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What is The Tradition?

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Subject: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 07:27 PM

To what extent does the Revival actually represent The Tradition it purports to represent?

To what extent did The Tradition exist in the first place?

To what extent might the revival be said to be a Tradition in and off itself regardless (and irrespective as much (if not most) of it obviously is) of what may (or may not) have gone before?

In what sense might the stylistic conventions (and affectations) of The Revival be said to represent The Tradition - or are these stylistic conventions indicative of something else altogether?

What exactly is The Tradition anyway?

Is The Revival justified in claiming exclusive representation of The Tradition?

To what extent has The Revival succeeded in its aims and objectives with respect of The Tradition?

etc.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 07:38 PM

Have you read Georgina Boyes' The Imagined Village? - it certainly provides the background to a lot of those questions.

Mick


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 07:45 PM

"To what extent does the Revival actually represent The Tradition"
It doesn't, where is it claimed that it ever did?.

"To what extent did The Tradition exist in the first place?"
(Just) Been there - done that.

"What exactly is The Tradition anyway?"
Been there - done that.

"Is The Revival justified in claiming exclusive representation of The
Tradition?
Does it - if so, where?

"To what extent has The Revival succeeded in its aims and objectives with respect of The Tradition?"
What aims - where are they to be found?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: John P
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 07:46 PM

To what extent does the Revival actually represent The Tradition it purports to represent?

Huh? Who purports anything about any tradition?


Is The Revival justified in claiming exclusive representation of The Tradition?

Huh? Who made that claim?

To what extent has The Revival succeeded in its aims and objectives with respect of The Tradition?

Huh? Success? Aims? Objectives? Who has aims and objectives regarding tradition that they could be successful at?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 07:46 PM

Do Capital Letters make a Question more Important?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 07:59 PM

Tradition = you just do it because it's what you and your family do, and have done since anyone can remember. You might, as a bonus, enjoy doing it.

Kitty


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 08:24 PM

Which tradition are you asking about?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Bill D
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 08:48 PM

It's not so mysterious...."The Tradition" is what we remember and save and pass on thru the generations. To be really meaningful, things like songs need some time before they seem like they are gonna stay around as part of the tradition....


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 09:56 PM

The questions assume quite a bit.

I had heard singers of folk songs off and on all my life. I recall listening to a few programs about folk music on "American School of the Air" back in the late 1930s or early 1940s when I was barely more than a rug-rat, which meant I was more than likely listening to Alan Lomax, but hadn't a clue as to who he was until years later. I also heard singers like Burl Ives, Susan Reed, and Richard Dyer-Bennet early on.

I first became actively interested in folk music (active to the point of buying a cheap guitar, a book of chords, and a couple of song books) when the girl I was going with at the time, who had been interested in folk music for some time, inherited her grandmother's 1898 George Washburn "Ladies' Model" parlor guitar, and set about learning to play it to accompany the many songs she was avidly learning (mostly out of song books, and some off the few records that were available at the time). This was during in my second year at college.

I had already taken about a year's voice lessons as a teenager, and I started taking classic guitar lessons, because I wanted to learn the guitar faster and be able to do more than just strum chords. A few folk music enthusiasts "tsk! tsked! at this because they claimed that if I knew something about music, I couldn't be a folk singer because I would no longer be "natural." I wisely put this down as pure bovine excrement. Just because I could sound a bit like an opera singer if I wanted to didn't mean that I had to.

I studied and practiced and learned songs, and after a few years I started getting singing jobs. A gig here, a gig there, an invitation to do an educational television series on folk music (I wasn't just learning songs, I also learned about them), and once I had done that, I fairly readily got jobs singing in clubs and coffeehouse. Lucking into a chance to do a TV series gives you some pretty good "street cred." More television, concerts and such, followed.

I'll bet that there are a good eleventy-fourteen gazillion singers of traditional songs (but not raised in "the tradition") out there who traveled pretty much the same route I did, each with their own variations and side-trips. Some became well-known, others, not so well-known. Generally referred to as "revival singers."

Tradition? If I (and others like me) followed any tradition, it was the minstrel or troubadour tradition (taking a leaf from Richard Dyer-Bennet's book, who emphatically stated that he was not a "folk singer," he was a "modern-day minstrel"). Minstrelsy was a profession in and of itself, whereas "folk singers" or "traditional singers" were generally not professional singers. When they sang these songs, it was often while they were doing something else:   raising sail on shipboard, following the plow, weaving, rocking the baby to sleep, or singing for fun while sitting around in a pub with friends. But not as professional singers—someone who sings to entertain people and expects to be paid for it.

So—what tradition are we talking about?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Fidjit
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 11:19 PM

Tradition? It's our religion.

Just think I'm part of it.
I keep spreading the word. A-men!


Chas


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 04:01 AM

So I did start this thread. Thought I'd dreamt it; or else been Mudcatting in my sleep (again? You know, sometimes I might wonder...). That's what comes of five days solid folkery that is the Fylde Festival, which began for us at the Steamer on Wednesday night and ends, in the same place, tonight.

Tradition? It's our religion.

I think I'd agree with you on that one, Chas.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 04:09 AM

"If I (and others like me) followed any tradition, it was the minstrel or troubadour tradition (taking a leaf from Richard Dyer-Bennet's book, who emphatically stated that he was not a "folk singer," he was a "modern-day minstrel"). Minstrelsy was a profession in and of itself,"

Interesting post Don.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Tangledwood
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 04:55 AM

Wasn't The Revival forty years ago? Is that old enough to be traditional?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 05:18 AM

What answers were you hoping to receive/anticipating that you would receive to all those questions, SO'P? What are YOUR aims and objectives in asking them and what do YOU think the answers are?

What 'thought crimes' are you going accuse those of us who give the 'wrong' answers of?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Mr Red
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 05:19 AM

traditional is whatever people think it is. Ad (Fruedian slip retained) to that commercial interests and it means anything a speedy guy can falsify.

On this forum it does have more currency, it means old which is just as nebulous. "Older than me" is a good start, but "older than Grandad" might serve better. Throw in a smidgin of "anon" & "three chords" (two is C&W so "not folk", four has the smell of jazz).

But for me THE tradition is Jo(e) Public getting-up and having a go without the aid of electricity, and people joining-in or sitting listening, and applauding. After that the music is secondary but necessary. All else is marketing and commercialism and I will avail myself of that rarely unless it is a ceilidh.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Mr Red
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 05:26 AM

I became a born-again folkie the day I became a born-again bachelor.

And I have worshiped religiously since. Halleluya to that brothers and sisters. Halleluya .


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 05:53 AM

Not my religion at all, no music is. My tradition is an enjoyment of C20th rural romantic revival music for its simplicity and contrast to what else is around. An agreeable noise (usually) of universal values and themes in counterpoint to the industrialised age from which it emerged.

The past is unknowable, fragmented, a different country. It's foolish to project our expectations on a 'history' arrived at from so few sources and from a specific social milieu. We are creatures of our time, not another.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Paul Davenport
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 07:03 AM

I don't know of any culture other than the English 'folk' movement that makes this strange distinction between 'revivalist' (to be despised) and 'traditional' (to be revered). The really strange thing is that when pressed, the users of these terms produce definitions so nebulous that one can very quickly provide an example that refutes either definition.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 07:38 AM

No other music scene besides the Anglo-American one had anything like the "revivalist" movement. The Turkish "özgün" genre is a bit like it, but they adopted a specific name for what they were doing fairly early on - in almost any record shop that still stocks it, their stuff is in separate bins from "halk" (traditional music, or somewhat rocked-up and electronified versions thereof).

I don't suppose there's an Arabic word for pork scratchings, either.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 07:50 AM

I visited a local music sesh yesterday.

I'd not been at this venue for about 9/10 years.

Traditional?

Well the tiny gathering of 3 musicians + a bloke with guitar doing an occasional song, performed all the same sets as they'd done on my previous times there


Now I recall why I stopped going before.

From this example, I'm wondering if some sense of the meaning of 'Traditional' is never to learn any other stuff & keep playing the same tunes & sets ad infinitum?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 07:50 AM

Oops, pressed button too soon

IMO this is Stagnation!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 07:56 AM

There is no Holy Shrine of Tradition!

Oh..for Gawd's sake!

They're just songs....they're no different from any other part of history that connects to our ancestors...

The only thing about *The Tradition* is that it's been invented and then encircled by those who love to control and exclude.

The first singer songwriter was probably a ploughboy....yet singer songwriters are now spoken of with derision, by those who purport to know better than the idiotic masses, or which I am one...because they have sought to intellectualise song.

What a load of ballyhoo.

'The Tradition' is a pain in the ARSS, that's what it is!

Long life to those who just sing songs because they love 'em and don't have rules and regulations to what, when, where, or how they sing 'em, whilst having no radar around themselves to keep 'The Others' out...

:0)


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 08:17 AM

Oh look.

Somebody else who Likes To Capitalize Things.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 08:33 AM

As I said, 'The Tradition' has been taken invented by those who love to control and belittle others, and you, Jack, have just given Absolute Evidence to my point.

I use Elizabethan English (Liz I, not II) so may I Politely suggest that you get over your Capital Letters problem, along with your Belittling Problem.

Thank you.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 08:40 AM

Jack Campin wrote, No other music scene besides the Anglo-American one had anything like the "revivalist" movement.

I'm not sure I agree. Wouldn't you say klezmer had a revival starting in the late 1970s?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 08:58 AM

I take many of the points made above: but, while some categories can be stultifying, others can be useful. In a Folk Review article on this very topic [what else!?], I once wrote "If every item of household furniture was called a chair, we wouldn't know where to park our arses". My dear dead and still much-missed friend Peter Bellamy [a name to conjure with on these threads as the Who·Defines? one shows] liked my formulation so much that he took to quoting it in any & every discussion on the subject that arose for the rest of his all-too-short life. And it is a formulation I would still stand by — or we run the risk of getting back to the 'dreary axiom' [Bert Lloyd's description of it] about the bloody non-singing horse if we go on in this vein much longer...


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 09:37 AM

Revival is not a put down, it's a valuable term that is recognised as a modern take on music that went before, once the conditions that gave rise to it no longer obtained.
It's just a shorthand so people understand and appreciate what they're doing in the right context and don't pretend they're plugged straight into the the past.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Amos
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 12:58 PM

MgM:

Of course we would know where to park our arses!! It would require the subtle ability to discriminate between sit-in chairs and all other kinds of chairs. Maps are just maps, not blindfolds!


A


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: theleveller
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 01:39 PM

I've come to the conclusion that, as we have to keep asking the question and never get a satisfactory answer, 'The Tradition' does not actually exist. Traditions exits, as do legends, myths, songs and stories - all part of our history and social background. I don't know who invesnted the idea of 'The Tradition', maybe someone who wanted to give a context, or historical repectability to their delving into things folkloric. In the end, it doesn't matter because we'll just go on singing the songs and dancing the dances and changing and reinventing them to suit ourselves.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 01:42 PM

So far as English music is concerned, the Revival is quite different from the Tradition in the way songs are sung and instruments are played. While some people in the Revival have immersed themselves deeply in the Tradition and reflect its aesthetics and style in their own performance, others (probably the majority) are either unaware or uninterested, and prefer the polished Revival sound to the simpler, but sometimes challenging, sound of the raw Tradition.

The two exist in parallel, but with a degree of overlap.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 02:01 PM

"Oh look.
Somebody else who Likes To Capitalize Things."

Oh Jack, don't become a professional bore, your post stand out here as being interesting and educational!

Incidentally though, why do you use a Z rather than an S? I thought that an American convention. Or is it more common in Scotland?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 02:13 PM

"the polished Revival sound to the simpler, but sometimes challenging, sound of the raw Tradition"

That's the trouble with words, you don't know whose mouths they've been in. Serial music is challenging, base jumping is challenging, riding the Tour de France is challenging, listening to a bloke who can remember a 50 verse ballad and sing it unaccompanied is just a personal preference.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Sedayne (Astray) (S O'P)
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 02:24 PM

What 'thought crimes' are you going accuse those of us who give the 'wrong' answers of?

I started this thread in a dream & I'm still sleepwalking in the sweetest of folk-dreams after our Traditional Monday-After-Fylde jaunt to Southport, there to relax & scour antiquarian bookshops & walk the pier and spend a small fortune on the vintage penny-falls and one-arm bandits.

As I've said elsewhere, as far as I'm concerned all music can be folk music (depending on human context); and quote once again the aims of International Council for Traditional Music: to further the study, practice, documentation, preservation and dissemination of traditional music, including folk, popular, classical and urban music, and dance of all countries.

Just passing; at my in-laws for soup and cake on our way to The Steamer for the Fylde survivors sing tonight.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 02:59 PM

When I first heard a recording of a traditional singer, quite frankly I didn't like it. It sounded very rough, and not very good. Traditional melodeon players just sounded thumpy, and fiddle players screechy. That's what I meant by "challenging".

With more listening, and especially after hearing traditional performers in a live setting, I began to understand and to hear the subtleties in what they were doing. But it took time.

I remember being at a party where the host couldn't get people to go home, so he played an album by a certain well-known traditional singer. It worked.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Paul Davenport
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 05:28 PM

I can't find any country where they do this to their culture. Why is there a 'revival' and a 'tradition'? Anyone who attempts to pigeonhole on these two definitions is going to come to grief. Harry Cox, Sam Larner, Joseph Taylor, to name but three can all be shown to have used written sources and to have invented their own material. By the same argument, most singers have learned stuff from aural sources. Mary Taylor (Joseph's daughter) learned her father's songs but was roundly rejected by the 'revival' and those arbiters of what is 'real'. Similarly, her brother John was considered too 'churchy' and similarly rejected despite both fitting the 'traditional' criteria perfectly.
The term, 'revivalist' has been, and is, used perjoratively (not sure I spelled that right) and is unhelpful. Again, in my neck of the woods both carol singing and brass bands are 'traditional' music and involve copious use of written texts. I have learned loads of stuff from other singers but don't sing their stuff – because its theirs. Its all a mystery to me. Does being literate automatically render one 'not trad'? If that's the case then Walter Bulwer and Bertie Clarke both drop into second division by being classically trained at on stage. It's also interestig to try to get hold of that great Klezmer fiddler, Izaak Perleman. You'lll have to look in the 'classical' section in the record store because that's what that 'traditional' musician is most famous for.
Go figure


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Peace
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 06:08 PM

Read "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Bill D
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 06:33 PM

The Lottery? That's pretty extreme definition of tradition, Peace....

"Tradition" is a useful word...if we allow it to be. People use it to mean something. Words like 'folk' and 'traditional' to differentiate most newer stuff from a lot of older stuff...for a reason!

In music especially, many older songs & tunes just 'feel' different from newer music. The subject matter, the style, the meter and speed, the verse arrangement, the presence of absence of a chorus...etc. Some people really LIKE much of the older music better, and thus want a way to refer to it.
   Those who try to suggest that "all music can be 'folk music'" in the right context might be technically correct, but they miss the point.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Peace
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 06:35 PM

Once it's written down, how can it 'stay in the tradition'?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 06:46 PM

My take on this is that we have this dichotomy between the Revival and the Tradition because the English Revival got its initial impetus from the American revival, and when it started to take up English material it continued with the American performance style it had originally adopted. The guitar was the iconic instrument of English folk music from the beginning of the revival, despite having virtually no place in the original tradition. Revival singers got much of their material from written sources, and even where they went to source singers (or recordings of them) in most cases they then performed the material in a more modern style.

The folk revival has its own quite distinct aesthetic and style, which is recognisably different from that of the original tradition. This was not merely an evolution of an old style under the influence of modern music, it was the creation, virtually from scratch, of a particular performance style which drew its material from the tradition but little else.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: treewind
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 06:57 PM

"Once it's written down, how can it 'stay in the tradition'?"

Huh? How can it not?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Peace
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 06:58 PM

But traditions do change with input from younger generations. So, how's THAT work?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Bill D
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 07:14 PM

"The Tradition" is not a defined 'place', like a museum. It doesn't have specific, unchanging content, either. It is a concept...a word to refer generally to a body of material that has, by application, been deemed worth of being remembered as a source.....and obviously, not everyone sees the exact same items as belonging there.....but if you took everyone's list and extracted all the stuff that are on most lists, you have a general idea of what it is. (This, technically, is what is known as an 'ostensive' definition). That is, we list examples until we all recognize the basic concept.

A perfect one to look at is our very own "Digital Tradition", a collection of songs that (almost) everyone agrees fits the pattern, even if they might debate some of the details.

Younger generations? They do add things....but it detracts from the idea if items are added just because they are 'well-known' today. You lose the IDEA of 'traditional' if there is no basic test of time....


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jeri
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 07:14 PM

I think there's the museum diorama tradition and then there's the tradition in the wild. The former always remains the same and songs should be performed as close to how they were when collected as possible. The latter, the living tradition, is one of change. I think most people try for a balance between true-to-the-past and creative adaptation. It's the degree of each that we argue about.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 10:12 PM

I don't think we can entirely escape the 1954 statement, ESPECIALLY   the existence-of-variant-versions requirement. It is something that non-folkies don't understand — I once many years ago played my father the Copper Family's Presents Song - ie their version of The 12 Days Of Xmas, & he was genuinely distressed and disorientated: "But that is an absolutely standard song that everybody knows" he kept saying. Whereas we all know about versions, the oral tradition, and so on; and it is to a huge extent the existence of variants that bespeaks to us the true traditionality of a song, tale, dance, &c, however any particular individual might perform or choose to accompany it and in whatever style.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 05:58 AM

(Cut & Paste Deja-Vu warning: As MtheGM repeats the statement he made here on The Folk Process thread, I'm repeating my response, with an addition...)

I don't think we can entirely escape the 1954 statement,

Not around here you can't anyway, MtheGM - a not altogether unexpected state of affairs given the autistically intransigent Cultural Fundamentalism that is is the defining factor of the Folk Revival. What is The Folk Process anyway? Or rather - what was it? What were its laws? What were its mechanisms? Sure the evidence is there, but the interpretation of that evidence seems to overlook the fundamentals, seeing humanity in terms of its collective objectivity rather than its individual subjectivity.

This is a fundamental flaw of not just TFP and the 1954 Definition but also the foundation of the folk song revival as a whole - in effect a social condescension which saw these grubby rustics as passive carriers of a cultural phenomenon they couldn't possibly understand, rather than the active determinators of that phenomenon that they most surely were. Could, therefore, our entire concept of The Folk Process (and the 1954 Defination) have its roots in the sloppy, selective & agenda driven field-work on the part of the early collectors who saw the songs as being of greater significance than their lowly, ill-educated singers? Perish the very thought!

*

But that is an absolutely standard song that everybody knows

First published, I believe, in Bruce and Stokoe's Northumbrian Minstrelsy (1892)


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 06:25 AM

"Well spotted, Pike! I wondered who was going to see through that one..."


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:06 AM

The question 'What is the Tradition' is like one of those on the 'QI' TV show with Stephen Fry (apologies to non-UK readers who don't know what I'm talking about), to which a panellist gives the 'obvious' answer and is then greeted by the sound of klaxons and the deduction of ten points. So I proceeed with some caution.

Statements in some of the above posts to the effect that there never was such as thing as 'The Tradition', or that there's no distinction between 'Tradition' and 'Revival', strike me as bizarre. To keep it simple, let's stick for the moment to songs, and to England. From where I'm sitting, 'The Tradition' is the passing of a body of songs from generation to generation - often within families - amongst working and travelling people in mostly rural communities, partly for their own entertainment and partly because that was 'the way it was done' in that community.   Most of these people had no formal musical training, and much of the transmission prior to the 20th century was oral, although printed copies from the broadside presses acted to stabilise song form against the countervailing force of oral evolution. New material was constantly being added to the repertoire, through broadsides or - later - from commercial sources such as the music halls or the radio. The 'museum diorama' Jeri speaks of (if it exists at all) certainly has nothing to do with the constant change in the actual tradition.

'The Revival', on the other hand (I'm assuming we're talking about the 1960s here, not Cecil Sharp) was a self-conscious movement with an agenda that was political and educational as well as merely musical. [Other contributors who were actually there at the time might like to correct me if I'm wrong]. The footsoldiers of the Revival were a very different constituency from those of the Tradition: urban, educated, often subscribing to the counter-culture, often drawn from the middle classes. Most were not the heirs to a family or community singing tradition: they learned their songs from books, magazines and records produced by the Revival for the Revival. The Revival constructed its own performance circuit of folk clubs and festivals, completely separate from any remaining traditional singing environment, and a new class of revival professionals acted as icons of performance style and sources of repertoire.

The Revival repertoire was itself largely separate from that which had gone before. When I first became involved in the mid-70s, the kind of songs that typified the folk clubs were 'The Wild Rover', 'Wild Mountain Thyme', 'Poverty Knock', 'Fiddlers Green', 'The Blackleg Miner' and 'The Manchester Rambler'. A bit later I began to hear a lot of those songs that were discussed here a little while back on the 'Bertsongs' thread: 'The Recruited Collier', 'Reynardine', 'Three Drunken Maidens', 'Handweaver / Factory Maid', etc. All of the above were either recent compositions or the result of revivalists' (mainly Lloyd's) tinkering and popularising. The core revival repertoire - and here I speak from a Northern perspective - included comparatively little that you might have found in a rural 'Singing Pub' ('Pleasant and Delightful' excepted) or the collections of Sharp.

The Revival developed its own performance styles (as Howard Jones mentioned above), from the ubiquity of the guitar as accompanying instrument - later augmented with things like concertinas which were scarcely more authentic - to the standard 'folkie' voice we used to hear a lot of, the jokey introductions and so on. If you spliced a performance of a song - even an unaccompanied one - by a professional performer or a typical folk club singer into one of the 'Voice of the People' CDs it would stick out like a sore thumb. As Bill D said above, they just sound different.

The Revival is simply a different beast. It's a little disingenuous to state, however, that it never claimed to represent the Tradition. Maybe its founders did not, but the movement as a whole has been more than happy to include the word 'Tradition' in the names of its venues, its periodicals, its record releases and its band names. On the other hand it's undeniable that the Revival - or at least a section of it - has been enthusiastic about giving a platform to those singers from the Tradition that it could still locate, and to recording their songs for posterity. As the Revival developed, more performers (including several of today's younger generation) started going back to the collections and the recordings for their source material, and a few have tried to absorb elements of the singing style.

Personally I use the term 'Revival' (actually I scarcely ever would use it unless someone asked the question first) simply as a descriptor, with no value judgement attached. The Revival has been going for fifty years now (perhaps it deserves a more mature-sounding title?), has produced all kinds of wonderful music along the way, and is a cultural phenomenon in its own right.

I hope that's addressed some of your questions, Suibhne. I need a coffee after all that scribbling.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:11 AM

and is a cultural phenomenon in its own right.

Absolutely.

Think I'll join you in that coffee actually...


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:16 AM

Is it appropriate to see the tradition associated with a community?

So we have a tradition of songs associated with rural working people. We have a tradition of sea songs and shanties associated with a community of sea going working people. We have a tradition of songs carried by Travelers and so on.

In a similar way we have a tradition of songs associated with people who have been singing in Folk Clubs since the 1950s. These traditions and communities are different but they overlap.

L in C


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:26 AM

"In a similar way we have a tradition of songs associated with people who have been singing in Folk Clubs since the 1950s."

Bang on the money there Les. Stephen Fry used to talk about that age when you develop a signature, arbitrary flourishes of the pen, inventions, conceits that define you thereafter. Folk is similar, a set of ideas, ideals and expectations that accumulate around it like lint on a jumper and eventually become part of the thing itself.

Unfortunately that aggregation of stuff differs very slightly from person to person, or is reduced to such an extent by definitions as to be meaningless. So we have 'The Tradition', capitalised arguments about a thing that never really existed in the first place but dragged a few shibboleths round until they began to look like something substantial.

Now if you're talking about the folk revival as seen through folk clubs since the 1950s you got a reasonable basis for a pub discussion and something with a bit of solidity to it.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: John Routledge
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 08:42 AM

Great concept Les -The Tradition of those songs and singers in Folk Clubs since the 50's. I am just too young to qualify.:0)


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 10:29 AM

"The Folk Process (and the 1954 Defination) have its roots in the sloppy, selective & agenda driven field-work on the part of the early collectors who saw the songs as being of greater significance than their lowly, ill-educated singers? Perish the very thought!"
Compared to what?
The conclusions of the collectors, however "sloppy and selective", are based largely on practical experience and field work. It seems to me that challenging them requires research and counter-experience, which both SO'P and his friend have consistently refused to provide. Their attitude to such research uncannily resembles all those people I have met who proudly boast "I have never read a book in my life and it hasn't done me any harm".
Where is your evidence of this 'sloppiness and selectivity'?
I am totally bemused by SO'P's constant reference to the International Folk Music Council's change of name. Why should it matter to him what they call themselves; he has rejected their findings anyway? As Shimrod has pointed out, it is the definition that counts, not who made it or what they call themselves.
As one of those 'sloppy and selective' collectors of some 30-odd years standing, I can only say that, based on our own experiences (still ongoing) the 1954 definition, with some slight reservations, worked for us. If we got it wrong, let's hear where we got it wrong (but I'm afraid that might involve our dynamic duo in some 'research' which, to date, they have refused to soil their hands on).
Our collection and some of our conclusions are open to inspection, so how about it lads - we've shown you ours; how about you showing us yours?.
A major part of our work was with an Irish ballad-seller who sold copies of his father's songs around the fairs and markets of Kerry and West Cork in the 1940s. He described printing some of those songs (sometimes by request), selling them, and in some cases teaching the tunes, then returning some time later to hear those songs "sung back at him" completely changed and adapted.
Up to about sixty years ago singers around here were buying similar ballad sheets and doing exactly the same as their Kerry and Cork counterparts. While very few of the ballad sheets survived, it was the practice of many families to write the songs down in notebooks, some of which we have been lucky enough to see (there's one of them here jus above the desk). A comparison of what was received and what was sung makes essential reading.
The oral transmission of songs has been a major factor in the tradition of the making and remaking process.
If the tradition is a myth based on 'sloppiness and selectivity' how come the Irish north eastern song tradition is so strongly Scots influenced? Why are the most popular ballads in West Clare of Scots and English origin (Lord Lovel, Captain Wedderburn, The Suffolk Miracle, The Green Wedding....)?
Hugh Shields' account of a Tyrone singer, when asked by a relative who was heading for the potato picking in Scotland what she wanted bringing back, replied "bring us back a song", is a living example of how the tradition worked.
People working at collecting and research have put their work up for scrutiny: Hamish Henderson, Tom Munnelly, Hugh Shields, the Lomaxes, Sharp, Goldstien, Sandy Ives, MacColl, Parker, Donnellan........ et al.
How about putting your money where your mouth is (or is the armchair too comfortable)?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: theleveller
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 02:36 PM

Am I having deja vu or have I drunk too much wine? I could have sworn I've just posted something about this a couple of minutes ago.

