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Studying folk music

GUEST,Matthew Baker 06 Nov 13 - 04:27 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 06 Nov 13 - 05:19 PM
Elmore 06 Nov 13 - 05:30 PM
Lighter 06 Nov 13 - 05:38 PM
Deckman 06 Nov 13 - 05:39 PM
Joe Offer 06 Nov 13 - 06:11 PM
Lighter 06 Nov 13 - 06:56 PM
Joe Offer 06 Nov 13 - 08:25 PM
Big Mick 06 Nov 13 - 08:27 PM
Elmore 06 Nov 13 - 08:46 PM
Lighter 06 Nov 13 - 09:01 PM
Deckman 07 Nov 13 - 05:58 AM
Mr Happy 07 Nov 13 - 10:54 AM
Elmore 07 Nov 13 - 11:04 AM
GUEST,Grishka 07 Nov 13 - 11:29 AM
Taconicus 07 Nov 13 - 11:42 AM
GUEST,Spleen Cringe 07 Nov 13 - 11:54 AM
GUEST,Spleen Cringe 07 Nov 13 - 11:56 AM
Taconicus 07 Nov 13 - 12:22 PM
GUEST,Matthew Baker 07 Nov 13 - 06:46 PM
Lighter 07 Nov 13 - 07:26 PM
Jack Campin 07 Nov 13 - 08:30 PM
Deckman 07 Nov 13 - 09:37 PM
Don Firth 07 Nov 13 - 09:56 PM
Gibb Sahib 07 Nov 13 - 09:56 PM
Deckman 07 Nov 13 - 10:23 PM
MGM·Lion 08 Nov 13 - 12:57 AM
GUEST,Grishka 08 Nov 13 - 05:37 AM
Brian Peters 08 Nov 13 - 06:15 AM
MGM·Lion 08 Nov 13 - 06:30 AM
Brian Peters 08 Nov 13 - 07:15 AM
GUEST,Grishka 08 Nov 13 - 07:32 AM
Lighter 08 Nov 13 - 08:38 AM
Brian Peters 08 Nov 13 - 09:03 AM
GUEST,Grishka 08 Nov 13 - 10:02 AM
Lighter 08 Nov 13 - 10:59 AM
MGM·Lion 08 Nov 13 - 11:11 AM
Jim Carroll 08 Nov 13 - 12:01 PM
GUEST,Grishka 08 Nov 13 - 12:10 PM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 08 Nov 13 - 01:26 PM
GUEST,Hilary 08 Nov 13 - 03:21 PM
Phil Cooper 08 Nov 13 - 06:46 PM
GUEST,surreysinger sans cookie 09 Nov 13 - 11:38 AM
Lighter 09 Nov 13 - 05:58 PM
GUEST,Joan the Wad 10 Nov 13 - 01:05 AM
MGM·Lion 10 Nov 13 - 02:30 AM
Jim Carroll 10 Nov 13 - 03:10 AM
Azizi 10 Nov 13 - 07:22 AM
Azizi 10 Nov 13 - 08:26 AM
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Subject: Studying folk music
From: GUEST,Matthew Baker
Date: 06 Nov 13 - 04:27 PM

Hello, I am an undergraduate history student at the University of Kentucky and doing a paper on folk music, specifically the "folk revival" of the 1950s and 60s. One of the main topics I'll be discussing is the canonization of certain songs, styles and traditions in American music.

My question to the Mudcat community: What (and who) defines the folk music "canon"? Is it defined by American collectors such as the Lomaxes, or Harry Smith (who collected mostly 20th century U.S. songs)? What of Francis James Child, an American who collected British Isle songs in the late 19th century? There are also a couple of fantastic anthologies from John Fahey. Just curious to find out other peoples' opinion on the matter.

Since I am in Lexington, a short drive from Berea, I'd love to try and speak with Jean Ritchie Pickow. Does anyone have a line on getting in touch with her? She is quite the ethnomusicologist herself, in addition to being a treasured musician.

