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Attracting old folks to young folk music

WFDU - Ron Olesko 16 Nov 09 - 10:53 AM
Captain Farrell 16 Nov 09 - 11:45 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 16 Nov 09 - 12:03 PM
The Villan 16 Nov 09 - 12:15 PM
Spleen Cringe 16 Nov 09 - 12:21 PM
stallion 16 Nov 09 - 12:49 PM
Stringsinger 16 Nov 09 - 12:54 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 16 Nov 09 - 01:49 PM
Stringsinger 16 Nov 09 - 02:18 PM
Folkiedave 16 Nov 09 - 02:23 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 16 Nov 09 - 02:46 PM
Mavis Enderby 16 Nov 09 - 03:35 PM
Spleen Cringe 16 Nov 09 - 03:45 PM
Phil Cooper 16 Nov 09 - 03:51 PM
GUEST,Captain Farrell 16 Nov 09 - 05:27 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 16 Nov 09 - 05:44 PM
Joe Richman 16 Nov 09 - 08:50 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 16 Nov 09 - 09:59 PM
Rabbi-Sol 16 Nov 09 - 10:45 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 16 Nov 09 - 11:12 PM
Mavis Enderby 17 Nov 09 - 02:23 AM
Bonzo3legs 17 Nov 09 - 09:19 AM
GUEST,Goodnight Gracie 17 Nov 09 - 09:47 AM
Jack Campin 17 Nov 09 - 05:56 PM
dick greenhaus 17 Nov 09 - 06:24 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 17 Nov 09 - 07:35 PM
M.Ted 17 Nov 09 - 09:23 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 17 Nov 09 - 10:27 PM
John P 17 Nov 09 - 10:53 PM
dick greenhaus 17 Nov 09 - 11:45 PM
Joe Richman 18 Nov 09 - 12:38 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 18 Nov 09 - 12:47 AM
M.Ted 18 Nov 09 - 01:24 AM
GUEST,Hilltowner 18 Nov 09 - 02:04 AM
Jack Campin 18 Nov 09 - 06:13 AM
M.Ted 18 Nov 09 - 05:08 PM
GUEST,The Folk E 18 Nov 09 - 05:30 PM
Jack Campin 18 Nov 09 - 05:45 PM
GUEST,The Folk Entertainer 18 Nov 09 - 05:53 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 18 Nov 09 - 06:05 PM
Joe Richman 18 Nov 09 - 10:16 PM
Fossil 19 Nov 09 - 03:25 AM
Captain Farrell 19 Nov 09 - 09:37 AM
Joe Richman 19 Nov 09 - 10:04 AM
Bettynh 19 Nov 09 - 12:45 PM
M.Ted 19 Nov 09 - 05:58 PM
M.Ted 19 Nov 09 - 06:07 PM
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Subject: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 10:53 AM

Yeah, yeah, yeah - I can hear it now. "It ain't folk." "It's not traditional". "Nothing but naval gazers."

Bull.

I keep seeing the hand wringing threads about how we attract young people to folk music or how the traditions are dying out, or how young people are nothing but singer-songwriters.

Bull.

The fact of life is that young people, especially in the U.S., ARE making their own brand of "folk" music.   Sure, it is NOT traditional in the sense that older generations recognize it.   You no longer have middle-class kids from Brooklyn trying to sound as if they grew up in the hollers of Kentucky 100 years ago.   They are too smart for that routine.

What you do have are young people who ARE rediscovering where the music came from and realizing that in it's original form the music was meant to be a part of their life - telling their story or providing their own entertainment for their own lifestyle.   Is it unreasonable to accept that young people in 2009 are relating music and song to their own set of circumstances - reflecting their own community?

Woody Guthrie became Woody Guthrie because of the songs he wrote. His songs reflected his own life and the lifes of his community. While a Woody Guthrie does not come around often, are we to deny singer-songwriters their own opportunity to share songs that speak to their own community?