Off to watch Groundhog Day. Or was that tomorrow?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 04:09 PM

"Am I having deja vu or have I drunk too much wine? I could have sworn I've just posted something about this a couple of minutes ago."
Oh well; that's all right then - we can all go down to the pub and leave you to it
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 04:41 PM

This is the man who once accused me of going down the pub to get out of an argument. Dutch courage was the term. You'd think this folk business was real if you stuck round here too long. Instead of completely made up.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:32 PM

Still no qualifications of their statements from the deadly duo - just defensive invective (well- from one of them; t'other seems to have left the stage).
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Peace
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:51 PM

"The Lottery? That's pretty extreme definition of tradition, Peace...."

Read the thread, Bill. If Jackson erred it was on the side of caution.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Bill D
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 08:02 PM

well....I see your point....but I DO hate to admit it.

A major point of Jackson's little story was that their 'tradition' had long lost its original meaning....and I suppose that how certain current traditions work also.... I see it on the news regularly.

...*mumble* ..now you have me morbidly contemplating society in a NEW way. As if I needed one more morbid way to contemplate.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: theleveller
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 04:21 AM

""Am I having deja vu or have I drunk too much wine? I could have sworn I've just posted something about this a couple of minutes ago."
Oh well; that's all right then - we can all go down to the pub and leave you to it
Jim Carroll"


"This is the man who once accused me of going down the pub to get out of an argument."

Oh dear, it seems my attempt to inject a little bit of humour fell on stoney ground!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 05:41 AM

Never mind contributors' drinking habits; we're still getting glib assertions here that "the tradition never really existed in the first place".

Now, I can point to a ballad known in 1455 that was still being sung, in recognizable but altered form, in both England and North America during the 20th century, by singers unconnected with any 'Folk Revival'.

To records of shepherds before the birth of Shakespeare singing ballads that would be still be around for F J Child to include in his collection 350 years later.

To ballads sung in the British Isles with analogues in balladry and folktale from Europe and beyond.

To hundreds and hundreds of examples of old songs and variants recorded by notation or mechanical recording.

To the testimony of dozens of singers who learned their songs from the generations before them.

To the account Jim Carroll gave above, about song transmission of which he had first-hand experience.

If "the tradition never existed", are those things:
(a) a complete fabrication, part of a centuries-old conspiracy to delude us all?

(b) isolated phenomena that don't deserve to be drawn together as evidence of a single process?

(c) evidence of a real cultural phenomenon for which 'The Tradition' (capitalized or otherwise) is, however, not a suitable name?

(d) inconvenient facts that prevent the free flight of bees in bonnets?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: theleveller
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 05:59 AM

"a real cultural phenomenon for which 'The Tradition' (capitalized or otherwise) is, however, not a suitable name?"

Precisely the point I was making when I posted this:

"I've come to the conclusion that, as we have to keep asking the question and never get a satisfactory answer, 'The Tradition' does not actually exist. Traditions exits, as do legends, myths, songs and stories - all part of our history and social background. I don't know who invesnted the idea of 'The Tradition', maybe someone who wanted to give a context, or historical repectability to their delving into things folkloric."

As to: "Never mind contributors" drinking habits;" maybe you need to stop taking yourself so seriously.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 05:59 AM

Isn't it wonderful to be involved in an activity that can never be satisfactorily defined!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 06:12 AM

(well- from one of them; t'other seems to have left the stage).

Sorry, old man - I've appear to have lost my voice after all the shouting & singing over the weekend at the Fylde. But I'm reading it and loving what I see here, especially from Jim and Brian which e'er warms the cockles of my heart.

Nice sunny day here meanwhile; we're spending the last day of our holiday with our Spheniscus magellanicus pals in Blackpool Zoo.

You lot play nicely now, hear?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 07:55 AM

If the tradition never existed - what did Stanley Robertson carry along with him to merit an honorary masters degree?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 07:59 AM

The only thing about *The Tradition* is that it's been invented and then encircled by those who love to control and exclude.

The first singer songwriter was probably a ploughboy....yet singer songwriters are now spoken of with derision, by those who purport to know better than the idiotic masses, or which I am one...because they have sought to intellectualise song.


A number of assertions there - with not a scrap of evidence.

One can understand when people talk like that why Jim Carroll gets annoyed.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 08:24 AM

We can safely say in the days before the BBC, and maybe the music hall, people sang songs to each other who sangs similar songs to other people and everyone forgot who started it. That is all we can safely say.

The Tradition is just the dirty snowball that rolled downhill in its wake.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 09:02 AM

Does some of it come down to this:

1) there is a group of musicians, scholars etc who are very interested in 'The Tradition' as it existed in, say, 19th/early 20th century life (with trails sometimes going back several centuries before that, and in some cases forward towards the present day). The interest is in the informal music making of more-or-less ordinary people in the days before mass media. What songs did they sing? What tunes did they dance to? These modern-day musicians and other enthusiasts study and often perform/interpret this tradition for modern audiences (and/or for each other in pub sessions, etc). Nothing wrong with this.

2) there is another, perhaps larger, group of musicians and interested others who play and sing folksongs and tunes without near as much (or any) consideration as to where the song came from, who sang it/played it (or didn't) in the past, etc. They compose songs, they sing and play whatever strikes their fancy, etc. These people, in many respects, are the modern day equivalent of the tradition bearers that group #1 is so interested in. However, the context, methods of learning, attributes of the music they make, etc are all different. Nothing wrong with this.

This is not to say that there are only two camps here, or that anybody fits neatly into either one of these two groups, but I do think that ones perspective on 'The Tradition', or even what we mean when we refer to 'The Tradition', will vary greatly depending on which group we identify more with.

Thoughts?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 09:23 AM

Brian,

It's just got to be your (a) i.e.

"a complete fabrication, part of a centuries-old conspiracy to delude us all ... "

Of course it is! I see it all now! For all those centuries wicked scholars have been plotting to prevent 'glueman', SO'P etc. from admitting their favourite music to the folk canon. How devilishly evil is that!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 09:37 AM

Leveller, "the Tradition" is a shorthand term, jargon if you like, for the shared transmission and evolution of music amongst a community over a period of time. There are many other traditions, but it should be perfectly obvious which one we are discussing here.

As for it existing, there is not only plenty of evidence for its previous existence, but there are still places where it continues.

If you don't like the word, feel free to suggest an alternative, but to deny its very existence in the face of all the evidence seems perverse.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 11:30 AM

"to prevent 'glueman', SO'P etc. from admitting their favourite music to the folk canon"

You've repeated this falsehood on numerous occasions Shimrod. I left 'favourite music' behind in late adolescence as most mature people do, more than 30 years ago. My tastes are impossibly broad for you to understand and any enthusiam built up around them would be directed at keeping those tastes out of the tradition, not including them.

The people will decide whether tunes are folk music or not, not you or I or anyone else on Mudcat. Your use of canon to elevate ordinary songs into a quasi-religious setting is most interesting, there's a theme developing of folk filling the place religion used to occupy for enlightenment boffs. Most unfortunate for the music, what?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 11:32 AM

I object to the "the". And to the capitalisation of "Tradition".


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 03:05 PM

>> We can safely say in the days before the BBC, and maybe the music hall, people sang songs to each other who sangs similar songs to other people and everyone forgot who started it. That is all we can safely say. <<

We can safely say (from direct evidence) that the songs were handed down from one generation to the next. And that's what "tradition" means - in my dictionary at any rate. I'm not wedded to the upper case 'T' (blame the OP for that).

So, if we drop the definite article and the capital letter, there's no longer an argument?

to Dave Ruch:
I'm one of those who "sings and plays whatever strikes [my] fancy". But I'm also curious about it, especially that part of it that goes back five hundred years. Which of your groups am I in?

>> As to: "Never mind contributors' drinking habits;" maybe you need to stop taking yourself so seriously. <<

Maybe you need to stop drinking so much wine, Leveller (yes I know, it does taste good!), then you might be able to judge more accurately when others are taking themselves seriously and when they aren't.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Chris Murray
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 03:34 PM

Haven't we had this discussion before?

Just don't mention the horse.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 03:39 PM

"I left 'favourite music' behind in late adolescence as most mature people do, more than 30 years ago."

So what are we arguing about then, 'glueman'?


"My tastes are impossibly broad for you to understand ... "

Give me depth over breadth any day!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 04:03 PM

"Give me depth over breadth any day!"

What do they know of folk music who only folk music know?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: theleveller
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 04:42 PM

Right, I'm off to write a folk song and wait for The Folk Process to turn it into part of The Tradition - then I can observe at first hand how it works. I'll report back in due course.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 05:16 PM

I can understand that those people who "play and sing folksongs and tunes without near as much (or any) consideration as to where the song came from, who sang it/played it (or didn't) in the past" won't be very interested in the tradition, or in the traditional processes which shaped the songs. Personally, I think they're missing out on a lot of fascinating stuff, but that's up to them.

What I find harder to understand is the apparent hostility towards the very idea of a tradition, even a denial that it existed.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: sing4peace
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 05:40 PM

Glueman: "That's the trouble with words, you don't know whose mouths they've been in". Great line - is it yours?

I have been contemplating what it means to be a "traditional" singer for a long time. I learned a lot of songs from my father,who learned them from his father. Some of them were sea chanteys my dad used when he was the botswain on a square rigged boat. Some of them were rockabilly numbers that required a bass and drums.

I don't read music but I know how to play "jazz" chords. I sing songs on picket lines in the tradition of Woody Guthrie and I sing songs in concert halls in the tradition of Ray Charles. I know a lot of verses to Lady Dysie (Lady Diamond) and sang that to my little girl when she was a baby (I know - it has a horrible verse about cutting out the kitchen boy's heart - ewwwwww! but she just fell asleep because of the minor chords as all babies do). So where does that leave me?

I've got a gig coming up in a couple of months for which I'm being billed as a "traditional" singer. I've tried to get the venue to change this as I'm worried that folks'll show up expecting me to break out the Child Ballads and John Jacob Niles and they are probably going to get more Hank Williams and Malvina Reynolds (uh, oh Michael - don't worry, I don't sing Little Boxes). I'm worried that people will be upset thinking they are getting one thing and getting another all together. I guess I'll just have to win them over with some good singing.

I am more like Lizzie up there - I like a song because it's a good song - time will tell what tradition I'm following. Meanwhile, I'll just keep accruing good songs.

Nice chattin' with you all-
Joyce


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 05:48 PM

Wouldn't myself call Niles 'traditional', Joyce. He was more a sort of smartarse 'improver' - look what he did to that beautiful song Black Is The Colour which you will find in much better version in Sharp's Appalachia.

Thanks for the nod to me re the Ickleboxes...
          ❤Michael❤


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: theleveller
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 03:19 AM

"What I find harder to understand is the apparent hostility towards the very idea of a tradition"

I wish people would read what other posters are saying - it's not denying that there are TRADITIONS (plural) in music as in many other things. These are quite often local and very different across the country. What is totally dubious is that there is The Tradition - some great all-encompassing movement that includes all folk music and song. To asssume this is to deny the very thing that makes folk music so wonderful and diverse - its localness. This doesn't mean you can't sing or appreciate songs from localities with which you are not familiar but, like good wine, songs are much more enjoyable when you appreciate their 'terroir'.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 04:12 AM

Leveller, the Tradition isn't a movement, its a process. It's an umbrella term which encompasses all the local traditions you describe.

The East Anglian tradition and that of the North East are quite different in style, and often in repertoire. However they share the same characteristics of a body of music passed around, shared and changed within their communities and it seems perfectly reasonable to me to describe that as "the tradition" when one is talking in broad general terms.

Although these traditions may have been very local, in the sense of each community having its own repertoire and possibly style, they were also open to outside influences and were always keen to absorb new material from wherever they could find it. This is why we get versions of the same songs and tunes turning up all over the place.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 04:53 AM

>> it's not denying that there are TRADITIONS (plural) in music as in many other things. These are quite often local and very different across the country. What is totally dubious is that there is The Tradition <<

OK leveller, I do take your point - though I think Howard has answered it well. I'd also refer back to the examples I mentioned, of ballads and ballad motifs being shared by globally-separated local communities, as a reason for considering the larger picture as well as the local one (English song 'The Keys of Canterbury' = Cajun song 'Paquet d'Epingles' - that kind of thing).

To me the definite article in the expression 'The Tradition' signifies nothing more than that we're talking about the specific tradition of song transmission, as opposed to any of the other ones.

I don't know most of the posters here but I guess they're simply music enthusiasts like I am. All this talk of 'The Tradition' being held up as some kind of religion is just mischief-making.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: bubblyrat
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 07:21 AM

I just came across this today,in a book about Leeds-built steam railway locomotives,and would like to share it with you,as I feel it has some relevance here;

                           "....tradition,properly regarded,is like an endless ladder presenting a perpetual challenge to the climber,but upon which it is fatal to stand still. It is not a flight of steps with a comfortable seat at the top."

L T C Rolt    " A Hunslet Hundred"

               David and Charles : Dawlish MacDonald : London 1964


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 07:32 AM

A similar although unrelated tradition exist amongst those of us who have been going to Folk Clubs since the 1960s. We hear songs, learn them and pass them on.

We are a community but not in the geographical sense.

L in C


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 07:34 AM

L T C Rolt    " A Hunslet Hundred"

Just been reading some of Rolt's ghost stories actually - a collection called Sleep No More which I'd recommend to anyone with a fondness for old railways, canals, M R James, The Signalman etc. etc.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 07:39 AM

I feel sure you work too hard and too long Sean, take it easy

L in C


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 07:46 AM

Two other interesting books on similar themes - Crossing the Line, trespassing on Railway Weirdness by folklorist Paul Screeton, and Railway Ghosts and Phantoms by W. B. Herbert.

Rolt's, Red for Danger is another classic.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 08:03 AM

I feel sure you work too hard and too long Sean, take it easy

It's a bugger for sure, Les! Actually, my reading time is down to an hour a day max these days and the list is backed up some way. Just finishing off Viv Stashall biog, which I'm reading concurrently with Bob Pegg's Folk, then I'll be opening the second instalment of Daevid Allen's autobiography Gong Dreaming 2 before giving Stations of the Sun due attention, which should take me up until Xmas. I've got George Mackay Brown's Collected Poems too, and we bought a copy of Johnny Haslett's amazing Morris Dancers and Rose Queens off him at the Fylde, which is hardly bed-time reading on account of the weight of the thing....


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 08:52 AM

Railway Ghosts and Phantoms by W. B. Herbert.

Picked up a copy of that in Cleveleys recently; it too awaits my attention!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Ralphie
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 02:18 PM

Do you know what?..(Radical thought here).
I play tunes.I accompany singers. I play solo.I enjoy doing these things... I don't (intentionally) offend other people by this.
(Well maybe I do!) It's mainly solitary.
What I play is in my head. Where it came from is immaterial.
If I recorded it I would give a nod (and money. If I had any) in the right direction.
Sometimes I just sit at home and play for my own pleasure.
Traditional? Who cares...I mean really....Who cares!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 02:41 PM

If you don't care, 'Ralphie' why take part in the debate?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Cleverthreads (inactive)
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 02:46 PM

L T C Rolt's Bosworth Summit Pound is a classic ghost story of the canals. It definitely subscribes to M. R. James's definition of a ghost story


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 03:14 PM

People are allowed to like the music and not give a fig for its sources Shimrod. You may believe they are missing out on a fascinating backstory but they may just dig it for the noise. It's known as 'the pleasures of the text' mate and they're different for each of us.

Why should Ralphie not declare his inclusivity?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 03:19 PM

"It definitely subscribes to M. R. James's definition of a ghost story"

I hear Rolt's canal based work is excellent, though I only know him for his railway stuff. On the subject I actually believe in ghosts, not in an arch, ironic way, nor that they are necessarily 'the returning dead' but as a phenomenon. Perhaps that's one for another thread?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Ralphie
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 03:34 PM

When I say I don't care....I'm talking bollocks....I care deeply and have a profound love for the music I play.....Of course, It's interesting to discover the history, or whatever, but in the end.
I play it because it moves me.
And sometimes it makes me cry.
Isn't that a good enough reason?
Do you ever cry?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 05:05 PM

Perhaps that's one for another thread?

Tried it on at least one occasion; maybe now's a good time of year to get into such a thing? I'm sure there was another one, but try this Folklore: Ghosts.

Like you, glueman, I believe (and experience) ghostly phenomenon but I don't subscribe to the supernatural, though the fear aspect is pretty crucial I feel...


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Cleverthreads (inactive)
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 05:15 PM

glueman said, "On the subject I actually believe in ghosts"

Montague Rhodes James said, "I am prepared to consider evidence and accept it if it satisfies me."


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 05:19 PM

All kinds a stuff we *can* decode I believe, and sometimes happen into spontaneously. Bit like looking at one of those 3D piccies where there is a 'moment' where the image resolves into a perceptual eureka. Multiple layers of stuff going on. Usual human perception partakes (moreso these days it seems, if we don't discount the stories of our ancestors & other cultures as 'mere superstition') of a the fraction essential to our survival, but not all of it. I'd love (well not very) to know what my Cats are staring at some nights (a Ghost Road runs through my house...).


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 06:07 PM

As I understand the term "The Tradition" is that it is used to identify Irish music by such
organizations as the Comhaltas Ceoltori Eireann. The "Tradition" is the historical music
of Ireland. There is a definitive character to early Irish music in both song and dance forms. The body of work that the Comhaltas has compiled and collected would fit to the
label of "The Tradition". This body of song and dance is not mythological. It carries the history of the country in this expression.

I think there are plenty of people who would like to have the venerated status as that
of "The Tradition" that play and sing. Somehow these people feel excluded when they don't seem to be acknowledged as being "traditional".

Traditional doesn't imply that it is particularly superior in musical forms. It's just
different because it has a history behind it. People writing songs today don't have
the history behind them because the songs are too new to have it. Many of the songs
that you hear have been unduly influenced by the commercial music industry. Not all but it's hard to escape it.

Why "the Tradition" is important is because it preserves much of the music that would be lost in the commercial music marketing which has become a commodity for music merchants.

Organizations such as the C.C.E. are doing a service by teaching the value of the music that is part of the folklife of the country. One form of teaching is getting people to play it.

What is truly mythological is the idea that commercial music which is about making money (the bottom line) is a kind of tradition of itself. The idea that music being made for popular consumption is equal to a music that has historical roots without financial concerns is ludicrous.

I have nothing against musicians and singers making money from their songs. I am a professional musician and I like being paid for it.
Still, I am not a carrier of a tradition. I am interested in traditions of music but I don't fool
myself into thinking that I am reflective of that cultural body of music. I'm much too eclectic
and have received diverse musical information to
be included in a specific "tradition".

So I'm not a traditional singer or player.

Some of you would say "OK so what?" The answer is simple. A body of historical work will be lost
with this attitude. If there is no distinction between the consumer music and the historical
traditional music, then it will be lost.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Cleverthreads (inactive)
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 06:14 PM

and Irish music does have the sole proprietory right to call itself The Tradition either. The term can be applied to England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. I'm sure other countries see their indigenous musics as "The Tradition" as well.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 06:14 PM

100


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 11 Sep 09 - 04:30 AM

"Why should Ralphie not declare his inclusivity?"

'Glueman' it seems to me that 'Ralphie' was declaring his EXCLUSIVITY, i.e. "I'm above this debate because I just play music - not talk about it".

And yes, 'Ralphie' I too have been known to experience the odd emotion - sometimes in the presence of music!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 11 Sep 09 - 05:23 AM

Someone said this earlier:

Is it appropriate to see the tradition associated with a community?

So we have a tradition of songs associated with rural working people. We have a tradition of sea songs and shanties associated with a community of sea going working people. We have a tradition of songs carried by Travelers and so on.

In a similar way we have a tradition of songs associated with people who have been singing in Folk Clubs since the 1950s. These traditions and communities are different but they overlap.

L in C


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 11 Sep 09 - 06:41 AM

Is it appropriate to see the tradition associated with a community?

In true folkloric terms a community can consist of as few a two people. These two people might have their own culture, language, folklore, traditions and folk music - just as long as these people are Human Beings, the rest of it occurs as a consequence of the psycho-social nature / nurture that defines our Humanity.

As I asked (rhetorically) in the OP: To what extent might the revival be said to be a Tradition in and off itself regardless (and irrespective as much (if not most) of it obviously is) of what may (or may not) have gone before?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 11 Sep 09 - 06:44 AM

Looks like "A Tradition" to me, though clearly one of many. Scout/Guide songs, Rugby songs, .............

No value judgment made
L in C


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 11 Sep 09 - 06:46 AM

Absolutely, Les - and a very important one at that.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Working Radish
Date: 11 Sep 09 - 06:52 AM

In a similar way we have a tradition of songs associated with people who have been singing in Folk Clubs since the 1950s.

That's true - and oral transmission lives on, to an extent - but it's a very different thing: all the earlier examples are of people bound together by work & everyday life, who also sang. If people singing in Folk Clubs also carried a tradition of whittling and scrimshaw, now...


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 11 Sep 09 - 07:00 AM

Phil,

Ven diagrams?

Les


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Working Radish
Date: 11 Sep 09 - 07:08 AM

Les,

Later diagrams.

Vorking Radish


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 11 Sep 09 - 07:18 AM

Overlapping loops


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 11 Sep 09 - 01:27 PM

"Why should Ralphie not declare his inclusivity?"

Saw Ralphie "Declaring his inclusivity" at the Traditions Festival in the company of Irene Shettle. Very nice it was too.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 11 Sep 09 - 01:50 PM

It's amazing what doctors can do nowadays with a speculum and a kazoo.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 11 Sep 09 - 05:35 PM

oral transmission lives on

Fnaar fnaar


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 07:34 AM

the usual old bollocks.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 07:51 AM

W H Y   [plaintively] has this once·upon·a·time·worthwhile·reading thread been allowed to get so



    B   O   O   O   R   R   I   N   G   !!!!!!!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 08:07 AM

Well Mike ,its because people get into entrenched positions,people cannot be seen to lose face and refuse to admit that the other side might have a valid point.
most of the contributors are men ,could it be prickitis.
all these threads end up like a village dog chasing its tail


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 08:10 AM

Thanks, Dick. I certainly will buy that...


