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Classic folk music

GUEST,Neophyte 09 Jan 11 - 09:48 AM
Old Vermin 09 Jan 11 - 10:17 AM
Howard Jones 09 Jan 11 - 10:47 AM
GUEST,Neophyte 09 Jan 11 - 12:22 PM
Paul Davenport 09 Jan 11 - 12:38 PM
Old Vermin 09 Jan 11 - 12:49 PM
Jim Carroll 09 Jan 11 - 02:46 PM
Steve Gardham 09 Jan 11 - 03:11 PM
GUEST,Grishka 09 Jan 11 - 03:49 PM
Howard Jones 09 Jan 11 - 03:59 PM
framus 09 Jan 11 - 04:02 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 09 Jan 11 - 04:19 PM
Jim Carroll 09 Jan 11 - 06:13 PM
GUEST,Grishka 09 Jan 11 - 06:15 PM
Tim Leaning 09 Jan 11 - 06:17 PM
GUEST,Folkiedave 09 Jan 11 - 06:40 PM
Old Vermin 09 Jan 11 - 06:43 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 09 Jan 11 - 07:05 PM
Jim Carroll 10 Jan 11 - 03:58 AM
GUEST,Neophyte 10 Jan 11 - 04:36 AM
Old Vermin 10 Jan 11 - 05:00 AM
treewind 10 Jan 11 - 05:04 AM
treewind 10 Jan 11 - 05:07 AM
Old Vermin 10 Jan 11 - 05:45 AM
Manitas_at_home 10 Jan 11 - 05:53 AM
johnadams 10 Jan 11 - 05:59 AM
Manitas_at_home 10 Jan 11 - 06:10 AM
Paul Davenport 10 Jan 11 - 06:53 AM
Old Vermin 10 Jan 11 - 06:54 AM
Old Vermin 10 Jan 11 - 07:07 AM
GUEST,BBP at work 10 Jan 11 - 07:21 AM
GUEST,folkiedave 10 Jan 11 - 07:38 AM
andrew e 10 Jan 11 - 08:02 AM
TheSnail 10 Jan 11 - 08:03 AM
Howard Jones 10 Jan 11 - 08:04 AM
theleveller 10 Jan 11 - 08:33 AM
johnadams 10 Jan 11 - 08:58 AM
Old Vermin 10 Jan 11 - 09:02 AM
Howard Jones 10 Jan 11 - 02:34 PM
Paul Davenport 10 Jan 11 - 05:23 PM
Howard Jones 10 Jan 11 - 05:44 PM
GUEST 11 Jan 11 - 04:58 AM
Paul Davenport 11 Jan 11 - 05:08 AM
theleveller 11 Jan 11 - 05:14 AM
johnadams 11 Jan 11 - 05:31 AM
Jim Carroll 11 Jan 11 - 06:20 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 11 Jan 11 - 06:27 AM
GUEST 11 Jan 11 - 06:34 AM
GUEST 11 Jan 11 - 06:50 AM
theleveller 11 Jan 11 - 06:59 AM
Black belt caterpillar wrestler 11 Jan 11 - 07:29 AM
Jim Carroll 11 Jan 11 - 08:11 AM
GUEST,LDT 11 Jan 11 - 08:30 AM
Ron Davies 11 Jan 11 - 08:38 AM
Steve Gardham 11 Jan 11 - 09:15 AM
Rob Naylor 11 Jan 11 - 09:26 AM
Manitas_at_home 11 Jan 11 - 09:44 AM
Paul Davenport 11 Jan 11 - 10:35 AM
Jim Carroll 11 Jan 11 - 11:20 AM
Paul Davenport 11 Jan 11 - 12:22 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 11 Jan 11 - 12:54 PM
Howard Jones 11 Jan 11 - 03:07 PM
treewind 11 Jan 11 - 03:32 PM
Joe Offer 11 Jan 11 - 03:33 PM
maeve 11 Jan 11 - 05:36 PM
Howard Jones 11 Jan 11 - 05:37 PM
Seamus Kennedy 11 Jan 11 - 05:38 PM
Tootler 11 Jan 11 - 06:01 PM
treewind 11 Jan 11 - 06:59 PM
Jim Carroll 12 Jan 11 - 03:30 AM
theleveller 12 Jan 11 - 03:48 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 12 Jan 11 - 04:38 AM
Jim Carroll 12 Jan 11 - 05:06 AM
Paul Davenport 12 Jan 11 - 05:12 AM
greg stephens 12 Jan 11 - 05:29 AM
treewind 12 Jan 11 - 06:23 AM
treewind 12 Jan 11 - 07:11 AM
Howard Jones 12 Jan 11 - 07:12 AM
Black belt caterpillar wrestler 12 Jan 11 - 07:23 AM
Old Vermin 12 Jan 11 - 07:28 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 12 Jan 11 - 07:51 AM
theleveller 12 Jan 11 - 07:53 AM
Jim Carroll 12 Jan 11 - 07:57 AM
Black belt caterpillar wrestler 12 Jan 11 - 07:59 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 12 Jan 11 - 08:01 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 12 Jan 11 - 08:10 AM
theleveller 12 Jan 11 - 08:15 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 12 Jan 11 - 08:34 AM
theleveller 12 Jan 11 - 08:41 AM
theleveller 12 Jan 11 - 08:49 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 12 Jan 11 - 09:23 AM
theleveller 12 Jan 11 - 09:34 AM
Jim Carroll 12 Jan 11 - 09:42 AM
Jim Carroll 12 Jan 11 - 09:44 AM
Sue Allan 12 Jan 11 - 10:12 AM
Sue Allan 12 Jan 11 - 10:13 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 12 Jan 11 - 10:23 AM
theleveller 12 Jan 11 - 10:28 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 12 Jan 11 - 10:40 AM
theleveller 12 Jan 11 - 11:20 AM
MGM·Lion 12 Jan 11 - 12:15 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 12 Jan 11 - 12:41 PM
Paul Davenport 12 Jan 11 - 01:08 PM
Don Firth 12 Jan 11 - 03:39 PM
GUEST,glueman 12 Jan 11 - 05:26 PM
GUEST,Richard I 12 Jan 11 - 05:40 PM
GUEST 12 Jan 11 - 05:48 PM
theleveller 13 Jan 11 - 03:22 AM
Jim Carroll 13 Jan 11 - 04:08 AM
theleveller 13 Jan 11 - 04:23 AM
GUEST,glueman 13 Jan 11 - 04:41 AM
Jim Carroll 13 Jan 11 - 05:41 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 13 Jan 11 - 05:44 AM
treewind 13 Jan 11 - 05:44 AM
Paul Davenport 13 Jan 11 - 05:48 AM
theleveller 13 Jan 11 - 06:40 AM
Jim Carroll 13 Jan 11 - 10:27 AM
Jim Carroll 13 Jan 11 - 10:31 AM
theleveller 14 Jan 11 - 03:32 AM
GUEST,glueman 14 Jan 11 - 04:12 AM
Jim Carroll 14 Jan 11 - 04:12 AM
Smedley 14 Jan 11 - 04:41 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 14 Jan 11 - 05:31 AM
GUEST,glueman 14 Jan 11 - 06:29 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 14 Jan 11 - 06:38 AM
theleveller 14 Jan 11 - 06:40 AM
Jim Carroll 14 Jan 11 - 10:21 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 14 Jan 11 - 10:27 AM
theleveller 14 Jan 11 - 11:10 AM
GUEST,glueman 14 Jan 11 - 11:13 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 14 Jan 11 - 01:56 PM
GUEST,glueman 14 Jan 11 - 02:16 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 14 Jan 11 - 08:36 PM
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Subject: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Neophyte
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 09:48 AM

I was lucky enough to hear a group of young people from the North East of England playing some beautiful folk tunes and was struck by their talents. Surely now that there are so many young musicians playing at this level we might once again hear the folk music arrangements of Vaughan-Williams, Butterworth and Grainger as examples of how wonderful the English folk tradition is? Why are these wonderful works rejected in favour of, frankly, rather inferior modernisations of folk themes?


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Old Vermin
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 10:17 AM

Could you perhaps clarify the question?

Arrangements by RV-W and others do of course remain in the canon.

I was just wondering what you mean by the seemingly pejorative "frankly, rather inferior modernisations of folk themes" and why you think these are inferior.

I look forward to an illuminating correspondence.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Howard Jones
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 10:47 AM

The folk music arrangements of Vaughan-Williams, Butterworth and Grainger are not examples of "how wonderful the English folk tradition is". They are arrangements of the folk tradition, and in this respect are no different from what modern revival folk musicians are doing.

The composers took traditional tunes and arranged them according to the disciplines and instrumentation of classical music. Modern folk musicians take traditional tunes and arrange them to suit a different audience, using different instrumentation, and for a different performing environment.

The composers were using traditional tunes as inspiration to create new works within the genre of classical music, and for the concert platform. The intention of folk musicians is (on the whole) to embellish tradition tunes to appeal to modern audiences, in a different and usually more informal performing environment.

Whether these are "inferior" is a matter of taste. They are not trying to do the same thing. Both are adaptations of folk, rather than true representations of the tradition.

As for why the works of RVW, Butterworth, Grainger and others are not performed more, you are asking the wrong forum. You should be asking a classical music forum. Despite taking their inspiration from folk tunes, these works were never part of the folk genre.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Neophyte
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 12:22 PM

I seem to be in error. I had assumed that the use of folk themes used to create musical works was de facto, how the tradition of folk music was continued? The young people I heard were polished and professional in their approach and reflected perfectly the values of classical music. I had thought that Vaughan-Williams was a true apologist for the developing tradition of folk song.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 12:38 PM

Neophyte writes; 'a true apologist for the developing tradition of folk song.'
I think this might better be answered by more extensive listening. I would personally suggest that you try to get hold of some of the CDs from the 'Voice of the People' collection. You might then have a better idea of what you call 'the tradition of folk music'. MInd you, Howard raises an interesting point above, 'you are asking the wrong forum. You should be asking a classical music forum. ' Howard, should'nt we be talking to a 'pop' music forum if we want to examine the work of Jim Moray?


