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1954 and All That - defining folk music

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GUEST,SteveG 30 Dec 10 - 06:08 PM
VirginiaTam 30 Dec 10 - 09:43 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 04 Aug 10 - 10:43 AM
GUEST,glueman 08 May 09 - 08:24 AM
Jack Blandiver 08 May 09 - 07:07 AM
GUEST,glueman 08 May 09 - 06:23 AM
GUEST,glueman 08 May 09 - 06:21 AM
Howard Jones 16 Apr 09 - 06:06 PM
Jack Blandiver 16 Apr 09 - 05:36 PM
Howard Jones 16 Apr 09 - 05:21 PM
John P 16 Apr 09 - 03:29 PM
Jack Blandiver 16 Apr 09 - 03:07 PM
John P 16 Apr 09 - 02:44 PM
Goose Gander 16 Apr 09 - 02:38 PM
Jack Blandiver 16 Apr 09 - 02:21 PM
High Hopes (inactive) 16 Apr 09 - 01:47 PM
TheSnail 16 Apr 09 - 01:46 PM
The Sandman 16 Apr 09 - 01:37 PM
Goose Gander 16 Apr 09 - 12:39 PM
Jack Blandiver 16 Apr 09 - 12:27 PM
Jack Blandiver 16 Apr 09 - 12:14 PM
Rifleman (inactive) 16 Apr 09 - 12:12 PM
Goose Gander 16 Apr 09 - 11:48 AM
Sailor Ron 16 Apr 09 - 11:44 AM
John P 16 Apr 09 - 10:54 AM
John P 16 Apr 09 - 10:30 AM
Howard Jones 16 Apr 09 - 09:11 AM
Jack Blandiver 16 Apr 09 - 07:18 AM
Jack Blandiver 16 Apr 09 - 06:50 AM
Jack Blandiver 16 Apr 09 - 06:47 AM
Jim Carroll 16 Apr 09 - 05:11 AM
Howard Jones 16 Apr 09 - 04:54 AM
Jack Blandiver 16 Apr 09 - 04:27 AM
Jim Carroll 16 Apr 09 - 03:30 AM
John P 15 Apr 09 - 10:02 PM
Howard Jones 15 Apr 09 - 06:54 PM
John P 15 Apr 09 - 06:44 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 15 Apr 09 - 06:35 PM
Phil Edwards 15 Apr 09 - 05:51 PM
GUEST,Peace 15 Apr 09 - 05:43 PM
Jack Blandiver 15 Apr 09 - 05:22 PM
Jim Carroll 15 Apr 09 - 05:06 PM
Jack Blandiver 15 Apr 09 - 04:54 PM
Jim Carroll 15 Apr 09 - 04:44 PM
Jack Blandiver 15 Apr 09 - 04:18 PM
John P 15 Apr 09 - 04:01 PM
Don Firth 15 Apr 09 - 03:50 PM
TheSnail 15 Apr 09 - 03:28 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 15 Apr 09 - 03:07 PM
Rifleman (inactive) 15 Apr 09 - 02:57 PM
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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: GUEST,SteveG
Date: 30 Dec 10 - 06:08 PM

994


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 30 Dec 10 - 09:43 AM

Irk The Purists


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 04 Aug 10 - 10:43 AM

Sorry, just getting a little nostalgic for the glory days.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 08 May 09 - 08:24 AM

"Does Folk Music Exist?"

Ah,g'wan,g'wan,g'wan,g'wan,g'wan,g'wan,g'wan,g'wan,g'wan,g'wan,g'wan,g'wan,g'wan,g'wan,g'wan,g'wan,g'wan,g'wan,g'wan,g'wan,g'wan.

G'wan.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 08 May 09 - 07:07 AM

You wouldn't let it lie, would you?

Well, to use another vintage Vic Reeves catch phrase that was my idea to knock it off before it reached a thousand as we all decamped over to your Does Any Other Music Require a Commitee Thead just before Howard came up with his Seeds of Love sources, for which I was very grateful. For the record, I've got a big poster of Maud Karpeles on my wall that bears the old X-Files slogan I WANT TO BELIEVE...

And in return for some choice vintage Zappa c/o the very lovely M.Ted, I'm in the process of having the entire 1954 definition tattooed on my back, much to the bemusement of our local tattooist, who's more accustomed to the faux-Moari that's all the rage these days. It's a long and painful process, and bloody expensive too.

Given it's Cultural Liminality however, perhaps we ought to start another thread entitled Does Folk Music Exist? I won't be the one to open it though...


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 08 May 09 - 06:23 AM

Dammit! It was supposed to be my last post.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 08 May 09 - 06:21 AM

We never got to a thousand. That's dereliction of duty. Are we men or mice? Are your opinions not worth standing up for (a bit longer)?


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Howard Jones
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 06:06 PM

Yes, it moved on while I was composing my last reply - it took me some time to tot up all those versions of Seeds of Love :)


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 05:36 PM

Yo Howard - the party's moved on (some have fetched up in a little hostelry called Does any other music require a committee). If you want to discuss this further, PM me - otherwise, for Christ's sake, man - let it lie!


