the poison, pondering all the while the nature of the entertainment taking place through in the club room, where our Session friends are playing with such indefatigable gusto they might well get through the whole of O'Neill's before closing time. Then a look of realisation dawns on her wrinkled face as it all becomes clear; something at least approaching a smile plays about her lips as she turns to me (there is, alas, no one else in the bar) and utters the immortal words:
"Eh, that's that Riverdance music isn't it?"
"It most certainly is," I reply, happy for the first time since parting from my girlfriend at Worth Abbey some ten hours earlier.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 16 May 09 - 01:12 PM

"So that's the young, the creative and city dwellers removed because their music is verbally unclear, short-lived and pretends to things it doesn't contain."

But they're not 'removed', are they? They're everywhere, penetrating every nook and cranny of our culture such that there's no room for anything else and making contentless, raucous 'shite' the norm! When I hear yet another adolescent declare that his/her highest aspiration is to 'be-in-a-band', I despair!

Oh yes, I don't know about you but I happen to prefer music which is verbally clear, durable and unpretentious - a good description of traditional song, perhaps?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 May 09 - 01:27 PM

"Some of the finest trad. Irish session players I know call it that too!"
And many of the West Indians I worked with on the building sites referred to themselves and each other as 'niggers'; not I thing I would want to do in a thousand years.
The diddley-di reference kept Irish music off the media for decades - it was (and still is i ome quarters) a term of contempt - as is 'Riverdance' by real dancers incidentally.
"We're so far apart on these issues"
I wonder on what in particular - it might help me understand your take on folk music, which I'm really having trouble with.
As far as I can see, pop music is a packaged product manipulated by the industry - summed up beautifully when I saw one of the great musical rebels from The Sex Pistols advertising Country Life on television last week
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Frozen Gin (inactive)
Date: 16 May 09 - 01:28 PM

"When I hear yet another adolescent declare that his/her highest aspiration is to 'be-in-a-band', I despair!"

I depair over people like you. When I was a teenager, low thses many years ago, that's an aspiration that many of had, to be in a band. Don't denigrate those who actually have some ambition, and, who knows, some vision.

I happen to prefer musicians who areverbally clear, durable AND unpretentious, which means some of them ain't folkies. Right at this moment, as I type this, I'm listening to I put A Spell On You as performed by David Gilmour and Mica Paris and The Jools Holland Rhythm & Blues Orchestra. Amazing stuff!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 May 09 - 02:27 PM

verbally clear, durable and unpretentious - a good description of traditional song, perhaps?

Not the way I do 'em! Verbally unintelligible, existing only in the moment and thoroughly pretentious... or so they tell me.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Frozen Gin (inactive)
Date: 16 May 09 - 02:36 PM

"Not the way I do 'em! Verbally unintelligible, existing only in the moment and thoroughly pretentious... or so they tell me."

and honest as well, which is more than can be said of some...


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 May 09 - 03:04 PM

and honest as well

Too true. I am all too aware of my own idiosyncratic genius with respect of traditional song. Honesty is the best policy!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 May 09 - 03:26 PM

"When I hear yet another adolescent declare that his/her highest aspiration is to 'be-in-a-band', I despair!"
Personally I have no objection to youngsters wanting to play the music they enjoy - it's preferable to being passive recipients as too many of them are (adults too). What does disturb me is when I hear kids say they want to be a 'pop star' - different kettle of whatever altogether.
I have to confess that I'm speaking from a position of strength here.
In our small one-street west of Ireland town I would calculate that there are something like 150 youngsters involved in tradition music, thanks to a responsible attitude by adult musicians taking a positive and (dare I say it) serious stance, on both the music and those wishing to learn it.
We have half a dozen regular classes (several teachers of which were barely out of the pram when we first started visiting here).
Not a bad situation when you consider that fiddle player Kevin Glackin once described having to hide his fiddle under his coat when going to lessons for fear of being beaten up by his schoolmates.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 16 May 09 - 04:15 PM

Hey! Hey!

THere is many a young band, and even 20s-30s age group band producing stunning original high-volume electric music with literate lyrics and great vgision and insight.

The trouble is that most of the music industry is so far up its own nose that it produces buys and sells the pap that musically reflects the endless obsession of the film business with franchises and remakes, and most of the lyrically dense music is obsessed with kiiling other niggaaaaz hos.

Heaven help us, Oasis have been lauded as intelligent. Post-punk is treated as having something still to say!

But the metal bands, the stoner bands producing soundscapes as fine as much early Floyd - totally ignored by the industry.

And probably a lot of other fine stuff ignored by the industry as well. Pink really can sing, but what about Atomic Kitten (better with the sound off I think).

There is plenty of fine modern rock music (and a lot that is rubbish too).


