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An Opinion

Jerry Rasmussen 10 Sep 10 - 09:43 AM
MikeofNorthumbria 10 Sep 10 - 11:28 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 10 Sep 10 - 11:44 AM
Bill D 10 Sep 10 - 11:58 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 10 Sep 10 - 12:20 PM
Bettynh 10 Sep 10 - 12:46 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 10 Sep 10 - 12:56 PM
Bill D 10 Sep 10 - 01:12 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 10 Sep 10 - 01:17 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 10 Sep 10 - 02:00 PM
John P 10 Sep 10 - 03:51 PM
Slag 10 Sep 10 - 05:10 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 10 Sep 10 - 05:11 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 10 Sep 10 - 05:15 PM
John P 10 Sep 10 - 05:37 PM
McGrath of Harlow 10 Sep 10 - 05:39 PM
GUEST 10 Sep 10 - 05:50 PM
Slag 11 Sep 10 - 04:01 PM
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Subject: An Opinion
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 10 Sep 10 - 09:43 AM

I posted this on Facebook in response to a post by my friend Judy Goddard. It's the flip side of "What is tradtional folk music." I don't mean to rile folks up, but then getting riled up is very good for the circulation.


That's so true, Judy. I've heard "folksingers" at open Mics talk about their influences being Paul Simon and James Taylor. I am definitely not a purist, but that's pretty far removed from the tradition, although both Paul and James knew tra...dtional folk and may have dabbled in it themselves when they were young.

To me on an elemental level, music is music That attitude would create chaos in a record/CD store. I hear black gospel in rhythm and blues groups, and disco in contemporary "Praise and Worship" music of Mass choirs. Old country blues are easy to hear in Rockabilly and improvisation is as common in black gospel as it in in jazz.

Folk singers like Doc Watson, Charlie Poole, and blues singers like Mississippi John Hurt Listened to the radio, just like we did when we were growing up. If they liked a song they did it and made it their own. Charlie Poole did broadway pop songs, and so did Mississippi John Hurt. People Get Ready is as much a church song as it is soul music. I could go on and on. Maybe that's why I wrote two songs in the style of the old R&B groups now called Doo Wop. Ten Pound Radio is an affectionate remembrance of the days when groups sang around street lamps, and May I abide in You is a gospel song with a message that a black gospel quartet would be comfortable doing. The Five Blind Boys recorded "Oh, Why?" which is straight doo wop, and Archie Brownlee, lead singer of the group introduced loud, high pitched shouts and screams to build excitement, just like James Brown later did.

But then, I AM going on and on...


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Subject: RE: An Opinion
From: MikeofNorthumbria
Date: 10 Sep 10 - 11:28 AM

"If they liked a song they did it and made it their own."

That's definitely the way to go Jerry – but it can be difficult. "Making it your own" may come naturally to someone like Doc Watson, who grew up surrounded by an inherited tradition and developed a personal musical style rooted in that tradition. But many of us can connect with tradition only through books and recordings.   And we often find it hard to relate that inheritance to our own lived experience, so it's a constant struggle to make those old songs speak for us (and hopefully for our listeners) in a meaningful way.

And sometimes an old song has its roots in an environment so remote from our experience that we cannot connect with it at all. Under those circumstances, I think the only sensible thing is to leave it alone (unless you can steal the tune and compose your own words to it).

Wassail!


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Subject: RE: An Opinion
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 10 Sep 10 - 11:44 AM

Hey, Mike:

I think a singer caNn relate to a good traditional song, even if it's about a time and a culture they have no direct experience with.
I can think of many traditional songs that sing about working a mule or going to a dance at the VFW Hall that speak to me. The first song that comes to mind is The Spring of '65.

"I woke up one morning in the Spring of '65
I thought myself quite likely to be found alive
I geared up my mule, my business to pursue
Instead of hauling four loads, I only hauled two.

Ever had a morning like that? Maybe you didn't get drunk in a barn from drinking and dancing all night, and you don't know one end of a mule from the other, but I bet you've felt that way. Maybe you only fixed two washing machines instead of four

"Come all you newsy women who scatter news about
Don't tell no tales upon us, we're bad enough without
Don't tell no tales upon us, or kick up any fuss
You've been guilty of the same thing, perhaps a whole lot worse.

Know any "newsy" women? or for a woman, know any "newsy" men?

Or what ab out,
Take out the paper and the trash
Or you don't get no spending cash
And tell you hoodlum friends outside
You ain't got time to take a ride

Yakey, Yak
Don't talk back

I imagine a kid working on a one mule farm who wanted to go out fishing with his buddies felt just the same when his mother told him he had to finish plowing the lower forty.

As Leadbelly said in the introduction to Fannin' Street, "Folks is folks, sure enough."

