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Folk Process - is it dead?

Related threads:
what is the Folk Process (35)
The Folk Process (181)
Steps in the Folk Process (54)
The New Folk Process (youtube link) (19)
What does the term 'folk process' mean? (23)


George Papavgeris 29 Jan 07 - 10:05 AM
GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie 29 Jan 07 - 10:11 AM
Scrump 29 Jan 07 - 10:19 AM
EBarnacle 29 Jan 07 - 10:24 AM
Charley Noble 29 Jan 07 - 10:25 AM
George Papavgeris 29 Jan 07 - 10:39 AM
McGrath of Harlow 29 Jan 07 - 10:55 AM
dick greenhaus 29 Jan 07 - 10:57 AM
George Papavgeris 29 Jan 07 - 11:01 AM
George Papavgeris 29 Jan 07 - 11:02 AM
Folkiedave 29 Jan 07 - 11:05 AM
Scrump 29 Jan 07 - 11:06 AM
GUEST 29 Jan 07 - 11:16 AM
GUEST,leeneia 29 Jan 07 - 11:17 AM
Scoville 29 Jan 07 - 11:20 AM
Alec 29 Jan 07 - 11:20 AM
George Papavgeris 29 Jan 07 - 11:21 AM
The Borchester Echo 29 Jan 07 - 11:22 AM
George Papavgeris 29 Jan 07 - 11:23 AM
Scoville 29 Jan 07 - 11:23 AM
The Borchester Echo 29 Jan 07 - 11:26 AM
George Papavgeris 29 Jan 07 - 11:28 AM
Scrump 29 Jan 07 - 11:37 AM
George Papavgeris 29 Jan 07 - 11:42 AM
GUEST,greg stephens 29 Jan 07 - 11:42 AM
George Papavgeris 29 Jan 07 - 11:47 AM
GUEST,Seiri Omaar 29 Jan 07 - 11:50 AM
Scoville 29 Jan 07 - 11:53 AM
The Borchester Echo 29 Jan 07 - 11:56 AM
Scrump 29 Jan 07 - 12:05 PM
Scrump 29 Jan 07 - 12:09 PM
Cluin 29 Jan 07 - 12:11 PM
Scoville 29 Jan 07 - 12:15 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 29 Jan 07 - 12:23 PM
eddie1 29 Jan 07 - 12:32 PM
GUEST,Riverman 29 Jan 07 - 12:40 PM
bubblyrat 29 Jan 07 - 12:44 PM
Scoville 29 Jan 07 - 12:48 PM
GUEST 29 Jan 07 - 12:56 PM
wysiwyg 29 Jan 07 - 01:05 PM
Lonesome EJ 29 Jan 07 - 01:15 PM
McGrath of Harlow 29 Jan 07 - 01:19 PM
GUEST,Patrick Costello 29 Jan 07 - 01:25 PM
wysiwyg 29 Jan 07 - 01:47 PM
Alec 29 Jan 07 - 02:25 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 29 Jan 07 - 05:27 PM
Big Al Whittle 29 Jan 07 - 05:33 PM
GUEST,doc.tom 30 Jan 07 - 04:00 AM
Grab 30 Jan 07 - 05:01 AM
bubblyrat 30 Jan 07 - 09:23 AM
Scoville 30 Jan 07 - 09:33 AM
GUEST,Jim Martin 30 Jan 07 - 11:37 AM
McGrath of Harlow 30 Jan 07 - 12:30 PM
Tim theTwangler 31 Jan 07 - 02:00 AM
Gurney 31 Jan 07 - 02:28 AM
Scrump 31 Jan 07 - 06:11 AM
Big Al Whittle 31 Jan 07 - 06:41 AM
Wolfgang 31 Jan 07 - 07:24 AM
Big Al Whittle 31 Jan 07 - 07:31 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 31 Jan 07 - 08:47 AM
Mooh 31 Jan 07 - 09:16 AM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Jan 07 - 09:24 AM
GUEST,Terry McDonald 31 Jan 07 - 11:02 AM
Scrump 31 Jan 07 - 11:16 AM
Big Al Whittle 31 Jan 07 - 12:02 PM
Scoville 31 Jan 07 - 12:09 PM
Grab 31 Jan 07 - 12:31 PM
Big Al Whittle 31 Jan 07 - 01:24 PM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Jan 07 - 01:39 PM
Scoville 31 Jan 07 - 02:52 PM
Scrump 31 Jan 07 - 02:53 PM
BB 31 Jan 07 - 03:11 PM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Jan 07 - 03:12 PM
Big Al Whittle 31 Jan 07 - 03:22 PM
Tim theTwangler 31 Jan 07 - 05:39 PM
Big Al Whittle 31 Jan 07 - 06:42 PM
Lonesome EJ 31 Jan 07 - 06:58 PM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Jan 07 - 07:17 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 31 Jan 07 - 07:48 PM
Lonesome EJ 31 Jan 07 - 08:01 PM
Ref 31 Jan 07 - 10:20 PM
Lonesome EJ 31 Jan 07 - 11:26 PM
Scrump 01 Feb 07 - 04:48 AM
Sugwash 01 Feb 07 - 06:09 AM
GUEST,Elaine 01 Feb 07 - 07:01 AM
GUEST,Mr Red who collects songs (more than one!) 01 Feb 07 - 07:26 AM
Big Al Whittle 01 Feb 07 - 10:06 AM
McGrath of Harlow 01 Feb 07 - 11:47 AM
Elaine Green 01 Feb 07 - 07:11 PM
McGrath of Harlow 01 Feb 07 - 07:27 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 01 Feb 07 - 07:49 PM
Mooh 01 Feb 07 - 08:54 PM
Elaine Green 01 Feb 07 - 09:41 PM
mousethief 02 Feb 07 - 12:01 AM
GUEST 02 Feb 07 - 01:40 AM
Gurney 02 Feb 07 - 02:50 AM
GUEST 02 Feb 07 - 10:23 AM
McGrath of Harlow 02 Feb 07 - 10:43 AM
Mooh 02 Feb 07 - 11:46 AM
McGrath of Harlow 02 Feb 07 - 12:42 PM
Lonesome EJ 02 Feb 07 - 01:29 PM
Mooh 02 Feb 07 - 01:43 PM
McGrath of Harlow 03 Feb 07 - 11:22 AM
McGrath of Harlow 03 Feb 07 - 12:15 PM
RTim 03 Feb 07 - 03:48 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 03 Feb 07 - 05:01 PM
Mooh 03 Feb 07 - 05:57 PM
John of the Hill 03 Feb 07 - 11:12 PM
Eric the Streetsinger 03 Feb 07 - 11:40 PM
The Sandman 04 Feb 07 - 04:11 AM
George Papavgeris 04 Feb 07 - 05:56 AM
The Sandman 04 Feb 07 - 07:47 AM
The Sandman 04 Feb 07 - 07:56 AM
Alec 04 Feb 07 - 08:48 AM
Ron Davies 04 Feb 07 - 08:53 AM
GUEST 04 Feb 07 - 11:32 AM
BB 04 Feb 07 - 01:14 PM
GUEST,Seiri Omaar 05 Feb 07 - 09:37 PM
Jim Lad 06 Feb 07 - 03:37 AM
Big Al Whittle 06 Feb 07 - 09:03 AM
dick greenhaus 04 Mar 08 - 01:25 PM
GUEST,squeezy 04 Mar 08 - 07:00 PM
redsnapper 04 Mar 08 - 07:17 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 05 Mar 08 - 08:55 AM
GUEST,Keinstein 05 Mar 08 - 09:31 AM
George Papavgeris 05 Mar 08 - 09:50 AM
Mr Happy 05 Mar 08 - 10:22 AM
Brian Peters 05 Mar 08 - 10:41 AM
GUEST,Keinstein 05 Mar 08 - 10:54 AM
GUEST 05 Mar 08 - 11:12 AM
George Papavgeris 05 Mar 08 - 01:07 PM
The Sandman 05 Mar 08 - 01:18 PM
Jim Carroll 05 Mar 08 - 02:42 PM
Gene Burton 05 Mar 08 - 03:48 PM
GUEST,The Mole catcher's unplugged Apprentice 05 Mar 08 - 04:23 PM
Folkiedave 05 Mar 08 - 04:28 PM
McGrath of Harlow 05 Mar 08 - 04:35 PM
The Mole Catcher's Apprentice (inactive) 05 Mar 08 - 04:43 PM
Jim Carroll 06 Mar 08 - 03:23 AM
Mr Happy 06 Mar 08 - 05:38 AM
Folkiedave 06 Mar 08 - 06:04 AM
The Sandman 06 Mar 08 - 06:20 AM
GUEST,Suffolk Miracle 06 Mar 08 - 07:15 AM
Waddon Pete 06 Mar 08 - 07:34 AM
GUEST,PMB 06 Mar 08 - 08:12 AM
McGrath of Harlow 06 Mar 08 - 01:41 PM
Folkiedave 06 Mar 08 - 01:48 PM
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Big Al Whittle 06 Mar 08 - 02:13 PM
GUEST,Chicken Charlie 06 Mar 08 - 02:34 PM
Jim Carroll 06 Mar 08 - 02:37 PM
Folkiedave 06 Mar 08 - 03:11 PM
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GUEST,TJ in San Diego 06 Mar 08 - 04:00 PM
GUEST,Chicken Charlie 06 Mar 08 - 05:29 PM
GUEST,doc.tom 06 Mar 08 - 07:19 PM
GUEST,Chicken Charlie 06 Mar 08 - 07:30 PM
Jim Carroll 07 Mar 08 - 03:15 AM
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mattkeen 07 Mar 08 - 04:49 AM
Tim Leaning 07 Mar 08 - 05:09 AM
TheSnail 07 Mar 08 - 05:09 AM
Banjiman 07 Mar 08 - 05:20 AM
Waddon Pete 07 Mar 08 - 05:23 AM
GUEST,doc.tom 07 Mar 08 - 05:49 AM
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Banjiman 07 Mar 08 - 08:12 AM
The Sandman 07 Mar 08 - 11:19 AM
GUEST,doc.tom 07 Mar 08 - 12:26 PM
GUEST 07 Mar 08 - 03:26 PM
Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive) 07 Mar 08 - 04:42 PM
GUEST,The Mole Catcher's unplugged Apprentice 07 Mar 08 - 05:24 PM
TheSnail 08 Mar 08 - 06:03 AM
Stringsinger 08 Mar 08 - 04:25 PM
Jim Carroll 09 Mar 08 - 03:48 AM
Big Al Whittle 09 Mar 08 - 07:59 AM
Jim Carroll 09 Mar 08 - 02:40 PM
Folkiedave 09 Mar 08 - 03:02 PM
Big Al Whittle 09 Mar 08 - 03:27 PM
Jim Carroll 10 Mar 08 - 03:49 AM
Big Al Whittle 10 Mar 08 - 04:18 AM
Folkiedave 10 Mar 08 - 05:33 AM
TheSnail 10 Mar 08 - 06:39 AM
GUEST,Suffolk Miracle 10 Mar 08 - 07:27 AM
Big Al Whittle 10 Mar 08 - 07:41 AM
Folkiedave 10 Mar 08 - 02:12 PM
Big Al Whittle 10 Mar 08 - 03:06 PM
Jim Carroll 10 Mar 08 - 03:37 PM
Folkiedave 10 Mar 08 - 03:42 PM
Folkiedave 10 Mar 08 - 04:04 PM
Folkiedave 10 Mar 08 - 04:15 PM
Big Al Whittle 10 Mar 08 - 04:28 PM
Folkiedave 10 Mar 08 - 08:22 PM
Jim Carroll 11 Mar 08 - 04:00 AM
Folkiedave 11 Mar 08 - 05:10 AM
Folkiedave 11 Mar 08 - 05:53 AM
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Folkiedave 11 Mar 08 - 06:22 AM
GUEST,PMB 11 Mar 08 - 06:27 AM
Brian Peters 11 Mar 08 - 06:30 AM
Big Al Whittle 11 Mar 08 - 07:37 AM
The Sandman 11 Mar 08 - 12:11 PM
Brian Peters 11 Mar 08 - 12:37 PM
Jim Carroll 11 Mar 08 - 03:12 PM
Goose Gander 11 Mar 08 - 03:19 PM
TheSnail 12 Mar 08 - 09:26 AM
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Folkiedave 13 Mar 08 - 05:18 AM
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The Sandman 13 Mar 08 - 05:57 AM
mattkeen 13 Mar 08 - 08:13 AM
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Big Al Whittle 13 Mar 08 - 11:59 AM
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Big Al Whittle 13 Mar 08 - 12:49 PM
Jim Carroll 13 Mar 08 - 03:51 PM
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Jim Carroll 14 Mar 08 - 03:41 PM
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leeneia 07 Dec 16 - 09:59 AM
Steve Gardham 07 Dec 16 - 02:27 PM
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Subject: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 10:05 AM