I spent the weekend in the Catskills (actually the Shawgunks if you want to be specific) at a music conference with about 700 of my closest friends.   I can tell you with certainty - there are some incredibly talented people under the age of 30 that are making great music. They are speaking to a community that has a common connections - poltical, lifestyle, etc. - and the music they make comes from the same tradition.

Check out Tripping Lily.   Go see Matt Brown. Ellis, Joe Crookston, Greg Klyma, Jude Roberts, Anthony DaCosta, Danielle Miraglia, and so many others who are making great music.

People of my generation and older always fall into the trap of expecting the younger generations to follow the same path that we did. We rebeled against older generations and then we are wondering why younger folks do the same today?   They are making important artistic, cultural and social change with their music - all flowing from a folk vein. Look for it.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Captain Farrell
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 11:45 AM

Point taken Ron but I expect computers and the like will have to be longer in the tooth before they take over from Blacksmiths and Sailors
Best of British with that one.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 12:03 PM

Not necessarily.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: The Villan
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 12:15 PM

I do agree with you Ron.

In Britain there is an enormous amount of young musicians who are doing a brilliant job and well worth seeing.

My only concern with the younger folkies is that in quite a lot of cases the older buggers beat them on stage craft.

The young ones need time to develope those skills, but I can handle that with such a high level of musicianship.

Am I a young one at 64 :-)

Les


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 12:21 PM

Ron, I agree with you. Just because they are performing in their own kind of venues, just because they are under the radar of older folkies, just because many of them wouldn't be seen dead in a folk club, just because they are creating new music in their own take on the folk idiom(s), just because they sometimes don't play "folk" instruments, just because they don't look like folkies... DOESN'T MEAN THEY AREN'T THERE.

Most young people I know who are playing music they categorise as folk are probably even keener to distance themselves from the "official" folk scene than the "proper" folkies are to say, "that's not folk!"

Long may it continue.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: stallion
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 12:49 PM

ahhh Ron, so right. But part of that progress is finding the joy in it, two weeks ago half a dozen 18 year olds came to the session and joined in with the singing, a mixture of traditional and (Oh God do we really have to differentiate!) revivalist stuff, loved it and brought in another dozen last week, couldn't get enough. They will go away and perhaps change it and produce something of their own, it's all good stuff.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Stringsinger
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 12:54 PM

Ron, I agree with you that there are a lot of talented young songwriters out there.
They are not writing songs that are folk songs yet. Woody Guthrie was part of a tradition of songwriters that was infused by traditional American folk song singers. He borrowed from traditional sources but he also understood that music in a way a young person today is not able to. Many young songwriters, no matter how talented they are, are too young, too clever or too guided by commercial music biz interests to be cognizant of the tradition of folk music. They might compose "folklike" songs but these need to be changed, steeped in the tradition of variation, and not their "intellectual property". A folk song needs to be picked up and sung and changed by many people to be part of a traditional community.


There is nothing wrong with writing a good song. To call it a folk song, though, is presumptuous. Many of the songs that you hear are pretty good although they have a benchmark left to them from the skilled songwriters of the past such as Johnny Mercer,
Irving Berlin, Gershwin, Porter etc. There is more of a case for saying that a Mercer or Berlin song can become a folk song through variants because they have withstood the test of time.

Parodies are a form of folk music and I think that this practice should be encouraged.
I think the copyright laws may mitigate against the folk process.

"New folk music" in my opinion is an oxymoron.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 01:49 PM

"He borrowed from traditional sources but he also understood that music in a way a young person today is not able to. Many young songwriters, no matter how talented they are, are too young, too clever or too guided by commercial music biz interests to be cognizant of the tradition of folk music. They might compose "folklike" songs but these need to be changed, steeped in the tradition of variation, and not their "intellectual property". A folk song needs to be picked up and sung and changed by many people to be part of a traditional community."

Frank, by your own definition I do believe these songs and musicians are part of a traditional community. The tradition of variation is A TRADITION, and I do not believe that it is an singular reason to disscredit a song. How many people sing Woody's songs exactly the way he wrote them?   Woody also used songs from the Carter Family and other commercial sources as his base - wanting to use songs that people already had some familiarity with.   To see contemporary songwriters using Guthrie or Dylan as their base is the same process. Woody wrote "This Land is Your Land" because of what he heard in an Irving Berlin song - does this not make it a "folk" song?

