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Folk Music Orthodoxy

Taconicus 11 Oct 10 - 03:19 PM
CET 11 Oct 10 - 03:37 PM
Phil Cooper 11 Oct 10 - 03:41 PM
Steve Gardham 11 Oct 10 - 04:42 PM
Richard Bridge 11 Oct 10 - 05:11 PM
McGrath of Harlow 11 Oct 10 - 05:15 PM
dick greenhaus 12 Oct 10 - 12:01 AM
Joe Offer 12 Oct 10 - 01:21 AM
The Fooles Troupe 12 Oct 10 - 01:28 AM
Bee-dubya-ell 12 Oct 10 - 01:36 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 12 Oct 10 - 04:33 AM
CET 12 Oct 10 - 04:55 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 12 Oct 10 - 05:01 AM
Leadfingers 12 Oct 10 - 05:07 AM
Taconicus 12 Oct 10 - 05:23 PM
Bat Goddess 13 Oct 10 - 12:06 PM
Taconicus 13 Oct 10 - 01:48 PM
Bat Goddess 13 Oct 10 - 02:09 PM
Will Fly 13 Oct 10 - 02:38 PM
dick greenhaus 13 Oct 10 - 02:47 PM
Leadfingers 13 Oct 10 - 03:15 PM
Santa 13 Oct 10 - 03:52 PM
GUEST,Songbob 13 Oct 10 - 04:22 PM
Desert Dancer 13 Oct 10 - 05:05 PM
Richard Bridge 13 Oct 10 - 05:09 PM
The Sandman 13 Oct 10 - 05:17 PM
Phil Edwards 13 Oct 10 - 05:28 PM
Joe Offer 13 Oct 10 - 05:31 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 13 Oct 10 - 06:33 PM
Old Vermin 13 Oct 10 - 06:54 PM
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Subject: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: Taconicus
Date: 11 Oct 10 - 03:19 PM

I play and sing once a month at the local "Irish Night" at the Stadium Restaurant and Sports Bar in Garrison, NY, a continuation of the monthly seisiúns that used to be held at Guinan's Pub. One of the songs I usually sing is Peggy Gordon.

A few weeks ago some of the "Irish Night" singers got together to play at the Irish/Celtic Festival in Peekskill. When I got there one of the fellows was singing his version of Peggy Gordon. I sat down, listened while getting my guitar ready, and of course politely applauded when he finished. He turned to me and said, very pointedly, "That's the way it's supposed to be sung." I remarked that I sang the version that I learned, and that one of the most universal traditions in folk music is that folk music changes with time, as singers embellish on previous versions or just give their own interpretation of a song. He replied that "you should have respect for the guy who wrote the song and sing it the way it was written."

Now I could have told him that the origin of Peggy Gordon is lost in antiquity and that the first known version was published in 1823 with lyrics decidedly different from the way he sang them, but I didn't want to be unpleasant about it.

But whether he was singing the original version is beside the point. My question is, how often have the rest of you run into this type of attitude, i.e., that folk songs are sacrosanct and should only be sung the "right way"?
    I removed the "origins" tag from this thread. We use "origins" for tracing the background of individual songs, and use of this tag for something more general, might be confusing.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: CET
Date: 11 Oct 10 - 03:37 PM

I have heard about this kind of attitude, but never run into it. In my experience the "folk police" are more of a myth than a reality, propagated by folkies who don't much like or understand traditional music. Your experience shows that there are some people who fit the folk police mold, but I doubt that you are likely to run into very often - certainly not if you go to the Goderich Celtic College, the FSGW Getaway or the Press Room in Portsmouth, N.H., which are the three main stars in my folk music galaxy.

This fellow has the right to disagree with some aspect of your presentation of the song, but not knowing either of you, my money would be on you since he appears to be both insufferably rude, for saying this to your face, and a musical ignoramus to boot.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 11 Oct 10 - 03:41 PM

What CET said. There are some people who think their version is "the" version, but most are more polite than the one you encountered.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 11 Oct 10 - 04:42 PM

I'm afraid I would have had to 'educate' him, but that's the teacher in me. I'd have started with asking him who he thought wrote the song. Then he'd need to have some education on the 'folk process', ah but then again, perhaps there wouldn't be any point. In reality I'd probably just have a good chuckle to meself.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 11 Oct 10 - 05:11 PM

"Supposed to be sung"?

