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Traditional singer definition

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Subject: Traditional singer definition
From: r.padgett
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 11:04 AM

I thought I had a Eureka moment last night, or maybe a bad pint!

I sing Tradtional songs and those of social and historical worth (in my view)

I am not a Traditional singer:

Traditional singers maybe, Fred Jordan, Walter Pardon, Sam Larner, Paddy Tunney and so on~~

Now a Traditionalist singer!!

Is a singer of traditional songs and similar, written in the traditional format, that is for example contemporary traditionalist singer songwriters such as John Conolly, Alan Bell, Keith Marsden as well as accepted traditional songs from source singers

What do you think!!

Ray


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: alanabit
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 11:11 AM

I think I am going to keep my mouth shut and my head down before the fighting starts!


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: greg stephens
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 11:15 AM

Do I have strong and deeply thought out opinions on this? Yes!!
Am I going to air them here? No!!


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: treewind
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 11:17 AM

I'm just off to buy a big wooden spoon and gift-wrap it for you Ray...


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: theleveller
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 11:31 AM

I think you've hit the nail squarely on the head there, Ray. Now a traditionalist singer is what I'be be happy to be known as. BTW, what beer was it? I could do with some enlightenment myself :)


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 01:26 PM

Is this like the difference between a Shaman and 'Shamanistic'? I think I'll call meself a Traddishistic Singer then..


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Bernard
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 01:37 PM

Well... I regard the term 'Traditional Singer' as an impossibility. The descriptive term is given incorrect emphasis. It cannot describe the person, only the material they choose to sing.

A singer of traditional songs, or a singer in the traditional style, maybe.

Ray's 'Traditionalist' works, though.

Would you speak of a 'Real Ale Drinker' or a 'Drinker of Real Ale', for example? Man eating lion and man eating banana...!!


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 01:49 PM

I'm with Bernard on this especially about bananas. Traditional banana definition thread will be up soon

L in C#


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 02:14 PM

"It cannot describe the person, only the material they choose to sing."

Used the way the OP suggests (which is how I tend to use it) it describes the context in which they sing the songs and which shaped their approach to singing.

There's clearly a distinction between the likes of Fred Jordan and Walter Pardon, who sang traditional songs from within the tradition, and revival singers who sing traditional songs. It would be helpful to have accepted and agreed terms to be able to make that distinction without misunderstanding.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Dan Schatz
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 02:18 PM

Maybe the true definition of a "traditional singer" is someone who can change the words as much as they like and nobody bats an eyelash.

Dan (ducking)


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 02:35 PM

I know I will regret getting invoved in this but.............


1. The 19C/20C collectors selected some songs from singers and ignored other songs from the same people
2. The singers in question sang very old songs, old songs, songs from friends and family songs fom broadsides, hymns and musichall songs and all sorts of other songs
3. Songs were collected in a number of contexts, pubs, homes, workhouses, rich houses and church settings
4. Much was written down by trained musicians with a pencil and paper and a strict education in music
5. Although some collectors may have been sympathetic to the impoverished lives of working people they often knew little of the lives of the singers.
6. People have been collecting and singing old songs for hundreds of years from working people in all sorts of contexts and lots of different parts of these Islands.
7.The collectors edited and shared some but not all of what they collected.

So, "Traditional singer definition"?

No chance.

Singing old songs that have been around for year? Lets do it. Isn't the essential link between the singers who were the last source of these old songs and those of us who sing them now the context? We most often sit in smallish acoustic spaces and sing the songs to small collections of people and in that context the songs are at theie best and so are the singers.

L in C#


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 02:49 PM

Oh dear, Ray, you're going over very old ground here and stuff that's been mulled over on Mudcat for seemingly centuries. In fact it's a Mudcat tradition. As I've said many times whenever these definitions crop up the words mean different things to different people. Even such a small circle as the British Folk Scene uses this expression in two different ways rather loosely. Most of us who have been around for a while have been used to using the expression to describe those people like you have mentioned above, Walter Pardon, Harry Cox, Jim Copper and all those people recorded by Sharp, Grainger, Kidson, Gardiner etc. but as it has become more used to describe simply people like ourselves who sing traditional songs we have become more inclined to use the expression 'source singer'. As you won't find these expressions in a dictionary there is little point in arguing the toss.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Tootler
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 02:52 PM

I think I'll call meself a Traddishistic Singer then..

Take another look CS. You might like to revisit that definition [g]

There is also the matter of the Equine Singer

At this point I leave the stage and go into Lurker mode.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: TheSnail
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 03:19 PM

I once heard Fred Jordan sing The Fields of Athenry.































Just thought I'd mention it.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: theleveller
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 03:20 PM

"Used the way the OP suggests (which is how I tend to use it) it describes the context in which they sing the songs and which shaped their approach to singing."

Yes, precisely, and also the contest in which the songs were created - in fact I was thinking about staring a thread about this but chickened out.

I think Ray has actually simplfied the matter.

OK, here's my Eureka moment coming home on the train tonight (no beer was involved). The songs are like an ancient oak standing in the corner of a field where a crop of fresh new corn is sprouting. They both spring from and are nurtured by the same earth, in the same place, and thrive there. I could go on and talk about harvesting with a scythe or a combine but I really do need a glass of wine or three.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: theleveller
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 03:22 PM

Not 'contest' (freudian slip?) but context LOL!


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 03:28 PM

That man-eating banana of Bernard's is a lot more worrying than anything else in this thread...

Matthew


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 03:44 PM

Maybe Matthew but I find it very reassuring

L in C#


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: r.padgett
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 03:46 PM

I have not attempted to define a "traditional singer" or source singer ~ like buses can recognise 'em but not define!

I am suggesting that the term "traditionalist singer" (not my word originally) be applied as above to singers of traditional and similar

Steve Gardham has been described in an advert I have, as a traditional singer (he does have claim in fact) I dont believe he would describe himself thus, tho!

Ray

swords at the ready and touche!!


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 04:00 PM

Ray - you're a bloody good singer! now let's all have another pint of whatever it is you were drinking last night. Whose round is it now?

Matthew


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: r.padgett
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 04:04 PM

So kind words sir, thanks!

Ray


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 04:07 PM

Is there something wrong with the established term, "folksong singer"?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: r.padgett
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 04:10 PM

O don't let Steve Gardham see those two words together!

Folksinger is totally generic! says nothing really

Ray

and so to bed


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 04:13 PM

Richard - anyone who mentions the word "folksong" has to buy the next round....

That'll be 5 pints of Black Sheep, and what are the rest of you having? oh, and a banana daquiri for Bernard please.

Matthew


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 04:37 PM

You mean you have forgotten the hickory daquiri doc?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 04:48 PM

@Richard; "the hickory daquiri doc"

Brilliant!!! Now that definitely has earned you a pint. What's your poison?

Matthew


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 04:52 PM

Then there are "sauce singers", who only sing when they are lubricated...


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 05:10 PM

Er, Kevin, re. "singers who only sing when they are lubricated..."

Shouldn't that be in this thread:- sex or trad folk: which is best???

Matthew


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: TheSnail
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 05:12 PM

Time flies like an arrow.
































Fruit flies like a banana.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Paul Burke
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 05:28 PM

Finger?

Ear?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 08:54 PM

After all the donnybrooks there have been on this subject here on the Cat, I don't give a wall-eyed hoot what anyone calls me, folk singer, singer of folk songs, traditional singer, traditionalist singer, singer of traditional songs, minstrel, troubadour, bard, scop, skald, or Fred Flintstone.

Just don't call me late for dinner.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 03:41 AM

And don't call me Shirley

L in C#


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 05:17 AM

Traddy will do for the Real Stuff, and Folky for the Other Stuff. I'm not too keen on Traditionalist because it implies Traditionalism which comes laden with cultish overtones of religious and political dogma which we all know is anathema to right thinking people the world o'er, not least to your Traddy / Folky of course, who would baulk at such debris, cosmic or otherwise. Talking of cosmic debris, someone called my stuff Shamanic the other day (on my Myspace page) which made me wonder if that's another word that has lost whatever sort of meaning it might once have had. Trouble with Myspace is you can't really enter into any sort of meaningful discussion of these things, unlike Mudcat of course, where enlightement might be forged in the white heat of intellectual debate. Must dig out my copy of Eliade's Shamanism : Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy...


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: mauvepink
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 05:18 AM

The most odd thing happened on Wednesday night. I turned up at a folk club I go to fairly regular and only 4 people turned up from the more usual 10+. They turned up late and did not want to be the first ones to start singing so no singing took place. We chatted for an hour or so and the question of some other clubs popped up as to how they deal (or don't deal) with folk songs. Not so much the clubs but some of the people that attend them.

For instance, one club I used to go to had a chap who used to moan every time someone sung a John Denver song, complaining it was not folk music, and then would sing a Country & Western song himself. Yet another club is talking of stopping people singing more than one "cowboy" song. Some of my fellow chatters that evening gave examples of bad times they have had when people have moaned about them singing something outside what some consider folk songs.

I go to one folk club that has been going for three decades. All sorts of songs get sung there. Pop, punk, jazz, blues, C&W, folk... etc.. Now they must be doing something right there. There are never less than 10 singers and at least 20 audience. Yet another club I frequent has such an open door policy and a likewise large attendance of performers and audience. These are relaxed places where you will see all sorts of instruments played in all sorts of ways. No one chunners on if someone sings 'outside' the folk tile.

Surely folk music encompasses so many kinds of songs and types of music? So many well loved 'folk songs' are actually written in the last three decades, so longevity does not have to be a criteria.

I always refer to Louis Armstrong's definition of "All music is folk music, I ain't never heard no horse sing a song". In fact he came out with so many good musical quotes...

"What we play is life"

"We all do 'do, re, mi,' but you have got to find the other notes yourself."

"I never tried to prove nothing, just wanted to give a good show. My life has always been my music, it's always come first, but the music ain't worth nothing if you can't lay it on the public. The main thing is to live for that audience, 'cause what you're there for is to please the people."

And to paraphrase something he said about jazz music "If you have to ask what folk (jazz) music is, you'll never know"

What I require of folk music is for it to touch my emotions in some way. What I call it does not matter. What it does to me is. Folk is a big enough title to encompass so very much and not all of it has to be just right for me. It's good that it touches others in different ways too.

Traditionally I love music. 'Nuff said ;-)

mp

mp


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 05:30 AM

"What I require of folk music is for it to touch my emotions in some way"

Excellent point Ms / Mr mauvepink. But surley (and don't call me Shirley) that is the point of all and any music. It either does something for you or it doesn't. It's an engagement between you and the music. How other people are affected is, or should be, irrelevant.

Somewhere between the old songs collected in the 19th and early 20C and the folk clubs, residents, guests, festivals, songwriters and recordings of the last half of the 20C and the first decade of this one exists a cannon of songs and tunes taht does something to a lot of us. Give it a name and generate a row. Look - here comes one now!

L in C#


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: mauvepink
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 05:49 AM

Dear Shirley ;-)

I need to perhaps make my idea clearer and have no way to do it. I'll try though...

"that is the point of all and any music"

Indeed it is but most all and any music can actually be categorised so much easier than folk it seems. I love opera and classical music too but know exactly what they are and so would most. I have no problems putting then in their own little box so to speak.

Traditional folk I think is one of the hardest things to define to a level all can agree on. So I think one can only agree on it to what it means to you yourself. Then you have to accept that other's too have their own definition. What you cannot do is demand of others to perform to your criteria (though it seems that is what happens). In short I am happy to include many types of song under the traditional folk banner that I agree to. We need to keep all types of music within that alive and kicking.

Even traditional/traditiuonlist folkies rarely agree on what is traditional. Is there, in fact, a set definition? I will stick with Louis Armstronmg for mine :-)

Shirley (sic) it's the only way in which to keep our sanity? lol

mp

(ms)


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: theleveller
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 06:06 AM

I've got it! Not traditionalist but traditionalish.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 06:10 AM

In the words of the Navy Lark
"everybody down!"


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 06:11 AM

Traditionalish is what we're looking for.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 06:13 AM

I was bored the other day..so started trying to think of 10 commandments for mudcat discussions. Number one being:
Thou shalt not utter the word 'traditional'.
*giggle*

I'll go back in my box again now.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: mauvepink
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 06:15 AM

Start the thread LDT.... I'll post ;-)

mp


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 06:21 AM

Can 'guests' start threads?
    Guests may start music threads, but we prefer that you sign up.
    -Joe Offer, Forum Moderator-


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 06:25 AM

A traditional singer is, of course, anyone who sings. Hence Harry Cox, Louis Armstrong, Mick Jagger and Dame Kiri TeKanawa are all traditional singers. Oh yes, and Bob Dylan. This strange state of affairs has arisen because only in the field of folk music are we denied definitions - because they are oppressive and they stop people who do rock music performing in folk clubs - although, actually they don't unless the particular club has a policy - and policies are oppressive ... aren't they?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Steamin' Willie
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 06:30 AM

Good old Ray.. Light blue touch paper, stand well back and enjoy.

Now... My old man used to get drunk in the pub on Xmas Eve, and when we got back home, he used to slump in his chair and start crooning "Old Shep."

If the beer had been watered down more than normal, (not mentioning the pub, but near Worksop...) then he could get as far as the verse about getting his gun out and aiming it at Shep's faithful head. That had the women in tears. Thankfully, he normally passed out before the doctor said I can do no more him.

My point? That was a family tradition. hence, he was a traditional singer......


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: mauvepink
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 06:34 AM

I think you can in BS LDT but if you try and fail I'll do it for you if you wish

mp


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 07:49 AM

'BS'???


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 07:56 AM

...10 commandments for mudcat discussions. Number one being:
Thou shalt not utter the word 'traditional'.


Number two being, "Thou shalt not utter the word 'horse'"


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: mauvepink
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 08:01 AM

BS/Non-music Threads below the music ones

mp


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 08:09 AM

should be
here if I've done it correctly


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 08:11 AM

This is in danger of turning into yet another "what is folk?" discussion when it is really about something different.

On the one hand you have those singers who learned their craft and their songs in the context of an ongoing tradition, where this music was still a part of the community's daily life. On the other hand, you have those singers who came from outside that tradition and who learned their songs mainly from books and records, and perform them mainly in a self-consciously "folky" environment.

That is what I meant by "context" in my earlier post. It is that context, or background if you prefer, which made Fred Jordan a "traditional" singer, even if he was singing a modern song, or even if he learned it off a Martin Carthy album, and even if he was performing in a folk club. The same context means I won't call myself a traditional singer, even when I'm singing a song I may have learned off Fred in a a Shropshire pub.

This is why terms such as "traditional singer" or "source singer" could be useful, if only everyone could agree on them. Of course, if you don't recognise the distinction, or don't think it matters, then you don't need these nuances of vocabulary.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: mauvepink
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 08:18 AM

Without defining what is folk though it can be hard to define what a traditional singer is as they could be traditional with jazz and blues and not be accepted in some folk environments.

A traditional singer alone can be anyone who sings a certain genre traditionally therefore?

mp


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 08:39 AM

Let's not muddy the waters by bringing in other genres. This is a folk music forum so I'm talking in the context of folk music. "Traditional" may mean something completely different in other genres, or may mean nothing at all. "Traditional jazz" is a very different animal in lots of ways from "traditional folk".


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Johnny J
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 08:42 AM

Traditional singer or musician:

Definition

A performer who is not considered to be entertaining, cutting edge, or innovative (perhaps all three) enough to secure a booking in a modern day folk club.

:-(

Sadly, this is increasingly the case.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: mauvepink
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 08:45 AM

I agree Howard but one has to define the genre if being a traditional singer is the question. The point being made is that in some folk clubs the jazz and the blues would not cause any consternation whatsoever but in others it would be total anathema and suicide.

Yes, this is a folk forum... where jazz and blues also often get mentioned too

mp


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: r.padgett
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 09:46 AM

I see!

Well I dont think that there are too many "traditional singers" still around!

There are a number of "traditionalist singers" like me about tho'

Back to bed!

Ray


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 10:04 AM

Whatever people here decide who is and who is not a traditional singer, the real traditional singers like Walter Pardon, Tom Lenihan and others had no doubt whatever of the meaning of the term and could happily talk about it for hours.
If, as Steve Gardham claims, "words mean different things to different people" we may as well all throw our dictionaries on the back of the fire and cease all attempts to communicate.
Dictionaries - mine anyway - carry definitions of both 'traditional' and 'singer' so it doesn't take rocket science to work out what constitutes a 'traditional' singer - unless it suits an individual not to do so.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Trad
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 10:53 AM


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 11:13 AM

Mauvepink, my point is that "traditional" means quite different things in jazz and folk. Playing "traditional" jazz still wouldn't make it welcome in a "traditional" folk club.

In this context we're talking about traditional folk singers, not trad jazzers, or traditional rappers if there are such things.

As I said earlier, if you don't see a distinction or don't think it's important, then you don't need the vocabulary. For those of us who do, then having different words to describe them is useful, if only we could agree on them. Unfortunately, getting folkies to agree is like herding cats. I'm reminded of Through the Looking Glass: `When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 11:28 AM

I agree with Jim / Howard on this. We do need words to mean things otherwise we end up with NuSpeak which fails to communicate, or indeed educate.

I *wanted* to learn about traditional folk specifically - not just generally discuss whatever music happens to moves me - when I first came to this forum, and I was able to do so because there are people who know all about traditional folk here and they were happy to help me. If I wanted to generally discuss music that moves me, I'd have gone down the pub ;-)


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 11:46 AM

1. The 19C/20C collectors selected some songs from singers and ignored other songs from the same people
2. The singers in question sang very old songs, old songs, songs from friends and family songs fom broadsides, hymns and musichall songs and all sorts of other songs
3. Songs were collected in a number of contexts, pubs, homes, workhouses, rich houses and church settings
4. Much was written down by trained musicians with a pencil and paper and a strict education in music
5. Although some collectors may have been sympathetic to the impoverished lives of working people they often knew little of the lives of the singers.
6. People have been collecting and singing old songs for hundreds of years from working people in all sorts of contexts and lots of different parts of these Islands.
7.The collectors edited and shared some but not all of what they collected.

So, "Traditional singer definition"?

No chance.

L in C#


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 01:03 PM

Les - a rather arbitrary and superficial analysis of what we understand by and know of traditional music.
Much of what you describe certainly did take place; on the other hand, much has been done since the early days to take up the slack and repair many of the holes in our knowledge. Even what we have put together over the last half century has allowed us to arrive at some sort of reliable estimation of what constitutes traditional song and music.
One thing as certain as Margaret Thatcher ain't going to win no more elections is that we have a body of song which stands apart from all other forms and which once fulfilled a unique function in communities throughout the world apart from that of composed music from outside those communities. Add to this the "I know it when I hear it" observation and you've got your definition. We chose long ago to describe that definition as 'traditional' and that is the label we're stuck with until someone comes up with a better one.
Language isn't by any means a comprehensive communicating tool, but without it we might as well be grunting at trees.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 01:35 PM

Les, even if what you say about collectors was the whole truth, it's got nothing to do with defining "traditional singers". If they learned their music from within the tradition then they're "traditional", whether or not they were ever collected.

The tradition didn't die out with the generation Cecil Sharp collected from, it continues to this day, albeit in a much reduced and localised form. Some great singers and musicians were with us until recently, and others are still with us. Younger generations are carrying it on - Bob Cann's grandson Mark Bazely and Jack Rice's grandson Jason Rice, for example, and at ECMW this year Reg Reader's grandson was there, playing dulcimer in the same style. There were also young dancers there carrying on the traveller stepdancing tradition.

If you can't see a distinction between 'them' and 'us', that's fine. But some of as can see one, and think it's important.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: r.padgett
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 02:15 PM

Aside from the current question I do feel, as a song collector, that it is extremely important that traditional and other songs "of worth" are picked up and sung by the current generation of younger singers

We have here on mudcat and other websites like the one being added to at www.yorkshirefolksong.net some examples of songs which discerning young singers may find useful

I do find a lot of singer songwriters doing their own stuff without recourse to existing material a bit baffling!

Further discussion afore I head for Whitby ff!

Ray


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 02:21 PM

Hi Jim,

"Les - a rather arbitrary and superficial analysis of what we understand by and know of traditional music"

It's not an analysis - I don't have enough knowledge and understanding to attempt that. I am simply trying to show why a definition is not really possible.

I have complete respect for the evidence and the argument that you (Howard) and Jim put and I enjoy singing and hearing old songs.

"If they learned their music from within the tradition then they're "traditional", whether or not they were ever collected."

I recognise the importance of this sentence, but some of these songers also learned songs from printed sources and from the Music Halls - and nothing wrong with that.

I guess the problem lies with the word "definition". If a definition is to be of much value it needs to mean the same to most people and I don't see how such a wide collection of music and its social context can be defined, described maybe but not really defined.

Cheers

Les


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: theleveller
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 02:24 PM

"If, as Steve Gardham claims, "words mean different things to different people" we may as well all throw our dictionaries on the back of the fire and cease all attempts to communicate.
"

Bit of thread drift but I really couldn't let that one pass. Having earned my living for over 40 years as a writer I have to disagree. Anyway, to clarify the issue I rang an old family friends, Professor Tony Cowie, who was previously Head of English at Leeds University and is an internatiobnally-renowned lexicographer who is still compiling dictionaries at the age of 80. What I got was a half-hour lecture on etymology but the gist was that words are constantly undergoing an equivalent of the folk process. Meanings change, words drop out of common use and others come in - which is why we're not still using dear old Dr Johnson's tome and my friend Tony is still working.

He gave me several instances but it will serve here to quite the word "queer"and consider the changes it has undergone ibn living memory.

Anyway, have to rush now - off to Northumberland for a fortnight. Have fun.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 03:03 PM

Les, you keep trying to define something different from what we're discussing. I'm not talking about defining the genre, I'm trying to make a distinction between traditional or source singers and ones from the revival.

Yes, traditional singers learned songs from many sources, from oral tradition, from books, from broadsides. According to one story, Fred Jordan learned a song from a Martin Carthy album. That doesn't make him any less of a traditional singer, because the context, the environment in which he learned to sing and picked up most of his songs, was the tradition.

The context in which I learned to sing and picked up most of my songs was a different and somewhat artificial one, that of the folk club. That's what makes me and, I would guess, you different from singers like Fred, even when we're singing the same songs.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 03:22 PM

OK Howard, got your point. So, a 'traditional singer' is one who learned most of his songs from within a living oral community of singers?

That seems like a definition that I can deal with. That "living oral community of singers" could have gathered songs from all kinds of sources as you do yourself?

Les


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 04:05 PM

"Bit of thread drift but I really couldn't let that one pass."
Can't disagree with you in general terms L - but I think that we have to have a quorum for a word to be added to our vocabulary and not what tends to happen in these discussions - "Now let's see what the old E.B says - nope - that one doesn't suit, so I'll make up my own".
That's when we start conversing with talking horses and not to each other.
The language we use must carry with it a degree of consensus, otherwise everything we read and write would have to carry its own glossary
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 05:19 PM

Jim et al,
Those of us who have been heavily steeped in 'traditional' music or 'folk' music for many decades have a fairly loose agreement on what for us they consist of. That shouldn't really cause many problems.
The person who described me as a 'traditional singer' I will not embarrass by naming. She has been a highly respected member of the folk scene for several years although her involvement appears to have been mainly in contemporary song, so her loose usage of terminology I think is excusable.
However, I doubt very much if anyone who hasn't been on the folk scene for very long, or any of the 'real folk' have any idea at all what a 'traditional singer' is, in the terms accepted by us.

Jim,
You seem to claim your dictionary tells you what a traditional singer is. Is a traditional jazz singer also a traditonal singer?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Aug 10 - 06:04 PM

"in the terms accepted by us......"
It depends who you mean by us, surely Steve - I've probably been around the scene as long as you and I neither accept you as a traditional singer, nor do I claim the title for myself - it simply doesn't fit in with anything I have ever understood about the term.
MacColl used to come in for no end of abuse for claiming his parents to be traditional singers (I happen to believe from discussions with their contemporaries in Salford that they both sang traditional songs).
So it seems that say twenty years ago you wouldn't have been considered a traditional singer and would have been considered a bit of a nutter had you gone round describing yourself as one. When and how did you decide you were one and why is it important to you?
"That shouldn't really cause many problems."
As somebody who has spent a great deal of time trying to understand the tradition, how it worked, what its function was... etc it does cause problems; it muddies the water. It really isn't like describing yourself as 'The Great Marvello' - it carries a great number of issues along with it, none of which you seem to possess if your only claim to the title is that you've been a folkie for as long as I have.
I'm sure you realise that research require a bit more precision than that if it is going to achieve anything?
For me, you and I will never be anything more than singers of traditional songs, just as your traditional jazz singer will never be anything more than a singer of traditional jazz - unless he or she is part of the long process that brought us our traditional jazz or folk songs.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: r.padgett
Date: 21 Aug 10 - 01:51 AM

Jim, from the above I can assure you that Steve Gardham does not consider himself a "traditional singer" ~ that is assuming I have read this correctly

Cheers

Ray


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Aug 10 - 02:45 AM

Sorry if I have misunderstood you Steve - shouldn't post while I'm trying to do something else. I've been told often enough that men aren't any good at multi-tasking.
I confess a feeling of deep frustration with threads like these; they appear to be an indication that, like another love of mine, international cinema, we are in the position where we can't exist without sub-titles.
Thanks for the heads-up Ray
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 21 Aug 10 - 03:27 AM

Traditional Jazz is more by way of Traditional Fish & Chips, surely? Whereas a Traditional Folk Song / Singer is the pure drop - thus manifesting Tradition as Vernacular Creative Genius as oppose to some wayward reactionary nostalgic shit; God knows we get enough of that in the folk world as it is!