This question has been building in my head for some time now, as a result of discussions on other threads and boards around what can and what cannot be accepted as traditional song/music. In short:

Someone - I think it was Diane - stated that traditional music is a body of work to which one can no longer add (my own words, I cannot remember the precise expression used).

That got me thinking: Take a song such as Dave Webber's "Padstow May Song", which all agree is written "in the tradition", though not traditional today; now, in 200 years would that song not be traditional, simply because its provenance is known? And would it not be deemed to have been filtered through the "Folk Process" as different singers take it on and add their interpretations?

We seem to treat the "Folk Process" as something that happened in the past, when records were not made or kept, when songs passed from mouth to ear. We seem to imply a certain magic in that process, that hones a song to perfection in a way no "dot reader" ever could; that somehow smoothes any flaws in the original and renders a patina impossible to apply with modern means.

I argue that the Folk process is alive and well. Songs are still passed from singer to singer, indeed more easily now, given technology's advances. And that in turn means that more performers get to hear - and be tempted to try - the song, thus giving it more turns on the sharpener's wheel, so to speak. And 200 years from now, at some traditional folk song event, someone might rightly sing the Padstow May Song, attributing it to "that ancient bard Dave Webber", but probably somewhat changed from the original version. And all the better for it.

Your views?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 10:11 AM

I think you're right George, the folk process is alive and well and always will be as long as people are here to make up songs and new traditions. Some peoples minds are just far too narrow to accept that tradition exists outside of the supposed 'Folk' world as well as in it.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scrump
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 10:19 AM

No, it's just resting :-)

Interesting thread, George. I suppose the advent of sound recording means that, in theory, the folk process shouldn't occur any longer, because the 'proper' way a song should be sung (let's say by its writer, who has issued it on CD), will forever be available for anyone who wants to learn it. That means the process whereby the tune and even the words were altered by being passed from person to person in 'Chinese whispers' fashion, should no longer happen.

