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What is a folk song, version 3.0

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GUEST,trevormerrett@aol.com 19 Sep 02 - 01:22 PM
MMario 19 Sep 02 - 01:36 PM
Amos 19 Sep 02 - 01:46 PM
greg stephens 19 Sep 02 - 02:03 PM
McGrath of Harlow 19 Sep 02 - 02:15 PM
Bert 19 Sep 02 - 02:23 PM
Rick Fielding 19 Sep 02 - 03:29 PM
Sooz 19 Sep 02 - 03:37 PM
Suffet 19 Sep 02 - 08:38 PM
Snuffy 19 Sep 02 - 08:43 PM
Snuffy 19 Sep 02 - 08:45 PM
Uncle_DaveO 19 Sep 02 - 08:54 PM
greg stephens 19 Sep 02 - 09:06 PM
GUEST 19 Sep 02 - 09:15 PM
dick greenhaus 19 Sep 02 - 11:25 PM
Bill D 19 Sep 02 - 11:32 PM
Stewie 20 Sep 02 - 01:50 AM
McGrath of Harlow 20 Sep 02 - 06:53 AM
greg stephens 20 Sep 02 - 07:05 AM
Nigel Parsons 20 Sep 02 - 07:12 AM
greg stephens 20 Sep 02 - 07:22 AM
greg stephens 20 Sep 02 - 07:41 AM
McGrath of Harlow 20 Sep 02 - 09:15 AM
weerover 20 Sep 02 - 09:33 AM
greg stephens 20 Sep 02 - 10:17 AM
McGrath of Harlow 20 Sep 02 - 12:27 PM
Herga Kitty 20 Sep 02 - 03:30 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 20 Sep 02 - 07:48 PM
McGrath of Harlow 21 Sep 02 - 02:11 PM
Bill D 21 Sep 02 - 04:50 PM
dick greenhaus 06 Oct 02 - 01:06 PM
McGrath of Harlow 06 Oct 02 - 02:15 PM
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Subject: What is a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,trevormerrett@aol.com
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 01:22 PM

Hi y'all

Just found this site. It rocks!

Had a look at the DigiTrad, why is Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits there?

Trevor


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Subject: RE: What is a Folk Song?
From: MMario
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 01:36 PM

because Dick or Susan decided to put it in.

*grin*

See the thread on the latest release - there is a link in there to the history of the DT

new digitrad

oops! the link to the history is actually in this thread and here is a a direct link to history


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Subject: RE: What is a Folk Song?
From: Amos
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 01:46 PM

Trevor:

Welcome to the Cat. Sign in, make a membership for yerself if you're interested. Look around. Read the FAQ. Look over the last four years of discussion, learn who's around, all that good stuff. You'll enjoy it.

Once you see how much has been said on your thread topic, you'll understand why I offer this advice: Don't ask! :>)

A


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Subject: RE: What is a Folk Song?
From: greg stephens
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 02:03 PM

Broadly speaking,50% of the inhabitants here think that folk songs are a particular kind of song, defined by usage and/or creation in some sort of communal context, which leads to songs existing in many variant forms.
Another group thinks the category also includes songs written by people with guitars (and probably long hair) since the 60's (these songs often deal with the writer's personal emotional life and problems in some detail).
Another group admits various other kinds of popular songs into the category (hence Dire Straits etc).
Then there is a small subgroup, consisting of Big Bill Broonzy, Louis Armstrong and McGrath from Harlow, who believe "all music is folk-music, leastways I ain't never heard no horse sing a song". There are no horses, as far as I know, who are Mudcat members, otherwise you might find even more extreme positions being taken. .


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Subject: RE: What is a Folk Song?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 02:15 PM

You do me wrong Greg - on a number of occasions I have objected to the nonsensical notion that horses don't sing. I've known horses with better voices than many humans. Their repertoire is, of course, a bit different, but that's only to be expected.

Donkeys tend to have more self-confidence when it comes to singing.


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Subject: RE: What is a Folk Song?
From: Bert
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 02:23 PM

Donkeys tend to have more self-confidence when it comes to singing. Now THAT applies to Mudcatters!


