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Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?

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GUEST 09 Dec 06 - 06:06 AM
Declan 09 Dec 06 - 06:29 AM
The Borchester Echo 09 Dec 06 - 07:24 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 09 Dec 06 - 11:33 AM
GUEST 09 Dec 06 - 12:07 PM
The Borchester Echo 09 Dec 06 - 12:20 PM
Willie-O 09 Dec 06 - 12:36 PM
GUEST 09 Dec 06 - 12:49 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 09 Dec 06 - 12:50 PM
GUEST,Brian Peters 09 Dec 06 - 01:32 PM
Willie-O 09 Dec 06 - 01:50 PM
McGrath of Harlow 09 Dec 06 - 02:45 PM
Big Al Whittle 09 Dec 06 - 03:03 PM
GUEST,thurg 09 Dec 06 - 03:40 PM
Willie-O 09 Dec 06 - 07:12 PM
dick greenhaus 09 Dec 06 - 07:31 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 09 Dec 06 - 08:29 PM
GUEST,Art again 09 Dec 06 - 09:00 PM
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Big Al Whittle 10 Dec 06 - 01:38 PM
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GUEST,Shimrod 11 Dec 06 - 05:11 AM
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Subject: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 06:06 AM

There have been many, many, many threads on this board which seek to define such terms as 'Folk' and 'Traditional' and, you'll be pleased to know, I don't particularly want to start another one. But, I can't help noticing that some of the contributors to these threads seem to be desperate to re-define these notoriously fuzzy words.

What I would like to explore, in this thread, are the MOTIVES of the re-definers.

Just to start the ball rolling I would like to draw your attention to the witilly titled thread, "Eclectile Dysfuntion" by 'Rabbi-Sol'. He is the organiser of a House Concert series in Rockland, NY. Although he makes it clear that his venue is devoted to traditional material he is inundated by "...performers who have the nerve to call themselves "folk singers" but do only hard rock". I would submit that these performers motives for re-defining the words 'folk' and 'traditional' are just to get themselves a platform for their particular brand of music.
The other topical example is, of course, the BBC Folk Awards debacle over Seth Lakeman's 'White Hare' track ... but that's been more than fully explored elsewhere.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Declan
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 06:29 AM

There may be people who are tring to 're-define' the words as you suggest. I think mainly people are trying to get some clarity as to the definition of the words, which as you say yourself are notoriously fuzzy.

My own persnal problem with the 'T' word, is that if you define it in a narrow way, you can assert, as many here do, that the tradition is dead and all new material is henceforth not traditional (and can never be, by some definitions).

Given that there are vibrant living traditions at least in some coutries where the body of material is being added to regularly, I find this view gives a wrong impression of the reality.

As for the two examples you quote, Rabbi Sol is perfectly entitled to defint the term traditional in the context of his concerts and to select the acts he books accordingly. The White Hare selection appears to be an error arising from a combination of an attribution given for the song on some versions of the album and a lack of a precise definition of the word trad within the context of the award process by the organisers.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 07:24 AM

I tried a definition in Another Place citing three factors which have altered irrevocably the nature of the traditional process. No-one argued against it and some even liked it:



OK, try again with greater precision (though more words):

'The tradition' comprises art forms of a distinctive national, ethnic or social group rooted in that community's lore and customs and passed on orally, aurally or by demonstration rather than by written/recorded or formal didactic means. It has thus belonged collectively to that community, rather than to individuals or the state, and tells the history of the people from their common experience.

In the case of music, its platform has been predominantly the informal social gathering, the workplace or the home rather than the theatrical stage or concert hall, and pieces tended to be known by what or who they were about rather than by composer. This is not, of course, to say that trad musicians have not borrowed and adapted from formal composers or from other cultures. Obviously they have, and do, which is why the tradition continues to evolve.

However, three factors in the current revival are forcing ever more rapid and inexorable changes:

(a) digital archiving, obviously, as mentioned
(b) writing, consciously, 'in the tradition' and registering the result with MCPS/PRS
(c) population mobility resulting in monumental cross cultural influence and collaboration.

It will, thus, never be the same again. 'The tradition' will remain that static body of information that has been quite literally passed down before the irrevocably altered times put an end to the centuries-old process (cue Richard Thompson . . . ). What is NOT traditional, by definition, is a recently composition of known origin. Even if you call it The White Hare.



NB No reference works were harmed (or even consulted) in the concoction of this definition.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 11:33 AM

Hi 'countess richard',

Thanks for your contribution. I always enjoy your comments but, in this case, may I respectfully suggest that you may have missed the point of this particular thread? I'm not trying to seek yet more definitions but to seek to understand why some people seem to be so desperate to ditch any existing definitions and come up with new ones. I also think that if we could just get a handle on motivations we just might be able to nip this, rather tiresome, plethora of 'definitions' threads in the bud!
Here are a few possible motivations, off the top of my head:

- People who really want to play rock music in folk clubs (see above).

- People who desire a situation in which 'anything goes' in a folk club.

- People who like folk music, and also like other types of music, and, therefore, think that the other types of music that they like qualify as folk music (pathetic, I know, but I've met a fair number of them!).

- People who can't live with uncertainty. In a recent 'Musical Traditions' article (article MT 184) the great Folk Song Collector, Mike Yates wrote the following: "...many people today want a world of certainties, a world where our every thought and desire can be seen in terms of black and white. But, of course, life is not like that, and kicking against this, we so often find ourselves suffering from the unsatisfactory nature of things." I happen to think that that is very profound and that every school child should be required to learn it by heart and to be able to discuss what it means (dream on, Shimrod!).

Can anyone come up with any more possible motivations? More importantly, can any of you who seek to re-define 'folk', 'traditional' etc. tell us why you want to do so?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 12:07 PM

so writers don't get ripped off so often.

so publicly-owned material stays publicly-owned

err that's it


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 12:20 PM

Shimrod, I didn't mean I wanted to push my cobbled up definition above any other particularly, but to suggest that the motivation to redefine was that it really has to be done because the world has changed so. You can't uninvent digital archiving, MCPS/PRS registration or the shrinking global viallage, can you?

Yes, I've come across the motivations of the three groups you describe. I just want to slap them really. Not very constructive, I know but . . .

Ah, Mike Yates. A hero.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Willie-O
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 12:36 PM

To call it "re-defining" implies rather specifically that it--the terms "folk" and "traditional" were conclusively defined in the first place.

Which they were...by numerous people, at different times, in very different ways. Whoever the first hapless wise one who ventured a definition--whether it was Child, Sharpe, Seeger, Broonzy, or Jesus Christ--everyone since has been a "re-definer".

Times and traditions change. If you want to put a shingle over the entrance to your "folk club" explaining what kinds of music are acceptable there, feel free. But that's all you be able to conclusively define.

BTW, I think I would quibble with your and Rabbi-Sol's definition of "hard rock". The equipment those guys--the real rockers--need doesn't fit through the door of any known folk club. I'm guessing you don't like music that may be traditional in origin but is recast with modern (post-60's) instrumentation and amplification.

Anyway, I think you answered your own question quite conclusively there. Everyone of course wants their own style of music included. Beyond that, not many people (Mudcatters excluded) care about the "definition", as much as about the "upcoming gig" or even the "money". Your search for motives (as if you hadn't already made up your mind what they are) suggests some grand conspiracy to ruin folk music...shame about that.

Well...I'd write more but I have to go practice my mandolin for my hard rock gig tonight.

Regards
W-O


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 12:49 PM

Guest,
Nice one to think about.
It should be said from the outset that the terms 'folk' and 'traditional' in relation to song and music are not as ill-defined or 'fuzzy' as many would have us believe. The ITMC definition still stands as far as I know; I am not aware of any re-definition having taken place. The Funk and Wagnall Standard Dictionary of Folklore devotes 16 double columned pages to a definition of folk song, fairly clearly laid out.
I could go to a couple of hundred books on my shelf where the terms are used without ambiguity, so they can be said to be well documented.
It may well be that a re-definition is necessary; A L Lloyd suggested as much in the last pages of his book Folk Song In England; but any re-definition must take into consideration existing definitions.
I believe there are a number of reasons why some people would wish to abandon the terms, some of them already touched on by Shimrod.
I am one of the people who believe that the tradition, when applied to song and story, is dead. For me, a continuing tradition requires three essential elements; creative composition, general acceptance by a community (no - I don't count a folk club as being a community) and transmission both within and outside that community.
Countess Richard's definition, to some extent, includes elements of the existing definition of tradition, certainly as it relates to the community.
Unless I have missed something, people no longer create, communities no longer accept and members of the communities no longer pass on - we have become passive recipients rather than creators.
I would like to be proved wrong, but I believe the best we can do is accept where we stand and recognise that we are borrowers from a tradition rather than part of one.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 12:50 PM

'countess richard' perhaps I was too hasty (sorry - this is one of my personal obsessions and I got myself all fired up over it! Must learn to put my brain in gear before I attack the keyboard!).
For a start I think your definition is, actually, pretty neat - I like it! I also think your points about digital archiving etc. are also interesting - but haven't got my brain round them yet.

Feel free to slap away - it would serve the silly buggers right!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 01:32 PM

One of the problems with the folk revival (in England at least) is its self-consciousness. Many of its movers and shakers have been intellectuals, which inevitably leads to a degree of navel-gazing probably more intense than in countries or communities with more vibrant, continuous traditions, in which people can just get on and play the stuff without too much hand-wringing (although I don't doubt that the Irish, for instance, are well capable of navel-gazing over their music as well).

Over the years I've heard pretty much every genre of popular music - rock'n'roll, country, punk, rap, techno, etc., touted as being the True Folk Music of the age, usually by clever people whose main aim is to prove that people who still choose to sing old songs are wankers. Doesn't make me want to sing old songs any less, though.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Willie-O
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 01:50 PM

Hmmm, there's another one for your list:

"to prove that people who still choose to sing old songs are wankers"

I don't buy it (it implies that ambitious singer-songwriters are actually thinking about other people) but it's got a certain cachet!

W-O


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 02:45 PM

Sometimes it's a matter of different people having different definitions to start with. The discussions are so much about trying to redefine the word, but, rather, declining to redefine it, ie refusing to accept a definition that someone else has which is different from the one you have.

For example for one person the essential element is the content (eg the words, the notes), for another it is the style (eg the instruments, the way they are played, the way the voice is used).


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 03:03 PM

I am re-defining folk music to attack the very basis of the capitalist system. Once I have English Folk Song and Dance Society cowering at the sheer power and remorseless logic of my dialectic, I will render impotent their power base - the so called Morris Dancers.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 03:40 PM

Jim - "a continuing tradition requires three essential elements; creative composition, ... ": I'm wondering why you consider "creative composition" so essential. If you have a community (hypothetically speaking) in which only old, handed-down ballads are sung, would this not constitute a "continuing tradition"? I know of instrumental traditions - as I'm sure you do - that could be robbed of all their relatively modern tunes without great damage having been done to their continuance. In other words, there would be plenty of well-known tunes left ...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Willie-O
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 07:12 PM

...(continuing Thurg's line of thinking)...but the people playing and singing them would be re-enactors, not folksingers...

After all, lyrics get forgotten...tunes get forgotten...either because the communities of musicians die out, or because they are inferior or irrelevant and are replaced with stronger ones, which are created.

And as you observe, you're talking hypothetically. If you want to have a strong community of musicians which recognizes excellence, whatever your hypothetical constructs may suggest, you don't tell people to stick to the old stuff and don't go coming up with anything new.   Cause if you do your community disappears up its own asshole, y'know?

