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The True Purist

wysiwyg 25 Jan 04 - 12:39 AM
Zany Mouse 25 Jan 04 - 01:57 AM
Santa 25 Jan 04 - 06:26 AM
freda underhill 25 Jan 04 - 06:34 AM
Leadfingers 25 Jan 04 - 06:49 AM
GUEST,Russ 25 Jan 04 - 07:10 AM
Amos 25 Jan 04 - 08:47 AM
mack/misophist 25 Jan 04 - 09:38 AM
GUEST,Pete Peterson 25 Jan 04 - 10:07 AM
Amos 25 Jan 04 - 11:06 AM
JustSomeGuy 25 Jan 04 - 12:19 PM
Don Firth 25 Jan 04 - 01:30 PM
Amos 25 Jan 04 - 01:51 PM
harvey andrews 25 Jan 04 - 02:59 PM
mg 25 Jan 04 - 03:33 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 25 Jan 04 - 03:43 PM
JustSomeGuy 25 Jan 04 - 05:17 PM
Midchuck 25 Jan 04 - 05:42 PM
GUEST,Pete Peterson 25 Jan 04 - 07:14 PM
McGrath of Harlow 25 Jan 04 - 08:17 PM
Malcolm Douglas 25 Jan 04 - 09:21 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 25 Jan 04 - 10:10 PM
Pete_Standing 26 Jan 04 - 05:04 AM
onlyme 26 Jan 04 - 05:27 AM
onlyme 26 Jan 04 - 05:48 AM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 26 Jan 04 - 12:41 PM
LadyJean 27 Jan 04 - 12:01 AM
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Subject: The True Purist
From: wysiwyg
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 12:39 AM

Which is the True Purist-- the one who faithfully reproduces a much-loved style or performer exactly as the orginal first did it (or exactly as one imagines the orignal might do it it if still alive and pickin')... or the one who embodies the creativity of the original, but not necessarily the exact style?

To put it another way-- the band that duplicates the instrumentation, phrasing, and overall sound of the original, or the one who takes a cue from the original by using whatever is at hand, lets the song be the song, and captures the spirit if not the sound of the original?

Whatcha think? What do YOU aim for?

~Susan


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: Zany Mouse
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 01:57 AM

Hmmmm - well I think BOTH are valid - and there is room for both in the Folk World.

Rhiannon


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: Santa
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 06:26 AM

There may be many names applied to those who take a song and rewrite/rearrange it to better suit themselves and their times, but I don't think that Purist is one of them. So to answer your question, the True Purist is the first, for the second is no kind of purist at all.

But both are valid.


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: freda underhill
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 06:34 AM

ther is no original.


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: Leadfingers
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 06:49 AM

The problem is, do we want to simply copy what has been done before or try to advance the music ? If all we ever do is attempt to faithfully reproduce what the originators did, everything will just stagnate, and eventually die,whereas taking the original and doing your own treatment of it either it will work or it wont. If it works it will advance the music, if it doesnt work no one will take any notice. People like Martin Carthy and Nic Jones took traditional songs
and gave them a new life by adding good accompaniments so that people now are taking MC an NJ's suff further along.And a lot of bands have re-arranged old songs and given them a new lease of life.By all means listen to the originators and learn from them,but at the same time try
not to let the whole thing just become a museum piece.


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 07:10 AM

The question of how "Purist" or "True Purist" SHOULD be defined might prove as fruitless on this formum as how "Folk" should be defined.

A more fruitful question is how it IS defined by people who use it. Don't expect any more consistency than you find with the word "folk."

I and my musical friends use "purist" to denote those who are trying to reproduce a sound.

For us it is rarely a pejorative term and we usually use the term good naturedly. We use it as more of a flag. The idea is to signal to the hearer that a certain approach to the music will be more welcome than others.

For us "purist" is not binary (Purist/Non-Purist) but analog (Purist on a scale of 1 to 10).

My impression is that for most of us in my circle of musical friends and acquaintances the sliding scale has tended to move towards the low end over the years.


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: Amos
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 08:47 AM

I think the question has merit and the answer is B.

A


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: mack/misophist
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 09:38 AM

I would say a "real purist" is some one who tries to duplicate the way the music would have sounded in it's original setting, as far as possible. Recreating a particular performance is some thing else.


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: GUEST,Pete Peterson
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 10:07 AM

No question in my mind-- the true purist is A, the person who tries to do it JUST the way it was done before. The best quick example I can give is Dixie, which the Skillet Lickers recorded (CO 15158, also on Document DOCD 8056). Now EVERYBODY knows the words to Dixie, right? Well, Riley had a momentary lapse on one of the choruses and sings "I wish I was in Dixie, hooray, hooray. . . (momentary pause) I wish I was in Dixie, away down South in Dixie, away, away. . ." When I get together with certain friends, we sing it the way Riley did, just as a point of pride to say that we are trying to get as close as possible to the original Skillet Licker sound. We have also been known to do DaCosta Woltz songs without a guitar, 'cause that's the way they did them.
Note that this does not address the question "which sounds better?" But very often we have found that deliberately limiting oneself to the techniques and sounds available in 1927 is actually liberating and definitely leads the player to a better understanding of the music. This really IS a YMMV.
   By the way, when we're doing Carter Family songs, our band usually uses TWO guitars, and autoharp melody techniques developed within the last 30 years. Authentic? definitely NOT, but also more pleasing to the modern listener.