If anyone should change a tune or the lyrics of a song today, he or she will be pounced on for singing it 'wrongly'. This wouldn't have happened very often in the past, because there was usually nobody around who would have the authority to know if a singer had (intentionally or unknowingly) changed a song. Today, the 'definitive' version of the song is still available (e.g. on CD) for anyone to 'prove' how the song 'should' be sung.

(Sits back to await other responses!)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: EBarnacle
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 10:24 AM

As an example of a a piece whose provenance is known, several additional verses which I have written have entered the canon, including one to "four nights drunk" which I slipped to Oscar Brand more than 30 years ago. A couple of years ago, he played his version and said that he did not know where he got the verse. I called him and reminded him of the circumstances of the contribution, which he acknowledged. Folk process or not?

I see development as a normal growth process. Another example is "Fiddler's Green," which has been cited on several albums, including one by Schooner Fare, as Trad. There is the ongoing discussion between the purists and the rest about "in Fiddler's Green" vs "on Fiddler's Green."

The list of discussions and processes is extensive. As long as people change things for their own satisfaction or through mishearing the process will continue.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 10:25 AM

George-

Even Ewan MacColl agreed that the folk process was an ongoing process and that he himself engaged in it. Some are better that others at making changes that others accept as "improvements" but only time will validate that appraisal.

I do believe it is important to have reference material so one can see how a song has evolved, and that the various folk song collectors should be thanked when they did their job well, and damned when they edited their source material.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 10:39 AM

Scrump,
I don't think the fact the the originator of a song has recorded it on CD makes his/her version the "definitive" one; we get cover versions of the most popular songs all the time, and now and then a cover version is more to our liking than the original. Cover versions are part of the folk process too, then.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 10:55 AM

Why should the original version of a song be any more definitive than the original version of a joke?

People change and adjust and misremember and make up what they've forgotten and change what they don't like or can't make sense of. They always have and they always will.

Traditition is what was there before you, whenever you happen to live.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 10:57 AM

if you want proof that the folk process is alive an processing, go back and listen to some old recordings and see how much tune and verse have changed. A prime exampleis Burl Ives' "foggy, Foggy Dew"


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:01 AM

Jim Moray just gave a great example of the Folk Process in action: People singing "All along the Wathctower" invariably try to imitate the Hendrix version rather than the Dylan original.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:02 AM

"Wathctower" is Greek for Watchtower, of course. Our Hejova's Wintesses sell it door to door.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:05 AM

Hi George and thanks for starting what could be a long thread!!

I cannot personally see how we can claim it has stopped...if it did stop - surely you would be able to put your finger on when it....stopped. Now remember they sincerely believed that all the collecting to be done had been done by 1930. And Sharp rushed around (and in the Appalachians too) before all singers died. And so did Peter Kennedy - who was in part inspired by Stanley Slade - who he recorded from - and then when he went back was dead.

So if someone says the folk process is dead I ask when did it die?

And certainly here is Sheffield it goes on. At the carols new ones are brought into the repertoire. Not every year, but I can think of three now well established ones and I can remember exactly when they arrived. Frank Hinchcliffe was known as a terrific singer, his son carries on the tradition. And most people would look upon Will Noble as a traditional singer indeed the EFDSS put him on the front of the record commemorating their centenary alongside Harry Cox. Well, Will has been singing less than thirty years.

Most songs in the let's call it the standard repertoire as evidenced by collecting like Sharp and Gardiner, are derived from broadsheets, a number of traditional singers had collections of them, so they were happy to sing from printed copy, by albeit unknown authors.

I suppose if you ask if it is dead then you need to define what it is...and then I suspect we are back into "What is trad?".

But no, for my two pennyworth I think not.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scrump
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:06 AM

I don't think the fact the the originator of a song has recorded it on CD makes his/her version the "definitive" one; we get cover versions of the most popular songs all the time, and now and then a cover version is more to our liking than the original. Cover versions are part of the folk process too, then.

Why should the original version of a song be any more definitive than the original version of a joke?

I agree - that's why I put 'definitive' in quotes in my posting. I was sort of playing devil's advocate and presenting a counter-argument to help get the thread going (hopefully).

I agree that any recorded version of a song is just a snapshot, and can't be regarded as definitive in any kind of absolute sense (in any other sense, the term is subjective, as was discussed in a fairly recent thread about 'definitive versions').

But, although you can have different versions of a song - different arrangements, for example - is it possible for somebody to change the tune or lyrics from the original words (I'm talking about a new composition here, rather than a traditional song whose author is unknown or Seth Lakeman), without being 'wrong'.

George - as you are a songwriter, how would you feel if someone else took one of your songs and changed the tune and the lyrics? Would you regard that as the 'folk process', or simply that the singer had got it wrong?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:16 AM

for some hack singer to change the words and lyrics of an attributable composed song is the artistic equivalent of breaking into the Louvre and painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:17 AM

I folk process stuff all the time.

For example, I just learned the original tune for "Peace in the Valley." I changed "I'm tired and weary" to "I'm weary and tired," because it fits the music better. I changed "no sorrow, no sadness, no trouble" to put the nouns in alphabetical order. That prevents a little glitch where otherwise I stop to think whether sorrow comes first or sadness.

I've shifted the verses of "She Walked through the Fair" to make a sensible story.

I'm sure other people do stuff like this all the time. That's folk process.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scoville
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:20 AM

Short answer: No.

Long answer: I always assume that somebody else is going to hear something different in a piece of music than I might hear, and I think that, logically, I have to extend this to things that I write. I've taught people tunes as they sounded to me, then heard them playing them slightly differently six months later. Sometimes they misremembered them, sometimes they heard another version somewhere else and borrowed something they liked from it, sometimes it was a "spontaneous mutation". Whatever. I don't take it personally. I also discourage people from getting too fixated on my dulcimer strum pattern, etc., when teaching tunes, not because I'm possessive about "my" version but because I would rather they focus on the spirit rather than the letter of the music.

I think "wrong" is relative--if I'm playing in a group and everyone else wants to play version A of "Granny Will Your Dog Bite" with no accidentals, and I insist on playing version B with the accidental, I'm relatively wrong, at least in that situation. It's the same tune overall, though, so I may not be absolutely wrong. But overall, I think one has to be pretty far wrong to actually be wrong.

Personally, I'd rather be variant-tolerant than a slave to the definitive version. It drives me nuts when people insist that so-and-so's way is the only way to do a tune.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Alec
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:20 AM

Anyone who has ever learnt a song,forgotten a bit,made a bit up to compensate then had that song taken up by someone else has contributed to folk process. I would dare to suggest that this is a more than daily occurence.
Whilst some art music may exist in a definitive recorded form,Dylan's live performances seem to indicate that his recordings are merely a record of what the song sounded like that day.
(I mean all of the above in a good way.)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:21 AM

They have: Andy Irvine changed two words in "Empty Handed", and his musical arrangement is very different - while the melody remains the same, there are some changes in the chord sequence. The result is a very beautiful and haunting version of the song; and I have now adopted one of the word changes.

Vin Garbutt changed the rhythm of The Flowers and The Guns, and introduced a slip into high register ("giving it wellie" as he calls it) in the last verse. I liked that, and though I could not copy him (I don't have his voice, after all!) I used the idea at a different point in the verse (where I could reach an octave higher).

Breezy's changed a few words here and there in my songs (he sings several), and I have accepted some of his changes into my own singing.

