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How did Folk Song start?

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Paul Reade 18 Feb 10 - 09:08 AM
MGM·Lion 18 Feb 10 - 09:18 AM
Jack Campin 18 Feb 10 - 09:37 AM
Dave the Gnome 18 Feb 10 - 09:45 AM
Paul Reade 18 Feb 10 - 09:45 AM
RTim 18 Feb 10 - 09:48 AM
Smedley 18 Feb 10 - 09:48 AM
kendall 18 Feb 10 - 09:56 AM
Charley Noble 18 Feb 10 - 09:57 AM
MikeL2 18 Feb 10 - 10:02 AM
Little Hawk 18 Feb 10 - 10:04 AM
Dave the Gnome 18 Feb 10 - 10:10 AM
IanC 18 Feb 10 - 10:22 AM
GUEST,Mr Red 18 Feb 10 - 10:28 AM
SINSULL 18 Feb 10 - 10:44 AM
frogprince 18 Feb 10 - 11:28 AM
Banjiman 18 Feb 10 - 11:38 AM
Charley Noble 18 Feb 10 - 11:50 AM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 18 Feb 10 - 11:57 AM
Steve Parkes 18 Feb 10 - 12:14 PM
Richard Bridge 18 Feb 10 - 12:27 PM
The Sandman 18 Feb 10 - 02:16 PM
Georgiansilver 18 Feb 10 - 02:23 PM
Richard Bridge 18 Feb 10 - 04:35 PM
Bert 18 Feb 10 - 05:04 PM
mg 18 Feb 10 - 05:15 PM
Darowyn 19 Feb 10 - 04:22 AM
Dave the Gnome 19 Feb 10 - 04:52 AM
Young Buchan 19 Feb 10 - 05:56 AM
theleveller 19 Feb 10 - 06:13 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 19 Feb 10 - 06:17 AM
Jack Blandiver 19 Feb 10 - 06:44 AM
greg stephens 19 Feb 10 - 06:55 AM
Gedi 19 Feb 10 - 08:10 AM
Dave the Gnome 19 Feb 10 - 08:15 AM
Tug the Cox 19 Feb 10 - 10:07 AM
Artful Codger 19 Feb 10 - 10:42 AM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 19 Feb 10 - 11:29 AM
Tim Leaning 19 Feb 10 - 06:01 PM
MartinRyan 19 Feb 10 - 06:04 PM
Tug the Cox 19 Feb 10 - 06:14 PM
The Sandman 19 Feb 10 - 06:14 PM
Tim Leaning 19 Feb 10 - 06:41 PM
Steve Gardham 19 Feb 10 - 07:00 PM
GUEST,999 19 Feb 10 - 08:09 PM
Neil D 20 Feb 10 - 01:45 AM
GUEST,999 20 Feb 10 - 11:58 AM
ruairiobroin 20 Feb 10 - 12:11 PM
Neil D 20 Feb 10 - 12:18 PM
Neil D 20 Feb 10 - 12:23 PM
Edthefolkie 20 Feb 10 - 12:28 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 20 Feb 10 - 12:32 PM
Art Thieme 20 Feb 10 - 02:51 PM
gnomad 20 Feb 10 - 04:19 PM
Tim Leaning 20 Feb 10 - 06:51 PM
Paul Reade 21 Feb 10 - 06:34 PM
mikesamwild 26 Feb 10 - 11:03 AM
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Subject: How did Folk Song start?
From: Paul Reade
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 09:08 AM

There are opinions that folk song originated as a fairly solitary art form ? the lonely ploughman or shepherd singing to pass away the long hours etc. But we humans are a social species ? we are rooks rather than ravens, and music and song have always been much more social activities.

In "The town inn and the country inn", the Saddleworth poet and writer Ammon Wrigley wrote "? just now there is a lad I know singing 'The Barley Mow' to a room full of dalesmen in an old inn on the hills ? then one would stand on the hearthstone and start a night of song with 'Come out 'tis now September' or 'Westlin winds and slaughterin' guns'".