He might have said (correctly, verifiably, or otherwise) "Those are the original words" (or "That is the original tune" or even "that is the original timing") but IMHO there is no way that a folk song is "supposed to be sung". That is a large part of the point about the definition (1954) of folk song. "Folk Song" is not a matter of style (which is hard to define, and personal) but derivation.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 11 Oct 10 - 05:15 PM

"That's the way it's supposed to be sung" is only justifiable as a comment one might make on hearing a particularly effective rendition, which might or might not be close to whatever the original version of the song might be.

Rather like the kind of compliment to give to a cook - "that's what I call a proper Shepherds Pie (or whatever)".

You'd need to be a kind of contortionist to pat yourself on the back like that fella...


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Subject: RE: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 12 Oct 10 - 12:01 AM

If you want to folk policing gone rampant, try attending a sing that works out of "Rise Up Singing", and try a different version of something.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: Joe Offer
Date: 12 Oct 10 - 01:21 AM

You have a point there, Dick. I have tried to sing different versions of songs that are in Rise Up Singing, and I have been corrected. It seems often that the people who feel compelled to correct a singer for not singing the "right way," are relative newcomers.

I could name one San Francisco old-timer who should know better, but I won't...

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 12 Oct 10 - 01:28 AM

"It seems often that the people who feel compelled to correct a singer for not singing the "right way," are relative newcomers."

The most ignorant think they know the most...

As an instrumentalist, I can vouch for that too (should never play the P/A with only one set of keyboard reeds at a time!) .... :-)

It's called 'the little yellow baby duck syndrome' - they fixate on the first thing they see and it becomes the absolute "Applehood and Mother Pie"...


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Subject: RE: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 12 Oct 10 - 01:36 AM

Give the guy a dollar and say, "Thanks for the singing lesson, _______." (Insert rude descriptor of your choice in blank.)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 12 Oct 10 - 04:33 AM

What he probably meant is that you were not singing it in the way that he first heard it.

As a fully paid up member of the Folk Police myself I must inform you that, on this occasion, it is your adversary who is guilty of an infringement. He must be apprehended and arrested forthwith and charged with the offence of being ignorant of the true nature of folk song.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: CET
Date: 12 Oct 10 - 04:55 AM

Maybe the folk police are more prevalent than I thought, judging by what Dick and Joe wrote.

I used to attend a song circle in Ottawa, but stopped going years ago because I got sick of people sticking their noses in Rise Up Singing and never learning any songs. However, I must admit that nobody ever corrected me for singing the wrong version of anything.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 12 Oct 10 - 05:01 AM

That is a large part of the point about the definition (1954) of folk song. "Folk Song" is not a matter of style (which is hard to define, and personal) but derivation.

There's your reactionary orthodoxy right there, mate! Folk Song is precisely a matter of style and idiom - its derivation (i.e the Human Creativity that was overlooked / excised by bourgeois revivalists who could in no way countenance the notion that their grubby rustic Folk sources were in actuality creative individuals) is no different from any other idiom of popular music. The 1954 Definition sounds decidedly horse-like once we redefine this term community to mean something other than a fantasy of a working-class bucolic / industrial idyll and realise that what we're dealing with here is the residue of a once-mutable idiomatic genre in which songs could (and did) mutate from one performance to the next. We should also realise that just because that particular idiom died out years ago, the working-class continued to create music, just as they do today - but because Folk is all about style and most certainly not about derivation the Folk Orthodoxy doesn't want to know.

This, of course, accounts for the myriad diversity of versions of particular songs which really ought to be a source of wonder and delight to the Folk Song Enthusiast - like the innumerable variations of The Trees They Do Grow High (one child ballad passed over by Child), but even so I've seen otherwise sensible human beings come to blows over which one is the most correct. Maybe it's a matter of purity after all, or just the terminal pedantry that yearns for the authentic, which accounts for the Folk Music Orthodoxy and the persistant policing thereof by people who really should know better.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: Leadfingers
Date: 12 Oct 10 - 05:07 AM

The only time I would query the way a song is sung is if it is NOT traditional , but has a KNOWN Composer - and my question would be on the lines of "Where did THAT version come from ?"


