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So what is *Traditional* Folk Music?

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Subject: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 12 Oct 06 - 09:39 PM

I am probably being very naive in creating this thread but from talking to many of my folkie friends I am still confused about what many call "Traditional" folk music.

What exactly is meant by " Traditional " ?

The dictionary says this is the passing and handing down of an established practice or custom.

So it means feeding off and replicating the past. Or does it ?

Does it just mean then that all we can do is unlock and replicate past occurances and forever stay locked in a sort of time warp and never dare to stamp our presence on the present and the future?

I know this is all starting to sound a bit philisophical but please bear with me.

There are many examples of song writers today that write songs that sound kind of traditional ( often with reference to maidens, being at sea, down the mines, farming, protest songs etc etc )

But what about this century? The time we are in now.
If we don't write songs about this age what will our ancestors learn about how we lived now ?

You can't be fixated by the past. We have to move on.

The challenge therefore is to invite much more creativity in todays folk music not to try to copy the ghosts of the past but to express our hopes and observations of the future.

Todays young and up and coming artists are confused about what they are supposed to do. Let's help them by saying just do your own thing.

Because todays observations will become history and will become the new traditions of the future.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Rabbi-Sol
Date: 12 Oct 06 - 09:51 PM

I agree with you but tell them to go easy on the drums and lower the amplifiers.
                                                 SOL


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 12 Oct 06 - 09:57 PM

G'day Soldier boy,

Not creating / singing songs about right now ... is certainly not traditional.

Regards,

Bob


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 12 Oct 06 - 09:59 PM

The traditions of today are the legacy of the past, as mediated by both change, continuity, and deliberate re-invention.

The traditions of tomorrow may in the same way be the legacy of today and the past that has led up to it; we won't know, though, until it happens.

Our ancestors are mostly dead, and unlikely to be in a position to learn much from us. Our descendants, on the other hand, may inherit some sort of tradition from us. It will depend on whether or not we leave them anything worth having.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 12 Oct 06 - 10:05 PM

Because todays observations will become history and will become the new traditions of the future.

Yes, but which obeservations expressed in songs will carry on and be part of future traditions?

Personaly I doubt that much of what I suppose is described as "contemporary folk song" will do.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,memyself
Date: 12 Oct 06 - 10:08 PM

Soldier Boy, did you have a question, or did you want to correct our attitudes, or what?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 12 Oct 06 - 11:21 PM

There are many great songs that are traditional. To me traditional means that the songs have no verifiable author.

How we interpret songs is important and how songs touch us (emotionally) is important.

Just because something is not new doesn't mean it's not of value.

Richie


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Oct 06 - 11:52 PM

when I asked musical traditions magazine, how they defined traditional music, I got a strange answer,plus the usual abuse from guests.
There are obviously some very old ballads that qualify,[but somebody must have composed them ] is it a question with tunes, of modes they are written in, i,m notsure.
If you google musical traditions you will find it a very infomative and interesting read,.
Although I dont agree with the editors exclusion of the folk revival, to me tradional music is a continuous stream, that has to include the Folk revival,and may in the future include present day composed songs. Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 12:27 AM

Dick, you have noticed that Soldier boy did not refer to the Musical Traditions magazine now, right? :-) So pls leave any moans about it alone, they don't answer Sb's question.

Malcolm's answer is the bets, I subscribe to that. Jon, agreed that not "much" of today's writing efforts will pass into the tradition of the future. But some undoubtedly will - if only we could pinpoint it, we'd get rich! But then, the percentage of the past's efforts that remained as tradition is probably similar anyway; we have no way of knowing really.

Richie, while the "no verifiable author" is part of the current definition of traditional, I think it's starting to creak as recording technology catches up and with it memories get longer - nowadays we do know the authors of several older-than-100-year-old songs, for example, while in the past a song could be termed "traditional" within a couple of generations (except it wasn't of course, it was just "old"; "traditional" I think came into use more recently, and probably after the term "folk" was coined, to differentiate from newer burblings). But I agree that "Just because something is not new doesn't mean it's not of value" - and also the reverse.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: open mike
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 12:54 AM

written by that famous song writer from long ago "Trad."


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Rowan
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 01:55 AM

Don't forget Trad. had a mate called "Anon."

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Scrump
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 03:05 AM

Just because something is not new doesn't mean it's not of value

Agreed, and likewise just because something is new doesn't mean it's not of value.

And another interpretation of "traditional" is "out of copyright" ;-)


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 03:46 AM

traditional

the word comes from the Latin - traditio - I hand over

In England it means, we all sing the songs Martin Carthy and The Watersons handed over to us, and the tunes of Ashley Hutchings.

If you parents handed over some different traditions, you're basically up shit creek and on a collision course with how things are.......


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,chris
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 04:19 AM

It has been suggested that not too many of 'todays' songs will become part of the tradition.I don't profess to have an answer to that question, but I do wonder how many songs from 'history' didn't survive the 'traditional process'. How many songs/tunes died on the way to present times. Given that we have better information storing techniques today I wonder if more songs, that in the past would have died a natural death, will survive beyond their 'sell by' date. May be the 'tradition' was a filtering process.
chris


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 04:21 AM

Curiously I was about to refer to some of the articles from mustrad....


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Another GUEST (ok - the same as the other on
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 04:34 AM

so was I


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 04:43 AM

What I said was I doubt that much of what I suppose is described as "contemporary folk song" will do. The "contemporary folk song" part seems to be getting ommitted. I suspect for example that pop songs, eg. some Beatles ones will be better represented. Whatever, I don't think wrting a song and declaring it is a "folk song" is going to make a blind bit of difference.

It all seems a jumble to me... But we have songs, eg. Shoals Of Herring, Fiddler's Greem etc. written in a "folk style" that already sort of passed into the "folk tradition" and I'd guess would be safe as long as there are people around with an interest in "traditional" songs.

On the other hand, there is material which to me has no obvious connectiom to traditional folk music and I feel less sure about much of that passing through. It neither seems to "win" for me by appealing to the "traditional route" or by "mass popularity".

I suppose the 20th C changed things for ever but here is a question: If we somehow lost our technology now so that we couldn't record or play back music. Which songs of the 20th C do you see being found in the oral tradition in 100 years time?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 04:47 AM

You're right on the money there Soldier boy. Sure, preserve the past and learn from it but move on. Those songs were about then. We are in the here and now and need to be writing a whole new bunch of songs to inform the generations to come of the times we live in. Some folks get stuck in a time warp. They feel comfortable where they are and in some cases threatened by something new. Some folks enjoy singing the old songs, that's fine by me, I enjoy listening to them but I prefer to listen to and spend my dollars on contemporary writers of folk song. This can include modern songs about about the old days. I was in the UK some ten or twelve years ago in the county of Durham and had the pleasure of hearing two such writers perform in a small hall out in the sticks. I still play their songs after all this time. One was called John Thorpe and the other was Michael Kelly and the recording is called Tales of Derwentdale. I don't know if anyone out there knows them or if they have any other recordings but I'd sure like to find out. Anyways, that's my 2 cents worth.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 05:13 AM

get the Waterson/Carthy albums, it'll save time.

There was a song called Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep by the Middle of the Road, but it turned out to be be a variant of Brigg Fair.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Singing Referee
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 05:13 AM

Guest,Jon seemed a bit scathing of contemporary song writers when he said:

"Yes, but which obeservations expressed in songs will carry on and be part of future traditions?

Personaly I doubt that much of what I suppose is described as "contemporary folk song" will do."

Can't possibly agree with that! There must have been hundreds of songs composed and performed at the same time and by the same authors as those we now consider "Tradtional" classics, which didn't survive the test of time. What we now have left are those that were good enough to do so. Becasue we are in the "Now" we experience both the great, good, not so good, and downright awful of contemporary song, but the very best of these have just as much to say about people and like today as did those of 100 to 500 years ago. I'm therefore convinced that these will live on to form part of "Tradition" for generations to follow.

Guest,Richie says

"To me traditional means that the songs have no verifiable author.
"

That's really just a symptom of the difference in levels of education, literacy and most importantly, communications media that existed then amd now. The fact that we now live in an age of global communication means that contemporary songs and knowledge of their autors are easily and rapidly communicated across distances and communities that would previously have taken generation to penetrate. Once again I see no reason why the best of these will not survive the test of time and enter "The Tradition". Just because they may still exist in their original (recorded) form will make them no less relevent as a window back to today from the future. Just as musical presentation has changed over the generations and we now have little issue with "traditional" artists accompanying themselves on guitar and other instruments unheard of (or at least scarce) when the songs were composed, I'd expect today's songs to be reinterpreted by later performers to suit what will then be contemporary taste. That's what I believe the folk process is all about!

IMHO


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 05:16 AM

There must have been hundreds of songs composed and performed at the same time and by the same authors as those we now consider "Tradtional" classics, which didn't survive the test of time

I'm sure that is true.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Singing Referee
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 05:20 AM

Hi Guest,Jon

I should have read the rest the thread before ploughing in!

I see you, later made a similar qualification and also touched on my second point, even before your last post.

Do we agree to differ, or differ to agree?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 05:22 AM

Let's see what else crops up :-) I feel sure this thread will produce many differing and some quite strong opinions...


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Scrump
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 05:30 AM

"Which songs of the 20th C do you see being found in the oral tradition in 100 years time?"

Interesting question. If as you say, we weren't able to record songs (which was how things were until the late 19th/early 20th century), which songs would survive the "filtering" process (mentioned above by Guest chris) and be on people's lips in the future? Would it just be stuff like the Beatles' songs, which just about everybody knows, or maybe 'songs from the shows' (Broadway musicals and the like) - or would it include any of the very good but not perhaps so widely known songs being written today by some of the excellent writers we here know, but the public at large doesn't?

GUEST 13 Oct 06 - 04:47 AM has some sensible things to say too, that I largely agree with. The people who composed the old songs we still sing today were just singing about the way things were then, about things that affected their lives, with no conscious attempts to preserve anything. I think any such attempts will end in failure. Yes, some writers still living today have written songs about times before they were alive, and that's fine, but what future generations will also want to hear are songs about the way things are now, so although such songs might not be 'traditional' now, they could be in the centuries to come.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 05:39 AM

Weelittledrummer, I had to smile there - that was your second reference to Carthy & Co, so I guess there must be a weelittlebee buzzing in that bonnet of yours about them. As near as I can make it, and please correct me if I have the wrong end of the stick, I think you infer that only songs recorded and passed on by Waterson/Carthy etc (let's call them The Establishment if you like) will be preserved, and the rest will disappear... "up shit creek and on a collission course with how things are" as you put it, helped by the fact that those that get the media attention get passed around the most.

I don't agree with this for several reasons. Yes, songs passed on by the Establishment might make it to the mainstream of trad folk and be remembered by most. But this does not mean that other songs will be necessarily forgotten, they just will be remembered by fewer people, let's say.

But even that last sentence of mine might not hold true; fans of trad folk always have an ear for a "new" (as in "rare", not newly written) song, and they pass it on. This effect will help spread the lesser-known songs, as it has done for decades (and centuries? - how about the Jone O'Grinfilt song claiming several parents hundreds of miles from each other today). I can certainly imagine song collectors 50-100 years from now jumping with glee every time they "discover" a non-Establishment trad song; like Fiddlers Green or Dave Webber's songs, for example.

I hold that the folk process of handing on and collecting is a lot more complex, sophisticated and pervasive than we give it credit for, for all that it is not as organised as the media establishment. It is this very lack of organisation and formality that gives it its vitality.

And finally, your comment about there being a "collision course" infers some sort of competition; as if a listener can only hold so many good tunes in preference, and the media establishment is bound to fill this up leaving no room for others. No way, mate - no matter how many good songs I have heard there is always room for more, and I don't believe I am any different to everyone else in that. There may be competition for the dough, the lolly, the purse, but that is commercialism for you, whose influence on the attention of audiences is negative for folk music in general, I grant you. But once someone is a traditional folk music fan, he/she is not limited to only what the commercial music establishment has to offer.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 05:41 AM

"But what about this century? The time we are in now.
If we don't write songs about this age what will our ancestors learn about how we lived now ?"

I don't normally turn to traditional songs to learn about how my ancestors lived - they tend not to be very useful sources of information (although they may occasionally illuminate the historical record).

"You can't be fixated by the past. We have to move on."

I feel fairly relaxed about being 'fixated on the past' - especially as a large majority of people in our culture seem to be fixated on ignoring or rejecting the past.
Previous attempts at updating traditional music seem to have consisted of turning it into rock music - and, as I have said previously, we've got far too much rock music in our culture as it is.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 05:57 AM

GUEST, Shimrod said "I feel fairly relaxed about being 'fixated on the past' - especially as a large majority of people in our culture seem to be fixated on ignoring or rejecting the past.
".

I am 100% with you on this, and we have next door a good example of what happens when a large majority is fixated on rejecting the past: The Netherlands. I lived there for 7 years and was seriously disappointed at the dearth of traditional songs or even tunes. This can only be partly attributed to the country's puritan past; the greatest factor is the inbuilt attitude that the Dutch have that new is best and old is worn out and irrelevant, fed by their general outward outlook in life (inquisitive explorers, successful traders with far away places, and only a tiny country of their own).

The only songs left there seem to be sea shanties, many of them translations of English ones (understandable as there often were mixed crews). And up in Friesland they are busy writing new songs in the tradition now, again mostly about the sea (Nanne Kalma has written some crackers and has been awarded the country's highest honour for this, equivalent to a knighthood). But songs about farming, hunting or fighting - none left. It's not as if they didn't have their fair share of wars...

Just to the south, the Flemish have done a slightly better job of preserving their traditional songs (the Antwerp Song Book of 1645 has some real beauties); and I argue that this is because of their more inward-looking approach to life that places more value on the old and on the past.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 06:02 AM

Once is happenstance, twice is co-incidence, three times running - it's TRADITION!!

LTS


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Big Mick
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 07:10 AM

Notice that none of the forum old timers are getting in this conversation? ***LOL*** We have had this conversation a lot of times, it always disintegrates into an argument about singer songwriters being folksingers i.e. do your own thing, and has a zillion posts.

Songs being written in this century, specifically in the last 20 years cannot be TRADITIONAL songs. Nor can they be folk songs. What they can be are songs sung/written in a folk style.   Singers who sing in a folk style, such as myself and George P and all the others here, may perform in a folk style. We may sing and play TRADITIONAL folk music in addition to contemporary folk style music.

As to what songs will become TRADITIONAL folk songs from today, I doubt that any of them will. Things like the internet, and the way we catalogue and document, have made the TRAD or ANON labels obsolete. It seems to me that we have moved to the point now of simply writing good songs in the folk style. TRADITIONAL folk songs, like Chanties, will become quantifiable and the discoveries of found ones in old archives by collectors like Dan Milner will be a big thing.

I agree with the sentiment that we should simply encourage singers to find their voice and write folk style songs in the TRADITIONAL style. We should also encourage and introduce young singers to the marvellous old TRADITIONAL songs. When we do this, they see the correlation and relevance of this music to today. And they will write songs relevant to what is going on now. This is the folk process at its best.

Mick


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,chris
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 07:10 AM

I don't know about 'moving on' this seems to imply that we leave things behind and forget them. I think what we should be doing is 'continuing on'. There is no break, just a different bit of the timeline.
chris


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 08:03 AM

my earlier point exactly, chris.
traditional music is like a flowing stream.it is in continuous motion, an uninterrupted connection. Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Big Mick
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 08:11 AM

Sounds great, Dick. What does it mean? Same could be said for any kind of music. Please read the title of the thread. TRADITIONAL is capitalized. The question is what makes it TRADITIONAL as opposed to music in the folk style. Comments that say "like a flowing stream" make good lyrics, but do nothing to answer the question. Why isn't a song you have written in the folk style considered TRADITONAL? Answer that and you answer the question.

Mick


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 08:14 AM

Hey, Mick:

I usually don't get into these discussions because as you point out, they are endless and unresolveable. One of the assumptions of many people is that if it isn't "traditional" it ain't folk. Not only does the person or persons who formed the song have to be dead, it has to have been long enough ago that nobody remembers who they were.
That's not very comforting. I wonder if in the 1800's, when someone made up a song about logging, if the other lumberjacks sitting around the campfire said, "Stop singing that new-fangled garbage, That's not folk music! You're not even dead yet!!!" Not that they even knew the term.

I don't see other folk arts being so restrictive. No one says, "That isn't a folk quilt because you're still alive."
Tradition never ends. That's the whole thing about traditions: they are carried on. To me, the issue isn't whether a recently written song will be remembered one hundred years from now. If being remembered a hundred or two hundred years later is the criteria, there are many popular songs that have lasted over 100 years. Tradition, to me means something that is carrying on the tradition, and folk music isn't just the Music Of The Dead And Forgotten. I love tradtional music, and enjoy more recently written folk songs that reflect, honor and carry on that tradition.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 08:15 AM

Agreed with the analogy, Dick, except for one thing: The nature of time means that we can only ever look upstream and make guesses about downstream. So there is an artificial "barrier" around "today" or "as far as we can see from here", at any one time. That barrier, artificial though it is, affects how people think of the stream. For example, for some people "traditional"= "the part of the stream we cannot see from here", and it may hold for them greater allure (or not, depending on tastes). For others, the reverse is true.

Me, I am grateful for whatever comes my way.

(God, but I am in a very metaphysical mood. Do I exist? Pinch me, quick!)


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Big Mick
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 08:29 AM

I agree with that, Jerry, which is why I made the comment about just encouraging young folks to learn the old songs, and write the new songs. I was not saying that one has to be dead, or the author unknown.

The thread title isn't esoteric. It is asking a clear question. In true Mudcat form, indeed true folk form, the conversation is veering from what was asked to what folks want it to say. The thread didn't ask me what my opinion is on young folk performers, or my opinion on what folk music I like, or if I think I am a folk singer. It asked, very specifically, what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music. It is my opinion that all the 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music has been written. Same as all the 'TRADITIONAL' shanties have been written. That isn't to say that others won't write new songs in the style of shanties, that will be sung in the traditional style. Same with 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music. I don't think we are going to find many more Frank Proffit's singing songs previously unknown on a mountain cabin porch. That isn't to say that the "flowing stream" won't go on. That doesn't mean that new folk singers won't find new ways to interpret the music. That doesn't mean that new songwriters won't write in the style. It just means that the era of 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music is over. We don't discover songs or mountain singers, or little known musical communities anymore.

I hope I am making the distinction properly here.

Mick


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,chris
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 08:43 AM

'But what about this century? The time we are in now.
If we don't write songs about this age what will our ancestors learn about how we lived now ?'(from Soldier boys original post)I'm not sure that songs necessarily ever say how we 'lived' I think they are often more to do with how we felt.
what date did music become 'TRADITIONAL'if the era is now over.
chris


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Big Mick
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 09:04 AM

Chris, one isn't exclusive of the other. At some point in the future, the protest music of the 60's will get study and some singer in the future will sing those songs. But they will never be considered TRADITIONAL in the same context as the songs that were collected from unknown singers of the past in remote areas. That does not mean they aren't valid. Of course the process goes on. Of course the music is a valid look at the times. But it isn't TRADITIONAL in the same sense. It is folk style music, it is historical, and it has a known source. One great example exists right here on this forum, in fact, in this thread. George Papavgeris is a great folk style singer and songwriter. His songs will long outlive him, and provide a specific view of the times. But they will never be considered 'TRADITIONAL', but may be considered in the traditional style.

The era I refer to, is the era of songs whose root cannot be determined with certainty in any way other than generally i.e. Irish, Appalachian etc, hence they are TRADITIONAL and many times the author is ANON. That is the predicate this thread was established on. Because our world is now information based, with places like this where we parse every bit of information, the 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music has become quantifiable. I don't see any major new discoveries coming down the pike. That is not to say that there aren't exciting new folk styles emerging. There are. Music and song is more important now than ever. The issues move so quickly, and the potential cost so dear, that our jobs as the bards of the modern era is more critical than ever.

Mick


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 09:05 AM

Qualifiers get added to terms when the terms start to blur distinctions that the uers of the terms think are important.

So folk music is now a genus
and traditional is the species.

"Traditional folk music" now means what "folk music" used to mean.

Once upon a time "folk" music was the music of the "folk," non-professional musicians who were part of a tradition in which music was passed on orally and aurally.

However, "folk music" now includes professional musicians who are not and never were part of such an aural/oral musical tradition and/or whose repertoire includes no material from such a tradition.

I personally don't have a problem with the meanings of words changing. It happens. Can't be stopped.

But if the meaning of a word changes significantly, you either stop using it or qualify it.
Thus "traditional folk music."

By the way, I personally use the term "folk music" only as a conversation stopper.

When people ask me what sort of music I do, if I don't want to begin an extended conversation, I reply "Folk music."

That usually elicts a a weak smile, a "that's nice," and an immediate change of topic.

Russ (Permanent GUEST)


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 09:39 AM

I think ythat the most ridiculous aspect of this type of discussion is the idea of "The Tradition" (singular) as if there were only one.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: r.padgett
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 10:02 AM

I couldn't care less anymore

Sing/play it and be damned!!

Ray


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 10:31 AM

I agree with Ray. It really isn´t important and I don´t see pop or classical music agonising over definitions. And I suspect, like one or two others on this thread I have spent a number of evenings after a folk club earnestly and fruitlessly discussing the topic over a cup of cocoa.

Now I just have the cocoa.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 10:32 AM

" I don't think we are going to find many more Frank Proffit's singing songs previously unknown on a mountain cabin porch. That isn't to say that the "flowing stream" won't go on. That doesn't mean that new folk singers won't find new ways to interpret the music. That doesn't mean that new songwriters won't write in the style. It just means that the era of 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music is over. "

I don't think it is necessarily "over", it has just evolved.   The songs that collectors were gathering from people like Frank Proffit may have been unkown outside of Proffit's home and perhaps community. The Warners collected Tom Dooley in 1938 - a song about a man who was hung in 1868. That song was written at some point in the 70 year gap. IF the technology existed, we would probably have a clearer picture on the origin of that song as well as others that we now consider "traditinal".

My point is that just collectors gathered songs and variations - using the tools that they had available - usually memories of people who sang the song. In 2006, the mode of transportation for songs are decidedly different. You could not make an audio recording of "Tom Dooley" in 1868 and the song was transmitted orally.   If someone were to write a song about Tom Dooley today, we would probably have a recording, a website to refer to, sheet music, and copyrights for the writer.    The "tradition" has evolved, it is not dead.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 10:44 AM

however on friday oct 13 2006, we can say that at this moment in time.the cruel brother, the highwayman outwitted,Dives and lazarus,
lord thomas and fair elinor and most of the child ballads are considered traditional,
but JUMPING jACK flash.hit me with your rhythm stick,ha ha they are coming to take me away,are generally considered not.
now it cant just be the modes these tunes are in,becauseflamenco [ generally considerd traditional]is in the same mode as heavy rock [ the phrygian mode],heavy rock is not generally considered traditional.
excuse me for stating the obvious, but it is necessary to work out what is not traditional and put it to one side to come near the answer. what we are trying to ascertain is what is considered traditional on friday oct13 2006, not what might be traditional in 200 years time.Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 10:49 AM

"excuse me for stating the obvious, but it is necessary to work out what is not traditional and put it to one side to come near the answer. what we are trying to ascertain is what is considered traditional on friday oct13 2006, not what might be traditional in 200 years time."

Well, if the word "traditional" is causing such a problem, how about calling them "golden oldies" instead??????   "greatest hits"???

I think we go way overboard when we try to catagorize and put everything in boxes.   Songs should not be left in museums, they should be enjoyed.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 10:51 AM

hello RAY PADGETT how are all the barnsley lads and Johnny Booker, I agree with you I too sing what I like, as did fRED JORDAN. Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Big Mick
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 10:57 AM

Ron, you make my point, but I don't think you meant to. I think the confusion comes from not differentiating between "the tradition" and 'TRADITIONAL' music. I am a complete advocate of carrying on the tradition, and my delivery, most of the time, is a traditional styled delivery. But the thread is about 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music. Look carefully at the title.   This is why these threads always descend into chaos. Folks don't make the appropriate distinctions. Dick's original songs can never be considered 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music, although he sings and writes in the tradition. Given the state of information gathering, cataloguing, and records keeping, we will always know where it came from, we will always know the context it was written in. Another example would be the music/poetry of Robert Burns. It isn't traditional, but traditional singers perform it. But the songs collected from folks like Bess Cronin and Jeannie Robertson, passed down through the generations, author unknown, and reflective of the times they were written in, can be said to be 'TRADITIONAL' folk music. The Dublin and Belfast street songs, author unknown, sung by the children or by someone like Frank Harte, are 'TRADITIONAL' folk songs. They are finite, and as we evolve, they are quantifiable.

Mick


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 11:39 AM

Mick, the point I was trying to make is that "traditional" is almost a misnomer - perhaps "unknown" is more appropriate.   What I was trying to say is that we are calling these "traditional" because as you say they were passed down through generations and the author is unknown, but that is a reflection on the tools that were available to
"transmit" these songs.

Yes, I guess I did prove your point that "traditional" is dead in the respect that modern technology will enable us to better trace the authors of songs - sort of like how DNA enables us to identify human remains which could make it impossible to have unidentified bodies in the future.   

However, "traditional" is merely a label that is more of a reflection of "dead-ends" in our research.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Big Mick
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 11:43 AM

But I would readily agree that for all this discussion, which is interesting, no?, the real answer is to just sing the songs, tell the stories, and pass it on. I just dearly love helping people "see the movie in their mind" when I sing one of these great songs from tradition, or one of the marvelous songs of our modern folk writers. I heard Terry Gross interviewing Gladys Pip yesterday. I was nodding my head in agreement when Gladys said that she had to go there, when singing, in order to take the listener along. She was referring to knowing all about Paris when singing about it. She was referring to listening to the entire catalogue of the singers who she was honoring on her latest CD. Same way with the ballads and songs of tradition, and the songs of our modern writers. I always try to take the listener along. Whether it is my version of "Gypsy Davey", "The Death of Queen Jane", or one of Jed Marum's splendid songs like "The Banks of the Mobile" or "Con Este Beso", I try to live it and take the listener there with me.

Yeah, these discussions are interesting, even fun. But the meat of it is not to get all bogged down in it. Just sing the damn songs and play the music.

LOL.

Mick


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: M.Ted
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 06:04 PM

A lot of what passes for traditional music, hereabouts, at least, is really just "Folk Club Pop"--music that was created to suit the tastes of specific, contemporary audience. Perhaps "collected" songs are performed, and even in a style that is derived from a tradition--but they are no longer a part of that tradition--they really have become something new.

Wherever it comes from, however it gets to be what it is, performed music always speaks to an audience of the present--and it lasts only as long as people like hearing it--


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: NightWing
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 07:42 PM

One way to get an idea (an extremely rough idea) of what kind of proportion of modern music might be remembered 100 years in the future occurred to me.

Look at some of the on-line collections of sheet music. The ones that *I* have used most include:

The Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music, Milton S. Eisenhower Library, The Johns Hopkins University

Inventions of Note: Sheet Music Collection, Lewis Music Library, MIT

The Digital Sheet Music Collection at University Libraries, University of Colorado at Boulder

There are MANY others!

Look through the music in one of these and count the number of songs that you are familiar with compared with the number of songs you look at. I recall looking through the Levy Collection some time ago: the Collection returned about 500 results from the search that I had made; I had only ever heard or heard of ONE of the lyrics. (Interestingly enough, several dozen of the tunes were familiar ... with different lyrics.)

I suggest that doing this kind of count over a reasonably large selection of music from 100 years ago would give you a decent guess at the proportion of today's music that will survive 100 years.

Given that there are more of us today, I would assume that there are more songs coming out today. I would guess, however, that the proportions should be similar.

*shrug*

It's a thought.

BB,
NightWing


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 04:22 AM

while I dont have the time to include everything I think is traditional,here are some starters.
the collections of C sharp, BaringGould, Hammond brothers, Kidson,
The shanties in Stan Hugills collection, The Child Ballads.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: johnadams
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 05:22 AM

In the interesting discussions above there is a tendancy to talk about whether ot not the 'songs' are traditional. Surely you have to also consider the 'singing' as well.

For instance, over on the Musical Traditions thread, Dick Miles quoted a list of songs and song types that he identified as traditional or not. I had no particular opinion on any of it except I was promted to wonder when he quoted 'The Mistletoe Bough', giving an author, a date (1868 I think) and suggesting that it wasn't traditional. Fair enough, except that it is one of the songs that is 'traditionally' sung as part of the repertoire of the Blue Ball at Worrell (and other pubs) during the 'traditional' Sheffield Carols in UK every December. The singers don't know the author, probably think it's an older song and don't think too much about it anyway. They just have a 'tradition' of singing it and it has the ethos of 'traditional' even though it was composed (if nearly a century and a half ago).

So, in the light of this discussion, do YOU think it's a traditional song or not?

Johnny Adams


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 05:56 AM

Those of us who care to know already know the definition of "Folk music". If you want to look it can be found in my old posts and on MusTrad. That's what the definition is. A definition is a definition - for example the defition of an erg in physics, or a celsius heat unit.

So first do we need to define "traditional" folk music, or are we merely looking for a term to eliminate the confusion that is caused by those who don't like the definition of "folk" music and so use the term incorrectly?

Second, if we do, need to define it, has any authority previously defined it? I would need to go away and dig to be clearer on this, but my first reaction is "Probably no".

Third, if we are to define it, what do we want it to mean and are we in a position to assert a defnition. The answer to the second part of the question is probably "No", but if the (UK) Nats return they will need a defintion for they had and presumably will revive a competition annually for the best unaccompanied performance of a traditional folk song.

One obvious contender for the meaning of the word in context is "of unknown authorship", but that cannot be complete for it conveys no impression of antiquity. However, if a traditional song is of unknown authorship then its age must be unknown too, and I hesitate to insert a phrase lke "reasonably and generally believed to have been composed by an author not still living". Both however would admit at least in theory of there being accretions to the class of "traditional" folk songs and folk music. Conversely, if new research should establish the author of a piece then the piece might cease to be traditional.

The mere fact that some results of applying a definition lead to surprising results does not necessarily mean that the definition is bad. It may (without limitation) mean that a general assumption or interpretation is bad.

Examples might be the assertion (I do not know if it is correct or not, but it is often heard) that King Henry VIII wrote Greensleeves. If that is verifiable then on usual definitions Greensleeves is not traditional.

COnsider also the Cuddy Wren (or Cutty Wren). I have heard it asserted that it was published in written form in the C13th. That would (probably, depending on the view taken of its subsequent transmission) mean it was not a folk song.

Or should we abandon the word "traditional" and stick to the known definition of "folk song" and seek to educate the "horse music" theorists and fans of Bob Dylan and Paul Simon?

Or should we fix a limit? After all the dates before and after which a motor car is "veteran" "edwardian" "vintage" or "post-vintage thoroughbred" are all fixed, even if those ignorant of the truth in such respects abound. Should we say that a "traditional" song has to be older than 1900 (or maybe 1850, to lose most music-hall stuff) - and how would we know, if the author is unknown? Maybe we shold say "provable to be older than x, so taht ther ewould have to be a proof of existnece (perhpas in writing) before that date? But that would sit oddly with the idea that a folk song must be transmitted orally rather than in writing.

A vexing question!


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 06:26 AM

"COnsider also the Cuddy Wren (or Cutty Wren). I have heard it asserted that it was published in written form in the C13th. That would (probably, depending on the view taken of its subsequent transmission) mean it was not a folk song."

There's a common misconception embodied in this quote, ie. that if a song has a known author it can't be considered as 'traditional' - not so (this is romantic twaddle)! In fact a surprising number of 'traditional' songs have known authors. For example quite a number of English trad. songs are known to have had their origins in 17th or 18th century plays. Additionally there's lots of evidence that many songs had a broadside origin. Some of the broadside publishers may have just been printing songs from an earlier oral tradition but some songs were probably newly composed when they were first printed (hence must have had authors - albeit anonymous).

The point about 'traditional' songs is that they have largely been through a PROCESS involving oral transmission, selection and change. And, of course, since Cecil Sharp first came up with this 'evolutionary theory' of folk song it has been endlessly debated, debunked, modified and qualified - I'll leave you to find all the references and make up your own mind (please, though, avoid romantic - largely made up - twaddle).


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 06:35 AM

Richard, I beg to differ. You say "The mere fact that some results of applying a definition lead to surprising results does not necessarily mean that the definition is bad."

Actually, it does mean precisely that - the definition is ambiguous, and therefore does not "define", ergo it's useless. A definition in science bears only one interpretation. I appreciate that in law, an imprecise art, this may not be the case, and that's where lawyers come in to interpret.

And so all the various definitions you mention above are imperfect, and bear discussion, improvement or discarding. And the term f**k remains an arbitrary one (as it was indeed when it was coined), and so does the term tr@d1t10n@l (whose tradition, established when and transmitted how, relative to which moment in time etc etc). Both are open to interpretations, with no authority able to prove beyond doubt and discussion that their particular attempt to corral this herd of cats is the definitive one.

But that is fine by me. I feel no need to define the terms; and if in discussion my use of either term with respect to a particular song is challenged, so what. Vive la difference, I say.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 06:44 AM

Shimrod, I suggest you check the definitions that I did not bother setting out, because I thought serious contributors would know them. You can find them on MusTrad, and you can find them by checking my old posts, and I expect you can find them by googling intelligently... As far as I recollect Wikipedia has it wrong, but that is why I tell my students NOT to cite it as an academic source, it is not reviewed and it does contain errors (mostly Americo-centric).

George, that fact that a definition leads to a surprising result defnitely does not mean it is ambiguous. It that were its fault it would not lead to a result.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 06:53 AM

Yes your points are good, john.
In my opinion John it is not, any more than maccolls Sweet Thames Flow Softly, which doesn,t mean that I wouldnt sing either of them.
The sheffield singers also sing, While Shepherds Watched their flocks by night[ that is not traditional either]even if they have been singing it for Fifty years.
I also quoted the Child Ballads ,and the collection at CECIL SHARP HOUSE[ I find it hard to believe that you dont have any opinion on whether these are traditional].; especialLy with your EFDSS connections
There is no excuse for anyone in these days of computer technology [ it took me two minutes to ascertain the author of the mistletoe bough][[including the Sheffield singers ]]not to credit the author. both you and I JOHN as songwriters would like to be credited.for anything we have written.
Bob Hart [ tradional singer] used to sing What A FUNNY LIITLE PLACE TO HAVE ONE] in my opinion a music hall song, and an amusing song, but not a traditional song, even if it is sung by a singer who does have traditonal songs in his repertoire,and is regarded as a tradtional singer.
I feel particuarly strongly about music hall as I think it was partly responsible for the destruction of what CECIL SHARP regarded as traditional song.
    I find mus trad magazine,very good, it was particuarly therapeutic;;;;;;;;;;;;
to read something sensible last night[ after the Zog attack.]
I wish the magzazine every success for the future,and look forward to reading many more informative articles. Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,walkaboutsverse
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 07:03 AM

Traditional folk music is folk music that isn't contemporary - the other branch of folk music. Nor is it gobbledegook.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 07:35 AM

Sorry Richard, misunderstood the meaning as "surprising = different from other times". My interpretation was faulty! ;-)


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 10:27 AM

There is at least one important reason for these labels, though they make make make a any difference to some: If I, as a person with limited time and resources, wish to hear a performance by a person or persons unknown to me, I'd like to get some idea of what they do before plunking down my cash and spending my time. The label "Traditional", flawed as it may be, at least suggest to me that I won't be surprised by a rock group or a post-modern songwriter.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Deckman
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 10:48 AM

Someone mentioned that none of the "old timers" have posted yet. Well, I consider myself an "old timer", at least in the sense that I'm damned old, and I'm going to post now!

I've followed this subject, with great interest, over the several times it's been played out before. Many interesting and thoughtful comments have been posted.

When I first encountered this question, I was quite comfortable in my personal definition, which was quite rigid and worked for me: "it had to be at LEAST a hundred years old and the 'author' had to be unknown."

I am now preparing for a formal concert of "traditional" folk songs. To my horror, I realize that I am performing several songs that no longer fit my "easy" definition: "Coal Tattoo" by Billy Ed Wheeler; "Winds-A-Way" by Gordon Bok, etc.

At my comfortable age of 69, I'm pleased that I have reached that wonderful stage of life where I wake up every morning knowing that I know everything. I mean ... I KNOW EVERYTHING THERE IS TO KNOW!

SO, STOP MESSING WITH MY MIND FOLK! CHEERS, Bob(deckman)NelsonS


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Big Mick
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 11:32 AM

Bob, I made that comment mostly tongue in cheek at the prospect of those of us who have watched the "what is folk?" war over the years here.

Call it what you want, just play the music, folks.

Mick


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 12:32 PM

Dear Richard Bridge,

I still believe that the belief that a song has to be from the pen of an anonymous author to be classed as 'traditional' is either a complete 'red herring' or, at best, an irrelevancy. I repeat, it's the PROCESS that the song has been through that makes it traditional (or not - as the case may be).


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Pedant Number 4
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 01:21 PM

'Trad' means out of copyright, i.e the composer/author is not known (='anon') or has been dead for more than 70 years (e.g. O'Carolan). This means you can record the work without royalties being payable. However any responsible singer/player should make at least a small effort to find any maker, and then credit the same on any recording and in any live perfomance when reasonable and appropriate.

'The Tradition' is a strange concept that means different things to different people. Most feel it refers to a method of passing material from person to person by aural means only (with some sense of ownership impicit) which became larely defunct when audio recording was invented. When someone uses the phrase The Tradition we might assume they are referring to this process as it relates to their particular cultural preference, ethnic background or chosen geographic domicile. But not necessarily.

'Traditional' can therefore refer to either of the above situations - but also to other cultural activities which have some element of repetition and continuity, and are in some way cherished by a community. If a piece of music or song becomes associated with that activitity (e.g. 'Football's Coming Home') it may then be called traditional - though it may not be of The Tradition or Trad.

