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BS: What isn't Folk?

Molly Malone 25 Feb 00 - 06:45 PM
catspaw49 25 Feb 00 - 06:47 PM
Troll 25 Feb 00 - 06:59 PM
Sorcha 25 Feb 00 - 07:26 PM
Clifton53 25 Feb 00 - 08:14 PM
Arkie 25 Feb 00 - 09:16 PM
Jon Freeman 25 Feb 00 - 09:35 PM
zander (inactive) 26 Feb 00 - 07:13 AM
GUEST,Sam Pirt 26 Feb 00 - 09:58 AM
Duffy Keith 26 Feb 00 - 02:01 PM
Chocolate Pi 26 Feb 00 - 04:44 PM
GUEST 26 Feb 00 - 05:15 PM
Áine 26 Feb 00 - 09:19 PM
sophocleese 26 Feb 00 - 11:37 PM
Charlie Baum 27 Feb 00 - 02:32 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 27 Feb 00 - 02:45 AM
Crowhugger 27 Feb 00 - 07:10 AM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 27 Feb 00 - 12:30 PM
McGrath of Harlow 27 Feb 00 - 01:10 PM
Ely 27 Feb 00 - 06:04 PM
Little Neophyte 27 Feb 00 - 06:11 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 27 Feb 00 - 07:39 PM
McGrath of Harlow 27 Feb 00 - 08:08 PM
John in Brisbane 27 Feb 00 - 08:18 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 27 Feb 00 - 08:31 PM
John in Brisbane 27 Feb 00 - 11:45 PM
Arkie 28 Feb 00 - 12:23 AM
GUEST,Steve Roberson 28 Feb 00 - 09:44 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 28 Feb 00 - 11:07 AM
Bert 28 Feb 00 - 12:12 PM
Uncle_DaveO 28 Feb 00 - 12:22 PM
Whistle Stop 28 Feb 00 - 12:54 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 28 Feb 00 - 01:05 PM
McGrath of Harlow 28 Feb 00 - 01:56 PM
GUEST,Bruce O. 28 Feb 00 - 02:15 PM
Bert 28 Feb 00 - 02:17 PM
GUEST,Petr 28 Feb 00 - 03:39 PM
GUEST,Petr 28 Feb 00 - 03:40 PM
GUEST 28 Feb 00 - 06:29 PM
Gervase 29 Feb 00 - 09:47 AM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 29 Feb 00 - 11:01 AM
Little Neophyte 29 Feb 00 - 11:52 AM
kendall 29 Feb 00 - 12:00 PM
Bill D 29 Feb 00 - 08:55 PM
kendall 29 Feb 00 - 09:01 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 29 Feb 00 - 09:24 PM
McGrath of Harlow 29 Feb 00 - 09:36 PM
Bill D 29 Feb 00 - 10:17 PM
catspaw49 29 Feb 00 - 10:34 PM
Bill D 29 Feb 00 - 10:44 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 01 Mar 00 - 11:03 AM
The Shambles 01 Mar 00 - 11:08 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 01 Mar 00 - 11:23 AM
Mbo 01 Mar 00 - 12:20 PM
Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull 06 Aug 01 - 11:54 PM
Big Mick 07 Aug 01 - 12:12 AM
catspaw49 07 Aug 01 - 12:29 AM
Chanteyranger 07 Aug 01 - 01:45 AM
Murray MacLeod 07 Aug 01 - 06:04 AM
M.Ted 07 Aug 01 - 12:29 PM
Whistle Stop 07 Aug 01 - 01:10 PM
GUEST 07 Aug 01 - 01:12 PM
M.Ted 07 Aug 01 - 02:32 PM
GUEST 07 Aug 01 - 02:50 PM
rock chick 07 Aug 01 - 03:31 PM
rock chick 07 Aug 01 - 03:32 PM
UB Ed 07 Aug 01 - 03:50 PM
Bill D 07 Aug 01 - 05:11 PM
M.Ted 07 Aug 01 - 06:13 PM
Art Thieme 07 Aug 01 - 09:03 PM
Bert 07 Aug 01 - 10:49 PM
Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull 07 Aug 01 - 11:26 PM
toadfrog 07 Aug 01 - 11:39 PM
Bill D 07 Aug 01 - 11:52 PM
Murray MacLeod 08 Aug 01 - 06:37 AM
Philibuster 08 Aug 01 - 07:08 AM
M.Ted 08 Aug 01 - 05:11 PM
Murray MacLeod 08 Aug 01 - 05:26 PM
Mr Red 08 Aug 01 - 05:35 PM
Burke 08 Aug 01 - 05:43 PM
Art Thieme 08 Aug 01 - 10:34 PM
DougR 08 Aug 01 - 11:28 PM
Phil Cooper 08 Aug 01 - 11:53 PM
M.Ted 09 Aug 01 - 10:07 AM
masato sakurai 09 Aug 01 - 11:21 AM
M.Ted 09 Aug 01 - 01:20 PM
masato sakurai 10 Aug 01 - 02:42 AM
GUEST 10 Aug 01 - 09:49 AM
Bill D 10 Aug 01 - 06:11 PM
T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird) 10 Aug 01 - 11:41 PM
Bill D 11 Aug 01 - 01:37 AM
M.Ted 17 Aug 01 - 01:13 PM
Little Hawk 17 Aug 01 - 01:48 PM
M.Ted 17 Aug 01 - 08:16 PM
Little Hawk 17 Aug 01 - 09:14 PM
catspaw49 17 Aug 01 - 09:26 PM
Little Hawk 17 Aug 01 - 09:46 PM
masato sakurai 18 Aug 01 - 01:41 AM
Art Thieme 21 Aug 01 - 01:05 AM
GUEST,Boab 21 Aug 01 - 02:26 AM
blt 22 Aug 01 - 02:09 AM
jaze 22 Aug 01 - 09:24 PM

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Subject: What isn't Folk?
From: Molly Malone
Date: 25 Feb 00 - 06:45 PM

Ok, I'm about to really stir up a hornets nest here, but this came up in another thread (or a hundred or so of them I'm sure.)

We debate about what is folk music. And nearly anyone will admit that it's nearly impossibly to define.

So, what are your thoughts on the subject?

And is something that isn't folk music today (Brittney Spears???) going to turn into folk in 50 years?


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: catspaw49
Date: 25 Feb 00 - 06:47 PM

......oy..................

Spaw


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Troll
Date: 25 Feb 00 - 06:59 PM

FOOLS RUSH IN...WHERE ANGELS Fear TO TREAD....

Ok. Sure.Why not? Of hte thousands of songs published in the teens and twenties of the 20th century, very few are around today and fewer still are included in the Folk Music Repetoir.I think that will hold true in years to come.

Which songs will survive?

Go ask someone else. I haven't the foggiest.

troll


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Sorcha
Date: 25 Feb 00 - 07:26 PM

Thoughts: The "teen" folk listen to stuff like Marilyn Manson, does that make it folk? Anything that isn't something else is "folk". Does it have to be old to be folk? Stir the worms.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Clifton53
Date: 25 Feb 00 - 08:14 PM

Strictly defined? Max Foster, and I quote, "Nobody can WRITE a folk song".

