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BS: What is folk music?

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Thomas the Rhymer 11 Mar 00 - 02:08 AM
GUEST,THL Fox 11 Mar 00 - 02:31 AM
Malcolm Douglas 11 Mar 00 - 03:59 AM
zander (inactive) 11 Mar 00 - 08:09 AM
Jeri 11 Mar 00 - 08:33 AM
catspaw49 11 Mar 00 - 08:40 AM
Uncle_DaveO 11 Mar 00 - 11:04 AM
Uncle_DaveO 11 Mar 00 - 11:04 AM
tar_heel 11 Mar 00 - 11:24 AM
wysiwyg 11 Mar 00 - 12:42 PM
Thomas the Rhymer 11 Mar 00 - 01:14 PM
Chet W. 11 Mar 00 - 01:22 PM
Malcolm Douglas 11 Mar 00 - 01:26 PM
Jeri 11 Mar 00 - 02:03 PM
GUEST,Rich(stupidbodhranplayerthatdoesn'tknowanybe 11 Mar 00 - 03:19 PM
Art Thieme 11 Mar 00 - 11:09 PM
Billy the Bus 12 Mar 00 - 02:47 AM
Malcolm Douglas 12 Mar 00 - 01:23 PM
Joan 12 Mar 00 - 05:00 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 13 Mar 00 - 12:38 AM
GUEST,Lollipop 13 Mar 00 - 04:30 AM
Bert 13 Mar 00 - 10:23 AM
Amos 13 Mar 00 - 12:16 PM
Bert 13 Mar 00 - 01:37 PM
Uncle_DaveO 13 Mar 00 - 01:40 PM
Jacob B 13 Mar 00 - 02:24 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 13 Mar 00 - 02:40 PM
Art Thieme 13 Mar 00 - 02:46 PM
Amos 13 Mar 00 - 05:54 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 13 Mar 00 - 06:07 PM
Bill in Alabama 13 Mar 00 - 06:27 PM
Mooh 13 Mar 00 - 06:36 PM
catspaw49 13 Mar 00 - 06:48 PM
Amos 13 Mar 00 - 07:21 PM
Thomas the Rhymer 14 Mar 00 - 04:54 AM
kendall 14 Mar 00 - 10:10 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 14 Mar 00 - 10:27 AM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 14 Mar 00 - 11:33 AM
Bert 14 Mar 00 - 12:04 PM
kendall 14 Mar 00 - 01:10 PM
Amos 14 Mar 00 - 02:05 PM
kendall 14 Mar 00 - 02:40 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 14 Mar 00 - 03:11 PM
Thomas the Rhymer 14 Mar 00 - 03:44 PM
Whistle Stop 14 Mar 00 - 04:07 PM
kendall 14 Mar 00 - 04:53 PM
Amos 14 Mar 00 - 04:55 PM
Amos 14 Mar 00 - 05:24 PM
Uncle_DaveO 14 Mar 00 - 08:06 PM
kendall 15 Mar 00 - 08:00 AM
wysiwyg 15 Mar 00 - 08:49 AM
Uncle_DaveO 15 Mar 00 - 10:45 AM
kendall 15 Mar 00 - 01:38 PM
Whistle Stop 15 Mar 00 - 03:37 PM
Bert 15 Mar 00 - 03:44 PM
Thomas the Rhymer 15 Mar 00 - 08:28 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Mar 00 - 09:17 PM
wysiwyg 15 Mar 00 - 09:25 PM
Whistle Stop 16 Mar 00 - 08:24 AM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 16 Mar 00 - 09:25 AM
Uncle_DaveO 16 Mar 00 - 10:41 AM
Bert 16 Mar 00 - 11:32 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 16 Mar 00 - 12:45 PM
Whistle Stop 16 Mar 00 - 01:40 PM
wysiwyg 16 Mar 00 - 04:28 PM
Osmium 16 Mar 00 - 04:37 PM
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Thomas the Rhymer 16 Mar 00 - 09:48 PM

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Subject: What is folk music?
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 11 Mar 00 - 02:08 AM

I'm looking for an easy definition, a destination of sorts away from the vague uneasiness that sets over conversations when I try to explain,.... and fail. It is such a widely used category that it seems like one could use the term to describe ANY music we play in our homes,....then again, maybe folk music could be music that is never actually played, but only referred to as a long past occurrence that we can only approximate.

If folk music is music that was never intended to be commercial, then we might save some money,...

And if we can write "folk" music, is it a rehashing of songs that SOUND old, or are the forms open to "NEW" expressions,...ie "whatever the market will bear"?

Seriously though, I would love some suggestions!


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: GUEST,THL Fox
Date: 11 Mar 00 - 02:31 AM

One of my favorite definitions comes from the introduction to "English and Scottish Popular Ballads; the Student's Cambridge Edition". George Kittredge writes: "The popular ballads...belong to the folk." He goes on to describe a community celebration, where a group of people is gathered for some common purpose. "The object of the meeting is known to all; the deeds which are to be sung, the dance which is to accompany and illustrate the singing, are likewise familiar to everyone....There is unity of feeling and a common stock, however slender, of ideas and traditions. The dancing and singing, in which all share, are so closely related as to be practically complimentary parts of a single festal act. Here, now, we have the 'folk' of our discussion...a dancing, singing throng subjected as a unit to a mental and emotional stimulus which is not only favorable to the production of poetry, but is almost certain to result in such production."