W-O


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 07:31 PM

Well, if you have a folk music radio or TV show, redefinition lets you add acts that would otherwise have to find their own venues. Then too, the performance standards for "folk" acts have generally been much lower than those for performers of other genres, so that being a "folk" act requires much less effort in terms of stagecraft and presentation.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 08:29 PM

My being primarily from a whole other musical paradigm, and preferring and liking it that way, gives me a view of folk music as being nuggets of great historical import that we had to search diligently for. As I've said before, we must sweep the scum of the present off the top of the pond so we can more easily view the depths where these vivid and graphic historic folkloristic artifacts might be found. We owe a great debt to those that were the collectors. Hopefully, we did some of that ourselves.

The new "Re-definers" are looking for a niche that leads them to at least an acceptable bottom line. Money again?!

There it is, the rub. There is an entirely new bottom line that crept up on us. And it is, because of inflation etc. making everything cost quite a bit more than in the days of the old bottom line. We seem to need huge umbrella organizations like the Folk Alliance to maximise the take. Remember that gasoline was thirty cents a gallon in 1965! But kids, go for it! (You will anyhow, I know. We did!)

Yes, I do think I understand. Just, please, don't trample and trounce our other sensitivities from other times. When you back us into a corner, it's only natural that we snarl back!! Just see some of my posts from those other years' threads to see how an old folkie can snarl when his certainties get tread-ed upon.

Art


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Art again
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 09:00 PM

Thurg and Willie-o,

Re-enactors! Yes, as folksingers, we were certainly re-enactors. And we were presenting the artifacts we had found in order to allow today's audiences to hear and have the passed down musical tale from those other times. We did it somewhat close to the way we found it because we wanted to present it like folks from the other times might do it---to the best of our ability. A time machine of sorts!

Sometimes, though, the artifact was not accessible to modern ears and minds, so I used humor to set it up and put people in a place where they could be more "into" this old museum piece.

All of it was to hopefully show how close we were to each other--our shared humanity---over time---over oceans--over national borders---over religious chasms. For that ethic, the ideal if not the actual end result, I owe Pete Seeger more than I can ever say. (Pardon the thread drift.)

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 09 Dec 06 - 11:24 PM

Willie-O: I'm afraid you don't quite get what I'm saying. I'm not taking a position on the defining/re-defining issue; I'm just trying to understand the thinking behind one aspect of Jim's definition. My "hypothetical community" is just that; I'm not trying to make a sly comparison with anybody's scene or anything like that ...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 05:42 AM

Yes, WLD, I DO know where you're coming from! Previous generations have been 'guilty' of re-defining folk for their own purposes as well.

Sharp, RV-W etc. had a decidedly nationalist agenda whereas the the architects of the post-war Revival made no secret of their left-wing aims.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Darowyn
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 05:58 AM

You can equally legitimately ask what are the motives of the "keep it traditional" faction.
Surely it's a question of people needing their own comfort zones,
The Trad faction want everything to stay the same as they believe that it ever was.
The redefining faction want to hear a majority of songs in the newer styles that they prefer.
The Folk and acoustic movement as a whole can only suffer if both or either side retreats into an attitude of self righteous insularity.
Chill out, it's only music!
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 06:42 AM

No no no.

The issue is not about 'keeping it traditional.' Nearly all the people I know who love old songs with the provenance everyone calls Trad (whatever else they may ascribe to that word) are PERFECTLY happy so hear adaptations, new instrumentation, rewrites of lyrics etc.

Most of the 'old guard' (rubbish term, sorry) are actually very open minded in my experience.

The debate that's been running through a lot of threads recently is about attribution. About only calling works trad if they come from that place. Not about what you do with them once you pick them up and decide to work on them.

About describing on the tin what is IN the tin.

Some people don't get so excited about new songs, some don't like old. That's not a debate, that's just a preference.

The problem is this:

There are four main interpretations of the word Traditional.

One describes a body of work which was created in another time, and which - because of changes to the world - can no longer be added to. The Countess and JIm Caroll have both defined this definition very well.

The second describes a process of popularisation of any type of material of any age. Sometimes aurally, in clubs, but mostly from CDs. This is the process that has Galway Farmer, Blowin in the Wind, Fiddlers Green and Streets of London defined as traditional. It also has Three Lions on Your Shirt and Happy Birthday down as Trad.

The third is a description of a style of singing or playing. A cappella, certain guitar styles, use of squeezeboxes, certain harmonies, and certain vocal deliveries - nasal, bel canto, strong regional accents (specially any not used by the singer when talking).

The fourth means 'in public ownership.'

Now.

At the moment all four of these definitions are valid, to some people, to some extent.

But this venn diagram leads to all kinds of confusions - not least writers being denied royalties and songs in common ownership becoming private property.

The redefinition debate is about trying to separate out these definitions. To prevent the confusion. To find new words which each describe ONE and only one of the above.

It has NOTHING to do with what people like or dislike, or about money.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 06:50 AM

I should add to numner three certan types of song. There are lots of writers who make new songs in 'trad' style - Jez Lowe, Pete Coe, Steve Knightly - but this a description of style, not provenance. It must not be confused with number one.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 07:28 AM

One of the building blocks upon which musician and composer Chris Wood founded The English Acoustic Collective was that the tradition must be respected but convention can be broken. Not his own words, but those of a tabla player when asked about the proliferation of external influences on his music. This led Chris Wood to reflect on the peculiarly English 'good taste' theory which is based on the supposition that for anything to be serious, worthy or fine it had to come from the upper echelons of society. This is in contrast to his own work which focusses increasingly on 'ordinary people', typified by Listening To The River, a piece based on the relationship between folk music and the regional speech of those who live and work along the river Medway. These are people, he says, with a sense of place, who know who they are. The rise and fall of their voices, he says, have drawn him to follow them with his bow and the result has been described as contemporary English music with a deep and living root.

I would suggest that this is music written 'in the tradition', but this is a description not just of style but of provenance too. It's not (3), it's more than that, but it's a moving on from (1) as it involves the English taking a look at themselves and revising how they view their cultural heritage as it exists now and redefining the relevance of tradarts not just as a marketing opportunity in our lives.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 07:51 AM

Yes - I can see that. And there are other examples too (including 'uncollected' works - though that's a moot point in it own right - within social groups where the aural process does still operate - such as travellers, perhaps, and maybe some island/isolated communities), so perhaps we need a fifth defintion.

But these examples are faily few and far between, so in the main I think my four will do for the purposes of this debate.

As I say it there's a lot of overlap between the defintions, and it's in these overlaps that all the problems occur, because people will use the word traditional and mean, for example 1) and then others will take it that they mean 3). Or 2), and next minute it's listed on some album as 1) and treated as 4).

That's why this debate is important.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Declan
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 07:55 AM

Guest 6:43

I think your separation of the debate into strands is very useful, although your examples with regard to style are a bit limiting and seem to refer almost exclusively to singing (with or without "Sueezebox" accompaniment).

I find the Countess' original definition a bit paradoxical - a "static body of information" which "continues to evolve", but I can see how these two notions might not be entirely mutually exclusive.

Fortunately in the context of the Irish traditions, (certainly the dance music, but also the singing traditions), I would find that all three of Jim Carroll's criteria are still met. There is a lot of new material being created (of variable quality, but there were always bad tunes, and some of the newer ones are excellent), it is accepted by those in the community who are interested in it (was the tradition ever widely accepted by the whole community, and it is trasmitted both within and outside the community, both orally and by means of modern communications technology.

Personally, as I said above, I believe that it is the fact that is transmitted which makes the music traditional. While the means of transmission is not necessarily the traditional one, I don't see how it makes a tune/song any more or less traditional whether I learned it orally from an old man in a thatched cottage, or recorded on an MP3 player via a download from the internet.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 08:02 AM

You're right. And you are chosing my definition 2) (which does include tunes) as the overriding one, which is perfectly ok.

For you.

But when you call a tune like Dusty Windowsills or Spooterskerry or Leaving Lochboisdale as trad under definition 2), then label it on your album as Trad, other people may ascribe it as 1) and treat it as 4). So the writers won't get their due.

Now, some tune-writers are happy about that (I'd love my own tunes to by so used), but in the greater scheme of things it's wrong.

The word needs to be re-defined to prevent this, and that's my motivation


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Declan
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 08:17 AM

I don't think I'm choosing 2 as my definition. I don't think tunes that are not in the spirit of a tradition will ever be regarded as part of that tradition however popular they become. But some recently composed pieces written in the traditional style (hence 3) will become part of that living tradition, and will be passed on to others. That is how we have the older ones we have today.

I must stress that I am not talking about this in the context of commercial attribution of the tunes. If someone records a tune (or song) with a known author (and there is an onus on them to research this as best they can) then they should properly attribute authorship and pay whatever rolyalies that are due.

But there is more to the folk traditional scene than the commercial side, and I do not agree with the declaration of closure of the body of traditional work.

By the way I am not in any way trying to apologise for those who want to assert that forms of rock and pop music are traditional, for commercial or other motives. I would stop short of capital punishment for this crime however, as this form of punishment should be reserved for rhythmically challenged percussionists.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 08:28 AM

I think you decribe my 2) extremely well. For you it is the process that matters, and because you'll allow a wider process than Jim or The Countess (e.i. non-aural/community based transmission) you accept some of 3 within your 2.

That's what I mean by overlap. There are lots of other examples.

But your definition i.e. 2 (old or new - as long as they sound right = 3) cannot mean the same thing as 1) or 4) (as you accept) - thus proving my contention that there are four definitions of the word Trad and that in most circumstances these are incompatible - ergo we need to find new words which cannot be misunderstood so you and Jim and the Countess don't have to disagree.

I keep returning to the legal, financial issue because its the one area about which there is no debate. Material is either in copyright or it's not. Which is not the same as anon (ref O'Carolan)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 08:54 AM

To deal with the original question,

Old words are appropriated and their denotation is changed because of the connotations of those words.
The appropriators hope to benefit from those connotations.

Example,
In the dairy case of my local supermarket is a product called "soy milk."
Soy milk is not significantly like or related to or derived from the milk of cows.
It probably does not even need to be refrigerated, but it is there for good economic reasons.
This annoys the hell out of a friend of mine who is a dairy farmer.
The vendors of this product are taking advantage of the connotations of the workd "milk" and the advertising dollars invested by the dairy industry.

I am sure that some folks appropriators of the word "folk" do so because of what they perceive to be good connotations. They want you to think of their music as hand crafted in small batches by local artisans. Like artisanal cheese and hats from Bolivia.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 09:06 AM

Re: the original question


Sometimes words are useful precisely because they are vague.

Back in the old days we might've been hazy about what folk music was, but we were very certain about what it wasn't. It was not rock 'n' roll, or pop, or jazz. It was not commerical, or at least not very commerical. It wasn't the product of the popular music establishment. Etc.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 09:10 AM

The interesting question is not "What IS folk music?"

The interesting quesiton is "What has been called 'folk music' in different times and places and why?"

What do the definitions tell us about the definers and their context?

The most interesting definitions are always about the definers.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 10:24 AM

I find the Countess' original definition a bit paradoxical - a "static body of information" which "continues to evolve", but I can see how these two notions might not be entirely mutually exclusive

They're not, and that's the point. The tradition continues to evolve as it always has done, but now it does so in a very different way and on a vastly accelerated timescale. The 'static body of information' is a term to define what was handed down orally/aurally until the first collectors who, often for the first time, wrote down the tunes and lyrics a century ago. Before that, musicians incorporated new instruments and what they heard from wherever: the musical theatre, popular songs and the classics. Now, all musics from the world over are available at the click of a mouse. They can be, and are, incorporated though there is, of course, far less excuse for non-attribution. But there is a continuing tradition. of which the work of people like Chris Wood is an example. This is so not helped by those who write f*lk-tinged pop songs and then, inexplixably, eschew their royalties and pass their work off as 'traditional'.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 12:12 PM

"The most interesting definitions are always about the definers."

