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Is folk music selling out?

Joe Richman 20 Apr 06 - 11:58 PM
Stephen L. Rich 20 Apr 06 - 11:56 PM
Peace 20 Apr 06 - 10:36 PM
dick greenhaus 20 Apr 06 - 10:27 PM
GUEST,Sam Pirt 20 Apr 06 - 07:07 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 20 Apr 06 - 02:58 PM
dick greenhaus 20 Apr 06 - 11:50 AM
GUEST,Sandy Andina 19 Apr 06 - 04:10 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 19 Apr 06 - 03:23 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 19 Apr 06 - 03:05 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 18 Apr 06 - 02:30 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 18 Apr 06 - 02:16 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 18 Apr 06 - 10:43 AM
chris nightbird childs 18 Apr 06 - 10:32 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 18 Apr 06 - 09:48 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 18 Apr 06 - 06:02 AM
Big Al Whittle 17 Apr 06 - 08:49 PM
dick greenhaus 17 Apr 06 - 05:24 PM
GUEST 17 Apr 06 - 03:32 PM
GUEST,RIchard Bridge 17 Apr 06 - 02:15 PM
Maryrrf 17 Apr 06 - 12:21 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 17 Apr 06 - 12:08 PM
dick greenhaus 17 Apr 06 - 11:51 AM
voyager 17 Apr 06 - 11:41 AM
GUEST,Art again 17 Apr 06 - 10:41 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 17 Apr 06 - 09:56 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 16 Apr 06 - 11:51 PM
number 6 16 Apr 06 - 10:10 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 16 Apr 06 - 09:39 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 16 Apr 06 - 09:00 PM
dick greenhaus 16 Apr 06 - 07:17 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 16 Apr 06 - 07:03 PM
GUEST,Steven C. Barr 16 Apr 06 - 05:21 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 16 Apr 06 - 11:55 AM
PoppaGator 16 Apr 06 - 02:06 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme again... 15 Apr 06 - 09:30 PM
melodeonboy 15 Apr 06 - 08:32 PM
Peace 15 Apr 06 - 04:27 PM
Peace 15 Apr 06 - 04:22 PM
Grab 15 Apr 06 - 04:11 PM
Buzzer65 15 Apr 06 - 02:52 PM
Scoville 14 Apr 06 - 04:15 PM
Stephen L. Rich 14 Apr 06 - 03:23 PM
Janice in NJ 14 Apr 06 - 02:20 PM
GUEST,M.Ted 14 Apr 06 - 12:54 PM
dulcimer42 14 Apr 06 - 12:23 PM
number 6 14 Apr 06 - 11:46 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 14 Apr 06 - 11:19 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 14 Apr 06 - 11:17 AM
clairerise 14 Apr 06 - 11:13 AM
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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Joe Richman
Date: 20 Apr 06 - 11:58 PM

I regularly attend an event known as "The Orange Co. Folk Circle". It is a monthly (except May and October) meeting of people who like to play and sing a diverse set of songs. The people who run the circle sometimes divide the group into "Old Time" and "Singer/Songwriter" categories.   The singer/songwriters sometimes do slightly pop renditions of very old ballads with (probably) folk origins. The "Old Time" players often do renditions of 19th century pop music, with known lyricists and composers. The Singer/Songwriters like to perform songs by Dylan and James Taylor, and quite a few other people who wrote songs in the '60s, '70s and even some who wrote stuff more recently. The "Old Time" people like the "Fiddler's Fakebook" and tunes popularized locally by fiddlers who came out West in the '30s. We coexist very nicely. And the term "Folk" seems to be a good covering for the event.

No "selling out", but advance tickets to events are offered, and announcements of concerts do get made. And it is usually a somewhat graying group(more so every year).

Joe


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Stephen L. Rich
Date: 20 Apr 06 - 11:56 PM

Well said, Sandy.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Peace
Date: 20 Apr 06 - 10:36 PM

"Is folk music selling out?"

Is someone buying? Curious minds . . . .


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 20 Apr 06 - 10:27 PM

Spot on, Sam!


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,Sam Pirt
Date: 20 Apr 06 - 07:07 PM

Interesting debate.

To 'Sell out' requires the artist to play something they do not wish to play by choice for the sake of selling records and folk musicians never will because for the most part they care about the songs and tunes they play.

If in the worst case senario they did 'sell out' it would not actually be a major catastrophy as the traditional music that has been passed on for centurys will still remain.

Country music may have 'sold out' but recordings and musicians are still around playing the trad stuff if you know where to look (maybe the oh brother where art thou sound track)

On the radio, TV is NOT the place to listen to folk music or country music, yes now and then there is the odd good folk programme. But the whole point of these types of musics is that they are played by a minority so why would you get them on TV which the majority of people watch. It is not a bad thing it just means that you have to look further, talk to people go to sessions, learn tunes from people not CD's and gain a bigger understanding of the trdaition at the same time, is that so bad????