I find our on-line folk communities, like our real-time ones, to have these things in common: a unity of feeling; a common stock of ideas and traditions; and a desire to create poetry and music when gathered together. That music then becomes available to all who share the creation or who just listen and take it home in their hearts. Want an example? Look at the on-line song/poem creations that happen on these web pages.

We are the "folk" of folk music. And the music that belongs to us, that we share with each other and the rest of the community, that music is folk music.


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 11 Mar 00 - 03:59 AM

As I'm sure you know, this is a perennial question which never reaches a really satisfactory conclusion.  Here is the definition formulated by the International Folk Music Council in 1954:

Folk Music is the product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission.  The factors that shape that tradition are: (i) continuity which links the present with the past; (ii) variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group; and (iii) selection by the community, which determines the form or forms in which the music survives.
The terms can be applied to music that has been evolved from rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by popular and art music and it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community.
The term does not cover composed popular music that has been taken over ready-made by a community and remains unchanged, for it is the re-fashioning and re-creation of the music that gives it its folk character.


Obviously this is not an absolute definition, but provides a good point from which to start.  The waters have become considerably more muddied since the '50s, not least due to the record industry's decision to promote as folk music pretty much anything that didn't fit into any other of its handy marketing categories; in particular the "singer-songwriter" genre, which rarely has anything at all to do with folk music in any real sense.  Well, somebody else's turn, now; and a wooden spoon to the first person to dredge up that tired old cliché involving horses...

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: zander (inactive)
Date: 11 Mar 00 - 08:09 AM

A quick definition, Music of the people, for the people, not composed or written to make money,ie 'pop' music.

Cheers, Dave


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Jeri
Date: 11 Mar 00 - 08:33 AM

Lookie here for links to previous discussions. I like the definition Malcolm posted. Every time this discussion comes up, people who have studied folk music pretty much agree with that. People who have bought into the record companies' definition argue against the limits. (Why bother having categories if they don't mean anything?) They seem to think that saying songs written by the Beatles, James Taylor or Joni Mitchell are not folk is some sort of insult. Not true.

My opinion:
Folk is (see above definition in Malcolm's post.
Folk singing/oral tradition is singing anything you like. (see above, para. 2 and 3.)


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: catspaw49
Date: 11 Mar 00 - 08:40 AM

The most recent discussion of this is a thread called "What Isn't Folk?" ..... Along with Jeri's link, also enter the word folk in the filter box with a 1 year reset and in the myriad threads with folk in the title, you'll find quite a few others attempting to define folk along with a thread called, "Is Rap Folk?"......

Happy reading

Spaw


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 11 Mar 00 - 11:04 AM

Recently, (last week) I was preparing for a TV interview to publicize the Green Pastures Folk Music Club, here in Central Indiana. In writing a little briefing paper to be given to the TV interviewer in advance I discussed the music we do at the club meetings. I said something like this:
For many thousands of years people have sung and played to, for, and with each other, for various purposes: religious/ritual; work songs; lullabies (or is that just more work songs?); blues; storytelling; dance; and general social time-passing. The good songs were passed around, tweaked a little here, polished a little there, personalized, made relevant to current topics of interest, adjusted to the current singer's instrumental or vocal abilities (or lack thereof). When a singer didn't remember a song he'd heard, he might make a new song on the same story, or tell a new story with "That good old tune that Uncle Jeremiah used to play." The music that resulted, that was passed down, is what we call folk music. At Green Pastures we sing those songs for and with each other, and other songs in the same spirit, just for the joy of making music together.
Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 11 Mar 00 - 11:04 AM

Recently, (last week) I was preparing for a TV interview to publicize the Green Pastures Folk Music Club, here in Central Indiana. In writing a little briefing paper to be given to the TV interviewer in advance I discussed the music we do at the club meetings. I said something like this:
For many thousands of years people have sung and played to, for, and with each other, for various purposes: religious/ritual; work songs; lullabies (or is that just more work songs?); blues; storytelling; dance; and general social time-passing. The good songs were passed around, tweaked a little here, polished a little there, personalized, made relevant to current topics of interest, adjusted to the current singer's instrumental or vocal abilities (or lack thereof). When a singer didn't remember a song he'd heard, he might make a new song on the same story, or tell a new story with "That good old tune that Uncle Jeremiah used to play." The music that resulted, that was passed down, is what we call folk music. At Green Pastures we sing those songs for and with each other, and other songs in the same spirit, just for the joy of making music together.
Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: tar_heel
Date: 11 Mar 00 - 11:24 AM

music about folks....nuff said.


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 11 Mar 00 - 12:42 PM

IMHO--

Doing what comes naturally, on purpose, to share with people who will do WITH it what comes naturally to them.

By extension, we could say that Mozart wrote folk music too, just from/for a different cultural outlook. For some, what comes natcherly is pretty complex. In the writing, playing, hearing, sharing.

