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Should we try to be 'original'?

GUEST,jim 03 Apr 06 - 04:24 PM
McGrath of Harlow 02 Apr 06 - 07:23 PM
GUEST,thurg 02 Apr 06 - 06:59 PM
alanabit 02 Apr 06 - 02:31 PM
GUEST,thurg 02 Apr 06 - 02:06 PM
melodeonboy 02 Apr 06 - 08:36 AM
McGrath of Harlow 01 Apr 06 - 04:11 PM
Charley Noble 31 Mar 06 - 04:17 PM
Snuffy 31 Mar 06 - 07:22 AM
alanabit 31 Mar 06 - 12:56 AM
Peace 30 Mar 06 - 08:05 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 30 Mar 06 - 08:04 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 30 Mar 06 - 08:03 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 30 Mar 06 - 07:58 PM
Bert 30 Mar 06 - 07:08 PM
DADGBE 30 Mar 06 - 06:54 PM
McGrath of Harlow 30 Mar 06 - 06:53 PM
Peace 30 Mar 06 - 06:00 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 30 Mar 06 - 05:44 PM
michaelr 30 Mar 06 - 05:28 PM
GUEST,Woody 30 Mar 06 - 05:15 PM
McGrath of Harlow 30 Mar 06 - 03:32 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 30 Mar 06 - 03:19 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 30 Mar 06 - 02:28 PM
McGrath of Harlow 30 Mar 06 - 02:27 PM
DADGBE 30 Mar 06 - 01:31 PM
GUEST 30 Mar 06 - 01:21 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 30 Mar 06 - 01:20 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 30 Mar 06 - 12:59 PM
Joe Offer 30 Mar 06 - 12:58 PM
Bert 30 Mar 06 - 12:47 PM
George Papavgeris 30 Mar 06 - 12:37 PM
Amos 30 Mar 06 - 12:36 PM
Grab 30 Mar 06 - 12:33 PM
sharyn 30 Mar 06 - 12:06 PM
TheBigPinkLad 30 Mar 06 - 11:45 AM
dick greenhaus 30 Mar 06 - 11:22 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 30 Mar 06 - 11:18 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 30 Mar 06 - 10:39 AM
The Villan 30 Mar 06 - 10:25 AM
rich-joy 30 Mar 06 - 09:25 AM
Maryrrf 30 Mar 06 - 08:42 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 30 Mar 06 - 08:00 AM
GUEST,Richard 30 Mar 06 - 07:54 AM
kendall 30 Mar 06 - 07:39 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 30 Mar 06 - 07:05 AM
Wolfgang 30 Mar 06 - 06:49 AM
McGrath of Harlow 30 Mar 06 - 06:35 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 30 Mar 06 - 06:11 AM
GUEST,Woody 30 Mar 06 - 06:08 AM
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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: GUEST,jim
Date: 03 Apr 06 - 04:24 PM

Woody said,"Being seen to be original is to be seen to write one's own song(s). Copying another's tune, not a trad tune, and copying the same writer's structure etc., show quite a cheek and arrogance."

I hope you're not discouraging covering other people's songs. Some of my favourite artists are "cover artists". People like Pete Seeger, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, John Hammond, Janis Joplin..., although they may have written some songs, are known for their interpretations of other people's songs. I'd      to be restricted to singing/playing only my own stuff. There are so many great songs/tunes out there. I also love it when somebody else does one of my tunes. It's very flattering.

I'm sure that Kris loved Janis's version of "Bobby McGee".

I like to listen to a tune a couple of times to get the general idea in my head, then play it. It often comes out much more individual that way. When I've listened too many times, I find it hard to develop my own version.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 02 Apr 06 - 07:23 PM

Sounds like it'd make a great start for a song.

Sometimes critics and similar completely miss the point of what is going on. I'm reminded of a newspaper article about book reading circles a few months back. The writer went along to one and wrote it up - her main complaint being that on the day she went these people all wanted to talk about the same book (which is of course the thing that book clubs exist to do).


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 02 Apr 06 - 06:59 PM

"Hopelessly Old-Fashioned" - that might be a good name for your (or my!) next album ... Definitely a compliment!