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 10:34 AM

"In true folkloric terms a community can consist of as few a two people."
Who sez???
In terms of folksong, the community has always been considered of the type described by Laurence Gomme, George Ewart Evans, Estyn Evans, George Bourne et al. The songs (stories and lore) recorded the activities and reflected the values of the community that "worked, prayed, drank, socialised and were educated together - hardly something that can be done for two people.
Can you please point out where it is claimed that a community can consist of two people, folkloric or otherwise?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 03:16 PM

Not doing too well for answers – is it because there are none, or is it something I said?
Anyway – try, try, try again!!!
One of the main reasons for much of the (IMO) muddled thinking surrounding traditional singing is the (also IMO) mistaken belief that traditional singers did not discriminate between the different types of song in their repertoire; this was not our experience in a great many cases. That singers sang many different types of song had no more significance that the fact that if anyone was to trawl through our record collection, as well as Harry Cox, Sam Larner, Mary Anne Carolan……. they would also find Frank Sinatra, Maria Callas, Ella Fitzgerald….. (and a couple of Count John hidden carefully away somewhere).
Blind Travelling woman Mary Delaney, one of the most stylish singers we met, and having one of the largest repertoires of traditional songs, around 22, could easily have doubled that with non-traditional material, mainly C&W, but persistently refused to sing them for us saying, "They're not what you want". She told us that she only learned them because "That's what the lads ask for in the pub." She also constantly complained "The new songs have the old ones ruined."
Mary described all her traditional songs as "My daddy's songs", even though she had learned no more than a dozen of them from her father. She also described them as "the old songs", though ironically she counted among these, Travellers own compositions, some of which must have been made within five years of our recording them. It appears that 'old' and my daddies' songs were a classification of a type of song rather than a reference to their age.
We constantly found that this 'categorisation' of different types of song was fairly common among the singers we met, particularly with singers with large repertoires and those from communities that still had, or had relatively recently lost their singing traditions.
Walter Pardon had hours worth of tape to say on the subject He not only differentiated and categorised his songs (and was doing so as early as 1948), but was very articulate on what those differences where.   
Some of this can be accessed on the article wot I rote for the Enthusiasms section of Musical Traditions entitled 'By Another Name'.
The point of all this being that one of the vital ingredients of all this is the role of the source singer. The ones we met certainly had a take on their songs and their role in their communities and a far greater understanding of their position and functions within their communities – far greater than is often displayed by many revivalists I have met.
None of the above any way proves or disproves the present (interminable) argument, but another aspect of some of the statements made concern me.
The claims that the oral tradition, folk traditions….. whatever, are the result of sloppy, agenda-driven research don't really interest me – none of them come with any evidence whatever to back them up (though we are told by one of these boyos that there is too much evidence for him to be able to give it – so he doesn't bother!)
It leaves me to wonder where the Harry Coxs, Sam Larners, Phil Tanners and all the other singers who have given their time and experience to allow us to access the songs, feature in all this.
Our source singers, have been given the shitty end of the stick one way and another from certain quarters of the revival, and from some researchers and collectors, it must be said. They have been patronised, marginalised, their opinions have been ignored or not even been sought. Some collectors have ripped them off (one particular individual made a career of it) by paying them an insulting pittance   (if anything at all) for the commercial use of their material. Once their songs have been taken down, quite often the singers role in passing them on has been ignored – how many times have we heard of Martin Carthy's 'Barley Straw' or Christie Moore's 'Well Below The Valley, or Nick Jones', Peter Bellamy's…. and so on (not blaming the singers concerned in any way; it's just the way things seem to be in today's revival.) One thing that I do find stomach heaving is the insulting way the older singers are often referred to; old groaners, past their sell-by date, not worth a listen…..; one of the combatants here did his bit of 'granny-slapping not too long ago on one thread.
And how does this concern us here?
I have always believed that our source singers were not just the carriers of our traditional songs, but also their makers, custodians and re-maker. Now, it would appear, we have an attempt to Snopake them out of these role altogether by denying them these functions.
Are we now to regard the likes of Tom Lenihan and Mary Delaney no different than Shane McGowner and Amy Winehouse (but far less rich and famous of course)?
And our folk songs – do we now have to lump them (as has been suggested, with 24 Hours to Tulsa and Leader of the Pack) – or even (as has also been proposed) with "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".
Yours in anticipation,
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 03:33 PM

Thanks for the reminder of what we were supposed to be talking about, Jim. Easy to lose sight of it amidst all the sound and fury.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 05:42 PM

I agree with you Jim,but with one proviso,while the process is important it is not of sole importance,style is also important,otherwise we let in tin pan alley or any old shite because its been learned orally or been either accidentally or deliberately processed.
shite will always be shite,even if its been folk processed.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 08:28 PM

Style is a dodgy thing Cap'n - it varies from place to place and quite often it can obsure the main function of our songs, the passing on of the narrative - information, whatever you care to call it. The Irish revival is extremely style driven, often at the cost of the narrative - I have heard it said that some of our most stylish singers could make the Munster telephone directory sound beautiful.
One of my favourite quotes comes from the jazz film ''Round Midnight'. The young, technically very acomplished player plays his piece for the veteran musician, and the old man says "Your notes are fine, but where's your story?"
Not disagreeing with you, just adding a "but".
Sorry - sticky keyboard (and anxiety to get out to the local session) led to a couple of typos in my posting. Mary Delaney has a repertoire of around 200 songs and the pop singer I mentioned was, of course, Shane McGowan.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Liberty Boy
Date: 13 Sep 09 - 03:31 AM

Jim, points well made, dont be in such a hurry to listen to that auld diddle dee dee. See you soon!
Jerry.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 13 Sep 09 - 04:40 AM

Not doing too well for answers – is it because there are none, or is it something I said?

I think it must be the latter, old man. Plenty of answers, just what's the use when you can only respond with invective?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Sep 09 - 05:15 AM

"just what's the use when you can only respond with invective? "
Oh, come onnnnnnnn!!!!! Do you want a list of your own sneers and dismissive statements (or your little friend's)?
From the outset of all this nonsense you have totally ignored requests for back-up to your statements - and 'number-one-son' in his plaintive appeal, has told us that there is so much that it is impossible to give it. When the pressure gets too great, you simply walk away. There must be something you can let us have ----- old man!
Next weekend Jerry - save us a seat!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: sing4peace
Date: 13 Sep 09 - 08:56 AM

"Can you please point out where it is claimed that a community can consist of two people, folkloric or otherwise?"

I could be wrong but I seem to remember Jesus being quoted as saying something about "wherever two or more are gathered, so am I there with you." Sounds like community to me.

That aside, I do see where some folks might claim that there is "the tradition" as opposed to "a tradition". I think it a particular insular use of the word but I understand where you are coming from.

I consider myself a traditional singer as I have passed on songs I learned from my father who learned them from his father as well as learning and sharing songs from other people who learned them from other people.... Still, I don't really bill myself as a traditional singer as I don't want to disappoint anybody who might be coming expecting me to sing a whole evening of "come all ye's".


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 13 Sep 09 - 10:52 AM

Two people might represent a tradition if they came from a community of more like them.
Two by themselves can't be a community.

There are self-styled communities such as organizations as "The Sons of the Confederate Soldiers" created to serve political or social/religious agendas. These aren't folk traditions but manufactured entities. The BNP comes to mind.

I agree with Jim Carroll that singers and players from the traditional folk sources have a level of understanding and sophistication about what they do and how they differ from
the commercial music world.

To dismiss folklore studies, cultural demarcations, and traditional sources in general suggest an ignorance as to what folk music is. The defense is generally, "if I do it,
it's folk" which is like "I don't know anything about art but I know what I like".

It's not up to the traditional singer to define his role. That can be determined by those
who have familiarized themselves with the musical and textual elements of a song.

The "Jesus quote" sounds more biblical than communal.

Jim, you can't expect that traditional folk performers would be treated any differently in the commercial music and show business than any other commodity. That's why it makes sense to keep the two approaches separate. A trad folksinger will find it corrupting to be a part of the music machine. The purpose of "the machine" is to make money with music as a commodity. There is nothing inherently bad or evil about this.
It's just a different driven agenda.

Academia, on the other hand, can be "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing".
There is a lot of fakelore out there by so-called reputable folklorist academics.

If we allow that there is a "tradition" in folk music, we can wade through the inconsistencies, agendas and attitudes about it and learn to appreciate it.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 13 Sep 09 - 03:03 PM

Indeed, Frank - good comparison. Stephen Potter advised in 'Lifemanship' [I think it was] that if you are ever fortunate enough to meet anyone who actually sez "I don't know anything about Art but I know what I like", you should reply in a plonking tone "If you don't know anything about Art, you DON"T know what you like". Mutatis-mutandis, a similar response might be made to the "If I sing it it's folk" claim.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Sep 09 - 08:10 PM

"wherever two or more are gathered, so am I there with you." Sounds like community to me."
Sorry - just sounds like three people to me (or just two, if you are a non-believer). The idea that two people can produce a folksong between them just doesn't work for me. If Beethoven and Mozart had been able to sit down and write music together, would it have been folk music? Gilbert and Sullivan, Rogers and Hammerstien, Lennon and McCartney, Brecht and Weill........? I don't think so somehow.
Our experience of the tradition suggests a far wider one than the single community anyway.
Our sea songs come from many ships of many nations and cultures, a major part of their make-up being the passing on thoughout the whole maritime world (see Hugill's Shanties of the Seven Seas). Bothie songs evolved not from one bothie, but many. Soldier's songs, the rural repertoire, the early industrial songs were all formed, not from one community, but many.
It is the passing on of those songs from community to community that fascinated me particularly and the changes that take place during that process.   
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: John P
Date: 13 Sep 09 - 09:59 PM

Just catching up on this thread after being away for a few days.

Suibhne O'Piobaireachd, you started this thread by asking a bunch of questions that make certain assumptions that many of us have never encountered before. Jim Carroll and I both asked you to explain why you hold these assumptions. You never answered. It seems to me that this whole thread is based on unfounded assumptions. Would you care to explain yourself?

Lizzie Cornish 1, you made some extremely negative remarks. Most of them reveal more about your inner emotional state than they do about this or any other discussion on this topic we've ever had here. Please tell us why you said these things:

The Tradition has been invented and then encircled by those who love to control and exclude.

Can you cite any examples of anyone on this thread who have in any way attempted to control anything. Yes, there is some attempt to exclude -- traditional music doesn't include newly composed music. Why does that upset you so?

The first singer songwriter was probably a ploughboy....yet singer songwriters are now spoken of with derision . . .

All I see you saying here is that you don't know what the folk process is and don't care. That's fine, but some us do know what it is and we do care. Why does that upset you so?

Long life to those who just sing songs because they love 'em and don't have rules and regulations to what, when, where, or how they sing 'em, whilst having no radar around themselves to keep 'The Others' out...

Please cite any examples of that, or shut up.

Here's my take on it:
I am not a traditionalist. I am not a revivalist. Like every other musician I know, I play the music I like. 90% of my repertoire is traditional. Because that's the music I like. IT IS DIFFERENT THAN MODERN MUSIC. This doesn't mean that modern music is bad, or it shouldn't be sung, or that anyone should do anything musically other than what they want to do.

I have learned over the years about the folk process, and it is obvious that the attributes that I like about traditional music came about because this process. I also like finding different versions of the same songs from different times and places. It's fun to see how the melody changed over time, and how singers in other places and times changed the lyrics to suit their tastes. I once did a whole set of "Three Ravens" Two Ravens" "Twa Corbies" "Over the Mountain" etc.

Traditional music exists. It is a separate genre than other folk music. This doesn't mean I'm lost in the past, deadly scholarly, or exclusionary with my (or anyone else's) music making. It just means I like traditional music.

Why does that upset some people so?

John Peekstok


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 02:35 AM

What's clear after two years of reading these threads is some people can only encounter others on their own terms. There is one answer (provided ad absurdum) it's the way, the truth and the light (to paraphrase someone else) and any opinion/ humour/ discussion outside that is an attack. It's a brittle, defensive approach to the subject and largely the reason it remains a minority within a minority, as intended.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 05:00 AM

traditional music doesn't include newly composed music.

From the shameful pomposity of your missive, John P, I gather you are one of the folky faithful, mistaking theoretical perspectives for the theological absolutes that not only underpin your self-righteous indignation, but the dusty shibboleths you trot out as though they were self-evident truths.

Here's a one for you: all music is born of tradition; all music is, therefore, traditional music, which is maybe why the stated aims of International Council For Traditional Music are to further the study, practice, documentation, preservation and dissemination of traditional music, including folk, popular, classical and urban music, and dance of all countries.

People are composing in traditional idioms the whole time; many traditional idioms the world over are founded on the tradition of new composition, be it Slavic epic ballads or in hundreds tunes written daily for the Northumbrian Smallpipes - a tradition which is strongly based on composition anyway. Newly composed traditional music happens all the time - be it written, recorded, computerised, spontaneous, improvised, feral, found, scored, or otherwise. In the end the only tradition that matters is the tradition of human beings singing and playing music irrespective of style, taste, or genre, of which folk is just one example - no different to any other, except in the minds of the faithful.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 05:27 AM

I see absolutely nothing 'pompous or shameful' about John P's contribution - only puzzlement over the "brittle, defensive approach" of several contributors to this thread and others like it!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 06:14 AM

I see absolutely nothing 'pompous or shameful' about John P's contribution

Examples of John P's shameful pomposity:

Jim Carroll and I both asked you to explain why you hold these assumptions. You never answered. It seems to me that this whole thread is based on unfounded assumptions. Would you care to explain yourself?

Lizzie Cornish 1, you made some extremely negative remarks. Most of them reveal more about your inner emotional state than they do about this or any other discussion on this topic we've ever had here. Please tell us why you said these things:

Can you cite any examples of anyone on this thread who have in any way attempted to control anything. Yes, there is some attempt to exclude -- traditional music doesn't include newly composed music. Why does that upset you so?

All I see you saying here is that you don't know what the folk process is and don't care. That's fine, but some us do know what it is and we do care. Why does that upset you so?

Please cite any examples of that, or shut up.

Here's my take on it:
I am not a traditionalist. I am not a revivalist. Like every other musician I know, I play the music I like. 90% of my repertoire is traditional. Because that's the music I like. IT IS DIFFERENT THAN MODERN MUSIC. This doesn't mean that modern music is bad, or it shouldn't be sung, or that anyone should do anything musically other than what they want to do.

I have learned over the years about the folk process, and it is obvious that the attributes that I like about traditional music came about because this process. I also like finding different versions of the same songs from different times and places. It's fun to see how the melody changed over time, and how singers in other places and times changed the lyrics to suit their tastes. I once did a whole set of "Three Ravens" Two Ravens" "Twa Corbies" "Over the Mountain" etc.

Traditional music exists. It is a separate genre than other folk music. This doesn't mean I'm lost in the past, deadly scholarly, or exclusionary with my (or anyone else's) music making. It just means I like traditional music.

Why does that upset some people so?


I think that covers it, Shimrod - pretty much.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: theleveller
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 07:40 AM

"only puzzlement over the "brittle, defensive approach" of several contributors to this thread and others like it!"


From your answer to my question on the "other" thread, you'd have to include yourself in that.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 07:42 AM

In Shimrod's book (and I suspect he actually has one, and a nice fountain pen and leather elbow pads) John P's response would count as a reasonable reply (no this is Shimrod - 'retort') to a 'wealth' of 'aggressive and ill-informed attacks' on blah, blah, blah.

Lifestyle stuffiness. Folk is just his chosen 'vehicle' to 'expound' the Mr Chips world he'd like to exist. Save us all from it.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 08:07 AM

"(and I suspect he actually has one, and a nice fountain pen and leather elbow pads) John P's response would count as a reasonable reply (no this is Shimrod - 'retort') to a 'wealth' of 'aggressive and ill-informed attacks' on blah, blah, blah.
Lifestyle stuffiness. Folk is just his chosen 'vehicle' to 'expound' the Mr Chips world he'd like to exist. Save us all from it."
"just what's the use when you can only respond with invective? "
Oh, sorry, I scanned down one of S'P's postings by maistake
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 08:10 AM

Oh 'glueman' you do talk such rubbish. I don't take offence though because, as was said about Geoffrey Howell, being savaged by you is like being savaged by a dead sheep.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 08:55 AM

Two days ago I posted a plaintive appeal for someone to tell me why this thread had got so boring. Dick gave me a convincing response. Then it got better for a bit, with all the ContentiousBrigade stopping slagging each other off for a few minutes...

Now [Y A W N·N·N] they are back at it again...

Ho-hum. Guess I'll just stop reading this thread. There's some nice green raspberries in the garden. Think I'll go out & watch them ripen - the time will pass over more cheerful & gay...


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 09:04 AM

Geoffrey Howell. He's a Whig isn't he? Have another Werther's Original.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: John P
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 09:08 AM

Suibhne O'Piobaireachd, Jim Carroll and I both asked you to explain why you hold these assumptions. You never answered. It seems to me that this whole thread is based on unfounded assumptions. Would you care to explain yourself?

Note to SO'P: Telling me my words are shameful isn't an answer. You actually have to say why you think the things you do, or at least why you continue to ask the questions you ask.

Oh, and please answer the other question:

Traditional music exists. It is a separate genre than other folk music. This doesn't mean I'm lost in the past, deadly scholarly, or exclusionary with my (or anyone else's) music making. It just means I like traditional music.

Why does that upset some people so?

John Peekstok


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 09:33 AM

For the second time can we stop 'give me an example', 'please answer my question' and the rest of the adversarial nonsense. This is NOT a classroom, much as some would like to make it one, much less a court of law.
There is no post stronger than an opinion on this board, so let's not make with the right or wrong inquisition.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: John P
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 09:45 AM

SO'P wrote: People are composing in traditional idioms the whole time; many traditional idioms the world over are founded on the tradition of new composition, be it Slavic epic ballads or in hundreds tunes written daily for the Northumbrian Smallpipes - a tradition which is strongly based on composition anyway. Newly composed traditional music happens all the time - be it written, recorded, computerised, spontaneous, improvised, feral, found, scored, or otherwise.

I actually agree with this. I didn't spend the time to adequately nuance my answer, because that complicates the discussion so. But here's a bit more: Of course people who play traditional music also compose music, much of which will sound a lot like music that has passed through through the folk process. Of course some traditions are based on new compositions. I am one of those who don't really care -- if it sounds like a traditional song to me, then it rings that chime in me that traditional songs do. As I said, I'm really not a traditionalist.

In the end the only tradition that matters is the tradition of human beings singing and playing music irrespective of style, taste, or genre, of which folk is just one example - no different to any other, except in the minds of the faithful.

This is where you lose me. Yes, sitting around playing music with other people is one of the best things in the world, but that doesn't change the fact that traditional music (and newly composed music within a tradition) is a different genre than contemporary folk, and that many of us find it useful to be able to discuss it as such.

John Peekstok


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: John P
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 09:59 AM

glueman, why do you take adversarial positions in discussions and then get huffy about being asked to explain? Yes, there are nothing but opinions here. Why do you put yours out there if you don't want to discuss them? If you aren't willing to cite some examples, why say something like:

Your use of canon to elevate ordinary songs into a quasi-religious setting is most interesting, there's a theme developing of folk filling the place religion used to occupy for enlightenment boffs.

or

Lifestyle stuffiness. Folk is just his chosen 'vehicle' to 'expound' the Mr Chips world he'd like to exist. Save us all from it

I thought we were having a discussion. If we're not, you're just being rude.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 10:17 AM

Why does that upset some people so?

Doesn't upset anyone, John P - least of all me - it's just more theological bullshit to wade through. As I say - all music is born of tradition, therefore all music is traditional. Sorry for not answering your earlier questions, but puerile stuff like Huh? Who purports anything about any tradition? doesn't inspire me to respond one way or the other.

Otherwise, Folk is not a music, it is a parasitic conceptual agenda looking for a music to attach itself too; that it chose the traditional music and song of the working class is largely because they couldn't answer back as their masters and betters took such an unprecedented interest in their culture and subjected it to the sort of taxonomical hysteria which typifies the folk enthusiast right up to our present time. It's an odd sort of legacy to be sure, but the parasitical agendas of The Folk Revival no more accounts for the traditional music and song of the English working-class than defining that class as The Proletariat accounts for their role in the fantasy class-struggle as postulated by Karl Marx.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 10:39 AM

"For the second time can we stop 'give me an example',"
Once again we are being told to take everything said by this couple
(significantly no more than that) on trust; one of whom persists in misquoting "If God didn't exist it would have been necessary to invent him", and insisting that those of us who disagree with him are mad.
The other, feigning hurt feelings, sulks in his tent like Achilles, refusing to answer questions his companion doesn't even want asked - to avoid them, I wonder.
"All music is born of tradition, therefore all music is traditional."
Oh dear, even the 'talking horse' merchants didn't take it this far!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 10:58 AM

"Would you care to explain yourself?"
"sulks in his tent like Achilles"

Is it any wonder a few of us find it hard to take these discussions seriously when they're cut and pasted from Michael Palin's Ripping Yarns?
Regular people don't listen to folk because they think it's full of belligerent old buggers who make it a kind of test. It isn't, it's a la carte music for anyone who can drop in a CD. Maybe it needs a community outreach programme with folkies allowed nowhere near the audience?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 11:38 AM

Oh dear, even the 'talking horse' merchants didn't take it this far!

Ethnomusicologists would though, Jim; the ICTM likewise. Whilst I am passionate about Traditional English Speaking Folk Song, I don't believe it to be essentially any different from any other music. According the 1954 Definition, all music is Folk Music anyway; the only difference is one of stylistic convention; those of The Revival are different again. The Horse Definition trumps it by placing the onus for cultural creativity on the Folk - the human individuals who are all too easily forgotten about with all this talk of an abstract (and very conditional) community and even more abstract folk process, which are, I feel, illusions of a generality that in which the details (i.e. the individuals) of what we're actually dealing with here have been at best overlooked and, at worst, all too conveniently ignored.

The Tradition relates to the pre-revival condition of English Folk Song - before it was told what it was, before the taxonomy began which leads to the trainspotter mindset that typifies the revival enthusiast. I include myself in this; the difference being that I now believe the songs to be the product of a creative tradition of master vernacular craftsmanship with respect of song making, singing, carrying and subsequent transformation which spread throughout the English Speaking world. Such skill still exists in pockets, throwing up some fine songs in the idiom of the tradition, many of which I've sang in the faith of them being traditional until being informed otherwise. Bring Us a Barrel is a case in point, and several Ron Baxter songs in my repertoire have inspired the question When was that collected?

In one thing I hope we can all agree, that Traditional English Speaking Folk Song and Ballad represents the finest literature there is. How they got that way is another issue, but it was certainly no accident; they were made, written, printed, sang, passed on, perfected, re-made, modified, expanded, reduced, by people who knew what they were doing. That is The Tradition, the primary paradise of traditional folk song; a veritable dream-time in which we find them scampering in the new-mown meadows of what some of us still perceive as an agrarian utopia, before the advent of chemical fertilisers and mechanisation.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: John P
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 11:55 AM

If you are defining music from a process-based view, without talking at all about the actual musical forms, then lots (not all) music falls into the folk music definition. Rap, for instance, is more folky in some ways than most folk songs. However, when talking about musical genres, it makes a lot more sense to talk about what makes a genre separate from another genre. If you really think all music is folk music, that it's the playing it with others that makes it folk, why come to a folk music site? Also, why start discussions like this? Why bother calling it folk? Why not just call it music?

For my own purposes, I tend to define folk music by musical attributes rather than seeing it as part of a tradition or as an example of a process. But here's where the process comes in: traditional music is, by and large, music that has passed through a specific process or is music that sounds so much like the traditional stuff that it doesn't matter in the real world. Thus, rap is defined by largely non-melodic lyrics and a strong dance rhythm. For the purpose of any meaningful discussion of what we like, it's not folk music. Country music, broadly, is mostly two or three chord songs with relatively simplistic melodies. Singer-songwriter music is music that is composed by singer-songwriters. They all tend to sound different than each other, and different than traditional music.

That said, one of my favorite things is to find the similarities between different types of music and play to them. Given that I like traditional music the most, this usually happens with different traditions rather than different genres, but the idea is the same. There are strong similarities in my mind between medieval music, French traditional music, and the blues. I think traditional folk mixes with rock music better than with jazz because rock music and traditional music both tend to sound good with diatonic scales and open (no 3rds) chords. Jazz usually has more chromaticism and more complex chords and chord structures, making it more of a stretch to play folk music in a jazz style.

A definition based on musical style is easier to deal with if we are talking about what we like to listen to and play. Rap as folk music might be interesting to an academic as an academic question, but for a musician and a consumer of music it really has very little value.

Are you really saying you can't hear the difference between traditional music and non-traditional music?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: theleveller
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 12:02 PM

"Of course some traditions are based on new compositions. I am one of those who don't really care -- if it sounds like a traditional song to me, then it rings that chime in me that traditional songs do."

"I now believe the songs to be the product of a creative tradition of master vernacular craftsmanship with respect of song making, singing, carrying and subsequent transformation which spread throughout the English Speaking world. Such skill still exists in pockets, throwing up some fine songs in the idiom of the tradition, many of which I've sang in the faith of them being traditional until being informed otherwise."

Hooray! I think I can see light at the end of the tunnel. But why do I have a nasty feeling that it's a train approaching?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: John P
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 12:07 PM

glueman, I agree that regular people don't listen to music because of some academic sense of what folk music is. They don't even listen to it because, as you so rudely say, it's full of belligerent old buggers who make it a kind of test. You keep saying things like this, and your comments are not supported by any real world facts. This is the whole point: people listen to and play what they like. No one I know applies any kind of test to any piece of music they are thinking about playing other than the test of whether or not they like it.

I'm sorry if I feel inquisitorial to you, but if you are going to say that people are applying some kind of traditional test to music before they decide to play it or listen to it, I'm going to call you on it. If you can't support your statements with any evidence, you should stop making them, especially since your mode of conversation is to say things about others in such negative terms.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 12:11 PM

"In one thing I hope we can all agree, that Traditional English Speaking Folk Song and Ballad represents the finest literature there is"
If, as you put it a post or so ago, "All music is born of tradition, therefore all music is traditional", how does Strangers in the Night differ in definition from Lord Gregory, Tifties Annie or all the other "Traditional English Speaking Folk Song and Ballad"?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 12:14 PM

". . .all music is born of tradition, therefore all music is traditional . . ."

First you told us that 'Folk Music is Music that Happens in Folk Clubs' (your "Designated Folk Context" tautology). Now we find that all music is traditional. Could you possibly be any more vague?

"According the 1954 Definition, all music is Folk Music"

Not even close. 'John Henry' is a folk song, specifically a African-American folk song, according to the 1954 definition. 'Do You Think I'm Sexy' by Rod Stewart isn't.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 12:36 PM

If you really think all music is folk music, that it's the playing it with others that makes it folk, why come to a folk music site?

Traditional English Language Folk Song & Balladry is my particular bag as it has been now for 35 years or so. And folk is not just a matter of people playing together; all music is about people playing together, or playing as part of a community, within a tradition.

Also, why start discussions like this?

Because it's an on-line social networking site and it's fun to natter by way of prevarication with respect of what I should be doing.

Why bother calling it folk? Why not just call it music?

It's not so much a matter of what you call it, it's more a matter of why. Folk can be a matter of marketing; Folk can be what happens in the name of Folk at your local Folk Club or Festival, in which case pretty much anything goes; Folk can be a matter of context; and to a few here Folk means an orthodox reading of the 1954 Definition and the attendant religiosity, folk process and all. As I say, Traditional English Language Folk Song & Balladry is my bag, but I don't believe that to be the whole of the case for this thing we call Folk Music.

Are you really saying you can't hear the difference between traditional music and non-traditional music?