I understand what you're saying though, Mike. I'm not comfortable singing ballads about people who wear shiny pants and dainty little shoes. :-)


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Subject: RE: An Opinion
From: Bill D
Date: 10 Sep 10 - 11:58 AM

Change happens....that is inevitable. I just wince when I hear 'change' that is mostly about the performer, and not about the song. So many performers seem to approach music with an attitude of "I'll never be noticed unless I do something really 'different'.....and I really want to be noticed."
In pop music this is standard procedure, but one of the fundamental aspects of 'folk' and 'traditional' is to engage and preserve our heritage, and when traditional music is gratuitously changed just to 'identify' the wannabe performer, a lot is lost. No law agin' it, but it seems to me a shame to continue to call it 'folk' or 'trad'.

As Jerry suggested, vague categories "... would create chaos in a record/CD store."

Making a song your own is part of the 'folk process', but setting the folk processor on "puree" just makes it hard to identify the ingredients.


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Subject: RE: An Opinion
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 10 Sep 10 - 12:20 PM

Hey. Bill: I don't know if I've ever heard anyone who I'm sure changed a traditional song just to get noticed or for personal ego. This is the opposite side of the coin... people who are usually considered legitimate folk singers who enjoy doing songs that are definitely not traditional. We had enough threads about "What is traditonal folk music": to choke a mule, let alone a horse. My opinion is that if we accept Doc Watson or Charlie Poole or Mississippi John Hurt as folk and blues singers and don't get our knickers in a twist of whether or not they are traditional (as if they'd care...) Then we can accept that there is a tradition of singers well steeped in that traditon singing songs that are not in that tradition. (as if they'd even think about it.) It's the revivalists that get all technical. I mean, Watson did a whole Rockabilly album (gasp!!!!,) and often played electric guitar.

Yikes!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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Subject: RE: An Opinion
From: Bettynh
Date: 10 Sep 10 - 12:46 PM

As far as I can see, chaos already rules when trying to classify music for sale. Part of the problem seems to come from classifying an entire album as one thing or another. The music I enjoy most will have several categories in one album, or one tune can have several categories. For the tune "Sittin' on Top of the World" in my Itunes library, it's variously listed as:

Blues (Howlin' Wolf)
Country (Doc Watson and Clarence Ashley)
Folk (David Holt and the Lightning Bolts, Doc Watson and David Holt)
Gospel (Sweet Honey in the Rock)
Rock (Cream, Grateful Dead, Van Morrison)
and my favorite,
Unclassifiable (Bill Harley on "Sandberg Out Loud")

I've hidden the classification on my Itunes menu. It makes my head hurt.


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Subject: RE: An Opinion
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 10 Sep 10 - 12:56 PM

You got that right, Betty: There are songs that legitimately are sung in a variety of musical styles. Sitting on top of the world is perhaps THE best example.

Did you ever here Liberace's version of Sixteen Tons?

I didn't either.


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Subject: RE: An Opinion
From: Bill D
Date: 10 Sep 10 - 01:12 PM

" I don't know if I've ever heard anyone who I'm sure changed a traditional song just to get noticed or for personal ego."

Oh, I have! I doubt they'd admit it, even if they realized it...but I could make a list. (I started a thread about the song "Hard Times"(come again no more) a couple years ago to illustrate this very point. And I recently was listening to many versions of "The Two Magicians" in which 'sound effects' almost obliterated the story.)

I quite agree that Doc Watson and those others just 'liked music' and played whatever they found interesting....but I feel that Doc in particular 'felt' the differences and could easily tailor an LP or concert to fit his audience. You were never in doubt it was Doc, but the feel of the music usually was quite consistent with its origin(s).


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Subject: RE: An Opinion
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 10 Sep 10 - 01:17 PM

"Did you ever here Liberace's version of Sixteen Tons?"

Did you ever hear Liberace's version of Ed McCurdy's "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream"? Unfortunately it exists. I guess Liberace found it interesting and liked it.


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Subject: RE: An Opinion
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 10 Sep 10 - 02:00 PM

Hey, Ron: That must indeed have been the strangest dream.

You made my point, Bill. People with a feel for the tradition can do popular songs and you can hear the traditional influences in there.

One of my favorites is Charlie Poole, who seemed to have no regard for whether songs were traditional or not. I can't read his mind but I can read his list of songs. He did quite a few turn of the century popular songs. Uncle Dave Macon was the same. I suspect that both of them would have thought the whole discussion of traditional or non-traditional songs was silly.


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Subject: RE: An Opinion
From: John P
Date: 10 Sep 10 - 03:51 PM

I like to make a distinction between playing music and talking about it. When people ask me what kind of music I play, I usually say "mostly traditional music" because I also play jazz, rock, pop, show tunes, medieval, and whatever else strikes my fancy. Most musicians I know enjoy and play a variety of genres and styles. I think that part of the traditions I'm most familiar with has always been using whatever music crosses your path and playing it however you play music. Most musicians are steeped in at least one musical style and that style will come out in their music, no matter the repertoire. A classical musician can make almost anything sound classical and a folk musician can find folky touches to incorporate into music that wouldn't usually be considered folk.