I would guess that the folk music any individual can identify as "folk" tends to be that of our own culture or one to which we are attraced by commonality or by desire for divesity. At least it's like that for me.

Folk = people = my people = The People

As the Native Americans would speak of themselves, not as this tribe or that, but as The People, meaning (I guess) their people.

Look ma, I'm riding Klezmer. See you around the block!


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 11 Mar 00 - 01:14 PM

When I get references to "improving" songs, I start to get nervous and fidgity, so it seems like I am unable to totally agree with this notion. We change songs all the time, but I don't feel comfortable with the judgement call that "improvement" entails.

If we take a song and "Update it" to appeal to contemporary ears, It may not be the same song, and if it is still able to do what it once did (a far fetched notion to say the least) it is out of context, and therefore, perhaps, susceptible to fads, trends and fleeting fashions "of the day". This is not such a bad thing, supposedly, unless we insist on the concept of "lasting value" which is beyond the scope of our short lives....

I guess what I'm trying to point out is that what we write now, may, or may not become folk music down the line. And what WAS folk music, still is... though it probably was written without any self consciousness or labeling...

... and "folk music" is about content,... right? ttr


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Chet W.
Date: 11 Mar 00 - 01:22 PM

Good thoughts about a question we never get tired of. I am reminded, though, of a comment made by Thelonius Monk when he said that "...writing about music is like dancing about architecture." Labels and definitions do tend to get in the way of how I personally relate to music or to any other art form. In terms of how it makes me feel, I can't put into words a big difference between "folk" and blues and jazz and country and even classical music. Easy to talk about individual songs or performers, but not categories, if they exist. Not saying it should be that way for everybody.

Veteran of several twelve-step programs regarding music, Chet.


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 11 Mar 00 - 01:26 PM

Obviously I'd take issue with Chuck's comment; it's overly simplistic and comes perilously close to the reductio ad absurdam of saying that all music is folk music.  In mentioning Mozart, Praise raises an interesting point.  Composers who themselves belong firmly in the Art Music camp sometimes "borrow" traditional melodies; that doesn't make their work "folk music" in any sense, however.  On the other hand, melodies from art music do from time to time find their way into tradition; an example that comes to mind is Weber's "Huntsman's Chorus".

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Jeri
Date: 11 Mar 00 - 02:03 PM

If folk music simply means music about folks, then all the songs about sheep, horses, dead dogs, trains, the seasons, etc, are not folk music. The category then includes anything not performed by horses. Of course, you could probably train a horse to play a bodhran, so Irish music wouldn't be folk...

If folk music is music by or for people, then all music is folk music, so you don't even need to use the word "folk" - just call it music.

If what Bob Dylan sings is folk music, then what Frank Proffit sang is _____?

Find me something to call songs or tunes passed down the generations in a community by oral tradition. It was called "folk" a few decades ago.

I honestly have been through this discussion many times in many places. One thing I don't really understand is why many people find it necessary to apply the "folk" label to music they just happen to like, and/or find meaningful. Why bother using the word? (Perhaps because "pop," which is what I think a lot of it has, in recent history, come to mean sell-out city?)


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: GUEST,Rich(stupidbodhranplayerthatdoesn'tknowanybe
Date: 11 Mar 00 - 03:19 PM

I agree somewhat with Malcolm (especially the singer-songwriter rarely having to do with folk comment). I like U. Utah Philips remark that "Folk music is not owned by anyone. we own it together like the national forest and the airways. songwriters make grape juice. It can turn into either wine or vinegar. If a people take a song into their lives and use it and change it to suit them and it divests itself of its original name then it becomes afolk song". [] Slan, [] Rich


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 11 Mar 00 - 11:09 PM


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Billy the Bus
Date: 12 Mar 00 - 02:47 AM

Gidday,

Hmmm.....

Don't think I'll read the 91 posts in older threads on the perennial question "What is Folk?". Maybe in there, I guess I could find the only definition that appealed when we had such serious discussion 40 years back.

I'm trying to recall the original author, Seeger? Leadbelly, Lomax, Lloyd? - can't remember - first I heard it was with an American accent...

The definition?

"I guess it's all folk - ain't heard no horse sing yet!"

Let's just put it down to the original "Folk Poet"..;)

ANON.......;^)

Mind you, as I sit listening to Mµdcat Radio from a couple of weeks back XXIV, maybe I'm old fashioned - in a fairly remote part of the world, I can dial up a wireless programme from a while back - I guess computers can sing now - maybe horses now sing too...;^)

Whoops - now I'm hearing a complaint from a caller to MCR "That ain't Folk"...;^)

Love what I just heard from the caller

"If you write your programme just on what pleases me, you'll only have one listener" - Hmm... that sums it up for me.

"Folk is what appeals to me, from my own definition of Folk".

Cheers - Sam


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 12 Mar 00 - 01:23 PM

Sam gets the wooden spoon, then.

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Joan
Date: 12 Mar 00 - 05:00 PM

I second Art's comment. Joan.


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 13 Mar 00 - 12:38 AM

Art is, as always, concise and to the point--


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: GUEST,Lollipop
Date: 13 Mar 00 - 04:30 AM

Rubbish Music


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Bert
Date: 13 Mar 00 - 10:23 AM

I used to think I knew the answer to that question but I know now that I don't know.