Clifton53


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Arkie
Date: 25 Feb 00 - 09:16 PM

Having just watched the Grammy Awards the other night, I can't imagine why I punished myself in such an inhumane way, I have great pity for the current music scene. I cannot imagine anything I heard on that show being performed six months from now much less six years or sixty years from now. Much of what we now call folk music was a form of popular music in its earliest inception. Some of that popular music took on a life of its own and survived through multiple generations and became folk music through acceptance of people far removed from the original creation of the music. The juice of the grape does not become wine until it ferments and ages. Music does not become folk music until it ferments and ages. The music from 1999 that becomes folk music will not be from the award winning pieces, but there are most likely some good candidates lurking in the background unless our copyright laws get in the way.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 25 Feb 00 - 09:35 PM

What isn't folk is when the horses start to run backwards ;-)

Jon


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: zander (inactive)
Date: 26 Feb 00 - 07:13 AM

with very few exeptions most pop and other songs are wtitten to make money, folk songs are written for many reasons but to make money is'nt one of them. This is the start of the definition of folk music


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: GUEST,Sam Pirt
Date: 26 Feb 00 - 09:58 AM

Well I've got to give you it, you have set off a real debate and heres my bit of input.

"Folk music is music made by the people for the people"

Fine but I think it is also fair to say that 'Folk' music pays hommage to its past. Which is where the 'traditional' da-di-da comes into it.

This results in 'Traditional folk music' Now what about 'Contempary Folk Music'

Well I recon this is music written in the traditional iadom but often composed a realativly short time ago (compared to O'carolan which is 200+ years old now) Contempory folk music in todays society is a melting pot of many different types of Traditional Folk Musics resulting in a type of contemoaryufolk music that has never existed before, mainly due to the fact that e-mail, phones etc did not exist.

Traditional styles used to be different in different villages now its more a country sort of thing, thanks to Cars etc...

DON'T WORRY I HAVEN'T LOST MY WAY, Whats NOT FOLK MUSIC?

Well haveing read the above you can probably guess, its music that does not really show any respect or awarness of its past, like pop music. By showiung a respect to your past you are paying respect to the traditions in that music field, and playing folk music at the sametime.

confused? Me Too!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cheers, Sam


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Duffy Keith
Date: 26 Feb 00 - 02:01 PM

what is folk music...Well I would say that it is any music that tells a story about some aspect of life, generally written in an unprofessional circumstance, but not necessarily...I think the storytelling aspect is most important...and the instrumental backup can be very simple to begin with...it IS very difficult to put a label on, it is sort of like when you hear it you know what it is...!!!


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Chocolate Pi
Date: 26 Feb 00 - 04:44 PM

As one of the 'teen folk,' I think (and hope) that most of the awful stuff that people blast at all hours of the night isn't going to be folk music because the folk don't sing/play it themselves, just turn on their stereos or mp3s. The canditates for folk music are the things everybody knows how to sing when we go caroling through the hallways during finals week (Beatles, Tom Leher, 'One Tin Soldier', 'Video Killed the Radio Star', and so on). Music that requires a soundboard that takes up more room than the singers/players and massive amounts of effects and processing isn't going to be folk becuase people won't keep singing it. just my $.02

Chocolate Pi (putting off calculus homework)


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Feb 00 - 05:15 PM

I agree with folks above who say that folk music is what people know and sing. Doo wop may have been a "popular" genre, in terms of selling records, for only a short time, but people remember it, and still like to sing it. Beatles songs are great to get everybody singing along--they cross a lot of age-boundaries.

Mary McCaffrey


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Áine
Date: 26 Feb 00 - 09:19 PM

Well, let's see, if we're talking about music that might be considered 'folk' or 'of the folk' a half a century or so from now, let me put forth a few candidates:

1) One or more ditties sung by Frank Sinatra;

2) One or more ditties sung by Dean Martin;

3) I Left My Heart In San Francisco as sung by Tony Bennett;

4) Anything ever sung by Nat King Cole;

5) Anything ever sung by Ray Charles;

6) Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree as sung by The Andrews Sisters;

7) Most of the songs from the WWII era that invoke longing by and/or for those far from home;

8) Probably one or two of the early songs sung by Bette Midler (but NOT that 'wind beneath my wings' pile of doo); and

9) Let us not forget the songs sung by Mel Torme, Aretha Franklin, and Judy Garland.

If the genre of 'folk' is supposed to be inclusive of the experience and history 'of the folk', then surely these could be considered candidates therefor in the coming century.

It surely will be interesting for those of us to reflect upon this a quarter century or so from now . . .

-- Áine

Just a few candidates from the 'romantic' genre of now classic 'popular' music.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: sophocleese
Date: 26 Feb 00 - 11:37 PM

I'm not sure that you can suggest that something "as sung by" qualifies as folk although it may qualify as popular. Handel's Messiah is popular but it is not folk. A necessary aspect of a folk song is that it can be sung by anyone, it loses it association with a person and becomes whatever the singer at the moment wants it to be. A lot of the songs that are popular now may be folk songs in the future, near or distant, but not until the writer, singer, or band that brought them into fame becomes less important than the song itself.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Charlie Baum
Date: 27 Feb 00 - 02:32 AM

Try out this definition:

If I sing something not the way you're used to hearing it, and you think I've got the tune or the words wrong, then it isn't folk. On the other hand, if you think I'm singing a variant--then it's folk.

--Charlie Baum


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 27 Feb 00 - 02:45 AM

If it's through-composed, it's not folk music-if it's strophic, it is--


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 27 Feb 00 - 07:10 AM

What isn't folk? My mother-in-law. She's alien. ;-) On second thought, that winky is just me being polite in case this comment gets back to her!


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 27 Feb 00 - 12:30 PM

I agree with Arky's assessment. Of necessisty, folk music must be tied in with the history and tradition of a specific sub-culture. I don't think that this includes manufactured sub-cultures that are spawned by the music industry such as "hip hop" or "flower children". Some would argue that "country music" or "blues music" are spawned by a specific music industry but the tunes that are written for a popular music market don't qualify in my book. It is possible for a music industry to appropriate folk music for it's own ends. This is what happened in the twenties with country and blues music. The folk music revival of the late fifties was a similar attempt on the part of the music industry to codify the music to sell it to a particular demographic, the college kids and upscale liberal communities in the larger cities. The same thing is happening today with the re-labeling of the term to include professional entertainers and songwriters.

What is not folk music? That's easier. Classical music, modern or progressive jazz, rock and roll, warmed-over pop tunes from the sixties, highly orchestrated popular music of the forties, atonal music, opera, musical theater, cabaret songs for night clubs, special material written for performers, and folk styled songs that are written in that idiom but not associated with a particular cultural milieu. This cultural association is traceable to a long-standing tradition of music that can be documented and studied by folklorists and ethnomusicologists.

I don't buy the everything-is-folk-music-if-people-sing-it argument. It's a specious argument in my view.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 Feb 00 - 01:10 PM

Handel's Messiah not folk music? Not too sure about that. Listen to the Carol singing tradition in the villages round Sheffield, it's essentially part of the same thing as Handel. It would be perfectly possible to sing the Alleluia Chorus in a good folk crowd. It could sound great. Look how Carolan survives the most remarkable performances, and still comes through.

Here's something I posted in another thread ("Original Music that sounds Traditional") that seems to fit in here (if we can't quote ourselves, who can we quote):

How come we keep on talking about "the tradition". There are all kinds of different traditions, some of them longstanding, some very recent indeed. For convenience we bundle a few of them together and call that "folk", and then argue as to which ones should be included, and what are the common factors linking them.

