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Can a pop song become traditional?

Larry The Radio Guy 24 Aug 12 - 05:51 PM
Stanron 24 Aug 12 - 05:59 PM
GUEST,999 24 Aug 12 - 06:27 PM
Don Firth 24 Aug 12 - 06:30 PM
Joe Offer 24 Aug 12 - 06:34 PM
Ole Juul 24 Aug 12 - 06:36 PM
GUEST,999 24 Aug 12 - 06:42 PM
GUEST,999 24 Aug 12 - 06:52 PM
Leadfingers 24 Aug 12 - 06:57 PM
Henry Krinkle 24 Aug 12 - 07:01 PM
pdq 24 Aug 12 - 07:02 PM
GUEST,Blandiver 24 Aug 12 - 07:11 PM
GUEST,Stim 24 Aug 12 - 07:14 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 24 Aug 12 - 08:53 PM
JohnInKansas 24 Aug 12 - 09:06 PM
Larry The Radio Guy 24 Aug 12 - 09:10 PM
Ole Juul 24 Aug 12 - 10:02 PM
Ole Juul 24 Aug 12 - 10:16 PM
Joe Offer 24 Aug 12 - 10:20 PM
Charley Noble 24 Aug 12 - 10:24 PM
Stewie 24 Aug 12 - 10:29 PM
Joe Offer 24 Aug 12 - 10:30 PM
GUEST,Stim 24 Aug 12 - 11:31 PM
Elmore 25 Aug 12 - 01:00 AM
Ole Juul 25 Aug 12 - 02:24 AM
Jim Carroll 25 Aug 12 - 02:52 AM
DMcG 25 Aug 12 - 03:05 AM
Stilly River Sage 25 Aug 12 - 03:42 AM
GUEST,Blandiver 25 Aug 12 - 04:29 AM
GUEST,Stim 25 Aug 12 - 04:40 AM
Jim Carroll 25 Aug 12 - 05:10 AM
GUEST,Blandiver 25 Aug 12 - 05:46 AM
Ole Juul 25 Aug 12 - 05:59 AM
Brian Peters 25 Aug 12 - 06:16 AM
GUEST,Blandiver 25 Aug 12 - 06:49 AM
Ole Juul 25 Aug 12 - 07:42 AM
Jim Carroll 25 Aug 12 - 07:43 AM
GUEST,Don Wise 25 Aug 12 - 08:32 AM
Brian Peters 25 Aug 12 - 09:47 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 25 Aug 12 - 11:06 AM
Jim Carroll 25 Aug 12 - 01:25 PM
The Sandman 25 Aug 12 - 01:34 PM
Stilly River Sage 25 Aug 12 - 02:13 PM
Stilly River Sage 25 Aug 12 - 02:17 PM
John P 25 Aug 12 - 02:23 PM
GUEST,Stim 25 Aug 12 - 02:27 PM
John P 25 Aug 12 - 02:34 PM
Stilly River Sage 25 Aug 12 - 02:39 PM
Brian Peters 25 Aug 12 - 03:16 PM
JHW 25 Aug 12 - 03:33 PM
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Subject: Folklore: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Larry The Radio Guy
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 05:51 PM

The recent hot debate on "folk" music ended with a suggestion that Johnny B. Goode was becoming a 'folksong'.....with someone else saying 'absolutely not...it's rock 'n 'roll.

I had started a thread a couple years ago entitled Nominations for 'new' traditional song"---and got some great response.   Many of the suggestions, though, were for songs that were always considered in the 'folk' genre....songs by Pete Seeger, Ewan McColl, etc.

Many years ago at the first Mariposa Folk Festival I ever went to (early 70's, I think), there was at one stage a panel discussion with John Cohen, Michael Cooney,and Murray McLaughlin called something like "when does it stop being folk".   It was fascinating, with Murray having the "it's all folk" philosophy, Michael Cooney on the opposite side of the fence, and John Cohen sort of being in the middle.   

One thing that haunted me that John Cohen spoke about was how a song like "Six Days on the Road" truly was entering the oral tradition and could probably be considered to be somewhere on the folk-song continuum.   

I know that this topic, for many of you, has been done to death and some of you are sick of it. But......I still feel if we're going to talk about traditional or folk music, it's important to know where the boundary is.

So.......can a song that was written and defined as a pop song or 'rock 'n roll' ever become considered traditional. And, if so, what would it take? And finally.....any examples of songs that have met this (or are meeting this) criteria?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Stanron
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 05:59 PM

1 yes. Johnny B Good may not be the best example but it has been subject to the folk process. It has changed in different ways in different places.
2. See above.
3. Over to you. I'm sure lots of examples will appear.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 06:27 PM

It could happen. It was first a pop song.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Don Firth
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 06:30 PM

Well, the whole thing is a can of worms of course, but in my opinion at least, "Johnny B. Good" is not a folk song. I don't ever hear the song other than on the radio, and even at that, not lately.