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Subject: RE: What is a Folk Song?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 03:29 PM

Greg, that is HILARIOUS!

Rick

P.S. Trevor, I'm among the group that loves watching the other groups argue.


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Subject: RE: What is a Folk Song?
From: Sooz
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 03:37 PM

As far as I'm concerned a folk song has a tune and words. Its how you sing it that makes the difference.


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Subject: RE: What is a Folk Song?
From: Suffet
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 08:38 PM

Way back in a thread called A Real Folksinger, I wrote the following:

A real folksinger understands that folk music is not a genre. A real folksinger understands that any song can be a folksong. A real folksonger knows there is no such thing as singing a folksong wrong. If a real folksinger forgets the words, he/she makes up new ones on the spot. If a real folksinger can't quite remember the melody, he/she invents one that fits his/her own vocal style, perhaps flatting a 7th here, jumping an octave there, or changing a major key into a mountain modal.

I stand by those words.

--- Steve


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Subject: RE: What is a Folk Song?
From: Snuffy
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 08:43 PM

A folk song is one sung by people who don't get paid for it, at an event or occasion where the singing is not the primary purpose of the gathering, but helps to foster the fellowship of that gathering.

A folksinger is part of the entertainment industry.


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Subject: RE: What is a Folk Song?
From: Snuffy
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 08:45 PM

... whereas a folk singer is someone who sings a folk song (see above).

WassaiL! V


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Subject: RE: What is a Folk Song?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 08:54 PM

Here's yet another chance for me to trot out my favorite Burl Ives anecdote:

He said something like, "People call me a folk singer. I'm not. I sing songs I like. It just happens that most of the songs I like are folk songs."

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: What is a Folk Song?
From: greg stephens
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 09:06 PM

Well Snuffy I would say some people have always been paid to sing folksongs(or play folk tunes) ever since the day after the day they invented money. I do believe there is a radical difference between folk music and other kinds of music, but the difference does not lie in whether the performer is paid on not. In my opinion, of course. But I really don't see how the music of the fiddler in the pub changes just because the landlord slips him a pint or a fiver.I like the other aspects of your definition.


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Subject: RE: What is a Folk Song?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 09:15 PM

Would it be fair to say that the definition varies dependant on which side of the atlantic you live?

My experience suggests that Americans are more likely to describe folk as anything played on an acoustic guitar, and that Europeans have a more limited definition.


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Subject: RE: What is a folk song, version 3.0
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 11:25 PM

I might be able to explain. DigiTrad started out as a collection of song that people sing. Now. Our working definition of a folksong was anything that anyone liked enough to write down and submit. The original intent was to be non-judgemental and non-editorial.

Like most simple ideas, it didn't work. And now, rather than fill the DT with songs that I personally don't believe belong anywhere near folkdom (or even possibly music)Susan and I are excercising a bit of editorial judgement about which of the thousands of songs we have to choose from will be included.


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Subject: RE: What is a folk song, version 3.0
From: Bill D
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 11:32 PM

well, you 'could' do a supersearch on my name for a definitive explanation...*BIG grin*...(ummm...not a simple explanation, but definitive)

I guess I'm getting old...no energy to fight that fight much anymore


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Subject: RE: What is a folk song, version 3.0
From: Stewie
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 01:50 AM

I am rather fond of item 4 in a list that Abby Sale sometimes posts as current FAQs for rec.music.folk:

'4. If you raise the question "what is folk music" more than once every four years we will send lightning down your computer and kill it'.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: What is a folk song, version 3.0
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 06:53 AM

This isn't a question looking for an answer. It's an excuse for a conversation. Accept it as that.

The key thing for me is that a folk song is a song that was either never part of the music industry, or has escaped from it, and gone feral. People learn it from each other, and the fact that it has been recorded by a particular person on a particular occasion recedes into the background.

Some songs start off as folksongs and get temporarily captured and tamed or put in a cage. But they can always escape, and so can the ones that were born in captivity. Some of them die in the wild of course, because they haven't got the qualities that enable them to survive. (I'm getying back to the horses...)

