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Why do we sing the songs we sing?

Fay 02 Apr 03 - 09:58 AM
Troll 02 Apr 03 - 10:11 AM
Fay 02 Apr 03 - 10:19 AM
mack/misophist 02 Apr 03 - 10:20 AM
MMario 02 Apr 03 - 10:27 AM
Uncle_DaveO 02 Apr 03 - 10:32 AM
DonMeixner 02 Apr 03 - 11:36 AM
Kim C 02 Apr 03 - 12:49 PM
GUEST,Les B. 02 Apr 03 - 01:16 PM
kendall 02 Apr 03 - 02:23 PM
Phil Cooper 02 Apr 03 - 04:09 PM
Ed. 02 Apr 03 - 04:19 PM
Kim C 02 Apr 03 - 06:01 PM
Guy Wolff 02 Apr 03 - 08:11 PM
Jazzyjack 02 Apr 03 - 10:18 PM
Little Hawk 02 Apr 03 - 10:43 PM
fogie 03 Apr 03 - 03:58 AM
Steve Parkes 03 Apr 03 - 11:08 AM
Mark Clark 03 Apr 03 - 11:57 AM
GUEST,JohnB 03 Apr 03 - 12:32 PM
Steve Parkes 04 Apr 03 - 02:19 AM
Gurney 04 Apr 03 - 03:33 AM
Clean Supper 04 Apr 03 - 06:00 AM
JennyO 04 Apr 03 - 09:34 AM
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Subject: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: Fay
Date: 02 Apr 03 - 09:58 AM

What makes you choose your repertoire?

Why do some people stick to 'original' versions of traditional songs and frown on variations, and others delight in singing Bob Dylan and the Beatles. Then there's those singer songwriter types.

What makes people click with a song enough to want to sing it. Does this change throughout life? Do people sing young songs when they're teenagers and mature into different kinds of songs, or is a song for life, not just for Christmas?


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: Troll
Date: 02 Apr 03 - 10:11 AM

I sing what I like as a general rule. If I have a request made by a client far enough in advance, I will learn that song for that gig. I may never sing it again.
I've sung the same Types of song for most of my performing life but the repertoire changes from time to time. Sometimes I just get tired of a song and stop doing it, other times I learn a version I like better and make the change there.
I have written a few songs that have been well received and I perform them but not to the exclusion of all else. I'll sing other peoples songs if I like them and if the original owners don't mind. I'm eclectic in my tastes; everything from Childe Ballades to Shel Silverstein and I'm working on a couple of Tom Waits numbers.

troll


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: Fay
Date: 02 Apr 03 - 10:19 AM

Ta Troll, but what is it that draws you to a song in the first place, or why would you swap one for a new version. Is it in the tune, the plot, the sentiment, the singer you heard it from...


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: mack/misophist
Date: 02 Apr 03 - 10:20 AM

De gustibus non disputandum.


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: MMario
Date: 02 Apr 03 - 10:27 AM

sometimes one thing - sometimes another. There are some songs that I not only don't sing - but I don't listen to them unless sung by a certain person. there are others that I will listen to *anyone* perform - under any circumstances.


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 02 Apr 03 - 10:32 AM

Burl Ives said something like: "People call me a folksinger. I'm not. I sing songs that I like. It just so happens that most of the songs I like are folksongs."

I resonate to that.

But beyond that, I sing almost exclusively story songs--some the Scottish and English ballads, some other traditional (or at least old) story songs, some modern story songs. I've written a few. But almost always they either have a story line or, lacking a true story, have a sort of narrative feel. That's at least 95% of my repertoire.

Of that story part, I'd say 75% are, if not outright funny, at least good-humored.

I avoid most songs that are or have been really popular.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: DonMeixner
Date: 02 Apr 03 - 11:36 AM

Songs have only a few limited purposes with in one overacrhing umbrella. Expressions of love and hate, tell and or document a story,either imaguned or a real event. Some are just for pure emyertainment and emotional release. But they are all underneath the need for communication.