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: alanabit
Date: 02 Apr 06 - 02:31 PM

Interesting point Thurg. One critic, who reviewed my first album, described my songs as "hopelessly old fashioned". As I am not expecting to nab a lot of Justin Timberlake's or Coldplay's audience, this did not come over as a particularly hurtful or damaging. If you write within a tradition, you hardly expect your stuff to be more hip than whatever this year's thing is!


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 02 Apr 06 - 02:06 PM

A point which I don't think has been mentioned yet: in the traditions with which I am most familiar, "songwriters" did/do not seem to think of themselves as composers of melodies but rather as compsers of lyrics, which they set to pre-existing tunes. It is not unusual for the lyrics themselves to be closely modelled on those of other songs, to the point of the borrowing of entire lines, or, in the extreme, simple substitution of a few local names and details for those in the earlier songs. The assumption in such situations is that the audience is not particularly concerned with originality; the audience simply wants a song that "speaks" to them in some way, or merely entertains them. This kind of understanding seems to work fine as long as no one is making money from the songs.

Another matter that I'd like to address is the work of critics. Critics are not typical audience members - a typical audience member may not hear a great deal of the type of music you present, whereas a critic may be listening to this kind of music all the time. So if you are a fiddler, for instance, many members of your audience may demand you play Orange Blossom Special, and may be very disappointed if you do not put it on your CD; the critic, on the other hand, will be so sick of hearing OBS that he may well castigate you for recording such "tired" material, unless you give it some kind of extremely unusual ("original") treatment. You find yourself having to decide who you are aiming your music at - your "general audience" or the critcs and cognoscenti. Some musicians/singers/songwriters seem to have no trouble pleasing both, of course, but many must choose - consciously or unconsciously - to try to please one or the other. A perceptive critic will at least recognize who your music is aimed at, whether or not she approves.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: melodeonboy
Date: 02 Apr 06 - 08:36 AM

Yes, McGrath, your last paragraph is spot on; too much jumping through hoops to satisfy the latest fad instead of just concentrating on the music.

I believe myself to be a half-decent singer and musician but a poor songwriter. Most of my material is therefore written by other people. My approach to singing and playing other people's material is basically to do what I think sounds best, irrespective of whether it is very close to or very far from the version(s) that I have heard others perform or record.

For me, the important thing is to focus on the song itself as much as, if not more than, any particular version, which is really just a starting point, and to think about what I can do with it.

I know this is just a matter of taste, but I do not enjoy listening to performers who slavishly "reproduce" someone else's version of a song note for note, nuance for nuance, grunt for grunt.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 01 Apr 06 - 04:11 PM

I'm pleased that most people on this thread seem to share my suspicion of "originality" as something to aim for in its own right, rather than emerging in the course of aiming for something else.

I'm not surprised, given that it's folk music - however that is understood - that brings us together. However I've noticed that often enough, in reviews in folk magazines (when I bother to read them), there is much the same focus on originality and keeping ahead of the game that you get in other types of music.

It even applies to varieties of music as well as to performers - one time it's going to be Cajun music that is the sound, then it switches to Argentinian tangoes, then it's neo-skiffle or Moroccan drumming... And what comes across is not so much a widening of tastes and a growth of recognition of the different musics of the world (which is very umuch to be welcomed), its a restless moving on, which involves the junking of last years favourites. Novelty (and "originality" of performers) becomes the criterion of value, and lack of novelty is the unforgiveable sin.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 31 Mar 06 - 04:17 PM

If I composed a totally original song, no one would understand it including me!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: Snuffy
Date: 31 Mar 06 - 07:22 AM

Mike Heron summed it up nearly 40 years ago on the Incredible String Band's 5,000 Spirits album:

Oh you know all the words, and you sung all the notes
But you never quite learned the song you sung
I can tell by the sadness in your eyes
That you never quite learned the song


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: alanabit
Date: 31 Mar 06 - 12:56 AM

I have always seen traditional songs as the templates on which my own efforts are built. Originality (if it is that) comes in when you try to do something, which you do not already have exactly the template for, or which you need new tools to finish. That is why it emerges at all. You don't set out to be original when you make something. The priority is to end up with something good. If you can't finish the job without doing something different to what has been done before, you find your own solution. I think that is where the originality emerges by itself.
(Of course, we usually discover later that someone somewhere has used the same solution for something else).


