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What defines a traditional song?

Related threads:
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Rog Peek 10 Mar 10 - 06:25 PM
Ebbie 10 Mar 10 - 06:32 PM
michaelr 10 Mar 10 - 06:35 PM
Jeri 10 Mar 10 - 06:37 PM
Suegorgeous 10 Mar 10 - 07:01 PM
MartinRyan 10 Mar 10 - 07:19 PM
Art Thieme 10 Mar 10 - 07:31 PM
Joe Offer 10 Mar 10 - 07:40 PM
Tootler 10 Mar 10 - 07:40 PM
GUEST,mg 10 Mar 10 - 08:01 PM
theleveller 11 Mar 10 - 04:03 AM
Richard Bridge 11 Mar 10 - 04:43 AM
Paul Reade 11 Mar 10 - 05:12 AM
Mr Happy 11 Mar 10 - 06:11 AM
Dave the Gnome 11 Mar 10 - 06:21 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 11 Mar 10 - 06:39 AM
GUEST,Guest, guessed 11 Mar 10 - 06:51 AM
glueman 11 Mar 10 - 07:01 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 11 Mar 10 - 07:06 AM
Steve Gardham 11 Mar 10 - 02:17 PM
Brian Peters 11 Mar 10 - 02:30 PM
Joe Offer 11 Mar 10 - 02:32 PM
Bill D 11 Mar 10 - 02:53 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 11 Mar 10 - 03:10 PM
MissouriMud 11 Mar 10 - 03:22 PM
The Sandman 11 Mar 10 - 04:18 PM
Rog Peek 11 Mar 10 - 05:55 PM
Richard Bridge 11 Mar 10 - 06:05 PM
Jim Carroll 11 Mar 10 - 07:02 PM
JeffB 11 Mar 10 - 07:30 PM
Rog Peek 12 Mar 10 - 01:46 AM
The Sandman 12 Mar 10 - 04:34 AM
MikeL2 12 Mar 10 - 05:11 AM
Jim Carroll 12 Mar 10 - 05:19 AM
glueman 12 Mar 10 - 06:29 AM
MGM·Lion 12 Mar 10 - 06:51 AM
Jack Blandiver 12 Mar 10 - 07:05 AM
Mavis Enderby 12 Mar 10 - 07:36 AM
The Sandman 12 Mar 10 - 08:00 AM
Mavis Enderby 12 Mar 10 - 09:35 AM
MikeL2 12 Mar 10 - 11:25 AM
Bonzo3legs 12 Mar 10 - 11:51 AM
Richard Bridge 12 Mar 10 - 12:08 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 12 Mar 10 - 02:12 PM
Richard Bridge 12 Mar 10 - 02:36 PM
Jim Carroll 12 Mar 10 - 02:59 PM
Steve Gardham 12 Mar 10 - 04:13 PM
Jim Carroll 12 Mar 10 - 04:24 PM
The Sandman 12 Mar 10 - 05:41 PM
Steve Gardham 12 Mar 10 - 05:48 PM
the Folk Police 12 Mar 10 - 06:45 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 12 Mar 10 - 08:45 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 12 Mar 10 - 08:56 PM
Darowyn 13 Mar 10 - 04:38 AM
Jim Carroll 13 Mar 10 - 07:37 AM
The Sandman 13 Mar 10 - 11:29 AM
Jim Carroll 14 Mar 10 - 04:04 AM
GUEST,Abdul The Bul Bul on his laptop 14 Mar 10 - 04:33 AM
Dave Hanson 14 Mar 10 - 04:50 AM
glueman 14 Mar 10 - 05:35 AM
Jim Carroll 14 Mar 10 - 05:47 AM
Darowyn 14 Mar 10 - 10:44 AM
GUEST,Stringsinger 14 Mar 10 - 12:38 PM
GUEST,Suibhne (Astray) 14 Mar 10 - 01:18 PM
GUEST,Abdul the Laptop on his Bul Bul 14 Mar 10 - 01:36 PM
Jim Carroll 14 Mar 10 - 04:00 PM
Steve Gardham 14 Mar 10 - 05:10 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 14 Mar 10 - 05:13 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 14 Mar 10 - 05:19 PM
Jack Blandiver 14 Mar 10 - 05:26 PM
Amos 14 Mar 10 - 05:36 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 14 Mar 10 - 05:38 PM
Bert 14 Mar 10 - 05:42 PM
Steve Gardham 14 Mar 10 - 07:43 PM
Jim Carroll 14 Mar 10 - 10:39 PM
glueman 15 Mar 10 - 06:02 AM
Jim Carroll 15 Mar 10 - 06:18 AM
Jim Carroll 15 Mar 10 - 06:29 AM
Jack Blandiver 15 Mar 10 - 06:36 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 15 Mar 10 - 07:06 AM
glueman 15 Mar 10 - 07:37 AM
MGM·Lion 15 Mar 10 - 08:08 AM
Brian Peters 15 Mar 10 - 08:12 AM
glueman 15 Mar 10 - 08:30 AM
Jim Carroll 15 Mar 10 - 08:39 AM
glueman 15 Mar 10 - 08:54 AM
GUEST,Ralphie 15 Mar 10 - 09:04 AM
Jim Carroll 15 Mar 10 - 09:19 AM
Bert 15 Mar 10 - 11:04 AM
Steve Gardham 15 Mar 10 - 11:14 AM
glueman 15 Mar 10 - 11:30 AM
Brian Peters 15 Mar 10 - 01:08 PM
GUEST 15 Mar 10 - 01:32 PM
GUEST,surreysinger at work 15 Mar 10 - 01:32 PM
Jim Carroll 15 Mar 10 - 02:03 PM
Brian Peters 15 Mar 10 - 02:44 PM
glueman 15 Mar 10 - 02:45 PM
Brian Peters 15 Mar 10 - 03:03 PM
Jack Blandiver 15 Mar 10 - 03:36 PM
Jack Blandiver 15 Mar 10 - 03:37 PM
Jim Carroll 15 Mar 10 - 04:01 PM
glueman 15 Mar 10 - 04:23 PM
Surreysinger 15 Mar 10 - 04:25 PM
Phil Edwards 15 Mar 10 - 06:14 PM
Jim Carroll 15 Mar 10 - 06:31 PM
Jim Carroll 15 Mar 10 - 06:37 PM
glueman 15 Mar 10 - 06:45 PM
Jim Carroll 15 Mar 10 - 06:49 PM
glueman 15 Mar 10 - 06:58 PM
glueman 15 Mar 10 - 07:11 PM
Bill D 15 Mar 10 - 08:05 PM
Bert 15 Mar 10 - 08:05 PM
Bill D 15 Mar 10 - 08:06 PM
Jim Carroll 15 Mar 10 - 08:15 PM
Steve Gardham 15 Mar 10 - 08:54 PM
glueman 16 Mar 10 - 04:35 AM
Jim Carroll 16 Mar 10 - 04:56 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 16 Mar 10 - 07:38 AM
Steve Gardham 16 Mar 10 - 12:22 PM
The Sandman 16 Mar 10 - 01:38 PM
Steve Gardham 16 Mar 10 - 02:09 PM
Howard Jones 16 Mar 10 - 02:38 PM
Goose Gander 16 Mar 10 - 03:12 PM
Stringsinger 16 Mar 10 - 03:18 PM
glueman 16 Mar 10 - 03:59 PM
Steve Gardham 16 Mar 10 - 04:41 PM
glueman 16 Mar 10 - 05:15 PM
Jim Carroll 16 Mar 10 - 05:46 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 16 Mar 10 - 06:42 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 16 Mar 10 - 06:53 PM
Steve Gardham 16 Mar 10 - 07:05 PM
Jim Carroll 16 Mar 10 - 08:14 PM
glueman 17 Mar 10 - 04:06 AM
Jim Carroll 17 Mar 10 - 04:45 AM
GUEST,Ralphie 17 Mar 10 - 05:05 AM
glueman 17 Mar 10 - 05:16 AM
Howard Jones 17 Mar 10 - 05:51 AM
Jim Carroll 17 Mar 10 - 06:15 AM
glueman 17 Mar 10 - 06:25 AM
Jim Carroll 17 Mar 10 - 07:11 AM
Brian Peters 17 Mar 10 - 07:24 AM
GUEST,Ralphie 17 Mar 10 - 07:28 AM
glueman 17 Mar 10 - 08:00 AM
Jim Carroll 17 Mar 10 - 08:39 AM
glueman 17 Mar 10 - 09:03 AM
Jim Carroll 17 Mar 10 - 09:22 AM
GUEST,Ralphie 17 Mar 10 - 09:23 AM
glueman 17 Mar 10 - 09:29 AM
Jim Carroll 17 Mar 10 - 10:41 AM
Jim Carroll 17 Mar 10 - 12:10 PM
glueman 17 Mar 10 - 12:26 PM
Jim Carroll 17 Mar 10 - 12:49 PM
glueman 17 Mar 10 - 01:03 PM
Jim Carroll 17 Mar 10 - 02:13 PM
glueman 17 Mar 10 - 02:33 PM
Steve Gardham 17 Mar 10 - 05:57 PM
EBarnacle 17 Mar 10 - 06:41 PM
Richard Bridge 17 Mar 10 - 07:45 PM
Jim Carroll 17 Mar 10 - 10:04 PM
Jim Carroll 17 Mar 10 - 10:23 PM
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Subject: What defines a traditional song?
From: Rog Peek
Date: 10 Mar 10 - 06:25 PM

Is it the subject matter? the style? when it was written?.........
I'm sure this must have been discussed before, but 'search' turned up nothing.

Rog


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Ebbie
Date: 10 Mar 10 - 06:32 PM

I'm interested too. At this point, I am assuming it is when it's an OLD song and the author is unknown...


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: michaelr
Date: 10 Mar 10 - 06:35 PM

You have got to be kidding.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jeri
Date: 10 Mar 10 - 06:37 PM

shoot me

(No, not YOU!)


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 10 Mar 10 - 07:01 PM

oh god.....


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 10 Mar 10 - 07:19 PM

Search again...... please!

Regards


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 10 Mar 10 - 07:31 PM

Yes!


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 10 Mar 10 - 07:40 PM

What defines a traditional song? Why, the 1954 rule, of course!
That is, unless you don't accept the 1954 rule...then you can talk a look at the list of threads above, and take your pick.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Tootler
Date: 10 Mar 10 - 07:40 PM

Look through some of the threads listed before the original post. There is plenty there.

Be warned you may well end up more confused than when you started.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 10 Mar 10 - 08:01 PM

Well, I for one would tell you if I knew, and I don't care how many threads have gone on before on the subject. It is always worth revisiting central topics and getting new inputs and fresh perspectives. Unfortunately, I don't know...who sings it, how long it has been sung, subject matter perhaps. mg


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: theleveller
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 04:03 AM

I think we have finally discovered the never-ending topic. I'm rapidly losing the will to live.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 04:43 AM

Please! The 1954 definition is of "folk". This enquiry is as to the meaning of the word "traditional". Is there any reason it should not be given its dictionary definition?


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Paul Reade
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 05:12 AM

It seems relatively easy to define what is not traditional, so why not assume anything that does not fit that definition must, by default, be traditional.

Then we can all carry on with our lives, making and listening to music etc.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 06:11 AM

Don't know if this has been asked before:

When was it decided, & by who, that some songs were 'traditional' & others not?

Must have been before 1954


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 06:21 AM

Well, traditionaly, in song, the noise comes out of the mouth. If it comes out of the other end it is probably not a song. Unless your name is Le Pétomane.

:D (eG)


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 06:39 AM

'Traditional song' is a body of old songs, often, but not always of uncertain origin, which certain people within the UK folk community would like to discard and replace with something more akin to contemporary popular song. Why they should want to do this is a more interesting question - but I doubt whether they have sufficient imagination to provide a convincing answer.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: GUEST,Guest, guessed
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 06:51 AM

Isn't a traditional song one sung by a whores hoarse horse?


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 07:01 AM

Rog Peek, nobody knows. The one consistent 100% authentic fact about folk is everyone thinks they know but nobody really does. It's all things to all people and that's part of the reason it has lasted so long.
If anyone says they know - they're lying.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 07:06 AM

There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of folk
who are better qualified than any of us to determine what is traditional song.
Unfortunately they have all been dead for many decades.

Whereas me and my mates are still alive and make our own new traditions...


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 02:17 PM

I'm sure most of us would happily accept whatever it says in the dictionaries..............................