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Howard Jones
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 05:21 PM

SS:

Just so I understand: you agree with the "folk process", it's the specifics of the 1954 definition you disagree with? As someone else has mentioned, this is starting to turn into a legalistic argument over small details, and I'm not interested in taking it any further. In any case, it's not your views on traditional music which bother me so much as your enthusiasm for bringing every other kind of music under the sun under the "folk" umbrella.

I don't disagree that you can hear all sorts of music in folk clubs, although in my experience not usually to the degree your postings suggest (and I note that a visitor to the same club suggests that you may have given an exaggerated impression of the amount of "other" music heard even there). It is your need to classify it all as "folk" which I am struggling with. Most people seem to be able to hold in their heads the idea that you might sometimes hear in a folk club music which is not "folk". It is not necessary to redefine the music in order to smuggle it through the door.

"Seeds of Love": my copy of Peter Kennedy's "Folksongs of Britain and Ireland" lists three versions Kennedy collected himself (from George Maynard, Bill Squires and Gabriel Figg) and over 30 printed versions from all around the British Isles, many of which include several variants. Sharp alone had at least 27 variants.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: John P
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 03:29 PM

Come on, lads - let's knock it on the head before it reaches 1000. If anyone wants to ask me anything else PM me.

Sounds good to me!


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 03:07 PM

It appears to me that this thread ran its course sometime ago. Putting it out of its misery comes to mind.

I agree. Come on, lads - let's knock it on the head before it reaches 1000. If anyone wants to ask me anything else PM me.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: John P
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 02:44 PM

Very fundamental to the nature of Traditional Singers is that they are not duty bound to sing only Traditional Songs,

Yes, of course.

but also might reach out and grab what they can and absorb them into their idiomatic repertoire where they are transfigured with respect of a tradition without actually being traditional in the 1954 sense.

You seem to be saying that anything should be called a traditional song, as long as someone does a different version of it. Do you really think that?

I've explained what I was thinking - I've explained it until I'm blue in the face;

OK, please try again using small words that someone of my limited understanding will get. Do you think that Jim Eldon song is traditional? You have answered both yes and no in the last couple of days. If you don't think it's traditional, why post it with on this thread with an introduction about him being a traditional singer?

Otherwise - it is my firm conviction that Jim Eldon is a very important figure in the field of Tradition English Folk Song and what he does matters a good deal.

OK, no disagreement there. That still doesn't make his parody of a modern song traditional, or pertinent to this discussion.

It is also my firm conviction that the Tradition isn't dead, that it lives on in people such as Jim Eldon and countless others whose names aren't even known outside of their respective folk clubs - no doubt even yourself. What I see is a very beautiful community of individual singers learning & singing traditional songs - even people who've only sang once or twice in public, newcomers, old and young, their lives transformed with respect of a tradition that they themselves are transforming simply by the singing of it. I see that it still has great potency, and that potency is of supreme importance.

This is actually quite moving, and I feel the same way.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Goose Gander
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 02:38 PM

I read your post three times, and I still didn't understand your point. I'll confess, the distinction between Traditional Song and Traditional Music went right past me. But at least we are both using a term – Traditional – and we both seem to agree upon what it means. Still . . . if you're singing traditional material (sometimes with accompaniment), unless you are using your own, self-composed melodies for each ballad or song with no connection to traditional melodies, aren't you still performing Traditional Music?


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 02:21 PM

Here I'm afraid you are approaching almost total incoherence.

The distinction was suggested by Jim Carroll, but seeing you're having difficulty, allow me to clarify. I sing Traditional Songs but I don't play anything from the instrumental traditions. Thus do I distinguish Traditional Song (er - Songs) from Traditional Music (instrumental tunes). Now go back & read it again.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: High Hopes (inactive)
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 01:47 PM

It appears to me that this thread ran its course sometime ago. Putting it out of its misery comes to mind.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: TheSnail
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 01:46 PM

I've just noticed that the thread ID is 119547.

Spooky!


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 01:37 PM

to all, this thread may reach 1000,but:
# You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately... Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Goose Gander
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 12:39 PM

"You must look at the individual in isolation otherwise fall victim to the entrenched romanticism attending the notions of community, anon and, dare I say, traditional so beloved of Folkies."

Bull Pucky. You cannot draw a line between the creativity of individuals and the traditions within which they work. I suspect you understand this, because in your very next paragraph you tell us (re: John England): "Seeds of Love has many elements in common with other traditional songs; it is comprised of those elements, and others, assembled with great ingenuity by the singer . . ."   Take the singer out of his traditions, his community, and Seeds of Love could not have been written. BOTH are important, and I suspect you know John England would not have written his song if he grew up in Encino, listening to the Beatles.

"Whilst I sing almost exclusively Traditional Songs from the English Speaking Traditions (including the Max Hunter archive) I don't play Traditional Music . . . it's not Traditional because apart from the song melodies I don't play tunes."