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Old Vermin
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 12:49 PM

"Apologist"? Really? An interesting thought.

I think one might ask on whether notated, arranged classical works for formal public performance which draw on folk tunes are a continuation of the tradition or a high-art development parallel with the tradition. There is a perceptible difference in spirit between, say, When I was Bachelor sung from memory in a pub with dirty-minded choruses and the same song arranged and accompanied by Benjamin Britten and sung by Peter Pears in front of a decorous audience.


Worth remarking that Britten's arrangement now sounds dated, as, to my ears anyway, does Grainger.


The tradition does of course draw on classical or art sources. Obvious thing is Michael Turner's Waltz which started life as a fragment of a Mozart German Dance.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 02:46 PM

Whether Grainger, Vaughan Williams et al sound out of date or not is a matter of personal taste - Butterworth's 'Banks of Green Willow' still gets me as one of the most beautiful pieces of orchestral composition of all times.
Folk music, it ain't, and was never claimed to be by their composers, some of whom put in the time listening to the real thing.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 03:11 PM

Jim, for once me and thee are in complete accord! They can be as 'out-of-date in taste' as you like for me. I love the rough and ready versions, and I love what the composers did with them, but they are very different beasties.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 03:49 PM

Adaptation of folk tunes to "learned" contexts is almost as old as Western music, in the 15th century it even was one of the main genres, notably in France and present-day Belgium, but also in other countries including England. Quite a number of folk songs are only known today because of such adaptations. Are they folk? Probably not, but they were often sung by non-professionals for their own pleasure. In later times, chorals of the Lutheran tradition, i.e. real folk songs, were the spine of Protestant church music. In Bach's cantatas and oratorios, the whole parish was supposed to join in singing the chorals.

Many classical composers wrote nice arrangements of folk songs in the "pastoral" taste. Beethoven with his English songs is just one out of many. Bartók is the father of modern folklorism; he inspired RVW and the others.

Most of all that music was meant to be executed by amateurs, but professionals perform it as well, in concert halls an on CDs.

Summary: not much news; label it as you please.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Howard Jones
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 03:59 PM

The tradition of folk music continues through the tradition. Other treatments, whether by classical composers or folk revival musicians, are just that - treatments. Perfectly valid in their own way, but not part of the tradition.

The tradition is one thing. Interpretations, whether by classical musicians, folk revival musicians or pop musicians, are something else.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: framus
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 04:02 PM

May I make a nod to the Irish equivalent of the "classicization" of folk, similar to Vaughan-Williams et al.
Mainly I would suggest Sean O'Riada who has produced many excellent orchestrations of a plethora of Irish folk melodies.
Of course Mr. Tchaikowsky made a brave fist of it in Russia too.
Cheers, Davy.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 04:19 PM

The young people I heard were polished and professional in their approach and reflected perfectly the values of classical music.

Troubadour Raimbaut de Vaqueiras (c. 1155-1207) is said to have collected the melody for his celebrated Kalenda Maia from the duelling fiddles of two jongluers, often assumed to be vernacular types (i.e. folk musicians) though his Razo isn't too clear on this. Interesting though the episode is, I much prefer his account of spying through a knothole on the wife of Enric del Carret as she brandished her husband's sword around her chamber in her underwear, naming her his Bel Cavalier thereafter.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 06:13 PM

"Most of all that music was meant to be executed by amateurs,"
Amature is one of those 'odd' words; most folk (proper) musicicians did not perform for money, though a few did.
On the other hand, the level of skill that came with some singing and playing when the tradition was still alive challenged some of the best classical playing. I remember seeing Yehudi Menuin lay his violin aside and admit he could not compete with a couple of Scots fiddle players.
To hear folk at its best, try to get hold of a recording of Bert Lloyd's radio programme, 'Folk Music Virtoso' - still stunning, even forty years later.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 06:15 PM

Davy framus, funny that you mention Tchaikovsky, who certainly "made a brave fist of it", but all other Russian composers of that time did even more so. Many composers in Europe and America once more looked for inspiration by folk music, from their own countries or from other ones such as Spain. And quite a number of tunes and dances, newly composed in folkloristic styles, later made their way into genuine (?) folklore, i.e. were and are performed by traditional ensembles - bad luck for the categorizers.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 06:17 PM

oh dear lol


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Folkiedave
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 06:40 PM

I was fortunate to be at a concert with Alistair Anderson, Catriona McKay, Donald Grant, and Peter Cropper. The first three have a foot in both the classical and folk camps.

Peter Cropper who was a famous classical violinist (he plays a Strad and very well too) admitted he could not play like the other three - just did not have the "voice".

It was illustrated by Donald Grant playing a short jig and then Peter playing the same piece. It wasn't right!!


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Old Vermin
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 06:43 PM

Jim - may I mention that when I used 'dated' it was in the sense of being very much of that era. 'Out of date' meaning obsolescent or obsolete wasn't what I intended.

I feel that Grainger's and Britten's arrangements haven't worn as well as Vaughan-Williams, Holst or Butterworth, but this is indeed a personal judgement.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 07:05 PM

Bert Lloyd's radio programme, 'Folk Music Virtoso'

You have this, JC? I lost my cassette copies years ago.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 03:58 AM

Suibhne Astray,
PM me.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Neophyte
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 04:36 AM

I'm sorry if I've caused an argument, I was merely trying to ascertain why these works by these fine composers lacked performance time when clearly there are so many musicians in folk music capable of playing them. I noticed that other types of music using the folk tradition seem to be acceptable but not these. Is there a reason for this?


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Old Vermin
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:00 AM

May I refer the Neophyte to folkiedave's anecdote.

Classical playing and folk playing differ. Some instrumentalists can do both. Classical playing tends to be very score-dependent. Folk playing may do without dots altogether or use them merely as a rough guide.

At extremes, a classically-trained player may be unable to play be ear, at least on first immersion in a session, while a folk player may be unable to read a score.

It may also help to consider the instrumentation and personnel required for what may be an orchestral setting.

I'm fairly sure that the orchestral pieces are still done once in a while by classical ensembles. I'm equally sure that if a fiddler [perhaps with others] should do Greensleeves followed by Lovely Joan, or whatever the sequence is, it may coincide with the tunes in a particular classical setting, but won't be that setting.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: treewind
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:04 AM

"I seem to be in error. I had assumed that the use of folk themes used to create musical works was de facto, how the tradition of folk music was continued?

No, it's a cross-fertilisation between two musical cultures. Not a bad thing in itself, but what RVW wrote wasn't folk music. It goes both ways too - Michael Turner's Waltz was written by Mozart and Hungarian gypsy bands are playing Brahms!

The young people I heard were polished and professional in their approach and reflected perfectly the values of classical music.

That's an interesting observation and also the gateway to a can of worms. There's a discussion that comes up from time to time, where one side says that folk performers should be competent or nobody will come (and especially pay) to listen to them, and laments the poor standard of floor singers in folk clubs. The other side says that folk music is the music of the people and should be inclusive and welcoming and anyone should be allowed to have a go.

But that aside, there's a distinction to be made in the above quote. A polished performance by virtuoso musicians has its place in folk music (in my opinion) and it has something in common with classical music, but a performance even of highly arranged folk music by folk musicians is not the same thing as a piece of art music that happens to use folk tunes as a source of melodic material. Vaughan William's music was and will always be for the concert hall, and I don't think many folk musicians buy CDs of his music to learn tunes from. Nor would it be advisable for an aspiring folk singer to learn songs from Britten's arrangements.

Incidentally, I know there are famous examples of highly trained classical musicians being unable to play folk music convincingly, but I don't think that means it's impossible. It just means they haven't spent enough time playing folk music to get the feel of it - if they did, they'd be able to do both. There are better known examples of jazz musicians being perfectly at home in the classical world, and if you look carefully you'll find some of the bass and brass sections of the London orchestras playing in the jazz clubs on their nights off.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: treewind
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:07 AM

Excellent post from Old Vermin while I was composing mine... agreed on all points.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Old Vermin
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:45 AM

Thank you, Treewind

Veering off-topic, I'm glad to hear the two of you are performing at Guildford later this year.


Had a chuckle at your merest suggestion of modelling oneself on a Britten arrangement.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:53 AM

LTS who can't be arsed to log out:

Neophyte - I sing both folk and classical music, because I love singing. Getting an audience to pay to attend a folk concert seems to be a bloody sight easier than getting one to pay to attend a classical concert. These days classical music, particularly choral classical, is a hard gig to sell - who needs to go out to see an obscure choir in an unknown venue which is usually cold, uncomfortable and a long way from home, when you can sit in your own sofa, with Classic FM and a mug of tea? People want to hear the big, familiar numbers like Messiah or Creation, and hear it in the Royal Albert Hall or St Martin in the Fields which can be cold and uncomfortable and are a long way from most people's homes but have the kudos of being famous venues. When my choir last performed at St Martin's, we had an audience of over 400, most of whom were drawn by the programme and the venue (Mozart's Requiem). That's 4 times our average audience now - not a reflection on the abilities of the choir or conductor, but rather on the venues we are restricted to and the material we can afford to produce because no-one really wants to come out to classical concerts by a small choir in unfamiliar venues.



East London Chorus, the choir I sing with, have in the past, sung the very arrangements mentioned in the first post. To a classical choir, they are flimsy, old fashioned and without substance when compared with more popular classical works. Because they are unfamiliar, your ordinary paying punter won't part with their hard earned cash to sit in a cold venue to hear them live, when for less than the cost of a concert ticket, they can download the CD. Get them played every week on Classic FM and maybe we'll stand a chance of getting a paying audience should we choose to perform them. if we do, I shall post here and expect to see you in the audience.

To a folk singer, the arrangements are stilted and confined.   To someone who is used to making up their own harmonies, blending with others, belting out the rude bits with gusto or singing the piece solo, the classical arrangements are restricting, suffocating and terribly twee. There is no scope for improvisation or freedom of expression. Everything you sing is the conductors' interpretation of a composer's piece - even if the composer was involved in the original collection of the folk song as RVW and Grainger were. In my head I see it as the difference between a kitchen chair and a Chippendale chair - the kitchen chair - folk - is there to be used often, but the Chippendale - classical arrangement - is for very special occasions and then only with great care and delicacy.