Nor do I consider some song that someone at an open mike says, "This is a folk song I wrote the other day when I was on the bus." Or any song that some singer-songwriter insists is a folk song, but nobody ever sings it except them.

Ever watch that series on PBS, "Antiques Road Show?" I tend to liken folk songs to antiques. A genuine antique has a "provenance." It has a history. It's been around long enough to qualify as a genuine antique
.From Wikipedia:

Antique (Latin: antiquus; old) is an old collectable item. It is collected or desirable because of its age, beauty, rarity, condition, utility, personal emotional connection, and/or other unique features. It is an object that represents a previous era or time period in human society. It is common practice to define "antique", as applying to objects at least 100 years old. Collectibles are, generally speaking, the possible antiques of the future and generally less than 100 years old.
It's proven that it's valuable because many people have possessed it and used it, and it may show certain signs of wear (Folk processed? Appearing in a number of slightly, or very, different versions?). Whereas the song written on the bus last week that only the writer sings so far may be a collectible, depending on whether others find it appealing enough to want to sing it themselves. But it is not yet an "antique."

Or a folk song.

I think that comparison holds up pretty well, no?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 06:34 PM

999, I was about to say you must be kidding to suggest that "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" could become a folk song, since it started life as a commercial. But hey, maybe commercials have a certain commonality, and they're the modern roots of folk culture. I've been singing the same beer advertising jingles for fifty years or more. If I live long enough, maybe they'll become folk songs.


I still have to say there's a huge element of futility in these discussions, since it's mostly a matter of semantics and definitions. There is no divinely-revealed definition of folk song (and some folkies would argue that there is no "divine"), so there are many different definitions. Songs may fit some definitions, but not others.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Ole Juul
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 06:36 PM

I'm curious about what "the folk process" is. Where I come from we had books of songs called folk songs and they were sung universally by the people. Many of them were written by well know composers specifically for this purpose. Composers such as Weyse, Gruntvig, and Nielsen, wrote these songs, and along with older anonymous songs, are all called traditional. As far as I know the ones from these composers have not undergone any process. I know my great grand parents sung these folk songs, and as a kid in the 50's have sung them with my parents and grandparents. Everyone sings them as written. This is the Danish view. Am I to believe that the "folk process" is peculiar to English?


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 06:42 PM

Good eye, Joe. It was a 'pop' song first: Coca Cola.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 06:52 PM

Just to add my two cents, suppose a trad song does become a pop hit. Can it then still be considered a folk song?


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 06:57 PM

The Rose Of Allendale has been accepted as a 'Traditional' Folk song despite the fact that it was Victorian Parlour Ballad (Thats a Pop Song for the period) . I see no reason why a number of well crafted modern songs shouldnt go the same way !


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Henry Krinkle
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 07:01 PM

They were all pop songs in the beginning. Now they're old, antique pop songs.
(:-( 0)=


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: pdq
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 07:02 PM

The song "Fox on the Run" was written in the 1960s in England and was made popular (as a Rock song) by a Jewish guy from South Africa.

It is widely played by Bluegrass groups who are, for the most part, Folk.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: GUEST,Blandiver
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 07:11 PM

Pop music is Traditional Music. If you look at the website of The International Society for Traditional Music it says: Its aims are to further the study, practice, documentation, preservation and dissemination of traditional music —including folk, popular, classical and urban music— and dance of all countries.

If you're asking can Pop music become Folk, well that depends on whatever your personal prescriptions of Folk are. If you define Folk Music in terms of context rather than content, then I'd pretty much ALL music has the potential be considered Folk Music if played & discussed by Folkies in a Designated Folk Context (Folk Club, Festival, Mudcat etc.). This is an empirical definition: it states not all music is Folk Music, but all music can be Folk Music if played by Folkies in the name of Folk.

So Folk Music = Music Played by Folkies. If a Folkie plays Johnny B. Goode, then, chances are, it'll be Folk Music. Certainly if Jim Eldon played it (which he probably has done at some point) it'll be Folk in the best sense of the word. If a Rock 'n' Roll musician plays it, then it'll be Rock 'n' Roll - a Traditional popular musical idiom. Simples!


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 07:14 PM

No, Old Juul, the folk process is a universal thing. It is an ongoing phenomena that shapes the music we sing in much the same way that the waves of the ocean shape the stones and drift wood along the shore.

We have to start with something important, though, and that is that the phrase "Folk Songs" on a book cover and the phrase "Folk Songs" as it is used by ethnomusicologists.