Also if a singer or player learns a piece by ear from another musician who does not pass on the writer's credit, or from a recording or from sheet music which incorrectly credits it as Trad, then that piece becomes Traditional by default (I've even heard Flanders and Swan credited thus). But that doesn't mean it's Trad, (c/f Fiddlers Green, Galway Farmer), or necessarily of The Tradition - though it if happens often enough it will become so eventually.

If a work is so old (how old depends on the individual making the judgment) that really no moral imperative survives for a credit to a known writer ('Greensleeves') then most would agree that the piece has become Traditional.

If a written or recorded music is correctly credited Trad, AND it has been passed on aurally, AND it's perty old, AND it has acquired cultural currency, THEN, and only then, are you SAFE to call it Traditional!

Clear?

Yours sincerely

PN4


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Greg B
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 05:03 PM

In my experience it's any music that was being made the
way you make it prior to your learning to make it that way,
and developing a closed mind about how it should be done
'properly.' Or being made the way you first heard it.

I began to develop this opinion on being informed at a
seisun in New Jersey, that my playing of 'chunes' on a
melodeon which was not tuned in the keys of B/C, C/C#,
or C#/D wasn't 'traditional.' They'd never heard of how
the technique was actually developed between the wars.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 05:30 PM

"The label "Traditional", flawed as it may be, at least suggest to me that I won't be surprised by a rock group or a post-modern songwriter."

Unless you buy the Springsteen CD or something by a progressive artist.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 06:59 PM

Pedant No 4 - that is a complete construct. Out of copyrght means out of copyright, and it means different things in each jurisdiction. There are hundreds of pages in Laddie Prescott & Vitoria (the principal UK copyright textbook) and Nimmer (USA) and that rather splendid Australian one the name of which I always forget about the ways in which copyright may fail to arise, or be lost. "Copyright" is absolutely nothing to do with "traditional" - except that it is hard to think of a way in which a traditional song could be copyright (an old unpublished one could be until 2038 - check it out).

There are times when it is wise not to rush in.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 09:24 PM

Given the background of the majority of folk who post on Mudcat, it's not surprising that a discussion on what is traditional folk music seems to be limited to a consideration of Anglo-European and Anglo-American music.

I concur with George Papavgeris's 14 Oct 06 - 06:35 AM statement that the definition of tradition is arbitrary and depends on "whose tradition, established when and transmitted how, relative to which moment in time etc etc).

And, since I feel that this stew needs some pepper, here's an excerpt from Center for Black Music Research-African Music

"Traditional and Contemporary African Music
Definition of Style

Traditional African music is as historically ancient, rich, and diverse as the continent itself. Traditional African music is passed down orally (or aurally) and is not written, and it also relies heavily on percussion instruments of every variety, including xylophones, drums, and tone-producing instruments such as the mbira or "thumb piano." Traditional African music is generally performed with functional intent in celebrations, festivals, and story-telling.

Contemporary African music is also highly diverse, but it shares many characteristics of Western popular music in the mid-twentieth-century. Beginning with the advent of recording technology and the development of the recording industry, contemporary African music has been heavily influenced by R&B, American soul music, Jamaican reggae, and other musical forms from the Americas. Today, the African music scene is as rich and active as that of any other continent on the globe, and numerous popular styles exist, including, for example, high life, Nigerian juju, and West African makossa. Moreover, a thriving hip hop scene exists in every sub-Saharan African country from Sierra Leone to Madagascar."


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 09:28 PM

One website on traditional African music that I recommend is http://www.coraconnection.com/

As that website notes:
Finding good recordings of West African music is not easy. Some stores may carry some of the more popular CDs, but it's hard to evaluate them, and sales people rarely know that much about African music. You can find new and old African music on the web, but what to buy?

As many have found out the hard way, the quality of today's World Music offerings varies widely, in terms of both music and production values. So what can you do to find the good recordings?

Let Cora Connection help you tap into the world of exceptional African music recordings. Explore our web site to learn more about our favorite African music artists and their music.

Listen to the rich musical traditions of West Africa
• Timeless Kora Classics »

• Vintage sounds of Golden Afrique»

• New Recordings and Old Favorites »

• Guitar music from Malian musician, extraordinaire, Djelimady Tounkara" …

etc.

-snip-

One reason I like that particular website is the information it provides on selected traditional African instruments such as the cora {kora] and the ngoni. Here is an excerpt of the article on the ngoni.

"Ngoni is the Bambara name for an ancient traditional lute found throughout West Africa. Though typically a small instrument the ngoni has a big sound and a big place in the history of West African music. Its body is a hollowed-out, canoe-shaped piece of wood with dried animal skin stretched over it like a drum. The neck is a fretless length of doweling that inserts into the body, which unlike the kora (whose neck goes totally through its calabash resonator) stops short of coming out the base of the instrument. For this reason musicologists classify the ngoni as a "internal spike lute." The ngoni's strings (which are made of thin fishing line like the kora) are lashed to the neck with movable strips of leather, and then fed over a fan-shaped bridge at the far end of the body. The string closest to the player actually produces the highest pitch, and the player plucks it with his thumb, just like a 5-string banjo. This feature, coupled with the fact that the ngoni's body is a drum rather than a box, provides strong evidence that the ngoni is the African ancestor of the banjo."
http://www.coraconnection.com/pages/ngoni.html

-snip-

A diagram of the ngoni, and some notation, and sound clip are also provided at that link.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 10:04 PM

Ron-
Does one actually think that Springsteen would label himself "Traditional"? Nobody else in his right mind would.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Deckman
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 10:37 PM

Well said! Bob


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 10:42 PM

I think they will continue to find "traditional" pockets even in NOrth America here and there..Montana, Missisippi, all the M states. And certainly what Azizi wrote about Africa. And has Eastern Europe ...the surface even been scratched yet? And everywhere that people hopefully hopefully are starting to know freedom...or might sooner than later..the Mideast...I say there is no shortage and won't be until there is a McDonald's on every corner and maybe even not then. mg


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: M.Ted
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 11:07 PM

If you want to know what tradtional and folk music are, check this link--24 one hour radio programs, streaming or podcast format, based on Moe Asch's Folkways collection.

The Folkways Collection


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 11:16 PM

Of course not Dick, but if you saw a CD from an artist that you do not know and see "traditional" songs listed, you could be in for a surprise. No one in their right mind should judge a book by its cover. The word is flawed.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Pedant Number 4
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 03:44 AM

I think Mr Bridge only bothered to read the first sentence of my post.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Pedant Number 4
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 04:11 AM

And just for sake of completeness as it's been raised since; writers who write new traditional-sounding material (sometimes described as From The Tradition) are not making Traditional material - though it may become so eventually by any of the four routes outlined in my post.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Darowyn
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 05:56 AM

Dick Greenhaus asks if you could consider Bruce Springsteen as traditional (deligerately lower case).
I think you can. At a time when sequenced and synthesized music was predominant, he reverted to the traditions of guitar-based american rock music.
The serious point is to stress that there are many traditions. In particular there seems to be a big difference between US and UK approaches to it.
We've had a comparison with vintage cars, but I'd like to compare music with antique furniture. It is antique whether or not the maker is known, purely as a consequence of age. However, some antiques have been restored- often beyond recognition. Some apparent antiques are actually reproductions.
The really valueable pieces are those which are completely original, in good condition, and vitally, were well made in the first place.
Jumping back to songs- the same applies to them. The real, worthwhile traditional songs are those were great songs to start with, and which have not been Carthied, Watersoned or Hutchinged beyong recognition.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Tootler
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 06:25 AM

To me "tradition" implies doing something in the way it has "always" been done. My dictionary refers to tradition as a handing on from one generation to the next.

In folk music that means to me, a style of playing or singing; a way of presenting the music. It also implies a certain repertoire of songs and tunes which are shared by the particular community.

To survive a tradition needs to be able to evolve so that it can reflect the changes that occur in the community over time. New songs and tunes are added and old ones are lost. Sometimes lost ones may be rediscovered and brought back because they have a resonance with a particular generation.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: ositojuanito
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 06:30 AM

I have always taken it to be music written within a certain tradition.

John


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 11:33 AM

Well, if you want to hear traditional material done in what I consider to be an emphatically non-traditional manner, listen (if you can stand it) to "Rogues Gallery" (the CD that's cashing in on Pirates of the Caribbean). Makes Springsteen sound like an authentic folk.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: M.Ted
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 02:22 PM

Here is a little bit more evidence as to what real traditional music is--this is especially for you, George--The Halkias Family--Epirot Musicians


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 02:33 PM

Thanks M.Ted; I know the Halkias family (every Greek does, whether a fan of traditional music or not). Indeed, in 1986 I recorded with Petroloukas Halkias - I was in a choir putting down some traditional songs with accompaniment, and I remember how frustrated he was at having to follow the arranger's precisely-specified lines; in the end the arranger gave up and let him have his head, at which point Petroloukas produced sheer magic, and indeed on the record cover he is credited with the clarinet arrangement. I don't know if it is true or urban myth, but John Dankworth is supposed to have said once, upon hearing Petroloukas bending notes in typical Epirus fashion, "now I can go home and smash my clarinet!". Now for the surprise:

Did you know that "Halkias" means "Copper" in Greek? So, we have our own "Copper" family carrying on the tradition in Epirus.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,David Bishop
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 03:47 PM

what is traditional today is just what is fashionable at this moment,what allways amazes me is that wherever I travel up and down the country to various singerounds /singers nights /open mikes etc,you hear the same narrow set of songs which seems to be getting narrower aka show of hands/spiers and bowden me thinks there is a folk mafia regurgetating the same old songs in the same old ways so i say long live innovation not just tradition travesty even though theres no such thing as a new tune or even a new song there can allways be a new twist or a differnt feel/emotion .that can touch the parts other songs fail to reach, regards
                                     david


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 04:33 PM

hey fellas-
"Traditional" isn't a value judgement; there's lots of lousy trad material and singing just as there's lots of lousy non-trad music and singing. It's just helpful to keep them separate.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Peace
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 04:35 PM

So what is 'TRADITIONAL' spaghetti sauce?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 06:31 PM

Peace:
Probably doesn't contain chocolate chips. Sorry, I'm being flip and the anolagy is, I think, a valid one. A "traditional" spaghetti sauce would be one based on tomatoes, with flavoring ingredients--oregano, garlic, onion, pepper, wine, mushrooms, basil, sugar, wine etc.-- apt to be available to an Italian cook. While modern food distribution may have made other ingredients available, I'd think that the sauce would stop being traditional when the taste of these "new" and "exotic" flavorings began to dominate the mix. Sure, a good cook might opt for a smidge of chili pepper, or possibly soy sauce, but while a heavy dose of these might conceivably make a tasty sauce, it would no longer be spaghetti sauce as we know it.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: M.Ted
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 06:36 PM

I think we've talked about the Halkias family before, George--Back when I lived in Philly, my friend and neighbor, John Roussos, played santouri with Pericles. He would drop by John's house periodically, and would occasionally join in the weekly sessions that John hade. It would be misleading to claim that I "played" with him, but I was in the mix, pound out chords--


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 07:59 PM

"Makes Springsteen sound like an authentic folk."

Which brings us back to the original question! Obviously there is no answer! "Authentic" or "traditional" or "folk" is usually in the eye of the beholder.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 16 Oct 06 - 03:01 AM

If by "traditional" spaghetti sauce you mean Bolognese sauce, I would doubt the mushrooms, but I'd agree with wine twice (as stated). Maybe Paprika. Some might use a bit of milk or cream. A little salt. A lot of tomato puree. I use a lot (relatively) of chilli, some Worcestershire sauce, and a dash of lemon or lime. An easy cheat to save quantifying the small amounts of sugar and salt is a squirt of tomato sauce (really has to be Heinz). Oh, and don't forget the meat!

A pretty fair analogue for what I do to traditional songs, really - muck about with them, boogie them up a bit, and try to find an easy way to play them! But don't forget the bits that have always been there.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Oct 06 - 09:34 AM

the 1001 O NEILLS COLLECTION . I would consider traditional music,plus the music and songs in the vaughan williams library.
most people would agree with these,and probably shanties, but after that it is very difficult, one man may think the Mistletoe Bough is ,another may not.
as Ron says, [like beauty] it is in the eye of the beholder.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Pete_Standing
Date: 16 Oct 06 - 10:17 AM

Azizi has hit on what I've been led to believe trditional music, song and dance is:-

Traditional African music is as historically ancient, rich, and diverse as the continent itself. Traditional African music is passed down orally (or aurally) and is not written......Traditional African music is generally performed with functional intent in celebrations, festivals, and story-telling.

So, the source cannot be attributed and it is passed from one generation to the next orally, aurally or in the case of dance, by example.

Does this mean that trad stuff has any more merit than contemporary? I don't think so. Time has it's way of sustaining what seems to be of value or use to us and the rest is left behind, maybe to be rediscovered much later. Does traditional stuff have anything of relevance to today or to to teach us? I think so. History often repeats itself, with both good and bad consequences.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: treewind
Date: 16 Oct 06 - 11:08 AM

The trouble with definitions is that we try to separate tunes and songs into those that are traditional and those that aren't, and that kind of definition falls apart all over the place, for a good reason.

"Traditional" isn't a type of song, it's a PROCESS that happens to a song, a way of passing it on.

Not knowing the identity of the author of the song is a side effect of that process, but if you thought a song was traditional and then you suddenly learn that somebody (whether still alive or not) wrote it, the song doesn't lose its traditional status, because it never had it in the first place. All it means is that you originally learnt the song through that traditional process (i.e. hearing someone else sing it).

Of course the traditional process has a lot of other side effects that we attribute to "traditional" songs, like evolving and changing with time and thus being found in many versions with different tunes and variations on words.

As for relevance, many traditional songs deal with human emotions and predicaments that are timeless. It doesn't matter if the details of the song are out of date (sailing ships, swords, horses, greedy millers, milkmaids and ploughboys etc.) the real issues (love gained and lost, jealousy, greed, exploitation, success, failure, friendship, war, revenge) are all very much still with us and a good song illuminates the associated feelings with a clarity that makes people want to learn the song and pass it on.

A comment on compemporary songwriting - there seem to be two sorts, the ones that are in a "traditional" style and the ones that imitate pop music. There is a useful distinction to be made here. Pop songs are created as an instrumental arrangement created in the recording studio, of which the vocal part often doesn't stand up an a song by itself; modern folk songs of the more traditional style have a coherent tune and lyrics that make sense by themsleves. It's not surprising the latter style is easier to learn, take away and perform to someone else - in other words the song is compatible with the "folk process".

my €0.02's worth

Anahata


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Snuffy
Date: 16 Oct 06 - 07:52 PM

Old songs by unknown authors are not necessarily traditional: they are just old - many of the Child Ballads existed only in written form 100 years ago and have never been collected from "source singers"

Being "traditional" is not a fixed attribute - songs are entering (and leaving) the tradition all the time: I reckon the average lifetime of a song in the the people's consciousness is three generations. Anything older than that which is still sung in non-professional settings can be reckoned to be traditional, irrespective of its origin or authorship. The songs in my tradition are what I heard my parents and grandparents sing plus other newer songs I learned while growing up.

For example, songs of WWII were well known to my grandparents (the WWI generation) and my parents (who fought in WWII) and were part of their tradition. I learned many of these from them, but my children know far fewer of these than I, and their kids will know hardly any. The rest will not be passed on, and will gradually fade from the national consciousness, to be replaced by succeeding generations of songs.

I learned loads of contemporary songs growing up in the 50s and 60s ranging from Dylan, Seeger etc to "The Wild Rover" and "How Much Is That Doggy In The Window". My kids learned many of these from me and their kids will also learn from me and them.

I guess that probably less than 1% of any era's songs will pass to the next generation and 1% of those to the next and so on. What is left is the enduring tradition. Songs like Doggy In The Window, Delilah, Simply The Best and many Beatles songs are now well on their way to becoming traditional songs: more people know them than know where they came from. We could find out who wrote them if we really wanted to but it doesn't matter much to us; we may have a fair idea of who recorded them, but that's not really important either, because traditional songs are the songs that we sing.

Some may have been absorbed with mother's milk, while others have been provided by Tin Pan Alley - the folk taste is all encompassing. Collectors may have deprecated vast swathes of their sources' repertoires, but traditional singers from Joseph Taylor through Phil Tanner to Walter Pardon sang "unsuitable" and "worthless" commercial minstrel and music hall songs as well as the "old songs".

A good song is a good song whether 500 years or 5 minutes old, whether the author is known or not. And good singers love good songs, and will take them from wherever they can find them. The best will survive to become the next generation of the tradition: when they no longer speak to the people they will be forgotten and replaced by more relevant songs, new or revived.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 16 Oct 06 - 09:57 PM

MANY MANY thanks to all of you that have contributed to this thread so far. When I started this thread I had no idea what response I would get and in my innocence and some naivity I was not aware that this is such a hotly debated subject.

It is just something that has plagued my brain cells for a long time now!

Your contributions have been magnificent. I now appreciate that the question I posted has so many diverse and conflicting views in response that if I was a student of the history of folk music I would probably be in a position right now to write a full thesis thanks to all your intelligent and well considered contributions and references.

It is obviously a big subject to wrestle with and like many of you I hate to shoe-horn/put in boxes, definitions of different music styles. It always seems to get very messy and subjective so you end up chasing your tail.

If I may however, I would like to express some of my thoughts and conclusions which are a direct result of your collective contributions. Please feel free to shoot them down at will!

1.When I started this thread I intended to raise a question and not to challenge your attitudes.

2.I do not believe that "TRADITIONAL" Folk Music means that the original authors must be both unknown and dead or out of copyright. This is just symptomatic of the age when they were spawned without todays advantage of instant recording and down loading via CD/DVD and internet etc.
Levels of education,literacy and the ability to communicate to the masses was very poor so only the most "popular" and therefore handed down songs survived. These songs survived because they were 'catchy', had a strong CHORUS and expressed shared and meaningful feelings and emotions of the time. So it is a 'filtering' process.

3.I do also think that "Tradition" is a process of evolution and is not dead. It really is a stream of continuous motion and is timeless. Many of todays "contemporary singers/Traditional-style singers and composers" will create the TRADITIONAL Folk Music of the future. Just because something is "New" does not mean it is not of value. They will live on to form part of the "tradition" for generations to follow.

The definition of 'traditional' is indeed starting to creak. It is time for a re-think. Why do we love and embrace the past so much yet feel unwilling to equally embrace the present and the future?
We owe it to our desendents to express the here and now with our heart felt emotions and observations with less of the seemingly heart felt need to cling,limpit-like, to comfort-inducing images of the past - e.g rather sad, in my view, churning out songs about fishermen,plough boys,milk maids, farmers, hunters,old battles,fair maidens,harvesting,love lost and love gained etc.

We always seem to give value to "traditional" and see contemporary as cheap. This is indeed a time warp that needs to be finally shot dead and terminated. Our emotions and feelings are just as relevant today as they were 300 years ago.
Otherwise we create a black hole and our contempory age gets sucked into oblivion.

Nuff said and many thanks for all your very valuable and very well considered input. Please keep it coming if I haven't already turned you off!


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 16 Oct 06 - 10:23 PM

I don't think that anybody has suggested that modern songs are, in themselves, less worthwhile than older ones which are (perhaps) considered "traditional". They are a different subject, that's all.

Perhaps some of them will become part of tomorrow's tradition; that will be a subject for tomorrow. Until it happens, any discussion of "tradition" is best focussed on what comprises "tradition" as we experience it now: that is to say (and as Anahata and I, to name but two, have already said) the procedures involved together with the relevant cultural artefacts (songs, melodies, dances, narratives and so on); and their observed contexts.

Anonymity, copyright status, and -to an extent- age, are pretty much irrelevant.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Cynic
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 12:11 AM

It's a marketing term, much like 'world music' or 'folk music' are, and has no fixed definition.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST, PRS member
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 03:14 AM

The word Traditional as applied to songs, tunes and music in general does have a legal definition in the UK, whatever else we might decide, amongst friends, that it may mean .

It means exactly the same as Anon.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 03:45 AM

good point, guest prs.
            to M DOUGLAS. But the process of learning orally, is bound to change with the advent of the computer,. If I learn a song words or tune, via the computer, have I learnt it orally. or is it learned orally, only if I have done so by listening to a cd[ did that person learn it orally], but not from written music [ even if he was C SHARP who had written it down from an oral source].
    last point, If I go to the VAUGHAN WILLIAMS LIBRARY and learn from a book, the Seeds of love, as collected by Cecil Sharp, does the song cease to be traditional, because I have not learned it orally, But continue to be traditional if i learned it from a recording made by Sharp [ if there is one].
but yet if I asked people at a festival or club,afterI had played/ sung it,[ and they were ignorant of how I had acquired it,] I am sure they would say its traditonal,Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 03:58 AM

When I first became interested in folk songs nearly everybody I came into contact with more or less agreed what they were because there was a consensus. They were the songs that could be found in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs from 'All Things Are Quite Silent' to 'Young Girl Cut Down In Her Prime'; or in The Singing Island (apart from the few contemporary ones in there). The songs we didn't know, we recognised by their sound, characterisation, geographic and social references, their tunes and their poetic forms. We weren't too worried about definition because we knew what we meant. If we were asked to explain folk song we were more-or-less satisfied with the definition agreed on in 1954 by the International Folk Music Council:

"Folk music is the product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission. The factors that shape the tradition are: (i) continuity which links the present with the past; (ii) variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group; and (iii) selection by the community, which determines the form or forms in which the music survives.
The term can be applied to music that has been evolved from rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by popular and art music and it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community.
The term does not cover composed popular music that has been taken over ready-made by a community and remains unchanged, for it is the re-fashioning and re-creation of the music by the community that gives it its folk character."

After a while the water became muddied and eventually some of us retreated to the term 'traditional', so as not to be confused with much of the material that was being performed at some of the 'folk clubs'. The term folk became a convenient pigeon-hole in which to file anything that didn't fit into any other category. Personally, I still find the words traditional and folk, when used in the same sentence, tautology.
When I became interested in traditional singers (source singers, for the want of a better description), I began to come to the conclusion that the songs I thought of as folk/traditional served a function within the communities I came into contact with (Travellers - Irish and Scots, agricultural workers, Norfolk fishermen, Irish building workers etc.). That function was distinct from all other types of songs to the singers we met. Sure, they were entertainment, but they were also a way of recording their history (great and small events), aspirations, emotions, national and social pride, anger; anything that affected them personally and as a community. Many of the singers, contrary to popular belief, categorised their songs; 'the old songs', 'come-all-ye's', 'my father's songs', 'fireside songs'; some singers in the West of Ireland used the term 'traditional'. Norfolk singer Walter Pardon spoke of 'folk songs' and was extremely articulate in separating those songs from his music-hall, Victorian tear-jerkers and the pop songs of a bygone age that he also included in his repertoire (please don't make the mistake others have in putting this down to his contact with the revival – anybody who knew Walter will tell you he was very much his own man).
Bert Lloyd suggested in his book 'Folk Song In England' (1967) that maybe the term folk needed re-defining, but it seems to me that that rather than that re-definition having taken place there has been an abandoning of any definition and the terms, traditional and folk, when applied to song, are now totally meaningless.
I agree absolutely with Anahanta that we are not necessarily talking about a type of song, but a process that produces a certain type of song. I don't know whether the process that produced the songs is still in operation; the communities that gave birth to the songs have either disappeared or have changed beyond all recognition. People no longer express themselves to each other with songs or record events within their communities, rather they/we have become passive recipients of entertainment and culture – television has seen to that. Nowadays people, particularly young people, are more likely to communicate via a mobile phone!
Most of the songs being written today, even those in the folk style, are introspective and private; as a friend said to me, you feel like tapping the singers on the shoulder and saying, "hello, can I come in".
Somebody suggested that we can't live in the past – of course we can't, but we can certainly continue to receive our inspiration and stimulation from the old models. I still am moved by the old songs and ballads; I still get angry when I hear a story of a man transported thousands of miles for trying to feed his family, or of a farmworker forced into war by a press gang. The Duke of Athol's Nurse still makes me laugh and I continue to be excited by the epic exploits of Long Johnny More. These songs and ballads as far as I am concerned are as timeless as Homer and Shakespeare and Dickens and Hardy.
It seems to me that at one time some of our modern singers were using the old models to create new pieces. MacColl, Liam Wheldon, Pete Smith, Eric Bogle, Cyril Tawney, Leon Rossolson and a handful of others were writing songs that stood a chance of being listened to by the next generation. That doesn't seem to happen so much nowadays. Con 'Fada' O'Drisceoil and Adam MacNaughton still continue to make me laugh, but most of the others leave me cold.
Malcolm Douglas summed it up perfectly for me right at the beginning of this thread:
"Our descendants, on the other hand, may inherit some sort of tradition from us. It will depend on whether or not we leave them anything worth having".
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 04:10 AM

What a good post.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 07:33 AM

well I dont consider, God Save THE Queen traditional.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Tim theTwangler
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 07:54 AM

If a tradition is something that is carried on IE a group of people meeting to do something every year at the same time,or wearing the same costumes for certain events or singing the same songs.
Then most of the old songs from history that have to be "discovered"
are not traditional..
If they had been in continuous use since the time they were composed they would be traditional.
But then no one would be needed to discover them would they?
I like a lot of the old tunes and songs that I hear at the brilliant Market Raisen Folk Club.
But I enjoy them for their value to me as part of the the audience,not because of where they came from.
If they were traditional in the sense that the word is applied to other things we would soon tire of hearing them and be on the look out for new material.
Possibly we would want to hear this new material performed in the style of the old.
Perhaps the style music is performed in could be described as traditional?
But then you would have to go back to the top of my posting and read through it all again swapping style for music each time you came to it.
I can tell you what is a new tradition though.
Starting threads that begin with ......
What is Traditional /Folk/etc
Have a nice day all.
Tim


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 08:02 AM

jimcarroll says. the term does not cover composed popular music that has been taken over ready made by a community and remains unchanged, for it is the refashioning and recreation of the music by the community, that gives it is folk character.
so if Harry Cox had sung GOD Save the Queen ,unaccompanied and in a traditional style, with vocal embellishments it would be traditonal. No, and Harry wouldnt have thought so, nor would Fred Jordan, Otherwise it would have been collected and recorded, even modern day collectors with more catholic interpretations of traditional music have not done so.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 08:22 AM

What a good post indeed Richard. Jim Carroll makes a great deal of sense here and I also agree with the sentiments of Malcolm Douglas which Jim has reiterated.

I am a bit confused though by all this reference to "Communities".

I agree that "selection by the community" of songs certainly would take place. Is is another way of saying it is a 'filtering process'
by a small collective group of people over time.
The most popular songs survived to this day because they were popular with that group and were repeatedly requested at fireside gatherings/down the pub/holiday and harvest festivals and hunt gatherings etc.
"Come on John/Betty (etc) sing us your song" would be the popular cry and that is still as it is today in many of our like-minded folk gatherings,isn't it?
That is something we must not overlook or be too bashful to admit.
It is precisely you good people who keep this lovely music going.
Your highly acute observations and comments on this thread proves this.

It is true that we no longer have anywhere near like the same sense of "community" that our forebears knew and their only form of real entertainment was a good old knees-up of singing,playing and dancing.
In todays society we are awash with media and technology to amuse ourselves but for some of us lucky ones the good old knees-up of singing,playing and dancing is still our PREFERRED source of entertainment and comfort zone.
So today the "Folk Community" forms its own tightly knit community and we are all part of it. It is we that will keep the old traditional folk music going and will also add to it in the decades to come.
This is the process and is the reason why it is a continuous and unbroken process that is alive and very much kicking today.

Finally (sorry to go on so) but the term "community " seems to get used too much as a collective "Anon" and fails to give credit to the individuals (although "unknown") who wrote the songs in the first place.
E.G : "..it is the re-fashioning and re-creation of the music by the Community that gives it its folk character" (definition by the International Folk Music Council,1954)
and "The communities that gave birth to the songs have either disappeared or have changed beyond recognition" (Jim Carroll)
These comments worry me because they seem to imply a sort of collective urge to write songs or,dareI say, a sort of mass hysteria!
It's not the communities that created the songs it is an individuals own creativity and toil that created each song. Greatly influenced ,I am sure, by his/her environment, community and personal emotions but still their personal,individual creation.
So can we forget this broad brush "The Community" stuff and think of and drink to those wonderful individuals ( even though we don't know their names) every time we share their passion when we sing their songs.
Lets raise a glass to ANON and long may they live on in their songs that continue to give pleasure, solice and amusement and will do so for decades and centuries to come. And also remember that we too have a part to play in writing songs to be enjoyed by future generations, only this time they will know your name and you will be remembered through your songs and music.

CHEERS


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 09:09 AM

Misteltoe bough, Yesterday, Mull of Kintyre,Daisy daisy all started off as popular composed pieces,.
I see   a flaw inthe 1954 definition. Paul MacCartney wrote two of these, if Fred Jordan or any other traditional singer had sung these in their own style, they still would not be traditional songs, nor would Sweet thames flow softly [ewan maccoll] nor would the Mistletoe Bough[ Thomas Bayley1884].They are songs written in a traditional style, but not traditional songs.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 09:48 AM

"People no longer express themselves to each other with songs or record events within their communities, rather they/we have become passive recipients of entertainment and culture – television has seen to that. Nowadays people, particularly young people, are more likely to communicate via a mobile phone!

...

Malcolm Douglas summed it up perfectly for me right at the beginning of this thread:
"Our descendants, on the other hand, may inherit some sort of tradition from us. It will depend on whether or not we leave them anything worth having".

Here is what bothers me about this discussion of "traditional".   Jim made some very good statements, but I come away with the impression that many of the posters in this thread have their own general idea of what "traditional" should be. Even worse, there are preconceived notions about what "the tradition" should be.   I get the feeling that most of the posters feel that "traditional" music reflects a certain style of music that meets their own description and then they will dismiss anything that does not meet that set of criteria. The study of folklore is the study of a subject in movement, not simply the buried bones of the past.

Is it really for us to pass judgement on modern sources of entertainment?

I suspect that most of us are products of the folk revival - some posters were active participants in that era, others of us are able to share in the wealth of what they gathered. The "traditional" songs of bygone eras reflected past cultures that we studied. It was important to record the source singers to get an idea of what made up their heritage. The songs spoke of love, play, work, politics and history of a past time. Browse through the Penguin book, or any of the Lomax, Stan Hugill, Cecil Sharp or other folk collectors and you will discover a link to a time when these modern conveniences were not to be found.

Is it fair that we dismiss the topics of modern singer-songwriters who are doing EXACTLY the same work that the shapers of these songs did in past generations? The output and structure may be different, and it might not appeal to some of us on an entertainment level, but perhaps that is not its intention. Some of the songs that were collected a century ago were really treasured heirlooms of families that shared their wealth with the collectors. A song that mothers sang to their children was every bit as introspective as the "navel-gazers" that make up todays crop of folksingers. Sure, the song may have been more accessible to our generation, but to dismiss the current songs is simply a example of not studying modern offerings with the same criteria that we used to study the music of past cultures.

The music may not be made on the front porch or in the kitchen as it was several generations ago, but there is still music being made and shared in a community setting. Folk music is a living tradition and traditional music will continue to be made. We just need to keep our eyes and ears open along with our minds.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Scoville
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 11:21 AM

Wow--thanks, Ron! Well put.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Peace
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 11:27 AM

'A "traditional" spaghetti sauce would be one based on tomatoes, . . .'

There's the rub. Italians didn't have tomatoes until after 1500 (they were brought back from the 'new world'), but they had pasta prior to that. Even today, many pasta sauces have no tomatoes in them. I don't mean to sidetrack this discussion, but the analogy poses a difficult question and I know I don't have the answer.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 06:03 PM

Spot on, Ron.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 06:20 PM

I'll buy that, Ron, Well put.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 08:10 PM

Sorry Ron, but I'm not a buyer. Look, I'm not dismissing "the topics of modern singer-songwriters who are doing EXACTLY the same work that the shapers of these songs did in past generations"" ; nor I I saying that they're not worthwhile. But, dammit, there is a difference between traditional music (pick your tradition" and other types of music. It's a difference that comes from continuing a tradition. Pop doesn't do that.

If you want take a position that "it's all trad", I can't stop you. But I can't agree with you either.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 08:43 PM

Dick, I never claimed that "it's all trad". Pop music is manufactured for different reasons and if anything, traditions build around that music. Popular entertainment does effect our culture, but "folk" music is a product of the culture - not the other way around. Popular music is more of an "inactive" artform - the audience sits there and is entertained.

With "folk", the music is meant to be more participatory. The music that I believe you and others consider traditional was used by "folks" as part of their lives - worksongs, protest songs, play songs, and even celebratory music that required participation.

I can honestly say that many of the modern singer-songwriters are creating their songs not for the same purpose that pop writers have. These songwriters are closer to the field workers and family songbooks then they are to the works of Irving Berlin or Cole Porter.

The study of folklore should be approached as a science. If there is a preconceived idea of what the outcome should be, the experiment will be guided in a set direction which may give a false outcome. I honestly feel that folklore and folk music requires an impartial study in order to really understand and draw conclusions.

My understanding is that many collectors such as Francis Child had some religious and moral standards that prevented them from collecting certain songs and ballads. Child's intent was to collect every ballad that was in existence. Does anyone think that he accomplished that? Look at the publication of Stan Hugill's works - did he get to publish all the songs he wished? Does anyone think that the version of "Drunken Sailor" that we all know is an accurate folk song?

I really think part of the problem that we have with labels is that many of us are active participants in the process. From some of the previous replies I am seeing a number of people who are deeply involved with folk music - performing, promoting, selling.   How can that not help shape a definition?   What you consider folk and feel strongly about may be quite different than what someone else will label.

Lastly - just because someone considers something "folk" or "from a tradition" does not mean that all of us are required to enjoy it. No, I do not expect everyone to enjoy the work of Bruce Springsteen or Bethany Yarrow for that matter. I do feel comfortable saying that the are linked to a tradition and may be creating a new tradition that will be celebrated in the future.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Wolfgang
Date: 18 Oct 06 - 07:46 AM

A traditional spaghetti sauce is a sauce
(1) for which there is no known first cook,
(2) which is passed on orally,
(3) for which you don't have to pay any royalties if you cook it, and
(4) for which there are still new variants discovered each year.

The tomatoe sauce is just one possible traditional variant. My personal preference is spaghetti alla putanesca, that is spaghetti the whores' way, which is a very hot sauce indeed (I like to add pepperoni and sardines). It has led to the famous quote by the Italian cook Big Giordano Bruno (who knew better than any other cook what really hot meant):
"I've seen many different folks cook but I've never yet seen any whores cook."

Wolfgang (who actually likes and reads with great interest the many serious posts in this thread)


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Oct 06 - 02:39 PM

Misteltoe Bough, Yesterday, Mull of Kintyre,Daisy Daisy, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, spaghetti - have I missed something here?
None of the above(Mistletoe Bough appears in the repertoires of some source singers but..........) come anywhere near my definition of traditional (or folk) song.
Ron Olesko says "The study of folklore should be approached as a science" - I'll drink to that. As far as I can see we nearly all came into a poetical and musical art form which had already been defined by those who came before us. We have been provided with a definition (of Folk Song) by The International Folkmusic Council. There have been numerous books written on the subject - notably (for me) A L Lloyd's 'Folk Song In England' and David Buchan's 'The Ballad And The Folk'. Both of these deal at some length with the creation and dissemination of what I have come to understand as folk song. We can't really take into consideration what the traditional singers thought about traditional song because it appears nobody ever really got round to asking them!
We can either accept conclusions that have been previously arrived at or we can disprove them - I don't think it is either valid or helpful to ignore them.
Jim Carroll
PS Small, relatively isolated communities, particularly rural ones, appeared to have provided the ideal conditions for supporting healthy, living traditions. Folk clubs don't fall into my definition of communities as the only thing the participants appear to have in common is the songs and music, which makes them mutual interest organisations rather than communities. I know some American academics disagree with this point of view and would class say a group of office workers as a community - hmmmm.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Oct 06 - 02:57 PM

Re Daisy Daisy,
There's the story of a couple cycling down the road on a tandem when a dog ran out and threw a bucket of water over them.

But I don't suppose anybody wished to know that!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,GUEST TREV
Date: 18 Oct 06 - 05:06 PM

What I find interesting is how variations of well-documented contemporary tunes develop.

One example would be "No Man's Land" by Eric Bogle. The Furies learned it from the singing of someone who didn't sing Bogle's words to the letter. They recorded it as "Green Field's of France" and used the non-original (wrong!) lyrics. Due to the huge success of their recording it is now considered as the definitive lyric by many people who have never heard Bogle's version. This version has now, arguably, entered the tradition.

In a few hundred years will researchers be finding more variations and arguing about the 'original' or 'traditional' version.

With regards to the suggestion that 'traditional' = no known author. This is questionable as often the author is unknown simply through lack of research. Likewsie, if we consider people like Lonnie Donnegan we see a bigger problem. He used to credit works as 'trad' when the author was still alive, hence getting out of paying roayalties (intentionally or not).

The story of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" is another illustration of 'invented tradition' where a recent composition was 'hijacked' and reconstructed under the notion it was traditional.

Bruno Latour makes interesting reading when he states that being modern is a very traditional thing.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Oct 06 - 07:41 AM

does anyone know, how Cecil Sharp defined traditional music ,or folk songs as he called them.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Oct 06 - 09:28 AM

Try
English Folk Song - Some Conclusions, but try to get hold of a first edition as Peter Kennedy's aunt edited the later ones.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Oct 06 - 09:30 AM

I have not really paid as much attention to Sharp's work as I probably should. My main intrest has been in American folk traditions, but of course Sharp played a great role in that.

My understanding is that Sharp often changed the lyrics of the songs he collected for publication. I believe he also added piano accompaniment to the publications, which were his own creation.