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 16 May 09 - 04:20 PM

""When I hear yet another adolescent declare that his/her highest aspiration is to 'be-in-a-band', I despair!"

I depair over people like you. When I was a teenager, low thses many years ago, that's an aspiration that many of had, to be in a band. Don't denigrate those who actually have some ambition, and, who knows, some vision."

When I was a teenager, from a working class family, I aspired to become a scientist (in my opinion, one of the highest callings a human being can have) and I became one.
Now I'm sure that there are plenty of teenagers today who are aspirational and ambitious - and, generally speaking, I support them. But wanting to be-in-a-band and make loud, incoherent, unintelligible 'clone noises' is, again, in my opinion, an unworthy aspiration - a symptom of our dreary, trivial, dumbed-down, money, fame and celebrity obsessed culture.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 16 May 09 - 04:27 PM

Oh, may I also point out that there are young (well, a LOT younger than me) singers singing mostly traditional songs who are quite spectacular. I have spent most of today listening to recordings of Anne Briggs and Shirley Collins and IMHO there are young or young-ish female singers out there today who are simply spellbindingly better - who do not have the tweeness of either. Not naming them to save embarrassing them.

Not sure there are any technically better than June Tabor, but there are again some who deliver with more force than any but the most spiteful of Tabor's recordings (Hughie Graeme comes to mind as perhaps her best because of the extra force in it - that would take a HUGE amount of topping).


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 May 09 - 06:13 PM

But wanting to be-in-a-band and make loud, incoherent, unintelligible 'clone noises'

I was in a band like that once; we called ourselves Rhombus of Dooom and our old guitarist has just set up a 25th Anniversary Myspace page.

http://www.myspace.com/rhombusovdooom

I played electric viola, though on the track Kallisti I'm playing bass. These are all live recordings and will shorty be available on CD, so I'm told. This is something I'm very proud to have been part of & after all these years the music still kicks ass.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 17 May 09 - 10:01 AM

I judge the definition by the company it keeps.

You're in luck then - there's Richard Bridge ("many a young band, and even 20s-30s age group band producing stunning original high-volume electric music with literate lyrics and great vgision and insight"), and there's me using 'punk' as a term of approbation (one of the highest in my vocabulary).

And will that persuade you that you were wrong about '54 partisans? I'm not holding my breath. You see what you want to see, glueman - I'm just sorry that what you want to see is so grim. That Centerville story fits you like a glove.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 17 May 09 - 03:48 PM

Approbation. I'm arguing with someone about music of the people who uses the word approbation. FFS Pipsqueak sort yourself out.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 17 May 09 - 03:55 PM

Hmm. Obfuscatory language? What was it I said before? Oh yes! Pot-kettle. Kettle-pot.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 17 May 09 - 04:05 PM

To go with chip and shoulder I presume. Shimrod's urban hating, youth despising, art loathing, little england folk myna bird is very much the rule round the class of 54. The level of suspicion about ordinary people and their opinions is the same one in found in 1974. Nothing has changed, I'll stick with my records, ta.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: TheSnail
Date: 17 May 09 - 05:17 PM

glueman

The level of suspicion about ordinary people

Yes! We're all ordinary.























I,m not,


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 17 May 09 - 05:35 PM

batey!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 17 May 09 - 06:59 PM

Approbation. I'm arguing with someone about music of the people who uses the word approbation.

No you're not - arguing, that is. You're ignoring what I said and jeering at the language I said it in.

Shimrod's urban hating, youth despising, art loathing, little england folk myna bird is very much the rule round the class of 54.

No. It. Isn't. Richard Bridge doesn't agree with Shimrod on this one and neither do I. The evidence is right in front of you. But of course, since it's not the evidence you want to see, you'll ignore it. As I said earlier on, the Centerberg story fits you like a glove.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 17 May 09 - 10:15 PM

Well, there are loud noises and loud noises. There are clone bands doing Oasis shit, and frankly the Dave Clark 5 were both more original and more intelligent - but there are (as I said above) many creative young electric bands who don't get a look in because of A&R obsession with urban MoBO. And of course the plethora of tired old punk rehashes who mostly specialise in DoS (Drunk on Stage) - the mould they were trying to break was vaporised 20 years ago (example, the Inbreds).   And the jazz-funkers who still think the key to sounding like Sly Stone is to toke like him (example, Kingskin). There is lots of crap - but there is also lots of good stuff (example, Arch-Enemy, or, if you can find one of their rare live shows, Sons of Alpha Centauri) if you remember the only good line George Michael ever came up with "Listen without Prejudice". I'm currently tipping a band in rehearsal called Datura.