Otherwise... We always watch our Studio Ghibli films in Japanese with the subtitles on; other recent International Cinema in Chez Sedayne of late - a box set of Werner Herzog / Klaus Kinski movies (Aguirre is sublime; the remake of Nosferatu sub-Hammer horor schlock) and another of Takeshi Kitano films, including the brilliant Zatoichi. As with real folk, and real jazz (just ordered Don Cherry's Orient / Blue Lake set) such films are an affirmation of hope in a world at times devoid of same. And when things get too bad, I reach for my Larry David DVDs...


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Aug 10 - 04:25 AM

See what I meen about the need for sub-titles
Thanks for the example SO'P
(Am I the only one old enough to remember Stanley Unwin?)
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: MikeL2
Date: 21 Aug 10 - 08:24 AM

hi Jim

Yes I remember Stanley Unwin.

Mind you I didn't always understand him or his humour.

It was a sort of mangled tangled English.

Makes me feel very old !!!

cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Aug 10 - 11:03 AM

There are certain concepts that simply do not lend themselves to hard and fast definition. As I've indirectly suggested in the past, "folk music" is one of them. What we mean by "music" is sufficiently clear. What we mean by "folk" (even more than "traditional") is problematic, partly because the writers who bestowed the "folk" label in the Romantic era were not trying to be "scientific." Nor were the singers of the revival or the industry execs who exploited the label in 1960s. All three groups would undoubtedly agree that "Barbara Allen" and "Shady Grove" were "folk songs," but there would be many cases where no agreement was possible. The same goes, I'd say, for labels like "traditional singer."

"Folk" and "folk music" are, I believe, of greatest value as heuristic categories. In other words, what they denote is of less importance than the connections they suggest and what they lead us to investigate. We can think much more profitably about "Barbara Allen" than about the theoretical details of "folk music" or "traditional singing" in the abstract.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Stringsinger
Date: 21 Aug 10 - 12:18 PM

Traditional singers are part of a process called anthropology. They are culture-based.
There are legitimate interpreters of this kind of singing regardless of where it comes from in the world. They are not necessarily members of the culture from which their songs emanate. The trouble with labeling is that contents inside the bottle may or may not reflect its true nature.

I think a problem arises when those who love folk music want to feel as though they are a part of the process when they sing and play these songs. Many will defend their "position" in the folk scheme of things.

The importance of preserving musical traditions and honoring them keeps musical imperialism by the music industry and popularizers from denying their value.

It's OK to feel a part of "the folk process" but it's not OK to dismiss the traditional performer who is culture-based and of interest to musicologists as characterized as being not important.

A true interest in folk music has to be equated with a willingness to accept that there are traditional performers who reflect the culture from which they emanate. A lot can be learned and enjoyed from relinquishing the denial that there is a folk tradition(s) in music.

At the same time, I believe that the interpreter of folk song be respected for their respective talents as well. Though when we speak of folk song, there is a well that we go to for inspiration and this is not the "revivalist" singer but someone who has grown up with a specific culture and has a depth of insight into it by virtue that they "are" that musical culture.

Folklorists and musicologists recognize the important heritage of culture-based traditional folk music. In some instances in is an endangered species but on the other side, it is still being done under the radar of the media, music biz, show biz etc.

The whole revival in England now serves as a problem in that there is arbitrary categories that may or may not be definitive in a scholarly sense. The argument on what is trad or not is usually based on individual opinions or preferences rather than musicological studies, anthropology or folklorist disciplines. I've been around the folk music scene for as long as anyone on this list. I've sung all kinds of songs but I know the difference between my reinterpretations of folk songs and the real traditional singers who come from their respective traditional sub-cultures.

Rock and Roll, Hip Hop, Singer/Songwriter and other categories are music business designations for recording bins and consumer demographics. When the disguise themselves as traditional folk music, they do a disservice to those who may not find voices in the entertainment business but say a lot of valuable things about their culture and nationality that won't be found elsewhere.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Aug 10 - 01:46 PM

Eggheads like us may value the distinction between an interpreter and a traditional singer, but no one else does. That's not to say the distinction is pointless or valueless, merely that most people will continue to use the words "folk" and "traditional" in ways we find irritating and inaccurate.

Nothing can be done about that except to appreciate that differences in interpretation will never be resolved to everyone's satisfaction.

Like relativity, the subtle concepts behind "folk" and "traditional" are only vaguely meaningful to people without a fairly specialized academic background.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Aug 10 - 04:00 PM

I am in complete agreement with Lighter. And, Jim, Ray was correct. I would never call myself a traditional singer. Even the songs of my own family going back 2 generations I learnt after becoming aware of the folk scene and after recording them.

Thanks for your contribution, Jonathan.
SteveG


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Aug 10 - 04:07 PM

"Even the songs of my own family going back 2 generations I learnt after becoming aware of the folk scene and after recording them."
Pretty much the same as MacColl - who never claimed to be a traditional singer either.
Jiom Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Arthur_itus
Date: 21 Aug 10 - 04:12 PM

A traditional Singer

Somebody that drinks real Ale
Somebody that has a beard (male or female)
Somebody that holds their hand to their ear
Somebody that sings a 32 verse song that is utterly boring

The sort of person mentioned above, that none folkies conjure up in their minds when you mention the words FOLK MUSIC


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Aug 10 - 05:20 PM

I'm presuming these comments are tongue in cheek, Arthur.
I can't think of a single 32-verse song that is utterly boring. I can think of many recently composed songs that are.

When you can give us a 32-verse song, or even a title of one, that is utterly boring I might just concede, but all the ones I have heard are full of murders, rape, supernatural happenings, love intrigues, battles, shipwrecks etc. Whatever they are I don't think they could be described as 'boring'!

I'd bet more people conjure up pictures of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and their modern equivalents than your little outdated list.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,David Wylde
Date: 21 Aug 10 - 05:48 PM

So would a singer from the travelling community be considered traditional?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Aug 10 - 06:34 PM

Thanks, Steve. So there's no mistake, I'll confess that my own understanding of relativity is fairly rudimentary. Like Scotty needs it when Captain Kirk says, "Scotty, warp speed!"


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Aug 10 - 05:22 AM

"So would a singer from the travelling community be considered traditional? "
David - don't understand the question
Travellers continued to have a living song tradition right into the mid 1970s and kept alive many songs - particularly ballads - long after the settled communities had abandoned them - in the case of ballads, sometimes centuries longer.
More than any other tradition, theirs was an almost totally an oral one.
Why shouldn't they be considered traditional?
Or are you aiming your question at Arthur itus's idiocy?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 22 Aug 10 - 07:44 AM

Lighter, any activity, professional, sporting or cultural, needs its specialist language to cover matters and nuances that aren't of interest to the wider world, but which are meaningful to those involved. That is the proper meaning, and proper use, of jargon.

For most people, the distinction between different types of folk singer, or types of folk music, is of no importance and they don't need a vocabulary to make that distinction. For those who are interested in folk music these distinctions are (or should be) meaningful and a specialist vocabulary is needed to express them.

I'm not sure which I find the more depressing, the inability to decide and agree on appropriate language to convey these distinctions, or that so many people with an interest in folk music apparently have no interest in making them.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Lighter
Date: 22 Aug 10 - 10:02 AM

Howard, I agree completely about terms of art. But in the case of modern societies the ad-hoc categories of "folk" and "traditional" were partly theoretical and conjectural to begin with.

Allow me to get extra boring. (Those not interested should flick on their favorite mp3 instead.)

Everyone agrees that the songs of, say, western Australian peoples of the twelfth century were "folk." But whether those songs and, say, "Casey Jones" belong in the same category seems dubious to me. If the "Iliad" had a tune, was it a folk song? It depends on what you mean by "folk song": Homer and his predecessors seem to have been practiced professionals doing what very few people could do.

My point is that some technical terms are muddier and less useful than others. What to do is to avoid going round and round about irresolvable definitions and to state instead just what one is talking about.

If I refer to "Casey Jones" as a folk song, aboriginal songs will be mostly irrelevant. I'd better stipulate what I mean when talking about either and hope that my listeners will not jump up and cry, "But that's not what *I* mean by 'folk song'!"

(By the way, did/do all aboriginal songs circulate quite anonymously? Would it change the nature of the exceptions if they didn't? Why should it matter anyway if the name of the "composer" is forgotten? Just some cantankerous theoretical questions.)


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Steamin' Willie
Date: 22 Aug 10 - 02:41 PM

This is all about perception.

Therefore, I agree with the "idiocy" of Arthuristis.

I disagree with the frustrated proclamations of Jim Carroll.

You are what you are, and what you are is what you are perceived as. If I put my finger in my ear in the upstairs room of a pub with candles on the table, I am perhaps a traditional singer. If I put my finger in my ear on a train, I am possibly clearing my ears out before putting iPod buds in them.

More to the point, if I sing of events before media got beyond paper, I'm possibly singing a traditional song. If it is of events say last year, it is not a traditional song BUT what do they have in common?

Well..

They can be in the same key.
Same time signature.
Same tune even.
Index finger firmly planted.
Beard in place.
sandals (optional as I for one don't wear them.)
yep, the pub looks the same.
Candles on the table.

So what is the difference?

Oh yes.

Traditional means we don't know who wrote it whereas with a little effort, we can all find out who wrote a song about an event last year.

Next...


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Aug 10 - 03:04 PM

"I disagree with the frustrated proclamations of Jim Carroll."
Wonder which proclamations in particular - certainly don't accept your "I say I am therefore I am"; life ain't like that, as much as we'd like it to be.
"Traditional means we don't know who wrote it "
Generalised bollocks - a number of songs of known authorship have gone into the tradition, and plenty of anonymous songs that aren't traditional.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 22 Aug 10 - 04:11 PM

Lighter, I'm afraid I don't understand the points you are making. "Casey Jones" and the music of 12th century aborigines may have nothing in common musically. That doesn't mean it is pointless to describe the performers as traditional musicians.

It is quite possible to look at a culture and identify whether a folk tradition exists - it is an observable phenomenon. It is true that a folk tradition may overlap with professional "high art" to a greater extent in some cultures than in our own, which may blur the boundaries.

Whether every piece of music performed within that tradition is necessarily "folk music" is another matter - in a culture which is exposed to other "professional" music then it is likely that these will be performed alongside true folk songs. Over time they may mutate into folk songs.

Surely it's possible to look at a singer, whether they're from Norfolk, from the Appalachians, or from Timbuktu, and decide whether or not they are part of an ongoing folk tradition in terms of their own culture. You wouldn't necessarily expect their music to sound similar, or even be mutually understandable.

Whether or not someone is a traditional singer will depend on the cultural environment in which they learned their craft. In that they are similar, even if the songs they perform are not.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 22 Aug 10 - 05:35 PM

I strongly suspect that the people making serious contributions here are very close in their definitions of 'traditional singer' as is the OP. The fact that these definitions don't occur as such in dictionaries shouldn't matter to us.

I agree fully with your 7.44 posting, Howard. I'm sorry it depresses you that most people interested in folk music don't need hard and fast definitions. It's their prerogative. Just showing interest doesn't mean you have to analyse and define everything. That's just for us nerds!


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Aug 10 - 06:18 PM

"That's just for us nerds!"
Not really Steve; I don't 'need' a definition for potatoes, but I'd be pissed off if the man behind the counter sent me home with bananas - which is more or less why I stopped going to folk clubs.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 22 Aug 10 - 06:21 PM

Well yes. The reason most of us like folk music is because we like the sound it makes, not because it is "traditional". However if people are interested enough to participate in a discussion forum, and in particular to join a discussion on this topic, I find it a little surprising that some of them don't seem to be particularly interested in one of the things which characterises the music.

You don't have to be interested to enjoy it of course, but it helps.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 12:17 AM

"I don't 'need' a definition for potatoes, but I'd be pissed off if the man behind the counter sent me home with bananas"

Absolutely. I am put in mind of one of formative influences responsible for my intense taxonomical bent ~ a silly riddle an uncle used to ask us children 75 years ago ~~


"What's the difference between an apple and an elephant?"

"Don't know..."

"Well then, I wouldn't send you to get a pound of apples; you might come back with a pound of elephants."


While simultaneously amused and puzzled [I was only 3!] by the concept of 'a pound of elephants', I dimly recognised even then that there was more to this bit of ésprit than might appear on the surface.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Steamin' Willie
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 04:05 AM

Glad to see Jim Carroll on form again. My bollocks are generalised I suppose. I would hate to think they were my own....

Jim's assertion that songs that have "gone into the tradition" are therefore traditional songs intrigues me the most.

I am about to write a song. How do I "get it into the tradition?" Is there a form to fill out? I already know it doesn't have to be a particularly good song. After all, when Jim wrote "generalised bollocks" I thought he was referring to the genre, till I realised he meant me. Hey ho.

No, the problem is.... (The problem is Ray Padgett started this as a bit of fun and the gentlemen of the committee have waded in..)   

Sorry, where was I? Yes, the problem is... We are bandying with words that have loose meanings and therefore are subjective. Subject to what we perceive them as. That isn't a musical explanation, it is a language one. It fits though.

I started out as a teenager as a classical violinist. I played in youth orchestras and studied music. Now... the crusty but well meaning teacher found out I was playing traditional music as well, and genuinely thought that was a specific term meaning Russian folk tunes as collected and orchestrated by the likes of Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky etc.

You see, in his musical world, of which he was by any standard learned, that is what it meant.

To my youngest son, in his rock band, it means Dad's weird friends with beards, 15 year old cars and inability to mention beer without a diatribe on the best "real ales."

To me? it means a song or tune with no copyright to bother about.....

And you know what?   Whatever it means to Jim Carroll, it is as true as any of the above. But not more so... sorry Jim.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 04:25 AM

"I am about to write a song. How do I "get it into the tradition?"
You don't Willie - it's very much a case of "Don't ring us - we'll ring you".
There is no guaranteed way of getting a song into the tradition; it has to be relevant enough for a community to take it up, re-work it, adapt it to suit themselves (200 plus versions of Barbara Allen), until you are pretty much written out of the equasion - that's how it works, or worked, when we had a living song tradition. We have become passive recipients rather than active participants of our culture nowadays - it all comes packaged, labelled and marketed and placed on a shelf until the manufacturers decide it's more profiitable to replace it with something more modern and sellable, then it is put in a cupboard where it remains until some enterprising advertising organisation decides it's exactly what they need to sell a new brand of suppositories.
The question is, why should you WANT to write a 'traditional song'?
Traditional (folk) songs are in the public domain and belong to us all. I've yet to meet a songwriter who is prepared to withdraw his name and all claim of financial reward to his brainchild - would you be preapared to let us have your song for nowt?
"sorry Jim. "
Don't apologise Willie - we all make mistakes.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 05:25 AM

PS
"To me? it means a song or tune with no copyright to bother about....."
Make up your mind Willie - five minutes ago it meant a song without a known author.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 05:26 AM

There is no reason why a word cannot have different meanings in different contexts. It is absolutely fine for "traditional" to mean one thing in the world of classical music, another in jazz, and another in folk - indeed, you would expect it to. As long as you use the terms correctly in the appropriate context, there should be no misunderstanding.

The problem we seem to have in the folk world is that we don't seem to be able to agree what it means. Everyone has their own interpretation, and seems determined to stick to it no matter what anyone else says. Perhaps I'm as guilty of this as anyone else, although I like to think that my interpretation has a logic to it and makes a distinction which is relevant and significant.

Traditional songs aren't necessarily out of copyright. The famous example is Ewan McColl's "Shoals of Herring" which was apparently found circulating in the tradition as "Shores of Erin".


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Leadfingers
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 06:07 AM

Another thread to steer well clear of ! EXCEPOT of course for


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Leadfingers
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 06:08 AM

100


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 06:11 AM

"The famous example is Ewan McColl's "Shoals of Herring"
Moot point Howard; Shoals of Herring appeared on the Irish scene some time after the Irish song tradition, certainly the English language one, had shuffled off this mortal coil.
The reported hearing of 'Shores of Erin' came from American scholar Horace Beck, reported in his 'Folklore and the Sea' and it was never established whether or not it is based on his hearing (or mishearing) of the song sung by a bunch of folkies who got it from a Dubliner's album. It certainly never underwent too many changes which, I believe qualify it as being traditional; not did it take root to any depth here in Ireland outside the ballad scene (Ireland's folk revival).
There is more of a case to be made for MacColl's 'Freeborn Man' which possibly would have entered the Travellers' tradition, had it survived beyond the mid seventies; but even that only appeared as mangled fragments, again, apparently from misheard Dubliner's renditions.
The groups themselves had a hand in making some, (often ludicrous) changes to the texts of songs - beatiful example with The Johnsons' 'version' of Tunnel Tigers
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 06:26 AM

collectors seem to think that the difference between Traditional singers and singers of traditional songs is of importance when it comes to making a valuation of what is worth collecting.
however for those people who are interested in music and performance,what is important is the abilty to bring traditional songs to life.the fact that someone learned a song a particular way is no guarantee that they can do the song justice, they may be tone deaf but because they learned the song orally their version must be collected, how ridiculous.
however,most of the traditional singers I have heard have performed their songs well.
the other problem I have with collectors using the yardstick[oral transmission only ] is that much dross such as carolina moon and 1930s popular music becomes acceptable, regardless of merit of song
personally I reckon Cecil Sharp had his guidelines about right, my only criticism of Sharp would be his lack of enthusiasm for industrial folk songs.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 06:51 AM

Cap'n
Collectors collect for a whole host of reasons and for a whole spectrum of material.
Many do it for unfamiliar songs or versions, others to put recordings of field singers out on albums - which have been an inspiration to people like me for near half a century, as a singer and a researcher.
It has certainly never has been an aim - or not for a long time, to collect in order to find the best singing - most of our traditional singers when they were recorded (certainly in England) were past their prime, many of them hadn't sung for decades and were dragging their songs out of a long unused memory store.
We were recording mainly to gain as much information as we could of an all but disappered song tradition before it went altogether.
You will never in a million years get something like that from a revival singer, no matter how good he or she is.
Sitting in a folk club with a tape recorder isn't 'collecting' - it's sitting in a folk club with a tape recorder
"oral transmission only"
I don't know of a collector who uses this as a yardstick.
As Steve Gardham points out, many of our songs were passed to the singer via broadsides and owe their currency to this.
Here in Ireland the 'ballad' trade, the selling of songsheets at fairs and markets, which lasted to the mid fifties, was possibly the major single influence on the Irish song tradition.
We certainly never recorded a singer who didn't learn some of his or her songs from a 'ballad'.
The oral tradition was certainly a vital element in the transmission of songs, but it wasn't an exclusive factor.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Woodsie
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 07:18 AM

Thanks Jim.

I remember (mis)hearing "Shores Of Erin" performed on a TV show when I was young early sixties I think! I'm glad I wasn't the only one!


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 07:33 AM

Jim,
Peter Kennedy in a discussion with Mike Yates dismissed Bob Blake,the reason, he had suspicion that he had not learned his songs orally, but from books.
mike yates collected songs from Bob Blake, thinking he was a traditional singer[IMO that is one who learned his songs orally from his local community/or family]
would Yates have collected the songs[INTHE FIRST PLACE] if he had known Blake was not a traditional singer?I DOUBT IT.
" We certainly never recorded a singer who didn't learn some of his or her songs from a 'ballad"That is a red herring.
do you agree that collectors, yourself included do not collect songs from revivalists, but collect songs from those people who have learned their songs orally from their family or local community such as Walter Pardon, that is how they define a traditional singer, it is not relevant that some of those songs were originally learned from song sheets , yet those such as Bob Blake who learned songs from books orsongsheets in the twentieth century were dismissed by Kennedy, and I suspect would never have been collected in the first place if Yates had known Blake was not a traditional singer.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 07:55 AM

If someone is singing their songs in a "traditional" context ie within their own community rather than the folk scene, then they can probably be considered a "traditional" singer. If they learned most of their songs from print rather than oral transmission that may devalue them to a collector as a source of material but not necessarily as an example of traditional singing style, which may be equally valuable.

The early collectors are now criticised for selectively collecting only the songs which fitted their ideas of what a folk song should be and ignoring popular songs in the singers' repertoires. It is a bit unfair to criticise later collectors for being less subjective and selective. Whether the songs are "dross" is a moot point, but it does help to put the folk songs and the nature of the tradition into context to understand the place they took in the whole of a singer's repertoire. I've never heard anyone on the revival justify singing 1930s songs on the grounds that they were part of some traditional singer's repertoire, although they may sometimes be sung for their own sake, without being claimed as folk songs.

Jim, perhaps I am guilty of repeating an urban legend regarding Shoals of Herring. My point still stands - there is no reason why a copyrighted song should not enter the tradition, although it is more difficult these days for variations to arise because of the availability of recorded versions (on the other hand these may perpetuate errors - how many people now sing "Fire Marengo" as "screw the cart and screw him down" instead of "screw the cotton" as a result of Bellowhead's version?)


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 08:06 AM

Howard, examples of vauable traditional singing styles can also be heard when listening to some revival singers.
Jim, your collection "around the hills of clare"contained some singers collected by you who wrote their own songs or learned other contemporary songs[ i cant find the cd right now] but I doubt if you described them as traditional singers?
Jim you are an exception ,most collectors collect songs from traditional singers,they do not collect singers of contemporary[late20th or21st century written] or self penned songs.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 08:55 AM

examples of vauable traditional singing styles can also be heard when listening to some revival singers.

Is that really true, Dick? There are any amount of revival Conceits and Affectations which may be sourced accordingly - which is to say I hear lots of great singers in The Revival but their traditional singing styles can only ever be a matter of C&A, and hardly valuable with respect of The Tradition, unless of course it engenders a prospective urge in the listener - as happened to me recently when in listening to The Young Tradition I was moved to listen to The Copper Family.

That said, I can, and will, listen to any singer in a folk club or festival context; I especially love sessions and singarounds where the songs are so much more important than the singers. In this I respect all Revival Singers who are Created Equal with Respect of the Tradition. We have been thus called, and I will listen even to the most humble of them feeling that in this we at least approach the humanity which gave rise to The Tradition in the first place. But ours is a lesser world operating at some considerable remove from that which hath inspired us, and the more we seek it, so the further away it gets.

So - Revival Conventions, whilst being traditional in and of themselves, are not The Tradition - rather part & parcel of the religiosity attending The Revival as a whole, which is why, no doubt, JC in his guise Defender of the Faith publicly denounces my own efforts in this respect as heresy. Me, I would never stoop so low as to assume there was ever a right way of doing anything other than the one that works for you in the hope that if there's one thing Revival Singers do have in common with our Traditional Idols, it is a willingness to be exactly what we are, warts and all.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 09:18 AM

yes here are some examples, Ewan macColl, Isobel Sutherland, Ron Taylor,SheilaPark, Watersons, WilsonFamily[individually and collectively]and others


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 09:22 AM

Absolutley love The Wilsons but 5(?) man sining in roaring harmonies? Which tradition is that then?

L in C#


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: mikesamwild
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 09:28 AM

When I coordinated a wildlife survey of Sheffield in the 80s we found most 'rare' species had been recorded in 'nice' areas where nature lovers liked to go at weekends . So the dots went on the maps and skewed the distribution patterns, attitudes and expectations and conservation funding etc etc. That's why the urban wildlife movement was so important.

We found lots more in a systematic survey of the entire city and in the most unlikely area.


To get back on thread!

Even now, I find that, unless , someone is not an elderly, manual, travelling, 'unspoilt' person a lot of academics and collectors don't bother too much.

Those Port Isaac fishermen would not have learned shanties on a motorised boat or even heard them until the folk revival of the 50s.


I know some who have been hailed as trad who are lousy singers by any standards.( and I don't mean a voice alone - sometimes delivery, personality, relevance of material, and knowledge or experience can confer respect on someone )

However, I think listeners have alway valued a tuneful singer.


Would Mmny aspirant singers would have been weeded out in the days of a still living tradition, if they didn't pass muster.