What I'm saying is that all music is traditional music by default; the differences are a matter of style and aesthetic convention within a particular tradition and its cultural framework - be it hip-hop, drum & bass, Elizabethan consort music, Ars Nova, ragas, gamelan, flamenco, serialism, piobaireachd, heavy metal, or whatever. I also feel that a non-orthodox reading of the 1954 Definition can be applied to all these musics and the only thing that makes any given Folk Music any different from, say, Kraut Rock is one of stylistic convention.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 12:53 PM

If, as you put it a post or so ago, "All music is born of tradition, therefore all music is traditional", how does Strangers in the Night differ in definition from Lord Gregory, Tifties Annie or all the other "Traditional English Speaking Folk Song and Ballad"?

The devil's in the details, old man! They're all consequences of stylistic conventions within particular traditions of song making, just those stylistic conventions are different, being determined by different expectations, cultures and eras. As with Tiftie's Annie, Strangers in the Night didn't write itself, it drew on a genre, a tradition of idiomatic popular songwriting which grew out of some other thing, and thus was subject to very definite creative processes in the throes of nascence - processes which it is still being subject to, sung as it is by singers great and small all over the earth and long may it continue to be so.

your "Designated Folk Context" tautology

Tautology, Michael???


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 12:55 PM

Try again:
"In one thing I hope we can all agree, that Traditional English Speaking Folk Song and Ballad represents the finest literature there is"
If, as you put it a post or so ago, "All music is born of tradition, therefore all music is traditional", how does Strangers in the Night differ in definition from Lord Gregory, Tifties Annie or all the other "Traditional English Speaking Folk Song and Ballad"?
If, as you just said "all music is traditional music by default", would you include Strangers in the Night, referred to by many as a ballad, certainly in the English language, and a folk song if performed in one of your 'folk contexts' according to you, in your fulsome praise of ballads?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 12:57 PM

absolutely correct,stylistic convention,is exactly what defines it,but it is not the only component.
but the folk process also plays a part sometimes,but just because something is processed it doesnt make it a folk song,because style of melody and lyrics are a consideration in determining what is a folk song as well.
we define JAZZ by style or a mixture of styles and by the fact the music is about improvisation.
international folk music includes many different scales and styles,but it all has something that tin pan alley does not,and it is not just aboutthe music being processed.
lily the pink, will never be a folk song even if a few of its words get altered,however Masters OF War ,is a folk song without one word of it needing to be altered OR PROCESSED.[itsabout style and content]
never mind what BobDylan says[he nmay be right me may not be a folk singer]but his song is a FOLK SONG.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 01:23 PM

"There is no post stronger than an opinion on this board, so let's not make with the right or wrong inquisition."

I beg to differ!! There are opinions on this board based on facts, evidence and many years of observation.

There are also opinions based on nothing more than wish-fulfilment and whimsy.

There is an enormous difference between these two types. I think that to subject the latter type to intense scrutiny is perfectly valid - no matter how much the holders of such opinions fling around insults and accusations of moral turpitude.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 01:27 PM

Yes, your argument that 'folk music is what happens in folk clubs' is a tautology.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: longboat (inactive)
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 01:28 PM

subject both types to intense scrutiny. Memory can be a tricky thing, there is a line between what actually was and what we remember it as. (wish fulfilment?)


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 01:33 PM

If, as you just said "all music is traditional music by default", would you include Strangers in the Night, referred to by many as a ballad, certainly in the English language, and a folk song if performed in one of your 'folk contexts' according to you, in your fulsome praise of ballads?

You seem to be having some difficulty getting your head around this, old man. Paint fumes in confined spaces perhaps? Strangers in the Night is not what I'd include in any catalogue of Traditional English Speaking Folk Songs because whilst it is, indeed, born of a tradition, it is born out of a very different tradition than that which gave us such evergreen classics as Tiftie's Annie et al. However, SINT can be sung as a Folk Song in a Designated Folk Context, and has more meaning to the Folk of 14-9-09 than MOTA. Like the word Folk, the word ballad also carries various levels of meaning.

Whilst we might agree that SINT and MOTA are very different types of song stylistically, problems might arise with either of us accounting for why they are different. To me they are different as an old handmade farm cart, circa 1820, is from a motorcar, circa 1965. They are the products of very different cultures, very different technologies, very different traditions indeed, whereby one is wrought uniquely, the other determined by considerations of mass production. Both are the result of the same human creative and engineering genius; both will be someone's pride and joy; both will bring tears to someone's eyes.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 01:36 PM

SINT should be SITN.

And Folk Music is what Happens in Folk Contexts is more of a truism than a tautology, however so hotly debated!

Night, night!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 01:37 PM

"moral turpitude"

Can you clean brushes in that stuff? Have another Werther's Original and remember 'Geoffrey Howell' or Mrs Dales Diary or whatever passes for entertainment in Chez Shimmy.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 02:06 PM

"And Folk Music is what Happens in Folk Contexts is more of a truism than a tautology, however so hotly debated!"

Either way, it tells us nothing about folk music, in England or anywhere else. It's about as useful a definition as 'Jazz is what happens in Jazz Clubs' or any similar linguistic construction.

"Traditional English Speaking Folk Songs"

Taking your argument at face value, I really can't say I know what you mean by this. If 'all music is traditional' and all music is folk music when played in a "Designated Folk Context, then anyone playing music at a folk club in England, with lyrics in the English language, is playing 'Traditional English Speaking Folk Songs' . . . right? Or do you have something more specific in mind when you speak of "Traditional English Speaking Folk Songs"?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: theleveller
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 02:41 PM

"There are opinions on this board based on facts, evidence and many years of observation.

There are also opinions based on nothing more than wish-fulfilment and whimsy"

As any historian will tell you, the facts may stay the same, but the difference in interpretation is what causes the arguments. As for the facts and evidence in this discussion, there doesn't seem to be too many around that are incontrovertible.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 03:13 PM

Or do you have something more specific in mind when you speak of "Traditional English Speaking Folk Songs"?

Oh yes. See below, 1.33pm Mudcat time.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 03:39 PM

Just re-read your 1:33 pm post . . . can't say it really tells me what you mean by "Traditional English Speaking Folk Songs" - other than that I now know you do not regard 'Strangers in the Night' as a TESFS.

If you use a phrase like "Traditional English Speaking Folk Song" and intend this to have a specific meaning, then perhaps you are making a mistake in insisting that "all music is traditional" and that "Folk Music is what Happens in Folk Contexts" . . . just a thought.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 04:33 PM

"Paint fumes in confined spaces perhaps?"
Methinks I hear the clatter of hooves of a chancer attempting to bullshit and bluster his way out of a hole of his own digging
Can I get this straight - paint fumes aside.
Strangers in the night (as everything else from this particular stable never explained, defined, elucidated on... whatever,) performed 'in a folk context' transforms miraculously from a middle-of-the-road pop song from the 1960s to a folk ballad - have I got that right (or is it a middle-of-the-road-1960's pop-song-folk-ballad)?
It has been long accepted, reiterated endlessly (and sensibly), and researched and documented (right up to this present moment) that 'tradition' is the process a song undergoes in order to arrive at a certain form and function; 'folk' is an indication of the people and communities who put it through that process - where does your 'Strangers in the Night' fit in with all this and again, where can we go for a documented form of your re-definition?
For some reason best known to yourself you have manipulated and twisted the language to prove that folk music and tradition does not exist and is the figment of the massed imaginations of people who are "agenda driven and sloppy, thus, with one flick of the typing finger, you have removed all the Walter Pardons, Sam Larners, Ceclia Costellos, Phil Tanners, Harry Coxs, Elizabeth Cronins, Joe Heaneys........ to - where, compared to, say Frank Sinatra, (or Amy Winehouse, or Maria Callas?
I asked before where these source singers stand in your estimation in relation to folk and the tradition - do they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Frank Sinatra, who undoubtably gave most of us SITN, as fellow traditional singers? As you appear to be in a more chatty frame of mind, perhaps you wouldn't mind answering now?
And by the way:
"Ethnomusicologists would though, Jim"
OH NO THEY BLOODY WELL WOULDN'T
Ethnomusicology isn't my strong point but the few books we have on our shelves do not come anywhere near your flights of fancy - the title of Willard Trasks 2 volume 'The Unwitten Song' sums up their subject matter perfectly, as does 'Oral Poetry' by Ruth Finnegan). I would recommend Jan Vansina's 'Oral Tradition' as being the most concise and readable works on the subject - but, as you have rejected any form of research I'd be wasting my time.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 05:35 PM

'tradition' is the process a song undergoes in order to arrive at a certain form and function

A tradition is also the genre which determines the form and function of a song - any song.   

'folk' is an indication of the people and communities who put it through that process

All songs are processed by people and communities.

- where does your 'Strangers in the Night' fit in with all this and again, where can we go for a documented form of your re-definition?

It underwent a process in order to arrive at a certain form and function and there is an indication that a community put it through that process.

thus, with one flick of the typing finger, you have removed all the Walter Pardons, Sam Larners, Ceclia Costellos, Phil Tanners, Harry Coxs, Elizabeth Cronins, Joe Heaneys........ to - where, compared to, say Frank Sinatra, (or Amy Winehouse, or Maria Callas?

I dig them all actually, and more besides, though I'm not so convinced by Amy Winehouse's singular retro. My favourite singer of all time is Davie Stewart, and I'd say Frank Sinatra is possessed of a comparable idiosyncrasy.

OH NO THEY BLOODY WELL WOULDN'T

How do you account for aims of the ICTM? I've (personally) known Ethnomusicologists doing studies of musics as disparately exotic as Barbour Shop Quartets, Karaoke, and the George Formby Society.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 08:20 PM

"I dig them all actually"
No answer there then - my question was "where do these source singers stand in your estimation in relation to folk and the tradition -
was Frank Sinatra a traditional singer - as was WALTER PARDON, HARRY COX - oh - and DAVIE STEWART or aren't they traditional singers?
Are these just your views - where can we go to compare your views with those of others of your frame of mind, or don't they approve of research either?
I have no views on the aims of the ICTM; I would like to see their work in full before I reached an opinion - why, have they come up with a new definition - if so, what is it - and if they have, does it include "24 Hours to Tulsa, Leader of the Pack, 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 your ethnomusicologist friends publish the results of their work - can we all have a look?
The Oxford English dictonary gives ethnomusicology as "the study of one or more (especially non-European) cultures; doesn't claim to concentrate on one particular type, though the published examples seem to seem to be made up exclusively of (non-existant!!!!!) traditional folk cultures.
What are your views on the work of the English Folk Dance And Song Society, The Irish Traditional Music Archive, The Folklore Society of Ireland, The School of Scottish Studies, The American Folklore Society, The Ballad Conference, The Traditional Song Forum, Comhaltas, Steve Roud's folksong and broadside index...... and all the other individuals and organisations throughout the world that still work to the existing definition?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: sing4peace
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 09:26 PM

I love to hear singers who know their stuff, love their stuff, know where it came from and why it is there.

In Australia, "the Tradition" of the aboriginal people requires that you answer the periodic call to line up in what are called song lines. These song lines are determined by two factors, one - where your mother was when she first felt your quickening inside of her and two - where you were born. The shaman comes along and determines which song lines you belong to. There are two of them. In their culture, those lines go back to the very beginning of time.

The song never varies.

The people of each line are taught their part of the song from childhood. When the lines are called to gather, you are expected to sing your part perfectly at the exact time and exact place - or else you'll be killed. On the spot.

There is no tolerance for interpretation - getting it right means everything.

Each culture has what it calls "the Tradition". Not to detract from any of the deeply felt attachment and commitment that some posters here have to perpetuating their own "traditions".

I have respect for those who are dedicated to the preservation of traditions. For me, the rigid definition of "the Tradition" being claimed only for those who are from the UK, Ireland, Scotland, the colonies, etc. is symptomatic of ethnocentrism. Not ethnic pride - that's a different thing altogether.



Joyce K.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: John P
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 09:35 PM

Oh, I get it now. You are applying the word "tradition" in its most broad meaning to the phrase "traditional folk music", which uses the word "tradition" in a very specific sense. That doesn't work for having a discussion about a topic. If we take every word that gets used specifically in a musical context and replace it with the same word, but using a definition from a different context, we can have all sorts of fun.

Minor chords are less important than major chords.

The scale of a song determines its size.

A flat chord won't go anywhere unless you change it, and a sharp chord can cut you.

A semi-quaver is only partially trembling.

And, as we know, some of the old collectors got it wrong; they didn't copyright.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 15 Sep 09 - 06:06 AM

where do these source singers stand in your estimation in relation to folk and the tradition

I have little by way of estimation of Folk and The Tradition as both are nebulous constructs that have no clear objective currency outside of a parasitical psuedo-science which has nothing to do with the singers and the songs other than to see them as objects for the taxonomical hysteria that typifies the fundamentalism thereof. These people didn't even know they were doing folk until the revival came along and told them so. The Revival has failed them by consigning them to a dark and deliberate obscurity presided over by lifeless dead-weights who wouldn't know the sun was up unless they'd read about it the EFDSS journal. Lifeless formality is no substitute for living culture; all we have left of them is ghosts, but elsewhere the heart and the soul of the thing lives on!

- was Frank Sinatra a traditional singer - as was WALTER PARDON, HARRY COX - oh - and DAVIE STEWART or aren't they traditional singers?

All singers are traditional singers; all music is part of a tradition and all songs are traditional songs with respect of their particular idiom, culture and genre. Furthermore - all human beings have language, culture, and cognition; and having these it follows they all have folklore, folk music and folk tales. All human beings have ceremonies, beliefs, customs, hopes, fears, a need for sexual intercourse and are invariably possessed of a dread fear of death that underlies most of the foregoing. They will eat food, they will digest it and shit it out; quite a few of them will feel compelled to paint a bathroom at some time in their lives. Nice that we have that much in common anyway, old man!

Otherwise - unfortunately, I never saw Davie Stewart or Frank Sinatra perform live; for me they exist on vinyl and latterly CD. Horses for courses I'd say; both are idiosyncratic masters of their respective traditions; just as both are celebrity constructs of a media driven opportunism and both milked it accordingly. I love the delicious irony that has Davie Stewart busking the queue to one of his Cecil Sharp House shows. No doubt you'll tell me it's apocryphal, but this is how Davie made a living - busking crowds. I love the sound Davie Stewart made; the raw abrasions of a sincere noise-aesthetic replete with seemingly random chord voicings as far out as any dreamed of by Sun Ra and a complete anathema to the middle-class, middle-aged, middle-of-the-road whimperings of The Revival. And as much as I love the playing Seamus Ennis, I'd rather listen to Felix Doran whose playing is as idiosyncratically intimate yet as traditionally universal as Albert Ayler.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: John P
Date: 15 Sep 09 - 09:10 AM

I have little by way of estimation of Folk and The Tradition as both are nebulous constructs that have no clear objective currency outside of a parasitical psuedo-science which has nothing to do with the singers and the songs other than to see them as objects for the taxonomical hysteria that typifies the fundamentalism thereof.

Oddly, I've been playing traditional folk music (and you DO know what I mean by that, even if you pretend otherwise), for about 30 years and I don't find traditional music to be in any way a nebulous construct. It has very clear, objective currency in my life. Nor do I feel at all hysterical when I try to define what it is that I do. I don't give a rat's ass what some academic wants to call it in the academic world. I do give a bit of a rat's ass what you want to call it, since you are in the real world and are consciously trying to change the meaning of the words that describe what I do.

There are folks in this discussion who do qualify as academics in the study of traditional folk music. Are you sure you want to tell them they are practicing a parasitical pseudo-science? Especially coming from a place, as you are, where you start long debates trying to convince people that words with established meanings actually mean something else? That is even worse than pseudo-science. It appears to be pseudo-thought. Or maybe just sophomoric pun-making with words that are spelled the same but have different meanings. That can be fun, but is a waste of time in any serious conversation.

all music is part of a tradition and all songs are traditional songs with respect of their particular idiom

Yes, yes, we know what you mean. It doesn't indicate a clear concept of how to communicate using the English language, but we do get what you're saying. EVERYTHING has some sort of tradition -- weavers, masons, and presidents all have traditions. Families acquire traditions. When the word "tradition" is used in the context of talking about folk music, it has a very specific meaning that is not the same as the general definition. "Traditional folk music" doesn't mean the same thing as "there's a long tradition of using a Stratocaster for electric blues" or "we have a family tradition of going to Phoenix every January".

Having finally given up using the word "folk" to describe music that gets handed down over the generations, we are now being asked to also give up "traditional". What's your suggestion for a replacement? Or do we all just play "music"? I can't see that working very well when someone says, "what kind of music do you play?" and I say, "music". "But what kind of music?" they say . . . What comes next in your world of all-pervasive tradition?

Another problem, of course, is when I want to go hear some music. If someone is advertising themselves as folk and I show up at a rap show I'll be angry. "According to the 1954 definition", they say. "rap is folk music. Suibhne O'Piobaireachd said so!"

My biggest question for you is: Why?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: John P
Date: 15 Sep 09 - 09:26 AM

Joyce,
Yes, we've been practicing ethno-centrism in this discussion. Someone early in this thread said they were discussing it in terms of English folk song, and we've all gone along with that. It is an idiom that most of us are deeply familiar with, so it makes conversation possible without needing to supply a constant barrage of qualifiers.

I hope most of us know that there are traditions that rely on NOT changing the music, just as there are traditions that rely on new music and traditions that rely on improvisation. I think the general point is that there is such a thing as traditional music, and it has some very specific attributes, even if those attributes are different from one tradition to the next.

The problem is that Suibhne O'Piobaireachd is apparently saying that all music is traditional music. The rest of us think that dilutes the concept of traditional music beyond the point of usefulness. He would have us think that the phrase "aboriginal traditional music" uses the word "traditional" in the same way as the sentence "The British Invasion bands of the 60s traditionally used two guitars, bass, and drums."


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: M.Ted
Date: 15 Sep 09 - 10:08 AM

I'd be real curious to see how SO'P does in one of those song-lines that Joyce described.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 15 Sep 09 - 01:50 PM

I'd be real curious to see how SO'P does in one of those song-lines that Joyce described.

You know, I think I'd rather be killed on the spot than live compliant to such an absolutist cultural regime. That has to be one of the most barbaric things I've ever read on this forum.

"Traditional folk music" doesn't mean the same thing as "there's a long tradition of using a Stratocaster for electric blues" or "we have a family tradition of going to Phoenix every January".

Agreed. The 2nd & 3rd examples are describing tradition in an actual living folkloric sense; the 1st example on the other hand invariably uses the word in its ersatz revival sense, where what is called traditional is actually a modern construct in terms of its contrivance and attendant assumptions.

The problem is that Suibhne O'Piobaireachd is apparently saying that all music is traditional music.

I'm just going on what the ITCM say about in their stated aims, which makes a lot of sense to me with respect of the breadth of this thing we call music which I have quite a passion for. I grew up listening to popular music of most idioms, medieval music, experimetal music, classical music, unpopular music of most idioms, free jazz, revival folk, ethnomusicological field recordings from the world over (with a particular fondness for Africa, Indonesia, Eastern Europe and the British Isles). I still listen to that now and consequently I think it's folly to assume some musics are more traditional than others, though as pointed out above I think a fair case can be made for certain musics being less traditional than they might think they are - revival folk being a case in point, which is presumably what JP means by Traditional Folk Music.

"But what kind of music?" they say . . . What comes next in your world of all-pervasive tradition?

What I generally say is that I play Indo-European No-Age Sounds, which is a sort of experimental popular creative music that opens its heart to hip-hop, diverse ethnic musics & song, free improv, ambient, drum and bass, free-jazz, and more besides. If they want to know more I just whip out my kemence and electronic shruti box and sing them a verse or two of Butter and Cheese and All with a few freely improvised interludes, or else I take them down the beach for my legendary rendering of John Cage's 4'33" in which I draw a Cretan Labyrinth in the sand & stand poised at its centre with a Hungarian doromb - but don't actually play it. Just as long as they're listening, that's all that matters.

As Frank Zappa once said:

Information is not knowledge.
Knowledge is not wisdom.
Wisdom is not truth.
Truth is not beauty.
Beauty is not love.
Love is not music.
Music is THE BEST.


As Duke Ellington once said:

There are only two types of music in the world - Good Music and Bad Music.

As Louis Armstrong once said:

All music folk music - I ain't never heard no horse sing a song

As Sun Ra once said:

Music is a universal language - and it goes straight to throne of the Creator of the Universe as your personal ambassador and personal nemesis. That's now he knows you - according to your music


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Sep 09 - 05:00 PM

"All singers are traditional singers; all music is part of a tradition and all songs are traditional songs with respect of their particular idiom, culture and genre"
I think that in the context of several threads debating the validity of folklore and oral traditions this must be the most mealy-mouthed piece of bullshit I have ever come across.
After a desperate attempt to place all music under the 'folk' umbrella and disprove the uniqueness of what we (or most of us) understand as 'folk' on a forum concerning itself with ' folk music', we are now left with this world-shattering statement.
Over these threads we have been told that folklore, tradition, folk process……, all the things that have gone into preserving the songs that have given us much pleasure are – what – the imaginings of a group of "agenda driven, sloppy" researchers and collectors. And how have these conclusions been reached? Certainly not by research – the pair making these accusations haven't even had the courtesy to examine the work they are junking "research – sorry, don't go there", from both of them. And on the basis of these armchair musings we are supposed to walk away from everything we might have picked up during the years we have been involved with folk music.
None of the claims of the non-existence of folk or tradition have been backed up with evidence – we've had several appeals not to ask for it "as there's too much of it to make that possible." So everything we've given is, as far as I'm concerned, agenda driven by two people who haven't even bothered to do any research, sloppy or otherwise.
I was particularly amused by the facile comparison of recording and documenting folk songs with collecting Clarice Cliff pottery. In the unlikely case of my feeling hurt that collectors are undervalued or unwanted I can always take comfort in the fact that any folkie who has ever put his or her mouth around a traditional song, whether they make a magnificent sean nós job of it or settle for being a failed pop-singer taking refuge in the folk revival, has been the beneficiary of the work of a collector.
Arguments like this one always leave me with a dirty taste in my mouth, not so much on behalf of the centuries of collectors and researchers; their work speaks for itself; it's given me a forty-odd years worth of pleasure and preoccupation anyway.
Rather, it leaves me to wonder, in the unlikely event of any of this being taken seriously, where does it leave our traditional singers; what is their role in non-existent traditions, folksong, oral transmission – are they only song repeaters; have they had no part in the making of the songs? And where does it leave the working people, farmers, fishermen, weavers, miners….. who I have always believed made, preserved, adapted and passed on this music, song and story which is such a vital part of our culture – were they/we really cultureless and non-creative as I was told by my 'elders and betters' when I was a secondary modern scholar? Were Sam Larner, Phil Tanner.... et al, really just passive recipients and passers-on, no different than I was with all those crappy pop songs I was hooked on as a teenager? If this is the case, I would need some proof - a commodity in extremely short supply here, as evidenced by the plaintive plea "For the second time can we stop 'give me an example'."
I believe there to be no question whatever of the existence of an oral tradition folk music which originated from and reflected the aspirations, experiences and beliefs of communities (real communities – not a couple of fellers in a pub pontificating over a pint). This belief is based on what I have read, what I have seen in action and shher common sense.
It's hard not to notice that my Barbara Allen, Unfortunate Rake, Blind Beggar examples of songs which have survived for centuries and have been adapted and re-made over and over again - if not by an oral tradition, by what? I've quoted Mikeen McCarthy's selling 'the ballads' and hearing them sung back at him totally changed – if not by an oral tradition, by what? There are plenty more examples where they came from,
Like the two farming brothers, Austin and Michael Flanagan, from North Clare, who, when Travellers came into the area, would throw down their haymaking tools and go off and join them "to learn the songs and stories". Or Mikeen again, describing how the songs and stories were exchanged between his family (Kerry) and Galway, or Cork, or Waterford….. Travellers so that when they came down to us they were exclusively Mikeen's Kerry stories and songs.
Or then, from MacColl, how he was told of Scots tent-dwelling Travellers pitching their close to each other so they could sing or tell stories to each other through the canvas.
This pair have not once (apart from a piece of mealy mouthed lip-service - "I like Davie Stewart), expressed any appreciation of the role of the tradition bearers who gave us our raw material.
This sort of discussion always leaves a dirty taste in my mouth. Anybody who has ever tried to get support for research into (or even performance of) folk music knows what a blank wall they are up against from the arts establishment and the media in these islands. It's bad enough fighting the establishment to get your work circulated without having to fight your own.
Oh dear, I see we've finally descended to the old Armstrong (also attributed to Broonzy) 'talking horse' chestnut being offered as 'proof' (not forgetting Frank Zappa and Sun Ra – BOTTOM OF THE BARREL TIME, FOLKS.