Many thanks for any insight and help you can offer,

Matt Baker
ma.tt@uky.edu


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 06 Nov 13 - 05:19 PM

John Fahey ????

My answer to your question "What (and Who)" etc. is Nobody and everybody.
Ask a hundred folkies and you will get a hundred different answers.

Fill your boots, and good luck.

Hoot


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Elmore
Date: 06 Nov 13 - 05:30 PM

The collectors you've mentioned were all very important to folk music, Matt. However, when you talk about what defines the folk music canon, I suspect you're wasting your time. That's sort of like asking the eternal, infernal question, "What is folk music?" I think you'd be better served by asking "How did you get interested in folk music?" and then forming your own judgement as to how and by whom the canon is defined. As for contacting Jean Ritchie, obviously I can't speak for her, but I know she has not been in the best of health in recent years. She used to be a frequent and important contributor to Mudcat. Good luck, Elmore. P.S. Please forgive my dreadful typing.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Lighter
Date: 06 Nov 13 - 05:38 PM

I can't believe that long reply didn't post! Or that the mouse didn't copy it!

Short and less informative version: don't be fooled by the "Child numbers," "Roud numbers," "Laws numbers," etc. These are simply for reference and easy identification.

Nobody seriously refers to collections by the Lomaxes, Sharp, Harry Smith, or anyone else as "canonical." Maybe a breezy journalist would, but nobody else. A "canon" implies exclusivity.

A "canon" is as a "canon" does. Nobody would refuse to study a song just because it didn't have a number. In practical and realistic terms, there is no "canon" of folk songs or ballads.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Deckman
Date: 06 Nov 13 - 05:39 PM

What is your definition of "the folk music canon." Bon(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 Nov 13 - 06:11 PM

I think there IS a "folk music canon" - i.e., songs that everybody knows and everybody sings. It's the commonality that defines the canon...but it's the unusual songs that are a bit outside the canon, that are often the more interesting ones. Too often, the songs in the "canon" have been sung too often, and need to be put on the back burner for a while. Still, it's nice to have songs that everybody knows, because then they can be sung together.

By definition, however, the "folk canon" is undefinable. Child did a pretty good job of setting the canon of ballads, but he left out some good ones. The books of the Lomaxes contain a lot of really good folk songs, but they are not the canon of American folk music. I'm trying to learn all of the songs in Sandburg's American Songbag and to ensure that all of Sandburg's songs are posted here - but Sandburg isn't the canon, either. I'm also trying to learn all 139 songs recorded by Pete Seeger and published by Smithsonian Folkways as American Favorite Ballads, Vol. 1-5 - but that isn't the American Folk Canon, either. Still,the Sandburg book and the Seeger recordings are pretty close. Don't know what I'd call the canon of English folk songs, but it wouldn't hurt to learn all the songs in the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs.

Matt, One of Jean Ritchie's relatives tried to put me in touch with Jean by phone, but the call didn't work very well. I'll have Mudcat's Big Mick Lane contact you. He'll know the best way to contact Jean, if it's appropriate. Let's leave the question of contacting Jean to Mick and Matt. Matt, if by chance you don't hear from Mick, let me know. There are lots of other people here who can answer your questions, however.

-Joe Offer-
joe@mudcat.org


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Lighter
Date: 06 Nov 13 - 06:56 PM

Joe, it depends on what you mean by "canon," doesn't it?

Religious studies aside, in the liberal arts the "Shakespeare canon" simply meant all the works known to be by Shakespeare. It implied that there might be other "non-canonical" works falsely or questionably attributed to him. Just as there were "non-canonical" (Apocryphal) books of the bible.

Later (maybe in the early '80s) it meant a body of stuff that was officially regarded as "the best." The word was (and is) often used invidiously to suggest that the so-called "canon" is artificially set up by the Powers That Be to exclude stuff they don't like made by people they don't like.

A "classic" may be good, but a "canon" of classics can be arbitrary, artificial, exclusionary, and bad - according to that way of thinking.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 Nov 13 - 08:25 PM

....or a "canon of classics" can be the reading list the English teacher gave to torment you during summer vacation...