Which gives rise to another way of putting the original question: "What are the qualities that enable a song to become a folksong?"


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Subject: RE: What is a folk song, version 3.0
From: greg stephens
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 07:05 AM

McGrath seems to me to be asking exactly theright question .The tune, the harmony, the words, the modes, the appropriate instrument, the economics of performance are things that get concentrated on a lot, because they are measurable and analysable, and of course very interesting. But they are not the essence of the music. That's down to the interaction of performers, creators, dancers and listeners, with people moving freely in and out of those categories simultaneusly,fluidly and continuously. And what they come up with is folkmusic. Sometimes.


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Subject: RE: What is a folk song, version 3.0
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 07:12 AM

Maybe we should emulate Sherlick Holmes.
First decide what isn't a folk song, then, to quote the great detective
"Once you have eliminated the impossible, what is left, however improbable, must be the truth!"

Nigel


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Subject: RE: What is a folk song, version 3.0
From: greg stephens
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 07:22 AM

Nice one Nigel. Well I'll nominate "The Streets of London" for voting out for a start. Actually,maybe a target would be a good model. Put the ones we all agree are folk in the bull and gradually spread out to the edge according to how many votes they get. Then yould get a fine average picture.


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Subject: RE: What is a folk song, version 3.0
From: greg stephens
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 07:41 AM

Trouble is, you cant really say "this set of words and tune IS a folk song". (sorry about the shouting capitals, cant do italics).You can only say "this set of words FUNCTIONS as a folk song in certain context"(or functioned, or might function in the future).
And you can say without fear of contradiction"the folk process at a certain time and place produced a body of music with certain recognisable characteristics". But you're making an unjustifiable leap if you go onto say "therefore a song with those characteristics is a folk song", because you've changed the definition of folk between the two statements. Which, of course we all do all the time, using the same word with subtly different meanings in different contexts. That's language for you.


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Subject: RE: What is a folk song, version 3.0
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 09:15 AM

Streets of London has the esssential quality for becoming a folk song - it survives in the wild. People sing it without any idea of where they heard it, including those who've never heard of Ralph McTell.

Once again, I think the manner of presenting it often gets in the way. Sing it pretty, with a pretty guitar accompaniment, and it comes over as a charity worker preaching, and putting himself too much at the centre. I'd read it more as a dosser talking, about other dossers.

Probably works better from a drunk outside a pub, who can't remember all the words. Like Carrickfergus in that respect.

I'm all for folkies leaving it alone. It'll survive and mature.


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Subject: RE: What is a folk song, version 3.0
From: weerover
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 09:33 AM

I think there is an element of how much a song is assimilated into a particular culture. For example Ewan McColl's "Dirty Old Town" and Eric Bogle's "No Man's Land" (a.k.a. "Willie McBride", "Green Fields of France" are songs I have heard (in Ireland and elsewhere) introduced as traditional Irish, which by now in a way I suppose they are.


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Subject: RE: What is a folk song, version 3.0
From: greg stephens
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 10:17 AM

I dont think the fact that people havent heard of Ralph McTell has any great relevance as to whether S of L is a folk song or not. There were a lot of statistics in the papers the other day proving that end of civilisation is upon us,because 90% of kids couldnt name a classical composer. but I dont think the fact that in a few years nobody will have heard of Moazart willturn "Cosi fan tuuti" retrospectively into folk music.
I think the weakness that will stop Streets of London either being,or ever becoming, folk is its quality of elevating the performer/writer/narrator into a position of fairly unpleasant superiority and isolation. Moral superiority over the stupid girl, economic and social superiority (admittedly sympathetc) to the picturesque derelicts. That isolation from the subject matter is not very folky, I reckon. Fantastic song in a lot of ways, beautifully written, easy to sing, memorable, full of striking images. But in the end coming from the "charity worker" as McGrath puts it, not the people.
But you may be right. Perhaps it is the new folk.Maybe we are becoming a sharing, caring, communal-outpouring-of-grief society, and maybe this is its hymn.