Sounds like a great evening ? and not that different to a singaround or session on the folk scene today.

Any thoughts?


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 09:18 AM

Some songs probably started one way, some the other. "Will no one tell me what she sings?", Wordsworth wondered of the Gaelic air he heard "yon solitary Highland lass" who was "single in the field" singing at her work. No, sorry, William. Can't say. ~ But I could have told him what she wasn't singing: "The Barley Mow" ~ tho her father might well have been in the village pub the night before. Surely both strands would have coexisted right from the first, with different songs for different purposes and different occasions.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 09:37 AM

A large proportion of the traditional repertoire predates the invention of the pub, and a lot of it was created fairly recently in places where ther has never been one (like the more remote Scottish islands). So we can discount the pub singalong as a significant factor.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 09:45 AM

Most Morris tunes start with the major chord hit twice in a sort of Dah-Dah! way , followed by the A music played once. Gives time for anyone in the vicinity to run away.

Is that not what you meant?

Oh , OK...

:D


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Paul Reade
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 09:45 AM

The point I was making referred to social gatherings in general - the pub was merely an example.

Anyway, I understand that the origin of pub signs dates back to the Romans - and if they had signs they must have had pubs!


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: RTim
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 09:48 AM

The oldest symbol of a Pub was either a Bush or Tree hung up outside the establishment.

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Smedley
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 09:48 AM

Aren't most types of song rooted in rituals (religious or otherwise communal) ?


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: kendall
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 09:56 AM

Probably tribal gatherings around a fire with men bragging about killing animals.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 09:57 AM

Smedley-

I was thinking much the same thing, that the first songs would have been associated with rituals:

Memorial Services
Weddings
Celebrations associated with Seasonal Change
Celebrations dedicated to particular Gods
Celebrations associated with Hunting or Harvesting
Celebrations associated with Military Campaigns

Another class of traditional songs would have been Work Songs:

Agricultural
Home Construction

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: MikeL2
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 10:02 AM

Hi

I am no historian.....where does the "romantic" travelling minstrel fit in all this/??

I can see that he may not have started or been the creator but surley he was a relayer of music from one place to another.....or did he only exist in Robin Hood ???

cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 10:04 AM

In my opinion, folk songs started when the most primitive humanoids gathered around communal fires in the evening and chanted various chants together which they had themselves invented in order to share in the sense of community that singing naturally reinforces in people.

A chant usually involves rythym, percussion, and melody. Perhaps harmony as well. Such chants can be found among all tribal peoples, and that is probably where folk music began.

Those who learn to sing in groups will soon start singing while alone as well, in order to keep themselves company and feel better. Thus, you have the emergence of the singer-songwriter in primitive times. ;-) If he (or she) comes up with a new song or chant that he thinks is pretty good, he (or she) brings it back to the other people in the tribe, and it may become generally popular. Further proliferation of folk music!

There's one other important source of homemade music, and that is the tendency of almost all human mothers to sing lullabies and other songs to comfort an infant or small child. This soon teaches the child to sing as well. And so it goes.

I have just said what kendall said, only at more length.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 10:10 AM

Seriously - Ignore my previously flippancy:-) I should think that social gatherings came before ritual and therefore singing or music at those would have preceded ceremonial music? Work songs probably even earlier.

The order in which people prioritise there lives on the most basic level is 1) Food and drink 2) Shelter and 3) Companionship. Only once those basics have been filled will they consider anything else. So, harvesting and hunting - Yes, but only if they can share it with someone else so point 3) will have had to have been filled as well.

Makes me wonder if the first songs were communications to attract other people to join the social group or tribe? I suppose we will never know but it is a very interesting topic - Thanks for starting it.

Oh - It may be wise to drop the 'folk' bit otherwise we will get into all the shennanigans of what is folk music!

Cheers

DeG


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: IanC
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 10:22 AM

A large proportion of the traditional repertoire predates the invention of the pub, and a lot of it was created fairly recently in places where ther has never been one (like the more remote Scottish islands). So we can discount the pub singalong as a significant factor.