From the term "canon," I get the implication that it's "required reading" if you want to be considered literate. We had a thread Way Back When titled Fifty Songs Everyone Should Know. I think that for most things, the "canon" would be different for each individual, but the lists would have a lot of items in common.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Big Mick
Date: 06 Nov 13 - 08:27 PM

Matt, please send me a email at micklaneatcharterdotnet with your telephone number. I will be happy to assist.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Elmore
Date: 06 Nov 13 - 08:46 PM

Sounds like the word canon , in this instance, should be discarded since it's more trouble than it's worth.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Lighter
Date: 06 Nov 13 - 09:01 PM

Agreed.








Indeed.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Deckman
Date: 07 Nov 13 - 05:58 AM

A note to " Matthew Baker" (guest) who started this thread. You created this thread about 23 hours ago. If you notice, you've had eleven (11)responses. When you create a Mudcat thread, it is your responsibility ...obligation ... to monitor the thread you started. This means that you will read the responses, make your appropriate comments, and above all, thank those who have taken of their private time to respond to your questions.

I look forward to your responses. bob(deckman)nelson. in the Seattle, Washington area of U.S.A.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Mr Happy
Date: 07 Nov 13 - 10:54 AM

A loose canon, perhaps?

I'll get me coat!!


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Elmore
Date: 07 Nov 13 - 11:04 AM

Have we been trolled?


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 07 Nov 13 - 11:29 AM

The OP seems to be unfamiliar to Mudcat and now waiting for comprehensive answers in his email account. It happened before. Undergraduate - way under.

The word "canon", translating "measuring stick", has obtained the meaning of the OP by religious authorities, regarding scriptures. Obviously, every denomination has its own authorities and thus its own canon - or even canons. In contrast to scriptures, (folk) music often has anarchic tendencies. Every Folk Police creates its Folk Guerilla, even in non-English communities that look tight-knit from outside.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Studying folk music
From: Taconicus
Date: 07 Nov 13 - 11:42 AM

The term "canon" seems inappropriate to folk music, a basic attribute of which is that its lyrics, arrangement, and even melody, are constantly changing.

And hey, folks, don't give the kid grief about the "obligation" of "[making] appropriate comments" and "[thanking] those who have taken of their private time to respond to your questions." People respond here because they want to. Besides, the guy posted his question less than a day ago; perhaps he hasn't been back yet to check. Ease up a bit.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe
Date: 07 Nov 13 - 11:54 AM

Come on. It's less than 24 hours since Matthew posted his request and people are already lecturing him about Mudcat ettiquette and suggesting he's a troll. Don't scare him off! Not everyone is glued to the internet 24/7.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe
Date: 07 Nov 13 - 11:56 AM

Whoops. Taconicus has already said that - sorry!


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Taconicus
Date: 07 Nov 13 - 12:22 PM

There's a certain primate behavior (usually among male primates) that I see time and again in Internet communities (e.g., chat boards) that I find disturbing: a new monkey drops by and makes a comment, and the "accepted monkeys" of the group immediately start giving him a hard time, at least until they're used to him and he becomes an accepted member of the community.

That said, I see that sort of thing far less in Mudcat than in other Internet communities. This is generally one of the most welcoming communities around.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: GUEST,Matthew Baker
Date: 07 Nov 13 - 06:46 PM

Wow, thanks for all the responses. I am obviously unfamiliar with the Mudcat community, and have been pleasantly surprised to get such a lively discussion going so quickly.

As far as the notion of a canon, I see clearly that it is a term with little value for discussing folk music. It is obviously a word with deep implications (a loaded canon if you will). I wasn't trying to suggest that any one of the collections by Lomax or others could constitute it, but perhaps 8or9or10 of such anthologies could begin to define a good place to start. But I agree that canon implies exclusivity, which leads to snobbery.