Cheers, Sam


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 20 Apr 06 - 02:58 PM

Dick, I agree that there is only a finite amount of time and places, and that "commercial" music has crowded "non-commercial" music off the stage.   However, the term "commercial" should not be viewed as a word that demeans the artistic merit of the song. Commercial usually means that it sells well and is popular.   "Noncommercial" usually means that it doesn't sell well and reaches a selective audience. Both can have either good or bad merits.

It also means that we have choices to make. We should spend time listening to the music that moves us as individuals.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 20 Apr 06 - 11:50 AM

Ron-
My allusion to Gresham's Law did not mean to imply that "Good" and "Bad" music was anything but my subjective opinion. But it's hard to argue that, given a finite amount of time to listen and a finite number of places, that commercial music has crowded non-commercial music almost completely off the stage.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,Sandy Andina
Date: 19 Apr 06 - 04:10 PM

Interestingly, I have heard the accusation of folk music "selling out" applied not just to performing songwriters who have changed their own styles till they've morphed more into acoustic pop/rock, but equally as vehemently and snarkily to non-writing performers accused of trying to "kiss up" to audiences by singing mostly overly familiar "folk scare" material. Neither is entirely true; alternatively, the truth may lie somewhere in between; or it could be that "folk music" is incapable of precise and exclusive definition.

Like the late Justice Potter Stewart on the subject of porn, I can't define "folk music," but I know it when I see it. No, scratch that--I think I know it when I see it. Aw, hell, I think I can tell what may and may not be folk. Maybe. I consider myself a folksinger, and yes, I do write. I (unlike some of my colleagues and even musical co-workers) do not believe that a competent songwriter has no need to or should not perform songs written by others. A damn good song is a damn good song, and if it speaks to me, fits me as a folkie and I believe I can do it justice and move an audience with it I will go right ahead and perform it. (If we don't want to consider entertaining our audiences, why perform in public?). But I also refuse to limit either my defintition of folk or my repertoire to music by Anonymous Dead Anglo-Saxons (if that sounds like a song title, it is; and sorry, folks, it's mine).

I consider myself a folk singer-songwriter precisely because I write songs with traditional folk instrumentation and musical structure, non-omphaloskeptic lyrics and subject matter (I pay a shrink to hear me unload, not expect an audience to pay me for that), and perform them in a manner everyone can understand (e.g., hear all the words clearly). And nothing would please me more than if others decided to sing them and start debates about the subject matter (and especially use them as springboards for writing their own songs--ah, to be a link in the chain!!). My songs tell stories and comment upon things that hopefully interest others outside my own small circle (and psychiatrist). I don't presume to declare that all or even many of my songs are timeless classics, but my goal is to write and propagate at least one that'll take on a life of its own. (The requests I get when I perform--and the ones that show up on radio playlists--tell me that I may be on the right track with at least one or two of them).

I think it is extremely dangerous and self-defeating to set an arbitrary timeline cutting off what is and is not a folk song. There are plenty of guitarslinging navel-gazers out there who stare at their feet while they mumble indecipherably, eyes closed of course, over repetitive chord progressions (that may even be electronically looped) about their own personal interpersonal angst. Maybe we can agree not to call them folksingers.....though from folk radio playlists and folk conference showcases we may ultimately be incorrect in excluding them from our concept of folk. But I think it is arbitarary and self-defeating to exclude everyone who writes and performs mostly their own songs from the rubric of "folk music." If we insist on doing so, have we the right to bristle at the outside world snickering at all folk music as if it were the kind depicted in "A Mighty Wind?"

If the folk process by definition includes the morphing of individual songs over the generations, why can't folk music also expand the size of its umbrella to reflect the creation of new songs (and, I grudgingly admit, some carefully limited stylistic expansion of the genre)? What made folk music folk to begin with? Folks: not just those who played it but those who listened and sang along. Like it or not, it is PEOPLE who drive this--the performers and the audiences alike. I am not saying that all music that is popular is folk--obviously, we can exclude most rock, rap, adult contemporary/MOR, cookie-cutter pop, factory-produced country, electronica, etc. despite its popularity. But when it comes to traditionally structured and performed songs made by acoustic musicians steeped in and respectful of folk music, we are shooting ourselves in the collective foot when we begin to split hairs too finely. (And when we overuse cliches).


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Apr 06 - 03:23 PM

Don, I think we agree on the same thing, but we are just using terms in different ways.

My interpretation of "popular" implies that the song is popular among a wide range of people. Many of the traditional songs that we know today were not well known outside of a families "collection" or perhaps a certain geographic area. No one kept these songs in books but learned them by memory and shared them from generation to generation because the songs were good or related to their own experience.

A song that may have had relevance to a family living in Novia Scotia would not necessarily have the same significance to a family in the Ozarks - even if there were a chance that the same song was shared in such diverse locations. The folk tradition would have shaped a "good" song to fit the time and place.

During the folk revival and beyond, many people were exposed to traditional music either through recordings or the books put together by collectors such as John & Alan Lomax, Carl Sandberg, etc. Today, I think that there are fewer instances of songs being kept local because of technology.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 19 Apr 06 - 03:05 PM

Surely the whole point about traditional folk is that it was NOT preserved in books, but passed orally from one generation to the next down the years (in many cases several hundred years), before collectors compiled their books.