No we can't. There are quite a few pubs still existing in England from before 1200. Most of our existing folk song repertoire can't be traced back much before 1800. Chaucer documents people singing and playing music in the pubs of his time (1380s). The first English legislation about pubs and breweries is from the 8th Century.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: GUEST,Mr Red
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 10:28 AM

Ah! Definitions of Folk!
The Anglo-Saxons had communal story/poem/song. Some were to celebrate the memory of a leader. Some to educate the tribe. How far back should we go to find evidence?

Take "Bunch of Thyme" - clearly an educative moral tale.
"A trouper Watering his Nag" - a joke. Or an ad for the Tavern trade.
They had butter-making shanties to time the turning of the drum see also "Spinning Wheel"
And I give Waulking songs.

Not exactly solitary songs, though the "shanties" might be described thus. Sea shanties definitlely weren't.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: SINSULL
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 10:44 AM

As early as Homer travelling story tellers accompanied by a lyre provided an ancient version of the TV drama.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: frogprince
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 11:28 AM

My guess would be that it started with some guy thumping a small rock against the big rock he was sitting on, and going "Uh, uh, uh".


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Banjiman
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 11:38 AM

"My guess would be that it started with some guy thumping a small rock against the big rock he was sitting on, and going "Uh, uh, uh"."

..... but then one of the guardians of heritage said, NO, NO, NO traditionally it goes "Uh, uh, AH" how dare you offend me with that awful racket...... that's not a folk song!!!!


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 11:50 AM

Maybe it started with wolves howling at the moon.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 11:57 AM

Perhaps, Charley, it was humans mimicking the sounds of animals and birds that set man on the road to music. I imagine two Cro Magnon folks sitting in a cave around a fire might have come up with a musical paean to one of the bears or horses they drew on the cave walls. Maybe they came up with a primitive dirge when one of them passed on. The first time it became a shared experience set to some sort of tune probably qualifies as folk song. And then, there were instruments. Who first came up with that?


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 12:14 PM

Aha! Instruments: I read somewhere that earth drums have been identified going back so long they probably predate bone flutes and such. To save you the trouble of googling, see this and this.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 12:27 PM

I suspect that great narrative dramas were very early. Surely that is how we got most of what we know about Norse myth.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 02:16 PM

Jim Carroll invented it.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Georgiansilver
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 02:23 PM

Before Public Houses existed... the men in each district used to gather at each farm in turn to do the harvest........ on each Friday night... before the weekend... they would gather in the barn of the farmer whose field they were harvesting, or had harvested that week, and sup from the barrels of ale provided.............. each man (however good or bad) was expected to sing and each was applauded however good or bad for his singing. At this time, men on ships of the line were singing as they hauled in the sails or performed whatever tasks they had....
Want to know where Folk singing came from... it came from the 'everyday folk' on land or at sea who sung to pass their time of labour away and enjoyed socialising.... not afraid of 'getting it wrong' or 'not meeting the expectations of those gathered'............ Sadly those days are gone and now one has to meet a certain standard before performing to the multitudes....... People who are second rate are apparently no longer tolerated by some!!!!
I would have loved to take part in the 'socialising' of Thomas Hardys day.... just watch the film "Far From The Madding Crowd" to get some idea of how things were.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 04:35 PM

I think it was probably far older than that - and since it can readily be established that Romans had inns (using the sign of the bush) I'm a bit suspicious of your assertion "before public houses existed".


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Bert
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 05:04 PM

I guess that singing started pretty much as Kendall says.