.........he said mischievously.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 02:30 PM

I was going to say that, Steve. To develop your point, I've taken out a rather fat dictionary, and I find that the first meaning of 'tradition' is "the action of handing over". A bit lower down it says "the delivery, esp. oral delivery, of information or instruction", and still further on it talks about "the act of handing down, from one to another, or from generation to generation".

It's not a dictionary of music, but I think that sums it up pretty well for the present context.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 02:32 PM

But now, Steve, is that last word pronounced MIS-chuv-us-lee (like I do) or mis-CHEE-VEE-us-lee? And is there any legitimacy to mis-CHEE-VEE-us-lee in any tradition?

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Bill D
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 02:53 PM

As long as people who think that they are 'folk', also feel free to use any subjective definition they choose, I'm afraid it's hopeless.

To ME it is stuff that is generally older and which got transmitted thru more than several generations and often 'processed' as it was handed down.

To others, it can mean no more than "what I remember from my formative years and is now subjected to 'best 100' lists on some web site."


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 03:10 PM

Beam me up, Scottie!

No sentient lifeforms on this planet.

DT


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: MissouriMud
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 03:22 PM

Well I buy into the "hand me down" aspect of "Traditional" ..
But that only answers half the question - the other half being:

What is a "song"?

Must it have words? What about birds? Must it have a tune? What about rap?

Ouch!! .. no no - stop throwing things, I take it back.   We all know what a song is - its what we sing ... Right?


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: The Sandman
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 04:18 PM

style is important,lets take melodies ,most english irish scottish traditional melodies are in 4 modes.
spanish traditional melodies use different modes again, arabic traditional melodies different modes again.
very often traditional music does not modulate [change key].
but some modern songs that do sound traditional sometimes modulate when it comes to the chorus.
as regards lyrics,traditional songs seem to encompass a whole range of different subjects.
very often traditional songs can be sung successfully on acoustic instruments or unaccompanied,whereas some pop songs and all electronic songs ,and some songs that need amplification do not seem to work,without the electronic /electric devices[tremolsticks wah wah pedals etc]


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Rog Peek
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 05:55 PM

There's an ocean of threads that deal with the definition of folk music, not so much about the traditional song. When I asked the question, I was hoping for more opinions about what makes a song 'traditional', as opposed 'other' types of song. Thanks GSS for your interesting observations.

I like the idea of a traditional song having been "Handed down", but how many times, so to speak, is a song handed down before it becomes traditional? I've always thought of songs like 'Rare Ol' Times', ' The Green Fields of France', and even 'From Clare to Here' as being traditional, but having been written in the relatively recent past, they cannot have been the subject of much passing down. So, have I got it wrong?

Rog


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 06:05 PM

Have you dictionaries in your house?


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 07:02 PM

Traditional song = song that has passed through the oral tradition - i.e. by word of mouth,, but print has had some effect, origin usually author unknown, but this isn't a defining factor.
Passage from area to area/community to community brings about changes which re-identify the song with wherever it is taken up - accents, dialects, geographical references.
Takes on new tunes.
The various communities take it up and adopt it as their own so it becomes a Norfolk - Suffolk - Yorkshire - wherever song, taking on different personnel, geographical locations, trades, (weaver, farmer, spinner, soldier, ploughboy.....etc).
Same songs even turn up in different English-speaking countries, England, Ireland, Scotland, America, Canada - most prominent in Britain are the Scots songs that have made their way into the Northern Irish tradition.
They even cross language barriers, Danish, Spanish, German, Russian.
Example of probably the most widely travelled song is The Unfortunate Rake which became Soldier, Sailor, Cowboy, Young Girl, Young Man, Trooper Cut Down in His/Her Prime, Streets of Laredo, House of the Rising Sun, St James Infirmary, The Whore's Lament... dozens and dozens of different areas and identities. It even broke into two different genres - one about a woman, the other about a man.
Barbara Allen, describes as "The old Scotch song" in the mid-1600s by Samuel Pepys, has been documented in over 200 distinct versions.
Style is irrelevant, some are found in jazz and blues versions and others ended up (or even originated) in the music halls.
Start there.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: JeffB
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 07:30 PM

Rog, assuming you're being serious in asking, I think you must be getting the idea that a "traditional" song is indefinable because anyone can think up a number of parameters to describe them, all of them quite reasonable, but many of these parameters are mutually exclusive of each other. A L Lloyd wrote some songs which are accepted by most people as traditional, but not by others because they aren't anonymous. Others say that oral transmission with all its variations is the main thing, while some say that only a proven written record is acceptable and singers must preserve them word-perfect. Or you could say that only songs sung on traditional occasions are the real thing, and that "Happy birthday to you" is as traditional as "God rest ye merry gentlemen". Name any song you think is traditional and someone will give you a perfectly good reason why it isn't. Might as well try to nail a rainbow to the wall.   

Some people used to kill butterflies and put them in display cases because they thought they looked prettier like that; others prefer to watch them flying around.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Rog Peek
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 01:46 AM

Yes Richard, I have. Your point? I was looking for a little more than a dictionary definition of the word traditional, if you like, something more cotextual.

Yes JeffB, I am quite serious.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 04:34 AM

Style is irrelevant, some are found in jazz and blues versions and others ended up (or even originated) in the music halls.
style is not irrelevant,it is relevant.
lets take modulation of melodies,this appears to have emerged around the time of Bach[1685 to 1750],perhaps a little earlier,so most ancient melodies do not use modulation.
it is the different modes that define a particular tradition,for example some flamenco music uses the phrygian mode,but this is never found in english trad music.,so we say ah that sounds like flamencoi ,or that sounds like a SCOTTISH TUNE
yet the phrygian mode,Is used in heavy metal music,but it is the way that the music is treated that most people would agree that heavy metal is heavy metal and not traditional,even though they are using the same modes,so style is important as a definition.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: MikeL2
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 05:11 AM

Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: theleveller - PM
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 04:03 AM

< "I think we have finally discovered the never-ending topic. I'm rapidly losing the will to live. ">

lol

I lost it twenty five trillion words ago....lol
Talk about flogging a dead horse !!!!

cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 05:19 AM

The Leveller-Don-MikeL2 and all the usual suspects;
If you do not want to take part in this discussion, why are you taking part in this discussion?
Just curious.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 06:29 AM

Whatever doesn't have MacColl anywhere near it is traditional. Otherwise it's pop.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 06:51 AM

Jim ~ I think the answer to your perfectly pertinent qustn, as to why those who purport to be losing will to live as the topic proceeds nevertheless continue to participate, is that getting hooked on threads of this sort is one of those addictive habits that one would kick ~~ if only one could!


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 07:05 AM

For the purposes of this discussion I think we can be clear on what is a Traditional Song (see Jim's posts) in terms of both its nomenclature & derivation, though I still argue for the tradition of the creative mastery that not only made the songs (and their variants) but defined the idiom in which such processes once occurred.

Half the problem here (on Mudcat / Folk scene as a whole) is that by reducing Traditional Song to AOMOR the Folk Scene hasn't done it any favours, hence the various confusions currently going down here - most of them perpetuated by Folk Enthusiasts who feel that Traditional Song is somehow theirs by default.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Mavis Enderby
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 07:36 AM

GSS: "very often traditional songs can be sung successfully on acoustic instruments or unaccompanied,whereas some pop songs and all electronic songs ,and some songs that need amplification do not seem to work,without the electronic /electric devices[tremolsticks wah wah pedals etc]"

Just curious, but what are you including in "all electric songs"? Some 80s electronica can work very well acoustically - for example the Johnny Cash reworking of Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus.

(which for the record I dont think is either traditional or folk btw)

Pete.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 08:00 AM

imo all electronic songs[that i have heard] do not work acoustically,perhaps you could provide examples to prove me wrong.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Mavis Enderby
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 09:35 AM

GSS - I gave an example above (Johnny Cash / Depeche Mode - Personal Jesus). Another that springs to mind is the Bad Shepherd's version of The Model by Kraftwerk.

It's all a matter of opinion of course, and I really don't want to sidetrack the discussion into defining electronic music! We have enough problems with folk!

Cheers,

Pete.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: MikeL2
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 11:25 AM

Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll - PM
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 05:19 AM

<" The Leveller-Don-MikeL2 and all the usual suspects;
If you do not want to take part in this discussion, why are you taking part in this discussion?
Just curious.">

Hi Jim

I don't really know. Perhaps it's just the masochist in me. I think MtheGM has it though - it's about the only habit that I take these days and I find it hard to quit.

Cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 11:51 AM

If it sounds trad, that's good enough for me. John the Gun by Sandy Denny for instance.

But it can be trad/arranged!!!


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 12:08 PM

It seeks very simple to me that "traditional" means whatever the most generally accepted dictionary definition means and a "traditional" song is one that is "traditional".

I am not aware of any authoritative or semi-authoritative body having decided upon any other meaning for the word "traditional" in the context of "traditional song".

In this, "traditional" differs from "folk".


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 02:12 PM

For Mudcat purposes, "traditional" whatever JC says it is.

Folk is whatever is enshrined within the 1954 definition, plus some "in the style of the tradition" new songs by composers whom JC respects, admires, or actually enjoys.

Anything else is lumped together as "Anything Goes", and is absolutely beyond the pale, and both "traditional", and "folk" should, if necessary be allowed to die, rather than be corrupted by the presence, in the same program, of music or song of which JC does not approve.

Those of us who write "in the style of the tradition", but are unknown to JC, should simply give it up and get a proper job.

Those of us who run folk clubs which fail to offer a written warranty of totally traditional content should do likewise.

Have I missed anything out, Jim?

Don T.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 02:36 PM

Jesus Christ?


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 02:59 PM

On the other hand Don - anything that puts bums on seats when we can't afford Amy Winehouse - and if we could, she'd be traditional as well.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 04:13 PM

Taking deep breath and holding nose....Here goes.
The crucial element in 'traditional' song is the passing on. No definitions actually state how many times something must be passed on before it qualifies which is where the grey woolly area comes in.
If you plump for the 'generation to generation' definitions, you then have to define a 'generation'. A 'generation' in this respect does not necessarily mean for instance parent to child, it can be as short as a season or a school year in the case of playground songs/games/rhymes etc.
Literally it could be you giving me your song you've just written, but I doubt if many here would accept that definition.

Why can't we just accept that some words don't have hard and fast boundaries carved in stone? I have to make my own boundaries on this regularly as I write about 'traditional song' on a daily basis, but I don't seek to impose my boundaries on anyone else. I can postulate on the origins and evolution of a particular song, but I rarely nowadays state that a song is or isn't traditional, I let the reader come to his/her own conclusion based on the descriptions I give.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 04:24 PM

I just passed on to my neighbour a copy of 'Stand By Your Man" which she wanted (found it on the internet).
Traditional?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 05:41 PM

its crap ,but whether its traditional crap or just crap,hardly matters


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 05:48 PM

No comment!


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: the Folk Police
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 06:45 PM

Hardly traditional, but a marvellous song!


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 08:45 PM

""Jesus Christ?""

He thinks he is, but I have me doubts, as Jesus was considerably more tolerant.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 08:56 PM

""On the other hand Don - anything that puts bums on seats when we can't afford Amy Winehouse - and if we could, she'd be traditional as well.""

When you can't find an answer, twist the truth by quoting something the other party never actually said.