At the risk of making this already far too long posting even longer, I'll put in a tiny part of an interview we carried out with Kerry Traveller Mikeen McCarthy describing a childhood memory of his father telling stories and singing songs to an audience of villagers when the family was stopped at a crossroads some time in the late thirties.
If this has been too long, please take comfort from the fact that it will be my last posting of the subject unless somebody brings up something new worth considering.
NOW WHERE'S THAT LISTERINE?
Jim Carroll

"M Mc   Oh yeah, always sing.    And a group'd get together then, we'd have an open fire outside that time.    He was very well known. A group of farmers'd always come around then, young lads, we'll say, teenagers, they'd all come round to the fire 'cause there was no televisions that time, no wirelesses, things like that.   
All down then, it often happened they'd bring their own bag of turf with them. Around seven or eight O' clock in the evening and they'd know the time the supper'd be over and all this.    You'd see a couple of cigarettes lighting at the cross and you'd know they'd start to gather then, 'twould be like a dance hall.   
We'd be all tucked into bed but we wouldn't be asleep, we'd be peeping out through keyholes and listening out through the side of the canvas, we'd be stuck everywhere, and he'd know it you know.   
And the fire'd go on. One of the lads'd come up for the light of a cigarette or something, he'd be already after topping the cigarette, 'twas just an excuse, "could I have a light out of the fire Mick", they'd say to my father.
Sure, my father'd know, he'd know what he'd be up to, of course and he'd say, "'Tisn't for the light of a fire you came up at all now, 'tisn't for the light of a cigarette you came up for now" and he'd start to laugh.   
And bejay, another feller'd come and he'd say it again, "bejay, before I know where I am there'd be ten of you there".   
And bejay, the word wouldn't be out of his mouth and they would be coming up along, coming up along, and the next thing one feller'd shout to the other, "can't you go down and bring up a bag of turf, and before you'd know where you are there'd be a roaring fire, 'twould band a wheel for you.   
So 'tis there you'd hear the stories then and the songs, all night, maybe till one o'clock in the morning.   And the kettle... the tea'd go on then, there'd be a round of tea and....   That's the way it'd go on.
We were off ceilidhing then, they'd invite him off to a house, he'd always bring one or two of us with him.   Same thing'd go on at the house then, that's where he learned all those great stories and great songs from, I suppose, ceilidhing from house to house, different counties, different stories, different songs. "


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: curmudgeon
Date: 15 Sep 09 - 05:41 PM

Beautifully spoken, Jim. I have learned a lot from you and others on this thread and so many similar ones. But why is it that in nearly every instance the "Twa Trolls" have to crawl out from beneath their bridge to foul the waters of discourse and experience?

I've been on Mudcat for a long time now, and have rarely seen such egotistical bile spewed even on the most contentious BS threads.

Thanks again, Jim, Brian, MtheGM, Lox, leveller, shimrod, and all others of good will - Tom Hall


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 15 Sep 09 - 06:16 PM

Curmudgeon, disagreeing with someone's views doesn't constitute "bile" or make one a "troll". Also Gluey and Sweeney are not some double act - they've clearly, from their posts, got totally different perspectives. They are only lumped together in the minds of those who take an absolutist "if you're not with us, you're against us" approach to folk music, as bluntly underlined by your rather selective list of credits (not sure what the Leveller would think about his elevation to hallowed folk insider status, though).

Personally I find this thread very illuminating. It's the only one I'm reading on Mudcat at the moment. Is it not a good thing to question "accepted" assumptions from time to time?

For me the only two genres of music worth a shit are music I like and music I don't like. Luckily for me, a large proportion of the former is traditional music (albeit in it's revival clothing) and what I guess we should now call contemporary-pop-music-composed-to-mimic-a-folk-idiom (or "folk music" as the silly buggers out in the real world call it). Genres, processes, traditions and so on come a very poor second to this as far as I'm concerned - I'm not an academic, I'm a fan, and I don't really care that deeply if it's a Child ballad or one of The Earthbound Souls' (for example) recently composed songs as long as it moves me. The exact definition and compartmentalisation is not that important. I'd rather fleetingly enjoy a butterfly on the wing than pin it down so I can stare at it under glass. I really don't mind what it says on the tin as long as the contents are tasty. Half the stuff I like is unclassifiable anyway. Others can do as they will, as long as they accept different people experience music in different ways.

Incidently, just heard part of a live set from Cambridge Folk Festival in 1981 on Radio 6... by Donovan, including a cracking Hurdy Gurdy Man and a lovely Jennifer Juniper. When I was growing up, the only folk album in the house was "Universal Soldier", a budget Donovan LP on Pye. I loved it and played it non-stop from the age of about six upwards. Funnily enough, I only realised it wasn't a folk album when I hit the rarified world of Mudcat. I'm sure most people who own a copy are still labouring under the misapprehension it IS folk. Tut tut. Silly them. We, after all, know better, don't we?

I don't want to denigrate what Jim et al are saying, some of it is fascinating, but I do sometimes get the feeling they are to the folk music buying public generally (y'know, those souls who buy records by Rachel Unthank and Waterson Carthy and Alasdair Roberts and Seth Lakeman and so on) approximately what the Sparticist International were to labour voters... That's not a pretty thought.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 15 Sep 09 - 06:22 PM

This pair have not once (apart from a piece of mealy mouthed lip-service - "I like Davie Stewart), expressed any appreciation of the role of the tradition bearers who gave us our raw material.

You can actually read can't you, old man? Sometimes I wonder if you don't just see my name on a post and fly off the handle with your customary impotent invective. Nice post though, the bullshit notwithstanding; especially as it chimes in with pretty much everything I've said here, specially with respect of the creativity of the old singers. So sad you can't see it.

S O'P


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 15 Sep 09 - 06:27 PM

From where the sun now shines, I will no longer participate in these sort of threads.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 15 Sep 09 - 06:56 PM

Is it not a good thing to question "accepted" assumptions from time to time?

Maybe, but questioning the same accepted assumptions again and again, in the same way, with the same if you define that as this then they're the same thing arguments, gets a bit wearing.

The exact definition and compartmentalisation is not that important. I'd rather fleetingly enjoy a butterfly on the wing than pin it down so I can stare at it under glass.

Fair enough, but in that case I can't help wondering what attracted you to this thread! Several dog-years ago, on one of the many similar threads, I tried asking whether people who disagreed with (say) Jim's definition of folk music whether they

- didn't care about definitions and didn't want to talk about them
- cared about definitions and wanted to use a different one
or
- cared about not using definitions

Nobody answered, but I still think it's a valid question.

I do sometimes get the feeling they are to the folk music buying public generally (y'know, those souls who buy records by Rachel Unthank and Waterson Carthy and Alasdair Roberts and Seth Lakeman and so on) approximately what the Sparticist International were to labour voters... That's not a pretty thought.

The Sparts in any context aren't a pretty thought. But as a general thing I wouldn't denigrate ideological purity and keeper-of-the-flame attitudes. Sometimes flames need to be kept; some flames are worth keeping.

One final observation (unlike Spleen I'm trying to give these threads up) - There Are No Folk Police. Nobody is telling anyone you can't play that or that's never a traditional song or get those pop songs out of my folk club!. Nobody is even expressing attitudes like that, except right here on Mudcat - and we feel free to unleash our inner traddie curmudgeons, here on Mudcat, because we reckon we're among friends and fellow enthusiasts. Which makes it a bit ironic, to say the least, to be accused of various forms of authoritarianism and personality disorder when we express the 'wrong' opinions.


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Subject: No Folk Police?
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 02:34 AM

Pip: "There Are No Folk Police"

Oh yes there are! The Folk Police


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 03:18 AM

Last night was spent exclusively listening to sea shanties. When I say exclusively a 9F was also weathered into the limescaled petrifying well only a late Spaceship could reach and M'Lady used the 'chanties for a long session on the rowing machine. Boy No.1 could be heard picking out the tune from his room.

As near to folk in action as we could manage. We don't do total emersion lifestyle folkiness but are happy grazing at the folk buffet. Tonight might be the greats of Studio 54 and a conspicuous display of rhythm. There's a Standard Tank needs a makeover you see.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Richard Spencer
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 03:26 AM

Fantastic story that Jim. What a shame that find a gem like that you have to wade through the turgid morrass of yet another "what the folk" thread. Have you any plans to publish more of your collections - songs and their context?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 03:44 AM

Just to say Clarice Cliff pottery is clearly emblematic of the English Jazz Age, with ruralist overtones. I meant no offence to collectors of pottery, those who attend ceramic fairs, teaset enthusiasts for whom Clarice Cliff is an important icon, or to imply there isn't merit in the careful research of Staffordshire pot styles and their development.

For anyone who was offended, please take this a sincere apology.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 04:00 AM

Slightly OT but I'm about to buy the 70 years of Topic collection because it fills some important gaps in my vinyl. Do people think it fairly reflects the tradition or is it more a history of Topic records?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 06:05 AM

Maybe, but questioning the same accepted assumptions again and again, in the same way, with the same if you define that as this then they're the same thing arguments, gets a bit wearing.

Has anyone actually said that they're the same thing? I certainly haven't, and to assume that's what this is about is to miss the point entirely. Just because hip-hop and gagaku are both musics born of a venerable tradition doesn't make them the same thing, any more than heavy metal is the same as flamenco, or jazz is the same as xhoomi. Even The Horse Definition does not say all music is the same, it just says it's all folk music. The problem is one inherent in the nature of revivalist pedantry in which a couple of innocent enough general adjectives (i.e. folk and traditional) have somehow become Holy Nouns for a musical construct which on the one hand is as wonderfully diverse as all the thread titles on Mudcat would suggest, yet as anally narrow as the more religiously hysterical reactions on this thread would indicate.

*

Have you any plans to publish more of your collections - songs and their context?

The Max Hunter Folk Song Collection serves as the perfect blueprint in on-line accessibility with fully annotated transcriptions and downloadable MP3s of all 1600 songs in the archive - making it an invaluable resource appealing to the casual enthusiast, singer and serious scholar alike. Shame there aren't more collections made available in this way - God knows there's plenty webspace out there and such a venture (with a nominal charge per download) could pay for itself. The web has the potential to be the ideal aural museum without the need for hard-copy which necessitates editorial intervention, interpretation and presentation to justify the expense. Topic did the VOTP series, and is presently lining up the Kennedy Archive for a similar treatment. How much better it would be if the entire archives were on-line and accessible to all.

Theoretical debates are all very well, but the importance of the real stuff of this heritage is beyond dispute. In this iPod age where one might wear the entire Max Hunter archive around one's neck as to barely notice its there, surely the time is ripe for these collectors to take advantage and maybe reep some genuine rewards for all their diligence and hard work?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 09:48 AM

it was Denis Healey who said being attacked by Geoffrey Howe is like being savaged by a dead sheep.
and Oscar Wilde said I enjoy talking to the wall it never contradicts me.
I believe Oscars dying words were to complain about the colour of the wall paper.
Napoleons last words should have been to complain about the taste of the wallpaper.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 10:31 AM

Yes, it was Geoffrey Howe, not Geoffrey 'Howell', who was likened to a savage dead sheep. Excuse me for not bothering to look up the exact name of a defunct Tory politician. I tend to find other activities more diverting - like watching paint dry or traffic lights changing ...


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Sailor Ron
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 11:44 AM

"Traffic lights changing"? Isn't that they do in Morecambe? Or is that just THEIR tradition?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: longboat (inactive)
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 12:15 PM

GUEST Shimrod, always have your facts, figures, names and dates correct, get your ducks all in a row, regardless of political beliefs,, before launching into arguement or debate.

The old saying many a persons grandparents may have used,
Tis better to keep your mouth closed and look like a fool, than to open your mouth and have it confirmed.

and now on to far more important things.

glueman, my take on the Topic 70th box set is that it is a history of Topic that reflects the tradition(whatever that means), rather than it being yet another set of recordings of the sources(The Voice of the People set amply fills this need.
I have my copy of Three Score & Ten: A Voice To The People on order

to quote from the book that comes with the set:

"The aims and objects of the Workers' Music Association (as published in 1944) still stand as a fair description of the ambitions of Topic Records in 2009:
- To present to the people their rich musical inheritance
- To utilise fully the stimulating power of music to inspire people
- To stimulate the composition of music appropriate to our time
- To foster and further the art of music on the principle that true art can move the people
- to work for the betterment of society

which, to my mind, says alot more than some of the political rantings you hear these days


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: John P
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 12:35 PM

The problem is one inherent in the nature of revivalist pedantry in which a couple of innocent enough general adjectives (i.e. folk and traditional) have somehow become Holy Nouns for a musical construct which on the one hand is as wonderfully diverse as all the thread titles on Mudcat would suggest, yet as anally narrow as the more religiously hysterical reactions on this thread would indicate.

Well! Where are you going to put me in your definition of those who disagree with you? I'm not a revivalist. I'm not a pedant; in fact the real pedants have been accusing me of "ruining" the tradition for years. I believe that adjectives, when used in a specific setting, have specific meanings. There is nothing even slightly religious about how I play music, or even how I talk about it.

I keep saying this, and you keep responding as if you don't get it: It's not about what music gets played, how it gets played, where it gets played, who plays it, or whether it's any good.

It is about a documented phenomenon that, when described, is a useful way of talking about how some music came to have some of the attributes it has. It's because we are fascinated by finding different versions of tunes and songs that crop over wide geographic areas and centuries of time. Many of us find it easier to have conversations about this phenomenon if we have words to attach to the concepts that we all more or less agree on the meaning of.

SO'P, I've just realized that the reason I feel the need to respond to you is not so much because of your flights of fancy about the origin and nature of traditional music, but because you almost always accompany them with the absolute the conviction that anyone who disagrees with you is some hidebound traditionalist who is going to go bonkers if anyone plays anything that isn't pure, or if they play it in the wrong way. Since everyone has said many times that none of this exclusively determines what music we listen to, what music we play, or especially what music anyone else should listen to or play, being confronted with the excessively polarized language you use in most of your posts is very annoying.

A while back you gave a very nice paragraph about your musical tastes, influences, etc. What you seem to be missing is that most of us have extremely wide musical tastes. Traditional folk music is my favorite, but I don't usually play it in anything like a traditional manner, although sometimes I do. I have played in heavy rock bands, jazz fusion bands, blues bands, medieval and Renaissance bands, Irish, French, Breton, and Swedish dance bands, a folk-rock band that blends eastern and western Europen music, progressive rock bands, and I spend a lot of time playing purely improvised new age and light jazz piano. I suspect you and I would actually be able to play well together. I'm sure you have some music somewhere on line, but I haven't heard it yet. Can you give me a link? I have some slide shows on YouTube with a small sampling of my recordings if anyone is interested.

All these discussions don't have anything to do with what actually happens on the ground when music is being played or listened to. All we want is to have a set of words to use in having discussions. Traditional folk music is taken. Please choose something else.

I would love to have a conversation on Mudcat about some of the interesting things that turn up in the folk process, without any discussion of what it means or whether it exists or where the lines are.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 01:22 PM

I will break my vow of silence regarding this thread (and the overall topic) and say that John P.'s comments would be a fitting close to this discussion.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 01:27 PM

'longboat' it seems to have escaped your notice that I rather gracefully acknowledged my rather trivial mistake. I think thou do'st protest too much. Now go away and boil your head you patronising, pedantic ... person!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 02:52 PM

flights of fancy about the origin and nature of traditional music,

To say, as I have done, that Traditional English Language Folk Song (as we have come to think of it) has its origins in the creative genius of otherwise ordinary working-class men and women is hardly a flight of fancy. That this vernacular and idiosyncratic genius also accounts for what we call the folk process is also a matter of common sense. In these songs we are dealing with a mastery of a highly specialised and refined genre - a vital and dynamic tradition of song making, singing, carrying, learning, modification and re-making. I see nothing in the collections to contradict thi; and I hear nothing in the recorded archives to contradict this either - in the singing of Walter Pardon, Harry Cox, Davie Stewart, etc. etc. I hear only idiosyncratic mastery of their time-served cultural craft; the pure drop in fact, which is something that only rarely translates to The Revival Singers, but that is an issue fir another time. We Revival Singers have chosen this thing we have come to call Folk; self-consciously, however so passionately we might feel about The Tradition. The Old Songs are master-works in the same way that the blacksmiths, ploughmen, farriers, carpenters, joiners, coopers, wheelwrights, tinkers, weavers, and countless other tradesmen and women were masters; a mastery, I fear, is all but lost to us now.

Is it a flight of fancy to say such things? If so, then - it's a fair cop, guv!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 06:39 PM

"To say, as I have done.........."
You have ben saying exactly the opposite
You have denied the existence of the oral tradition.
You have put the oral tradition down to the imaginings of sloppy and agenda driven researchers.
Rather than being the compositions and re-compositions of of "ordinary working class men and women" you have put traditional song down to the work of "master composers"
You have said that folk song is no different than the pop-pap that is the stock in trade of music industry, the output of classical composers..., etc (I'm sure everybody knows by heart your 'folk context' list).
In the past you have written of the older performers as.... can't remember the exact words (past their sell-by date will do for now); am happy to dig them out if you care to deny this.
You have - on this thread, ignored all efforts to get you to state your position on the role of traditional singers in the making and disseminating of traditional song and you have refused to acknowledge their uniqueness, compared to, say Frank Sinatra.
Your 'last stand' caused you to retreat behind Armsrtong (or Broonzy's) 'talking horse', along with Frank Zappa and Sun Ra.
You now appear to have undergone a 'Road To Damascus' conversion - welcome to the folk club.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 06:51 PM

Jim, with all due respect, when were you last in a designated folk context in the UK? Tonight I was at a rather wonderful mainly, but not exclusively, traditional folk singaround, that seamlessly blended traditional folk song, a Flander and Swann number, Stan Rogers and self penned stuff in a folk idiom. It's my idea of a cracking night. It's a variant of what S O'P keeps describing as the reality of 21st century folk clubs. Traditional music is in the mix, but wonderful as much of it is, its not the whole story. Long may it have bedfellows.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 07:55 PM

"Jim, with all due respect, when were you last in a designated folk context in the UK?"
About three weeks ago in Glasgow. They finished the evening with Travelling Light and Living Doll - that's going to get today's youth hammering on the door to come in, isn't it? Not my iidea of a cracking night - sorry.
What has your question got to do with claiming "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", to be part of the tradition traditional or folk song?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: John P
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 08:35 PM

SO'P, a flight of fancy? I have no idea; there's no evidence to tell me who was a genius and who wasn't. My own suspicion is that musicians throughout history have been pretty much like musicians today: some have genius, some are really good at reproducing what they hear, some are boring as hell to listen to, some are exciting, some are pedantic in their approach, and some are iconoclasts. Some have the ability to come up with new things, and some are great at presenting existing material to an audience. Some take lessons all their lives and never get beyond ordinary. Some practice a lot and some are lazy about it. Some like one kind of song, some another. Some can't sing, but can play a tune that will make you come out of a coma to dance. Only a very few are able to support themselves playing music; the rest have jobs, families, churches, friends, other interests, and are generally part of a community that is not musical in nature.

As to whether or not the old craftmanship has been lost, yes, probably, in many cases. But, at least with music, I think there is no lack of current craftmanship -- it's just being applied to a different stylistic aesthetic. I can't imagine musicianship, creativity, or genius going away. I believe they are still being applied to folk music, and that the folk process persists.

John


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 03:04 AM

John, I think you and S O'P are reaching some sort of consensus!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 08:06 AM

"To say, as I have done.........."
You have ben saying exactly the opposite
You have denied the existence of the oral tradition.


In which case, old man - you have misunderstood everything I've said here - and everywhere else. I've not so much denied the existence of the Oral Tradition and Folk Process as questioned the entrenched mythology about such collective processes which effectively overlook the creative genius of the individual. It is in the subjective idiosyncratic genius of the individual that any tradition is best manifest . The conceptualising of The Tradition as primarily a collective phenomenon has created a somewhat false impression about the nature of Traditional Song and the men and women who created it giving rise to the sort of hogwash we see in the 1954 Definition which takes the individual singers and musicians out of the equation and replaces them with a romanticised faceless collective. Consequently all talk of a Folk Process invariably regards the collective working-class as a passive medium for a series of otherwise random mutations the laws of which have yet to be determined but the evidence is there for all to see! Bullshit. What I'm saying is that these people were far from passive - that it was they who made these songs, they who sang them, they who passed them on, they who learned them, they who modified them, changed them, re-made them and that it was they who are the masters of a very exacting craft just as they were masters of their trades in other respects.

In the high arts individuals are cherished and celebrated; in the Folk Arts individuals are but members of the lumpen crowd.

You have put the oral tradition down to the imaginings of sloppy and agenda driven researchers.

And quite rightly so given what we know of the methods, assumptions ad objectives of Baring-Gould, Cecil Sharp, Bert Lloyd et al. Their legacy lives on in the mentality which believes that Revival Folk & Folk Rock somehow improves upon the singing of a Cox or a Larner or a Heaney and a Stewart or a McPhee or a Scott. Or those who prefer the soulless wailing of a Davy Spillane to the pure drop of a Seamus Ennis or a Felix Doran. At any rate, The Oral Tradition is a secondary theoretical construct arising from the Primary Sourced Reality of Traditional Folk Song, which is, as I say (and as you say) about the generations of individual men and women who made these songs, not the workings of some community.

Rather than being the compositions and re-compositions of of "ordinary working class men and women" you have put traditional song down to the work of "master composers

Again I say (for the hundredth time): THE MASTER COMPOSERS WERE THE ORDINARY WORKING CLASS MEN AND WOMEN WHO MADE THE SONGS. In their ordinariness they were (and are) exceptional as is evidenced by the craft and beauty of the songs themselves which are the cherished treasures of our culture.

You have said that folk song is no different than the pop-pap that is the stock in trade of music industry, the output of classical composers..., etc

What I actually said is that the only thing that makes folk song different is one of style. I regard the 1954 Definition and the Folk Process as red herrings set up to distract us from the very obvious fact that Working Class Men and Women were capable of creating these songs and that musical creativity on a par with ANYTHING was part and parcel of working-class culture. The Folk Process effectively removes the creativity of the working-class individuals from the equation by regarding them as passive anonymous carriers, as though Folk Song were some sort of disease. If The Folk Process exists at all (and it is a very big IF), then it exists ONLY as the CONSEQUENCE of individual creativity. This is why I say the 1954 Definition doesn't tell us anything because for it to work as an orthodoxy (which it has become) it demands absolute compliance to a very wrong-footed bourgeois fantasy of what constitutes a working-class COMMUNITY. Thing is, if you step back far enough and there is no individual creativity; thus do I say all music is traditional. If we didn't know the names of Mozart and Beethoven we'd see them purely in terms of Tradition and Community Cultural Context.

(I'm sure everybody knows by heart your 'folk context' list)

Only because you keep repeating it ad infinitum, old man. It's real enough though as you found out for yourself in your recent jaunt to Glasgow.

In the past you have written of the older performers as.... can't remember the exact words (past their sell-by date will do for now); am happy to dig them out if you care to deny this.

I've never said anything like this - & it runs contrary to everything I've ever held sacred about the nature of music, Folk Music especially.

You have - on this thread, ignored all efforts to get you to state your position on the role of traditional singers in the making and disseminating of traditional song

Baring in mind what I've said here, please go back and read my posts.   

and you have refused to acknowledge their uniqueness, compared to, say Frank Sinatra.

Their uniqueness is not to be found in comparing them to Frank Sinatra. The difference is stylistically and culturally determined. Both Sinatra and Cox were masters of their respective cultural crafts and traditions. They were both human individual geniuses who did what they did and have left a legacy accordingly. They were both unique.

Your 'last stand' caused you to retreat behind Armsrtong (or Broonzy's) 'talking horse', along with Frank Zappa and Sun Ra.

The Horse Definition has more to offer us than the 1954 Definition - it was said by a musician for a start and isn't a product of the bourgeois class-condescension that typifies The Revival. All music is folk music; just as all music is stylistically diverse. It doesn't say all music is the same. Traditional Folk Song - the Old Songs - is but part of the stylistic diversity of a world of music in which (on my record shelves at least) Davie Stewart and Willie Scott have an equal footing with Zappa and Sun Ra.

You now appear to have undergone a 'Road To Damascus' conversion - welcome to the folk club.

My Road to Damascus occurred when I read a library copy of Bob Pegg's Folk back in 1976 when I was fifteen. I recently found a copy on ebay and I'm reading it again. Thirty-three years on it still makes eloquent and perfect sense to me and has pride of place on my bookshelves alongside Pegg's Rites and Riots which gave a similar Road to Damascus regarding the nature of folk customs and folklore. The only Folk Music I've ever listened to is the real stuff, the ethnomusicology if you like, eschewing the prissy MOR affectations of The Revival as being (with but few exceptions) a grave misrepresentation of the glories to be found in The Tradition.

My favourite singer right now is Mrs Pearl Brewer of Pocahantas, Arkensas - look her up on the Max Hunter Folk Song Collection (she's listed under M for Mrs!) - listen to her singing The Cruel Mother (Down by the Greenwood Side) especially; two versions are up there, recorded 6 months apart, both are different, but essentially the same song on which she has a conceptual handling that chills the very blood. It is real music. The pure drop, as I say.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 09:43 AM

SOP, the "collective" nature of the folk process is cumulative rather than collaborative. No one is arguing that these songs were created by committee, even less that the singers were passive carriers. I entirely agree that they were made and shaped by individuals. The collective element comes from the way they were passed from one individual to the next, each shaping it by their own individuality and creativity.

When Harry Cox or Walter Pardon learned a new song, they didn't go back to some original version of it and then start on their version from scratch. They took a song which had already been worked on by their predecessors and added as much or as little as they thought appropriate.

We don't know how much of a Cox or Pardon song comes from their creativity and how much comes from the singers before them. That is the sense in which there is a collective element to the songs' creation. It is not to deny the creativity of Cox or Pardon, but to recognise that they played only a part in the evolution of the songs they sang.

To suggest that the term "folk process" somehow denies this is a complete reversal of the truth.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 10:37 AM

" ... the "collective" nature of the folk process is cumulative rather than collaborative. No one is arguing that these songs were created by committee, even less that the singers were passive carriers."