That surely implies a high degree of "popularity". Can you imagine yourself saying to your children "Here's a song I don't really like" and then expecting them to sing it, and pass it on to their kids.

I should think it will be easier with current songs, precisely because of written records.

Having said that, I agree that some other word would be an advantage, since "popular" has come to mean something quite at odds with its dictionary definition in the context of music.

I just can't think what that word might be.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Apr 06 - 02:30 PM

I think the word "popular" can be tricky.   Collectors may have saved the songs for a variety of reasons, not just because of the quality of the song. Sometimes it was for historic purposes or to keep the song in context with another.

I do agree with what you said previously as well as your last post, but I do think it is important to note the distinction between "folk" and "popular". Too often people assume that just because a song is preserved in a book that it had to be a song that everyone new and loved centuries ago. That is often not the case.

The point I was trying to get out was made very well by your last sentence Don - the same will be true of the best of the current output of today's musicians.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 18 Apr 06 - 02:16 PM

That wasn't my point Ron,

It was about suiting music to the likes of the audience, and being accused therefor of selling out.

And also, those trad songs were not remembered or collected because they were, or were not, Popular (i.e. with the mass audience), but because they were damn good songs. They must have been popular (small p) with those who passed them down the years, for that very reason.

I suspect the same will be true of the best of the current output of today's musicians.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Apr 06 - 10:43 AM

"the traditional songs we know must have been those which were popular enough to stand the test of time"

We should not confuse "traditional" with "popular".   Many of the traditional songs that we now know and have learned were not necessarily popular songs of their time. Collectors "discovered" these songs by searching the backroads of our country and found songs that may have been only known to a single family. After they became published and sung by others, then the popularity spread.   Even the more well known songs have so many different variations oweing to the oral process.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: chris nightbird childs
Date: 18 Apr 06 - 10:32 AM

"It seems nonsensical to me to suggest that writing for the audience is somehow wrong and devalues the songs you write. After all, the traditional songs we know must have been those which were popular enough to stand the test of time, and there must have been others which were sung once, and forgotten."

Couldn't have said it better.
Thanks Don...


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Apr 06 - 09:48 AM

"I'm only saddened by the application of Gresham's Law to one of my passionate interests. "

Wow! You brought me back 25 years to my Economics 101 class! You topped it off by reminding me of one of the few days that I did not fall asleep in class!

From what I recall of the theory, "bad" money referred to legal tender that was either counterfeit or consisted of inferior metals. The "good" money was coinage that contained more valuable metals and the value of the metal would be worth more than the metal in the "bad" coins. This lead to people hording the "good" coins and keeping them out of circulation.

Using Gresham's Law - if traditional folk music is considered "good" money, then it is the fault of those "hording" the music that keeps it out of circulation to be replaced by contemporary songwriters.

I'm not sure if I would agree with that analogy because it debases the value of contemporary songwriters. I certainly respect and understand your opinion, after all we have subjective tastes, but personally I do not see one impacting on the other in such terms. People are attracted to the styles because of what if offers them. I feel that there is certainly room for both and neither will be devalued.

Yesterday I received the new Solas CD - Reunion. It is a brilliant concert that blends Irish traditional tunes and song, American folk song (Rain and Snow), a Woody Guthrie song (Pastures of Plenty), and songs from contemporary songwriters (Richard Shindell, Antje Duvekott) as well as original tunes. This CD does not sound like a typical session you would happen upon in a pub, nor does it sound like the stereotypical whiney navel-gazing singer-songwhiners. It is a superb interpretation of MUSIC that I have no problem calling FOLK. It comes from the heart and the people.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 18 Apr 06 - 06:02 AM

I have been writing my own material for a number of years, mostly in humorous response to what I see happening around me. Some of it is written in traditional style, and some is more contemporary.

I have been influenced by many writers ranging from Flanders & Swan and Jake Thackray, to others who are unknown (trad), but I don't wish, and have never tried to BE the person who has exerted that influence.

I have recently retired, and I NEED to earn some money from my singing to supplement a miserable pension. In order to do so I have built an act from songs which get a strong response from audiences, and discarded many which are less crowd pleasing, while still fairly popular with small sections of the public.

So I guess you might say I've sold out, but let me say this. I would much prefer to continue to sing for the love of the music, as I have done for nearly 50 years, but that would mean that I could not afford to go to the clubs and festivals to do so.

In the unlikely event that a song of mine (or a CD) took off and made lots of money, I certainly wouldn't turn it down.

I suspect that many others "sell out" for similar reasons, and I don't judge them for that. I simply listen to their songs, and decide whether I like them, in exactly the way I would if they were traditional.