Here I'm afraid you are approaching almost total incoherence.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 12:27 PM

You have described yourself as a 'traddie'... and now you tell us you don't much to do with Traditional Music?

Whilst I sing almost exclusively Traditional Songs from the English Speaking Traditions (including the Max Hunter archive) I don't play Traditional Music. When it comes to music (even that which I use to accompany my performances of Traditional Songs and Stories) I mostly improvise, which I might see as being Folk by default but it's not Traditional because apart from the song melodies I don't play tunes. Likewise I might bring to bear my humble talents on the Jew's Harp into a session, but I'm just adding a counter-rhythmic drone the like of which isn't traditionally part of the music, it's just something I like to do as a creative improvising musician.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 12:14 PM

You can't look at the individual in isolation, a folk song is the sum of a number of individuals' creativity. What bit of this don't you agree with?

I disagree that such a procedure is any different from what happens in any other music and that it might be dubbed The Folk Process as a consequence. You must look at the individual in isolation otherwise fall victim to the entrenched romanticism attending the notions of community, anon and, dare I say, traditional so beloved of Folkies. If you believe this to be the case too, we have no argument, but hold on...   

To go back to an earlier example, we have simply no way of knowing how much of John England's version of "Seeds of Love" was his own creation and how much of it came from the singers he learned it from.

Seeds of Love has many elements in common with other traditional songs; it is comprised of those elements, and others, assembled with great ingenuity by the singer, much as any singer does in the working out of his own version of an existing song, or creating a new song from particular elements, as is evidently the case here. Does the melody exist elsewhere? Has Seeds of Love ever been collected from a source independent of John England? If not, then I suggest Seeds of Love is John England's creation and that the mechanism of The Tradition and The Folk Process is not one of anonymous unwitting communality (as suggested by the 1954 Definition) but one of very careful, purposeful masterful craftsmanship of given individuals. It is not some random Darwinian survival of the fittest a has been suggested; on the contrary, it is the result of master craftsmanship and a meticulous attention to musical detail.   

You haven't answered my other question: when the words you have used to describe the music at your club are perfectly adequate, what is added by throwing the label "folk" over it all?

It's not me that does that, Howard - it is in the very nature of Folk to do that because whatever genres the individual Folk Musician might aspire to, it is generally only in Folk Contexts they might find an audience - and an appreciative one at that. We're not talking about professionals here, rather passionate amateurs, variously gifted, who bring their unique talents to the fold. Thus Folk isn't a type of music - it's the context in which they do the type of music they play. I'm not proposing this as some fantasy - it happens in every folk club I've ever been to a greater or lesser extent. Even in the Professional Folk World, Folk Artists regularly push the boat into other areas and yet they remain popular with Folk audiences. Do hip-hop audiences dig the rap versions of folk songs various Folk Artists have given us of late? Does Tim Westwood play The Imagined Village on his radio show? With few crossovers, Folk remains quite contentedly sealed and those artists who reach out to snatch at other genres invariably do so in the name of folk. That's what Roots was all about - as evidenced by the sort of musics covered by the magazine fRoots or else played on Folk on 2, precious little of which would qualify as Folk according to the 1954 Definition but remains Folk nevertheless.

***

If you post a video in this discussion, introducing it with Here's another new Jim Eldon video - the last English Traditional Singer & an example to us all:, one naturally assumes you are posting something you would like others to think of as a traditional song.

Very fundamental to the nature of Traditional Singers is that they are not duty bound to sing only Traditional Songs, but also might reach out and grab what they can and absorb them into their idiomatic repertoire where they are transfigured with respect of a tradition without actually being traditional in the 1954 sense.

If you didn't want people to think that you think this song is traditional, you should introduce with something like Here's another great Jim Eldon video I'd like to share. Not traditional at all, but entertaining nonetheless.

In the words of Pontius Pilate: I have written what I have written.

I have to say, SS, it gets harder and harder to refrain from ad hominem attacks against you when faced with this kind of thing.

Don't blame me for own lack of understanding when all I've done is to be so good as to spend my precious time clarifying something which should be fairly obvious, especially to a self-confessed member of the traditional music community.

Let's see if I can do this politely: What in the world were you thinking?

I've explained what I was thinking - I've explained it until I'm blue in the face; most of my posts on this infernal thread have been in answer to the questions of others. Go back and read them.

Why are you wasting everyone's time?

On the contrary - it is my time that's being wasted here simply by having the good grace to response to posts such as this one. No one is soliciting your response, JP - I only write here when solicited to do so.

If you don't think that song is traditional, why did you spend any time at all defending it by blathering on about individual creativity being part of the folk process and tradition?

Why? Because for one thing you asked me to do so and for another because without individual creativity there would be no folk process or tradition in the first place.

