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What is wrong with being a purist?

Amos 31 Jan 05 - 06:26 PM
Richard Bridge 31 Jan 05 - 06:21 PM
nager 31 Jan 05 - 05:30 PM
EagleWing 31 Jan 05 - 04:43 PM
Goose Gander 30 Jan 05 - 05:38 PM
Bill D 30 Jan 05 - 04:46 PM
Strollin' Johnny 30 Jan 05 - 04:41 PM
RobbieWilson 30 Jan 05 - 04:31 PM
GUEST 30 Jan 05 - 03:36 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 30 Jan 05 - 02:27 PM
Richard Bridge 30 Jan 05 - 02:01 PM
Bill D 30 Jan 05 - 12:35 PM
Big Mick 30 Jan 05 - 11:56 AM
Jim Tailor 30 Jan 05 - 09:36 AM
Amos 30 Jan 05 - 09:32 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 30 Jan 05 - 08:58 AM
John P 30 Jan 05 - 08:06 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 30 Jan 05 - 06:01 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 30 Jan 05 - 04:55 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 30 Jan 05 - 01:15 AM
Bill D 29 Jan 05 - 09:45 PM
toadfrog 29 Jan 05 - 08:59 PM
DADGBE 29 Jan 05 - 08:17 PM
DADGBE 29 Jan 05 - 07:55 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 29 Jan 05 - 07:40 PM
Bill D 29 Jan 05 - 07:16 PM
John P 29 Jan 05 - 04:31 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 29 Jan 05 - 03:11 PM
Stilly River Sage 29 Jan 05 - 02:04 PM
John C. 29 Jan 05 - 12:35 PM
Bill D 29 Jan 05 - 12:22 PM
chris nightbird childs 29 Jan 05 - 12:18 PM
Amos 29 Jan 05 - 11:35 AM
Flash Company 29 Jan 05 - 10:57 AM
GUEST 29 Jan 05 - 10:41 AM
Amos 29 Jan 05 - 10:30 AM
John P 29 Jan 05 - 10:08 AM
John P 29 Jan 05 - 09:58 AM
chris nightbird childs 29 Jan 05 - 01:20 AM
DonMeixner 29 Jan 05 - 12:41 AM
GUEST,Michael Morris 29 Jan 05 - 12:33 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 28 Jan 05 - 10:40 PM
Amos 28 Jan 05 - 10:26 PM
Stilly River Sage 28 Jan 05 - 08:36 PM
dick greenhaus 28 Jan 05 - 08:35 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 28 Jan 05 - 08:34 PM
Richard Bridge 28 Jan 05 - 07:10 PM
GUEST,Chanteyranger 28 Jan 05 - 06:55 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 28 Jan 05 - 05:16 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 28 Jan 05 - 03:42 PM
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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Amos
Date: 31 Jan 05 - 06:26 PM

pejorative

 


SYLLABICATION:
pe·jor·a·tive

PRONUNCIATION:
  p-jôr-tv, -jr-, pj-rtv, pj-

ADJECTIVE:
1. Tending to make or become worse. 2. Disparaging; belittling.

NOUN:
A disparaging or belittling word or expression.

OTHER FORMS:
pe·jora·tive·ly —ADVERB


 


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 31 Jan 05 - 06:21 PM

Thank you for the link.

As luck would have it, my sound has just gone down and I fear I feel another format C looming....


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: nager
Date: 31 Jan 05 - 05:30 PM

pejorative I think is the correct spelling.
But what do I know, I am not a purist....


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: EagleWing
Date: 31 Jan 05 - 04:43 PM

Leadfingers said "It seems to me that far too many people who qualify for the 'purist' label in Folk simply havent opened their ears and their minds to enough good music !!"

Just a reminder - the thread was originally not about purists criticising other people's music but about the AGB criticising purists and using that word as a perjorative term.

I refer to another thread (about starting a folk club) where Lynne was warned to avoid "traditionalist" - it's the same thing. People always accuse traddies or "purists" of being narrow while displaying their own narrow views.

I sing mainly traditional and traditional style songs. I have been called a traddie in the perjorative sense. Usually by people who stick to their own particular style and rarely actually listen to traditional style singers. In the words of a traddie type song "who's the fool now?"

Frank L.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 05:38 PM

You have 'folk clubs' in the UK? We don't have them in Southern California, unless you count coffee houses where anyone with an acoustic guitar can mimic Lenny Kravitz or Jewel. Sure, there are Irish bars that sometimes have music, but it's all "Whiskey in the Jar", etc. (not that there's anything wrong with that). At this point I'd welcome anything, purist or impurist.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Bill D
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 04:46 PM

The ballads are being posted in newsgroups...you can look at the lists here , but you have to use whatever you might be signed up for to actually listen to any of them... (My server keeps files like this for 30-40 days, whereas my former server kept them for maybe 3 days, so it all depends on where you are and what you pay for)


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Strollin' Johnny
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 04:41 PM

What is wrong with being a purist? Absolutely nothing at all. However it's a shame that the 'Purist's' mind is closed to the excellent material that's been written over the past 40 years or so. Must be a miserable existence in those blinkers.