But if you listen to Mudcat Radio Wednesday night you can hear some of it.


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Amos
Date: 13 Mar 00 - 12:16 PM

Since the time of Alan Lomax the "oral" tradition -- mandated more by the lives people led than by anything inherent in their music -- has migrated to the written, vinyl, optical and digital traditions which we wrestle with around here all day. In fact a lot of folk music has become commercial, or Folkways Records would have gone out of business long ago, but it was not conceived in a commercial mindset. When people generate music for its own sake, to ease or better their lives, as distinguished from intending it for public performance or sale, you have one of the defining traits of folk music. The musical patterns of that legacy often find their way into popular or commercial products -- just look at what country music has gone through in the last thirty years -- and there has likewise been a lot of bleedthrough from commercial channels into ordinary people's lives. This points up that the conditions which obtained for the first 2500 years of folk music have shifted in a fundamental way, through the advent of a different kind of communication starting with the radio.

Given that those conditions are different than they once were you can end up preferring a definitions which exclude any of that impact -- which will leave you pretty much at the end of the line here in the 21st century -- or you can base your definition on the deeper process, which leads you to include some popular music with traditonal orientation, like Dylan, Donovan, PP&M, Crosby Stills and Nash, and so on.

My sense is that here on the Cat we fall into roughly two camps -- those who focus on a purer but more time-constrained definition, and those who curiously follow the evolution of the voice through the complexities and sometimes overwhelming mazes of the media revolution that started with Mister Marconi's folly. :>)

A


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Bert
Date: 13 Mar 00 - 01:37 PM

'Tiz funny that those of the 'the oral tradition' philosophy seem to be the ones who rely on written collections and deny that 'what people are singing NOW' is really folk.

Bert. (just stirring the pot a bit - tee hee)


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 13 Mar 00 - 01:40 PM

Amos, that was a good and thoughtful analysis. Thank you for your thoughts.

I find myself riding both horses, however.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Jacob B
Date: 13 Mar 00 - 02:24 PM

I'm not going to try to answer this perennial question, but I would like to point out that there is a more basic question that should be addressed.

Does the distinction between categories named Folk Music, Art Music, and/or Pop Music make sense to you?

The term Folk Music was originally coined to distinguish between the music of the peasantry, the Folk, and the sophisticated music written by the professional composers employed by the nobility. Just as it was once easy to distinguish between these two groups of people, it was also easy to distinguish between these two types of music.

Use caution when you try to define what the term Folk Music means today. If you're not careful, echoes of that original definition will begin to creep into your definition. That's fine if you find it useful to divide people into Elite and Common People, but not good if you disagree with that point of view.

One other thought: I once heard a noted folklorist speak. (I'm sorry I can't recall his name, but he was the keynote speaker at one of the early Ralph Page Legacy Weekends.) I'll paraphrase him from memory. He said something much like: "The more research I did, the more I found that the 'dancing, singing throng' I had been taught about didn't exist. All the pieces of folk music that I found had been written by distinct individuals, who were highly valued within their communities for their musical ability."

Jacob


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 13 Mar 00 - 02:40 PM

It occurs to me that this question too, belongs on the "stupid question thread"--because their isn't enough information in the question--I looked at Thomas the Rhymer's initial post, and he asks part of several other questions as well--

If Thomas would tell us what he is trying to explain, it might help a lot--other than that, there are a lot of good answers here, people--we just need mre questions to go with them--


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 13 Mar 00 - 02:46 PM

Bert,

No need to deny anything. We just know what's correct. ;-)

Art (stirring it some more---and going stir crazy)


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Amos
Date: 13 Mar 00 - 05:54 PM

I just had another thought about the changes to "folk music" which have set in since the advent of mass communication, in that the scale and scope of tragedy now has changed dramatically. When all communication was from one mouth to one ear, and even by posted broadsides and the like, a single tragic event -- one woman dying for love, or one jealous husband murdering someone, or one town losing its young men to emigration -- was a major focus, and enough attention was put on it that it acheived scale and stature, and might become immortalized in a ballad.

With the advent of mass communications, wire services, networks, and all, the scale of the communication channel is entirely different -- the murder of five nuns can be lost on the front page or the TV news because of a political flap or the explosion of the Challenger. The story does not linger for weeks or months as it did in the smaller, oral community. As a result poignant and dramatic tales are mere grist for the media mill, and get lost in a way that similar stories in the past often did not, because they were captured however inaccurately in a ballad somewhere.

Obviously the trade-off is that at least we can dig up, with some degree of accuracy, thousands more stories from our electronic morgues than ever made it into song, but the change of scale still says something about the change of the basic conditions which generated so much of our oral legacy.


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 13 Mar 00 - 06:07 PM

Here's what William Butler Yeats thought it was.

"Folk-art is indeed the oldest of the aristocracies of thought, and because it refuses what is passing and trivial, the merely clever and pretty, as certainly the vulgar and insincere, and because it has gathered into itself the simplest and most unforgettable thoughts of the generations, it is the soil where all art is rooted."

I agree with him. I underscore the word "generations".