X fator wasn't the only selection process that left us a legacy of traditional or 'folk' song.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 10:28 AM

Ewan macColl, Isobel Sutherland, Ron Taylor,SheilaPark, Watersons, WilsonFamily[individually and collectively]and others

To which we could add a hundred more names of our favourite Revival Singers, of whom tell us more about the Conceits and Affections of The Revival than the aesthetics of The Tradition on which they (supposedly) model themselves. To early Revivalists this Folk Style wasn't a consideration - look at the jolly young Ladies & Gentlemen of the EFDSS back in the 1920s HERE - from 2.30 you'll hear them singing very much in their Upper Class Received Pronunciation, wheras later performers (many from the same class) affected more rustic tones by way of greater authenticity / conceit / contrivance. I dare say such singers as Jack Langstaff and John Jacob Niles had quite an impact on later revival singers in terms of repertoire if not approach; and whilst one might ponder the full extent of this impact, one must also bear in mind that The Revival is founded as much on Faith than Fact, which, again, tells us nothing about the true nature of The Tradition no matter how any given singer chooses to sing a song. Indeed, there is greater truth in any singer of whatever class singing in their own voice, than mimicking a rustic one, or, worse still, copying a traditional singer.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 10:29 AM

Cap'n
You are confusing the issue.
As far as I can remember we never included songs written by the singers on the Clare albums.
We did include songs made during the singers lifetimes that had been absorbed into their communities - a particular interest of mine - of course these are traditional songs and the singers traditional singers.
The only self-penned material we have ever collected has been a few pieces from Travellers because of their social significance - not to say we wouldn't collect such stuff if we came across it, but we wouldn't bust a gut looking for it. To my recollection, the only self-penned stuff we ever issued were two songs made by Travellers on 'From Puck to Appleby - were they traditional? They would have been if they had been taken up by the community; don't think they were - but they were both extremely important to the work we were doing.
Howard
You are right that there's no reason copyrighted songs should not be absorbed into a living tradition - but it's not as simple as yes/no.
We noticed that published songs learned by traditional singers from print tended not to change, but remained in their original form - there seemed to be a mystique surrounding the printed word - this was not always the case - in the early days singers used to use the 'ballads' and garlands as rough guides for singing. Somewhere along the way the printed word influenced the attitude to learning songs, as did commercially issued recordings.
"The early collectors are now criticised for selectively collecting only the songs which fitted their ideas of what a folk song should be and ignoring popular songs in the singers' repertoires"
True, and unfairly in my opinion.
What is often forgotten is that collecting is, to all intents and purposes a volunary unpaid pastime indulged in by enthusiasts.
At the height of our collecting we were both putting in a days work, bolting a meal down and heading for the nearest Travellers site - four or five nights a week. On top of this we were reaching deep into our pockets for tape and expensive equipment.
We didn't consider ourselves ethnomusicologists or social or oral historians, we were folksong collectors and we had arrived at a concept of what we believed to be folk song and we made that our priority. What we collected was a delicate balance between what we wanted and what the singer wanted to give us - and I have to asy I am still staggered as to how close those two were. On numerous occasions we were refused songs because "That's not what you are looking for" etc.
To be honest, my attitude is, if you want to record 150 versions of 'Stand By Your Man', please feel free; I'll be interested to hear what social or cultural conclusions you draw from them.
Admittedly, some of the early collectors were not bound by financial and time considerations, but they did have to write down the songs and tunes by hand and they all believed they were mopping up a dying art-form
Full-time collector Tom Munnelly summed it up perfectly for me when he describes his work as "A race with the undertaker"
Sharp, in desperately poor health, dragged himself around the Appalachians and brought back a treasure trove - for which he will have my deepest gratitude forever.
It's easy to adopt the smug hindsight that the Dave Harkers of this world do when discssing the early collectors - as I learned in the building trade, it's far easier to pull down something somebody else has built that build something yourself.
Sorry to be so long winded about this - difficult subject
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 11:24 AM

"tell us more about the Conceits and Affections of The Revival than the aesthetics of The Tradition on which they (supposedly) model themselves"
Why do you make it a point of principle to talk through your arse?
MacColl summed up what so many revival singers were about in this - something I'm working on at present:
"As the Revival began to take hold and interest in folksong grew, he began to feel that, as heirs to a broken down culture, it was necessary for Revival singers to equip themselves to be able to sing the entire spectrum of traditional song and not limit themselves to the fairly small repertoires that most traditional singers had."
I have met very few singers who tried to model themselves on traditional singers - most of them adopted the sensible approach of drawing what they found useful from the tradition and used it in order to do their own thing - sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
Your singing, on the other hand, appears to owe very little, apart from words and tune, to the tradition.
Seems you can never resist the temptation to take a pop at the people who ploughed the furrow for us.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 11:27 AM

the point is that Traditional singers are singers who learned their songs orally from their community or Their family.
Walter Pardon and Fred Jordan fell into this category, Fred was also a revival singer.
however if a singer learns a somg orally via the computer does he then become a traditional singer, does the internet qualify as a community?or does community mean[strictly] the village he was brought up in.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Lighter
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 11:37 AM

Neat link, Suibhne. And the film and sound quality are surprisingly good.

Why some revival singers choose to imitate accents not their own is worth thinking about. It gets them closer to the "ethos," I suppose. But it can create a problem for the audience unless it's done quite unusually well - which is, well, quite unusual.

Without implying any moral or artistic judgment: my belief is that the accent-imitators in general, passable or otherwise, are more concerned about doing justice to the song (and distancing themselves from mainstream genres) than those who don't imitate.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 12:01 PM

the 1929 sword and morris dancers danced very well, whats all this carp about upper class accents, their diction is good and they are singning in tune in their OWN accents, they would also be criticised if they sang in muummetshire accents wouldnt they


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 12:09 PM

My point being that there is a whole world of difference between the singing of a Harry Cox or a Davie Stewart and that of a Ewan MacColl or a Peter Bellamy - and that this is a difference that really ought to be acknowledged and respected. The best, therefore, any revival singer can do is to sing honestly, in their own voice, without paying too much notice of the assorted affectations of revival singers who have distorted the picture and left us with a somewhat wonky legacy as a result.

As the Revival began to take hold and interest in folksong grew, he began to feel that, as heirs to a broken down culture, it was necessary for Revival singers to equip themselves to be able to sing the entire spectrum of traditional song and not limit themselves to the fairly small repertoires that most traditional singers had.

You say you wrote that, old man? Well, its as fair an apology for revival conceits as any I've read and underlines the extent to which The Revival not only obscured the glories of The Tradition, but misrepresented them for its own vainglorious ends - specifically, Ewan MacColl becoming so mired in his own myth he effectively abandons traditional song altogether in favour of his self-penned patronising tripe about Aparthied, and all in the name of Folk. So keep the faith, old man - you are an admirable disciple defending your flatulent faith whilst diligently seeing off any dissidents and heretics by mocking and riculing anything that doesn't fit with your blinkered vision of what you think folk song ought to be, whilst, rather sadly, missing the point entirely as to what it actually is.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 12:16 PM

whats all this carp about upper class accents, their diction is good and they are singning in tune in their OWN accents, they would also be criticised if they sang in muummetshire accents wouldnt they

My point entirely, Dick - likewise Langstaff, Niles et al.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Seonaid
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 12:18 PM

Love this thread -- so many good thoughts! It can go on forever, being so subjective (arguing who is "traditional" is rather like arguing who has a "big nose"... everyone knows what it means to them, but how do we quantify it, hmm?)
Which composed songs have made it into trad? My nominee is "She Moved Through the Fair."
Now I think I'll just stick my finger in my ear (though some may accuse me of sticking other digits in other orifices) and go sing something trad, like a nice 12th century Australian chant, or maybe Casey Jones.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 12:20 PM

"Well, its as fair an apology for revival conceits as any I've read"
I'm quoting, but that aside for the moment. Where does your own singing fit in with all this?
From what I've heard of it, it is as far from a redition by any traditional singer as I have ever heard (you right to choose, of course), so once again you are accusing somebody of doing something that you apparently have no hesitation of doing yourself - as with your edict of not being able to alter texts, on a previous thread.
MacColl, and others of the revival you have snided at in the past, at least followed the logic of the tradition by staying faithful to its narrative function; totally absent from your own approach.
One more a case of one rule for you, another for the rest of the world.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 12:58 PM

==Which composed songs have made it into trad? My nominee is "She Moved Through the Fair."==

I think not. I repeat here something I have put on other threads, but make no apology for the repetition as it fits here so well.

The 'traditional' claims of "She Moved Thru Fair" {possibly based on tradition but an original reworking in the version we have in mind here by Padraic Colum & Herbert Hughes [see informative Wiki article]} are based largely on the version sung in late 50s in London by Irish Traveller Margaret Barry, who had been discovered in Ireland by one of the English collectors of the time {I forget which] & brought over. We were all, under her influence, singing this song with heartbreaking expression wherever we went in all the clubs & venues.

Interviewed by Karl Dallas, and asked where she had got her fine version ~ from her own family tradition? from other Travellers? ~ she replied casually, "Oh no. I got it off of a gramophone record by Count John McCormack."!

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 01:54 PM

"Howard, examples of valuable traditional singing styles can also be heard when listening to some revival singers."

Yes, but these tend to be conscious imitations of traditional singers, rather than a style which has developed naturally through being part of the tradition.

A distinct "folk revival" style of singing seemed to evolve which bore little resemblance to traditional styles, which featured singing through one's nose and mumbling in one's beard, with or without a finger in one's ear. Fortunately it seems less prevalent nowadays, especially amongst the younger singers.   

Of course there are many very fine revival singers, just as there were poor traditional singers - in some cases this is due to age and infirmity when they were recorded, but no doubt some of them were never very good. Nevertheless, I am convinced that the distinction between traditional and revival singers is an important one.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 03:07 PM

In Fred Jordans case there is no distiction he was both, furthermore some of those traditional singers wrote their own material,[eg] bob roberts willie scott.
in a musical sense the distinction is not an important one, what is important is the musical interpretation and performance, the distiction is important for song collectors.
I think it is important to listen to traditional singers because it is the only way of getting access to the roots of the music, the musical performance//interpretation is not always better, although with those singers who seemed to be still singing regularly [harry cox] they are hard to better .


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 03:46 PM

Cap'n,
Sorry - Fred wasn't both a revival and traditional singer - some of his repertoire may have been from outside his tradition, as is the case with many/most singers(Mike's John McCormack example being a typical one). He was a traditional singer who sang songs he got from the revival.
He first came to our notice through his traditional repertoire - particularly the one about the "Outlandish Knight who came 'alluding' to me" lovely!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Seonaid
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 03:54 PM

Michael, you are right about the origins of "She Moved Through the Fair". I guess what I meant was (what we all mean, really) is that it had been recieved into the *perceived* realm of trad.
Hold on, this gets into physics (and metaphysics): nothing has a reality of its own, but only exists as observed, right?
So I'll bring in another example, which was a "stealth" composed song for decades: Abdul el Bulbul Amir (and all variants). Long considered a "college song," it has finally been blamed on Percy French.
Which brings up a collateral question: whcih tradition(s) is/are considered truly "traditional"? The student song tradition was a healthy one from the Middle Ages until recorded music came in. Lord knows whether the once-prolific "skiing song" tradition is still going. These were, in fact, vibrant traditions, where no one asked who wrote the things they sang. They just learned them from each other and sang them. Frequently with gusto, and even more frequently with beer.
But I don't know that I could get away with offering a "traditional" set that included "Bulldog on the Bank" and some odes to schussing.
Whattaya think?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 03:56 PM

There is actually about 90% concensus of opinion here amongst all of today's contributors. We have an excellent summary about what traditonal singers are and some other important related stuff thrown in for good measure. It's just a pity there are one or two invectives being thrown in as well.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 03:56 PM

Where does your own singing fit in with all this?

I accept a degree of idiosyncrasy - otherwise I'm strictly a trad roots man myself in line with my Irish-Northumbrian heritage with strong links north of the border. Most people accuse me of being too traditional in my approach.

From what I've heard of it, it is as far from a redition by any traditional singer as I have ever heard (you right to choose, of course)

Like any traditional singer you care to name, I sing in my own voice with mannerisms determined by physical factors & other influences, conscious or otherwise. Traditional singers I pay special attention to in this respect - Davie Stewart, Phil Tanner and Willie Scott, who didn't sound like anyone else either. My right to choose? Hell, I've been singing folk songs since I was fourteen - and like any other singer I can only do so as nature has seen fit to endow me. I rarely sing unaccompanied, but there again I root that back to drones & modality in a generally improvisatory approach in keeping with the tradition (rather than chords which aren't). Shame you keep kicking up a stink, old man - I'm sure if you took a more civil approach we could have some constructive discussion on such matters.   

so once again you are accusing somebody of doing something that you apparently have no hesitation of doing yourself - as with your edict of not being able to alter texts, on a previous thread.

Nonsense. That argument was about messing with texts in the name of The Tradition & The Folk Process, which is spurious bullshit. I treat traditional texts as sacrosanct - a matter of personal opinion & reverence of the source, however it has come down to us. I might drop the odd verse for various reasons (such as those obviously added by later hands) but I never add anything, or otherwise consciously change texts.   

MacColl, and others of the revival you have snided at in the past, at least followed the logic of the tradition by staying faithful to its narrative function; totally absent from your own approach.

I suggest you take your finger out of your ear, old man - I am a storyteller, and as such my entire craft is devoted to Traditional Narrative idioms - ballads and folk songs included. Dialect can be a problem, but I don't mess with that either; language, imagery, and narrative dynamic are the prime considerations of any peformance of traditional material, spoken or sung, and encourage others to do likewise even unto accusations of being too much of a stickler for such things.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 04:05 PM

"I treat traditional texts as sacrosanct"
Even corrupt ones - antiqqarianism gone barmy?
"otherwise I'm strictly a trad roots man"
It really doesn't show in your singing - your privelige of course
"I am a storyteller,"
Neither dowes this.
How do you justify using instruments in an almost completely unnaccompanied tradition?
You cannot dictate to people how they treat texts if you are going to discard the traditional forms as you choose to do.
I do not criticise you for anything you do; I just object to your criticising others for doing similar things.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 04:12 PM

C'mon, guys (and you know who you are...)
This is mud*cat*, not mud*sling*.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 05:10 PM

Apologies all round, but I would appreciate it if we could proceed without the sweeping unsubstantiated statements and personal attacks on people who are no longeraround to defend themselves.
Nuff said,
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Goose Gander
Date: 23 Aug 10 - 09:41 PM

One more point, something alluded to but not in depth: a traditional singer is defined not only by his repertoire and context, but his style. Someone from a traditional background - Leadbelly or Woody Guthrie, for example - will put his/her own stamp on everything he or she performs, even if drawn from non-traditional sources, or from traditional sources outside his or her tradition.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Aug 10 - 03:43 AM

A bit of fine tuning.
One of the things we noticed when talking to singers about singing in their communities was the discrimination that was made between those who "had a few old songs" and those who were regarded as singers and had some degree of status as such.
A bit difficult with Walter Pardon because his was largely a family tradition with a few neighbours thrown in who would be associated with them through work on the local farm, but even in this situation Walter's uncle, Billy Gee, stood out as 'the' singer.
Down the Norfolk coast, in Sam Larner's village of Winterton, there were once a lot of singers, but the few remaining ones talked of Jimmy Sutton (around the beginning of the 20th century) as being 'the' singer of the village.
In Harry Cox's village several people referred to Harry's brother as being an important singer.
This area of the West of Ireland was rich in singers, but Tom Lenihan stood out as 'the' singer.
Among the Travellers, plenty of them had songs, but there were people pointed out to us specifically as singers, in particular, Bill Cassidy and Mary Delaney. Mary in particular was regarded as one of 'the' singers because of the fact that she was blind from birth, which restricted her acitivities and singing was regarded as one of her main roles in the family and the community.
With the Travellers, the recognition of certain people as singers spread into the settled community and was once an important link between the two groups.
This is a eye-witness description we recorded of a Travelling family stopping on the outskirts of a village some time in the thirties.
The speaker was Mikeen McCarthy, the son of a well-known singer-storyteller who was a tinsmith in County Kerry.
Jim Carroll

"We'd be all tucked into bed but we wouldn't be asleep, we'd be peeping out through keyholes and listening out through the side of the canvas, we'd be stuck everywhere, and he'd (his father, Michael snr.) know it.
And the fire'd go on. One of the lads 'd come up for the light of a cigarette or something, he'd be already after topping the cigarette, 'twas just an excuse, "Could I have a light out of the fire Mick" they'd say to my father.
Sure, my father'd know, he'd know what he'd be up to of course and he'd say, "'Tisn't for the light of a fire you came up at all now, 'tisn't for the light of a cigarette you came up for now" and he'd start to laugh.   
And bejay, another feller'd come and he'd say it again, "bejay, before I know where I am there'd be ten of you there".   
And bejay, the word wouldn't be out of his mouth and they would be coming up along, coming up along, and the next thing one feller'd shout to the other, "can't you go down and bring up a gual (armful) of turf", and before you'd know where you are there'd be a roaring fire, 'twould band a wheel for you. Oh, there could be twenty, maybe more, maybe thirty, it depends, maybe there could be more than that again. There'd be some round the fire in a ring, there might be another twenty standing on the road. There wouldn't be any traffic at that time on the by-roads in Ireland, d'you know. They'd be all standing out along the road then.
So 'tis there you'd hear the stories then and the songs, all night, maybe till one o'clock in the morning. And the kettle... the tea'd go on then, there'd be a round of tea and.... That's the way it'd go on.
We were off ceilidhing then, they'd invite him off to a house; he'd always bring one or two of us with him. Same thing'd go on at the house then, that's where he learned all those great stories and great songs from, I suppose, ceilidhing from house to house, different counties, different stories, different songs."


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Steamin' Willie
Date: 24 Aug 10 - 03:47 AM

At the risk of being belittled by those (him?) claiming their (his?) point is the definitive one on the basis of they (he?) used to own a tape recorder.....

The good Mr Padgett started a thread about traditional SINGER and it has (here's my word of the week) transmogrified into traditional SONG.

In the Rolling Stones tradition, "It's the singer, not the song."

Nobody is making sweeping anything about the person Ewan MCColl, but the product Ewan McColl is fair game. An excellent example of folk being what he decided it was. Mind you, penning such beautiful songs, he had at least as much right as anybody else to try to define things. I recall when I interviewed him that he kept rattling on about people only singing what is indigenous to them. A bit rich really. A Salford lad called Jim affecting a Scottish name and singing in a Scottish accent that may have worked, but there again, so did Dick Van Dyke's English accent, if you happened to be American. it is called playing to the crowd.

Just two things to throw in;

Mistaken words.. I used to sometimes end the night with a bit of music hall, and in particular Pomona. Pomona is a song about The Pomona Palace, in Albert Square, near Pomona Docks, in Salford. (McColl could have sung an indigenous song there if he had thought on...)

I used to be bemused by people correcting me and calling it Lamona.

The other thing to note is that my definition is not all embracing, (see above if you must, not going to bore all & sundry by repeating it..) but I have yet to read a definition that I could be happy with from others either. Hence, I reckon this is a circular thread, in that you can't define subjective terms.

A local club to me has a tape recorder "collecting" songs. The owner must be happy, as he seems to collect Paul Simon songs on it most nights.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 24 Aug 10 - 04:28 AM

"Pomona is a song about The Pomona Palace, in Albert Square, near Pomona Docks, in Salford. (McColl could have sung an indigenous song there if he had thought on...)"

I think that this needs a bit of clarification. The Pomona Palace pub is just off Chester Road and is probably in Hulme, in Manchester, not Salford (Salford is to the west, across the Bridgewater and Manchester Ship canals). I say 'probably' because, on the ordnance survey map, the district is called 'St. Georges' and is close to the border with Stretford. Over the last 40 or 50 years the whole area has been extensively 'carpet bombed' by 'progress' - so, to an adopted Mancunian like me, the exact geography is not terribly clear (so much for clarification!). I don't know if there was ever an Albert Square around the area in question - the only Albert Square that I know is a mile or two away in the centre of Manchester.

Oh yes, Ewan MacColl may have been born in Salford but both of his parents were Scots and he learned several songs from them.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: stallion
Date: 24 Aug 10 - 04:49 AM

seems to me that there is some confusion with scholarship and singing, like some factual books get labelled acedemic cos they have footnotes and journalism if they don't, with a fair ammount of snobbery attached to it all. Whilst I admire the scholars I have spent far too long listening in a hushed room to people who sing like old men and proudly proclaim that this is how it should be done. Most of what I think and approach I take my singing has, in snippets from different contributers, already been said. Actually I think everyone should contribute in whichever way they feel most comfortable in even if it's singing like an old man, the same goes for the material, the real tradition is that it is happening at all, it is a social occasion and it is the social occasion that is most important. What our family lost were the gatherings where each family member would get up and do their party piece. I remember the kids standing on a chair to sing or recite poetry and more often than not the same piece, my Dad always sang "South of the Border" and "D-Day Dodgers", I suppose it was our generation that discontinued it, maybe a legacy of the Dansette and recorded music, a bit of a con really. So social gatherings of people to sing or do their party piece is good and long may it continue. Oh, if people want/need to make money out of it it needs a label so that people know what they are purchasing, that makes sense, but to row about it, nah!


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: stallion
Date: 24 Aug 10 - 05:03 AM

Just thinking about it, just about the whole extended family lived in three adjacent streets and my dad and aunts and uncles all bought houses in different suburbs, after that the gatherings got less, my cousins and I don't even live in the same towns, maybe it was this that did for it m'lud.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 24 Aug 10 - 05:17 AM

Even corrupt ones - antiqqarianism gone barmy?

Like I say, I'll drop those verses that are obviously extraneous to the cause - a recent example would be the version of Child #1 as it appears in The Northumbrian Minstrelsy (Lay the Bent to the Bonny Broom) which concludes with some decidely dodgy verses. I wouldn't add any new ones of my own though. On the subject of Lay the Bent, I have taken issue with those singers who carry on singing Child #10 to this melody after the example set by Pentangle. A minor point of pedantry perhaps, but a crucial one to the paticular poignancy of both melody & refrain.

It really doesn't show in your singing - your privelige of course

The priviledge is all yours, old man - to discredit everything I do for reasons best known to yourself.

Neither dowes this.

Likewise, though seeing as how none of my storytelling work exists on line I fail to see how you can reach this conclusion.

How do you justify using instruments in an almost completely unnaccompanied tradition?

Well, my tradition is that of The Revival where instrumental accompaniment is the rule rather than the exception. That said my main inspiration in instrumental accompaniment is Davie Stewart, even though I don't play the accordion.

You cannot dictate to people how they treat texts if you are going to discard the traditional forms as you choose to do.

I have not dictated anything, just made a few points by way of Devil's Advocacy in the light of people claiming that becase Traditional Singers changed songs it was fine for us to do so too - that this is the essense of The Traditional, and The Folk Process, which of course it isn't. This was in the context of a generally impersonal discussion which you insist on making personal, accusing me of abandoning traditional forms. This couldn't be further from the truth - I embraced them long since & they form the basis of pretty much everything I do. Even as a Revival Singer I eshew many conventions (arrangements, guitars, chords) in favour of traditional forms of improvisation, drones & modality which I feel have been obscured by the more anomalous musical affections of the revival. That's just the way I do things though - I'm not expecting others to do likewise.

I do not criticise you for anything you do

WTF???

I just object to your criticising others for doing similar things.

I would never stoop so low as to criticise / debase the work of any forum member in a discussion, much less drag them in personally as you have done here. Any criticism I have ever made of Ewan MacColl is directed to the Myth he created by way of celebrity, not the mindless sniping which you seem to think it is. Maybe this is part of the Religiosity of the Revival too, replete with its Myths and Holy Cows that must somehow be addressed, or else redressed by those taking part.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Aug 10 - 05:42 AM

SO'P - Steamin Willie
I've apologised for my part in this wrangle - suggest SO'P does same and leaves it at that, letting everybody else get on with the discussion
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Steamin' Willie
Date: 24 Aug 10 - 08:19 AM

mmm... Even progress in town planning can make folklore eh?

The geography of Albert Square is something I got from listening to The Two Beggarmen. Tony may or may not have got historical facts 100%, who knows? However, when I was staying at a hotel a few years ago which was addressed as being on Salford Quays, there was a sign down a small lane to the canal outside the hotel that stated that was the site of Pomona Docks.

So... did Albert Square exist? Was the original Pomona docks in Hulme or anywhere else for that matter? The reason for saying this is that tradition can affect more than song it would seem. Although the artistic licence in the music hall song may not have been based on a map!

The point was that some people call the song Lamona. I'm cool about that, don't get an atlas out and if I were to sing it again, I am sure I would rattle on about the Pomona Palace, the original setting of the song, whether it existed or not.

Mind you, one bloke who calls it lamona is a lot older than me, smokes a pipe and has a huge beard, Can't remember his name but he is a friend of a friend and once got all het up and angry when he heard me sing "his song by right."

His appearance makes him the authority on such matters not me. However, his petty childishness makes the art of going out for a pint and a song less enjoyable than it should be. Methinks there are some cheerful buggers on this thread who are capable of sitting poker faced too eh?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 24 Aug 10 - 04:30 PM

On our jaunts into Manchester we use the Ladywell Park & Ride, picking up the Eccles tram which takes into St. Peter's Square crossing the ship canal over the Pomona Dock and stopping at Pomona station. There is a Pomona Palace public house nearby I believe... I first (& last) heard the song sung in Fleetwood some years ago by the redoutable Geoff Higginbottom.

Otherwise...

Thanks for the untimely inquisition, Joe, and the threats of censure, neither of which were strictly necessary. For the record, the altercation (hardly that) wasn't about the definition of a traditional singer (Jim & I are in 100% agreement on that one), rather Jim taking me to task on my own approach to traditional material in the light of some things I said elsewhere. You're spot on about Jim & I being friendly though - and can I just restate my absolute respect for the man & all he has done in the field of folk song & traditional culture.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 06:28 AM

Willie, it seems likely that the Manchester/Pomona version was the original, but got adapted in Cornwall to local placenames, as tends to happen. We can speculate whether that apparent local connection kept the song popular in Cornwall after it had been forgotten elsewhere. Be that as it may, it is the Cornish version which became popularised in the folk clubs through recordings by Brenda Wootton, the Yetties and the Spinners and which many people now think of as the "correct" version.

See this Wikipedia article - not always reliable but this one seems to have some convincing documentation.