It seems nonsensical to me to suggest that writing for the audience is somehow wrong and devalues the songs you write. After all, the traditional songs we know must have been those which were popular enough to stand the test of time, and there must have been others which were sung once, and forgotten.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 08:49 PM

we sold out....?

i guess that explains why we're all so rich.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 05:24 PM

I blame neither the media nor the commercial performers. I'm only saddened by the application of Gresham's Law to one of my passionate interests.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 03:32 PM

I am new to this topic, but have been reading with interest.
As an Englishman living in the USA, when I moved here I was excited to find that my area was pretty well served with folk music radio - even a 24hour/7 day a week station. However, I have noticed within the last couple of years, that it is much more "contempory folk music" played and less traditional music, and what traditional music there is has started to be called - Celtic, well at least the english stuff, which is my interest.
It seems to me that traditional music - unless it is Irish, is being pushed out.
I assume it is because it is less commercial?
Tim R


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,RIchard Bridge
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 02:15 PM

Steven C. Barr, thank you.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 12:21 PM

I'm stepping into the thread late, but I totally agree with what Dick said - the more commercial music fills the available venues the less room remaining for traditional music. That's why the concert series I help run in Richmond, VA ( Richmond Folk Music ) is reserved for traditional music only (no singer songwriters - we put it this way "If you are a traditional folk singer/musician and you want to include some of your own songs or covers in the set, that's okay but we are more interested in your traditional material".) It's not that we want to discriminate, but we've deliberately narrowed the focus of our series because we feel like traditional folk music is getting crowded out. I feel the same way when I'm at a singaround or session that is centered around traditional material. I've been at some where somebody walked in and played a couple of Beatles songs and it disrupted the mood. I didn't say anything (probably should have) but I felt it was inappropriate and it did get on my nerves.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 12:08 PM

Dick, those are very good points.   Of course, most "folk" festivals are commercial ventures to begin with - or even if they are non-profit the goal is usually to at least break even.   It becomes a double-edged sword - in order to attract bodies they need to put together a program that will draw an audience. Can a festival of strictly traditional music do that in 2005?

While the media is often blamed for corrupting public tastes, I like to think that the media reflects public tastes. If I were to host a three hour radio program that consisted only of field recordings, I would have a small (but probably loyal) audience. Unfortunately for radio stations like mine, we can't afford to narrowcast in that way.

I like to look at events like the Old Songs Festival as a shining example of how to do it right. Their definition of "folk" allows for a nice exposure to both traditional and contemporary.

At the same time I look at events like Clearwater's Great Hudson River Revival as an example of how trying to appeal to a larger audience hurts the artistic merit of a festival. Traditional music has become a rare commodity there. Yet, they seem to be able to survive.

If we look at the history of folk festivals in this country we can also see how the concept evolved.   Original festivals in the 30's were more of an exhibition of folk culuture and art, music playing a part. The evolution of festivals has brought us to a exhibition of performer skills with less emphasis on the participatory.

Truly, I believe that there is room for both. Traditional music spoke loudest to a generation that had a need for it. Todays generations have different needs and absorb the tradition in different ways.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 11:51 AM

"Jackson Pollack created his own style of painting, but that does not diminish the beauty of the Mona Lisa or works by other artists."

TRue. But the more that commercial music fills the available venues (including festivals and radio programs) The less room remains for more traditional music. When I attend a "folk" festival and find that there is (possibly) one traditional performer or group, I stop attending that festival.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: voyager
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 11:41 AM

Another way of asking this questions -

Has our Marketing Strategy Changed?

In our Mudcat Community I would expect that the Subject Matter
Experts (Like Dick G.) could spin an interesting yarn on the
bumpy commercial highway known as Folk Music. Naively I'd like
to think that our GENRE is an American/International Roots music
culture that typically RESEEDS our audience interest every 5 years
or so.

And then there's SELLING RECORDS & FILLING CONCERT HALLS!
(BTW - Tribute Movie to Harold Leventhal Tomorrow night at
   DC Film Fest).

What brings this topic home to roost (this week) was glancing over
a 5+ Page Glossy Spread in this week's NY Times Magazine featuring
Bruce 'The Boss' upcoming tribute to Pete Seeger (with a supporting
ensemble to 18 session players). Quite a SLICK (wretch) piece of
MARKETING I suppose.

Hey - "I don't think Hank would have done it this-away".

voyager

"Success is whatever get the most applause" - Burt Lancaster


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,Art again
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 10:41 AM

Ron, if I didn't say what you said, I believe I intimated a similar feeling. Personally, I guess that I prefer one type of song over the other. And I miss having a bunch of those kinds of singers around to influence the youth more.

Tom Russell is one who fills the bill for me now. ----Art


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 09:56 AM

Hi Art,

I do see your points, but I am not sure that true "folk" music has been diminished. Jackson Pollack created his own style of painting, but that does not diminish the beauty of the Mona Lisa or works by other artists.

The songs will always be with us, and I feel that the respect will always be there. The "folk revival" was a pleasant mistake. Many people who talk about folk music seem to drift toward the music that was being played and the artists who were singing it during that era. In many cases, the music they were singing had been collected long before they discovered them. Others, such as Sandy Paton, began collecting around that time joining others whose work was instrumental in the preservation and perpetuation of this style. For a variety of reasons, which would be the subject of many other threads, the music was noticed by a wider population.