Having said that though, I am sneakily introducing proper folk carols into our repertoire - we have recently been wowing diners at the Ritz Hotel by singing 'While Shepherd's watched' to 'Ilkley Moor' in the Yorkshire Carols tradition and, in his own words, making 'an old Yorkshireman very happy' - the 'old Yorkshireman' who actually ran over to sing a verse with us, being Alan Titchmarsh!

Anyway.... those young musicians may well have talent, but it is also possible that they haven't the slightest clue who Grainger was or what RVW did to a lot of folk tunes (i.e., steal them, rearrange them and turn them into hymn tunes). If you tried to make them play those arrangements, the resulting sound would be completely and utterly different. Folk is an evolving genre - it is music of the people and people don't stand still. The bare bones of the tune may still be recognisable, like an old photograph of yourself from 1972, but to compare the same tune now to that captured image from the past, is futile and often depressing.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: johnadams
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:59 AM

Jim Carroll wrote: To hear folk at its best, try to get hold of a recording of Bert Lloyd's radio programme, 'Folk Music Virtoso' - still stunning, even forty years later.
Jim Carroll


Suibhne et al,

I have this programme in the Paul Graney Audio Archive and can make it available for download later today.

Johnny A


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 06:10 AM

LTS again;

Not to mention the fact that the classical interpretations are for classical instruments. The quality and variety of sound produced by a traditional orchestra will never be the same as the quality and variety of sound produced by 3 fiddles, 2 melodeons and a shaky egg. The best orchestra in the world will never have the flexibility or sheer guttiness of an Anglo Concertina, and those talented young musicians would be all at sea when presented with 'Zadok the Priest' to play.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 06:53 AM

Howard wrote; 'The tradition is one thing. Interpretations, whether by classical musicians, folk revival musicians or pop musicians, are something else.'
Dead right Howard. Yet the current folk scene seems to value 'traditional' music less than the others named, as exemplified by nature of the 'headline' acts at festivals.
As to whether there is a likelihood of hearing a chamber orchestra on the main stage at any folk festival in UK I think Neophyte may have a very long wait but some of the stuff I've heard in the last couple of years is less like folk than Butterworth's 'Banks of Green Willow' (on which I thoroughly agree with Jim.)


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Old Vermin
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 06:54 AM

Seems a good moment to mention the Hook Eagle Morris approach to tunes:

" Nothing at all is played as written. Well-known tunes are recognisable, but ...."

Hook Eagle Music

Now what is this if it is not in the current tradition?

For pure amusement, see Hook Eagle rules for musicians

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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Old Vermin
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 07:07 AM

Paul Davenport - Yet the current folk scene seems to value 'traditional' music less than the others named, as exemplified by nature of the 'headline' acts at festivals

Ah, the distinction between traditional folk scene and the festivals. Festivals have to sell tickets to punters: the traditional folk scene lives in pubs and clubs, has a strong Morris element and is done for ourselves rather than as a commercial operation.

I don't think I'm alone in having dropped into the Festival Dance House tent at Towersey to hear Jim Moray, giving him ten minutes and going back very fast to the ceilidh tent.

Towersey does have a core of traditional sessions and performance, but elsewhere "Folk" in a festival title isn't necessarily a good guide to the content.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,BBP at work
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 07:21 AM

I'm in total agreement with LTS, as I have a foot (or a vocal chord)in both the folk and classical camps. She has said exactly what I'd say but so much better!


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,folkiedave
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 07:38 AM

"...... but elsewhere "Folk" in a festival title isn't necessarily a good guide to the content".

Quite right. That is why I always look at the list of artists to decide whether I go there or not.

How do you know you are going to like the artists at a sing around?

In fact of course here at the epicentre of the folk universe in Sheffield, we have all sorts of concerts.

http://www.musicintheround.co.uk/event.php?id=195


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: andrew e
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 08:02 AM

I've sung in a choir 5 Traditional Songs arranged by John Rutter.
The Girl I Left behind Me
O Waly Waly
The British Grenadiers
Golden Slumbers
Dashing Away With The Smoothing Iron

Folk it ain't. They're arranged to sound classical I imagine, or maybe just because of the arranger's musical training.

Similar thing with Gospel songs arranged in a classical way.

They don't do much for me!


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: TheSnail
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 08:03 AM

treewind

That's an interesting observation and also the gateway to a can of worms. There's a discussion that comes up from time to time, where one side says that folk performers should be competent or nobody will come (and especially pay) to listen to them, and laments the poor standard of floor singers in folk clubs. The other side says that folk music is the music of the people and should be inclusive and welcoming and anyone should be allowed to have a go.

I'm probably going to regret giving this particular can of worms a nudge but I have to protest the implication that encouraging people to have a go inevitably leads to poor standards. In my experience, people who want to perform want to perform well. Some of them may fall short of their ambitions but most do well enough and some excel.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Howard Jones
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 08:04 AM

"I was merely trying to ascertain why these works by these fine composers lacked performance time when clearly there are so many musicians in folk music capable of playing them"

The short answer is that these pieces are not folk, so you won't find them performed in a folk environment. You will find them played in a different environment and to a very different audience. Folk audiences and classical audiences have very different expectations and values.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: theleveller
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 08:33 AM

The difference between classic folk music (ie folk standards) and classical folk music is that the latter is an exercise in composition and arrangement using folk themes or tunes and is usually performed by orchestral musicians. So, for instance, Vaughan Williams' Variations of Dives and Lazarus is a very different animal to Martin Simpson singing Dives and Lazarus. The only connection is the basic tune. Both good - just different.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: johnadams
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 08:58 AM

Here's a link to the preview/download page for the Bert Lloyd radio documentary referred to above by Jim Carroll.

Sadly, it's not one of the better recordings in the archive having suffered some tape degradation in the years before it was digitised. Maybe you've got a better copy Jim?

It's a 110mB file - a one hour programme.

The Folk Music Virtuoso


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Old Vermin
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 09:02 AM

Howard Jones Folk audiences and classical audiences have very different expectations and values

Just trying to remember the last classical concert I attended. Too long ago? No, on the South Bank, smaller hall, all the Brandenburg concertos in one day. I'm fairly sure that my expectations if not necessarily values vary depending on who and what I'm going to hear.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Howard Jones
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 02:34 PM

Old Vermin, I agree entirely. I wasn't suggesting that folk audiences have lower expectations and values than classical audiences (or vice versa), simply that they depend on, as you say, who and what they're going to hear.

I would be very happy to hear RVW, Butterworth or Grainger as part of a classical concert. However if I went to a folk event I would expect to hear something closer to the real thing - or if not, at least something arranged with more regard to the tradition from which it came, rather than according to the rules of classical music.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:23 PM

Howard wrote; 'I would expect to hear something closer to the real thing' Really? I'm not sure that very much of what we folkies listen to is very close to the 'real' thing Howard. There's a huge tendency to process the material so that it sounds like something 'more modern' or 'up to date'. As an artist specialising in a relatively obscure singing tradition I can safely assume that the vast majority of folk clubs and festivals are not interested in booking me. That's not to say that I can't appreciate modern music using 'folk themes', I like Gloristrokes and am a great fan of the Demon Barber Roadshow, both whom are great acts but about as far from 'the real thing' as one can get.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Howard Jones
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:44 PM

Which was what I tried to convey with the second part of my sentence. Whilst it is true that most performers on the folk scene are some distance from the "real thing", it seems to me that most of them are trying to find new and different ways of interpreting the material, which respects the underlying tradition even if it diverges from it.
The classical composers on the other hand are using folk themes to create something entirely new within their own genre - a very different approach.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 04:58 AM

Well there are two of you using the phrase "real thing".

Surely you need to tell me what the "real thing" is?

I go on a regular basis, generally at a particular time of the year - but sometimes not, and sing what most people would regard as traditional songs - in the company of others - learnt orally and have done so now for the past 35 years or so. Does that make me a traditional singer?


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 05:08 AM

Guest writes; 'Does that make me a traditional singer?'
That's a fair question Guest. In my world the answer is Yes. That's because I tend towards the viewpoint of Ethnomusicology whereas the 'folk police' would say, No, you're a revivalist singer. Nobody has satisfactorily explained this distinction to me so I stand by my initial response. There is a further problem here and that is the context of your singing. In my world you just described a 'traditional' context whereas a folk club would be a revival context. In my own family it was frowned on to sing other family members songs so 'oral transmission' was minimal unless the singer taught the song to you. This too is a traditional context but its not accepted by many folkies. I'm just working on a manuscript collection in which a particular singer was taught a song by her father by the means of a written text. There was no attempt at oral transmission and yet she is one of Vaughan-Williams' informants. Go figure.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: theleveller
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 05:14 AM

At what point in the life and transition of a traditional song is it the "real thing"? Does time then stand still at that point and the song is allowed to develop no further? To my mind a traditional song, no matter how, where or by whom it is performed is real - certainly for the performer.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: johnadams
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 05:31 AM

Absolutely. And surely, in a living tradition (if that's what we call what we do), the latest style of presentation is the only real thing.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 06:20 AM

'folk police'
Is it not possible to conduct these discussions without infantile name-calling Paul - shame on you!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 06:27 AM

To my mind a traditional song, no matter how, where or by whom it is performed is real - certainly for the performer.

It's a different sort of reality though. The irony here is that any Traditional Song is no longer Traditional when it is sung in the name of The Tradition - or of Folk. I dare say to the trained ethnomusicologist there will be a Traditional Level to Revival Performance, but your average Folknik will be as innocent of that as the fish is of the water through which it swims. In short - the Folklore of Folk isn't quite what Folkniks think it is.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 06:34 AM

Guest asked
"I go on a regular basis, generally at a particular time of the year - but sometimes not, and sing what most people would regard as traditional songs - in the company of others - learnt orally and have done so now for the past 35 years or so. Does that make me a traditional singer?"

