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What defines a traditional song?

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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
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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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