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: Peace
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 08:05 PM

"Children are always different - that's how the world works. Music is much the same. Give it its head and let it take you where it's going."

Now what you meant by TRY in the thread title makes more sense. No need to get excited.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 08:04 PM

Whoops... ended up posting the beginning of this message... let me try again.

Hey Yourself, DADGBE:

How many times have I heard someone play all the notes and sing all the words without a mistake, and never get the song? Thy name is legion. There is an extremely talented guitarist I've booked, and done workshops with who has worked out pristine arrangements of ragtime piano pieces that I could never approach. But, there is absolutely no life in the song. Ragtime without life? Who cares if you get all the notes right. I'd much rather hear someone far less proficient play the same song through, making a mistake here and there who got the feel of the song, and the exuberance and the humor. Sometimes more is less.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 08:03 PM

Forget trying to be original. If you write a good song they will come.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 07:58 PM

Hey yourself, DADGBE!


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: Bert
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 07:08 PM

Maybe, Tunesmith, but Jake's use of the English language was quite original.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: DADGBE
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 06:54 PM

Hey, Jerry!

I couldn't agree with you more. We've all heard musicians who could play circles around us with their brilliant technique. Unfortunately, they often rely on that technique as an end in itself instead of using it in the service of actually making music. Making it your own is the only way I know to change a row of notes into music.

After 60 years, I've gotten fairly adept at spotting players in any genre whose attitude is "listen to me" as opposed to "listen to this." The difference is not subtle once you start listening for it.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 06:53 PM

Why on earth should the future of music be dependent on people trying to be original any more than the future of humanity is based on people trying to make sure their children are different from other children?

Children are always different - that's how the world works. Music is much the same. Give it its head and let it take you where it's going.

Whether a tune is a traditional tune or one which was made up by a named person recently or long ago might be of legal significance, but it doesn't really matter outside of that. As Jerry said, the good thing with folk music is that most of the time we get under the wire because we aren't a viable milk cow for the poeple who own the music machine.

Communicating in speech or singing orm music is about doing what is necessary, in order to get across as effectively as possible. Sometimes that means doing something different from what has been done before, sometimes it means reminding people of what has been done before - and sometimes that can be a way of making them aware of changes that have happened. Change for its own sake is just doodling.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: Peace
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 06:00 PM

A few remarks.

The use of traditional melodies by someone who writes new words is fine. There is a history of that happening in music.

The use of an 'original' melody that is copyrighted is fine, too, provided the copyright holder is compensated. However, I would have NO qualms using a traditional melody that someone has come along and copyrighted because I would simply ascribe the melody as traditional.

"Should we try to be 'original'?" Well, if we don't, there's not much future for music is there?


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 05:44 PM

found it !!!

http://www.bbc.tv/radio/aod/networks/radio2/aod.shtml?radio2/r2_sameoldsong

"It's the Same Old Song (30 min)
Broadcast on Radio 2 - Tue 28 Mar - 21:30

Marc Riley presents a series charting the history of plagiarism, pastiche and plundering in popular music."


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: michaelr
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 05:28 PM

As an interpreter of traditional song I strive for originality in the arrangements. If I do say so myself, I've come up with some original (i. e. not done that way before) arrangements for "Sovay", "Siul A Ruin", and others. Coming up with a new way for my band Greenhouse to play a trad song is a large part of the fun and satisfaction.

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: GUEST,Woody
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 05:15 PM

Being seen to be original is to be seen to write one's own song(s). Copying another's tune, not a trad tune, and copying the same writer's structure etc., show quite a cheek and arrogance.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 03:32 PM

Of course Georges Brassens was singing in French and Jake Thackray was singing in English - makes a difference. And it's quite a difference in the tone which the two singers adopted.