Well done Jim! You have succeeded in showing just what an egregious ass you are.

you and I both know that
1. You are quoting the "bums on seats" as exactly the opposite of my meaning, which is unworthy, unjust, and dishonest, but typical of your attitude.
2. You also misrepresent my comment about tolerating the odd errant pop offering, to imply that I would spend money hiring a pop singer as a guest. Please point to where I said anything remotely like that, or else apologise.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Darowyn
Date: 13 Mar 10 - 04:38 AM

Traditions can become established within a relatively short period.
It is traditional to sing a Burns song on New Years Eve- even if you don't understand the words.
Country Music fans have a tradition, coming close to ritual, involving the Elvis Presley compilation "American Trilogy"- which includes a 'traditional' piece of Americana "I Wish I was in Dixie".
People mark the site of road accidents with flowers and ribbons.
The whole point of Folk and Tradition is that it is what people in their communities once did, or currently do.
It is not defined by committees, or lexicographers, lawyers or even Jim Carroll.
Traditional songs are songs which are traditionally performed in the context under discussion, like 'Streets of London', or 'Fields of Athenry', if you are talking about odd little the community which is a folk club.
I've posted before about local variations in party dances like 'Macarena', and 'Saturday Night' and in these, although the music is fixed, the dance moves are being folk processed locally.
There are now traditional ways of doing the dances.
At a Blues Brothers Tribute club, "Stand By Your Man" could be a tradition too! (but only if alternated with "Rawhide".)
They may not be singing Childe ballads, or going within five miles of a folk club, but the folk of Britain are still creating and enjoying their traditions.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Mar 10 - 07:37 AM

"It is not defined by committees, or lexicographers, lawyers or even Jim Carroll."
Sorry Darryowyn, thought we had been asked to give an opinion - not a definition. Never mind - any old stick... eh?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Mar 10 - 11:29 AM

a singer I knew many years ago defined it as anything before 1900 is traditional anything after :is not.
that must be one of the most hilarious defintions of it ever.
anyone else got any funny ones I could do with a good laugh


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Mar 10 - 04:04 AM

Cap'n,
Someone on Mudcat not so long ago defined ALL love songs as traditional, but considering some of the odd-ball definitions flying around here recently, I don't suppose that "anything before 1900" is any more hilarious than any of those.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: GUEST,Abdul The Bul Bul on his laptop
Date: 14 Mar 10 - 04:33 AM

I always thought that a song with a known writer isn't 'Traditional' and a song with no provenance is traditional. Isn't that why they write 'Trad' after some songs in the books? I should know better than to dip my toe into one of these threads tho. Still, I won't be plunging in, it's too cold, I'm off.
Al


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 14 Mar 10 - 04:50 AM

Lets face it, according to this thread ' traditional ' means what anyone wants it to mean, there is no one single definition, it's a pointless argument.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 14 Mar 10 - 05:35 AM

Trad. means 'origins unknown but widespread'. This simple fact became invested with all kinds of quasi-religious hocus pocus explored here ad absurdum. Being of unknown authorship does not imbue a song with magic and widespread means it was easily memorable in pre-wax days.

The only people who care are those with a reputation riding on it, or whose youth was tied up in the polemic and carry a sentimental attachment. Old songs are part of the national soundscape, as is the accompanying fuddy-duddyness. You can't have one without the other.
The question should be 'who' defines a traditional song and the answer is the fuddy-duddies.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Mar 10 - 05:47 AM

It's always seemed to me that whenever there is argument over a definition - why not go to the dictionary. That way, you not only cut down on the 'self-interest' element that seems inevitable in these discussions, but you can always blame someone else when you get it wrong.
Jim Carroll

TRADITION (tra-dish'n) n.
1. The passing down of elements of a culture from generation to generation, especially by oral communication.

2. a. A mode of thought or behaviour followed by a people continuously from generation to generation; a cultural custom or usage,
b. A set of such customs and usages viewed as a coherent body of precedents influencing the present,
c. A set of such customs followed in a particular art.

3. A body of unwritten religious precepts.

4. Any time-honoured practice or a set of such practices.

5. Law. The transfer of property to another. [Middle Enghsh tradition, a handing down, a surrender, from Old French, from Latin traditio (stem tradition-), from tradere, to hand over: trans-, over a dare, to give.]

TRADITIONAL (tra-dish'n-'l) adj.
Also tra-di-tion-ar-y (-ari || -erri).

1. Pertaining to or in accord with tradition.

2. Of or pertaining to trad jazz. -tra-di-tional-ise tr.v. ?tra-di-tion-al-ly adv.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Darowyn
Date: 14 Mar 10 - 10:44 AM

Traditional Jazz is therefore non traditional, since it came and went within the living memory of one generation.
Louis Armstrong was there in the early days; He was there in the 1960s revival. He was still making records up to his death, when his jazz playing was behind him and Trad Jazz was a tiny cult activity.
As I said before ,"The whole point of Folk and Tradition is that it is what people in their communities once did, or currently do.
It is not defined by committees, or lexicographers, lawyers or even Jim Carroll."
I would dispute that it is inter-generational transmission which creates tradition.
I gave three examples of traditions which have sprung up in very recent times.
Trick or Treat in the UK is another tradition which arose almost instantly and is withering away under the various concerns about paedophilia and anti social behaviour etc.
Lexicographers update definitions according to accepted usage. That is why there are news stories every year about which words have been added to the dictionary, and which have disappeared.
A dictionary is not the infallible word of God Jim.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: GUEST,Stringsinger
Date: 14 Mar 10 - 12:38 PM

Three things.

1. It has to be old.
2. It has to be changed through an evolutionary process.
3. It has to be accepted by consensus in a cultural group.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: GUEST,Suibhne (Astray)
Date: 14 Mar 10 - 01:18 PM

How old is old though? I have a pair of old sandals that I bought way back in 2008. And all songs are shaped by evolutionary process and accepted by consensus in a cultural group. This is the very nature of music! So by these criteria everything is a traditional song.

So - maybe time for a rethink. Or just getting out of the box from time to time for an overdue scamper in the fresh air.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: GUEST,Abdul the Laptop on his Bul Bul
Date: 14 Mar 10 - 01:36 PM

(Sorry for the name, couldn't resist it!) (what do you mean what's Bul-Bul? See HERE...)

Anyhoo - what is a song in a Traditional Style? Does this mean they've been aged it in some way, likewise artifically evolved it and accepted it by an imaginary (virtual) community? Or does in mean something more to do with aping the Idiom of Popular Folk Song that most of us think of as being Traditional by default? In which case I think we might be onto something...

S O'P


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Mar 10 - 04:00 PM

"It is not defined by committees, or lexicographers, lawyers or even Jim Carroll."
Why oh why to people insist on reducing this to personal attacks - I didn't or don't make up my own definitions - I avail myself of the existing ones and pass them on to whoever might find them of use. If you have problems, argue with them not me.
The couple of current threads on definition have brought out the most unbelievable examples of manipulations of the languge I have ever come across - words mean what it suits them to mean.
Defensive responses such as Darryowen's really don't help.
No - dictionaries are not infallible, they are a guide to communication.
Ignore them and make it up as you go along means we all end up living in our own little bubbles and communication with nobody.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Mar 10 - 05:10 PM

Jim,
For once am in complete agreement.
Just a suggestion.
Whilst we all have our minor differences on a definition, we actually have a lot in common.
There is sufficient expertise on Mudcat and some of the other ballad/trad song forums to formulate our own WORKING definition of 'traditional song'. Instead of bickering over minor differences let's explore what we can agree on. Obviously some of the more wacky ideas will differ but finding agreement could be very useful and helpful.
So what I'm proposing is a MUDCAT definition to help those genuinely confused by the whole affair.
(BTW I don't include 'FOLK' in this. I think we've got to accept that the word has a much wider definition than most of us would like, but we are in the minority and it's about time we accepted that.)

One thing I'm sure we could get majority concensus on right away is a song's origin is a total irrelevance to any definition. Okay that's got the ball rolling hopefully.

One other thing, a working definition doesn't necessarily have to have hard and fast boundaries to be useful.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 14 Mar 10 - 05:13 PM

"So - maybe time for a rethink."

How would you propose beginning to rethink all this stuff?
I reckon it's time for box of coloured crayons and a giant sheet of paper, and an afternoon kneeling on the floor like a kid..

That's the way I used to approach essays.

Tom Bliss used concentric circles in his analogy. Diagrams can be very helpful to organise material, theories, data etc.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 14 Mar 10 - 05:19 PM

"Whilst we all have our minor differences on a definition, we actually have a lot in common.
There is sufficient expertise on Mudcat and some of the other ballad/trad song forums to formulate our own WORKING definition of 'traditional song'. Instead of bickering over minor differences let's explore what we can agree on. Obviously some of the more wacky ideas will differ but finding agreement could be very useful and helpful.
So what I'm proposing is a MUDCAT definition to help those genuinely confused by the whole affair."

Yes please!
Focusing on broad commonly recognised and supportable ground, and resigning the minor academic points to appendixes, would be a very helpful idea for assisting anyone new to this territory.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 Mar 10 - 05:26 PM

The rethink I propose is a musicological one - which is to say to understand the songs in terms of their genre & idiomatic structure rather than their derivation.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Amos
Date: 14 Mar 10 - 05:36 PM

At the bottom of the dictionary definiions you have two things: agreement (which makes a custom) and longevity. Agreement on matters like songs is purely a cultural vector.

Longevity is a function relative to the rate of change in the culture. When my family bought a house in Maine in the 1940's it was a good twenty years before locals stopped calling the Bonelli house (the previous owners) and allowed as it was the Jessup house. That's a slow rate of change from the view of urbanites who pace themselves by the daily news cycle in New York.

In a different culture, though, changing something less than 100 years old might be seen as headstrong and foolishly hasty.

To the children of the Sixties, the Carter Family's collected songs are viewed as very old and traditional Americana, even though any of them are written about railroad trains.

To a singer of Child's ballads, that sense of time may seem shallow and faddish.

To a child of the Eighties, now taking on the burdens of young adulthood, anything Bob Dylan wrote is probably seen as ancient tradition, let alone songs from World War I.

In short, there is no objective definition; it is a function of agreement about how fast changes occur and are acknowledged, a purely cultural variable.

A


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 14 Mar 10 - 05:38 PM

"which is to say to understand the songs in terms of their genre & idiomatic structure rather than their derivation."

This might sound trite, but that sounds quite complicated and subtle.
If / when arrived at, how would you render such an understanding readily comprehensible to someone completely new to the area, who might lack knowledge of your points of reference? I'm tying in this with what Steve said below.. Which might not be helpful, but I have more thoughts on that which might lead the thread astray..


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Bert
Date: 14 Mar 10 - 05:42 PM

Traditional song is very difficult to define.

But Folk Song is very easy.

Folk Song is what we do here at Mudcat.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Mar 10 - 07:43 PM

Bert,
Whilst I agree with you in general, a difficult task shouldn't deter us from making the attempt.

Whilst I think everyone here would agree that to be traditional the song (and here I mean collectively all versions of the song) should have evolved in some way, normally in what we call oral tradition, the main bone of contention would seem to revolve around timescale. I for one would not want to impose any timescale, but I would go along with a general concensus.
We also need to accept the interaction with other traditions such as the print tradition. Whilst the interaction here is almost inseparable the two traditions are different (IMO)


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Mar 10 - 10:39 PM

Steve;
"For once am in complete agreement."
Didn't realise we were that far apart in our views Steve.
More tomorrow - it's been a long St Pat's Day here, can't focus on the keyboard and my head's still spinning from a two hour music session followed by a three hour singaround
Where's me bed?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 06:02 AM

One of the first posts I made on Mudcat suggested the true test of a folk song was the sound, i.e. the words and music. I was told in no uncertain terms that was a ridiculous idea and a folk song had to conform to a checklist of criteria none of which were to do with the idiom.
The same people argued that folk song was easily distinguished by listening to it. Cake and eat it definitions are charming but tell us more about the definer than the definition. I return a few hundred posts to suggest the index of a folk song is the sound.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 06:18 AM

Been thinking about your suggestion and re-read your posting and the question that springs to mind is WHY.
It seems to me you start on extremely shaky ground in trying to separate 'folk' and 'tradition'; they are two sides to the same coin - one referring to the origins of our songs etc.; the other to the process that shaped them.
You say "a song's origin is a total irrelevance to any definition."
Then where does the 'folk' bit come in? It refers precicely to the communities that made them (IMO), took them up, reshaped them, claimed them as their own and passed them on (put them through a traditional process) over and over and over again until they manifested themselves in tens, dozens, even hundreds of differing, identifyable existences. The origins of the individual songs may be irrelevant, to the singer, that is, (I believe you have spent a fair slice of your life trying to sort out individual origins), but the origins of the genre as a whole is not only relevant, but crucial, it is what they are and it is what we are and where we've been. The communities that once cherished the songs no longer do so; so we are dealing with something that is no longer in flux but is fairly solidly set (the rigor mortis set in long ago). Doesn't mean we can't go on singing the songs or making new ones in their image, but pretending that the processes are still alive and kicking is little more than putting lipstick on the corpse   
Taking folk out of the equasion is like dividing the siamese twins and giving the single heart to the one you personally prefer.
"but we are in the minority and it's about time we accepted that.)"
Where are we the minority Steve - on Mudcat, around the clubs, among the people who sort out the album shelves at Virgin Record Megastores? I suggest you take a stroll around your own book shelves, or mine, or those of Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, or The Irish Folklore Society, or The School of Scottish Studies, or The Library of Congress, or all the comparable organisations all over the world who have collected, researched, annotated, articuated and indexed (ie established clearly for the world to refer to) the definitions of 'folk' and 'tradition' we have used up to now and continue to use (I take it you own an 8 volume set of 'The Greig Duncan FOLK SONG Collection', or receive your annual FOLK MUSIC Journal......). What do "we few, we happy few, we band of brothers" (sorry CS - and sisters) do to give access to our music to 'the world out there' (to borrow a phrase from those who would have us believe that there is a 54 million strong army with an alternative definition) - announce a U.D.I from our documented and researched material?
We have definitions for the terms we use which gives us an advantage over those who would de-define our music - we have a consensus; something to point to and say "there, have a look at that and see what you think". Compare that fact with Tom Bliss's list of 'definitions' or Sean Sweeney's - could you run a club, or write an article, or give a talk, or issue a CD or explain 'tradition' and 'folk' to somebody interested enough to enquire or ask to participate, using their random gatherings? - buggered if I could.
I've occasionally been accused of inventing my own definitions - often by people who have just made up their own definitions. I've never invented a definition in my life - spent nearly half a century trying to understand and to pass on anything I might have learned about them, but nope - can't think of a single one I can write my name on (wonder if anyone else can).
The irony of all this is that the existing definitions certainly need a revisit and adaptation based on what we have learned, but throwing them out to replace them with something 'convenient' is a little like knocking your house down because the pictures need straightening.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 06:29 AM

Glueman;
"The same people argued that folk song was easily distinguished by listening to it"
You've had your answer to this one yesterday - you ignored it then and continue to do so.
Here it is again.
"54 and pastiche fillers OR if it sounds like folk music"
"'54 has always been one of the many guides I have occasionally borne in mind in my research work; "If it sounds like..." has been a way of choosing my clubs (as with everybody, I suspect).
I've already said that - pay attention boy!"