Otherwise - it is my firm conviction that Jim Eldon is a very important figure in the field of Tradition English Folk Song and what he does matters a good deal. It is also my firm conviction that the Tradition isn't dead, that it lives on in people such as Jim Eldon and countless others whose names aren't even known outside of their respective folk clubs - no doubt even yourself. What I see is a very beautiful community of individual singers learning & singing traditional songs - even people who've only sang once or twice in public, newcomers, old and young, their lives transformed with respect of a tradition that they themselves are transforming simply by the singing of it. I see that it still has great potency, and that potency is of supreme importance.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 12:12 PM

"Since you don't have any agenda, and don't like definitions, why should you care what anyone calls it? Why wade through nearly 1000 posts on this thread?
ummm.. when push comes to shove and to be perfectly honest I don't give a rat's behind what people call it, and I haven't "waded' through however many posts there have been, nor do I intend to, that'd be a total waste of time and energy, much better spent on actually playing the music.

At the end of the day, the music, whatever YOU choose to call it, will rise or fall on its own merits and not on the judgements or merits of the self-appointed gate-keepers (they know who they are).


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Goose Gander
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 11:48 AM

"Individual creativity is the whole of the case; that is, the very particular creativity of the individuals through whom it passes."

No, it isn't. At this point, I almost expect you tell us that "there is no society, only individuals." If you spend a lot time with some rather large folk/traditional collections (Max Hunter, etc.) it becomes very obvious that there are some singers who try to replicate lyrics and melody just as they heard them, some who try to do so and miss the mark, others who sort of adapt what they heard from others (including recordings and radio broadcasts – which can be part of the folk process, in my opinion, and this is a point upon which I diverge from the 1954 definition) to their own style, and, finally, others whose versions seem to be very creative and deliberate re-creations, the work of talented people. ALL are important to the folk process.

"I don't think there is a single example of a definitive finished version of anything . . . . and variation will always exist a every level simply because nothing can ever happen the same way twice."

On this point I have no disagreement with you, but I believe it is a matter of degree. There are hundreds of collected versions of Child #200, Child #84, 'I Die For Love'/'Butcher's Boy', etc. If you have a lot of time on your hands, you can group them variously in terms of lyrical and melodic content; you can identify regional variants; you can trace the spread of those variants (and the people who carried them) through time and space (the north of England/lowland Scotland/Ulster to Appalachia on to the Ozarks and even on to FSA camps in Depression-Era California, etc.) . . . .   Can you describe anything remotely close to this process at work in the variations one can find among recorded versions of a piece of symphony music (for example)?

" . . . I do allow for Traditional Music, though I don't have too much to do with it personally."

Again, I wonder exactly what you are up to with this thread. You have described yourself as a 'traddie' – indeed, at one point you told us that you started this thread to separate the wheat (traditional song) from the chaff (everything else that happens 'in the name of folk) - and now you tell us you don't much to do with Traditional Music?


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Sailor Ron
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 11:44 AM

Jim "....that SS 'traddie' though he claims to be....neither understands the tradition nor gives a toss for its welfare".

I feel I must take up cudgels over this [not that SS needs anyone else to defend his views]. Firstly this threat was, at least originaly, about the relavance, today, of the 1954 definition.
SS has mentioned several times what he is likley to hear at his local folk club, which is also mine. 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.
Of all the people I have met in 'the folk scene' over the past 40 years SS is, without a doubt, one of the most leaned, and passionate,
exponants of the great traditional ballads. Besides ballads he he sings a vast number of 'traditional' songs, and if he also has a love of Kipling/Bellamy songs so what? He also on occasions descends to the deapths os singing some of mine [Shock! Horror!]. Does this make him any less a 'traddie'? And as for 'not giving a toss', well [and forgive me for this Jim, 'cause much of what you have said throughout this thread I totally agree with], is a complete load of bollocks !    Sailor Ron


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: John P
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 10:54 AM

Jim,
Even though my primary interest in this music isn't academic, but rather just playing the music, I do think definitions are important. What I don't think is important is wrestling over the details of the definition. The only reason for doing that is to establish clear lines, which I don't think is possible or desirable. As has been noted here before, probably by you, the lines are movable and the gray area is huge. When I see SS legalistically bending the words of 1954 around so that it includes anything he wants it to, I have an interesting dual reaction: I'm bored by the legalistic point-making; it reminds me of a courtroom, where more credit is given to building a logical edifice than to arriving at the truth. In a discussion of this type, it's just piss-poor communication. But I'm also pissed off that someone who clearly understands the folk process is perverting the meaning of 1954 to make it include anything he happens to like, making the definition of traditional music as meaningless as the definition of folk has become.

As I've said, everyone I know who knows anything about traditional music has a really good idea of what traditional music means. It's not rocket science. Part of the reason I'm in this discussion is because there are apparently a lot of people who don't know enough about traditional music and who want to call all manner of things traditional that clearly aren't. My lines on this topic are wider than most, and I still get called the folk police when I ask that modern compositions by people who don't play traditional music don't get referred to as traditional music. Of course, I know that when small-minded folk are confronted with the need to support their silly statements, they use name calling instead of a simple "Oh, good point."


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: John P
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 10:30 AM

What I actually said was that Jim was a traditional singer; I said nothing about this particular song - it was you who assumed I thought it was traditional.

