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What is wrong with being a purist?

Gurney 27 Jan 05 - 04:24 AM
GUEST 27 Jan 05 - 07:27 AM
Once Famous 27 Jan 05 - 12:12 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 27 Jan 05 - 12:20 PM
Blissfully Ignorant 27 Jan 05 - 12:20 PM
PoppaGator 27 Jan 05 - 01:16 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 27 Jan 05 - 01:25 PM
Leadfingers 27 Jan 05 - 01:27 PM
GUEST 27 Jan 05 - 02:06 PM
John C. 27 Jan 05 - 02:12 PM
GUEST 27 Jan 05 - 02:23 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 27 Jan 05 - 02:25 PM
Amos 27 Jan 05 - 02:51 PM
Richard Bridge 27 Jan 05 - 05:02 PM
GUEST,Frank 27 Jan 05 - 05:40 PM
PoppaGator 27 Jan 05 - 06:02 PM
Leadfingers 27 Jan 05 - 08:24 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 27 Jan 05 - 08:24 PM
chris nightbird childs 27 Jan 05 - 11:27 PM
M.Ted 27 Jan 05 - 11:34 PM
Amos 27 Jan 05 - 11:51 PM
chris nightbird childs 28 Jan 05 - 12:03 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 28 Jan 05 - 01:19 AM
John C. 28 Jan 05 - 01:35 PM
GUEST,Chanteyranger 28 Jan 05 - 02:01 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 28 Jan 05 - 03:42 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 28 Jan 05 - 05:16 PM
GUEST,Chanteyranger 28 Jan 05 - 06:55 PM
Richard Bridge 28 Jan 05 - 07:10 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 28 Jan 05 - 08:34 PM
dick greenhaus 28 Jan 05 - 08:35 PM
Stilly River Sage 28 Jan 05 - 08:36 PM
Amos 28 Jan 05 - 10:26 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 28 Jan 05 - 10:40 PM
GUEST,Michael Morris 29 Jan 05 - 12:33 AM
DonMeixner 29 Jan 05 - 12:41 AM
chris nightbird childs 29 Jan 05 - 01:20 AM
John P 29 Jan 05 - 09:58 AM
John P 29 Jan 05 - 10:08 AM
Amos 29 Jan 05 - 10:30 AM
GUEST 29 Jan 05 - 10:41 AM
Flash Company 29 Jan 05 - 10:57 AM
Amos 29 Jan 05 - 11:35 AM
chris nightbird childs 29 Jan 05 - 12:18 PM
Bill D 29 Jan 05 - 12:22 PM
John C. 29 Jan 05 - 12:35 PM
Stilly River Sage 29 Jan 05 - 02:04 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 29 Jan 05 - 03:11 PM
John P 29 Jan 05 - 04:31 PM
Bill D 29 Jan 05 - 07:16 PM
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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Gurney
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 04:24 AM

John C, I understand you! I've been like you, felt like you, about the same tradition, too.

35 years on, I dont really care where a song comes from. Like several people have said, my preferences are A/ I like it a lot, B/ I like it, C/I don't much like it, and D/ I'm not listening to that, thank you.

I think the rot set in when I discovered Coventy library had a full set of 'Folk Song in England(Britain?) a BBC issue of field recordings collected from 'real' folk singers. Several LPs. 95% boring, to me. Possibly to other folkies too, as I've only ever heard a couple sung in all this time.

I promise you, however, that you will not get poisoned by including in your repertoire ANYTHING else, and you won't forget the Trad, either.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 07:27 AM

Chris (Nightbird) - a mate of mine regularly turns up at folk sessions and plays his guitar and sings VERY interesting songs - On
one occasion , when I asked whose song it was , it was from a VERY loud rock band , but done at a sensible volume without the heavy bass and drums it was a Bloody Good Song . Same thing goes for gary Numan ,Buddy holly ,the Beatles and a whle scad of other 'Good Songs' than can be performed as acoustic pieces . Sadly , a lot of (Though NOT all) people who could be described as purists would claim this is NOT what Folk Clubs are there for . MY answer to that is PIFFLE !
Folk Clubs are there for Folk To Make Music together and wether the music is 'Traditional' or singer/songwriter in origin it doesnt Bloody Matter A Damn .