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Bill in Alabama
Date: 13 Mar 00 - 06:27 PM

I'm teaching a graduate class on this subject this evening;thanks, all, for giving me this thread to read before I go (no sarcasm; I'm serious).

Bill


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Mooh
Date: 13 Mar 00 - 06:36 PM

Huh?...All music's folk music, ain't it?...Ain't never heard no catfish sing, eh.


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: catspaw49
Date: 13 Mar 00 - 06:48 PM

Nice quote Frank.

Once again we have a lot of people voicing opinions which they believe to be fact, without regard to the thousands of words that have been written in previous threads and with no judgeable, definable things......simply, "I think folk music is whatever I say it is." Bull. That's not a definition or a classification...its an opinion. And its an opinion unfettered with even moderate respect for not the 91 posts, but more like 91 threads, that have been done here. And if you don't have time to read the words of the Sandy Patons, Art Thiemes, and Frank Hamiltons, go have a beer and shut up.

The record companies call all kinds of crap folk, but is it?

If you want to read an interesting idea on this as far as the ability to actually categorize, try reading Bill D.'s post on a thread called "What Isn't Folk?" CLICK HERE

Sandy once commented that the word has been stolen and he's right. But it would be nice if we could agree on a classification system......Dylan (much as I may enjoy him) ain't folk. The song you wrote yesterday ain't folk. Tom Paxton songs are folk style, but they ain't folk. Check back in a few generations. But these songs may be in a folk or traditional style and the writer's roots may be in folk/trad and all that's great. Now if they stand the test of time, enough people sing them and pass them along, the folk processs, oral tradition (even in some new forms)........maybe then they're folk.

I like folk songs and songs recently written, that are in the style of traditional folk music. Often I like the new ones better, the folkstyle ones. I'll pass them along as will you yours and we see what happens.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Amos
Date: 13 Mar 00 - 07:21 PM

It makes a certain sense to include the "generations" test as a criteria. A necessary one, because it is a sure way to see what the values of human living give survival to. But it is certainly not a sufficient criterion, since it would include church and show music and formal tunes of various kinds. I suspect in addition to the "generations" test a song also needs to pass the "use and intent" test -- a song used for commercial purposes or intended to sell soap doesn't pass no matter how much our grandchildren like the Ipana toothpaste jingle. I am sure there are other factors that figure in to it. Probably, as mentioned in Spaws kind link above, a dozen!

I agree completely that "because I like it" is netiher a necessary OR a sufficient test but an irrelevant one! :>) A


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 14 Mar 00 - 04:54 AM

I am overjoyed at the thoughtfullness displayed by all of you! thank you for responding to this recurring question with such renewed vigor!

I'm of the opinion that references made to individual composers show us some of our cultural biases. We are often more concerned with who sang a song, than the song itself. We seem to care more about the personal lives of actors and actresses than the writen role that made them famous. Yet, the reality of folk music is that the song is out distancing the singer/songwriter's persona because it speaks to people all over the spectrum,... ie... not just the "I" of the egoist, or the "them" of the propaganda spinners, or even the "we" of the preachers. The simple fact remains... alot of songs are being written, and only a few of them are really well written (tune, chords, meaning, rhyming, meter, beat etc.... all fit together engagingly)... AND are CAPABLE OF REACHING ACROSS GENERATIONS. My guess is, that this has always been the case. When people 'like' a song because it speaks to them, thats great! when people like a song and try to learn it, thats even better! Best of all is the song all kinds of people sing with.... (because it means well????)

now don't get me wrong, I love to be inspired by great players, absorbing performers, and even melodramatic schlock. entertaining,... all of them! However, the distinction could be made between entertaining, and interesting; or perhaps between the meaningful, and the search for attention. ttr


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: kendall
Date: 14 Mar 00 - 10:10 AM

It's all too complicated, so, to me, if there is an electric guitar, and 'or drums,and the lyrics are sappy, it aint folk


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 14 Mar 00 - 10:27 AM

Oh, someone better go catch Kendall before he falls--there are lots of performance traditions that incorporate electric guitars and other instruments, and of course, drums are among the oldest instruments--


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 14 Mar 00 - 11:33 AM

Amos, good point about the generations test. The other elements would include adaptation by specific sub-cultures over a period of time. Schubert songs have become folk songs in Germany through change. Show tunes have also. "Old Dan Tucker" is a case in point. As far as popular music, Stephen Foster's "Angelina Baker" became "Angeline the Baker", a mountain fiddle tune. Church music? All the time. "Uncloudy Day" as sung by the Carter Family for example.Or the music of Sacred Harp from which folk songs such as "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" or "On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand" are spawned. The generational aspect must be accompanied by the sub-cultural adaptations by specific folk cultures which engender as the folksong scholars say, "song variants".

Rap music is still up for grabs. It hasn't bridged a generation yet although it contains elements found in African-American music such as "Jivin'", "Playing the dozens", chants, street and jump-rope rhymes and blues hollers from earlier times as well as the legacy of the African Griot. Still, it's still a manufactured Hip Hop culture by record industry people and pop wannabees. There are no octengenarian rap singers as far as I know.