Still, whatever floats yer boat mate.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: RobbieWilson
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 04:31 PM

Sorry Hadnt realised no cookie.
The guest above at Waterson and Carthy was me
love Robbie


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 03:36 PM

Once more, the original question was not the thread title it was Can any of you AGB's out there tell me why I'm wrong
For one thing, you're wrong because the rest of us are not AGB's and don't appreciate the put down.

I go to folk clubs to hear folk music, but ancient English song is only one part of that. Last night I went to see Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy. I would not question their credentials as folk artists or their place at my local folk club but they finished with "Aint No Sweet Man Worth The Salt of my Tears""Black Muddy River" from Norma's 1996 album. There was no clash with the traditional English songs they had done most of the evening and I did not hear any one who went to th Folk Club express any disappontment.

Toadfrogs dismissal of people writing about things they have not experienced is precious. One of the things that folk music has done over the years is told the stories which might otherwise have faded from memory completely. When Eric Bogle writes about Gallpopli it helps keep in the mind of new generations the horrors of that time. He may not have been there but "the band played waltzing matilda" is a good folk song and to suggest that singing a song written 200 years ago is real but writing about something you have read about, heard about and looked into is phoney is just laughable. Again, last night the support act, the excellent John Richards, sang a song which told of the Public Hanging of a local man and I was glad for the history lesson. Few of the traditional songs about death were written by anyone who had experienced it for themselves.

BillD suggests that only everyone else should define themselves further because his little corner of the garden is the only one which is truly folk Might it not be easier to accept what the range of music which the world understands as folk and, if he wants to, JohnC bill himself as "pure English Traditional music." and get together with those who seek purity. Meanwhile the rest of us can go to our folk clubs and get on with keeping alive folk music old and new.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 02:27 PM

You're right Big Mick, the answer is "nothing", but wouldn't it have been boring if we had all said just that.

Ho Hum!

Don T.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 02:01 PM

Please tell us where someone is posting many many versions of Child's ballads


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Bill D
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 12:35 PM

John P...about the MP3 idea...sure, it's not really hard to put a file on a web site. My own ISP gives me room to post stuff...20 megs, I think, and a couple of years ago, I actually did a (bad) recording of me singing a song so someone could get the tune.

But...just for comparison and scholarship, it wouldn't be hard to post all or parts of various songs to illustrate points. If you have to go from an LP to a tape to a .wav to an MP3, it might be awkward for some, but it's not always that complicated, as often one can just find examples already on the WWW.

I saw, for example, someone who had a collection of 120 versions of "Amazing Grace"...(too much time on their hands?)...and right now, somone is posting many, many versions of old Child ballads...(probably some are illegal, but everyone has to come to personal terms with THAT situation)..and there are sites like Honking Duck and Rose's Country Music Archive....etc., that ARE legal.

so...I'd be willing to offer ideas on the technical side of the process if it seems like a good idea...


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Big Mick
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 11:56 AM

To answer the original question ..... nothing.

Mick


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Jim Tailor
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 09:36 AM

Farrow


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Amos
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 09:32 AM

The litmus case in my mind on this issue is the ballad of Darcy Farrell, which was written in the 1970's, but had enough of the phrasing, language and melodic traits typical of a 19th century porch ballad that it fooled me until I looked it up. Now, of course, it seems "obvious" but I cannot say why that it is a modern song. In the final analysis, though, the critical traits for me are a certain non-commercial genuineness, born out of human experience. Certain of John Denver's songs seem to meet the test, and "City of New Orleans" does as well, seeming just as germane and natural as "Good Morning, Mister Railroad Man" from a hundred years earlier.

Maybe the real test of a folk song is whether it is human enough to induce time-travel!! If I recall correctly, "Days of '49" was not written by a Forty-niner, but was a commercial entertainment creation in the days before radio, written for beer hall performance. But it evokes the time it sings about without flaw.


A


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 08:58 AM

Easy being an agnostic?

Well.......I don't know really.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: John P
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 08:06 AM

Hmm . . . wouldn't it be interesting if we could illustrate our comments by uploading an mp3 or two to a website somewhere? It would give us the perspective, allow us to talk about real songs instead of theoretical situations. Does anyone have the technical expertise and time to set something like that up?

Welcome to Mudcat and to this discussion, punkfolkrocker. I liked your story about how you came to traditional music. I think there's been whole threads in the past about how people came to the music they play. Maybe we need another.

John P


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 06:01 AM

Thank you for that, Bill, that's the word which has been conspicuously absent, Perspective, which changes, of course, depending upon the point from which it is viewed.