What happened? The music became an inspiration to others who began writing in a "folk style" (insert your own definition here!). Now, in 2006, the evolution continues.    Life is different from the time when the only music available was homemade. While there are reasons to regret the passing of that time, we have to realize that evolution and changes in technology HAD to effect music, style and the oral tradition.   We can't "de-evolve". As soon as recordings, radio and entertainment changed the way we live, our traditions had to evolve as well.

Art, you made a very good point about missing the individuals who sang these folk songs - "people who sang the story songs that let us glimpse the life then---showed how we got from then to now."   The examples you gave are many of your peers, people whose music I respect and the music that is the cornerstone of my radio program as well as my musical education. I cherish this music and these individuals.

However, there are still people who may not always sing the same songs in the same style that you and your peers utilized, but they still sing the songs that let us glimpse the life then and who us how we get from then to now. They also share their vision of the future, a future that has a respect for tradition and continuing this style. Take a group like the Mammals. Their slogan is "trad is rad" and they mix traditional music with powerful contemporary songs that deal with issues in the same fashion that the Almanac Singers used to speak to their generation. A group like the Malvinas, who chose their name to honor Malvina Reynolds, operate in a similar style. The Duhks are turning on younger audiences to styles and sounds that are quite different from the contemporary pop tunes that seem to captivate the majority of their generation. Artists like Joe Jencks, John Flynn, SONiA, Chuck Brodsky and many others are carrying the torch once held by Woody Guthrie and Phil Ochs.   And lets not forget the pickers. Go to festivals like Old Songs and you will see them gathering in corners and fields - the music is still with us and will be for a long time to come.

There is hope for the future, but we can't expect it to resemble our past. From what I have seen, there is a tremendous respect for the older styles, but this generation realizes that the tradition truly evolves.   When Bob Gibson sang "Sweet Betsy From Pike", I am sure that there were old cowboys who complained about the way he sweetened the tune.   I remember hearing stories of Joe Heaney, the legendary sean-nos signer, complaining about "those f*#@ing guitars" - yet he would encourage his students to sing the songs that were true to their spirit.

I'm rambling and I apologize. I do feel that there is a place for all these varied styles in the "big tent" term FOLK MUSIC. We do not need to get so wrapped up in what we cal it, just continue to "call it!"


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 11:51 PM

Yes,

And from my perch, Judy is one of the good young ones. === Granted, I don't get out much to where I can hear what's happening these days. From a picking standpoint, I do know that young folks are doing old-timey music exceptionally well--and they are doing it all over the place. What I'm saying partly is that I miss the word loving folks. --- Individual songsters: Paul Clayton, Jack Elliott, Jim Ringer, Katy Lee, Sam Hinton, early Bob Gibson, Allan Mills--people who sang the story songs that let us glimpse the life then---showed how we got from then to now. When Judy Cook does those songs it's transporting. Debbie McClatchy too for her California and gold rush songs. Kendall Morse does it too. The Tom Rush Prestige albums. Woody. Glen Ohrlin. Ewan MacColl and Bert Lloyd. Jeanie Robertson, Sandy Paton. Pete's LP of ballads of New York state on Folkways. And also his American Industrial Ballads---also on Folkways. Trad historical songs of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania as sung by Vivian Richman.

These were ALL folksingers as I like to use the word. And it's the way I did the music too---I hope. ------------

It's late and I'm rambling.

Yes, I'm sure there are good pickers.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: number 6
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 10:10 PM

Art ... take a good look at what's out there! ... as mentioned in my previous thread there is exceptional music being made out there by younger artists who are not marketing their art via the big record companies, and whose art is important to them just as it was with the 'older generation'. I think it is rather unfair writing off these new artists.

"And often it is truly because they just didn't know what went down before."   .... again untrue, my nephew who is 25 years old can discuss the past greats with any of the older guys ... as are 2 younger musicians I had the please to meet last weekend, or others I have meant lately... and what is more imprortant is the fact that these young people are more ever appreciative of what we can teach them about the past ... and even more astonishing is they know some licks, songs from the past that I have learned from them.

sIx


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 09:39 PM

Ron, I know what you're saying has some merit. But the passing of time and the coming of a new generation intent on making their individualized mark (with big bucks corporate backing), can and often does, dumb things down to the extent that with our music, or with this war in Iraq and Afghanistan, hormone loaded guys and gals leap headlong in---sometimes with sad results. Folk music isn't life or death like war is, but it is still disheartening to watch things be diminished this way.

And often it is truly because they just didn't know what went down before. That's why I used" They know not what they do!" on this Easter night. --------- To extend the metaphor, I'm sure it was a rude awakening for uniformed children with rifles to endure the Iraqi realities.

Art


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 09:00 PM

... and the stuff that I like as well Dick. It is good music.