I wonder whether the context of his/her singing makes a difference to whether you call it traditional?

E.g. carols in a Yorkshire pub
football songs on the terraces
back of the bus songs
festival singaround songs.

But maybe we've had other threads on 'what is folk?'


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 06:50 AM

Help. The above post was me, it has logged me out, won't let me log in, won't recognise my password or email address. It had a go-slow when I was trying to post that, too.
Mo the caller


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: theleveller
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 06:59 AM

"It's a different sort of reality though."

Hmmm....I think we're getting into the metaphysics of folk here.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 07:29 AM

Folk tunes have been used to create Classical style pieces and classical pieces have been used to create Progressive Rock (Keith Emerson does it all the time) so a folk tune could end up anywhere!

The act of setting down the tune in dots that are then slavishly adhered to is what ruins it for me.

If you read Yehudi Menuin's autobiography you will find that he admitted to finding improvisation very difficult.

I am convinced that there is a learned skill in playing by ear that is distinct form the abillity to play from music, however good the musician is technically. This was always apparent at concertina weekends where as a finishing session we would all play together. There were those whom I know to be excellent dot players who could not play simple folk tunes as they did not have the dots in front of them. Over the years they got better at it, presumably realissing that they needed to develop the skill and attempting to do so.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 08:11 AM

"Does that make me a traditional singer?"
I don't think it does - what you are describing is repetition, not tradition.
To pharaphrase Bert Lloyd's statement in 'Folk Song in England' if what you describe makes you a traditional singer, then we will have to find a new term to describe Sam Larner, Walter Pardon and Harry Cox, because their place in the tradition is, without doubt, very different from yours.
"The irony here is that any Traditional Song is no longer Traditional when it is sung in the name of The Tradition"
So the fact that many of the traditional singers we have met and recorded have described their songs as traditional, then means their songs are no longer traditional? Hmmmm!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 08:30 AM

Nearest I've got to a classical concert was proms in the park...but I only went because bellowhead were playing that year.
Was quite disappointed the classical lot didn't want to jump up n down (I got some odd looks from those nearby).
For me I like the 'interactive' aspect of 'folk' music.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Ron Davies
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 08:38 AM

I would agree with those who feel classical arrangements of folk songs often lose a lot. When listening to such an arrangement, it's a question of whether you enjoy the style of the arranger, rather than whether you like the original folk song--since there will be far more of the arranger's flavor than of the original song.    Like some other posters, I also have a foot in both camps. And I'd have to say I far prefer the original songs by and large.   Though I really do enjoy the Vaughn Williams folk song suite--for orchestra or band.   And some others of his settings.   Especially what appears to be the standard arrangement of "On Linden Lea"--though the dialect is of course missing in the version I have bought.    Vaughn Williams appears to have been the most successful composer in giving folk songs another life--but maybe that's just since I like his style in general.

My large choral group recently did a CD of Grainger arrangements. I'd have to say the only arrangement I thought was successful was the "Air from County Derry."    Perhaps it helped that it was wordless--the chorus just an instrument.

But Grainger had some truly wacky ideas, to my mind.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 09:15 AM

I'm enjoying the thread but it's veering dangerously close to the same old weary arguments.

....and for the second time on a thread I find myself in agreement with Jim! Unprecedented!


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 09:26 AM

I agree, Steve, the discussion of classical arrangements based on folk melodies v folk melodies played or sung in a looser "folky" tradition is interesting...but the way it's veering into another dreary "what is folk?" thread is not at all interesting.

Looking back at the first couple of dozen posts, it seems that the OP has real trouble in understanding the point made by The Leveller (and several others, ie:

The difference between classic folk music (ie folk standards) and classical folk music is that the latter is an exercise in composition and arrangement using folk themes or tunes and is usually performed by orchestral musicians. So, for instance, Vaughan Williams' Variations of Dives and Lazarus is a very different animal to Martin Simpson singing Dives and Lazarus. The only connection is the basic tune. Both good - just different.

Yes, a fair number of young folk musicians coming through now are "classically trained" and are very competent, but they've chosen to take their development in a looser direction than playing in an orchestra, so for me it's perfectly easy to understand why they don't get together en-mass to perform classical arrangements based on folk tunes.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 09:44 AM

Ron - oddly enough, one of our tenors is called Ron Davis, but I digress - Linden Lea works because before RVW wrote the tune everyone knows for the poem by William Barnes. If it had a tune before, it wasn't noted anywhere that I've been able to find. It's the only tune I know that will also fit the words of 'Jerusalem', which also started out as a poem, rather than a hymn.

As for John Rutter - I loathe and detest his work, both secular and sacred so any assessment of his folk song arrangements is going to be flawed for me. Now if Howard Goodall were to start looking at the folk genre for inspiration, I would be an avid listener.

You will get the same argument whether it's classical composer arranging sea shanties or a folk band doing a Queens of the Stone Age number... sometimes it works but mostly it doesn't. That doesn't mean to say it shouldn't be tried. AFter all, one should try everything once except incest and folk dancing.


LTS (still can't be arsed to log out)


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 10:35 AM

folk police'
Is it not possible to conduct these discussions without infantile name-calling Paul - shame on you!
Jim Carroll'

Sorry Jim, I don't have an adequate term for the people I mean. That is those who, 'know what they like' but who don't actually know anything at all about traditional music. The sort of people who say, and here I quote; "I have no intention of learning to read music because it will spoil the purity of my singing." or "That's not a traditional ballad, it's less than a hundred years old". I could go on. Please feel free to provide a more grown up term for me to use.
Paul


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 11:20 AM

"Sorry Jim, I don't have an adequate term for the people I mean."
Then we may as well dispense with all argument and hurl 'finger-in-ear'
or 'folkie opportunist', - or 'snigger-snogwriter' at each other.
If such creatures as 'folk police' actually exist, I would have thought they were the ones who attempt to circumvent real discussion by attaching meaningless and often extremely insulting labels (I would nominate 'folk fascist' for an Oscar).
"....and for the second time on a thread I find myself in agreement with Jim! Unprecedented!"
Watch it Steve - people will say we're in love!!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 12:22 PM

Meanwhile, back on the thread.
'Vaughan Williams' Variations of Dives and Lazarus is a very different animal to Martin Simpson singing Dives and Lazarus. '
Of course it is, but then Bellowhead's rendition of 'Whiskey Johnny' on the telly the other week is just as far removed from a sea shanty as the two examples above. If I read 'Neophyte's ' original question right, the question is why we accept one and not the other. (Perhaps he/she would like to come back in and correct me or otherwise?) Fact is, we folkies do tend to accept all sorts of interpretations on folk themes, some more way out than others, but we don't extend the same tolerance to 'classical' music using the same thematic material. I know we can like this or that piece but overall we do make a much bigger seperation between that musical world and ours than we do with any other.
A friend of mine once said. "Of course Walter (Bulwer) had a classical training?we don't know who did it to him but?' says it all.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 12:54 PM

"But maybe we've had other threads on 'what is folk?'"

Understatement of the millenium!!!


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Howard Jones
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 03:07 PM

Why do we accept Bellowhead and not Vaughn Williams?

For me, the difference is one of intention. It seems to me that Bellowhead's arrangements are intended to adorn the song and present it in a particular way, whereas RVW and other composers use the song as a framework upon which to create an entirely new piece of art.

Bellowhead's versions, no matter how complex or outrageous, remain arrangements. The composers' works are new compositions, entire in themselves - whilst they make use of folk melodies, these are for inspiration, to be built upon to create something larger.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: treewind
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 03:32 PM

I'm not sure that the "arrangements" vs. "composition" argument is very strong. To some extent RVW made an arrangement, and Bellowhead are composing stuff around traditional material.

To me the big and much clearer difference is that with RVW, the composer sets in stone every note that is to be played, and the orchestra plays no part in that creative process. Many different orchestras will play Vaughan Williams' work, using the same instruments playing the same notes.

On the other hand, Bellowhead's arrangement is for Bellowhead alone to play, and if another band want to do a version of the same song, they will most likely have different instruments and make a quite different version of it.

In other words, in folk music the performers have huge creative freedom over the details of the music, whereas in classical music they do not. That's the point LTS was making about her choirs, and also one of the reasons why I like doing folk music (and I've played in orchestras, string quartets etc. as well so I know what that's like)

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Joe Offer
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 03:33 PM

Ho the caller -
Please send me an e-mail. I tried to contact you, but the e-mail address on your registration doesn't work.
Thanks.
-Joe Offer-
joe@mudcat.org


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: maeve
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 05:36 PM

Um...that would be "Mo" the Caller. :)
    It's really cold here and my frozen fingers aren't typing right. That's my excuse and I'm stickin' to it. -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Howard Jones
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 05:37 PM

I suppose the idea I am trying to get across is that for a folk musician the song remains central, no matter how complex or off-the-wall the arrangement, whereas for the composer it is generally just a starting point. As always, there will be exceptions on both sides.

Of course there were composers from the classical camp who most definitely did arrange folk songs - Sharp and Britten, for example. The reason they are not heard much (in the folk world at least) is partly instrumentation but also fashion - they just sound very dated and out-of-style compared with the direction folk music has gone in the years since. But the same could be said for the guitar-and-voice arrangements of folk singers from the 50s and 60s.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 05:38 PM

I've asked this question before on several threads when the subject of 'source' and 'revivalist' came up, and never received a satisfactory answer: when a source singer dies, does a revivalist singer with a similar repertoire then become a source singer to replace him/her?

I'm serious.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Tootler
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 06:01 PM

Possibly because those who insist on such distinctions don't have one or at least not a satisfactory one.

I always feel that the term "revival singer" carries a slightly pejorative tone.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: treewind
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 06:59 PM

"when a source singer dies, does a revivalist singer with a similar repertoire then become a source singer to replace him/her?"

You don't have to wait for people to die - it's happening faster than that - and the terms "source singer" and "revivalist" are very dated and don't have to be rigorously applied each time a song is transmitted from one singer to another.