But none of that is folk song, although I have a sneaking feeling that some of Arch-Enemy's stuff could be re-written as neofolk.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 May 09 - 03:02 AM

Isn't it oddly predictable how these arguments always shift from being about definitions to ones of personal preference - "I wan't it to be a folk song - so it is"?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 18 May 09 - 04:55 AM

You don't get to make the rules Pip, and for that we should all be thankful. You once described the tradition as 'the hard stuff'. We don't need to know anything else about you - elitism, snobbery, pedantry.
It's not hard, inaccessible or in need of mediating by the middle class in the back rooms of pubs.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 18 May 09 - 05:18 AM

example, Arch-Enemy, or, if you can find one of their rare live shows, Sons of Alpha Centauri) if you remember the only good line George Michael ever came up with "Listen without Prejudice". I'm currently tipping a band in rehearsal called Datura.

Anything on-line at all, Richard?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 18 May 09 - 05:20 AM

"Shimrod's urban hating, youth despising, art loathing, little england folk myna bird is very much the rule round the class of 54."

For the record, 'glueman', you paranoid heretic hunter, you! I live in a big city and I love it - although I despise its city council and I fear for its future as it inexorably becomes indistinguishable from every other city. I don't despise youth - but I do fear for their future in this era when social mobility has become so restricted. And I really do believe that wishing 'to-be-in-a-band-like-every-other-band' is an unworthy aspiration. I don't loathe art - but I tend to despise the British Art Establishment and Art School culture - which I think is pretentious, elitist and obscurist. I am not, and never have been, a "little englander" (how dare you!).

But I do plead guilty to being a myna bird - my secret is out! Squawk! Sorry ... drat!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 May 09 - 06:08 AM

Archenemy readily obtainable by Youtube search.

http://www.sonsofalphacentauri.co.uk/news.php

Datura are still in rehearsal and I think that even the stuff they are readying for Youtube is only on their beta site to which there is no public access.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 18 May 09 - 06:19 AM

You once described the tradition as 'the hard stuff'. We don't need to know anything else about you - elitism, snobbery, pedantry. It's not hard, inaccessible or in need of mediating by the middle class in the back rooms of pubs.

Of course, I never suggested that it was - you seem to be deliberately misreading what I wrote. Which was:

FCs where anything goes are a lousy gateway drug - they don't do nearly enough to get people on to the hard stuff.

"gateway drug ... the hard stuff". If I referred to whisky as "the hard stuff", would that mean I was saying it was a middle-class drink which working people need training to appreciate?

The real irony is, what I was saying in the comment you quote is that I would like as many people as possible to get into traditional music, and I think a lot more people would do so if they had more chances to hear it. It's almost the exact opposite of the views you attribute to me.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: glueman
Date: 18 May 09 - 06:31 AM

Are you posting on tax-payer's money again Pip?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 18 May 09 - 08:07 AM

Ooh, I've got a stalker! How sweet.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 May 09 - 08:30 AM

400


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Diva
Date: 18 May 09 - 01:22 PM

Ahh.."hard stuff" I have no problem at all with that definition (whoops "d" word again)

Sometmes the original is hard to take. Folk nowadays are used to polished and packaged. One of the best illustrations i ever heard was a friend whose son and daughter in law were in a modern jazz based folk duo.......very good they were too, maybe not to my taste but I could appreciate the musicality/inate skill that went into what they played. She mentioned she was going to see them and they were on the same bill as Sheila Stewart. She also said that she found Sheila's style hard to take. Thats fine, its her choice Just as it is mine to go to singers like Sheila in preference to the packaged. This choice has come from 30 years of listening and singing.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 19 May 09 - 12:38 PM

The problem with the "Nicaean" Council on Folk Music from 1954 is that it ignores the fact that some popular music actually can become folk music because it contains "variants". This is true because at one time the folk song was popular with a group of people. When people get over the cult of personality in songwriting and allow their songs to be changed and developed through different performances and interpretations and the copyright industry doesn't have such a strangle-hold on the use of material, then there can be a vital folk culture.

One of the beauties of folk music is that it defies the categorization of well-meaning but misguided academics.

A performance-oriented approach to singing in folk clubs freezes the type and style of singing that this engenders and is antithetical to the evolution of folk music.

What makes it a folk song is that it is allowed to breathe, grow, be changed, and not frozen in time. Sometimes a folk song in print can be revived as in the case of Barbara Allen. When it changes, and becomes variants of the original source, then the case can be made for the folk process. Often the stylistic nuances of a folk song are copied by those who are not part of that tradition. It has the air of insincerity to it because it becomes an imitation and not an outgrowth of the performer's personality. The other side to this is that without some kind of empathy for the tradition of the song, it lacks
an understanding in the performance. Finding that balance is what the great folk singers do.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 19 May 09 - 12:58 PM

That (that is to say, what SS describes in his first sentence) is PRECISELY what the 1954 definition does NOT do. Go back and read it again.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 19 May 09 - 01:18 PM

Beat me to it, Richard.


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