In all those cases, the changes all resulted in improvements to the songs.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:22 AM

Hmmm. George has half-quoted some of what I said. So that I don't get tarred with the Chinese whispers f*lk process of being blamed for what was not the sum total of my 'definition' (which was done off the top of my head in the middle of the night in response to a challenge and I thus now wish I'd given it more thought), I may as well reproduce it:

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: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:23 AM

It was a good definition, Diane; I always used to have my best ideas late at night. No longer - I am just asleep now;-)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scoville
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:23 AM

GUEST: No, it's not, since you're not destroying the original version of the song. It's the equivalent of going home and painting your own Cubist version of the Mona Lisa, which does no harm at all to the original and might be a worthy and insightful work of art on its own.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:26 AM

I've never heard anybody criticising the Copper Family for changing the tune of Rose Of Allendale noticeably for the better. Time changes are another matter. It is my personal belief that ironing out metres into universal 4/4 should be prohibted by law.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:28 AM

Diane, agreed and can I add the flattening of interesting chord changes to 3-chord tricks?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scrump
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:37 AM

That's interesting, George. But whether you can call the amendments by Andy, Vin, etc., the 'folk process' rather than amendments proposed to you by the other singers and accepted by you, is open to question, IMO. In other words, you could consider them as contributing to the writing process and helping you refine the songs. The result is that the original version is changed to incorporate the changes. Is that the folk process? I'm not sure.

You obviously liked the amendments and accepted them, but I wonder if this would always be the case? I've heard people singing songs that I know well, by other living authors, and recognised that they had changed the words and/or the tune, in a way that I would not necessarily describe as an improvement (sometimes the tune had been 'flattened' or made more similar to another tune - I suspect the singer had done this inadvertently by mixing up two similar tunes; which could be easily done). I just wonder if the authors of those original songs would always be as magnanimous as you in accepting these changes (which I suspect were unintentional).

Still playing devil's advocate! :-)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:42 AM

Indeed I have heard other changes which I did not like, or not enough to adopt them. But I would not call the amendments by other artists "co-writing" (what are you trying to do to me? they'll be wanting royalties!), in that this was not an agreed or conscious partnership in the writing of the songs - and the fact that they are well-known does not exclude them from being part of the folk process.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,greg stephens
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:42 AM

So, Countess R, changing things into 4/4 should be prohibited by law? How about the traditional custom of modifying old 3/2 fiddle tunes into unaccompanied 5/4 song tunes? Crime,or interesting folk processing? Discuss.
Reducing songs to three chords a Bad Thing, eh George? How about Peter Paul and Mary expanding Bob Dylan's three-chord trick Blowin' in the Wind into a masterpiece of 60's wet by adding a few extra relative minors? Now, that really was a crime.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:47 AM

Peter, Paul and Mary and relative minors - hmmm. You could be right there, Greg. Though I'd put the "wetness" of their version down to the sickly sweet vocals - compared to Bob's straight-from-the-gut rendition.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Seiri Omaar
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:50 AM

Food for thought


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scoville
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:53 AM

"Improvements" are often in the ear of the beholder. This goes both ways--what you or I might consider a bad idea might have sounded great to somebody else in the audience.

Reserve judgment on changing to 4/4 time and simplifying chord structures since I think it depends on the song. I've heard songs that were injured by this but I've also heard songs that had more chords than they needed and did better with less pretentious chord progressions.

* * * * *

A local neo-Celtic band recorded a version of "Wild Geese", which uses the tune to "Planxty John Irwin", and changed it from 3/4 time to a reggae beat. Some people were put off by it, but overall it worked out very well. I say that, and I don't even like reggae.

Come to think of it, right now I'm listening to "Deux-Pas des Condamnés", which is a two-step that is normally "Valse des Condamnés" in--you guessed it--waltz time. Works great either way.

For both songs, it would have been a pity if they hadn't at least tried the new version, even if it was "wrong".


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:56 AM

How about the traditional custom of modifying old 3/2 fiddle tunes into unaccompanied 5/4 song tunes?

Absolutely fine if the song sounds better in 5/4 as it often does. The crime would be to put the triple hornpipe into crash bang Span time.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scrump
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:05 PM

Indeed I have heard other changes which I did not like, or not enough to adopt them. But I would not call the amendments by other artists "co-writing" (what are you trying to do to me? they'll be wanting royalties!), in that this was not an agreed or conscious partnership in the writing of the songs - and the fact that they are well-known does not exclude them from being part of the folk process.

Well put, George (LOL) :-)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scrump
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:09 PM

I've heard songs that were injured by this but I've also heard songs that had more chords than they needed and did better with less pretentious chord progressions.

I agree with that - there are some songs where I've deliberately 'simplified' the arrangement when compared to the one I've copied it from, because I think the over-complicated arrangement detracts from the song (as opposed to those where I've merely done it because I can't play all the chords ;-))


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Cluin
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:11 PM

"for some hack singer to change the words and lyrics of an attributable composed song is the artistic equivalent of breaking into the Louvre and painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa"


An analogy worthy of an archivist, not a singer.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scoville
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:15 PM

Not even worthy of an archivist. We don't mind things changing as long as you a) don't mark up the original and b) keep a copy of each version.

;-)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:23 PM

"The Folk Process - is it dead?"

I believe that Chairman Mao was once asked:

"What effect did the French Revolution have on the course of Human History?"

And he is said to have replied:

"I think it's too early to tell."

So, ask me the 'Folk Process' question, above, in another 100 years or so ...

Nevertheless, it's a good question, George.

A couple of random thoughts:

1. A few years ago, at a conference, I heard a paper by the scholar Chris Bearman. The paper was about the communities of singers that Sharp collected from in Somerset. In some areas of Somerset there were few singers, in others, like Langport or Hambridge, for example, there were many - little communities of singers ('nests of singing birds' - to use a favourite expression). I couldn't help thinking that these little communities were very like me and friends up here in North West England, in the early 21st Century: a group of people who love old songs, share them, sing to each other and encourage each other to dig up 'new' songs (ie. songs which may be old but which are new to the group).

2. I've said this numerous times (but I suspect that many people don't want to hear it!): A song doesn't have to be from an anonymous source in order to become traditional. Its not the source of the song that's important but the process it's been through ... silence! ... is anybody there?!


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: eddie1
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:32 PM

IMHO, the folk process would indeed be dead if it was only an academic exercise – but it isn't.
Yes, there are individuals/clubs even who will claim a song or tune must be played exactly as per the original version but perhaps their process is the one that is dead. If we write a song and then sing it to others either directly or by recording it, we set it free for those others to place their own interpretation on it. This can mean changing place names to "localise" the song (how many versions of Aragon Mill are there?), altering the rhythm, words, order of verses, even the whole tune because we prefer our own "version", because we can't play the chords to the original or because we misheard it.
A listening audience does not sit analytically, each having heard the original, and then decry the altered version.
Hamish Henderson was doing some Gaelic recordings back in the fifties on one of the Hebridean Islands when an elderly woman sang him an altered version of "The Banks of Sicily" which she insisted she had learnt from her mother. Hamish of course had written the song about ten years earlier. Was he annoyed? Of course not, he was thrilled to bits!

If the folk process is dead then so are we!

Eddie


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Riverman
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:40 PM

The general concensus seems to be that it still goes on and I couldn't agree more. The fact that methods of communicating songs has changed makes not one bit of difference. Broadside, oral or CD it's still communicated and that's enough.

I often find that when I go back to recordings from which I've 'learned' songs that they've been inadvertently changed a bit with whole verses missing sometimes to give them more narrative sense and sometimes a bit more edgy.