Most likely "Folk Song" started with "The Collectors"


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: mg
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 05:15 PM

I have a feeling it was to pass on information and history of the tribe. Probably played a part in sexual selection. I imagine chants were come up with when people needed to work in synchrony..gally slaves, pyramid builders etc...not sure if early hunters or gatherers would have needed this but maybe some sort of song for people to remember where the best wapatos were etc. mg


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Darowyn
Date: 19 Feb 10 - 04:22 AM

Professor Steven Mither in "The Singing Neanderthals" argues very convincingly that communal music and singing pre-date Homo Sapiens never mind pubs!
He describes music as a form of holistic communication which occurs in primates, was developed by Neanderthals and similar hominids and is still a vital part of both culture and individual psychology in our species.
Anyone who has been around people from other parts of the world will have had that wonderful feeling of being able to play music along with people whose language you do not speak a word of.
Many modern psychological studies speak of the way in which music and song is hard wired into our brains- "Your Brain on Music", for example.
I think it started many thousands of years before anything close to a modern human started wondering what was over the hill to the north of a little valley in Kenya.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 19 Feb 10 - 04:52 AM

My guess would be that it started with some guy thumping a small rock against the big rock he was sitting on, and going "Uh, uh, uh".

Nah - That was heavy metal:-)

DeG


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Young Buchan
Date: 19 Feb 10 - 05:56 AM

It start 'As I roved out on a May morning'.
It always do.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: theleveller
Date: 19 Feb 10 - 06:13 AM

Question is, where will it all end?


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 19 Feb 10 - 06:17 AM

"Question is, where will it all end?"

There will be tears before bedtime, mark me.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 19 Feb 10 - 06:44 AM

If anyone's got The Ladybird Story of Music to hand there's a wonderful painting of the seminal encounter in 1903 when Cecil Sharp heard John England singing Seeds of Love. I like to think it all started there, when Cecil Sharp told Mr England he was, however so innocently, singing a Folk Song.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: greg stephens
Date: 19 Feb 10 - 06:55 AM

It probably started to coincide with the first BBC Folk Awards ceremony, I would think.
Incidentally, re Jack Campin's claim about music creation on remote Scottish island without pubs. In my experience, it is possible to buy a drink in some sort of establishment on most Scottish islands large enough to support a music making population.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Gedi
Date: 19 Feb 10 - 08:10 AM

I know the Vikings were renowned for their storytelling so I guess it's not unreasonable to suppose they also sang songs. And since they settled large parts of England, Scotland and Ireland I guess some of that tradition must have been passed down. They were also keen on a pint I believe, so maybe they started the singing/drinking thing.

Ged


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 19 Feb 10 - 08:15 AM

Actualy - Prior to it being defined in 1954 there was no such thing as folk song. It was just song :-)

DeG
(Ducking and weaving)


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Tug the Cox
Date: 19 Feb 10 - 10:07 AM

The rhythms of most traditional songs are the rhytms of work practices, so perhaps they started as aids to work. I guess they very soon were shared in public space, especially where food and drink featured.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 19 Feb 10 - 10:42 AM

The first folk song probably arose a spontaneous shouts when two cavemen where clubbing the sh** out of a banjo player.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 19 Feb 10 - 11:29 AM

I have to defer to Gedi since more than half my ancestry is Viking (at least the Danish part). Maybe they invented the "rune tune." Ah, there's nothing like a good pun - and THAT was nothing like a good pun!


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 19 Feb 10 - 06:01 PM

I somehow thought that Pubs were the places that came into being when the tax man got involved.
I had for some reason believed that apart from the coaching inns, there was a more informal sort of a set up where local women decided to make beer and some of them had people into their homes to drink it?
I also understood that drinking dens in Victorian times tended to be men only probably illegal places where the precursors of music hall
would sing play and do silly things and that it was customary for the assembled persons to give a song or to take part in communal singing.
I give no evidence for any of this because I either dreamed it or it seeped into my brain while I was asleep with Radio 4 or the world service on the radio.
Also recall vaguely a sort of stone age crypt or burial place that seemed to have been constructed for its resonant properties as well as the sunlights ability to enter at some significant time.
Any one else share these delusions?


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 19 Feb 10 - 06:04 PM

Question is, where will it all end?

January or thereabouts....