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Once Famous
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 12:12 PM

boab is right on about the antique parallel.

As an avid collector of many antiques, too many I have come in contact with think that if it is old, it's worth a lot.

Not true in most cases.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 12:20 PM

The same is true about so-called "contemporary" folk music. Some musicians feel that just because they are strumming a tune on a guitar it is suddenly "folk music".

I know of a rather well-known contemporary singer-songwriter who was asked to participate in a workshop at a festival. She found some of the best childrens songs she knew to share at the workshop, and then was shocked to find out that the workshop on Child Ballads was not what she thought!!!!


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Blissfully Ignorant
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 12:20 PM

Why stick a label on yourself, anyway?


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 01:16 PM

Despite my total ignorance of what goes on in folk clubs in England, I'm finding most of this discussion quite interesting, and have another couple of cents' worth to offer:

My immediate reaction to a so-called "purist" is to allow that everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion ~ each to his own taste, so to speak.

However: there is one particular strain of trad orthodoxy that I find obnoxious and essentially anti-musical. I refer to those who insist upon blindly aping, note for note, a particular early-twentieth-century recording. There's a lot of this going on among traditional-jazz enthusiasts and some (but thankfully not many) folk-blues players, and I suspect that the "just-like-Bill" bluegrassers that Martin was complaining about are up to the same ignorant nonsense.

Don't these people realize that the recordings they so slavishly imitate represent nothing more than the way their idols played a particular number ONCE, on the day they happened to be recorded?

Early jazz, especially, was nothing if not spontaneous ~ group improvisation ~ but some of these worshipful "recreators" treat a given recording as if each note were engraved in stone. I have the same complaint about acoustic-blues performers who drop a beat from the same measure of the same verse every time they sing a particular song because that's the way Blind So-and-so sang it one afternoon in the 1920s when someone dropped by with recording equipment.

I would hope that those traditionalists who are devoted to *older* forms that predate the emergence of recording technology avoid falling into this trap, but I'm willing to bet that there are some who cling desperately to the earliest *recorded* versions of their favorites, despite the fact that they are attaching themselves to early-20th-century versions of songs from the 19th, 18th, and earlier centuries.

OK ~ rant over...


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 01:25 PM

PoppaGator - good points. Another example would be the Irish fiddler Michael Coleman. After his recordings came out, many fiddlers learned from the records and everyone began sounding the same. Luckily the various regional styles have lived on, thanks to the work of folklorosts.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 01:27 PM

Poppa-gator - I was on the fringes of the great british Blues revival in the late sixties ! My blues guitar playing freinds were always amused at the people lamenting the fact that they could the same sound
out of their Gibsons and Martins as was on some of the old records .
But suggest that they try a 'Cheap' guitar and they loked at you with scorn !


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 02:06 PM

"America has identifiable, unbroken strands of folk music - bluegrass, country and cajun to name just three."!!! WHAT UTTER BULLSHIT!!!


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: John C.
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 02:12 PM

Brilliant stuff! I never imagined that my, slightly mischievous (but deadly serious), question would generate so many interesting and thought provoking answers - plus a smattering of abuse - but, hey, sticks & stones etc.
For the record, and speaking as a sad git...sorry, 'purist', I've always thought that the British Folk Scene of the 60s/70s wasn't destroyed by evil mastermi...sorry, 'purists', like me, but by the 'folk-into-rock' phenomenon. You see you just couldn't fit all those amplifiers and cables etc. into the back room of the average pub - so it all had to go onto the concert stage where the intimacy was lost...right, I'll be off then...


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 02:23 PM

The trouble with being a purist is that it's so easy to become obsessed with the "impure" to the extent that you become more identified with what you're against than with what you're for. It's a syndrome we are seeing again in the religions of the world.The more fundamenatlist in outlook the more negative the vibes given off.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 02:25 PM

Purist to me is a label. I have been labeled a "purist" all my singing life, and nothing can be further from the truth. The music I inherited is just dearer to me than all other, and people expect me to perform it, and I feel most comfortable with it- it's part of me. But I like most other kinds of music, for listening, and for joining-in- have written "modern" songs myself, and sung them to- have folks say after hearing one of them, "Oh,wonderful old song!"

And Bill Monroe, whose name keeps cropping up here as so traditional was, in his day,the biggest innovator of us all- didn't he INVENT bluegrass?