Bullshit. Now I understand the spat about posting irrelevant videos. If you post a video in this discussion, introducing it with Here's another new Jim Eldon video - the last English Traditional Singer & an example to us all:, one naturally assumes you are posting something you would like others to think of as a traditional song. If you didn't want people to think that you think this song is traditional, you should introduce with something like Here's another great Jim Eldon video I'd like to share. Not traditional at all, but entertaining nonetheless.

I have to say, SS, it gets harder and harder to refrain from ad hominem attacks against you when faced with this kind of thing. Let's see if I can do this politely: What in the world were you thinking? Why are you wasting everyone's time? If you don't think that song is traditional, why did you spend any time at all defending it by blathering on about individual creativity being part of the folk process and tradition? Can we change your name to Red Herring?


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Howard Jones
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 09:11 AM

What you don't seem to understand is that individual creativity is just a part of an ongoing process by which a folk song develops - changed and shaped, deliberately or otherwise, by the singers through whom it passes.

I understand the theory well enough - I just don't agree with it. Individual creativity is the whole of the case; that is, the very particular creativity of the individuals through whom it passes.    The songs were likewise created by individuals, and individuals recreated them according to their own needs and requirements. We can see this process at work today in individual singers & performers, and I doubt very much that it's ever been any different.


I don't understand what you're saying here - you seem to be contradicting yourself. A folk song - traditional song if you prefer - arises when individual takes a song and changes it (whether by a deliberate creative act, by mistake or unconsciously), and another individual takes that changed version and makes their own changes. Where someone simply takes a song and makes their own arrangement of it, that's a cover. You can't look at the individual in isolation, a folk song is the sum of a number of individuals' creativity. What bit of this don't you agree with?

To go back to an earlier example, we have simply no way of knowing how much of John England's version of "Seeds of Love" was his own creation and how much of it came from the singers he learned it from. It is stretching credulity to imagine that the song came entirely from his own imagination, entirely independent of the other versions collected from other singers.

You haven't answered my other question: when the words you have used to describe the music at your club are perfectly adequate, what is added by throwing the label "folk" over it all?


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 07:18 AM

Sorry, Howard - just seen this:

What you don't seem to understand is that individual creativity is just a part of an ongoing process by which a folk song develops - changed and shaped, deliberately or otherwise, by the singers through whom it passes.

I understand the theory well enough - I just don't agree with it. Individual creativity is the whole of the case; that is, the very particular creativity of the individuals through whom it passes.    The songs were likewise created by individuals, and individuals recreated them according to their own needs and requirements. We can see this process at work today in individual singers & performers, and I doubt very much that it's ever been any different.

That is what distinguishes a traditional song from most other forms of music, where individual creativity results in a definitive finished version.

I don't think there is a single example of a definitive finished version of anything; even a record is the product of a process which may be subject to further sampling, remixing and any amount of cover versions. A classical piece may well be finished in the sense of a written composition, but each interpretation of it is going to be very different. I was listening to the London Baroque recording of Purcell's Sonata #6 in G Major the other day and only half way through did I recognise it from a recording by Hesperion XXI with which I'm very familiar indeed. So much for definitive finished versions! The experience of music will always as be as immediate as its realisation - and variation will always exist a every level simply because nothing can ever happen the same way twice.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 06:50 AM

Oops! Posted that by accident without checking the preview button. Still, you'll get the gist of it, mistakes and all - still full of a cold and I start three days storytelling in Northumberland tomorrow...


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 06:47 AM

Folklore

How would you be defining that yourself, Jim? I the sense of Popular Antiquities or the ongoing responses of an observable collectivity? The former sense is quaint; the latter somewhat less so, but no less engaging, as it deals with an ongoing folkloric process and the reasons thereof, rather than any romanticism as such, Frazerian or otherwise.



I grew up in the colliery villages of SE Northumberland; I was very familiar with rapper, and delight in the dancers who have invaded recent sessions and singarounds in Preston and Byker. I don't dance myself, but have played pipe & tabor for the odd morris side in my time. Truth to tell, I have no real feelings on this - I like it when I see it; as do most people, and I'm hearted that people do it, for whatever reason. If I go to the 5000 Morris Dancers thread I see that I once wrote RVW was a reactionary fantasist too, his words woefully out of step even by the standards of his time, let alone the England of some 50 years after his death (almost to the day). This is the England in which we live, a complex multi-ethnic & multi-cultural England in which morris dancing & folk singing are minority hobbies with a good deal less cultural currency to actual English folk as (say) line-dancing & karaoke. I guess I still still that way.   

   
Folktales

As as professional storyteller myself I have a vested interest in this. Out of choice I tell only what I call Traditional Folk-Tales - which is to say those stories found in the collections of The Brothers Grimm, Asbjorsen and Moe, John Sampson, Samuel Lover, Crofton Croker, etc etc, as well as stories I've been given by Traditional Storytellers I've been fortunate to work with (such as Duncan Williamson), and from other storytellers at work in the field of the Storytelling Revival. You may view my on-line CV Here.