The generatinal test is still there but includes these other elements to make it valid, adaptations to different situations by specific sub-cultural groups which span generations and are identifiable as such.

Frank


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Bert
Date: 14 Mar 00 - 12:04 PM

Frank, in the late Forties, Billy Cotton was playing something that we would recognize today as Rap. I don't know if modern Rap derived from his stuff or from similar African origins.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: kendall
Date: 14 Mar 00 - 01:10 PM

I should have added IMO. I'm a Taurus, so, although I am not stobborn, I do have firm opinions. Some of them are.. drums belong on cars, along with horns, which also fit well on cows. Electric guitars belong in dumpsters.They can keep company with bodhran players( the ones who dont know enough to back off) and accordions. )pardon me while I barracade my windows) LOL


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Amos
Date: 14 Mar 00 - 02:05 PM

As for sappy lyrics, kendall, I have to say I believe your pink bunnytail is hanging out on that one. Some of the finest true tradition folksongs are as sappy as they come. But when you're in the mood for it, sappy is just the thing. Here are several very sappy songs which I love:

Abide With Me
The Water Is Wide
Lord Randall, My Son
The Colorado Trail
The Red River Valley (bowdlerized version)
The Mountains of Mourne
(shudder)Scarlet Ribbons
Danny Boy
and maybe even...(ducks rapidly)
Kevin Barry

A


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: kendall
Date: 14 Mar 00 - 02:40 PM

now wait just a minute here...I recorded Mountains of Mourne..'course I was just a kid then, and Kevin Barry is a good song. So..lets define sappy. IMO sappy is like, well, shes my baby, dont mean maybe..yuk.or, the ballad of the green berets. I'm going to start a new thread..


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 14 Mar 00 - 03:11 PM

Kendall, don't talk like that!!! When a folk luminary such as yourself starts dissing the instruments like that, I start to suffer from my identity crisis again, the one that I though I had licked back in the sixties, when they invented folk rock--


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 14 Mar 00 - 03:44 PM

I hate to say what I know to be true, 'cause

opinion is king when it's music you do and it don't matter why when our reasons are few;

we like what we like, it don't matter what's true

...........HOWEVER, it interests me anyway! ttr


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 14 Mar 00 - 04:07 PM

Spaw, words are in the public domain; it doesn't really make sense to say that the word folk was "stolen". A word gets picked up, changed around, added to, and subtracted from, and ultimately emerges in another time and place as something that has echoes of earlier versions, but also reflects the changes that time and lots of handling have brought about. Ironically, it's the same thing that we cherish about folk music; somehow, the hidebound traditionalists among us think it's a good thing when applied to songs, but a bad thing when applied to word definitions that they think should remain frozen in time. Forget about ownership; if that's what you're after, you need to invent a new word and get yourself a copyright or trademark. It's too late to do that with "folk". Anyone who hopes to hang onto a static, unchanging definition of that word is bound to be disappointed.


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: kendall
Date: 14 Mar 00 - 04:53 PM

"FOLK ROCK" aaaaggg IMO the electric guitar is not a musical instrument, it is a torture instrument. That thing, combined with the caterwalling that passes for singing these days has driven me out of more stores than I can count. I guess they do have their place...In the goddamn dumpster with the banjos and accordions!! My windows are all barracaded.There's someone at my door..Oh my god..NO..


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Amos
Date: 14 Mar 00 - 04:55 PM

Well, Whistle, maybe "borrowed without agreement from prior owners/users" is a better expression. It's a rough category anyway, and you're right about the transitional nature of the beast.

But 'Spaw and those even more bound in hide in these parts raise a good distinction, I think, between those songs which have been through the fine filter of a generation or two, and those which were sort of injected into circulation by modern mass media. There's an automatic quality of survival in a song that you bother to teach your kids, and many "great" songs from earlier times are long forgotten because they did not meet this standard, even though it seems like a whacky and arbitrary one.

Whether the discrimination is one that suits personal taste or not is another matter, of course, but it is clear that the oral tradition (even if it is playing old 33's to your grandchildren) as a way of passing on a musical mantle certainly does divide sheep from goats, regardless of which you prefer...better stop while I'm ahead, eh?

A


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Amos
Date: 14 Mar 00 - 05:24 PM

kendall, kendall!!! Oh, no...the thought police got him! Dang! I hate it when that happens....


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 14 Mar 00 - 08:06 PM

Kendall, I'm one of the admirers of your singing, and I was with you about the instruments that belonged in dumpsters, etc.---UNTIL you said bad things about the greatest instrument going, the banjo! Now I realize you've taken leave of your good senses! (:->)

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: kendall
Date: 15 Mar 00 - 08:00 AM

OK so I got carried away..but, they promised me that I can go home if I take my meds. Look I hate to say this, but, I love a well played (clawhammer) banjo, and, the only instrument I detest for real is the electric guitar.


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 15 Mar 00 - 08:49 AM

Well, gents, I've missed most of the posts except the last few, but how does this strike you--

Hymns were and are folk music, the folk music of the Christians, and in particular many US genres of more recent hymnody such as southern gospel, older praise choruses, contemporary praise choruses (ALL sappy!!!)