Nice one, 'GUEST,Russ' - that's exactly why I started this thread!
All too often the 're-definers' (for want of a better word) seem to be on some sort of quasi-moral crusade, ie. "you/we shouldn't be interested in these old songs and tunes because they aren't 'relevant' any more". Note that the Edwardian and post-War revivalists seemed to need relevance as well (ie. folk songs represented an embodiment of 'national characteristics' for the former and aspects of 'class struggle' for the latter). I suspect that many contemporary critics/re-definers want to replace the traditional/folk song genre with rock/pop (for reasons which are explored above).
My motives for liking traditional songs and music are that I find them beautiful and they appeal to my imagination; the motives of the re-definers and critics are not so clear (at least, not to me).


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 12:41 PM

Shimrod, you said earlier on that you thought I was missing the point of this thread. Certainly I was ignoring quite deliberately one obvious aspect simply because I think that such motivations are not of overriding importance. By this I mean:

(a) those whose sole interest in traditional music is academic
(b) those who think it will singlehandedly change the world
(c) those who just want to sell it.

This is because I think those who sing, play and dance it are the most important. It is with their voices, hands and feet that it will survive and develop or not. And yet it is the music itself which is most forgiving about what is done to it and with it. In Dave Swarbrick's immortal words, 'the music doesn't mind' and in Martin Carthy's, 'the only harm you can do it is not play it'. We get angry about the ridiculous things some people do and say where trad music is concerned but perhaps we are worrying unduly. It's stronger than stupid human mistreatment and will get over it, possibly sooner than we can.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 01:28 PM

Basically it's a tension between seeing it as a literature, to be preserved and appreciated and seeing it as a language, to be used and which inevitably changes in use. It's a tension that is always there, and which can never be resolved, because thy are both valid ways of seeing things.

It's no different really from something like a regional or national type of cookery. There's a tradition, which provides a kind of basic identity - Indian Cookery is different from Chinese, or French - but it isn't just a matter of sticking to tried and tested recipes, because new ingredients and new ways of cooking come in. There's a balance somewhere, but there's nothing hard and fast about it. Except for some people it is hard and fast, and they stick to teh old ways, and they can have a valuable role as guardians of continuity.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 01:36 PM

Darowyn:
'You can equally legitimately ask what are the motives of the "keep it traditional" faction.
The Trad faction want everything to stay the same as they believe that it ever was.'

No they don't. Anyone with a more than superficial interest in traditional music and song knows that they evolve, that there is no point in trying to make music now that sounds identical to some notional form of two hundred years ago, and that the very squeezeboxes etc. cited above as 'traditional-style' instrumentation were rarely used by traditional singers in the past. As Anonymous GUEST remarked, afficionados of traditional music are far more open-minded than they are usually given credit for when it comes to new adaptations, or music in other styles and from other traditions. What we do believe, though, is that deliberate, wholesale changes to traditional material made in order for it to appear more 'relevant' tend to rob the original of much of its magic, and that it's possible to learn much from old styles without having to sound like carbon copies of them. As for being "Re-enactors", do we call people who play Shakesperean roles "re-enactors" because they work from material over 400 years old? No, we call them "actors" because they are constantly re-interpreting old texts.

The Countess is dead right about the accelerated rate of musical evolution, and probably right also that the music and songs will survive in some form whatever happens. It's for each of us singers and musicians to decide how we respond, whether that be by trying to retain essential elements of what we see as the tradition, by making bold adaptations of it, or by composing new stuff. We need all of those approaches, and the only time I get really hacked off with the discussion is when someone starts trying to tell someone else that what they are doing is wrong or worthless.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 01:38 PM

Surely the point is all of us who carry in our hearts a commitment to folk music are trying to make a synthesis - the man holding the guitar, the unaccompanied, the folk music idol pleasing fields full of people at a festival, the man singing to nobody but a field full of cows.

Personally I spent my working life as a musician in the pubs of the north of England - I made the deals I had to, to work - but in the back of my mind was the idea that I wanted to write about about my life - make up songs explaining who I was, and where I came from.

I just don't feel that someone has the right to decry, or decide arbitrarily - that is folk music, or that isn't.

Quite frankly I think all this stuff about a tradition has become damnable. So often it is just the mucking about clothes that middle class people want to wear at the weekend, whilst intense creative effort by serious artists is considered unworthy because the artist was not 'in the tradition'.

I really felt for Art Thieme in what he was saying. Just who the hell are these pseudo intellectual halfwits to discount what a talented man did with his life.

I get so pissed off with these snotty put down thread contributors on mudcat who are masters of the snotty putdown - "well in MY opinion THAT isn't folk music". It's like these tossers who look at a Kandinsky and say, well I don't call THAT art - just cos they have the brain the size of a peanut.

My fathers house has many mansions. Rather like folk music. I have a granny flat.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 02:01 PM

It does help to separate the 'what is folk' debate from the 'what is trad' debate.

I don't think many would say trad wasn't folk. But anyone trying to define 'folk' is heading for failure. The term is now so widely defined that there's no point in trying to narrow it down.

Saying something is or isn't folk is pointless. Call it what you like, let other people call it what they like. Just have an opinion on whether it touches you or not.

But trying to sort out the Trad Tangle is, however, a challenge we should embrace, because of the confusions and damage caused by these conflicting definitions. I don't think this has anything to do with class or pseudo intellectualism, it about having a way of communicatin which doesn't lead to conflict.

The problem is not the individual definitions - they are all correct in themselves and they all define something which can be clarly understood by everybody if other words are used.

The problem is ONLY that we use the same word for four very things - and then fight over who has the right to that word. It's like Jerusalem!

Whoever said we should ban the word Traditional had a good point! (Oh, it was me :-)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 02:16 PM

How does it help, and more to the point who does it help?

The only people it can possibly help are those 'King of the midden' types who have made some sort of capital out of putting other folks down.

If it had been traditioned down to any significant number of us - we shouldn't need telling. Folk culture is by definition "ours". We don't need some bloody factitious alternative version of reality imposed on us, by 'those who know better'.

MacColl had his audience, I had mine, the guy in the field of cows had his. We all made the synthesis we felt worked.

Respect the creative endeavour, for god's sake. What is so difficult about that?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 02:25 PM

sorry?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 02:27 PM

I have been playing music most of the day,apart from that i,m unmotivated.
even though we cant define FOLK orTRADITIONAL MUSIC precisely,we all of us have a fairly good idea of how we envisage it.
Somehow I dont think we can redefine it,.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 02:51 PM

exactly - you don't need a description or a category to see what something is. If you are playing something that isn't where it should be, the audience will inform you.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 04:32 PM

Thurg,
Sorry; about not replying sooner. I wanted to think about the question before I went in with both feet – a tendency I'm trying to conquer! I realised that while I have held my stated view for a long time, I have really never had the opportunity to articulate it – so hear goes.
Two answers to 'creative composition'
1   I believe that within a healthy tradition, the singing of the old songs is creative composition – the songs are re-created to suit the particular community – hence 200 plus versions of Barbara Allen. I am fascinated, but not entirely convinced by David Buchan's theory that there were no set texts to the ballads, only plots, commonplaces (milk white, snowy white, dapple grey, as I roved out, etc.) and a set form by which the singers re-composed each time they sang. I thought he weakened his own argument by presenting unrepresentative representatives (Gilbert and Sullivan move over) of the tradition, but it's a lovely idea which I would very much like to be true.
2   It has been our experience in communities where the tradition is in any way healthy (West Clare and Travellers in particular) that alongside the old songs in circulation there has been a local songwriting one (or indication that there once was one). In West Clare we were recording songs that must have been composed during the singers' lifetime, mainly on the theme of political struggle, and probably the second largest subject in the repertoire, emigration. Among Travellers it was still common, so much so that we were given one song (about an arranged marriage) which we were asked not to make public because the subjects were still very much around and "He's my cousin and he'd kill me if he knew I sung it for you". I know song-making happened in Scotland among both Travellers and settled people, and I believe it once happened in England, though I can't think of many examples of the latter. It may be that the singing tradition was caught too late and the practice had stopped, or maybe the early collectors rejected the songs because they didn't recognise them as being 'traditional'. I do know we have somewhere between 30 to 40 'contemporary traditional' songs in our own collection and one of the characteristics is that they are nearly all anonymous.
Re-definition.
The re-definers seem to fall into two groups, the main one being revival singers who seem to get some sort of 'Linus blanket' comfort from describing themselves as being part of a living tradition. I used to think that this stemmed from singers and organisers using the terms 'traditional' and 'folk' as a cultural dustbin in order to give themselves a platform, whatever they were performing or presenting, but I'm not sure this isn't too simplistic. It seems from discussions I have had (including some on Mudcat), that some people define 'community' to include folk clubs and consider themselves as part of the tradition of that community, which in turn is part of the older tradition. I don't agree, but I'm not sure it's important enough to fall out of bed over, except to pedants like me.
The second group is the academics who appear to wish to give themselves a new slant on the song and musical traditions, even to the extent of denying that they never existed other than in the romantic imaginations of people like myself. One of the pioneers of this school of thought is (or was – he seems to have disappeared from the scene lately) was Dave Harker whose 'Fakelore' set out to systematically debunk virtually all the early collectors. I have to say I found 'Fakelore' a somewhat unpleasant read, basking somewhat smugly in the glow of hindsight. It certainly didn't convince me.
I haven't read Georgina Boyes' 'Imagined Village', but from what I can gather, she takes a somewhat similar line to Harker.
I witnessed one of the finest examples of both these groups at a conference I attended some years back where a nationally known revival singer turned academic showed a film she had made on the singing traditions of an East Anglian pub, which included a longish section of herself performing there. Her answer, when challenged was as she had moved in to the area she was now part of the tradition.      
Sorry; I seem to be going on far too long – as usual.
Perhaps I'll finish this by saying that the more I read countess Richard's definition, the more sense it makes to me, and if I believed it was necessary to redefine folk and tradition, that's the one I'd be prepared to think about. As it stands, I don't really thing there to be a need for radical re-definition (god, please don't tell me I have to have all my books re-bound with new titles!) – at least not till we have scrutinised the old one with a far more careful scrute.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: Folkiedave
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 06:18 PM

Some discusssion points.

I am certainly not entirely happy with Jim's assertion that the tradition is dead. Cecil Sharp had made much the same belief and that is why he raced around on his bike collecting like mad. Similar assertions were made when the two societies merged in 1931.

And yet fine singer Gordon Hall was a recent discovery and his mother Mab seems to have been missed altogether though she had a vast repetoire of songs. Odcombe carollers were missed until the 1970's. The amazing carol tradition of Glen Rock Pennsylvania (which was carried over from the South Pennines, and has continued over there from 1848 onwards is a discovery from 2000. The traditional carol singing of Kilmore County Wexford is hardly known outside its immediate area except by specialists.

The "bothy" tradition of North East Scotland continues apace and is likely to do so since it is sponsored by Macallan and good for them.
Think what a free glass of whisky would do for folk music audiences in England.

The traditional carols of my own area get more and more crowded with enthusiasts and this week we came up with a carol "rarely sung in the tradition" - well not any more it isn't. It is now sung regularly - well this week at least.

So I do believe that Jim is wrong on this one. They may be only tiny discoveries to be made and we are unlikely to come across another Gordon Hall or Harry Cox but I would hesitate to guarantee it.

The way in which some of the folklorists (Harker et.al) re-define folk music is interesting. I think the real focus is to ensure that the myths associated with the background of music, dance, custom and belief is important. Thus you will read about Fire Ceremony of Allendale at New Year signifying the change from the dark nights to the New Year and the coming of the light nights. The only problem with that theory is that we have a record of when it started written about in the local newspaper around 1863. That's when it began!! That myth was exploded by a "new" folklorist, Venetia Newell.

Do other genres of music go through this introspection and if not why not?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 07:02 PM

"---From: GUEST
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 02:01 PM

It does help to separate the 'what is folk' debate from the 'what is trad' debate.----"

This, to me, is the whole point of the discussion.

In a logical world, what would be the point of having two words to be used in the same sentence, which are synonyms.