My feeling is that the morphology of folk-tales is in part determined by the same psycho-biological subroutines that determine linguistic structure; this is one of of the reasons we get folk-tales o'er leaping linguistic boundaries. One of my first Mudcat threads was to do with precisely that very phenomenon, and whether or not the same thing was true of folk song. See Folklore: Analogues Across Linguistic Frontiers. I must stress, however, that my interest in Folk-Tale is vocational, not academic, but my concerns with the phenomenon of traditional narrative - both sung and spoken - are something of a lifelong passion.

I could go on - perhaps on another thread if you've a mind for it, but from your reactions hitherto I very much doubt it.

folk customs

Where does one start? I guess we're in a similar territory to Folklore here, with regard to observation & interpretation and Frazerian fantasies of menacing overtones of pagan ritual etc. so at times it's difficult to get a handle on any of it other than to sit back and enjoy, which I do - be it the Bury Man of South Queensferry or the Penny Hedge at Whitby. I love Bob Pegg's book Rites and Riots; makes a lot of sense. Meanwhile, here's my own wee film of the Cheese Rolling in Chester; do have a look at some of the comments though, it's a hoot.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=993m0yRR0bg   

folk music

Well, I'm afraid I'm with Louis Armstrong on this one, Jim - though I do allow for Traditional Music, though I don't have too much to do with it personally; I play a few whistle tunes, a bit of pipe & tabor and I even play Jew's Harp in sessions from time to time. I love a lot of the old players - Seamus Ennis (who I regard as a fine singer & storyteller too), Felix Doran, Tom Clough, Billy Pigg, etc. etc. who seem to represent something very different to what happens today, though there are musicians today whose playing I love dearly.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 05:11 AM

Folklore, folkdance, folktales, folk customs, folk music etc....
Byeeee
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Howard Jones
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 04:54 AM

I would call Jim Eldon a singer of traditional songs, rather than a "traditional singer", but let's not get diverted down that road.

SS, of course individual creativity plays a part in the folk process, but its not the only part. The folk process can just as easily happen through forgetfulness or unconscious changes. It can also happen through collaborative creativity involving more than one individual.

What you don't seem to understand is that individual creativity is just a part of an ongoing process by which a folk song develops - changed and shaped, deliberately or otherwise, by the singers through whom it passes. That is what distinguishes a traditional song from most other forms of music, where individual creativity results in a definitive finished version.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 04:27 AM

I'm part of the traditional music community, and I am not accepting this particular song as anything even vaguely traditional.

What I actually said was that Jim was a traditional singer; I said nothing about this particular song - it was you who assumed I thought it was traditional. However, as I've shown, and only when prompted by your good self, it might be viewed through the lens of the 1954 Definition with respect of The Folk Process, which must be the work of creative individuals well versed in the tradition adapting popular material for their own ends much as Jim has done here. I too am part of the traditional music community, and find this aspect of the Folk Process justly fascinating.

Then he would rob us of our connection with all the other 'folk' disciplines (can't help but notice that he consistently refuses to address this one).

Remind me, Jim - what are these other Folk Disciplines of which you speak? Do let me know, and I'll do my best to address them.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Apr 09 - 03:30 AM

One last round.
Does it matter what we call our music if all we want to do is play it? maybe not to the individual peformer, but it certainly does if we want others to listen to it.
In the days when the folk revival was in a far better state than it is now one of the untiting factors was our consistency. It spread over a wide range of material, but it was recognisable. We could choose our folk clubs on the basis of how the music was played rather than on what type of music organisers had decided to give us. It fell within identifiable parameters.
Our access to the media was by no means enough but it was far greater then.
MacColl was giving us 'The Song Carriers, 10 superb programmes on what he could consistently refer to 'folk music' and know he would be understood, followed by another four on the 'folk' revival. Bert Lloyd gave us 13 excellent programmes called 'Songs of the People', a world-wide look at folk music using the best examples. He gave us two on the songs of the Durham miners, and something like a dozen on various aspects of folk song, as did other broadcasters, David Attenborough, John Levy, Deben Bhattacharya.... loads more. Charles Parker and Phillip Donellan were producing documentart radio programmes and films: Passage West (immigration), Gone For A Soldier, The Irishmen, The Iron Box (George Jackson), and other on Travellers, canal people, Appalachia.... you name it - folk songs and music were an integral part of it. We still have several hundred of these on our shelves.
The other side of the coin was The Spinners, The Dubliners, The Clancys, Hall and MacGregor; all playing music that had a firm basis in '54'. We even had our own programmes, which again varied widely but never really strayed too far from what we could recognise as having a consistent identity.
By and large we lost our access to the media, but even among the few crumbs we are now being fed, the last substantial programme I saw, 'Folk Britannia' was based on something I could recognise as folk.
And what would SS give us as a substitute image - "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" oh, and sung "irrespective of ability". I can just hear the media hammering on the door wanting a piece of that. Haven't heard Mike Harding's programme for a long time, but is this what he's giving out now?
So SS would rob us of any coherent public identity with his 'desigated folk context' definition.
Then he would rob us of our connection with all the other 'folk' disciplines (can't help but notice that he consistently refuses to address this one). I don't altogether agree with a definition only being a of interest to academics, but I haven't got time to go into it now.
Then he would take away from us our freedom to choose our own music, by subsituting it with his Magical Mystery Tour.
He would even deprive us of our chance of co-operating and communicating with each other by totally fragmenting our music and consigning our definition to individual clubs.
For all his crocodile tears over fair play to our source singers, he would separate them from their folk identity and from their ability to create, by trying (and failing miserably) to credit our folk songs to the work of 'talented individuals'.
All of which indicates, to me at least, that SS, 'traddie' though he claims to be - (not forgetting his shotgun-riding friend), neither understands the tradition nor gives a toss for its welfare.
Must go - Galway calls.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: John P
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 10:02 PM