As for someone claiming a song "by right", no one has a right to songs, but it is usual courtesy in singarounds and sessions not to perform something from someone else's repertoire. However if you don't know that a person sings it, or you're singing a different version, that's probably excusable. This courtesy also seems to have existed between traditional singers - singers had their "own" songs which no one else would perform.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 08:30 AM

no one has a right to songs, but it is usual courtesy in singarounds and sessions not to perform something from someone else's repertoire. However if you don't know that a person sings it, or you're singing a different version, that's probably excusable. This courtesy also seems to have existed between traditional singers - singers had their "own" songs which no one else would perform.

Moot points worthy of further discussion, or even a separate thread, though I suspect it's already been gone over a hundred times! Some singers are more jealous than others - I've been spat at on various occasions for unwittingly covering the same ground, whilst others are just happy to know the song has a life beyond their repertoir. Some will claim their version to more correct than others, as in an unfortunate episode at an old folk club where two otherwise dignified and erudite ladies almost came to blows because one insisted her version of The Trees They Do Grow High was the proper one. That's one Child Ballad you won't find in Child, but the variants are legion and worthy of celebration, as is the case with traditional songs in general. I recently had a session with a notable Mudcat Ballad Singer and found that the ballad she sang (Childe Roland) had imprinted itself indelibly on my memory. Naturally I made it part of my repertoire, but should ever our paths cross in a singaround I'd most certainly ask her if she minded me doing it. I've worked in various duos with singers over the years and feel that the songs we did together belong to both of us, even if I served mainly as accompanist. I've lost count of the songs I've acquired this way, though many I've had to re-source on account of changes made by the singer.

How often have I worked up a song only to have it sung by another singer in the same session? All the more galling if they've got the words on their knee. Ultimately, the more people there are singing this stuff the better, and the deeper we dig in our sourcing so the less it should be a problem, so there's a lesson to us all really.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 08:55 AM

"Some singers are more jealous than others"
An interesting example of this was when Walter Pardon was approached by a local singer and told that he shouldn't give his songs to other people because when you did this they were no longer your own.
His (typical) response was "They're not my songs, they're everybodys".
The practice of not singing another singer's songs was very much a two-way street. Singers would never sing another's songs in their presence, or, only when persuaded to do so, and if they did, and had altered them in any way, they would apologise for having done so.
On the other hand, there is a story of a well-known revival singer who was booked at a Manchester club where one of the residents deliberately opened the evening with five songs which were known as being part of the guest's usual repertoire.
The guest sang them all again.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 10:52 AM

This is fascinating stuff - and essential to our understanding of the oral tradition as a whole really, which depends upon songs being passed around and remade by other singers. One wonders to what extent these re-makings were regarded as the intellectual property of any given singer, and whether or not this contributed to further remakings of the song to distinguish it further, or even if this was expected. Whatever the case, something must have given rise to the innumerable variations of Barbara Allen. We still talk of making a song our own, and do so with considerable pride even if we don't stray too far from the collected form of the song, but even so in looking at collected forms we coe across intriguing variations. One such is Mrs Pearl Brewer of Arkensas whom Max Hunter twice recorded singing All Down By the Greenwood Side (a consummate reduction to the pure essence of Child #20 with a melody to chill you to the marrow) but on both occasions she sang it quite differently. One wonders how differently she sang it on other occasions. I've come across other examples of this fluidity in traditional singers, and would be interested in a broader exposition on how traditional singers varied their songs from one performance to another, especially in the light of making a song their own. On one occasion Jim mentioned a singer extemporising certain verses, which ties in with other traditions I've come across - be it Yorkshire fishermen, Welsh guisers, Serbian gusle players, Indian village musicians insulting guests at a wedding, or Davie Stewart's additional verses to McGinty's Meal an Ale. So - food for thought & further crack I should think...


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Hilary
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 11:03 AM

If you are trying to say that a traditional singer is one who sings only traditional songs, I don't think one exists.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Steve T
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 11:28 AM

I have found the subject of this thread fascinating. It even got me into thinking of joining Mudcat (until it degenerated into personal attacks etc) but my thanks for the approximately 60% of comments which addressed the question directly.

If I try to filter out the discussion on traditional song rather than traditional singers (even the 19/08/10 posting stating that there was no such thing as a traditional singer and the word could only be used to describe the material) there seems to be a remarkable amount of agreement.

Most contributors seemed to suggest that a "traditional singer" refers to someone who learned the majority of their material/repertoire as part of an ongoing tradition (3 contributors), orally (3 contributors) and developed their style (2 contributors) from their daily community life (6 contributors).

Few seem to disagree that traditional singers who met that definition may also have learned songs from outside their community (but then performed the songs in their own style) (despite the 23/08/10 posting which claims Fred Jordan was both a traditional and a revivalist singer, suggesting that it requires both the context and the material to be "traditional" to qualify.)

The later posting which refers to the distinction made within some communities between those who "had a few songs" and those who were "singers" might also suggest that the term "traditional singer" also needed to be bestowed upon a person and generally accepted within their community rather than claimed by them. (Would this exclude some of the singers collected by the likes of Sharp?)

The term "traditionalist" seemed to disappear rapidly within the thread and the terms "revivalist" and "source singer" seemed to have been used with some consensus throughout. Perhaps these are of more use to those of more academic bent than "traditional singer" which has been absorbed into the "non-academic" mainstream/festival/folk club literature and thus become less useful and concise.

My thanks to those who provided me with these thoughts.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 01:14 PM

"If you are trying to say that a traditional singer is one who sings only traditional songs, I don't think one exists."
I don't think one exists either, but it has been our experience with singers we have recorded that they do differentiate between the different types of song in their reperoire, even to the extent of having their own labels, particularly for the traditional ones - come-all-ye's, the old songs, Clare songs (from this county) etc.
Some singers used the terms 'folk' (Walter Pardon, for example) and 'traditional' was common with the older Irish singers and musicians around here.
Blind Travelling woman, Mary Delaney, with a repertoire of around 200 traditional songs, called them 'my daddy's' songs, even though she had learned less than a dozen from him - her way of distinguishing them from the others she knew. Mary could have doubled the songs she gave us with Country and Western songs alone, but she refused on the grounds that "they were not the ones she was looking for". She said she only sang them because "that's what the lads ask for down at the pub" and "The new songs have the old ones ruined".
Walter Pardon was not only discriminating between his different types of songs (as early as 1948, when he began writing them down in an exercise book), but he could, and did talk about what those differences were, often at great length.
While it is untrue to suggest that traditional singers only sang traditional songs, it is equally untrue that they didn't know the difference between one type and the other.
"until it degenerated into personal attacks etc..."
If my behaviour has in any way persuaded you not to join this forum, I can only apologise and hope you change your mind
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 01:39 PM

Fred Jordan was both, those songs he learned from his family[was it 24 songs]make him a traditional singer, those songs he later learned from other revivalists make him also a revival singer.
Jim Carroll[imo] is wrong


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 02:20 PM

"the terms "revivalist" and "source singer" seemed to have been used with some consensus throughout. Perhaps these are of more use to those of more academic bent than "traditional singer" which has been absorbed into the "non-academic" mainstream/festival/folk club literature and thus become less useful and concise."

Well noted!
Even those of us of a less academic bent want to be clearly understood and to clearly understand others likewise. That's the only reason I don't bother with using the 'folk' word in these discussions and stick to using the term 'traditional song' instead - it still seems to actually mean roughly the same thing to most people who use it.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 03:23 PM

Personally I don't think the singer's status in either their own community or the 'folk' community makes any difference to whether we call them 'traditional singers' or not.

The great Arthur Howard, whose large repertoires are still in evidence in the communities where he sang in the Pennines to the west of Sheffield, had at least 4 distinct repertoires for different occasions, hunt suppers, folk scene, shepherds' meets, family dos, etc.

On the other hand another great singer from the same area who was much shyer and usually only sang for his family and collectors was Frank Hinchliffe. He had a relatively small repertoire.

I don't know of anyone who doesn't treat the memories of both singers with great affection and respect. In my opinion they are both equally 'traditional singers'.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Stringsinger
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 03:31 PM

Here's a problem. I learned an old blues from my step-father. I recorded it. I have not heard it sung anywhere else ever. In this way, I am a traditional singer because it was passed down to me through my family. I even sing it in the style in which it was taught to me. I learned it as a young child.

The folk songs I have learned in a way that would classify me as a revivalist, not a traditionalist. Could I be both?

When Doc Watson records "Over The Rainbow" is he still a traditional singer? I think that
because of his background he is. But if he sings and records Harold Arlen/Yip Harburg is he a kind of "revivalist" singer too?

I'd say, here, Doc was both. A traditional singer and a non-traditional singer.

Or when he sings a non-traditional song, he is a non-trad singer and vice versa.

The whole point about defining what is a traditional singer is this, honoring the tradition or culture and the people who came from where the song was originally done. It's not about splitting hairs over definitions but an attempt to understand and elevate the folksong tradition by acknowledging the sources for the songs.

Lonnie Donegan, for example, was not Leadbelly, who reflected a given tradition of the isolation of the African-American singers on chain gangs..

One could argue about Burl Ives, however. Or Josh White. They had traditional roots.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 03:47 PM

"Fred Jordan was both, those songs he learned from his family....."
Sorry again Cap'n
If a traditional singer who also learned songs from the revival, learned blues from a record, music hall songs from Harry Champion records, and Beatles songs from...... would that make him/her a traditional/revival/blues/music hall/pop singer?
The term 'traditional' refers to his/her position in relation to the singing tradition, everything else is extra.
As Hilary pointed out, no singer, or very few, confined their singing to one type of song.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 04:30 PM

I disagree,jim,sowe will have to agree to differ


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 05:05 PM

The performers (in Britain anyway) who managed to straddle both their own communities and the revival community are so few and far between I think we can afford them special status for this tremendous achievement. Of course it is possible to be part of two (or more) communities at once. Surely this is undeniable. Fred is possibly the best example for England. Some of them even went as far as to be singer-songwriters as someone has already mentioned. I can't see any problem with this. It doesn't diminish their status as 'traditional singers'. As far as I'm concerned it enhances it.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 05:47 PM

Willie Scott[shepherds life]Bob Roberts[oily rigs]were traditional singers who also wrote.
FredJordan[imo] was a consummate performer


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Seonaid
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 06:10 PM

For no reason at all, I just thought of the deifnition of "folk song" that's used by Garrison Keillor:
A song you learned from somebody else, and that you remember the words to mostly.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: *#1 PEASANT*
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 09:56 PM

1. Singing is done by the individual as part of the lifeway and is not done for money or for hire or out of any sense of obligation.

2. singing is done by the individual in informal spaces and is not scheduled.

I think that the music sung does not matter.

Folk music however is different as it relates to song history and evolution.

Learning to play or sing has no bearing. Doesn't matter how one learns the important dimension is that you do it as a lifeway, it is your tradition. Not even a hobby as hobby is something extra. Performnce also extends too far. You are traditional when you do it whenever.

Conrad


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 26 Aug 10 - 03:52 AM

Willie Scott[shepherds life]Bob Roberts[oily rigs]were traditional singers who also wrote.

Is it entirely inconceivable for Traditional Singers to write? I'd argue the creative urge has much to do with what a Traditional Singer does and can do with respect of the craft of creativity - see my earlier post regarding improvisation. How this intersects with The Revival is a more complex matter altogether - one thinks of how Ry Cooder's interest in the old musicians of the Beuna Vista Social Club gave them a second-life & exposure that would have been inconceivable otherwise. Where would I be without my Ruben Gonzales CDs?

Otherwise - always nice to see a mention of Bob Roberts, whose sci-fi horror story The Oily Rig is almost Zappa-esque in its humanising of The Devil. Less well known are several other songs such as Race of Long Ago and The Wheeling Gull which feature on his LP Breeze for a Bargeman (1981)- a title he would also use for his book of the same year which, somewhat paradoxically, has nothing to do with the record & only touches on folk song in passing.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Will Fly
Date: 26 Aug 10 - 04:01 AM

Suibhne - just a small point of accuracy, from an old, unrepentant pedant: I do believe that it was the interest of a young Cuban trumpeter in the island's history which was the moving force behind locating and bringing together the old musicians who became the Buena Vista Social Club. Ry Cooder, a friend of the trumpeter, was then invited to go to Cuba and produce the album - he confirms this story himself. But, yes - without his interest and his name and presence as producer and occasional musician on the album - it might not have reached the huge audience that it did. I saw them myself in Brighton (RC was not there) and they were magnificent, with Gonzales stealing the show!


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 26 Aug 10 - 04:25 AM

I envy you that, Will - I missed them on (I think) two occasions owing to more pressing engagements. Such is life - Jordi Savall & Hesperion XXI were playing in Edinburgh this week too, but alas! Still, I take heart that Jordi has just released a second volume of Celtic Viol, the first volume of which I can heartily recommend to anyone with an interest in fiddles & the roots of traditional Irish & Scottish music.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 26 Aug 10 - 04:34 AM

My interpretation of a traditional singer, as I have explained previously, is based on the context in which he developed his music. That's not to say that all his songs must come from the same context, that, or they must all be traditional songs, or that he can't create his own.

By my understanding, Fred Jordan was a traditional singer because of the context in which he learned to sing and acquired many of his songs. It makes no difference whether he learned some songs from other singers in the same context or from Martin Carthy. It makes no difference whether he subsequently performed in the folk revival - that was not his original context, and it was not that which formed his singing (although it may have influenced it, if only by exposing him to new material).

On the other hand, my own context is that of the folk revival. I am not and never will be a traditional singer, although I sing traditional songs, and it makes no difference whether I learned a song from Martin Carthy or Fred Jordan.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Will Fly
Date: 26 Aug 10 - 05:06 AM

SA - many thanks for the Jordi Savall link - excellent!


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 26 Aug 10 - 06:49 AM

Yeah - he's quite something. I'm a bit of a Savall completist and am in constant awe how he can run the world's most commercially & artistically successful Early Music Ensemble and record label (Alia Vox) without compromising one jot on musical or philosphical integrity. And the quality of product is seldom anything less than exquisite!

Otherwise...

Just looked up Bob Roberts on wiki which is worth a read in light of his other lives besides being a traditional folk singer. Maybe I even saw him on Jackanory back in 1966 - I would have been four or five, a period of my life I don't remember too clearly apart from getting lost one rainy day in Sunderland. Like Seamus Ennis he lived in various worlds, as do we all of course - hell, since when was life ever so simple as to be straightforward? Bob Roberts's various books are available from Seafarer boks Here.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 26 Aug 10 - 06:56 AM

The danger with long threads is that we don't read the early stuff and people who have posted early on get cheesed off when the find themselves repeating valid points again.

Within this thead are definitions of 'Traditional singer', 'Traditional song' and probably 'Traditional/context that most of us can agree on. The overlap but not entirely - hence the ongoing discussion.

Dare I suggest that one overarching feature is people singing songs to each other in small acoustic spaces because they simply like singing and listening to the songs?

Those of us doing this now have a massive collection of songs collected over a hundred years ago and another collection created between about 1960 and today. All we do is to do it.

Cheers

L in C#


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Aug 10 - 08:04 AM

Howar I completely disagree with you.
Fred Jordan was both,as soon as he was not singing songs he learned from his family ,he was a revival singer ,the definition of a traditional singer is songs learned orally form his family or local community, so when he sang fields of athenry, he became a revival singer.
in the same fashion a traditional singer can also be a singer songwriter[WillieScott], that is why these labels are ridiculous.
here is aculinary comparison: Rice, It can be a dessert rice pudding, or a main course; curry.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Aug 10 - 08:33 AM

"so when he sang fields of athenry, he became a revival singer."
Walter Pardon, Harry Cox, Sam Larner, Jeannie Robertson, The Stewarts, Charlie Wills... and a hundred more you could probably name, all performed in folk clubs and festivals, and all sang non-traditional songs at one time or another, some of them learned songs they had heard from revival singers - were they all revival singers?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 26 Aug 10 - 08:35 AM

Dick, the problem, and the point of this thread, is that there isn't a definition of a traditional singer. You are using one definition, I am using another - within our respective definitions, we are both right.

The difficulty I see in your definition is that singers always acquired new songs from outside their local community, and especially from travellers. That's how songs and tunes got passed around. To limit "traditional" singers only to songs from their family and community is too restrictive - on those grounds I doubt many would qualify, and most of those only because the tradition around them was dying out.

Whether Fred Jordan learned a song from his family, from another traditional singer, or from the revival, his approach to them was the same and it was one which was formed from his roots in the tradition.

Your rice analogy is interesting. However they are different because they are prepared differently. Rice pudding served with curry is still rice pudding.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Steve T
Date: 26 Aug 10 - 03:57 PM

On the matter of whether one can be both a traditional and a revival singer I find myself in agreement with Mr. Jones and Mr. Carroll in believing that the "traditional" describes the provenance of the singer rather than both their provenance and their activity at a given time. Once someone has earned the right to be called a traditional singer they should not be deprived of that accolade when they sing something that they learned from outside their own culture any more than an artist should cease to be called an artist when they are washing up the dishes.

To throw another (non-culinary) analogy back into the melting pot: an omnibus is not reclassified as a car when it is only carrying a driver and an aeroplane does not become an omnibus when taxiing its passengers along the runway.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Aug 10 - 05:07 PM

no, if Fred had decided to take part in a local amateur Gilbert and Sullivan, or alternatively taken part in a rock and roll night and sang Rock around the clock , while he was singing either G and S, OR ROCK AND ROLL he would not have been a traditional singer.
a traditional singer is only a traditional singer wnen he is singning traditional material he learned orally, once he starts singing Rock and Roll or Jazz, he becomes a Rock Roll singer Jazz singer or LightOpera singer.
lets take Rev Gary Davis he is described as a blues and gospel singer, so he was only a gospel singer when he was singing gospel music, he was a blues singer when he sang blues[ he could not be a gospel singer when he was singing blues cos he wasnt singing gospel music.
so logically if FredJordan sang Rock Around the Clock , He was singing Rock and Roll, so he is a Rock and Roll singer.
he cannot be a traditional singer and a rock and roll singer at the same time


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 27 Aug 10 - 12:45 AM

Why not, Dick? I can be a retired senior teacher, a theatre critic, a former folk-music critic, a folksinger, a former goalkeeper for my school's 1st XI, a former Territorial Army officer... all at the same time. I bet you can be lots of things at once too. Who can't. The fact that one might be concentrating on one of these at any particular moment doesn't make the others vanish into the ewigkeit, surely? So Fred Jordan taking time off to sing other sorts of music from time to time didn't stop him being a traditional singer also.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 27 Aug 10 - 02:43 AM

The logical (?) conclusion to some of this must be: Does a 'Traditional Singer' stop being one the second he stops singing a 'Traditional Song'? Between verses, after the clapping, when eating a pie, whilst being asleep?

Dare I suggest that one overarching feature is people singing songs to each other in small acoustic spaces because they simply like singing and listening to the songs?

Those of us doing this now have a massive collection of songs collected over a hundred years ago and another collection created between about 1960 and today. All we do is to do it.

Cheers

L in C#


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Aug 10 - 03:00 AM

"he cannot be a traditional singer and a rock and roll singer at the same time"
So when walter Pardon sang 'When The Fields Are White with Daisies' he stopped being a traitional singer?
Don't be silly Dick.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Aug 10 - 07:42 AM

it is also to do with the style of songs the singer is singing ,a jazz singer is a jazz singer because he sings jazz songs in a jazz manner?style.
a traditional singer is a traditional singer partly because he sings traditional songs , if he had learned his songs orally from his family and they had not been traditional songs he could not be a traditional singer, supposing he had learned country and western composed songs, from his family orally that would not make him a traditional singer


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Aug 10 - 08:04 AM

"it is also to do with the style of songs the singer is singing"
Nope - it has very little to do with style - the tradition is about the place the songs occupy in the culture of the communities they served, and, when the tradition was alive, in the conciousness of the singer.
If blues, jazz, rock, whatever had held the same significance they would have become part of the tradition.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Aug 10 - 12:14 PM

a Traditional singer has to sing Traditional songs.., What differentiates a traditional singer from a singer of traditional songs, is that he learned them orally from his family or local community.
if a traditional singer, decides to take up another style[lets say Jazz]all the time he is performing with a jazz band, he has become a jazz singer, the songs that he is now singing are not songs he learned orally from his family, he is singing in a totally different style, possibly improvising with his voice , if we knew nothing of his background, we would define him as a jazz singer, and that is exactly what he is.
when he goes back to singing[those songs he learned orally] tradtiional songs in a different situation, he becomes a traditional singer again.   
this is why FredJordan was both a revivalist and a traditional singer, he was only a traditional singer all the time he was singing the songs he learned orally from his family.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Goose Gander
Date: 27 Aug 10 - 01:25 PM

Frank Proffitt was a traditional singer and musician. He sang and performed songs learned from friends and family as well as commercially-derived material. He did not cease to be a traditional singer when he sang radio ditties.

Superman was still Superman, even when he was dressed as 'Clark Kent'.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 27 Aug 10 - 01:37 PM

Steven Gerrard is still a footballer when he is sitting at home with his family watching telly. Nobody is anything ONLY when he is doing it.

~~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: raymond greenoaken
Date: 28 Aug 10 - 06:49 AM

Here's a couple of recent examples of the slipperiness of the word tradition(al), taken from an article on the Eliza/Norma CD "Gift" in the current issue of Properganda.

"Eliza resists the folk label, preferring to describe herself as a traditional singer. By which she means she is less concerned with a song's provenance than its quality, and that she'll sing whatever takes her fancy. 'All the real traditional singers did that,' she insists.

And later in the piece: "The Waterson family, like the Coppers, have their full-on ensemble and harmony singing tradition."

So: is Eliza Carthy a traditional singer when she's singing Amen Corner covers, or her own songs, or at any time at all? (Such as when she's singing songs she learned from her family.)

And do the Watersons "have" a "tradition"?

Who's first?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Aug 10 - 08:55 AM

quite. which proves that definitions such as traditional singer are not very important
ELIZA CARTHY IS IN MY OPINION A REVIVAL SINGER ,BUT WHAT REALLY MATTERS IS THAT SHE IS GOOD


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: r.padgett
Date: 28 Aug 10 - 09:08 AM

Well lots of interesting stuff

Eliza Carthy is a "traditionalist singer" and I believe could never be a traditional singer, as such

She could be described as a "revival" singer too from a fine family of revivalist singers

She sings many "traditional songs" from source singers and no doubt from collected printed book sources from collectors of songs

[Back from Whitby ff now!!]

Ray


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 Aug 10 - 10:35 AM

"ELIZA CARTHY IS IN MY OPINION A REVIVAL SINGER ,BUT WHAT REALLY MATTERS IS THAT SHE IS GOOD "
Don't shout Cap'n - we can hear you, even if some of us might not agree with you.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Aug 10 - 02:10 PM

Apolgies,Jim, caps lock


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,johnp
Date: 28 Aug 10 - 02:40 PM

The following http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditional_music, briefly summarises some of the characteristics of traditional music. Although Wikipedia needs to be treated with caution I believe it makes some good points relevant to this thread and provides useful references.
With reference to slippery definitions there is the euphemistic use of "traditional" which seems, from experience, to relate to old songs sung out of tune; particularly long ballads
johnp


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: raymond greenoaken
Date: 28 Aug 10 - 02:47 PM

"quite. which proves that definitions such as traditional singer are not very important" – GSS

So why so much debate on who is and who isn't? And does Eliza Carthy's comment prove anything at all, other than that she has a much broader concept of "traditional singer" than most of the correspondents here? Eliza has spoken, so there's no longer any argument...

"ELIZA CARTHY IS IN MY OPINION A REVIVAL SINGER ,BUT WHAT REALLY MATTERS IS THAT SHE IS GOOD" – GSS

Surely that's a separate issue entirely?

Bit of biography here. I was born and grew up in rural Northumberland, and, like almost everybody around me, had a nodding acquaintance with Tyneside songs of the Blaydon Races, Cushie Butterfield sort. My mother sang Dance To Yer Daddy to me as an infant. Does that make me a traditional carrier of these songs? And if not, why not? I'm prepared to be disappointed...


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 Aug 10 - 03:07 PM

"My mother sang Dance To Yer Daddy"
If she'd sung 'Your Tiny Hand is Frozen' to you, would that make you an opera singer?
"By which she means she is less concerned with a song's provenance than its quality"
This is a sweeping generalisation which depends on which singer or musician you ask. The older musicians and singers around here used to make a point of telling you which songs, tunes, ways of playing/singing were or were not 'traditional. Walter Pardon proudly and often publicly declared which of his songs were 'folk', and went into long explanations on the difference between them and the music hall, Victorian, 1920s pop songs.
Suggest you read what he had to say in articals 'The Other Songs' and my reply on the Musical Traditions site archive.
In the end it has nothing whatever to do with the definition of a traditional singer.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: raymond greenoaken
Date: 28 Aug 10 - 04:15 PM

"My mother sang Dance To Yer Daddy"
If she'd sung 'Your Tiny Hand is Frozen' to you, would that make you an opera singer?
...
She probably did. But an opera singer, alas no. But I'm talking about traditional songs, transmitted orally in a traditional milieu of family and community as part of its cultural apparatus. I've known the first verse and chorus of Blaydon Races all my life. I learned the other five verses last year, to sing in folk clubs. So can I be a traditional singer and a revival singer in the course of singing a single song?