Even defining folk music is a fool's task: it's as constantly shifting and evolving as us primates are. One of the so called requirements seems to be producing music without a commercial bent. That would kick out Hank Williams Sr, Bob Dylan, and Pokey LaFarge out of the American folk music pantheon : no thank you! They're as authentically American as it gets. Another definition defines it as music of the people. Guess what Pete Seeger? Your dad went to Harvard, you're no folk musician! (in his defense he described himself as a singer or folk songs and not a folk singer, but still)

As for John Fahey, he was a folk musician responsible for the American Primitivism style of guitar picking. He later studied folklore and issued an anthology of the Mississippi bluesman Charlie Patton, "Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues". His record label also released the final installment of the Harry Smith anthology.

That's all I got for now and thanks again to all that wrote back. I've gotten in email touch with Mick so I'll update any progress on that front for anyone interested. And I'll be sure to check this thread like a hawk and post new thoughts as they come to me!


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Nov 13 - 07:26 PM

> That would kick out Hank Williams Sr, Bob Dylan, and Pokey LaFarge out of the American folk music pantheon : no thank you! They're as authentically American as it gets. Another definition defines it as music of the people. Guess what Pete Seeger? Your dad went to Harvard, you're no folk musician! (in his defense he described himself as a singer or folk songs and not a folk singer, but still).

There's an "authentically American pantheon" and an "American folk music pantheon." They're not identical but they do overlap here and there. You're teetering on the edge of Mudcat Fallacy No. 1, namely: "To say it isn't folk is to say it's junk and I shouldn't like it." Nonsense.

Pete Seeger went to Harvard too, though briefly. That wouldn't keep him from a being a "folk musician" any more than it kept Judge Learned Hand from singing two folk songs on a Library of Congress folk music LP.

When Seeger does a traditional song that he learned from a traditional source, and plays his banjo in a traditional manner, he's a folk musician in my book. When he does something else, he isn't. There's no contradiction. The only issue is what it means, specifically, to say someone is or isn't a "folk musician," and how much it matters to a particular discussion.

Was Charles Ives a "folk composer"? Obviously not. What difference does that make to his music? None.

Back to the "canon." Child includes "a ballad" he calls "Sir Patrick Spens." But not all the versions have that title. Some are fragments. The story varies to some degree in each one. So is there one "Sir Patrick" ballad or several?

Ewan MacColl's version is usually considered to be he finest of all, but maybe he put it together himself around 1950. Does it matter? If he didn't, is MacColl's "Sir Patrick" "canonical"? If not, so what? Is it suddenly a lousy version?

Don't let labels cloud your mind. Most or all of them are for convenience and orientation only. They indicate spectra. When you get down to cases, they quickly recede in importance.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Nov 13 - 08:30 PM

As far as the notion of a canon, I see clearly that it is a term with little value for discussing folk music.

In some situations it's a useful idea. Bartok made an interesting comparison between the tune repertoires he found in Romania and Slovakia: they had about the same number of melodies, but whereas in Romania every village had only a small repertoire of melodies, differing greatly from one village to the next, in Slovakia every practicing musician from every part of the country knew the whole of the Slovak repertoire. Presumably Slovakia was a much more mobile society and had had time to develop a unified canon.

What I see happening with the Irish tune session scene is something along the Slovak model - it's no great feat to memorize a new tune, so the Irish session repertoire worldwide is fairly uniform and getting more so thanks to modern methods of music distribution. Whereas the "acoustic"/"Americana" singaround scene in the area I live in (Midlothian, southern Scotland) is more like Romania - singers have very small repertoires, and recycle their (usually quite polished) favourites a lot, but there might not be much commonality with a similar scene 20 miles away. What drives that is simply that it takes so much more effort to get something like a verbally complicated John Prine song into a performable state than it does for a reel off a Sharon Shannon CD.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Deckman
Date: 07 Nov 13 - 09:37 PM

To "Matthew Baker" ... thanks for checking in. Soooo ... what exactly is your question? If you ask me clearly I'll do my darndest to try to answer you. Please be gentle with me, I'm REALLY old ... but with my age might come some perspective. bob(deckman)nelson


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Don Firth
Date: 07 Nov 13 - 09:56 PM

Welcome to the madhouse, Matthew!