Exactly, Mr Jones! And this should be obvious - even to SO'P - how could it be otherwise unless we happen to know the exact identities of every singer of every song shaped by the 'folk process'? I agree that it would be wonderful to celebrate the individuals who contributed to the process but we can't because we have very little information about them and most of them are dead. We can only surmise that they lived within communities and probably sang their songs within those communities. Occasionally an individual singer may have had an opportunity to sing his/her songs to members of other communities. The fact that we don't know who many of these people were is an accident of history - not some deliberate act of class warfare.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 10:57 AM

Howard, the Recruited Collier was accepted as a traditional song,even though it was never processed,which proves my point that songs dont have to be processed to be accepted as traditional,although I agree they often are,but is not an absolute necessity,there are other considerations.
[When Harry Cox or Walter Pardon learned a new song, they didn't go back to some original version of it and then start on their version from scratch.]quote.
not sure about Harry Cox?[does history relate] We know that Walter didnt,but I am not sure you can say that about every trad singer.
   I remember someone telling me about one of the Sussex Singers, Who had told him,he had made up the tunes to songs himself.,but it was one of them who had lots of different tunes to the accepted versions.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 11:21 AM

John Brune in his book The Roving Songster,said
Quite a number of traditional Folk singers particularly Harry Cox,very occassionally made up their own words and tunes of a character quite in distinguishable from the genuine traditional songs.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 11:49 AM

Different singers will have added different things. Some may have made up whole new tunes, but even then it would be to a song they had learned from someone else. Other traditional singers surely must have composed entirely new songs - but that doesn't necessarily make the songs "traditional", unless they enter the tradition.

In the case of "The Recruited Collier", even if it hadn't been embellished by Bert Lloyd, how can it be said that a song which exists in only one collected version from a single singer is "traditional"? In what sense can it be said to have entered the tradition? (being taken up by the folk revival is an entirely different thing). It is no different from any other composed song, especially one which copies traditional forms - it has the potential to become traditional, but hasn't yet got there.

Dick, you say the Recruited Collier was accepted as a traditional song - accepted by whom? Accepted perhaps by those who didn't research its origins, or who took Bert Lloyd's information at face value. In the light of more information about the song, it now seems that the original acceptance of it as a traditional song may be incorrect - which doesn't alter in the slightest the fact that it's a bloody good and deservedly popular song.

In a very few cases a song may pass through the tradition unaltered, but that's unusual, for the very reason that SOP so deplores - that in those cases the singers are acting as mere passive carriers. In most cases, however, they will add something as they pass it on.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 11:59 AM

To suggest that the term "folk process" somehow denies this is a complete reversal of the truth.

All music relies on such processes, Howard - they are not unique to folk; to call it a folk process implies that it is somehow unique to Folk Music and creates the impression of collective anonymity that over shadows a lot of thinking in the various stages of a revival which, in terms of culture and social-class, operates at a very significant remove from that of The Tradition. This impression is further enforced by the language of the 1954 Definition which speaks mostly of community, with scant regard for individual creativity which is surely just as essential to Traditional Folk Song as it is to any music. Thus Folk Music is, in effect, wished into existence by the bourgeoisie dreaming of a bucolic idyll in which these grubby rustics can't possibly be individually creative, so it simply must be collective, so let us away on our bicycles and plunder at will before the songs are lost to posterity because what do they care about it, they who can't even understand or appreciate the value of their own culture! It is that very purposeful condescension that underwrites The Revival and its attendant attitudes, attitudes which persist to this day which I feel need redressing somehow.

Raking around in a junk shop we might pick up an old rusty bill-hook circa 1860; we know from medieval MS illuminations that such tools have remain unchanged for centuries, likewise the craft of hedge-laying and such that they were used for, and yet do we see the bill-hook in terms of that broader cultural and social continuity or do we see it as a unique manifestation of the art of the equally unique blacksmith who forged it? No names, alas, but a very evident individual mastery which is, alas, all too easy to overlook in the rush to see everything in terms of process and collectivity which is, as I say, in being common to all art is not unique to folk.

Of course some were passive carriers, which isn't what we're talking about here - we're talking of those who were active.

Quite a number of traditional Folk singers particularly Harry Cox,very occassionally made up their own words and tunes of a character quite in distinguishable from the genuine traditional songs.

See? Cox knew his onions! A true master!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 12:06 PM

In what sense can it be said to have entered the tradition? (being taken up by the folk revival is an entirely different thing). It is no different from any other composed song, especially one which copies traditional forms - it has the potential to become traditional, but hasn't yet got there.

The Tradition is the genre which made these songs, processed, unprocessed, or otherwise. It is indeed no different from any other composed song - other than that it was determined by a particular traditional idiom and written by someone fully immersed therein. That is the nature of musical tradition.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 01:23 PM

A stonemason of my aquaintance was telling me about a chap who sometimes buys stone from him and from it fashions 'ancient' horsetroughs, stone coffins and all manner of 'antiquities'. A few months in a pond and a few more smothered in live yoghurt and a nouveau-ruralist/ aga lout/ collector believes whatever he wants of the object.

You can see where this is going...


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Goose Gander
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 02:02 PM

"The Folk Process effectively removes the creativity of the working-class individuals from the equation by regarding them as passive anonymous carriers, as though Folk Song were some sort of disease."

You have not so much denied the existence of the folk process (no capitalization necessary) as you have consistently and repeatedly misrepresented what specialists and amateurs mean by the term. The above quote is only one of many in which you demonstrate you do not understand the term as it is used here and elsewhere.

First of all, the folk process can be empirically confirmed. Composed songs enter tradition are shaped by individual singers and musicians. The collective element refers to the community or communities within which the songs circulate. Folk songs aren't written, they are 'grown' – thousands of broadside ballads, music hall songs, minstrel songs, etc. have been written and forgotten over the past few centuries; only select ones ('Unfortunate Rake'; Child 84; Child 200; 'Jesse James'; 'John Henry', for example) have become folk songs. A song has to be accepted by the community to enter into the tradition and become processed by individual singers. The role of individual singers is crucial in any description of the folk process with which I am familiar. Could you provide a reference to back up your repeated claim that "agenda-driven" folklorists have described singers of folk songs as 'passive carriers'? That, SO'P, is the straw man you keep building up and burning down. No one here had made such an argument; perhaps you could name and cite the 'parasitical' folklorists who have argued such (?).

The magnificent Max Hunter collection which you and I both enjoy and mine for songs, tunes, etc. is an excellent demonstration of the folk process within a geographically bounded community. There are master singers and musicians, others who more or less reproduce what they have heard, and still others whose faulty memory and/or mis-hearing also contribute (in a different sort of way) to the evolution of the music. You have deliberately misrepresented the meaning of the term by insisting that folklorists have wiped out any reference to the first category of singers and entirely privileged the latter. Again, I ask you to tell me when and where a particular folklorist (name, please!) has delineated a particular tradition as evolving in this accidental sort of way (names and places, please!). Also, and I can't believe I have to even mention this, Hunter was a folklorist! You have nothing but bile for his kind, and yet where would you be without the work of him and others? You're like the city-dweller who scorns the farmer while nourishing himself on the fruits of his labors.

G.G.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 02:17 PM

"Folk songs aren't written, they are 'grown'"

And in some fine compost by the sound of things.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 02:51 PM

>> not sure about Harry Cox?[does history relate] <<

Well, Dick, I don't know about 'history', but the superb 60-page booklet that comes with Cox's 'Bonny Labouring Boy' double CD on Topic has plenty to say.

Harry Cox learned many of his songs from his father and grandfather, both of whom knew hundreds. His mother knew a good many songs as well, including some she'd learned from broadsides purchased on trips to Norwich. He also learned songs from other singers in the area (the was a tradition of singing in local pubs and several of his friends were singers) and travelled distances to get a song he wanted. He owned a collection of song sheets, some of them printed broadsides and chapbooks, others manuscripts written out at Harry's request by his sisters - because he was 'not brilliant at writing'. However he stated rather confusingly that the songs he sang were 'never writ down' so perhaps he didn't use the broadsides as aids to learning.

Harry Cox admitted to putting alternative tunes with songs he knew, and to making up 'two or three'. Excellent notes by Steve Roud give lots of information about the songs themsleves - many are tracable to 18th and 19th century broadsides, but there are also older ballads and at least one composed locally in the mid 19th century.

Having read through those notes again (and thanks for reminding me to do it!) I'd say that anyone looking for a serious answer to the question 'What is The Tradition'? could do a lot worse than to start with this album.

One thing I don't understand is: which part of this is the fake horsetrough?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Sedayne (Astray) (S O'P)
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 03:07 PM

Folk songs aren't written, they are 'grown'

In collective mulch of unwitting humanity no doubt; just as jazz grows and classical compositions grow and hip-hop grows. Yawn. You know, I never thought I'd say this on Mudcat but I think maybe it's time to find something better to do with my downtime.

Just off to order The Bonny Labouring Boy CD; sounds like the very thing!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Goose Gander
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 03:24 PM

You, like Glueman, have trounced upon one sloppy metaphor. You have not responded to the core of my argument - that you have consistently misrepresented the meaning of the term 'folk process' and you have maligned folklorists without providing a shred of evidence for your accusations.

I do believe musical evolution in jazz and the folk process share a certain degree of commonality. One possible difference, a significant one in my view, is that while folk is accessable to singers and musicians of all levels of competence, jazz is more the province of masters. I don't believe there is a corresponding process in classical music, nothing like the process that led to hundreds of variants of 'Barbara Allen', anyway.

But you know, I was just thinking of ordering the Cox CD - and I feel a certain gratitude to the folklorists who recorded his music. But I'm sure they were just a bunch of agenda-driven parasites, right SO'P?

G.G.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 03:53 PM

Songs changed. Old songs passed by word of mouth inevitably and irretrievably changed and many are very fine. Those simple facts do not warrant the fetishism that surrounds them. In the olfactory theme, one man's odour of sanctity might be another's whiff of putrefaction.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 03:56 PM

"In which case, old man - you have misunderstood everything I've said here "
Understood everything you've said - watched the somersaults with growing wonderment, and now - really can't be bothered; circuses are like that, aren't they?
Anybody in doubt of what you have been saying (over three threads) is quite able to read them again and make up their own minds, should their stomachs be up to it.
Everything is put in a nutshell for me by your/Armstrong's/Broonzy's 'talking horse' - the last outpost of a deeply agendad folkie bereft of ideas - old bean.
Richard Spencer.
"Have you any plans to publish more of your collections - songs and their context? "
We recorded the speaker, Mikeen McCarthy over thirty years and got well more than 100 tapes of songs, stories, lore and information from him - about the song and story traditions, folklore, ballad selling, passing the songs on.... masses of, we believe, invaluable information on what we have been mud-wrestling over on this thread, and from a far more authorative source than any of us (the horse's mouth - pun intended).
Last year we did three programmes for Irish radio on Irish Travellers in London and the compiler, Paula Carroll (no relation) honed in on Mikeen and devoted an entire programme on him.
It has long been our ambition to turn our recordings of him into a book - an oral autobiography of a Travelling and his family in the days before they became urbanised and abandoned the old trades, along with a substantial collection of songs and stories - we certainly have more than enough material to do so.
Late last year we were awarded a considerable grant from The Arts Council of Ireland in order to get the last remaining tapes of Mikeen transcribed and the music of the songs written out. This has only been made possible by the fact that over here the traditional music enthusiasts spend more time playing, singing and appreciating the music and songs than they do denigrating them (as they appear to prefer on threads like this). It means our dream of publishing is now within reach - the only barrier being the feeling I get after all this garbage "Is it worth the effort - who gives a toss"?
Some time ago Bryan Creer was good enough to point out that it really wasn't our decision, and our real committment was to the people we recorded and those who might appreciate what we were lucky enough to find. So yes - we hope to get down to work as soon as the transcriptions are complete.
In the meantime, Pat and I have written some bits and pieces on Mikeen (and others we recorded) which anybody who is interested is welcome to - thanks for your comment.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 06:02 PM

The Folk Process effectively removes the creativity of the working-class individuals from the equation by regarding them as passive anonymous carriers

I think you've got that back to front. For me, the folk process celebrates the creativity of all the hundreds of unknown singers who contributed to the shaping of traditional songs. It's when you start denying the folk process that you deny the creativity of the song-carriers - most of those hapless yokels couldn't never rise to the elite of "master composers", after all. The idea of the folk process is an open, democratic vision, celebrating a near-universal creative participation in the making and remaking of music.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 06:07 PM

Um, that was a typo for "couldn't ever", obviously - although I quite like "couldn't never" in context (arr, we 'apless yokels couldn't never rise to no compositional elite,could we Jarge?).


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 06:47 PM

It's when you start denying the folk process that you deny the creativity of the song-carriers - most of those hapless yokels couldn't never rise to the elite of "master composers", after all.

The songs tell a different story, Pip - likewise all the other trades mastered by your hapless yokels. The folk process is a fantasy that stands in stark contradiction to the dynamic creative tradition these songs stand testament to. No-one mentioned an elite, just naturally gifted working-class men and women fully conversant with their given idiom, but masters nonetheless.   

The idea of the folk process is an open, democratic vision, celebrating a near-universal creative participation in the making and remaking of music.

We agree it's just an idea then. There's a breath of fresh air.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 03:17 AM

SOP, I'm beginning to think that you and I are using the same words in completely opposite ways. The folk process is "the dynamic creative tradition these songs stand testament to". You seem to be celebrating it in one breath while dismissing it as fantasy in the next.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 03:55 AM

We seem to be getting close to the heart of the matter. For folk believers The Process is an irreducible creed - if you don't believe it, don't bother turning up. For the rest the process is either unimportant or misplaced.

I would suggest that songs were not grown evenly, that individual craftsmen were responsible for the major themes and verses altered, tweaked for local conditions and with time. They may even be formulaic for historical reasons with the template lasting for centuries. That is a historical certaintly based on a working knowledge of folklore and in no way diminishes the songs. The problem arises when the songs take on polemical stature, when they become a tribute to 'all those gone before'. They certainly do service to all who've sang them but that's not really what we mean, is it? The claim is something called The People took ownership by re-designing them or performing them in some way that made the originator less significant. That the changes were proprietorial and ownership became common.
I'm not predisposed to assign sole authorship to artistic texts where it isn't warranted - auteur theory in film, the idea of an artist-director transcending the restraints of the system to make a personal statement is largely bunk (for reasons I'm happy to explore if anyone cares), so positing genius where it's not appropriate is not my bag.

Nevertheless The People carries disproportionate weight and far too much emotional baggage to explain what's going on as an authorship and dissemination process. Historical anonymity has provided the vacuum for those so inclined to fill with idealism. The pleasures of the text for me are in no way altered by knowing the original work was largely or barely altered from the hand that originally formed it. There is a world of interest to be derived from the songs that takes no account of whether time and The People delivered them in their current form or not.

When Believers understand that enjoyment and understanding does not rest on that one notion, the polemical flames will die.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 05:08 AM

I would suggest that songs were not grown evenly, that individual craftsmen were responsible for the major themes and verses altered, tweaked for local conditions and with time. They may even be formulaic for historical reasons with the template lasting for centuries.

Which is a platitude you could have picked up from what Jim or I were saying weeks or months ago.

You might also be expected to take an interest in finding out who some of these individual craftsmen were, and learn something about them. Jim's studies of Mikeen McCarthy would be an obvious one to look at. Here's another (email from Matt Seattle):

William Dixon Weekend, 17-18 October 2009

Autumn 2009 is the 100th anniversary of William Dixon's manuscript of pipe tunes being pulled out of the flames. It also marks 14 years since the publication of the music as The Master Piper.

Combining historical legitimacy with musical substance, Dixon's remarkable cross-border repertoire provides an exceptionally solid foundation for the revitalisation of Border piping, and demonstrates an approach to music which can inform our own playing.

The Weekend is for pipers and others who wish to become acquainted with Dixon's music or to deepen their acquaintance with it. The emphasis will be on hands-on playing, complemented by discussion and instruction.

By sharing in an exploration of Dixon's music it is hoped that a door will be opened for those who have previously found it inaccessible, and that all will come to a sense of how astounding the music is and how much it is needed today.

"Beyond all reasonable doubt, this is the oldest known manuscript of bagpipe music. Need I say more? It's one of the great discoveries of the century. It takes the history of Border piping back by two or three generations and gives us a whole new way of playing the bagpipes. But don't just take my word for it: play the tunes, learn them, and see how well they 'lie under the fingers'. It's the real thing ......."

(Professor R D Cannon)

The event will take place in Hawick, Scottish Borders. To register an interest or a firm intention, email Matt Seattle {theborderpiper(at)googlemail(dot)com} and you will be sent further details.

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Dixon Weekend 17-18 October: Update

I have received expressions of interest from 11 people so far and I now need sufficient confirmations to go ahead. Please will those who do wish to come confirm by 1st Sep or earlier as one person is considering coming from overseas and will need to book travel. I will then confirm the Event.

This will take place at Artbeat Studios, an open access community arts project. The room is large and comfortable but not luxurious. A proportion of the overall costs will go to support this registered Scottish charity.

I have arranged catering with the Damascus Drum for midday and evening Saturday and midday Sunday. I recommend the café and its food as inspiring. If you have individual dietary requirements (e.g. vegetarian) please let me know when you confirm your booking.

The overall cost including tuition and three meals is £80. Accommodation is not included. Hawick is around an hour and a half from Edinburgh so some of you may be able to share transport to save on travel and B&Bs.

There will be an optional informal session on Saturday evening.

I have gained enormously from a close study of William Dixon's tunes. For fourteen years they have informed my playing, composing and understanding of pipe music. I know of no more direct route to Border piping. A list of tunes for study will be sent in good time and scores will be sent to those who do not have The Master Piper, which is currently out of print.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: BobKnight
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 05:41 AM

224 postings to date. Angels on a pinhead anyone? Boooooring - I gave up after reading about 20-30 posts.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 05:54 AM

You seem to be celebrating it in one breath while dismissing it as fantasy in the next.

The fantasy is that it only applies to Folk Music; all music is subject to this self-same process, just as all music can be defined according to the strictures of the 1954 Definition. The Tradition of English Speaking Folk Song was no less creative or dynamic than that of jazz or any other music, it differs only in terms of musicological genre, aesthetic and style. All music is a language; all languages are languages; all languages are different.

*

I picked up a copy of Sheelagh Douglas's Last of the Tinsmiths - The Life of Willie MacPhee in York a few weeks back. It's up there on the bookshelves presently but I'm sure I'll enjoy it immensely when I get round to reading it.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 06:46 AM

"The fantasy is that it only applies to Folk Music"

SOP, you appear to be the only person making this claim. No one is saying that folk song is any less (or any more) creative or dynamic than jazz or any other music, or that musical ideas are not passed around between musicians in other genres. However the "folk process" is most pronounced in folk music, and moreover is the defining element of folk, by which I mean traditional, music.

Someone reinterpreting a piece of classical music will go back to the score. They may be influenced by other interpretations, but they will not make significant changes to the piece, certainly not to the extent that a traditional folk singer might alter a song, possibly from one performance to the next.

The same applies to much popular music - someone wanting to make their own version will usually go back to the original rather than taking someone else's version as a starting point (not least for copyright reasons).

Even with jazz, about which I know little, my impression of it is that a piece will consist of an established theme around which the musicians will improvise. Again, they will undoubtedly be influenced by other musicians' interpretations, but the starting point is the original theme.

Of course, in all genres there are people who break the rules, or who knowingly make reference to another's version.

The difference with folk music is that in many cases the singers did not have access to the original version, and perhaps didn't have the concept of a "correct" version. They took the version they heard, with the changes and improvements made by previous singers, added their own, and passed it on to other singers, who in turn added their own variations, until we ended up with several widely differing versions of the same song.

It seems to me that there's something recognisably different between that creative process and the creative work of an individual or of composers collaborating together. Not better, not worse, but different.

Glueman, I agree that "enjoyment and understanding does not rest on that one notion" (the folk process), but I don't think anyone is suggesting that it does. It's simply describing the mechanism by which we came to end up with these different versions of the same song. If that's of no interest to you, fine, you can ignore it. I agree there are many other more important reasons for enjoying songs.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 06:55 AM

>> For folk believers The Process is an irreducible creed <<

Not true. For many years there's been an acceptance of the role of printed sources, for example, in disseminating, and quite probably originating, songs. I remember a well-informed poster on another thread estimating that most of the folksongs originating during the 18th and 19th centuries were the work of a couple of a couple of dozen broadside hacks (the older ballads are a much more complicated story, as I've explained already). See below for details of an event which I bet will shed much light on this.

There's plenty of discussion happening on the relative importance of textual evolution through oral process, versus stasis through print. The aforementioned Harry Cox liner notes (pleased to see another couple of sales clocked up here!) says of the song 'Colin and Pheobe' - originally a stage piece dating from 1755 - "the only real differences between traditional versions and the original text is that certain stilted phrases have been translated into more everyday language". Some songs were 'processed' only to a limited degree, others much more so. My musical compadre Gordon Tyrrall wrote an interesting dissertation comparing broadside texts with the corresponding songs from tradition, and examining the 'humanising' effect of oral processing on stodgy, wordy originals.

There's another discussion to be had about the extent to which broadside composers appropriated material from oral tradition and recycled it, sometimes adding their own clumsy moralising codas along the way. And still another discussion as to where the tunes came from - they weren't usually specified on broadsides and can vary dramatically between alternative collected versions.

The argument is highly nuanced. Unfortunately it's been turned into a shouting match on this and other threads by nonsensical and deliberately confrontational statements like "the tradition never existed" and "folk process is a myth".

In the meantime, here's some proper research you can all share in - I can tell you that the debate has begun even before the meeting takes place....

Where Did the Oral Tradition Get its Songs?
An informal seminar on the printed sources of traditional and popular song in
Britain from the 18th to 20th century. Featuring broadsides, chapbooks, garlands,
songsters, sheet music, and other printed materials from bygone ages.
Presented by Steve Roud, Roy Palmer and Steve Gardham, with plenty of original
examples on display
Jointly organised by the Traditional Song Forum and the English Folk Dance & Song
Society
Date: Saturday 10th October 2009; 1.30 – 5.00 pm
Venue: Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regents Park Road, London NW1 7AY (Tel. 0207 485
2206)
Open to all: TSF & EFDSS members free. Visitors £5
The featured items will be on display for inspection from 12 noon
Further details contact Steve Roud on sroud@btinternet.com.

[Synopsis]
In the pre-radio and pre-gramophone days before the turn of the twentieth century,
there were only two ways to learn a song – from hearing someone sing or recite it,
or from a written or printed source.
When the great folksong collectors of the Victorian and Edwardian era started
publishing the songs they had noted from the lips of elderly village singers, they
naturally stressed the role which the Oral Tradition had played in the dissemination
and preservation of traditional song, but they downplayed the equally important
part played by commercially printed materials.
But printers and publishers had long realised that one of the things that the public
wanted was songs, and that they would pay good money to get them. From the
sixteenth century onwards, a vigorous industry existed to cater for this public
demand, which aimed to provide something for every taste, and every pocket.
Broadsides – crudely printed single sheets with the words of a song or two, often
decorated by a woodcut which had only a vague connection with the text – were
printed and sold in huge numbers in city streets and at country fairs. They were
extremely cheap, and an account of a good murder could sell hundreds of thousands
of copies.

There were also chapbooks – little 8-page booklets, often called Garlands – and
songsters, which were slightly more ambitious but still paper-covered and relatively
cheaply printed. There were little toy-books, miniature collections of songs and
nursery rhymes, aimed at children. Further up the social scale, and therefore costing
a lot more, there was a huge trade in sheet music, aimed at the piano-playing,
parlour-singing middle classes, and a wide range of hardback, properly printed songbooks,
with tasteful engravings rather than crude woodcuts. Some publications
concentrated on sentimental songs, others on comic or patriotic themes, and so on.
Many places of entertainment also catered for the public demand for songs. Song
and supper rooms, glee clubs, pleasure gardens, pantomimes, minstrel shows,
musical interludes and farces on the stage, and eventually music halls and variety
theatres, all issued song sheets, booklets or books of the songs they featured. A wide
variety of social clubs and trade societies issued their own song-books, and religious
bodies were formed to publish uplifting songs to counter what they saw as the
morally-damaging effects of popular culture.
So there was no shortage of sources for those who wanted to learn songs, but there
were barriers. If you were a working-class person, for example, could you read?
Could you afford the price of a hardback book? How did you get the tune if you
couldn't read music? If you lived in the country, how did the town-printed materials
get to you? And there are other questions – Were the same types of song included in
all these different formats, or was there any segregation? Were the songs featured
on sheet music, for example, the kind of things that the lower classes wanted to sing,
or were they perhaps too 'educated'? Were there 'hit songs' like today, or just a
mass of undifferentiated material?
In the session Where Did the Oral Tradition Get its Songs? we will be looking at
examples of many of the types of printed materials available to the 18th and 19th
century public, and discussing the part they played in the creation and perpetuation
of our folksong heritage.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,A N Other
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 07:04 AM

The first paragraph of THIS REVIEW might help provide a little perspective. The rest is also worth reading for other reasons!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 07:13 AM

"Irreducible creed"
"My tastes are impossibly broad for you to understand"
"For the first/second time can we stop 'give me an example"
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Working Radish
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 07:34 AM

Brian - now that is a breath of fresh air.

Howard: They took the version they heard, with the changes and improvements made by previous singers, added their own, and passed it on to other singers, who in turn added their own variations, until we ended up with several widely differing versions of the same song.

Yes. In contemporary terms it's as if, instead of having a James Ford remix and a Venetian Snares remix and an Aphex remix and a Two Lone Swordsmen remix, you had Weatherill reworking something he'd got from Aphex who'd got it from James Ford, and Ford reworking something he'd got from Venetian Snares who'd got it from Ergo Phizmiz, and so on and on. The other difference is that, instead of a couple of dozen big-name producers and DJs doing it as a job, there were hundreds of unknown (and unpaid) singers, doing it for fun.

It's a very different musical world from anything we experience now. But that doesn't mean it wasn't a reality.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 07:34 AM

Someone reinterpreting a piece of classical music will go back to the score. They may be influenced by other interpretations, but they will not make significant changes to the piece, certainly not to the extent that a traditional folk singer might alter a song, possibly from one performance to the next.