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Subject: RE: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: Taconicus
Date: 12 Oct 10 - 05:23 PM

Or "Hey, that's a neat version. Did your write the new lyrics yourself?" or "Is that your own arrangement?"


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Subject: RE: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 13 Oct 10 - 12:06 PM

If YOU changed it (tune/lyrics/tempo, whatever), know WHY you changed it.

To sing a traditional song, KNOW what you're singing. The most important thing is to be true to the song. Know what the source or sourcES are and how they relate to each other. Understand what changes/variations have been made between the earliest source and the version you heard that you want to sing -- and WHY. It could be geography, local customs, etc. or it could be some singer's ego and the desire to copyright a song.

If it's a written song, there's no excuse for not having the real words. If you change them, know WHY you change them, and do it only if it makes the words work better.

"Sing it right, sing it proper, sing it real." -- Jeannie Robertson

Linn


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Subject: RE: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: Taconicus
Date: 13 Oct 10 - 01:48 PM

I agree completely, Linn. In my own case, when I change the lyrics of the popular version of a folk song, it's almost always because I've done research, usually looked into Child's and examined the earlier versions, and taken the material directly from there, usually because there was something about the previous (popular) version that didn't quite make sense to me or didn't quite sound right. I generally don't make up my own lyrics, although I'm not saying there's necessarily something wrong with doing that.

An example is She Walked through the Fair (Our Wedding Day). The popular version has four verses that were an early 20th century reworking of an older version or versions. Child's contains at least two separate songs that were obviously derived from the same source. Of the (very) many verses of those songs, I chose seven verses that were consistent with both earlier versions and formed a uniform whole that made sense to me.

Here's a recording of me singing it some time ago. It's not exactly the way I wrote it down; I was doing it for memory and made a couple of mistakes.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 13 Oct 10 - 02:09 PM

It's interesting when you are convinced you're singing a song exactly as you've learned it, then go back years later to your written text and discover you've actually tweaked the words a bit, for whatever reason your brain decided. Sometimes it just rolls off the tongue easier. Truly "folk process" and not a conscious change.

Linn


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Subject: RE: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: Will Fly
Date: 13 Oct 10 - 02:38 PM

I keep hearing about "Rise Up Singing". How did the original editors of this publication choose the songs in the first place, and why has it reached such a state of orthodoxy (for want of better word)?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 13 Oct 10 - 02:47 PM

Will-
RUS is, essentially, a very good collection of campfire songs from the 70's. I know not whence it became an unofficial bible, but in many places it has.IT's reached the point where many groups refer to the book to find out what key they should sing in.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: Leadfingers
Date: 13 Oct 10 - 03:15 PM

Purists are usually a bit new to the game , or too set in 'The Old Ways' to change ! When I first got into British Trad Jazz . I thought it wasnt a 'proper' Jazz Band if it had a Guitar rather than a banjo , and a pino and ANY Saxophone ! Then I discovered a re issue of Louis Armstrongs first recordings with King Oliver in 1923 . NOT just a piano , but Jonny St Cyr playing a Six String Banjo tuned as a guitar . and on THREE tracks an Alto Sax !!
No Purist Crap from THIS kiddy , and the same thing goes with Folk
Song ! The more you KNOW the less you are inclined to be Fixed in your views


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Subject: RE: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: Santa
Date: 13 Oct 10 - 03:52 PM

I recall being in a pub one Lancaster maritime festival, where Paul Sirman attempted to sing a well-known song to a slightly different arrangement and chorus. However, lining the wall behind him were the members of three well-known shanty choruses/singing groups, including the Keelers and Th'Antiques, and he was soon shown the error of his ways when they kicked in with the proper chorus! Poor lad, he took it quite well. Not that he had a lot of choice!

I'm not quite sure of the morality of this story (other than know when you're beaten and smile), but it does seem to fit the theme of this thread.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: GUEST,Songbob
Date: 13 Oct 10 - 04:22 PM

"Rise Up Singing" started life as "The Folksinger's Wordbook," from Oak Publications, and was an attempt to provide material to the uninitiated/unschooled/uneducated beginner folk-song-fancier.