I've already said that - pay attention boy!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 06:36 AM

If / when arrived at, how would you render such an understanding readily comprehensible to someone completely new to the area, who might lack knowledge of your points of reference?

I think it's already been arrived at, CS - we have a vast body of collected material we might think of as English Language Traditional Song which can be discussed as much in terms of its structure, modality & lyrical imagery as its (possible) derivation, distribution and diversification - whatever sort of life it once enjoyed in its natural habitat as it were. The evidence is impressive, but I think the definitions we're dealing with don't really go deep enough into the creative nature of the beast itself. Like Popular Music today songs were created by individuals steeped in a tradition of creative song making within a genre of Popular Music, however so derived. Unlike Popular Music today, the names of these song makers haven't come down to us; even on the Broadsheets we don't find claims of authorship. Now, whether the broadsheets represent an initial source or a medial literary stage has been debated at length before, but whatever the case, in an oral / aural culture (in which to hear a song casually you generally had to sing it yourself) songs will evolve as they get passed on from one singer to another, especially given the creative nature of singers.

There's plenty of evidence to suggest that certain singers didn't sing the same song the same way twice (i.e. Mrs Pearl Brewer of Arkensas, who gives two notably different versions of Child #20 collected within months of each other) which is a further indication of a creative & improvisatory fluidity which, whilst being anathema to Folk Music today, seems to have been the very benchmark of Traditional Song in its natural habitat. This is in the very nature of oral / aural folklore, where the empirical essence of such lore lives and breathes in such a way that its collection and preservation, in effect, kills it stone dead like a pinned butterfly or a piece of choice taxidermy. What we are left with are specific instances, snap shots, shards and fragments upon which the various theories and definitions have been postulated, as romantically as scientifically, and at some considerable remove from the actual context of the thing. In folkloric study context is all, but the context is the very thing we don't have. Besides which, in too many cases the evidences have been falsified and tampered with by people who should have known better, standard works received in good faith by generations of Enthusiasts of Traditional Song have been shown to be as fraudulent as the Piltdown Man, leaving us a little wary of the whole thing as a result.

The creative & idiosyncratic genius of the Traditional Singers themselves is something worth looking into. Too often I fear material has been seized upon as being Traditional which should be seen as the creative property of the individual singer. Davie Stewart, for example, was recorded on various occasions remaking McGintie's Meal an' Ale (a song with a known author I might add) afresh, in much the same way that John Coltrane remade My Favourite Things afresh each time he played it. This fluidity stands in stark contrast to the way things are done by revival singers, and not without good reason. In its natural state I would argue Traditional Song was as fluid as jazz; I have even heard it suggested especially gifted singers might extemporize entire songs on the spot - freestyle folk song! Why should this surprise us? We find it in vernacular traditions the world over, from Serbian bards to Rap artists, and certain songs in the English Speaking Tradition would demand a spontaneous verse or two - and I dare say we all know of gifted individuals who can come up with such things today.

What of the song makers themselves? One might think of Tommy Armstrong (1848-1920) as case in point; his masterful compositions are evidently of a tradition, in terms of structure, narrative, imagery and language; he frequently uses Traditional melodies and they remain a cherish window into the long vanished world of the Durham Coalfield. They are the work of one eccentric idiosyncratic genius yet bare testimony to the vast tradition of popular vernacular song he was but a part of. Do we think of them as Traditional Songs? I know I do, but then again I always point to the aims of the International Council for Traditional Music (formerly the International Folk Music Council who gave us the 1954 Definition in the first place) which 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. In this sense the very phrase Traditional Music is tautologous - the very nature of music is traditional and I can't think of a single music that can't be defined as folk according to the 1954 Definition simply because the folkloric remits of 1954 are very different to those of today. Popular Music continues, thrives, evolves, changes, on just about every level imaginable, yet this isn't what we mean when we say Traditional Song because here we're using Traditional largely as a noun. In it's adjective sense it becomes a whole lot wider - certainly too wide for Mudcat, or the EFDSS, or the folk scene as a whole. Certainly too wide for a proposed Mudcat Definition which can only point to the body of collected material be it in the Grieg-Duncan Collection or the Max Hunter Collection (etc.) and say those are Traditional Songs. Maybe a good place to start would be sorting out the mess in the DigiTrad, so we might have something worth pointing at around here too??


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 07:06 AM

Thanks for that Sweeney. One for me to re-read and allow to percolate.

"Maybe a good place to start would be sorting out the mess in the DigiTrad, so we might have something worth pointing at around here too??"

Yes!


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 07:37 AM

JC, 'sounds like folk' is the working definition shared by millions. Anything else is only fit for collectors and other thieves.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 08:08 AM

"Sounds like" can actually be an excellent place to start; tho even better can be its negative: I flatter myself, and always have, that I can tell instantaneously what DOESN'T sound like.., & that is a very good place to start.

{I remember once saying this in one of my 1970s monthly Folk Review columns, which led Leon Rosselson to denounce me in the next issue as "an instamatic electronic traditional song recognition apparatus", or something of the sort. This goes with the person who addressed me recently (January this year) on another forum thread I am a regular on with the words "MGM your pedantry is legendary". Both of them obviously meant a put-down: in both cases I welcomed the intended denunciation as a valued compliment.}

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 08:12 AM

Steve wrote:
"There is sufficient expertise on Mudcat and some of the other ballad/trad song forums to formulate our own WORKING definition of 'traditional song'."

Wouldn't THAT be nice? However there remains the problem of who's asking the question. A modern-day folklorist looking for 'traditional songs' would undoubtedly seize on the football chants and playground rhymes often discussed here. A musician (especially one from the 'folk' movement) will be looking for songs that are old and (bearing in mind that musicians are conscious of the issue of authorship) anonymous. However, Child ballads and Sharp-era lyrical songs are rarely if ever passed on in the old way in the present day - and are thus only of historical interest to the modern folklorist - while football chants are unlikely to tickle the fancy of the musician seeking repertoire.

Daryowen wrote:
"I would dispute that it is inter-generational transmission which creates tradition."

This might be true as a matter of principle but, in terms of the old songs, the accounts of the singers themselves tell us over and over again that songs were learned from mothers, fathers, uncles and aunts. Although we tend to look at pub singing sessions like the ones in East Anglia as a possible opportunity for song exchange, the evidence of Bob Copper and others suggests that singing within the home and within families was where the song tradition was at its strongest.

Suibhne wrote:
"we have a vast body of collected material we might think of as English Language Traditional Song which can be discussed as much in terms of its structure, modality & lyrical imagery as its (possible) derivation, distribution and diversification"

This would be one way of drawing up a definition: forget the football songs etc. and keep 'traditional' for that body of old songs that were once passed on orally through generations and have a different structural make-up from more modern songs (including modern 'folk songs'). Even here, though, we've got problems. Any number of 20th century traditional singers had music hall songs in their repertoires, yet those songs are of more recent vintage, not always anonymous, and are structurally quite different from an 18th century broadside ballad. Likewise, in terms of 'lyrical imagery' there is a big difference between 'Colin and Pheobe' and 'The Elfin Knight'.

Drawing up definitions that satisfy everyone (especially when large axes are always being ground) is such a fraught process that's it's no wonder so many people resort in practice to "I know one when I see one".


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 08:30 AM

"I know one when I see one".

An instinctive response to codifying any music is the most reliable and genuine method. It places a sound within a matrix of mode, tonality, lyric, structure and context with extraordinary precision. Unreconstructed definitions of folk (1954) deny the reliability of such approaches as laissez faire ("the horse definition") but aural placement is highly developed even in youngsters with modest exposure to musical forms.

The debate isn't surprising as the revival blossomed in an era of romanticism and scientific taxonomy, hence the bi-polar responses to the definition here.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 08:39 AM

"sounds like folk' is the working definition shared by millions."
Which is....?
I hope you include yourself among the thieves - or don't you sing folk songs?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 08:54 AM

Sang a rousing selection of shanties with my three year old this very morn JC.
The definition is an exemplar of its type, any record shop, radio programme or music magazine will codify folk music with extraordinary accuracy to people who seek it out.
OTOH there are folk song websites that provide traditional tunes played on what sounds like a Casio keyboard. As presented, they'd meet all the 1954 criteria and yet fail in contemporary descriptors of folk music and would clear any club within ten minutes. Therefore we have to deduce that the older definition is redundant or insufficient to supplant the working one.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: GUEST,Ralphie
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 09:04 AM

No Jim. I play tunes, but, I do accompany singers.
(Really rather well, actually)
And, I rarely play the same tune in the same way. I have a little Filofax with the first few bars of many tunes. (an Aide Memoire, you could say...my memory isn't what it was after all).
Are they the definitive versions? Who knows...indeed, who cares...
Hence, depending on mood, I might come out with 100 different variants. Nobody seems to mind, particularly the tunes.
Of course there is room for collections of songs/tunes. Otherwise, how would they be saved? But, I'm struggling to understand that they should be performed in 2010 in a particular way.
Somewhere else on the web, a recording of McColl/Seeger has been put up, and out of interest, gave it a spin.
Brought back memories of the Singers Club, and the small mindedness that happened there.
Sorry. Not for me.
Academia is a wonderful thing. Small minded pedantry is entirely another.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 09:19 AM

"Sang a rousing selection of shanties with my three year old this very morn JC"
And I sang myself hoarse last night with a roomful of other enthusiasts.
I take it that there's still no response to your "I know it when I hear it" misrepresentation?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Bert
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 11:04 AM


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 11:14 AM

Jim,

'It seems to me you start on extremely shaky ground in trying to separate 'folk' and 'tradition'; they are two sides to the same coin - one referring to the origins of our songs etc.; the other to the process that shaped them.'JC

If they are 2 sides to the same coin they are still separate words with different meanings to most of us; 'traditional' applies to the processes involved, 'folk' to the people who evolved them. There is therefore nothing wrong with dealing with them separately if we are looking for a working definition.

Brian, why do we have to forget the football songs etc? Just because they are a 'living' tradition and are largely restricted to a measurable and definable community doesn't make them any less traditional or folk.

I'm sorry, whilst the vast majority of what we now recognise as folk/traditional song is easily recognisable I for one could not use this as part of a definition. I can think of many excellent imitations of traditional song that patently are not traditional.

We seem to be coming at this from several different angles. Perhaps what we need are several different definitions to be applied in these different spheres.

Brian quite rightly states that songs are nowadays passed on in a different way to the old days. So we simply have 2 (or more) separate but similar traditions to define.

Jim, I know you won't accept this but 'folk' to practically everyone in the English-speaking world has a different conception (based on 'sounds-like')to the Mudcat conception. Fair enough, lots of words in the dictionary have many definitions. If we like we can attempt to put out a Mudcat definition of it, BUT I think it would be an easier and more fruitful excercise to try to gain concensus on 'traditional song' first.