I've seen it happpen, in fact I've been indirectly involved. A song is put together by a "revival" singer from collected sources, recorded and sung live and that becomes the "source" for someone else to rewrite their own take on the song, and then someone else does their version of that song.

Those so-called "source" singers - where did they get their songs from? Some may have been passed on through the family, but a lot came from the radio, the music hall and the stage. They wouldn't have called themselves source singers, though they knew some songs were older than others. And as Steve Tilston never tires of telling us, ALL of those songs were once written by someone!


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 03:30 AM

"Why do we accept Bellowhead and not Vaughn Williams?"
Assuming that we do, of course - some of us don't.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: theleveller
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 03:48 AM

I think the answer's ovious - ever tried getting a full orchestra together when you want to play a tune or lugging a Steinway down to your local folk club?


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 04:38 AM

The Tradition and The Revival are two very different things and one would have thought most here would be a) aware of that and b) happy with the distinction. To propose that the processes of The Tradition are being somehow perpetuated through The Revival is a supreme arrogance on the part of those Revival Singers who have assumed what they're engaged in is any more than hobbyist recreation operating at some considerable remove from the cultural circumstance in which the Traditional Songs were created in the first place. Whilst (in practise) I'm not averse to such tampering, to do so in the name of The Tradition is both fatuous and plain misguided, likewise the assumption that by some twisted alchemy a revival singer can become a source singer. Maybe one railway modeller can copy his scratchbuilt 00-scale Swindon 1076 class pannier tank engine from that built by another another, but the source is surely the real train that inspired such enthusiastic modelling in the first place?

I have learnt songs from other revival singers - even from records of revival singers - but the source of the song is its Traditional Wellspring, the nature of which is very different from that which we find midst the various orthodoxies of The Revival, however so sanctified (and sanitised) they may be. The Source Singer therefore is the Traditional Singer from whom that song was collected. Many revival singers and performers I regard as true masters of their art, but that art is born of Revival and not Tradition, the respective realities of which are very different. It would be a shame if people lost sight of this - even whilst making their own variations & arrangements of Traditional material, or by making songs in a Traditional Idiom. Do what thy wilt by all means - but be sure what you're doing is in no way Folklore, but Pure Revival.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 05:06 AM

"The Tradition and The Revival are two very different things......."
Seconded - thirded - tenthed...!!
Probably the most concise and articulate summing up I've ever read of the difference between the tradition and the revival
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 05:12 AM

Treewind writes; '
To me the big and much clearer difference is that with RVW, the composer sets in stone every note that is to be played, and the orchestra plays no part in that creative process. Many different orchestras will play Vaughan Williams' work, using the same instruments playing the same notes.'
Actually, I thought this for a long time until, back in the early 1980s I worked on 'Le Sacre du Printemps' by Stravinsky. I used a recorded version by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Seiji Ozawa. As the choreographer I listened attentively to the piece and counted every beat. It came as some surprise therefore, to be presented with a budget recording of the same piece by the same orchestra, but with another conductor. I really didn't get it. The music felt so alien to me as to constitute an entirely different experience.
As a Head of Music in secondary education I found myself time and again having to re-assess what I thought music was about. I remain puzzled. This is considered by the establishment to be a 'finished' art form. It is absolutely not.
Oh, yes, for interest I would refer folks to the work of Handel, note the disturbingly large occurrence of the term 'ad lib' in instructions to singers in his oratorios. By no means set in stone. A very 'traditional' composer I would suggest.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: greg stephens
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 05:29 AM

I really can't see any significant difference in intent or approach between Vaughan Williams and Bellowhead or Martin Carthy for that matter. All people who had a fanatical interest in the products of the folk tradition, who learnt the material and then reinterpreted it in the context of their own culture, obviously radically different from the world where the material sprung up. Whether they reinterpreted it in a flexible or rigid manner reflects the society and mentality of the interpreter, but it's not a fundamental difference.Certainly not enough of a difference to say something like "Vaughan Williams isn't folk, Bellowhead is". Of course, this discussion is a rehash of all old discussions. Naturally, it's a folk forum.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: treewind
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 06:23 AM

"It came as some surprise therefore, to be presented with a budget recording of the same piece by the same orchestra, but with another conductor. I really didn't get it. The music felt so alien to me as to constitute an entirely different experience."

There is an amazing amount of scope for different interpretations of course. Even different recordings of Stravinsky conducting his own music are dramatically different, showing that there isn't a single correct interpretation. Nevertheless classically trained musicians have a hard time if asked to play something different from the actual notes put in front of them.

You are right about Handel's "ad lib" too - but trained musicians have to learn how to 'ad lib' and it's quite a foreign skill to many of them.

In Handel's time and earlier, things were indeed much more like modern folk, jazz and pop music in some ways - the "figured bass" was the baroque equivalent of a guitar chord chart in that it showed you where the harmony was going while leaving the instrumentation and actual notes up to the musicians.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: treewind
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 07:11 AM

"the source of the song is its Traditional Wellspring, the nature of which is very different from that which we find midst the various orthodoxies of The Revival, however so sanctified (and sanitised) they may be."

I disagree, not because I think that revival singers are raising what they do on a pedestal by calling it traditional, so much as because "the tradition" is a meaningless expression that attempts to describe a very nebulous, uncoordinated, diverse and changing assortment of activity by all sorts of people spread over a long and ill-defined period of time.

One of the worst "orthodoxies of the revival" is trying to put "the tradition" into a museum case and define it, especially as something that happened in the past in a uniform and consistent way.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Howard Jones
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 07:12 AM

Greg, at a broad level you're right of course. Nevertheless I cannot help but feel that there's a difference in approach between the composers and folk performers. Which is not to say that one side is any more respectful of the tradition than the other, simply that they are trying to do different things with the music. Which is why, to answer the OP, the composers' works aren't generally performed at folk clubs or festivals.

The differences in performance styles are I think due to the different cultures and attitudes of the classical and folk worlds. There is nothing to prevent Bellowhead from publishing their arrangements and from someone else forming a similar ensemble and performing them - it's just that such behaviour isn't expected (or respected) in the folk world. There are certainly enough examples of people seeking tablature for Nic Jones' or Martin Carthy's guitar arrangements to show that it nevertheless goes on.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 07:23 AM

"Maybe one railway modeller can copy his scratchbuilt 00-scale Swindon 1076 class pannier tank engine from that built by another another"

But they were originally built as saddle tanks so by analagy which is the traditional and which is the revival? (Were these the "Buffalos", don't have a reference book to hand).


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Old Vermin
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 07:28 AM

Just wondering how the Bellowhead approach will be thought of in ten or twenty years.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 07:51 AM

But they were originally built as saddle tanks so by analagy which is the traditional and which is the revival?

Saddle tank into pannier tank is Traditional (Folk) Process - the train is mutable in its natural habitat; it knows no sense of significance beyond what it is and is, therefore, entirely innocent of its own authenticity. I would argue that even a revived stream locomotive is tainted by indulgent nostalgia as it no longer functions as part of the system it was created for. Thus, it enters a second-life realm akin to the Folk Revival and populated by a similar class of Enthusiast. There is great worth in this, just as long as we don't fool ourselves into thinking its the real thing. As a kid I used to skive school to watch the old saddle-tank engines of the Backworth Colliery system on their daily rounds, often being invited to ride on the footplate through the winter fields of a long lost childhood paradise. Some of these old saddle tanks are still extant, lovingly restored by passionate enthusiasts, but like a Revived Folk Song, they are no longer part of the long vanished tradition they were created for. For sure we might still enjoy them, but that enjoyment is Revival, most assuredly not Traditional.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: theleveller
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 07:53 AM

"Just wondering how the Bellowhead approach will be thought of in ten or twenty years. "

I don't think it's meant to have a long life. It's "of its time" and something even more exciting will, hopefully, take its place. Only in this way can folk music stay relevant and contemporary.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 07:57 AM

"Just wondering how the Bellowhead approach will be thought of in ten or twenty years."
Like Steeleye, and Pentangle, and The Watersons, and Woodstock, and The Beatles, and and and .... they will be a distant memory (fond or otherwise) of those who were there.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 07:59 AM

So, when a group of us sang shanties when hauling a broken-down car up the hill to prevent it blocking the access to the late night extra at Sidmouth some years ago we were creating a new tradition of working song use by adopting the use of an old traditional working song?


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 08:01 AM

Just wondering how the Bellowhead approach will be thought of in ten or twenty years.

In what way are they any different from what revival / folk rock bands were doing 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago?


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 08:10 AM

we were creating a new tradition of working song use by adopting the use of an old traditional working song?

Only Folk Enthusiasts would do that; thus it remains firmly within the culture & conventions of The Revival. Though one might call such conceits traditions, it would be folly to confuse them with The Tradition in which such songs were created in the first place.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: theleveller
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 08:15 AM

Just wondering how the "source" singers will be thought of in 10, 20, 30, 40 years' time.

I think the answer will be "who?"


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 08:34 AM

I sincerely hope not. I am increasingly heartened that a younger generation give all due respet to the traditional source singers whose significance is the very corner stone of The Revival.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: theleveller
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 08:41 AM

Well, I have to make a confession that, in 46 involvement with folk music, I've never knowingly listened to a recording of Walter Pardon, Bob Copper or.....whatisname. I strongly suspect that, if they were honest, you'd get the same answer from a lot of people at folk clubs, folk concerts and folk festivals.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: theleveller
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 08:49 AM

missed out "years"


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 09:23 AM

Never too late to start - there's a whole universe of wonder awaiting you!


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: theleveller
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 09:34 AM

To folk infinity....and beyond!


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 09:42 AM

"I've never knowingly listened to a recording of Walter Pardon, Bob Copper or"
You have my sympathy.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 09:44 AM

Sorry - didn't finish.
Rather reminiscent of; "I never read a book in my life and it never did me any harm".
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Sue Allan
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 10:12 AM

Interesting discussion, particularly as I also have a foot in both camps, classical and folk.
Greg - thoroughly agree with your comments.
Johnny - the link to the Bert Lloyd programme didn't work for me: box.net said the link had been removed. Am I doing something wrong? Or could you post link again please? Ta.
Sue


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Sue Allan
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 10:13 AM

PS: I may be just an old cynic, but does anyone else think that the original poster, Neophyte, may have something of the troll about them?