Just to get an idea of the task ahead, a friend of mine and I took a course in "The English Popular Ballad," taught by Prof. David Fowler in the English Department at the University of Washington back in the late 1950s. The term paper was to research a particular ballad, using all the sources available at various libraries (he handed out a list) and document the origins—if possible—of our particular ballad. My friend picked "Lord Randal" and came up with a truly monumental and highly educational amount of information.

He found the texts of 1,013 different versions of the ballad. And that although the origins of the ballad were lost in the mists of antiquity, he developed—and was able to support—the theory that it had come into existence in one to the Scandinavian countries in medieval times, probably composed by some anonymous scop or skald (bard or minstrel)—and had spread through Scandinavia, to the British Isles, continental Europe, Russia, through the Middle East, and into North Africa. In short, everywhere the Vikings or Norsemen went.

English settlers brought it to the Americas, along with a myriad of other songs and ballads, and it's found in the Appalachians and elsewhere, along with a host of such songs and ballads (as documented by Cecil Sharp and others).

And many--most--of the ballads and many folk songs have a similar history. Far older and more widespread

One would do well to read The Ballad Tree by Evelyn Kendrick Wells, published in 1950, and should be findable in a good public library.

Another book I would highly recommend is Singing Family of the Cumberlands by Jean Ritchie.

My interest in folk music and ballads goes back well before the "folk revival" of the Fifties. I'm well up in years, and I remember (vaguely) hearing Alan Lomax's broadcasts on "American School of the Air" in the 1930s and in the 1940s, listening to Burl Ives's Sunday afternoon program, "The Wayfaring Stranger." Ives talked about American history and sang songs relating to the historical incidents he was talking about. Fascinating! My interest became active when a girl friend in 1952 inherited an old parlor guitar from her grandmother and started to learn folk songs from A Treasury of Folk Songs, a drugstore paperback by John and Sylvia Kolb (excellent little collection!). I bought a copy of the book and a cheap guitar, and Claire taught me my first chords.

To avoid confusion, it might by useful to make the distinction between a folk singer and a singer of folk songs. A folk singer grew up in the tradition and learned songs from their family and community. A singer of folk songs is someone who was born and raise in the city and who learned their songs from records and song books (I am one of these).

Folk music is a much broader field than many people suspect. It's far too easy to err on the overly simplistic side.

Be warned!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 07 Nov 13 - 09:56 PM

Hey Bob -

what exactly is your question?

"My question to the Mudcat community:
What (and who) defines the folk music "canon"? Is it defined by American collectors such as the Lomaxes, or Harry Smith (who collected mostly 20th century U.S. songs)? What of Francis James Child, an American who collected British Isle songs in the late 19th century? ...Just curious to find out other peoples' opinion on the matter."

I hope that helps ;)


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Deckman
Date: 07 Nov 13 - 10:23 PM

Yes ... that really helps ... thanks muchly ... bob


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Studying folk music
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Nov 13 - 12:57 AM

And, just to complicate matters, Child did not 'collect' any folksongs or ballads, in the sense of going out and learning them from what we call 'source' singers; but published a scholarly collection of versions that had already appeared in print in a limited number of (to him 'canonical'!?) previous such scholarly collections. He didn't survive to see it published, which was done by his colleague Kittredge, who, in his Introduction, claimed that the work contained 'probably all the significant mass of the available material' [from memory -- words to that effect anyhow] -- a somewhat, to us, quaint remark, that is said to have inspired Gavin Greig to go travelling in Scotland and learn, from source singers, a vast quantity or variants unknown to Child.

The point of this post is to stress that, as well as 'folk' itself', the terms 'collector' and 'collection' should also be used with some care and circumspection within this context.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 08 Nov 13 - 05:37 AM

If the criterion "no commercial interests" were taken seriously, broadside ballads, the staple of Child's collection compilation, would not count as folk. I suspect the same applies to many other old folk songs, since the advent of money.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Brian Peters
Date: 08 Nov 13 - 06:15 AM

It's not uncommon to find The English and Scottish Popular Ballads referred to as 'the Child canon'. Child intended it to be comprehensive, but since he never wrote down his criteria for inclusion it's value as a 'canon' is limited, not least because it includes widely-sung ballads like Barbara Allen alongside pieces with no known popular currency at all.