While a tradition is alive, new stuff can be produced which is part of that tradition. Once it's dead, the songs and the music are still available, but new stuff in the same style aren't part of that tradition, they are part of another distinct modern tradition.

So Sea Shanties came from a tradition which involved them having a role as work songs. You can't have new songs which are part of that tradition, because that's not how working boats are worked any more. If you make a "new sea shanty" it is something else, even if in form it looks and sounds like a sea shanty and it might be a great song.

Just as you can have reproduction furniture, and it can be good furniture, you can have reproduction songs, and they can be good songs. But I don't think it's right to artificially age songs to pretend they are something they are not. The exception I suppose is where for a particular purpose, such as a play, a song is written "in costume" - that is where John Tams and people like Graham Moore come in. And it is easy for songs like that to be taken as taken as traditional. I'd sooner use the term "in the tradition" (meaning in some particular tradition).

But generally the best songs are songs which may draw on traditional elements, but don't dress up. Stan Rogers, for example. I'd say these are songs coming out of the particular tradition, rather than as being in the tradition or traditional.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Ely
Date: 27 Feb 00 - 06:04 PM

Handel's Messiah . . . ? Sorry, I'm afraid I'm from the school that says it can borrow from, or grow out of, folk tradition, but that doesn't make it folk.

At the risk of being redundant . . . I guess that I see a lot of genres of music being played by/for a lot of different kind of folk (sure, rock could fit this when it's a garage band writing its own material, and there's a very good modern jazz band on campus that writes a lot of its own songs), so I think that definition doesn't really mean anything. I'd like to see some stylistic restrictions in there someplace. Folk may be a root for a lot of stuff but I don't see that it has to hold onto its "children" as sub-genres of itself.

I have yet to come up with a defintion that really satisfies me--"I know it when I hear it" is pretty nebulous. But I don't mind ousting music from the category when I must admit it's overstepped the gray area.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 27 Feb 00 - 06:11 PM

'Oy' is right Catspaw
What my relatives, friends, business associates and neighbours seem to only listen to.

Bonnie


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 27 Feb 00 - 07:39 PM

As I read Frank Hamilton's reply, which I essentially agree with (except that we have some disagreements about some of the subgroups) I am reminded that the question of what constitutes folk music and what doesn't is not really an open question--

Folklorists and ethno-musicologists, as well as various sorts of anthropologists and sociologists spend their lives collecting analyzing, and categorizing this stuff, and there are all kinds of useful distinctions that have been made, all for the purpose of resolving the sort of questions that people bring up here--it just seems that people don't want to sit still for the explanation--

Handel's Messiah is not in anyway folk music--it is composed music--the piece may include melodies that like those that the village sings, but the melodies are only components in a larger structure, which in itself is only a vehicle for the expression and development of Handel's unique musical ideas--not folkloric at all--

There is a bigger issue here, though, and that is that, if we are compelled to classify Handel's Messiah as folk music, when it is such a clear embodiment of classical music, it destroys the the definitions that have been created to analyze musical and cultural phenomena--and without ability to define, the discipline, and all of it's work is destroyed

This makes it impossible do any type of analysis of either music or culture, and in the long run, it makes it impossible to create music, and it probably undermines the process of maintaining other types of culture as well--

I don't mean to pick on McGrath, whose real point I have probably totally distorted to make my own (sorry!!), but it was the only example I had to work with--

I get more and more disturbed every time a question related to this subject comes up, not because I am tired of the questions, but because it seems like the questions are used as a way of attacking and undermining the process of finding answers..


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 Feb 00 - 08:08 PM

What I mean about the Messiah is that, just as it is possible to play Carolan either as classical music or as session music, so you can do the same with significant elements of music by other classical composers - and I think we should feel free to do that. I've been in sessions where tunes from Mozart of Beethoven have cropped up, and felt quite at home.

In other words, different traditions can draw from each other. It's always been recognised that the Classical traditions make use of tunes from folk traditions. But I don't think it's always recognised how often the reverse process occurs.

It seems evident to me that the best way to think about these matters is to recognise that there are an enormous range of different musical traditions. And I use the term tradition in a very broad sense. Eveything fits into some kind of tradition.

We can gather together conceptually a lot of them and call them "folk", but some of the ones we will include will be very different, and may have more in common in some ways with others that we don't include within the folk family. And there will never be any agreement about which traditions should be included within the label, and which should not. That's why this discussion is never going to come to any firm conclusion. We can either decide on the criteria for calling something folk and that will determine what we include within the umbrella term. Or we can decide what we want to include, and then work out what they have in common.

But what I think is more interesting is to try to work out the relationships between various traditions - how hymn singing shaped the way songs were constructed and sung in some times and places, how dance music shaped song patterns elsewhere, how different traditions collided and effected each other as people's circumstances changed with emigration and immigration and so forth.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: John in Brisbane
Date: 27 Feb 00 - 08:18 PM

There's no such thing as folk music, only folkie arrangements! Ah, but what are folkie arrangements?

So, I'll try again - there's no such thing as folk music, just music played on recognised folk instruments. You know what they are, just wander around a folk festival .. lots of jambes, elctric guitars, saxophones .. that sort of thing. That's a much better definition.

Cheers, John


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 27 Feb 00 - 08:31 PM

A nice point--and important insight into how music is really created--I worry (like I worry about everything) when I run into people who think that because they are playing a bit of melody from Bach, that they are performing Bach--


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: John in Brisbane
Date: 27 Feb 00 - 11:45 PM

And for another view on this subject as it pertains to American spirituals.

THE NEGRO SPIRITUALS

THE NEGRO SPIRITUALS

Written by Alain Locke

From The New Negro edited by Alain Locke

Copyright 1925 by Albert & Charles Boni, Inc.

It may not be readily conceded now that the song of the Negro is America's folk-song; but if the Spirituals are what we think them to be, a classic folk expression, then this is their ultimate destiny. Already they give evidence of this classic quality. Through their immediate and compelling universality of appeal, through their untarnishable beauty, they seem assured of the immortality of those great folk expressions that survive not so much through being typical of a group or representative of a period as by virtue of being fundamentally and everlastingly human. This universality of the Spirituals looms more and more as they stand the test of time. They have outlived the particular generation and the peculiar conditions which produced them; they have survived in turn the contempt of the slave owners, the conventionalizations of formal religion, the repressions of Puritanism, the corruptions of sentimental balladry, and the neglect and disdain of second-generation respectability. They have escaped the lapsing conditions and the fragile vehicle of folk art, and come firmly into the context of formal music. Only classics survive such things.

In its disingenuous simplicity, folk art is always despised and rejected at first; but generations after, it flowers again and transcends the level of its origin. The slave songs are no exception; only recently have they come to be recognized as artistically precious things.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Arkie
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 12:23 AM

John of B. - that's an interesting quote you've posted. I might argue a bit that spirituals are "America's folk song", but they certainly belong to the body of American folk music. "They have outlived the particular generation and the peculiar conditions which produced them;" This quote expresses quite well some criteria for understanding folk music and is a good starting place for identifying folk music of any culture.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: GUEST,Steve Roberson
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 09:44 AM

Another interesting discussion -- as a new visitor to this site, I haven't yet had an opportunity to get tired or frustrated by this topic. I think McGrath has identified some of the key considerations in his very thoughful comments above, but I'd like to add a few additional thoughts.