If the way that you sang the songs in the book, what ever songs they were called, is the way that the music teacher taught, it probably doesn't have much to do with the folk process (but maybe still some)

If you sang a slightly different melody than was in the book, or left out or added some verses, or, especially, if you used different names in the song and made jokes out of some of the lines or verses, then the folk process comes into play.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 08:53 PM

Sure, pop songs can become traditional. So can mom songs.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 09:06 PM

If somebody remembers the song, especially but not exclusively after they forget who sang it first, it's part of "folk memory" and probably qualifies to be at least "potential folk."

If two people remember a song, especially after the original singer isn't around, it is almost a fact that they will sing it differently, hence it will already have been subject to what some call "the folk process" (but the composers just call "song mangling") and certainly has begun the process of "becoming folk."

The claim that "it can't be folk because it's pop" doesn't hold up against the fact that more than one of the current "originators" of songs/tunes now considered hard-core folk were, when alive, conductors of or players in their city symphonies and based many of their tunes on plagiarizations of (how revoltin') "classical" composers. (The classical composers retaliated by using "folk tunes" for their themes in some compositions, tit-for-tat.)

The valid question is only "is it folk yet?

John


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Larry The Radio Guy
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 09:10 PM

I definitely agree with Don that the modern 'self-written' song not being a folk song....unless it's adapted by 'the folk'.

I also think that Don's analogy of 'antiques' is an interesting one. But with 'folk' there are always exceptions....I don't know if there are with antiques. Don't they have to meet all the criteria to be antiques?

And I've heard Johnny B. Goode played by many a bar/jam band....and most of the time it's awful.   Never know how they'll do it.

Re the 100 yr. old criteria: There are a lot of commercial songs that were influenced by traditional sources....the songs aren't particularly old, but the sources or 'fragments' they took it from are.

Blandiver's criteria is also interesting. Folk music is "music played by folkies". It could get pretty circular. If a folkie brought his or her computerized equipment that s/he just bought, and started demonstrating it at a 'folk' open stage.....would it be folk music?


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Ole Juul
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 10:02 PM

Stim: If the way that you sang the songs in the book, what ever songs they were called, is the way that the music teacher taught, it probably doesn't have much to do with the folk process (but maybe still some)

If you sang a slightly different melody than was in the book, or left out or added some verses, or, especially, if you used different names in the song and made jokes out of some of the lines or verses, then the folk process comes into play.


Thanks for answering that Stim. The songs in the books were indeed what we called folk music and it was pretty universal. Music teachers would not teach this stuff in those days - this was folk music. It is what was sung in the schools and at parties and get-togethers - often organized for the purpose. Any process here would be a matter of cultural development and not really effecting the music.

In one sense, there was actually process. The melodic content and harmonic structure was a direct development of Germanic musical traditions as it had come to fruition in the Baroque.

That said, these songs (because of their universality during those generations) were much used as the basis for made-up songs at weddings and similar events. Perhaps this could be better described as popular music even though it is what was called folk. It is also noteworthy that there was almost never any accompaniment - except occasionally piano at public gatherings.

Perhaps Denmark doesn't actually have a folk music in the sense that it is being discussed here. Perhaps Denmark (outside of art music) only has historical, and popular. A Wikipedial entry on the Danish cultural canon doesn't even mention "folk" music and only lists that to which I am referring. (see here)

I don't mean to derail Larry's query, but it seems to me that there is something here which is specific to English and American culture which would be useful to pinpoint if any discussion of what is, or can become, "folk" is to have any meaning.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Ole Juul
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 10:16 PM

Larry Saidman: I definitely agree with Don that the modern 'self-written' song not being a folk song....unless it's adapted by 'the folk'.

It is adapted by 'the folk'. The modern 'self-written' song is a culmination of a cultural journey. People "write" songs using popular chord progressions (which are changing all the time) and melodic ideas which are popular and people identify with. If that isn't the music of the folk then I can't imagine what is. :)

Note too the word "write". This is not generally what is happening in that genre. People compose these songs in a very non-academic way - far away from paper. The very process is a popular tradition. I think it speaks of a time and a culture. Whether a large number of people listen to, or take up, the song is irrelevant to my way of thinking. It is the culture and the process which makes it "folk".