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Subject: RE: What is a folk song, version 3.0
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 12:27 PM

But if you hear it as, for example, the kind of guy who gets by by selling the Big Issue, and he's talking about other people he has met on the street, it has a different feel to it. The economic and social superiority gets read into it by the listener, because of the way it gets sung and the people singing it. I don't think it's necessarily there in the song.


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Subject: RE: What is a folk song, version 3.0
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 03:30 PM

Ah well, there are at least 2 categories of folk song

1) Our heritage, what has been passed down through the oral tradition and preserved on recordings of ancient singers - the academic approach.

2) Songs that people love to sing, regardless of how old (ie new!) they are, how they got them and where they came from. (eg, the Sidmouth Anchor Middle Bar approach).

Plus the introspective singer-songwriter-guitarist approach that is ephemeral because no-one apart from the author sings the song ever again.

As I've mentioned on another thread, Ossian published 4 books of songs popular in Ireland. They all get sung in Ireland, but they didn't necessarily originate there.

Kitty


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Subject: RE: What is a folk song, version 3.0
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 07:48 PM

Hi, Kevin: There is a term for plants that escape into the wild. They are called Agressive Escapees. Maybe that's what popular songs, or recently written "folk" songs are. The key is that they have to have the strength to survive in a sometimes harsh environment.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: What is a folk song, version 3.0
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 02:11 PM

Aggressive Escapees - wouldn'tb= that just be a great name for a band. "Feral Cat and the Aggressive Escapees"...


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Subject: RE: What is a folk song, version 3.0
From: Bill D
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 04:50 PM

you may want to look at this thread which lets you read ALL the former discussions...

and then again, you may not.....


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Subject: RE: What is a folk song, version 3.0
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 06 Oct 02 - 01:06 PM

The most recent species to go feral is pet rocks, which are abandoned in countrified regions and become aggresive landslides.

Re "what is a Folk Song", I tought I'd post one point of view:

A folk song may be broadly defined as any song of whatever origin which achieves wide currency independently of print, and is remembered and sung over a considerable period of time. In other words, a folk song is a song which has become traditional.
Is "The Star Spangled Banner" a folk song, or "Nearer My God to Thee," or 'Fair Harvard"? All these are often sung from memory and they have lasted fior many years. If they are not folk songs, it is because they have never acquired a life of their own. They do not catch on and fly from mouth to mouth. Knowledge of them is almost always the result of deliberate teaching effort by people sociologically or religiously or patriotically minded, rather than folk minded. This teaching, moreover, is done primarily with the aid of books. As a result, they remain fixed and stable, words and tune, though we are told that "The Star Spangled Banner" begins to refuse to behave itself, and, in spite of the efforts ei music teachers, is not now sung by the American people exactly as it was written.
A contemporary jazz ditty comes nearer in some ways to fulfilling the conditions of a folk song. Bawled out for a while in the music halls and over the radio, it catches the ear of the pleasure loving public and is repeated everywhere. Dance bands sing it as they play; the dancers pick it up and sing it as they dance. Collegiate pianists play it by car in fraternity houses, and their vocal companions warble it to strange harmonies around the piano. It may be disreputable, but it is certainly alive. Its life, however, is the life only of the summer insect whose buzzing is heard for a few hours at midday, but at sunset the place thereof knows it no more. True folk song, on the other hand, endures from generation to generation, carrying with it echoes of a steadier and less complicated age than ours.

                                                Mary O. Eddy
                                                Intro. Ballads and Songs From Ohio


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Subject: RE: What is a folk song, version 3.0
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 06 Oct 02 - 02:15 PM

Star Spangled Banner, first verse anyway, is probably closer to being a folk song outside the USA, in the sense that anyone who might know it well enough to sing it would have picked it up from hearing it. The same with the Marseilleise and the Internationale.

Tunes like Nearer My God to Thee and Abide with Me you pick up at funerals (or maybe football matches in the latter case), so they'd qualify too. And music hall songs, the choruses anyway, are also orally transmitted for most of us.


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