Traditional is just what it says on the can, and I don't have a problem with that. It relates to a body of music and song which is still relevant and should be preserved at all costs.

Folk, however, is more than that. It includes, but cannot be limited to, traditional. Otherwise there is no point in talking about the "folk tradition" or "traditional folk".

So, outside of its traditional element, what else is classifiable as "folk"?

That is the point, and the only point, of re-defining the word. It has previously been defined by traditionalists, and used to exclude new compositions entirely from the genre.

Use the phrase "singer/songwriter" to these people, and see the disrespectful, pejorative, and denigratory responses you will get.

I have news for those of that mindset. Singer/songwriters, like other groupings, come in all sorts and sizes, good, bad, and indifferent.

All traditional songs were composed by singer/songwriters, whether we know their names, or not.

I write songs which are, in the main, written in traditional style. They are usually stories in song about the world I live in, which do not fit into any other genre than folk.

I would like one of the "folk is fixed, and cannot be altered" brigade to tell me what exactly I have been producing for the last 40 years, if not folk songs. I wish to hell that my work were definable as pop, I could have been a rich man by now.

I can't quite see what it is that so frightens the folk mafia about new composition. Believe me, if it is all pop or rock, the las thing they would want is a folk club fanbase. Talk about the kiss of death!

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Declan
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 07:22 PM

I would also respectfully disagree with Jim's position. I'm reminded of the 'Bring out your dead' scene in "Monthy Python and the Holy Grail", the tradition is dead but may still be slightly healthy among travellers and in West Clare.

Being familiar in particular with the West Clare tradition, I would have to say that I would declare it to be in good health. I know of many musicians whose traditional credentials are beyond question (by most definitions at least) from all parts of Clare who are still playing, singing and composing in a style which has a direct link back to the last century and the previous one, and are busily passing their music on to a new generation.

What may be true is that there is little material of interest to the collector of unrecorded songs and tunes. Even if this is the case, this does not, in my opinion, mean that the tradition is dead. It may mean that material for the sort of folklorist who was around in the last century is drying up, but this does not as far as I am concerned equate to the death of the tradition.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 08:05 PM

Jim - Thanks for the reply - I was beginning to think you'd forgotten about me! Interesting arguments re: creative composition, although, as you would perhaps agree, a little shaky. Not that what you're saying is not the case, but rather that those points do not necessarily confirm that creative composition - as the term would be commonly understood (the creation of discrete pieces of work, as opposed to tweaking or playing with existing works) - is "essential" to living tradition. I suppose I agree that creative composition is invariably a characteristic of living tradition, but do not agree that it is essential. If that makes sense ...

I'm not worrying about finding a solution to that little conundrum, so don't feel you should respond if you don't particularly want to. It looks like you have several other arguments on your plate that are a little more pressing!

Cheers!

thurg


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 10 Dec 06 - 08:55 PM

Early this morning read comments circa 1895 from John Millington Synge and Robert Louis Stevenson on this VERY topic....what a situational irony???

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

A man convinced against his will
Is of the same opinion still.

OR...Herbert Spencer:
"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance -- that principle is contempt prior to investigation."


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 03:41 AM

"folk is fixed, and cannot be altered"

No - they're saying 'TRAD is fixed and cannot be altered'*

Folk is anything you want it to be.

That's why we need to make sure people don't muddle up the two words (as you did - even after saying "Traditional is just what it says on the can, and I don't have a problem with that. It relates to a body of music and song which is still relevant and should be preserved at all costs. Folk, however, is more than that. It includes, but cannot be limited to, traditional" which is of course true.

*yes yes we all know about Travellors, but compared with the huge body of work which came to us via the collectors of the last 100 years or so this is a relatively small repertoire.

The struggle is to find ways to define that 'collected' body (as Traditional) which avoids having it eroded by use of the same word (Traditional) to describe either new works that sound old, or new works that are played by a lot of people.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 04:07 AM

Addenda
One of the great arguments for re-defining our terms for folk/traditional song (or having no definition at all) has, I believe, been based on a basic and massive gap in our knowledge, ie. the opinions of our source singers. There is little, if any, information as to what they thought of the songs,; whether they believed them to be in any way different to other types of songs available to them – music hall, pop songs of an earlier time etc. Usually, when the subject is raised the banal apocryphal 'talking horse' story attributed to Broonzy, among others, is trotted out. The fact appears to be that collectors restricted their enquiries to the 'name, rank and number' level and never really got round to seeking their opinions, or if they did, they never made the information widely available.
Our work in collecting has indicated that the idea that the older singers did not discriminate is a myth. Singers we have met referred to the songs we (I ) would refer to as 'traditional' as, 'the old songs', or 'come-all-ye's" or 'me daddy's songs' or similar terms. Norfolk singer Walter Pardon was extremely precise and articulate when categorising his songs (see my response (By Any Other Name) to Mike Yates' article 'The Other Songs' in Musical Traditions), and began dividing his songs into groups as early as 1948 when he first started writing down his family repertoire.
We have obtained similar information from singers in West Clare and from among the Travellers. Whether what we got was too little, too late, remain to be seen.
Jim Carroll
PS Quickie - Christmas shopping in Cork beckons - oh, the ******* joy!
Dave - a living tradition requires the active participation of a community - the examples you quoted are isolated survivals and in most cases revivals. The last bothy closed after a devastationg fire in the thirties - how can you have and active bothy tradition? What you have is a revival - more power to it. The others you mentioned are what MacColl referred to as 'song carriers'; a term which has always worked for me.
Declan - I confine my comments to song. The music here in Clare seems to have hit some sort of a continuum and is blossoming. There are very few singers and even most of the (very elderly) ones we recorded thirty-odd years ago were dredging songs up from the dim and distant past.
Thurg - Possibly true of my first example; certainly not of my second regarding newly composed songs.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: Folkiedave
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 04:53 AM

Hi Jim,

I confess that I raise more questions than I answer. It is not out of devilment but simply trying to get to grips with things. Honest.

But here I would suggest you have done the same thing. The argument isn't whether "bothys" exist, nor whether the social conditions that gave rise to them exist, but if the songs created nowadays are part of a continuum. I think there is a really strong case for saying they are, since they "continued to be sung long after the system of agriculture which created them ceased to exist". (Ian Russell Folk Music Journal Vol 9, 2, 2007)

As far as the carols are concerned this is a really strong community tradition locally and was ever thus. Sure it has been adopted by "folkies" indeed I am one of them though I live within easy walking distance of the carolling pub where I sing and have done so for over thirty-four years. I am a part of that community. Virtually every folk revivalist who visits adds their enthusiasms and skill and they have contributed to its currently healthy existence. But since it is not at all organised it is a community event. A tradition if you like.

We know by the date of these carols that are sung - the vast majority of which have known authors - that they go back a long way. We know that the Americans started their tradition precisely in 1848 and it has been documented virtually every year since then. Of the original four singers, three died in the 1900's the last in 1913 so they were well recorded. We know they carried it over from the South Pennine area and are a complete link with the singing that went on yesterday in the Royal Hotel at Dungworth.

The Glen Rock tradition is equally community-based, not a revival, nor is it isolated.

And discovered long after the "tradition" was thought to be over.

(I am not sure there is a need for the word "revival": I suspect expansion and contraction would be better descriptions).

Finally Jim, isn't Cork a long way for shopping?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 05:11 AM

Countess, thank you for your wise words - I will try to stop worrying.

I suppose, Jim, if our music can survive Dave Harker it can survive anything!

I think that this is turning out to be an interesting and illuminating thread - and I don't violently disagree with anyone. Nevertheless, no-one, so far, has really examined political motives (lights blue touch-paper and retires hastily ... will it go out, or will it be a 'damp squib'?).

So far, no trolls!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 05:48 AM

Hahaha, you mean it'll be all right because Martin Carthy said so? The music might have survived Dave Harker but will it get over Ms Boyes and her Imagined Village?

Political motives: surely no-one really ever believed music woud change the world? Though it does mark important milestones. Such a tragedy that it has been 33 years between the death of Victor Jara and the New Chile Song Movement and the final demise of Pinochet yesterday. Venceremos.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: Pete_Standing
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 07:46 AM

I'm one of those that think that trad is basically a static repository. There will be songs that will be found to have an author (so therefore are no longer trad) and there are some songs which are probably trad but have been "claimed". I'm going to ignore tunes, but with respect to songs, trad songs, generally, have a certain style that is missing from modern material. I have been led to believe that trad songs often are written in a mode (eg Mixolydian) that is not fashionable these days. Another difference is that the songs were "written", by and large, so that they could be sung without accompaniment. How does that differ from modern songs? I'll take as an example "Dimming of the Day" (Richard Thompson). At the end of most lines, there are seven beats (just under two bars) left for the accompanying instruments. This is a common pattern in modern songs and this means that it doesn't sound right when sung unaccompanied. However, let's take another Thompson song, "Beeswing". In this song, there are no melodic pauses and could be sung equally well accompanied or unaccompanied. It is this kind of song that although is not trad, could be absorbed as part of a tradition. So I guess I'm saying that although there is a tradition, there is also a body of songs that in style don't just pay homage to the tradition, but could be accepted as part of it. But what I'm not trying to say is that modern songs that do not fall into this style are of less value or importance.

The importance of differentiating between what is traditonal and what is not is not a matter of snobbery. Firstly, there is an historical context. However, in todays' times, it is the ownership and royalties that might have most significance - people's livelihoods could be affected.

That aside, despite my love of traditional material, I'm equally happy to listen to and play contemporary songs/tunes, they both have a value and place. So, I'm not for redefining, but I'm also not for excluding either.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Scrump
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 07:58 AM

I understand the point you make (using the two Richard Thompson songs to illustrate it). But are you saying that you believe the ability to be sung unaccompanied is essential for a song to be 'absorbed into the tradition'? Or, in other words, a song that can't be sung unaccompanied (without unnatural pauses) cannot be 'absorbed into the tradition'?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 08:06 AM

Countess, am I being subjected to 'irony overload' here? No, I don't think that Mr Carthy has all the answers - but there may be a kernel of truth in what he says.

As for politics both Harker and Boyes's books make me squirm because I think that they both wildly over-stated their cases - and didn't achieve very much in doing so.

I'm also interested in the motives of people like Sharp. I once attended a forum also attended by some of 'great and good' of the (mainly English) folk world. As Sharp's work was being discussed I asked, what I thought, was a fairly inocuous question about the nationalistic tendencies in his work. Everyone clammed up, my question ignored and the subject rapidly changed. I think that it is the failure to confront such issues (perhaps because of strictly contemporary concerns about political correctness) that eventually led to the over-statements of Harker and Boyes.
Similarly, it might be productive to examine the politics of MacColl and Lloyd; if their politics are discussed at all today it is usually in terms of cheap cracks about 'folk commissars' and 'storming the Winter Palace' - which do no-one any good (and especially not the posthumous reputations of these two great artists).
In any such discussions I think that it's always necessary to keep in mind the wise words of Mile Yates, that I quoted somewhere above - things are very rarely black and white.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: Pete_Standing
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 08:13 AM

No, my point is that I think there are stylistic differences, but both have their valildity and beauty. However, it might be easier for some people for one to be seen as part of a tradition and not the other, although this will certainly change, as time and tastes move on!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 08:34 AM

Shimrod, 'because Martin Carthy says so' is a reference to an infamous incident in Folk Britannia which was taken completely the wrong way by some. MC would so hate it if he thought anyone was quoting him as 'the gospel according to' (even when he's right) so the phrase has indeed become a byword of deep irony.

Both MacColl and Lloyd freely gave me help and advice when I was first starting out which didn't entail my agreeing with every doctrine they adhered to. Bert especially would send me lengthy, single spaced screeds produced with a manual typewriter, far longer that my original pieces, telling me basically what I should have said. And Ewan would always ask if I was still singing, no doubt hoping that I wasn't, but it was kind to ask.