Any critic who wasn't aware of the fact that Jake Thackray admired and emulated Brassens, and translated some of his songs to great effect had no business being a business of being a critic. Which unfortunately is often the case.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 03:19 PM

I was interested in Jerry Rasmussen's comment that he's not interested in copies of "art masterpieces". Of course, this begs the question: Can you always tell the difference between a copy and the original? For example, in Britain, a singer/guitarist called Jake Thackery ( now sadly deceased ) is often referred to as being a "true original" , but, in reality, his style - both musically and lyrically -is very clearly based on that of French singer George Brassens. Of course, George's music is not very well known in the UK, so his influence on Jake was not readilly recognised by the public - and most critics.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 02:28 PM

Hey, DADGBE:

I guess the distinction I'd make is that everyone should make the songs they do their own. Whether they've written them or learned them. The level of "originality" isn't the issue in my book. Whether the music expresses the musician is the issue... at least in folk, jazz, blues and other lessl formally composed music. It might seem that in classical music that you're hog-tied with all those little black squiggly lines on the page, but even there, there can be a strong element of individuality and personalization going on. Otherwise, people would just buy a CD of classical music with no regard to who the artists are.

Just for myself, I like to feel that I am connected to a musician when I hear them sing, or play. Music is not just expression to me, it's connection. If there's no connection, it's like the tree falling in the forest that no one hears.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 02:27 PM

If I'm talking to someone a lot ofvthe time I'm going to be putting together words in a way that has probably never been done by anyone else before - and that's not because I'm trying to be original, it's becqause I've got something to say and I'm using the words that come to mind as the best way to say it.

Sometimes I might use some figure of speech, a simile or a comparison, or add a bit of colour, but it's not abouit originality, it's about communication or persuasion or something like that. A bit like using a quote to sum up something, but thisntime it's a quote I make up myself.

Making songs isn't that different. You might pick an image to paint a picture, or point a listener in a particular direction; you might quote a line or a tune from somewhere for the same kind of reason.

The result is orioginal, a new song you've written is soemthing that hasn'ty existed in the world before, amd that is satifying in itself, especially if it seems like a good song. But originality isn't what you are really aiming at, and it's definitely not the measure of whether something is good.

"That William Shakespeare is rubbish. He pinched all hisnplots from other people."

"All this folk music sounds the same to me."


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: DADGBE
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 01:31 PM

What a great thread!

Jerry, I'm in agreement with you and Sandy about the continuing nature of 'the tradition'. But the whole question of originality is something of a red herring. After all, the value of originality is mostly due to the money that changes hands in the music industry.

What constitutes artistic originality? Everything we do, say and/or create is filtered through our cultural understandings. We make the music we make because it sounds good to us and that usually means that it sounds familiar. There are mighty few of us who can get past our unexamined beliefs and cultural norms to create something totaly new.

If someone actually succeeds, he or she'll be pilloried by the rest of us who don't have a clue about what they're trying to do.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 01:21 PM

Amos said "Being original is something that comes from following a vision, or an intuition, not from chasing it for its own sake."

I would beg to differ regarding definition of terms. It is possible to CRAFT a creation that is totally unique, based upon experience & tools, but intentionally applying those tools in ways never done before (at least, as far as anyone knows). The result may or may not be GOOD but it would be "original" - and the only inspiration or vision might be "I'm going to do something different from everybody else".

As an analogy, let's build a house. "Tradition" says let's form a foundation, raise the walls, then put on a roof. Someone striving to be "original" might form the roof, hoist it up in the air, & drop walls down to the ground, the pump in concrete to form a floor. It would be unique and "original". Would it work effectively? Probably not - the "traditional" methods of building a house are used time and again because they're proven to be effective ways to achieve a desired result. Being different simply for the sake of being different is not always a good thing, especially if you're trying to please an audience or evoke a specific response.

When you combine inspiration AND uniqueness, along with an understanding of the craft, you've got a potent product. But you CAN have any one of the three without the others.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 01:20 PM

"so long as you pay the appropriate cut to the PRS or whoever then you should be lawyer-safe..."

fair enough, and the right procedure, when covering a credited song
on a commercial released CD
[even if it is only a cottage industy/vanity publishing pressing of 500 ?]

.. but always a bit of a grey area when conciously, or otherwise,
'quoting'/'parodying'/'paying tribute to'/'re-imagining'/'evolving'/'etc'
recognisable riffs & phrases..

especially now when a scourge of ££$$$ hungry copyright protection legal teams
are proactively trawling at all levels of music production
for their next meal-ticket..

we only have to look at the problems caused to hip hop and dance
artists in the last decade or so from the advent of sampling technology..

and these are profiteering petty legal precendents that can be just as eagerly inflicted on our music world..