If that is true, his "definition" must have been very liberal.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Oct 06 - 10:39 AM

It is possible for a tradition to have a known starting point, and still be a tradition.
In Tudor times brides wore green, if they had a change of clothes at all. Now the traditional bridal gown is white.
The traditional Christmas with turkey and all the trimmings and a Christmas tree is a Victorian invention.
Even more recently, you will often see yellow ribbons tied round a tree, marking an impromptu shrine to a road accident victim.
This custom was unknown in the UK until the song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" was released in the 1970's, creating a new tradition.
The PRS definition of "Trad=No writer, no royalties" is fine for copyright disputes, but the traditions and and customs of the people of a country or a region are a much more fluid thing- and they do change with the times.
Perhaps it is the same with Folk. I think so.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Oct 06 - 01:57 PM

Baring Goulds entire song collection, songs collected BY Frank Kidson[some of which are available from Brewhouse music][ThePedlarsPack].


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Oct 06 - 02:09 PM

I'm missing the point you might have been making when you posted about Barin Goulds.   Could you explain?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Oct 06 - 03:05 PM

Ron,
Sharp changed his songs (among other reasons) to make them acceptable in schools.
This does not invalidate his definition, which is flawed but certainly worth a lookat as he was a pioneer breaking new ground.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Oct 06 - 03:25 PM

So Sharp made changes in order to reach an audience. I guess that really isn't different from what other musicians do with the music.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Oct 06 - 04:19 PM

Sharp bowdlerised the songs [occasionally[ the keeper ] changing their meaning, to make them acceptable morally to victorian style standards.
It was quite different to what musicians do to their music. Sharp also fell out with Mary Neal a keen suffragette.
Sharp was more conservative in many ways and the songs he collected suffered from his conservative prudish attuitude eg [ the keeper]. But now he is on a pedestal and has a smashing pad in camden town, Almost as good as Nelson in Trafalgar Square with four lions to guard him.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Oct 06 - 05:39 PM

How is it different?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 19 Oct 06 - 06:34 PM

You're wrong, Dick, because as usual you jump to conclusions without bothering to find out a little for yourself. Don't expect us to précis entire books for you. Visit a library and do a little reading on your own behalf before making pronouncements. At the moment you are just making uninformed assumptions. You are old enough to know better.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Oct 06 - 07:18 PM

Come on, lets keep the discussion civil. Whatever past differences you have, is it necessary to draw them into a conversation?

I have heard some of the same points that Captain Birdseye was making - that Sharp turned "The Keeper" from song that dealt with rape to a song that was about hunting. Sharp is not the only collector accused of altering songs to meet their own moral standards.

My confusion with the Captain's comments is that I do not understand the point he was making about Barings Gould and also why is Sharps re-interpretation of the song different from what a contemporary musician, say Bruce Springsteen, is doing.   Both altered the songs to reach audiences of their times.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,booklyn rose
Date: 19 Oct 06 - 10:06 PM

I think the word traditional is being used to distinguish older songs from those written more recently. It seems useful to be able to specify what you are talking about. As for pejorative overtones, my observation is that some people like the whole range of music, others have preferences. The polite people can enjoy their favorites without putting down what others prefer (in this case, I guess, traditional/contemporary??) The others KNOW that what they like is of higher quality than what others like. So, what else is new?
    That said, the NYC people are calling their November event "A Festival of Traditional Music." Have you seen the descriptions at www.eisteddfod-ny.org? I'm not sure how Eisteddfod informs this conversation. I guess it has more performers who do music they have learned (directly or indirectly) from older people, but also quite a few who write songs.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Old Fart
Date: 19 Oct 06 - 10:14 PM

I've been playing 'trad.' music to 'folk audiences' for thirty odd years (yes, they were odd) and although I certainly don't claim any degree of authority from that, would like to point out that a tradition can only be identified with hindsight. The only tradition I can see happening is that of taking old material and altering it to suit a contemporary audience. I also agree completely with both 'PRS Member' and 'Cynic' (above) that the only objective definition is the legal one, as used for marketing purposes. Nevertheless, an interesting discussion which I've thoroughly enjoyed reading and found most educational. Much thanks for that.

A Google search revealed this -
http://www.brampton-bugle.co.uk/jermarblunt.html


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Oct 06 - 03:31 AM

Ron, I am not familiar with Bruce Springsteens music.You referred to other musicians, So I thought you were referring to embellishment, improvisation of melody of the tuneETC .Which is certainly different from Sharps bowdlerisation of the Keeper.
Malcolm Douglas,Cecil Sharp bowdlerised the song the Keeper, My comments are not uninformed.CECILSHARPS work was important , So was BARING GOULD ,LUCY BROADWOOD, FRANK KIDSON, Mary Neal, Peter Kennedy, Seamus Ennis,Sean O Boyle. Sadly the first four,have not had the same recognition as SHARP ,.
Iwould define the collections of Sharp, Broadwood, Baring Gould, Kidson,As traditional music, thats quite a lot of songs to start with., plus Hugills collection of shanties, plus the Child ballads.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 20 Oct 06 - 03:58 AM

Many of the songs collected by those that Dick lists were derived from 19th Century broadsheets.

Does that make them less traditional?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Oct 06 - 04:10 AM

Surely we are not talking about altering the songs, rather on the nature of the songs being altered.
Butterworth, Vaughan Williams, Britten, Edward Elgar, Percy Grainger, EJ Moeran, Beethoven, Brahms - many, many more all altered traditional songs and music; was their finished product still traditional?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,PRS Member
Date: 20 Oct 06 - 04:24 AM

Thank you Old Fart. This thread (and the other about Musical Traditions which covers similar ground) has proved only one thing - that the term 'Traditional Folk Music' means whatever you choose it to mean - except in the legal sense, and there you have a bounden duty to attribute if you possibly can (which sadly a lot of folkies don't, to their shame and the deriment of talented writers down the ages) - then leave it to the PRS and equivalent authorities around the world to pay on royalties or not according to the copyright situation on the day.

All the other definitions are, by definition, retrospective, and thus mainly of romantic/emotional value only.

But one point strikes me, (from the Musical Tradions thread, actually). When that organisation and others seek to separate The Revival and The Tradition, how do they insert the fish slice?

Surely the Revival singers were only doing what the Source singers actually did, and which modern interpreters (and many writers) do today: Encountering a song, from whatever source, that they think is decent or half decent, and then either bowdlerising or rebuilding it or just giving it a bit of a polish to make it presentable to their particular audience.

I don't understand why any line needs to be drawn at all.

The whole notion of The Tradition, as opposed to 'some traditions' (note my capitals) seems a mere romantic notion of a rural idyll (with little basis in either musical or sociological reality) that has been seized upon by academic and/or political types in search of a gig - (let's not forget Sharp's quest for a 'posh' replacement for Germanic classical music).


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Oct 06 - 08:56 AM

I Agree with GUEST PRS,.when I think there is a grey area,I USE THE PRS DEFINITION, so the Mistletoe bough[ThomasBayley1884]Is not[Daisy Daisy]Harry Dacre 1892 is not SweetTHAMES [EWANMACCOLL]is not, My old Kentucky Home[S fOSTER] is not,God save the Queen is not, Yesterday is not.Fiddlers green [ Connolly]is not, Sailortown FoxSMITH/Miles[ [tune]is not.      Songs from broadsheets are, because although they were composed, the authorship is lost.
It is important, so that authors or their descendants get their due royalties. No one will be saying in a hundred years that any of the BEATLES SONGS ARE TRADITIONAL[ because their descendants are not going to let large revenue slip away].I giveyou me all my love, may be a traditional style song but it WONT be traditional .Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 20 Oct 06 - 10:11 AM

"I thought you were referring to embellishment, improvisation of melody of the tuneETC .Which is certainly different from Sharps bowdlerisation of the Keeper."

Again, I'm really not seeing the difference.   People complain about "embellishment" or "improvisation" of a tune, yet it is acceptable that that people like Sharp changed words and created piano accompaniment?   How is that different?   Neither one remains true to the source.

It is obvious that everyone has a slightly different definition of the words "folk" and "traditional". You can argue semantics, but the bottom line remains the song.   If 100 years from now "folksingers" are sharing "I Gave My Love a Cherry" and "All You Need is Love", then it will probably be a healthier world.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Oct 06 - 10:26 AM

Sorry, I missed the PRS argument first time round – my experience with this organisation's Irish counterpart IMRO had led me very much to agree with Shakespere when he said, "Let's kill all the lawyers". Things have become a little quiet of late but that organisation, in league with Comhaltas, has spent considerable time and energy in attempting to corner the market on traditional music and stamping it with "Own Brand'. Why I should turn to self-appointed organisations with, as far as I know, no qualifications whatever in the music under discussion is beyond me. If further proof of my scepticism were needed I need look no further than the dismissal of people who have spent a great part of their lives in researching and performing this music with terms such as "academic and/or political types in search of a gig" and their conclusions as "a mere romantic notion of a rural idyll". God save me from legal profession! I can only say, I'll show you mine if you show me yours (track record, that is).
To reduce folk songs (the terms folk and traditional as far as I am concerned) to a legalistic term I believe does a great disservice to the people who created them and to belittle their contribution to our culture.
"Folk" was a term applied to an identifiable body of songs which were created in a certain way and evolved through a certain process to serve a certain part the population.
Before we decide to dismiss this art form as a romantic myth, let's discuss the characteristics that I would suggest go in to the making of these songs and see if they hold water.
Jim Carroll
PS Off to the UK till Sunday; please don't finish this before I come back…………..pleeeeeeeeeease


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,PRS Member
Date: 20 Oct 06 - 11:45 AM

No-one's dissmissing the art form, or reducing the music to a legalistic term. The music stands for itself. We're discussing terminology.

The word Traditional, as applied to music, does have a legal definition, like it or not, whereas the artform is nebulous except in one respect - that, like all art, it belongs to its maker and no-one else.

That's my point.

Good songs will stand for themselves, with or without help from talented interpreters at any stage of their development, while the less good will probably go back into the soup for later.

If songs are well-written in the first place (and you can always tell which ones were) they'll stand less chance of being changed over time. And the person who made a work good enough to stand that test of time deserves recognition (and reward, if appropriate), for the pleasure they've brought to others.

Its important we that recognise that and its implications - and give credit where its due, rather than lionising some singer because he happend to be in the pub when some collector wandered in with a tape machine or a notebook (I'm not taking about you Jim - I'm going back a ways here).

I don't represent the PRS, I'm merely a member. And in fact I share your suspicion of some aspects of their policies re Traditional ownership. For example, I'm not sure that we should be allowed to register arrangements of anon tunes and songs (which I've done many times because they let me), unless we've really made some significant changes.

But this is always going to be a grey area (how much change before it becomes 'significant' for example), so the lawyers are bound to default to a position of trying to maximise revenue for members.

And there are a lot of other issues about PRS and traditional material that have been discussed before. Those were not in my post.

The term was seeking to question - because it's bandied about without, one feels at times, people stopping to think what they are actually saying - is 'THE Tradition'
- as if there was only one stream, one flow of musical development through history - when we all know it's a tumbling brook with many meanders, waterfalls, dams, divisions, diversions and confluences.

It's the notion of ONE mythical method of passage that I suspect may be misguided.

Surely the reality was that singers through history, like today, learned from family, friends, passing strangers, the Church, written music and broadsides - each of which had its own 'tradition' - and that everywhere one goes one finds regional manifestations of this process. THE Tradition is a poor term for such riches.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 20 Oct 06 - 12:03 PM

Fantastic discussion, and goes to show that there are many workable definitions but no real boundary. Some admittedly disjointed thoughts (and please excuse any errors of detail):

Bob Dylan once referred, interestingly I thought, to being among the last to have known the "traditional people." He meant singers like Victoria Spivey and the other bluespeople he ran into, plus some he didn't, like Blind Willie McTell about whom he wrote a song.
Same goes for those of us who collected songs in the field from traditional singers half a century ago.

Dylan's presumption clearly was that we have left that traditional era forever. In terms of an un-media-mediated, non-digitally reproducible culture, that's true. But I think most people recognize that pure traditional (AKA folk, or lately "roots") music has never been pure, and thus confounds all definitions.

The fine Virginia traditional singer Horton Barker, than whom there could scarcely be anyone more traditional -- his a cappella repertoire was first and foremost Child Ballads and traditional hymns, though in some cases those hymns had known authors) found that when he wanted to pick up a guitar and sing collectors the song he courted the girls with back in the early 20th century -- the Harry Williams-Egbert Von Alstyne "San Antonio" (1907) -- they spurned it. He knew the difference of course, but wasn't much bothered by the distinction.

When Vance Randolph, than whom there can scarcely be a more traditional music collector, published his wonderful 4-volume Ozark Folk Songs (1946-50), he was forced to acknowledge quite a number of permissions from publishers for songs people sang him out of the pop songbag that had passed "into tradition" (you might want to deny the term here) between the 1880s and the 1930s. "The Baggage Coach Ahead," "Lightning Express," and other oldies were firmly set in the repertoire of street songsters even in the 1920s.

The Carter Family, now seen as at least verging on traditional though their repertoire was mixed, were in their time criticized something like rockers more recently -- as ruining and obliterating the old styles.

We know the composers of many impeccably "traditional" songs. While for example, there are a number of obviously modern, not traditional-styled campfire songs nobody knows the origin of. "I Wear My Pink Pajamas" is as fully traditional in scouting as anything you could wish. So, by the way, in the same genre, is the known-author popular ditty "I Said My Pajamas." Catchy and sometimes cute is the rule in campfire singing.

The term "traditional" almost eludes proper definition. It's often used to describe, say, "traditional" selections in the classical repertoire. "Traditional" style in advertising. Etc. Phooey. After "folk song" got swiped by singer-songwriters, "traditional" seemed like a good replacement. Now it's been swiped, and we attempt "roots." But all our terms will ultimately be swiped.

If it's traditional *style* you're talking about, then what about black songsters like Blind Willie McTell picking up recently written commercial blues novelties like "Dying Crapshooter's Blues?" Virtually every bluesman was writing his own stuff. Robert Johnson was an innovator so drastic (though his debt to Kokomo Arnold is evident) that he created one-of-a-kind blues like none ever before or since. Yet he is considered a traditional bluesman. Papa Charlie Jackson, Clarence Ashley and other medicine show musicians performed a rounded repertoire of everything their hearers might like, from traditional songs to theatrical stuff.

What about "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down?" First notable occurrence c. 1926 with Charlie Poole in NC, and Frank Hutchison in WVA. Pretty obviously not entirely a folk lyric, and that distinctive melody with its influential A7-D7-G7-C chord change may yet be traced to a pop original. Not to mention all the "folk songs" like "Lynchburg Town: and "Whoa Mule" that have roots in the minstrel shows -- some of whose songs were adaptations of earlier traditional songs ... and so on and on back to (figuratively) Adam and Eve and whatever they sang.

What about the Yugoslav cafe ballad singers studied by Lord and Parry who spontaneously recomposed traditional ballads based on a repertoire of ancient orally learned ballad tags and cliches similar to those used by Homeric singers in performing the Iliad and Odyssey? What's traditional if that's not?

Truth is, even in the backwoods during wilderness days, wagoners were bringing pop songs into the hills from urban stages, and at least some traditional singers happily learned and sang them alongside their old family songs, eventually transforming some nearly out of recognition, in a genuine folk hand-me-down process.

Some of F.J. Child's ballads were traceable to single originals with at least a presumption that authorship might be traced. Quite a few of his contemporaries' collected songs were not at all traditional, traceable to known authors. Indeed this was half the point of Sir Walter Scott's, Ritson's, Chappell's, Percy's collections, et al.   We make a face and avoid the more blatant of these in favor of "Barbara Allen" and"Lord Thomas and Fair Elinore," but the two kinds stood side by side in many minds as fascinating OLD songs, valuable and interesting because they were rescued from oblivion.

The common elements in traditional, or roots song are: relatively old songs, passed down "from lip to ear," sometimes written down (19th century singers commonly kept "ballet books" full of their favorite songs, traditional or otherwise, so they wouldn't forget the words, though they trusted to their memories for the tunes, which therefore varied a good deal over time). The songs have in the past circulated in closely knit communities, sometimes isolated (backwoods, urban ethnic and everything between). They are a particular *type* of song, distinct from pop-music assumptions of any era. Thus perhaps "Knickerbocker Line" or "Pop Goes the Weasel" can never QUITE be thought a traditional song, though "Lavender Blue" and "Billy Boy," with not very dissimilar roots, may be thought so.

DT is in some ways a closely knit, if not isolated community, singing many of these very same songs, but DT's electronic. We're getting our songs from "lip to ear" in a new sense, copying lyrics off the site, sometimes changing them if we feel more comfortable with a different line or so, hearing the tunes from Mp3s, keeping our own ballet books and passing the songs along in singing gatherings and hoots and whatever you want to call them. And yet we perceive everything as different, distinct from that older world. Is that what every musical generation does? Are our traditional songs NOT traditional now because of something in the way we get them, sing them, pass them on? Or just because we're us, and our mindset is irretrievably different? Are printed folksong collections and the internet NOT a legitimate means of folk transmission? Are we just creating a museum, even for the more recent stuff?

As for currently written songs, I'd say there may turn out, in the long term, to be something too arty, too self-conscious in quite a few of them, including mine, to allow them easy survival. By contrast, I do expect that the songs to survive will be the offhand lyrics, from "Good Golly Miss Molly" to "When Will I Be Loved" to "Mockingbird Hill" -- songs that "sing themselves," rather than songs that require a fairly artificial attitude (examples might be "City of New Orleans," "Chelsea Morning" or some of Stan Rogers' songs -- undeniably beautiful, but maybe too highly wrought to make for easy singing in future generations).

In general a great many songs popular now are too dependent on arrangement, ensemble singing, studio accompaniment or stage manner to translate effectively into tradition. I'd guess a song passing into tradition needs to be simple, straightforward, fairly unaffected, and most of all **singable by one person without undue vocal or attitudinal contortions.** That means, for example, that most doo wop songs will not translate easily, unless they're also capable of being hummed to oneself and successfully sung solo.

Songs that have nothing but a single hook might make it: "Like a Virgin?" Hip hop will definitely survive as style, just as Afro-American jazz has, but how many of its songs will be easy enough to remember or perform to make it into tradition? (I'd guess that memorable individual rap rhyme lines will become traditional even as individual verses or small groups of floating verses from Afro-American spirituals and blues did.)

Which leaves us...where?

Sometimes I just say the hell with it and say as a friend of mine once did: "Folk songs are all the songs I like." Are we all folk or aren't we? Bill Broonzy's famed line "I never heard no horse sing" applies.

So, yes if you want to keep your pop songs separate. I do too, sorta ... I like "Jeepers Creepers" and "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone" and "Iko Iko" (which is a folksong and a pop song both) and "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" and "Fever" and "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds" and so on and on, but they're in a separate place for me.

I was delighted when Kate and Anna McGarrigle revived "Alice Blue Gown" though it's the farthest thing from folk -- it worked perfectly for them, and floating on the air at a folk festival it produced some of the same thrills as tradition. It was old. It made a connection with the past.

It's said "The past is a foreign country." Traditional songs, and some other oldies as well, have a magic-ship quality, transmitting like "A Beacon from Mars" -- the delight of strangeness, not unlike the delight of reading science fiction to grasp a visioned future. Sure, the present moment is all we have but we're great voyagers in other times and places. So "Tie Me Kangaroo Down" and "Me Donkey Want Water (Hold Him Joe)" and "Moscow Nights" and the incredible songs by Thomas Mapfumo that helped liberate Zimbabwe and "Froggy Went a-Courtin'" (with its backstory re Elizabeth I) and "Sheath and Knife" and "Backwater Blues" and "Rain and Snow" and so on all seem to zing the same nerve endings.

Ultimately all distinctions break down somewhere. But tradition is strangely more reliable for me than any other musical genre in producing shivers of mystery and discovery of something that is not the everyday. It's a delight being in contact with what Dylan might call the "traditional minds" in a sort of "traditional elsewhere." Many of those minds were, like our own, equally at home within and outside of tradition, but they still inform us. They have interior-decorated my imagination better than anyone else. Voyaging there, and fusing increasingly with it, is the stuff of life for me. What more could I ask?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 20 Oct 06 - 12:15 PM

P.S. It does bear remembering that, as far as I can tell, traditional songs were always viewed by their singers as "old." Not that they wouldn't sing a new song. But they fairly reliably viewed the traditional songs as something tried and true that had originated well in the past, been handed down for a long time -- and they tended to view their own, or their family's, versions as the *correct* versions. "So and so over the mountain sings it too, but she don't sing it right."

So, along with the pastness of traditional songs, there's also a territoriality. "My version versus yours." The songs were at one and the same time everyone's, and personal possessions.

That variability, and that possessiveness, almost by definition cannot happen when a song is obviously manufactured elsewhere, as pop songs are. You may love "Blue Skies" and sing it around the house and your kids may learn it from you and teach it to their kids, but how long will it take before the song's origin is so eradicated that they'll think it's their own?

The traditional is the personal.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST, PRS Member
Date: 20 Oct 06 - 12:52 PM

Good points Bob - specially about ownership. And I suspect that this belief of ownership goes way back to the originator of the song - whether its justified or not.

Actually, the current closest phenomen to 'traditional' singing is kareoke, (God help us)! And the big favourites there tend to be torch songs... maybe Coz I Am A Lady will be a survivor.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Oct 06 - 01:06 PM

There is a school of thought that folksongs are those songs sung at football matches,[ not necessarily my opinion ],some of these are not traditional,
Red Red robin[charlton]Fields ofathenry[celtic], I had a wheel barrow, but the wheel fell off[ NottsCounty], this is an interesting one, apparently composed by someone in the stadium, when the wheelbarrow [that was used for carrying the meat pies]wheel fell off at a match.Iam forever blowing bubbles [west ham].
if these are folk songs [songs sung by the people]they are not traditional, apart from perhaps TheWHEELBARROW SONG as the author is ANON.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Azizi
Date: 20 Oct 06 - 01:57 PM

Bob, you wrote in your 20 Oct 06 - 12:15 PM post to this thread that [people] "tended to view their own, or their family's, versions as the *correct* versions. "So and so over the mountain sings it too, but she don't sing it right."

With regard to children's rhymes {the genre of folk music I've been actively collecting for some years},I've no doubt that this is still the prevailing viewpoint. When I first started collecting children's rhymes, I can recall being surprised that there were any other versions of "Miss Mary Mack" and "Miss Lucy Had A Baby", two
rhymes I learned in my childhood. And if I had heard of another version, I probably would have thought that those people were "messing up" that rhyme.

However, I believe the Internet is changing this viewpoint.

If, for instance, you look at the comments made by posters on the Schoolyard games thread on this website:
http://blog.oftheoctopuses.com/000518.php, you'll find that there are multiple versions of the same children's rhymes. And, though there are some posters who write that a previously posted version is wrong, there are quite a numberof posters who preface their examples with a comment such as "this is the way I remember it" or "the way I learned it is ____".

As an aside, posters to that thread have been encouraged to include demographical information {such as geographical area and when they recited those rhymes}. And an increased number of posters are adding that information. So not only are Internet websites helping to demonstrate to the general public that there are multiple variants of rhymes and no one version is better than any other, but posting on the Internet is also proving to be means of collecting and preserving folkloric information.

Mudcat and other websites are helping to do this too. However, I am heartened by the fact that that particular thread whose link I provided seems to attract children & youth. And I'm happy to report that my website's pages on examples of contemporary English language children's rhymes and cheers, http://www.cocojams.com/ also seems to be attracting a number of submissions from children & youth {as well as adults}. And some of these posters are including demographical information.

This is not to say that the majority of children, youth, and adults don't still think that the folk songs & rhymes that they know are the only version-or the only right version-of a particular song or rhyme. However, it appears that that perception is changing.

And I believe that's a good thing.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Azizi
Date: 20 Oct 06 - 02:00 PM

Sorry, here's the link to the schoolyard games thread in http://blog.oftheoctopuses.com/000518.php


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 20 Oct 06 - 09:56 PM

These contributions keep on getting more and more complex and better and better.
It is, I now realise, a very complicated and contested subject.
Will we ever agree about the definition of what really is TRADITIONAL folk music ?
Probably not, but who cares, keep the debate going and we might eventually arrive at some kind of concensus. Mayhap.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 21 Oct 06 - 08:29 PM

refresh


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 22 Oct 06 - 01:40 PM

I asked a question earlier, and no one has been able to answer it yet. How is what Cecil Sharp did (changing lyrics, writing arrangements) any different in spirit then what contemporary artists are doing to the song?

Maybe the answer is, there is no real difference. Folk music adapts to the individual and community as well as their purpose.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Oct 06 - 01:53 PM

CONTEMPORARY Artists are writing their own material,.
If they are performing someone elses material, they need permission from the composer, if they are not the composer themselves, before they alter the lyrics,.
Do you mean contemporary artists doing to traditional song, then there is a difference the bowdlerisation of a song is changing its meaning.
Martin Carthy singing LOVELY JOAN, Tony Rose singing the sheath and knife, Nic Jones singing, the Wanton Seed, the BONNY BANKS OF FORDIE, are keeping the essence the same., ther is no alteration of meaning .


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Guest TREV
Date: 22 Oct 06 - 03:04 PM

On the question of a Sharp changing lyrics, the case of Elias Lonnrot (sp?) springs to mind.

EL collected many songs first hand from traditional singers and he used them to create the Kalevala. He justified his changes to the texts in that as he now knew the all songs he felt himself as good a singer of traditional rune songs as those he'd collected from. Therefore, changing the lyrics was in keeping with what they themselves did.

Lonnrot, of course, openly admitted his changes of lyrics and acknowledged his sources.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Trev
Date: 22 Oct 06 - 03:23 PM

Might I also suggest 'traditional' is whatever anyone decides is traditional:-)


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Mike Miller
Date: 22 Oct 06 - 03:29 PM

I have spent years defending trad from the encroachment of contemporary because I feel that orginizations like folksong societies need to differentiate one from the other. I have discovered that, while I am still convinced of my position, there are factors existant, today, that were not available when Greensleeves was written. First, the means of instant communication in the modern world make it less likely for a song to be spread, orally. Ten minutes after it is composed, it is recorded, mixed, pressed and promoted. Even in this forum, songs are assosiated with the artists who perform them rather than the culture form which they arise. Still, tradition is an absolute, defined by practice, not by style. Tradition, in music, is no different than tradition in legend or belief. Tradition requires ritual of some sort. "Pomp and Circumstance" is not traditional because it is old, but, rather, because it has become ritual to play it at graduation ceramonies for years. There are newer songs that have become traditional through ritual usage. "God Bless America" is trad while the older, and more beautiful "Stardust" is not. "Sunrise, Sunset" has been a staple at Jewish weddings since Fiddler opened so it is trad while "If I Were a Rich Man", from the same show is not. It's a little early to label "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" as trad (God, I hope not) but, as you can see, if you want to write a traditional song, you would do well to link it to a holiday. I truly believe that a folk song should be an expression of a culture, not just of the poet.
Traditions, however, need not be more widespread than a family whistle or automobile trip singalong. I understand that families gathering around a piano for a songfest may be rarer than Republican introspection, but, modern though we may be, we still sing to our kids (those who haven't delegated that responsibility to Raffi).
So, if you are interested in having your favorite song become traditional, sing it a lot. Sing it at campfires and, more importantly, get everybody to sing it with you. There can be no such thing as a Bruce Springstien folksong any more than there can be an Al Jolson folksong. It just doesn't work that way. If quality writing was all that was needed for inclusion into "Folk", Matt Dennis would be O'Carolin.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Rowan
Date: 23 Oct 06 - 01:15 AM

While very few of the arguments in this thread seem to be new it is interesting to have them all in the one spot, so to speak. Almost like a seminar and well worth reading thoroughly. I find it interesting that the discussion has kept almost completely to English language (in its accepted variants) songs; there was one mention of Yugoslav cafe songs but everybody seems to have kept their distance from introducing notions about world music into the discussion.

In the thread on music traditions I raised the question of Aboriginal singers singing in their own and other nonBalanda language, as well as in English, and how one would categorise items of such material. Captain Birdseye was gracious enough to acknowledge the point but ducked it and came back to this discussion. I suspect that you'd have to understand different notions of "community" to fully grasp the sense of locality and consequent possession that seems to accompany 'tradition'.

I tried reading the postings and substituting "dance" for "song" in the thread and found most of the postings still made the same sense their authors appeared to intend. I particularly liked the "So and so over the mountain sings this but she gets it wrong" (or words to that effect) and apologise to the writer for not naming them properly. Some dances are particularly susceptible to local variations becoming entrenched. The Lancers and the First Set are well known among Australian collectors for such behaviour. Other quadrilles don't seem to be so 'vulnerable', for want of a better word.

Lots of folk dances dances have no known author and lots are regarded as traditional. There are strong traditions among the various Country Dance organisations and many promulgate dances by known authors. There are popular dances (Twist, eg) and idiosyncratic ones. I suspect that when we get into the throes of these discussions, it is the fact that we are extremely literate about words, less literate about music notation and (sometimes) illiterate about choreographic notation that encourages the discussion of songs to become enlivened. And that's just the footwork! Heaven help us if Azizi (or anyone else) develops a notation that satisfactorily describes multiple-partner handclapping chants done while skipping elastics. Once you start discussing the finer points of terminology with ten-year-olds we'd get into definitions even more abstruse than Maud Karpeles or Captain Birdseye could envisage.

Should be more of it!

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 23 Oct 06 - 08:15 AM

To Rowan, as I am not very well informed about aboriginal music I thoght it better not to comment.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Azizi
Date: 23 Oct 06 - 08:48 AM

Good points, Rowan.

I smiled at your comment about me doing notations for children's handclap rhymes. I would love to have some dancer or another person who is more detail oriented than me document how the handclap routines and other movements routines I've collected are done.
But, when that information is shared, I would be careful to add that this is a pattern that was observed at a particular place in time with some particular children. I would also say that, although the pattern appears to be very fixed in that particular locale with these particular children, the pattern of performing that particular rhyme may be different elsewhere.

I have seen x and o notations written above specific words in some books on children's rhymes. They are difficult [for me] to follow, though other people may "get it". I do better with word descriptions. However, my concern would be that some people would think that this is the only way these specific rhymes can be performed. Of course, it isn't.

That said, there does seem to be a basic pattern that I've seen children do for two, three, and four person handclaps. And I've also observed some basic patterns for group handclaps {some of which by the process of elimination, become two person handclaps}. I have also observed two basic patterns for foot stomping cheers {my term for identifiably formulaic patterns of rhymes that are chanted by groups of girls while they perform, synchronized, syncopated bass sounding foot stomps, individual handclaps, and body pats}.
I believe that for the historical/folkloric record these movement patterns should be documented in print and in video. But, I would not want any person to think that these were the only ways to say or to do these rhymes or cheers.

I've found that children are usually very inflexible when it comes to making changes in the performance activity and text of any rhymes or cheers that they've learned. However, I believe that we adults who have an interest in folk culture can help to lessen this inflexibility if we ourselves are more flexible.

My sense is that in time an increasing number of children & teens will be posting their examples of children's rhymes, cheerleader cheers, and footstomping cheers on Internet message boards, blogs, and discussion forums. I hope that we adults who also post to and/or moderate those Internet websites are proactive in explaining the concept that "variations aren't necessarily wrong" on those Internet forums as well as whereever & whenever we interact with children & youth.

In repeating this message we can help children & teens & adults learn to respect & appreciate their own traditions and other people's traditions.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 23 Oct 06 - 09:38 AM

"I have spent years defending trad from the encroachment of contemporary because I feel that orginizations like folksong societies need to differentiate one from the other. I have discovered that, while I am still convinced of my position, there are factors existant, today, that were not available when Greensleeves was written. First, the means of instant communication in the modern world make it less likely for a song to be spread, orally."

The problem, as I see it, is that we base our definition of "traditional" on the devices that were available in the past. Because "orally" was the main mode of transmission of the songs (due to lack of other types of recording and perhaps lack of fundamental reading and writing skills in some cases)we use "orally" as a deciding factor. Is that a true hallmark, or are we putting emphasis on it because we see it as "evidence" in the music we study?   

If a scientist were to do a study of people who write letters with pen and paper and discovered that 90% of letter writing is done by people over the age of 60 and only 10% of people under 60 sit down to write letters, what would that tell us?   Would we say that letter writing is a dead art, or would we look further to see that most people under 60 are now communicating by using e-mail?   Traditions are living customs - they do not have to be set in stone.   

Mike, you also said that "Traditions, however, need not be more widespread than a family whistle or automobile trip singalong."    Most families that I know grow. When my kids were young, we may have sung "row, row row your boat" on a car trip. Now that my kids are teenagers, the car trip singalong has evolved. We might singalong to a pop tune on the radio or pull out a favorite song from recent years, but the point is our tradition is still alive - even if the songs change.   

Yes, a point can be made that "row row row your boat" is more a "traditional" song - but what is the point? Why set such strict guidelines that end up clouding the picture of why songs were important in the first place?   A musicologist may have needs to do just that, but when it starts filtering down to influence just how music should be made - we all lose somethign.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Mike Miller
Date: 23 Oct 06 - 10:09 AM

Ron, whatever you and your kids sing in the car does become your tradition if you guys sing those songs on a regular, or ritual schedule. For instance, my daughter has sung "George Washington Bridge" (to the tune of "The Loveliest Night Of The Year") every time she crosses that span into New Jersey because I told her that, if she does, she wouldn't have to pay a toll (There is no toll in that direction). That has become her tradition and she will probably pass that little joke on to my beloved grandson when he is old enough to be fooled. It is not the song that made the tradition, it was the ritual. It doesn't matter when the song was written, either. When she was a baby, I wrote her a song called "Ten Little Fingers". She called me yesterday to tell me that she has been using that song to sing to her son and would I record it, already, so he could hear me sing it. Tradition is a product of repitition. It is what keeps old songs new. It is why "Happy Birthday" is a folksong and "Mister Tamboureen Man" is not, why "We Shall Overcome" is and "Abraham, Martin and John" is not. "Folk" and "Tradition" are not defined by the songs but, rather, by their use. If you work as a pants presser and you use "Twist and Shout" to time the mangle, you've got yourself a folksong and, if you teach your Beatles inspired trick to others, you have started a tradition.

                     Mike


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 23 Oct 06 - 10:35 AM

So what you are saying is that if I were a pants presser and sang Abraham, Martin & John to time the mangle (whatever that is!!) then it is a folksong?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 23 Oct 06 - 12:27 PM

but then if I sang hey mr tamburine man while I was milking my goat it becomes a folk song.
Many years ago I heard a radio interview with John Mearns Aberdeen song collector and he was saying that songs like Drumdelgie,were used to sing while doing farm chores , certain songs were suitable for the rhythym of horse ploughing and some wEre suitable for hand milking, This was before farm mechanisation.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Oct 06 - 02:49 PM

PRS Member,
Your point might have been better made if it hadn't come with the baggage of such phrases as (can't remember exactly) "leftie academics looking for a gig" and "romantics". Your current one of "some collector wandered in (to a pub) with a tape machine or a notebook" doesn't help much either. I don't know anybody who "collects" or has ever "collected" like that; to my mind it shows a great misunderstanding of how people like Sharp, Vaughan-Williams Grainger, Kidson, Broadwood, Hamish Henderson, Tom Munnelly, Mike Yates, Alan Lomax, Hugh Shields, Seamus Ennis et al worked. Sure, musicians or singers looking for tunes or songs to play or sing might sit in on a session with a recorder but that isn't collecting.
You wrote:
"The artform is nebulous except in one respect - that, like all art, it belongs to its maker and no-one else."
By and large, one thing that distinguishes traditional songs is that they are anonymous; (like most of the other characteristics applied to the tradition, there are exceptions, but it works for me as a general rule). As has been pointed out earlier in this thread (notably by Anahata), it isn't how the songs started life, but what happened to them as they were passed on from mouth to mouth and from group to group; this is what makes them traditional. You pass rather lightly over registering the arrangements of songs "because they let me". Basically all traditional songs are arrangements and by claiming ownership on behalf of an individual or company, you are effectively killing off their traditional nature. One of the overriding impressions I have been left with in my contact with traditional singers and storytellers has been their stunning generosity in passing on what they have. This, by the way, has also been the case with "leftie academics" (with a few notable exceptions – usually not lefties) who have been more than happy to pass on the results of their work and their ideas to others. I have always been lucky enough to encounter people who are involved in the music because of their love for it and not for any commercial or prestigious potential.   
You went on:
"If songs are well-written in the first place……………… they'll stand less chance of being changed over time".
Songs were changed for many reasons: adaptation into new situations, times and circumstances, disuse, poor memory not backed up with literacy, simple accident of the collector being in the right place at the right time… many, many more reasons. Survival is by no means a yardstick for quality.
You also wrote:
"The tradition is a poor term for such riches".
I can't really agree with that. It works for me as an indication of how the songs have been made, received, re-made, adapted and passed on. It is a term that traditional singers I have met have been comfortable with and have used as a way of acknowledging the debt owed to the people who passed on the songs to them.
Bob Coltman;
Thank you for such a thoughtful contribution to the discussion. Had past debates on the subject taken place with such thoughtfulness, without we various schools of thought crouching behind our respective barricades and hurling invective, I'm sure we would have moved on much further in our search for an agreement on definition.
Most of what you write I have no great argument with, apart from the occasional quibble.
I don't accept the idea tradition is in the ear of the beholder any more than I believe that the same can be said of classical music, jazz, hip-hop, reggae or any other musical form. If it were the case there would be little point of us discussing it as we would have no reference point of communication. In my experience, the same was not true of traditional singers, at least, not the ones I've questions.
I really don't want to re-argue my case, but if anybody is in the slightest bit interested they can hear what I, and some traditional singers have to say in the Enthusiasms section of the Musical Traditions web-site under the title 'A Folksong By Any Other Name'.
My main opposition of the present argument lies in the question 'where do we go from here?', or 'what future, if any, does traditional music have?'
None of the possible candidates you gave for future traditional songs fitted my bill for one reason. For me, one of the distinguishing features of English language traditional song is its narrative quality, the singers being storytellers whose stories come equipped with tunes. In the past these stories, as well as being entertaining, have carried the history, aspirations, experiences, emotions, values, etc. of the communities they served. I would argue that we no longer communicate in this way – I have written elsewhere in this thread of my belief that we have now more-or-less become passive recipients of our culture rather than participants. I would very much like to be proven wrong on this point.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST, PRS member
Date: 23 Oct 06 - 05:12 PM

Ok Jim, I'll admit I have been deliberately taking an extreme position to stimulate debate, hence why I'm not posting under my name (I'm a reasonably high profile professional performer in the UK and this is a tactic I wouldn't normally condone). But I'm doing this for a good reason.