There is change, there is communal songwriting going on. I'm not just talking about co-writing a song, but artists taking other songs and making changes to become their own.

It is a stereotype to say that todays artists are driven by commercial biz interests. Joel Mabus joked that he drove 750 miles for the opportunity to sing 3 songs.   There is the another joke - what do you call a folksinger without a mother or a girlfriend - homeless. I know artists that COULD make a commercial endeavor with their work, but choose to travel the country living out of their cars so that they can sing at house concerts, open mics, or other opportunites that provide them with barely enough to survive.

They are not playing for a community like the artists that thrived during the folk revival. The community has changed and if anything is less commercial than what was produced during the revival. The needs are real, the communication is real - and the community and tradition is real.   Tradition changes, new traditions begin and old ones evolve with the times. Folk music does not play to a museum.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Stringsinger
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 02:18 PM

Hi Ron,

I don't want to discredit any song. A tradition has history behind it and that is not written overnight. It has to be distilled like water flowing over rocks in a stream.

Not many sing Woody's songs the way he actually played them. But they endure over time. When I first heard "This Land" it was not popular then in the early Fifties. But over the decade it spread like a forest fire and every school kid throughout the world knows it.
I've rewritten some verses and changed it around a little.

Woody's use of the Carter Family songs and the borrowing from traditional sources
did not all become folk songs automatically. Some are unknown today. "This Land"
was not played that much on the radio or TV. It had a quality which endured over time.
It was taken up and changed in a folk process which is unlike penning a song today and calling it a folk song. "God Bless America" might be closer to being a folk song if it were changed and repeated a lot. It's been around for a while. Berlin himself would have stood in the way of it becoming a folk song by not allowing it to grow and change.

Using other writers as a base for their own compositions doesn't qualify today's singer/songwriters to write folk songs. There is no history of adaptation and acceptance there. They have not yet been taken up by a community independent of radio and tv.
What you refer to as a community of singer/songwriters is too small to be classified
as a cultural sub-group such as blues singers or Appalachian trad singers.

It's one thing to take a song, change it and make it your own and another to have it accepted as a folk song. A lot has to do with not only transcending a time period but what it actually has to say and to whom it refers.

Joel Mabus is a very fine songwriter but I wonder how he would feel if any of his songs
were changed and then were transferred to public domain?

Not all songwriters of course are driven by commercial concerns but most feel a proprietary interest in their creations and would be unhappy to see them return in a condition that they would feel would be bowdlerized.

The fact that people are in a kind of smaller music biz such as house concerts, open mics and other venues doesn't mean that they are singing folk songs. Their motivation is to have their songs heard and there's nothing wrong with that. They may choose not to go for the brass ring but work as independent songwriting artists. New traditions in order to qualify as a tradition have to have some space and time to become traditional. You can't manufacture a folk tradition. It grows in an evolutionary way.

The reason folk music survives is because it is not created to play in a museum.
Museum concerts are pretty rare these days anyhow and it's not just folk songs that
are played there by those purporting to be authentic folk singers.

Ron, give me an example of what you would consider to be a "contemporary folk song".
I'll listen to it and respond to you.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Folkiedave
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 02:23 PM

Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Spleen Cringe - PM
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 12:21 PM

What he said.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 02:46 PM

Frank - I agree with most of what you said in your last post.

There is the TRADITIONAL definition of "folk music" and there is a CONTEMPORARY definition. Woody Guthrie probably fits in with the latter, but not necessarily the former based on established criteria of academia.

I do think that "history" is a factor, yet Woody was also recognized during the folk revival as were people like Dylan, Ochs and company as being "folk musicians". Most would not fit your above definition, but all would fit a broader study of what was going on at the time.

It is true that these are NOT traditional songs and they represent a commercial song, but I argue that what was being sung back in the 1960's was playing to a certain community and fits the description that you wrote earlier. Same as today.