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 10:20 PM

Woody Guthrie's songs have certainly gone through the folk process. If you look at some of Woody's early versions of This Land Is Your Land, you'll find a lot that you wouldn't sing. I sing the "Communist verses," but I sing a revised version that just seems to work better than the original.
And some of the original words of Union Maid are downright sexist, and I'd never sing them.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 10:24 PM

I seriously doubt if there is any folk song which was not first a popular composed song. In this modern age it probably takes less time to process a popular song into a folk song. But even in the 19th century a minstrel song would make the rounds of the world in less than a year. Lord knows, "Fiddlers Green" has been collected in ireland as a traditional folk song and no doubt "Mary Ellen Carter Rise Again" is considered a folk song somewhere in Canada. But I still like to think that a real folk song has marinated for some period of time, as it's passed from person to person, dropping a verse here or there, changing a word or line, and generally improving in quality.

But not every pop song goes through that process. Some rise to the top and then sink to the bottom, never to rise again.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Stewie
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 10:29 PM

'I Got Your Ice Cold Nugrape' was a sort of commercial. I reckon it is as much a folk song as any other 'blues' from that period. It fulfils quite a few of Don Firth's criteria set out above.

Nu Grape.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 10:30 PM

Oh, I gotta say something about 999's comment about "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" being a "pop" song because it was first used to advertise Coca Cola....

Bad pun.
Really, really bad pun.

But I like it.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 11:31 PM

Ole Juul, I was in a band that played a suite of traditional Danish dance tunes. Traditional Danish songs and dances were collected by some of the people that you mentioned above. Other than playing the tunes, I don't know too much about them, but here is a link
Danish Traditional Music. I do know that, like here in the US and in the UK, the music has been preserved and revived.

For those of us who care to bicker about it, here and in the UK, at least, it has created a question about whether the people who play this revived music are part of "the tradition" or whether "the tradition" ended long ago and they are merely re-creationists. Added to that is a question about whether there are other contemporary "living traditions"( and, if so, what they might be).

This question is tirelessly rephrased and debated, mostly in online forums like this one. Perhaps "tirelessly" is not completely accurate, some of us do get tired of it:-)


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Elmore
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 01:00 AM

Perhaps a pop song can become a really bad traditional song.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Ole Juul
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 02:24 AM

Stim: . . . the music has been preserved and revived.   . . .it has created a question about whether the people who play this revived music are part of "the tradition" or whether "the tradition" ended long ago and they are merely re-creationists.

So you've experienced the music. Would you call that folk? I wouldn't, because it isn't (and perhaps never was) popular. I think music has to be popular to be folk. Regardless of the past situation with this music I understand why you can get tired of debating whether that kind of thing was or is traditional. I don't even understand the question. Is Bach traditional? In Denmark, probably a lot more than the local historical music is.

Re-creationist? What's that supposed to mean? I can imagine it would refer to music that was lost for a while, such as authentic early music. I wouldn't call that "merely" though. It serves us well, regardless of whether we want to listen to it or not. I suppose another meaning of "re-creationist" could be someone who plays the same thing twice. hehe

- Ole
       (fairly, but not too, old)


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 02:52 AM

" If you look at the website of The International Society for Traditional Music it says......"
Having your cake and eating it Bland?
You have made a career of sneering at the findings of the ISTM and at trying to show that they have no right to define folk music; now, it appears, you are citing their present policy as proof that pop songs can be Traditional - "Pop music is Traditional Music".
I trust your recent (between yesteday's thread and now) trip down the Road to Damascus was a pleasant one - or is it a case of manipulating the world from your armchair?
Definitions are never a matter of waiting for pronouncements from above and then carving them in stone.
The 1954 definition worked (to a degree) because it became universaly accepted both by performers and researchers, for long enough for it to take root; it became recognised as a guide to an understanding what made up folk music, and, because nobody has come up with a suitable alternative to day, it remains just that.
It not only stood the test of time and acted as a unifying means of communication between interested people and groups across the world but it stood the litmus test of making sense to what many of us found in the field - it worked.
The present offerings of the ISTM have undergone no such process, have not been widely and openly discussed and have not stood any particular test of time - they are one opinionion among a group of others.
You have persistantly accused other of accepting the '54 definition as a set of rules, which is exactly what you are doing here because this particular "rule book" happens to fit your somewhat bizarre (if sedentary) pronouncements.      
"I seriously doubt if there is any folk song which was not first a popular composed song"
Depends what you mean by "popular" Charlie.
My particular 'Road to Damascus' was finding the existance of several hundred songs that never left the Traveller sites or the rural communities in which they were made, yet they served those communities, in some cases for generations, in the mouths of tiny handfuls of people - not part of the national 'traditional' repertoir and not really widely popular enough to be described as 'popularly composed', but certainly traditional.
It's complicated
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: DMcG
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 03:05 AM

"It's complicated."