Since Matthew is studying in Kentucky, he should be familiar with Sharp and Karpeles' English Folk-Songs of the Southern Appalachians, which is one of the most comprehensive regional collections ever made, and which influenced the later folk revival through 'borrowings' by Dylan etc. Part of that collection was made right on his doorstep.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Nov 13 - 06:30 AM

In fact, Child included few broadside versions, which he tended to despise as, in his words, 'a veritable dunghill', unless they had appeared in some such previous collections as the Douce ballads, Pepys, Harley, Scott's Minstrelsy, Percy's Reliques, &c, together with Scandinavian (& other European) analogues from such compilations as Grundtvig's; which, as I said above, were his primary source. But broadsides were not, as Grishka claims, in any way 'the staple' of his collection.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Brian Peters
Date: 08 Nov 13 - 07:15 AM

Child did indeed despise broadsides, Michael, but he did include rather a lot of them, considering his distaste!


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 08 Nov 13 - 07:32 AM

MtheGM, OK, I withdraw "the staple". The fact remains that many of our cherished old folk songs are known to have been created for commercial interest, and even a much larger number can be thus suspected. Non olet.

Some songs display a charming opalescence between real and faked/calculated naïveté, often understood as irony even by "ordinary folks". Ye olde times were not as olde as 19th century romantics wanted them. (Child was perfectly aware of that, but still a child of his time.)


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Lighter
Date: 08 Nov 13 - 08:38 AM

And there's no advantage in confusing a "canon" (which is defined by "official" exclusivity of one kind or another) with a "repertoire" (which is simply what a person or persons perform). Not that Jack intended to do so.

As for definitions, define "poetry" in twenty words or less? For starters, be sure your definition applies equally to the works of Shakespeare, William McGonagall, Homer, war chanters of the Amazon Basin, Whitman, rappers, Rod McKuen, writers of haiku, and first-year college students in an English class. And be sure it *excludes* any of the above (and anything else) that somebody might object to as "not poetry."

When you've done that to everyone's satisfaction try "folk music."

Such labels are very useful but they're simply not very precise unless made so for a particular discussion.

That would be a "stipulative" definition: "Let's stipulate for now that 'folk music' means blah blah blah so that we can discuss something intelligently."

An "ostensive" or "denotative" definition would be: "'Folk music' means stuff like X and Y and Z and A and B and so on. Get the picture?" (This often prompts the reply, "Where'd you get the idea that B folk music?!)

A "descriptive" definition describes what the term seems to mean in actual use. And that would mean that there's no single, comprehensive, objective, "canonical" definition of "folk music," "folk musician," etc. They mean rather different things to different people.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Brian Peters
Date: 08 Nov 13 - 09:03 AM

Good post, Lighter.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 08 Nov 13 - 10:02 AM

Stipulative definitions of existing notions can be useful in isolated contexts, otherwise an idiosyncratic definer had best coin a new word or acronym.

Users of encyclopedias or dictionaries will feel cheated if they read "They mean rather different things to different people." Some people simply have no idea or are on the wrong track, which is why they consult a dictionary. The goal is not "everyone's satisfaction", but to represent the writers' knowledge about what the term means in typical use by the language community.

Good definitions of ordinary language will often be "fuzzy". Such definitions of "folk song" identify some things as definitely being folk songs, others as definitely not, and yet others which share the property "folk song" to some percentage between 0 and 100. A rather primitive method is to identify, say, five yes-no criteria, so that an object that satisfies three of them is regarded as a "60% folk song". In practice, each of the criteria will be fuzzy itself.

Also, some are more relevant than others. My point in my previous posts was that being non-commercial is less relevant (de facto, e.g. for authoritative collections) than some idealists like to think. (It has all been discussed in 1001 Mudcat threads.)