Any tips on how to be an opera singer?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 Aug 10 - 04:46 PM

"Any tips on how to be an opera singer? "
Probably about ten years training - then sing in an opera - sort of like being a tradional singer -a couple of generations training in a living tradition - then singing as part of one.
And Walter Pardon's conclusion - doesn't count huh?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 28 Aug 10 - 05:49 PM

raymond,
Like you, as mentioned above, I have a whole family repertoire of songs on my mother's side to go at, and indeed I sing many of them. One of them is a lullaby I learned in the cradle and passed on to my own children. What is certain however is if I hadn't become interested in traditional song both as a performer and a researcher those songs would have become a dim and distant memory.

I prefer to think of 'traditional singer' as a relative term lacking hard and fast boundaries of meaning. If we were both being really picky we could claim to be traditional singers in a very small way, which is vastly overshadowed by the fact that all of the people here talking about this are very much revival performers.

Yes Fred was part of the 'tradition' and a revival singer, but Id pretty much guarantee which of the two nearly all of us here would use to describe him, so no contest. The fact that most of the people whose names are known to all of us as 'traditional singers' also performed in the revival and had songs from other sources, holds little relevance here.

Some of these analogies are pretty inane and irrelevant (IMHO). If you are going to use an analogy please make sure it's appropriate and at least similar in some way to what we are discussing.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: raymond greenoaken
Date: 28 Aug 10 - 06:30 PM

Apologies for any inanity or irrelevance, Steve. I'm just trying to follow the reasoning used by some of the posters on this thread, and relate it to my own experience, since it's sitting there handily.

Jim – I'm not making any claims to being a traditional singer. I'm not even claiming to be a singer. But if my mother got Dance To Yer Daddy from her mother, would that tot up to two generations in a living tradition? As for "training" in that tradition, what exactly does that involve? Who trained Fred Jordan?

Just trying to catch up...


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 28 Aug 10 - 06:56 PM

raymond,
I wasn't criticising you specifically over the analogies. I should have made it clearer that that paragraph was addressed generally to the thread. These practically meaningless analogies are thrown in with very little thought and relevance. I'm referring to those apples and elephants and rice puddings that keep being thrown in. The references to Superman and Stephen Gerrard are of course reasonable analogies.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: raymond greenoaken
Date: 29 Aug 10 - 05:26 AM

further thoughts after reflection on Steve's and Jim's points...

Steve: I have a whole family repertoire of songs on my mother's side to go at, and indeed I sing many of them. One of them is a lullaby I learned in the cradle and passed on to my own children. What is certain however is if I hadn't become interested in traditional song both as a performer and a researcher those songs would have become a dim and distant memory.

Me: Depends on the company you keep, perhaps. My childhood contemporaries have, I'm almost certain, little interest in "folk music" as we understand it here, but the (relatively small) number of local songs they absorbed in their formative years are not dim and distant memories. They're the songs they sing down the pub and on the terraces, and maybe even sing to their bairns. Perhaps that also answers Jim's point about "singing as a part of (a living tradition)" — these songs have an informal social function: they're not rendered as performances to a studious audience. If that isn't a "living tradition", what is it exactly?

Where I come from, analogy is something you get from food additives...


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Aug 10 - 05:57 AM

Raymond
I have no doubt that there are hundreds of thousands of families all over Britain who could make similar claims to your own, some performing folk songs, or light or grand opera, Barry Manilow, Louis Armstrong, Beatles, Harry Champion, Gracie Fields songs......... - are they all 'traditional' - by your description they were all 'traditionally received?
If so, we may as well throw in the towel and retreat to our own individual parlours, because we can not offer audiences to the clubs anything cohesively identifiable as 'traditional'.
I, along with thousands more, arrived on the scene because I was attracted by a certain type of music. I became more deeply involved when I discovered that this music had certain characteristics and had arrived here through a certain process, which was, nearly 50 years ago, all but dead. I spent thirty odd years recording people who were, by then, little more than 'rememberers' of that tradition, the act of singing within their communities having died out, mainly in their youth.
I suggest that your family tradition has little to do with the folk song tradition that brought us all together back in the fifties.
Where did Fred Jordan get his 'training'? Where Harry Cox and Sam Larner and Phil Tanner and Tom Lenihan et al got theirs, from the same place they got their songs.
Jim Carroll

Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: raymond greenoaken
Date: 29 Aug 10 - 06:46 AM

Jim –

But I'm not talking about light opera, or Gracie Fields, or The Beatles, or about any family tradition of my own. I'm taking about a body of identifiable local songs, mostly minted in the 19th century by known authors and mostly fixed in their form but nonetheless admitting of small variations generated by oral transmission. People in Northumberland (even those not related to me) feel they own these songs and have a connection with them that they don't feel about the Gracie Fields and Lennon & McCartney songbooks. They sing them informally without, in the main, any "training". These also happen to be songs that were sung in folk clubs in the Fifties and are sung in folk clubs to this day. How, then, do they differ from "the folk song tradition that brought us all together in the Fifties"?

Okay, if it ain't in your view a pukka tradition I'm not going to pout about it. But I'm still confused as to why you don't think it is, other than that it isn't the "certain type of music" that you feel attracted to.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Aug 10 - 08:02 AM

"Okay, if it ain't in your view a pukka tradition I'm not going to pout about it. But I'm still confused as to why you don't think it is, other than that it isn't the "certain type of music" that you feel attracted to."
Basically the living tradition we have researched, documented, made available in books, albums, clubs etc. is the national, regional, occupational one that has a cultural significance for a wider group than that of the family.
If you narrow it down to families you have to include in your definition "light or grand opera, Barry Manilow, Louis Armstrong, Beatles, Harry Champion, Gracie Fields songs..", otherwise, why should your family repertoire be any more significant than those who don't sing folk songs?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Vic Smith
Date: 29 Aug 10 - 08:52 AM

Reading between the points scoring, the nit-picking and the insults, there have been many good points made here. However, to the main questions raised here there is probably no chance of getting an agreed definition and there never will be.

I remember - decades ago - a very late night at our house when Bert Lloyd was staying with us after he had performed at our folk club and I was trying to draw him out on a definition of what constituted the tradition in song and singer. He sighed and said, "Look out of the window.... we can both agree that it is the night. At breakfast tomorrow, we can both agree that it is the day. But don't ask us to agree on the exact point where one becomes the other because we never will. Just listen to as much of it as you can and then use your instincts."


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Steamin' Willie
Date: 29 Aug 10 - 09:07 AM

I recall interviewing Fred Jordan, and as it was a radio interview, I asked him to sing a song that expressed his act...

He proceeded to sing his version of "Grandfather's Clock" which without an audience to appreciate his pregnant pauses was not exactly what I wanted.

"Reedcutter's Daughter?" I asked.

"Ask Tom Brown to sing that for you."   He said.

"But Tom learned it from you!" I said. (Tom and Bertha Brown were old friends, I know where he got his songs from!)

"Ah, but in the tradition, he learned it at his mother's knee." Said Fred.

Neither gentleman is around now, but I reckon they would have enjoyed this debate. Further, I reckon they both appreciated an audience, so tradition, traditionalist, call them medieval punk if you like, so long as they had a pint and people who thought them something special.

We all play to crowds, even old men......


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: raymond greenoaken
Date: 29 Aug 10 - 12:19 PM

JC: If you narrow it down to families you have to include in your definition "light or grand opera, Barry Manilow, Louis Armstrong, Beatles, Harry Champion, Gracie Fields songs..", otherwise, why should your family repertoire be any more significant than those who don't sing folk songs?

Me: Look again, Jim. While you were out making the tea I widened the discussion to focus on the distinct regional repertoire of Tyneside and Northumberland. As to whether my own family repertoire was typical of the regional pattern I described, I really couldn't say. I only learned one song off me mam, after all. So leave me out of it and consider the big picture. Here's my question again (I hope you're allowed to quote yourself on Mudcat...):

I'm taking about a body of identifiable local songs, mostly minted in the 19th century by known authors and mostly fixed in their form but nonetheless admitting of small variations generated by oral transmission. People in Northumberland (even those not related to me) feel they own these songs and have a connection with them that they don't feel about the Gracie Fields and Lennon & McCartney songbooks. They sing them informally without, in the main, any "training". These also happen to be songs that were sung in folk clubs in the Fifties and are sung in folk clubs to this day. How, then, do they differ from "the folk song tradition that brought us all together in the Fifties"?

Also, I'd really like some more light shed on the concept of"training". Can you oblige?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 29 Aug 10 - 02:55 PM

Vic,
An excellent analogy from the old master. I don't agree with Bert on everything he wrote or said, but I'm 100% with him on this one.

raymond,
Jim is not all that knowledgeable on local traditions in the north. Of course the Geordie tradition of songs and singing is just as valid as say The East Anglian traditions or the Bothy Songs. The facts that most of them have known authors and they largely come from an urban environment are irrelevant to this discussion.

Yes, these songs were made widely known on the folk scene by the H L Ranters and others, but then, and probably even now to a lesser extent, were being sung in the pubs and w m clubs of the NE.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Aug 10 - 03:11 PM

"Jim is not all that knowledgeable on local traditions in the north"
Don't know why you should say that Steve - have been known to sing from my own tradition, You'll Never Walk Alone' and 'Ferry Cross The Mersey' with the best of them.
Seriously, it depends on what you mean by "local traditions in the north" - virtually all (a tiny handful of exceptions) of them were long gone by the time I became involved and I'm not aware of very much in the way of in depth work carried out on them when they were thriving.
More later
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 29 Aug 10 - 06:22 PM

Good on yer, Jim.
I'm including parts of Scotland when I say the north. A handful maybe but hardly tiny. The NE bothy tradition, Tyneside mish mash of older stuff, broadside ballads, music hall and industrial songs, Yorkshire Pennine tradition still going, the hunt repertoire in the north, even the Lancashire dialect and industrial stuff I understand, all nowadays influenced by the revival but continuous and still going.

And of course that wonderful piece you mention 'You'll never walk alone' has achieved traditional immortality on the football terraces and that's not just a local tradition.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Aug 10 - 03:03 AM

"'You'll never walk alone' has achieved traditional immortality on the football terraces and that's not just a local tradition.
Sorry - am a bit strapped for time at the moment, but surely you don't support the nonsense that the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein song 'You'll Never Walk Alone' has passed into the tradition?
Tradition stretches far beyond mere repetition.
It appears that the term is going down the same pan that 'folk' did.
And had I realised that the suggestion that "Jim is not all that knowledgeable on local traditions in the north" included Scotland my response may have been as jokey as it was.
I really would love to see some of the research that backs up these daft comnclusions some time.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 30 Aug 10 - 05:11 AM

I once put the "Never Walk Alone" question to Bert Lloyd. "Folk in function but not in form," he replied. "In folk, does not the function define the form?" I suggested. "It does to some extent," he said. That was as far as we got.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Aug 10 - 05:13 AM

"my response may have been as jokey as it was."
Sorry, should have read:
my response may NOT have been as jokey as it was.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: r.padgett
Date: 30 Aug 10 - 11:19 AM

So no further then??

I am keen to have the word "traditionalist" singer as a description

Anyone against?

Stone wall just built!!

Ray


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Aug 10 - 11:26 AM

traditional in function but not form,that would be a good way to describe Fred Jordan singing rock around the clock.
a traditional singer has to sing traditional songs, does anyone argue with that, a music hall singer sings music hall songs a countryand western singer sings countryand western, an opera singer sings opera.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Aug 10 - 11:41 AM

"I am keen to have the word "traditionalist" singer as a description"
No problem with me - more later
Congratulations on the stone wall
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Aug 10 - 12:27 PM

ray , i have heard you sing ,youare agood singer , that isall that matters.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: mikesamwild
Date: 30 Aug 10 - 01:31 PM

If a person sang from their repository of truly traditional songs aquired in the agreed fashion within a community that respected those songs , but was not regarded as a fitting or representative performer who stood for the community's sense of identity and aspirations, would they be able to claim to be a traditional singer?.

I agree with JC it has to be conferred, you can't just claim it.


it's much more than quality of voice and music, it has to be lived I think.


I don't think revival singers and listeners form a coherent community so I'm coming down more to place and continuity through generations than interests. It is part of an accretion and significant song and music( I'd apply the same definitions to traditional music for dance and listening too)


The function is to cement identity and meaning. if new songs are brought in and go throufgh the process they can become traditional within the adopting or selecting community.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Lighter
Date: 30 Aug 10 - 02:12 PM

Vic agrees with me so he's undoubtedly correct.

Generally, a song a tune, a performance, etc., is more "folk" the more it differs from the commercial or professionally-written material of the day (if there is any: unlikely in ancient Australia, for example) and conforms instead to an established non-professional, non-commercial, and non-idiosyncratic norm.

Something similar goes for the performers themselves.

It's all a set of spectra, with individual examples located all along them at imprecise, vaguely identifiable spots. There's your tune spectrum, your text spectrum, your performance spectrum, etc.

And that, I think, is about as far as I'd like to go with it, because I do not wish to go mad.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,johnp
Date: 30 Aug 10 - 02:17 PM

Trying to discuss the term "traditionalist singer" without having any stated definition is rather like plaiting fog.
Taking Ray as an example; he has a large repertoire of songs including:
•        Traditional ballads
•        Music hall songs
•        Songs from Yorkshire
•        Modern songs (written within the last 10 years)
The subject matter is many and varied including in no particular order:
Murder, sex, drinking( beer and spirits), mining, tobacco, Yorkshire, prostitution, sailors, pregnancy, etc. etc.
Ray usually sings unaccompanied but does sometimes play the concertina.
Thus we may conclude a "traditionalist singer" can sing anything provided it is mainly unaccompanied.
A little facetious I know, but without defining terms, and slightly flawed logic, this is where we end up.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 30 Aug 10 - 04:15 PM

'You'll Never walk Alone'
First of all, the song is a very strong part of the oral tradition of 'The Kop' singing on the terraces. At times its metre, if nothing else, is severely altered. I doubt very much if the current generation of singers on the terraces have ever heard of 'Rodgers and Hammerstein' or the musical it came from. The genre of terrace chants (IMHO) form a very relevant but autonomous part of oral tradition. They qualify under every single characteristic of 'traditional song' and what's more they are very much alive and being added to constantly. Whether you include the 'anthems' like 'You'll Never walk Alone' in with the chants is a matter for speculation. I certainly do.
You may not like them, but you can't deny they form part of a very strong oral tradition, mostly sung.

Whilst alteration, accidental and deliberate, is an important characteristic of traditional music it is not a requirement. In fact there have been many tradition bearers in the past who have stated the exact opposite, in that a traditional act must be continued in exactly the same way as it was always done, i.e., not being altered.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 30 Aug 10 - 04:32 PM

'A traditional singer has to sing traditional songs' (Dick)
I'll argue with that any time you like, Dick. A traditional singer can and does sing what the hell he/she likes.
I will also argue on any grounds that certain Music Hall songs have become traditional songs under any valid definition of traditional song. Where would you put Sharp's 'The Jolly Wagoner'? (One example among thousands)
Where would you place the bulk of broadside ballads that have become traditional songs? (95% of the songs in the Sharp/Hammond/Gardiner/Kidson/Baring Gould etc Collections)


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Aug 10 - 05:03 PM

"First of all, the song is a very strong part of the oral tradition of 'The Kop' singing on the terraces. "
Would you say that of God Save The Queen?
"I doubt very much if the current generation of singers on the terraces have ever heard of 'Rodgers and Hammerstein' or the musical it came from."
Nonsense - how unaware to you think Liverpudlians are?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Aug 10 - 05:47 PM

An afterthought,
Sometimes these discussions seem little more than a malicious game of semantics designed to stop us from communicating with one another.
I'm sure most, if not all of us involved in traditional music are well aware of what a traditional song is, what it sounds like, what it reads like on the printed page.
I wonder how many people here would be happy to sit through an evening of 'God Save The Queen' or 'You'll Never Walk Alone' or 'Happy Birthday To You' or 'Can You Do The Conga', or some succh ditties because some clown has decided to stretch an existing and long-standing term to fit - well, whatever really
Is the suggestion that we can now present these songs to and audience who turns up to hear tarditional songs, or can we expect our albunms to contain such pieces?
I'm thinking of putting together a collection of local songs - should I nip down to our local with a recorder and get the ur version of 'When Irish Eyes Are Smiling'?
If not - why not?
There are some times I very much miss the club scene, but there are others when I'm glad I got out when I did.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Aug 10 - 06:00 PM

traditional singers sing traditional songs, does everyone agree with this.
if they dont why are they called traditional singers, or is it that they only have to have a majority of traditional songs in their repertoire, where does it all end?
if a traditional singer only has 4 tradtional songs out of 50 in his repertoire is he still a traditional singer?, if has only 25 traditional songs in a repertoire of 50 is he still a tradtional singer?if he has 35 out of 50 is he a traditional singer?
who is to say?, Steve Gardham and Jim Carroll think one thing, but neither of them is god, it appears no one can define a traditional singer.
the whole thing is total bollocks.
and if a tradtional singer cant be satisfactorily defined it is better not to use the term, far better [imo] to appreciate good tradtional singers on the merit of their singing and good singers of traditional songs on the merit of their singing, and just enjoy all of that which one likes.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Ana
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 03:47 AM

I love the old songs. The tunes resonate with me. The stories tell of the timelessness of the human condition. I'll be captured by a melody then I learn the words, and feel the emotion of the ageless story when I sing it. I love to savour them with my voice. To wrap the sound around them.
It often feels like a special responsibility - to care for them, and to simply be a conduit. I learn other songs as well - more recent, that also capture me. Sometimes I'm referred to as a 'trady' and often I hear snide remarks about the genre. I don't really care, though I am perplexed because I don't sneer at others who sing songs not to my taste. It's music and good for the soul. I feel most heart warmed when I open my eyes mid song, and see others (especially men) caught in the moment of the story. It's magic.
Am I a traditional singer? - I don't mind how I'm described. It's just what I do.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 04:10 AM

"traditional singers sing traditional songs, ... if they dont why are they called traditional singers, or is it that they only have to have a majority of traditional songs in their repertoire, where does it all end?"

This is not meant to be a personal attack, 'Good Soldier Scweik', but I sometimes wonder what planet you're on! I found your most recent post, from which the above quote was taken, to be completely obtuse!
For a start, how many singers, normally classed as 'traditional', do you know who, "only has 4 tradtional songs out of 50 in his repertoire"?

Surely, whether a singer is classed as a 'traditional singer', or not, is not JUST about repertoire (?) It's also about things like style, cultural background and approaches to songs. To keep banging on and on about repertoire is just silly and does you no credit.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,padgett, who has had his cookie pinched!!
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 05:46 AM

Traditional singer as I said before ~ like buses, can recognise 'em when I see 'em

But also must be "source" singers to at least some extent, as Steve says, after they have been accepted as "traditional singers" ~ like Fred sung whatever they liked!

I agree, nigh impossible to define!

Those like me singing traditional songs, anon, music hall etc fit "traditionalist" singer definition better!

So too would be virtually anyone posting on this thread

Now where's me flippin' cookie

ray


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: r.padgett
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 05:49 AM

Yep twas me above!

Ray


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 05:58 AM

The problem with all these discussions, and to some extent, with folk song researches in general, is that they are conducted on the basis that traditional singers (I mean the 'traditional' traditional ones) only had their songs to offer, and little else.
When we started our work in the early seventies, the song traditions we chose to work with were either dead, or had received the last rites, but even in this situation, the first thing that struck us was that those singers who had been nearst to being a part of a living tradition, and had worked at their singing and their repertoire ALL had an opininion on their songs, the place they occupied in their own lives and communities, the way they should be sung, how they differed from other types of song, and above all THEIR IMPORTANCE as monuments to their lives and that of their contemporaries and experiences.
They made no bones about distinguishing the 'old', 'come-all-ye', 'local', 'Traveller', 'Clare', 'Norfolk', 'my daddie's', 'folk', 'traditional'.... or whatever name they had for them, from the music hall, Victorian Parlour, C&W, or simply modern songs.
Most of them we asked were aware (often modestly, sometimes not) of their own role, and that of their family members and neighbours, in the preservation of these songs, especially as they knew that they had died out in their areas. In all cases their passing was mourned.
We were lucky enough to be able to interview some of them in depth; Walter Pardon, Tom Lenihan, some of the Travellers, and all had something important to say about the tradition, or whatever they called it.
They were happy to give us their songs, if for no other reason than the satisfaction of knowing that they would continue to be sung. One lovely old singer, Martin Reidy, told us that he was so worried that his songs would die out that "I started to try and teach Topsy (his dog, and only companion) to sing".
All the singers we met were aware of the revival of interest in folksong and were pleased that it had happened, but they knew, just as well as we did, that it was something very different than their tradition - not better or worse, just coming frome somewhere else.
If someone wants to make a claim for a 'revival tradition' fine, but that's what it is.
Jim Carroll
PS - Sorry Raymond; haven't forgotten you questions, particularly the 'training' one - will get round to them when it starts raining here - bloody garden!


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Brian Peters
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 06:52 AM

Totally agree with Steve on football chants. They satisfy the kind of definition of 'traditional' that I would prefer, namely 'that which is handed on'. When I learned 'You'll Never Walk Again' (as the Old Trafford version had it) on the terraces, I'd certainly never heard of Rogers & Hammerstein (I'd be equally sure my sons have never heard them either). You learned the chants from other people in the crowd, or sometimes rival supporters, never knew where they came from, sometimes recognized the original source song and sometimes not. Just like we all learned 'I went to the pictures tomorrow' and 'We four Beatles of Liverpool are' in the school playground.

The problem of discussing definitions like this is that the phrase 'traditional song' is often used within the folk music world to denote the kind of song that Cecil Sharp and his ilk liked to collect, i.e. songs of 17th-19th century coinage that had passed into oral tradition by the late 19th and early 20th century. In the world of 2010, those songs are no longer 'traditional' in the sense of continuing to be handed down within families and local communities, although they are still performed on the stages of the folk music world. They have broadly recognizable lyrical and musical characteristics and (to my mind at least) form a body of repertoire separate from, say, music hall material, which has different and usually easily recognizable characteristics of its own. So I still sometimes use the term 'traditional song' to describe that body of older material, even though - in academic terms - 'You'll Never Walk Alone' or 'Happy Birthday to You' satisfy the definition of 'traditional' much better in the contemporary world. Doesn't mean I want to hear football chants sung in folk clubs, though.

As to 'traditional singer', again this is a specialised usage among insiders discussing the history of vernacular or 'folk' song. This definition too is very difficult to pin down, mostly because the growth of mass media over the last 100 years has gradually turned us from a society in which entertainment amongst the less privileged classes was largely home-made, to a society of much more passive consumers. However, this has been a gradual process, so even today we still find individuals within certain communities (travellers spring immediately to mind) who still make and hand on music for their own entertainment. Meanwhile, the traditional singers of the 20th century - by which I mean those who learned songs within the family (the great majority of the singers on 'Voice of the People' for instance) were able to augment their family repertoires not only from social acquaintances, migrant workers and so forth - as they'd always done - but from the radio, records or (in a few cases) from the folk revival which had invited them onto its stages. That Fred Jordan should have picked up songs at folk festivals is no more surprising than that he should have learned songs from the gypsies working in the fields around his home.

Given that 'traditional song' and 'traditional singer' have specialised meanings depending on the context in which they're being discussed, it's perhaps not so surprising that we can find ourselves in a situation where a 'traditional singer' doesn't necessarily sing 'traditional songs'.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jack Campin
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 07:26 AM

I doubt very much if the current generation of singers on the terraces have ever heard of 'Rodgers and Hammerstein' or the musical it came from.
Nonsense - how unaware to you think Liverpudlians are?


I can't speak for Liverpudlians, but I had no idea until a few years ago that "You'll Never Walk Alone" came from a musical (I thought it was a hymn), and at the point I read your post I couldn't have said it was a Rodgers and Hammerstein one without googling. I still don't know which musical it was (and don't care if I never find out).

If I've ever heard it in a recording from a musical production, I have no recollection of it. But I've heard it many times sung by ordinary folks, despite never having been to a football game in my life. Which puts it in the same category as "The Green Hills of Tyrol" (I know I've never heard Rossini's setting).


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 07:51 AM

Well, whether you want to know or not, I will tell you anyhow. It's from Carousel ~~ quite a good Rodgers & Hammerstein musically, but an obnoxious, religiose mess in its book & lyrics if you ask me {which, I am well aware, nobody did}.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 08:08 AM

I am on the planet Earth,Shimrod, the one where occasionally people in folk clubs make silly teapot gestures,that you have taken exception to in the past.
TRADITIONAL SINGERS[imo] have to sing traditional songs or at least the vast majority.
   LIKE WISE a jazz singer has to sing jazz songs, if a singer sings jim reeves songs he is not a jazz singer, unless he treats the song in a jazz way and starts to improvise vocally etc, the definition of a jazz player or singer[imo] being one who improvises spontaneously.
   now    if a traditional singer sings traditional songs but starts to improvise [ in jazz style] what is he then?[apart from being experimental].he becomes a jazz singer, because of the style of presentation.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: mikesamwild
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 08:15 AM

Once a song has been lifted out of the living stream and printed can it be poured back and re-enter the tradition or is it always a revival song until it goes through the 'folk process' assuming it's heard and sung by one of the dwindling number of genuine traditional singers somewhere in the world?