When talking about music, on the other hand, it is nice to have more clear distinctions. So I would hesitate to say that someone who is following a long tradition of playing non-traditional music is a traditional musician or is playing traditionally. In a discussion of folk music, "traditional music" should have a more specific meaning. It gets impossible to keep track of what people are talking about otherwise.

John


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Subject: RE: An Opinion
From: Slag
Date: 10 Sep 10 - 05:10 PM

Yep, folks is folks. Something to consider: Emily Dickinson was not a poet. She was a recluse. She wrote verse upon scraps of paper and laid them away. Some she rolled up and stuck into crevices or behind a mirror or in a bed post. If I remember correctly she may have shared some with correspondents but hers was a very limited and tight society.

After she died family and friends began to discover the treasure trove she had left behind ( " I could not stop for Death, so Death kindly stopped for me" ). It was then she became a poet and an artist.

When you release, when you let go of your work and put it out there before the public, several things happen. One, your work becomes an entity, a thing unto itself. It stands on its own. Two, you have no more artistic control over it. Three, it's fair game for the critics. Four it becomes both a mirror and a prism that reflects the artist and whatever the listener (viewer) brings to it.

I peeked in on this thread with apprehension! What a novel idea. An opinion being expressed at the 'Cat! We all have opinions. Some, and I would say most everyone here, have considered opinions that rise above "I like it" or "That sucks". We bring all that we know and understand to the artistic judgment seat.

So, is it folk? You bet and I don't think so. We are the folk and it's all part of the mix. As time and the world change, as cultures shift and events shape our world, the definition of "folk" ought to also change and reflect what is current as well as what may be timeless about the human condition. It may be an audience of one or of millions. Each hearer, each observer will decide for himself, herself and will file it in a category with which they are most comfortable.


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Subject: RE: An Opinion
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 10 Sep 10 - 05:11 PM

Good luck, John:   :-)

How many threads have there been on Mudcat with endlessly raging arguments/discussions about what is or isn't "Traditional?" Can a traditional musician (are there any still alive, unpolluted by radio or recorded music) play something in an untraditional style? Can a primarily untraditional musician play a song in a traditional style? I suppose so. Is If I Were a Carpenter a pop song done in a quasi-tradional style written by someone who had some knowledge of the tradition but wasn't making a serious attemp at sounding tradional? The mind boggles.

I wish you well, John P. Your quest is a valid one. For me there are three types of songs, Ones I wrote, Ones I didn't write, but I know who did, and ones nobody knows who wrote them. I don't mean to demean efforts to define types of music. It does seem to be a Quixotian quest, though.


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Subject: RE: An Opinion
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 10 Sep 10 - 05:15 PM

Great post, slag! I started this thread with apprehension. It is so difficult to avoid being sucked into the whirlpool of traditional or non-traditional in here. I avoid threads on that topic like the plague. I'm burned out with the discussion and as my life goes, it's not that critical. Thank God, because it doesn't seem to be a resolveable discussion... :-)

My well wishes to people on both sides of the fence and those who straddle it.


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Subject: RE: An Opinion
From: John P
Date: 10 Sep 10 - 05:37 PM

Yeah, I know, Jerry. While I am one who thinks clear definitions are important to having a cogent discussion, I also have a very wide gray area when it comes to deciding whether or not a song is traditional. When it comes to listening to or playing music, I don't give a fig for the provenance of the song, just whether or not I like it.

As for songs changing their stripes when taken into a different context, my opinion is that a traditional Irish dance tune played in the most classically stilted way imaginable is still a traditional Irish dance tune. A modern pop song sung by a person completely steeped in traditional ballad singing is still a modern pop song, even if the singer puts in lots of traditional ballad ornaments. But those kind of distinctions are only useful for talking about music, not for making music.

John


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Subject: RE: An Opinion
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 10 Sep 10 - 05:39 PM

For me there are three types of songs, Ones I wrote, Ones I didn't write, but I know who did, and ones nobody knows who wrote them.

I think that sums it up pretty well.

Another way to classify them might be, songs I like to sing, songs I don't sing but like to hear, and songs I don't much like to hear or sing.

I find it pretty hard to relate to the way some people seem to get so aerated about categories when it comes to music and somg. Do the same issues arise over whether something is traditional cookery or not? Actually they probably do in some circles.


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Subject: RE: An Opinion
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Sep 10 - 05:50 PM

Jerry - ummm -   read your opening statement.

Your only opinion is "Paul Simon and James Taylor.... (are) pretty far removed from the tradition..."

DUH???

"I started this thread with apprehension." OF What ???? That it would die a quick and uncellebrated death? Let's hope so.


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Subject: RE: An Opinion
From: Slag
Date: 11 Sep 10 - 04:01 PM

Dear GUEST, There are opinions and then there are considered opinions. Thank you for demonstrating the former.


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