Howard, this is how I feel as well. Quibbling about the details of 1954 is only interesting to academics, and my interest is in playing the music. Somehow, me and everyone else I know has a clear idea of what traditional music is. It doesn't seem that complicated.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Howard Jones
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 06:54 PM

Since I seem to be on the opposite side of the argument, I guess I'm one of the "folk police", although it's not a description I recognise or agree with. I thought I had been addressing the point, but perhaps after 900+ posts I've lost sight of it.

If the point is the 1954 definition itself, then actually I don't give a monkey's about it. It's an academic definition, for academic purposes, and I'm not an academic. I'm interested in folk music from the point of view of listening to it and performing it. I'm not bothered about the minutiae of the 1954 definition, or whether or not it covers all the possibilities, or whether this or that amendment should have been, or should now be, made to it. None of that's very important to me. But the concept it encapsulates and the process that it attempts to describe are absolutely fundamental, and from the perspective of a listener and performer the 1954 definition is a good starter to understand why traditional music is what it is.

If the point is about the meaning of words, then my position is clear. I accept that "folk" has for a long time - longer than I've been involved - meant more than "traditional". However up until now it has meant something which bears some resemblance to "traditional", whether in the musical or lyrical structures or simply the ideas it expresses.

What I cannot accept is the argument that since "folk" doesn't just meant "traditional" it can therefore encompass anything. I don't think that's helpful in any way - it doesn't help anyone to know in advance what sort of music they can expect to hear, it doesn't help someone who hears and likes something new to seek out more of the same. Not only that, I think it's actually damaging because it obscures real folk music, and in particular traditional music.

On an average night in our Folk Club we might hear 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.

Each of these descriptions tells me something about the music and what it might sound like. What value is added by throwing the label "folk" over them? If you asked the average person in the street, with no axe to grind, whether most of these were "folk", do you think they'd agree?


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: John P
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 06:44 PM

So is Jim Eldon writing Northumbrian smallpipe tunes? A lot of traditional Swedish music also has known composers, and I accept a good deal of recently composed music in other traditions as being part of the tradition. I understand that Jim, like most of us, does both traditional material and more modern stuff. That still doesn't make this a traditional song. I'm part of the traditional music community, and I am not accepting this particular song as anything even vaguely traditional. If you are, then you are one of the people who is trying to take away part of my identity. Since you know better, it rankles. Stick to calling it folk if you must, but leave the traditional part off, please.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 06:35 PM

"The word is also sometimes used in a broader sense to mean jargon, the proper use of which identifies speakers as members of a particular group or subculture. That is the sense I use it here."

I might have known that 'shibboleth' would need re-defining!


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 05:51 PM

he's been riding my fecking ass all day & doesn't he just know it?

I'd like to make it plain at this juncture that I have no interest in riding Sean's fecking ass in any way, shape or metaphorical form.

I expect he's having a good chuckle about right now at The Beech

Wrong again, unfortunately - couldn't make it. But I'm taking a break from this thread now, along with Jim Carroll and glueman (strange coincidence - have they ever been seen together?)


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: GUEST,Peace
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 05:43 PM

When y'all decide on a definition, would someone be kind enough to post it on a new thread? Thanks.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 05:22 PM

Only if their music is taken up by the community and undergoes the folk process, or are you now seeking to re-define 'tradition' too?.

There is a Tradition of Composition for Northumbrian Smallpipes; this is readily accepted a being Traditional Music. Look again at the remit for the ICTM (formerly the IFMC - who came up with 1954 Definition in the first place): to further the study, practice, documentation, preservation and dissemination of traditional music, including folk, popular, classical and urban music, and dance of all countries.

As a certain Jim Carroll said in his post of 13 Apr 09 - 03:17 AM: Some of us 'patonising folklorists' annd researchers have been screaming our message about the creative abilities of our source singers from the rooftops for the greater parts of our lives, largely to deaf ears.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 05:06 PM

By taking a small part of any definition can prove the moon is green cheese should it be in your interest to do so.
"their compositions become part of that tradition."
Only if their music is taken up by the community and undergoes the folk process, or are you now seeking to re-define 'tradition' too?.
"Jim Eldon is one such musician"
Now you're beginning to sound like a Jim Eldon groupie - personal taste is no basis for definition.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 04:54 PM

And how is my seeing any of his other work going to affect whether or not this particular song is traditional?