As for 'Music Hall' song there is a growing number of collectors who do not distinguish between these songs and the broadside ballads and Child ballads when collecting/publishing (John Howson at Veteran, Rod Stradling at MusTrad for instance) apart from which Sharp/Broadwood let a fair few music hall songs slip into their collections unknowingly. Do we throw these out? Jolly Waggoner/ Jim the Carter's Lad etc? This is one reason why I said I don't recognise putting in time limits or origin limits on whether something is traditional or not. For me it is simply the undergoing of the oral/aural process.

To me 'My Brudda Sylvest' is a traditional song, even though I know it was written in 1908. Perhaps someone would like to tell me why it isn't a traditional song?


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 11:30 AM

"I take it that there's still no response to your "I know it when I hear it" misrepresentation?"

No misrepresentation whatsoever JC. Have a look here, all folk as the title shows. Plenty more if you're still unsure. Folk


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 01:08 PM

"Brian, why do we have to forget the football songs etc? Just because they are a 'living' tradition and are largely restricted to a measurable and definable community doesn't make them any less traditional or folk."

Steve, I never forget football songs. Was singing a few yesterday, as it happens. I was just exploring the effect of postulating a definition based in part on aesthetics, i.e. what a singer in the specialized world that is 'the folk scene' might choose to adopt.

"As for 'Music Hall' song there is a growing number of collectors who do not distinguish between these songs and the broadside ballads and Child ballads when collecting/publishing... Do we throw these out? Jolly Waggoner/ Jim the Carter's Lad etc?"

I wouldn't throw them out, but in general music hall songs have different and more complicated structures than songs composed one or two hundred years earlier... haven't they? You can generally apply the 'know one when I hear one' test to a music hall song, with a strong expectation of being proved right. I mentioned it only to point out the weakness of the 'sounds like a folk song' definition.

"Perhaps what we need are several different definitions to be applied in these different spheres."

I think that what's I was getting at. One definition for a folklorist, another for a CD buyer? The 'folklorist' definition is IMO much the more rigorous, but even that gets into very muddy water when considering (as you suggested) how many times the material must be passed on, or to what extent modified, in order to qualify - or what happens when traditional singers start learning songs off the radio or in their local folk club.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 01:32 PM

"Why can't we just accept that some words don't have hard and fast boundaries carved in stone?" (Steve Gardham)

I've just staggered through this correspondence with some amusement in places and some irritation in others, and must say that I rather agreed with Steve's earlier suggestion. There's a lot of commonsense and truth in it.

Some pronouncements sound grand and promising, but are nevertheless mildly flawed - even from those who are very knowledgeable. For instance, Brian said in response to a comment from Darowyn

"in terms of the old songs, the accounts of the singers themselves tell us over and over again that songs were learned from mothers, fathers, uncles and aunts. Although we tend to look at pub singing sessions like the ones in East Anglia as a possible opportunity for song exchange, the evidence of Bob Copper and others suggests that singing within the home and within families was where the song tradition was at its strongest."

However, the likes of Henry Burstow and George Grantham made it quite clear that they learned songs from co-workers and other pub singers. Burstow recorded that he learned his songs from fellow cobblers, bellringers and singers AS WELL AS a substantial number from his father and mother. George Grantham, a carter in Surrey that Lucy Broadwood collected from told her that he had learned most of his songs from fellow carters in Sussex. Burstow additionally stated that he learned a large number of his songs from "ballets" that he had bought from local ballad sellers. Lucy herself made the point in her talk to the Royal Musical Association in 1905 that singers "vied with each other" to learn songs with the longest number of verses.She told the story of how Burstow had hidden away to steal a song from another singer .So I'd submit that the "trans-generational exchange of songs in the family was strongest" argument does not necessarily hold good.

From the academic point of view I find the argument interesting, but it's a bit like the matter of a definition of social class. I recall as a trainee social geographer finding that there were numerous - very different- definitions of one's position in the social strata. There was no one over-riding "true" definition. This seems fairly similar to me. As a singer I'm none too sure of the total relevance of it all anyway. If I find a song which appeals to me both musically and in terms of word content/story line etc, whether it be traditional (whatever that may be deemed to be) or modern/quasi traditional, then I will want to sing it, and if possible be able to provide attribution and further information regarding the song should any audience/fellow singers wish to hear about it. But what actually matters to me is the song, not the definition. Maybe I should duck out now ??? [grins and rushes for cover]

Referring to Ralphie's comment that "I do accompany singers.
(Really rather well, actually)And, I rarely play the same tune in the same way." As one of the singers that he accompanies/has accompanied , I can vouch for that on both scores (although maybe I shouldn't boost his ego too much on the quality of accompaniment element :-) ).

"Are they the definitive versions? Who knows...indeed, who cares... Hence, depending on mood, I might come out with 100 different variants."

Very true - he does.... just as I,as the singer, will come out with different variants depending on what the song is "saying" to me, or how I am feeling about it on a particular night - it makes for an interesting collaboration where nothing is set in stone (and sometimes quite exhilerating too). The songs can be traditional (whatever definition that may be .... Some Rival has Stolen My True Love away, which we have been known to perform is, after all, a hand me down version of the broadside ballad "Love's Fierce Desire" from the 18th century)- the rendition may not be (Long Lankin to a reggae beat,anyone? I hasten to add, not normally in public performance ).

"Nobody seems to mind, particularly the tunes.
Of course there is room for collections of songs/tunes. Otherwise, how would they be saved?"

Indeedy. Some academics have suggested that one of the reasons the Folk-Song Society nearly foundered before Lucy Broadwood took over Secretaryship after Kate Lee's death in 1904 was a rather dry academic approach to folksong. I wonder if that extended to definitions of what is or is not "traditional". Very muddy waters .... I'm none to sure that these comments add anything at all apart from one or two passing comments on items that attracted the eye while wading through all the other "stuff", but I shall watch the rest of the argument with interest.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: GUEST,surreysinger at work
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 01:32 PM

Sorry - that last was me. Forgot there was no cookie on the work computer!!


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 02:03 PM

"Do we throw these out?"
We don't throw anything out Steve - we accept what we are given - it's where we pidgeonhole it is what we're discussing here.
I believe we used the 'Jolly Waggoner' when we edited the Hamer collection into 'The Leaves of Life' though there are other songs which don't fall under the 'I know it when I hear it' catergory, that we wouldn't have used and would not be happy to see lumped in with folksong at a session to any great extent.
"Jim, I know you won't accept this but 'folk' to practically everyone in the English-speaking world has a different conception"
No I don't - but I would be grateful if you would point out where your infomation came from.
I've said before and now (hopefully for the last time) our great failure has been to fail to engage with "practically everyone in the English-speaking world " or even practically anybody, therefore we rely on the definition we have.
You have not mentioned my comments on the divorce from our literature, research, archives, collections.... that would take place should we move into another language; "You'll find some folk songs in 'The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs' but for god's sake, don't call them folk songs" - come ooooonnnnnn.
Our language and information can develop, but it is too firmly entrenched in our work to be abandoned to open the doors to non-folk folk (that's what this is all about - read the threads. Will you tell Steve Roud or shall I?
"and the small mindedness..."
Not my experience Ralphie; remind me again how many times you attended and whether you actually discussed the club with anybody there.
Glueman;
A thought occurs.
"Sang a rousing selection of shanties with my three year old this very morn JC"
Are you not worried about turning your child into a potential little Fagin by encouraging him/her to partake of the proceeds of a felon - or did you get your shanties from your friendly neighbourhood shellback?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 02:44 PM

Surreysinger wrote:
"Some pronouncements sound grand and promising, but are nevertheless mildly flawed - even from those who are very knowledgeable. For instance, Brian said...
'in terms of the old songs, the accounts of the singers themselves tell us over and over again that songs were learned from mothers, fathers, uncles and aunts.'
However, the likes of Henry Burstow and George Grantham made it quite clear that they learned songs from co-workers and other pub singers. Burstow recorded that he learned his songs from fellow cobblers, bellringers and singers AS WELL AS a substantial number from his father and mother."

Hello Irene. I try not to make 'pronouncements' on here, let alone grand ones. I put out my opinions and impressions, and people are free to contradict or correct them. In the case of Lucy Broadwood's work, I defer - of course - to your superior knowledge, and am interested to hear of your findings. What follows is not an attempt to score points, but to get my own thoughts in order!

Having stated my impressions about inter-familial and trans-generational transmission, I thought I'd do a quick trawl through the 'Voice of the People' liner notes and see whether they backed up those impressions or not. For the English singers, we find that Phil Tanner learnt many of his songs from his father and grandfather (and all his brothers were singers), Walter Pardon mostly from his Uncle Billy Gee (who had them from his own father), Turp Brown from his father ("all of the old ones"), and so forth. The Copper Family story hardly needs repeating.

It's certainly true that many singers supplemented their family repertoire in later life: Fred Jordan added to his father and mother's songs material from local travellers and - later - the folk revival; Harry Cox is well-known for travelling miles to pick up songs from pub singers, but nonetheless learned 'the majority' from his father, and more from other family members; Sam Larner and Jumbo Brightwell learned songs from their fathers (and Cyril Poacher from his grandfather and great uncles), but augmented them in adulthood with songs from fellow workers or singing acquaintances.

Outside England, the story is the same for the likes of Joe Heaney, Eddie Butcher (who sang no songs from outside his family), Sara Makem, Paddy Tunney, Mary Ann Carolan, Jeannie Robertson, and Belle Stewart (brother). All learned a substantial part of their repertoire from family members of previous generations. That doesn't mean that no other sources were significant: Margaret Barry learned additional songs from records and, while Jimmy McBeath had some songs from his mother, most were learned learned in the bothies. Pop Maynard learned songs from his father, brothers, sisters and ballad sheets.

So, no, the story isn't a simple one. But it seems to me that there is hardly a single traditional singer from the 20th century who did not learn a significant part of their repertoire in their own family. Oh, and don't forget Anna Brown and her Aunts!

"As a singer I'm none too sure of the total relevance of it all anyway."

As a singer, I agree it's not necessarily relevant at all. But as someone who tends to bandy about the word 'traditional', I think it does no harm for me to consider what it actually means, even at the risk of occasionally descending into dry, angels-on-a-pinhead arguments.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 02:45 PM

Not at all JC. He'll learn his songs in the public domain of youtube and its clones. The great leveller that will turn all music into the music of the people eventually.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 03:03 PM

"English singers"...... "Phil Tanner"

OOOPS!!


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 03:36 PM

"English singers"...... "Phil Tanner"

English language anyway. The other day my mother-in-law gave me a ITV book Britain's Favourite Views - A Visual Celebration of the British Landscape the chief delight if which is a full page picture of Mr Tanner in full voice. Definitely one of my favourite views!


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 03:37 PM

This One

100.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 04:01 PM

SO'P
That's the one included in the Picture Post article on him I think (up in the loft so can't check at the moment).
"youtube and its clones"
All of which came through the hands of some collector or other - still makes him/her an accomplice after the fact.
Brian;
A family story of (I think) Sarah Anne O'Neill who was asked by a member of her family who was going to Scotland "Can I bring you anything back?" replied "Bring us back a ballad".
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 04:23 PM

Not if you don't recognise the role of the collector and their view of themselves in the 'folk process'.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Surreysinger
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 04:25 PM

Hi Brian ..... sorry, on re-reading all that, I think the tone of what I said earlier may have been wrong. "Pronouncements" is a somewhat more portentous term than that which I intended, and the phrase wasn't intended to apply specifically to anything you personaly had had to say (certainly not the "grand" bit!), although I obviously then went on to comment on something that you individually had said.Memo to self, never start something like that while sitting on box office desk, in a quiet moment. The quiet moments don't last forever, and then thought processes get disturbed when people are desperately trying to book tickets for something that Little Shelly, offspring of the family, is about to perform in ... :-)

Hmm, superior knowledge - I wouldn't want to claim that.... my comments were prompted by one or two instances which came to mind in comparison with what you had to say (having mugged some of that up to give a talk earlier in the week, it came readily to mind!). I found your other comments re the various singers really interesting reading - thanks for the time and trouble of looking that all up! And your points are well taken, as is your comment regarding relevance. On the whole I think I probably do tend to agree with you regarding that point up to a degree, but I must admit that I achieved a well needed laugh regarding your "occasionally descending into dry, angels-on-a-pinhead arguments" .

I recall as a geographer being told that there were the Heinz 57 varieties of definitions of what geography was. No doubt there still are.I never felt able to authoritatively tell somebody who asked the question exactly what my academic subject of choice was about, since, again, the definition depended to a large degree on the interests and pursuits of the person making it (Marxist Geography, Women's Geography, Behavioural Geography .... they all had their own little cliques and ideas - even the Alice in Wonderland definition of geography, as a list of place names!!!). At the end of the day, I think most of us accepted that there was no overall "right" one.This even more rareified academic alcove of ours is obviously in much the same position?