Wise words indeed. I think part of the problem is that 'traditional' is really an umbrella terms covering a whole complex of situations. For example, it's worth thinking about back-of-the-bus songs, by which I mean the sort of song that a moderately random group of people on a social outing might start singing to pass the time on a journey, and perhaps the prime example of this is "Yellow Submarine". I think it wouldn't be too misleading that to say that is a traditional song to sing in that scenario, without claiming the song itself is traditional.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 03:42 AM

The old English broadsides of popular songs were a booming business for printers from around 1500 through the 1700s - and they're in the folk tradition now, if they are still sung at all (because while they were liberally borrowed and printed they were rarely attributed to an author, is my understanding). People go back to the Bodlean and many other sources to find the original sheets.

I first learned about some of this from a lecture by Lucie Skeaping of the BBC "Early Music Show" back in 2007. Here is the notice I posted at Mudcat about her lecture. That link suggests several good sources.

Johnny B. Goode (a poor choice to begin with) doesn't have the filter of time and the folk process of different printers taking the same words and putting them in a different tune, or vice versa, as occurred with those early printed songs. It hasn't gone through different performers passing it on as they remember it, building in changes along the way. There may be different arrangements, yes, but it is essentially still the same song: the copyright laws certainly play a role in how much a modern song can be changed. Let alone the many forms of recording and record keeping of words and music that make gradual change less likely. Intentional change yes, but is that the same as the "folk process" as I've heard Barre Toelken and Michael Cooney describe it? No.

You'd be better off starting this discussion with something like Sloop John B or looking at songs by John Jacob Niles that almost sound like folk songs from the start, or songs collected and arranged by Percy Grainger. Then you'd have some real meat to fight over!

SRS


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: GUEST,Blandiver
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 04:29 AM

JC : Having your cake and eating it Bland?

Not at all, old man. Most of what I said up there I said back on the old '1954 & All That' thread which I opened in March 2009 - certainly the remit of the ICTM, which is, I feel, crucial to the notion of just what Traditional Music is. It's certainly inclusive - huge in fact: Folk, Pop & Classical - and whilst that certainly suits the subject of this thread, it falls way outside the Folkie nuerosis that only 'their type of music' can be considered 'traditional' or 'folk processed' which is demonstrable hokum.

I wonder - do the ICTM still stand by their findings as the IFCM? Or why, for that matter, they felt compelled to change the name? What was their Road to Damascus?

Did you see Maud Karpeles on TV the other night? Part of a BBC Proms broadcast of the music of Vaughan Williams. I just caught it in passing but a fascinating glimpse all the same.

*

SRS : The old English broadsides of popular songs were a booming business for printers from around 1500 through the 1700s

And beyond, SRS. Have you seen the Axon Broadside collection at Chethams in Manchester, UK? Worth a look. Printed in the 19th century, many of the songs have been subsequently collected & recorded from Traditional singers (you can hear 'Out With My Gun in the Morning' (sheet 104) sung by Jimmy Knights on VOTP 18 - & sung by Jim Causley on the Woodbine & Ivy album). Even those that haven't offer a fascinating window into the idiomatic nature of English Folk Song & Ballad making. At 280 ballads maybe it's not quite as extensive as the Bodleian Broadsides, but the scans are of a superior quality!

Axon Ballad Collection


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 04:40 AM

Ole Juul--I like to play music on acoustic instruments, and I particularly enjoy playing for dancing, so at one time, I played a lot for "international folk dancers", who do a lot of Scandinavian dances, so I am familiar with the whole "Spelman" thing. I am also a bit of a a wonk, and have a never ending curiosity about sources, origins, construction, and such things.

One thing I learned from playing music is that for audiences, it exists only in the present. They don't really care how old a song is, or how it came to be. Often, the are scarcely aware of what it is about. They really just want it to make them feel like they are part of the moment.

Music is about the best way to make people feel part of the moment, but what music? A room full of International Folk Dancers might feel an overwhelming connection to the earth and the people when they hear a Swedish Hambopolksa from the 19th century, but a room full of Swedes might rather hear ABBA (I can tell you this from my own experience!).


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 05:10 AM

"I wonder - do the ICTM still stand by their findings as the IFCM?"
As I've said, it's the message and not the medium that is important - Your argument was "Pop music is Traditional Music" - look IFMC said so, so it must be true.
I aways know you're bullshitting when you call me 'old man' - and I always expect a waterfall of meaningless verbiage - thanks for not disappointing me
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: GUEST,Blandiver
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 05:46 AM

I aways know you're bullshitting when you call me 'old man'

Jim - I only call you Old Man as a mark of respect. Seriously. It comes from the film 'For a Few Dollars More' - it's what Clint Eastwood's Monco calls Lee Van Cleef's Col. Mortimer. It acknowledges the simple fact that we both are, each of us in our own very different ways, Bounty Hunters in the wilds of Folk Song. It also acknowledges that I defer entirely to both your seniority and your contribution to a greater work before which I stand in awe. I'm not bullshitting here - I'm just an average Folkie with a proclivity for mouthing off in the face of entrenched religiosity & fundamentalism which (I feel) ill befits the glory of the subject. Personally, I count in an honour that you bother discussing these things with me at all. It always passes a cheery hour....