I appreciate the utility of having clear and consistent definitions to go by (as raised by M.Ted's message), particularly in a scholarly context. But I think we need to be realistic about drawing bright lines around our categories and expecting the rest of the world to conform to them. There will always be outliers to any definition, and there will always be opportunities to split hairs in trying to resolve our differences about what is "in" and what is "out". I think we should recognize that we are not bound by the definitions created by ethno-musicologists and folklorists -- they can use their definitions for their purposes, but we needn't use them for ours. I do not think that our failure to come to complete agreement on the boundaries between musical categories will really impede our ability to make music. In fact, a lot of musicians, in all genres, have created some of their greatest works when they pushed the accepted boundaries. The music will always be more important than the definitions.

Getting back to earlier comments on this topic, I think one additional element that distinguishes "folk" music from other musics is its portability -- or more precisely, the ability to create the music without having access to a large infrastructure. Wagner may have drawn on folk elements (both musical and mythical) in his works, but they were created for large orchestras and opera companies composed of people who had received lifelong instruction in very rigid disciplines -- and that is essentially the only way they are performed, even to this day. Similarly, the music of Brittany Spears (which someone raised) was and is created by corporations, marketing departments, high-tech recording studios with well-trained engineers and session musicians, all with an eye to creating a finished product that will generate the large revenues that are needed to feed the beast. This music cannot exist without the infrastructure that created it, so it cannot really be kept alive by the "folk".

With this consideration in mind, a lot of early rock and roll could be considered folk music, but much of the later rock and roll would fall outside of the definition -- once rock and roll became big business, an infrastructure was created for it, and the music progressively moved away from its roots and reflected the reality of the business that had been created for it. There were periodic attempts to bring the music "back to the people" (the punk wave of the 1970's being an obvious example), but the corporate-based infrastructure was quick to pounce on these, and effectively co-opted them before they really were able to establish themselves as independent forces. In reality, the same dynamic has asserted itself thoughout history in a lot of musical genres, from classical to jazz -- and could soon be a factor in so-called "Celtic" music if the Riverdance phenomenon takes over.

As usual, this is more long-winded than it needed to be (a failing of mine), but I'd be interested in any reactions. Regards. -- Steve


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 11:07 AM

Steve,

"Punk" as folk music? Frank Hamilton won't like that-BG- (see his comments above)--

Seriously, I think your thoughts on this are valid--I would make a point (a compulsion of mine, I am afraid..) that it isn't a question of deciding what is "in" or "out", and, a lot of the time, that seems to be what people are trying to do--

The point of using all these names and definitions and analyses is just to an attempt to the genesis and significance of certain pieces of music--

Most performers use personal taste, rather than folkloric pedigrees to develop their set lists (unless it is for a cultural or historical presentation), and when people talk about traditions, it is generally because they want to preserve or at least document something, rather that simply exclude something else--


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Bert
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 12:12 PM

Well here goes!
NOT FOLK is...

Forgotten Pop.
Forgotten Music Hall.
FOrgotten Parlour songs.

And - Sit down you purists, don't have a heart attack - all those songs in collections (by Child, Sharpe, Sandberg or Lomax or...) THAT NO ONE SINGS ANY MORE.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 12:22 PM

This discussion follows on a request--by Art Thieme?-- for a definition of folk song/music. Only after a while did I go back and read his original post, and he words were something like, "What is YOUR definition of a folk song?" (Caps added by me.)

Now this is different from "What is THE definition of a folk song?" Or from "What does 'folk song' mean?" Seems to me that a single definition is impossible, in that the drift of language, the pressures of commerce, the movement of fads and the like have put so many different connotations on the expression "folk song" or "folk music" that without further explanation one can't be sure what is meant by the words any more.

Context may give an implicit explanation of what's meant: A musicoethnologist who talks about "folk music" is not too likely to be misunderstood. A TV producer who talks about "folk music" is probably not talking about the same thing.

Art Thieme(?) asked about "your definition". A personal definition should be distinguished from a prescriptive generic definition.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 12:54 PM

[Formerly Steve Roberson -- I have now joined the Mudcat clan.]

Thanks for the feedback,M.Ted and doesterr. I think you are right that Frank Hamilton wouldn't like me considering punk to be a form of folk music, and I'm not really sure that I WOULD consider it folk music. I've always been a bit suspicious of the supposed "purity" of punk -- I believe it was created with some very calculated and specific marketing objectives in mind, and really only masqueraded as a sort of populist uprising through music. But it is an example of the "back to the roots" impulse that occurs in rock and roll from time to time.

In fact, that impulse is by no means exclusive to rock and roll; in classical music it was the basis for a lot of the best music created by the romantic composers (Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, Brahms, Wagner), as well as the "modern" composers such as Stravinsky. I think it's an excellent example of how folk music and folk arts continually to revitalize other forms. Almost invariably, as soon as the other forms stray a certain distance from their folk roots, there is a movement to resurrect, and re-inject, the original forms into their more "evolved" counterparts.

In response to doesterr's comment, I guess I have inadvertently provided "my" definition of folk music: music that can be, and is, generated by individuals and small communities without the benefit of the elaborate infrastructure (technological, pedagogical, or economic) upon which the other musical forms are dependent. This definition could certainly be improved on, but so far it's the closest I've come to articulating a personal definition for the music to which I am drawn.

I'd welcome any additional thoughts; I am enjoying this, and learning from it. Thanks again.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 01:05 PM

It seems like Bert's comments are intended to shock and alienate people rather than to clarify--and, not to pick on him, particularly, but, it seems that for a lot of people, what this discussion about is putting people in their place, and disenfranchising the music that they like--

As to disqualifying the collections of Child and Cecil Sharp, you pretty much disqualify all the folk music collectors and their collections--and there is nothing left to talk about--

So there is no folk music...


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 01:56 PM

I liked Whistle Stop Steve's use of the term "the music to which I am drawn", and his defining criteria for this. Because when your involved in a session or similar, that's what matters, not abstract, though useful labels like "folk".

It occurs to me that this is rather like an imaginary discussion you might have about books in a public library. You're looking for books about, say ferrets (well, why not?) and you find them in various Dewey Classification Numbers, some geared towards natural history and some geared towards hobbies (and various others no doubt). I imagine you sometimes have arguments among librarians as to which was the right number for which book. And when it comes to keeping track of the books in the library,those classifications matter. But a ferret is a ferret all the time, with it's ferrettish ways.

As for whether the punk tradition belongs inside the folk umbrella, you could make a good case both ways. But when it comes to "the music to which I am drawn", Billy Bragg belongs there as much as Martin Carthy, and the Pogues as much as the Dubliners.

Oh yes, Whistle Stop - try out the forum searches, and if you've got the time you can catch up on the "what is folk" tradition of Mudcat discourse. A lot of good stuff in there.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: GUEST,Bruce O.
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 02:15 PM

One old criterion of 'folk' (from expert collectors) used to be that if the author of song or composer of tune were known, then it wasn't folk. That's not exactly the case now because research has turned up the authors of practically one out of every 10,000 real folk songs. But if you know who wrote it or composed it the chances are very, very small that it's real folk. It has to be traditional to be real folk, and the traditional singer had to learn the song and/or tune from someone else, not from a printed source.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Bert
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 02:17 PM

Nah, M. Ted. That's not what I said. I was talking about the stuff that no one sings any more. (I thought I said that)

There's lots of great stuff that's been collected and preserved by these giants. If they hadn't been there we would have very little left.