You point out quite rightly that the future for this music is uncertain because of cultural changes since (and some might say because of) the revival, and in particular the changes in recent years brought about by the advent of new technologies. (I personally think we all need to have a jolly good debate about this).

You also mention barricades, and it's these that I'm unhappy about.

We have a problem here in England. The population at large has become divorced from the music which used to be our heritage. To make matters worse, many of those who view themselves as champions of The Tradition appear to believe that the solution is to cast some kind of protective ring around this old music - and often give the impression that they would always elevate music that existed before the revival above that which has come after, purely because of its provenance. Many also give the impresion that the best bet is to keep 'the unwashed' out, to avoid polluting the tradition further.

It would also seem that, in this debate, quality is often viewed as less important than antiquity (history trumps music), and perhaps more seriously that the singer is more important than the song (sociology trumps music). There are plenty of posts in this thread which support these views.

Now, there's nothing wrong with this per se - and certainly nothing wrong with individuals holding these views as a personal preference, but when this attitude becomes insitutionalised within the 'folk industry,' as it sometimes seems to be in some quarters, we have a problem.

The music starts to look like some kind of archeological exercise, of importance and relevance only to an informed few - so you need some kind of qualification or apprenticeship to be let in. This phenomenon manifests in many ways: The way some clubs are run, the way some music is performed, the way credits are given, the way royalties are paid out (or rather not paid out), the way performances are judged, the way performers are treated and so on.

The result is that the rest of society, when it does happen upon 'folk' or 'traditional' music, is more likely to turn up their noses and go back to wherever they came from, than to embrace what they hear - and, crucially, seek out more. And that's mainly what I'm unhappy about.

But there are other problems too.

This debate has thrown up about five definitions of the word 'traditional' - some of them mutually exclusive - and it's clear that we have a language crisis on our hands. Language changes constantly, laws more slowly, and the language we use when debating this topic is letting us down badly - exacerabting the problems I outlined above - hence why I said the only one we can rely on is the legal term (I'm not saying that's a good thing - just that its a fact).

The word 'folk' has mutated to mean - well, I can't be bothered to type it all out - but we all know. It's no longer the same as 'traditional,' that's for sure. But what does Traditional actually mean anyway? Well I used to think I knew - and maybe I still do (for me, and me only), but it's far too big and broad a concept - or rather, as I said before, group of concepts - to have just the one word to describe it. It might have been fine in the old days - for the old boys and girls who had that clear hindsight we've talked about. But it's not today.

Using the one term for all of the concepts you can read on this web page is asking for trouble, and it leads ot all the conflicts we've seen here. Vis, those who associate the term with a ritual, those who think it refers to an age, those who think its a process, those who feel it's a style, those who think its a legal definition, though who think its a sound, an instrumentation, a point of view etc. etc. etc.

It's not me saying it's nebulous - this very page is saying it's nebulous! I return to my point - the only definition we can be sure of is the legal one - meaning out of copyright.

Now, personally, I'd like to see even that changed. Because it allows people to credit a tune as Trad when the maker is known but has been dead - in this country - for 70 years. So O'Carolan is correctly credited as Trad. But then it's a small jump to crediting tunes like Dusty Windowsills and Spooter Skerry, or songs like Fiddlers Green as Trad. Well, they may be Traditional by one of the definitions espoused above - but they're sure as heck not out of copyright, and people recording these as Trad are denying the writers their legal due for their work.

It's like someone coming in to your car workshop on pay day and taking the pay packet out of your hands with the words - 'well, I drive a car, so...'

Now it's my view that this mainly happens because of this concept of The Tradition, and the value system attributed to it by the 'insiders (see above)' .

The idea seems to have gained currency that because the singers from whom the old songs and tunes were collected didn't actually own their material, no-one ever would or could in future. We've even seen this post-revival, particularly with Irish bands. And that's been unhelpful too - because we have only a shaky financial basis for our 'folk industry' here in England - when other countries, who treat their wirters and musicians properly, have a much healthier situaton all round.

It all needs thining about with open minds - and I see WAY WAY WAY too many closed minds here on mudcat.

To pick up on a couple of your points:

"By and large, one thing that distinguishes traditional songs is that they are anonymous." I think this view is unhelpful for all the reasons mentioned above. We SHARE ownership when we play or use the music - but we should never forget the maker.

"it isn't how the songs started life, but what happened to them as they were passed on from mouth to mouth and from group to group; this is what makes them traditional." Yes - very true, IF they are out of copyright, but even then the maker should be acknowledged if known. The trouble is that a lot of people call songs Traditional (correctly by their definition) that are not traditional by yours, and vice-versa. Ergo: Problem.

I din't use the term lefty. Actually Sharp had a right-wing agenda, but then everyone always has a political view and that will always be an issue for everything.

"You pass rather lightly over registering the arrangements of songs "because they let me". Basically all traditional songs are arrangements and by claiming ownership on behalf of an individual or company, you are effectively killing off their traditional nature." You maybe don't understand the UK system. Any number of people can register an arrangement of an out-of-copyright work. You only get paid when your particular arragement is used (usually when the track's played on the radio, or live by you yourself). Another singer or player can always make and register his own version, and no harm is done - though there are times when an artist will use another persons arrangement in a recording, credit it (I've done this myself) then the registered arranger gets the royalty. As I say I think it's a grey area which needs looking at, but the important point is that the arrangement and the work are considered separately. If there's been this system in pace through the ages no harm would have been done (and in effect, that exactly what this 'ownership' thing was all about anyway).

I'm stopping now, my fingers are sore and I need to practice something - a trad arrangement, as it happens, for my next album.

PRSM


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 23 Oct 06 - 07:01 PM

Interesting,.
In Bert Lloyds Folksong in England, Lloyd described Sharp as a socialist. but elsewhere I have read[ not Dave Harker], that Sharp disapproved of his sister being a suffragette.
If Sharp was a socialist, he would have surely approved of universal suffrage.
He may or may not have been a member of the labour party[ that doesnt make him anymore of a socialist than BLAIR].
But if he disapproved of the suffragette movement,then he does appear to have been Right wing.
to JIM CARROLL I was watching a programme last night, about a woman singer from Tyrone, Sarah Anne O Neill. It seems she was originally recorded by a Waterford man who wandered into the pub and taped away, and then subsequently came back with Sean o Boyle and informed her she was singing traditional songs, So now HERE is evidence OF someone who collected like that.[ POSSIBLY not the only one.]


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 23 Oct 06 - 09:21 PM

Good grief guys your input is excellent but is there a possibility of too much intelligentsia and legal definition on this subject and, I don't mean to be offensive, but is there also a danger of you disappearing up your own back passage in the process ?

It is obvious by now that there can not be one idea or definition of "Traditional" Folk Music. It is a collective of a ritual, an age,a process, a style, a legal definition, a sound, a culture and community and if a "Traditional" author is dead, unknown or out of copyright?

From what I have heard,thanks to all your contributions, I am still confused but come away with the overriding feeling that "Traditional" Folk Music is an ongoing process of sharing/passing on/evolution/carried on/a process of oral transmission/passed down/infinite/handing down/collected/rescued/saved/should not be left in museums/will live forever. etc

Just look at posting on this Mudcat thread that ask for :

Lyr Rec/ Chord req / Lyrics / Origin / Origin Lyrics etc etc .

What does this mean to you ?

The collective and the community are still alive and well.
Like our "Traditional" ancestors we gather and collect via the Mudcat. This is a new "Community" and surely will become the "Traditional" source of the future where "Tradition" never ends.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Mike Miller
Date: 23 Oct 06 - 10:01 PM

If the good Captain Birdseye choose to serenade his goat with Dylan songs, that is his choice. If he does so, each time he milks that little darlin', he will have created his own tradition, marrying the melody to the motion. (Folksongs tend to be functional or "working" songs). The same holds true for Ron, timing his pressing duties to the strains of "Abraham, Martin and John". You have to do something more than once for it to become a tradition.
I believe that the bone of contention is not in the defining of trad or folk but, rather, in the method of defining them. I contend that folk and trad are not defined by style or age but by function. I think that there are several catagories of folk.
There is functional folk, those songs that are or were used by a community in a repeated ritual (Hymns, camp songs, lullabyes, national anthems, jumprope songs, nursery rhymes, wedding marches, Auld Lang Syne, Happy Birthday, Take Me Out To The Ballgame, The Worms Crawl In, Taps). They allow those of us, who have never been Down Under, to bond with the shearers by singing "Click Go the Shears" or be cowboys or seamen 'board a whaler. They are of great value and should be honored and promoted by folksong societies.
There are, what I call, folk relics, songs of another time, not maintained by ritual function but as cultural oral history. They are honored just because they are so old that their time of popularity is forgotten and they exist as something like family heirlooms (Greensleeves, all the Child ballads, La Paloma, Cietito Linda, many of Steven T. Foster's songs, those Gay Nineties classics like Daisy, Daisy)
There are many talented writers who have written with the various traditions of these two types. While their songs do not fit into either catagory, a critic would have to be suffering from terminal pedantry to fail to appreciate such dedicated lovers of trad as Jimmy Driftwood, Cyril Tawney, Ewen MacColl who wrote with respect and reverence for the traditions they chose to join. So, if Bruce Phillips wants to call his songs "folk" (which he does not), I wouldn't fight with him more than usual.

                         Mike


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 23 Oct 06 - 10:50 PM

Well said Mike!!! Thanks for clarifying, that was the answer I was hoping to hear!

Some people become too obsessed with a need to label a folksong - actually the obssession might be in defining songs that they do NOT consider to be folksongs!   When you deal in labels like that, you forget the true purpose and meaning of the song. The textbook definitions are fine, but they are not the final answer.

Traditions are alive and changing with the times.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Mike Miller
Date: 24 Oct 06 - 12:52 AM

Traditions may die or they may be altered. They can not be created on demand. One can not write a traditional song on purpose. It will, or will not, become traditional when it is wed to habit and generational repitition. Trying to create a traditional song is like trying to build an antique. I have no idea why the people on this list have a need to oblitirate definitions. Do they feel that a song is more honored if they call it traditional? Are they so disdainful of the past that they must dilute it with the present? I suspect that we need a new term for contemporary songs, accompanied by accoustic instruments. I think we should look to the French for inspriration. Those guys have had these kind of songs and singers for years (Think Brel and Montand). What did they call their singer/poets? That is, surely, the category for artists like Paxton and Dylan. If we are to be faced with a folk overlap. let it be with those who create in a concious effort toward traditional inclusion, from actual folklorists like Driftwood and MacColl to sincere recreationists like Sebastion Temple and, occasionally, Willie Nelson.

                     Mike


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Oct 06 - 03:04 AM

Cap'n,
Never heard that story of Sarah Anne O'Neill, though I have to say I hae ma doots about its veracity as she is Geordie Hanna's sister. Would welcome more details though.
Enjoying this discussion very much - nice not to be shouting at one another for a change - now - shall I go back to bed or what.....?.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Oct 06 - 07:29 AM

Dear Jim,well it was on T g4, on Sunday night, Ithink.I am sure I heard correctly,.
She also said that she never knew, she was singing traditional songs , until Sean o Boyle told her.
This was the second occasion, after the waterford man had done the taping and he had returned with O .BOYLE


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Scrump
Date: 24 Oct 06 - 08:33 AM

If Sharp was a socialist, he would have surely approved of universal suffrage.
He may or may not have been a member of the labour party[ that doesnt make him anymore of a socialist than BLAIR].
But if he disapproved of the suffragette movement,then he does appear to have been Right wing


In the days of suffrage, I don't think socialists necessarily saw it as part of socialism. Men's attitude to women in those days was probably not related to whether they were left or right wing.

In other words, Sharp's disapproval of suffrage wouldn't necessarily have made him seem right-wing at that time, even if you think in hindsight that it does now.

(I'm assuming as the starting point for the above comments your assertion that Sharp was indeed considered a socialist and opposed to women's suffrage, not knowing much about his personal life/views myself).


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Oct 06 - 10:05 AM

fair enough.
My stepfather who came from a Family of piano makers in Stroud,Gloucs., Recalls Sharp visitng his parents, The Grovers,many times ,his description of Sharp , was of a man who was driven obsessively With collecting songs,
my stepfather was himself a socialist, but he always gave the impression that ShaRP was a middle class ,rather conservative man as were his friends the Grovers[Bentley pianos].He would have died laughing at the thought of Sharp being described a socialist.
to jim. what relevance has geordie hanna and Sarah o neill being brother and sister, got to this example of recording.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 24 Oct 06 - 08:39 PM

Coming back in after a lengthy lapse.

Azizi, you're right I think. As people's horizons widen, they become, or tend to become, more accepting of diversity -- thank goodness! So among those of us who are exploring outside our own hidebound boundaries (childhood limits, whatever), we can say, "So and so three blocks over and one block down sings this song differently from me, and I kind of like both versions and they're both legitimate, even though I personally prefer singing mine." Or alternatively, "Hers is better and I'm learning it in preference to mine," which has happened for me a good many times.

Jim Carroll, thanks and a question. You seem to see traditional songs as only narrative?? Certainly broadly true for ballads, and even for some non-ballad material -- "Cindy," or in British frame of reference "Weel May the Keel Row," may imply a story even though they are partly made of disconnected verses. We feel we know Cindy, or the lass in "Keel Row" singing about her laddie.

But there are innumerable legitimate traditional songs that don't at all imply a narrative. In Britain, "Swansea Town" comes to mind. "Candlelight Fisherman." Much mouth music ("Tail Toddle" is an exception) and nonsense songs that don't even try to tell a story. American: "Rabbit Hash." "Hangtown Gals." "Old Hen Cackle" and a thousand other hoedowns. A great many love songs: "My Dearest Dear," "Ten Thousand Miles." Miscellanies like "Roll On the Ground," "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down," "Lynchburg Town." Some blues, and quite a number of jook songs. Even "Home On the Range," which is pure landscape and territoriality. Do you just see narrative in a wider sense than I do, or are there, as it seems to me, scads of traditional songs that tell no story at all?

My including non-narrative traditional songs was partly what enabled me to allow for the possibility of riffs and quotes from current pop songs entering future tradition.

Moreover there's quite a bit of **narrative** song that doesn't qualify. Balladlike pop songs abound that are unlikely ever to turn folk. What's the song about the doomed young couple that has the refrain "Oo-oo, life goes on / Long after the ?thrill? of living is gone." (may be inaccurately quoted - but it's a ballad in the flesh, though not traditional in any sense and unlikely ever to be). Dylan does lots of balladlike stuff, like his mock playlet "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" and "All Along the Watchtower." Pop music quite often has a strong narrative -- but wouldn't "The Martins and the Coys" and "Eleanor Rigby" seem to face insuperable barriers?

If, as it would seem, "Willie the Weeper" is a traditional song, is "Minnie the Moocher" not a traditional song only because we know Cab Calloway wrote it, though one is a version of the other and quite a few people sing both, more or less inexactly? What about Lead Belly's "Goodnight Irene?" I feel it isn't a folk song, nor is Woody Guthrie's "So Long, It's Been Good to Know You," but they both contain fragmentary narratives, and they're almost exact analogs of songs that are traditional, like the Bahamian "I Bid You Goodnight" and "I'm Goin' To Leave Old Texas Now" or "Goodbye, My Honey, I'm Gone."

I realize all I'm saying is what others have said above: no lines in the sand last longer than the next breeze. Having seen the heterogeneous songs that have become or are becoming traditional, like "Knickerbocker Line" and "The Cat Came Back," I wonder if there's any real criterion for traditional status beyond oldness and inexact transmission?

Then in the next moment I think, nah. Nothing in the world is going to make even interesting mishearings and variants of "Loch Lomond" or "When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain" traditional, though their themes are identical to folk themes. Apart from a very few of the centuries-old "oldies but goodies" in D'Urfey's "Pills to Purge Melancholy," the rest haven't made it yet; neither have most of Shakespeare's songs, "A New Song on the Taxes," or 1842's classic American hit "Betsy Baker." What about "Lilliburlero?" I bet you could get a hot argument going either way on that song.

I find myself lost in contrarieties. It's still useful to know what is traditional and what isn't, but some songs are just hopelessly uncategorizable in between, and some songs seem to shift from one box to the other according to viewpoint.

I'm glad I sing both kinds, though the traditional ones will always be the huge majority, and nearer the core for me. I guess many others are in the same boat.

Bob


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 07:14 AM

Soldier Boy
I hope you don't think you've opened Pandora's Box with your posting. Personally, I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss the subject with people who don't use long words – I am delighted, and not a little surprised that nobody (so far) has reverted to the freemasons' jargon that usually accompanies this topic.
I suspect that those who are participating love the music and song as much as you and I do, but are curious enough to want to know more – that is certainly the case with me. I agree entirely with Lowry C Wimberly's wonderful statement at the beginning of his 'Folklore in The English and Scottish Ballads':

"An American Indian sun-dance or an Australian corroboree is an exciting spectacle for the uninitiated, but for one who understands something of the culture whence it springs it is a hundred fold more heart moving".

I don't think that there is a short answer to your question, not because it is a particularly difficult subject; rather that the terms 'folk' and 'tradition' have become obscured by misuse.
Now that PRS member has emerged (partially) out of the closet I think I should state my own personal interest.
Far from wishing to exclude them, I am one of PRS members "great unwashed". I have no educational qualifications; I left school in my mid-teens without any certificates, served an apprenticeship on the Liverpool docks as an electrician and spent my working life at that trade.
I came to traditional (folk in those days) song in my early twenties, first as somebody who wanted to be a singer, and later wanting to know more about the music I grew to love. I was lucky enough to know people like Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, Charles Parker (not Byrd) Bob Thomson, Phillip Donnellan and first on the list, Terry Whelan, who died a couple of weeks ago. They persuaded me that if I lifted the corner and peeped underneath there was a wealth of knowledge and pleasure to be had just below the surface.
It's a little like when I was a young teenager and I became fascinated with a clock we had at home so I took the back off and found that not only did it measure time, but there was whole new world of wheels, springs and levers which I found fascinating and which gave me great pleasure and if I was careful and didn't do any damage it would continue to do so as well as telling me the time.
As much as I love traditional song and music I am not part of it, I came to it from the outside, as did I suspect, virtually all the people on this thread. Nobody asked me to fill in a membership form to join the tradition and I didn't pay a subscription. YOU DON'T APPLY TO JOIN A TRADITION; YOU ARE BORN INTO IT AND GROW UP WITH IT ALL ROUND YOU AS PART OF YOUR LIFE.
The nearest I get to the tradition, is when I look down the list of the song collections on my shelf, or when I recall some of the singers I have met, and I find that the people who have passed it on to us are, like me, also members of "the great unwashed"; people like Sam Larner – deep-sea-fisherman, Harry Cox – agricultural labourer, Tom Lenihan – small farmer, Pat MacNamara – road worker, Martin Howley – landless labourer, Sarah Anne O'Neill – farmer's wife, Jack Elliot – miner, Walter Pardon – carpenter, A H Rassmussen – merchant seaman. If you go through the Hammond and Gardiner collection you will find that many of the songs there were got from occupants of the 'Unions' in the south of England – in other words, the workhouses. Many of our most important ballads come from those at the bottom of the social pile; the Gypsies, Tinkers, Travellers, call them what you will.
As far as music is concerned, one of the finest fiddle players I have ever heard lays paving stones for a living.
Like virtually everybody I know involved in traditional song, we are not part of that tradition, but merely borrowing from it. We can do anything we wish with the songs we borrow, sing them unaccompanied or to electric guitars, orchestrate them, sing them in mass choirs, even perform them standing on our heads while drinking a glass of water; so long as we don't mis-represent them by claiming that what we are doing is part of the tradition. Our national traditions as far as I can see, are made up of smaller traditions which, I believe, are, sadly, dead (possible exceptions – childrens' songs and sports chants).
I believe we owe it to the people who gave us their songs and stories, to pass on the information we have honestly and not to muddy the water for future generations by jumping on the traditional bandwagon.

PRS Member wrote:
"We SHARE ownership when we play or use the music - but we should never forget the maker".
Fair enough; tell me their names and I'll acknowledge them in the appropriate manner.

"IF they are out of copyright"
All traditional songs are – or should be out of copyright – long may it stay that way.

"We have a problem here in England. The population at large has become divorced from the music which used to be our heritage"
It was only ever SOME of our heritage – our tradition is largely a rural or small community one, not one of the whole population. Our urban culture is very different and by and large received passively rather than participated in (with a few exceptions).

"It would also seem that, in this debate, quality is often viewed as less important than antiquity (history trumps music), and perhaps more seriously that the singer is more important than the song (sociology trumps music)."
Quality is largely in the ear or eye of the beholder and more often than not contradictory. All art forms are judged by those involved as being bad, good, indifferent, better worse……. that is as it should be. Those of us who have been involved in research need to make sure that our personal tastes don't interfere with the end result.

Cap'n
Watched the repeat of the Sarah Anne O'Neill programme last night; thanks for the warning, I would have missed it. I think you'll find that the person who first recorded her was not a collector, but a local lady recording a locally organised event who then passed on her tape to Sean O'Boyle.
Jim Carroll
Bob,
Just seen your posting - will try to respond fully later but am off to Knockloughree week-end shortly.
I should have said that I was referring to the British song tradition: I know that there was a major shift to an instrumental/dance-song tradition some time in the early 20th century which brought about major changes in the repertoire. I would contend that my statement is largely true for many of the old 'Love Ballad' singers like say Texas Gladden and Dillard Chandler (to name two of many).


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST, PRS Member
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 08:52 AM

Jim, I agree with nearly all you say.

You were lucky to encounter, at a young age, people who led you into this music at a time when things were clearer. The trouble is that though there are some great performers who seek to open that door today, there are many more 'champions of The Tradition' who seem to want to do the opposite - vis how Moray, Lakeman and others are vilified here on the web and elsewhere. Even worse, there are many (90% of the English population, BBC executives, advertisers of Sprite lemonade, the US Government, the list is endless) who are so separated from this culture that they fail to recognise any value in it. Our challenge is to reverse this - but only a very few are preared to stand with one foot inside the door and one out, and the die-hards inside trying to shut the door make life even harder for them.

I agree wholeheartedly with this;

"We can do anything we wish with the songs we borrow, sing them unaccompanied or to electric guitars, orchestrate them, sing them in mass choirs, even perform them standing on our heads while drinking a glass of water; so long as we don't mis-represent them by claiming that what we are doing is part of the tradition. Our national traditions as far as I can see, are made up of smaller traditions which, I believe, are, sadly, dead (possible exceptions – childrens' songs and sports chants)."

So - if 'the tradition' is no more, yet people come from outside, step inside, then shut the door, it we're bound to have problems.

I said: We SHARE ownership when we play or use the music - but we should never forget the maker.
You said:Fair enough; tell me their names and I'll acknowledge them in the appropriate manner.
I say: Good - not that it's easy to find a maker, and often it's impossible of course, but it can be done more often than many realise (specially for more recent songs and tunes that lie outside your definition, but within other people's). The trouble is many don't think it's necessary.

I said: IF they are out of copyright.
You said: All traditional songs are – or should be out of copyright – long may it stay that way.
I say: But that's my whole point. Read this page again and you'll see that many have a definition of 'traditional' which takes no account of copyright or 'creative ownership.' The word has too many conflicting meanings, to too many people, to be of any real use now.

I said: We have a problem here in England. The population at large has become divorced from the music which used to be our heritage
You said: It was only ever SOME of our heritage – our tradition is largely a rural or small community one, not one of the whole population. Our urban culture is very different and by and large received passively rather than participated in (with a few exceptions).
I say, as you clarify in your post-script: Again that's only by your definition of the word (shared by many but not all). Others might say it included songs from the revival, music hall, protest songs, union and poltical songs, singer-songwriter stuff that happens to use an acoustic guitar, anything with a story, anything they learned aurally from a floor singer or in a session, anything they've danced to at a ceildh - whatever they fancy. Again - redundant term, too nebulous for effect.

It wasn't the revival that finished off your definition of tradition, it was technology. Other versions thrive, but most importantly the music lives on. Treat your 'rural stream' it as one strand among many and there's no problem. Treat it as the Holy Grail and soon no-one will be able to find it any more.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 10:10 AM

I think I agree (provisionally) that we, arriving to the tradition from somewhere else, are not part of the tradition. But then I wonder...

I recall Janis Joplin saying something to the effect that she would hardly have dared sing the blues (in her definition that would mean R&B) were it not that blacks had abandoned the blues wholesale, and she felt the songs were too good to be left unheard. Some may feel that was hubris on her part, but I think the remark is valid, and addresses what several have said above: when the "folk" have left tradition behind, when they're happy performing hip-hop, salsa, swamp rock, you name it, then what?

I'm just wondering how time-bound our viewpoint may prove to be. Mistakenly or not, will our descendants regard our strongly self-conscious folkie generation as just another blip in a long line of ever-changing tradition that proceeds onward into future centuries, reinventing itself as it goes?

In other words, can tradition jump the rails? Can it survive its transition from among the "traditional people" -- the Harry Coxes, the Texas Gladdens, those to whom these songs were the fabric of a working life -- into transmission via record, book, internet and any future means we think up? Can it survive blended into the minds of people for whom it is not native?

What if it can't? Then what? Is tradition at an end? Or is it part of a larger continuum in which songs will continue to diversify and be varied, even if no longer in a media-free geographically continuous community? If I'm a spaceman on the Earth-to-Mars cargo run in 2087 and I sing "Barbara Allen" to while away the time, having learned it from my uncle who learned it from a friend who learned it from a Library of Congress recording by Rebecca Tarwater of Tennessee (and especially if the song has changed in transmission through forgetfulness or deliberate variation), am I in the tradition or not?

The components of the traditional community change, and are always going to change. I am pretty sure traditional singers did not at first take kindly to the songs of the industrial revolution -- "Peg and Awl," "Wark o' the Weavers," pick what examples you like (not to mention the ancient "Long Pegging Awl"). They must have thought them a clear break from the old ballads, village dances like "Skip to My Lou" and "Elsie Marley", agricultural songs, and general songs based on that milieu -- "Green Bushes," "Devilish Mary," etc. At first they must have thought them a disagreeable, or at least trivial, novelty that could never join the magic circle of the real old "love songs" etc. But as time went on, their repertoires included both. And the circumstances of life, how different: gritty streets of coal mining towns, as distinct as can be from the old cabin in the green and leafy (but somewhat eroded) holler. (And yet the two environments are cheek by jowl in the American south and around places like Swansea in Wales, and inhabitants may sing both sorts of songs indifferently.)

What is our present-day community? Broadly speaking, the city and the suburbs, with cell phones and the internet. There is no tradition in the usual sense. The office environment produces little or no song. So does that mean tradition is over, was a one-time occurrence, a kind of natural resource like oil that is now depleted and cannot be continued or reconstructed?

But when today's office and convenience store workers and hamburger flippers go home to their electronic village, download Mudcat, learn songs, share them with friends, sing them at songfests, learn more about their provenance, gradually make them part of their own consciousness, is there no possibility whatever that this may be the jumping-off place for a new lease on life that in time may amount to tradition? I would not bet against it.

In a broad sense I think tradition goes on forever, and even the media, though never at its heart, may accidentally become part of it -- as when folksingers appeared on the Hootenanny shows in the 60s -- New Lost City Ramblers singing "Down By the Sea Shore," say, or the innumerable BBC shows featuring authentic singers as well as the modern interpreters who learned from them.

Is tradition, perhaps, whatever propagates itself among people beneath and despite the authorized, imposed culture of official entertainment (American Idol, say)? Is traditional song an irrepressible force that rises from below, a counterculture in a sense? Not every upstart song that exerts uncanny power becomes traditional (Buffalo Springfield's unforgettable "For What It's Worth" has its feet in both worlds but will never be folk). But some do, and I'm guessing some always will.

In the end I guess my plea is for an open-ended definition of tradition that sees it as a continuity going on into the future, changing its circumstances (and yes, its definitions of community), but unending.

Unless we blow ourselves up, of course. Then it will have to start with some other organism on some other planet.

Bob


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 12:29 PM

Mike Miller, you gave me a good chuckle at the image of Captain Birdseye milkin' them goats to a Dylan song -- the epitome of the rhythmic worksong. Tamp them ties, load that bale, squirt that milk... It's a SHAME the way she MAKES me scrub the FLOOR......yank...squirt...

And I AINT (squirt)
Gonna WORK (squirt)
On Maggie's FARM (squirt)
No MORE! (squirt)

(But seriously folks),

Variability seems to be right at the core of traditional song, if only because the songs pass hither and thither via hearsay, and thus act like a rumor or a meme, growing (or dwindling) and changing as they move. So the mention of Elias Lonnrot and the Kalevala raises one objection many people pose to tradition continuing onward via printed or electronic means: doesn't it die if it takes on fixed form? So if you "learn it off the record" or out of the book, aren't you freezing something that is amoebic by nature?

The Kalevala is an interesting case. In the earliest recording era there were still a few Finns who sang the root songs Lonnrot made his epic from; and they can be heard on ancient 78s. Those Finns were folksingers. But by amalgamating and freezing the Kalevala in book form (as "Homer" or whoever did with the Iliad), did Lonnrot stop tradition in its tracks? It appears he may have. I'm not aware of a live tradition of Finnish epic songs today with any roots apart from the Kalevala itself.

That comes close to the bone, because, as Ron Olesko mentioned, Sharp tinkered with the songs he collected before publishing. So, notoriously, did John and especially Alan Lomax, to the extent that a huge amount of our core American traditional songbase is forever suspect! No kiddin'! We look at songs like "On Top of Old Smoky" or "Old Joe Clark" and have to realize the Lomaxes assembled and in some cases rewrote the "standard" verses to suit their idea of a coherent song. Not to mention the bowdlerization for which Baring-Gould is notorious, but which in fact was done by nearly every collector. A look at the un-bowdlerized songs in Legman's edition of Randolph's Ozark off-color material is a resounding razzberry to all those simon-pure collections that preceded it -- albeit Randolph, in his era, had no choice.

My instinct screams: they had no right to mess with it! I want the stuff, not from some educator or folklorist, but from the horse's mouth! (That's the Big Bill Broonzy horse that sings, I guess.) I have spent my life trying to get around and beyond the interpreters' versions, the folklorists' evasions, to the "real thing" from sources in the field.

But of course that's a will o' the wisp since, again it bears saying, the "pure" tradition was never pure. It survived only by being adulterated countless times over. If it hadn't been "adulterated" and "tainted," it could never have become folksong (traditional song = becoming -- a process, as someone else said).

So without all that "ruination of the older, purer version," we'd still be singing "A Quainte Adventure of Ye Frogge and Ye Mouse" instead of "Frog He Would a-Wooing Go" or "Froggie Went a-Courtin'."

Next, quite a bit has been well said here, especially by Jim Carroll, on the subject of community. That raises an old dichotomy among lovers of traditional song. Surely, like traditional dance, which almost by definition must be a group activity, traditional song may be a community resource -- singing circles, evening family self-entertainment.

But unlike dance, traditional singing is and was, perhaps even more prevalently, a solo activity. Folk songs were sung by solitary people singing to themselves, whether at work or play or just to pass the time, divorced from performance even in the most informal sense. You and I and everyone have all done that, I think, enough to know what it feels like. Even if the songs arose in a traditional community, as often as not they turn into a personal expression in solitude. Sung to the four walls, to a hiking trail, to a mule, to the birds, or to your dog or cat. Could that mean that rootedness, in a traditional or even a pickup community (as with campfire singing), is only part of the story, and not an exclusive criterion?

Finally, Jim, you're devastatingly right in what you say about today's "passive recipients" of culture-from-above. Nothing could be truer. There is no tradition if people merely hum by rote something they heard on the radio or off the jukebox or on MTV. Is there a possibility of "couch potato" folkmusic? Could Homer Simpson by any stretch ever sing a folksong?

Continuance of any tradition requires individual initiative. -- Like our younger selves back then, hearing traditional songs or even reading them out of a book, unable to breathe or think until we had learned them, sung them, made them "our own" (whatever that may mean). Mad to sing them to friends, taking a guitar to parties, denting people's ears, making nuisances of ourselves. Ferreting out ever more obscure songs, springing them on whoever will sit still long enough. It takes drive, and it has to happen apart from received culture.

But we did it, didn't we? And our younger contemporaries are doing it now, however divorced they may be from what we now conceive as "traditional life." (But, remember, our inheritors in the 22nd century may view "tradition" and "traditional life" as something that's still in the future for us.)

To get a little too abstract for a moment: When definitions change, it doesn't negate all that has gone before. That earlier state of things may pass out of memory, i.e., die. But more frequently and most indigestible of all, it changes its semantics and its worldview so that the past turns into an unrecognizable future.

I think from the viewpoint of our predecessors of, say, 1800, that's how the "traditional folk" must have looked as they were changing and developing and "ruining" old songs toward 1900. Think how Britain and Europe's native traditional population might have disowned the breakaway singing and songs of emigrants to the US, Australia, Canada etc. To them, those innovations would have seemed futuristic and not traditional at all! That's not unlike how we have arrived at where we are now, in and after 2000, full of qualms of conscience because we're not traditional.

What I've said about tradition as a moving force onward into the future is predicated on that continuing drive and initiative to learn and pass along songs, if on no other criterion. Everything else may change, but people must be song carriers or tradition fails. The existence (and fervor) of DT, plus all the contemporary folkie communities it dovetails with, from performers to home singers to amateur hum-and-whistlers, makes me think it is continuing, even if by strange new means.

But nobody's required to take the long view. It's more fun just to sing the songs and feel the power of connection to everything we know and feel about them. If we can find a way to be at home with our shifty-eyed definitions of what's traditional, so much the better.

Bob


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 12:33 PM

I tried, hey mr tambourine man, its ok for goat milking but not as good as, come saddle to mwe the old grey mare.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 01:11 PM

Its called the rhythm method.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,PRS member
Date: 26 Oct 06 - 05:05 AM

Jim, I was puzzled by your quote 'I am one of PRS members "great unwashed"' because I didn't remember using the phrase. Looking back now I see I did use the term "the unwashed" - but by this I meant 'the uninitiated,' - specifically, in this case, those who've not shown sufficient understanding of, interest in or knowledge of The Tradition to gain acceptance from those who feel they are the guardians of the same.

'Great Unwashed' usually has a totally different meaning, and not one I intended.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Oct 06 - 03:42 AM

PRS Member
Sorry to have mistaken your meaning of 'The Great Unwashed' – no offence meant or taken I hope – this thread has been refreshingly free of offence so far – it must be the trolls' annual holiday – wonder if they go back to Norway each year!
Bob Coltman.
You are right of course.
I think perhaps I put my point badly. While I believe that the backbone of the British tradition is the narrative song which starts at point A and works through to a conclusion, as you point out, there are those that don't follow this pattern; those for displaying vocal dexterity (Tail Toddle), dance songs, shanties, ritual songs, nonsense songs and many other types. What I was trying to say was that our tradition is word rather than musically based (unlike the US). Even those songs lacking a continuous narrative are based on communicating images, ideas, aspirations, – all the things that make us human. The images used were based on the realities of the times the songs were made and are, I believe, universal and generally identifiable enough to be relevant for today. At the very least, they are a part of our history and as such, worth consideration. Some time ago I researched some traditional songs (including Lillibulero) for a talk I gave on song and history and was fascinated to find how some of them had been made as weapons and inspirations in order to achieve social and political objectives.
I don't see the function that the songs once served being echoed in any of those you put forward as future candidates, certainly not in pop songs, though I confess my knowledge of pop music died with Buddy Holly, J P Richardson and Richie Vallens! I do believe that the traditional form of creation gives us a template for creating new songs (MacColl and a few others have proved that to my satisfaction), but whether this continues to be the case remains to be seen. If nothing else, there is still a great deal of pleasure for me in listening to the old songs well sung. I can still remember the hairs on the back of my neck bristling when I first heard blind Travelling woman Mary Delaney singing 'Buried in Kilkenny' (her version of Lord Randall) while sitting outside her caravan, with trains passing the site she was stopped at every five minutes. I can't recall getting that degree of pleasure from any other form of singing. She prefaced her song by telling us we wouldn't like it because it was "too old".
The tradition was summed up perfectly for me by MacColl at the end of his 'Song Carriers' programmes (anybody who hasn't got a set and wants to hear traditional singing at its best should try to get them while they are currently doing the rounds.
MaColl said of the tradition:

"Well, there they are; the songs of our people. Some of them have been centuries in the making; some were undoubtedly born on the broadside presses. Some have the marvellous perfection of stones shaped by the sea's movement; others are as brash as a cup-final crowd.
They were made by professional bards and by unknown poets of the plough-stilts and the hand-loom.
They are tender, harsh, passionate, ironical, simple, profound; as varied indeed as the landscape of this island.
We are all indebted to the Harry Coxs and Phil Tanners, to Colm Keane and Maggie McDonagh, to Belle Stewart and Jessie Murray and all the sweet and raucous unknown singers who have helped to carry our peoples' songs across the centuries".