Anyway, who actually thinks the Winter Palace shouldn't have been stormed? The era of the czars was well due to be toppled when the citizens of St Petersburg set in motion its renaming as Leningrad.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 08:53 AM

Martin obviously has a lot of the answers that work for him as an artist. he has charisma as a performer, he is a wonderful original minded musician, and he always goes out and does his damndest - 100% commitment.

he might not have ALL the answers, but I bet he's worth listening to on most things pertaining to folk music and guitar playing.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 10:05 AM

I can't imagine any song that couldn't be sung without instrumental accompaniment. Including that one. No need for any "unnatural pauses", if the pauses aren't natural don't put them in.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Willie-O
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 10:38 AM

Shimrod, at the beginning you offered some sample motives for redefining, which are not related to politics as far as I can tell--but you keep referring to the concept of "political motives" without illuminating us on what they might be. What are you thinking here?

Honestly puzzled
W-O


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 10:42 AM

So very many good words. Comes down to: The more things change, the more they get different.

Unfortunately, the new attitudes are often based on faulty information, and also a desire to make a living with that which we are passionate about. Ego driven, and often pretty much wrong, these ideas are adopted and adapted "to fit" into the all inclusive, ever-expanding big umbrella---ala Folk Alliance.

A majority of people, millions and billions of people, can do and believe a silly thing. They would still be, in the main, wrong in their conclusions and assumptions.

I guess that is not terribly democratic, but in my experience, it seems correct.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Scrump
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 10:47 AM

I can't imagine any song that couldn't be sung without instrumental accompaniment. Including that one. No need for any "unnatural pauses", if the pauses aren't natural don't put them in.

They ("unnatural pauses") were my words, but I agree. I've been forced to sing (or complete) a song unaccompanied on occasion, when either a string broke and I didn't have time to replace it (e.g. during a short floor spot when events were already behind schedule); or I wasn't able to borrow an instrument. In that situation I adapt the arrangement on the fly, to avoid any pauses where the instrumental bits would normally fill in.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: lamarca
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 02:29 PM

This discussion has, so far, been very detailed in describing situations and traditions in the British Isles (not to be ignoring your contributions, Art!).

In the US, I think the waters are somewhat muddier. Because we are a country of immigrants and many different kinds of communities, defining "traditional" or re-defining it becomes difficult. I'm trying to define some different classes of tradition as I sit here and type, and will probably not succeed in being as clear and concise as CountessRichard, but here goes!

1. There are some traditional songs that came out of a particular type of profession - lumbering, gandy-dancing and track lining, manual fishing techniques, etc., where the activities and communities from which these songs emerged no longer exist. These traditions cannot evolve within the original community. Folklorists and musicians who love the songs and music are keeping them alive by continuing to sing them, and members of this "revival" community sometimes add to or alter the repertoire in the way in which they perform them. Do these new renditions of old material still qualify as "Traditional?"

2. There are new forms of older communities, such as Union workers, cowboy poets, etc. that have a historical body of song, poetry and music that is still being added to, even though the communities and jobs have changed with time. For example, there is a thriving Cowboy Poetry festival each year in Elko, Nevada. Even though there are no longer cattle drives to the railhead at Abilene, there are still working cowboys and ranchers, and they continue the traditional art forms of that community, but reflect modern changes to it. Similarly, there are other, modern groups of people who have a shared culture that has produced music and other art forms - Vietnam and other vets, modern deep-sea fishermen, oil workers, etc. Although newly written or composed works may not be passed along except for within these communities, these are a part of a tradition.

3. There are bodies of music that have long roots and a history of musical forms that have been passed along both within a geographical or ethnic community, and also within a more widespread community of musicians who play or sing within the "traditional" parameters of that form. Some examples are Irish tunes and songs, old time fiddle music, Klezmer, etc. I think of these as "living" traditions, because both the older tunes and songs continue to be played, and new tunes and songs are being created in the traditional form. The musicians who take up the tradition may not be from the original community. The diffiiculty here, then, is what is "traditional"? Is a new fiddle tune by Liz Carroll that follows traditional Irish tune forms and has been taken up by other fiddlers traditional? How about an Irish tune whose composer is known, but who is now dead (O'Carolan, or Willy Clancy)? Is an electric rendition of a traditional old-time tune by Olabelle or The Duhks traditional? How about a fiddle tune by Rafe Stephanini, played in a more old-fashioned old-time style?

Other community-based musics, like Cajun, Zydeco, Conjunto, Polka, Bluegrass, different Cuban and Puerto Rican styles, etc, all came out of traditional forms played within a certain ethnic community, but have evolved and incorporated features of other musical forms, both within and outside of the original community. Many of these have a commercial form, where the musicians are specifically performing pieces for an audience, and a home-made form, where enthusiasts of the music get together to make music with each other. If a Puerto Rican bomba y plena group includes jazz and rap influences in their dance music that is played and accepted within their own community, is this part of the tradtion? If a Conjunto band (Mingo Saldivar, a National Heritage Award winner, to be precise) has a conjunto version of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" as one of their most popular numbers both within and outside of their ethnic community, are they still traditional musicians?

We have folklorists involved with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival that will invite a band to play music of their community, but forbid them to include musicians in the band who aren't from that ethnic community. Some folklorists will hire black musicians to perform acoustic blues that they learned from old recordings, but won't hire white musicians who learned from the same sources. Is one more traditional than the other?

On the other hand, our government's National Endowment for the Arts awards National Heritage Fellowships each year:
"To honor and preserve our nation's diverse cultural heritage, the National Endowment for the Arts annually awards one-time-only NEA National Heritage Fellowships to master folk and traditional artists. These fellowships recognize lifetime achievement, artistic excellence and contributions to our nation's traditional arts heritage."
Winners have included Mick Moloney, Irish musician and folklorist; Eddie Blazonczyk, a polka master; Bill Monroe, the "father" of bluegrass, and even B.B. King, electric blues master. To the government arts agency, all of these artists are somehow "traditional". (See the complete list of winners here: http://www.nea.gov/honors/heritage/allheritage.html)

I don't have any conclusions to offer; there just doesn't seem to be any bright line dividing "Traditional" vs "Non-traditional" any more than there is one to define "Folk". There are musicians and songwriters who are creating within traditional forms, even though the sources and communities for those forms no longer exist, and there are people creating, melding and evolving music in traditional forms from both within and without the living communities from which those forms came. I think all of these have some claim, however tenuous, to being traditional.

What I don't agree with is defining music being written solely for performance by songwriters with no knowledge of or experience in a traditional form or community being labelled as "Traditional". It may be "Folk" by whatever jumbled definition people have for that loaded word, but it ain't trad. Every week, our beloved local folk DJ, Mary Cliff, hosts her radio show called "Traditions", which she advertises as "Traditional music and things you can see from there..." When she's playing the seventh or eighth electrified singer-sonwriter's new CD that just arrived in her mailbox that week in a row, and the person is droning on about his or her traumatic break-up, or their stolen car, or the oneness of everythingness, and they all seem to have mastered the "Singer-Songwriter Guitar Strum" (you'll recognize it when you hear it), my husband and I wail "I can't see it from here, Mary..."


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 04:56 PM

Mary,

Excellent!

Art


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 08:58 PM

A very typical ...(artsie) Art-T... expression, based on faulty information

S....Oooooo..... Oral Tradition was based on misunderstanding, poor hearing, forgetfulness, chord confusions, faulty grammer, linguistic locality, ..... In other words....The Oral Tradition is based on faulty information of course!!!! (Not too much discussion about songs like "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road")

This thread is full of a stench that excells understanding!!!

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

No trolls???? Look to the originator of this thread and their "good fellow intro."


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 09:02 PM

Art, I think Gargoyle nailed you on this one. You are too transparent in setting up a straw dog.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 09:38 PM

Shiete Mussles- I drop back in...only hoping nothing more has been posted....knowing nothing is worthy.

It is far, far, beyond bed-time.

Sorry, Guest, time is too short to reply this morning.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Scoville
Date: 11 Dec 06 - 11:06 PM

Wow, lamarca--good post. Personally, I think being too clear and concise is what creates so many stumbling blocks. At least, it seems to in the U.S. where traditional/folk/whatever term you wish has so many different origins and forms. But I guess the ambiguity of it bothers me less than it does some others. Besides, it's going to keep changing--what is not traditional now may have become ingrained in another 100 years (as the accordion has, even though it's a fairly new instrument), and songs that are currently not folk may survive in some form apart from their originals, as so many of the 17th century broadsides have.

I've heard a Western swing version of Richard Fariña's "Pack Up Your Sorrows" and a swamp Cajun version of Alan Jackson's "Achy-Breaky Heart", both of which are clearly not traditional and at least one of which is arguably not folk, but who knows? "Achy-Breaky" might die out as a pop country song but stay on as Cajun. (I doubt it, but then I would never have thought that "Chicken Reel" would stay so popular, either. I hate that tune.)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 01:08 AM

Yep, I bought the package. No apologies. Is what is. Loved it.

Onward and upward...

Art


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 01:26 AM

Garg, I think you misunderstood me.
Art


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 03:14 AM

I hope the original poster won't mind if I turn the question on its head for a moment and ask 'what motivates those of us who oppose re-definition?' I realise that much of this is probably over-generalisation, but it is pretty much my experience; I can't speak for other people. While I accept much of what Mary has to say, I confine my comments to the UK because that is what I know.
I came to 'folk song' at the beginning of the sixties through the 'folk clubs'. In those days, while there was much debate on HOW the songs should be performed, there was virtually no ambiguity about WHAT you would hear if you turned up at a folk club. You chose your club on the basis of performance, not on material.
This changed fairly rapidly and the revival divided into two camps, those who adhered pretty well to the 'traditional' definition of 'folk' (some of whom saw it as a form to create new songs relevant to today), and those who went along with the broader 'singing horse' interpretation. Gradually the latter won the day and began to dominate the field; many of those who had gone along with the former crossed over and became experimenters and you got the mini-choirs, the 'Electric Muse', the fifth-rate comedians and the singer-songwriters. Those of us who preferred our folk music the way we had originally come to it, abandoned the term 'folk' and adopted 'traditional' as a description of the type of songs we preferred. We jogged along in our own particular enclaves in spite of the finger-in-ear and purist sneers, until gradually we became swamped and there was a massive exodus away from the scene, mainly because people no longer knew what they were going to get when they turned up at a 'folk club'. What was left dwindled, the electric crowd and the mini choirs moved on to fresh fields and pastures new, some of the comedians found their niche in television; what remained was largely the 'singing horse' crowd tinged heavily with the 'near enough for folk song 'philosophy. That seems to me, with a few notable exceptions, is how matters stand at present.
Now, it would appear we are being asked to retreat from 'traditional' and find another word to describe the songs that have evolved over the centuries, in order to make room for those who wish to adopt the term for their own activities..
Sorry; I'm far too old to start again. My wife and I have spent the last thirty odd years in the company of some of those who we believe to be the last representatives of our singing tradition (this includes some song carriers, those who were never actively part of a singing tradition but who, in one way or another had information to pass on). Much of the information we have recorded has confirmed, to our satisfaction anyway, that when we chose which camp to follow all those years ago we were more-or-less right. Our work is archived and available for scrutiny at The British Library in London and The Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin and hopefully will remain there for those who come after us to decide.
Those who would like us to believe that we have a living tradition (sorry Dave) are going to have to produce much more than the tiny handful of survivals and revivals that have been put on the table so far (you can add the Kilmore carols to that list).
Now where did I put that recording of Sheila Stewart singing Tiftie's Annie?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 03:37 AM

Dunno, Jim, but I'd really like to hear it!

:)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 03:44 AM

I think being too clear and concise is what creates so many stumbling blocks

Oh bugger. There I was beginning to think I'd at last written something no-one disagreed with.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 04:09 AM

It depends on how you see it Jim. You see yourself as a faithful servant of the folk tradition.