I pick songs that resonate with in me in some way. Some people hit that resonance nearly evry time, like Tom Paxton, Iris Dement, Gordon Bok. Others hit it so rarley as to be not considered, Pat Boone for instance, with the exception of "Moody River"

Other depend more on the singer than the song.

Don


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: Kim C
Date: 02 Apr 03 - 12:49 PM

I'll have to agree with Burl Ives, too.

Since Mister and I put on funny clothes and perform at historic sites, sometimes we are limited as to what we can do, depending on the time period, the site, etc. But even then, we pick songs we like. I have to admit, I like songs that are dramatic, and even morbid. I don't know why, I just do. But I also like songs that are humorous.

When I write, though, I tend to write sad songs. I'm not sure why, because I'm not generally sad. Even when I was depressed, I wasn't really sad-natured, if that makes any sense.

Sometimes a melody will grab me, sometimes the particular turn of a phrase, sometimes a story. It just depends.


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 02 Apr 03 - 01:16 PM

With me it's the way a song "sounds" that generally attracts at first. It's not only the melody, but also the timbre of the voice and/or instruments. After the sound, I then consider the words - are they something I relate to, or wouldn't feel out of place singing - A rotund, bearded, middle-aged guy doing a Celine Dion number ?!?

I do think that as one gets older your tastes change. I'm learning and singing/playing songs now that not many years ago I thought were too "old hat", or too over wrought emotionally - for instance I just started singing "Red Wing"(There once was an Indian maid ...)although I've played it instrumentally forever.

I'm also attracted by novelty - just recently, on a whim, I sat down in an evening and learned "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" on the 5-string banjo, with singing. It actually turned out to be easier than I thought.   

Another, that for a long time I felt was too minor/morbid sounding is "Wild Bill Jones" - now, after hearing a local picker's version, I've been playing this single chord wonder a lot.


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: kendall
Date: 02 Apr 03 - 02:23 PM

Depends on how I feel at the time. My collection runs the gamut from silly to pitiful to historical. I like story songs, Patrick Spencer, Henry Martin. I also like some modern stuff, such as Lonesome Robin, The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, Going Away and Cant Help but wonder where I'm bound.

I guess, what I want to say is, we humans have a wide range of emotions and interests, so, we have a wide range of songs to express them. My ex wife hated sad songs; used to call them "emotional rape."


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 02 Apr 03 - 04:09 PM

I like to learn songs that either make me laugh or cry. Then I hope I can communicate that when I sing it. I tend to believe, somewhat like KimC, above, that the heart of the music is in the sad songs and that the comic stuff is relief from that. I'm drawn to a good story, good melody. There's usually one verse or two, or sometimes just one line in a song that just grabs me.

There are also songs I like to hear, but don't think I'd like to learn. I dearly love listening to Trisha Yearwood on the radio singing "She's in Love with the Boy," but somehow don't think I'll learn or perform it.


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: Ed.
Date: 02 Apr 03 - 04:19 PM

Songs that I like and hope/expect other people to like.

I don't really understand the question that started this thread. (The 'does this change throughout life?' sub-question has an answer that is too obvious to bother answering)


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: Kim C
Date: 02 Apr 03 - 06:01 PM

I think some songs are for life. There are a few I never get tired of singing, like Night Rider's Lament, or The Black Flower (one of my own songs).

When I was younger, and had access to a piano, I knew nearly the entire Elton John catalog. I don't play those songs anymore, mostly because I no longer have a piano in my house - but I still love them.