If a collected song still resonates or expresses something significant to a community it can become traitional.

So can a modern song I would argue if it is selected within such a community. In our South yorkshire carol tradition new carols have been introduced from composition or retrieval or transfer from other pubs etc.

There are a lot of us who learned these purely within the singing community and make no distinction as long as they meet the criteria of the singers. I've seen songs sung and rejected or ignored and others taken up.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 08:17 AM

"learned songs within the family (the great majority of the singers on 'Voice of the People' for instance)"
Sorry Brian - a bit misleading this - we met quite a few of the V.O.T.P. singers at one time or another (some of them are our recordings) and as far as I can see after a quick glance, although it is true that they got their songs from within the family, all those families came from living or recently deceased traditions.
"so even today we still find individuals within certain communities (travellers spring immediately to mind) who still make and hand on music for their own entertainment."
Have said it before, but the Traveller communities we met, and, I suspect elsewhere, lost their song traditions to portable televisions, pool tables, juke boxes and TV sporting channels, some time back in the mid seventies. There are some signs of a re-stirring of interest in these communities, here in Ireland, and, I believe, in Scotland, but this is largely due to interest and encouragement from some folk clubs and to education establishments such as those at Aberdeen and Limerick giving a practical push. This renewed interest spreads can possibly be described as revivals themselves.
Must go - Triffid-like New Zealand Flax calls!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Brian Peters
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 08:37 AM

"Sorry Brian - a bit misleading this - we met quite a few of the V.O.T.P. singers at one time or another (some of them are our recordings) and as far as I can see after a quick glance, although it is true that they got their songs from within the family, all those families came from living or recently deceased traditions."

Can you explain further what you mean, when you've dead-headed the triffid, Jim? Are you saying intra-family transmission is less important than I think it is? I did a survey a little while ago, based on the printed biogs in VOTP, and nearly every singer had learned some or most of their repertoire from mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts or grandparents. So are you suggesting that families only become a significant channel when songs are no longer passed on within the whole community?

As for travellers, I recently met Thomas McCarthy (he was at Sidmouth and Whitby festivals), a really fine singer who is related to the community under the Westway flyover that you recorded in the 1970s. He certainly hasn't let that tradition go, and his style is reminiscent of Bill Cassidy.

I also spent a large part of the Sunday of Dartmoor festival in the Kings Arms in the company of the Orchard family, who spent the day playing melodeon tunes and singing songs. I prevailed on Jean Orchard to sing 'A Wager, A Wager' (learned from her mother) after which she volunteered 'Tie a Yellow Hankerchief' (learned from a recording of Pheobe Smith!), and a fine job she did of both.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 09:30 AM

Dick, in my view it is possible for someone to wear two hats and be be both a traditional singer and a jazz singer. However your latest example is rather different from what we have previously been discussing, which was singers who included songs from other genres and sources alongside those they had acquired from within the tradition.

Besides, "traditional singer" in the context we are discussing it is not a hard-and-fast term but is specialist usage among a specific interest group. We have already seen examples earlier in the thread of how "traditional" means different things in different genres. If there were a traditional singer who also sang songs in a jazz style, then so far as the folk community is concerned he would probably still be regarded as a traditional singer, because that is the aspect which is important to that interest group. The jazz community might view him as a jazz singer who also sings folk songs.

It's a matter of perspective, but as this is a folk music forum that is the perspective we should be viewing it from. From that perspective, whilst it may be perfectly valid to label a singer according to their repertoire, to me it is not helpful. If they can be a traditional singer one minute, a jazz singer the next, or a C&W singer after that, all that does is tell what that singer is singing at a particular point in time. What it does not do is make what is (to me at least) an important distinction between someone who sing sings traditional songs and other songs from within the tradition, and someone like me who came to those songs from outside it.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 10:04 AM

this is a music forum, not specifically a folk music forum.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Snuffy
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 10:33 AM

this is a music forum, not specifically a folk music forum.

I thought you would believe it is specifically a folk music forum when we are discussing folk music, but it isn't when we're not.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: raymond greenoaken
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 10:46 AM

"PS - Sorry Raymond; haven't forgotten you questions, particularly the 'training' one - will get round to them when it starts raining here - bloody garden!"

Don't fret, Jim – the discussion's moved on, I think. Get those secateurs oiled...


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 10:46 AM

" ... if a traditional singer sings traditional songs but starts to improvise [ in jazz style] what is he then?[apart from being experimental].he becomes a jazz singer, because of the style of presentation."

Again, GSS, please name a traditional singer who improvises in jazz style. Because, I suspect, you can't. Postulating the existence of such a person is a waste of time and gets us nowhere. If, on the other hand, you can point to such a singer then please refer to Howard Jones's well argued post above.

It seems to me that you're either deliberately 'muddying the waters', arguing for the sake of arguing, or over-complicating things for no good reason.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Lighter
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 11:18 AM

Every time I sing "Happy Birthday" as it was taught to me in childhood, I'm a traditional singer (though not a very interesting one).

Every time I sing it in the manner of the late Peter Bellamy, however, I'm a non-traditional singer.

Neither observation tells us much about me, "Happy Birthday," my feelings about it, or the place of it or me in society.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 11:34 AM

absolutely, lighter.
Shimrod,i once heard a traditional singer sing carolina moon, tat that point while he was singning that song he was no longer a traditional singer, but just a singer of tin pan alley, when he sang cheshire farmers daughter he was atraditional singer because he was singing a traditional song he had learned from his family.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 11:39 AM

if i sing one of my self penned songs ,i am no longer a singer of traditional songs ,but as soon as i sing a traditional song i become one again, if i decide to sing a cw song i become a cw singer[even if i dont do it very well]likewise if i choose to sing a blues i become a blues singer [even if i am not a good one]


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 12:44 PM

"Get those secateurs oiled... "
Secateurs - have you seen New Zealand Flax? I'm using an axe, a pickaxe and a spade, and still having to leave most of the roots in.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Lighter
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 01:13 PM

Part of the confusion and contenion comes from the fact that we're talking about at least two different kinds of "traditional singer."

Literally, anyone who sings "Happy Birthday" in theor own traditional style is a "traditional singer," at least for the moment.

But the "traditional singers" we're interested in are a subset, who may be defined as "traditional singers *of interest to fans and/or students of traditional songs."

Such singers may be "interesting" for any of a number of reasons and to various sorts of interested fans and/or students: large traditional repertoire, one or two rare traditional songs, striking texts, songs learned under colorful circumstances (under sail, for example), truly archaic style, great voice, affecting performance, etc.

Then there are the rest of us. It's the "interesting" singers of traditional songs (and players of traditional music) we're interested in.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 02:08 PM

"if i sing one of my self penned songs ,i am no longer a singer of traditional songs ,but as soon as i sing a traditional song i become one again, if i decide to sing a cw song i become a cw singer[even if i dont do it very well]likewise if i choose to sing a blues i become a blues singer [even if i am not a good one] "

That's all perfectly true, but at the risk of repeating what I said a few posts ago, how is that remotely helpful?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Rozza
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 02:15 PM

Steve learnt songs from his Mother and published one or two in his East Riding Songster. Can he be a traditional singer when he sings them, or is he "revival tainted"?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 04:17 PM

if i sing one of my self penned songs ,i am no longer a singer of traditional songs ,but as soon as i sing a traditional song i become one again, if i decide to sing a cw song i become a cw singer[even if i dont do it very well]likewise if i choose to sing a blues i become a blues singer [even if i am not a good one]

I can't quite put my finger on it, but there appears to be a sort of false logic to this. I can't believe that we all cease to be something while we're temporarily indulging in doing something else. My main instrument is guitar, but I also play mandolin, fiddle, blues harp, keyboard, bass, Appalachian dulcimer, etc., in varying degrees of competency. When I'm playing mandolin at a session, I don't suddenly stop being a guitarist - I'm a guitar player who's playing mandolin at a session.

I don't believe we're suddenly transmogrified because we venture down a different path. If I had to categorise myself as a singer, it would be as a singer of material from the 1900s to the 1930s - from all sorts of sources. If I sing a traditional folk song of unknown origin, it doesn't change into something else. I exist as an entity quite outside the things I choose to do.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 04:19 PM

it doesn't change into something else

should read: it doesn't change me into something else


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: r.padgett
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 04:34 PM

Some of this is a bit silly!!

Ok probably mine for starting it!

Anyone reading this er stuff?

Ray


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 04:54 PM

its the silly season ,its better than talking about giant gooseberries.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 04:57 PM

But if I sang a song about a giant gooseberry baked in a traditional pie, would I be a traditional pie singer - or a singer of songs about gooseberries?

Just asking...


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: TheSnail
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 05:34 PM

its better than talking about giant gooseberries

Oh, I don't know.

Whinham's Industry was developed by Robert Whinham of Morpeth. The Newcastle Daily Chronicle reported thet "he produced his gooseberry after many fruitless attempts". He was the father of another Robert, the fiddler who wrote Whinham's Reel amongst many other excellent tunes.

You are right, Ray. A lot of this is very silly.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 05:47 PM

Okay, I've had enough now and I'm ready to call truce. I think the more discerning members have agreed that there is no absolutely cast iron definition with hard and fast boundaries. We've listed enough names here of the people we all agree on who we all accept ARE traditional singers. The jokes are even becoming wearisome.

I'm out o' here.
Where's me hat 'n coat?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Liberty Boy
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 02:25 AM

Ah dont stop now. As a singer of traditional songs and songs composed in the idiom I've been enjoying this.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 03:52 AM

"I think the more discerning members have agreed that there is no absolutely cast iron definition with hard and fast boundaries."
There has been enough research on the subject to arrive at a reasonably informed conclusion as to what conssitutes a traditional singer. I suggest David Buchan's 'The Ballad and the Folk', (a little academic, but still readable), Evelyn Wells' 'The Ballad Tree' (extremely readable, but academically flawed), Willa Muir's 'Living With Ballads' (somewhat romantic, but has plenty in it to make it worth a read), Hugh Shields' 'Narrative Singing in Ireland', David Kerr Cameron's 'The Ballad and the Plough'...... and plenty more where they came from, including tons of articals from people like Hamish Henderson, Tom Munnelly, Bert Lloyd..... all dealing with traditional singing in situ. I mentioned it earlier, but the latest on the pile, David Gregory's 'The Late Victorian Folk Song Revival' seems an excellent source of information on traditional singers and their repertoires (haven't had time to read it in full yet, but have read enought to give me the impression of an extremely valuable piece of research).
It seems a feature of todays revival to overlook or deliberately ignore the libraries of work that have been published on subjects like the tradition, folk, the ballads..... in order to manipulate the language and prove that black is white and to fit square pegs into round holes. If the work that has been done by people like Lloyd, Sharp, Lomax, et al is flawed, by all means put it up for knocking down, but to ignore it seems like an attempt to mount a takeover bid (often hostile) on the English language.
I'm disappointed not to have been able to take part fully in this discussion; it is an excellent one, but I like Liberty Boy (hi Jerry) feel it would be a pity to stop now.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 04:35 AM

"if i sing one of my self penned songs ,i am no longer a singer of traditional songs ,but as soon as i sing a traditional song i become one again, if i decide to sing a cw song i become a cw singer[even if i dont do it very well]likewise if i choose to sing a blues i become a blues singer [even if i am not a good one] "

At the risk of being hung, drawn & quarterly, might I make so bold as to suggest that you remain a folk singer throughout, Dick? Unless we might call you a Singer of CW Songs which is a very different beast to a CW Singer. Again I am reminded of a Lancastrian Non-Traditional Folk Singer who introduced one of his own songs at a singaround as being Not a rock 'n' roll song, but a folk song about rock 'n' roll. I regularly hear blues & CW songs being sung in folk clubs but am under no illusions that I'm listening to Blues or Country and Western. The same is true any of the other genres one might encounter on any given night at our local folk clubs (list please, Jim?) which because of a) context & b) hearty amateurism remain folk whatever their point of origin. This is not to accuse Dick Miles of hearty amateurism, just a further consideration of horses for courses & what might become of a CW Song when sung by a non-CW Singer. It's like if Jim Eldon was to sing Garth Brooks & George Burns' B double E double R U N (a personal fantasy I've been harbouring for some time) which would about as far away from the CW dream as you could wish to get.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 06:15 AM

,the subject matter of what is being sung must come into the equation example bob marley was a performer[most of the time] of reggae music, but whe he sang ska he became a performer of ska music, therefore he bacame a ska singer when he was singing ska, and he became reggae singer when he performed/sang reggae


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Brian Peters
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 07:06 AM

Bob Marley was Bob Marley, whatever music he was singing (and for most of the world, he will always be remembered as a reggae singer, no matter what else he might have covered).

"the subject matter of what is being sung must come into the equation"

That depends on whether you believe that either 'traditional song' or 'folk song' are defined by musical and textual characteristics (as reggae, arguably, can be), or by performance context. If you believe the latter - as many do - then to define a 'traditional singer' by the possession of a repertoire of 'traditional songs' seems somewhat tautological.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 08:08 AM

when he was singing ska he was singing in a diferent style, he was then a ska singer
a tradtional singer has to be singing traditional songs he learned from his family or community., if he is singing any other kind of song other than a traditional song, as fred jordan did [fields of athenry],then, when he was singing that particular song he became a revivalist singer or if he[fred] was singing another traditional song that he had learned from a revivalist ,he became a singer of traditional songs, because he was singing a song that he had not learned from his family.
the definitionf a singer of traditional[as against a traditional singer] songs is someone who is singing a tradtional song but not in an oral way from his family or community.
the definition of a contemporary singer is someone who is singing a contemporary song[with a known author]so the definition for all these different categories of singers is what kind of song they were singing.
if i did a gig, and sang a tradtional song,then when i am singing that song i am a singer of a traditional song ,my next song is a song i wrote myself ,at that point i become a singer songwriter. so how i am described is determined by what material i sing.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Lighter
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 08:28 AM

I don't believe that Sharp, Lloyd, Lomax, Wells, etc., ever stipulated or required that a true "traditional singer" sing only truly traditional songs.

To call someone a "traditional singer," in practice, means that his or her traditional repertoire is somehow of interest and all else is tangential.

Suppose I find somebody who sings a wonderful version of a Child ballad never before recovered from tradition. He learned it from an aunt up in the hills, who learned it from somebody in 1899. It's a marvel. Sometimes he sings it as she did, but he prefers to accompany himself on a Fender and add wild riffs and a "wiki-wiki-wiki-wiki-wiki-ooo-aaah" refrain. In fact, the only other songs he performs are in the acid rock genre.

Traditional singer? Or tasteless weirdo? Or both?

Both. But absolutely "traditional singer" in regard to his one trad song performed in trad style. Because that's what we're interested in. We may also be interested in what he likes to do to it, but that's a different issue and has nothing to do with the label we apply to him.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 08:28 AM

My feelings are that whilst the term Traditional Music is tautologous, experience (often bitter) has taught me that Folk don't mean a thing apart from context. That said, I cling onto a more specific meaning (however so ambiguous otherwise) for Traditional Singer and Singer of Traditional Songs which, by & large, chimes in with the orthodox usage but which seems to have precious little to do what happens in the name of Folk these days - at least not around these parts. Whilst this is to give Traditional Song a very specific meaning with respect of extant Traditional Songs I still might question its ultimate definition, thus eschewing the 1954 Definition as positively Equine, and preferring to deal a musicological consideration of the evidence in hand. I might add that I don't lose any sleep over this - on the contrary, for the less I listen to Folk so the more content I rest and those one or two cherished Oases of True Traditional Revivalism remain all the more cherished accordingly thus giving added grits to my own efforts.

Otherwise... Bob Marley did some great stuff with Lee Perry at the healm in the early days but I've lost my tapes. I'm more of an Augustus Pablo / King Tubby / early Burning Spear man myself - the old Studio One version of Door Peeper from 1970 is one of the finest things in the universe, though the slickness of later versions fall somewhat short of the mark. Whatever the case I like to think I'm canny enough know that if I hear No Woman No Cry in an English folk club (as I often do) then I'm sure as hell not listening to reggae.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 08:53 AM

when I do an evening in a folk club, and a critic reviewed the gig afterwards, in the interests of accuracy, he might say he sang some tradtional songs ,he also sang self penned songs, he accompanied himself at various times with a guitar and on other occasions he sang with a concertina and on another occasion he sang unaccompanied.
so on different occasions during the night I BECAME DIFFERENT SINGERS
I was an unaccompanied singer, I was a singer accompanying himself with guitar, but I was not two things at the same time,I was either an accompanied singer or an unaccompanied singer, in the same way I could not be a singer of traditional songs and a contemporary song writer at the same time.
logically ,then FredJordan cannot be tradtional singer and a singer of contemporary songs[fields of athenry] simultaneously, he has to be one or the other depending on the material he is singing .
he is a tradtional singer when he is singing that material he learned from his family, and a singer of contemporary songs when he is singing fields of athenry;
why, because fields of athenry is a contemporary song. the fact that FRED sang unaccompanied is not relevant, because contemporary songs can be sung unaccompanied, it would be accurate to describe freds rendition of Fields of Athenry,as an unaccompanied contemporary song sung in the same style thatFRED SINGS TRADTIoNAL SONGS, but it doesnt make the song a traditional song
neither is it a song that was learned in the same way or from the same kind of source, that he learned the songs [which when he is singing those songs and only those songs, defines him as a traditional singer rather than a singer of traditional songs], therfore logically Fred was both a traditonal singer and a revivalist singer,depending on what he was singing at a specific time, but he was not the two things simultaneously. Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 09:01 AM

"Traditional singer? Or tasteless weirdo? Or both?"
Or neither, it would depend on the relationship of your singer to a living tradition.
Your argument would make Peter Pears, Peter Dawson, John McCormack... whoever pur their mounths around a traditional song, a traditional singer - is this what you are suggesting?
"I BECAME DIFFERENT SINGERS"
You're not turning into a giant beetle are you Dick, can you have a quick check?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 09:01 AM

Dick, as I've pointed out before, while it may be perfectly accurate to describe yourself as one thing while you sing one type of song and something else a few minutes later, it is of little practical help. Inasmuch as these labels mean anything, they help us to form an idea about the singer and their performance. This is particularly significant for those singers who came from the living tradition, since their experience and background adds an extra dimension beyond that of the song itself.

To describe yourself (or anyone else) in the terms you do is as much help as saying you wore a green shirt at last night's gig. It tells me nothing about what you will perform, or wear, at tonight's gig.

It is of course entirely possible for someone to perform in different genres, and then it may be be perfectly reasonable to describe them as one thing or the other, depending on the context (although not always - I always think of Yehudi Menuhin's attempts to play jazz - despite being a virtuoso on the instrument he always sounded like the amateur he was alongside Stephane Grappelli. However their activities in one genre may have little connection with the other.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: raymond greenoaken
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 10:13 AM

one for Dick – though I think I already know the answer...

If Fred Jordan, for whatever reason, stopped singing his traditional songs but sang no others, would he no longer be a traditional singer?

and for Jim – "have you seen New Zealand Flax? I'm using an axe, a pickaxe and a spade, and still having to leave most of the roots in."
Given that we're talking taxonomy on this thread, I think what you're describing is a tree.

Woodman, spare that flax!


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 12:07 PM

no jim it would make them become a singer of traditional songs, even if in peter pears case where he did it sounding like a classical singer he is still singing a traditional song he is not a traditional singer because he has not learned the songs orally from his family ,he is a singer of traditional songs who is singing them in a light classical style[andmurdering them],but he is still singing traditional songs, even if i dont like the way he performs them.
Howard, FRED singing fields of athenry becmes a revival singer singing songs in a traditional style ,that is not the same as being a traditional singer, Fred singing a traditional song[which he didnot learn from his family]becomes a singer of traditional songs, he is still singning in a traditional style, but he is not a traditional singer when he perfoms anything other than those songs he learned orally from his family, even though there may not be any difference in style.
raymond, yes because he has stopped singing, but it would be absolutely accurate to describe any of his recordings made previously as being the songs of a traditional singer [providing all those songs were learned orally from his family]


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Goose Gander
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 12:09 PM

" . . . so on different occasions during the night I BECAME DIFFERENT SINGERS . . . ."

I am somehow reminded of the Hare Krishna devotee who once told me that change bodies every seven years.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 12:23 PM

Raymond, But correct to describe him as someone who used to be a tradtional singer.in the same way CyrilTwaney used to be a singer songwriter, he is not any more because sadly he died.
goose gander, i became different singers not in a physical sense but I became a singer with a different label?definition, because of the s different songs i was singing.Ihappen to be versatile
this not so extraordinary, Rev Gary Davis was a gospel singer, he was also a blues singer,but he was only a gospel singer when he was singing gospel songs as soon as he sung a blues he was a blues singer,being a religuos man he differentiated between gospel and blues


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: raymond greenoaken
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 01:45 PM

"i became different singers not in a physical sense but I became a singer with a different label?definition, because of the s different songs i was singing.Ihappen to be versatile"

I hereby declare Dick the winner of this argument. Nobody's going to top that line...


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Goose Gander
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 02:15 PM

Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 03:26 PM

hobgoblins are consistent in their small mindedness.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Lighter
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 05:29 PM

No, Jim. It would only make them traditional singers if, in addition to their operatic performances, they sang traditional songs, learned orally, in a traditional style. Like any other traditional singer.

The fallacy lies in assuming that the label "traditional singer" is comprehensive. It isn't. Around here it's shorthand for "a singer (of at least one traditionally learned song that he or she performs in a traditional manner) *whose material or style interests us.*" Any traditional singer (however defined) is allowed to sing nontraditional songs as well. Those songs don't count, they just don't interest us, or they interest us for very different reasons.

One could confine the label to someone who sang nothing but traditional songs in a traditional manner, but that's pointless because such a person would be an *interesting* traditional singer anyway.

At this point I'll restate my conviction that the label is convenient but secondary to the specifics of the singer,the song, and the context.

McCormack and the others are out of the running if the only traditional songs they sing have been learned from print and are performed in a nontraditional style. If the only traditional song they sing in a traditional style is "Happy Birthday," then, to that extent *only,* they're traditional singers. Just very, very uninteresting ones, not the interesting kind that one would discuss. They're at the opposite end of the spectrum from the hypothetical *most* interesting traditional singer.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,padgett
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 03:19 AM

If Fred had sung Fields of Athenry he would have been a traditional singer singing a contemporary song written in the "traditionalist" style

Ray

Fred was a traditional or source singer and will continue to be viewd in that light, no matter what he sung jazz or whatever


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 03:42 AM

To restrict "traditional" singers to only songs they learned from their family is far too narrow imo. It completely ignores the social context that "the tradition" was part of, where people sang to their friends and local community, whether in their homes, workplaces, or in the local pub, and learned songs from each other. To distinguish between a song learned from a relative and a neighbour, in this social context, seems to me to be immaterial.

If Fred Jordan (as we keep using him as an example) learned a song from May Bradley, for example, so far as I am concerned that is part of what I think of as "the tradition".

Fred was not a "revivalist" singer because his roots were not in the revival, although he later came to perform in the revival and even learned some songs from it. In the same way, because my own roots are in the revival, I can never be a "traditional" singer, even when singing songs I may have learned from Fred.

I find the most useful label is to think of Fred as a traditional singer, albeit one with a wide repertoire gleaned from many sources. It is helpful to be aware of his wider musical experience outside his own local tradition, but it doesn't alter his main "label". To "relabel" him for every song he sang doesn't seem to me to be a useful exercise. However we are clearly going to have to disagree on this.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Liberty Boy
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 04:17 AM

Fred was a traditional singer no matter what he sang. As was John Reilly, Tom Lenihan, Corny McDaid et al.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 05:14 AM

"If Fred had sung Fields of Athenry he would have been a traditional singer singing a contemporary song written in the "traditionalist" style"
At the risk of encouraging this silliness - hear, hear.
Cap'n
I spent all my life as a working electrician. Very occasionally (and much against my better judgement) I allowed myself to be persuaded to carry out a bit of plumbing or carpentry for one of my customers. Then I became an electrician doing a bit of plumbing or carpentry work - at no time did I cease being an electrician and become another tradesman. Had anybody described me as either a carpenter or a plumber, I would have sued them for defamation of character.
Silliness over.
Lighter:
Of course you are right – my response was an ill thought out statement made during a brief break in my Triffid-fighting campaign.
I believe a traditional singer to be someone who has learned their songs as part of a living tradition; not just one who has received them by the oral process. When and if the song tradition died is a debate yet to be settled. Sharp argued that it was dying among the singers he was working with at the turn of the century; Sam Larner put it some time in the 1930s, Walter Pardon about the same. Walter only just remembered the last of the harvest suppers where his family's songs were sung, and by the time he became interested they were just aired at family Christmas parties and other get-togethers.
So, for me, the song tradition in England seems to have died at different times in different places.
By the time the BBC mounted its mopping up campaign in the 1950s singers were remembering songs rather than singing them as part of their present lives.
MacColl made a series of ten radio programmes on the tradition in the middle of the 1960s which he entitled 'The Song Carriers'. I'm not sure whether or not he chose the title deliberately, but it's always struck me as an excellent description of those singers who continued to remember and occasionally sing the songs without being part of a living tradition.
For revival singers, the title of the series of albums chosen by The Living Tradition magazine for its excellent series of revival singers, 'The Tradition Bearers' is a title that I would have been proud to wear when I was singing.
As far as the football chants - I'm a little sorry I raised the red-herring of 'You'll Never Walk Alone'; on the other hand, it did push me into thinking about something I haven't really thought through, while I was hacking away in the garden. These songs (sic) are, of course a tradition in themselves, but I don't believe them to be part of the main song tradition; rather they are akin to tribal war-chants. In the main, they are not particularly creative as our folk songs are; they tell me nothing of the subject they deal with, as our folk songs do; rather (apart from I love Liverpool, Everton (wash your mouth out Jim) whoever, and I hate Chelsea, Manchester U., etc. At their most developed they are little more than crude parodies of something else, at their most common they are little more than chants. They are deserving of a study on their own, but as a custom rather than as part of the song tradition.
Again, I find myself totally in agreement with Howard Jones on the subject of family songs.
More later, duty calls; Triffid banging on the window waiting to be fed.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 05:53 AM

I think the notts county song, I had a wheel barrow but the wheel fell off,[on top of old smokey tune] is a good one, in ten words, all the difficulties of being a lower league team are summed up.
apparently the wheel barrow that was used to sell the meat pies lost its wheel one day at a home match.so the team was so hard up it could nt afford a decent wheel barrow.
so are all those notts county fans traditional singers?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 08:01 AM

Something a bit uncanny and, slightly unsettling, happened the other night at our local singaround. A young woman, who must have only been in her 20s, sang 'Maria Marten and the Red Barn' - and she sang it so well and with such style that the hair literally stood up on the back of my neck! My Grandmother, who didn't sing, but was born in East Anglia in the 1880s, used to talk about the infamous murder in the Red Barn (which had happened several decades before she was born).