Well, let's see how it fits with the criteria of the 1954 Definition shall we? 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. I would say Jim's done a number on that one, given that the use of the word community in the 1954 is a bit of a red-herring anyway, as it side-steps the crucial creative role of individual musicians within that community. In the Northumbrian Smallpipe Tradition, for example, individual musicians & composers are justly celebrated; their compositions become part of that tradition. With rspect of traditional song, Jim Eldon is one such musician, with respect of adaptation, interpretation, collecting, facilitating, writing and song-carrying - as a closer examination of his work would reveal.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 04:44 PM

"your post of 14 Apr 09 - 03:20 PM generally repeats the same material."
In which case people will be able to decide for themselves whether my posting was "a tirade of abuse"; but as I said - feel free.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 04:18 PM

So you are celebrating the chaff that causes you despair?

Sounds about right, MM - trying to anyway.

SS, Pip was asking you some questions.

Bullshit - he's been riding my fecking ass all day & doesn't he just know it? I expect he's having a good chuckle about right now at The Beech, Designated Folk Contexts and all. If I was feeling any better I'd be there laughing with him too. Hope it was a good one, Pip.

SS keeps using this word "shibboleth" and I realised that I didn't really know what it meant - so I googled it:

Read on, Shimrod! The word is also sometimes used in a broader sense to mean jargon, the proper use of which identifies speakers as members of a particular group or subculture. That is the sense I use it here. One of my musical projects is called Shibboleth; we've even got a myspace page: Shibboleth. Folk Music? Yes, I like to think so.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: John P
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 04:01 PM

What is it with you people who feel the need to pigeon-hole music?

"What do you do?"
"I'm a musician."
"What kind of music do you play?"

at this point I could say
"Why do you feel the need to pigeon-hole music?" Not very friendly.

or I could say
"I play folk music"
"Oh, you mean like Joni Mitchell!"

or I could say
"I play traditional music"
The responses at this point range from "What's that mean?" to "Oh . . ." with a glazed, bored look.

Are a classical violinist, a rapper, and a jazz saxophonist all pigeon-holing if they describe themselves as a classical violinist, a rapper, and a jazz saxophonist?

I've actually been using "ethnic folk" sometimes. Most people seem to have some idea of what I'm talking about. I've tried to avoid using "world music", although it's possible that traditional music fits better there these days than under the folk umbrella.

Since you don't have any agenda, and don't like definitions, why should you care what anyone calls it? Why wade through nearly 1000 posts on this thread?


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Don Firth
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 03:50 PM

More often than not, the word "shibboleth" is used as a pejorative and conveys the first meaning in the Merriam-Webster definition below. "Empty of meaning," "blather," "nonsense."
shib•bo•leth
Function: noun
Etymology:   Hebrew shibbôleth stream; from the use of this word in Judges 12:6 as a test to distinguish Gileadites from Ephraimites
Date: 1638
1 a: a word or saying used by adherents of a party, sect, or belief and usually regarded by others as empty of real meaning (the old shibboleths come rolling off their lips — Joseph Epstein) b: a widely held belief (today this book publishing shibboleth is a myth — L. A. Wood) c: truism, platitude (some truth in the shibboleth that crime does not pay — Lee Rogow)
2 a: a use of language regarded as distinctive of a particular group (accent was…a shibboleth of social class — Vivian Ducat) b: a custom or usage regarded as distinguishing one group from others (for most of the well-to-do in the town, dinner was a shibboleth, its hour dividing mankind — Osbert Sitwell)
Don Firth


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: TheSnail
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 03:28 PM

Jim Carroll

Please feel free to put my abusive PMs up for all to see, but I would request that you waited until this thread has run its course.

If you like, but I think it would be a bit boring for everybody else and your post of 14 Apr 09 - 03:20 PM generally repeats the same material.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 03:07 PM

SS keeps using this word "shibboleth" and I realised that I didn't really know what it meant - so I googled it:

"A'shibboleth'is any distinguishing practice which is indicative of one's social or regional origin. It usually refers to features of language, and particularly to a word whose pronunciation identifies its speaker as being a member or not a member of a particular group."
(Wikipedia)

Well, I belong to a group who believes that 'folk song' is a limited and definable genre and that the 1954 definition is a good guide to the limits. In my opinion the word 'shibboleth' may not be entirely appropriate in this context - but close. Nevertheless, I don't see anything to be ashamed of. I'm certainly not ashamed of the fact that the existence of that particular group appears to get up certain peoples' noses. I believe that that is the problem of the nasally afflicted, and until they can come up with something better than "folk song is anything I say it is" it will remain their problem.


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Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 02:57 PM

Oh and the Carroll and Co. in your case I prefer to keep things on a semi- formal to formal basis, friends I call by their first names.


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