Regards


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Tug the Cox
Date: 19 Feb 10 - 06:14 PM

Lots of 'common knowledge' or as Stephen Fry has it.'General Ignorance' there Tim. There were Inns and Taverns way before pubs, drinking houses, under the sign of the 'Bush' as suggested earlier in the thread, way before that. Gin Palaces, Beer Houses, Shabeens etc of all kinds throughout history, mgoing back to at least Ancient Egyptian times, all on record and easily findable.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Feb 10 - 06:14 PM

it will all end at a football match.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 19 Feb 10 - 06:41 PM

So did folk music/song start when it was `collected`   coat time lol


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 Feb 10 - 07:00 PM

It started in about 1860. Some bloke whose name I forget wrote a load of crap and called it 'folk-songs' and published it in a book. It crops up on EBay regularly but it never gets sold.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 19 Feb 10 - 08:09 PM

"that's not a folk song!!!!"

Course not. It's a rock song (with apologies to M Ted).


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Neil D
Date: 20 Feb 10 - 01:45 AM

A 35000 year old bird-bone flute was recently found in Germany.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 20 Feb 10 - 11:58 AM

What would be neat to know is whether the holes are such that a specific scale could happen. Anything on that, Neil?


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: ruairiobroin
Date: 20 Feb 10 - 12:11 PM

It' almost impossible to date when folk song started couldn't you just date the oldest tweed jackets and add on 10 or 15 years.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Neil D
Date: 20 Feb 10 - 12:18 PM

This is how it's described in the article at scienceblogs.com:

The flute is just 8mm in diameter and has five finger holes along its 22cm length. Around each hole, there are up to four precisely carved notches, which Conard thinks were measurement markers that told the tool-maker where to chip an opening. Two deep, V-shaped notches were also carved into one end, which was presumably where its maker blew into to make sweet, prehistoric music.
Conard is working on creating a replica of the instrument, but he thinks that blowing into the instrument (without any additional mouthpiece) would have been enough. A similarly ancient swan-bone flute found elsewhere can actually be played in this way, producing four basic notes and three overtones depending on how sharply you blow. This instrument is smaller than the vulture-based model but with just three holes, it can produce a range of notes comparable to many modern flutes. Presumably the new find had an even larger range.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Neil D
Date: 20 Feb 10 - 12:23 PM

There is also a good close-up photo of it at that site. Go to google and type prehistoric bone flute.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Edthefolkie
Date: 20 Feb 10 - 12:28 PM

Here's the first close encounter between two rival Morris sides

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZieSsxPkMwk&feature=related

At this early date of course it was not possible to make bells, baldrics or indeed pewter tankards.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 20 Feb 10 - 12:32 PM

How did Folk Song start?

Dream up a 'theory' (I suppose, strictly speaking, that should be an 'hypothesis' ... ?) any 'theory' and, in the absence of any evidence, that's as good as any other 'theory'!


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 20 Feb 10 - 02:51 PM

FOLK sONG STARTED WHEN bAEZ SAT ON A STILL-WARM SEAT RECENTLY VACATED BY aLAN lOMAX. ---- a PARAPHRASE OF pETER cOOK AND dUDLEY mOORE

THE rESULT IS WHAT NOW PASSES FOR FOLK.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: gnomad
Date: 20 Feb 10 - 04:19 PM

Doesn't a horse feature in this somewhere?


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 20 Feb 10 - 06:51 PM

Neigh Lad.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: Paul Reade
Date: 21 Feb 10 - 06:34 PM

I must admit when I started this discussion didn't envisage going back as far as some contributors, to the Romans or even to pre-history.

I was thinking more on the lines of "what sort of environment did the songs we now regard as traditional come from?"

Thanks everyone for the excellent contributions though.


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Subject: RE: How did Folk Song start?
From: mikesamwild
Date: 26 Feb 10 - 11:03 AM

I reckon there was always some talented individual with a creative urge. I've known some very 'ordinary' people who were genius songwriters and musicians. Sometimes a response to a local or national event could spark off quick stuff sometimes doggerel or parody. I bit like jokes etc.

Also the influence of broadheets, street singers and a chance to make a few bob in hard times. Then cast into the great streamm to sink or swim


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