So...

Your argument was "Pop music is Traditional Music" - look IFMC said so, so it must be true.

Would the IFMC said such a thing? The ICTM certainly did - and not without good reason. It is my contention that the Pop music of today is part of an unbroken continuous tradition of Vernacular Music Making stretching back 50,000 years at least. Each idiomatic genre of Pop Music derives from that which proceeded it - nothing came out of nowhere. This to me is what Traditional means. It's acknowleding the glorious Rootedness of all human music making and respecting it accordingly. Pop, Folk, & Classical musics are all born of Traditions and Processes and are thus evolving as a consequence. For sure, you can go back and isolate a particular idiom (as Prof Child did with his Popular Ballads) but that filters out so much else and creates the false picture upon which the Folk Song Revival is predicated. It's a nice picture though - as nice as those on the Axon Broadsides certainly, but just part of something that always a good deal broader.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Ole Juul
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 05:59 AM

This bears repeating.

Blandiver: It is my contention that the Pop music of today is part of an unbroken continuous tradition of Vernacular Music Making stretching back 50,000 years at least. Each idiomatic genre of Pop Music derives from that which proceeded it - nothing came out of nowhere. This to me is what Traditional means. It's acknowleding the glorious Rootedness of all human music making and respecting it accordingly. Pop, Folk, & Classical musics are all born of Traditions and Processes and are thus evolving as a consequence.

It seems like there are some who like to set themselves apart. In my experience it is the more conservative element too. Funny that.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 06:16 AM

'Johnny B. Goode' might entertain claims to have become a traditional song if its lyrics (and not just the chorus) were widely-known amongst the public at large (and not just a tiny number of lead vocalists in covers bands), and passed down in thousands of households from one generation to the next (which is what 'traditional' means in this context). The thing that makes 'folk music' - in its original usage - 'different' is that it was not the preserve of a self-appointed caste of musicians. The excellent discussion in the New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs of folk song in a social context makes the point that singing for diversion and entertainment was once very widespread in the population. It also declares, incidnetally, that for all Cecil Sharp's supposed selectivity in his collecting methods, his findings regarding repertoire were more or less confirmed by the collectors who came later, and operated with more inclusive criteria.

Excellent points from Stilly River Sage, by the way.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: GUEST,Blandiver
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 06:49 AM

and passed down in thousands of households from one generation to the next (which is what 'traditional' means in this context).

Vernacular musical usage was always a good deal more widespread than the prescriptions of Folk would allow. Back in the 80's I lived in mining communities and knew key singers & musicians in their 90's (and older) who would talk openly about taking their one-string fiddle quartets around the farms at Christmas time and the colliery band traditions which many of them had learned from their fathers, but on the subject of Folk Song Proper I invariably drew a blank. Even growing up as a kid we had a wealth of Traditional Northumbriana in our family but it was always just a part of a much wider picture. According to family tradition, my father played all sorts of music on the piano, as did his mother before him, and even sang certain 'Folk Songs' and shanties but my mother never remembered him being involved with Folk as such.

It seems to be the aim of Folk to filter out what it sees as the 'pure stuff' from the background noise of working-class culture as a whole. Maybe I'm alone in finding that a tad specious.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Ole Juul
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 07:42 AM

It seems to be the aim of Folk to filter out what it sees as the 'pure stuff' from the background noise of working-class culture as a whole. Maybe I'm alone in finding that a tad specious.

No you're not. :)


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 07:43 AM

"I count in an honour that you bother discussing these things with me at all. It always passes a cheery hour...."
Does this mean the wedding's back on then?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 08:32 AM

I don't know about "Johnny B. Goode" but "Memphis Tennessee" certainly turns up, either complete or in parts, in a'folk' music context. Ever heard Bob Davenport's version? Or Pete Coe's reworking of "Marrowbones"?

Personally, I consider that a lot of what we classify as 'Traditional/Folk Music' , irrespective of whether "Come all ye's" or "Big Ballads" was, at one time or another, the Top 40 of the day. And what about "The First Time Ever"? Or is a cross-over from 'folk' to 'pop' OK but not the other way round?


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 09:47 AM

"Vernacular musical usage was always a good deal more widespread than the prescriptions of Folk would allow."

I don't know which 'prescriptions of folk' you're referring to. My point was that singing was indeed very widespread, at least up to the early 20th century. Vernacular music making is an interesting area, encompassing the early 19th century village bands in which present-day folk musicians, at least, take a great interest.