It was Carthy that said (not exact quote) "If we all copy each other exactly then folk music becomes as dead as some people claim it to be".


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: bubblyrat
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:44 PM

Dear Guest "Shimrod" ---I wonder, if the wonderfully-named C Sharp were to be resurrected,paid your little corner of England a visit,wrote down and recorded all those songs that you love so much,and then went off and got 3 or 4 of the best-known contemporary composers to re-write all the tunes in order to suit his personal musical taste,how you would feel about that ?? I"d be LIVID !!!


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scoville
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:48 PM

It would just one more version of infinite versions since, thanks to modern technology, we can easily bypass folk-process bottleneck, unlike in the past where there might only have been one version written down by one collector, whose tastes and motives might have been suspect.

So, yes--it would be extremely annoying but it is much less likely that those would be the only extant versions 200 years from now.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:56 PM

I think there is an over-emphasis on the folk 'process'.

Songs were transmitted orally (thus rendering them open to adaptation) not because people thought that it was the 'done thing' or 'traditional', but because there was simply no other way for them to do it. The means of noting, recording, archiving, distribution etc were simply not available then.

BTW bubblyrat, Mr Sharp did indeed 'edit' some of his collected songs.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 01:05 PM

Folk Process - is it dead?

If it is, there's a whole lot of weekly music and permathread maintenance I'll have to give up. :~)

It's MY "folk process" (small letters)-- it's too soon to tell if it will ever be part of a larger Folk Process valuable to posterity. I try to leave what clues I can, as long as they don't interfere with present-time creativity.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 01:15 PM

George

A while back I posted a thread called "Steps in the Folk Process", and the following was cut and pasted from the opening post...

'I write Folk Songs," said the man.
"No," said the other man, "you hope you write Folk Songs."

The term Folk has been bandied about on this Forum since the beginning, with many and various definitions of what Folk means. We may never agree on the definition of what a Folk Song is, but I believe the process by which a song becomes a Folk Song may be clearer. I had the idea that it might be interesting to chart the steps through which the evolution occurs.

1) Initial Introduction as Popular Material. Folk songs of today and yesterday began their lives as popular tunes, whether spread and popularized by the electronic media today, or spread by traveling minstrels 1000 years ago. An example of a song in the popular mode with folk potential might be With Eyes Wide Open by Creed. At this stage of the process, the song is fairly well known, and closely connected to its author. Usually, the author is still alive and producing new material.

2) Persistence in Popular Music. The song has experienced the initial wave of popularity, but due to its intrinsic value or other aspects (re-release or recording by other artists, for example), the song persists in the popular idiom. Paul McCartney's Yesterday might be a good example of this stage in the process. At this stage, the song is taking on a persona independent of its author, and may not be attributable by the majority of its hearers.

3) Song Takes On Traditional Aspect. The song has become entrenched in the deeper layers of the culture, so that the majority of its hearers no longer know the author or consider the author's identity to be significant, so that the song is considered "traditional" by most hearers in the culture. This Land is your Land would appear to be on the verge of this stage, while America the Beautiful and My Old Kentucky Home have reached it. The song at this stage is well-known and often repeated orally.

4) From here, it seems to me the song will take one of three paths :

A) Song Fades from the Folk Process. Because its references are too obscure or specific to another time, or because its intrinsic value as music is weak, the song drops out of the oral tradition of the culture, and if it is remembered at all, it is remembered by a small group of scholars. Many of the Child Ballads would come under this heading, had Child not foreseen this possibility.

B) Song Is Revived as Popular Material. Although the song may have nearly disappeared from the culture, and its author obscure or unknown, it is revived in the popular idiom and re-introduced to the Folk Process. Wild Mountain Thyme and Carrickfergus may be seen as examples of this path.

C) Enduring Persistence in the Culture. Although the author is unknown, and despite the fact that the song has experienced no significant popular revival, its intrinsic power or musical quality has guaranteed its continuity. Greensleeves is an excellent example of this path.

That's it. Do you think this kind of analysis is valid, or am I grossly over simplifying the process? Can you think of songs that fit the different stages, if so which songs stand the best chance of moving from Stage 1 to Stage 4C?'


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 01:19 PM

"the artistic equivalent of breaking into the Louvre and painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa

A fallacious analogy. In no way is the original song affected. A more accurate analog would be someone buying a poster of the Mona Lisa and painting a moustache on it, or using it in a collage Which is the kind of thing that has happened often enough - for example. Meanwhile the original Mona Lisa is still up on the wall in the Louvre, and available on the Internet, for all to see.

I was pleased to see George's readiness to accept changes and variations to his own songs, and in no way surprised. Good songs are resilient, and don't need to be treated as if they'll fall to pieces if they don't get handled ultra-carefully.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Patrick Costello
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 01:25 PM

As long as musicians are making music, as long as people are willing to share and as long as kids are encouraged and inspired to explore this craft with no limitations the folk process will continue.

Sure, things have changed. I learned to play from people I met on the street. Now I have students finding me in cyberspace. The information isn't quite as personal - but the information is still being freely transmitted.

Yeah. I said freely.
http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=Dobro33H
http://howandtao.com
archive.org stuff
-Patrick


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 01:47 PM

LEJ, I could add parallels from the Spirituals "tradition," so yes, that works for me as far as it goes, and I may be able to connect that up with some other stuff I've been mulling/working on to extend it further and/or add examples from the spirituals.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Alec
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 02:25 PM

That works for me as well LEJ,I would venture to suggest that "Blaydon Races" has passed through stages 1 to 4c.(Albeit at a regional level)
As for songs that will pass through these stages,I suspect a goodly number created/popularised by Elvis,Dylan,(esp)The Beatles,Beach Boys & the Stones will go the distance.
BUT I think it's WAY to soon to do anything other than suspect this.
(I've always liked the Mao quote mentioned by Shimrod earlier,possibly the only perceptive statement ever made by a Leninist on the subject of History.)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 05:27 PM

I'd probably be livid too, 'Bubblyrat' ... but your point is?

'LonesomeEJ' - I think you're analysis is very interesting. I wish I could have that 100 year perspective on what's happening now.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 05:33 PM

yeh its dead, and bloody good shuts to it.....


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,doc.tom
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 04:00 AM

Late in the day perhaps, but would someone like to offer a definition of "folk process" in all this? "Traditional" is easy enough - it's defined by customary usage and other people's expectation (whether origin is known or not, but "folk", let alone "folk process"?
Tom


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Grab
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 05:01 AM

I don't actually see how much influence the existence of other versions has. Sure, they're around, but how many people are going to go back to find them? How many people will go hunting for a recording of Arthur Crudup doing "That's alright mama" when they have the Elvis version? If they're real completists then maybe, but most people won't. So the chances of everyone going back to the original are pretty slim, and hence the folk process will go along quite nicely with everyone changing a bit here and there as they prefer.