I do disagree with you about the "cultural sub-group" that makes up the community for contemporary folk music. It is bigger than you are giving it credit for, and you only have to attend the various festivals to witness it.

It is NOT about manufacturing a tradition, it is an evolution of existing traditions. I highly respect your opinions and knowledge Frank, and what you are saying is exactly what I am seeing in what people are labeling as "singer-songwriter". There is more tradition at play than what you are giving credit to.

Listen to Pat Humprhries "Swimming to the Other Side", which is a song from the 90's but has become more and more recognized.   I would add Dave Carter's "When I Go", Steve Earle's "Christmas in Washington", Tom Chapin/John McCutcheon/Michael Marks "Follow the Light" - just a few songs that I see being adopted by the existing folk community.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Mavis Enderby
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 03:35 PM

Ron, thanks for starting this thread. I've been following the "last generation" thread and wondering what planet some of these people are on!

Pete.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 03:45 PM

Why, thank you, FD. The pleasure's all mine...(Specially when I get to one of the gigs!).


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 03:51 PM

I do like what I've heard of younger musicians either writing new songs based on older traditional forms, or re-interpreting traditional songs in interesting ways. With the re-interpreting older songs in mind, I think of Shirley Collins' statement that she never thought she did a disservice to the music with what she did (either with early music or electric arrangements).


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: GUEST,Captain Farrell
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 05:27 PM

We really do have a wealth of talent among the younger players but I feel that most but not all songs need the weight of History behind them.One more point in England the average performer is much much younger than the people watching.How do we get younger people to help fill the venues.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 05:44 PM

"How do we get younger people to help fill the venues."

Speaking for the U.S., they are filling venues, probably not the ones that older generations went to.   From what I find, young people like to be in more interactive rooms, not the listening rooms that are traditional here in the U.S.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Joe Richman
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 08:50 PM

Woody Guthrie issued records on Victor that are listed in Tony Russell's discography of Country Music. His cousin Jack Guthrie recorded Country hits in the Western Swing genre including a reworking of "Oklahoma Hills" The relationship between commercial Country music and Folk music has been an off and on thing for many years. I do remember seeing both Johnny Cash and Bill Monroe on ABCs "Hootenanny" show (which was an attempt by mainstream media to cash in on the Folk music "fad" of the early 60s as those of us over 55 remember).

I don't know exactly how Folk purists all feel about Country music, as I hang out with non-purists and Old Timey players who are very aware of the early commercial Country records. There is more than a generational gap here. Political or apolitical considerations, religious, regional and class differences are all involved. All of the young musicians I know well are playing Rock or Country-Rock or Rock-Gospel. With Old-Time or Bluegrass, you see a fairly big number of young performers at festivals that have a format for showcasing new artists. I live in suburban Southern California which isn't a hotbed of that kind of music. I go to a Folk/Old Time/whatever jam that is made up of mostly guys my age. We'd love to get some younger guys & gals into the circle but I guess we just don't want to work at it. (I don't run the group, and maybe they are trying to expand it more than I know.) I don't get any invites to go to younger musicians' jams. Maybe they think I'm a lousy player, or that the stuff I play is weird. (Well as a matter of fact I like weird, so there!)

Joe R.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 09:59 PM

Grand Concept could not encourage it more...

Across the USA...connected to major universities...there are "Senior U's" and "OHSA - Occupational Health and Safety (AKA worker's comp)and OLLIE...

They are ALL Life-Long Learning Institutes ... seniors inter-mixed with those sometimes a half-century younger. The older members (USA) number in the hundreds-of-thousands.

How can you discover them?...I don't know.

It sort of reminds me of the Masonic...2B1C1

The "Perqs" that go with a minimal senior fee are astounding....but it includes free admission to student concerts/lectures/library/bus etc.