I guess I worded it wrongly.

I think most collectors grabbed everything that they could find, which was the best if not the only way to do it. But by that very process they surely must have included much which was the 'Pop' or the 'junk music' of the collected era.
So what I am trying to say is 'That just because it has been collected' doesn't necessarily make it good 'or' folk. It is simply 'collected'. And if no one sings it it ain't folk music.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: GUEST,Petr
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 03:39 PM


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: GUEST,Petr
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 03:40 PM

An old cowboy said folk music is all music sung by folks. Cuz horses dont sing.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 06:29 PM

A couple of passing references have been made which I have to object to. First of all Carolan the composer was in every way concievable a trained and professional musician. He was not some idiot savant but a itinerant harper who played in what are the equivalent of today's concert hall. Secondly, the depiction of classical music as being something composed in stone rather than springing out of the available resources is at best, unprovable and at worst deceptive. No-one knows how Bach was first heard. We do know that most composers poached from folk tunes without any attempt to detail their sources. We do know that much of English choral music (e.g. William Byrd) was composed to be sung by servants in the houses of the English nobility. The pitch of any piece, the number of singers and the complexity of any given voice would be alterable to suit the voices available.

Let us not fall into the trap of believing: Naive=pure Composed=contrived Professional=mercenary Folk music seems to be a view through a telescope i.e. great for looking at things far away but increasingly useless the closer you attempt to focus.

Michael


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Gervase
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 09:47 AM

I'm with Bruce - if you don't know/can't remember who wrote something and you picked up up from someone else's singing and playing, then that's folk. The works of Dibdin, Banjo Patterson, Sankey et al are now widely regarded as folk, and in the current generation some works by Ewan McColl, Lennon/McCartney have made it into the 'folk'canon. The fact is that someone, somewhere had to be the first to sing/arrange/play any piece, unless we subscribe to Aristolean concepts of spontaneous generation!


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 11:01 AM

There are so many examples of music that are regarded as "folk" today that it makes this discussion so general as to not be understood by anyone. The so-called "folk canon" is being heralded by self-styled authorities who operate from misconceptions. The basis for folk music has to be cultural and traditional, that is material that is handed down through generations and reflects the environment from which they came. Lenon and McCartney do not fall within this classification. Nor does Punk Rock. Nor at the present time does Hip Hop although there are some aspects of this music that hark back to earlier roots.

I think that many who would advance their theories of what folk music is do it to furthur their own professional agendas. In other words, if the music sells somehow we ought to be able to label it folk, a spurious conclusion.

Frank


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 11:52 AM

Petr, I bet the folks could have gotten Ed the Talking Horse to sing a few tunes.

Little Neo


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: kendall
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 12:00 PM

Not folk music.
Sappy lyrics
Electric instruments
Drums

Seriously, folk songs, to me, are songs that deal with the human condition, and are not limited to faithless wives/husbands/lovers etc. It's a big fascinating world beyond those swinging doors.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Bill D
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 08:55 PM

if we made a list of all the songs in the Digitrad database and all the songs in all the books we all have on our shelves or on records & tapes ..and got all the people who claim to CARE about folk/traditional music to look at all of them and hum them and study the lyrics......and THEN asked for a vote for each...*FOLK* or *NOT-FOLK*....we would get some songs that got about 100%, and others that got 27% or even 2%...

now, it seems to me that if a song only got 3% *FOLK* votes, it loses...and if it got 100%, (you know..like "Barbry Allen")..then it wins..but what DO we say about the 50-50 songs?...well, the only answer is that they dont satisfy every one's definiton. Obviously, SOME songs are clearly 'folk/trad'...and some are clearly NOT.

So..we take all the songs that get a VERY high *FOLK* rating (remember..the rating is being done by a VERY large # of people...the Delphic technique) and analyze what those songs that we AGREE on have in common. Then we look at the songs that get only a 40-50% rating and look at what makes them different. What we WILL find is that certain characteristics keep popping up.."no known author", "written with no particular monetary gain in mind".."having generally simpler rhythm and musical patterns" (well...maybe)..."having subject matters relevant to the common people".."being generally older and withstood the test of time"......this list would simply emerge from the analysis, NOT from any one person's attitude or prejudice.

I claim that there would arise a list of...oh, 12 to 25 or so 'characteristics' or 'tendencies' that could then be used as a guide. And, sure, there would be songs(or versions) that would STILL fall in the middle!. If a song has 8 of 16 factors, it simply gets called 'sort of folky'. Can we still argue? Sure.."well, I think he DID write it just to sing on the front porch, and then his buddy grabbed it and took it to Nashville"....but at least we do much less bickering about the LIST of criteria!..(other fields.."Antique Cars" "Dog Breeds" "Thai Cooking" have general rules...they NEED them!)

What is my point? It is this: NO ONE gets to say "Well, to ME folk music is anything that_________"...you CANNOT have a system like that, or there is no system. What one person CAN do is say.."I like this music..and I will sing it"....and that is fine, especially if they UNDERSTAND what they are liking!. Then they can do a better job of presenting music to others. As I have said MANY times before, the value of having some sort of criteria is that music stores and concert venues and such can label their product so as not to mis-lead! I HATE it when I pay money for something which is not even the KIND of music I was expecting!

Now, what one DOES with the list of songs is a matter of opinion..Dick Greenhaus is slightly more liberal than I am as to what he puts in the Database, and probably a LOT more liberal than Bruce O. would like...and more conservative than others. (I DONT want Dylan in there yet..maybe YOU do!,,,ask me again in 50 years)...

Max has determined to not fret over what gets posted/requested in the forum, and *sigh*...that means more work for me to sort thru it..but it is HIS ballpark..if I decide to open a website, I can do it my way...*grin*...

But NO MATTER WHAT Max allows, posting the words to "Ragg Mopp" here will NEVER make it a folk song...


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: kendall
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 09:01 PM

crap like Ragg Mopp is just what I meant


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 09:24 PM

I think that when Frank points out that Hip-Hop, is not folk music "although there are some aspects of this music that hark back to earlier roots", he is making an important point--

There are many aspects of folk music that are reflected in, repeated in, or even used as the basis for other kinds of music--

People tend to generalize, and refer to anything that includes one or more elements of folk music(such as instrumentation, melody, text, repertoire, or performance style) as folk music--a lot of times simply because there is no other accessible name for it--

Frank's point, which I finally get, is that even when the music is created and performed within a certain cultural context, the music has to be passed through consecutive generations in that culture to be tradtional or folk music--


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 09:36 PM

"The map is not the territory"


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Bill D
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 10:17 PM

it certainly isn't *grin*...but the map may help you get THROUGH the territory and avoid some of the worst bogs & mires!


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: catspaw49
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 10:34 PM

Old philosophy major friend, that was a beautiful assessment. T'was more than interesting...it may be the best thing on this topic I've read in the myriad discussions, past or present. Very well done and I say that with all sincerity...no Spaw sarcasm or crude jokes. I read almost all the threads and on this subject, I think I've read every post and often contributed, but generally of late have found this whole thing more than "teedjus." I know that you have often been worn out on this too, but that post you should bookmark (or perhaps I will) and when this subject comes up again as it inevitably will, zap back to it with a blue clicky.