Incidentally, there's talk here like we're the first generation to ask this question. We're not - the first generation was the generation that invented the printing press and enabled cheap reproduction of sheet music, and that's been a few years back now. There's a whole bunch of people now looking back through the Bodleian and other archives to find the sources for some of these songs, but anyone could have done that at any time in the past, and they didn't. Even at the time, anyone could have asked around for the original broadsheets, but chances are that they didn't.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: bubblyrat
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 09:23 AM

To answer "Shimrod "-- My point is relevant to the thread topic,ie the Folk Process. My own personal view is that it would be best to leave folk-songs in as close to the original form in which they were learned and handed down as possible,in order to preserve their historical & cultural identity, which is often what makes them so interesting in the first place.If an artiste ( Martin Carthy is a good example ) is at pains to point out the subject matter,and the meanings of some of the more obscure terms used ,in a song which he is about to perform,then I am better able to understand what the song is all about, have been entertained,and have quite probably learned some interesting new facts about how people lived & worked in former times .I voiced an opinion about the otherwise admirable Mr.Sharp, inasmuch as I disagree with his decision to get messrs.Granger,Vaughan Williams ,& Holst ( ET AL ??)to add to,or alter,the tunes of many of the collected pieces, as I question his reasons for doing so !! I suspect that,as a trained musician himself, he couldn"t resist the temptation to "improve " the melodies !! And,to be honest, I suspect that this kind of adulteration continues to this day, in which case the "Folk Process " is very much ALIVE----But I don"t have to AGREE with it !!!!!


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scoville
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 09:33 AM

Grab--folk musicians will. The general public never has and never will care, but my experience has been that people who really like the music will seek out alternative and often less-commercialized versions. Furthermore, finding them is, if anything, getting easier since we now have the Internet, which not only makes it easier to search but makes it easier for people who have these resources to make them available to a wider consumer base.

Example: I (living in Texas) recently purchased a record by a commercially obscure Canadian fiddler on eBay, after having heard his music in a YouTube video. Fifteen years ago I *might* have heard about him (through friends who live further north, where they are more attuned to that fiddle culture) but it would have been nearly impossible for me to find recordings of him, and I don't like to buy recordings without hearing the musician first. Instead, it took me about three minutes to locate and purchase a limited-production CD. Bingo--market expansion.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Jim Martin
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 11:37 AM

Patrick Costello - are you the Pat Costello of Clare fm fame?

Welcome to 'Mudcat' anyway.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 12:30 PM

The paradoxical thing is that, if we who get too purist about tradition, we are setting ourselves against the folk process which is a fundamental aspect of that same tradition.

"would someone like to offer a definition of "folk process" For me it just means the way that songs get altered over time as they get sung around the place. Not necessarily for the better; but often enough a better song does emerge along the way.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Tim theTwangler
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 02:00 AM

Hello George.
What is afolk process matey?
And btw lovely songs see you later this year.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Gurney
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 02:28 AM

Well, I'm still doing it, folk processing I mean, more and more with advancing age.

Pat Cooksey has found more than 20 TITLES to his 'Paddy and the Bricks.'

Cyril Tawney always did it to his own songs, polishing them to economy.

Vin Garbutt has written (I'm told,) a new verse to an old song.

I would say that, if a singer is going to the trouble of learning a song, s/he would want a version that suits him/her. However, what has changed? Cecil Sharp House and suchlike institutions still have the originals for the scholar, so the singers will do what they like.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scrump
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 06:11 AM

I think many singers will change their own songs, adding a verse or changing the words, which is fair enough. I'm not so sure it's right for other singers to change the songs of other living writers, though, without the writer's consent. George gave some examples where others have changed his words, and he was happy with the changes and adopted them himself - that's fine.

But if someone changes the words to (say) a Ralph McTell song, because he thinks he has thought of some better words than Ralph's, or writes a new verse to it, without asking Ralph for approval first, it could be that the 'improved' version is not as good in the eyes of anyone apart from the 'changer', and that if Ralph were aware of it he would object. Does that count as the folk process, and would you approve of it? Or would you say the person changing the original song is doing something wrong in a case like this? Or doesn't it matter at all? I guess it would depend on the views of the original writer - or would it? Let's have your opinions please.

(I just used Ralph as an example, there's no significance in that - I'm not aware of this happening to any of his songs).

Just trying to get to the bottom of what the folk process is, and what is acceptable within it.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 06:41 AM

All this whingeing about presevation and protocol is all very well, but there is an inherent cruelty in turning away from the needs of the community to express itself, just preserve a load of old songs.

It is hard to know what many of these songs are about. The modes of expression demanded are strangely reminiscent of Michael Palin's public school tradition's in Ripping Yarns ('How I longed to be a fourth year and have one leg untied on Tuesdays')

i think the writing was on the wall thirty years ago when Ian Campbell's kids became reggae singers. Presumably they went to folk club, heard what Dad was up to and were put off by this tidal wave of hogwash. the English obsession with pre first world war values found resonances amongst the geriatrics who voted for Thatcher.

It was said the C of E is the middle class at prayer. I suppose we are the middle classes on camping holiday or something.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Wolfgang
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 07:24 AM

I come from a different tradition where the no known author definition would be useless. I don't know why the difference, but the authors of our even more than 500 years old folksongs are often known. Noone over here would for instance not call Die Lorelei a folksong just because the author is known.

It is a folksong because I knew it and could sing it before I even cared or knew whether the song had a known author or not. I learned it orally without any recollection when and from whom. If that is true for a song for a significant percentage of the population it is a folksong in my mind.

The no known author definition has one more disadvantage in my mind: If a researcher would find in an obscure library an old document giving the name of the author to a song that previously had no known author would that mean that that song has to be removed from the folk song corpus henceforth?

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 07:31 AM

I suppose its good to know there are places where they are even crazier than we are.

Someone wrote those songs - they didn't appear by magic.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 08:47 AM

'Bubblyrat',

I have to say that I was particularly pissed off when, about 25 - 30 years ago, the old songs were hi-jacked by rock musicians - who also thought that they could 'improve' them.

And, yet again, to WLD. Us 'purists' are a teeeny-tiiiny, microscopically small, miniscule minority. If the 'Folk Process' decides to get underway again (if it ever stopped - I'm not sure) there's nothing we could do to stop it, even if we wanted to. Please feel free to start a new movement more relevant to today. I certainly won't stand in your way - good luck, God speed and bon voyage! Why if I find it exciting, and it appeals to my imagination, I might even join you!


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Mooh
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 09:16 AM

Short answer...No.

Even if armageddon nearly destroys everything but some part of folk is rediscovered by some distant future archeologist and revived, the folk process continues. It can be stopped and restarted because of our obsession with preservation by recording everything in every possible way.

It is not dead now because folks everywhere are still passing culture around. I do it, my friends do it, and there are fantastic networks of folks doing it online, offline, in jams, lessons, gigs, sessions, and in media. It's old-fashioned and new-fangled all at once.

Last summer I participated in teaching children a song while playing on a beach in a way which could have been done since the dawn of music. I knew the song from having been taught by my parents decades ago in the same rural area. Last week I participated in learning a song with the band with the aid of the internet. It's fast and ignores geography, but it's the folk process.

The folk process isn't just old, it's new, now, current, and future. It doesn't die.

Folk is dead they say, long live folk.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 09:24 AM

Most of the time it isn't about people consciously changing the songs, isn't about them singing them as they remember them, and the way they remember them isn't quite the way they heard them, because memory is like that. Or perhaps it's the way they did hear them, but the person singing the song had done the misremembering.

Or it's a matter of someone reconstructing a line or a verse because they can't remember how it went, or the person they heard it from couldn't remember.

That's why the word is "process" - it's what happens whether you want it to or not. Like the process of growing older.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Terry McDonald
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 11:02 AM

The C of E is traditionally the Conservative Party, rather than the middle class,
at Prayer........


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scrump
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 11:16 AM

That's why the word is "process" - it's what happens whether you want it to or not. Like the process of growing older.

I don't think I agree that a process is always something that happens whether you want it to or not. A process can equally well be something under your control, to happen when you want it to, or not if you don't.