It is hard to tell...who it is better for...the seniors...or the youth relating to elders that are not their parents, or professors, nor those seeking a protege'.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Rabbi-Sol
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 10:45 PM

Yes Ron. We have a wonderful crop of young singer/songwriters on the folk scene today and I agree that what they are creating is great folk music. And I see in my venue as well as in others that I attend that the older folks do enjoy their music.

However, as my wife Fay pointed out after reading your initial post on this thread, they are not attracting YOUNGER AUDIENCES and therein lies the problem.

If they can not attract younger audiences to their type of "folk" music, they are going to have to go more towards punk rock & heavy metal just to make a living.

What happens when we, the Geritol generation, are no longer on the scene? Who will be there to listen?

SOL


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 16 Nov 09 - 11:12 PM

Sol, I think the problem is that the old-style venues are not the places that will attract younger audiences. Young kids do not want to hang out at a club with old farts like us or sit in their parents living room. They want to be with their peers and their venues are usually places where they can party, not listening rooms.    Let's face it, when we were in our 20's we really did not want to hang out in places that were associated with older generations either.

Check out Falcon Ridge, or the Rockwood Music Hall or venues that might not seem like your average folk club. Young fans are out there.

There is also a factor that folk music as we know it usually attracts older audiences. I was speaking with the booker for Cafe Lena and she told me that the average age at Lena's (running since 1961) is between 45 and 70. She also told me that it has been 45 to 70 for the last 15 years. I'm 52 and I was too young for the folk revival and really did not fully embrace the music until I was in my 20's.

This hand wringing about not getting young people interested has been going on for decades. The folk revival in this country began in the early part of the 20th century when people began to feel they would lose their traditions. Folk Festivals date back to the late 1880s and started to blossom in the 1930's. People have always worried that it would die out, and here we are.

Everyone needs to loosen their sphincters, there is nothing to worry about. Keep on making music, keep on presenting music. Water finds it's own level.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Mavis Enderby
Date: 17 Nov 09 - 02:23 AM

I can only speak for the festivals I've been to in England in the last 3 or 4 years, but there is usually a good age range present, with younger people well represented both on and off stage. I really don't see a problem!

Pete.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 17 Nov 09 - 09:19 AM

"Old" meaning??????????? Agreat number of 20 year olds sound very old!

Presumably over 90s?


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: GUEST,Goodnight Gracie
Date: 17 Nov 09 - 09:47 AM

I agree with Ron that there are many great young musicians out there that are not strict interpreters of traditional music. There are also some great young artists steeped in the tradition. Elizabeth Laprelle comes to mind. FYI, Matt Brown will be performing with Bruce Hutton in Washington D.C. this coming Friday, November 20th, at the Washington Ethical Society, at 8 p.m. This is a FSGW-sponsored event. For more information go to FSGW's website at fsgw.org.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Jack Campin
Date: 17 Nov 09 - 05:56 PM

What I see locally is that there are quite a lot of youngish people doing singer-songwriter music in exactly the same American-commercial-country idiom my generation invented (I'm 60). Unsurprisingly, since they're doing the same stuff and this guy and this lass are better-looking than this bloke and this woman, they have no problem at all attracting an audience of people my age (that audience doesn't include me, just as it didn't 40 years ago).

There are also a lot of young performers doing mostly-instrumental music in basically traditional Scottish idiom. They also attract a multigenenerational audience, which I am part of. The fact that you can dance to their stuff helps.

What we don't have much of is younger performers doing traditional song. More of it in Gaelic, with people like Julie Fowlis and Rachel Walker. Not a lot in Scots; perhaps simply because there is a big tradition of danceable Gaelic song and only a much smaller one of Scots songs you can boogie to. And you certainly can't dance to ballads.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 17 Nov 09 - 06:24 PM

Ron-
"There is the TRADITIONAL definition of "folk music" and there is a CONTEMPORARY definition." Just what is your definition?