Now, of course, the singer in question had probably learned the song from Revival sources. But she and her partner seem to have recently discovered traditional songs and are doing a really good job of singing them - they have great taste, not only because of their choices of songs, but because they are not 'tape recorders' just mimicking their favourite singers.

So where am I going with this? I don't really know but our singaround is packed for every session and there definitely seems to be more younger singers, singing traditional songs, than there used to be a few years ago. Of course I can't extrapolate from one singaround but is there something going on at the moment? And, if there is, I wonder what relation it bears to the Old Tradition and to the Post-war Revival?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: r.padgett
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 05:08 PM

They are in my view "traditionalist" singers

Not traditional singers, not source singers

They are "reviving" the traditional songs, but can never be "traditional singers"

Ray


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 06:29 PM

I'm not saying you're wrong, Ray. Nevertheless, as someone who experienced the Post-war Revival this (if 'this' even exists outside my local singaround, of course!) feels a bit new and a bit different.

It seems to me that the P-w R came to be dominated by a few professional 'stars' - and far too many 'lesser' singers came to sound like them. At some stage, in some circles, 'Folk' became a sort of sub-set of 'Pop' dominated by 'stars' and personalities. I think that's why people start threads on here with titles like "Fred Blogg's Lord Bateman" - as though they think that 'Fred Blogg's' actually wrote Lord Bateman and that it did not exist until 'Fred Bloggs' recorded it.

What happens now in my local singaround just feels fresher and more 'homemade' than that - and less influenced by the 'stars' of the P-w R. I wonder if someone else, somewhere else, is experiencing something similar? Could the art of singing traditional songs be entering a new phase - or am I just imagining it?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 07:10 PM

shimrod, you are both right and wrong, what is happening at your local singaround is encouraging, because singers are singing the songs and realising that they are everybodies songs not just a version sung by joe bloggs or seth lakeman or some other star,
mean while there are still people who think the white cockade is a "show of hands" song . the most important thing is that the somgs are sung and that every person puts their own individual interpretation upon them.
let us take Steve Turner and Dick Miles, two singers who sing traditional songs with a concertina, yet both instantly recognisable and completely different, and that is how it should be.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,johnp
Date: 03 Sep 10 - 07:45 AM

if I learned "Little Musgrave" from my father, and he learned it from his father I am a traditional singer. If I learned it fron a book last week I am a traditionalist singer. It is the same song and the same singer, who will be able to tell the difference?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 03 Sep 10 - 08:03 AM

nobody.
that is why any sensible person makes musical judgements on merit, and why these definitions are only of importance to collectors. when i judge traditional singers i judge them on merit, i rate Phil Tanner , and Harry Cox, I also judge singers of traditional songs on the same basis, their music, their interpretation of the song their voice and their musicality.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 03 Sep 10 - 08:05 AM

which brings us back to bobblake a revivalist singer who was mistaken by mike yates for being a traditional singer, however he was agood singer who sang in an accepted style[and so inadvertently misled a colector, because musically they could not tell the difference and that is all that should matter.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Brian Peters
Date: 03 Sep 10 - 08:12 AM

"if I learned "Little Musgrave" from my father, and he learned it from his father I am a traditional singer. If I learned it fron a book last week I am a traditionalist singer. It is the same song and the same singer, who will be able to tell the difference?"

No-one, purely on the basis of listening to you. But Ray started this thread because he wanted to know what to call himself, as a singer of traditional songs who maintains a distinction between what he does (very well, as it happens) and what singers like Walter Pardon and Cyril Poacher, who learned songs through their families or local communities, did. Like Ray, I think that's a useful distinction to make, although personally I'm not too bothered about what label I might stick on myself. 'Tradition Bearer' isn't bad, though perhaps a bit grandiose; 'Traditionalist' is a decent attempt at a compromise.

Jim wrote (re football chants): "At their most developed they are little more than crude parodies of something else, at their most common they are little more than chants. They are deserving of a study on their own, but as a custom rather than as part of the song tradition."

All of that is true. However, if we look at the world around us (this country, at least) for evidence of continuing singing traditions, then football chants are a living, breathing example. So too are playground rhymes. They are not 'part of the song tradition' that includes all those old ballads and 18th century lyrical songs (which is largely gone now as a living tradition), but they are a singing tradition. That's all I was trying to say.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 03 Sep 10 - 07:10 PM

"but they are a singing tradition."
This is true Brian - the operative word being A rather THE singing tradition (if you count them as singing, that is - many are tuneless chants).
I think it is as Bert Lloyd said at the end of Folk Song in England (will have to paraphrase at this hour of night) "If The Red Flag" and 'Little Boxes" are folksongs, then we will have to find a new name for "As I Roved Out" and "Banks of Sweet Primroses" (wildly inaccurate examples).
The context, function, disciplines, styles, relationships to the singers, etc, are entirely different to the body of song that we have, up to now, referred to as traditional song.
You have made the point that we don't necessarily want to sit through 'Happy Birthday To You' or 'You'll Never Walk Alone' in our clubs; so where do they lie in our understanding of traditional songs?
In the field of research, they surely lie more within the scope of custom or ritual, rather than alongside the creative observation that has gone into the making of our traditional songs?
The childrens' songs, I believe are a litle more complicated, dividing themselves into two distinct sections, funnctional - ball-bouncing, skipping, etc, and parodies. I wonder if kids are still re-making songs as they once did with The Cruel Mother and Lord Randal - anybody know?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Liberty Boy
Date: 04 Sep 10 - 02:54 AM

I very much doubt it Jim, too busy with gameboy and things of that ilk.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: mikesamwild
Date: 04 Sep 10 - 07:38 AM

Tow of my sons and their pals are rapping and making songs all the time . A lot is superb, improvised and poetic. For now they have left traditional music to one side but they do draw on what they heard and enjoyed of it as youngsters


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: theleveller
Date: 04 Sep 10 - 11:18 AM

"Sharp argued that it was dying among the singers he was working with at the turn of the century"

Sharp said: "The twentieth century collector is a hundred years too late." The reason was that many of the songs he was collecting were not the originals, but the garbled singalong versions peddled by the broadside sellers of the nineteenth century.

Sharp, of course, did his own editing and bowdlerising - "The folk song editor has perforce to undertake the distateful task of modifying noble and beautiful sentiments in order that they may suit the minds and conform to he conventions of another age, where such things would not be understood in the primitive, direct and healthy sense."


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Sep 10 - 12:34 PM

"Sharp, of course, did his own editing and bowdlerising"
This is true of all the collectors of the time, who were hampered by Victorian convention; but even taking this into consideration, and the fact that some collectors kept copies of originals, I think we were left with enough of a picture to work on.
Later collectors who were not bound by such restrictions have added to the original store (I seem to remember reading that J M Carpenter collected a number of obscene shanties, for instance).
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Lighter
Date: 04 Sep 10 - 03:14 PM

Carpenter collected a few obscene shanty verses, not entire shanties, but the number is probably about a dozen - at the outside.

Stan Hugill wrote (and told me in person) that he'd collected a lot more, but it appears that almost all of those verses and shanties are now lost forever.

Hugill was prevailed upon to sing three or four "unprintable" shanties at the Mystic Sea Music Festival in 1988. By today's successful gangsta rap standards, the words ranged from the childishly naughty to the slightly more graphic than average.

They had a strongly misogynist streak. That was "the tradition's" fault, not Hugill's, and the audience (of all genders and all ages over 18) applauded wildly at the conclusion. The following year he declined to sing any more bawdy songs because the mixed audience made him uncomfortable.

A very "traditional singer," though in a very untraditional venue.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 04 Sep 10 - 04:21 PM

Spotted today in Fylde Festival Souvenir Programme: Ash Street Chippy - Traditional Fish & Chips for Traditional Folk. My mind boggles at the semantics!


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 04 Sep 10 - 07:39 PM

Jim: I don't want to get into an impasse over the football chant thing, since we don't disagree on the substance, but regarding the Bert Lloyd quote (well put though it is), I would say that football songs are traditional in a way that 'Little Boxes' never was and never will be, simply because of their context and transmission. Although some of them are tuneless and banal to the point of deliberate self-parody - ten thousand soaked United fans on the Gallowgate End at Newcastle once set up a chant of 'WE HATE WATER!' - some of them run to several verses and have good tunes, albeit stolen from elsewhere.

"I wonder if kids are still re-making songs as they once did with The Cruel Mother and Lord Randal - anybody know?"

I doubt if they're still remaking Child ballads, but when my son (now 17) was in primary school, the playground tradition was still going strong. The 'Teletubbies' song - to the tune of 'Nick Nack Paddy Whack' - still makes me laugh.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Glueman in XL5
Date: 05 Sep 10 - 02:02 PM

"I would say that football songs are traditional in a way that 'Little Boxes' never was and never will be, simply because of their context and transmission."

If there remains a gushing wellspring of spontaneous voice to expedient conditions, it is surely the football song. It meets any and all definitions of 'folk', save the one that demands it sounds like every other revival piece and is performed in a pub by those estranged from barber and tailor.

I've heard sung commentaries on politics, fashion, the north-south divide, television, gender as well as the ability of footballers, organic blossoms of wit borrowing tunes from where they may. Traditions are being forged week on week.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Sep 10 - 02:41 PM

"Jim: I don't want to get into an impasse over the football chant thing,"
Me neither; as you say, no great difference between our attitudes.
For me, it is only important if it is used as an argument that these are no different from the recognised song tradition and that everyone who's ever peed through a rolled up newspaper on the terraces is a traditional singer - hate to see 'traditional' go down the same pan as 'folk' appears to have done.
There should be no problem in defining our song traditions; god knows, our music is among the most researched, documented and debated of any. At the risk of my being included in somebody's 'non-discerning' books it seems to me that once you know what the tradition is, identifying traditional singers should logically follow.
I believe we have lost most of our song traditions and that all of the features that held it in place have now gone, though I must say I was pulled up a little short this afternoon when I played a recording of a programme on Traveller songs (The Blue Tar Road) and heard some superb singing, including from a couple of very skilful young Traveller women, all recorded in the last six months.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: mattkeen
Date: 06 Sep 10 - 11:52 AM

Sharp described as "The twentieth century collector is a hundred years too late." The reason was that many of the songs he was collecting were not the originals, but the garbled singalong versions peddled by the broadside sellers of the nineteenth century."

I would like to know why what that proces is deemed as NOT part of the folk process?

I recognise it is different to what may have happened for perhaps several centuries before but why is it not part of the folk process?
PS I dont believe that the folk process is just oral tramsmission


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Steamin' Willie
Date: 07 Sep 10 - 08:17 AM

Here's a song I collected.

I collected it from an album called The Carthy Chronicles.

QED


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Sep 10 - 08:26 AM

"I would like to know why what that proces is deemed as NOT part of the folk process?"
It is part of the folk process, but if Sharp and the rest were right, by the time he and his contemporaries got to them the process was in decline so it was deteriorating rather than developing.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,padgett
Date: 08 Sep 10 - 05:26 AM

Songs continue to be written

Tunes are often used from existing songs!

I have just been looking at the Battle of Sowerby Bridge and whistled the chorus!

Go on everyone ~ "we were amongst 'em we were amongst 'em"

Now how close is that to the theme tune of "The Great Escape"

Well!!

Ray


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: mattkeen
Date: 08 Sep 10 - 05:58 AM

Its the use of "garbled sing alongs" that I was intimating IS part of the folk process
Often the discussions seem to dismiss what has happened since oral transmission has ceased to be the major way that songs are passed on. I recognise that there is a difference pre and post the decline/stop of oral transmission.

There is often a feeling that "post" oral transmission is some how lesser or "folk Lite"

I dont think it is - its more difficult to follow and changes more quickly mind you


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Sep 10 - 08:18 AM

"Its the use of "garbled sing alongs" that I was intimating IS part of the folk process"
Why?
If the Albert hall mob sang "Hope of Land and Glory", would that be part of the folk process - if not, why not? It just seems like making a balls of the words, which can happen in any genre, from Grand Opera to Gilbert and Sullivan.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: mattkeen
Date: 08 Sep 10 - 09:24 AM

No

As an example: I am talking about a late tradition singer perhaps mis remembering etc and the results being rejected by the collectors as less authentic


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Sep 10 - 11:16 AM

From the beginning of the 20th century, singers have been remembering (or not) for collectors. Any collector worth his or her salt has taken down what they were given, complete or not. If they are part of the standard repertoire and it is obvious that a large chunk of the story is missing, it is self evident that this is a fragment, or at tha very least, incomplete, as distinct from one that has been deleberately remade or adapted in some way.
Neither authenticity nor rejection should come into it.
We recorded four verses of Lord Gregory from a Travelling woman, an extreme rarety that we were delighd to get - it would have been nice to get the whole version, but a gem in our collection just the same.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Lighter
Date: 08 Sep 10 - 01:11 PM

A "fragment" to a scholar may be a satisfying - or at least curious -complete song to a singer. It all depends on how much the singer knows is missing and how much he's ready to read into what's left.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Sep 10 - 01:32 PM

You are right that fragments are important for researchers, but they have proved invaluable to singers in supplying tunes for texts only from print, or having indifferent ones, or for collating incomplete texts.
Occasionally they will give you something that has disappeared from the tradition altogether.
I always think it is unwise to divide song enthusiasts into reasearchers and singers; the implication is that either is not interested in doing the other, or both.
One of the invaluable ways into a song for a singer is to lift the corner and take a peep at what's underneath.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 08 Sep 10 - 04:32 PM

Jim Carroll: "I was pulled up a little short this afternoon when I played a recording of a programme on Traveller songs (The Blue Tar Road) and heard some superb singing, including from a couple of very skilful young Traveller women, all recorded in the last six months."

Have you come across Thomas McCarthy (a young relative of Mikeen) yet, Jim? I think he might stop you in your tracks as well!


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Sep 10 - 05:33 PM

I thought I had a Eureka moment last night, or maybe a bad pint!quote ray badgett. i reckon you had a bad nipperkin


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,padgett
Date: 09 Sep 10 - 03:07 AM

I'm not sure who that one is aimed at my Good Soldier, but this thread has certainly attracted some interest

Re Tom McCarthy, I heard him at Whitby last year (never caught him this year)

He told me that the songs he sings are from his family and I did hear him sing The Nobleman's Wedding (see also Eddie Butcher)different tune!

Where one note would suffice for mere mortals, he must have had three!

Very interesting style

Ray


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 18 Jul 11 - 12:00 AM

There are different definitions of "traditional singer", depending on which tradition you are talking about. If you are talking about English/Irish/Welsh, a traditional singer is someone who learned songs within their own community or within their family or family friends. Other cultural traditions don't have that distinction. In calypso, as far as far as I know (rhymes!) a traditional calypsonian is someone who can improvise verses, 'rhyme extemporaneously" in the words of the Lord Invader. Sometimes they use tunes from other songs to compose their own topical songs. That is the difference between Harry Belafonte and a traditional calypsonian.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 18 Jul 11 - 01:03 AM

And as to Stringsinger's comment that "they do not necessary have to be of the culture from which the tradition emanates" does that mean you would accept someone immersed in another culture's national tradition as a traditional performer?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 18 Jul 11 - 01:19 AM

Never mind. Seems I misread Stringsinger's post.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 18 Jul 11 - 02:01 AM

I just read through this entire thread. Some very complicated points being made.

You couldn't actually formulate a set of rules out of all the differing points of view. I sort of veered from one view to another. Very persuasive some of you are.   I don't know who is right.

You find youself thinking - well at least we're not terrorists wanting to blow things up - we all want to sing.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 18 Jul 11 - 07:25 AM

If you're talking English trad. Well they're very east to spot. They're the ones that take ten minutes to tune up before each song, songs which are normally ten minutes longer than normal and where half the Audience are eyeing their watches anxiosly, while the other half are nodding their heads pretending they understand the story. Hope that helps ;)


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Richard from Liverpool
Date: 18 Jul 11 - 07:27 AM

There's a fatal flaw in your description, Desi C. If they're having to tune anything up, then it's not trad.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: reynard
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 10:33 AM

The distiction between traditional singer and "revivalist" was useful back in the sixties or earlier when there were quite a few "traditional singers" still around. Today it's mainly the guys who sing in folk clubs and draw upon the accumulated heritage of tradition who can and should be described as the tradition. There is no strict definition which can distinguish these people from the older tradition and therefore no distinction to be made. It's time to claim the name for ourselves; we are now the traditional singers, we are the tradition.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 10:44 AM

Let's keep things simple, eh? We're All Revivalists Now! Unless of course there's someone out there still singing this stuff in all innocence of Folk, yet to be discovered; Yeti-like, hiding away in dread of discovery. Be a Traddy if you may, but the last thing you'll ever be is a Traditional Singer...


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 12:29 PM

Reynard's right. If you want to use the term 'revival' then even the most cursory examination of traditional song and singers will show you that it starts around the Renaissance which is, of course just a posh way of saying 'Revival'. So I guess Suibhne's right too…go figure.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 01:28 PM

"We're All Revivalists Now!"

Vic Legg? Viv Legg? Will Noble? Jeff Wesley?

Nice note of sanity from Big Al after all the sound and fury.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Warwick Slade
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 02:01 PM

Big Al is right. It's all about singing and enteraining so why put a complex label on it. Life is too short, so just get one. We all know there are great traditional songs out there, some written by Ewan McCall or Bob Dylan, so sing, enjoy and then duck!


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: r.padgett
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 01:56 AM

No no you cant have traditional sings written by McColl, or Bob Dylan sheesh!

Ray


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 05:04 AM

We're All Revivalists Now!

This quip was made in response to Reynard's preceding claim that It's time to claim the name for ourselves; we are now the traditional singers, we are the tradition. He's not the first to suggest this; such claims have been made throughout the Revival I'm sure and I dare say the feelings have been sincere enough too, however so fanciful in respect of the nature of Folk as a Cultural Theology. Thinking about it in a little more depth I think it (i.e. my quip) carries more weight in respect of the impact of Revival Expectations on even the most pure-blooded of extant traditional singers, or else the very notion that such innocence might exist and persist in a modern society. Maybe I should have said We're All Post-Revivalists Now...

*

The Truly Tradition Singer is one who draws in the breath with which to then excite into harmonic vibration his or her vocal cords by controlled exhalation with which to further modify with the aperatus of the oral cavity. By this means might we find the common ground of everything from Opera to Khoomie, all of them the consequence of an unbroken human tradition which not only predates the advent of our very humanity but also unites us with our fellow primates (Gibbons are especially musical* in this respect - I can recommend the morning songs of both Pilated and Siamangs) and many other species. We were singing before ever we were talking, and in this act we have retained the same atavistic values and virtues as our earliest hominid forebears, though maybe this isn't the time nor the place to go too deeply into that. Suffice it to say the earliest examples of Cro-Magnon song were never recorded, much less collected; another job for our time-travelling musicologists I think...

* Like Folk, Music can be something we may bestow upon any sound regardless of the intention of the composer, human or otherwise, thus giving the lie to having never heard a horse sing a song.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Warwick Slade
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 05:22 AM

Sorry Ray, just a bit of irony


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 06:17 AM

I think it (i.e. my quip) carries more weight in respect of the impact of Revival Expectations on even the most pure-blooded of extant traditional singers, or else the very notion that such innocence might exist and persist in a modern society.

The quip was, admittedly, a necessary response to the preceding point, and my brief list of names (there are others, of course) was little more than the raised eyebrow you invited.

'Revival Expectations' are held in some quarters at least to have compromised the styles of such diverse performers as Jeannie Robertson, Fred Jordan and Bob Cann, although I'm not aware that people like Will Noble or Vic Legg do anything much different from what they always did in non-revival settings - and they might not appreciate being told that their 'innocence' has been destroyed by by 'Revival Expectations'. Jeff Wesley has certainly picked up songs in folk clubs, as Fred did. To suggest that they should not - as some have done - is to judge traditional singers by a standard we wouldn't apply to anyone else.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: reynard
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 06:45 AM

It's not the songs that are traditional,it's the singers- because they draw from the accumulated store of tradition and the community of those who share the tradition. Just like us.

I like "Post-Revivalists"! But it kinda misses the point I was making...


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 07:29 AM

Hmmmm - and a big, long Hmmmmmmm it is too, as I'm sure you're all too aware, but I must acknowledge that impulse, and respect it, without bringing in my usual model-railway and historical re-enactment analogies - themselves hatched, incidentally, in the company of a Traditional Singer and Storyteller of Great Renown who thought much the same way as you did and counselled me strongly against thinking otherwise. I always thought he was being too kind myself, and too deferential in passing his own stuff off as Traditional when it was quite obviously his own work. Thus I might say Tradition is the Stuff that Songs (etc.) are Made On, or that All is born of Tradition - allowing that The Tradition that gave us the singular masterpiece of King Henry or Butter and Cheese and All isn't something we can tap into at our leisure.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 08:00 AM

I'll repeat my upthread remarks of Aug. 31 - Sept. 1, 2010.

They still look good to me.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Musket
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 11:38 AM

Tonight, I will put on my waistcoat to go with my jeans and collarless shirt, insist on real ale (whatever that means,) sing traditional songs and LIVE THE DREAM!

And on the way home ponder on what you have to do to go from being a singer of traditional songs to being a traditional singer? I reckon it is a title bestowed on you rather than setting out your stall as such.

A deputy down the pit I used to work at went around singing "Her hair hung down from her tiddle eye po!" Nothing else, just that one line. Never at home, never in the pub / club / supermarket / bookies, but just from the minute he went through the lamp room to coming out of the baths. Just that, and only then.

irritating old bugger but I can't help thinking he must therefore be nearer to being a traditional singer than my thirty odd years of sticking my finger in my ear for reasons other than removing wax.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Shantyfreak
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 01:10 PM

Surely there is no argument here. A traditional singer is one who sings traditional songs in the traditional way.

The real question is what is traditional? Domingo sings Opera in the traditional way. Canotors in the synagogue sing in the traditional way and so on and so on.

What people usually mean by tradition is old-fashioned or just plain old (I think even I qualify there!).

Jim


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 03:03 PM

"What people usually mean by tradition is old-fashioned or just plain old (I think even I qualify there!)."
Not really - otherwise, by your own statement, Domingo would be a traditional singer - surely you're not arguing that he is?
Tradition, when applied to a specific activity, dance, stories, customs, music..... is more than mere repetition and, if communities still have a use for the practice referred to, it does not necessarily have to be "old". It is part of the identifying definition of a specified activity, a reference to the process that it has passed through in order to have arrived at where it did, in the form that it finally took.
"Folk" is equally a part of the definition; a direct reference to the song's/story's/custom's/dance's origins - the people who made it, remade it and adopted it as a part of their culture.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 07:02 PM

323 posts, and more hops than Ben Truman.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,roderick warner
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 07:57 PM

A 'traditional' singer these days in the context of an English 'folk club' could perhaps be defined in the main as an older person from a declining demographic who could not be bothered to become a musician. Perhaps?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Jul 11 - 05:41 AM

"A 'traditional' singer these days in the context of an English 'folk club' could perhaps be defined in the main as an older person from a declining demographic who could not be bothered to become a musician. Perhaps?"
And a singer-songwriter might be defined as a somebody who can't - or can't be bothered to read up on the subject he or she claims to be part of - perhaps?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: r.padgett
Date: 21 Jul 11 - 05:59 AM

Ok I do not regard myself as a musician (player of an instrument) however Vic Gammon remarked once that singers are infact musicians!

I was not blessed as a player of a musical instrument!

However Traditional song tells stories and this is where I place my emphasis!

Tunes and instrumentation should help to convey the lyrics/narrative, surely?