I see the folk music, and indeed all human culture as a servant to the soul of man. And as such it has to reach into the housing estates and the shopping malls and business parks, schools ....wherever.

fair enough, you think it has to with shepherds, two magicians, the press gang, and a few suitably picturesque modern scenarios like the first world war.... after all distance lends enchantment.

Basically we have differing views of folk music. You have the Winnie the Pooh model that stays in Hundred Acre Wood. I think it should be like Piglet, go in Christopher Robin's pocket (or anybody else's) and go out in the world and report on it.

all the best

Big Al Whittle


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 04:23 AM

to refer to Jim carrolls, earlier remarks about the west clare tradition,.Patrick Kelly[highly rated west clare fiddler]said the worst thing that happened to the west clare style of playing was the advent of Michael Colemans 78 rpm.
Nextly COMHALHTAS with its high marks for ornamentation,and unconcious preference for certain styles[Kerry polkas and donegal highlands tend to be looked down upon].
Martin Carthy is a fine guitarist and interpreter of narrative songs[ although I find his guitar breaks in the middle of a Ballad detract from the story of the song] however that does not mean I value his opinions any more than any other prominent revivalist.
I once heard M Carthy put forward a passionate argument for singing un accompanied.
A few years later he categorically refused to admit that accompaniments, can get in the way of the story of narrative ballads,and become a musical distraction.
so one year he was arguing black was blue, the next it was black was white.. so I find myself agreeing with Countess Richard.one of the motives is commercial[eg MICHAELCOLEMAN]2 COMHALTAS in an attempt to preserve the tradition, they have altered it. 3 POLITICAL MOTIVATION.The whole process of setting up a folk revival,which was pioneered by Maccoll and lloyd and other communist party members,[but it re defined the music][ as they did also to certain songs], personally I thank them for it, but nevertheless they were selective as the early song collectors were,but with different motivesand different criteria.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Scrump
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 06:36 AM

I once heard M Carthy put forward a passionate argument for singing un accompanied.
A few years later he categorically refused to admit that accompaniments, can get in the way of the story of narrative ballads,and become a musical distraction.
so one year he was arguing black was blue, the next it was black was white


Surely Martin is allowed to change his mind, the same as anybody else. Perhaps he was swayed by an argument he hadn't previously heard?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 08:11 AM

of course.
It was more the fact that on each occasion, he was so absolutely, definite in stating, that his was the only viewpoint.
The real point is that he is no more of an authority ,than any of his contemporaries,such as Davenport, Killen, Handle etc. I would consider anything he said seriously,but still question it,.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: Folkiedave
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 08:24 AM

The whole process of setting up a folk revival,which was pioneered by Maccoll and lloyd and other communist party members,

I have this image as described there - of MacColl and Lloyd and other members of the Communist Party - sitting around in a pub or coffee bar and saying "What can we do to undermine the capitalist class? I know - let's have a folk revival".

At the time you are talking about Dick, (early 50's) folk songs were alive and kicking and plenty of singers and places where singers sang remained to be discovered.

So it would be hard to revive something that wasn't dead. At that time it wasn't even moribund.

My difference with Jim (I think!!)is simply that it this still going on and whilst it may be easy to dismiss this as "isolated" I still think there are pockets of singing and tradition still to be discovered. At least I would not be prescriptive enough to say they don't exist at all. I believe that the hunting fraternity are preserving material and because of political differences they are generally ignored. Certainly it is true around here (moors around Sheffield).

Some traditions are continuing unless you believe traditional song is preserved in amber. I think it changed and evolved. I think it still is.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 09:33 AM

DAVE. Comhaltas came into existence in IRELAND IN 1951,because concerned people, felt irish traditional music was in danger of extinction. in my opinion the situation wasnt much different in england in 1951.[please find me an english tradional fiddle player who was in the same league as Coleman]sorry but stephen Baldwin and walter bulwer were not in the same league] the ENGLISH TRADITION WAS VERY WEAK AND CLOSE TO BEING MORIBUND .
The point is that maccoll and lloyd did instigate a folkclub network,and many of the folk club stalwarts and some of the organisers were in the communist party ,Denis Manners[who started towersey village festival,Ted AND Ivy Poole who run the swindon folkclub [AND HAVE BEEN DOING SO FOR 46 YEARS]Red and Myra Abbott who started and ran Southend and LEIGH ON SEA ,for a number of years.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 11:19 AM

I have some doubt that Martin Carthy would have "categorically refused to admit that accompaniments, can get in the way". I think it much more likely that he would have been saying that it is always/generally/often possible to create accompaniments that do not get in the way.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 02:18 PM

'Willie-O',

Whad d'ya mean, whad do I mean by 'political motives'? I thought that I made it fairly clear in my last post - perhaps not?

I think that it's fairly well known that the work of many of the important figures, in both the Edwardian and post-War revivals, had some sort of political dimension. I think that this has often led to their work being misinterpreted, or even unjustly dismissed. In the case of the Edwardians, the likes of Harker and Boyes have done a pretty thorough hatchet job - although, in my opinion, many of their conclusions are based on distinctly modern notions of political correctness or are from a political perspective even more extreme than the people they were criticising. In the cases of MacColl and Lloyd, it would appear that some people can't see past the label 'Communist'(Ooh-eerr! Bogeyman!!). Personally, I think that the importance of all these figures - from Sharp to MacColl - actually transcend their politics and, just perhaps, we need a clearer view of their politics and their political motivations in order to see their work in clearer perspective.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: Folkiedave
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 02:59 PM

Comhaltas came into existence in IRELAND IN 1951,because concerned people, felt irish traditional music was in danger of extinction.

"If the old songs whiich are still sung by the peasantry of England ar now to be preserved for the benefit of future generations they must be collected without delay". C. Sharp, Morning Post 1904.

Sharp was wrong to say it was dying out, and so was Comhaltas. I have no idea who was as good as Coleman, I never heard any traditional English fiddle players except for Jinky Wells, although they did exist, (Henry Cave and Charles Benfield for two). But for example there were some great Northumbrian pipers.

The traditional singers around this area of Sheffield (the best known of whom were Arthur Howard and Frank Hinchcliffe) were not really discovered until the late 1960's. There was a big singing tradition here in Sheffield and all the collectors ignored it just as they ignored the travellers in the past (apart from Alice Gillington) and the hunting fraternity now. The traditional carols have a continuous line dating back to goodness knows when and are thriving. Well they were last Sunday when I was there.

The tradition was not as weak as people thought it was. It wasn't as weak as people thought it was in 1904, 1931, and 1951. It isn't as weak as people think it is now.

And the idea that people could create a folk revival (especially when it wasn't even dead) is just a joke. What they did was start a folk club or two. Suppose no-one had come?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 03:52 PM

the folk revival is not a term that I have invented, It is aterm we all know the meaning of, and so I use it,because its the bestway of communicating about the folk festival/club scene,from 1951 to 2006.
I have never said folk music was dead.
how many great northumbrian pipers were there in 1951 not many, and not nearly as many as there are today Thanks partly to the FOlK REVIVAL.
if you havent heard Walter Bulwer and Stephen Baldwin, go and seek their recordings out, they are available.
lloyd/ maccoll didnt just start a folk club or two they started a national network of clubs and festivals, for which I am grateful, even if you are not.
finally my parents[who were communist party members] bought Bert lloyds recordings not because they liked his singing,but because they wanted to support him,and what he and maccoll were trying to do,attempting to get young people interested in the music of the people,and hoping to get them politically active as well,that is how it was.
I listened to the recordings myself and fell in love with traditional music,In the same way I grew to appreciate Paul Robeson[ ANOTHER communist]A MIGHTY SINGER.,and someone who was black listed by the USA
COMMUNIST PARTY members tried to help each other, hard for you to understand probably.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 04:10 PM

to MCGRATH OF HARLOW,I know the conversation I had with Martin Carthy,it was how I described it.[the problem for me is that occasionally his accompaniments, do get in the way,why have a guitar break in the middle of a story,your busy listening to his virtuosity on the guitar,and youve lost your bookmark ]
I personally think everyone sings better unaccompanied, but in the world of folk clubs/ caberet/ festivals/to get work as a professional,you have to provide contrasting sounds;guitar accompaniment; concertina accompaniment;the occasional unasccompanied song.
Ron Taylor and Kevin Mitchell two brilliant unaccompanied singers,but they dont get the work they should,meanwhile other singers that are not half as good, but can play a couple of instruments competently are working all the time.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 04:21 PM

InOCT 1949 Northumbrian Pipers Society,had 98 members today it has 600.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: Folkiedave
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 07:19 PM

didnt just start a folk club or two they started a national network of clubs and festivals

That's a great assertion Dick, just tell me how they did it.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Dec 06 - 04:52 AM

I forgot to add to my list of people into whose hands the tradition fell, the idiosyncratic singers who used the songs to air their idiosyncrasies while at the same time turning them into displays of instrumental virtuosity which destroyed the narrative nature of the songs - a dominant trend in the revival for a long time - I wonder who brought that into my head!
MacColl and Lloyd certainly did not start a networks of clubs and festivals - people often give the revival far more credit for being organised and planned than it actually was. The only attempt that I know of, to influence the revival as a whole (apart from the public expression of opinions in magazines like those edited by Fred (aka Karl) Dallas) was a public meeting held in The John Snow pub, Soho, (circa 1965) with Lloyd, Alex Campbell and Bob Davenport as speakers and MacColl in the chair. The meeting ended almost in a punch-up, thanks mainly to B Ds arrogant bad manners - little changes in the world!
WEED
No, I am not a faithful servant of the folk tradition; we did collect songs on the basis that we would pass them on to others, which we have always tried to do, but that's as far as our 'dedication' goes. I'm in it for one very selfish reason, for the pleasure of hearing good traditional songs well sung.
Cap'n
We've had the Comhaltas argument before; little point in going over old ground, apart from reiterating my opinion that that worthy organsiation continues to distort and damage Irish traditional song and music with its competition ethic. As Breandán Breathnach so concisely put it - 'it's an organisation with a great future behind it' (and of late, a very wealthy one)
Jim Carroll.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Dec 06 - 06:36 AM

o k . MACCOLL AND LLOYD didnt do it single handed agreed ,but alot of the early folk club organisers were of the left,some were in the communist party, some were what were called fellow travellers,they all gave up a lot of their time, they were dedicated[this sort of dedication usually occurs with political committment].Ive given some examples already. MACCOLL AND LLOYD were highly respected , and undoubtedly gave encouragement and advice to other organisers.it may not have been organised ,but it happened ,ive given three examples of organisers of the left., ah yes Denis o Brien[Theres another]
the Co op folk club, in nottingham was[I THINK ]also a Club with political connections to the co operative movement.
as far as I know there were no folk clubs run by Oswald Mosley or the far right, although there was one singer whos father had been Mosleys right hand man, and who[the father] had tried to get elected as a BRITISH UNION Fascist mp .
jim; re comhaltas,they,re examination system is a progressive step, theyve also organised some very good tours and cOncerts this year,theyre are other good aspects of comhaltas such as the provision of money for instruments, for those who cant afford them.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Dec 06 - 10:16 AM

sorry Jim what does weed,stand for ,had Bob Davenport been smoking it.
Would you mind telling us what happened at the meeting.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Dec 06 - 03:47 PM

Sorry - weak pun on wee little drummer.
John Snow Meeting
Three singers were asked to speak for fifteen minutes on the folk scene; Campbell whinged incessently about newcomers on the scene getting paid the same, or more than him in the clubs, Bert waffled rather poinlessly about - well, nothing really, but he did it quite nicely, Davenport ranted about all art being bourgeois and said that the working class should have nothing to do with it. He spoke at length (way over his allotted time) about art with a small a and art with a big A (full of sound and fury signifying nothing).
There were half a dozen contributons from the floor sounding interesting (but hard to hear as the mike was badly placed).
MacColl, as chairman, attempted to sum up, but was constantly interrupted by Davenport, who ended up saying Jeannie Robertson was a crap singer. Punches were thrown and everybody went home.
Lefties.
I don't think anybody is disputing the fact that many of the early revivalist were left wing (so what!). You can add the WMA (and me) to that list. You did rather give the impression that it was a Commie plot, which it was not. Many of the early crowd came to the music through the Workers Music Association, an organisation which produced some of the early published works on the subject Scotland, Sings (MacColl), The Singing Englishman (Lloyd), Shuttle And Cage (MacColl), The Pocket Songbook, Reedy River (an Australian musical play) and eventually set up Topic Records.
Comhaltas
You don't improve the lot of music by making it a game with prizes and inventing a set of naff rules in order to win a medal. Its competition ethic has turned off more young people than it has inspired.Comhaltas has done a great job in the past, despite an inept leadership, but in all the decades of its existence it has failed to compile an accessible archive or library. There are fine musicians in the organisation, but a decapitation (removal of the head) would help no end.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: Folkiedave
Date: 13 Dec 06 - 04:33 PM

The WMA still exists of course and has a succesful summer school.