I learned to play guitar, (way) back in the day, from a similar book (though it had tunes as well as words), "The Hootenanny Songbook." For me, the book was a leg-up, a kick-start, but as soon as I encountered versions which differed from that book, I realized that the book contained only ONE version of a given song, so I felt free to take from each source what I needed or wanted (or could play & sing with my limited abilities -- like I said, I was a beginner). There are those who never progress from the first level -- I know banjo players who play EVERYTHING in "C" tuning, even the tunes better played in "G" or "D" (not to mention the 25 other standard banjo tunings found in the world).

"Rise Up" is for some people an anchor. For others, it's a grounding. You know the difference.


Bob


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Subject: RE: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 13 Oct 10 - 05:05 PM

Not that it's necessary to pursue too many details for the pursposes of this thread, but Rise Up Singing is unrelated (except perhaps in spirit) to The Folksinger's Wordbook.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 13 Oct 10 - 05:09 PM

Sweeney, that is complete gibberish and I suspect you know it. The 1954 definition works just as well with a different perspective on "community", and your prolier-than-thou re-interpreters re-interpreted just as they wished, so style could not have been fixed but must have been mutable.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Oct 10 - 05:17 PM

Santa, was I at that Lancaster Festival, I dont remember the incident


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Subject: RE: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 13 Oct 10 - 05:28 PM

"Three things there are no Catter should ever try:
Define folk music, mention Sh*w *f H*nds or challenge Suibhne to explain one of his comments with all the long words in...
...oh aye."

- Traditional Proverb


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Subject: RE: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Oct 10 - 05:31 PM

I beg to differ, Songbob-
Folksinger's Wordbook was complied edited by Fred and Irwin Silber, and published by Oak Publications in 1973. I don't think it's ever been viewed as a "hymnal" the way Rise Up Singing has been viewed.

Rise Up Singing (RUS) was compiled and edited by Peter Blood and his wife Annie Patterson, published by Sing Out! Magazine in 1988. RUS was the successor to a book with Quaker roots called Winds of the People which was unofficially published without copyright permissions, so it was more-or-less a "bootleg."

The vast majority of songs in Rise Up Singing are NOT traditional. They have known songwriters, and were published in the 20th century - so Rise Up Singing can actually claim to have the "right" version of songs much of the time. But since that's the case, some people get confused and think that ALL the lyrics in RUS are definitive. With few exceptions, the songs in Folksinger's Wordbook are traditional, and I've never heard anyone claim the lyrics in Folksinger's Wordbook to be the one-and-only "right" version.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 13 Oct 10 - 06:33 PM

The 1954 definition works just as well with a different perspective on "community",

How about a community of two songwriters? Or a community of a hip-hop crew? Or the community of a Balinese Gamelan? Or the community of a jazz group? Or a pop group? Are all these doing folk music because they're covered by the 1954 Definition? This is why the 1954 Definition is on the same level as the Horse Definition - it tells us precisely nothing about the musicological / ethnomusicolical nature of Folk Song other than in terms of Revivalist fantasy founded entirely on class condescension. The very word folk reeks of it. Folk Song is an idiom of popular song; its derivation is no different from any other idiom of popular song.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music Orthodoxy
From: Old Vermin
Date: 13 Oct 10 - 06:54 PM

Deviating to tunes and naming no names, newish fiddle player relates going to a session for the first time. Starts Dark Girl Dressed in Blue or similar. Regular leader joins in, cracks up the pace and leaves her well behind. Afterwards he says 'you must know a different version'. She asks how long he thinks she's been paying. Answer ' two or three months'. It's a year, and she reckons the only difference between them was the tempo. Mortified was the word.

I wasn't there, heard only one side of it and that later, and spent fair while telling stories about the man concerned to put her harsh experience in context. Not her - he just does the speeding up thing to new players. And to just about everybody else. As for trying to dance to it...

Mrs V seconded later with an account of the man's varying abilities background and mindset.

Best not to take these things too seriously, but can be hard not to.


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