AND

although many connoisseurs (sp???) adore their sap served up via electric git-tar and drums, etc., we have a weekly service where we actually do ours the old-fashioned way: including banjo!

And I am no Biblical expert, but I believe one could say that the book of Psalms was an early DigiTrad, going from the Judaic heritage and early Christian church right up into now with many of the praise choruses being taken right outta there... adaptations (improvements??!!!) running rampant

So everyone, hug a Christian folkie today, even if they don't know they are one...

What about cantors in synagogue, wouldn't that also be included...


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 15 Mar 00 - 10:45 AM

Kendall:

Okay, okay, I am mollified.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: kendall
Date: 15 Mar 00 - 01:38 PM

Never assume that I'm serious.


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 15 Mar 00 - 03:37 PM

Praise, I think you're on target with the "hymns are folk songs" statement (although the last time I went to church a lot of the hymns I saw in the book were actually attributed to professional composers of yore). I'm curious, though, about how both the Book of Psalms and the Mudcat DigiTrad fit into the "oral tradition" prerequisite that so many folks are keen on. Seems like a contraditction, but maybe I'm missing something?

[I'll refrain from entering the fray concerning electric guitars -- as a proud practitioner of both acoustic and electric guitar music, I would be tempted to jump to the defense of electrics, but my better judgment tells me that would be one fight too many for today.]


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Bert
Date: 15 Mar 00 - 03:44 PM

I don't consider Hymns to be folk music. They come under the heading 'sponsored music' along with national anthems and anything else that the government/authorities/leaders wish you to sing.

Except for the few that escape like Amazing Grace.


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 15 Mar 00 - 08:28 PM

its a worthy cause, this "folk" search, because the clearing house approach of taking anything people are interested in brings up questions, and brings together differences. This is stimlulating and fun if we don't get opinions confused with facts. Music thrives on subjective opinions, and this is good. Folks who know what they like abound, but folks who know why,...well not so many.

It is apparent that many different kinds of "folk music" exist, and that not all of them have agreeable adherents. I could almost believe it if someone said that the chord Bminor was a real turn off for them, and that if a song came on with that chord in it they would storm out. Hmmmm.

Folk enthusiasts are not all open minded I guess.

But I still hold to the ideas of diversity and common interest, and I love a show that has hymns, labor songs, blues, swing, broadside ballads, sea shanties, etc... ad infinit-a-culturinitem... Also, mood changes are refreshing, and make any show more interesting. Long live emotional diversity!

new age, old age........ let's enjoy a song........ happy, sad, love , rage......... life is hard,... not long. (%


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Mar 00 - 09:17 PM

"I don't consider Hymns to be folk music" - West Gallery Music? Or Moody and Sankey for that matter?

I don't know which is the greater, the number of folk songs with tunes that started off in church, or the number of hymn tunes that started off as secular folk songs. Either way it's a big number, and some of the best songs in both traditions.

It isn't just us have these discussions - there's a controversy right now about "what is classical music?", with some records being banned from classical music charts, and disputes over what criteria should apply.

Actually, as terms go, "classical music" as a word which is supposed to cover all the types of music that it is used to cover is an extraordinary misnomer.

At least all the things we might variously describe as "folk music" are made by folk - whereas a great deal of music called "classical" just isn't classical in any recognisable use of the words, except as an arbitrary label. (That's not to impose a value judgement - but noone wopuld decribe the Millennium Dome as "classical arhitectire" - but the equivalent bit of music might well have the word aopplied to it.)

Then there is "what is music". Or "what is poetry?", just as endless a discussion.

The thing is, whatever we do, people seem to get involved with bringing things together that are very different, and using the same word for them, and pretending that because they same word is used they musrtt have a llt in common - and then other people, logically, try to breaking them apart again, because in fact they have so little in common.

The map is not the territory.


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 15 Mar 00 - 09:25 PM

TtR, That sounds like what we try to do with our singalong band. See, in this neck of the woods, as in many others, hymns are just part of the folk tradition.

Bert, I guess it depends on who the folk are whose folk music we're talkin' about, and what springs to mind when you think about what a hymn is. The one's I am talking about are the ones passed from soul to soul, not the ones bound up in official hymnbooks of this or that denomination.

Thinking now about the women's group I used to attend weekly, a wacky rural mix of charismatic Mennonite and conservative Baptist women, who, when they got together as women, in one of their homes, were just folks. All the songs were learned orally, and if you had a new one to contribute, good on you. Someone would say, lets' do this one, and most all would just join right in. If you were new you listened till the chorus came then joined in, and after awhile you knew the songs too. In this group, you could also say, "What's that one that sounds like this (humming a tune fragment) or has this phrase in it-- and someone would know the song and a little bit about it, or just start it. Some of the songs were old camp meeting songs, some were new praise material, some were by members who just had a song come up out of them. Not so different from Mudcat, really. If you can get folkier than that, let me know where to go and I'll be there.

These women knew something about music and people, and being just folk, that I needed to learn. Bet I'm not the first flatlander they gentled, bet I won't be the last. Bet more of us could enjoy that fellowship and love of song they had, and be as surprised as I was by where it is sometimes found.