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Lighter
Date: 08 Nov 13 - 10:59 AM

Thanks, Brian.

Grishka, you're right about dictionaries, encyclopedias, and "typical use by the language community."

But there's frequently more than one "typical use," and reference books have to decide which one(s) to address. Sometimes (as for the word "run")there are dozens.

And appeals to "typical use" (especially when there's more than one) can be a poor standard for the kind of specialized discussions we have here, where carelessness will cost you. (In "typical use" a whale is often a fish and a predicted meteorite shower is "weather.")

> A rather primitive method is to identify, say, five yes-no criteria, so that an object that satisfies three of them is regarded as a "60% folk song".

I doubt anyone has done this or would want to. Examples of non-material culture, like songs and performances, aren't analyzable in the manner of chemical compounds. It would be far more useful to say that one of Seeger's (or even Steeleye's) performances has certain "folklike or 'traditional' characteristics" and then describe them. (Seeger would generally score higher on the percentage scale, but I'm nor sure that fact by itself is of much interest,)

Is a pizza "really" a "pie"? How about in "typical use"? (I don't believe the public in any country has been surveyed on this, so we have to base "typical" use on our own experiences.) Does it matter?

Well, it might in a lawsuit. Otherwise, what's on the pizza is more interesting.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Nov 13 - 11:11 AM

"Child did indeed despise broadsides, Michael, but he did include rather a lot of them, considering his distaste!"
.,,.
Quite, Brian. But rarely, was it not the case, from actual broadside source, but because that particular broadside variant had previously appeared in one of those collections of the sort I have already mentioned? ~~ which he would then rubricate as his instant source in the headnote to that ballad.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Nov 13 - 12:01 PM

American scholars haven't done too bad a job in documenting the early folk song scene - far better than has happened in the UK as far as I can make out.
For early overviews see Josh Dunson's 'Freedom in the Air' - song movements of the '60s; Oscar Brand's 'The Ballad Mongers' - rise of modern folk song; John Greenaway's 'American Folksongs of Protest'.
Lomax's 'Penguin Book of American Folk Songs' (companion to English, Scottish, Australian, Canadian, Ballads... et al) are invaluable anthologies, and themed collections like Archie Green's 'Only a Miner' are goldmines of information a well as rich sources of song.
Would highly recommend some of the Lomax biographies that have recently emerged - and his autobiographical 'Land Where the Blues Began' - magic.
If you can lay hands of John Lomax's 'Adventures of a Ballad Hunter'.....
None of these are without problems, but It's difficult to know where to stop really.   
Good Luck
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 08 Nov 13 - 12:10 PM

But there's frequently more than one "typical use,"
Generally, yes, often depending on the region and other context variables. But not in the case of "folk song": there is only one principal meaning in the whole English-speaking world, similar to words like "tree" (what is the minimal size?) or "hut" (how small/fragile?).
I doubt anyone has done this or would want to
So do I - it is only meant as an illustration of fuzziness (see "Fuzzy logic" on Wiki).

What is typical usage? Often there is no way of proving it, we have to consult those whom we trust to be experts, e.g. the authors of respectable encyclopedias. Some words are used by the majority of speakers in ways that are disapproved of by a strong minority for good reasons; the use by the latter can still be considered "typical" until they are too small in number. No such problems with "folk" though.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 08 Nov 13 - 01:26 PM

Matthew. You said that you were planning/hoping to visit Jean Richie. Since nobody has mentioned it (unless I've missed it of course), I'd better point out that she is extremely old and extremely frail. That doesn't mean you shouldn't visit her of course, but I would strongly suggest that you contact someone close to her and see whether she's up to receiving visitors, how long they think you should stay etc.

If I were her age, and done as much as she's done, I'd be delighted to talk to anyone who'd take the trouble to listen. But a little caution was never a bad thing.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: GUEST,Hilary
Date: 08 Nov 13 - 03:21 PM

Matthew,
I recommend taking a look at G Malcolm Laws' books, Native American Balladry and American Balladry from British Broadsides. Also, The Ballad Collectors of North America by Scott B Spencer will give you some information on the history of folk song scholarship.