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: Guy Wolff
Date: 02 Apr 03 - 08:11 PM

The things I sing have been with me for a long time now.I think some of my friends scratch there heads that I am still playing Irean Good Night. I couldnt stop playing at the end of an Evening if I didnt end with Irean Good Night. I play "will the circle be unbroken" for My Mom who Died in 1984 . I play sweet home Chocogo for my dad who was a Chicago MAn ( Died in 1978 ) . I play "Sorry the day I was Married" for My first Wife. ( I think Of her singing it not the other way around) We parted in 1986. Most of the songs I sing I have totaly taken on and atached to personal life experiences. The power in that then comes from a real place. I sang John Barley corn to my daughter when she was sick to keep her mind off the meds. It is ours now.. For me this is what brings music into the place we call Traditional Music. Thats why my cd's have Bluse and english and american folk all mixed up.. The songs I do are just peices of my life. I learned east Verginia from Banjo Bonnie and I see her every time I play it . Hazel Dell is one of the newest things I do . I had to play it a year before it made its way to the 'mine" list . sorry for the personal stuff but it make my point ... All the best to All here, Guy


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: Jazzyjack
Date: 02 Apr 03 - 10:18 PM

For me, this question is quite simple because I do not write my own songs. I don't think I could ever evaluate my own material objectively anyway. But I do believe I can spot the folk performer who has got just the right combination of vocal performance, instrumental ability and songwriting skill to make you just perk right up. I either cry, laugh or am amazed at what I hear. Then I go out and listen to all their stuff and inevitably choose some of the best, at least that's what people tell me.
And because many of these folksingers are not well known, it may as well have been original as far as the audience is concerned. It gives me quite the variation in style for my repertoire and unfortunately many folks who insist mostly on their own originals inevitably become boring as the performance progresses.
This is a tough call. To make it in any real way, you need originals but most of us will be mediocre and probably better off doing someone else's best songs. Think about some of your favorite folkies and how many of their songs you wouldn't do and then think about what percentage of YOUR originals are worth hearing. Not being driven by any creative juices, I made my decision to be as effective on stage as possible some time ago.


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 02 Apr 03 - 10:43 PM

The songs I sing are generally the ones that stir a powerful feeling in me or speak a powerful truth, and hopefully both. The lion's share of Dylan stuff does just that for me. Then there are some I sing because they are just fun, or because they are beautiful.

When I write, I take inspiration from all such material and set out to do some of my own. If something moves me, I write about it.

By the way, I saw a biographical show on Joni Mitchell tonight, and I don't believe it's possible to be a much finer creative artist than she has been throughout her amazing life. Truly inspiring!

- LH


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: fogie
Date: 03 Apr 03 - 03:58 AM

I think Phil Cooper and Jazzyjack have said what I would have. I stopped singing some 5 years ago when I found that much of my repertoire made me very emotional. Not that they were sad songs as such ,but had some parable like quality that invoked deeper emotions not necessarily obvious at first from the words, but must have been subconsciously the reason for their choice in the first place and may have been to do with the state of my life at that time. I have recently tried again with some, and find that I'm not as affected as I was, and so am cautiously singing again. Just for example, I can never sing The wild geese / Northern wind to myself even without filling up and songs like the Jeanie C and "on the ocean" type songs are a problem. I get like that with some Houseman poems too. I have heard old men saying that they cry in Church when they sing old hymns, maybe it's something common to us all, but I guess that it depends on your underlying emotional state.


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 03 Apr 03 - 11:08 AM

Let me sing a funny song
With crazy words that roll along
And if my song can start you laughing,
I'm happy, happy;
Let me sing a sad refrain
Of broken hearts who love in vain
And if my song can start you crying,
I'm happy


I like comic songs; I'm told I put them over well. It stops me taking the mickey out of serious songs, too. I like a good parody, as long as it's good, i.e. well thought out and funny; but I think it's important to keep the originals alive too (unless they are too awful to sing but not awful enough to self-parody). I like to alternate serious and not-so-serious songs, and trad and "contemporary".

A lot of the songs I like are simply old favorites from way, way back when I guess I was just impressionable. I used to find that some of the ones I liked (like The Gypsy's Warning were actually very unpopular! I dont do them now ... I don't think there's any particular kind of song I like better than another; but I'm not a brilliant musician, so I enjoy a song where I can have a good sing.

BTW, I cry every time Bambi's mother gets shot, which is a bit over the top at 51!