I'm still watching with interest to see where this all goes to !! Looking forward to bumping into you again before too long. Regards, Irene


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 06:14 PM

Perhaps what we need are several different definitions to be applied in these different spheres.

Definitely - a "one size fits all" definition is never going to work, unless it's defined at such a high level of abstraction that it's unusable. But then, single definitions are almost always chimerical - define "pop song"!


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 06:31 PM

"Not if you don't recognise the role of the collector and their view of themselves in the 'folk process'."
They have no role in the 'folk process' - they are reporters not participants.
Saying which, there is no traditional song sung in the revival that has not been collected and passed on to us.
Some of our field singers; Walter Pardon, Stan Hugill, Duncan Williamson, William Mathieson, John Strachan... were collectors in their own right and conciously set out to 'collect' songs from their own community, yet it was collectors who recorded their collections from them and gave them to us revivalists.
Walter Pardon wrote down his family's songs and either remembered the tunes himself or got them from surviving members of his family, preserving them by playing them on his melodeon. We are indepted to Walter's nephew, Roger Dixon, who persuaded him to put them on a tape, which was passed to Peter Ballamy and first recorded systematically by Bill Leader.
Stan Hugill assembled a collection of songs from his fellow seamen and gave them to Seamus Ennis during the BBC's 'mopping up' campaign in the fifties.
Duncan Williamson gathered stories and ballads from members of the Scots Travelling community and was partially recorded by School of Scottish Studies, Peter Hall and others. Eventually his massive repertoire (particularly of stories) was systematically recorded by American researcher Linda (can't remember her family name, but she eventually became the second Mrs Williamson).
William Mathieson collected songs and stories from friends and neighbours in Ellon, Aberdeenshire and was the first singer to be recorded for the School of Scottish Studies by Hamish Henderson.
John Strachan learned songs from his family and from farm servants on his family farm and sang them to Alan Lomax in 1951.
It was common practice for traditional singers to write down their own, family members', and friends and neighbors in exercise books. A number of these were archived by collectors and researchers such as Tom Munnelly and Peter Cook.
And the beat goes on....!
It takes a special kind of begrudgery to benefit from the work of collectors by taking and singing the songs they have passed on to us, refusing to recognise their role, then boast about it.
Well done - keep it coming.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 06:37 PM

"their own, family members',"
Should read .....their own, family members songs and those of friends and neighbours...
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 06:45 PM

"It takes a special kind of begrudgery to benefit from the work of collectors by taking and singing the songs they have passed on to us, refusing to recognise their role, then boast about it."

A long post to get to your point JC. The songs existed, it takes a special kind of conceit to believe they'd have died without the collector. Perhaps the community had no further use for them? It's a similar position to Columbus discovering America and not telling a few million natives about it first. Anon became the new authorship with the collector centre stage.
Your opening salvo was nearer the truth "They have no role in the 'folk process'...". At least it would have been if there was a folk process.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 06:49 PM

How would you suggest they got to us?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 06:58 PM

Academic study? Hobbyism? What's wrong with 'anon' for a compiler of anon?


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 07:11 PM

As noted previously, about 35 years ago I documented an area and its people photographically and with personal notes, that was about to disappear. I have never exhibited the images and they never will be shown until I'm dead - hopefully decades from now - because I disagree with the photographer or archivist achieving fame or notoriety on the back of images and words of regular people. I had an opportunity, I did it, the images exist. If they go into public record rather than a gallery with all the baggage that carries it will be a job well done. I don't believe I should be viewed as the 'image carrier'. I had a camera and a note book and thought no-one else would do it. Apart from that it was all them.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Bill D
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 08:05 PM

It's not hard actually...MtheGM made a good start back up there a ways when he said "I can tell instantaneously what DOESN'T sound like.., "

So...everyone go to the Mudcat/Digital tradition database and make a list of songs we agree are 'traditional'.....then we compare lists and merge the lists into one BIG list that almost everyone agrees on.

This is approximately what philosophers/semanticists call an "Ostensive_definition"
Then we make a list of what characteristics the items on the list seem to share. (Yes...that list will no doubt be similar to what several folks have already noted.)

Then, if further clarification is needed, we all turn on the television or local radio station and make a list of those 'songs' we do NOT think are "trad" and extract the common attributes.

With these two lists and some common sense, we can have a reasonable working definition, bearing in mind that someone will always point to some song...(or version of a song) and harrrumph that it is in a gray area. Sure....so what? Life is full of categories and their gray areas!

The point is, 'ostensive defintion' is how we operate most of the time, even IF our lists are not identical....and all practical applications of ostensive definition are done from someone's subjective viewpoint...(usually to sell something or defend singing a song in a certain venue...Hmmm?

Most other definitions are 'intensional'... "An intensional definition, also called a connotative definition, specifies the necessary and sufficient conditions for a thing being a member of a specific set."...but many intensional definitions begin AS ostensive lists like I describe.

Ok....you may now resume debating over where to point.....


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Bert
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 08:05 PM

It really isn't worth typing a message in Mudcat. It just disappears.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Bill D
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 08:06 PM

It does??


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 08:15 PM

"As noted previously, about 35 years ago I documented........"
So you took a photograph of the shanties you sang this morning ... it all becomes clear now!
Dont call us.......
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 08:54 PM

If we accept that we are never going to agree on a hard and fast definition with rigorous boundaries, we then seem to be moving towards those dictionary definitions of 'traditional', which appear to be all we need????

Jim,
Regarding the widespread use of the word folk:
(I tried desperately to capture and drag what you wrote but failed)
Ask the man in the street what he would include under the heading of 'folk song'. There might well be a lot of traditional song in there but it would also include Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Seth Lakeman and all of the stuff on Folk on 2. Don't blame the media, they're only reflecting the common voice.
As for 'failure to engage with the rest of the English-speaking world', most people in our world don't see this as a necessity or even as desirable. We can certainly have our own definition of 'folk song' as long as we don't expect to co-ordinate accurately with the big world out there.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 16 Mar 10 - 04:35 AM

The analogy you sought to miss JC, was the doings of ordinary people are their own, not yours or mine. Sticking our name above their graft is a bit rich, even as compiler. What I'm doing on this board arguing with people like you is a more difficult question to answer, especially when I knew what the score was in 1975 and nothing's changed in the guru racket.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Mar 10 - 04:56 AM

"Ask the man in the street what he would include under the heading of 'folk song'."
It's something I, and I believe all of us, have been doing all our lives, talking to people you work with or come in contact with socially. "What do you do out in a hole like Kirkby - they haven't got any pubs out there, have they? ..." Because of my habit of singing as as I worked it went beyond that with people I was employed by as a domestic electrician.
I always got a mish-mash of replies to my queries, ranging from the school - via Sharp, The Spinners, "That rubbish those two Scots gits (Hall Jimmy McGregor) sang on tele last night; latterly Riverdance featured largely in the conversation.
What can I possibly draw from that other than an ignorance, disinterest and occasionally hostility.
The same was the case with the jazz I went to listen to, the "foreign muck" I went to see on the cinema, some of the books I read during the dinner break at work, eating Indian food before it became popular.....
You base what you do on what you know, not on what others don't know or don't care about - surely?
If there was a groundswell which produced a single identifiable, challenging definition, your revisionists might have a case; there isn't; any demand to re-label ourselves comes solely from some of the clubs which, as I have said, haven't engaged with the outside world to any graet extent.
You still haven't commented on what I believe to be a most important point.
Are you going to persuade Steve Roud that he must re-title his work 'The Traditional Song Index', or the EFDSS that henceforth they are to call themselves the ETDSS and rename their journal The Traditional Music Journal.
What are we going to do about the related disciplines, change them to traditional lore and traditional tales and traditional dance and traditional customs?
Or do we adopt our new identity just in the clubs and on forums such as this, making ourselves even more the freemasons lodges we already resemble.
And our literature; rebind our library books to 'Traditional Song In England', 'English Traditional Song - Some Conclusions', 'The Ballad and the Tradition'.... (or maybe we put an 'errata' slip in the relevant ones)?
Sorry Steve, as a dedicated fan of 'The Goons' and 'Monty Python' I'm beginning to think.... nah, couldn't be; and we're still a few weeks away from 1th April.
For me, this is all very reminicent of the Esperanto movement that crashed in flames in the not too distant past.
Our identity as an artistic form is long established and, like it or not, we're stuck with what we've got.
For me, the term 'folk' resonates what we are about; it is not just a music that has undergone a process, it marks who made the songs and where and why they were made; this is reflected in its title.
Personally, I prefer my 'folk' with nowt taken out.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 16 Mar 10 - 07:38 AM

""Are you going to persuade Steve Roud that he must re-title his work 'The Traditional Song Index', or the EFDSS that henceforth they are to call themselves the ETDSS and rename their journal The Traditional Music Journal.""

Jim, if you want to discuss what others say, it might be beneficial to actually read what they say first.

Nobody here is suggesting that traditional song be outwith the folk genre. The suggestion was, and still is, that the "Folk" definition needs to be extended to include (carefully selected) more of what the world at large regards already as "Contemporary Folk".

There is no consensus that anything currently included should be removed.

Even you have been heard to allow the work of a few modern composers into the category of "acceptable in a venue calling itself a folk club".

If you insist on maintaining the absolute sovereignty of the 1954 definition, surely you must decry the singing in a "Folk Club" of any song by Ewan McColl, or Cyril Tawney.

If not, then please explain why it is your right to ignore 1954, while the rest of us must conform.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 Mar 10 - 12:22 PM

Jim,
Regarding usage of the word 'folk' Don has already answered for me. Like him I'm not suggesting we drop the word, just recognise that it has another wider meaning today whether we like it or not. That wider meaning actually encompasses your meaning. I'm not suggesting we alter any titles from the past that include the word, although I do think if these organisations/writers were setting out afresh they might think twice about wording their titles in this way. As for the EFDSS their activities frequently associate with and include the wider usage of the word. Also I don't see many more recent organisations using the word in their titles, particularly in Ireland, ITMA for instance. Those using the word 'folk' anew are the organisations that encompass the wider meaning.

Now, coming back to the OP if we may, I would therefore, if we can agree that we don't need to have hard and fast boundaries, for the purposes of MUDCAT threads and related can I suggest that 'traditional song' be defined tentatively as any song that has undergone the oral/aural process. If we can agree on this temporarily then we can start to add in other qualifiers if that is the general concensus. If the majority want to exclude certain genres or throw in timescales I'm happy to go along with what the majority decide.
I personally will recognise that other traditions have played a large part in what we generally perceive as 'traditional song'.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Mar 10 - 01:38 PM

here we go
adieu sweet lovely nancy,hoping down in kent[you need alot of hope when you are in kent],just as the tide ,streams of lovely nancy,ball of yarn,nutting girl,windy old weather,claudy banks,firelock stile,riding down to portsmouth, gameof all fours,on one april morning,bunch of rushes, bonny bunch of roses,duke of marlborough,yarmouth town ,cruising round yarmouth,lord gregory ,lord randall,two brothers,lovely joan, devonshire farmers daughter


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 Mar 10 - 02:09 PM

Interesting collection of broadside ballads you've got there, Dick!


Hee Hee!

But seriously I'm sure that for the main body of the material we would all be fully in agreement. So what's the problem?


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 16 Mar 10 - 02:38 PM

Steve, I agree entirely that it would be enormously helpful if for the purpose of general discussion on Mudcat we could agree to use a broadly accepted and understood vocabulary. We might then prevent some perfectly straightforward threads from being diverted by the usual Mudcat bickering, name-calling and hobbyhorse-riding.

Unfortunately, any attempt to agree a suitable glossary will probably end up being diverted by the usual Mudcat bickering, name-calling, etc.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 16 Mar 10 - 03:12 PM

"The songs existed, it takes a special kind of conceit to believe they'd have died without the collector."

It's a simple fact, Mr. Glue, that many of these songs would indeed have been forgotten if they had not been collected, transcribed, recorded, etc. And we can all dip into this cultural inheritance, even you. Unless you learned everything in your songbag from family and friends, broadsides, etc.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 16 Mar 10 - 03:18 PM

I do not agree with limiting anyone's definition of folk music. There is no consensus here nor should it be necessary to have it. One of the great things about Mudcat is that we can all agree to disagree for reasonable purposes. I do not believe there is a real "broadly accepted and understood vocabulary" for folk music and it needs to be continually redefined.