Mudcatters seem to love labels and lists: Threads for, The Best This, The Worst That...The Most Popular...so now are we going to have a Who's a Purist? list? I sincerely hope not- it's a waste of time.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Amos
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 02:51 PM

Thanks, Jeannie, and wisely said!


A


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 05:02 PM

I think many posters need to re-check the initial post.

The point that is escaping is that (over-sweeping generalisation follows) the AGB tend to label anyone who does any significant number of folk songs at all as a "purist" and them blames them for the decline of folk clubs - whether or not they in fact welcomed non-traditional singers and players.

My experience is that this is true. You can see examples from Don (WYZIWIG) Thompson on the English folk club thread.

You will also see from the original post that the experience was specifically stated as being found in English clubs. So, dear MG, if you don't have the experience you don't have the knowledge and you are not in the position to express an informed or therefore rational opinion. That, however, rarely stops you so I don't suppose it will stop you now.

SRS, you know better, I think and hope.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: GUEST,Frank
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 05:40 PM

What is a "purist"?

First comes the music. Then someone makes up the rules.

It's simple. If you don't like a certain music it means:

1. You don't know enough about it.
2. You have prejudices.
3.   You may understand some music and still not like it.
4. You may attribute to it false subjective standards.
5.   You've got an axe to grind.
6. You haven't listened to it long enough.

What I hear in John C's statement is that he has been criticized for liking certain music or mislead in the adverts about what the music was supposed to be.

If he defines the kind of music he likes as "purist" then how can anyone argue with this? There's nothing wrong with that.

i don't have any problem with music that I like or think is good.
Why should anyone else?

But it's intolerant to judge another person's taste in music just because you don't like it.

I don't like heavy metal or some hip hop but I'm not going to say that it's not good music. In fact I admire much music that I don't like because the expertise that it takes to produce it in my view is to be admired.

Frank


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 06:02 PM

Richard Bridge,

Whatever the particular issues the initial post may have addressed, I think that *all* the comments here (well, almost all of them) have been interesting and valid observations on a fairly wide range of differences between "strict-constructionist" folkies and "moderists."

It it were *possible* to restrict the discussion to responses directly relevant to JohnC's particular initial concerns, there would have been much less "food-for-thought" here for us to digest and debate.

Of course, it's not possible to censor the membership that strictly, which is a good thing, isn't it?

I do not at all object to your restating the original case, though. It's good to be reminded that we began with a complaint about a particular conflict in English folk clubs. However, I don't think there's anything objectionable about the wider-ranging discussion that ensued.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 08:24 PM

When I was first seriously into British Traditional Jazz I was a most definate Purist - NO saxophone , NO Guitar , NO Piano ! Just trumpet clarinet trombone front line and banjo bass drums for rhythm ! Then I bought a reissued album of Louis Armstrongs first recordings with King Olive - March / April 1923 !! Lil Harding on piano , johhny StCyr playing a Six String banjo tuned as guitar and Stump Evans on Alto Sax . Stopped me being a 'Purist' on the spot !
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 !!


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 08:24 PM

I wasn't going to post this at Mudcat, but this seems to be the right time and place for it. It's my most recent on-line column for the website of the PLANK ROAD FOLK MUSIC SOCIETY west of Chicago. About a week or three ago, these thoughts were keeping me awake---so I jumped up and wrote 'em down...
--------------------------------------------------------------

The main job of a folksinger, I've always felt, is to explore the past. After skimming the scum of the present off the top of the historical pond, folksingers mine the depths for the artifacts that were lost --- some long ago and some more recently. They find, clean up, polish and sometimes enhance the overlooked found pieces of music and/or poetry so they can be shown to people here and now in a way that allows modern people to feel some of the emotions experienced by those that lived, loved, worked, fought, struggled and then died in that whole other time and place.

The extent to which the one calling themselves a folksinger does that, determines whether that person is, or is not, a folksinger.

Modern singer-songwriters stand here and now and look at today's personal ongoing dramatic situations and traumas. They also look, artistically and insightfully into the future for their inspiration, and then they speculate about how what we are doing might enhance or detract from those days to come. Some of today's songwriters will become legends --- famous and infamous --- rich or poor. But most, from where I sit, will not become folksingers.