I think that the generally accepted definition of folklore is that it's informal artistic expression that takes place in a group. Thus, it follows that folk music is music shared informally. So my personal feeling is that one cannot say a particular song is a folk song. It's "folkiness," for lack of a better term, depends on the context in which it is performed or shared.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 08 Nov 13 - 06:46 PM

I'd sure be interested in what Malcolm Douglas would have to say on this. Good thoughts expressed.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: GUEST,surreysinger sans cookie
Date: 09 Nov 13 - 11:38 AM

Conversations like this just go to highlight how much his input is sadly missed on here.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Lighter
Date: 09 Nov 13 - 05:58 PM

There have been a lot of interesting discussions about what's folk and what isn't and when and why.

Like this one:

thread.cfm?threadid=131549#2970110


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: GUEST,Joan the Wad
Date: 10 Nov 13 - 01:05 AM

Matthew,

Definitions of Folk come and go, but I am surprised that this thread has got this far without a single mention of The Digital Tradition collection.

It would be well worth your while to download it and study it as it reference previous collections and includes modern works.

By the time that you have studied its many thousand songs, some of your questions may have been answered.

Personally, I don't believe in STUDYING folk music I think that we should be out there singing and playing whatever WE think is folk music.

Joan t W.


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 10 Nov 13 - 02:30 AM

It must surely be sung and studied, Joan? They are not mutually exclusive activities by any means, but entirely complementary. Folklore is a perfectly respectable topic, as well as a fascinating one, well worth academic study. I myself like a good 'footnote' to a song, either in print or orally before a performance, and try to provide a brief and, I hope, not too tedious one before singing a song. An audience member isn't necessarily going to know who Mary Hamilton or the Duke of Marlborough were if nobody tells them, and will surely have less appreciation of the point of the song if they never find out?

~M~


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Nov 13 - 03:10 AM

"Definitions of Folk come and go,"
Not really and a bit of a red herring.
A more or less set definition has remained the same for over half-a-century (if you care to stretch it, since 1836) and has never been re-defined; this will remain until such time until a consensus definition is devised and generally agreed upon.
Most of the suggestions put forward here are based on the established definition
Anybody seriously studying the genre referred to as 'folk music' will find themselves in a great deal of trouble if they ignore that definition and involve themselves in the somewhat directionless morass that is todays 'folk scene'
Jim Carroll
Not trying to open a can of worms - just trying to stick to the set menu


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Azizi
Date: 10 Nov 13 - 07:22 AM

Here are some books that are considered classics in the study of 19th and early 20th century African American* folk music.

Slave Songs of the United States: The Classic 1867 Anthology [William Francis Allen, Charles Pickard Ware, Lucy McKim Garrison]
http://books.google.com/books/about/Slave_Songs_of_the_United_States.html?id=yrsTaGBpk6UC

http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/folk-song-an/
"Folk Song Of The American Negro: An investigation into traditional American negro folk songs"... By John Wesley Work, A.M. Professor Of Latin And History Fisk University c1915 [online book]

Negro Folk Rhymes Wise and Otherwise by Thomas W. Talley
[originally published by Macmillan Press in 1922
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/27195/27195-h/27195-h.htm
[EBook]

On The Trail Of Negro Folk-Songs By Dorothy Scarborough Assisted By Ola Lee Quiledge Copyright, 1925 By Harvard University Press [online book]


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Subject: RE: Studying folk music
From: Azizi
Date: 10 Nov 13 - 08:26 AM

*Notice that I use the term "African American" instead of the retired referent "Negro" which is used in most of these books.

It's preferable to spell the word "Negro" with an upper case "n" although in some of those books that referent is spelled with a lower case "n". At least by the 1950s among most Black Americans, spelling "Negro" with a lower case "n" was and still is considered to be very offensive.

****
This discussion thread inspired me to publish the following post on my cultural blog:
http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/11/studying-african-american-folk-music.html "Studying African American Folk Music (with a partial reference list & five video examples)

Thank you!

Azizi Powell


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