[UK BBC Radio 2 recently broadcast a short series on this very subject
buy i forgot to listen to any of it.. and cant remember the title]

the occasional band i gig with would be well and truly buggered
if ever we had to stand up in court to defend
the 'evolving folk process'
in relation to any of our 'origional' melodies and lyrics..


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 12:59 PM

Sometimes I need to at least try to be original (because I want to stand out from the crowd), but sometimes a strong back-reference is really useful.

Case in point is "Gentle Maids Ashore," about Ann Bonney and Mary Read* who met as 'male' pirates and fell in love.

I wanted to refer to various well-known cross-dressing songs, so borrowed a number of musical and lyrical phrases, but I hope the song still comes over as original.

If you're interested you can decide for yourself at Tom Bliss @ MySpace
------------------------------------------------------------------------

* It took me about 18 months from research to completion (yes, I know - I like my songs to mature :-) and all that time I never knew that my old mate HipHipMcAndyHoorayFarlane writing a song about Mary as well.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 12:58 PM

This is an argument I used to have with my kids all the time. They scoffed at my folk music, and insisted that every musician needed to be completely original in every recording that musician made - and then my kids would try to sing the song exactly like what they heard on the record.

So, OK, my oldest son became a punk rocker, and he's now 33 and making a living as a musician and touring Europe and the US and Japan, and he's writing the songs. I guess the songs are mostly original, although he does copy styles and riffs. Interestingly, though, he wrote and recorded one song that actually threatened to make some money - Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yard (A True Story). Now, the song is original - but the title sure ain't. Toyota offered him $250,000 to use the song in a commercial, but he turned them down because the band didn't want to be known as "that band in the Toyota commercial." Hey, Amazon says that this week, the song is #118,850 on their charts. Beats the hell out of anything Jerry Rasmussen has recorded lately, doesn't it?

And I feel vindicated because I was proven right, that tying a song to a previous one is a good idea. I think that an element of familiarity makes a song more approachable to people, and they're more easily able to understand the message in the song - Not that I found a message in my kid's song at all.

When I buy music, I usually tend to buy CD's that have mostly songs that I know, mixed with a few new ones that look interesting.

-Joe Offer-

(Oh, and my kid's other hit single is called
"Dad, there's a little phrase known as Too Much Information." The album is called Street Dad - he named them after me. Isn't that sweet?)


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: Bert
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 12:47 PM

All songs came from somewhere, most of them are based on the musical knowledge and heritage of the songwriter.

Truly original songs are extremely rare. Even songs that are considered way ahead of their time, fit into the current musical culture.

Consider Hank Williams and 'Move it on over' It fitted into country music and what Hank was singing at that time, 1947 or 1948. But it's time didn't become right until Bill Hailey copied it for 'Rock Around the Clock' years later.

When I write a song with what I consider an original tune, what I really mean is that it's origin can't be identified. I don't know where it came from. So every time I sing a new song I'm always scared that someone is going to say "Oh! that's such and such song'.

Other times I deliberately use an existing song, for example 'Silicone Cindy' wouldn't be nearly so good to a different tune, and even the basic idea came from a newspaper article.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 12:37 PM

I think the "folk process" works in fairly small steps normally. That is, a performer may alter one word in the lyrics, or add a couple of flourishes to the tune. And the next one might keep those changes, or he/she might add a little more of their own etc. All along the way, it is likely that none of the variants would be thought of as "original". yet the finished product can differ markedly from where the process kicked off. It's a little like evolution.

And then, you have bolder attempts at original treatment - folk rock was one such, for example - where originality is starkly obvious, sought after, and can attract some while it grates with others. This approach is more akin to mutation, and the end result may be viable or not - the risk is greater.

In music where artistic contribution is paramount, originality is hailed and applauded. But in folk music artistic contribution is not the be-all and end-all; continuation, preservation and passing-on are equally important, and originality plays a lesser role therefore in folk music.

As sonmgwriter, I strive for originality - because I don't want to make the same points the same way that others have already done before me; I want to add something. As a singer of a traditional song in a singaround, I may add a little flourish (or not), but my emphasis there is to nourish and preserve the song.