The "name-calling" or "bickering" serves no useful purpose but it is important to continuous clarify what is meant by the idea of folk music. It can't just be like Alice in Wonderland where
"The word means what I say it does."

I think Jim Carroll is closest to a view of what folk music is. He emphasizes the necessity of the importance of tradition-based music collected and preserved as a national or international resource.

There are those of us who have studied folk music all of our lives and have a working
knowledge of what it means and represents. In today's world we see not only an imperialism that takes it's form in military occupations and violence, but an artistic
imperialism where the popular music industry and it's ancillary organizations seeks to
define folk music to sell it to a mass audience and in the songwriting licensing organizations to co-opt it by not admitting a category for songs in the public domain.

I don't refer to myself as a traditional folk singer any more than I am a linebacker for a football team. However, I have studied folk music as an amateur ethnomusicologist
and with an avid interest in cultural anthropology. Folklore and music is aligned with these pursuits. I also perform folk songs when I can though the market for this appears to be shrinking. Nonetheless, you can't convince me that the latest outpouring of singer/songwriter product no matter how good it is should be called folk music.

A "suitable glossary" will not be available until a deeper understanding of this music
by those who have been involved in it for many years have an imput.

Big Bill Broonzy's "Horses don't sing it" is not an answer to the passing off of recent songwriting should be accepted as folk music.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 16 Mar 10 - 03:59 PM

"many of these songs would indeed have been forgotten if they had not been collected.."

What I find interesting is why the songs became unfashionable in the milieu that generated them but certain individuals maintained them. Equally interesting is the reason why bourgeois connouisseurs valorised them as domestic-exotic artifacts and the working classes in the C20th mimicked the taste for collection.
Some songs could have disappeared and no doubt many did, though by no means all - which would have survived? Much as I admire traditional songs I've always had the feeling I'm listening to the results of interventionist policies which resulted in a snapshot view of refined Victorian tastes for the products of an amorphous peasantry.

As a lesson in ostension the continuing myths of folksong are fascinating.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 Mar 10 - 04:41 PM

Sorry to be pedantic but please read the OP.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 16 Mar 10 - 05:15 PM

"Sorry to be pedantic.."

Don't be. It's the lingua franca of Mudcat. Without nit-picking the tradition would be unimaginable.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Mar 10 - 05:46 PM

Nobody has a right to say that traditional songs have no relevance - all they are entitled to say is that they have no relevance to them.
Over the last forty odd years I have seen audiences moved to gales of laughter or to tears or paroxisms of anger by ballads and songs that have lain dormant for centuries.
Shakespeare wrote his plays five centuries ago; in the intervening centuries there have been long periods when those plays have not been peformed - they died; why weren't they given a decent funeral and forgotten? Because somebody recognised their worth and preserved them - try to get into a half decent production of Hamlet nowadays and see how long you have to queue for a ticket and how much you have to pay for it. If preserving those plays was a conceit, I'm am more than grateful that somebody was conceited enough to take the trouble.
We watched with some degree of anger and despair while the Irish Travellers magnificent song tradition disappeared virtually overnight to be replaced by what - Dallas, Coronation Street and East Enders. We met singers like Mary Delaney with repertoires of going on for 200 songs, most of them new to me; what should we have done, walked away and said "Ah well, they're no longer relevant; let's leave her to her memories". Her Traveller neighbour, Mikeen McCarthy - 130 stories, 60 songs - masses upon masses of information about ballad selling, street singing, old cures, lore, the traditional trades of tinsmithing, horse trading..... Mikeen died a few years ago and had his information not been recorded it would have died with him - would that have been good or bad thing.
People carried in their heads down the centuries the history and culture of people who society has regarded have no history and culture - it is a supreme arrogance to suggest that what they carried is no longer of interest and not worth preserving.
G - I suggest that those of us who would rather watch Corrie and East Enders (and listen to up to the minute hits like 24 Hours to Tulsa maybe) go and do so and leave us to our ploutering in the past.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 16 Mar 10 - 06:42 PM

""A "suitable glossary" will not be available until a deeper understanding of this music
by those who have been involved in it for many years have an imput.

Big Bill Broonzy's "Horses don't sing it" is not an answer to the passing off of recent songwriting should be accepted as folk music.
""

Your comment begs the question, what do you regard as recent songwriting?

Is Ewan McColl a recent songwriter?......Cyril Tawney?

You see, the majority of the most ardent supporters of the 1954 definition seem to be saying that the music of those more recent singers whom they admire is acceptable as folk, while that of people for whom they have no liking or respect is not.

One of the most persistent of these is in fact Jim Carroll.

Now, as far as I can see, the statement "The word means whatever I want it to mean" applies equally well to Jim as to Tom Bliss and others, who have disagreed with him.

My point is this:- Who gets to choose, and Why?

Don T. ("a deeper understanding of this music by those who have been involved in it for many years"...does 50 years performing and organising qualify?)


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 16 Mar 10 - 06:53 PM

BTW, before the expected response rolls in from, what's the phrase they use for us?....oh yes, the "Usual Suspects", let me reiterate.

1. I sing traditional songs.
2. I value the tradition as much as any here
3. I do not, nor ever will, say that the tradition has no relevance. In fact it is, and always has been the basis for my own music, and the grass roots of any club or session I have been involved in.
4. I have never advocated diminishing the tradition, or excluding it, but rather bringing in what is most folklike, not to the tradition but to a carefully managed and extended folk music genre.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 Mar 10 - 07:05 PM

Meanwhile.....those who want to discuss the word 'traditional'.....
as in the OP. The words 'traditional' and 'folk' are not synonymous even as adjectives applied to 'song'. Okay they are related but here it makes sense to deal with them separately so we don't end up clouding the issue or having several themes running at once, which is how most of these threads get bogged down.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Mar 10 - 08:14 PM

Don;
"You see, the majority of the most ardent supporters of the 1954 definition seem to be saying that the music of those more recent singers whom they admire is acceptable as folk, while that of people for whom they have no liking or respect is not."
They are saying nothing of the kind. I happen to have liked and admired MacColl and I find the 1954 definition useful (not an ardent supporter - I have said often enough it needs updating) - I don't accept MacColl as folk - would you like to point out where I have?.
Can you give us one other 'ardent supporter of '54' who has said MacColl is 'acceptible as folk, or even that they liked his singing'?
"The word means whatever I want it to mean" - who has claimed that here apart from those who run 'anything goes clubs' and call them folk.
The word has documented definitions - tell us which one you 'are an ardent supporter of', (or do you have another one that isn't documented)? If you are unable to provide one it is you who are guilty of "the word means whatever I want it to mean".
Nobody has ever questioned your right to sing whatever you choose - if they have, tell us where they have? I have no idea what you sing or listen to just have you have no idea of my tastes.
I have no argument with any of your four points above - we are in complete agreement.
I could just do without the hostility and the unsubstantiated assumptions - that's all.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 04:06 AM

"We watched with some degree of anger and despair while the Irish Travellers magnificent song tradition disappeared virtually overnight... it is a supreme arrogance to suggest that what they carried is no longer of interest and not worth preserving."

It surely won't be lost on you that 'traditional music' has always required to someone from outside the class or culture to 'save' the people from themselves. Collection of anything, particularly tunes without the prevailing fashion, is an act of discrimination and connoisseurship. No-one from beyond the traveller community was telling them they couldn't keep the song and storytelling culture going, they had been replaced by a different set of stories provided by other media. That's been true of music hall replacing community singing since the whole industrial dispacement of country to town.

We may believe there's fascination in the remnant artifacts of a changing culture, we have no right to demand their preservation unless we are part of that culture. As for 'anger and despair' - anger and despair at whom? The people who originated it?


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 04:45 AM

"'save' the people from themselves."
Why do you have to be so snide - is it something in the water where you live?
Because something passes out of 'fashion' and it is replaced by market-produced tat doesn't mean that we can't still continue to enjoy it - we're not sheep who run in flocks.
And no - of course it wasn't against those who originated the songs, nor the ones who gave them to us, they have my eternal gratitude.
It is against the insidious nature of the market machine which seeks to replace our creations with their off-the-peg products.
"we have no right to demand their preservation"
Who the hell is demanding the preservation of anything - we continue to take pleasure from it as we do from Shakespeare, Homer, Zola, Mozart, Dickens - or are all of these past their sell-by day and need to be removed from the shelves?
I ask again ..."had his information not been recorded it would have died with him - would that have been good or bad thing?"   
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: GUEST,Ralphie
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 05:05 AM

Well Jim, we're obviously very lucky and grateful to you for the work you are doing.
Meanwhile, the travellers of whom you speak, are either listening to an IPod, communicating with friends on Facebook, watching their flat screen HD Tv's, talking to mates via Skype.
The world has moved on.
Of course it's important to collect and archive what used to be.
Trouble is, in the 21st century, it's about as interesting to the majority as a stuffed Dodo.
I don't often agree with Mr Wysiwig, but, at least he (along with many others) Are trying to keep the music alive. Good luck to him I say.
Also, I'm lucky enough to occasionally visit the King and Queen in Foley Street. (run by Peta Webb and Ken Hall).
Mainly Trad, but not exclusively so, (unlike McColls singers club which was unrelentingly boring).

Out of interest. What is your opinion on Jim Eldon? Would you shout at him for not singing and playing properly?
Packie Byrne isn't one of the best singers in the world either...(not bad for 93 though)


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 05:16 AM

JC I appreciate I'm completely wasting my time countering your put-downs with logic, but you were the one who said 'anger and despair'. Individual anger at societal changes is understandable, one only had to see rows of medieval buildings being replaced by ring roads in the 1960s to notice that not all innovation was for the better but if the people who originate a culture don't care about its loss we can do little but record it and remove it to a culture that does mind. While noting it has nothing to do with the adopting culture except novelty.

'The insidious nature of the marketing machine' forces no-one to do anything. That's just a romantic appraisal of evolution. I don't watch TV or take a newspaper and my radio listening goes no further than Radio 3 plus a couple of hours of listen again, so conspicuous media consumption isn't something I can be accused of. 'Snide' seems to be any answer you don't like the sound of.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 05:51 AM

Traditional music existed perfectly well for centuries without requring "someone from outside the class or culture to 'save' the people from themselves". It was only when it ceased to be relevant to the communities it had formerly served that the question of preservation arose. Even then, the impetus was not solely from outside those communities - the value of the traditional songs was often recognised by those within the tradition who did what they could to preserve the songs - Walter Pardon and Bob Copper come to mind.

It's a strange sort of cultural relativism which says that only the original communities have the right to decide what happens to these songs, and that if they reject them then no one else should step in to preserve them.

The fact is, there is still a community for whom these songs are relevant. It's a very different, self-conscious community which probably approaches the music differently from the original singers, but it exists nonetheless, and the music continues to live and evolve. I believe we are continuing a tradition, albeit differently than before. However let's not pretend it's any longer the "Voice of the People" - the People have moved on to other things.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 06:15 AM

Ralphie
Do you believe songs and music have a sell-by date - can't we still enjoy them, even prefer them, long after they have ceased to be fashionable?
Perhaps you could answer the question Glueman persists in evading - if the songs and stories had died out with the singers would that have been a good thing or a bad thing?
"unlike McColls singers club which was unrelentingly boring"
A matter of personal taste, surely - it ran for over thirty years and continually packed in audiences - somebody must have liked it; I certainly did; went most weeks for over 20 years (don't think you answered my question of how many times you went and who you talked to).
"...either listening to an IPod, communicating with friends on Facebook, watching their flat screen HD Tv's, talking to mates via Skype."
You obviously haven't met too many Travellers - virtually none of them have computers; most of them still don't read.
"Out of interest. What is your opinion on Jim Eldon?"
Last time I saw him he looked as bored as I felt.
"While noting it has nothing to do with the adopting culture except novelty."
Nothing to do with passing it on so it can still be enjoyed, I suppose?
I SEE YOU ARE STILL IGNORING MY QUESTION - nothing new there, the awkward ones are best left alone or wrapped in bullshit verbiage, as above - (never got a coherent one about where you got your shanties.)
Suggestion to you both - if you don't like traditional song, please feel free to go elsewhere for your entertainment
If you don't like the goods don't muck 'em abaht!
Jim Carroll.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 06:25 AM

"It's a strange sort of cultural relativism which says that only the original communities have the right to decide what happens to these songs"

It would be if that was being suggested. What is important to point out is songs were dying because their original thrall no longer held sway, either because fashions had changed or they were supplanted by different media. I don't see 'anger and despair' being the appropriate driver of preservation any more than we can despair that green diesels don't pull coal wagons or housewives in turbans don't red-lead their front door steps each morning. Indeed the conversation would barely be worth having if 'anger and despair' weren't continually wheeled out as an objection to anyone who tried to displace a wholly sentimental view of such changes with an objective one.