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: Amos
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 11:06 AM

I would suggest that capturing the true spirit of a song and then presenting it in a modern idiom --for example, using steel strings when the osng predates them, or using microphones or chamber reverb effects -- is far more honest and loyal to the creator's vision than the effort to replicate an obsolete technical position.

A


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: JustSomeGuy
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 12:19 PM

True Purist, like any other term, means whatever you define it to mean.

A virtue of recreating old performing styles and techniques is that it's a good way preserving them, but one reason to preserve them is so we can build upon them and create new originals.

I doubt many of WYSIWYG's originals performed their songs exactly the same way every time. Reproducing the quirks from individual performances doesn't seem to add much preservation value, but it sure does sound like a heck of a lot of fun.

- Phil

"Words mean what I say they mean, nothing more, nothing less." - Humpty Dumpty


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: Don Firth
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 01:30 PM

O-o-o-o-oh, boy!!

I think that trying to pin down "true purist" is going to be as slippery as trying to pin down "folk music." Everybody has an opinion and nobody agrees on much of nuthin'. It's like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.

Nevertheless, my leaning is toward B.

If one "faithfully reproduces a much-loved style or performer exactly as the original first did it," one is actually doing little more than imitating. Essentially, this turns you into a sort of "Rich Little" of music. You are trying to sound like someone else. You may be using a great deal of technical facility in reproducing the original, but you are completely missing the creativity that went into it, hence, you will never actually achieve true "authenticity." You have the letter of the song, but not the spirit. Here's just one of many problems:   many source singers don't do the same song the same way twice. So . . . where does that leave you? No, if I want to hear Ralph Stanley or Leadbelly sing, rather than listening to someone try to sing like them, I'd just as soon listen to a recording of them.

There is also the problem of knowing what "the original" is. To take an extreme case (but it does illustrate the point in an somewhat exaggerated way), do you do Tom Dooley the way you first heard it on a Kingston Trio recording? Or do you get it from Frank Warner's recording? Or do you try to duplicate Frank Proffitt's recording? Did the song actually start with him? Or to carry it even further:   how do you sing a song like The Three Ravens (the 1611 Ravenscroft version)? What model do you use? How did the original sound? See what I mean?

I feel that my loyalty should be to the song, not necessarily to the person whose recording I learned it from. And when learning a song from a song-book, other than musical indications (moderato, andante, etc.) and whatever collectors' notes there might be (often merely matters of opinion), there is no singer to imitate or emulate. So—it is incumbent upon me to use whatever knowledge, musical skill, and yes, creativity to bring out what I perceive to be the essence of the song.

Years ago a fellow by the name of Rolf Cahn put it this way:   "On the one hand, there is the danger of becoming a musical stamp collector; on the other, the equal danger of leaving behind the language, texture, and rhythm that made the music worthy of our devotion in the first place. So we try to determine those elements which make a particular piece of music meaningful to us, and to build the performance through these elements."

So, as I understand the question, I go with B. But "purist" is a pretty fuzzy term. Especially "true purist." What would a "false purist" be?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: Amos
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 01:51 PM

One who said he was using true fruit flavoring but it turns out it was artificial flavoring aimed at true fruits...or something like that!

A


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: harvey andrews
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 02:59 PM

Purism sounds like an artist dedicating himself to a lifetime of painting copies of one picture by an old master. Who needs a thousand perfect Mona Lisas? And, even if they are perfect is the painter still an artist?


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: mg
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 03:33 PM

I have never thought that definition A was the definition of a purist. Def B is definitely not. I would say a purist by my new definition sings the song as written or "found" with the same words and rhythm but doesn' put on fake accents etc. mg


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 03:43 PM

Harvey brought up a good point. Perhaps the real purist would be Mona Lisa herself - once the image is reproduced it can no longer be pure by any stretch of the imagination. It will always take on aspects of the painters eye, imagination and creativity. The same with song.

The real answer is, there can be no answer. Pure is in the eye of the beholder.


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: JustSomeGuy
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 05:17 PM

The Mona Lisa may not be the best analogy. It's a nicely preserved painting and anyone (well, anyone who can afford the trip) can experience the original.

Music is a lively art. Listening to recorded music is not experiencing the original. You don't experience the sights, smells, listener reactions, etc, of the original. Sometimes, especially with old recordings, the recording doesn't even sound like the original performance. Good Def A performances come closer to preserving the original experience than recordings or dots in a songbook, and are important for preserving the playing styles and techniques.