My first ten years were spent singing almost exclusively traditional material, so I do know the difference. Then I wrote a comic song, which was regularly taken to be trad, and I had to own up to authorship each time. From that point I continued to write, not, I hasten to add, ersatz mining songs, but songs about what happened in my own life, and to the people around me. I'm afraid that my reaction to stupidity in beaurocrats, and officialdom, is to take the piss, rather than complain, or get angry, hence the mainly comedic nature of my work.

I do indeed have a CD, which, for copyright reasons has only my own songs, plus two composed by personal friends, who have given their permission. There may shortly be another CD of live performance.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 04:55 AM

What a great look at the dynamics that created so many, if not all, of us that hang and converse here. I'm here too much probably, but having too much time on my hands these days gives me the excuse I need to show up here so often. Thanks to all for making it such a satisfying place to be.

Art


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 01:15 AM

well.. my chosen name here.. kind of gives my position away..

until the age of 13 or 14 i grew up equating folk
with sunday school and church music..
and a very clean cut uncle who'd wear a suit and tie to family xmas parties
and insist on halting all festive fun while he strummed a guitar
and sang 'there was an old lady who swallowed a fly'
and inflicted similar cronic boy scout favourites..
c'mon it was the swinging 60's..
even i as early as 5 years old knew i prefered the beatles
and freddie and the dreamers
[hmmm.. now which was the better band..??]..
and that folk music was boring and crap.

around 1972 ..at the same time as i was buying alice cooper and david bowie lps..
i discovered folk rock courtesy of top of the pops,radio 1, and the old grey whistle test..

this somehow then lead me to exploring the local library for
'trad' folk records; and live town hall concerts from the likes of brenda wooton..
and getting an acoustic guitar for xmas,
and lots of 'encouragement' from my xmas partypooper folkie uncle..

then when i was 17 punk rock exploded !!!
and i got my first electric guitar with humbuckers and a 120 watt amp..
and played in a band that even shocked and appalled college kids
my own age.

but i still listened regularly to pentangle and jack the lad
[errr.. and donovan..]etc.. and borrowing 'topic' lps from the library;
and had a girlfriend who shared my interest in nights out to candlelit wine bars,
entertained by a solitary singer guitarist in a dark corner..
and local folk clubs.

I dont remember much detail from that period in my life,
but i do know i never had the courage to get up and play or sing
in front of the folkies at the clubs..
even though i had no problem at all with being loud and
outrageous on stage with my teenage band..

i honestly have no memory of why, or what trauma if any,
has caused my amnesia..
maybe there was something really daunting and intimidating about
those old folk clubbers..????

but i stopped going to folk clubs, and have rarely been near one since the very early 80's..


so many thanks for this thread..

i'm a recent new member of mudcat..
and debates like this one are a positive reminder
of why i was glad to have stumbled across this board
during a random links search for info about a song..
and why i decided to join and look in now 2 or 3 times everyday.
Mudcat is just what i need while i evaluate my own commitment and approach to 'folk'.
its and ongoing process of 'work in progress'..

i'm staring to get an idea of mudcat culture & personalities
and key issues of concern..

and find this a very educative and stimulating place to visit..

hope i've not drifted too far off subject..
but me purist..???
i've got a head swimming with ideas for 'older time' songs i connect with off cds,
and how i feel i need to interpret them for my own pleasure
and creative fulfillment;
with ANY instruments & sonic tools i have at hand in my home computer 'studio'..
at the moment with no idea or concern at all
if any one else will ever hear the results.

theres a couple of local pubs i can go to for 'acoustic'
singer sonwriter & blues sessions
.. but i dont get much fun or enjoyment from that to justify
the expense and effort of going too regularly..
if i could drive and did'nt have to rely on inadequate overpriced public transport,
i'd rather travel further to find more 'authentic' singers and instrumentalists..
..errr.. so maybe i am a purist..????

its certainly not easy being agnostic...


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Bill D
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 09:45 PM

well, Don T..if I heard you, I might indeed say you were close to the folk style and tradition. I know Craig Johnson, who has written a couple of things that I thought WERE trad the first time...his tunes, style, choice of topic..etc..make him very much "in the tradition", and although humor, especially if topical, like Tom Lehrer or Tom Paxton, dates the material, the treatment and style CAN be similar to older stuff. I'd have to judge each song or performance individually, but if a good bit of it fit the list, I'd have no complaint about you billing yourself as 'folk'. If, as you say, you DO include traditional songs, then you at least KNOW which ones are traditional...I have been to open mike sessions where people just wanted to be in front of a mic, and knew nothing earlier than Elvis, The Beatles, and Dylan, and to whom The Kingston Trio were as 'folky' as they'd ever heard.

Without perspective, the issue can't even be discussed.

Do you have CDs or anything one might hear?


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: toadfrog
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 08:59 PM

Dick Greenhaus almost always says what I wanted to say, and says it better. Or Art Thieme seems to, although he also waxes poetic enough so I can't always understand him.