Excellent.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Bill D
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 10:44 PM

*gulp*...*blush*


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 01 Mar 00 - 11:03 AM

Thanks, M.Ted

That's exactly what I had in mind. I appreciate your comment so much.

Frank


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: The Shambles
Date: 01 Mar 00 - 11:08 AM

The words of an old traditional song, that I heard sung over the weekend, come to mind.

"The Bovril's with the gravy
But the Marmite's with the jam"


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 01 Mar 00 - 11:23 AM

No problem, Frank--


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Mbo
Date: 01 Mar 00 - 12:20 PM

What's Ragg Mopp anyway?

--Mbo


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull
Date: 06 Aug 01 - 11:54 PM


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Big Mick
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 12:12 AM

OK, Frank. At long last I can buy into, at least in the main, a definition of what folk music is, and in the abstract, what it isn't. Interesting, though, when I apply your definition to your old acquaintance Woodrow G's stuff. Much of it would be considered folk, but much of it wouldn't. I have read every damn thread on this we have had here, but this one finally makes some sense.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: catspaw49
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 12:29 AM

Ya' know, I had an abstract once. Hurt like hell and my jaw was really swollen. Had to have that tooth pulled. Of course this was long before I had my "Complete Oral Rehabilitation" last June and now my mouth is in A-1 shape with no abstracts on the horizon. Wait a minute........I'm thinking of abcess, not abstract.

..........well......screw it.........never mind........

Spaw


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Chanteyranger
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 01:45 AM

Frank Hamilton's definition makes sense to me, but then, how would Guthrie's songs be defined? Is there a separate definition for modern songs composed in a folk idiom? I've heard it said that these days "folk" refers to singer/songwriter's acoustic music while "traditional" refers to what was once universally called "folk." "Acoustic," another definition I've heard for modern genres sounds to me to be a better term for the modern composed songs and they then would be less likely to be confused with traditional material. What category does the "sounds like, walks like, talks like, but isn't" song go to?


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 06:04 AM

Sure it wasn't an "abscess" you were thinking about, Spaw?

Murray


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: M.Ted
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 12:29 PM

As I understand it, it isn't really a yes or no question--it is more just a situation of figuring out which elements come from where and what the processes might have been.

There are different things that you can look at-- Woody generally used traditional melodies, and I'll assume that he learned them by hearing them, so generally, whatever else is going on, the melody is always going to satisfy a very tight definition of folk/tradtional.As to topical lyrics, even if the events are new, the process of creating them is traditional (at least the way Woody did it)--even the political elements are characteristics of topical broadsides--a lot of his other songs, as well, would be written with traditional ballads other songs that he had heard as a model, so they would be coming out of a tradition--

Some of his lyrics probably are more influenced by the contemporary or popular music, but which ones are more derived from popular music than from traditional is a doctoral thesis for somebody--


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 01:10 PM

Interesting that someone revived this thread -- it's the first one I posted to, back when I had a name rather than a handle. Ah, but I was so much older then...

The problem with definitions is that they rely on other words, which we then have to define. I often hear "folk" defined with reference to "traditions" (as Frank Hamilton has done); I think it is interesting that we will argue endlessly about the meaning of the word "folk," but seem to assume that we share a common definition of the word "tradition".

Some seem to feel that a tradition needs to be hundreds of years old, but I think this assumption ignores the fact that life runs at a much faster clip now than it used to, and everything -- communications, technological developments, population growth and migration -- occurs much more quickly than it did in the old days. Since all of these things are factors in the development of traditions, I would argue that traditions can also arise and become established much more quickly than they used to.

In my opinion, Woody Guthrie was primarily responsible for the establishment of a white American singer-songwriter tradition that took hold in the space of just a few years in the 1930's. It drew on a number of other traditions -- some much older (the British ballad tradition, by way of Appalachia), some not so much older (cowboy songs), some comparatively recent (black blues). But there was enough about it that was unique that, in my opinion, it established a recognizable genre of its own. This genre resonated with enough people that a form of folk music tradition was born right then and there, and has continued to flourish to the present day. I think something similar happened with early rock and roll, which also drew together the threads of other traditions to form a recognizable genre of its own, practiced primarily by a relatively distinct sub-population (young postwar males with southern roots from the lower rungs of the economic ladder). I would consider both the Guthrie singer-songwriter tradition and the early rock and roll/rockabilly tradition to constitute "folk" music. [However, the latter so quickly and dramatically achieved commercial success that it was soon wrested away from its folk roots.]

I don't necessarily expect a lot of people to agree with me on this, and I recognize that there are still plenty of blurred boundary lines and opportunities for hair-splitting. But, despite all the lingering disagreements and general fatigue that this topic induces, I still think it is one of the more interesting subjects we discuss on this forum.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 01:12 PM

Frank's assessment of folk music is among the most astute I've come across. While I wholeheartedly support the idea that all folk music is culturally based as Frank defines that, there is a lot of grey area about the "tradition" part.

As some have pointed out, if we use Frank's definition, Woody Guthrie doesn't really fit the definition.

And as ludicrous as it might sound, I would say that according to the strict definition of folk music, Woody really wasn't an authentic folk musician in the strict sense. That is in fact, what I believe.

Woody didn't perform the music of his cultural group, he created almost a new category of folk music culture in the US, much the same way Ewan MacColl did in Britain: the folk music revivalist tradition. In Britain, self-penned traditional sounding songs were not often considered to be true folk, in the US they were.

But to illustrate the difference as I see it: Dolly Parton's roots are in an authentic folk subculture, but the music she performs professionally usually doesn't.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: M.Ted
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 02:32 PM

I think Woody did perform the music of his cultural group-- he performed for dances,and all the local occasions, and on the radio, as did others musicians of his time. He was a trasient musician, as was the tradition, and he made up songs on the spot, in a traditional fashion, to satisfy the needs of the occasion--he took what he had come by and made it do what he wanted it to do--in that way he was like a lot of others, but he was able to express in a way that others couldn't, and he had a desire and an ability to connect that was unique--If you break him off from his roots, you do him a disservice--


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 02:50 PM

MTed,

If we use the definition you seem to be to allow Woody to fit in a strict definition of folk music, you make ethnic music as folk/traditional music invisible.

Of course, there are music subcultures which aren't defined by ethnicity, or by cross-fertilization between ethnic groups (more common in North American music subcultures than many Old World (regardless of continent) music subcultures.

Techno/rave music is a subculture. Hip hop is a subculture. But there isn't a *tradition* of performance of those kinds of music from generation--that is the conventional definition of tradition, ie that it is multi-generational and handed on through the subculture in question.

Which is why I like Frank's definition so much. It isn't hard to eliminate many contemporary forms of music based on either the subculture argument or the tradition argument. If a genre of music lacks both, it isn't considered folk or traditional by people who know and are familiar with folk and trad music. If a genre of music lacks an ethnic basis, it doesn't mean it can't be considered a folk tradition though, as has been pointed out. But that (lack of ethnic roots) may well prove to be an exception in the long run (ie after several generations).

Fairly substantial numbers of people who share roots in the specific subculture have to care enough about the music to hand it on to the next generation. Historically, this has been done through musical families and neighbors. The contemporary world has changed that somewhat because of transportation and communication technological developments, but not near to the extent that some people imagine.