When we first started visiting Ireland regularly thirty odd years ago the future of the music there was somewhat uncertain; in the main the musicians were elderly and the youngsters who had been forced to enter the Comhaltas competitions by doting parents were going over the wall at the earliest opportunity. Nowadays things have changed radically. This year's St Patrick's Day parade (in this small West of Ireland town) included at least fifty young people, many of them of school age (some at junior school level), and many of them playing brilliantly, which convinces me that people will still be listening to traditional Irish music for at least the next two generations.
I wish I could say the same about the songs, which appear to be disappearing at a rate of knots. I believe that one of the main factors for this situation has been the poor standard of singing at many of the clubs (certainly many of the ones I have visited). They never seem to have shaken off the amateurish 'near enough for folk song' image that has pervaded the revival from the beginning. I believe it lies within the ability of all of us to sing well – if we work at it. Too often traditional song appears to be regarded by its participants as the only art form that needs no preparation, skill, thought or effort. I packed in singing because I wasn't prepared to do the work and I felt it insulting to sing in public without having done so. We seem to have never escaped the 'natural as birdsong' ethos that was projected by many of the early collectors. Until we do I believe traditional singing is doomed to end up on the archivists shelf.
Well, I'm off to the Knockcroughery (Hill of The Hanged Man I'm told by an Irish speaker – now there's a piece of tradition for you.) singing week-end.
Jim Carroll.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 27 Oct 06 - 04:26 AM

I have hesitated to join in this thread for a number of reasons but since the latest contributions especially from Jim Carroll, make much sense, then I thought I might add two pennorth.

I am not so sure as Jim that singing is as moribund as he seems to suggest. Though I do agree that it has been poor for a while. For years I used to go to folk clubs not just to see the professional performers but in the hopes that I would come across a good singer worth listening to. I was happy for this to happen just occasionally, and felt it was worth listening to the "anything good enough for folk" for the occasional gem. They stopped happening so I stopped going.

At the same time there was a massive increase in young instrumentalists many of whom get incredible enjoyment playing in sessions. So, singers were replaced by instrumentalists and the folk club by the pub session. My own home town of Sheffield does not have a city centre folk club and attempts to start one have failed on a number of occasions. But it has loads of sessions.

All this means that singers and especially solo singers have less places to hone their skills in public so easily.

But some good singers are coming forward. I cite Crucible, Jim Causely, Devil´s Interval, Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, Witches of Elswick as examples and I predict a great future for Ruth Notman.

I think the Newcastle course may have an influence on singers eventually since singing is a large part and they have the wonderful Sandra Kerr as teacher.

Bit of a thread creep from definitions of traditional music.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: JulieF
Date: 27 Oct 06 - 07:44 AM

Dave

I'm surprised that you think that singers have nowhere in Sheffield to hone their skills given that there are two major singarounds at the Red Deer and the Kelham Island Tavern.   If you were saying that there a few places where you can reasonably sing non chorus stuff, then I would be inclined to agree.

Are you are saying that the lack of a city centre folk club means that singers get less of a chance to perform a set, perhaps in support of another act and miss out on development in that way ?

J


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 27 Oct 06 - 07:54 AM

Jim -

I see your point, and agree about the narrative aspect of traditional song. In fact, for me as a singer the words are vital. I can and do love many traditional fiddle and banjo tunes, and play some of them. Nevertheless, the lyrics are vital, and I'll always be a singer of good songs (and some delightfully bad ones) first and foremost. I love and sing the lengthy ballads from "Lord Randall" (a Virginia version) to "The Comrades' Last Brave Charge" and many other songs that have stories attached. So I am a partisan highly in favor of what you say.

Indeed I have been worried about the same thing you cite: how readily young players steer clear of traditional singing, instead rushing to traditional tunes! They play them with reasonably good and sometimes outstanding style, though too many tend toward a virtuosity that can destroy the feeling of the older styles. By contrast, some young players do loosen up old tunes that had traditionally been played in stodgy fashion, so it works both ways. Tunes are the draw, not words. Is this because, since traditional style became reinstituted as a virtue in the folkie community, they're finding the vocal slope too steep? Or do they just not think much of words, due perhaps to rock's heavy emphasis on beat and melody?

Here in America, as in Britain, real exponents of traditional singing are few, and of these nearly none are satisfying. I find myself preferring to listen to field recordings from the 1920s and 30s rather than all but a very few of the finest contemporaries. All too rare are moments like that in the film "Songcatcher" where a fledgling Emmy Rossum as well as the peerless Iris DeMent briefly capture the true feel and sound of Appalachian traditional singing! (All honors, too, to the fine traditional singer Sheila Kay Adams, who made sure it happened that way...and perdition to the numbskulls who put out the ensuing CD ripoff with pop singers.)

All you've said about the decline of narrative song is true, and lamentable. Many say it's inevitable given our alternate sources of narrative that overwhelm the instinct. Singers a hundred years ago had little access to books and newspapers, with radio barely beginning and TV and the internet in the distant future. The automobile and highways hadn't had much impact...etc. etc. The story is familiar.

I must say my examples of possible surviving songs were spur-of-the-moment and strictly in fun. But my examples of musical genres that might throw up survivals were a little more serious. I do see survivals arising out of current music here in Yankland if not in Britain. (Granted neither you nor I may enjoy them, still I think they're bound to come!)

A trend already underway may show what could happen. The Smithsonian Institute has long sponsored folk festivals across the US, starting up a new one in a new city each year, and leaving behind a legacy of organization to produce festivals going on into the future. In nearby Lowell, Massachusetts, the yearly festival must now be something like a quarter century old and amazingly strong. It features folk artists from all possible cultures, including strong local Cambodian music and dance.

But the hottest items at those festivals inevitably are the more contemporary sounds, from the Sun Records revival band to electric Cajun rock. Hearing "Great Balls of Fire" blare from folk festival speakers is entertaining, and maybe presenting it as "folk" makes sense from a longterm standpoint -- it's become vernacular music, in some sense, I guess. So has bluegrass, for all its pop-country yearnings. Conversely, some other traditions keep to the old styles, from Portuguese fado with traditional guitarra accompaniment to what's left of American singing with oldtime banjo picking (rarely much good). Trouble is, the few performers in traditional style are swamped by the louder, catchier, more pop-monolithic forms of music that have long enjoyed the advantage of commercial backing and studio-airwaves style.

Is this inevitable? Back in the 1970s when the American oldtime music craze hit big, fans noticed that again and again, American pop music after about 20 to 40 years enters the traditional repertoire. Singers incorporated the songs of the 1880s through about 1910 in recordings of the 1920s. (Granted, as you say, this didn't happen to any great extent in other parts of the English-speaking world -- though Canada and Australia did develop their own 1930s "old time music" derived from American approaches, and some of the records were sold in Britain, they never created significant markets for vocal narrative music.)

In America a Charlie Poole, or an Uncle Dave Macon with a somewhat older repertoire -- both breakaway entertainers with a sizable repertoire of traditional and older popular music -- embodied this principle. But fast forward to today, and similar survivals seem less digestible. The pace of musical change has accelerated so much that very little 20- to 40-year-old music (1960s-80s) fits any conceivable folk style.

For England I defer to your greater knowledge, but clearly the musical world of the 19th-century villager and farmer has vanished more abruptly than in America. It was a lucky break that Bob and Ron Copper, as well as those you cite, survived long enough to impress moderns with their authentic songs and styles. Still, for modern singers trying to carry on English tradition, there has been a real break in continuity. It had to be filled in from about 1950 by a vigorous BBC and club revival effort (paralleling that in America) that would appear to have lost vitality over the years.

It's very much a matter of creating a community anew. That A. L. Lloyd and Ewan MacColl did their share of that beginning in the 1950s shows it can be done, but it takes energy, pluck and real dedication to traditional song. It's never a mass phenomenon, may even be tough to persist in. But this thread is scattered through with names -- examples most recently in Folkiedave's message just above -- who are pushing traditional songs and styles in England and elsewhere in Britain. They're bound to change both song and style in the process, but that's folk music, or so we used to tell ourselves.

I'm still optimistic that (by hook or by crook) some form of English traditional singing will persist. Are teenagers showing up to listen and learn, as happened in the past half century? What are they making of what they hear? It may be a while before they are heard from, but some, I would think, will catch fire from the sheer delight of the songs, and become singers and song carriers themselves. ("Like a virus, caught for the very first time..." -- sorry, couldn't resist that one.)

The danger, of course, is that traditional singing could become solely a professionalized activity, as it has in so many European countries -- a "national resource" embalmed in semi-official "accepted" style and dead as a doornail.

But traditional songs in both England and the US seem to have an idiosyncratic anti-pop magnetism other genres don't have. They attract singers who sing for the love of it, most of them NOT professionally...singers who would sing whether they made any money or not. Folk music's continued vitality will rise or fall, I think, with its ability to attract that kind of amateurs in enough numbers to form some sort of community of like minds.

Bob


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 27 Oct 06 - 10:17 AM

If you were saying that there a few places where you can reasonably sing non chorus stuff, then I would be inclined to agree..........

Are you are saying that the lack of a city centre folk club means that singers get less of a chance to perform a set, perhaps in support of another act and miss out on development in that way ?


Hi Julie, Yes, precisely that. And that the chances for young singers to perform with established artists can be important IMHO.

I know there are established sing arounds and sessions in the town centre, and some of the instrumental music is great, I´ve rarely been to the singing sessions. But I´d like a folk club in the town centre too!!


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Oct 06 - 10:53 AM

To Bob Coltman comment on American singing with banjo, try SaraGray,OR TomPaley


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 30 Oct 06 - 08:57 AM

Refresh


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Rathingle
Date: 30 Oct 06 - 12:25 PM

In Ireland if a song has survived 75 years after the person who wrote it died then it is said to be gone traditional .
anon. means nobody knows who wrote it.
Stop complicating things boys and girls


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 31 Oct 06 - 07:03 AM

What sort of music was being sung by "The Corries".


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Big Mick
Date: 31 Oct 06 - 07:30 AM

Rathingle, according to your assertion, everthing written before 1930 in Ireland is considered traditional? I don't think I buy that at all. I would like to know the source of this assertion of yours, as well as hear from other Irish posters.

Mick


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Shaneo
Date: 31 Oct 06 - 07:55 AM

Mick I got the info. from a member of The Wolfe Tones some years ago ,
I also found it on the Comhaltas site [they promote Irish music].
When recording other peoples music you don't have to give credit
to the writer if he/she has been dead 75 years .

This is only what I heard Mick , nothing is cast in stone.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Big Mick
Date: 31 Oct 06 - 07:58 AM

Great to see you joined. Welcome.

Was it Derek?

Thanks for the lead to the Comhaltas site.

Mick


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Shaneo
Date: 31 Oct 06 - 12:21 PM

I have been here a while now Mick , I do have a small problem signing in , so sometimes I just use Guest to make life easy .
I cant say which of the 'Tones it was ,,Im sure you understand.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Big Mick
Date: 31 Oct 06 - 12:30 PM

Sure do. I just thought you might know.

There is a difference between not having to cite the author and considering something trad, it seems to me.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 31 Oct 06 - 02:46 PM

Decidedly: just because a song (or anything else) is in the public domain (i.e., its copyright has expired) doesn't make it "traditional folk music"! Copyright (or its Irish or UK equivalent) is not the point of the discussion here.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 31 Oct 06 - 02:53 PM

I thought the Wolfe Tones had been decommissioned as part of the North-outh agreement.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Shaneo
Date: 31 Oct 06 - 03:08 PM

So what is traditional folk music is the name of the initial post Becky .
To Guest above if you like I can get into a discussion about The Wolfe Tones and their contribution to Irish music


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 31 Oct 06 - 03:16 PM

C'mon folks. Like "folk", "traditional" clearly means different thing to different people. If you're going to discuss it, define what it means for the purpose of the discussion. And if, like many, you think it's all-encompassing, please stop using the term so that folks who dothink it refers to something, and not to something else, can go about their business of using the term.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 31 Oct 06 - 04:51 PM

That's easy for you to say!


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 31 Oct 06 - 05:39 PM

Jim Carroll

"North-outh agreement"? Was that "North-South" or "North-mouth"? Too much to hope for, I suppose!

Regards


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Nov 06 - 04:32 AM

Sorry, PRS Member, didn't mean to ignore your points; went off in a rush
You wrote;
"So - if 'the tradition' is no more, yet people come from outside, step inside, then shut the door, it we're bound to have problems."
You are quite right about this; there is a tendency to dismiss what we find contrary to our preconceptions rather than discuss them; that's one of the reasons I have found this particular thread so enjoyable and informative, though I am a little disturbed that a few of us have monopolised the discussion..
You went on to the subject of definition:
I believe it necessary to agree on a definition of what we mean by 'traditional' or 'folk' otherwise we stop communicating – humanity tends to label things fairly accurately so we know what tin to open.
I, like thousands of others, walked away from the clubs when I no longer knew what I would find when I attended one; to a degree this has happened in the field of research.
If the definitions are going to be changed, they need to be changed by consensus and not in such an arbitrary way as to end up discussing at cross purposes.
I believe the tradition has died and any redefinition has to be carried out based on what information we have of has happened in the past rather than what is happening today, which, I believe to be different – not better or worse, just different.
Up to fairly recently, I have found those involved in traditional song/music, particularly in research, a fairly co-operative bunch open to discussion and argument. Things have changed a little recently with some 'self-appointees' (sorry - not having a pop at PRS or IMRO) who seem to believe that the path to 'fame and fortune' lies in junking the work of others, but these are very much in the minority and by-and-large so lacking in the social skills as to render themselves as recognizable as if they were wearing jackets with luminous stripes.
I can't see any reason why we can't reach an agreement on what we mean by 'tradition' and 'folk' by the pooling of ideas and experiences rather than in the somewhat arbitrary way it has happened so far, (or by shouting at each other) otherwise I can see us all retreating to our individual cells like hermit monks.
Bob:
I think we agree more than we differ on the subject, which is very refreshing.
Didn't know about the 'Songcatcher' rip-off – shame, but hardly unexpected. Can't speak for the UK, but the film never got a general release here in Ireland, which speaks volumes about the tastes of the arbiters of our culture over here.
Folkiedave:
I agree with your assessment of Sandra Kerr as a teacher and look forward to hearing the result of her work, and the other tutors in Newcastle.
On the subject of teaching – has anybody had any experience of the workshops that seem to be springing up at festivals and singing week-ends?
They appear to consist of an established (sometimes) singer spending a couple of hours teaching a class a handful of tunes to songs, not how to sing them, (if this were possible in a workshop) just the tunes. Does anybody know the rationale behind this or does anybody have a different experience of singing workshops?
Jim Carroll
PS I agree with Dick Greenhaus -m for what it's worth.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Nov 06 - 04:45 AM

Martin,
I think I meant North-Mouth - wonder which participant I had in mind!!!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST, PRS Member
Date: 01 Nov 06 - 05:42 AM

Ok Let's try some new definitions:

For CD covers, live credits at gigs etc. how about:

'Maker's Name" = in copyright (at the time), royalties due.

"Makers Name; OC" = out of copyright, free to use, but maker respected. (This is where I part company with Rathingle. Just because a work's out of copyright and therefore now 'traditional' it doesn't mean we can forget to credit the maker. If that happened we'd have forgotten about a man called O'Carolan, for example)

"Collected, c (collector's name if possible)" = out of copyright, but traceable to what some used to call 'The Tradition," (though it should have been called "A Tradition") before the term became obsolete.

"Arr Name; any of the above" = registered for copyright but only that precise version, plus the arranger/producer must show that he or she has done his or her best to at least alert the maker, the maker's estate, or the collector before publishing.

"Anon" = genuinely untraceable and so widely used as not to belong to any definable 'tradition.' Therefore no copyright / ownership possible.

That should sort the ownership issue - but it's not ideal for describing the 'folk process.'

I'd suggest that instead of saying The Tradition (a phrase I hate because people use it like a mantra, as an excuse not to think, as a means of gaining acceptence), people should take the trouble to identify which strain they mean.

E.g. The English Rural Tradition, The Donegal Fiddle Tradition, the Sea Chanty Tradition, Football Terrace Tradition, School Playground Tradition, 60s Songwriter Tradition - etc etc etc, and then just not bother to use the T word at all!

It's too late to rescue the word 'folk' - it has too broad a meaning to be redfined now, but if we just learned to use the words 'made,' 'collected' or 'anon' instead of the dreadful 'trad' I'd be content.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Nov 06 - 09:03 AM

guest prs;yes,that sounds sensible.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 01 Nov 06 - 05:16 PM

On my records I credited material this way:

Meet Her When the Sun Goes Down (yraditional, Fiddlin' John Carson)

Banjo Sam (traditional, Wilmer Watts)

etc.

This honors the tradition and the song's latest bearer/reviser. It was an approximation at the time, but I haven't found a better way.

Bob


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 01 Nov 06 - 05:17 PM

Um, I didn't actually credit it "yraditional," although that certainly is a pixilated possibility.

Bob


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 01 Nov 06 - 05:32 PM

"C'mon folks. Like "folk", "traditional" clearly means different thing to different people. If you're going to discuss it, define what it means for the purpose of the discussion. And if, like many, you think it's all-encompassing, please stop using the term so that folks who dothink it refers to something, and not to something else, can go about their business of using the term."

Dick, I don't think any of us have used the words "all-encompassing" and I doubt that any of us would.

For the purpose of discussion, could you define your terms?   What do you consider "folk" and "traditional"?   You said that the words mean different things to different people, but your last sentence seems to indicate a very solid definition that you have formed.

I am asking in all sincerity and please do not interpret my question as being combative. I truly respect your opinion more than most, and I want to be sure that I understand where you are coming from.

This is a very interesting thread, and I think deep down we are probably closer to agreement than it would seem.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST, PRS member
Date: 01 Nov 06 - 05:46 PM

I like your solution, Bob. But mine's a bit shorter - and avoids the dread word which can so easily be twisted.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Nov 06 - 04:05 AM

Sorry folks, your arguments don't hold water.
PR Member's definition seems to be rooted firmly in the market place; Ron's is based on the fact that somebody has come along and decided to call their particular music 'folk' or 'traditional' so we can no longer use the term – or, at the very least, we have to define what we mean by what we mean. As far as I can see, Ron's argument makes a nonsense of the language. Some time in the seventies I stopped using the term 'folk' because of the largely commercial mis-use of the term; I can see no reason to retreat from the term 'traditional'. You are all ignoring the fact that there is, and has been for quite a long time, a perfectly workable definition of both 'folk' and 'traditional' which was applied to an easily identifiable poetic and musical group of songs and based on how those songs were created (largely anonymously), transmitted (largely orally) and altered and re-shaped to suit the people who performed them, listened to them and identified with them ( I use the term 'largely' because there are a few exceptions to this definition, but certainly not enough to invalidate it).
If you wish to re-define 'folk' or 'traditional' you have first to address the standard, historical definition and either disprove it or expand it to include the new material, stating your reasons for doing so. It is not enough to say, "from now on I'm going to call this knife a spoon".
As far as the commercial argument is concerned, the English traditional singer, Walter Pardon summed it up perfectly for me.
Walter had passed on one of the songs he had got from his uncle to two revival singers, who had then argued between themselves as to which one of them was going to sing it publicly.
Walter's response was one of puzzled amusement; "They're not my songs, they're everybodys".
There is a certain grim indication of how attitudes have changed to what, as far as I'm concerned should be common property in PRS Member's argument.
A friend of mine, Tom Munnelly, recorded a centuries old ballad, 'The Maid And The Palmer' which was believed to have totally disappeared from the tradition, from an impoverished Travelling man, John Reilly. It was recorded by a 'folk singer' and is now copyrighted by Phil Coulter.
John Reilly died of malnutrition in a derelict house in Boyle, Roscommon.
To all intents and purposes, the ballad is now the property of Phil Coulter.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,PRSM
Date: 02 Nov 06 - 07:14 AM

Jim
My definitions are not rooted in the market place, but they do, however, attempt to take account of the legal situation - which yours doesn't.

You suggested yourself that the term traditional was redundant - partly because the process which gave it that name is now so pulluted by technology as to have ceased working, and partly because so many people have decided it means something else that there's no point in sticking to the old definition.

A man may call a knife a spoon if he wishes. He will be misunderstood - but only until a majority of the people he speaks to make the same change. Then the language will have changed, and his term will be the correct one. Now THAT's a folk process!

The standard historical definition had its place, at the time it was defined. At that point the music it described was developed in isolation. Songs existed like species in an ecosystem. Sometimes the newts found a new pond and then a new community would spring up, and some of the newts made it back over the hill to add their gene-pool back into the old strain - and so the songs developed.

The process was slow and - assuming one had a time machine - relatively easy to trace back to the original maker.

But 100 years ago all that changed. First of audio recording, then radio, gramaphone records, CDs and now the internet, made the passing of songs lateral as well as linear - to create a much much more complex 'folk process.'

It didn't happen overnight, which is why people went on using the term Traditional without noticing what was happening to the word. And they were happy to include in thier definition all manner of aspects which lay outwith the 'official' definition.

Now we have a situation where only a tiny minority of people even know what the 'official' definition is. Read this tread again, and you can see how confused the picture now is.

I recognise your definition. But if you merely use the word Traditional, many people will misunderstand you - because they mean something else by the word.

If you were happy to change your term to one that has, for now, not lost its meaning - for example 'collected' everyone would know what you meant.

It's a pain, and maybe a shame - but that's language for you all over!

PS can you clarify the Reilly / Munnelly / Coulter route for me? I'm not sure I follow what happened. Has Coulter got copyright of the work (impossible in the UK - well, the courts would have to sort it), or only of his arrangement of the song?

PPS Walter was right when he was referring to songs that come to him the way they did. But he'd not have said the same thing about a song written (assuming it could have been in his repertoire) by Paul McCartney!

PPPS Agian, your defintion: "created (largely anonymously), transmitted (largely orally) and altered and re-shaped to suit the people who performed them" only works pre-audio recording technology. It doesn't hold water today - and anyway, a lot of songs even back then WERE written down, both by writers and by 'unofficial' collectors - and that's one of the ways the newts multiplied!


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 02 Nov 06 - 09:48 AM

"Ron's is based on the fact that somebody has come along and decided to call their particular music 'folk' or 'traditional' so we can no longer use the term – or, at the very least, we have to define what we mean by what we mean. As far as I can see, Ron's argument makes a nonsense of the language. "

That is not at all what I said.   I am not sure how you came up with that interpretation Jim.

With all due respect Jim, I was trying to account for the "historical" aspects that you stated - "how the those songs were created, transmitted and altered and re-shaped to suit the people who performed them, listened to them and identified with them." IF that "perfectly workable definition" that has existed for some time is accurate, then you should be able to apply it to contemporary music to define "folk".

The arguement that a tradition "dies" simply because of changes in technology, habit, etc. does not hold water. Traditions are constantly evolving and adapting based on the criteria that you stated.

What I was trying to say in my earlier posts is that in order to define "folk" or "traditional" we need to look at the process that creates such songs, the times in which they were created, and how the songs were used. Most people simply disregard contemporary music because it does not fit THEIR definition based on DATED criteria. What bothers me about most of the definitions is that they do not take into account other factors of the individuals and the time period in which they are created.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,PRSM
Date: 02 Nov 06 - 10:12 AM

I agree, Ron. Personally I'm suspicious of any romanticisation of The Tradition: This notion that a process existed which somehow created the songs, that the talent lay with the singers not the writers, and that's therefore where reverence is due. That's wrong. The songs were created by talented people who had something to say, just as songs are today. The bad ones never got handed on. The good ones were, and occasionally they got better in the process, more often they got more confused and corrupted. Words were lost, tunes were simplified, floating verses added to muddle the listener. Many trad songs you hear on records or in clubs today are actually quite poor in pure song terms if you stop to examine them (though there are many that are pure gold). Sometimes spoiled ones were or are rescued by talented singers and revitalised, and then of course credit is due - but it was only worth dong that if the song still had something worth rescuing - and if it did, that's down to the original writer, not those who've mussed it up over the ages, and made it need revitalising!

But Jim's definition is valid and well recognised. So is yours. But they're not at all the same thing. Hence why we now have to bow to the inevitable, drop the word, and find new terms that say what we each mean.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Scrump
Date: 02 Nov 06 - 10:27 AM

`When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.' - Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll

That's just what I intend to do with "folk" and "traditional". It's the only way folks!

:-)


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST, PRSm
Date: 02 Nov 06 - 11:07 AM

That's fine for 'folk' but not for 'traditional' becuase what happens is people put 'trad' on their CDs and then, because 'trad' has a legal definition, the work's ownership can become lost, and rightful payments not made.

It's happened scores of times and its very hard to re-establish ownership once lazy people have committed this crime - and yes, it is actually a crime in law. It's called theft.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Hugh
Date: 02 Nov 06 - 10:58 PM

What a fascinating discussion. We are French Canadian. I had often wondered what was the difference between our stuff and what the 'English' call traditional or folk.

The best description of French Canadian traditional music is a style of playing / singing. This has been reflected in some of the previous posts. For example, "You don't apply to join a tradition; you are born into it and grow up with it all round you as part of your life."

For example, we employed an 'English' (means his first language was English not French, round here) musician last year (we are professional). He was a really excellent musician and had played with really top (international) artists and groups. But he just didn't well sound right - despite playing all the right notes and even playing them in the right places.

Originally French Canadian music was unaccompanied, so re-arrangement is normal. Plus my wife is a devil for re-writing the lyrics, never seems to be the same song twice as far as she is concerned. But again that is in the tradition.

This evolving form has appeared in other posts about non-'English' folk / tradition.

Thanks guys, very interesting indeed.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Nov 06 - 03:25 AM

Don't forget Scrump, Humpty Dumpty was created as an example of self-destructive pig-headedness - look how he ended up!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Nov 06 - 03:32 AM

Humpty Dumpty was pushed.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 03 Nov 06 - 10:15 PM

Hello there. Lots of truly superb contributions on this thread drawn from years of professional experience and research.

I know that there are lots of different and challenging views on this subject and we may never arrive at some kind of agreement.

I do wonder if too much of this debate looks introspectively at the 'romantic' ideal of the past and yet fails to consider the processes of the here and now and the potential for the future.

MaColl is quoted on this thread as saying that "..unknown singers who have helped to carry our peoples' songs across the centuries"

Bob Coltman said that "..songs pass hither and thither via heresay..like a rumour..growing (or dwindling) and changing as they move" and he also said that "tradition is a moving force onward into the future..continuous drive and initiative to learn and pass down songs..people must be song carriers or tradition fails."

Just consider the power and the impact the internet can play now and in the future on the transmission,exchange and survival of folk music.
Jim Carroll has said much on this thread about the subject of 'Community' and I agree with him, but is there not a new Community developing across the globe right under our nose?
-The community of the internet that now passes on and hands down information about folk music at lightening speed and also broadcasts and promotes events and communal gatherings of like minded people.
By this way we now form a close community and year in and year out we gather to get together, meet up and enjoy this 'family' of folk just as our ancestors did in isolated hamlets and villages.

All you have to do is to take a quick look look at the threads appearing on Mudcat today:

Requests for Origins of music/Lyrics/Tunes
Invitations and announcements about folk clubs/festivals/getaways/gigs/whats on etc etc

Surely all this is the modern equivelent of the tradition of passing on and handing down customs and practice from one generation to the next.

If you look at the future how does it alter our perspective on the past?
Surely it is a continuous stream and long may it live and prosper without all the nonsense of date boundaries,dead or still alive authors,known or unknown authors,best before and sell by dates.
We are not talking about perishable foods we are talking about creative material that will deserve to be passed on and collected by popular requestfor years and maybe decades to come.

Can we still be bound by definitions written in the 1950s' (or whenever) written in tablets of stone!

I think not. I just invite you to look more closely at the way we can put things into perspective in terms of how we think and communicate today and might do so in the future especially with all the technology to hand.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Nov 06 - 04:18 AM

Every time these arguments come up I wonder why some (romantics?) are so anxious to claim to be part of what is basically an archaic tradition; why is it important to prove that Ralph McTell's songs come out of the same stable as 'Riddle's Wisely Expounded' or 'Van Dieman's Land'?
For me, the most important defining factor of the song tradition is its oral nature; it is this characteristic which produced two hundred plus versions of 'Barbara Allen'. By saying that 'Streets of London' is from a different family tree to 'Lord Randall' is not a value judgment on either song; it is a statement of fact and historically, nothing will ever change that fact - unless we all throw away our recording machines and our word-processors and start composing songs in our heads, memorising what we have composed and singing them to our neighbours. Now that would be romanticism!   
I have always accepted MacColl's argument that the traditional forms were a perfect template with which to create new songs. I believe that the anonymous poets, who made 'Banks of Sweet Primroses' and 'Clerk's Twa Sons of Oxenford' and the equally anonymous singers who came after them, took their songs up and reshaped and re-created them, made a magnificent contribution to our culture and were capable of using language as skillfully, sensitively and passionately as Shakespeare, Donne and Milton. Understanding that tradition and those forms will perhaps make it possible for our own and future generations to produce new Shakespeares, Donnes and Miltons and perhaps, as Malcolm Douglas suggested, leaving those who come after us something worth having.
In the end, the point is an probably an academic one as long as songs continue to be made, re-made and sung, but knowing where we stand in relation to the tradition is, I think, an important part of our understanding it
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST, PRSm
Date: 04 Nov 06 - 06:17 AM

You have a good point Jim, but Soldier Boy's is equally valid. There are two main schools of thought here.

1) Those like Jim who mean something quite specific by the term 'The Tradition', an oral process which could only exist in a wold without mini discs, mp3s, myspace etc so which has of course died out _as a process_ even though the material is still around (and still changing). Jim - and probably MusTrad, EFDSS and others - need a word which ONLY describes this oral process, and the material which came down to us through it, and then became, to a certain extent, preserved in aspic and/or otherwise diverted by (some) collectors.

2) Soldier Boy and others need a term that describes the evolution of music by any means, including Jim's, but also many others including myspace and ipods, 70's album tracks, The English Book of Penguin Folk Songs, jotting down a tune in a session etc.

As long as these two camps are trying to use the same word for these two very different things there will be trouble - the worst of which being a blurring of the LEGAL definition of 'tradtitional' (and here again the law is inadequate also), which results in authors being denied roylties, and, equally wronly, arrangers acquiring copyright of work they did not create and do not morally own.

I'm suggesting that Camp 1) should take a deep breath and start using the word 'Collected' rather than 'Traditional' to decribe 'their' material, and also - when needing to describe the oral process - to qualify 'traditional' with 'oral,' 'rural,' 'seafaring' etc. as a matter of habit.

Meanwhile Camp 2) should also drop the word 'trad' and use perhaps 'folk' as that word has, most would agree, now broadened sufficiently in definition to describe what they mean adequately. So this on-going process becomes the 'folk' process - which, of course, includes ALL the previous traditional definitions and the rest.

And I've already suggested how the legal definitions might be shaped up for use when publishing.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: greg stephens
Date: 04 Nov 06 - 06:46 AM

PRS member is very keen that we should use the word "collected" instead of "traditional". So, what does he call a traditional song that hasn't been collected yet?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST, PRSm
Date: 04 Nov 06 - 08:20 AM

Mmm, thought someone would ask that.

Well, there can't be ALL that many 'unknown, out-of-copyright and as yet unpublished' (which is what it would have to be to qualify) material left, but you could make a case for saying that as soon as a piece is recorded, or published, or performed in public, or enters the modern public domain by one means or another, it does at that moment effectively become 'collected', even if not by someone who calls themselves a Collector in the normal sense. So the term would still work. You could call them Source Songs if you prefer I suppose.

I don't like it much either, but the current situation is a mess.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Nov 06 - 08:21 AM

Uncollected?

Waiting to be collected?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: greg stephens
Date: 04 Nov 06 - 08:35 AM

Well, PRSM, I'm not sure hwo many uncollected songs there are(byt its nature, not an answerable question). BUt as regards tunes(which is what I know about): in Ireland Scotland and the north of England(and also to some extent in the south) there are thousands of traditional dance tunes. And, as the dance band tradition never died, these have just been passed down along the line. So, if I play Soldiers Joy or Miss McLeod's Reel, I didn't get it from, or via, a collector. I just got them from other people who played them, who got them in turn from other people who played them. And I call them traditional tunes. And will firmly continue to do so. And incidentally, if I record one, I'll put "Trad arr G Stephens". in the hope of gttimg some modest royalties which will otherwise end up in somebody else's pocket who hasn't contributed anything to the process. doesnt deserve them.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,PRSm
Date: 04 Nov 06 - 08:43 AM

I have no problem with that - as song as 'written' tunes, that ARE still in copyright, are not treated the same way - which they very often are, because by the very nature of the beast people tend not to say where tunes came from in sessions so things slip through the net. It's a slightly different issue to the one we we discussing just above - but it still needs to be debated.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Nov 06 - 08:55 AM

Sounds like our postal service!
Sorry, I've already retreated from 'folk' - you'll all have to put up a better argument than those so far if I'm going to retreat from 'Traditional'.
Aren't we being somewhat exclusive here by assuming that everybody has access to computers and the Internet. Here in the West of Ireland, which had a thriving tradition up to three or four decades ago............... but I'm sure you don't want to know that.
PRS member - I do wish you'd desist from hanging a price tag on what, by definition, is common property - it's like living through The Enclosures again.
The much demonised MacColl put many hundreds of traditional songs and ballads back into circulation and NEVER, NEVER, NEVER at any stage attempted to copyright them. Most of the time, with one exception (First Time Ever - not one of his best) he didn't even bother too much about his own compositions, but was pleased and proud to have them sung. One result of the money that came from F.T.E. was Blackthorn Records, which gave us, among other things, probably the definitive collection of traditional ballads, Blood and Roses.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST, PRSm
Date: 04 Nov 06 - 10:17 AM

Actually I'm casual about the use of my own songs, love to hear them sung (even if mangled), not really bothered about the money (as you'd see if you visited my site), and am deeply honoured when any are mistaken for trad.

But the principle of copyright is important, and not only for financial reasons.

"I do wish you'd desist from hanging a price tag on what, by definition, is common property"

But I'm NOT! Not, not, not, not!!!

I'm reminding people of the price tag that DOES exist on what is NOT common property, but which is being treated as such out of error or laziness!

Let me put it for the third or fourth time:

Because people confuse your 'oral/source/collected' definition (which DOES refer to common property) with Solder Boy's 'it's-all-one-on-going-process' definition (which includes SOME common property but ALSO includes much which is NOT common propety) people can end up treating copyright works as out-of-copyright.

That's what I'm seeking to prevent.

Partly because its not fair, but also because it devalues those who make this music worth listening to and playing in the first place. The people who can turn your soul with a cadence. Bring a lump to your throat with a phrase. Set the hairs on your neck waving with story. Make your blood rush with a tune.

We need properly to respect songs and tunes, by respecting their makers, and hear less of the 'its good enough for folk' and 'I do it this way because that's how I play/sing' attitudes.

I do love the inclusive, let's-all-join-in nature of the UK folk scene, but - and it's a BIG but, we won't see this music treated with respect by the population at large until the material and its makers are respected.

Recognising the true value of this music by learning to recognise the value of its makers, is the only way I can think of to turn the situation round.

And if that also means that the folk scene then becomes able support more great writers and players, who can afford to tour and make CDs and make this music their life's priority - and so help tell the rest of the world see how great it is (while also taking nothing away from all of us who want to join in and play our part) - so much the better!


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Nov 06 - 02:27 PM

PRS Member (would you mind if I called you P? – PRS Member is such a tooth-loosener, and I was always rather fond of Q, James Bond's armourer – was he a relative?)
I concede your point; you are referring to songs where the composer is known, which means of coure at long last we may be getting somewhere with this somewhat convoluted argument.
You do realise that you've just presented the perfect argument for keeping traditional and newly-composed songs seperated!
One of the characteristics of traditional songs is that the authors are not known, ("traditional – of obscure or unknown origin") therefore, how can we possibly describe newly-composed songs, or songs where the authors are known as 'traditional'?
Jim Carroll
PS I Googled PRS Member and didn't find your web-site.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,P
Date: 04 Nov 06 - 05:28 PM

This is what I've been trying to say all along Jim.

Under your widely accepted but NOT exclusive definition of the word Traditional, there is no problem or issue about ownership. The material that exists within your definition of the word is all out of copyright and in common ownership.

But as we can see from this discussion, that is not understood or respected by all of the folk community.

A lot of other people have decided, for good or bad reasons, that the word traditional NOW means something else; something more general, more continuous - and generally open to a MUCH wider interpretation.

You can decry this, but it's happened. And the cat will never fit back into the bottle.

So. When the term Traditional is applied in this second way it can and often will include works which are either still in legal copyright, or which deserve, morally, to still be associated with a maker's name (it's not only about money, its also about respect - as I've said before - think O'Carolan for example).

Yet because people believe that it's ok to do what you like with traditional materal (because that's what your gang are telling them) and what the law seems to imply, and anyway its only folk and it's all everybody's anyway, the result is artists feel free to use copyright material without consent or credit, denying rightful royalties, making ownership hard to re-establish, and devaluing the contribution made by original thought to music.

It is this confusion that I want to end by dropping the word Trad.

We need ONE word to descripe the thing your talking about. And DIFFERENT word to decribe what Soldier Boy (and perhaps now a majority of people in the folk world) are takling about.