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 17 Nov 09 - 07:35 PM

I explained my definition many times in this thread. There is traditional folk and contemporary folk.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: M.Ted
Date: 17 Nov 09 - 09:23 PM

No, Ron, you tossed a lot of generalities around, and, no argument, did it with great vigor, but as far as giving any criteria for figuring out what constitutes "contemporary folk", how to differentiate it from contemporary singer/songwriter stuff, or how it might be connected to
"traditional" folk music of one kind or another, you haven't done it--


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 17 Nov 09 - 10:27 PM

Sorry you found my posts to be "generalities", I guess some people need to see things in black and white. I talked about community and tradition above, but I guess you need to read it again.

The problem is, "FOLK MUSIC" has not and will never be pinned down to a single definition. Nor will rock, jazz, and classical.

To me, Contemporary folk is a musical style, born out of the efforts of the folk revival. Traditional folk is not a specific style, it is the study of various cultures and their traditions and their music.

There IS a community that contemporary folk music serves, and if you want a description - go to Kerrville, Falcon Ridge, or Philadelphia folk fests and immerse yourself in the community that supports this music.

As I stated before, this is NOT traditional music, but a tradition that was created decades ago - much the same way other traditions were born.

I agree with most of the definition that others use for determining "traditional" music, except I feel that the "oral tradition" aspect is overblown and largely a factor of the technology of the times. People passed songs along, and altered them, and used the best means necessary - passing them along orally. If the phonograph was discovered 100 years earlier, would the "tradition" have died out sooner?

Feel free to pick apart my definitions.   I really do not pay much attention to them. I should follow Roz Larmen's definition - if I play it, it's folk. I'm less concerned about pedigree and more concerned about content. There is a large community that "gets it", I only hope that you might step back and see the same.

Sorry if this is still to "general" for you.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: John P
Date: 17 Nov 09 - 10:53 PM

A good song is a good song, I don't care who wrote it or how old they are. A good musician is always a joy to behold, no matter the genre. Young people, like old people, include a lot of good musicians and a lot of bad musicians. Far too many young people I've seen that are doing what they think of as folk are a bit full of themselves, but so are a fair number of old people. Like young people always, they think no one before has ever done whatever is they are doing.

I don't consider any of it folk if it was just written, but I know that's not what most of the world thinks. I do notice, however, that a songwriter with a budget sounds just like a pop band or a country band. Where's the folk in that? How is a "contemporary folk" songwriter any different than any other songwriter, like one who writes for a rock band or who writes pop hits? Is there some qualitative difference, musical difference, thematic difference?


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 17 Nov 09 - 11:45 PM

Ron-
Let me put it a different way. What kind of music won't you play on your program? And where do you draw a line?


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Joe Richman
Date: 18 Nov 09 - 12:38 AM

No less an authority than Chuck Berry defined Rock music as having a back beat (you can't lose it). Nearly all Rock is 4/4 with a back beat, although there are a few songs that stray from that. Blues differs in that it doesn't necessarily have a back beat and isn't necessarily 4/4.   ("To bring the funk you gotta beat on the one" attributed to James Brown.) ( "I put a Spell on You"... one two three... one two three... bump... Screamin' Jay Hawkins.)

I play a lot of tunes that are 2/4 or cut time. I also play 3/4 and 6/8 stuff that is definitely not Rock. Bluegrass breakdowns (which I don't play) are, I am told, 3/4 pieces sped up to 2/4. As an American old time (sort of) banjo player, I syncopate most of my tunes. I really enjoy listening to unsyncopated folk singing, especially that sung unaccompanied. I am bored to death with constant 4/4 with a back beat, but many younger musicians can't seem to wean themselves off it. (Celtic groups are not part of the discussion in my post as I am only dealing with my own musical heritage and I'm not Celtic.)

That being said, I never tell people what to play at jams or make a fuss after the fact over musical styles. I'm just happy to see someone giving it a try.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Nov 09 - 12:47 AM

Commercial pop, most rock, country, showtunes are among the styles I do not play.

I know it sounds ambiguous, but I do see common threads from traditional balladry to SOME of the songs of contemporary singer-songwriters. I also see these songs being utilized in the same fashion that traditional songs were used in their communities.

I think most people would consider "blues" to be a folk music. Yet that music did not exist until the late 1800's and early 1900's - but the roots go back.