Its not all that easy to start a new music genre in a subculture and sustain it over multiple generations. Cajun music is a good example of this, as are a good number of other music genres.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: rock chick
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 03:31 PM

Well what a debate you have started,my little bit of input is I Can't tell you what isn't folk? but what folk is , is all about life past and present


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: rock chick
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 03:32 PM

Well what a debate you have started,my little bit of input is I Can't tell you what isn't folk? but what folk is , it is all about life past and present, here and now, there and then.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: UB Ed
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 03:50 PM

I'm looking forward to Max covering this in a permathread. In the meantime, here's my favorite nest of blue clickeys on the subject (Thanks Alice!).

Alice's Efforts


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Bill D
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 05:11 PM

since someone has refreshed this, let me add a thought that has been buzzing about in my head recently...

I like categories and structure, as you can see from my attempts to make some sense out of the 'definition' problem...others don't.

But the point is: Definitions and categories are NOT necessary, and even if you use them, can be totally subjective...*as long as they are for YOU--privately* If you wish to categorize your songs, records...etc., by key signatues, age of the composer, color of the record jacket or "songs that make me cry" and "songs that don't"...that is fine! Many folks just have a list of "songs I like" and that is enough for them.

BUT...when songs, (or anything else), need to be sorted and filed and located, like books in a library, they need a system that is coherent, regular and understandable!

For books we had the Dewey Decimal System...then The Library of Congress System...and librarians 'try' to assign #s that will allow anyone to go the shelves and find material easily.

Hows about we all run down to the Library of Congress and see just what books are in the 'folk music' section? Hmmmm?....are the Beatles there? Woodie?...will the "Life of Loreena McKinnet" be there when it is written?...maybe...maybe not!

Now, the question of whether a web site and/or a database conforms to a regular system, is, as they say, another matter..*weak smile*..

The Library of Congress is a managed, 'moderated' database, just as our database is..(by Dick & Susan)...the forum is NOT moderated as to musical structure, which pleases some and displeases others....but the fact that we have an eclectic bunch here that KNOWS a lot about music, does NOT make categories disappear..........

enough....


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: M.Ted
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 06:13 PM

I don't think you understand my point about Woody, so I will say in another way, one more time, and then leave it at that--Woody's music used traditional/folk music for his songs, and he learned that music from those around him, who had learned it the same way. And writing topical songs, in the way that he did, is tradition, in and of itself.

How or why this makes ethnic music invisible is not clear from your post--

Anyway, I am not sure you are interested in eliminating and ruling out various kinds of music, what exactly is it that you are eliminating them from?

Most music has traditional and folk elements of one kind or another--even the genres that pops up one day and are gone the next--


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 09:03 PM

Ah, good people, this old fray back again? I guess I've said my say too many times already. I'll let those polemics stand for my input to this late incarnation of those threads.

Art


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Bert
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 10:49 PM

Sticking to the original topic of WHAT ISN'T, might I suggest The Eurovision Song Contest


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 11:26 PM

When did folk music statr to become popular? I hope this question makes sense, I guess it was when people became able to record themselves? If a folk song gets to number 1 on the hit parade, is it still folk, or does it then become pop?


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: toadfrog
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 11:39 PM

I agree with Frank, although I'm not sure he gave a "definition." "Folk music" seems often to get defined as stuff composed by "folk singers." I don't buy that. We all know songs by Woody Guthrie, and at least one of them, "This Land is My Land," is an outstanding song that will be around a long, long time. But I can't think of even a single reason to say it is any more a "folk song" than (say) "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" or "Sidewalks of New York." Both songs were written to make money. So?

When I was in college, we all sang "Kisses Sweeter than Wine," which I think was written by Pete Seeger, so that everybody knew was a "folk song." Does anybody sing that any more? I haven't heard it in a long, time. It wasn't good enough to last, and it wasn't a folk song by any reasonable definition.

I also suggest that simplicity is an essential trait in a folk song.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Bill D
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 11:52 PM

not sure who MTed was responding to.....

and toadfrog..."I can't think of even a single reason to say it is any more a "folk song" than (say) "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"......but I can think of reasons...*grin*

you, (toadfrog) are actually on the right track..'simplicity' is one trait...not necessarily an essential one, but a common one...now, as to the other 27 traits...*smile*


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 06:37 AM

Simplicity is far from being an essential part of folk music. Listen to some Macedomian dances, which by any conceivable standard qualify as folk music, and the rhyhmic complexity betokens a highly sophisticated musical cultire.

As for the songs, many of the traditional songs performed by, say, Martin Carthy, or June Tabor are hugely complex both lyrically and rhythmically.

I am of course, talking about "real" folk music here.

Murray


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Philibuster
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 07:08 AM

I always defined Folk as music that evolved, because it was good enough for the next generation to sing it.

People changed the lyrics to fit themselves and the times, because the tune was so at the pulse of the people.

The only other definition, if it sounds like Folk, it is.

I just love the irorny. A community devoted to a style of music that no two members can actually agree on what is. The beauty that is folk. Besides, it makes for great arguements. =)

.02$


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: M.Ted
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 05:11 PM

Sorry, BillD, I didn't know who I was talking to either--it was an anonymous GUEST----and Murray, I never figured you for a Balkanophile! Macedonian music is definitely complex--


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 05:26 PM

I didn't use to be a Balkanophile, M.Ted, until some years ago when I heard our local Edinburgh guitar hero Tony McManus play some of these tunes (written, as he put it, in socket-wrench sizes rather than time signatures).

Over the last year or so I have got to know an Albanian violinist (political refugee) quite well, and he jams with us at our local cafe most weekends, so I have got used to 11/16 and similar strange rhythms.

Murray


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Mr Red
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 05:35 PM

**IMHO**
when it's entertainment
once the $'s become more important than the music and where it's coming from


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Burke
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 05:43 PM

Library of Congress does not really try to make a distinction between "folk" and other music for classification. It it very geographically driven.

If you run down to the Library of Congress and browse at M1627 you'll find collections of secular vocal music not limited to one particular place. You'll find things like "Folk songs of the world" but also "National anthems, psalms and hymns."

You will not find anything from one-three specific geographical locations. US songs will be one place (mostly M1629 but also M1630.18), Irish American (M1668.2), Ireland M1744, and so forth. Under each country there is provision for both General, where traditional music usually ends up, and Popular Music. Topical songs are in M1978 so we have Cowboy songs in M1978.C6; Fathers M1978.F26; Sailors M1978.S2.

Fiddle tunes end up with the rest of the solo violin music in M40

There's not one way to classify music that will suit everyone.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 10:34 PM

That old "hoss singing" line keeps returning ad infinitum. And this kind of thread keeps on keeping on too. We all think that we're the first to say it.

The problem is that we're all not born with a knowledge of what came before.
We have to re-invent the wheel every time another person/ego/horse/whatever picks up a guitar and decides to make "our music" in their own image. At that point their ego gets involved. Someone says, "You guys don't have a clue." They respond, "You never did have a clue."

If it does not come to blows, we'll be lucky.