If I went into a restaurant that serves "food", I would be specific if I was ordering ala carte. I would not have a problem if the restaurant serves sushi and chili to the patrons. Both can fit on a single side of the menu. Food is food, folk is folk. If I order a plate of Richard Shindell or a plate of field recordings, I get what I want.

It is only a name and by having the others gather under the same umbrella does not diminish or dilute.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 07:17 PM

Ron-
Your plate is, undoubtedly, bigger and more varied than that of many of us. Whe going to order, though, I'd like to have some I'm going to get. If I'm in the mood for chili, I don't want to be served sushi. And if I'm in the mood for Judy Cook, or Art Thieme, I can do without Richard Shindell or Antje Duvekot.

If you're going to call commercial music "folk"--regardless of how good it may be--what are you going to call the stuff that Art likes? And I like?


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 07:03 PM

"However, PERFORMERS of this music can "sell out"...and do the instant they start altering their repertoire so it will bring in a larger audience and sell more tickets!"

You almost make that sound like a bad thing! It isn't!

To me, music is a like a huge buffet table. While I enjoy bread and like to make it at home, I prefer not to fill up on it when I am at a buffet. I will sample the foods that I like and always leave room for desert. If I have a preconceived notion about the taste of vegetables and skip them out of principle, I will miss out on something that is very good for me and really tastes good too! Naturally, I always save room for desert.

I agree with Art when he mentions Judy Cook singing "On The Banks Of The Little Eau Pleine". I enjoy being mesmerized by her singing and the haunting ballads. At the same time, I can also be mesmerized by Richard Shindell or Antje Duvekot. I would hate to have to choose between any of them. Make room on my plate!

By the way, are you going to finish those ribs???


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,Steven C. Barr
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 05:21 PM

Well, to begin with, DEFINE "folk music" as you use the term!

Currently, we have two (to me) separate genres that both can be called "folk music." Ask a musicologist, and he/she/it will tell you that the term refers to music which is inherent within a given culture as opposed to being written with commercial intent, This form of "folk music" travels among individuals through oral tradition, and has for decades or centuries (often the same songs!), This was the only form of secular music that was available to the common folk in the pre-literacy era. It is usually self-accompanied on the common intruments of a culture (for we "Anglo-Celtic" folk, that means guitar, banjo and similar stringed instruments). Note that it is popular for a commercial song to BECOME "folk music" (i.e. "You Are My Sunshine" or possibly "Happy Birthday"...) but, using this definition, the phrase "folk song writer" is an oxymoron! Although the folk songs of a culture were no doubt written by somebody way back when, no one has any idea who that someone was! Ironically, one group of songs that still fit this "ur-definition" are the "dirty songs" (I assume there still are such things?).

Now, in the last half-century or so, "folk music" has acquired a completely different definition! The phrase nowadays means (except to musicologists and picky cats like myself) songs which are played with minimal use of electric amplifiers, almost always self-accompanied, and MAY (or may not) include any of the traditional "folk songs" of the artists' own culture. Further, they are often inspired by, sound like, or both...these traditional "folk songs." Finally, their content tends toward "left-leaning" for a number of historic reasons. Thus, this definition (which I call "Big-F Folk") is used primarily to help record stores decide where to display the recordings! Note that while most of this material is NOT "folk music" in the traditional sense of that term (a genre I call "Small-f folk")...it is possible for it to become "folk music" in that sense, since it is usually easy to sing and play.

So, to return to the question at hand..."Folk Music" (in the "big-F" sense) sells out by its basic existence. As soon as a song is written with the intent of its becoming profitable (thus "selling") it becomes part of a potential business transaction. On the other hand, "folk music" (in the "small-f" sense) isn't capable of selling out...or, for that matter, selling or being sold. It is the music we learn from our social environment...stuff that "everybody" sings, or plays if capable. However, PERFORMERS of this music can "sell out"...and do the instant they start altering their repertoire so it will bring in a larger audience and sell more tickets!

...stevenc


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 11:55 AM

I'm listening to a CD by Judy Cook right now. It sure is grand, and rare these days, to hear someone who knows and sings folk songs. Judy can rest assured that she has nothing at all to do with the sad title of this thread. She is doing the exact opposite. Judy is "buying into" folk music. I am heartened by her endeavors.

Listen to her sing W. N. Allen's century-old, vivid, and mesmerizing Wisconsin lumberwoods ballad titled "On The Banks Of The Little Eau Pleine" --- Even now, in 2006, the process continues forward for all intent on finding it to hear when, the cream, it rises!!

Sincerely,

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 02:06 AM

After reading all of the above, I've come up with an entirely new "What Is Folk" definition ~ one good enough, at least, for my own purposes:

If the people of a given community share knowledge of a song and can sing along, it's folk music ~ at least for those folk. In the world I live in, this would include Beatles songs and rock 'n' roll "golden oldies" as well as stuff like "Li'l Liza Jane" and "Down By the Riverside"; in your social circle, an entirely different set of songs might comprise your shared tradition.

If a song is newly written, and performed for a silently listening audience, it ain't folk because it is not part of anyone's tradition ~ at least not yet. If such a song catches on, either locally and/or "underground" via word-of-mouth, or in the context of a wider commercial world, it may eventually become part of some community's "folk" tradition.