Only when their presented music is a result of looking and studying about how people of the past turned their lives into art that chronicled that life, can the songs they uncovered be real folksongs.

It is all about the timeline!! In the future, what is made now may become a folksong. -- Then someone from that future, someone who understands the rules (yes, the rules!) finds the appropriate artifacts you or I may have thought little of --- and maybe tossed by the wayside. That gem when re-examined, could exhibit real, possibly ironic meaning for the folks of that new reality. --- If it is presented in a way that shows the connection between what is said in the lyric, maybe in-between the lines, older folklore artifacts can be instantly updated. --- A semi-comic line like, "Hey, here is a song from the last depression"---automatically makes an old song a way to see current hard times--or wars---or disasters from the Johnstown Flood and Nah's flood to our recent tsunami or 9/11.   Then, when that person who knew/knows what to look for brings it forth, it is and ought to be called an actual folksong --- and that individual is an actual folksinger.

Purist? Revivalist? Whatever. I just know I've spent a lot of time over the last half century trying to say this the right way. I do hope it means something true to you. But this is me--what it comes down to -- in a nutshell -- to me. It is only the way I see it---and some of why I see it that way---for what it's worth. I mean no offense to anyone. ------ People, I always considered myself to be a folksinger about 60% of the time---possibly a little more I hope. If Barry Bonds, with or without steroides, had batted as well, he would've hit 600. Not too bad!

This is pretty much what Frank Hamilton said in this thread too I think. It's the excitement of the treasure hunt---and then finding a piece of the Grail here and there--every so often. That's what being a folksinger is all about! This is what made and makes it an academic discipline for so many of the purist Catters and ballad scholars---as exhibited in the best threads this place has to offer.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: chris nightbird childs
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 11:27 PM

I'm going to tell you what Folk Music did for me...

I used to be a Rock and Roller to the core. I used lots of distortion on me guitar, and played electrics exclusively. I played in bars, clubs, and what-have-you, and what I can tell you is, even in the rehearsal room, it GOT TOO F**KIN' LOUD!

This was my reasoning initially for switching to a softer, and more dynamic type of playing. Then, I noticed that through the din, the soul and meaning of my music had gone as well.

Needless to say, this would not do. I stopped, I quit/broke up my Rock band, and my Bass player and I started doing Acoustic gigs. I started, through some of the influences I had, to listen to some other things like Country Blues, older Country, like Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, and Bluegrass like, you guessed it, Bill Monroe.
I then took a closer look into some people I was already listening to like Dylan, Havens, etc.

My influences became more varied, and focused on a different genre. A type of music that I'd always heard as 'Folk' music. Meaning music from the folks by the folks about the folks. Of course, some of these were stories passed down from generations. Most of these musicians interpreted the music their own way. Like Blues songs are adapted, and sometimes twisted to suit who played them.

So... in short... I now write from the point of view of myself, and things that people I know experienced. 'Reality' music, as Chuck 'Tarheel' Hemrick would call it... 'Folk' music, as most people understand it to be.

- Chris Nightbird Childs


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: M.Ted
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 11:34 PM

Leadfingers-I like your story a lot!   I have been in a similar situation on more than one occasion--it is wonderfully humbling to be knocked off of your soapbox when someone plays a recording of an old 78--


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Amos
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 11:51 PM

Art:

I have mentioned a number of times on this forum the belief that au coeur folksingers are genuine time travelers. It's like this. I don't care if you'r e a beer-joint in SanFran or a roadhouse between Madison and Mount Carroll, the moment comes when you're doing "Lord Lovell", say, or as you do so well, "John Hardy" and you have your man there, standing on the Blackstone Bridge, so drunk he could not see.... and you're making your chords and runs and picking away and you close your eyes to remember that verse, see?

And there you are. Wet night, early autumn, cooling fast, drops of moisture on the stone rails and footways, and the sound of the river rushing underneath, and the sound of footsteps punctuating the night. The footsteps are heavy, but determined, a 250-pound sherriff sort of determination, marching on hard stone. And there's this deep voice, softened by whiskey, trying to get a job done with as much dignity as can be spared for the occasion, saying, "Johnny, boy, I thnk yoiu'd better come with me. Woddya say, lad. Ya don't want any more trouble than you got, son. Whyn't'you jes' come with me."