But try this. There are good singer-songwriter bits. There is truly fine pop music. "Bottle of Wine" is a truly fine singer-songwriter thing. It isn't "folk music," though. The music in "Cold Mountain" was very fine music. And I'm extremely grateful to the people who made "Cold Mountain" for calling it Rock and Roll, not "folk music." Fine rock and roll music it is. It is not what people listened to at the time of the Civil War, and doesn't pretend to be.

If I am a "purist," it is not because of some theoretical belief about "folk music" or "traditional music." It is because listening to a song, or a singer, pretending to be what it is not is like listening to somebody scrape their fingernail across a blackboard. When some high school music teacher writes and sings a song about how he/she is an experienced and battered old miner/shellback/convict and knows all about life and suffering, it is phoney and offensive because the writer does not share the life experience or musical tradition of the subject, and immediately falls into bathos and sentimentality. Bob Dylan is a particularly vivid example, because he is a talented poet and an excellent singer. But he spoils all that by being a Capital-P Phoney and pretending to be what he never was.

I listen to, and sing, traditional music to try and get into the head of the person who wrote and sang the song, and feel what that person must have felt. I sing for the love of singing, and I don't try to impress people.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: DADGBE
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 08:17 PM

Damn! I hate it when my brain works slow and my fingers work even slower.

That should have read: "It may be what defines us as human better than any other measure."


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: DADGBE
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 07:55 PM

This has been an interesting thread indeed! What wonderful comments from Art, Kytrad and so many others. Having been accused on various occasions of being too purist and not purist enough at other times, I guess that I'll wade in at this point.

That river of music seems continuous, on-going and contiguous with human history. It has never stopped and has its origins wherever there are people. It may be the what defined us human better that any other measure.

The mistake I have so often made is to select one spot on the river to define as the moment of 'purity'; that moment in time to which all the other moments must be compared.

I love Irish fiddle music but have been told that guitar isn't traditional enough to play along. Yet, the violin is an Italian import to Ireland, the guitar's from Spain, the accordion German.

Ultimatly, we will never find purity. We will find music we like: Music that connects respectfully with what came before us and modifies the old music with new insight.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 07:40 PM

If you refer back to my post, you will see that I referred very specifically to singer/songwriters writing in the folk idiom, and with the same subject matter. I would think that makes it pretty clear that I am not talking about pop, pop folk, or folk rock. This removes the examples that you gave without further discussion or analysis. Most of what I write is folk tempo and style, and written about what I see and experience with the accent on humour. I also sing a number of traditional songs, some unaccompanied, and carefully chosen songs written by others. I perform mostly in folk clubs, and the audiences generally seem to appreciate what I do.

So, my question is this:- If I am not a folk singer, what exactly do you people think I should call myself. I've been doing this since 1965, and it's only in the last five years or so that I've had people telling me I'm not a folk singer.

There are times when I could almost say to hell with it and take up bowls instead, but I care too much about the music to do that.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Bill D
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 07:16 PM

indeed I haven't suggested that anyone 'go away'...but I DO wish that singer-songwriters and those who promote them HAD (notice the past tense) qualified what they do and called themselves "modern acoustic" or "pop folk" or something...but it's about too late now. If we are even able to keep the term 'traditional' referring mostly to older music that derives from before commercial recording, I would be overjoyed! I, personally, do not have some meta-extreme notion that there is only one 'right' set of words or tune, and that if it is on a record, it can't be 'trad'.

Don T.....There are many (5 to 25, depending on how you analyze) characteristics of a folk/traditional song, including age, style, anonymity, tune, subject matter, content, etc --If you looked at all the songs in the DigiTrad, you'd see common themes...There are songs no one would doubt are folk/trad, and some that few would argue DO fit the definition. "False Knight on the Road" usually gets in, "Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" mostly does not. "Jambalaya" kinda falls in the middle and "This Land is Your Land" has pretty well been accepted. Why?...They just are 'different'....in another 100 years, there might be songs by Dylan which are passed down by people who have no idea who Dylan is, and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol" may fit almost as well as "John Hardy"....do YOU know whether John Hardy was a real person or not? I can just see a Mudcat question in 2105 "someone told me that "Hattie Carrol" was based on a true story....could this be true?"

I have always advocated looking at a list of characteristics, then sorta assigning a song a place on a line based on how many hits it got, and accepting those with high score, rejecting those with very LOW score, and not fussing about those in the middle. (I don't mean to do this as some tedious, formal process with committee votes and annual ceremonies like the Baseball Hall of Fame....I mean just noting in your head that "Yellow Submarine", neat as it is, may have to wait a number of years to see it it ever achieves the status of an Uncle Dave Macon creation! *grin*)


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: John P
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 04:31 PM

Don T,
I think you misunderstood Bill D's comments. He hasn't told anyone to go away, he hasn't told any clubs what to play, or really said anything to make you feel unwanted. You'll have to take responsibility for that yourself.