There is also the same issues with most of the songs created during the folk revival. Still, it created a "style" that the public refers to as "folk". Might not be the best word, but it the word that has been adopted - and the roots do stretch back.

Yes, I do realize that you can interpret that to be "everything is folk", but we both know that is not true.

Young people are respecting the traditions, learning the traditions, and making their own. This music is not in trouble.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: M.Ted
Date: 18 Nov 09 - 01:24 AM

I'm with JohnP on this--for it to be folk, it's got to be taken over by some collection of folks and worked around till it fits their own purposes. That doesn't happen just because the writer wants it to, in fact, it can happen in spite of what the author wants. As to what constitutes a group of folks, well, your mileage may vary.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: GUEST,Hilltowner
Date: 18 Nov 09 - 02:04 AM

I agree with M.Ted. Also, I think it's fair to say that "folk music" is music which is picked up and learned and sung and re-sung by "ordinary" people who don't think of themselves as musicians, by people who can just about carry a tune and/or play an instrument passably well. The style, the formal characteristics, are not so critical. What *is* important is that folks want to participate in it. Folk music isn't primarily about performance, it's about community.

From this point of view, I think that a lot of contemporary singer/songwriter music doesn't pass that particular test. A great deal of it is not very "tuneful," and lyrics often have a hermetic character. Consequently a lot of these songs are hard to learn and hard to sing. That doesn't make it bad music, it may be performed well by its creators, but it's not likely to be the stuff of a participatory community musical experience.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Jack Campin
Date: 18 Nov 09 - 06:13 AM

Whether it's likely to pass into oral tradition isn't relevant to Ron's question. He was asking about what sort of audience it got, or could get. The label "contemporary folk" does in fact identify it to most English-speaking people who might be interested, and agonizing about whether it's "folk" is like complaining that vegetarian haggis isn't haggis.

There have been no innovations in the genre for forty years. The stuff now being put out by singer-songwriters in their 20s sounds indistinguishable from what singer-songwriters in their 20s were producing in 1970. So it has no problem attracting an audience of wrinklies. Whether it can attract much of a youthful one is more dubious.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: M.Ted
Date: 18 Nov 09 - 05:08 PM

When Jack Campin comes into the room, I leave.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: GUEST,The Folk E
Date: 18 Nov 09 - 05:30 PM

"No, Ron, you tossed a lot of generalities around, and, no argument, did it with great vigor, but as far as giving any criteria for figuring out what constitutes "contemporary folk", how to differentiate it from contemporary singer/songwriter stuff, or how it might be connected to
"traditional" folk music of one kind or another, you haven't done it-"

Very well stated and very true.

Ron, it's appearing that it's folk music because YOU say so. It is appearing more and more to be self serving to your radio efforts. I've heard your radio show. Unfortunately I've turned it off before to listen to some folk music.

Sometimes I think it becomes folk music when it's covered by others. It spreads the word about the song. It's heard by more than one artist's audience. Maybe that's the community you should be referring to.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Jack Campin
Date: 18 Nov 09 - 05:45 PM

I have been listening to a few of the acts Ron mentioned. Danielle Miraglia - white girl sings the blues, same as Janis Joplin or Patti Smith. I guess she'll pick whichever genre description her agent wants and carry on doing the same stuff.

But Tripping Lily??? they're a younger version of Janet Klein, i.e. they're doing something highly specific that you'd expect to have a name of its own (though I don't know what it is). Why on earth would they want to call themselves "folk" of any sort?


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: GUEST,The Folk Entertainer
Date: 18 Nov 09 - 05:53 PM

"Why on earth would they want to call themselves "folk" of any sort?"

Why? To get played on a Folk Music Radio show.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Nov 09 - 06:05 PM

Sure, why not?   Folk radio, folk festivals,and folk audiences are not so close minded and realize that the movement has moved forward.

I think we've established that this musis has no appeal to most of the posters on Mudcat. The world still spins, the music still gets heard. You are all entitled to your opinions, but that makes neither of us correct.