"It seems to be the aim of Folk to filter out what it sees as the 'pure stuff' from the background noise of working-class culture as a whole."

Again, I ask who or what is 'Folk' in this context? As I've pointed out before in these discussions, things have moved on a long way in the hundred years since Sharp. But even he, during his Appalachian trips, noted fiddle tunes, African-American work songs, string band songs and hymns that did not fall into his search criteria of old 'English' folk songs. In other words, he made a record of precisely the 'background noise' you're referring to.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 11:06 AM

Well, of course, lots of modern songs are mistaken for old(ish) folk songs. But most of them are written in a folkie style.
For example, I've heard Ralph McTell's "From Clare to Here" introduced as a traditional folk song.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 01:25 PM

"From Clare to Here" introduced as a traditional folk song."
MacOll's 'Shoals of Herring turns up in American academic Horace Back's 'Folklore and the Sea' as 'Shores of Erin' a traditional song from Kerry
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: The Sandman
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 01:34 PM

the reason for singing a song should be [IMO] that it appeals to you, and that you feel you can perform it well.
since the majority of songs performed in the folk genre, are often performed without amplification, that has to be a consideration.
   most pop songs IMO, DO NOT WORK without accompaniment, or electronic wizardry, they are often written with that consideration in mind.
they may be good songs of their genre, but they do not stand up to a different test, that being sung unaccompanied or accompanied in an acoustic style
quite frankly if Iwant to listen to johnny b goode, I would listen to the man who does it best chuck berry[not bob davenport]
likeise if i wanted to listen to a north eastern mining song, i think bob davenport would be a preferential choice to chuck berry. horse for courses


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 02:13 PM

Brian Peters wrote The excellent discussion in the New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs of folk song in a social context makes the point that singing for diversion and entertainment was once very widespread in the population.

In 1984 I was an heir in my great aunt's estate in a the house the family moved into in 1911. The attic was like peeling back history, with the cabinet radio in front of the box of lacquer records and then the big old Victrola, all of this in front of the music stand for the piano sheet music at the back wall of the upstairs room. A brief history of how this family entertained themselves with the earliest step being singing together at the piano with sheet music.

The Ur folksongs will never be discovered since they can't leave a fossil record, but (I imagine) an important part of the research includes an anthropological examination of the collections and early written records, wherever they are found, trying to find reference to known songs or better yet, the jotted down ancient lyrics. Am I correct? I'm an English major, who spent a portion of my academic pursuits focused on American Indian literature and the early records of literate Indians, of first settlers, and the largest portion coming from anthropologists who are very important in teasing out the earliest known tellings of stories and the understanding of remnants and fragments of earlier times. We look at anthropological transcriptions and translations of conversations looking for things that we understand now that they missed in their day.

If we didn't have a written record today this discussion of popular song versus traditional would all be moot. This whole discussion is putting modern composition and the written evidence against spoken and sung history and versions that were handed down through memory. If all of the old versions haven't been collected before now time is almost up because the written word trumps so much.

Allow me a moment to put on my academic hat and introduce some French theory. Jean-Francois Lyotard wrote The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge in 1984 (as La Condition pestmoderne: rapport sur le savoir). Chapter 6 (pgs 18 - 23) is "The Pragmatics of Narrative Knowledge" and has to do with passing down stories through the oral tradition. He discusses the transmission of narratives (obviously songs are a form of narrative) and that
their narration usually obeys rules that define the pragmatics of their transmission. I do not mean to say that a given society institutionally assigns the role of narrator to certain categories on the basis of age, sex, or family or professional group. What I am getting at is the pragmatics of popular narratives that is, so to speak, intrinsic to them. [20]

He gives the example of how a tribal Cashinahua storyteller always begins a story with their equivalent of "once upon a time." He would begin "Here is the story of ------, as I've always heard it told." Because he heard the story, because he tells the story, because he follows the social conventions to ground the story in its place in the culture, the community privileges the storyteller to do this work of transmitting cultural knowledge.

"The narrator's only claim to competence for telling the story is the face that he has heard it himself. The current narratee gains potential access to the same authority simply by listening." This is identical to the authority we grant to folksingers known for collecting and performing traditional songs.

Lyotard follows by noting that this "gives insight into what is a generally recognized property of traditional knowledge." Privileging the narrator is what cultures are inclined to do, but in modern times those narrators are up against the written and recorded word and allows quibbles with authorship, exact wording, sources, and versions. (I won't stray into Barthes and Foucault and argue about the Death of the Author, but a huge aspect of "folk" is that the author is unknown, which is mostly impossible with modern recorded and printed songs.) Before the prominence of the written word, cultures granted the storyteller the authority to do his or her work. When Child and Sharp and others started collecting them, things changed.