And that's where you are, traveling in time, purely located at the middle of the nineteenth century or mebbe 1910.

It isn't just a song anymore.

You're there, and that's what comes into your voice, and that's what the people in the night club hear and for just a minute, because you are a time-traveler, they are there too, breathing that river-wet night air and being in history right along side of you.

I am just an amateur time traveler, but that makes it no less vivid for me. I have walked those streets with Barbry Ellen and cried for Sweet William and made it heard so others could be there as well, just as I know you have. But you -- you were the real thing and the professional time traveler man.

So here's to you, mon brave.

The traveler through Time, Art Thieme.

A


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: chris nightbird childs
Date: 28 Jan 05 - 12:03 AM

If it comes from the heart and the mind... it's pure.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 28 Jan 05 - 01:19 AM

Amos,

For all the years I did it, that's what I told folks. We are going on a trip through time!! That was the long and the short of it. So I know what you're sayin'. And it's not necessarilly THE TRUTH of what went down. It's the fantasy and the reality all mixed up in the song. And you also get to see how they wanted things to be---what their agenda might've been. Their spin for all their ulterior motives and propaganda machinations shows up in it too.

Come all you good people who like to have fun,
Listen to me and I'll sing you a song,
Listen to me and the truth I'll declare,
As I sing all about the Pokegama Bear...

or...

Down in the scrub oak country of the south-east Texas gulf,
There used to ride a brakeman---and a brakeman double tough,
He worked the line from Kilgore and to Longview 12 miles down,
And the 'bos all said that East Texas Red was the meanest bull around...

or...

'Dobe Bill, he went a ridin' through the canyon in the glow
Of a quiet summer's evenin, and he wasn't riding slow,
Riding easy on his pinto that he dearly loved to straddle,
With his six-gun and sombrero that was wider than his saddle,
And he's ridin' as he's hummin' of a simple little song
That's a-boomin' through the canyon as he's galloping along...


or any of 5,000 other glimpses back that happen to have a good tune tossed into the mix.

As Utah Phillips is so fond of saying: "Hell, the past didn't go anywhere!" ----- No, it's there for the perusing---for the taking. And any of you out there can join Amos and me and so many others who know the secrets and the beauty of this way of being a trad purist.

Nothing at all is wrong with being a purist! I'm proud to own up to that good monicker. (And I like what this thread has morphed into.)

Art


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: John C.
Date: 28 Jan 05 - 01:35 PM

The time travelling thing, spoken of so eloquently by Art Thieme and Amos above, gets it about right. The other night a friend sang a version of the 'Flash Lad' - an Eighteenth Century ballad about a thief who 'robbed Lord Golden, I do declare, and Lady Mansfield in Grovesnor Square' - and gets hung, on Tyburn Tree, for his pains. And I swear I saw a ragged lad running through Covent garden vegetable market - scattering cabbages, onions and apples in his wake - with 'Ned Fielding's Gang' of thief takers in hot pursuit...I don't get anything like that from hip hop or thrash metal or whatever - those are just intrusive noises to me - not time machines, not vehicles which link me to my ancestral past.
It's experiences like the one described above that keeps me interested in trad. songs - why I have to learn and sing them myself and why I love to hear them sung well. And, you know, the experience just seems to get better and more profound as I get older - every time I think I've got the measure of these songs I hear tune or a new set of words, or read an article (or a posting here - usually by Malcolm Douglas - thanks, Malcolm!) that blows my mind and sets me off on another journey of discovery.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: GUEST,Chanteyranger
Date: 28 Jan 05 - 02:01 PM

Along those lines, I like to think of sea chanteys as "portholes into our past." They connect, as many types of folk songs do, tangible things (ships, storms, "Judies," cruel mates, etc.) with intangible ideas (fear, courage, love, lust, longing for a better life, etc.) It is this quality of linking the tangible with the intangible that, for me, gives traditional folk songs their sense of immediacy as well as their sense of historical time and place. Modern songs written with traditional music sensibilities can do the same, such as some of Andy M. Stewart's and Richard Grainger's songs, for just a couple of examples. They have a way of making a nearly seamless link between the traditionalist and the singer/songwriter, at least to my ears.

GREAT article, Art Thieme!

Chanteyranger


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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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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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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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