I don't think anyone in this discussion is particularly intolerant toward newly written music. Most everybody likes a wide range of music, new and old. The point that is being made is that the old stuff is different than the new stuff, and some of us like it better. This doesn't mean we are coming down on you for liking something different than we like.

Try to understand that the fact that you don't seem to perceive the difference between traditional folk music and modern songwriter songs doesn't mean there isn't one.

John Peekstok


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 03:11 PM

So if I read your comment aright Bill D, folk music DOES belong exclusively to the traditionalist, and singer/songwriters writing in the folk idiom, and on the same subjects as the writers of traditional folk, should find something else to call themselves, and stay off your discussion forum, and out of folk clubs.

So what do we call the people who composed, and sang, those 9000 songs if not singer/songwriters. People must have been more tolerant in those days toward new material, or there would be no tradition.

As to misgivings about the fare offered, our regulars are well aware that our "Acoustic Music Club" will serve up a variety of acoustic music, some of which will be traditional, and some contemporary, and they seem to like it that way. We don't get any pop, but if someone did sing a pop song, we certainly would not make him feel as unwanted as this forum sometimes does people like myself.

Don T


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 02:04 PM

As Mudcat gains new members (or guest readers) this discussion is going to come up repeatedly. And it doesn't hurt even if it is just re-hashed by old members. I'm on a couple of academic discussion lists, and the same thing happens there every year or two. The Western Literature Association regularly goes through a "what is the West" discussion--does California get included, what about large urban areas in the West, are they really "western?" and on. The Environmental Literature discussion forum does the same thing. If we live in the environment, and write in the environment, why isn't ALL writing environmental? I won't begin to characterize the discussions that have happened over the years on the American Indian Literature lists--"who is an Indian and what are they/should they be writing about their people?" is a hot button topic if there ever was one. Something comes along and sets these groups off to once again take a four-dimensional look at their raison d'être.

If we all shared the exact same viewpoint, there wouldn't be a need to talk about it. With each repeat discussion, newcomers can learn the complexities in their new field of interest, and established members can refine their viewpoints. It's a win-win situation, and it is a given that not everyone will agree.

Good thread, John C.

SRS


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: John C.
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 12:35 PM

To John P.,

I agree with a lot of what you say - and I would never dream of telling you that you were 'doing it wrong' - that's just plain rude, as well as patronising. Nevertheless, if you asked for my opinion then I would strive to be as honest as possible. I also have to say, though, that if a person has the gift of being able to make music and the guts to perform in public then they start off with my heartfelt admiration and respect - even if I don't particularly like what they're doing.
I suppose that I started this thread because I believe that there are people on the British Folk Scene who don't particularly like or understand trad. song and either want to dilute it or replace it with something which is more akin to modern popular music. These people seem to like throwing around insult when they're favoured 'project' does not seem to be making enough progress.
By the way, you mention Bulgarian music in your piece. I wonder if you've ever been to Bulgaria - thoroughly recommended - beautiful, unspoilt country, great people and, of course, unbelievably wonderful music (not sure how 'pure' it is, of course - but who gives a s..t - sorry, British irony!).

Best Wishes,
John C.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Bill D
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 12:22 PM

"... either I like it or I don't, so it can be folk, jazz, classical, pop, rock or whatever..."

and that is exactly the right attitude! And even we who get labeled 'purists'...or worse... do about the same. The point is, you recognize the difference between those types of music, even as you are mixing them.

If you go to the DigiTrad database and peruse the 9000 or so songs there, you will see a pattern. THIS general type is what we thought Mudcat was going be be about 8 years ago, but as more & more people found their way here, threads started appearing on "what is your favorite rock song?" and "Is Donovan better than Dylan?"...etc..

The argument that has developed has usually been not over whether rock music...or Donovan and Dylan... were good, but about why we should clutter one of the rare places that exist to discuss & share **folk** music with all those other things?
   Well, since this is a pretty open place, and since the owner, Max, is pretty eclectic and hates to stifle discussion, it has come to pass that most everything gets tossed in...which, whether you know it or not, has caused some of the experts in 'folk' music to pop in, look around, and decide that it's just too cluttered with extraneous noise. We miss them at times.

We do ok anyway, and Mudcat is still a fine resource for those who need a folk question answered, but we who get labeled
'purist' are, as you notice..*grin*... often frustrated at the trend toward muddying the definition, as well as the discussion.

There IS a difference between what Jeannie Robertson did and what Kate Wolf did....and it's worth understanding, even if you like both.


I will stop now....I promise. I just like to see this point of view in print when the issue arises.....


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: chris nightbird childs
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 12:18 PM

I for one am talking about music from the heart & mind- honest, unpretentious, at times unedited... in short, PURE. Be it Folk, Blues, Rock and Roll, or a symphonic requiem for the Jew's Harp.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Amos
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 11:35 AM

Robbie:

The question of what is folk music has been wrangled on this forum so many times and from so many angles by so many horses that the very mention of the question has become a standing joke. It is not a resoluble question, finally.