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 10:23 AM

To folk infinity....and beyond!

It feels like it sometimes, once you start listening, following lines, connections, versions, variants - a single visit to the Max Hunter Folk Song Collection is like a voyage to another universe of possibility (look up Mrs Pearl Brewer - one of my favourite singers of all time). Maybe it's like the stars of Orion we were disussing the other day below the line - in the towns and cities you don't get many stars, but the further into the wilderness you get, the whole sky is ablaze. That's how Traditional Song feels to me - a blazing firmament of joyful folk infinity before which I stand in wondrous awe.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: theleveller
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 10:28 AM

Great works of literature versus folk source singers? Not in the same league, Jim. You're missing the point entirely. You're saying that the folk performers you cite are unmemorable, I'm saying that the source singers, who are far less well-known, are even more unmemorable, except amongst a small kabal of cognoscenti and folk curators who are becoming increasingly think on the ground.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 10:40 AM

Great works of literature versus folk source singers? Not in the same league

These songs are as great as any work of literature & of equal importance to our culture; they are the product of a vernacular mastery that we've still got to go some way to appreciate - something the Revival (and the folk scene in general) has singularly failed in doing. The source singers were the carriers of that tradition; many of them song-makers in the self-same craft that is now all but lost to us.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: theleveller
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 11:20 AM

Well, maybe, Suibhne, but what Jim seemed to be implying (to my mind) was that it was essential to listen to the source singers to appreciate the songs in a modern context. Bit like saying you can't appreciate Shakespeare's King Lear without reading Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain or Lord of the Rings without reading Beowulf, The Kalevala and the Mabinogion.

I'm in no way denegrating the source singers, just questioning their actual influence on most people's enjoyment of the music.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 12:15 PM

===I don't think it's [Bellowhead's approach] meant to have a long life. It's "of its time" and something even more exciting will, hopefully, take its place. Only in this way can folk music stay relevant and contemporary. ==

you said a few posts back, leveller. What exactly do you mean here by "relevant" ~~ relevant in what sense? To what? And why? And how?

~M~


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 12:41 PM

The traditional source is the whole of the case, anything else is just a gloss, fun though it may be. I would hope the vast majority of revival singers of traditional songs (and their audiences) appreciate this fact and give respect accordingly. For sure we might bicker over the finer points, but ultimately this thing we call Folk owes everything to a Tradition of Popular Song and Balladry which is one of the cultural treasures of the English speaking world. Given that the revival owes its very existence to The Tradition one would have thought it would be every Folknik's joy to get as close to the source as possible and bask in its perfect radience - to marinade our very souls in the wine of such excellent balladry, and rejoice in the fact that we can do so, pretty much, at the touch of a button.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 01:08 PM

'The traditional source is the whole of the case, anything else is just a gloss, fun though it may be.'
Actually, I don't think it is. Why did the folk scene utterly reject Mary and John Taylor, traditional inheritors of their father's singing and repertoire? Joseph Taylor was either a tradition carrier in which case his children's singing was as valid as his own, or he was an individual stylist whose delivery, it seems, was far more important than the songs he was transmitting to his children. The reason, Mary said, was because they sounded, "too churchy". Hmm? the classical singing tradition v the 'traditional singing tradition?


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Don Firth
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 03:39 PM

". . . the composer sets in stone every note that is to be played, and the orchestra plays no part in that creative process."

This seems to be a fairly common misconception held by folk music (and sometimes jazz) enthusiasts.

Consider the idiosyncratic Canadian pianist, Glenn Gould. He once said something to the effect that if a musician brings nothing new to the performance of a piece of music, he or she is "unnecessary." It's already been done, and that musician can be easily replaced by a recording.

From an article on Glenn Gould:

"Gould was known for his vivid musical imagination, and listeners regarded his interpretations as ranging from brilliantly creative to, on occasion, outright eccentric."

And

"The pianist's first recording, Bach: The Goldberg Variations, came in 1955, at Columbia Records 30th Street Studios in New York City. Although there was initially some controversy at CBS as to whether this was the most appropriate piece to record, the finished product received phenomenal praise and was among the best-selling classical music albums of its time. Gould became closely associated with the piece, playing it in full or in part at many of his recitals. Another version of the Goldberg Variations, recorded in 1981, would be among his last recordings, and one of only a few pieces he recorded twice in the studio. The 1981 recording was one of CBS Masterworks' first digital recordings. The two recordings are very different: the first, highly energetic and often frenetic; the second, slower and more introspective. In the latter, Gould treats the aria and its 30 variations as one cohesive piece."

The notes and the dynamic markings in both versions were the same, yet the two recorded performances are quite different.

Look at it this way:   some years ago, a friend and I listened to two recordings of Mark Antony's funeral oration ("Friends, Romans, countrymen. . . .") from Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," one by Marlon Brando (from the movie) and the other by Sir John Gielgud. They were as different as night and day. Yet, the words they were reading, or reciting, were the same. Same with different renditions of "To be or not to be" from "Hamlet," from stentorian versions as if by some over-emoting ancient Shakespearean actor (eyes closed, back of hand pressed to forehead) coming on like Senator Claghorn filibustering to Congress, to a quiet, contemplative recitation, such as the way Sir Lawrence Olivier did it in the 1940s movie (after all, Hamlet was contemplating suicide).

The words are the same. But the interpretations are very different.

Classical musicians are no more limited in their approaches and interpretations than actors are.

In the case of orchestral or ensemble playing, if all one had to do was play the notes as written, there would be no need for a conductor. A Mozart or Beethoven symphony is subject to interpretation in the same way that Bach's Goldberg Variations as played by Glenn Gould are. Each musician in the orchestra will have his or her personal interpretation of the way the notes should be played. And the results would be chaos! So what the orchestra winds up playing (after many rehearsals, to make sure that everyone is "on the same page" so to speak) is the conductor's interpretation of what the composer has written. Georg Solti's and Sir Simon Rattle's approaches to symphonic music are quite different. True, the musicians in the orchestra are setting their own personal ideas aside and following the conductor's interpretation. It's a cooperative effort. But this in no way means that, in a different situation, they are not capable of exercising their own creativity. The first violinist in a symphony orchestra may also play in a chamber group, and/or play solo recitals. Or, perhaps, get together with a few others and whip out some Bluegrass.

On a TV show some time back, I saw Itzak Perlman sawing away quite spectacularly with a couple of Bluegrass musicians. He obviously knew what he was doing and what the music was all about.

I also take issue with the idea that classical musicians can't ad lib, or have to learn to ad lib, as if the ability were granted only to folk and jazz musicians. Chamber music started early on when a group of friends would get together at someone's home with lutes, viols, recorders, etc., and jam. Usually the melodies they played would be written out, but that was it. There might be what was called a "figured bass," but the actual notes in the harmony parts, or in the contrapuntal lines, were improvised. So, apart from style, there is nothing new about jazz. Or a group of folk enthusiasts getting together to have a session.

Ad libbing and improvising was an essential part of it. And whether a person can ad lib or not is not necessarily dictated by the kind of music they play, but a matter of their own ability or lack thereof.

No, I'm sorry. Those who try to imply that classical training deprives a person of creativity are just plain wrong.

Don Firth

P. S.   I can get really suspicious of that viewpoint. In most cases, I think that it's matter of ignorance about classical music and the musicians who chose to play it. But sometimes it can have a somewhat sinister motivation. Early on, after slogging through guitar chord diagrams and having to ask what chords to play to accompany a particular song (like many people here on Mudcat, posting to ask for the chords for some song), I decided to learn some music theory. One particular singer, considerably more experienced than I, and with professional aspirations, got on my case about how any kind of classical lessons, especially music theory, would burden me down with all kinds of rules and prohibitions and completely destroy my creativity, and, he warned, I would never be able to do folk music.

I didn't see the logic of this. I went ahead, took classic guitar lessons, and studied music theory, first at the university's music department, then with a local composer who gave private theory and composition lessons.

Contrary to saddling me with rules and limitations, suddenly I was learning what was POSSIBLE! A wide open field of possibilities!

And here's the kicker! The singer (quite a good singer, in fact, who was doing a few concerts around and who had a record coming out) who had given me all the dire warnings? He claimed that he was totally devoid of musical training, had worked out everything on his own, and said that he couldn't even read music. I later learned from his sister that he had taken some nine years' worth of classical violin lessons before he got interested in folk music and took up the guitar.

The only conclusion I can come to (verified by a mutual acquaintance) is that, back then, seeing how eager I was, he was afraid that I could turn out to be competition!

As it turned out, he was right. After a couple of years, people started hiring me for the kind of singing jobs he generally got.

Kinda sad. . . .


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 05:26 PM

The veiled attack on Bellowhead, and by extension any other contemporary folk expression is based on the potent revival myth of an ultimate performance, some backroom gold standard set in the early days of the observer's attention, be it the 50s or 90s and to which each subsequent performance necessarily falls short. A similar flexible measure obtains for trad singer. I'd suggest if Mike Yarwood ever finished his Saturday night mimetic extravaganza with a rendition of Tam Lin, replete with winks, leg kicks and the full supportive attentions of the Mick Samme's singers, he would indeed have become a folk singer

Talking of RVW I wonder whether his Fantasia on 'Why Fum'th in Fight?' is a form of folk process, rehabilitating a rousing hymn into an easy listening gem for aspirant media producers?


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Richard I
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 05:40 PM

Dear Neophyte,

Do you understand what modes are, and do you understand what tonal scales are?

Do you understand the effect of recasting modal music in a system of romantic harmony?

I'm a trained classical musician, I spent years in Cathedral and oxbridge college choirs, and I recognise that Vaughan-Williams, Britten, and others (composers that I love) took and recast traditional music in the style of their day. Much in the respect that Tippett recast Negro spirituals for "Child in our time". It's a creation of something pleasing to the classical ear from folk resources. But it's a recasting of the music, and the idea that we have to be subservient to that recasting is, frankly, bonkers.