Now you can hang onto your definition if you like, but you'll have to stop all the others using it, and I think it's just too late for that - don't you?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Nov 06 - 04:20 AM

This, as the Monty Python team regularly observed, is getting very silly.
I have just had a quick shufti round our book collection and have come up with the following: Folk Songs of the North East, Folk Songs of Somerset, Traditional Tunes of The Child Ballads, Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads, The Ballad of Tradition, English Folk Songs From The Southern Appalachians, The Ballad and The Folk, Folk Songs of New England, Folk Songs From The Catskills, Anglo American Folksong Scholarship Since 1898, The Greig-Duncan Folksong Collection, Ancient Irish Folksongs, North Carolina Folklore – Folk Songs, The Journal of the Folk Song Society, The Folk Music Journal, The British Traditional Ballad In North America, The Penguin Book of English/American/Canadian/Australian Folk Songs, The English Traditional Ballad, Folksong In England – we have a large number of books so the list is somewhat extensive.
It appears to me that those of us who are happy with terms like folk and traditional have history on our side – we've got a pedigree folks (if you don't mind my using that term!) that stretches back nearly a century.
Doesn't it strike anybody as a trifle presumptive that people should come along and inform me, Bronson, Sharp, Greig, Duncan, Gerould, Gummere, Fowke, Crichton, Coffin, Goldstein, Flanders, Brown, Broadwood, Kidson, Grainger, Cazden, Henderson, Shields, Joyce, and those of us who are comfortable with the F and T words, that we can no longer use them and from now we must call them 'source songs', or 'collected songs' or even 'waiting to be collected songs'?
And what about the related disciplines? Do we now have to refer to 'A Dictionary of British 'Waiting To Be Collected' Tales, or Italian 'Collected' Tales, or The Motif Index of 'Source' Literature, or maybe even Modern Greek 'Good Old Days' Tales.
I wont even begin on our folklore (or should I say 'old timey' lore) or tradition (or 'what we did centuries ago') collection.
And what about the organisations, magazines and web sites? Traditional Song Forum, English Folk Dance And Song Society, Musical Traditions, The Living Tradition.
Poor old Nicholas Carolan of the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin has just undergone an extremely expensive move of premises; which of you is going to be the one to tell him he is now going to have to reach into his pocket again and cough up for a new nameplate for the front door?
And what guarantee are you going to give us that you're not going to come along in six months or a years time and tell us we've got to change again because you like our name better than yours and you would like to use it?
Gi'e us a break Jimmy!
However, don't despair; perhaps there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Those of you advocating change have not even attempted to come up with a half-decent definition (Bob Coltman tried - sort of, but he was rather diffident, as if he wasn't quite convinced himself). Nor have you tried seriously to challenge the established definition, but rather, have taken the beautifully apposite path trodden by Humpty Dumpty in saying "a word means what I want it to mean" (it appears to be purely fortuitous that you don't want to call your songs hip-hop, or opera or tralaleri). Might I suggest that how you identify the various types of songs under discussion is your problem, not ours. We have perfectly acceptable terms which not only identify the songs but go some way to describing their creation and dissemination. As much as I'd like to help, it really is up to you to find a suitable name for YOUR songs – sorry – this seat is taken.
It should be remembered that no matter how often words are misused or mispronounced, genealogy will always be an 'alogy' and not an 'ology'.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST, P
Date: 05 Nov 06 - 06:19 AM

Indeed - it's a facer, isn't it!?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: greg stephens
Date: 05 Nov 06 - 06:25 AM

Well, I'm 100% with GUEST a few posts back(I assume Jim Carroll). I've been forced to give up "folk", the rising sea levels have swamped it, but I'm buggered if I'm giving up "traditional" without a fight. "Collected" indeed: pshaw!


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 06 Nov 06 - 09:35 PM

I agree Guest,P but what do you think should be THE word to replace 'traditional'?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Nov 06 - 02:25 AM

And why does it need to be be replaced?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Scrump
Date: 07 Nov 06 - 04:19 AM

Yes, Humpty Dumpty was right after all! :-)


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST, p
Date: 07 Nov 06 - 05:59 AM

Language happens. What's needed is a debate to recognise the dichotomy, rather than any dictat on new words. People who prefer to avoid being misunderstood first notice the dichotomy, then realise they may be being misunderstood, then change their language to avoid confusion. Eventually a consensus forms and the language changes, and finally the confusion is lost. Meanwhile 'Traditional' continues to have at least two incompatible meanings - with the consequences I've outlined.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Nov 06 - 06:55 AM

Guest p, has presented a logical case,.
what is needed now is discussion and consensus for a new word.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: greg stephens
Date: 07 Nov 06 - 03:57 PM

Well, if "traditional" is no use any more, how about "folk"? used to do the job perfectly.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Nov 06 - 07:09 PM

P
Some suggestions so we are not working totally in the dark
1 Define tradition (references to your sources would be welcome).
2 Give us examples of which songs you would like to take the place of those currently understood as traditional.
3 Explain what makes them fit in to your - and (as definition relies on general understanding and agreement) our definition of your understanding of traditional.
4 Advise as to how we are going to persuade all the many hundreds working in the field of traditional music who, in their ignorance, fully accept the current use of the term, to now switch over to your new definition: (what is it that has been suggested so far as a substitute; collected - waiting to be collected – source music)?
5 Suggest why I should walk away from forty years experience, (which includes thirty years of collecting work among er… source – collected - waiting to be collected - singers) at the behest of somebody who has not had the courtesy to identify themself so that I might judge whether their efforts (as a middlingly well known performer) fits in with our estimation of what traditional songs or singing is going to sound like should I accept your argument.

If somebody new to traditional song were to ask me where they might hear good examples of the genre I would probably give them a copy of 'The Song Carriers' (which comes with an excellent commentary).
If they were to enquire where they might find good printed collections of such songs I would have no hesitation in pointing them to 'The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs' or 'The Singing Island'.
If they were to say they wished to learn more about traditional song I would suggest they read A L Lloyd's 'Folk Song In England', or David Buchan's 'The Ballad And The Folk' or David Kerr Cameron's 'The Ballad And The Plough' or Evelyn Wells' 'The Ballad Tree' or, somewhat further afield, Jan Ling's 'A History of European Folk Music'. None of these are by any means perfect, but they are all extremely informative and highly readable introductions to the subject.

I wonder how you would respond to such requests; have you any solid examples of your particular brand of tradition – do you have any accessible research which has been reached by study or debate or even historical precedence to back up your re-definition, or is your suggestion purely whimsical?

If I suddenly decided I would like to learn more about - say opera - I would approach somebody who understands the subject for advice. I would hope they would tell me what I wanted to know in terms I could understand – in other words, I would expect them to start from their own standpoint of experience and knowledge and not patronise me by coming down to my level of inexperience and ignorance, and I certainly wouldn't wish to have someone tell me, "well, because you are quite likely to be confused by all this, we'll throw in Julie Andrews for good measure".

Are there really people out there who actually don't understand the term 'tradition' or are incapable of picking up a dictionary and finding out its meaning.

So far this debate has been a little like wrestling fog - you have not addressed one point that has been put to you. I suppose this is too much to hope for so let's see how you get on with these.
I won't hold my breath.
Greg;
Now go and wash your mouth out!
Cap'n:
I have to say you are very easily persuaded. I am trying to sell a clapped out old van which is at present blocking my driveway – are you interested?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 07 Nov 06 - 08:47 PM

Well said, Jim.

I have one further question to add. When exactly was this "legal definition" of "traditional" that equates it with "out of copyright" made law? It would be helpful if "Guest P" would enlighten us on that point. Until we know that, we might be inclined to consider it PRS interpretation of law, which is not above challenge.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST, P
Date: 07 Nov 06 - 08:54 PM

Jim I understand your position, I really do. And I would indeed support your stance under my real name (not least because my career depends upon it!), but there's a very good reason why I'm forced to conclude that it will probably be 'your camp' - rather than the people who perhaps don't understand how important that pure definition might be, and are thus the eroders of your term - that will eventually have to find a new phrase to descibe the thing you now call 'traditional folk music'.

And it is this:

When the term Traditional was first applied to folk song and music it was not unique to that definition. It was not a noun, it was an adjective - and a very general and commonplace adjective too. (The noun, 'THE tradition,' came later - precisely becuase the adjective was already proving inadequate as a descriptor).

At that time, the word Traditional could ALSO be applied to lace making, archery, Masonic rites, domestic decoration, marriage ceremonies, cuts of beef, marmalade, and the manufacture of perry, mungo and pig iron.

Amongst other things.

And the word 'Traditional' continued to have a meaning to millions of people who had never even thought about folk music, let alone listened to it, or tried to understand the processes which your gang believed that the term was describing.

So when, with the revival, people re-encounterd this thing you call The Tradition, they were perfectly within their rights to make the assumptions which many have expressed in this thread.

You see; those who feel the word descibes an on-going process, (which did NOT stop with the collection of songs which had heretofore only been known in remote rural locations and had arrived there purely by aural and oral means) are in a massive majority.

A MASSIVE majority.

Because they include ALL English-speaking people, including those who don't give a morrish-shtick for folksong.

Which is a LOT ot folks.

And they ALL know what the proper, dictionary definition of the word 'Traditional' is. They all know it has little or nothing to do with music. It's entirely general - and their use of it is entirely correct in the wider grammatical and syntactical terms of the English language.

This may be unfortunate for those of us who want the word only to refer to a cultural process and a musical catalogue which existed in certain communities between about 1550 and 1890. But it's just tough, I'm sorry to say.

You see, when the term Traditional was first applied to folk music it was entirely appropriate.

But time has shown it to be lacking. If only they'd used a new and unique word!

Remember - I'm ONLY talking about language here.

I have shelf full of books too. And I'm not reaching for the tippex. Yet. But ask me about this is 50 years. (Well, you won't need to)!

So.

To answer your points:

1 Define tradition (references to your sources would be welcome).

There are three basic defitintions: 1) Yours, 2) Solder Boy's (which concurs with perhaps 75% of the population of the Atlantic, American and Australian islands), and 3) whatever legal definition applies in your parish which may be the same as 1) or 2) or not.


2 Give us examples of which songs you would like to take the place of those currently understood as traditional.

None at all. You're missing my point COMPLETELY!

3 Explain what makes them fit in to your - and (as definition relies on general understanding and agreement) our definition of your understanding of traditional.

Again - this challenge is irellevant to the point I'm making. I'm talking about language, and language only. Songs and tunes are nice, or less nice, according to personal opinion. And that's all.

4 Advise as to how we are going to persuade all the many hundreds working in the field of traditional music who, in their ignorance, fully accept the current use of the term, to now switch over to your new definition: (what is it that has been suggested so far as a substitute; collected - waiting to be collected – source music)?

I haven't a clue; I'd much rather the other lot changed their term! BUT as there are only 'many hundreds' in your camp, and many millions in the other, I think i know what will happen.

5 Suggest why I should walk away from forty years experience, (which includes thirty years of collecting work among er… source – collected - waiting to be collected - singers) at the behest of somebody who has not had the courtesy to identify themself so that I might judge whether their efforts (as a middlingly well known performer) fits in with our estimation of what traditional songs or singing is going to sound like should I accept your argument.

I'm not saying for one minute you should walk way from anything. I'm merely suggesting that we need to separate the stuff you're taking about from everything else (as you said, the old from the newly-made). So that writers don't get ripped off. So that good material flourishes. So that the heritage remains available. So that the general public finally appreciates how important this stuff is.

But if we want that to happen we can't keep using the same word for two things.

I know you understand because your understanding informs the subtext of all your posts.

The ony issue issue is; Who changes?

Time will tell.

Me? I've been to William Hill and placed my fiver.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,p
Date: 07 Nov 06 - 09:01 PM

Malcolm - I don't know. But the law is the law.

If you want to change it that's a different mater.

Make your case here, and if I agree I'll meet you at 3.30 on the 15th of December at the gates of Downig Street. With a big placard.

IF I agree.

If not - well, best of luck!


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 07 Nov 06 - 09:39 PM

I'm not in the business of making a case, but I thought that you were. My question still stands; is it the law? Or just a powerful pressure group's interpretation of what may or may not be law?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST, P
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 03:47 AM

As I understand it, in law, material is either in copyright or out of copyright. If a work is credited as Trad or Anon, it's assumed to be out of copyright - by PRS, MCPS, equivalent organisations overseas, and everyone else, and treated accordingly. Sometimes, just sometimes, someone may know better and then the tag may be rectified.

Again, as I understand it, PRS/MCPS is not a pressure group. It has a mandate from government to administer royalties in the UK, so in common law that makes their definition the legal one. But I'm willing to be proved wrong on that.

In any event, if the dichotomy was cleared up, the legal problem would disappear.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 04:15 AM

Quick reaction.
Traditional is, always has been and always will be understandable to those involved - it will be just as understandable to those who (hopefully) become involved in the future.
It is as accurate when applied to song and music as anything that has ever been suggested in my hearing - the pretty dismal suggestions that have been made on this thread (even if it were necessary to accept change) would do nothing to our or anybody's perception of the subject.
It seems I was wrong; we have not only been wrestling fog, we have been wrestling semantics.
There has been enough work done to ascertain that the music will always be there to be accessed. If it is to cease to be performed, so be it, changing the name will not make one iota of difference.
The Titanic would still have sunk, even if the name had been changed to 'The Good Ship Lollipop'
More later- when I have woken up.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST, p
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 04:28 AM

"Traditional is, always has been and always will be understandable to those involved"

And that's why we have this problem.

Because ONLY 'those involved' understand. Everyone else is just hearing music.

"it will be just as understandable to those who (hopefully) become involved in the future."

I fear you may hope in vain Jim. It may already be too late and too many people may already hold the wider definition to be correct. Take a poll of the posters on this thread...

My fear is this: As long as the people who have the best access to ancient material (through shelves full of books) feel that folk music is something you have to be 'involved' in before you can understand, or appreciate it, or use it correctly, it will stay a minority interest, and the number of people who understand will dwindle.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: greg stephens
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 07:25 AM

Interestingly, Christy Moore was on Libby Purves' talk show on radio 4 this morning. And he used the word "traditional" to describe one sort of song knocing around on the folk scene, as opposed to ewan McColl's newly-composed songs. In fact, he used the owrd traditional in exactly the same sense as me, Jim Carroll, Malcolm Douglas, or any one of a number of contributors to this thread. And it seemd to fit in to the conversation quite naturally in the studio, and I'm sure people understood what he went.
He didn't feel the need to say"Of course I shouldn't say 'traditional' really, I should say 'collected or possibly soon to be collected if some latter day Cecil Sharp gets around to it'".
   Christy Moore was quite happy with "traditional" in ordinary converation, and so am I. If I need to qualify the word in some very precise bit of analysis, I can do so.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: greg stephens
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 07:34 AM

This GUEST PRS chappie says he(she?) can't reveal his/her identity for fear of jeopardisng his/her career. Now, I've been trying hard, but I'm finding it difficult to imagine what kind of job you might be in that would forbid you from discussing the meaning of the word "traditional". It may be terminally boring, but in what circumstances could it be a sackable offence?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 09:52 AM

I assume PRS member is a songwriter. It's hard enough for songwriters to get gigs at trad clubs and festivals without appearing to hold contoversial views. A lot of organisers read mudcat. PRS member has always chosen his or her words carefully, yet has still been completely misunderstood a number of times in this debate. Its very easy for people reading a forum to get completely the wrong end of the stick even when one is not being controversial. I think he or she was well advised to remain incognito. Furthermore, his or her band might not appreciate being assocated with even a mere devil's advocate - perhaps they also have mortgages.

It matters not who put the motion - this thread has proved that debate is neccesary.

Time will take care of the outcome.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 11:31 AM

TO JIM CARROLL, I said guest p has presented a logical case.
so why I should want your clapped out old van, your statement defies all logic.,
   to GREG STEPHENS because Christy Moore used the word traditional doesnt mean he was being clear in his definitions, because someone is a good singer, it doesnt follow his terminology is precise, in fact his terminology isnt always precise ,hence we have The Lakes Of Ponterchrain, when it should be The Lake[SINGULAR] OF Ponterchrain.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 12:10 PM

correction; correct spelling is lake of Ponchartrain.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: greg stephens
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 12:24 PM

There's no such thing as "right" you know, cap'n sorr. You've had two cracks at it, but I think you'll find that Pontchartrain also has its adherents as the "right" spelling, so there's three ways for a start. And, as it is indeed a traditional song, you can't really object if Christy Moore's version is the "lakes" (plural). That is how it is sung, those are the words. If you want to sing it in the singular, go ahead. The world of traditional song is Liberty Hall.
   I think you might find that there is now one lake, but there used to be a few(like Tarn Howes in the lake district, which used to be called "The Tarns" when there were three, but a dam caused a certain amount of amalgamation).
    And as regards Chrity M: I knew what he meant by "traditional", so communication was possible. The English language is defined by usage, that's the way it is. There are no legal defintions(except in law, and that varies too!). Dictionaries can provide guidance, but only guidance.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 12:37 PM

Usage determines "correctness".


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 01:02 PM

if you google, lake of pontchartrain, you will find that is the correct title, collected in 1958 from ben daugherty.
    geographically there is one lake, what you say is as daft as singing about the mountain of mourne when its supposed to be plural or the lochs lomond.or the dowy den of yarrow,or the green field of france, or the field of athenry.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: greg stephens
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 01:19 PM

Cap'n: with the greatest respect, this song has been knocking aroubnd since a little bit before 1958, under many titles. Including "The Lakes of Pontchartrain" and "The Banks of Pontchartrain". There are three big lakes out there at least, which perhaps explains the confusion? In any case, it is quite irrelevant how many lakes there are in Louisiana The song has names. One of them is "The Lakes of Pontchartrain". That is a fact. Like the nursery rhyme called "The Man in the Moon". As far as I know, at the moment there isn't a man in the moon. That does not affect the fact that its name is "The Man in the Moon".


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 04:30 PM

I sing the lake of pontchartrain.
yes, usage does determine correctness ,and if you went to louisana evryone would be referring to lake pontchartrain [singular].,and singing it as it was collected in loiusana in 1958,using the singular.
And with the greatest respect, the fact is there is, one lake of Pontchartrain,IT IS NOT IRRELEVANT,Christy Moore Popularised this song, as he did, Sweet thames flow softly[on this one he left out a verse ]in his SONG BOOK.
But because he uses the plural, but the population of loiusana ,does not, does not make him right,In fact VICE VERSA.,using the usage argument
that is why I say Christy Moore is not very good at being definitive[even though he is a fine singer]and his definiton and use of the word TRADITIONAL does not clarify what this word means, and does not help this discussion.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 04:44 PM

This lake was created betwen 2600 to 4000 years ago, and has not been in the habit of cloning itself.
Dylan [who at one time was singing this song] was also corrected by a native of Loiusana, Its as incorrect as singing on the Banks of the Niles instead of Nile.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: curmudgeon
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 05:19 PM

Helen Creighton, in her 1932 tome, "Songs and Ballads of Nova Scotia" gives the song in question the title of "The Lakes of Ponchertrain." She collected it from    a Mrs. Thomas Osborne, Eastern passage, but gives no date when. She further adds that the more common name of the song is "The Creole Girl."

This does predate the source given by the captain by a few years. Incidentally, who collected it and from whom in Louisiana?

- Tom Hall


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Nov 06 - 04:05 AM

It was collected from a mrs ben daugherty , in 1958,in kentucky.The song dates from the american civil war,so is not very old.
your quite right it is often referred to as the creole girl, but most versions have,the lyric at the end of the first line, The lake of ponchartrain.
Now the lake has been in existence for over 2000years ,much longer than the song, and the residents of loiusana and america know the lake, as lake ponchartrain.
If I was to sing GEORDIE and sing as I walked over london bridges,it would be equally nonsensical, LONDON BRIDGE is a specific bridge it is not Tower bridge or Blackfriars bridge.The lake of pontchartrain is a specific lake.THE PEOPLE OF LOUISANA use this title ,to my mind this makes it correct


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Nov 06 - 04:22 AM

Any creative pursuit, painting, sculpture, theatre, literature, music, whatever, has its participants on different levels: researchers, passing commentators, performers, dabblers or observers; all make a contribution, Traditional singing is no different in this respect, whether the participant be the compiler of 'The English And Scottish Popular Ballads' or just a on a seat. Similarly, all those pursuits will have vast armies of non-participant outsiders who have no knowledge or interest in the subject in question.
So 75% have no idea of the meaning of tradition – so what, (wonder where that figure came from; must have missed that MORI poll!) If we present our songs well, with skill conviction and passion, perhaps we'll get bigger audiences and maybe the singing won't die, but one thing is certain; whether you call it traditional, folk, collected, source or Swiss Cheese music will not make one iota of difference, we will draw people in on the basis of our art and not on how we package it. For anybody wishing to explore further, there is more than enough well researched and skillfully written literature on the subject to fulfill anybody's requirements and make sure that anybody who wishes to can easily find out the difference between traditional song and traditional lace making. Any suggestion that the general public is incapable of grasping the beauties and subtleties of our music is patronising arrogance.
'Traditional' is an excellent term for the type of singing under discussion, whether used as a noun or an adjective. It perfectly describes the creation, re-creation and transmission of our songs; far better than opera or ballet or classical does for other forms of musical activity in my opinion. I suggest that any attempt to replace the word would be unnecessary and unbelievably stupid – have we learned nothing from the shambolic shift from 'folk' to 'traditional'.   
Language can be a beautiful thing if it is allowed to develop naturally; any attempts to intervene and legislate never fail to set alarm bells ringing in me. Some time in the next couple of days/weeks I will read in my newspaper of "collateral damage", "friendly fire" and "pacification", when I should be reading "massacre of civilians", "killing off your own side" and "the suppressing of opposition". If, some time in the future, 'traditional' becomes redundant, so be it, let it happen naturally and let's leave the manipulation of language to the Rupert Murdochs, George Bushs, and Tony Blairs of this world.
I have a confession; during this debate impure thoughts have entered my mind. The combination of PRS Members anonymity, his/her own description as a (can't remember exactly) fairly prominent public performer, a somewhat vociferous insistence that we stop using the word 'traditional', his/her membership of a self appointed, interested pressure group and a somewhat unhealthy emphasis on the financial aspects of the music has led me to wonder if there isn't a hidden agenda at play here. I wondered at one stage if he/she wasn't deliberately attempting to muddy the water so as to be able to add the title 'traditional performer' to his/her C.V.
On the other hand, should the UK be steeling itself for a hostile takeover of traditional music by P.R.S. similar to the one we have experienced from IMRO recently here in Ireland.
Nah; couldn't be!
The more charitable side of me puts his/her insistence on anonymity down to the fact that he/she has been reading too many John LeCarre novels or seeing too many James Bond films. Or maybe he/she is really Clark Kent or Diana Prince!
If he/she is really in fear for his/her career by speaking his/her mind publicly he/she should seriously consider a career change, or at the very least, get himself/herself into a decent Trades Union. Those employment conditions are usually reserved for asylum seekers nowadays!
Jim Carroll
PS Cap'n - meant no offence; I was taken aback somewhat at your apparent readiness to accept what I believe to be a very flawed argument.
PPS The Roud index gives Lake and Lakes in more-or-less equal measure. Far be it for me to defend Christy Moore, but I'm pretty sure his version came from Paddy McLusky of Armagh (Sam Henry 1935 and BBC 1953) who sings "Lakes".


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Nov 06 - 08:50 AM

no, christy, learned it from Mike Waterson.The Watersons have made errors too,Holmfirth anthem For instance.
Jim, its a pleasure to debate with you,.
I have tried to state what I think is traditonal ,shanties, the child ballads, CECIL SHARP AND BARING GOULD AND KIDSONS COLLECTIONS[ BUT NOT MUSIC HALL], plus aboriginal songs. How about someone else stating the material they perceive as trad.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 09 Nov 06 - 09:03 AM

What mistakes did the Watersons make with the Holmfirth Anthem Dick?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Snuffy
Date: 09 Nov 06 - 09:31 AM

Many of the Child ballads are not traditional at all - they could really be regarded as part of the revival. Child took them from written sources: many have never been collected from traditional singers, and indeed for many there is no reliable indication of an authentic tune. They remained in written form only, virtually as dead as Egyptian hieroglyphic tablets, until resuscitated from the 50s onwards by the likes of MacColl, Lloyd, Nic Jones, Carthy, etc often with tunes newly written or borrowed from other ballads.

Of course many others in the Child collection did survive down the years to be collected "in the wild" by Sharp, Grieg, Duncan, Kidson, Broadwood etc. These undoubtedly are traditional, but you can't say that the whole of Child is. It has to be assessed on a song by song basis.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Scrump
Date: 09 Nov 06 - 12:22 PM

I found this on the web which might clarify things a bit (or not, depending on whether you can speak the lingo) regarding the Holmfirth Anthem:

It's origin, apart from it's creation is most unclear. Ammon Wrigley in "Those were the days" tells us that the musical setting was written by Joe Perkins in about 1850, but that the words Ammon suggests were strung together by three or four handloom weavers in some Holmfirth alehouse. Ammon recounts the following meeting at an inn on the moors and a fellow traveller from "over t'other side" said, "Do yo' know wat it wor coalled th'Holmfirth Anthem for?" "I suppose it was because the song had it's origin in the village" Ammon said. "Nah, awll tell yo' this tale just as mi nont Mary teld it I' yar haase a score o'toimes. Shoo comes fro' Holmflrth an' shoo said ther wor beawn to bi a grand concert I' Holmfirth at wor getten op bi a greight musicianer I' Huddersfilt. Soa he put pappers I'th' shop windows 'at said at cloise o'th concert ivverbody wod sing th' National Anthem. Soa one neet Daff o'th Bak Rooad an' Joss o'th'Pig Hoils an Billy Bluenoase wor drinking at Fat Doddy's an Daff said "It's getten abaat toime wi knew summat abaat this Nashunum Anthem, soa wi con bi larnin' th' chorus" "Yus, that's reight" BiUy said, "but wat soart of a song is this Nashunum Anthem"? "Nan o'Slap's is i yar haase" Daff said, "Shooll know summat. Goa an' tell her shoo's wanted Joss. When Nan came into the taproom Daff said, "What's this Nashunum Anthem wi're ole beawn to sing?'"Yo' greight bullyeds!" Nan said, "Aw'm sure ther nivver wor sich silly fooils ivver born of a woman. Aw wodn't ha' believed ther wor sich ignoramusers i'Holmfirth. It's "Pratty Flowers" that's wat it is" "Well nah mi nont Mary said it wor a grand concert an' when th' Chairmon said " Yo'll o' Stand up an' sing th' National Anthem" well up jumped Billy Bluenoase & Joss o'th'Pig Hoills an brasted off wi' Pratty Flowers. Then the ole fooak, women & childer an' ivverybody, started singin' it. Th' Chairmon kept shaati' an' wavin' is' arms for 'em to stop, but thi' thowt he wor conductin, an' thi sang till thi' guiders o' ther necks stuck aat loike whipstocks. By gum, Chairmon wor sum nattle abbaat it"

From http://whiterose.saddleworth.net/news15.htm with thanks


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 09 Nov 06 - 12:29 PM

That's brilliant Scrump. I enjoyed reading that (once I'd got me yorkshire dialect hat on!)


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Nov 06 - 12:37 PM

FOLKIE DAVE,
shepherd dear, not shepherd swain. it rhymes with clear. .My information was given to me by Mick Haywood, A YORKSHIREMAN, who did a fair amount of collecting himself.,and told me that was the way the song was sung in Holmfirth.   the Watersons recorded it in 1964, for some INEXPLICABLE reason using swain.Confirmed by link above.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Nov 06 - 12:47 PM

Pratie not pretty ,land not lambs.two errors possibly three.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Nov 06 - 02:31 PM

Cap'n
Is that true about Mike Waterson; if so, how do you know?
It certainly is Paddy McClusky's version.
Not contradicting you - just interested.
Jim Carroll
PS
Snuffy,
Child took virtually all his ballads from printed sources - Harry Cox got many of his the same way - doesn't mean they're not traditional in origin.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 09 Nov 06 - 03:09 PM

Well I live in Yorkshire about 8 miles from Holmfirth and I will be singing it every Sunday at from November 19th the Royal Hotel at Dungworth as I have done for the past 35 years and we sing "Swain" as well. The idea that it should be "dear" rather than "swain" simply to rhyme is strange since none of the other verses have such a rhyme.

Second verse is "adore" and "dear", third verse is "lambs" and "grow".

It is sung - as many songs are - in different ways by different people. You are extremely lucky in knowing which is the "correct version" - I wish I was so sure. If by traditional we accept that songs are moulded and changed then how can there be a "correct version"?

And since you are fond of saying Child's ballads are traditional then he has numerous versions of many songs. How do you decide which is the correct version?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Nov 06 - 03:54 PM

Captain Birdseye

You're going it backwards.

First you give YOUR definition of "traditional music",
Then you give your examples.

You don't just cite your examples and expect your readers to guess from them what you mean by "traditional music."

In a discussion like this the definition is NOT optional but the examples are.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 09 Nov 06 - 04:24 PM

I think that anybody who relies on folksong or any form of popular music for geographical accuracy deserves to be cast into one of the many deepest pots of Clyde water, and then buried with all the others in St Mary's Churchyard. As far as Sam Henry's informant Paddy M'Closkey was concerned when he learned the song from Frank M'Allister around 1905, the lines referred to a plurality of lakes of Pontchartrain. Frank M'Allister had been a woodsman in America so that would surely have been good enough for Paddy M'Closkey unless he had an atlas handy to stop Frank in mid-song to tell him he had his facts all wrong.

What on earth should we then do with the 'Royal Comrade/Willie Leonard' song? Its scene is variously located at the Lakes of Coolfin, Lough Inshallin, Lake Cold Flynn and at many more lakes unknown either to orthography or geography. Should singers have to introduce their songs with satellite navigational instructions?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 03:39 AM

True for you Michael: it's called 'the tradition' or 'the folk process' - and it's what makes traditional song so interestingly diverse.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 03:50 AM

Sorry
Meant to write Matthew - can't get Percy French's bloody song out of my head!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: greg stephens
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 06:10 AM

Jim Carroll: You enquired about Mike Waterson and Christy Moore. In Christy Moore's song book, he mentions that he learned Pontchartrain form Mike Waterson.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 07:03 AM

since the Watersons recorded it in 1964, and Folkie dave is clearly part of the folk revival, I am not surprised he sings it the way he does.
Patrick Kelly [ West clare fiddle player remarked]that the worst thing that happened to clare fiddle playing was the advent of Micheal Colemans recordings on 78rpm.everyone emulated Sligo style and Coleman.Itseems like the same thing may have happened with THE Holmfirth Anthem.,and the Watersons.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 07:56 AM

The Sheffield Carols (as they are popularly known) date back a long time before the so-called folk revival and are not part of it. I say so-called because like a lot of traditional singing they never went away, and whilst they now have a new lease of life they have not been "revived" as such. I am indeed a newcomer to folk music having only been listening to it since 1960.

Billy Mills - a long-time singer at Dungworth who died aged well past 80, and who most people would recognise as a traditional singer, used to sing "Christmas Tree". The words he sang were in part a mish-mash of misheard lyrics - but Bill sang it that way consistently all the years I knew him.

Were those the wrong words? And whose words were the right words? The one in the printed version? How do you know their version is "right" and the song Billy sang is "wrong"?

Holmfirth Anthem is sung in different ways in a lot of the pubs in the Sheffield area, come and tell some of them they are getting it wrong Dick.

I suspect the answer will be short.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 08:05 AM

no one has dared to say, apart from myself what songs or music they consider are trad,.
This thread will go nowhere, until ,people are positive,. Folkie dave shoots holes in some of the child ballads, UNTIL other contributors, give us some examples, of what songs THEYconsider traditional, NOone is answering the question,.
so what about foOtball songs.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Scrump
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 08:07 AM

"Pratty" is E Lancs as well as W Yorks pronunciation of "Pretty", so you could argue that whether the title of the Holmfirth Anthem is "Pretty Flowers" or "Pratty Flowers" is academic, since anyone singing it in the correct accent will pronounce it "Pratty" anyway.

It raises again the question as to whether people should attempt to sing songs in a local accent/dialect unless they were born into it, which was discussed in another thread not long ago.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 08:31 AM

Captain Birdseye

You're still doing this wrong.

The thread will go nowhere until you offer us a definition of traditional music for us to shoot holes in.

A simple list of examples is not the proper target for hole-shooting.
A definition is.

If you simply offer examples without a defintion, the "discussion" gets nowhere.
You say X is traditional.
I say it isn't.
You say, "is too."
Is say, "Is not."
etc.

If you give us a definition, we'll gladly shoot holes in it by offering counter-examples.

More fun that way.

PS, the GUEST post of Nov 06 - 03:54 PM is mine. Forgot to sign it.

Russ (Permanent GUEST, but not just GUEST)


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 08:32 AM

Yes, I am a procedural pedant.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 08:50 AM

no one, has objected, so far to shanties,aboriginal songs, some of the child ballads, the collections of kidson, sharp, and baring gould, as all being traditonal folk music, can I dare to add Morris dancing,English, Scottish, Irish ceilidh dancing.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Scrump
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 08:55 AM

The problem with attempts to define 'traditional' by providing a list of what it encompasses is that the list is unlikely to be complete.

For example there may be (perhaps smaller or lesser known) collections other than those in the Captain's list, which might well have an equally good claim to be 'traditional', but are excluded simply because no-one thought to add them to the list. I'm not saying I know of any, but there's no reason why they shouldn't exist.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 09:31 AM

Scrump,

The problem with attempts to define 'traditional' by providing a list of what is encompasses
IS THAT
a list is NOT a definition.

Russ (Permanent and Persistent GUEST)


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 11:30 AM

However providing lists, gets us further, than some of the codswallop, and inability to define, found earlier in this thread.
I would like to add the penguin book of english folksongs, please feel free to shoot holes in this if you so wish.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 11:32 AM

Well I consider myself to be a retired Morris dancer - but we didn't do any "traditional" dances. We did a tradition called "Med up" which is short for "Med up Bi ussens".

Now since Morris dancing is traditional - where does that leave us?

All this week there has been a programme on BBC Radio 4 about how traditional music in the highlands of Scotland has been developing. These are mainly young people who are respecters but more importantly developers of the tradition. Chris Stout, Julie Fowlis et al. and the people from the National Centre for Excellence in Traditonal Music at Plockton.

Where do they fit in Dick?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Scrump
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 11:33 AM

The attempt to define what is traditional by simply extending the list of inclusions is doomed to failure because it can never be completed. I think another approach is needed.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 12:34 PM

folkie Dave why do you ask me.somewhere near Plockton hopefully, your more of an expert than me, with all your book reading.
I am just a singer.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 12:55 PM

Captain Birdseye,

You still don't get it.

So....

How about adding the Beatles' "Rubber Soul" album to your list.

Reluctant to do so?

Thought so.

Explain why this item does not belong on the list.

Your explanation will be the BEGINNING of a process which might eventually result in YOUR definition of traditional music.

Russ (Permanent GUEST and definitional discussion expert)


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 01:17 PM

Folk Music Definition
Folk music is the product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission. The factors that shape the tradition are: (i) continuity which links the present with the past; (ii) variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group; and (iii) selection by the community, which determines the form or forms in which the music survives.
The term can be applied to music that has been evolved from rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by popular and art music and it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community.
The term does not cover composed popular music that has been taken over ready-made by a community and remains unchanged, for it is the re-fashioning and re-creation of the music by the community that gives it its folk character.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 01:29 PM

very good Jim, One problem, Jazz fits these three criteria.
to guest russ.
I have no intention of replying to this sort of Mumbo Jumbo.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 02:12 PM

Jim,

I am reluctant to debate with you because we agree about so much.

But some broadside ballads are sung as they were published 150 years ago and remain unchanged. Likewise some songs which have been composed have hardly changed either and yet would be recognisably folk songs. Some of Ewan's songs have come back unchanged having passed through the communal experience.

It may be that some of these composed songs (Fiddler's Green being a good example) have not been around enough to be "changed" by communal experience, but I would suggest it has been sung thousands of times and have not changed one iota. It isn't traditional I agree - but where else could you put it other than in folk song?

Finally other sorts of music don't seem to have this problem. Having been beating myself over the head with this question since I can remember - I decided to go along with them!!

Best regards,

Dave


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 02:20 PM

Captain Birdseye,

Sorry for the mumbo jumbo.

Just trying to be helpful.

Honest

Russ (Permanent and properly chastised GUEST)


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 04:02 PM

Sorry folk - this is, as far as I know, the only agreed defintition arrived at by a working group of researchers (International Folk Music Council), and while we may disagree with it, I don't think we can ignore it.
While I believe this definition to be less than perfect, it has been the accepted one for over half a century and is, I believe, an excellent starting point.
Rather than go off half-cocked, with everybody starting from scratch and making it up as they go along, (including the Humpty Dumpty contingent) would it not be better to work on what we have and come to some sort of a conclusion on what has gone before.
Let's face it; those of us involved in this debate are a tiny minority within a minority subject and all we can possibly achieve is some sort of an agreement between ourselves, or at the very least, to agree to differ. This way we will continue to communicate, but only with each other.
Jim Carroll
PS Alternatively, we could take the definition from the Funk And Wagnall Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend as our starting point - that only runs to seventeen double columned pages!


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 08:49 PM

OK people, there is much talk about what is traditional and what is not traditional that has been posted,but very few examples of what is actually regarded as genuine "Traditional" Folk Music has been proffered.
Untill we compare notes and agree on what is Traditional folk music and songs how can we come to any agreement?

Too many people who are the core contributors on this thread seem to hide behind the parapet and suddenly become shy about openly saying what they believe to be 'examples' of the correct/original/definitive versions of traditional folk music.

Unless you say what you believe to be firm and indisputable examples of traditional folk music how can the rest of us possibly make any informed opinions?