As I read this thread, am I correct in thinking that some participants in this discussion seem to want the continuum to move along as if modern composition is subject to the same eventual obscurity as songs composed hundreds of years ago, and that they will eventually be transmitted as a piece but missing the author bit of information? Do any of us really think that Johnny B. Goode will someday be an anonymous folk song? The traditional narrator storyteller/singer gives what they know about what they are about to perform and they tell the story or sing the song. In older times, as what was understood about the world changed, aspects of the song or story would change. The folk process. When modern songs are written on paper with names attached and copyright issued this process is no longer going to happen. Don't you think?

That's all I'll pull from the Lyotard essay, I need to re-read it to discuss any more in depth, but that isn't necessary for this topic. I just wanted to bring in something else for you to chew on.

SRS

Lyotard, Jean-Francois. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, 1984. Translation from the French by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi. U of Minnesota Pr, Minneapolis.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 02:17 PM

I probably overshot the discussion - I'll leave those remarks with apologies to those who don't appreciate them and just say don't let it trip you up.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: John P
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 02:23 PM

To get back to the original question, I'm wondering about "Summertime". I've heard it done as jazz, folk, blues, rock, classical, and combinations of all of those. I've heard the melody get seriously messed with. The words seem to mostly stay the same, though, and I can't honestly say that the melodic alterations actually equate to different versions, so there is ambiguity in my mind. On the other hand, pretty much every musician I've ever played with knows it and has a slightly different take on it, and everyone in every audience I've ever played it for knows it.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 02:27 PM

I think "Johnny B. Goode" is a perfect song to consider. It is, after all, one of the most widely known and recorded songs of our time. And, contrary to SRS assertion, it has been published in many different versions, because each new recording constitutes a publication, and secondly because both the music and the text have been printed and reprinted, both formally and informally, hundreds, if not thousands of times.

Probably more important, for the purposes of this thread, it is a narrative ballad. It tells the story of "Johnny B. Goode" very much in the way "traditional" ballads tell stories. It describes him in the terms that ballads describe their heroes, it gives examples of his virtue, his humble origins, his character, and his achievements.

Even though the boilerplate for rock and roll describes it as a mixture of black and white musical traditions, it never seems to register with people that it is directly linked to the broadside ballad tradition. What was "Stagger Lee"? It was a murder ballad.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: John P
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 02:34 PM

As for the Scandinavian thing, I've been playing mostly Swedish dance music for the last few years. The "feel" of the tradition is somewhat different than the American, British and French music I'd played before. It's almost like the traditional music is more conscious; musicians regularly know the names of the composers of tunes that are a hundred years old or more, as well as the name of the person who came up with the version that gets commonly played. This seems to be a part of the tradition in the minds of most of those who play the music. Also, newly composed tunes -- if they do what dance tunes are supposed to do -- get accepted into the traditional repertoire quite easily.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 02:39 PM

There may be many versions of Johnny B. Goode but they are tethered to the original by way of permission from the author or publisher. That seems less conducive to folk process, don't you think? Same (in theory) with any modern song.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 03:16 PM

I'm an admirer of Chuck Berry's lyrics, but I don't see any resemblance at all to a narrative ballad. There's plenty of scene-setting (which the old narrative ballads typically avoid) but no one particular incident that's described in any detail.

As far as different versions go, I've heard plenty, but none that departs substantially from the Berry original. Maybe in the presence or absence of the 5 chord at the end of the verse, but nothing more. Guitarists generally try to copy Berry's opening riff note-for-note. And, as I tried to say earlier, few people (including, I suspect, band members other than the singer) have the slightest idea of the lyrics to the verses. It might have very wide recognition, but if lots of people not in bands aren't singing it then it's hardly a folk song.

SRS: interesting stuff (if not easy). A printed example is generally the earliest record we have of most English folk songs and, although no-one can ever be really certain, Steve Roud in New Penguin reckons that the majority had their origins in print. Nevertheless, most of the singers who were recorded during the 20th century, at least, told collectors they'd learned songs from family members, not print.


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Subject: RE: Can a pop song become traditional?
From: JHW
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 03:33 PM

Traditional to me means so long ago that most people or indeed no-one at all knows who wrote it. Even time served songs by McColl or Cyril Tawney, written in the style of a folk song, passing through variation and selection etc. to become what many would reasonably call a Folk Song are not Traditional.
The origin of a song can no longer disappear into the mists of time. Today's media and access to information means that in centuries to come our descendants will still know who wrote Shoals of Herring so it will never be traditional.
Equally so a pop song.


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