The classical tradition is one of sequential historical development of Western Art Music wherein the aesthetics made possible by heavily notated composition lead from one era to the next beginning with Ars Nova and leading through the Renaissance, the Baroque, the Classical, the Romantic to the Modern & post-Modern. But no two performances of any piece from any era can ever be exactly alike; and there are traditional schools of interpretation in which the minutia of nuance in a single phrase carry as great, if not greater, significance than the innumerable variations of Child #2. In another sense, of course, John Cage's 4'33" remains of particular significance.

In improvised musics this is perhaps more evident, though with respect of such crucial works such as Stockhausen's Aus Den Sieben Tagen, the lines blur. The dynamic immediacy of an actual music is of greater significance than its ghost, however so recorded, but the context of playback and the effect in the listeners head is a crucial part of that process too, thus even records and musique concrete carry the same transformational potential.

Everything is change; everything else is just an illusion.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 07:51 AM

It's a very different musical world from anything we experience now. But that doesn't mean it wasn't a reality.

Was it really so very different I wonder? There are more people mixing stuff for fun these days than manage to make a living out of it and their work is just as crucial to both the genre and an understanding of musical process. I used to try to keep up with the developments in hip-hop and drum & bass until it got too much for me - turn round twice and the whole scene has transformed itself; the amateur scene likewise, which very often provided the best stuff. The means and the aesthetic of the thing may well be different, but the humanity of the music - the folk indeed, the language & beauty of the thing - is the essence of all.

One of the most perfect days of the summer was spent sitting with my wife and kids (aged 22 & 28!) in Stanley Park in Blackpool listening to the local drum & bass crews spontaneously pulverising us with their beautiful jams; the moment transfigured with sunshine, and a small but appreciative audience, and in my heart I felt reborn.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 08:01 AM

>> there are traditional schools of interpretation in which the minutia of nuance in a single phrase carry as great, if not greater, significance than the innumerable variations of Child #2 <<

I just don't buy that - one is interpretation, the other is content. Thanks, Howard and Pip for explaining 'process' in non-academic, non-stuffy terms.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: TheSnail
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 08:11 AM

Jim Carroll

Some time ago Bryan Creer was good enough to point out that it really wasn't our decision, and our real committment was to the people we recorded and those who might appreciate what we were lucky enough to find. So yes - we hope to get down to work as soon as the transcriptions are complete.

Indeed I did Jim. My comment was in response to a remark by you something like "better to leave it on the shelf" which I felt was a betrayal of the trust of all the people you had collected from.

I am delighted to hear of all the work you have doen to bring Mikeen McCarthy's songs and stories to a wider audience. I wish you would tell us more about that sort of thing instead of banging on about how the whole UK folk scene is moribund because a Glasgow club finished the evening with Travelling Light and Living Doll. If it was all that bad, why did you stay to the end?

"Is it worth the effort - who gives a toss"?

Lots of people give a toss, like the packed house that turned out for Tommy Peoples at the Lewes Saturday Folk Club last weekend and all the people who turned up for Tom Spiers, Arthur Watson and Tom Shepheard at the Royal Oak last night. Don't let the incoherent ramblings of glueman and SO'P make you think it isn't worth it.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 08:11 AM

If we can avoid the importance of anonymity and agree that The Process doesn't mean incremental proliferation but is a loose term to describe change whether large or small and accept the People is a romantic term born of idealism, I don't think we have an argument.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 08:51 AM

Was it really so very different I wonder?

I think this is the real argument we've been having all along. A number of posters - not just you & gluey - have said things that boil down to if it's not happening now, then it never did happen, and alternatively if it was happening then, then it still does happen. I don't get it. I mean, I can understand people objecting to nostalgia and romanticism and reactionary dreams of jolly old England, but I don't think you have to be a reactionary romantic in order to say people used to do this and they don't any more.

I like the drum and bass story - of course, there are small-f small-p folk processes going on all over the show, and hopefully always will be. But I do think that the particular folk process which works through the words and music of songs has been pretty much defunct for a few years now, at least in England.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 09:14 AM

Anonimity is of no importance at all, it is simply an unfortunate result of the lack of continuity in collecting. We have snapshots of individual singers, rather than a historical record over time.

If a collector of Harry Cox's songs could also have collected the versions from Harry's sources, and from their sources, all the way back to the original composer (whether broadside hack, stage show, ploughman or pitman) then we could observe how these songs evolved over time and how each individual contributed to that evolution. Instead, we can usually only observe how they evolved over space: we can see that different versions of the same song arrived in different locations, but not how they got there.

If modern research is able to uncover the identity of the original composer of a song which has subsequently gone through the folk process, that doesn't suddenly invalidate its credentials as a traditional song. The only reason why recently composed songs usually fail to qualify is that they haven't yet been around long enough for the variations to arise, especially as most singers now have both the mental concept of a "correct" version and the resources to find and learn it. However modern songs can be subject to the folk process and do enter the tradition, and as another thread demonstrates, this is even easier for tunes.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 09:23 AM

"If we can avoid the importance of anonymity"
Why; it is a common factor in folksong, and therefore of significance?
It has been your and your mentor's practice to avoid any awkward questions, (to the extent of demanding that they not be asked). Edicts, laying down laws, unqualified pronouncements = blind faith as far as I can see.
"I don't think we have an argument."
I don't think you do either - agreement at last (but that's not what you meant, is it?)
Another example to chew on ( still hoping for an explanation of Barbara Allen, The Blind Beggar, Unfortunate rake - if not by folk process and oral tradition).
Child gives 2 versions of The Maid and the Palmer (Child 21), both from print, Furnival and Kirkpatrick Sharpe the last published (1880) being a fragment remembered by Sir Walter Scott. Bronson does not include it at all as there are no tunes given for it.
In the late sixties Tom Munnelly recorded a full version of it from Traveller John Reilly, a non-literate traveller from a non-literate community, under the title 'Well Below The Valley'. If not an oral tradition - what?
"I picked up a copy of Sheelagh Douglas's......."
A book! Won't it be lonely or do you intend to buy another one to keep it company?
Hi Bryan;
"better to leave it on the shelf"
Never an intention of ours Bryan, just a feeling I get regularly from mind-numbing nonsense such as this.
Our wish to proliferate our material is evidenced by our CDs of field recordings and the fact that all our collection is freely available for access, albeit in (several) archives at present.
"Travelling Light and Living Doll"
Have always accepted that there are good clubs such as your own - my question is - how many - and why do we always seem to stumble over the shitty ones?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 09:56 AM

one is interpretation, the other is content.

Indeed, but both are determined by musical process and result in a similar level of diversification and musical difference, at least to those with ears to hear. I delight in how many different versions of particular song I might collect and just how different those versions are - like the 1971 BBC recording of Gong's Tropical Fish / Selene which takes it into very different territory indeed, very dark, but not quite as dark as that which appears on the Glastonbury Fayre side. Traditional Standards, like Jazz Standards, go off in all directions, but to what extent is content determined by interpretation in such a music?

I don't think you have to be a reactionary romantic in order to say people used to do this and they don't any more.

Indeed; my point all along is that it isn't happening any more to those sorts of songs and the particular tradition which gave us those songs is long dead. Musical process has always happened though, and will always happen as long people play music.

To quote myself from another forum (Sept 2007):

We lovers of traditional song are not so much the keepers of a tradition, rather the volunteer curators of a museum, entrusted with the preservation of a few precious, priceless and irreplaceable artefacts: hand-crafted tools we no longer know the names of (let alone what they were actually used for) ; hideous masks of woven cornstalks (which are invariably assumed to be pagan) ; and hoary cases of singular taxidermy wherein beasts long extinct are depicted in a natural habitat long since vanished.

Not only is such a museum a beacon for the naturally curious, it's a treasure in and of itself, an anachronism in age of instant (and invariable soulless) gratification, and as such under constant threat by those who want to see it revamped; cleaned up with computerised displays and interactive exhibits and brought into line with the rest of commodified cultural presently on offer.

But not only is this museum is our collective Pit-Rivers, it is a museum which, in itself, is just as much an artefact of a long-vanished era as the objects it contains. It is delicate, and crumbling, but those who truly love it wouldn't have it any other way - and quite rightly so.   

The traditional songs are already dead; they're as dead as the traditional singers that sang them and the traditional cultures to which they once belonged; they're as dead as fecking dodos the lot of them - but we must never forget...

Don't let the incoherent ramblings of glueman and SO'P make you think it isn't worth it.

And thus we find the Sycophantic Mollusc leaving his wretchedly non-constructive divisive slime-trail where e'er he slithers! And for what it's worth - I do give a toss. So slither off and pour your bitter bile elsewhere before someone stamps on your sorry arse.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 10:23 AM

"And thus we find the Sycophantic Mollusc leaving his wretchedly non-constructive divisive slime-trail where e'er he slithers"
I seem to remember Bryan is the organiser of one of the better clubs in the revival - please don't forget we've been 'blessed' with the opportunity of hearing your singing.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: TheSnail
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 10:43 AM

Jim Carroll

and why do we always seem to stumble over the shitty ones?

You do seem to have a talent for it. Perhaps a little more research before you make the trip?

I seem to remember Bryan is the organiser of one of the better clubs in the revival

Only one of an extended committee. See Lewes Saturday Folk Club. My position on the list of residents is purely alphabetical.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 10:47 AM

>> a similar level of diversification and musical difference, at least to those with ears to hear <<

My ears must be playing up. 'Elphin Knight'; 'Scarborough Fair'; 'Sing Ivy': different tunes, different texts, different plotlines.

cf "minutia of nuance in a single phrase"

...not the same thing at all. Nor is improvisatory jazz. Nor is the reinterpretation by a single musician or group of their own compositions (though I'd be interested to hear those Gong recordings, of course).


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 12:45 PM

"please don't forget we've been 'blessed' with the opportunity of hearing your singing"

And if you're capable of these unprovoked outbursts, why shouldn't we believe everything else you say isn't bollocks too JC? Sounds like ad hominem first and last, with a few vague musings in between to me. Folk studies as weapon, an interesting if deeply unpleasant notion.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 12:55 PM

please don't forget we've been 'blessed' with the opportunity of hearing your singing.

On my trophy shelf is a wee shield for 3rd Prize in Traditional Unaccompanied Male Singing from Rothbury Festival 1991 - stiff competition too as I recall though memory of the event is hazy on account of dropping a tab of acid an hour or so earlier, little realising that my friend would insist on me singing. Acid Folk!

Anyone can hear my singing, old man - it's up there on my myspace page - www.myspace.com/sedayne - including my all-new rendering of The Names of the Hare on which I accompany myself on medieval harp. Check it out!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 01:00 PM

It depends on what a museum is. Some people get excited by looking at great paintings and saying "I'd like to do that." Does that make someone musty? Why can't we find artists who can paint like they did in the Renaissance period and have that reflect current values?
There's too much emphasis on time periods and less on quality of the product.

Why not honor traditions? Why say they don't relate to the current emotions and ideas?

Why is there such a preoccupation for being as the French say, "Au courant"?

The reasons we like folk music (the collective "we") is that it is a tradition that we honor.
If you don't honor tradition, that's o.k. too. But that's not then what folk is about.

Tradition exists because the best artistic product is preserved, honored and recognized as quality. People are affected by traditions in music because they have something that's unique but substantial. When you listen to a performance by a traditional folk singer, they are expressing in a unique way a value from another time.   This doesn't mean it doesn't translate into contemporary times.

There is this cult of "originality" and "individuality" that implies that unless it is somehow
connected to contemporary ideas and "sprouts out of the ground" like a snowflake that somehow it's derivative and not valuable. Most of these styles of artistic proclamations
emanate in a specious way. "Look at me, I'm different!" But this difference is not really
evident because we are all connected to the past artistically, ideologically and just because we are creatures of habit.

An artistic performance defies time periods.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 03:33 PM

"And if you're capable of these unprovoked outbursts, why shouldn't we believe everything else you say isn't bollocks too "
"
"And thus we find the Sycophantic Mollusc leaving his wretchedly non-constructive divisive slime-trail where e'er he slithers"
"On my trophy shelf is a wee shield for 3rd Prize in Traditional Unaccompanied Male Singing from Rothbury Festival 1991"
Bryan; there you have a full vindication of my scepticism of the present state of the revival.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 04:27 PM

Or the way elderly white males behave when they've found a hobby horse high enough for even their elevated views.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 04:40 PM

Jim C: as a 'not quite newbie now' to this folk song lark (nearing a year) SO'P continues to remain one of the most interesting and indeed inspiring singers I've heard. And according to some of the young and more interesting folk bands I've (albeit briefly) brushed up against, he appears to go down rather well in fact. My deep suspicion is that that might be, because he's actually rather good at what he does...

As to "Who gives a toss?" Well, I think you do some of your fellow contributors a rather large disservice here. It's clear (and been stated as such) that members here at least, do give a toss! While a few might disagree with your view, they surely wouldn't be wasting otherwise profitable time debating such matters with you, if they *didn't care?*

You are clearly a deeply passionate and learned man in your subject. But you also tend to come across in a somewhat alienating *manner*. Some weeks ago I reviewed the old classic film 'Goodbye Mr. Chips', and I'm afraid to say, rather like the eponymous Chips, that your on-line personality could easily push possible younger enthusiasts away from even beginning to listen you out.

If you don't like the 'pop' that you hear (which IS encouraging new voices), I'd humbly suggest that you stop grumping about it and provide a substantial alternative for those young enthusiasts out there who will be more than interested in learning from solid resources. Get those Critics teaching materials online. It's never been a riper time. Carpe Diem!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 04:48 PM

Eh! Well I've just re-read that last post I made, and it sounds as bloody grumpy as any of the traddy grumps on Mudcat - when in fact I'm quite jolly tonight! Just shows you how badly the written word communicates nuances of mood... Pax!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 05:55 PM

"it sounds as bloody grumpy as any of the traddy grumps"

Not so, but I know what you mean. It's very difficult to exchange insights, ideas and good old fashioned fun when you're doing battle with the Star Chamber. Perhaps my collector mate was right all those years ago - folkies are a bunch of complete C-words after all?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 06:36 PM

It's very difficult to exchange insights, ideas and good old fashioned fun when you're doing battle with ... a snidey, sarcastic, slippery little git who can't be bothered to back up his silly notions and vague musings with any evidence. And many of my best and oldest friends are "folkies" and they are all fine people and certainly don't deserve to be sworn at by the likes of you, 'glueman'!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 07:09 PM

Crow Sister,
I think we've all become a little battle-weary with it all on this thread.
We have been going on interminably over what most of us have taken for granted over the last (god help us) nearly fifty years.
On the basis of --- well, nothing really, we have been asked to shed all the ideas and experieces; all the information we (not me alone) have set out to collect, archive and pass on so that people could make up their own minds. In the course of this argument the two people who have set themselves against the rest of us have ignored evidence raised against their - I was going to say arguments, but really, all they have done is made unsubstantiated statements, declarations - everything they have constantly accused the rest of us of making ...... and not only refused to back them up, but have demanded that we don't ask for evidence or qualification of their claims. The most recent demand is that we ignore one of the most fundamental facts about folk song - that it is almost universally anonymous.
On this basis they have kept three threads going - I quite honestly thought that it was a wind-up; surely nobody can be that arrogant. It appears that they are serious, so I treated their declarations seriously.
As far as Sean's singing is concerned; my experience of this is what he has made available on U-tube - sorry; it is as far away from good folk singing as I believe it possible to get. I presume he chose to make it accessible for public scrutiny; if so, I feel free to comment on it - if he can't stand the heat......
My views are my views - I put them across to the best of my ability.
Pat and I lecture regularly, at singing week-ends and at colleges - the last we gave was at University College, Dublin. I very seldom become angry when arguing, but I very seldom meet with the mindless arrogant idiocy I have encountered here - nothing to do with my being contradicted; more like being taken for a moron by morons.
Perhaps I can leave you with a quote from two posting up which, for me, sums up the level of debate from our two friends! "folkies are a bunch of complete C-words after all"   
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 03:32 AM

PS
"Like the eponymous Chips, that your on-line personality...."
Mr Chips - that's a new one on me. I'll try to live with that if you can live with a 'Mr Chips' with a Liverpool cum Manchester cum South London accent accent who has spent most of his life working as an electrician - first on the Liverpool docks, then on various building sites and housing estates in all those places.
It's an interesting experience to have to get your head round an academic image after a lifetime of nothaving your views taken seriously because you have no academic qualifications and talk like Yozzer.
PPS
Never regret being grumpy; it spoils one of the geatest pleasures in life,
Pax to you too,
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 03:54 AM

My views are my views - I put them across to the best of my ability.

Your views are your subjective right and entitlement - that you see them as self-evident absolutes that can only be put across with an increasingly hateful invective is, to say the very least, unfortunate. You are one very sad dead sheep, old man.

and talk like Yozzer.

And behave like him too, if your posts here are anything to go by. Which is to say - desperate, Dan.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 03:56 AM

a snidey, sarcastic, slippery little git who can't be bothered to back up his silly notions and vague musings with any evidence.

Seems even Shimrod has got your card marked, old man.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 05:23 AM

"Seems even Shimrod has got your card marked, old man. "
I assume that you agree with your acolyte that we're all "a bunch of complete C-words after all?"
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 05:27 AM

How is a mouse when it spins?

The higher the fewer.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: TheSnail
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 05:36 AM

Jim Carroll

Bryan; there you have a full vindication of my scepticism of the present state of the revival.

It must be true. Glueman and SO'P have told you so.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 05:55 AM

Touché
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 11:23 AM

this has all got totally out of control.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 01:15 PM

"Never regret being grumpy; it spoils one of the geatest pleasures in life,"

Jim Carroll

And the reason we don't take a word you say seriously old man.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: John P
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 03:17 PM

Imagine this scenario: Tom, a young man in England c. 1825, goes to market day in a village in the next valley. While he is there he hears a new song and sings it along with his drinking buddies a couple of times. Walking home that night slightly tipsy he sings the song to himself a couple more times. Not being anything of a musician, he doesn't get the tune exactly right, but it's still a cool tune. Being slightly tipsy, he forgets a few of the words but finds good substitutes.

The next day he sings the song for his mother and sisters. They all like it as well. His sister is a really good singer. She often gets asked to sing at weddings, and has developed her skill to a fairly high degree. She makes the song her own, introducing ornamentation ideas of her own and changing two of the notes to ones that fit her singing style better. In time she teaches it to her daughter, who loves to sing and has a true voice, but isn't much of an artist or musical innovator.

The daughter teaches it to her daughter, pretty much the same way she got it from her mother. The granddaughter also loves to sing but doesn't have the ear or voice of her mother, but she remembers the song as best she can. When she is an old woman watching the world change around her, someone shows up with a tape recorder because he heard she knows a bunch of the old songs. "Ah yes," she says, "I can remember hearing my grandma singing this when I was a baby. My mother sang it often as well," never realizing that the version she is recording is quite a bit different than the one she learned when she was little. The song does, however, retain most of the hallmarks of traditional singing in her area, many of which were introduced by her grandmother. It also retains the word substitutions and slight melodic changes made by her tipsy great-granduncle.

In due time the song gets written down in a folklore book, and people who are researching song origins find the old recordings and write papers about the singing style and repertoire of that area.

Meanwhile, back to tipsy Tom's drinking buddies, specifically the one who taught him the song. He had been a couple of valleys in the other direction for a few days and had learned it there. The person he learned it from had learned it imperfectly from his father, who wrote it. The son passed it down to his nephew, who was really more of a fiddler, but who also liked a good song from time to time. This fiddling nephew sang it a few times at parties, and a young man who lived nearby and was a promising musician learned it and had it running around in the back of his head for a couple of years. Finally, it came out again but with several slight changes that made it fit more securely into the current style of singing in that area -- a style that was somewhat different than what was prevalent two generations before when the song written. This same young man, when he became old, was "discovered" by revival folkies, who put him in a recording studio and sent him on tour.

Back again to Tipsy Tom's song-bearing drinking partner. Remember that he is in a town somewhere between the two towns where the song has been collected so far. He's not much of a singer in an artistic sense, but he's in key and has an ear that can reproduce what it hears. His daughter has the same knack, and when the song is collected from her when she is very old, it is, remarkably, almost identical to the way it was when it was first written.

Fast forward a couple of generations more. People now watch TV and listen to CDs for entertainment, instead of singing and dancing as a community as much as they used to. People who like the old songs have to go out and find them instead of having them sung around them since they were young. They have to form clubs and have concerts in order to hear a larger selection of the music they love. The upside is that they have the internet at their fingertips and can get at least some access to any music they like. The ones who are musicians learn the old songs, but, since so much song sharing takes place in situations that are performances rather than normal life, they introduce arrangement ideas and dynamics that make the song more accessible to an audience that grew up on TV ads. Since they grew up listening to pop music, they are comfortable with playing in bands and generally presenting the music in a way consistent with the current state of music making, which isn't anything like how it was first presented. Some of them even play rock or jazz versions of the songs, or combine them digeridus, gamelan, or what have you. Some folks, on the other hand, really like the old ways of doing things, and they learn the song as closely as they can to the way it was first collected. And people do the songs everywhere in between.

The song remains the same, except that it's been changed by almost everyone who has sung it.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 04:38 PM

"a snidey, sarcastic, slippery little git who can't be bothered to back up his silly notions and vague musings with any evidence.

Seems even Shimrod has got your card marked, old man."

I was, of course, aiming those remarks at 'glueman', SO'P - and you know it. It is very mischievous to suggest that they were aimed at Jim Carroll!

Jim may be, like me, a bit grumpy at times - but he is always very direct and is never 'snidey' or 'slippery' and has plenty of evidence to back up his thoughts. Unfortunately, his conclusions don't always agree with your preconceptions (or 'glueman''s) - hence all this silly bickering.

No doubt this will prompt accusations of 'sycophancy' or some such tedious nonsense. But I happen to fervently believe in the importance of conclusions based on real evidence and not just 'make-it-up-as-you-go-along' notions.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 05:00 PM

I assume that you agree with your acolyte that we're all "a bunch of complete C-words after all?"

I don't actually. For a start I see you all in terms of your individuality, however so entrenched you each might be in the rhetorical orthodoxy of The Revival which (in your hands especially, old man) manifests as a lumpen fundamentalism replete with theological absolutes which we dare but question at our peril. Even more perverse is your habit of railing against anything I say without bothering to see how it might actually accord with your own feelings on the matter. Even when I directly comment on the significance on your work in the field I am roundly abused despite you having passed onto me recordings from your archives in the past.

The situation is such that The Tradition can (and must) be appreciated without resource to the more wayward theorising of The Revival. The recordings are there, the collections, thanks to the diligence and hard work of people like your better self, and Max Hunter (a vacuum cleaner salesman?) How you personally interpret and understand your archive with respect of your fundamentalist folk-faith is of little significance to me or posterity; that's your subjective opinion, to which you're entitled. The music is all that matters, the cataloguing and the annotation, and your openness and thoroughness in this respect is, I must say, exemplary, standing in stark contrast to your Mudcat persona - at least that you've affected fir purposes of these threads. One only hopes you take the exemplary scholarship even further by taking advantage of the available technology to get the whole lot on-line where it might be appreciated by a wider public of both casual enthusiasts and serious scholars alike.

In the end it doesn't matter if you believe in letter of the 1954 Definition and believe the Folk Process and Oral Tradition to be fundamental laws of the known universe; fact is, they are not, rather they are theoretical perspectives ossified into absolutes by the distinct lack of new thinking on the subject. This in itself is a pitiful state of affairs and one that ensures the songs of The Tradition are forever condemned to languish in a cultural ghetto presided over by those who have evidently failed to appreciate their true value. Consequently Folk has become a joke; a risible cliché which is unfortunately justified by the attitudes we find here - the malicious slime trails of The Snail, the snickering sycophancy of the worryingly-anonymous GUEST: Shimrod, and the open vitriol of Jim Carroll, and one or two others who stare like rabbits into the headlights of the oncoming folk-future determined by an ever ageing demographic who did little to encourage, engender or facilitate the missing 2nd, 3rd and 4th generations when maybe there was a chance - so much so that even at 48 - a year older than Peter Bellamy was when he left the planet - I am still invariably the youngest in a folk club.

And how do the old guard address this sorry state of affairs? With encouraging comments like As far as Sean's singing is concerned... it is as far away from good folk singing as I believe it possible to get. Times like this I might just go off and buy that Fender Jazz I saw in Liverpool last week after all and leave folk to disappear up its own arse.   

But year after year their numbers get fewer
Some day no one will sing there at all...

Who'll come a-carolling, who'll come a-carolling,
Who'll come a-carolling, a-carolling with me?
Not I said the young man, mashing jams on his comput-tie-ah;
I'll not come a-carolling, a-carolling with you.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 05:04 PM

When the subject of music comes up, there are passionate supporters who by the necessity of being emotionally moved, they have to take a seemingly obdurate position. There's nothing wrong with that. When these supporters have their bias, then other musics tend to get diminished in their conversations. That's human.

I have my preferences which I often state emphatically. I tend to ignore or shove aside
that music which doesn't reflect my interests. I will still give credence to Arnold Schoenberg as being a great composer even though I dislike his music intensely. (Was it Nazi code?)

Pop performers are talented and they do what they do with skill whether I like it or not.
But don't tell me that they are true folk singers. That's specious.

You are not a folk singer because you say you are. Alice in Wonderland, "Just because you say it's true doesn't mean it's so."

Don't tell me that a modern navel-gazing drivel-driven rant or plaint written by a young pop singer who hasn't lived much is a folk song. Even if it's a very good song, which some of them are.