Robin Garside was tutor for folk music last year.

http://www.workersmusic.co.uk/


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Dec 06 - 04:41 PM

COMMIE PLOT.[ How do I give that impression]
I explained that my parents were members of the communist party,if you read my post properly its clear from my tone,that I am sympathetic to the Communist party,AND IN REPLY TO Dave Eyre,State my gratitude to LLOYD AND MACCOLL,and others for the legacy of clubs they gave us,however you are verifing exactly what I said, that there was a left wing political agenda[NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT, IN MY OPINION]., Why, assume I share the politics of Nixon, J Edgar Hoover.Joseph macarthy[and unamerican activities].
MY Father did 30 days hard labour in prison for his beliefs and making a speech criticising Edward the Eighth, and Im proud of him.
   COMHALTAS have given an awful lot of pleasure to adults and children, it has turned on more people than it has turned off,all those thousands of musicians as well as the competitors,who got to the national fleadh,who wouldnt go if COMHALTAS hadnt organised it.
now I understand why Bob Davenport sings in a high voice, in the fracas,you must have hit him where it hurts.Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: Folkiedave
Date: 13 Dec 06 - 06:18 PM

Dick,

You stated that there was a process of setting up a folk revival pioneered by MacColl and Lloyd.

You said it here.....

Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Captain Birdseye - PM
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 04:23 AM

I think such a statement needs evidence. So far you have failed to produce anything other than assertions that this is true. My thoughts on MacColl and Lloyd (generally positive), your parent's politics are irrelevant. My politics if you feel it matters have been wholly left-wing since the late 1950's. I have been a member of the Labour Party for most of that time - various tendencies. I am no longer a member.

I do not see the folk expansion (you call it a revival) in the 1950's as some sort of communist -inspired happening pioneered by MacColl and Lloyd. They started a folk club. That's it.

You have said it was. So produce some evidence. And when you have produced it - the club scene (IMHO) needs a kick up the arse at the moment.

Perhaps we could follow their example.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 13 Dec 06 - 08:32 PM

A voice from western Canada. Thanks to all in this thread, much of which has been very enlightening. The discussion started over the question of definition and the re-definers. The horse I myself have been flogging for the past thirty years is well nigh dead for me now, both words "folk" and "traditional" have been so muddied as to be irretrievable. What Rika and I do these days (both in song, song research and local history) we term "vernacular", to suggest, first, that it's locally made (though not necessarily out of local materials) and second, that it travels a vernacular route through local vectors - a pub, a union, an association, or a newspaper. Our town (Princeton, BC) was a mining town, in gold, coal and copper, founded at about the turn of the century. An example of the richness of the local vernacular culture: we used only a single local paper from 1900-1920 to locate enough cultural material (songs and poems - we have found no stories so far) to give two concerts in town using only local material. Is it "folk"? Is it "traditional"? Whatever it is, it sure isn't mainstream culture.

An example:

They stand by the cold deck, a-wasting my time
Not setting no chokers nor tending no line
When up comes a feller and he says, "I suppose
You work on the rigging by the looks of your clothes."

"No, I'm a whistle blower and that's my desire
You should hear me perform on that old whistle wire
When I blows for tight line I make no mistake
On a haywire Skagit without any brake."

Oh, the hooktender's crazy, the rigging slinger's worse,
When I blow three long whistles, they both start to curse
I wish I was in Rupert instead of down here
Where there's all kinds of women and plenty of beer!

It's a logging song, clearly modelled on Curley Fletcher's The Strawberry Roan. I think it goes without saying that the maker was no "revivalist": he was clearly a logger and the song makes sense only to west-coast loggers and the logging community.

I appreciated Lamarca's post distinguishing North American culture from that of the UK, and my example fits somewhere between her category 1 and category 3: it's an occupational community which still exists and still generates new material, much as it always did.

The tarbaby in the whole discussion is, it seems to me, the problematic question of professional singers and their needs (for constantly new material, for airtime, for the commercialization of music). Imagine that professional musicians were outlawed: what would fill their places in our modern cultures?

Jon Bartlett


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 13 Dec 06 - 09:10 PM

Give me tymne and give me distance
Mr. t. Art - will reflect
Darkest winter nites produce twisted notes.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

This thread "feels" like a living/loving inn with Thomas Pynchon
and a coca cola.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 14 Dec 06 - 04:36 AM

Good post, 'Jon Bartlett',

I think that your point about professional singers is very thought provoking (could piss off a few professionals, though!).


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Dec 06 - 05:45 AM

folkie dave, I have mentioned FIVE organisers/ organisations,THE STAR FOLK CLUB. GLASGOW. Bertie Moran, Newport folk club,are another two thats SEVEN, THE SINGERS CLUB =8.Ian campbells club in Birmingham 9[ALL had connections with the socialist movement the majority of these had strong communist connections][[ the only differnce between socialism and communism is the method by which the objective is acheived ]theres your evidence;
how much do I have to give you,
DICTIONARY DEFINITION OF INSTIGATE= URGE ON. macoll and lloyd did urge on and encourage fellow members of the left to start folk clubs, they did more than just start a folk club, they encouraged and were involved in different ways wIth Topic folk recordings,they were involved in the meeting with Davenport and Campbell,they contributed to books like the Shuttle and the Cage.MACOLL set up his own recording company Blackthorn Music, and printed books of his own political songs and other peoples.
to say that Maccoll and lloyd, just set up a folk club [thats it ] is doing them an injustice AND is untrue


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 14 Dec 06 - 06:40 AM

100


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 14 Dec 06 - 06:54 AM

>>Good post, 'Jon Bartlett',
I think that your point about professional singers is very thought provoking (could piss off a few professionals, though!). <<

Didn't piss me off - I thought it was a good post too.
[Hello Jon, it was good to meet you in NYC back in June.]

PPS: What obscure agenda is Mr. Gargoyle following?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Dec 06 - 08:18 AM

Gargoyle, a projecting spout, conveying water from the roof tops of buildings.
D Eyre,as a child I played with Bert lloyds children in Greenwich and consequently Visited his house on FREQUENT occasions, a child observes a lot.
club no 10.Birtley club[ TheELLIOTSofBirtley]
.I am beginning to NOTICE that since I changed sides on the Peter Kennedy thread, a hostile tone in your communications to me.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: Folkiedave
Date: 14 Dec 06 - 02:11 PM

Dick,
This has nothing to do with Peter Kennedy. I am not hostile towards anyone - I just need persuading sometimes.

I just cannot see the mechanism whereby communists sat down, decided to have an expansion of something that wasn't even moribund at the time and did it by setting up five (or 10) folk clubs. I just cannot see people being that organised, despite the discipline of the C.P. Nor can I see non-CP people reacting to that sort of discipline.

I am not sure of the motives. If they sang traditional music what effect was that supposed to have? If they sang left-wing songs, what effect was it supposed to have? I just don't see the point. Are your politics formed by the blues?

If this mechanism was succesful then I would like to see it tried again - IMHO there are far too few decent folk clubs.

The Elliots were proud of their left-wing heritage and politics. They were just as proud of their folk heritage.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Dec 06 - 02:28 PM

"vernacular" - I've never heard thta used in this context, and I like that term. As in vernacular architecture and colourful language. It fits.

I think I might start start using it.
......................
As for the politics - it stands to reason if you've got a political viewpoint, that is liable to be reflected in the songs you sing, whether by selecting them from an existing tradition, or writing them yourself. And also in the kind of setting in which you prefer to sing them.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Dec 06 - 02:42 PM

Cap'n,
I think you'll find that the problem with your analysis is well represented in your latest posting:
"macoll and lloyd did urge on and encourage fellow members of the left to start folk clubs"
MacColl never made any secret of his political leanings; however, you would have had to make a guess Bert's from his club performances.
Neither of them, as far as I am aware ever aimed their encouragement to others at any political tendency, but encouraged anybody they met who they believed had a worthwhile attitude to traditional music to get involved further.
Certainly, MacColl's attitude to the left organisations' involvement in traditional music was somewhat ambiguous, to say the least.
Comhaltas:
It is not their job as an organisation to give pleasure, as laudable is that may be, but to organise and represent traditional music in Ireland. In this it failed miserably; if you don't believe me, please read Chairman Lao's 1999 'independant' report to the Government on the state of Irish music, where it gives the (extremely false) impression that Comhaltas is the only group involved in the music, even to the extent of putting the CCE logo on the report. As a state senator, O'Murchu has direct access to the national purse strings, an influence he has abused and squandered by building a display centre that has more to do with Disneyworld than traditional music, by dressing the performers in pseudo-historical costume and by insisting that they play in a style that has nothing whatever to do with the tradition in order to win competitions. The fact that they produce a magazine of such an amaturish, gossipy nature that it may as well not exist, says everything, as far as I am concerned, about how seriously they take their role as leaders and inspirers..
The last time we had this discussion you undertook to find out why the organisation had never established either a library or an archive; I presume you were unsuccessful
Those involved in traditional music in the UK must be salivating at the idea of millions of euros in grants being given annually to an organisation like CCE - I have no doubt they would make far better use of it than has been made over here with the Irish taxpayers' hard earned cash.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Dec 06 - 02:56 PM

Jon Bartlett,
I would be interested to know if the example you gave was taken up by any of the writers' fellow loggers - this for me would be the yardstick by which I would judge whether it had passed into the tradition or not. My father made several songs about his work as a bulldozer driver which were equally interesting, but were never taken up.
Personal enquiry;
I believe you were once editor of the Canadian Folk Journal; are Bob and Sue Bassett still involved? If so, and you are in touch, would you please give them mine and Pat Mackenzie's regards.
Thanks,
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Sandman
Date: 15 Dec 06 - 05:31 AM

jim, sorry ,but comhaltas was formed to preseve irish traditional music,the people who formed it clearly got pleasure from the music,and would have intended that other people got pleasure, it follows logically that comhaltas, s,job is to give pleasure ,which it does every year through its national fleadh its successful organisation of concerts. comhaltas is needed more than ever, in rural ireland,because of the stringent drink drive laws,and very little alternative transport,many musicians are having gigs cancelled because it is so quiet,it could be the death knell for traditional musicians playing in pubs[ its only the tourists in the summer and pub /restaurants ]who,s profit from food enables trad musicians to be employed].
to folkie dave ;yes my politics were formed by the blues,songs about the underprivileged and down trodden,as they were by maccolls songs,IF you dont see the point,YOU CLEARLY DONT LISTEN TO WORDS, how can you not listen to Strange Fruit,WPA Blues , GO DOWN YOU MURDERERS, Joe Hill and not be affected.
again Maccoll and lloyd did alot more than setting up or encouraging 10 folk clubs, apart from that which I have already mentioned.LLOYD wrote folksong in england, contributed scholarly articles to the EFDSS and other magazines journals wrote or added to songs Reynardine [ tam linn possibly,recruited collier possibly].MACCOLL also collected songs and PRODUCED THE RADIO BALLADS..
FINALLY did MACOLL ever collect any songs that were in favour of right wing politics,patriotic jingoistic songs, the answer must surely be no, therefore he had a motive for redefining the music, he chose what was suitable, as sharp did, but for political reasons [rather than as Sharp did making them sexually nonddescript or impotent for schools]. I,m pleased that he did this, but nevertheless he did., He did this when he produced his shows with peggy [WHICH WERE POLITICAL CABARET]Pete Seeger did this, as did the Weavers,so did Woody Guthrie[ whos guitar had a slogan on it [THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCICTS]. This is why the well known singer whos father was a Fascist, kept quiet about his origins, Its not a cool thing on the folk scene.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 15 Dec 06 - 10:12 AM

wish i'd been at that meeting in '65, whatever was said. What company! The company of Kings.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Sandman
Date: 15 Dec 06 - 02:18 PM

the trouble is in the fisticuffs who would you want to hit first. i,d go for B D ,Smaller and easier to catch off his guard,and marginally more deserving.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Dec 06 - 02:47 PM