A


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Flash Company
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 10:57 AM

My, what a lot of words in so little time!
I don't sing now for reasons medical rather than artistic, although I suspect that some might say that what I used to do had nothing to do with art!
When I did, what came out was rather as my fancy took me, so it could be 'Four Loom Weaver', Johnny I Hardly Knew You', 'The Outboard Motor Men', 'The Prune Song' or 'Hard Luck Stories'.
I sang unaccompanied, and OK that made for difficulties with some things, but what the hell, live dangerously.
My attitude to music is simple, either I like it or I don't, so it can be folk, jazz, classical, pop, rock or whatever, if it hits the right button, great. If it doesn't, I'll go and do something else for a while (Like post to Mudcat).
The important thing is the music, and as long as we all care, that will continue. If we stop caring about it, arguing about it, it will fade away and be replaced by mindless muzak.
Keep up the good fight!

FC


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 10:41 AM

I have just read all through this thread again and have not found anywhere where anyone referred to themelves as Anything Goes Brigade. It seems to me that all the condescension towards other people and their music has come from people who refer to themselves as purists.

As for putting in a link to a dictionary in case we are too ignorant to understand the word equivocally, please. Show some respect.

I am interested in etymology and would be happy to read more on the basis of BillG's assertion about what the term folk music originally meant, however the meaning has not been that narrow in my life time.

To use the term folk music in a way that would exclude Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, Cyril Tawney and many others who write or have written contemporary song would be just wrong. Most people would recognise these as folk singers and not be shocked to turn up at a folk concert and find any of them performing (except for Woody, obviously). To bill a club which presents only your concept of the pure tradition, with no further description, would be to deceive the vast majority of the ticket buying public.

One or two people mentioned jazz and the analogy is a good one. If I see a sign advertising Live Jazz I don't know whether this will be music like Louis Armstrong in the 20's which I love or Dixieland banjo stompers which I generally dislike, not too mention Miles or Trane or 60's Avante Garde or Herbie Hancock or Pharaoh Sanders. I go in with an open mind. If I like the music, great. If not I either give it a while to try and win me over, or leave. If I am paying for a gig I know nothing about I will try and find out before committing. It doesn't seem that difficult to me. To suggest that our self styled purists, our guardians of the tradition, our experts of the folk world would turn up at a gig billed simply as a folk concert, in all naivete, expecting to see a singer from their own segment, period and style of old music is simply sophistry.

Incidentally I got the ain't heard a horse sing yet reference from the cover of an old Muddy Waters album. He was complaining about people moaning that his wasn't proper folk music and shouldn't have been allowed on their radio stations. Thank God it was. It really made me smile to see people who claim such virtue for reusing old songs be so sneering at someone reusing an old answer to an old question.

Folk music is many things, pure it ain't and never has been. I don't know anyone who claims that all music is folk music but to claim that the part which interests you most is real folk music and everything else is not is just plain wrong.

I'll ask the question again because it hasn't been answered yet; pure what ? I have some ideas but am far to polite too share them.
Love Robbie


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Amos
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 10:30 AM

Art:

The River of Time Book is in your hands, sir,as well as your heart and head;   and to hand such a book out to those who need it or would be blessed by it is a major goal worth starting for at once!! I second the motion.

A


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: John P
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 10:08 AM

Oh, John C, I forgot to answer your original question. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being a purist, as long as you don't go around telling other people they are doing it wrong.

John P


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: John P
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 09:58 AM

I've met with lots of purists -- I've been called a purist lots of times -- but I've only met the music police three times in the 24 years I've been performing traditional folk music. And two of the police were medieval music police, so maybe they don't count for this discussion. But all three confronted me loudly while I was performing, so they were very memorable. One of them was a drunken medievalist musicologist in a tavern . . . it was great. Most eveyone I've met is happy to talk about what they like and don't like, but don't expect anyone else to go along with their tastes.

I agree with Bill D that if we are going to talk about folk music, and put CDs in genre-labeled bins, and write "folk" on concert posters, we ought to have some agreeement about what we are talking about. And I agree that it is easy to tell the difference between traditional music and other music, and calling singer/songwriters "folk artists" and calling Bob Dylan "traditional folk" is so much piffle.

That said, I suspect Bill and I would disagree on some of the fine points of the meaning of traditional. I'm happy to call any traditional song, no matter how it's played, a traditional song. If I have to, I'll further concede that it was not played in a traditional manner, but electric guitars, didgeridus, djembes, and saxophones do not change the fact that a song or tune is traditional. My biggest interest has always been in the melody and the words more than the style of performance.

As a performer, I've usually been somewhere in between definitions -- the rockers and the s/s crowd think I'm hopelessly stodgy and traditional because 95% of the music I play is very old traditional folk music. But the purists tend to think I'm too rocked out for their tastes because I do a bit of mixing and matching of instruments and rhythms to achieve what I personally think is the best sound for each individual song. One of the music police that attacked me was complaining about me using a guitar on a traditional Bulgarian dance tune because "that's not the way they do it". The funny part was that a week later a very old Bulgarian woman walked up to us with a big smile on her face while we were playing the same tune. She remembered the tune from her childhood and was amazed and happy to hear it being played in public in Seattle. She didn't even seem to notice that I was using a guitar.