But obviously growing older is something we don't have control over, I can't argue with that (I wish I could!)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 12:02 PM

I just wish there were some songs about how I lived, and my parents - instead of this stuff about 4 loom weavers, recruiting sergeants, pretty ploughboys, and of course the first world war - rivetting as though subjects are.

I just feel my generation never made the slightest attempt to make a contribution to folk song. we are as ones whose name were writ on water, as JK said - something like that anyway.

What will mark our passing? The fact that we didn't let hurdy gurdy tunes go the wall, a memory of Ewan singing The Dowie Dens of Yarrow,
Tony Capstick singing Bonny Bunch of Roses, Bill Caddick singing The Writing of Tiperary, Gerry Lockran singing No Cane on the Brazos....I'm glad I saw it all.

But it doesn't explain, express or even record the times I lived through.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scoville
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 12:09 PM

So, what are you doing about it?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Grab
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 12:31 PM

Grab--folk musicians will. The general public never has and never will care, but my experience has been that people who really like the music will seek out alternative and often less-commercialized versions.

Now we get onto defining the word "folk musician". :-/ I doubt most of the people we now call "source singers" or who C#, Alan Lomax and others recorded would have called themselves "folk musicians" before the folk community got hold of them. They were simply people who sung songs that they'd heard from other people. I think that as long as people still learn songs from each other (and particularly from parents) rather than from CDs, that's going to keep going, whether they think they're folk musicians or not.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 01:24 PM

Scoville, If I could find something that would work and confront the general malaise, I suspect I would have done by now.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 01:39 PM

"I just wish there were some songs about how I lived, and my parents"

There are, even if they seem to have passed you by. Start a thread looking for them maybe?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scoville
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 02:52 PM

Or write your own.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scrump
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 02:53 PM

I can sympathise with WLD's complaint about the lack of songs about 21st century life for ordinary folk, but as McGrath says, there are some around. Maybe not as many as you would like, but they do exist.

I keep meaning to write some - goodness knows there's enough material to use.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: BB
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 03:11 PM

I think it's quite reasonable to make small changes in songs whose writer is known, especially if they are written to be sung as 'folk songs'. As far as I am concerned, that means that anyone can change a song so that they feel comfortable with it, which is what 'folk' singers have always done. Perhaps if songwriters don't feel happy with that, they should write pop or classical songs instead!

George has already stated that it doesn't worry him - even that it pleases him. How do other songwriters feel about it?

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 03:12 PM

I'd take it "how I lived, and my parents" would be primarily about 20th Century life rather than 21st century life.

More modern songs sometimes can be misplaced in time by peoplem hearingnwhat they expect to hear. I remember one time when I sang a song of mine about growing up in the war and its aftermath, and a man conme up afterwards sayingt he'd liked it - and the going in to say "there's some great songs about teh Furst World War". And that's true, and I was flattered that he thought to rank mine as one of them - but the war I'd been singing about was the Second Wolrd War.

There are great songs about the Second World War, and the wars we've had since and are having now, and about life "between the wars", to quote Billy Bragg (and people always think that song of his just means the 20s and 30s, which is another example of how songs can get misplaced in time).


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 03:22 PM

I dunno they all seem to be about stuff dying off - like Bernie Parry's Man of the Soil, or Connolly's The Punch and Judy Man. I'm not saying that stuff wasn't going on. But wasn't it mainly about what was dying off - rather than all the things and events that swept us along.

Such efforts have been made to make the sound and the forms archaic, I'm not sure the language exists. I know I searched for it, but I never found it.

I think maybe I was a bit like the Ulster poet Louis MacNeice. Alan Bennet said of him, he never went off at the deep end so he didn't make much of a splash. Perhaps if I'd been a pissed off intellectual like Rosselson, or a punk like Billy Bragg. But I never had that attitude.

Like alot of other common men, the folk revival bypassed me and my life. And that's why we have this thread, and many of us feel uneasy about the basic worthwhileness of the artform that we gave a lot of our efforts in life to.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Tim theTwangler
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 05:39 PM

Arent your own songs reflective of the period yo have lived though(so far )WLD?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 06:42 PM

One or two perhaps - most of the best ones are just silly. Just lately I've got into poncy guitar based things.

They don't really come close to expressing the round of shit jobs, shit circumstances, crap relationships (and I'm not just talking about man/woman things), tough decisions, and betrayals of honour that modern life imposes on most of us.

You write what you can. What is that TS Eliot says, I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be......

I don't think it was given to me to be the great writer. I do get the feeling though that not too many people have tried, not enough. And those byways with that take us before the guns at Waterloo, before the mast with Nelson, rollicking away in a jaunting car, or sharing a cuppa with the Tommies before going over the top on the Somme........they are just so much more enchanting than the present, and the truths offered by those times so much more substantial.

What if the four loom weavers etc had never written songs about their lives. Wouldn't they think us sad cases if we told them we had nothing to sing of in our lives?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 06:58 PM

Some songs reflective of the Vietnam War era which have (I believe) long-term folk potential...
Sam Stone by John Prine
Get Together by Jessie Colin Young
My Uncle by Gram Parsons

Of these, the most specific to the time is My Uncle, which references "a letter came today from the Draft Board" and the recipient's plan to head for the nearest foreign border, saying "Vancouver may be just my kind of town". Even today in the era of a Volunteer Army, the memory of receiving "greetings" in the mail strikes a chord only for those of us who are 50 or older, and running away to Canada seems like a strange concept, so the topical references may rule out transition to tradition, even though it has a snappy bluegrass beat.

Several songs off of Steve Earle's "The Revolution Starts Now" also have potential as regards the Iraq War. I believe there are plenty of songs being produced that have survival potential, even popular songs by popular artists.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 07:17 PM

Maybe there's a built in tendency for songs in our part of the musical forest to tend be looking back at the parts of our world that have just gone or are going, and to celebrate them or lament them.

But that's as true where the songs are set in our own times - think of Cyril Tawney's songs, which were right up to date. It's a matter of mood, not chronology.

Generally the best songs very often often tend to be about hard times. But in spite of Stephen Foster's song, hard times do come again, and the songs that come out of them help us get through them.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 07:48 PM

I would be extremely complemented if someone decided to change a song that I wrote but I would be angry if someone tried to claim authorship for it and start collecting royalties. Pete Seeger changed "If I Had a Hammer" and did it the way Peter Paul and Mary had changed it. He did their version and gave up his own.

The most important aspect of a folk song in my opinion is its accessibility. Some folk songs may deserve to be forgotten because they no longer serve the needs of the community where they were written. They have become archaic and require so many footnotes, historically that the intro to the song takes more time than the song itself to perform. Some folk songs will become "Art Songs" if they are musically and poetically interesting and find their way to the stage. Some will become popular songs (not likely today). But the need to sing them defines their life expectancy. One reason I got into folk is that it has an obvious "social" aspect to it. It can be shared informally and not rarified as with a concert art song. It breaks down the barrier between the stage performer and the audience.

To try to do a song as it was done through imitation risks the performer coming off phony or not true to him/herself. (I cringe when I hear young white kids trying to sound "soulful" or see college students in overhauls with handlebar mustaches and patchy jeans trying to be "old time". )

I think that folk music already has adapted because people are making the music for themselves. The tunes are not far-off or esoteric and when they are inclusive through singing choruses and recognition. There are musical traditions that are being carried out today by those who respect those traditions and understand them. Up in New England, they get together to sing sea chanteys and add some new songs to the repitiore. They still have Sacred Harp sings throughout the country. Spirituals are still being sung, some recently composed and others older in that tradition. There's the blues...still goes on.