Cap'n, we disagree basically on the role of CCE - Its job is no more to hold a Fleadh than EFDSS's is to oraganise a weekly dance at C# House.
As a resident in Ireland you will be aware that it is virtually impossible to throw a stone without hitting a festival, singing weekend, music school, seminar - whatever throughout the year - virtually all held without the aid of Comhaltas, and many either opposed or ignored by them, as they tend to reject anything they can't control. The most successful of these by far, and the most influential, The Willie Clancy Summer School, was originally organised by residents of this town, who then invited CCE to participate - they refused unless competitions were organised. Thankfully the locals declined, leaving the School to flourish for over thirty years.
I assume from your tone that you are about to reveal a list of songs that MacColl refused because they didn't meet with his politics - if so, I await with bated breath. As far as I am aware MacColl followed the practice of all conciencious collectors and recorded whatever he was given, but if you know otherwise I would be extremely interested to find out what he turned down (and from whom). In thirty odd years of recording I can only recall being offered a couple of "right wing patriotic jingoistic" songs, we certainly never turned any down and we did much more collecting that Ewan.
Dictionary definition: Cabaret - live entertainment in a restaurant or nightclub with performances by singers, comediens, dancers and the like. Never saw Ewan and Peggy do one of them!
I don't know how many times you actually saw them perform but to the best of my recollection, unless they had been asked to perform say, at an event to raise money for the miners, or an Anti-Apartheid concert, their programmes were very deliberately worked out to present a careful balance of traditionalal and non-traditional items, a few of them political, but very much a minority. If there was any recurring tendency it was probably for the ballads. I could go over to the shelf and check the three or four dozen live performances we have, but I'll wait and see what you come up with.
MacColl went to join the choir invisibule in 1989. As he is no longer able to speak for himself, the least you can do is get some of the facts right. Without the efforts of him, Bert, Lomax, Dominic Behan, Joe Heaney, Seamus Ennis, Fitzroy Coleman (ay, and even Peter Kennedy) and all those others who gave traditional music a push-start we really wouldn't be having this conversation (and I would have missed out on forty years of sheer pleasure).
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Sandman
Date: 15 Dec 06 - 04:48 PM

jim ,comhaltas has played a major part in the strengthening of irish traditional music,1951 to 2006, during those years its given millions of people pleasure at every national fleadh and many good musicians have emerged through it.
I believe it is e.f.d.s.s job, to hold a weekly dances at cecil sharp house, their job is to promote folk dance and folk song, so they are doing part of their job,.
its CCE job to do the same and they do it middlingly well[ there not above criticism neither is the EFDSS.]
Maccoll was a political creature,he wanted to right social injustice, he did this through his songs, his books, recordings,etc.
I cant see him being enthusiastic about promoting right wing songs that he had collected.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Dec 06 - 04:09 AM

Cap'n
EFDSS is a national organisation, not a London based club - whether they are fulfilling their role as such is worthy of discussion.
Comhaltas is an international organisation - whether they are fulfilling that role is also worthy of discussion.
I would be fascinated to hear your comments on Labrat's report, which was presented to the Irish Parliament in 1999. Not having anybody to judge it's validity (other than the author), it was rubber stamped, but, following a storm of protest from musicians and researchers throughout the country, the minister was forced to receive oral submissions from the protesters (totally unprecedented for a parliamentary report).
The report has now been shelved in embarrassment as it was widely recognised as being little more than a blatant piece of Comhaltas empire - building. Read it and weep - your branch should have a copy!
MacColl
I still don't know how many times you saw Ewan and Peg perform and with what authority you describe their performance, so I have to conclude your description of their 'political cabaret' is very much a part of the 'Chinese Whispers' game that has been running at least since I became involved in the music.
Nor do you in any way attempt to substantiate your inference that they only collected songs that suited their politics, so I assume that is also part of the same exercise.
I wonder how long he has to be dead before people stop dancing on his grave.
Of course they only wrote and sang songs that they agreed with; except where projects they were involved in called for them to do otherwise - we've already has one eejit on Mudcat pointing out that MacColl once recorded a song on the Riverside series which praises Queen Victoria - any stick to beat a dead dog, I suppose. They'd have to be schizophrenics to do promote songs that they didn't agree with - do you?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Dec 06 - 06:55 AM

I am not dancing on his grave, I have consistently praised his songwriting.,And many of his other acheivements.
I just take a less one sided view of him than you, as I think History will.
oh Isaw them at least four times and also have listened to their recordings,with pleasure many times.
your last point is the important one ,and applies to all collectors,it is impossible to not be subjective when promoting the material one has collected, which brings us back to the point of the thread.
the motives of the re definers [who can be collectors]are affected by their own subjective views, political, emotional[didtheystrike a rapport with the performer] or in Sharps case [the moral attitude of the time].DickMiles


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Dec 06 - 08:32 AM

Cap'n
As collectors, they published what they were given; see Travellers and Stewarts books; as singers, they sang what was relevent to themelves - which is a far cry from your assertions of them being selective about what they collected. They were generous enough to give me free access to their field recordings, so I am fairly familiar with them.
This discussion, based as it is on the old techniques of unsubstantiated assertions and malicious rumours, apears to be now going in circles, so I suggest we leave it there (unless you have concrete evidence of their only collecting material which suited their own political philosophy and rejected that which didn't - but I won't hold my breath).
Far more relevent to this discussion (re-definition) are the vibes I am getting from another thread you instigated, that EFDSS is now considering ballroom dancing as a relevent part of its activities - now that's going to have younger people hammering on their doors to be involved in traditional music!
What was it the man said? - Those who the gods wish to destroy, they must first make mad!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 16 Dec 06 - 10:52 AM

I can't really see that much difference between what Jim Carroll and Captain Birdseye are both saying here, so far as Ewan MacColl is concerned. Both are evidently agreed he was a fine songwriter and singer, and that his politics were reflected in what he wrote and sang.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Dec 06 - 02:16 PM

thankyou mcgrath,i,m glad someone can see it.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 16 Dec 06 - 05:57 PM

Jon Bartlett & Rika,

I sure am glad to have your CDs and cassettes over the years. Great music --- and fine documents. Thanks for all your collecting.

Personally, I solved the problem of "always seeking and needing new material" by not seeking the new things being written by the modern songwriters. I was quite careful to sing only those modern songs that reflected the traditional ballads and songs. ----- I RESISTED learning the things that were merely clever but far removed from my story-loving ballad sensitivities. I'd created a musical gestalt---a museum. It was an antique shop! I couldn't have lived with myself if I had put a plastic table for sale in the window of my shop.

My "compromise" to show biz was to USE folk tales, humor, and jokelore on a given topic to set up, enhance, make a context for, and introduce the songs. Even, on occasion, in the middle of songs, I would insert a quip to bring the audience back to the relevance of the old song to what was going down right then in our modern era! I got the reputation of not doing the same show twice even when the songs were rarely jettisoned from the repertory.

I never wanted to sacrifice the songs. I cared too much about them! They were my dug-out fossils. I'm sure that some people got tired of my often repeated songs like "State Of Illinois" -- but I was never tired of them. I solved this by playing for diverse audiences on Mississippi River boats 5 moths a year and every other day. New audiences every day to win over with the historic patter so they'd see the actual value of the songs better.

The audiences changed. So I changed how I showed those songs to the people--and their differences! Age differences, ethnic, cultural, geographical differences.

This is WHY I never could accept the re-definitions!!! My definitions didn't change.

If, indeed, as we say here in this thread, the definitions have changed now, I am glad I am ill and can't participate in our music. I plan to exit this life holding to these ideals about our folk music.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Tim theTwangler
Date: 16 Dec 06 - 09:11 PM

Errrr so whats the best guitar to buy ?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme again...
Date: 16 Dec 06 - 09:33 PM

Martin----as always.

Tim, is that supposed to pertain to what I wrote in some way?

Art


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: Peace
Date: 16 Dec 06 - 09:34 PM

Well said, Art.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Dec 06 - 02:18 PM

jim carroll,EFDSSS first priority is to get more bums on the seats/floors of SHARP HOUSE, it doesnt matter to them whether they are young or old, and not illogically some of those who are interested in ballroom dancing[some young people go ballroom dancing]are likely to develop an interest in country dancing. I dont think its a bad move,AND COULD BE EXTENDED TO REGGAE DANCERS[ plenty of young people do that.
Correspondents have pointed out that the facilities at sharp house could be improved.
Efdss should take a responsibility for improving facilites,otherwise attendances will start to fall.
since efdss is primarily concerned with Folk Dance,from their point of view any people that are interested in dancing be it ballroom or reggae or line dancing or country western dancing,on visiting the House might develop an interest in folk dancing,.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Dec 06 - 04:11 PM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-defin
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 10:31 PM

Greetings to Brian Peters, and thanks to Art Thieme, Jim Carroll and McGrath of Harlow for responses to my recent post. Jim's question about whether the song I quoted was taken up by other loggers is indeed the critical question, and one we can never be sure of, given the collecting history in BC. Among collectors, only Phil Thomas (Songs of the Pacific Northwest) ever published material such as this. The song in question was collected twice, once by Thomas in the early 60's, and again by Al Grierson in about 1980. Al's version differed somewhat, and his informant told him to sing it with a strong Swedish accent: the closing couplet being

Better off in Porty Hardy instead of down here
In this haywire outfit that Jorgensson's got here

When Rika and I have sung it with loggers and ex-loggers, there are nods of recognition and assertions that they knew, or knew of, the song, but this might simply have been conversational beerhall politeness (where informants are not under oath).

The tradition I believe was alive until fairly recently, but with the mechanization of the woods and the resulting smaller crews, its best days are all in the past.

As to the other of Jim's questions: I edited Come All Ye (1972-78), Canada Folk Bulletin (1978-80) and the Canadian Folk Music Society Bulletin (1980-1), but the names you mentioned don't ring a bell. PM me on this, Jim.

Art's response to the question of profesional musicians needing fresh material was a very clear restatement of how traditional music should be presented, and one with which I associate myself precisely. Art's broad knowledge of and love for his material shines out in all his recordings, and is a model for us all.

Jon Bartlett


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What are the Motives of the Re-definers?
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Dec 06 - 01:49 AM

Jon,
Bob and Sue Bassett were Canadian singers who lived in London for a time; part of London Singers Workshop and residents at clubs we halped run. I thought I saw their names in connection with The Bulletin at one time - must have been mistaken,
Thanks anyway,
Cap'n - reggae, ballroom dancing, didn't you forget ballet? Give us a break! The priority is not getting more bums on seats - it's getting the bums on seats that are going to make a difference to traditional music, otherwise we may as well abandon it altogether and go with the flow - boy bands here I come!
Jim Carroll


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