The point of all this is to say that I play traditional music because that's what I love more than any other sort of music. But I don't play it to please purists or musicologists. I play it to please myself and my audience. I'm happy to have long conversations about which aspects of my performance are historically rooted, and which are borrowed from other cultures, and which I just made up. But 99% of the people I play for would be bored to tears by that conversation and don't have the knowledge base needed to be involved it in anyway. But a few of them hear me playing tradtional music and get all turned on by a type of melody and lyric they've never heard before and ask me questions about it and leave the performance with longs lists of CDs to try. Some of these folks even go on to become purists . . .

John C, I have to agree with whoever said that calling everyone who isn't a purist the "Anything Goes Brigade" is sort of insulting. Maybe you should investigate the nuances a bit more. I'm certainly not a member of the AGB -- if someone claims to be playing folk music, I damn well want to hear folk music -- but I don't much care what instruments it's played on or how it's arranged, as long as it's well played with integrity and passion.

John Peekstok


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: chris nightbird childs
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 01:20 AM

LIKE I SAID, ANYTHING THAT COMES FROM THE HEART AND THE MIND IS PURE.
And a good writer spends just as much time writing books as he does reading them... there's an analogy for the conservatives in the audience.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: DonMeixner
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 12:41 AM

Art,

My friend, I know you are reluctant, but it is time to write the book.

Don


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: GUEST,Michael Morris
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 12:33 AM

There is no such thing as pure anything when it comes to music. All forms and styles are historically contingent. Some traditions are more conservative, some more innovative, and obviously the same can be said for individual muscicians and groups. That being said, I'm fairly conservative in my tastes and I would rather hear a familiar melody than someone's attempt at innovation if it leads to progressive rock, Spinal Tap-esque meandering, "jazz odyssey" etc.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 28 Jan 05 - 10:40 PM

Jean--Here is a little aside prompted by your good post.

All the time I sang on the Mississippi, the philosophical river aspects of our doings got clearer and clearer to me. Going through the locks behind a double tow (15 barges that had to be broken in two chunks to pass through -- and might add two extra hours to my day) taught me what patience means and how I might as well look even closer at the gift it was to be able to spend ten years singing on those steamboats. Even now when stuff hits the fan, and my life is disrupted for any length of time, ideally, I look at the situation and say to myself, "Art, just another LOCK DELAY!!" -- and I find all kinds of new ways to see that flow of time around me.

And at night when thoughts are racing, I use the old ballads and adventurous long songs to stop those thoughts and get to sleep. Often I find sleep before I finish the song, but that's o.k.

Love,

Art


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Amos
Date: 28 Jan 05 - 10:26 PM

So thanks to Metallica, your daughter was also able to time-travel. I may not like their version, but if they can "open the portal" for another human being, it is not my job to fault them.

A


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 28 Jan 05 - 08:36 PM

I haven't been back for a while, so I don't remember exactly what I said that Richard chided me for, but of course I meant what I said. This isn't a silly or flippant thread where I'd be posting BS, like down below the line.

Look around at the nature of the discussions going on here at Mudcat. I just spent over an hour reading through various sites and pulling out the dictionary to track down what I hope is an accurate meaning for the word "Jubal." It has been an interesting journey, and lets me see that modern users of the word may be giving it a different meaning than it had when it was first used in the song under discussion. The connections have weakened over time, from its Old Testament origins, and users have blithely assumed that it is related to "jubilee," but I don't think it is.

The time and interest it takes to find evidence of previous usage, and to present a lucid argument as to why I think the "cacophonous hounds of the devil" is more appropriate than the "joyous, festive" interpretation, no doubt makes me a purist. That's because I approach this as a scholar. This goes into what Art Theime said above.

This said, it doesn't in any way restrict my interest in other types of music or enjoying the evolution that songs go through. Last year when my daughter and I were out driving she played a CD for me with a Metallica song that she liked. Some of you already know where I'm going with this. When we got home I pulled out a book of my father's and showed her the words to "Whiskey in the Jar." Amazing for both of us! Who knew? There's room for all of this, and if I were to reject the Metallica version as not authentic, I'd also be rejecting my daughter's interest and taste, and I respect both. I'd rather broaden her interests and let her see the origins, than push her version away as somehow "inauthentic."

SRS


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 28 Jan 05 - 08:35 PM

Hey-
Let's be realistic.

"Folk" is not a judgement of quality. And liking something isn't enough to warrant the label of "Folk"; contrariwise, if you like Rock, and you like a Jean Ritchie ballad, it doesn'y make that ballad Rock. Yhere's good folk music and lousy folk music and every shade in between. Just like any other genre.