I think the above distinction is more pertinent than whether the intrumentaiton is acoustic or electric, whether the subject matter is introspective or narrative, or anything else.

Now, as to the argument whether the current musical product of Nashville's Music Row is anywhere near as good as it once was ~ that's just a matter of individual taste. I agree that most of it is pretty distasteful, and therefore don't listen to it.

What I do listen to, almost exclusively, is New Orleans music: jazz, pop-standards, and R&B (real rhythm and blues, that is, not "contemporary urban" sythesizer pop). Our brass bands, for example, share a "traditional" repertoire with which every good player is familiar, which is necessary because individual musicians must be able to play in various different combinations on short notice. Much of the material is indeed "traditional" is the sense of being time-tested, even ancient, but some of the songs and tunes that have become part of this canon are of recent origin. Such new compositions (e.g., Rebirth's "Do Whatcha Wanna") seem to become "traditional" by consensus, just because everyone likes them and enjoys playing them. I'm sure that the same process applies within other traditions, including the acoustic-string-instrument-plus-vocal genre that most of us call "folk music."


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme again...
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 09:30 PM

Well, I know what I like, and it is folk music.

I dislike so much of what you have made room for that all I can figure is that, like someone of old said, "You know not what you do."

I truly hope that your maturing years, as they majestically pass, allows some few of you to glean the obvious, to me, nuances and differences.

Happy Easter !

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: melodeonboy
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 08:32 PM

Grab: you made an interesting comment about "people singing in their own voices".

I sometimes wonder whether some British singers are actually aware of what their voices are to start with. A number of them appear to sing in some sort of poppy (no, not the heroin one!), sub-American, "performance" style; (not actually being sure what it is, that's about the best name I can put to it.)

I do at least understand it when it's done for effect with music of American origin (even I would find "Mannish Boy" sung in a Terry Thomas accent a bit hard to take!), but I think it sounds naff when it's done for traditional British stuff.

Is this phenomenon in any way related to the fact that - apart from songs or artists that are seen as "novelty", e.g. Ian Dury, Squeeze, "Parklife" by Blur - British people singing in their own voices don't usually make much money?


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Peace
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 04:27 PM

Sorry, Scoville. I just read your post--don't know how I missed it to begin with. YES to what you said.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Peace
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 04:22 PM

All too often it's a damned if ya do/damned if ya don't situation. I don't really understand what the term 'selling out' means. Or what that has to do with music (of any sort).

In some ways what is implied in the questiuon is that if no one hears you then yer a serious musician; when you develop a following you are catering to the whims of the great unwashed; and if yer unfortunate enough to pen/perform a million seller then you've 'sold out'. Reminds me of hearing "Amazing Grace" by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. It sold millions. Did they sell out a trad song? If so, may the rest of us have the formula? Because they sure made that little number a world-wide hit and damn it was great to hear. I usta play it with the hi-fi (stereo ?) at ten and let it rip. Still brings a tear to my eyes.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Grab
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 04:11 PM

When all folk music sounds alike, then you'll know people have sold out. If everyone adopts mock-Oirish accents, or imitates the nasal drone of the Watersons, or some generic Midwest burr - and that's all that people will buy or play on the radio - then we're doomed.

So long as people are still singing in their own voices, and people are still going to listen to them and buying their CDs, then we're probably OK...

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Buzzer65
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 02:52 PM

Hey Folkies!! Lets get our heads out of our "asses" and stop the name dropping. I've been going to clubs and festivals for 48 years and have always found the singaround sessions to be reflective of the best in folk song. Ordinary people singing songs that make you laugh or make you sad; but usually songs which are written about the life and times of ordinary folk. Its not about selling records. Its about leaving a record of events for others to learn and pass on in song.
To me, folk is history in song! Songs about injustice and the struggle against it. Songs which lampoon political leaders. Songs that record great moments in history.
Ah! I hear you say "He's another sandal wearing traditionlist". Far from it! In my view the best folk songs are about whats going on now in the world and there are plenty of contemporary folk song writers to choose from----Now I'm going to have to name drop!!   Leon Rosselson, Si Khan, Roy Bailey, Mike Harding and my recent discovery Red Wedding! There now I've done it. Hope no one is offended.
Cheers Dan Kelly


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Scoville
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 04:15 PM

Amen, Ron.

I always thought this was a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation--if you do too well at it, everyone says you've sold out. If you DON'T do well, you can't make a living (if that's what you want to do--and I don't see why there's anything wrong with that). A lot of the people I've seen named here as Non Sell-Outs are professional musicians, not coal miners, waitresses, and truckers singing on the side the way Dock Boggs and Hazel Dickens were for so long (if you consider them "real" folk singers).

I listen to "classic country" in the car in the mornings and evenings and it has its share of saccharine garbage, but it doesn't take long to be able to tell which artists are which--nobody else sounds like Tanya Tucker or Dwight Yoakam. Whether or not you consider them sell-outs, they are certainly distinctive and very different from what is playing currently. I don't do modern country. I know there are good songs in with the rest of them, I just don't want that much pop sound with my twang.