Yet there can be exceptions in both (they are exceptions, mind you): As a songwriter, occasionally I may mimic a tune or a style, or a manner of phrasing, to make a point or to conjure up some traditional images. And conversely, as an arranger of a traditional song, I may bring in unusual instruments or beats or riffs, in an attempt to "modernise" and make the song more palatable to contemporary ears, or (as is the case with "A-beggin' I will go") to make the point that the lyrics and the tune are timeless and can withstand modern treatment without loss of integrity.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: Amos
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 12:36 PM

Trying to be original is oxymoronic. Being original is something that comes from following a vision, or an intuition, not from chasing it for its own sake. Goodness.


A


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: Grab
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 12:33 PM

PFR, so long as you pay the appropriate cut to the PRS or whoever then you should be lawyer-safe...


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: sharyn
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 12:06 PM

Anybody ever heard, "There is nothing new under the sun?"

Someone mentioned "trying to be original." I think that puts people into contortions -- as opposed to trying to push yourself to do something new that excites you, setting yourself a challenge: playing in a different tuning, for example, or deciding you will write a pentatonic tune.

Whoever I am, I am different than you, so my work will bear some originality no matter what I do -- because my voice is different, or I play a different guitar, or because I ate something different for breakfast or skipped the quart of whiskey.

When I imitate, I imitate out of love or fascination: how is she doing that trill? What is that harmony there? And then I will assimilate some of what I imitate and drop some of it because it doesn't square with me. Most of this process is unconscious.

Also, we all have tradition behind us: we all learned a song from somwwhere, or a singing style or a phrasing or a way to make a new sound ("new" to us) with our mouths or hands or an instrument, whether it was from our Grandma, or a Jimi Hendrix record or the boy down the street.

Now, whether I want to record or perform something during the beginning of an imitative phase or a major experiment, that is a matter of taste and personal choice.

Sharyn

P.S. Another reason for borrowing tunes or words is that they are unbearably beautiful but too short (Think "Westron Wind') or politically incorrect (Think "Old Uncle Ned). I have borrowed both of those things by the way.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: TheBigPinkLad
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 11:45 AM

I think it differs from a musician vs audience perspective; and maybe more. I remember sitting in a pub once when a woman got up and did 'Pleasant & Delightful' a cappella and folks were chuft that it was 'bang on,' by which they meant in its original form. How many times have singers been chastised for mucking about with trad songs?

Room for both, I'd say. And vive le difference.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 11:22 AM

Should we try to be 'original'? Hell, just try to be good. That's hard enough.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 11:18 AM

The good thing about folk music is that it's so commercially unviable that we pass under the radar screen. Is some high-priced lawyer going to spend his time coming after someone whose CD is lucky to sell 500 copies? That's probably not even a test pressing for their client.

Sometimes obscurity is a good thing.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 10:39 AM

i expect that if i ever pull my finger out and record my intended assaults
on trad folk and contemporary pop culture songs,
a minority of like minded folk will enjoy how i interprate them..

however, the predictablle negative responses from both camps
will likely be deafening !


..benign indifference would be quite nice !!!


however, my main concern would be some mean **** of a lawyer
sueing the roof off my head and also demanding destruction of the master tapes !!!!!!


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: The Villan
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 10:25 AM

Quote
to realize that folk musicians have always expressed their own interpretation of a song. That's why there are so many variants to most songs. People who try to sing a particular song exactly as it was recorded (in a book or on record) are humorously copying an "original" version of a traditional song with many other "original" versions. Folk music isn't the poor man's karaoke.
Unquote
I have heard over the last few months, a few songs that were highly popular at the time and have been taken by the folk performers and re-done in folkie and sympathetic way and I have to say, each one was brilliant.

They are
"Sweet Child Of Mine" by Guns & Roses
"Something Else" by Eddie Cochran
"Hey Joe" by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Each one was done by a different performer. I love those songs and to hear them in a folkie way was just magic. I would love to hear more songs done in the same way. I guess a few of you have seen other numbers done like this.

Don't anybody mention the Streets of London othewise I will go bonkers. :-)


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: rich-joy
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 09:25 AM

Didn't Pete Seeger's daddy and ethnomusicologist, Charles Seeger, observe : "Plagurism is basic to all culture/s" ?!


This thread seems to me, to be allied to those that have discussed whether the pop music term "cover", has any relevance in "folk music" (I tend to think not ...) - or to what degree "the singer songwriter" personifies "folk music" (IMHO, not as much as some would like to believe!!!)