If we were all empaths it'd be much easier to live in this world me thinks.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: DougR
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 11:28 PM

What is not? Classical, Pop, Country, Blues (steady there), Jazz, Gospel. But there is a hell of a lot of crossover.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 11:53 PM

I would classify two catergories of folk performers: My favorite type, which is a performer, like Art, who performs because they really like a song and want to communicate that sense of the song to an audience. The other is the performer who is up on stage exuding "Look at me singing." I would prefer to keep my definition of what's not folk to myself.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: M.Ted
Date: 09 Aug 01 - 10:07 AM

I take it back about Tony McManus, Murray, if he plays Balkan music, he's OK by me--And wow, Murray, Albanian dance rhythms are the coolest of the ultra cool, so you are right up there in my book--where is this cafe, anyway? I would love to hear you, and your friend play some of this stuff!!


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: masato sakurai
Date: 09 Aug 01 - 11:21 AM

For you to know what folklorists and ethnomusicologists say, the following may help you: Alan Dundes, "Who Are the Folk?" reprinted in his Interpreting Folklore (Indiana UP, 1980, pp. 1-19); Bruno Nettl, The Study of Ethnomusicology (U of Illinois Press, 1983, chapter 23: "I've Never Heard a Horse Sing"); Philip V. Bohlman, The Study of Folk Music in the Modern World (Indiana UP, 1988, passim); Dan Ben-Amos, "Toward a Definition of Folklore in Context," reprinted in Readings in American Folklore, edited by Jan Harold Brunvand (Norton, 1979, pp. 427-443).


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: M.Ted
Date: 09 Aug 01 - 01:20 PM

Are their any particular points from either of these sources that you'd like to pass on--people hereabouts often don't even bother to follow up links, let alone heading for the library to look up academic texts--


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: masato sakurai
Date: 10 Aug 01 - 02:42 AM

To quote some of Dan's comments: "folklore represents a particular mode of collective and spontaneous thought"; "In its cultural context, folklore is not an aggregate of things, but a process--a communicative process, to be exact"; "folklore communication takes place in a situation in which people confront each other face to face and relate to each other directly"; "In sum, folklore is artistic communication in small groups"; "Some traditions are folklore, but not all folklore is traditional." For Alan, the answer to the question "Who are the folk?" is: "Among others, we [in italics] are!" [of course, except when we do not communicate artistically in small groups--my interpretation].


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Aug 01 - 09:49 AM

Au contraire there MTed! Some of us *are* interested in academic sources, and do follow them up, even though we may not discuss things academic in Mudcat.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Bill D
Date: 10 Aug 01 - 06:11 PM

well, MTed did say 'often'


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)
Date: 10 Aug 01 - 11:41 PM

I never tire of repeating my favorite definition: folk music is music you use at the same time you are doing something else. Any music can be folk music if it occurs in a multitasking environment. If you play Beethoven on your record player and sit on the couch listening, it isn't folk; but if you vacuum the carpet while listening, it is folk.

T.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Bill D
Date: 11 Aug 01 - 01:37 AM

that's a very 'personal' definition, Okie..(sorta like the 'horse singing' methphor) *grin*...not exactly useful for everyone...if you vacuum to Beethoven, and I vacuum to Highland Pipe tunes, we are gonna have problems cataloging our record collections together...


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: M.Ted
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 01:13 PM

Thanks for the quotes, Masato--they are statements which are so reasonable that they don't convey a great deal of meaning--Since they come from the leading lights in the field, we now know why the Smithsonian Folklife Festival showcases everything from lawyers closing statements, to New York Taxi cabs--Only thing that they don't seem to ever feature are singer/songwriters--


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 01:48 PM

Any and all songs recorded by William Shatner are NOT folk! Why? Because when William Shatner records a song it transcends all known genres. His music is simply beyond classification.

Keep this in mind, and give generously to the WSSBA! We need to expand our facilities and provide a breeding area for tribbles.

- LH


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: M.Ted
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 08:16 PM

The William Shatner threadcreep is permeating the entire Forum--she can't take it, Jim--she's gonta blow, any second!


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 09:14 PM

Scotty: Aye, lad! Ye canna make warp nine wi' the dylithium crystals in this kinda shape! I'm doin' all I can and she'll only make warp 7 and a half! I'm an engineer, not a miracle worker!!!

Jim: Mr. Scott...(dramatic pause)...a miracle...(even more dramatic pause)...is what we're going to have to have...(3rd dramatic pause)...on this occasion! (short dramatic pause) I know you can do it.

[long exasperated sigh from Scott. Spock raises one eyebrow meaningfully. Show breaks for wonderbra commercial, as the Klingons close in for the kill.]

- LH


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: catspaw49
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 09:26 PM

No offense intended here Masato, but I'm with Ted. I think what really gets me is that most of the folks that I really enjoy in "folk" wouldn't have a friggin' clue as to what that paragraph said.

Apparently the writer attended the Soren Kierkegaard School of Obtuse Expression.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 09:46 PM

Admit it, Spaw. You have never heard a horse sing. That's what is really bothering you...

- LH


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: masato sakurai
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 01:41 AM

Spaw, I'm not offended at all. Rather, I enjoy reading most messages here. Admittedly, this is not the right place for "academic" discussions.


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 21 Aug 01 - 01:05 AM

Any thread about kicking Max in the balls sure as hell ain't folk !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Art


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: GUEST,Boab
Date: 21 Aug 01 - 02:26 AM

An old pal,singer-up-front for "the Marras"our resident bunch in Hexham Northumberland many moons ago, a fella by the name of Tony McMahon, effectively silenced a "traddie bigot",describing folk music as being "what folk sing and play".Like many another, I am a fan of traditional music and song----but not to the point of blindness. "Traditional" music can be likened to the antique business; a "digger" can hold high in triumph a newly howked-up two-hundred-year old jam jar. So what?---It's a bloody JAM-JAR for gawd's sake! Similar crap is so often inflicted upon followers of folk tradition---some of the stuff triumphantly "discovered" should have been left to moulder and fade away in whatever niche it had lain over the centuries. Such crap, fortunately, lasts no longer in the popularity stakes in present times than it doubtless did eons ago. Boab


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: blt
Date: 22 Aug 01 - 02:09 AM

Well, I wanted to say something about the a comment someone wrote about music genres that appear to have no "tradition" behind them, such as hip-hop. Actually, hip-hop does have a tradition, which includes work chants, blues, and jazz (especially improvisation), as well as rock and roll. I personally believe that all music forms we currently hear emerge from some sort of previous tradition or structure/images/rhythms/scales/plot lines/political perspectives. I think of folk as being distinct from other genres because of the issue of tradition--the folk tradition itself is distinct. Lines may be blurred because two (or more) genres can share some aspects--jazz and folk both use improvisation, both pass melodies down from one musician to another--but the melody and chording is different, the instruments are often different, the performance style is different. I don't think I would mistake a folk song for a jazz riff, but that is not to say that a jazz tune couldn't move in a folk direction or vice versa. It seems that we need a new way to imagine this whole discussion because the descriptions I've read so far seem to require a clear and discrete definition of what folk music is or isn't, as if the reality is that clear and that discrete. IMO, folk music has a depth and quality that isn't necessarily willing to fit into a category. Or, it may fit one definition for a while then slide off in another direction. Folk has a life, it resembles the inter-relatedness of family and friends more than it resembles a stack of dictionaries, if that makes any sense.

blt


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Subject: RE: BS: What isn't Folk?
From: jaze
Date: 22 Aug 01 - 09:24 PM

Disco


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