Have you heard Durufle's recastings of gregorian chant as choral motets? Those compositions are beautiful.

But would you go to a schola singing gregorian chant and say "why don't you sing it as Durufle wrote it?" Of course you wouldn't. Because you'd recognise that he's taken the material and done something new with it. That's he's taken modal material and recast it in tonal four part harmony. And that he's taken Gregorian rhythmics and recast them in a time signature and with rigid timing. It works for his motets, but it's not an authoritative performance of Gregorian chant. It was never meant to be.

The same is true of V-W and the way he used folk music. The same is true of Bartok and the way he used folk music, for that matter.

It doesn't replace traditional music or somehow rank higher than it (which is what you imply when you say 'inferior' and 'at this level'). It's reusing in a cultural setting.

Let me put it this way: V-W, Britten, Bartok, etc. were using folk music in the same way as folk-rock used it. Now if someone was to come in and say "I can't believe people don't play 'all around my hat' in exactly the way that Steeleye Span play it" then people would take issue with that. But what you claim is very similar.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Jan 11 - 05:48 PM

Howzabout Hooked on Folk, a medley of popular songs to the strict tempo of an early Amdek drum machine? Now that's what I call broadside! Dum tsh, dum tsh, dum tsh, the turkman had one daughter...


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: theleveller
Date: 13 Jan 11 - 03:22 AM

Just two quick points. Firstly, what is the "source" of folk music. I suspect that goes back far, far further than the so-called source singers who were collected and recorded. They are not the source, merely the well-head. In fact we could, if we wished, go back to the source of music itself if we wanted to perpetuate the dogma, and side with David Toop when he says, "The unverifiable origins of music are located by most musicologists either in bioacoustic and meteroelogical sounds or language...".

Secondly I think we need to differentiate between a folk revival and a folk renaissance. The first is the collection, preservation and performance of traditional songs and music from a former time; the second builds on the first but produces new, exciting, contemporary and relevant material and interpretations that spring from the creativity of those who are creating and performing it today.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Jan 11 - 04:08 AM

".....what Jim seemed to be implying (to my mind) was that it was essential to listen to the source singers to appreciate the songs in a modern context."
I am suggesting that anybody serious about becoming involved in folk (traditional) music is well advised to examine the body of songs and singers that brought about the revival that we are all involved in (not to slavishly imitate them certainly) and not go about boasting that they haven't.
As Suibhne points out, our folk repertoire holds its own with the best of our literature and music; is what drew most of us in, and kept many of us involved for as long as we have been.
Apart from anything else, the song tradition brings with it a great deal more baggage than just songs themselves and is an important part of our history and culture, even though it has never been recognised as such.
It's interesting to compare the Irish and English revivals and see the thousands of young Irish people who have been drawn in by traditional material, traditionally played and sung, guaranteeing that the music will survive for at least another generation or so - can the same be said of Britain?
I am in no way denigrating the 'experimental' tendency of 'folk music' but I do find it interesting that the longest surviving experimenters are the Butterworths and Vaughan Willims and Bartoks, who made no spurious claims that their music was 'genuine folk' and allowed it to stand on its own feet.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: theleveller
Date: 13 Jan 11 - 04:23 AM

Jim, you're putting words in my mouth again. I am not "boasting" - merely stating a fact. And, as I said above, the so-called "source singers" are not. They are just interpreters of traditional material at a point in time. To study the history, culture and relevance of the material does not require one to study these performers. The eminent historian, Christopher Hill, in his book 'Liberty Against the Law', which uses traditional songs and ballads as historical source material, makes no reference to these "source singers" but traces far earlier sources.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 13 Jan 11 - 04:41 AM

I'd argue that once the songs were written down they inhabited a different textual form and that new form was the material of the revival. Traditional is deeply engraved in the musical expectations of when trad. became an idea. It is the music of recurrance, not continuity.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Jan 11 - 05:41 AM

"And, as I said above, the so-called "source singers" are not."
As far as we are concerned - yes they are; they are OUR souces for the songs that drew us into folk music; the Jeannie Robertsons and Harry Coxs and Phil Tanners provided the foundation on which the present revival was built - they were the door that we came through.
As far as cultural relevance is concerned, anybody who has spent any time with a source singer cannot fail to have noticed the cultural relevance that the songs had for their lives and to their interpretations of the songs they sang - something that has never made its way into the history books, which tend to be an account of lives and deeds of 'the great and the good' rather than the history of the people.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 13 Jan 11 - 05:44 AM

that spring from the creativity of those who are creating and performing it today.

I broadly agree with what you say here - and I love the idea of a Folk Renaissance - but whatever people do, it must remain rooted within the traditional source which remains crucial. I might sing a folk song in the context of 100% free improvisation using bamboo flute designs filched off David Toop circa 1977 (via his Quartz albums of Ritual Flute Music of New Guinea & others) but my reference is always to The Tradition. Apart from anything, in a purely revival context such creativity would be, alas, unthinkable...

And whatever the wellsprings of music, folk remains very music a theorectical construct predicated on a class / cultural condescension that sticks in my craw. And whilst I do grant much of our concept of The Tradition is determined by revival methodology (hence the ongoing bickering over the finer points) all that is as nothing when listening to (say) Percy Grainger's recording of Joseph Taylor singing Brigg Fair circa 1908 at which point all is perfection. This is the mastery I'm talking about - and nothing the revival has to offer can ever better that; it remains the pure and unassailable drop eternally.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: treewind
Date: 13 Jan 11 - 05:44 AM

Don Firth:
(in response to my posting:
". . . the composer sets in stone every note that is to be played, and the orchestra plays no part in that creative process.")
"This seems to be a fairly common misconception held by folk music (and sometimes jazz) enthusiasts."

I totally agree with almost everything you wrote following that. But as well as being a folk music enthusiast and performer, I also spent the first 12 years of my musical life playing classical music, so I'm not subscribing to a common misconception.

The composer mostly DOES specify the notes that are to be played.
I said "the orchestra plays no part in THAT creative process" (note emphasis), meaning choosing what notes to play, harmonies and instrumentation. Within that structure I agree that the player (or for an orchestra, the conductor too) has a huge amount of creative license for tempo, phrasing, dynamics, timing and whatever else goes into making a page full of dots into a performance. There is also the choice of how big an orchestra to use. But with a few exceptions, the players do not routinely rewrite or rearrange the music and this remains a distinction between classical and folk performance.

Actually, Bellowhead are interestingly borderline in this respect. Paul Sartin (who of course has a classical music background) wrote out parts for each instrument in the band, and for many months after the band started gigging, the brass section even had sheet music with them on the stage. So it wouldn't be impossible for another band to play Bellowhead's arrangements as somebody imagined earlier in the thread.
But a folk band doing that would also have no qualms about changing the arrangement to suit their taste or instruments.

I still think that most orchestral musicians feel uncomfortable about straying from exactly what's written. Anecdotal example: I once played cello in an amateur performance of Handel's Messiah. There was one other cellist and no double bass. I don't remember if Handel wrote a bass part or whether the same part was supplied (as was common in his time) for both instruments, but I took it upon myself to play everything I could an octave lower so it would be at the equivalent pitch of a bass. It made perfect musical sense to me, but it had the girl playing 1st cello in fits of giggles because it seemed such a strange thing to do.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 13 Jan 11 - 05:48 AM

Jim Carroll writes, 'they are OUR souces for the songs that drew us into folk music;'
No they're not Jim. Mine were family and friends. Most people know songs learned from these sources. One should not confuse repertoire with tradition. As a point of interest,Sam Larner's sources were, and I quote, "Chaps at sea, school, church choir?"


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: theleveller
Date: 13 Jan 11 - 06:40 AM

"As far as cultural relevance is concerned, anybody who has spent any time with a source singer cannot fail to have noticed the cultural relevance that the songs had for their lives and to their interpretations of the songs they sang - something that has never made its way into the history books"

I think it's too simplistic to imply that the songs and the singers are inseperable - if that were the case they would never have survived. Are you talking about the cultural relevance of the songs in a broad historical context or the much narrower relvance to the singers you mention?

If you're talking about the former, then it has been investigated by historians - I've cited above the example of Christopher Hill.

With all due respect, Jim, you're not a historian. If your subject is the interpretation and performance of traditional songs in the twentieth century, you might just have a point. If you're looking at the wider social, cultural and historical context of traditional song, you're methodology, I'm afraid, doesn't pass muster. If you want to do that, I suggest reading a basic guide to research methodology such as Anthony Graziano's Research Methods: A Process of Enquiry.

On the other hand, we can all just sit back and enjoy the music in whatever interpretation we prefer and not feel that we have to constantly refer back to certain performances at a very narrow period in the life of the songs that we are told, quite arbitrarily, are 'definitive'.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Jan 11 - 10:27 AM

"With all due respect, Jim, you're not a historian."
With equally due respect - how the hell do you know what I am; once again you are indulging in what you accused me of earlier - putting words, opinions, and experiences in the mouth of somebody you have neither met nor talked with.
If you mean I'm not a historian by profession, you are right.
On the other hand, I have had a life-long interest in history, particularly social and oral history and am at present involved in collecting and archiving the working practices of the local fishing and farming communities in this area, much of which is to be found in the local songs.
Whatever Hibbert, Postgate, Cole, Thompson... or whoever wrote, the fact remains; if I want to know which ships, officers or commanders took part in the Battle of Trafalgar, what weaponry, tactics, whatever, was used, I would probably find it in the Naval Records. If I am very lucky, I might even be able to scratch up a little information about the origins, backgrounds and experiences of a miniscule number of the ordinary seamen who did the hand-to-hand fighting. On the other hand, if I wanted to know the feelings and experiences of the men below deck, I would find them recorded in the songs they made and sang. The same goes for the mines, the mills, the bothies, the armed forces - you name it, it's all there in the songs and quite often, in the heads of the people who sang them (you should have heard Walter Pardon talk about life on the land at the beginning of the 20th century and the re-establishing of the Agricultural Workers Union).
The idea that our history has first to be filtered through the minds of the educated before it is fit to be passed on to us proles is an arrogance that is widely peddled in our society. We really do have our own history, and the ability to articulate it.
The field singers we were lucky enough to hear, meet and record were the last in a centuries-old line of a tradition that has now disappeared; it seems to be incredibly stupid and not a little arrogant to claim that we had and still have nothing to learn from them.
"Mine were family and friends...."
If that's the case with you Paul, you are one of a small and extremely fortunate minority; most of us were outsiders whocame to the music via the clubs, the books and the recordings.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Jan 11 - 10:31 AM

Sorry - missed a bit.
"On the other hand, we can all just sit back and enjoy the music in whatever interpretation we prefer"
If that's what you wish to confine your interest to, sure we can; some of us like to lift up the corner and see what lies underneath.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: theleveller
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 03:32 AM

Jim, if you want to be taken seriously perhaps you shouldn't be so dismissive of singers who are continuing the tradition just because they don't fit in with your opinion about what the tradition is

e.g.