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 16 Mar 00 - 08:24 AM

Praise, I have to agree. What you have described sounds to me like the very essence of folk music; both in what people brought to it, and in what they got out of it. I'm jealous.


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 16 Mar 00 - 09:25 AM

Bert,

There are examples of which some might put into the rap classification such as the "jivin" of Fats Waller. One notable difference it seems to me is that rap is a constant harrangue, an angry shout which has little dimension. There are no sad or happy raps it seems to me but just angry ones. Even the exhortation to "put your hands together" is more of a stentorian command than an appeal to have fun. Don't know Billy Cotton and how that fits in.

When other forms of African-American expressions in music are examined, there are dimensions such as happy blues or funny Calypsos. Rap seems emotionally and musically limited in spite of the sampling of rerecorded music.

Frank


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 16 Mar 00 - 10:41 AM

As to rap becoming folk material, first I have to confess I don't like far-and-away most of it that I've heard. Just so you know my bias.

That having been said up front, it seems to me that rap is not likely to be learned by the listeners and done by them and passed along. I see it as a performer "art" only. Perhaps there might survive a tradition of off-the-top-of-your-head rap, like off-the-top-of- your-head calypso, but the individual pieces being handed down? Nah.

YMMV.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Bert
Date: 16 Mar 00 - 11:32 AM

Frank,

Back in the Late Forties, Early Fifties, Billy Cotton had a radio program "The Billy Cotton Band Show".

Part of it was an African theme, based on 'The Jungle Telegraph' with the tribes communicating with drums. He used this to provide social comment on, and to poke fun at, current news happenings.

His 'news' was chanted to a strong 'African' beat in a form that would easily be recognized today as Rap.

Example:
Down in the jungle
Read it in the press
have you heard the latest
Oh Yes!

Down in the jungle
Read it every day
you can hear the natives
All Say!

Down in the jungle
Living in a tent
Better than a prefab
No Rent!

Praise, you're right. Those are the ones I meant when I said 'The few that escape'. I'm glad to hear that a lot more are escaping. Keep up the good work.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 16 Mar 00 - 12:45 PM

About 15 years ago, I used to listen to the rap show on Saturday afternoons on WHAT in Philadelphia, and there were some wonderful pieces they used to play--I don't remember the artists, but there was one about all the embarassing things that happened when he had dinner with someone else's family--in those days, rap was often just about the things that happened in people's lives--mostly witty, a bit racy at times--I wish I had paid more attention then--


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 16 Mar 00 - 01:40 PM

Sometimes what happens is that something doesn't exactly survive as a distinct form, but exerts its influence on other established forms, and lives on through them. Rap is doing this now to rock and roll, and may similarly end up influencing other musics before it has run its course; we may end up with some of the flavor of rap surviving even after the form itself has disappeared. In fact, if you listen to Ani DiFranco, you'll hear some of it now (and while Ani is not a traditional folkie either, her demographic overlaps with more traditional strains, and might end up influencing them). I'm not really a rap fan either, but there might be something in the rapid-spoken-word, rhyming-couplet thing that has value.


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 16 Mar 00 - 04:28 PM

Bert, I'm not looking for a fight, but we are not seeing the same paradigm AT ALL. No escaping was involved...


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Osmium
Date: 16 Mar 00 - 04:37 PM

My sons tell me that "folk" is best epitomised by thinking about what people who go around singing;
All around my ARSE I will wear a green ribbon...
are singing the rest of the time? I don't know if this might help towards a clearer definition - they seem to think it's a pretty definitive statement.


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 16 Mar 00 - 04:54 PM

I agree!!!

Osmium for Wise Man!


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 16 Mar 00 - 05:48 PM

"There are no sad or happy raps it seems to me but just angry ones" says Frank HGanmilton.

There are so - this one for example on a record by Four Men and a Dog called "Barking Mad.

I grant you that, insofar as it's an Irish folk band, it's not your typical rap, but I've heard happy rap often enough in the Notting Hill Carnival for example, though iot's not my music. "Sad rap" that isn't angry-sad - well I don't know about that. I suspect Frank might be rigfht there - but I don't know much about rap.


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Subject: RE: BS: What is folk music?
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 16 Mar 00 - 09:48 PM

I dont know much about RAP either, other than it puts me off, and much of it was/is intended to. However, though it is not sing alongable, it is often written about real issues, by actual people! It represents rebellion, "telling it like it is", and it rhymes with tight meter! Though it flys in the face of respectibility, it contains many elements that could be considered "folk", if you can stretch a bit;... conflict, politics, (attemts at) self realization, and lots of references to how it feels to be insignificant in the face of our techno-power based civilization. If we put ourselves into the position of being broke, young, disempowered, surrounded by guns, dependent upon expensive everything...(cars, housing, dining, concerts, computers, etc.), then we have a reality check for musical expression.

Now, I can't vouch for the art form, or the way it feels violent, mean, and pointless. However, it does describe the feelings of a generation, and this has historical meaning whether we like it or not.

Though I seldom hear RAP that I enjoy even remotely, it has got some of the elements of descriptive balladry, coupled with the same context that makes labor songs so meaningful...

I just dont like the art form,.... thats all! ttr


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