Steve


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 03 Apr 03 - 11:57 AM

I guess the real question is what makes a song appealing to us in the first place? For me, honesty is a big factor. Library of Congress field recordings often appeal to me though I don't often try to interpret that material for an audience. When I do decide to learn a song to perform, it's often because I've been attracted to a particular performance of the song by someone else. When that is the case, I usually try to come as close to that performance as I can when reinterpreting the song.

songs like “Lazy Bones” and “Polly Wolly Doodle” never appealed to me until I heard them done by Leon Redbone. I don't sing those but I do still enjoy hearing them. Don Redman's “Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You” wouldn't have made my list until I heard it done by Jim Kweskin's Jug Band and Kweskin's arrangement was actually pretty close to Redman's.

In addition to honesty and presentation, the way a song expresses it's message is often important to me. I've always been drawn to the archaic modes of expression found in Southern Appalachian music some of which has carried over into bluegrass. But I'm also drawn to humorous expression of pain found in the blues.

Musically, I'm drawn to blues, bluegrass, traditional jazz and bebop; music with interesting rhythm and scales. I really don't like new age or any songs that are just too pretty or too cute. I never learn pop material, or even listen to it for that matter. When I see the names of current pop singers I'm reminded that I can't name a single one of their songs and wouldn't even recoginze their voices over a radio. I'm not opposed to what they do, I simply have no interest.

As a consequence, the songs I sing come from all over the map, both musically and geographically. Each one is chosen for a different reason: musical appeal, poetic expression, historical or cultural importance and sometimes just because it worked its way into my head a very long time ago and is one I can still remember.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: GUEST,JohnB
Date: 03 Apr 03 - 12:32 PM

My group sings, old English songs, beacause we are, old english folk.
Not entirely, though mostly correct. We sing songs which to us sound right with our vocal blend. We do a few Hunting songs but don't agree with Hunting, thinking about it all three of us are vegetarian. We do some Sea shanties and quite a few sea related songs. A surprisingly high number of Copper Family songs, with no real intent, as I did not know they were Copper songs when we started to do them. Most of the material was not written in this, or the last, century. Notable exceptions being, Last Leviathon, Frobisher Bay and the Tea Shanty. The only singer songwriter song we do is mine and I have only written two songs, one about beer (my Ode to Guiness) and none about my feelings, so I don't really think I qualify as an SS.
I think that many of the songs I have heard and liked over several years, so there could be some element of nostalgia in my choices.
JohnB


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 04 Apr 03 - 02:19 AM

John: "Tea shanty" -- is that the one they used to sing while opening tea chests -- Lever, Johhny, Lever...?


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: Gurney
Date: 04 Apr 03 - 03:33 AM

Steve: Lever, Johnny, Lever is the one about opening detergent packets.
(Thats for the Poms).


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: Clean Supper
Date: 04 Apr 03 - 06:00 AM

I write songs because I see a point that I haven't heard expressed in other songs or because I've had an experience I think deserves a song. I also sing other people's songs that express something I feel strongly about. I also sing songs that just tickled me when I heard them, such as some of Bernard Bolan's songs. Those are just fun and silliness, to me. I look firstly at the sound and feel of the song, then at the lyrics. If the lyrics express something I want to say and the sound translates it well, I will want to sing the song.

I am quite aware of being young and idealistic and I don't try to pretend that I'm not. I also think I'm probably developing a self-image as an angsty social-conscience singer and that shapes my choices too. Added to that, though, I would feel foolish singing songs that don't mean anything to me, about someone's life in a place and time I've never been. On the other hand, a lot of my understanding of the lives of poor people in other times and places comes from folk songs. There.


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Subject: RE: Why do we sing the songs we sing?
From: JennyO
Date: 04 Apr 03 - 09:34 AM

That's interesting. I don't think I've ever heard anyone else sing Bernard's songs except Bernard. I didn't know you were a fan.

BTW, what part of the world are you in these days? Still working your way back to Oz?

Jenny


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