Ray


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 21 Jul 11 - 06:26 AM

A Folk Singer is someone who takes a Traditional Song and makes it their own. They will take as much delight in the source of the thing as in the remaking of it to suit. They will also have the humility to recognise that in doing so they are not part of The Tradition, but rather The Revival, and in introducing their songs they will acknowledge the source and urge their audience to seek it out and thus experience the Real Thing. Recently I urged our audience to seek out Ollie Gilbert's singing of Diver Boy which my wife and I have remade as a two-voiced harmonious folk song with instrumental accompaniment all a million miles away from Ollie Gilbert's superlative unnaccompanied feral version which may be heard on the Max Hunter Collection website. One punter piped up Why should we do that? That's your job!. I shook my head in mock dismay, but maybe they had a point after all. I revel in the sound of Old Songs being sung by Old Singers; to me THAT is The Tradition right there. What the rest of do is simply Folk Music which uses that material, however so respectfully, to create a more palatable product for modern ears - or not, as the case may. In many instances Folk Music has become an extension of MOR Easy Listening; people often accuse me of being Too Extreme in my Traditional Approach; others accuse me of not being Traditional (or extreme) enough. As Oor Wullie says - Ye Canna Win!

One thing I doubt is that there is an overarching Aesthetic to govern what is or is not Traditional in terms of approach. The more I listen, so the bigger it gets and there will always be exceptions not to prove the rule, but to blow any rule out of the water. I always come back to someone as utterly unique and idiosyncratic and extreme as Davie Stewart (AKA The Galoot and my Trad Hero) who was truly a Master of his Traditional Craft and a perfect joy to listen to in every respect. We Post-Revivalists however live in a bigger world; we must acknowledge a wider range of cultural input in terms of what has shaped our approach to our respective Folk Musics. On one hand the Old Singers, on the other the New Singers, and on the other the great voices of our time from Robert Wyatt to Ian Curtis (speaking for myself) because Folk is (and always has been) just one small part of a much much bigger picture. Call it Post-Revival, or Neo-Traditionalism, but whilst I still feel it's essential to respect a very significant line between the one thing and the other, I nevertheless balk at the implications of pure exalted bloodlines in favour of a more inclusive approach. But that's a personal thing really; my inner demonic-dilema born of too deep steated a scepticism to cure myself of now. Whilst no-one can become a Traditional Singer, anyone can become a Folk Singer. All they need is a love of the Old Songs, and shed loads what Roy Castle called dedication - not to mention a decent pair of wings to keep above the bullshit.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 21 Jul 11 - 06:37 AM

Tunes and instrumentation should help to convey the lyrics/narrative, surely?

I dispute this most vociferously. In Popular Musics, Folk, Classical idioms the world over the lyrics are often obscured by the music - much less the story. All that natters is the music, which carries a deeper narrative meaning that mere words can convey, otherwise, why bother singing them? Ballads likewise. I switch off from the immediate narrative and lose myself in the sound & images, which is where the real magic lies; after all, ballad narratives aren't exactly that riveting, unlike the episodic imagery & language which is.

How we each listen to songs is just as personal as how we sing them. When I was a kid, I had friends who bought lyric mags of Pop Songs to hear what was going on. I never cared. I used to think Big Yellow Taxi was about the Caud Lad o' Hyton (don't ask!) and even to this day listen to all manner of vocal musics from different eras, countries & traditions where the sound is all that matters. Words as written or spoken prose carry different levels of meaning to words in poems; words in song takes this even deeper. The surface narrative is superficial; the inner seance of thing is what it's about.

For me anyway.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: r.padgett
Date: 21 Jul 11 - 03:11 PM

I am not too sure about "The surface narrative is superficial"

BUT I do agree to some extent that gifted instrument players can add

a further dimension and add artistically to the song or ballad being

sung

Of course the tunes often would not exist had the song not been "written"

Music and tunes can of course exist without songs and be separately played and enjoyed.

Ray


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 03:01 AM

On the strength of this discussion I re-read Sharp's chapter on traditional singers in 'Some Conclusions', based on his and his contemporaries experiences in collecting songs at the beginning of the 20th century.
I have to say that his remarks on the generation of singers he was collecting from being the last ties up with some of our own findings, especially from what we found from the people we recorded from, particularly what we were told by Walter Pardon, who said that despite the richness of his family tradition, he was the only one of his generation to take an interest in the songs enough to write them down in an exercise book so they would not be forgotten altogether.
I have reproduced part of what Sharp had to say which, despite the quaintness of the language, still resonates with me.
Jim Carroll

"The folk-singers of to-day, as I have already remarked, are the last of a long line that stretches back into the mists of far off days. Their children were the first of their race to reject the songs of their forefathers. Nowadays, the younger generations despise them, and, when they mention them, it is with a lofty and supercilious air and to pour ridicule upon them. The old singers, of course, hold the modern song in like contempt, although they accept the changed conditions with a quiet dignity, which is not without its pathos. One old singer once said to me, " Our tunes be out 'o vashion. They young volk come a-zingin' thicky comic zongs, and I don't know they, and they won't hearken to my old-vashioned zongs." The old order changeth, and the old singers realize that their day has gone and that they and their songs are " out 'o vashion ". Imagine, then, their joy when the collector calls upon them and tells them of his love for the old ditties. He has only to convince them of his sincerity to have them at his mercy. They will sing to him in their old quavering voices until they can sing no more; and, when he is gone, they will ransack their memories that they may give him of their best, should, perchance, he call again, as he promised.
Attention must be drawn to the conventional method of singing adopted by folk-singers. During the performance the eyes are closed, the head upraised, and a rigid expression of countenance maintained until the song is finished. A short pause follows the conclusion, and then the singer relaxes his attitude and repeats in his ordinary voice the last line of the song, or its title. This is the invariable ritual on forma] occasions. It does not proceed from any lack of appreciation. The English peasant is by nature a shy man and undemonstrative, and on ceremonious occasions, as when he is singing before an audience, be becomes very nervous and restrained, and welcomes the shelter afforded by convention. I have never seen women sing in this way; but then they never perform in public, and only very rarely when men are present. If you would prevail upon a married woman to sing to you, you must call upon her when her man is away at work, that is, if he be a singer himself. She will never sing to you in his presence until you have come to know both her and her husband very intimately.
A man will sing naturally enough, and without any formality, by his own fireside. I have known him, on such occasions, to get quite excited when he is singing a song that moves him, and to rise from his chair and gesticulate and, perhaps, beat the table to enforce the rhythm of the tune. One old woman once sang to me out in the open fields, where she was working, and between the verses of her song she seized the lapel of my coat, and looked up into my face with glistening eyes to say, " Isn't it beautiful ? ".


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Tradsinger
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 03:58 AM

I feel I can contribute to this debate, with the experience of over 40 years of folksong collecting behind me.

I think the point of the original thread was to ask what the difference is between a 'traditional' singer and a 'revival' singer and thereby to label singers as we do. In most cases this bestows on the on the 'traditional' singer a sort of magic aura and we hold them in special awe. However, this is a simplistic view of the situation.

Some examples - when I was younger, I learnt a lot of bawdy songs. They were never written down and at least some of them were derived from older songs. Does that make me a traditional singer? In one sense it could but I don't think that would qualify in most people's books. I have also learnt a lot of my songs directly from 'source' singers, usually by meeting them, recording them, in some cases singing along with them and ultimatly learning the songs from the recordings I made. Does that make me a traditional singer? Probably not because I set out with the express intent of recording the songs for my own pleasure and also with an academic thought in mind, namely that I was adding to the total sum of human knowledge by noting what was being sung and passed on independently from the folk 'scene'.

Of the singers I have met and recorded, many have had contact with the folk revival and have learnt songs. All of them have have learnt songs from the media, as well as from friends and family. For example, the gypsy singer Wiggie Smith, whom I knew well, recorded and sang with, had songs from all sorts of sources - family and friends but also from recoreds of George Formby, Norman Wisdom etc. I also guess that some of the songs he sang, such as 'The Rich Farmer of Sheffield' had probably been helped on their way sometime in the past by a broadsheet (and therefore, by definition from the media). And yet there is no doubt that people would label Wiggie as a 'tradional' singer, uninfluenced by the folk scene.

Conversely, I know a number of singers who would regard themselves as revival singers but who have certainly learnt songs straight from source singers. One well-known 'revival' singer that I know sang to me a cracking folk song that he had learnt when young in the school playground and yet he would hesitate to put the 'traditional' label on himself. A friend of mine in Gloucestershire has a large number of songs he learnt from various sources including old morris dancers, before he ever set foot in a folk club, but I suspect that he doesn't regard himself as a 'traditional' singer in the sense we mean here. And so the boundaries are very grey.

As a rule of thumb, by traditional (or 'source') singer I think of someone who sings songs he/she has learnt orally, uninfluenced by the folk scene or the media. From the collecting point of view (and the definition of 'collecting' can be a separate thread), I am interested in meeting such people, recording their songs if they are willing and finding out how they learnt the songs and in what context. As I said above, I like to think that this adds to the total sum of human knowledge that we have about our traditions.

Does all that make sense?

Tradsinger


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 04:25 AM

In my opinion the fundamental difference is whether you grew up with the music around you, or whether you discovered it later. If you're in the former category, you're a traditional singer no matter how many songs you subsequently learn from Martin Carthy albums; in the latter case you'll never be truly "traditional", no matter how many "old boys" you learn songs from.

I think much of the reluctance to accept this distinction comes from a romantic wish to be "part of the tradition".


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 04:49 AM

Well, in some cultural traditions, as I said in my post on the 18th related to calypso, there is no such thing as "revival". All singers are "traditional" in those traditions, if they learn the skills required to perform within the tradition.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 06:09 AM

I don't know about calypso, but if the calypso tradition is about improvising in a particular style rather than mainting continuity of particular songs, then I can see that the distinction would be meaningless. However the core of the traditions of the British Isles is this continuity and the way the music is passed on (although not necessarily unchanged). It is therefore useful to distinguish between those who are an integral part of this continuity and those who simply discovered the music at some stage of their lives, no matter how deeply they have subsequently immersed themselves in it. However, although it's a useful distinction I accept it is often endowed with a greater significance than is sometimes justified.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 06:53 AM

Folk is invariably a matter of personal Epiphany, though many Folkies are now the begetters of Folkies themselves. I often wonder what the nature of that inheritance is and how they might view that i terms of Tradition, Revival or Post-Revival? I'd say in terms of my own personal culture Johnny Morris, Hanna-Barbera, Henry Mancini, Ennio Morricone, and Gerry Anderson are just as significant as Folk, if not more so. In cultural terms the remit is always a whole lot wider, which is why I'm less inclined to see Folk as being any different in terms of Traditional Process, rather the romantic status conferred on same from on high. In this respect, and with all due respect, Jim's quote from Cecil Sharp, at best, reads like something out of a Two Ronnies sketch, or the worst form of cultural paternalism imaginable.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 08:32 AM

"reads like something out of a Two Ronnies sketch, or the worst form of cultural paternalism imaginable."
Not to me it doesn't - taking into consideration when it was written and by whom, it remains a personal observation by somebody who was there.
It is the easiest thing in the world to take the piss out of the pioneers from a position of smug hindsight (and from the comfort of your folkie greenhouse - again). Sharp got many things wrong, but unless you can show how that was making it all up, his point stands as an indication of what he found - unless you can prove otherwise.
Pandering to the media's rejection of our folk cultures by comparing Sharp's observations to 'The Two Ronnies' and the 'Rambling Sid Rumpo' representation is as much a rejection of those cultures as that of the establishment as far as I'm concerned.
I've thought a great deal about your "tradition is an invention of the collectors" statement - your failure to qualify it in any way is a little like waiting for the other shoe to fall.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 09:05 AM

I don't have to prove anything, Jim - not with statements like that serving as adequate proof of a reactionary condescension so obnoxious it beggars belief (right down to the hearken to my old-vashioned zongs FFS). Hey, I can't get my kids to hearken to my old-vashioned zongs either - I play them Caravan and Joy Division but they'd rather listen to Lady Gaga and Kanye West. Plus ca change, eh? Long live cultural process!


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Howard Jones
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 11:11 AM

I'm not sure why it's "reactionary condescension" to report someone's speech the way he spoke it. Wouldn't it be more condescending to translate it into middle-class English?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Tootler
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 12:20 PM

statements like that serving as adequate proof of a reactionary condescension so obnoxious it beggars belief

It seems to me that you are forgetting when that was written. It was written roughly 100 years ago in a society that is very different from today. You also don't seem to realise that what Sharpe was doing was actually quite radical for its day. (And if you do realise it, you certainly don't show it).

I found it an interesting description of some of way in which Sharpe had to go about collecting a tune.

hearken to my old-vashioned zongs Have you never tried to capture someone's dialect in written form? Read Woak Hill or Linden Lea. The author, William Barnes, has tried to capture his own dialect in similar form. How is that "reactionary condescension"?

I believe it was L P Hartley who wrote "The past is another country, they do things differently there." We do well to remember that when criticising the early folk song collectors.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 12:48 PM

AS I understand it, one reason that Baring-Gould, Sharp, and the others began collecting was that they'd realized (dramatically in Sharp's case) that there existed a huge repertoire of interesting songs that the average middle-class urbanite knew next to nothing about. Furthermore, the songs often had beautiul and unconventional melodies, and sometimes texts that seemed to suggest that they might be centuries old.

Because such songs were not widely known to musicians, and seemed to be known almost entirely to the rural poor (a class which, one readily admits, was sometimes sentimentalized), the collectors were absolutely right to see the songs as belonging to a "tradition" rather apart from those of operatic,ecclestical, parlor, and music-hall traditions.

"Idioms" might be a good synonym for "tradition," if anyone cares.

Once traditional song started to be recorded commercially, in more modern idioms, the line between the traditions began to blur and blur. And certainly the early collectors and scholars held some romantic views about it that were shown to be insupportable only decades later.

Those facts, however, do not mean that the "folksong tradition" was simply a romantic, academic delusion.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 02:01 PM

"hearken to my old-vashioned zongs "
Utter bollocks - and yet another attempt to attack the 'despised' collector (why do the words "bite", "hand" and "feed" spring to mind whenever I go head-to-head with you?).
Sharp's approxomation of what he heard is no worse than that to be found in many of Hardy's Wessex novels, or Dicken's 'Cockney' or Kickham's 'Oirish' or, for that matter, some of the pathetic 'mid- Atlantic' accents to be heard in many folk clubs or from wannabe pop stars.
What Sharp brought to the reader was a respect for the old singers and a love for (and an attempt to understand and pass on) their creations - very much in short supply here.
You want to take a pop at Sharp, aim at his statements and objectives, more than adequately outlined here by both Tootler and Lighter.
Personally, I'm more than happy to pay tribute to somebody who dragged his asthmatic arse around the south of England and up into the Southern Appalachians to bring back the songs that have given me so much pleasure over the last half century.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 07:11 PM

Well, I think Suibhne is referring to the *descriptions* of the singers, which (even though my interest isn't British traditional songs) do sound *very* condescending.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 09:39 PM

Condescending in what way?

By today's standards of journalism, the descriptions are rather flat, but I don't see anything condescending in them. As for the dialect spellings, remember there was no radio and few sound recordings. The odd spellings were intended to make the speech seem more real, not less.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 11:31 PM

Well, there is the description of the people as peasants and the way he portrayed them as being so eager to have their songs heard that they'll spend time preparing and waiting for someone to visit them and hear them sing. I understand that people were probably surprised that *anyone* was interested in the songs at all- but something about the words used just feels condescending. I don't know how to describe it. I don't mind dialect- in fact, I love to sing songs in dialect.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Jul 11 - 03:07 AM

Sorry Morwen - just a reflection of the period, and the way country people were portrayed in the literature of the time - in my opinion Sharp didn't to a bad job of bridging the enormous class gap, and his writing always impressed me as showing a respect of and value for the people he was recording. Perhaps you know the story of his recording 'The Crabfish' from Mrs Overd?
"...and the way he portrayed them as being so eager to have their songs heard that they'll spend time preparing and waiting for someone to visit them and hear them sing. "
In the seventies we began to record an elderly Irish singer, Mikey Kellerher, in South East London - he was in fact known as a dancer in his native West Clare before he moved to London in the late 1940s, but it turned out he had picked up around over 60 traditional songs in his youth.
He was extremely shy of singing and would only record for us in the car, in a back-street in Deptford - he refused to let us record him at home.
After a couple of months of these sessions he took us to his home and introduced us to his wife who told us that he had never explained to her what we were doing but he would return home after these sessions and sit up in bed singing through the songs we had discussed but not recorded that evening so he would have them right for us the next time we met him.
She said, "I told him, ""You're going cracked, like your mother did"".
Norfolk singer Walter Pardon spent years piecing together his family's songs and writing them down in notebooks so they wouldn't be lost, decades before he had anybody to sing them to.
I don't think we ever met a singer in thirty-odd years collecting who didn't value their songs enough to want to get them right when they sang them for us - they valued them as being important and said so often enough.
Sweeney has expressed his contempt of and distrust for collectors often enough in the past as to leave us in no doubt of his opinions of them, yet, like every other singer of traditional songs, he has no hestiation in reaping the benefits from their efforts.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Jul 11 - 03:31 AM

As I said, I'm into traditional calypso mostly (and the trend right now for teenagers to be "indie", and being into calypso and other types of folk/ "Old-fashioned" music counts, even though I didn't know that until my friends told me), so I'm not really into British traditional stuff. Of course if someone wanted to collect songs from me, say, I'd want to get them right.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 23 Jul 11 - 04:32 AM

Sweeney has expressed his contempt of and distrust for collectors often enough in the past as to leave us in no doubt of his opinions of them, yet, like every other singer of traditional songs, he has no hestiation in reaping the benefits from their efforts.

That's the thing in discussions like this, one can't point out the inherent darker issues of the revival without being slated as some sort of hypocritical traitor to the cause. As a Post-Revuival Folk Singer I'm as much aware of the dodgier aspects of the revival as I am of the dodgier aspects of my country, and yet I choose to live here and be a (generally) contented citizen. The evils of social class and cultural colonialism are right there for us all to see; it is writ large in the very fabric of the thing & to call that passage patronising and condecending is only right and proper, because it is. However, Sharp was only human, a man of his times, but that doesn't mean we can't look at his legacy by the standards of our own. After all, it doesn't make him any less human to be aware of such issues,does it? Of course not. In this life we must live with the legacy of such things - ideologues, histories, ideologies - warts and all. I'm a huge fan of Miles Davis, but that doesn't mean I'm blind to the darker sides of his character - on the contrary, I eagerly swallow up biographies as much I do his recordings and accept that it's an itegral part of his genius. And I'm not even going to mention Ewan MacColl's war record; to me it rests alongside his utter brilliance as a ballad and folk song singer. Such is the merry way of biography, history, and human frailty; we embrace strengths and weakenesses with equal passion whilst being all too aware of our own; indeed, we applaud same in others as a very gladsome measure of PURE GENIUS. So - not biting hands, or expressing CONTEMPT, much less DISTRUST, just pointing out a passing imperfection that strikes me as being not the sort of thing we ought to be celebrating in this day & age, much less citing it support of what remains all too elitist a cause.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Jul 11 - 04:59 AM

Well, yeah, doesn't just about *everyone* have a dark side?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 23 Jul 11 - 05:08 AM

Absolutely. Every one and every thing; it underwrites both the humanity of the thing and our critical appreciation of that we love most in this world. There's always going to be duality & dialogue - it's the nature of life, for nothing is ever so simple as to be straightforward. There are dilemas and contradictions in every last damned thing. Why should Folk be any different?


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Jul 11 - 05:12 AM

"After all, it doesn't make him any less human to be aware of such issues,does it? "
"reactionary condescension so obnoxious it beggars belief"
Statements like this underline the contempt you have consistently shown for the people whose work you, as a revival singer, have benefited from.
If you had provided rational arguments for your declarations of hate towards collectors and researchers, you might have made some headway, but you have consistently refused to do so:
"I don't have to prove anything, Jim "
Instead you make armchair pronounments, half the time wrapped in impenitrable verbiage.
So Sharp was obnoxiously condescending and a target of your contempt because he was a product of his time - do I have that right, and can I assumme Dickens and Hardy to also be recipients of that contempt - or is that another question for your shelf?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Musket
Date: 23 Jul 11 - 05:51 AM

Traditional - the passing of custom and belief down the generations.

Well, at least one dictionary says it in that way, (suspect an American one, I am using an iMac after all...)

An interesting question would be "Where does something begin in order to be passed down in the tradition?"

I gave my sons many of my old albums, so as my custom was to wear denim and go to Black Sabbath concerts, buying their albums, then when I took my eldest to watch Ozzie in concert then gave him my Sabbath Bloody Sabbath album, (signed by the band many years ago) then I was starting a tradition. Hence Black Sabbath performed traditional music?

I reckon we are yet again confusing style with process. There seems to be a consensus that to be a traditional singer as opposed to singer of traditional songs, you have to tell people your Grandfather learned this from a wandering gypsy in the bleak high fells. Whereas it was traditional for me that on Xmas Eve, my stepfather sat in his chair when we got home from the welfare, a glass of whisky in his hand and sat there crooning out "Old Shep." To which I used to cry out, taking the piss, "Oh no! Not the gun!"

Just as traditional for me.

But not for you.

Or indeed for Walter Pardon who wouldn't know about my Stepfather or indeed the local miners' welfare.

Methinks the thought police may think that it has to be in the folk "style" to be traditional, and that is one hell of a different discussion.... (And a moot one too. If I sing a song I wrote about my community and heritage, I am a traditional singer. If I sing a song about reed cutting in Norfolk, I am a singer of traditional song. QED.)


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 23 Jul 11 - 05:56 AM

Thing is, Jim - I came to the revival as a fresh-faced trusting youth and swallowed its myth wholesale as part of a general epiphany. I've always been aware of the dilemas and contradictions, but in the final analysis my love of the old songs is paramount in my relationship to this thing we call folk. That doesn't mean I should forget the deeper issues, even when I choose to sing one of Sharp's Bowlderised versions to a ruder variant; in fact, I might sing both versions as part of the same song. It's a complex beast, endlessly fascinating, but my deap seated awareness of social class and the inequalities, oppressions and privileges thereof do not prevent me from seeing just what the Folk Myth was predicated on. Similarly, my love of Kiping does not have me wishing to revise his more noxious sentiments. I will sing Peter Bellamy's setting of The Land, not as a revised paean to Socialism that many in the Folk Scene have chosen to see it as, but as the hommage to the continuity of faceless serviility under feudalism which Kipling (and Bellamy too in all probability) intended. I find it odd how you balk at Kipling in this respect, and yet embrace Sharp (et al) who were just as guilty after all. To me, it's all part of the thing - and to deny it would be as absurd as to reject it wholesale. Like any other aspect of History, its fascination lies in its contradictions.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 23 Jul 11 - 07:23 AM

Cecil Sharp had an asthmatic arse.

nuff said.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Jul 11 - 07:56 AM

Sean - with your vague and verbose generalities, your message remains the same - collectors are an untrustworthy mob whose opinions and experiences are not even worthy of discussion - again you refuse to qualify your statements and avoid direct questions - do we despise Hardy and Dickens for their attempts to reproduce the verrnacular of the people they chose to depict, or is your venom just reserved for those who gave us access to our songs?
Not really interested in what who choose to reduce anybody who disagrees with him as "thought police" either - I really thought some of these discussions had attained adulthood - my mistake.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 24 Jul 11 - 04:31 AM

Jim - at least try and understand what I'm saying here before telling me how and feel petitioning to have me kicked out the fan club as an undesirable. Warts an all is an inclusive approach to life, the unverse and everything; it appreciateds the good and the bad and certainly doesn't throw the baby out with the bathwater - much less promote the notion that so flawed a hobby as Folk Song Collection isn't without some very evident contradictions as regards the actual dymanics between subject and object. Especially across the gulf of the class / culture divide. This is life, and half the fun is being aware of it to make a more vivid picture of The Revival in its totality and its legacy today as part of Our social history.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 24 Jul 11 - 04:55 AM

(and again without the typos, and ever so slightly revised...)

Jim - at least try and understand what I'm saying here before telling me how I feel and petitioning to have me kicked out the fan club as an undesirable. Warts a' All is an inclusive approach to life, the universe and everything. It appreciates the Good and the Bad and certainly doesn't throw the baby out with the bathwater - much less promote the notion that so flawed an upper-class hobby as Folk Song Collection isn't going to be without some very evident contradictions as regards the actual dymanics between subject and object. Especially across the gulf of the class / culture divide. This is life, Jim (very much as as we know it) and half the fun is being aware of such matters to thus make a more vivid picture of both The Revival in its totality and its enduring legacy today which is an essential part of Our social history.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Jul 11 - 05:30 AM

Sean
If you put up an argument you might have a case.
You don't qualify your statements, you don't advance arguments, you don't respond to challenges, you don't answer direct questions - YOU JUST MOUNT SNIDE ATTACKS AND YOU MAKE UNQUALIFIED PRONOUNCEMENTS wrapped in pretentious and irrelevant verbiage.
Sharp's ideas and those of his contemporaries are very much in need of re-examination, but not by meaningless and often impenetrable unqualified statements such as yours.
The day of the 'gentleman' collector is long gone, but what the early researchers left behind is a huge body of material and a basis for undererstanding folksong - you, in contrast, offer nothing other than a bad taste in the mouth.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 24 Jul 11 - 09:29 AM

Jim - either this is going way over your head or you just refuse to see what I'm saying. Either I really can't be arsed.


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Subject: RE: Traditional singer definition
From: GUEST,SA
Date: 24 Jul 11 - 09:31 AM

either way that is.


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