There IS a music scene going on, it embraces the word "FOLK" for reasons that you many of you refuse to consider. You had a wonderful scene back in your day - but it wasn't "folk" either based on the definitions that you put forward.

Folk Entertainer - If you can seriously call Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot or Peter Paul & Mary "folk" as you have in other threads, and then deny the label to contemporary music - you are creating your own specific definition that relates to your own world.

I guess the recent posts have proved the point I originally set out to make - old people like yourselves are not receptive to new songs and new ideas. You wish young people would embrace the world that existed when you were young.   You fall into the trap of trying to live again through another generation instead of letting them do their one thing.   You were so good at rebeling against the "status quo" in your day, but now you have eased back into the easy chair and become EXACTLY what you rebelled against.

Sorry for the rant.   Thank you all for opening the doors and saving the music.   Time to let another generation make their impact. Call it whatever you want. It's damn good and made by good folks.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Joe Richman
Date: 18 Nov 09 - 10:16 PM

I'm coming to the conclusion that there really isn't any such thing as Folk Music, only folk performers. I have only a rudimentary musical education, but my posts are the only ones that used any actual musical terminology. Do I think that if it is 4/4 with a back beat it isn't "Folk"? Of course not. When I play "Jingle Bell Rock" it is Folk because I am basically a folk musician, playing for my amusement and the amusement of my friends. The young man across the street who puts together a garage band to do Blues and Punk Rock is also a folk musician when he just rocks the neighborhood and can't get a record deal. Do I like his music? Yes, I like the Blues numbers I hear. His band is only as good as the weakest player in each jam (the players vary from jam to jam) who usually is the drummer.   That's why we old type string band folk musicians can be so smug. We don't need to find a decent drummer.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Fossil
Date: 19 Nov 09 - 03:25 AM

I never read such a lot of anal lets-slot-things-into-little-boxes and call it "folk" (holy) or "contemporary" (devilish) in my life.

*any* person writing or playing - well, let's call it 'acoustic" rather than "electric" music, will be drawing on some sort of folk tradition. The fact that it doesn't date from the sixties or ealier, doesn't invalidate what these glorious young musicians and singers are doing.

I'll listen to anyone (m or f) who has the gonads to stand up in front of a live audience and strut their stuff without electronic backup or anything bar a guitar pickup and a mike to sing into. No backup tracks, no dubbed solos, no fakery, just clean pure music and song.

There are endless people out there doing just that.

Let's not intimidate anyone - standing in front of any audience will do that for you in a flash. Welcome all you new kids on the block, sing and play whatever you like. Those of us who like real-live-music will be there. Those who don't can retreat into the Folk Song citadel and pull up the drawbridge. And starve to death


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Captain Farrell
Date: 19 Nov 09 - 09:37 AM

Well said Fossil.But singers of Trad folk usually can pick out really good songs/tunes that have stood the test of time.Thats why some are done to death because they are so good.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Joe Richman
Date: 19 Nov 09 - 10:04 AM

I don't think Bob Dylan's music changed much when he bought an electric guitar. Just the amplitude.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: Bettynh
Date: 19 Nov 09 - 12:45 PM

Listen to the audience in this clip from The Great Big Sea: Donkey Riding
My son gave me their album and I was surprised to hear a song I hadn't heard since I was a Girl Scout in the late 50's. Maybe because I wasn't looking toward rock arena venues?
His latest gift was Gogol Bordello which sounds like klezmer music to me. I don't know klezmer music well, but I'll bet this group doesn't play in traditional halls. The music is out there and with a worldwide audience, I think it will be for a long time.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: M.Ted
Date: 19 Nov 09 - 05:58 PM

Do you play Gogol Bordello on your show, Ron? How about Yuri Yunakov? That's the real contemporary folk music--with roots in real, tradtional Eastern European Rom music and high energy audiences that are way under 40.


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Subject: RE: Attracting old folks to young folk music
From: M.Ted
Date: 19 Nov 09 - 06:07 PM

Check out Yuri Yunakov in New York


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