Emotion will and should play a role in the life of any well-rounded individual, but firing broadsides at anyone who questions the rationale behind preservation, or the assumptions about the way such preserved artifacts are re-cycled is letting their spleen shout down their brain.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 07:11 AM

"I don't see 'anger and despair' being the appropriate driver of preservation"
When we started recording travellers in 1973 it was the practice at night for the people of the sites to light an open fire and gather round it to talk, sing, tell tales, discuss business.
When we returned in early 1975 we were greeted with empty sites and the glow of televisions through the trailer windows - the oral tradition had gone.
Singing and storytelling were very much a part of the communal reaction between families - when they went, so did the gatherings.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 07:24 AM

'Progress' isn't always positive. Surely in our increasingly fragmented communities, in a world being driven to the point of exhaustion by consumer capitalism, we can recognize that, without being called 'sentimental'.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: GUEST,Ralphie
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 07:28 AM

Well. I don't find Jim Eldon boring.. Far from it.
His version of Teenage Kicks, is far better than the Undertones.
Sorry that you don't find his music interesting.
I do. As well as the music of Peta Webb and Ken Hall.
Thank you for keeping the tradition alive single handedly.
Where would the rest of be without the sterling work that you do?
We are obviously not worthy to lick your boots.
Got to go now... Have more tunes to record.
(Feel like a version of Voodoo Child coming on....Multitracked Duets...)


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 08:00 AM

"'Progress' isn't always positive."

I completely agree.

"Surely in our increasingly fragmented communities, in a world being driven to the point of exhaustion by consumer capitalism, we can recognize that, without being called 'sentimental'."

You can, but I'd say terms like 'fragmented communities' and 'exhaustion by consumer capital' are shaped by sentiment, if you think the answer is to sing old songs. I may be a square peg for seeing traditional music as one part of a compelling soundscape my generation (50 somethings) have inherited, rather than the single music worth the bother. I don't share the revival's obsession with folk music if it's to the exclusion of all others, or believe it's an honest response to the totality of where we are at musically. To maintain the railway analogy, you can seek out a preserved engine shed any weekend and see men and women keeping craft skills like alive, such as retubing a boiler or handlining a teak coach without ever believing steam power or wooden carriages are the answer to the nation's current public transport problems.

The myth I don't subscribe to is that folk music will die if it isn't performed. It may die if it isn't listened to (whatever 'die' means as Prince Charles might say) but there are enough exemplary recordings by singers closer to the mother lode than we can ever be to make such announcements appear neurotically sentimental. And anyway, there are those who are convinced the current generation can't add to the tradition in any meaningful way, meaning the best the living can do it repeat the words of the dead. I'm convinced folkies understand the scene for what it is and enjoy what we have without subscribing to sentimental myths or the arbitrary barriers of vested interests.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 08:39 AM

"Sorry that you don't find his music interesting."
Sorry you found the Singers Club boring - chacun son goût, I suppose
"We are obviously not worthy to lick your boots."
Don't be facetious - you'll end up as twisted and snidey as Glueman.
"To maintain the railway analogy,"
Again you have chosen to ignore one of the main functions of the tradition, it's social influence.
The loss of the oral and musical traditions among Travellers contributed to its fragmentation as a cohesive community, the most noticable being the creation of an age gap which has let to a huge increase in crime among youth, particularly drug-influenced.
A more sininter aspect was its contribution towards the divisions between the settled and Travelling communities. Travellers were once valued as tradesmen in the farming area, but also as singers, storytellers, musicians and news carriers. The disappearance of all these has created a hostile and apparently unbreachable gap between the two communities; the Travellers bearing a seething resentment towards the people they believe to be responsible for their present deplorable situation, the settled attitude being one verging on ethnic cleansing.
The loss of the old traditions has also led to fragmentation and isolation within the settled communities themselves. Within living memory the house and crossroads dances were the cultural centeres where people gathered to dance, play, sing and tell stories. The forcible break up of these by the combined efforts of church and state bodies led to their disappearance and increased isolation.
Interestingly, one of the features of the improvement of the fortunes of traditional music is the re-establishment of many of these gatherings, albeit in bars rather than in poeple's homes.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 09:03 AM

"Don't be facetious - you'll end up as twisted and snidey as Glueman."

You can't help yourself, can you? Disagreeing is not being snidey, just as pontificating isn't explaining and writing in capitals doesn't make things clearer.

' "To maintain the railway analogy,"
Again you have chosen to ignore one of the main functions of the tradition, it's social influence.'

You don't think the railways had any social influence? Seriously JC, you need to put your prejudices behind you and think outside the box. It'll be painful, you may have to question yourself but it'll be worth it.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 09:22 AM

No "'save' the people from themselves." is being snidey pick out plenty more if you wish.
"Seriously JC, you need to put your prejudices behind you and think outside the box."
Address the issues of the disappearence of the traditions on the communities please; at the same time, perhaps you can deal with some of the others you have chose to avoid - shanties, allowing the songs and music to die along with the carriers - or is this being "in a schoolroom?"
The tradition was disappearing - collectors preserved some of it - you took some of it up, benefiting from the work of the collectors, (on your own admission) - you berated the collectors as "thieves", refusing to acknowledge your own part in the "theft". Hypocricy or what?
You really are not doing too well here - again!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: GUEST,Ralphie
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 09:23 AM

Jim.
I'll listen to, play, and accompany anything that I damn well like, thank you.
If you don't like it, or it doesn't fit into your purview of what is, or isn't important...TOUGH!
I don't particularly go along with Wysiwigs version of reality, Nor Mr Cringe.
Nor indeed anybody. But I don't diss them for holding their views.
Do my views matter? (Only to me,and I don't expect anyone to share them)
Jim. Go back to your little ghetto.
Any respect I had for you has long gone.
Feel an afternoon of Frank Zappa coming on.
The torture never stops.
(But you won't have ever heard of it....)


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 09:29 AM

Jim for all that you've put into the music you've taken far more out by removing the sympathy of anyone within earshot from folk or the tradition. If it comes with your views, give me the chart Top Ten.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 10:41 AM

"I'll listen to, play....
Whoever said you shouldn't?
"If you don't like it.....
Whoever said it did or didn't?
"But I don't diss them for holding their views."
Nor do I; occasionally disagree with them though.
"Do my views matter?"
To you they do; some of them I find interesting - but not when they're delivered in a (Glueman) snide manner
"Any respect I had for you has long gone."
Ah well, you can't win 'em all!
".....Frank Zappa coming on."
As up-to date as The Mothers (half a century ago weren't they?) - that should bring the kids in in their droves.
Glueman:
Something else to add to your 'avoid like the plague' list.
One of the effects the revival had on people like me was the unbelieveable access to self-expression it gave us - unlike any other musical form I've ever experienced, before or since.
The democratic nature of the clubs gave us the opporunity to be performers, creators and re-creators rather than passive recipients. It freed us from the heap of shit that was being poured on us in the name of entertainment - it enabled us to become artists in our own right - we became active participents in our own culture.
It also gave us freedom to research, and to meet the carriers of our culture.
It gave the lie to the idea that we had been brought up with that people like us' role in life was little more that "picking up our wage packet at the end of the week" - a philosophy you would have us return to apparently with your insistence that we return to the cultural conveyor belt.
"give me the chart Top Ten."
Gladly - give my love to Amy.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 12:10 PM

PS What was that you were saying about 'wiggle' G?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 12:26 PM

Is there any moderation on this board?


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 12:49 PM

"Is there any moderation on this board?"
Are there any answers on this thread?
Heat - kitchen and all that!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 01:03 PM

Joe has been informed of your behaviour. I await his reply.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 02:13 PM

So do I - I've done little more than echo you own behaviour
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: glueman
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 02:33 PM

Not true. Anyway here's a folk tale while we see whether Joe plays Pontius Pilate or Mack the Knife.

There was once a bad old woman who died and St Peter was waiting at the gate for her arrival.
"You're a wicked old cow", he said, "and you've been a pain in the arse to everyone you've ever met. Give me one reason why you shouldn't go straight to hell."
The old woman thought and thought and finally remembered that many years ago she had given a starving beggar an onion. It didn't technically belong to her and was a bit dodgy anyway but she recalled the incident and demanded to be let in. St Peter produced the onion and said, "Is that it?" and the bad old woman admitted it was.
He said "if you can hang onto the onion stalk without it breaking you can come up through the pearly gates."
As she grabbed hold of the stalk another sinner said, "hang on you old slapper. It's hot in hell and I gave once you a piece of wood for the fire," and he caught hold of her leg as she began to be raised up.
"Leave it out," she growled, "It's my onion" and she kicked him free and as she did so one of the onion skins fell away with the sinner on the end of it.
"That was a close shave", said the woman and grabbed the next layer as another sinner caught her other leg.
"Come on you miserable old bitch", said the second sinner, "I once gave you a bone for your dog. Give us a hand up."
"You fat turd", she said, this being a contemporary spin on the folk tale and one authorised by the GLC in its more liberal and edgy phase, "It'll never hold your weight" and she wiggled her leg until he fell back into the flames with the second onion skin.
Being familiar with the narrative arc of folk tales she didn't like the way this was going but she was almost upon the pearly gates when another sinner grabbed her the hem of her coat.
"You remember me" he said, "I sang you a song when you were feeling miserable".
"But it wasn't your song", she snorted, "and anyway you've never let up about it for the last forty years. In fact you've bored everybody shitless."
"Well my name was on the collection. If you let me hang on I'll sing you another when we get there."
St Peter saw this and said, "You're a miserable old woman and I had a neat plan to send you back to hell, but there are twenty skilled craftsmen who wrote those songs and if this fella starts banging on about 'the people's music' it's all going to kick off and I run a nice set up. So kick the sod back where he came from and I'll give you an access all areas pass to eternal bliss."
So she booted the sinner back and she could hear his pitiful cries of, "they were anonymous" and "finders, keepers" and "show me another definition" and "no answer I see" but both she and St Peter admitted they'd had a very close shave and took up their place to listen to the talented people who'd written those marvellous songs and tales in the first place.

The End.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 05:57 PM

Okay, game, set and match to Glueman, now can we go back to the OP?


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: EBarnacle
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 06:41 PM

Actually, "Traditional" often means, "I'm too effing lazy to find the author."

To give three examples, on several occasions I have seen Fiddler's Green cited as trad; I have just been given a CD with Storm King cited as trad [I am acquainted with the author]; a verse I gave Oscar Brand for "However Many Nights Drunk" has been cited in several places as Anon.

In none of these cases is the song or verse Trad or Anon.


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 07:45 PM

Jim right, Glueman idiot, this thread proves no idiot can use a dictionary. It isn't rocket science and it isn't management theory or social work.

FARK!


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 10:04 PM

As much as I'd like to, I haven't decided whether I'm going to stick round or not yet.
For the record, these are my two 'bullying' postings to Glueman.
Just in case - goodbye all, and thanks for the fish, and thanks a million for the off-thread support - leaves a warm glow.
Jim Carroll
PS. Would have posted this on Glueman's thread, but it has been closed for the duration.

"Can I take it that your appeal didn't ring any bells then?"

"Don't you find it strange that somebody who calls us all a shower of cunts should go running to sir when he is getting the worst of an argument"?


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Subject: RE: What defines a traditional song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 10:23 PM

For the sake of balance, I should have included Glueman's postings to me.
Jim Carroll

1.   That's for me to know and you to wonder about.
2.   a) I didn't call folkies anything of the sort, I quoted someone else and made that abundantly clear at the time along with his reasons.
b) I find it very creepy that you maintain your disturbing and bullying behaviour via PMs. Please desist. Put your behaviour in public forum for all to judge rather than hiding menacingly in the shadows.
________________________________________
3.   Can I make a request as the last thread has been closed, you can keep this as public or as private as your like. As we seem unable to agree on anything whatsoever how about I don't respond directly to anything you've written and you don't respond directly to anything I've written?
Just a request for the peace of the board. As we disagree on fundamentals it's unlikely to go away otherwise.
    Thread closed due to unwarranted brawling. Please start another (but peaceful) thread if you wish to continue the discussion.
    -Joe Offe-


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