"Like Steeleye, and Pentangle, and The Watersons, and Woodstock, and The Beatles, and and and .... they will be a distant memory (fond or otherwise) of those who were there."

Well, the Watersons were one of the main reasons I became interested in folk music back in the mid-60s. To hear the songs of the area where I was born and brought up was a revalation.

"The idea that our history has first to be filtered through the minds of the educated before it is fit to be passed on to us proles is an arrogance that is widely peddled in our society."

I think it's actually rather arrogant to dismiss education in that way. The members of the Communist Party Historians Group (Hill, Hobsbawm, Morton, Thompson et al) approached history in a totally different way from the ruling elite of previous centuries.

And, finally:

"If that's what you wish to confine your interest to, sure we can; some of us like to lift up the corner and see what lies underneath."

No, I take a very wide view of music. I'm interested in the way that folk music is developing and being reinterpreted by today's performers like, for instance, Bellowhead. But my current project goes the other way in time: research into the use and production of music in Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 04:12 AM

"The idea that our folk history has first to be filtered through the minds of the folk educated before it is fit to be passed on to us wannabe folk proles is an arrogance that is widely peddled in our 1954 obsessed society"

Fixed that for you.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 04:12 AM

"Well, the Watersons were one of the main reasons I became interested in folk music"
The Spinners did it for me, but like Topsy, I growed!. Please don't try and impose your personal tastes on others; your posting exudes a somewhat pompous arrogance (again, you are accusing others of something you are guilty of yourself).
I'm taken as seriously as I want to be and will happily show you my work if you show me yours.
I'm certainly not dismissive of the Hill's, Hobsbawms and Mortons, et al; they were all great historians IMO. I am familiar with their work and am grateful for being so, but they are only part of the picture; I outlined what I believe their limitations were; you chose to ignore that ond offer the rather feeble and empty defence that they were 'different' to what went before.
"..... you shouldn't be so dismissive of singers who are continuing the tradition"
I'm not dismissive of them as performers, they give pleasure to some - not me, but it takes all kinds.... As for their "continuing the tradition" - about as much as did Butterworth and Elgar did, I'd say.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Smedley
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 04:41 AM

Questions for Suibhne: isn't that 1908 recording which you lionise also, most likely, a development of earlier sung versions ? That this particular version was, very fortunately, recorded, hardly makes it "pure", does it ? I enjoy your posts in here and like your broad-mindedness and, in most cases, healthy disrespect for notions about 'purity' - so why does this version get held up as a yardstick for all others ? That smacks of a kind of absolutism (if that's the word I want) which seems to me to contradict your other arguments. Just wondering !


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 05:31 AM

I'm interested in the way that folk music is developing and being reinterpreted by today's performers like, for instance, Bellowhead.

Surely all Bellowhead are doing is making saleable product for the purposes of popular consumption & entertainment? Being Folk, of course, there is invariably an aura of attendant worthiness (often justified) but that's all part of the general aesthetic which Folkniks get off on as much as Heavy Metal types get off deathheads and busty leatherclad vampires (always justified) or the sumpuous packages, copious notes & libretto of Alia Vox CDs (likewise). No harm in this of course - after all, this is how (most) great music is made these days, but the nature of Traditional Folk Song in its Natural Habitat was a very different beast and I think one at least must acknowledge this whatever you're personal tastes might be.

But my current project goes the other way in time: research into the use and production of music in Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain.

Anything to link to on this one??


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 06:29 AM

As someone who quite likes Bellowhead much of the attraction is in the rarity, outside of the classical repertoire at least, of a big band knocking out old favourites. When one acknowledges the folk well inhabited by wax cylinder voiced recipients of The True Faith has to all intents dried up, one is forced to look further afield for the authentic.

Personally, I find Bellowhead's jazz swing folk far less offensive than 4th generation facsimiles of the original sauce singers.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 06:38 AM

That smacks of a kind of absolutism (if that's the word I want) which seems to me to contradict your other arguments. Just wondering !

The recording in question is, of course, just a document, a fragment, a mere shard; the tip of the proverbial iceberg that serves as an indicator of a condition vast and wondrous. Archaelogists deal with fragments & shards as a matter of course; even as a casual punter I might go into the Ryland's Library in Manchester and gaze at Papyrus P52, which also indicates something vast and wonderful in terms of our cultural continuity & inspires a similar sense of wonder, even unto a Godless oik like myself. Its purity is, therefore, not absolute in itself, rather integral to its corporeal essence which is born simply from the fact that it exists at all, which is miracle enough to me. Having heard Brigg Fair sung to death by generations of Teachers & Revival Singers I might still listen to the Joseph Taylor fragment in a state of near Epiphany, and hear it afresh, each time as though for the very first time, and still feel the depths it implies - for, not only this fragment is the culmination of all that went before, but you can hear that in every turn of Joseph Taylor's masterful singing - which is something you'll never get from a revival performance.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: theleveller
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 06:40 AM

Jim, I think that's a very fair reply and, I have to say, your research sounds fascinating. I wouldn't claim to be a historian myself, but I have, over the years, done a lot of historical research for various projects. Best of luck with yours! (And yes, I admit to the unintentional arrogance born of enthusiasm!)

Suibhne:
"Being Folk, of course, there is invariably an aura of attendant worth"

I'd just say it was fun. Ageing folkies like me don't get much of a chance to pogo at concerts these days!

"Anything to link to on this one??"

Only just started. It's part of background for my new novel. The premise for the musical element is basically that certain ancient sites may themselves have been musical instruments of some sort. Hardy says of Stonehenge, in that spine-tingling end to Tess of the D'Urbervilles:

"The wind, playing upon the edifice, produced a booming tune, like the note of some gigantic one-stringed harp. No other sound came from it... Overhead something made the black sky blacker, which had the semblance of a vast architrave uniting the pillars horizontally. They entered carefully beneath and between; the surfaces echoed their soft rustle; but they seemed to be still out of doors..."

and John Cowper Powys talks about the sound of the "ghost wind" in Maiden Castle. So could, perhaps, the music that accompanied ritual ceremonies, processions around cursi etc. have resembled a sort of ambient music that combined with the naturally-produced sounds, similar maybe to the electronic ambient music produced today or Balinese gamelan music. There's a clue in Polybius' report of the Battle of Telemon in 225BC between the Romans and the Celts, where he describes the "dreadful din" of the Celtic horns:

"for there were innumerable hornblowers and trumpeters and, as the whole army were shouting their war-cries at the same time, there was such a tumult of sound that it seemed that not only the trumpeters and the soldiers but all the country round had got a voice and caught up the cry"

Anyway, that's as far as I've got. Sorry if I'm being boring!


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 10:21 AM

"Best of luck with yours"
And with yours.
Are you aware of the work being done in Ireland (Prehistoric Music of Ireland) by Simon O'Dwyer?
We had him at our local history society last year (along with his trumpa) - quite fascinating, but I'm not qualified to say how accurate he is.
Bob Quinn has also done a great deal of work on the subject.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 10:27 AM

Fascinating stuff. I wasn't knocking Bellowhead there by the way - more power to them I say, likewise all bands & singers of the revival both great & small, old & young - the folk renaissance indeed which is how it feels right now as Oak, Ash & Thorn drops through my door and I realise to my simultaneous delight & horror I'm likely to be the oldest one on there. How the hell did that happen? All these years I've been the youngest! Anyway - more than a hint of renewal in the air right now, and the music is all that matters... Classic folk indeed.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: theleveller
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 11:10 AM

Thanks, Jim. The sound samples on the Prehistoric Music of Ireland site are EXACTLY what I'd hoped they'd sound like. Brilliant stuff. I want to get my hands on one of the horns and go and play it by Rudston Monolith on the Yorkshire Wolds - god knows what sleeping spirits it might awaken!

"Anyway - more than a hint of renewal in the air right now, and the music is all that matters"

I'll go along with that!


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 11:13 AM

I used to deal in the pot shard interpretation business back in the day. Although my projections were based on the entry and exit trajectories of the chunk of ceramic in question and a working knowledge of the available material, it was a specialist who had the last word on whether my 'hawkeye' take on bowl radius hit the wicket or missed the off stump.

Some of his 'try again' suggestions required such bizarre geometric contortions that one was forced to conclude the specialist had access to a time machine or was making the dirty old lump of clay fit his speculative PhD dissertation rather than any extant pots. It left me with a suspicion of backstory or futurology based on limited sources, as well as a jaded view of vested interests that latched onto them.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 01:56 PM

Back in the day I evolved a musical system using prehistoric cup & ring carvings and a notion of resonant beakers; it still figures actually, though these days I'm less given to using animal horns & suchlike naturally sourced instruments.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 02:16 PM

The 'Oh Whistle and I'll Come To You my Lad' instrument might work if you can live with animated bedsheets?


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 08:36 PM

I could tell you some tales, like the time my viola bow exploded after some sonic archaeology in the West Kennet Long Barrow approaching the summer solstice 1985 - tried recording the session on a borrowed Walkman Pro but got nowt but weird EVP that subsequently vanished. Oo-er - a bit spooky, eh?


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