I don't really think folk music has sold out, I just think that what could still be considered folk music flies under the radar, as it always has. I guess a lot of it depends on what you consider folk music but I really don't want to start that up again here. I think it HAS to be progressive.

I just went to see Paul Geremia (who is blues, but, eh--near enough), who has definitely not sold out. He still does the old stuff and he's learned some new stuff and he's written some new stuff, a lot of it political or at least topical. He knows a lot about what he's playing and from what it is descended, and he's old enough that he knew some of the "real" folk and blues musicians in their later years. I don't think writing your own songs boots you out of the folk category--all of them were "written" by somebody at some point, even if it's been lost to history.

As to being the "real thing". I think it just goes in circles. I played in a string band in college (fewer than 10 years ago) and we played old stuff and new stuff and new stuff that sounded old, and I don't care what anyone says--it was all folk music. The town did a charity bluegrass concert twice a year and that was all folk music, too. Semi-professional, semi-local talent. A lot of them did covers of new songs in arrangements that were entirely their own (somebody did a cover of "Delta Dawn" that was way better than the original). They were good bands, not hacks, but they had a good time and they really loved what they were doing.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Stephen L. Rich
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 03:23 PM

Ron,
you are quite right about the good done by Folk Alliance. It does, indeed, perpetuate and encourage festivals and venues. My comment about the meat market does not diminish or deny that. Folk Alliance is both enabler of venues AND a meat market. One does not negate the other. Each make the other possible.

Stephen Lee


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Janice in NJ
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 02:20 PM

I take "selling out" to mean betraying one's fundamental principles for money, fame, power, social position, or other material advantage. By that definition, some living folk musicians who have never sold out include Dar Williams, Pat Humphries, Sandy Opatow, Jay Mankita, Utah Phillips, Bernice Reagon, Holly Near, Jean Ritchie, Ronnie Gilbert, Odetta, and, of course, Pete Seeger. I will also include Joan Baez. but I know many will disagree.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,M.Ted
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 12:54 PM

Folk music is music that people create to amuse themselves. And people never really "create" anything, they really borrow from here and there and mold it to fit the moment. The "selling out" process really is just molding the music to amuse a lot more people, and fit a lot more moments.

The thing is, at that point, you've made a choice to stop having a good time, and to concentrate on making other people have a good time. More profitable, but less interesting.


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Subject: Adrienne Young
From: dulcimer42
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 12:23 PM

Read your message about Adrienne Young and went to her website. There are mp3 files you can listen to exerpts from. I was impressed! I just might have to purchase one of her CDs.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: number 6
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 11:46 AM

I'm with you Ron .... Very well said Clairerise ... very well said indeed.

And Ron ... thanks for mentioning Anais Mitchell. That's what I want to see (more of) here in the Mudcat ... leads to new artists, and also as someone mentioned, new music by the old. ... This is what I came to the Mudcat in the first place ... sharing of my love of music.

People shouldn't feel intimidated by the fact that know one might not like what they want to share ... we all don't have the same taste, and that is good (as hilda fish stated), but we all have one thing in common and that is our love of music.... This is what I came to the Mudcat for in the first place ... my love of music.

There has been mention in this thread about Jed Marum. I wouldn't never have discovered him if it wasn't for the Cat.   

sIx


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 11:19 AM

Very well said Clairerise!   Too often I hear grumblings from the "folk elders" about young people not getting involved, yet at the same time they tend to close doors to anything that doesn't fit their ideas.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 11:17 AM

While I respect and agree (to an extent) with both Guest:Moondance and Don, you could take that logic another step and say that Folk music sold out when the first recording was made and when the first person shared a song with Cecil Sharp, John Lomax & crew.

Guests description of a party being diminished when someone in a group brings out a pop song speaks volumes about the people who attend that party. Gatherings are social situations and are unique to the people, geography and the time.   I've been to some brilliant parties where people sang nothing but old rock and roll tunes and had a ball doing so.

Times change and the oral tradition has changed. Technology and advances have changed the way songs and stories will be shared in future generations.

I also have to disagee with a couple of points that Stephen made. The Folk Alliance may appear to be a "meat market", but I honestly believe it is largely responsible for creating and perpetuating all the venues and festivals and gatherings that Stephen spoke of. The Folk Alliance has allowed peers to share knowledge and opportunity. The showcasing that goes on there is just a portion of the activities. It may not work for everyone but I think it is an important alliance that helps keep the music out there.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: clairerise
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 11:13 AM

I think the biggest danger is when i have seen young people (like myself) come to folk nights and when i sometimes play things which are a tad modern/alternative-folk i have recieved bad reception.

folk should be progressive i think. not stuck in historical mire. i love it when someone comes up with a new folk sound.

i know i posted the question is folk selling out? i don't think it is. but i think the only danger of selling out is not supporting new/fresh talent with a different quirk on folk.


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