I have nothing against pop music from any era though because of my age and conditioning, I prefer older songs from the Twenties and Thirties. I understand them better.

They may or may not have a "tradition" but they're not folk songs. They're composed, written for the Broadway stage or the marketplace.

There is a body of music that is culture-based and has stuck around for a long time through changes and there are practitioners of this style of singing who convey this material through having learned it from their sub-cultural environment. Blues, Appalachian, Old Ballads, Sean Nos, jazz, and their corollary from other cultures and countries.

Their style of singing is reflective of a unique way of delivery and purpose. I may sing folksongs forever but I am not going to be in that category as much as I love that music.
If I attempt to sing that way, it comes out phony. (Many "revivalists" in folk do sound phony because they attempt to imitate rather than find their own voices).

The reason that we have Mudcat is because of Tradition(s), otherwise why bother?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 05:43 PM

To put the C-word quote in context it was said to me many years ago by an avid collector of recorded music of all kinds. We were discussing fans with whom he had to spend an unhealthy amount of time in pursuit of his collection.

Rock and Rollers could be a bit risky depending on which side of the Eddie Cochran-Gene Vincent divide they were, soul boys were naughty but passionate and so on but for sheer blind fundamentalist unpleasantness he reserved the C-word for folkies. Perhaps he'd had dealings with people hereabouts?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 08:37 PM

I really can't believe this is being continued.
Glueman has blown the gaff - those who don't agree with him and his mentor or either mad or a shower of - what was the word - 'conservationists' maybe - and PO'B still waffles his way around without qualifying his arguments.
Leave it lads - you've told us all we need to know - anything more is just fillibusting.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 04:55 AM

I will still give credence to Arnold Schoenberg as being a great composer even though I dislike his music intensely. (Was it Nazi code?)

You might like to rethink that, Stringsinger:

"After the National Socialists came to power, in 1933, Schoenberg was summarily dismissed from his post at the Prussian Academy of Arts, where he had been teaching since 1926. He was denounced as a Jew and a leading exponent of "degenerate" art. A fervent Zionist, he drafted a bold "Four-Point Program for Jewry," propounding that "a united Jewish party must be created…. Ways must be prepared to obtain a place to erect an independent Jewish state." In 1934 he emigrated to the United States and settled eventually in Los Angeles, where he taught for a year at the University of Southern California and from 1936 at U.C.L.A. He became an American citizen in 1941."

from The Milken Archive of Jewish-American Music


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 08:05 AM

Do people like Jim Carroll attract or deter young people from playing traditional music and bringing their own contemporary sensibilities to it?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 08:06 AM

>> one or two others who stare like rabbits into the headlights of the oncoming folk-future <<

I've been on the road too long to get dazzled by headlights, Suibhne. What you presented in that post was a travesty of the weight of argument in this thread, during which a succession of level-headed, coherent and generally non-fundamentalist posters have thoroughly trashed the notion that "there is no tradition" (or "folk process" or whatever). There remain two entrenched fundamentalists here (only one of whom is even attempting to advance any arguments) who are insisting that all the stuff that everyone else believes in is no more than a fabrication of those hateful folkie C-words.

The actual folk-future will be determined by a younger generation which is already ahead of you, already examining and enthusing about old traditions, already singing and music-making, and whose members are quite capable of working these things out for themselves. They are, by the way, more than happy to exchange ideas with the ageing folkie C-words you accuse of betraying them.

Personally I'd be more than happy if this bitter thread were closed before anyone else is tempted into comments one hopes they'll regret later.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 08:19 AM

The problem is a need to believe in 'something'. Folk music's history has accumulated a lot of guff around a very few facts so that discussion becomes an act of faith, for 'us' or against 'us'. Folkies and non-folkies.

As a proud relativist and Fortean I adhere to the principle that 'nothing is more than the proper thing to wear for a while'. Until folkies can talk to the rest of the world I agree, the subject is best left alone.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 09:12 AM

"open vitriol of Jim Carroll," =
P'OB
"And thus we find the Sycophantic Mollusc leaving his wretchedly non-constructive divisive slime-trail where e'er he slithers"
PO'B
"folkies are a bunch of complete C-words after all"   
Glueman
Facts
Ballads like Barbara Allen, (described by Pepys in the middle of the 17th century as "that old Scotch song") have been passed from singer to singer throughout the English speaking world for around four centuries.
Ancient ballads like The Blind Beggar (early 17th century) have been discovered in the repertoires of non-lterate Traveller singers whittled down from unsingable epics to 6-7-8 beautifully concise versions.
The Unfortunate Rake is not only to be found in hundreds of versions, but has divided into two distinct types, 'The Bad Girl's Lament' and 'The Unfortunate Rake'.
Fifty plus of Child's 'English and Scottish Popular Ballads' have been recorded from field singers, (Travellers, small farmers, land labourers, - rural and urban workers in general) in hundreds of distinct versions in the Irish Republic over the last 40 years.
Irish Traveller (Wexford) singers from the same family have been found to have at least half-a-dozen DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT versions of The Outlandish Knight, (probably the most popular ballad in that community).
Ballads such as Johnny Scott, The Maid and the Palmer, Sweet William and Fair Margaret, The Demon Lover, Prince Robert...... many more long disappeared from the British repertoire have been discovered in Ireland.
Songs transmitted via the oral tradition invariably take on the characteristics of the area where they move to, occupationally, socially and geographically. The names of the characters withing the songs change constantly and the as do the locations.
Relatively new ANONYMOUS songs (within the lifetimes of the singers, and sometimes within as little as five years of the event described in the song) have been recorded from both Travellers and rural Irish singers.
We have oral descriptions of singers and storytellers (Traveller and settled) passing on their songs and stories and some time later hearing them in multi-versions.
The FACT that there exists a massive repertoire of songs for whom the composers, and even the geographical origins is unknown is totally unprecedented, certainly in the western world.
Explain any of these and you might have covered the foothills of the mountain that is the oral folk tradition.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 09:14 AM

even at 48 - a year older than Peter Bellamy was when he left the planet - I am still invariably the youngest in a folk club.


Go to Chorlton FC, Suibhne - at 48 you'll be well above the average age, at least among the performers. You'll also hear more singer-songwriters than you can shake a stick at, and a quota of traditional music somewhere between 20% and naff all.

Anyway, when you're 48 (or 49 in my case) it's a bit late to be complaining about the older generation failing to recruit the younger ditto. They recruited us, after all - maybe it's our turn to get realistic and hang down with the kids on the corner of the street (note to self - check wording before sending).


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 11:02 AM

"Do people like Jim Carroll attract or deter young people from playing traditional music and bringing their own contemporary sensibilities to it?"
This thread has nothing whatever to do with bringing people to traditional music - it is solely about the nature and definition of traditional music.
In Ireland, young people are flocking to traditional music in their thousands. This has happened, not by compromise or distortion of the music, but because a clear idea of what traditional music is has enabled groups like The Willie Clancy Summer School and CCE to present the music to a wide, young and expanding audience.
Last St Patrick's Day here in Miltown Malbay (a small coastal village) there were between 80 and 100 school-age musicians playing traditional music on the parade.
Contrast this with the fact that the British clubs lost three quarters of their audiences in the 80s when it became possible to attend a folk club without hearing a folk song. That audience has never been replaced.
The Singers Club was a policy club which guaranteed that the audince would go away having heard an evening of folk songs, or contemporary songs based on (and sounding like) folk songs. The club continued to have a regular and substantial following right up to the death of MacColl. It closed when it's other prominent resident returned to America.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 02:08 PM

What you presented in that post was a travesty of the weight of argument in this thread, during which a succession of level-headed, coherent and generally non-fundamentalist posters have thoroughly trashed the notion that "there is no tradition" (or "folk process" or whatever).

Sorry, Brian - I have seen little by way of level headedness much less coherence in response to the various issues I've raised on this thread (or any other). On the contrary, in their stead I've been subject to a barrage of name-calling, bile, vitriol, and downright nastiness. If (as you seem to be suggesting) such fundamentalist hysteria passes for weight of argument then indeed my heretical notions have been well and truly trashed - as indeed have I. I'm not about to flounce off though - I'm sticking around, ever optimistic that someone, somewhen, might come up with something worth reading other than the usual reportage of self-evident truisms, personal insults, or suggestions that Shoenberg's music is some sort of Nazi Code.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 04:00 PM

"fundamentalist hysteria"
Ballads like Barbara Allen, (described by Pepys in the middle of the 17th century as "that old Scotch song") have been passed from singer to singer throughout the English speaking world for around four centuries.
Ancient ballads like The Blind Beggar (early 17th century) have been discovered in the repertoires of non-lterate Traveller singers whittled down from unsingable epics to 6-7-8 beautifully concise versions.
The Unfortunate Rake is not only to be found in hundreds of versions, but has divided into two distinct types, 'The Bad Girl's Lament' and 'The Unfortunate Rake'.
Fifty plus of Child's 'English and Scottish Popular Ballads' have been recorded from field singers, (Travellers, small farmers, land labourers, - rural and urban workers in general) in hundreds of distinct versions in the Irish Republic over the last 40 years.
Irish Traveller (Wexford) singers from the same family have been found to have at least half-a-dozen DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT versions of The Outlandish Knight, (probably the most popular ballad in that community).
Ballads such as Johnny Scott, The Maid and the Palmer, Sweet William and Fair Margaret, The Demon Lover, Prince Robert...... many more long disappeared from the British repertoire have been discovered in Ireland.
Songs transmitted via the oral tradition invariably take on the characteristics of the area where they move to, occupationally, socially and geographically. The names of the characters withing the songs change constantly and the as do the locations.
Relatively new ANONYMOUS songs (within the lifetimes of the singers, and sometimes within as little as five years of the event described in the song) have been recorded from both Travellers and rural Irish singers.
We have oral descriptions of singers and storytellers (Traveller and settled) passing on their songs and stories and some time later hearing them in multi-versions.
The FACT that there exists a massive repertoire of songs for whom the composers, and even the geographical origins is unknown is totally unprecedented, certainly in the western world.
Added:
The fact that this massive repertoire of orally transmitted songs, stretching back for up to four centuries and across the English-speaking world (and beyond, if you take the ballads into consideration) is related by style, content and function indicates a common process of composition - a 'school' of songmaking. The fact that none of these songmakers have been named makes it clear that they are a product of a 'folk process', as is generally accepted by anybody who hs examined the subject.
"I've been subject to a barrage of name-calling, bile, vitriol, and downright nastiness."
SO'P
"And thus we find the Sycophantic Mollusc leaving his wretchedly non-constructive divisive slime-trail where e'er he slithers"
"So slither off and pour your bitter bile elsewhere before someone stamps on your sorry arse. "
SO'P
SO'P (up to this point Bryan Creer had taken litle part in the discussion, and when he did he made a mild comment by refering to your "ramblings"
"sloppy, selective & agenda driven field-work "
SO'P
"You are one very sad dead sheep, old man."
"yet as anally narrow as the more religiously hysterical reactions on this thread would indicate."
SO'P
"In Shimrod's book (and I suspect he actually has one, and a nice fountain pen and leather elbow pads) "
Glueman
"folkies are a bunch of complete C-words after all"   
Glueman"
And then there's the classic;
"For the second time can we stop 'give me an example',"
Glueman


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 04:17 PM

Does anyone read beyond the second line of Mr Carroll? I bet you've never worked in education Jim you wouldn't last five minutes, they'd all be fast asleep.
    Glueman, it has come to my attention that you are way out of line. I've looked at several of your posts; and there is no question that they are personal attacks, which are prohibited in this forum. You are no longer allowed to post to this thread. If you wish to post to other threads in the future, please attempt to conduct yourself in a more civil manner.
    Thank you.
    -Joe Offer, Forum Moderator-


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 07:15 PM

Oh - an addition to the previous list
"Does anyone read beyond the second line of Mr Carroll?"
which rather puts SO'P's whingeing about "name-calling, bile, vitriol, and downright nastiness." in context - doesn't it?
Jim Carroll
    Jim, I think you need to tone things down, too.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: TheSnail
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 09:18 PM

Do I need to explain why I have taken little part in the discussion? It's a pity because it's a potentially interesting subject.

Bryan Creer


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Will Fly
Date: 21 Sep 09 - 02:35 AM

It was for that very reason, Bryan, that I opened up the "folk process and tunes" thread. The tunes aspect of all this seems somehow less emotive and the thread, so far has been very civilised and interesting.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Sep 09 - 02:53 AM

Sorry Joe
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 21 Sep 09 - 04:13 AM

The fact that this massive repertoire of orally transmitted songs, stretching back for up to four centuries and across the English-speaking world (and beyond, if you take the ballads into consideration) is related by style, content and function indicates a common process of composition - a 'school' of songmaking.

In a nutshell, that's what I mean by master composers; masters in the sense of cultural genre and time-served craftsmanship.

The fact that none of these songmakers have been named makes it clear that they are a product of a 'folk process',

Their names don't come down to us because of various factors but we can be sure they had names, just as the brickies, chippies, plasters etc. who built my house had names. Just as the Hungarian village carpenter who made my Citera over 150 years ago had a name. They were creative human individuals, no different from any other creative human individuals. I see no evidence of a specific Folk Process any different from any other musical process - just one that has floundered somewhat via the secondary collected literary sources by which we have come to know it. What I do see plenty of evidence for is a tradition of stylistic song-making and transformation which indicates both the fluidity in which the songs existed in their natural habitat and the essentially improvised nature of song-making as an integral aspect of their performance. Once a song has been collected it is frozen at the point of its collection - it becomes a thing, a pinned butterfly removed from an ecological context that we don't fully understand. Consequently they are dealt with as cultural abstracts; the more remote they are, so the greater that abstraction invariably becomes. My point is, to call this a (or the) folk process is to perhaps misunderstand the nature of the songs in their pre-collected living form.

HOWEVER...

Looks like another thread has been ruined by Mudcat's Nannying Interference Police. I hereby register my personal outrage and disgust that ANYONE should be excluded from this discussion on any grounds whatsoever, least of all Glueman. Why do lines like It has come to my attention send shivers of revulsion down my spine?

Joe, for the sake of common decency get things in perspective - lift this inhumane and entirely unjustified ban and let this discussion proceed as it will.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 21 Sep 09 - 04:20 AM

Will, I wonder whether the reason is that with tunes the folk process is still very much alive and can be observed in action (as the examples of "The Sweetness of Mary" or "The Flying Cloud" illustrate). Also, tune players seem more relaxed with the idea that the notes are merely the framework of a tune for the musicians to work around - many experienced musicians won't play the tune exactly the same way twice (in English tune sessions, anyway - some Irish sessions seem to insist on more accuracy).

That seems to be how traditional singers treated songs, with both tune and words likely to vary from one repetition to the next. It's something which revival singers mostly appear to have lost (just look at the number of complaints about singers starting a version of a well-known song and the audience or accompanying musicians taking over with the "proper" version).

In that sense the "tradition" is perhaps more alive today with tunes rather than songs, where fixed versions of songs seem to have taken root.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 21 Sep 09 - 04:32 AM

What I do see plenty of evidence for is a tradition of stylistic song-making and transformation which indicates both the fluidity in which the songs existed in their natural habitat and the essentially improvised nature of song-making as an integral aspect of their performance.

Yes. It's what some people call "the folk process". I think you've just demonstrated that this argument was pointless from the word go.

Looks like another thread has been ruined by Mudcat's Nannying Interference Police.

No. "No personal attacks" is the rule, and (being a rule) it applies to everyone. Nothing personal(!) against glueman.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 21 Sep 09 - 04:41 AM

I can't say that SO'P's posts appeal greatly to me — I find them frequently somewhat convoluted, sometimes [I hope he will forgive my saying, but if not I shall just have to live with it] a bit Pseuds-Cornerish; & I find many of his premises alien to my thinking.

BUT I would add my voice to his IN DEFENCE OF GLUEMAN, whose interventions, tho often forcefully & vehemently expressed, do not strike me as inordinately offensive in the general terms & ambience of this Forum, or such as to warrant the ban that has been placed on his ability to express them. Can't think of anything he has said which, if he had said it to or of me, would have robbed me of a single moment's sleep.

& I write as something of a nOOb; about the only one on this thread, as far as I can see, who doesn't even know who Glueman & Sweeney actually ARE...


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 21 Sep 09 - 05:11 AM

MGM - I don't know if anyone else knows who glueman is, but I certainly don't. Suibhne's identity isn't a secret if you follow a few links. I've shared a few choruses with him; I've got to say I value his enthusiasm for traditional music a lot higher than his enthusiasm for arguing that traditional music doesn't exist, or that all music is traditional music, or that all music except folk is traditional music, or whatever.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 21 Sep 09 - 05:12 AM

Yes. It's what some people call "the folk process". I think you've just demonstrated that this argument was pointless from the word go.

NO. As long as people think the folk process and the 1954 Definition is something that makes Folk somehow different from other musics then this thread will have a point. Trouble is, people only know Traditional English Folk Song as a dead music - something which Howard sums up quite nicely below there: That seems to be how traditional singers treated songs, with both tune and words likely to vary from one repetition to the next. It's something which revival singers mostly appear to have lost. Amen to that!

Is that really just a folk process? Or is it how all living traditional musics operate - be it classical, drum and bass, popular, hip-hop, or whatever? I say again: all music is determined by the folk process; just all music is covered by the 1954 Definition, bar in the minds of an entrenched orthodoxy of fundamentalists for whom it simply has to be different in terms other than stylistic diversity.

No. "No personal attacks" is the rule, and (being a rule) it applies to everyone. Nothing personal(!) against glueman.

So Jim Carroll gets away with it whilst Glueman must be censored? That's not a rule, Pip - it's inhumane discrimination, which is very personal against Glueman.

Gentlemen, we have a sneak in our midst; a snide, a snake in the grass, a tittle-tattle tell-tale. I suggest they owns up so might de-bag the blighter whereupon we might proceed with our merry row as befits the civilised chaps we most surely are!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Sep 09 - 05:31 AM

"Their names don't come down to us because of various factors".
What are those factors; it's an important 'factor' to this discussion?
"But we can be sure they had names, just as the brickies, chippies, plasters etc. who built my house had names."
Which totally ignores the FACT that the original composer (or composers - enough examples available of songs being made by a number of people) is irrelevant to whether or not the song is 'folk' or 'traditional'.
It is neither the content nor the style, but rather the process which makes it those things. Without that, it remains simply a composed song, attributed or anonymous. The anonymity of a song is, I'm convinced, due entirely to the fact that it has passed through so many mouths in the process of becoming part of a tradition.
As for there being a school of anonymous 'master' composers; early texts of many of the songs and ballads show no signs of mastery whatsoever. Collections such as Percy's Reliques, The Bagford Ballads, publications of The Ballad Society, even Child; and later collections like The Universal Songster, are crammed full of songs which, when they were first written, were verbose, overlong, clumsy - in fact unsingable. It was only when they were taken up by the 'folk' and subjected to the oral tradition that they earned the description of 'masterful' - as Macoll put it "like stones shaped by the motion of the sea".
Evelyn K Well's 'The Ballad Tree' has an interesting chapter on 'Ballad Imitations' - it's worth comparing the texts she gives with the real thing.
"Nannying Interference Police."
Sorry, agree with Charlie 100% - some of us obviously feel extremely strongly about this subject and a few of us have stepped over the line in our enthusiasm - me included. Apologies to all.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 21 Sep 09 - 05:32 AM

or that all music is traditional music, or that all music except folk is traditional music,

To quote Howard again: That seems to be how traditional singers treated songs, with both tune and words likely to vary from one repetition to the next. It's something which revival singers mostly appear to have lost.

To what extent can we say Folk is a Traditional Music when it is, in effect, a construct based on a concept of a traditional music operating a very significant and cultural, historical & social remove from that which was the actual context of the music in its traditional state? Of course we might discuss the conventions and affectations of The Revival as being a tradition in themselves, but that is, perhaps, a very different thing to how most folkies would think of the music they do as being traditional.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 21 Sep 09 - 05:40 AM

As long as people think the folk process and the 1954 Definition is something that makes Folk somehow different from other musics then this thread will have a point.

Oh Lord. I think Howard nailed this one a few days ago (18/9/09, 6:46):

No one is saying that folk song is any less (or any more) creative or dynamic than jazz or any other music, or that musical ideas are not passed around between musicians in other genres. However the "folk process" is most pronounced in folk music, and moreover is the defining element of folk, by which I mean traditional, music.

Someone reinterpreting a piece of classical music will go back to the score. ... The same applies to much popular music - someone wanting to make their own version will usually go back to the original rather than taking someone else's version as a starting point
...
The difference with folk music is that in many cases the singers did not have access to the original version, and perhaps didn't have the concept of a "correct" version. They took the version they heard, with the changes and improvements made by previous singers, added their own, and passed it on to other singers, who in turn added their own variations, until we ended up with several widely differing versions of the same song.

In other words, it's a question of degree. As soon as people make music there's creativity in performance, and variations arising in the moment - you can't step into the same river twice. As soon as people make music for fun there are small-f small-p folk processes going on. But "the 'folk process' is most pronounced in folk music, and moreover is the defining element of folk, by which I mean traditional, music."

So Jim Carroll gets away with it whilst Glueman must be censored?

Suggest you compare Jim Carroll's snark-to-content ratio with glueman's.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 21 Sep 09 - 05:42 AM

Oops - that's a bit hard to read. Here it is again:

As long as people think the folk process and the 1954 Definition is something that makes Folk somehow different from other musics then this thread will have a point.

Oh Lord. I think Howard nailed this one a few days ago (18/9/09, 6:46):

No one is saying that folk song is any less (or any more) creative or dynamic than jazz or any other music, or that musical ideas are not passed around between musicians in other genres. However the "folk process" is most pronounced in folk music, and moreover is the defining element of folk, by which I mean traditional, music.

Someone reinterpreting a piece of classical music will go back to the score. ... The same applies to much popular music - someone wanting to make their own version will usually go back to the original rather than taking someone else's version as a starting point
...
The difference with folk music is that in many cases the singers did not have access to the original version, and perhaps didn't have the concept of a "correct" version. They took the version they heard, with the changes and improvements made by previous singers, added their own, and passed it on to other singers, who in turn added their own variations, until we ended up with several widely differing versions of the same song.


In other words, it's a question of degree. As soon as people make music there's creativity in performance, and variations arising in the moment - you can't step into the same river twice. As soon as people make music for fun there are small-f small-p folk processes going on. But "the 'folk process' is most pronounced in folk music, and moreover is the defining element of folk, by which I mean traditional, music."

So Jim Carroll gets away with it whilst Glueman must be censored?

Suggest you compare Jim Carroll's snark-to-content ratio with glueman's.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 21 Sep 09 - 05:54 AM

To what extent can we say Folk is a Traditional Music

To what extent is anyone talking in these Big Abstractions?

I don't think Folk is anything. I just like being able to hear and sing traditional songs, and I've found that folk settings are the only places I can reliably expect to do so - so if anyone wants to define 'folk' as 'mostly but not exclusively traditional', I'm with them.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 21 Sep 09 - 06:06 AM

Suggest you compare Jim Carroll's snark-to-content ratio with glueman's.

JC uses snark as the very medium of his content, Pip - personal insults notwithstanding of course, which are the icing on his particular brand of fruitcake.

Meanwhile - I'm off this thread until Glueman is reinstated with a full apology at having been so shabbily dealt with.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 21 Sep 09 - 06:40 AM

JC uses snark as the very medium of his content, Pip

Sample JC: As for there being a school of anonymous 'master' composers; early texts of many of the songs and ballads show no signs of mastery whatsoever. Collections such as Percy's Reliques, The Bagford Ballads, publications of The Ballad Society, even Child; and later collections like The Universal Songster, are crammed full of songs which, when they were first written, were verbose, overlong, clumsy - in fact unsingable. It was only when they were taken up by the 'folk' and subjected to the oral tradition that they earned the description of 'masterful' - as Macoll put it "like stones shaped by the motion of the sea".

Evelyn K Well's 'The Ballad Tree' has an interesting chapter on 'Ballad Imitations' - it's worth comparing the texts she gives with the real thing.


I mean, I'm sorry he doesn't like your singing, but you've got to admit there's a bit of a difference between that and one of glueman's characteristic hit-and-run one-liners. (But now I'm talking to someone who's not here about someone else who's not here. Enough! or too much.)


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 21 Sep 09 - 09:04 PM

There's no way we could find moderators willing to read lengthy, quibbling threads like this one. I can tell from the onset that they're going to be troublesome. I suppose we could just bar threads like this one that look like they're going to be trouble, and that would be the end of it. But it appears that people want to talk about subjects like this, so we let them. If you wish to participate in such discussions, please be aware that they're likely to turn nasty - so your participation is at your own risk.

We moderate such threads by responding to complaints, not by reading and judging every message. I received a complaint about the messages from Glueman, so I read the last several messages he posted. They were clearly personal attacks, which are prohibited at Mudcat - whether the attacks were justified or not, is not the issue. Therefore, he was barred from this one thread, which seems like a fairly minimal penalty.

The messages from Jim Carroll were also out of line, so he received a warning. Maybe Glueman deserved the warning and Jim Carroll deserved to be barred from one thread, I don't know. Neither penalty seems particularly serious. This is hardly the end of the world. It's like calling a foul in a football match, or whatever it is that referees do on your side of the pond. I probably could have called a foul on Dick Miles and on Suibhne O'Piobaireachd, too, if I could spell his name...

Actually, this thread got to be more like a hockey game - by about the 175th post, most of the players should have been in the penalty box.

If you would like to continue this discussion, please do so in another thread and link back to this one. Maybe that will cool things down a bit.
Thank you.

-Joe Offer, Forum Moderator-
(apologies for the sports analogies)


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