Having said all that, I'm a Def B kind of guy. Preserving the originals, as worthy an activity as that is, won't keep the music alive.

-Phil

"Words mean what I say they mean, nothing more, nothing less." – Humpty Dumpty


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: Midchuck
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 05:42 PM

I go along with Leadfingers. What's the point of trying to exactly duplicate the sound of a band from a prior time? A tape player can do it better. It may be worth doing in practice, to get to a starting point, but your performance should have some original elements, I think.

Pete said:

By the way, when we're doing Carter Family songs, our band usually uses TWO guitars, and autoharp melody techniques developed within the last 30 years. Authentic? definitely NOT, but also more pleasing to the modern listener.

That's putting it mildly. His group's CD is one of the two or three that I just leave in the 6-CD player continuously. Get it. Now.

Peter.


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: GUEST,Pete Peterson
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 07:14 PM

Hey,Midchuck Pete, THANKS for the compliment! (The band just spent the afternoon rehearsing) Re-reading this thread, there are things I wish I had said better.

Firstly, I agree with you, Midchuck, that trying to do it "the original way" is a very good way of getting it to a STARTING point, and that this is where your own creativity should take over. To put it a little differently, in cases where you admire the band (the Carters, Charlie Poole, Skillet Lickers, Woodchuck's Revenge, the Blue Sky Boys, and others) I think you owe it to them to learn it their way and then think a little bit WHY they did it that way, then go on to make the changes you feel like doing.

Next, everybody is right who points out that most bands never did a song (tune) the same way twice, and so it's an unfair straitjacket to limit yourself to the way they did it on the one recording. But often that's all we have. Back when the New Lost City Ramblers Songbook came out (1965?) I stared at that picture of Poole's Ramblers for hours (in tuxedos, no less) trying to get inside their frame of reference. I can come pretty close to Poole's banjo style, but wish I were as successful in getting the spirit of his songs.
   Then again, when Charlie Poole was my age, he had been dead for twenty years.


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 08:17 PM

"do we want to simply copy what has been done before or try to advance the music"

I'd say neither. We set out to carry on a tradition and form part of it, and that involves changing, because we can't really do anything else.

Yes, maybe we can copy something off a record note by note, but the person who made the record would have played it a little differently the next day. If we play it exactly the same every time, it won't be playing the same way as the people we are emulating - and if we play it a little differently, it won't be quite the same difference, because we are different people, and in a different time.

But that's not "advancing the music", just because we are living later in time. Maybe it's better and maybe it's not, and it's for future generations to decide that.

Music is a language. When youwe learn to speak a language, we might listen to records to get the accent and the rhythm and all - but if what we could do at the end of the day was just rattle out the Linguaphone records like a perfect tape recording, no one would say that we had learnt to speak the language.


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 09:21 PM

Quite. If you're serious about it, you first learn to do it the way it used to be done; that's how you learn the craft. If you have ability and imagination, you will then, having assimilated the thing, be in a position to make it your own and take it a step forward.

People who lack the skill, or patience (or simple respect) to learn the craft before attempting the art will always, I suspect, fall short of both in the end. They are all too often the ones who, wanting instant gratification without significant effort, will bluster about imaginary "folk police". "Purist", too, is often used by such people as a term of abuse; which is why I do not use it at all.


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 25 Jan 04 - 10:10 PM

My Daddy didn't raise me to be no juke box.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: Pete_Standing
Date: 26 Jan 04 - 05:04 AM

With respect to traditional material, if a collector had gone to the next village, let alone another region, then they would have found someone who sang the song differently, either in melody, lyrics, interpretation or ornamentation. Traditional singers were always changing it to suit the way they liked it. Was the purist the unkown originator of the song or was there really no such thing because the song became public property? The same would be true for tunes.

With respect to contemporary material, some authors change the way they perform a song or tune over time, sometimes radically, sometimes because they feel they can reinterpret their song in the light of their growth, experience and maturity. Which was the pure version? There are some writers who do not really perform or there are performers that have been acknowledged by the author as having done something better with the song.

I'm sure both the traditional singers and contemporary writers would be more concerned about respect for the material rather than the way it was done.


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: onlyme
Date: 26 Jan 04 - 05:27 AM

oooh soooo many words !, at least they look like words to me ,but maybe thats because i use some of the same ones, he he !


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: onlyme
Date: 26 Jan 04 - 05:48 AM

I suppose emulation is part of being human... though i don't think its the point of being human. thats me done then ! (only popped in to look oops )


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 26 Jan 04 - 12:41 PM

Susan,
I think some learn through imitation. Some create without that.
Pure music is like pure race. Probably boring.

Frank


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Subject: RE: The True Purist
From: LadyJean
Date: 27 Jan 04 - 12:01 AM

I just posted on the John Jacob Niles thread. I love his songs, but his range was higher than mine.


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