Recognizing that I have limited time and limited funds, when I buy a CD or go to a sing or concert, I like to know what I'm letting myself in for. I would feel just as cheated if I attend a baroque music concert and found myself listening to Dylan as if I went to a folk music concert and they played Buxtehude.

The net result is damaging to lesser-known singers. I just won't take the time to attend one of, say, Joseph Blow's concerts or buy one of his CDs unless I have some idea of what I'm letting myself in for.

I like my jazz to be jazz; my Broadway show tunes to be show tunes and my folk music to fit at least some stated definition of "folk". If that makes me a purist, so be it.

And to hell with your singing horses.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 28 Jan 05 - 08:34 PM

My comment still stands, in that:-
1. the statement about the falling attendance is a statement of fact. Attendance was falling, and the committee, of which I was a member, had several meetings to discuss the way forward. I have made no statement implying blame for this fact.

2. I felt, and suggested, that part of the problem was the Folk club appellation. It is true that public perception of what a folk club is, has been skewed, and proves to be a stumbling block when trying to increase attendance. Uninformed young people see folk as pertaining to their parents, not to their age group. Again no suggestion was ever made that traditionalism/purism were culpable. The term Acoustic Music does seem to be less off putting to youngsters, so I suppose I am responsible for saying that the name might be to blame, but not, repeat NOT, the people organising the club.

3. As you well know, I stood down from the committee and went my own way, later being co-opted back by those who took over when you retired from organising.

4. The club is now operating pretty much on the lines I suggested, and is slowly building up, but has a long way to go yet, a point I have made in several posts on mudcat, so I am not exactly crowing about a runaway success.

5. looking back at my posts, there IS one thing that I should have said, and did not, for which I unreservedly apologise. I should have made it clear that you and Jacqui also ran an inclusive club where all were welcome, and that my misgivings were entirely related to the name issue. This, however, hardly equates to the "several instances of AGBs blaming traditionalists for all the ills of the folk scene in general" which you claimed could be seen in my posts.

Given that we both have the same goal, preservation of the tradition, but have different ideas on how to attain it, I think that this was an unwarranted personal slur, which tends toward the boot being on the other foot. You will forgive me if I continue to believe that I am not the problem, but may be a very small part of the solution if, as I hope, I can expose young people to traditional folk music, as part of a broader whole.

Don T


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 28 Jan 05 - 07:10 PM

Don, you said: -

"For years I have been one of the organisers of a Folk Club in Kent, which was losing attenders at a frightening rate, and had hardly any under 45 years old. Two years ago it became an Acoustic Music Club, and our adverts made it quite clear that this was INCLUSIVE. All types of music are welcomed, not just accepted. "

Indeed at the time it was one of your main concerns that it should not be called a "folk club".


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: GUEST,Chanteyranger
Date: 28 Jan 05 - 06:55 PM

My god, that's a beautiful analogy, kytrad. What a great thread this is.

Chanteyranger


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 28 Jan 05 - 05:16 PM

So many great comments and feelings expressed here- I keep thinking as I read them, about the moment that comes whenever I'm giving an interview, or just talking about music, when I have to say- the old songs and music are a river...a big, rolling, deep, quiet river. Anyone can stop there beside it, rest, drink, dip in and take part of it away to use as they like best. And nothing is missed from the river; it just keeps on moving along, going nowhere and everywhere. The borrower may carry away the old song and change it, add modern instrumentation to it, give it a blues sound, a jazz sound, a rock sound, a rap treatment, and so on. Some audiences will love each such interpretation, others will hate it, many will tolerate it, most will after awhile forget it. But the river doesn't even care, for the original song is still floating along there, ready to be used again, and you know what? The river just keeps rising.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 28 Jan 05 - 03:42 PM

Richard,

I have taken some time to respond to your characterisation of myself as a bigot who can be seen to blame all the ills of the folk scene on purists/traditionalists.

You mentioned my posts on the folk music in England thread, in support of your assertion, and on checking back I found five of these, none of which could even be misconstrued as apportioning blame in this way.

I am, and always have been devoted to traditional folk music, and don't wish to see it changed, or devalued in any way. Neither do I have any adverse comment to make on those who wish to pursue it exclusively.

I merely assert my right to view traditional, and contemporary, as facets of FOLK MUSIC, which have equal value in their own right, and can co-exist in the same club for those wanting to perform, or hear, either, or both.

I hope this is sufficiently lucid for me to avoid being accused of any other crimes against music.

Incidentally, I would have thought that it were possible to coin a less pejorative term for people like me than "Anything Goes Brigade", implying, as it does, a complete absence of musical taste, rather than, as is the case, a more open minded approach to the subject. There is a lot of music I do not enjoy, but I have never in my life referred to it as rubbish, crap, etc. After all, it would not exist unless a considerable number of people thought it worthwhile, and that's as it should be.

My last post on this thread folks. BYEE

Don T.


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