Unless you do this we will remain confused but interested.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 04:23 AM

This is precisely what I have been trying to do, but have been repeatedly hampered.,With balderdash about procedure.
if you interviewed the English public you would get this answer THE Wild Rover. Morris Dancing. so Folkie Daves definition is kyboshed by the usage argument .
If you went to LOIUSANA The general publics answer would probably be cajun or zydeco.If you asked an aboriginal it would probably be tunes on the Didgeridoo,If you asked Chris Roche it would be shanties[ SUNG IN UNISON].If you went to mexico it would be tex mex. SoThere are some starters.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 05:07 AM

Soldier Boy,
Nice one - but...............
By its very nature there are no correct, original or definitive versions of traditional folk music; as Anahata and others pointed out (seems like a thousand years ago), it's not how the songs riginated but what happened to them as they were passed from singer to singer which makes them traditional or folk (I'm still comfortable - and getting more comfortable with both terms). My experience with traditional singers points to the fact that every singer who has sung for us regards his or her own songs (or those songs learned from family members) as correct. All you can ask is that people give you typical examples of what they regard as typical traditional songs AND STATE WHY, otherwise you will end up with a folk 'Desert Island Discs' with everybody giving you their favourite song, which is not what you are asking.
For what they are worth, here are two of mine. I hope you don't mind that I have included notes I have written on both of them for various projects- I'm afraid they are rather lengthy:
1. Barbara Allen
Probably the most widespread of all the ballads, this is known throughout the English-speaking world. Samuel Pepys, in his diary entry for 2nd January 1666 wrote,
"In perfect pleasure I was to hear her" (Mrs Knipp, an actress) "sing, and especially her little Scotch song of Barbary Allen".
Oliver Goldsmith heard it sung by a dairymaid, Peggy Golden, at Lissoy, near Ballymahon, Co. Westmeath, and wrote in 1765,
"The music of the finest singer is dissonance to what I felt when an old dairymaid sung me into tears with "Johnny Armstrong's Last Goodnight" or "The Cruelty Of Barbara Allen".
It first appeared in print in Allan Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany and has continued to make an appearance in folk song collections since. In William Stenhouse's notes to the variant in The Scots Musical Museum, he wrote;                 
"It has been a favourite ballad at every country fire-side in Scotland, time out of memory………
A learned correspondent informs me that he remembers having heard the ballad frequently sung in Dumfriesshire, where, it was said, the catastrophe took place…"   
Bronson gives around two hundred versions, and ethnomusicologist Charles Seeger edited an LP record containing thirty American recordings.
The enduring popularity of the ballad among country singers and a revealing insight into how it was viewed by them, was amply illustrated in an interview with American traditional singer Jean Ritchie who spoke about her work collecting folk songs in Ireland, Scotland and England in the early nineteen fifties.
She says;
"I used the song Barbara Allen as a collecting tool because everybody knew it. When I would ask people to sing me some of their old songs they would sometimes sing "Does Your Mother Come From Ireland", or something about shamrocks.   But if I asked if they knew "Barbara Allen", immediately they knew exactly what kind of song I was talking about and they would bring out beautiful old things that matched mine; and were variants of the songs that I knew in Kentucky.   It was like coming home".

2   Van Dieman's Land                                
"Apart from the songs produced directly by the enclosures in England, a side effect of the appropriation of common land provided one of the largest and most poignant bodies of songs in the British and Irish repertoires repertoire, the poaching songs. Deprived of the right to legally catch game on the old commons, the poor resorted to taking it illegally.   Many of them continued, as they had always done, to go out at night setting traps to snare rabbits and pheasants. The landowners retaliated by employing keepers to protect what they considered their inalienable right to their newly-acquired property. They also resorted to setting mantraps, large, viciously toothed, spring-loaded devices capable of breaking a man's leg and tearing off chunks of flesh. Also in common use were spring-guns; booby trapped shotguns capable of firing four inch bolts, usually into the poachers legs. The response of the poachers was to go out armed and in larger numbers. This escalation led to a period of English rural history known as "The Poaching Wars".   It worked like this. Men who had previously gone out poaching singly resorted to teaming up with others to offer resistance to the gamekeepers employed by the landowner. The landowner would, in his turn, employ more keepers and so ad infnitum. One song from the eastern county of Lincolnshire, entitled "The Rufford Park Poachers" tells of a pitched battle between forty poachers and a similar number of keepers. On being apprehended the poachers would be tried by magistrates who were themselves local landowners who would, as was to be expected, show little mercy. First offenders would usually be heavily fined, but the most common punishment for a repeating offender was transportation to the penal settlements in Australia, usually for long periods.             The songs created on this subject cover the whole gamut of attitudes and emotions: despair, anger, defiance, repentance even a boisterous humour.                        Poaching songs were to be found in abundance throughout Britain and Ireland, but to my mind the best of them is the one popularly found in the Eastern part of England in East Anglia.   Entitled simply "Van Dieman's Land", it deals with an event said to have taken place in Warwickshire on Squire Dunhill's (sometimes Donniell's or Daniel's) Estate. In my opinion it is a perfect example of a narrative English traditional song, and what makes it so good is its matter-of-fact presentation of the events. It tells how a young man who goes poaching is taken by the keepers, tried at Warwick Assizes, and sentenced to be transported for fourteen years. He is placed on board ship, endures a six month voyage, lands in Australia, is taken ashore yoked together with other convicts, auctioned to the highest bidder like livestock, and finally settles down to his fate.
Whether the events described can be pinned down to one particular occurrence is debatable, but they are so typical of what was happening all over rural England that the song passed into numerous versions with different names and locations. This version was sung to us by the late Walter Pardon, a carpenter who came from a farming background in a small village in North Norfolk. He described it as "a long old song, but then", as he said, "it was a long old journey", which, for me, is an example of a singers relating perfectly to his song".
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,JT
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 08:11 AM

The Newcastle folk degree course must be a godsend to the main protagonists here. Judging by the content of the thread you'd need a degree to fathom it all out. The fact that the issue has become so academic is meaningless to the majority of people who play and listen to the music - they know what they like and enjoy it regardless of its pedigree. In the great scheme of things it doesn't really matter. Something is always lost when someone gets a hold of what you like and decides it's their mission in life to organise it.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 10:17 AM

Not organise, understand,
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: greg stephens
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 11:06 AM

Jim: the Necastle degree course strives to organise as well as to understand. Some would prefer it to stick to the latter, but at the moment it very definitely does both.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 12:45 PM

Guest JT.
Sorry for the knee-jerk reaction; I really shouldn't do that.
I must also apologise for complicating things for you – I was just thinking how pleasant this thread has been just because it wasn't complicated by big words or convoluted ideas – not a sign of an incremental repetition anywhere so far - there you go; I had forgotten that there are people around to whom all ideas are complicated.
I wonder why you should object to some of us thinking about the music they are involved in - particularly as many of us are singers and musicians - or have been in the past. I assume from the tone of your posting that you also disapprove of Newcastle or Elphinstone or Limerick or Sheffield or Galway or any other faculty where they waste their time thinking about and discussing music and song as well as playing it.
Of course, the fatal flaw of your argument is that if it wasn't people who were not content with just playing and singing, but who got up off their bums and wrote about it and collected it and annotated it and transcribed it and published it and released it for others to listen to – people like Captain O'Neill, Sharp, Child, Bronson, Henderson, Breathnach and all those other saddos, you wouldn't have any music to play or songs to sing in the first place.
Tell you what; I won't object to your playing your tunes without thinking if you don't object to my wasting my time researching.
Some of us pathetic individuals actually get pleasure from knowledge
All the best
Jim Carroll
PS, Sorry Greg, I wasn't commenting on Newcastle - I have a couple of friends who teach there and have a reasonable idea what they do - more power to their elbows.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 01:59 PM

Jim

I think that I prefer the knee-jerk reaction to the condecending and sarcastic one that followed.
I've no objection to you or anybody else thinking about the music you are involved in, it's just that after reading the thread I've got this image of a dog chasing its tail.
Contrary to your assumption that I disaprove of courses at Newcastle or anywhere else, I think that they are all excellent but I have an inbuilt suspicion of anyone who feels that they were put on this earth to organise everyone else according to what they see as the definitive way.
To me those who, as you put it, "got off their bums and wrote about it and collected it and annotated it etc.." preserved it,yes, but the downside was that they were also responsible for spawning the folk industry and making a living out of something that was freely given.
I don't recall referring to anyone as "pathetic" or a "saddo" and object to the inference in your rather unpleasant posting. Nor did I demean or belittle anyones'pleasure in research or knowledge.You really should refrain from making such inferences, It doesn't do you any favours.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 02:57 PM

condecending   -    prisoner coming down

condescending   - how it should be spelt


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Peace
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 03:02 PM

In the time this thread has been going, Woody Guthrie as well as Malvina Reynolds would have written thirty songs each. Of course, they wouldn't have been traditional.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 03:37 PM

yes, while much of what they have written is good ,they both overwrote.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Nov 06 - 04:51 AM

Guest
I apologise for my somewhat ill-tempered outburst.
It really does come from many years of having been told that thinking too much about music spoils its pleasure. I don't say that was what you were getting at, but that's how I took it.
Nobody on this thread is trying to organise anything - for themselves or anybody else, we are merely responding to a question by expressing opinions.
Sorry again if I took your point wrongly.
Jim Carroll
PS It certainly was not the researchers and academics who spawned the folk industry; I'm afraid that one was down entirely to musicians who wished to make a living out of the music and didn't much care how it was represented - not all musicians, but enough to inflict a great deal of damage from which traditional music has never recovered.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,JT
Date: 12 Nov 06 - 11:16 AM

Jim
Forgotten about it already. Anybody with a brain can see that you're sincere and passionate about the music and the song. Keep doing what you're doing, it's great.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Nov 06 - 12:39 PM

Thank you
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Nov 06 - 12:55 PM

jim ,your criteria would allow jazz to be called traditonal music, while I have no objection ,most jazzers might be slightly confused if they turned up expecting to hear jazz , AND turned up to find that they were listening to Gordon Hall, or Martin Carthy.
ALTERNATIVELY someone expecting to see liam o flynn, might be confused if they found that humphrey lyttleton was their guest.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 12 Nov 06 - 03:33 PM

I would really be surprised to turn up and hear Gordon Hall, he died January 24th 2000.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Nov 06 - 05:06 PM

Cap'n,
It's not my definition - but it appears to be the only official one we have. As I have said, I think it merits examination and probably alteration, but I don't think it can be ignored, simply because it's the one that identified the music we signed up for forty years ago.
Any alteration needs to be mutually agreed on otherwise we stop communicating.
If you want to make a case for jazz, fine; I was going to The cavern in Liverpool in the early sixties to listen to "traditional jazz", but even in those days jazz had divided itself up into 'traditional', 'modern', 'big band' and other branches to identify the different categories.
I think I wrote earlier that "human beings put labels on things so they know what tin to open".
The labels are not a value judgement but a form of agreement that we are all talking about the same thing. I believe that thousands of people, myself included, walked away from the folk clubs because the labeling system broke down and we no longer knew what we were going to hear when we attended one.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Nov 06 - 05:17 PM

I am working on recordings Pat and I did of Walter Pardon, the last of the big-repertoire English traditional singers.
I though you might be interested on the different types of song in his repertoire. Walter had a fair number of non-traditional songs in his repertoire but he had no problem identifying them.

J C   If you had the choice Walter… if somebody said to you one night they were going to ask you to sing say half-a-dozen or a dozen songs even, of all your songs, what would be the choice, can you think offhand what you would choose to sing?

W P The Pretty Ploughboy would be one, that's one; Rambling Blade would be another one, The Rambling Blade would be two, Van Dieman's Land three, Let The Wind Blow High or Low, that'd be four, Broomfield Hill, that's five, Trees The Do Grow High, six, that'd be six.

J C Do you think that when you started singing in the clubs and festivals, do you think you think you are singing any different than you were singing when you were younger?

W P Dash, yes, I think so.

J C Do you know in what way?

W P Oh, I don't know, put more expression in probably, I think so. Well, but you see, you take these, what we call the old type… the old folk song, they're not like the music hall song, are they, or a stage song, there's a lot of difference in them. I mean a lot of these… some … it all depend what and how you're singing. Some of them go to nice lively, quick tunes, and others are… you don't do Van Dieman's Land… If there's a sad old song you don't go through that very quick. Like Up to the Rigs is the opposite way about.
I mean, we must put expression in, you can't sing them all alike. Well most of the stage songs you could, if you understand what I mean. According to what the song is you put the expression in or that's not worth hearing, well that's what I think anyhow.   And as I never did sing them, you see, there was no expression I could put in.

J C Alright; take another song; take something like Marble Arch and Maid of Australia, both of which are fairly amusing, anyway, would you see any difference in them?

W P Well yes, because there's a difference in the types of the music, that's another point.
You can tell Van Dieman's Land is fairly old by the sound, the music, and Irish Molly and Marble Arch is shortened up, they shortened them in the Victorian times. And so they did more so in the Edwardian times. Some songs then, you'd hardly start before you'd finish, you see, you'd only a four line verse, two verses and a four line chorus and that'd finish. You'd get that done in half a minute, and the music wasn't as good. Yeah, the style has altered. You can nearly tell by the old Broomfield Hill, that's an old tune; The Trees They Do Grow High, you can tell, and Generals All.
Nine times out of ten I can get an old fashioned ten keyed accordion, German tuned, you can nearly tell an old… what is an old song. Of course that doesn't matter what modern songs there is, the bellows always close when that finish, like that. And you go right back to the beginning of the nineteenth and eighteenth they finish this way, pulled out, look. You take notice how Generals All finish, that got an old style of finishing, so have The Trees They Do Grow High, so have The Gallant Sea Fight, in other words, A Ship To Old England Came, that is the title, The Gallant Sea Fight. You can tell they're old, the way they how they… That drawn out note at finish.   You just study and see what they are., how they work., you'll find that's where the difference is.
And as that got further along; that's where I slipped up with Black Eyed Susan; I thought that was probably William the Fourth by the music, but that go back about to 1730, that one do.
Well a lot of them you'll find, what date back years and years, there's a difference in the style of writing the music as that progressed along, that kept altering a lot. Like up into Victorian times, you've got Old Brown's daughter, you see, that come into Victorian times; well that style started altering, they started shortening the songs up, everything shortened up, faster and quicker, and the more new they get, the more faster they get, the styles alter, I think you'll find if you check on that, that's right.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Nov 06 - 06:17 PM

Walter was singing about songs that ended on the draw on the ten keuy single row accordion,as being old. songs that were either in the dorian mode or ending on the dominant chord.
Of course songs that were in the mixolydian mode, flat7 [ equally old] he couldnt have played on his box , So walters analysis is incorrect,.
And I love her, written by lennon and macartney, is also in the Dorian mode , not old but old sounding, BUT still not traditional or old. Walter WAS a fine singer but was out of his depth on determining what was old.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Nov 06 - 06:29 PM

FOLKIE DAVE ,you hopefully understood the essence of my thread
.Do I really have to rephrase my thread to put if a punter turned up before the year 2000 expecting to hear Gordon Hall,. aaaargh.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 12 Nov 06 - 06:44 PM

I just thought I would toss the following quote into the ring. It comes from Gramsci.

""That which distinguishes folksong in the framework of a nation and its culture is neither the artistic fact nor the historic origin; it is a separate and distinct way of conceiving life and the world, as opposed to that of 'official' society."


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 13 Nov 06 - 01:41 PM

"I believe that thousands of people, myself included, walked away from the folk clubs because the labeling system broke down and we no longer knew what we were going to hear when we attended one."

That very well may be true. Still, it might have been for the best because the music has never been better. Jim, I would make a case that 40 or 50 years ago when those thousands of people started attending the clubs for the first time, they were responding to an increased commercial perception to the music. Here in the U.S. it was actually "cool" and "hip" to walk into a coffeehouse or spend a Sunday afternoon sharing music at Washington Square Park. When the folk era - or should I say folk error - ended, the music was left in the same shape that it was found.

While I understand that the statement bothers you, I have to respectully say that I do believe that many people spend to much time thinking about the music and missing the pleasures that can be derived from it.

Please understand, I am not saying that it wrong to study, collect and preserve the music. I think the opposite is true. It is important, and fun, to learn about the music and try to understand it in context.   This is highl enjoyable and there is a wealth of beauty to be gained by listening to what you and others term "traditional". Believe me, I do understand and respect your definition.

What gives me "ill tempered outbursts" is when I hear people dismiss contemporary music just because it is contemporary. There are many people that will make statements as if it is a badge of honor to walk out of folk clubs because they are hearing a singer-songwriter. No one forces anyone to take a liking to a music that does not appeal, but I think it is wrong to show disrespect to another persons art.

I may think that singing sea chanties are a silly pastime for landlubbers, or to hear college students who never left the suburbs singing songs of coal miners leaves a bad taste. But no, I think people learn something from by doing just that.

To me, "folk" music has been a way of learning about the past or learning about the people who made the music. I'll be damned if I am going to let a textbook definition stop me from learing something from a songwriter from Texas who happens to be writing a song about a personal event.

This morning on the radio I heard a host talking to Judy Collins. He said something to the effect - " it is wonderful to be able have a life while artists like Leonard Cohen are walking the earth.". To be able to experience music from writers like Dylan, Cohen, John Prine and so many others IS a contemporary TRADITION.   

You might not be attending folk clubs these days, but you can rest assured that there are thousands who have replaced you and are enjoying the songs that are being created today.   No, it will not fit a textbook definition, but it doesn't have to.

Live and let live.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Nov 06 - 03:09 PM

Cap'n,
Walter was not wrong; he was using his 'melodeon test' on his own repertoire and as far as I can judge he was pretty accurate.
However, you missed my point; perhaps I didn't make it well enough.
One of the most persistent arguments against discriminating between traditional and non traditional songs is that traditional singers didn't, so why should we? In our experience this is not true. In the cases were we were able to ask singers about their songs, all of them regarded traditional songs differently from others in their repertoire, though they may not use the same terms as we would (Mary Delaney always talked about "my Daddy's songs" - she learned very few from her father). Other Irish singers commonly talked about traditional or come-all-ye's.
Walter, who was in my opinion one of the most important English singers of the twentieth century, (along with fellow East Anglians Harry Cox and Sam Larner) was the most articulate of the singers we recorded and always called his traditional material 'folk songs'. From his notebooks he was discriminating about his family's songs as early as 1947 when he first started writing them down.
This thread seems to be treading water at the moment (hardly surprising – it's nearly run as long as 'The Mousetrap').
I don't know whether we answered Soldier Boy's question to his satisfaction – god knows we tried, and we even avoided being abusive (except me – sorry).
In his last posting he asked a question about our specifying the songs we would regard as traditional folk – and I added the suggestion that we gave our reasons. If people feel this is not worth doing I am not sure where we go from here; maybe we should quit while we are ahead, before we run completely out of steam
Jim Carroll
PS Ron, can't speak for the States, but it's certainly not been the case in the UK if my recent experiences with the clubs are anything to go by - out-of-tune singing of anything from pop songs of various eras of the 19th and 20th centuries to navel gazing; on several occasions performed by 'singers' reading them from crib sheets.
Sorry, don't regard either Cohen or Dylan as traditional unless you stretch the word out of shape until it becomes meaningless.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 13 Nov 06 - 03:21 PM

"don't regard either Cohen or Dylan as traditional unless you stretch the word out of shape until it becomes meaningless"

I would not regard Cohen or Dylan as "traditional" in your sense of the word either, because the word is meaningless. I would hate anyone to start calling these artists traditional, but I would say they come from a tradition.

Your mention of the word "navel gazing" - which admittedly I have used as well, indicates a preconceived notion that closes the door on other forms of music. I used to call them singer-songwhiners, until I realized that there ARE some important songs out there.

I personally do not have a need to put a label on these songs, but I do understand that their origin is indeed important. As I am seeing in this thread, when labels are attached to song it will begin to shut out a segment of the audience that could actually learn and enjoy the music if they had more of an open mind.

Labels are great in a kitchen, but if I am eating a slice of cake my senses are not going to stop and read the ingredients first. While it might be benefitial for me to do so for health reasons, I do not want to let my hatred for coconut stand in the way of tasting the cake to see if I like it. If the coconut is too strong, I will spit it out and move on. If it is mixed in just right, like in a pina colada, I just may enjoy it enough to try a second piece.   I am just glad that the cook took the time to figure out the ingredients and proper proportions so that I could enjoy my dessert.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Nov 06 - 04:19 PM

Dear Jim,Walter said[nine times out of ten,I can get an old fashioned ten key accordion German tuned. You can nearly tell what is an old song].
so if Walter was only referring to his own repertoire and how he defined it was old ,and not as a litmus code for others to define what was old, whats its relevance. The point is its a flawed way of defining whats old.
because, modern writers can write tunes in the dorian mode[they are modern songs, perhaps written in a traditional style, but they are not old or traditional[ and I love her[[ BEATLES]]]
NORWEGIAN WOOD which appears to have one part in the mixolydian mode and one part in the dorian, it might sound traditional but it is written by Lennon and MCartney. royalties are due to the owners it is modern not traditional.DickMiles


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: danensis
Date: 13 Nov 06 - 04:51 PM

My definition of a traditional song is one we sang in the school hall on a rainy lunchtime.

Believe it or not the pianist was called Miss Tune, and she could rattle off "Men of Harlech" or "The Lincolnshire Poacher" in a unique and inimitable style.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Nov 06 - 06:30 PM

Cap'n
The point was he knew some of his songs were of a considerable age and others were not.
He noted the musical charactaristics in those of HIS songs he regarded as old. He compared them with the musical charactaristics of other songs in HIS repertoire (none of which were written by L and Mc). As far as his songs went he was accurate in his assumption.
As I have said - this is beside the point - he believed there were differences in the songs musically and poetically and he tried to work them out - the music was just a part of his definition.
Ron
The need to put labels on songs only arises when you are trying to promote them (Folk Clubs) or do discuss them.
You may wish to do neither, but this question arose from somebody who wanted to discuss them - he certainly got that. I really don't think there is a huge gulf between our views - neither of us would mistake Dylan for Dillard Chandler.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 13 Nov 06 - 07:21 PM

Jim, I think you do have a point about folk clubs.   Here in the U.S. it is a bit different since we really do not have clubs like those that exist on your side of the Atlantic. Here in the U.S., I don't think there is that much emphasis on the type of music that is being performed. Usually promoters will give enough of a description that the audience will know what kind of performer they are going to see.

I guess it is just cultural differences, and as you correctly pointed out - our views are actually very similar.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Stuart P
Date: 13 Nov 06 - 11:34 PM

Traditional folk music is what's left over when the good stuff's all been copyrighted.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Nov 06 - 02:10 AM

Ron,
Has there, in your experience, ever been an urban audience in the States for singers like Dillard Chandler the Hammonds or Ted Ashlaw -if so, was it just festivals?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Scrump
Date: 14 Nov 06 - 04:11 AM

From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 13 Nov 06 - 01:41 PM


Ron, well said - I agree with what you say in this post.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 14 Nov 06 - 05:07 AM

The point was he knew some of his songs were of a considerable age and others were not.

Interstingly Jim there is a passage in "Travellers Songs from England and Scotland".....P19)that backs this up very well.

....we would like to comment on the fact the certain songs within the repertoire of a creative singer were not given the same treatment as other songs. For instance both Mr. Ridley and Mrs Hughes sang "Twenty One Years" wth almost none of their characteristic improvisation. "Green grows the Laurel" was rarely decorated by any of our singers. These are semi-popular songs sometimes learned from recordings or from the radio, songs which are understood to exist in one version only. They seem to remain unchanged, unaffected by a singer's creativity, although they are widely sung.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Nov 06 - 02:01 PM

Dave
I would go along with that; the tendency to repeat exactly as it was heard from the radio was very common with the singers we met.
It's the old story of Walter Scott collecting ballads from James Hogg's mother, who told him, "Now you've written them down you've killed them".
Walter on the other hand learned nearly all his songs from family and neighbours and had picked up his singing style from his uncle, so he sang everything in his uncle's style (we think!)
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 14 Nov 06 - 05:18 PM


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 14 Nov 06 - 05:26 PM

Ooops.

I'd like to extend that with a thought that came to me after I wrote the quote. I accept wholeheartedly what Ewan and Peggy say there and also that your experience mirrors that.

But we also know that some - let me call them source singers for now - mistakenly say "Now this is a really old song" - when we know it isn't.

Also we know that most of what we call traditional songs can be found on broadsides. I would have thought that broadsides were the "radio" of their day and thus would not be much changed in the same way that songs learnt off the radio aren't. And yet I suspect some broadside ballads seem to have been and others haven't.

I can't think of precise examples so some of this is being dredged up from my memory.

Which may just be fading.

Dave


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Nov 06 - 06:10 PM

Traditional folk music, is clearly not easy to define.
like beauty and perception it is in the eye of the beholder, and we are wasting our time trying to define it.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 14 Nov 06 - 07:23 PM

"Has there, in your experience, ever been an urban audience in the States for singers like Dillard Chandler the Hammonds or Ted Ashlaw -if so, was it just festivals?"

Oh yes. I think you could say that it was the interest of urban audiences to discover the rural music that led to the folk revival. When you look at people like Pete Seeger, Mike Seeger, Ramblin Jack Elliot and others - these were all city kids or people from middle class homes that were trying to learn from source artists.

Everything is in perspective though, I doubt if Ted Ashlaw would have sold out Carnegie Hall if he had the opportunity, but there were enough people interested in his music for record labels like Rounder to release LP's in the 1970's. We aren't talking huge sales, but there was and still is enough interest to generate sales.

What would also happen back then is that people would learn a few songs and then start sharing them, and perhaps one of the "name" artists would record it.

I actually see a lot of younger people starting to do the same. There are groups like the Mammals who will turn a trad tune on its head so that people of our generation might not recognize it, but I sincerely think they are doing the same thing that other generations did before them - learn from the source and take something to make your own.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Scrump
Date: 16 Nov 06 - 07:36 AM

Just a few more thoughts on this.

Every song or tune must have been composed by some individual or group of people, however long ago it was. The authorship of many old songs/tunes is unknown simply because nobody bothered to record the authorship for future generations. At the time a song was composed, people hearing it for the first time would know it was (say) a "Joe Bloggs the Fiddler" tune or a "Fred Smith song". The fact that we have lost this information doesn't make it any less true that each of those songs and tunes were composed by a specific person.

There are plenty of songs and tunes where the author is known, but they are nevertheless out of copyright. Are these songs be denied being called "traditional", just because we know the author's identity? If two songs were written in (say) 1820, and the authorship one one of them is known to be "Fred Bloggs", and the other's authorship has been lost, is only the latter allowed to be called "traditional", even though they might be very similar in style?

One day in the distant future (assuming the survival of the human race), the songs being written today might become known as "traditional", if somehow their authorship is lost (seems unlikely but who can tell?).

If a song or tune is written today in a "traditional" style, why can't we call it "traditional", anticipating that it will become so in years to come? Why do we have to wait?

Any thoughts folks?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Snuffy
Date: 16 Nov 06 - 08:41 AM

Here's my PoV - feel free to shoot at anything you don't agree with.

"Traditional" describes what happens to a song once it is released into the wild, not where it originally came from.

"Anonymous", "old" and "traditional" are not interchangeable terms: a song can be any combination, all or none of these. Songs of unknown authorship are "anonymous". They may have been written yesterday or 500 years ago.

If there is a tradition of singing a particluar song, it may be regarded as "traditional", totally irrespective of whether the author is known or not. If the song has been in some way altered by this process we are on firmer ground in regarding it as "traditional"


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: greg stephens
Date: 16 Nov 06 - 12:08 PM

Scrump: the reason you shouldn't call your song written today traditional is simple. It may be written in a traditional style, but it hasn't become traditional yet. Same reason you'd be tempting fate in looking at a baby and calling it a man or a woman. That takes time, and there's many a slip twixt cup and lip. The new song you refer to may be brilliant, but that doesn't make it traditional. Time alone can do that, and many people.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 16 Nov 06 - 01:58 PM

Not to cloud the waters any futher, but here is the American Heritage definition of "traditional" : "Of, relating to, or in accord with tradition: a traditional wedding ceremony."

You would not call a baby a "man" or a "woman", but you would call it "male" or "female".

Face it, a hole can be blown in any arguement that attempts to create a definition of traditional folk music.   It is what it is.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Nov 06 - 04:08 AM

Dave,
The term 'old' which we found to be used regularly by source singers, is an odd one.
One of our best and most stylish singers, the blind Travelling woman, Mary Delaney had a large repertoire of traditional songs. These included several which had been made by Travellers themselves within say five or ten years of our recording them. They were usually about other Travellers - successful business transactions, selling livestock, playing tricks, personal experiences – in other words, everyday events of Travelling life. Many of these songs referred to people who were still living. She gave us one song and told us, "don't play that to anybody; it's about my cousin and he'll be furious if he hears it". All of these type of song Mary referred to as "old" and on every occasion she (and other singers) did not know who the authors were.
On the other hand, Mary also had a number of American country songs, some dating back to the 1930s and 40s which she described as "modern". Incidentally, She persistently refused to allow us to record her "modern" songs because she said that she only sang them because she had only learned them "to sing in the pub because that's what the lads asked her to sing". She insisted that if we wanted the "old" songs, that's what we were going to get!
As far as I can see the term 'old' refers to a type of song and its subject and function rather than its age.
I agree entirely with Snuffy, Greg and Ron; the tradition is a process and a song has to go through that process before it can wear the tee-shirt.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Scrump
Date: 17 Nov 06 - 10:27 AM

I agree entirely with Snuffy, Greg and Ron; the tradition is a process and a song has to go through that process before it can wear the tee-shirt

Fair enough. I think we're all agreed on that - you can't just write a new song or tune in 'traditional' style, and say immediately that it's traditional. Something has to happen to it first - but what, exactly? Who decides when a song has 'been through the process' and declares "this song is now traditional"?

For example, the jig "Calliope House" (composed by Dave Richardson) is considered by many (including me) to be one of the finest jigs written by a modern-day composer. The tune is widely played in sets, usually alongside others of unknown authorship that most people would say are indisputably traditional.

How much more time has to pass, and what else has to happen, before Calliope House can be declared "traditional" - and who decides?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing against the idea that a song/tune has to become traditional after some sort of process, but I'm trying to find out what that process has to be.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 17 Nov 06 - 12:14 PM

I am enjoying this!! It brings back those nights years ago over large glasses of whatever hooch we had available.

Let me throw this one into the equation.

On Sunday I shall be in the pub singing along with a load of others the traditional carols wiped out when Hymns Ancient and Modern drove them from the churches and (in our area) into the pub.

We call them traditional and indeed no other description would fit this, described as "one of the most remarkable instances of popular traditional singing in the British Isles".

Similar traditions exist in Cornwall at Padstow, (who have exported it with their miners to Grass Valley California and to Australia)and in Glen Rock Pennsylvania where a small pocket of these carols exist thanks to some people who went there in 1848 and wanted to celebrate Xmas like they did back in England.

There are other areas of such singing in the UK, notably in Odcombe Somerset, discovered in the early 1970's. And a revived tradition in Canada.

Yet thanks to meticulous research by Ian Russell we know the author of the vast bulk of these carols and generally they remain unaltered from the originals.

Yet virtually all of these are learnt orally - I did and so did most of the people who go regularly. We continue to change by introducing new (old) carols - also all written down, and I can remember many of these changes and why they came in.

So there we are, by those who have listened clearly traditional, learnt orally, yet written down with known authors and unchanged!!

Errrr..........

And it starts Sunday - can't wait!!!!!!

Dave


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Nov 06 - 03:37 PM

Nice one to think about Dave.
You might also add The Copper's book of songs which fixed the texts of their repertoire.
On the other hand, the Travellers, basically a pre-literate group, had an enormous influence on the song tradition here in Ireland by having printed and distributing their songs on ballad sheets and selling them round the fairs and markets (wonderful dichotomy).
There are exceptions to all rules.
Jim Carroll
As you have stated your enjoyment of this thread in such glowing terms, I think this means you owe us all a pint!


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 18 Nov 06 - 09:28 PM

Hello again people.

When I naively started this thread I had no idea it could possibly go on so long and attract such deep and meaningful intelligent discussion. I really feel indebted to the regular contributors on this thread (you know who you are).
If I was about to write a thesis on Traditional Folk Music I would be more than informed about what to write just by scrolling through this thread.
That's fantastic!

Your very well considered and knowledgable contributions have shown me that compared to the main contributors my knowledge of the subject is very limited, or at least it used to be because I and many others are now much more informed.THANK YOU.
It is a far more complex and contentious subject than I ever imagined. I still hope that we can eventually arrive at some kind of consensus but I won't hold my breath.

Out of interest I thought I would throw this into the discussion and ask you to look at the Mudcat thread on this same page entitled "Why do our songs last so long?"

I found this thread to be very interesting because so many contributors to this thread have expressed very similar views to some of our most hardened contributors.

Bye the way in terms of longevity this thread is looking at the time /duration that songs have been around as opposed to the time that songs take to perform/length of verses etc.

Just an idea to compare notes and look for any commonality.

A bit of cross-fertilisation can't be bad if it helps to add to this very worthwhile discussion.

What do you think ?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Azizi
Date: 19 Nov 06 - 02:48 AM

Here's an old African proverb "To stumble is not to fall but to go forward faster"

And here's a oldish American proverb-"If you're in for a penny, you might as well be in for a buck {or something like that}.

Sooo-all that to say- here is the new Susanna not like the Old Susanna but Susanna still the same [at least the girl's name hasn't changed].

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fui5VRsyg3A&NR

Osuofia - Susana
[Nkem Owoh Singing]

Added June 14, 2006 ;From bogene2020

But-if they could, would the folks who made up that Old Susanna song still be singing it now the same way that they used to sing it then?

And should they be singing it the same way-all the time? I thought improvisation was a huge part of what made traditional music traditional {maybe that's just some forms of traditional music}.

Does the call & response techniques used in this song make it traditional or at the very least traditional-like [this for those who say you can't know the composer of a traditional song].

But maybe the very fact that it is recorded nowadays and credited to a known composer means that folks would not do what they used to do with songs-use the folk process to "tweak" the words, adding to them or substituting other words for them-maybe using another female name in the song [or changing the gender of the song all together].

I'm just saying...


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Azizi
Date: 19 Nov 06 - 03:14 AM

In other words, have we deified the songs that somehow got saved but turned our backs on the process that created those songs?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 19 Nov 06 - 05:25 AM

Hi Jim,

I am happy to buy you a pint anytime whenever we next meet. That goes for all the other contributors to this thread!!

And looking at Soldier Boy's contribtion next to mine - looks like he might make the same offer!!

Not fixed any festivals with the book stall next year so far except....no perhaps it is best not to mention it.

Carols - here I come!!

Dave


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 19 Nov 06 - 05:09 PM

I agree with Snuffy...

Kitty


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Nov 06 - 02:45 PM

Sowhat is traditional folk music .                         Traditional folk music is exciting. Full Stop.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Nov 06 - 03:07 PM

I have deliberately not responded to Soldier Boy's last posting, thought provoking as it is, as I have the uncomfortable feeling that a few of us have been monopolising this thread - I have certainly enjoyed it but I would have liked to have heard from others (promise I won't be abusive again!)
Nobody has mentioned if they think there is an identifiable style that is part of the definition of 'traditional folk music.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 20 Nov 06 - 03:29 PM

I think I can recognise it enough to my own satisfaction.

I have spent a lot of time abroad at foreign festivals and some of the teams do sing traditional music and it goes down a bomb. In 2004 in Hungary there waiting around as usual - there were four Bulgarian singers singing harmony in quarter tones - with harmonics arising out of the mixture of voices.

I can still hear them whenever I want to.

That's tradition!!

(On the other hand we made most contact with groups by singing Beatles numbers which are universal).


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Nov 06 - 07:48 PM

MacColl and Seeger carried out a test with Joe Heaney when they were recording him (see Road From Connemar - mid 1960s)
They played about twenty records of traditional and non-traditional singers from various countries, mainly Europe, and asked if he could tell which were traditional and which were not.
He got over three quarters right.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 21 Nov 06 - 08:15 PM

Jim Carroll, please do respond to my last posting.
A few of you have been monopolising this thread,it is true, BUT whilst I found it initially irksome I now believe the opposite.
The contributions from 'the few' have been extremely well informed and of real value to this thread and to myself and many others.
Without you this thread would have died long ago and would never have attracted such quality and diversity of debate.
It is what I hoped for when I opened this discussion,but frankly did not expect to get.
I have been delighted with the response.
This thread may have run its course or it may roll on, either way I am very content.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: greg stephens
Date: 22 Nov 06 - 05:42 PM

It seems that we have all been totally wrong on the definition of "traditional". On another tthread there is a discussion of the nominations for the Mike Harding BBC Folk Awards. Apparently one of the nominations for best traditional recording is Seth Lakeman doing a song he has written about a hare. Now, that's the BBC, it must be official. Now, as a matter of interest, is there a single contributor to this thread who might agree with that?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Snuffy
Date: 22 Nov 06 - 06:19 PM

Presumably it's a traditional recording because it was recorded onto a mechanical device such as a tape or disk rather than a new-fangled solid-state device


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Nov 06 - 04:12 AM

This discussion has centred largely around whether the present generation of singers can validly describe themselves as part of 'the song tradition' (not a – but THE song tradition; I think we are talking mainly about a body of song that is held in common by all English speaking peoples) and whether the terms 'traditional' and 'folk' are any longer valid. As far as I am concerned the answer to these questions is no, yes, and maybe respectively.
The song tradition, as distinct from the hand loom weaving tradition, or the traditional way of making pig-iron or painting designs on cups or stitching carpets, implies the making and performing of a certain type of SONG in a particularly identifiable way for certain specific reasons.
I believe our song tradition existed and persisted as long as it did out of necessity. The people who made, performed and passed on the songs did so because they felt the need to express themselves, their experiences, their emotions and aspirations, and by and large, as they didn't have the facility of literacy freely at their disposal, they either created songs or they borrowed and adapted existing songs in order to fulfill this function.
By and large our traditional singers, certainly latterly, were from isolated, close-knit (and usually economically poor) communities. During the time I have been involved in traditional song, if I wanted to hear a traditional ballad straight out of the horse's mouth, I would, more likely as not, have had to go along to my local Travellers site (certainly this has been the case in Ireland and Scotland).   
The song tradition, as far as I can judge, is now dead. Of course traditions die – I can no longer go into town and see a bear being torn to pieces by dogs (should I want to), or be part of an audience participating in the festivities of a public hanging, or take part in a Frost Fair and go skating on the Thames – those traditions are long gone.
People no longer participate in the making of songs out of necessity, but by and large are content to be passive recipients of the creations of the privileged and talented (sometimes) few (Bob Coltman aptly described this as the 'Homer Simpson generation – DOH).
I believe it would be presumptuous of us to claim that we are in any way part of the tradition, but rather, it is far more honest to recognise that we have been lucky (or astute) enough to have see the value of songs created by previous generations and have taken them into our own lives.
The least we can do is acknowledge our debt to the Walter Pardons, Harry Coxs, Sam Larners, Mary Anne Carolans, and all those who have been generous enough to pass on their songs to us, and to see that what we have been bequeathed is passed on for future generations to appreciate.
I think the best way we can do this is not to juggle with semantics and try to alter long accepted definitions (Newspeak, George Orwell called it), but to do our best to see that the songs are given the respect, understanding and effort they merit.
Jim Carroll
PS I think we must have all fallen asleep in class to miss that aspect of 'tradition' Greg


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 23 Nov 06 - 04:45 AM

the BBC, clearly is ignorant.
Will S lakeman put this song down as trad and waive his royalties, When he records it.M Hrding as a writer himself,should know better,and as for the BBC I presume they will not be paying Lakeman his songwriting royalties,but only for his arrangement.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Nov 06 - 05:29 AM

The alleged inaccuracies regarding Seth Lakemans' nomination belongs on another thread, surely?