Cheers! R-J


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 08:42 AM

Well I think there are a different set of rules (maybe guidelines is a better word) that apply to the folk music world. I do sometimes wonder why we get all these commercial remakes of old pop songs, remakes of old movies, or sequels to movies, especially when often the remake isn't as good as the original. But building on, reinterpreting, and adapting has always been part of folk music and I don't see anything wrong with it. If the tune/lyrics are traditional there are no legal issues involved. I mean, how many traditional songs have been sung to the same tune as "The Star of the County Down" or "Tramps and Hawkers". I think it would be pointless to try to slavishly imitate source singers such as Sheila Stewart or Texas Gladden - perfectly okay to use their version of a song as inspiration and put your own stamp on it. One of my great delights is in listening to different people do different versions of my favorite traditional songs.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 08:00 AM

but then we now also have the financially punative litiginous interventions
of mercenary bastard copyright accountants and lawyers to consider..

the future of any evolving living folk[ish] music tradition is seriously in doubt !!???


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: GUEST,Richard
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 07:54 AM

Don't try to be anything;just write how you want to. If people like it, it's a pop song; if they still like it in 100 years time, it's a folk song.
Richard


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: kendall
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 07:39 AM

Why waste a good tune on one song?


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 07:05 AM

Yes, Kevin, we are in agreement. As Ringo (and Buck Owens sang), "All you got to do is act naturally." It's all about making the song your own, while respecting the source.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: Wolfgang
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 06:49 AM

Another good reason to use a known tune is to make the song more or less instantly singable for a crowd.

Many political songs in Germany that are meant to be sung together use known tunes for exactly that reason.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 06:35 AM

As is commonly the case,. I find myself in agreement with Jerry. The ointment is all the better with a fly in it.

What he said was pretty close to what I meant by saying of originality that "It happens and it's good that it happens, but it's not the object of the exercise".

There are two extremes - one is when we try to slavishly copy what has been done in a mechanical way, turn ourselves into tape recorders or player pianos; and the other is when we desperately alter things from the way we might naturally feel it right to do them, merely in order to be "original", "different".

And of course, over and above that, there are times when copying is done as a way of making some kind of comment, as a specific part of what we are trying to get across, as Paul Burke just pointed out. Which is what it appears to me Billy Bragg was doing in "The Lonesome Death of Rachel Corrie" - but I'd suggest that it'd be better to leave discussion about that in the appropriate thread rather than try to carry it on in two threads in parallel.


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 06:11 AM

Let me be the fly in the ointment. Traditional folk music has never been "preserved" like a butterfly on a mounting board. All it takes is to listen to three or four old "traditional" recordings of the same song to realize that folk musicians have always expressed their own interpretation of a song. That's why there are so many variants to most songs. People who try to sing a particular song exactly as it was recorded (in a book or on record) are humorously copying an "original" version of a traditional song with many other "original" versions. Folk music isn't the poor man's karaoke.

I like Folk-Legacy's perspective on tradition... tradition is alive and well, and CHANGING. It's always been that way. In the 60's, some people who love traditional music (Count me way in) decided that a particular old recording was "The" way to do a song, and it was disrespectful to bring any originality to it. I never felt that way. I still do more traditional music than I do my own "original" material, but then I consider the traditional music I do as being "original" too. Maybe it's why I don't feel that I have to shift gears, switching back and forth from traditional to "original" songs. They're all original in their own way. That doesn't mean that I don't have the greatest respect for the old versions. I rarely change a word in traditional songs, and I honor the chord changes and melody. It's in the rhythm, the phrasing and the personalization of the song that it becomes "original." To me, Lonnie Donegan was a good example of someone who did traditional music in an original way. So did Dave Van Ronk, and Mississippi John Hurt, and Doc Boggs and Reverend Gary Davis.... the list goes on. I don't enjoy copies of art masterworks, and neither do I enjoy an "exact" copy of traditional music. Not that there is one....

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Should we try to be 'original'?
From: GUEST,Woody
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 06:08 AM

But Billy Bragg didn't add anything to either the folk scene or the political debate. He used a well known contemporary song to hang his journalese onto to give his efforts some respectability. It's not just a question of originality but a question of interesting, artistic content.


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