Haddaway and Shite - Copyright solicitors to the stars.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Scrump
Date: 23 Nov 06 - 08:38 AM

Seth Lakeman's song being nominated for Best Traditional Track (not song, I notice) does raise the question as to whether a writer can compose a song, and then declare it to be traditional, possibly waiving the royalties (although "trad. arr. Bloggs" would allow Mr Bloggs to claim the royalties anyway I believe), and make a false claim that they collected it from a dying miner, sailor or chartered accountant - oops, I meant weaver - who gasped out the words and tune on their deathbed.

Who would be able to tell? Who can tell this hasn't been done already? Does anyone know of cases where it has been done as a deliberate hoax?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Snuffy
Date: 23 Nov 06 - 08:46 AM

J J Niles?
A L Lloyd?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 25 Nov 06 - 02:52 PM

I've just come across a flyer from "VETERAN",a mail order and web site company which titles itself as "The traditional folk music label."

Its web site address is: www.veteran.co.uk

It lists many songs and artists including words of songs, photos and biographical information for every performer on each CD.

There are too many artists to list here but I would invite you to have a look at their web site and then comment on whether in your personal opinion you would classify much of their material as "traditional folk music."

I am doing this to see if we can't find some sort of focus point which might encourage more commonality between all the different and strongly opposed views on this thread.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Nov 06 - 05:13 AM

Some do, some dont.
The basis of Veteran was originally to make available recordings of music from one area of England; ie East Anglia, mainly Suffolk.
The field recordings John and Katie Howson made included traditional, music hall, stage songs and early pop songs.
There is a book of songs from J's and K's collection called 'Songs Sung in Suffolk'
The book and tapes are excellent in giving a picture of what was still being sung in the area, but not restricted to traditional songs in any way - though others may disagree .
A far more reliable guide to the tradition is to be found in the early Topic Records catalogue (I think this is being indexed on the Musical Traditions website).
Particularly of interest is the 'Voice of The People' series which covers a large time-span.
In The States of course you have the magnificent Library of Congress records, particularly those edited by Lomax, Emrich, Bronson, Seeger, Korson, Botkin, et al.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Nov 06 - 05:34 AM

jeannie mac , I am agreeing with you again, Jim .


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 27 Nov 06 - 09:03 PM

refresh


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Folker
Date: 27 Nov 06 - 09:14 PM

What is it?

Shit

Listened to by a dirty, shabby & bearded minority


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,JT
Date: 28 Nov 06 - 06:31 AM

If that's what you think what are you doing here you stupid Folker?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Nov 06 - 07:03 AM

guest folker [a dirty shabby bearded minority],50 percent of whom are women without beards.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Nov 06 - 07:33 AM

Please don't feed the trolls - they creep back under their bridges soon enough.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,John P
Date: 28 Nov 06 - 08:43 AM

Well I suppose folker is right it is a minority sport. But I certainly don't have a beard, there is a high percentage of beards amongst our crowd.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 28 Nov 06 - 09:28 AM

Please let's not get sidetracked by personal insults and talk of beards etc. Folker was well out of order but you can't deny him free speech.
As Jim said just don't react to it and it will soon slither of this thread to spread its poison elsewhere.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Dec 06 - 03:55 PM

Iwould like to quote jOHN BRUNE froim the Roving songster 1965.
Quite a number of traditional folk singers, particuarly HarryCox,very occasionally made up their own words and tunes of a character quite indistinguishable from the genuine traditional songs.
To sum up-If we areto continuethe folk traditions at all we must first agreeon the basic meaning of the word folk.
most importantof all,we mustwrite and compose more of our own contemporary songs and stop this business of counting what propoption of songs are written and composed and how many are supposed to be traditional
perhaps we should ask whether most of the songs are in good taste,the love of things of lasting value. things of lasting value generally srve a real purpose.Songs of real value have meaning and tunes of real value tickle the finer emotions.With such a new approach the whole subject of traditional folk songs coud be tackled more constructively and with more enjoyment .


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Steal I Spam
Date: 05 Dec 06 - 04:39 PM

As I said. I have a beard. I wash at least once a month. I must be a minority cuz I sit on my own at the folk club.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Dec 06 - 04:45 AM

The problem with John Brunes definition,is that most contemporary writers, myself included want recognition for their work and their appropriate royalties,.
however he is right about things of lasting value[trash of the 19 century hasnt lasted although there was probably just as much written as there iss today],however good taste is hard to define as it is entirely subjective.he also says[ It is quite truethat generally speaking old songs are better than new ones, but this isnot becausewe have lost the knack of writing good songs but because only the best songs have lasted any length of time.
he also talks about[the regional fad]Scots should only sing scottish songs,Englishmen only english songs, such restrictions on our leisure time pursuits do not just knock stof the fun out of singing-they are quite untraditional,.
IF such restrictions had been in any way imposed on singers when folk singing was a universal tradition the folk process would have been
checked and the tradition might well have been killed centuries ago.
   my own[DickMiles]    alternative definition of traditional music could be home made music[including traditional style songs, that are contemporary].


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 03:47 AM

Cap'n,
We got to the tradition (proper) when it was very much in decline and many of the singers had not sung their songs for years, sometimes decades; in those circumstances there are bound to be changes, often brought on by memory lapses.
Ballad scholar David Buchan put forward the the fascinating idea that at the height of the ballad singing tradition there were no set texts to the ballads, just plots and commonplaces (milk-white steed, snowy white breast, silver pin etc) and a set form which allowed the singers to re-create the ballad every time they sang it. If that was the case, it is possibly this that James Hogg's mother was refering to when she accused Sir Walter Scott of killing off the ballads by writing them down.
It helps to remember that we are not 'traditional singers', just singers of traditional songs - we are not continuing the tradition, merely borrowing from it (thereby hangs an argument).
Jim Carroll
PS John Brune was the feller who nearly sabotaged the Radio Ballad 'The Travelling People' by pretending that songs he had written were genuine Travellers songs - thereby undermining the veracity of the programme. He is the reason that Sheila Stewart was never included in it.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 04:13 AM

Re the original question:

I know what it's not. It's not The White Hare.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Scrump
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 04:35 AM

The question of whether a singer should only sing songs from the region they come from has been raised here again. I think this is an unnecessary restriction, and agree with the Captain's comments on this. Any attempt to impose geographical boundaries on songs is ridiculous - where do you draw the line? As well as it being 'wrong' for an Englishman to sing a Scots song, or vice versa, would it be wrong for a Liverpudlian to sing a Mancunian song? Or for someone from Rochdale to be banned from singing a song from Oldham? Bloody daft idea! Songs are meant to be sung, and the more people that sing them the better.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 04:43 AM

Agree with you totally Scrump................except in the case of Geordie songs............. we are the only ones capable of singing them.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 04:55 AM

Jim carro;l,here is an obituary of john brun by Reg Hall,DATED 18,4,OI.
[John Brun became acquainted with Minty, Levy,and jasper smith,and recorded an interview with Jasper.He was on close personal terms with Davy Stewart and his family,and it was he who introduced the Stewarts of Blairgowrie to Ewan Macoll.He had recently published his memoirs for private circulation containing accounts of his political work on behalf of the Travelling community.]
Jim, I will prefer to remember him for being responsible for the above.,and for the Roving Songster[a fine collection of traditiomnal and John Brun songs.
I suspect he was the victim of a personality clash with Macoll.HE CLEARLY[rightly so]didnt agree with macolls, ludicrous idea, that englishman should only sing english songs etc.
Seems to me Brun was right.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 07:57 AM

HE CLEARLY[rightly so]didnt agree with macolls, ludicrous idea, that englishman should only sing english songs etc.

Since it wasn't MacColl's idea, that would be a rather strange thing to disagree with him about.

So far I have corrected this erroneous idea a number of times but I am happy to do it again.

It was the policy of the Singer's Club, not Ewan, and it was meant for that club and no-one else. It was decided by a democratic decision of the club. It is well documented.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 09:09 AM

it was a policy, Ewan agreed with.,and which he helped to implement.;Because he was A very INFLUENTIAL MEMBER OF THE SINGERS CLUB.
I do know of someone who was told by Maccoll,that they shouldnt sing Bessie Smith songs, This incident did not occur at the SINGERS Club.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 10:32 AM

"Seth Lakeman's song being nominated for Best Traditional Track (not song, I notice) does raise the question as to whether a writer can compose a song, and then declare it to be traditional ..."

"Who would be able to tell? Who can tell this hasn't been done already? Does anyone know of cases where it has been done as a deliberate hoax?"

Reading this a memory stirred and delving back into my collection of old vinyl I found an LP called 'So Cheerfully Round' by the Young Tradition, 1967 (TRA 155). This contains a song called 'The Hungry Child' by Judith Piepe. According to the sleeve notes Ms. Piepe, "...came into collision with a Folk Drag-who new all about the English Tradition, and could tell a traditional song any day. So Judith wrote him a couple, which he averred were rural gems from the seventeen hundreds." As something of a "Folk Drag" myself, I have often wondered if I would have been fooled by this song ...? Actually, I think it's a rather tedious song and I was never too keen on The YT either (don't know why I bought the record).

The other possible case is a curious book called 'The Chime Child' by Ruth L. Tongue (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1968). The full title of this book is 'The Chime Child or Somerset Singers - Being an Account of some of them and their Songs Collected over Sixty Years'. The book contains the texts and tunes of many 'interesting' songs and with titles like: 'Mary Magdalene', 'The Carol of Christ's Donkey', 'Gillavor', 'The Three Danish Galleys' etc., etc. They sort of have the feel of trad. songs except they don't appear to have been collected anywhere else. It has been suggested that Ms. Tongue may have made them up, but no-one seems to know for sure, nor what she hoped to achieve by doing so


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Scrump
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 10:42 AM

Ah yes, I remember the YT sleeve note now you remind me (I have the vinyl somewhere at home).

As for why people have (possibly) done it, maybe just for the fun of fooling other people, in the way that the perpetrators of hoaxes do (e.g. the Piltdown Man). Ms Piepe must have been amused by the FD's reaction when she first sang the songs to him. But I assume she would have told him after proving him wrong, as she had a point to make to him.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 12:05 PM

A couple of observations on recent postings. Re. David Buchan and the "no set texts" idea, when I first came across this I was initially very sceptical (despite the undeniable fact that in the Ballads there are certainly set phrases and methods of structuring a story, &c), and was not surprised to read some years later that the theory was based upon two renditions of a ballad given by a Mrs ?Scott, renditions which did indeed have differences; but they were given many, many years apart. Is it not more likely that she had herself altered the way of it in the intervening years, or perhaps even forgotten some of it and "patched" together a version which differed from her earlier rendition, than the altogether more complex theory advanced by D.B.?

More surely, for examples of the "hoax" approach mentioned by "Scrump", we need do no more than read a few of Robert Burns's letters related to the making of songs (to George Thomson and James Tytler, for instance) and then seek out the six volumes of The Scots Musical Museum for those songs ascribed to "R.", "B.", "X" and "Z". How many of these seize the spirit and idiom of the "Traditional" so well that they have been accepted as having been "done time out of mind"? They might even have fooled J. Heaney (though I suspect the concern in that example was more with melody). Burns's own manuscript of "Auld Lang Syne" (National Library of Scotland; in the interleaved "Glenriddell" S.M.M.) ascribes the words to an old man from whom R.B. allegedly took them down. Aye, right!

Going back to the very earliest postings, and whether a, or the, Tradition is dead, moribund, past and gone, done and dusted, I know of a good number of songs made in both Scotland and Ireland which are concerned with events of the last decades, and think some of these of very high quality. Most significant for this discussion, some of them certainly employ conventions characteristic of similar songs from previous centuries (in particular, Irish songs of location), both with regard to content and idiom. Thus, they are both currently relevant and fit comfortably into a longstanding tradition. Without going into any further detail but wishing to close on a humorous note, I've made a few myself (who knows; if I manage to add another half-dozen over the years, I might even get them recorded) and have had the words requested by quite a few singers; on one occasion, when a lady learnt that I had made a particular song myself, she said in surprise, "Oh! I thought it was a REAL song....."


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 12:57 PM

to Jim Carroll.I believe Macoll contributed Thirty foot trailer and FREEBORN MAN to the radio ballads,.
what was the problem with Brun contributing his own songs were they not good enough ,or was it that Macoll didnt want any other contemporary songs other than his own.
I am curious as to why Brun allegedly tried to pass off his own songs as traditional[Having seen some of his songs I think they are ok, but not as good as Macolls].Brun clearly didnt put great store by the word traditional ,he wrote songs in a traditional style as did Maccoll.
fINALLY many other songwriters have passed off their songs as traditional and succeeded[is it really a great sin].Is it not more important that he introduced the Stewarts to Macoll,PLUS his work on behalf of the travelling community.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 04:36 PM

No to all your suggetions Cap'n,
MacColl wrote numerous songs for 'The Travelling People' Radio Ballad. He didn't claim them to be of either traditional or Traveller origin. Brune turned up with a recording of himself pretending to be a Traveller woman singing Travellers songs and one of these was scripted in for Sheila Stewart to sing (and was actually recorded by her).
They were presented in the script as genuine Traveller songs.
At the last minute Brune revealed his practical joke and in order to make the information presented in the programme accurate Sheila's section was dropped - well done John Brune.
The Travelling People was probably the most important piece of work dealing with Travellers and their living conditions ever made - before or since, and it helped to put Travellers on the map. The Travellers we met thougt highly of the programme and the songs MacColl wrote for it (we've recorded severeal versions of Freeborn Man from Travellers.
Brune might well have sabotaged the whole thing had he not fessed up at the last minute, allowing the programme makers to carry out a damage limitation excecise.
Jim Carroll
PS Thank you Folkie dave; I wish I'd said that - in fact I did on another thread (without having read yours - sorry).


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 05:06 PM

The end of that show is still (to me) one of the most moving pieces pieces of broadcasting I have ever heard.

I was told it was Charles Parker who had the final word. (I thought it was Ewan). If you are not sure what I am talking about move heaven and earth to find a recording and listen.

But for whatever reason - just the most brilliant programme. Shame it was the last of the Radio Ballads that Charles, Ewan and Peggy et al. did together.

Thanks for that Jim and to bring the thread title into play again - does recording Ewan's songs from the tradition as you - and I believe Mike Yates has also done - make them traditional?

Or have we done that before - I forget!!!!


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Dec 06 - 03:47 AM

Hi Dave,
I'm never sure on this one. The versions we have recorded (there are others) tend to be in fragmentary form and somewhat garbled. One singer we met claimed to have written Freeborn Man himself. I feel somehow that if they had passed into the Travellers tradition there would have been more articulate, fuller versions with changes that came from the creative efforts of the Travellers rather than from mishearing. I do know Ewan was extremely pleased when he heard the Travellers had taken to it.
One of the quotes I like best about his songs was in American scholar Professor Horace Beck's book Folklore And The Sea which describes Shoals of Herring as 'typical of the songs popular among fishing fleets today'.
I agree with you about the end of 'The Travelling People'; it still makes the hairs on the back of my neck twitch. Parker's reaction to 'Labour councillor and Justice of the Peace' Harry Watton's "exterminate" statement was the only time Charles ever spoke on a Radio Ballad. I was told (by Charles) that the producers' refusal to remove the statement from the programme was the reason there were no more Radio ballads.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 08 Dec 06 - 04:24 AM

fuller versions with changes that came from the creative efforts of the Travellers rather than from mishearing.

Could we posssibly be too early? I just wonder if the song needs to spend longer, spread around more in order to get articulated better? It could even become a different song? Also I was trying to envisage circumstances where by Travellers learnt this song. If it was off the radio directly from the original broadcast? Off a recording? Off non-travellers?

That's more questions than answers this morning!!


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Dec 06 - 02:44 PM

Dave,
We started recording Travellers in July 1973; Our recording sessions took a set form: record your singer in his or her home, go to the pub, then go back to the site where somebody would light a fire and people would sing, swap yarns, deal horses, whatever.
After six weeks we had recorded so many songs that we had to stop in order to index what we were getting and form a plan of work.
It was eighteen months before we started again, by which time the fireside sessions had totally disappeared and nobody was singing - the reason - everbody had portable televisions.
As far as I am aware this remains the case. Since May 1975, among the travellers we know, the only singing that has been done was into our microphone.
Asking others working with (Irish) Travellers, this seems to be the general situation. There are going to be no new songs taken into the tradition if there is no tradition to take them into.
Happily this is not the case with teh music; there has been a big move back to Traditional music here in Ireland, thanks largely to the healthy state of settled music (and the assistance of oraganisations like Limerick University Music Dept. and (I think similarly Galway U.
It hasn't happened (yet) with singing, but we can all keep our fingers crossed I suppose.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 08 Dec 06 - 03:16 PM

Thanks for that Jim, I forget the pernicious influence of TV - having never owned one. And as one of my students once said to me "Does that mean you don't have a video either?"


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Dec 06 - 05:58 PM

whatever your personal feelings to John Brun,he is a respected collector,and his views in 1965,give a different insight into [so what is traditional music ].
despite your views, it is the view of Reg Hall that John Brun introduced the Stewarts to Maccoll, and was a great help to the travelling community and was highly respected by them.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Dec 06 - 07:43 PM

Respected by whom? Sorry Cap'n - not by me.
If you don't accept his behaviour towards The Travelling People radio ballad happened as described, please say so; if you think his behaviour was acceptable; please say so.
Having worked with Travellers and being aware of their problems; I believe that anybody who behaves the way he did is a tosser.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 05:14 AM

toJimCarroll; Reg Hall, judging by his obituary,available at musical traditions,clearly thinks differently to you.
I have his book the Roving songster it is very good, his insight into What is traditional folk music is just as valid as yours.
so John Brun is dismissed by you as a tosser,your opinion of Peter Kennedy seems of the same ilk,,I will say no more.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 05:48 AM

I will say no more

Is that a promise?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 06:57 AM

no.let other viewers,make up their minds, on Brun and also Kennedy.,
I DONT KNOW WHO Jim Carroll approves of apart from maccoll, he disapproves of Mike Harding As well[see why well run folk clubs thread ]a man who has written some quality serious songs. he disapproves of folk cabaret[ but not if its maccoll putting on a show].
JIM did you like the shows, put on by the Weavers and Pete Seeger,What were their shows apart from Folk Caberet.
Pete Seeger was the master of putting social comment across using the medium of entertainment, Or is it that you only approve[like maccoll]when its a message you agree with.
for the record I am an admirer of the Weavers, Pete Seeger, Maccoll,but I am not going to tolerate anyone telling me what I should sing.
I agree that what Brun did on that occasion was a mistake[probably his idea of a joke],but it shouldnt detract from all the good things that he did ,it also illustates to me the houmourlessness of Maccoll and his acolytes.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 07:36 AM

I will say no more Is that a promise?

Clearly not.

Who has told you what you should or should not sing Dick?

I will defend your right to sing anything you like, so long as you defend my right not to listen to it.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 08:40 AM

I replied with a no,to your message 9 dec 5 48 am,please read my posts.
Whoever has heard of anyone being forced to listen to anything at a folk club..
EWAN MACOLL did tell an acquaintance of mine not to sing blues because they were not american.
   folkie Dave, your message is rather close to a personal attack on my singing.
whatever JimCarroll might think of John Brun is irrelevant.JohnBrun essay on traditional folk music was introduced by me because i thought it was valid and appropriate to the discussion. John Brun was respected by Reg Hall thats good enough for me. noW pleasE no more digressions or personal attacks .


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 10:07 AM

Dick, since I have never heard you sing live or on record, I am unlikely to make personal attacks on your singing. I meant precaisely what I wrote - I have no objection to your singing what the hell you want to sing. Period, no qualifications.

You wrote "I am not going to tolerate anyone telling me what I should sing".

Who was this Dick?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 03:35 PM

Cap'n
I would echo Dave's comments
Regarding John Brune's behaviour - you can get it from the horses mouth in the interview with Sheila Stewart by Bob Pegg in The Living Tradition; No 42. April 2001. My reply is in the following edition. The ironocal thing is that the story has always been told as being against MacColl - it never occured to the tellers the enormous damage Brune's vindictive 'prank' would have done to Travellers if it had gone unchecked.
I too have great regard for Reg Hall with one qualification; he and others of his time in the revival have an enormous flea up their collective arses regarding MacColl; so much so that Reg found it necessary to provide deliberately misleading information on MacColl and Lloyd's influence on the early revival. On the first of the Folk Brittania programmes he produced a record sleeve purporting to represent MacColl and Lloyd's desire to form 'folk ensembles' similar to those found in Eastern Europe. The impression given was that the notes were written by either MacColl or Lloyd or both. In fact they were written by an American collector and had nothing to do with either of them.
Yes - I had an enormous respect for MacColl, and always will have.
Will be happy to discuss with you who else I have respect for.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 05:16 PM

well dave, this has no relevance to the thread,
on the first occassion it was a feminist member of the socialst workers party, telling me I should not sing The Bald Headed end of The Broom.
the second occassion was a clubIN QUORN[ No political songs please ].
the third occassion was a club in Oxfordshire.
Now dave eyre, if youve never heard me sing you couldnt have been to many folk clubs and festivals in the last thirty years,ive been there myself plenty.
now can we get back to the thread please.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 09:56 PM

Nice one guys. You are back in full flood and I am enjoying your discussions, but let's have less of the animosity please.
Let's not get personal and enjoy civil discourse.
Thank you.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 04:22 AM

Soldier Boy and Cap'n are right; this has become somewhat shunted up a blind alley - my fault as much as anybody's - sorry.
It is inevitable that we discuss the clubs and their attitude to the music when we attempt to define our terms; speaking for myself, this is where I came in (The Spinners Club, Sampson And Barlows Restaurant, London Road, Liverpool, circa 1960).
I think the problem, when dealing with 'The Tradition', is that quite often we move away from the subject and inevitably begin discussing what has happened to it in the hands of the folk clubs. As I believe that the tradition began to die with the break up of the (mainly rural) communities and is now dead, I think our experience is of a somewhat distorted form of its remnents. The club experience has inevitably had an effect on out view of what is traditional (I believe tradition and folk are synonymous) - it's a little like judging Newgrange or Knossos by what they have become at the hands of the re-builders.
Cap'n touched on one example in his last posting; that of the imposition of modern standards to old songs so that no-go areas are created. I haven't personally experienced singers being told that they can't sing certain types of song because they might offend sections of the audience, though I have been told that the preventing the singing of 'sexist' songs is fairly common. I know Ewan and Peggy and other members of The Critics Group were often requested (and constantly ignored) not to sing political songs. The nearest thing to it I have experienced was in a non-singing situation where I was told I should never sing whaling songs due to our (quite correct) modern take on the brutal slaughter of these creatures.
Attitudes such as these are bound to colour our concept of folk and the tradition.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 05:22 AM

very good. jim.my own personal take on singing, whaling songs,is ;
    If it brings the subject to peoples consciousness,why not.The Coasts of Peru for example is a powerful and graphic description of how it was.It doesnt follow that the singer, thinks whaling is a good thing.,I am sure you agree.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 05:26 AM

As I believe that the tradition began to die with the break up of the (mainly rural) communities and is now dead

I'd struggle to agree with you here Jim. After all Cecil Sharp predicted much the same thing which is why he raced around on his bicycle collecting like mad, and only in rural communities. It was the same at the time of the amalgamation of the two folk societies in the early thirties (sorry I can't check the date - off carolling in a minute or two!!)

And yet we discovered the tradition of the Odcombe Carols in the 1970's; Gordon Hall with his amazing talent had been missed by the early revival; as far as I know his mother from whom he learnt his songs was never recorded; I personally discovered a tradition in the year 2000 which had been passed over by every single folklorist for (now) 158 years.

I suspect you may be right Jim, I doubt there is much left we haven't found - but I dare not be certain like Sharp was.

As far as prescribing what people sing - I suspect with Ewan and Peggy it was simply the wrong approach!! They did a fantastic non-political set for a folk club I helped to run. We booked them to talk on the "Long Harvest" set and sing comparative songs as they went along.

And a magical night it was too.

I'll save the discussion on politically correct songs for another time. Martin Carthy and "Prince Heathen" anyone?


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 12:05 PM

Cap'n,
I agree with you about the whaling songs.
The main point is that most of them are not actually about whaling, but rather about the conditions the men had to work under. They are, to my mind the most importand, certainly the most graphic songs in the English repertoire.
Dave - see my posting on re-definers thread (more later - have to go - my dinner's being poured out.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 02:45 PM

Once we start excluding any songs from the repertoire, are we not in danger of weakening the tradition, and ending up with a bland, boring,cosy, repertoire of inoffensive middle of the road musac.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 02:49 PM

Quite agree Cap'n.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 02:49 PM

400.......wow!!!


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 03:10 PM

I agree about excluding songs from the repertoire.

However there is another point here. Singing what we might call for now traditional songs has certainly survived within this area at shepherd meets and in particular amongst the hunting fraternity. Now I have sung along about various hounds with Willy Scott many times in the past and remarkably good it was too. Other groups have made records of hunting songs and good fun they have been to sing along with too.

And yet since the end of legal fox hunting I and others have noticed a qualitative difference in that the songs were not just sung for the pleasure of singing but also "with feeling" if you like, indeed a non-sympathiser said to me "These buggers sing as if they mean it".

And yet I have spent a very enjoyable lunchtime singing about God with great gusto including "Worship, worship, worship Christ the Lord" a sentiment accompanied by a pint of really fine beer - indeed helped along with it and with which I am not normally associated (the sentiment that is, not the beer). Others might have seen me singing along and said "He sings as if he means it".

Again no answers but a number of questions.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 02:03 PM

I suppose we wont be able to sing wren hunting songs soon.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 05:43 PM

well so far no one has rejected sea shanties,although they are comparitively recent compared to some.
A L LLOYD says The modern form of capitalism that gave rise to the great shipping lines,produced at the same time, the striking body of primitive folk songs that we call shanties.
john mearns[Scottish folklorist, singer broadcaster]remarked in an interview,that songs such as DRUMDELGIE , were not only sung in the bothys for recreation,but used as work songs by the farm labourers,different songs with different rhythms ,were used for ploughing or hand milking.
so logically we should also accept,songs sung in the american chaingang,scottish waiuking songs,and any songs that are used to assist manual labour[even if they are composed].


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: The Sandman
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 05:46 PM

I am not sure if this includes prostitutes, singing hit me with your rhythym stick.


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 06:27 PM

The word "traditional" has different meanings in different contexts. The folklorist has a guage by which he/she measures what it traditional by studying the texts of songs and stories told in a sub-culture, generally isolated.

The ethnomusicoligist studies a body of music and compares the style to see if it reflects a culture that dates back many years.

"Traditional" is a term that many have recently applied to a sub-culture-based music collected in rural areas or places where the popular media has not influenced it inordinately but it has survived in spite of the media (radio, recordings, TV etc.)

It could be that "traditional" music is not necessarily folk music if the songs no longer represent a particular sub-culture but are "museum pieces".

The obvious question is whose tradition? Jazz and so-called classical music have a tradition but these may be measured differently by their practitioners.

I think if you put a particular style of music along with traditional, it makes it clear.
"Traditional anglo-American ballads", "Traditional sea chanteys", etc. Then you are talking about a body of work that survives many years not associated with one particular composer or artist but reflects a sub-culture that teaches this way of playing to those within its confines.

I have more to say so I'll post another.

Frank


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 06:55 PM

Soldier Boy, I want to address your ideas.

"1.When I started this thread I intended to raise a question and not to challenge your attitudes."

I think that this is a valid point and the discussion is a worthy one.

"2.I do not believe that "TRADITIONAL" Folk Music means that the original authors must be both unknown and dead or out of copyright. This is just symptomatic of the age when they were spawned without todays advantage of instant recording and down loading via CD/DVD and internet etc."

One of the problems is that CD, DVD, Internet may get in the way of finding traditional folk music because of its inordinate commercial influence on a "folk culture". There have been articles written by ethnomusicologists and folklorists on a kind of "music imperialism" that tended to dictate a choice of music because of the media.


"Levels of education,literacy and the ability to communicate to the masses was very poor so only the most "popular" and therefore handed down songs survived. These songs survived because they were 'catchy', had a strong CHORUS and expressed shared and meaningful feelings and emotions of the time. So it is a 'filtering' process."

To the degree that these songs were evolved through a teaching experience in a given folk sub-culture this is true. Where it breaks down is when the word "popular" is used. We know that "popular music" has become a business which has as its goal selling songs to the public through a commercialized marketing technique. This is antithetical to how songs are transmitted in a living folk sub-culture. In the latter, the media becomes incidental and the marketing irrelevant.

"3.I do also think that "Tradition" is a process of evolution and is not dead. It really is a stream of continuous motion and is timeless. Many of todays "contemporary singers/Traditional-style singers and composers" will create the TRADITIONAL Folk Music of the future. Just because something is "New" does not mean it is not of value. They will live on to form part of the "tradition" for generations to follow."

The "filtering process" that you refer to is happening now in spite of what the media offers as "popular" music. Under our noses, there is a rich folk sub-culture taking place now that we as "folkies" don't even know about. Maybe it involves rap music or other sub-culture-based music.

"The definition of 'traditional' is indeed starting to creak. It is time for a re-think. Why do we love and embrace the past so much yet feel unwilling to equally embrace the present and the future?"

It's not that the past is the focus. It's more about the evolution of a folk-based musical sub-culture that many of us were highly motivated to seek out and discover. For example, the blues. This was an outgrowth of a rural community of African-Americans in the South that eventually found its way to the big city. Why is say "Blind Lemon Jefferson" or "Son House" so important? Well, you don't hear them on the major media but they tell us about the history of African-Americans in our country. The blues tradition goes on today in spite of the media and like the Griots of old, they tell of what happened to our country at various times of our history. This is not necromancy but an attempt to understand our "roots" as a musical nation.


"We owe it to our desendents to express the here and now with our heart felt emotions and observations with less of the seemingly heart felt need to cling,limpit-like, to comfort-inducing images of the past - e.g rather sad, in my view, churning out songs about fishermen,plough boys,milk maids, farmers, hunters,old battles,fair maidens,harvesting,love lost and love gained etc."

Here I agree and disagree at the same time. The "churning out" of songs about fishermen etc. is not really done these days. Many have been collected and rediscovered and in so doing their value is inherent. There are many songwriters writing in a folk-style without being part of a "folk" sub-culture that's isolated or homogenous. It's not that these songs are not important. It's just that the emphasis is different. The "traditional" songs are unearthed through collections and study by those who are interested and can't be replaced by contemporary singer-songwriters who by in large are more influenced by the popular music of the media. There are exceptions such as Jean Ritchie for example who writes beautiful songs but reflect a rich folk heritage that spans generations.


"We always seem to give value to "traditional" and see contemporary as cheap. This is indeed a time warp that needs to be finally shot dead and terminated. Our emotions and feelings are just as relevant today as they were 300 years ago."

Here I emphatically disagree. No self-respecting folklorist or ethnomusicologist would see all contemporary songwriting as "cheap". This is a huge generalization. Our emotions and feelings are different than they were 300 years ago. This is why there is such a fascination for wanting to discover how people felt historically through the tradition-based music.

"Otherwise we create a black hole and our contempory age gets sucked into oblivion."

Respect for tradtion-based music (historical connections), folk sub-cultures will not create any black holes except for the hide-bound poseur who hasn't taken the time to listen to traditional culture-based music handed down through the centuries. There will always be those who have a "folkier-than-thou" attitude about the music and they can be found dressed in anachronistic clothes and insular and self-conscious about their music.

"Nuff said and many thanks for all your very valuable and very well considered input. Please keep it coming if I haven't already turned you off"

Your questions are valid and this opens a door to discovery which is always a good thing.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 08:16 PM

Sincere thanks Frank Hamilton for your very thorough and very interesting replies to some of my ideas. This is much appreciated.

Whether we agree or disagree on some points it doesn't matter because all your points are very well considered and just as valid as mine are.

As you say "..this opens a door to discovery which is always a good thing." I think this applies to this whole thread and the many contributors that have added to this fascinating debate.

Many of the points I have raised on this thread have been ideas to throw into the pot to invite and stimulate debate rather than firm and unshiftable convictions. This is because I am still learning and benefiting from all the knowledge and opinions expressed on this thread to date.

When I started this thread I never envisaged the can of worms I had opened. This is a massive subject worthy of detailed discussion and has attracted such diverse and conflicting views that I realise that no one can have the final and definitive answer.

But it is well worth the adventure and the journey of discovery.
Bit by bit I think we are getting there!


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Subject: RE: So what is 'TRADITIONAL' Folk Music ?
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 13 Jan 07 - 01:27 PM

To take a fresh tack based on a singer's practical needs and pleasures, let's think about "Era" for a moment.

I sing a very wide variety of songs including banjo tunes, ballads, blues, cowboy songs, broadsides, ancient stuff derived from 19th century pop, prairie songs, love lyrics, work songs, etc. They are almost all folksongs ... traditional songs ... whatever term you prefer.

As to origin, they come from the Anglo-American and African-American traditions. (I love many other kinds of folksongs from Mexican, French and Spanish to subcontinental Indian and Chinese, but they aren't in my repertoire, I just hum them around the house. So I'm leaving those out of consideration here.)

I strongly like some contemporary songs and singers. But in what I really sing -- that must be some kind of acid test, don't you think? -- "era" matters. In short, I find in selecting repertoire I rarely if ever choose a song **newer** than about 1940.

Aha! Found out! you cry. A pre-WWII song chauvinist! And it's true. And why is this?
Simply stated, I just have not found many, if any post-1940 songs that feel essential to my musical heart and soul.

This is pretty harsh of me. It eliminates, for example, some songs I love. Just a few examples off the top of my head, "I Saw Her As She Came and Went," "Got My Mojo Workin'," "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," "Everybody's Talkin'", Mike Heron's "Hedgehog Song," the wonderful "Geronimo's Cadillac," "Abilene," "Goofus," and "Dirty Old Town" would be some of many, not to mention "Mustang Sally," "Tie Me Kangaroo Down," Tom Waits' exquisite "Tom Traubert's Blues," and "Heartbreak Hotel," which I find riveting quite apart from Elvis.

(By the way it also eliminates every last one of the literally thousands of songs I personally have written, including "Before They Close the Minstrel Show," "Lonesome Robin," "Weaver Bird," "Web of Birdsong," etc., so don't say I'm not principled!)

What seems to matter for me, in staying closest to pre-1940s songs, is style and outlook.

Doesn't matter to me that "somebody known wrote it." Some of the songs I sing are indeed of known authorship, like W. S. Hays' "Curtains of Night" ("I'll Remember You Love in My Prayers:), just to pick one. That's not a barrier.

Arbitrarily choosing a year like this seems puerile and trivial. But before 1940 (and dating back into the 15th century -- roughly as far back as folksongs have survived for us) -- the kinds of songs I have come to love throughout a long life as singer and sometimes performer were generated and sung in styles I have come to feel at home with. After 1940 they weren't. It's that simple.

I'm not alone. Godrich and Dixon, in their standard blues discography, break off after 1942 -- for many reasons, among which are the coming of electric blues and distinct changes in style after WWII due to the national, cultural and racial intermixing the war caused. (Wars always create artistic style breaks for this reason.)

Tony Russell followed suit in his Country Music Records: A Discography, 1921-1942.

Since 1940 collectors of traditional folksongs have at times found good songs -- Frank Warner is an example -- but the songs they collected almost invariably dated back before 1940.

It's not just a matter of my chosen field, traditional songs. Even the popular songs before 1940 were distinctly different from their successors post-1940 to the present. Different in every way, but most of all in viewpoint, and thus in sound. Swing began to destroy the pre-1940s gestalt, rock finished it off -- for better or worse, and I do NOT imply a value judgment in this, I'm only stating a fact.

Showing my age (69) I guess ... but I prefer to sing and play songs that dated from before I was three years old.

So, for me, "traditional songs" are the core of a preference of musical era as well as a preference of genre. They simply sound right to me, as songs. And as a practical matter those kinds of songs don't date any newer than 1940. Regardless how I may dote on newer songs, I, a strongly tradition-influenced American revival singer, don't personally sing them. It's not a matter of self-limiting -- I'd be glad to sing newer stuff if it worked for me. But it just doesn't seem to "go with" me and doesn't feel as good, and would not, somehow, mix well with the core stuff I do.

Oddly, it would be easier to mix "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "April Showers" with my repertoire -- those are two of many pop songs of the same era -- than to mix in more modern things. I don't entirely know why. Does that make me an old fart? (Don't answer that.)

All this contradicts what I've said above, where I've argued that traditional song keeps making itself and will do so on into the indefinite future. That's the difference between ideal and practical points of view.

My singer's viewpoint is very far away from, and less internally consistent than, the points discussed above about legal rights and definitions. This is just one singer's day-to-day preference and bone-marrow feeling as to what is, or is not, his repertoire. My guess is that any of us, as singers, will tend to make these sorts of private definitions about our own songlist preferences based on "feel" -- which may be very different from our attempts to set up definitions or assert idealistic or logical categories.

Not sure how useful, or not, this is. Reading it over, I tend to think not very. Yet similar assertions of preference are implicit everywhere behind the contributions to this thread. In the interests of clarity, I thought it might be interesting to take this different view and see how it plays out.

Wow, what a subject. Easier not to think about, and just sing.   Bob


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Subject: RE: So what is *Traditional* Folk Music?
From: GUEST,ray taylor
Date: 02 Apr 13 - 11:06 AM

I'm looking for a tape,which I lost some time ago[still have sleeve]"Tales of Derwentdale "by john Thorpe and Michael Kelly.i see that you have referred to it on your web?


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