There are "folk-style" songs being written by people who are sensitive to that tradition.
(Merle Travis "Dark As A Dungeon", Jean Ritchie "The L and N Don't Stop Here Anymore"
and Woody, Prine, Dylan and others capture the spirit of "folk".

The biggest obstacle to what happens to the "folk process" is the penchant for academic types to attempt to define what is the real deal and they miss the forest for the trees.
I think of Leadbelly (who most of you know) who loved the way Richard Dyer-Bennett performed his art song versions of folk. Maybe John Henry was off stylistically when Dyer-Bennett performed it, but most of his work was lovely and introduced new audiences to the content of folk, musically and lyrically. In that sense, he carried the folk tradition forward.

You would have to say that for the Kingston Trio although many would consider that in a disdainful manner as breaching the "purity". Well, there is no purity. There is no pure human being as well as the songs they sing. Something we hear in a song comes from something else.

What is dead however is the conception of what folk has been due to its commerciality and popularization through the music industry. Folk music is not an "image". That's just the show business part. The music carries its own weight because it has a value that moves people and makes it identifiable and lives on as a result. People want to recreate it.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 08:01 PM

Excellent post Frank.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Ref
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 10:20 PM

Ah! I love academic folkies! A few years ago at Old Songs, Ian Robb and Finestkind did their lovely a capella version of The farmer's Boy on Friday night and at least twice in big workshops on Saturday. Ian talked about it being his father's favorite song, one he'd heard in music halls as a boy, and how, havong acyually been a Yorkshire "farmer's boy", would chortle at the thought of any Yorkshire farmer treating such a lad with anything approaching human warmth. On Sunday afternoon at the mainstage, some local, self-styled "authority' crept out on stage with her guitar and talked about this song she was going to sing that had "been COLLECTED in the Adirondacks in the late nineteen forties" and how no one could explain where it came from. She started into a rather mournful version of The Farmer's Boy and the deer-in-the-headlights look she had when half the audience swung lustily into the chorus was priceless. Don't look now, but while you guys and gals are deconstructing the folk process, it's going on all around you!


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 11:26 PM

I was wondering what that low rumble was.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scrump
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 04:48 AM

To reply to Barbara's post above: I would have thought it depends on the nature of the changes.

George has said he was happy for small changes to be made to his songs, but would he have been so happy if someone made substantial changes, maybe rewriting a couple of verses and perhaps changing the meaning?

Any of us could add verses to a song, or rewrite a verse, etc., but what we change may not be as good as the original version. I'm not sure where you would draw the line between 'acceptable' and 'unacceptable' changes, but I would have thought it was at least implicit that the author of the original song would have to give his/her approval to such changes (as George has done in his examples).

I've made minor changes to other people's songs but in each case I've sought the author's approval (and happily, got it). I feel happier singing the song if I do this - I'd feel I was taking liberties otherwise. But I don't know if everyone else would bother, or care about this?

I guess some songwriters would care more about changes to their songs than others. After all, if a songwriter has put a lot of effort into honing a song, he/she might feel a bit miffed to discover somebody had changed it without their knowledge. Some songwriters might not care at all, some might not want any changes made at all, while others may be somewhere in between.

Of course all this only applies to living writers. If a song's author is known, but is dead, then maybe it doesn't matter as much (or does it? should you consult their family or something?). And for traditional songs by unknown authors (or Seth Lakeman of course) it would be fair game to change anything you like.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Sugwash
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 06:09 AM

I guess that people have always made changes to songs, either intentionally or unintentionally. It doesn't damage the original song; we're not breaking into the Lourve and defacing the Mona Lisa, we're Photoshopping a copy of it.

I've changed the odd trad song in my time. I didn't like the ending of 'The Gallant Brigantine', a promising story that fizzled out in my opinion, so I made up my own ending. I don't try to pass it off as the original, or rather the version that is best known, who knows what the original version was like.

Shakespeare plays are constantly adapted or interpreted, classical music the same; the original versions survive. I think it was Martin Carthy who said "It's a difficult tradition to damage" or words to that effect.

I recently sang a song I written to a friend. He didn't record it at the time, but some months later he did and the 'folk process' had subtley altered the tune — for the better I'd say.

Troublesome word folk, perhaps we should just call it the process. Anyhow, to answer George's question: no, it's not dead, it's a fiesty old bugger that'll see most of us off.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Elaine
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 07:01 AM

Could it not be that "Folk Process" and "Tradition" are not exactly the same thing, that perhaps they could be viewed as a simple Vin diagram with a huge overlapping area, but not a complete eclipse of one over the other?

Tradition could be frozen in the past in such a view, but a part of the folk process would not be. And it is obvious that there are areas where the folk process is still strongly at work, and not particularly collectable in the instant, such as military training chants and schoolyard games and songs that pop up with a degree of spontaneity and may or may not catch on and spread with multiple variants.

Admittedly, I haven't read this entire fascinating thread yet, though I will eventually, so this may have already been put forth. Please forgive me if I'm repeating an idea expressed already.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Mr Red who collects songs (more than one!)
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 07:26 AM

No


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 10:06 AM

Elaine - you are exactly right. the tradition informs and inspires and occasionally stultifies the folk process.

To devote your life to honouring and trying to play the tradition is laudable - and probably as demanding as trying to be an opera singer

But its not the whole folk process, which is to do with people writing about their lives using all sorts of techniques and whatever they feel they need to express themselves..

Don't be just a guest, we need some more people with your point of view.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 11:47 AM

"Tradition" and "the Folk Process" - it's not so much that they overlap, but rather that they are interdependent. Yin and Yang, two sides of the same coin. Position and velocity.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Elaine Green
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 07:11 PM

Thank, weelittledrummer! After casting around a bit I did finally figure out how to sign up. I'm Elaine Green. I tried to sign up as simply elaine, as that's what my few meager posts as a guest were done as, but y'all already have one of those. Glad to be here! I've been enjoying reading posts here for quite a while.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 07:27 PM

Welcome, Elaine. New members always welcome, and for me that goes double form people who choose to use a real name.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 07:49 PM

To interject a little heresy into this conversation, I submit that some rap music could be folk music in process. The idea of a narrative in rhythm depicting the lives of contemporary society has its roots in African-American and African traditions. The Griot of Africa might be a ancestor of the modern sidewalk rapper. You can hear the sounds of Fela Anikulapo Kouti as a bridge between the modern rapper and earlier forms of Afro-speech in song.

Bling and commerciality aside, there is a case to be made that record scratching by DJ's is a folk art and so too the rappers that don't make the charts but are in the community. Now, rap is an international expression.

Hey, you don't have to like all folk music if you don't like rap. But folkies can use an open mind sometime.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Mooh
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 08:54 PM

Frank..."folkies can use an open mind sometimes"? Okay, agreed and I like to be reminded, but compared to rappers? Geez, the rap folks I've encountered have been too willing to promote violence and hate to be considered open minded.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Elaine Green
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 09:41 PM

I think Frank is right, though, in spite of my agreement with Mooh also about many rappers and the tradition of violence.

I do think that tradition (rapping) has fairly genteel beginnings, though, in spite of what it has let itself become. Its roots are as folk as calypso and mento and Carribean toasting, as well as the examples Frank mentioned. Like most all genres it's probably about 95% horrific and 5% good to great. I think folkies (and I'm one, though I do try to keep an open mind) don't much like it because so much of it has essentially dispensed with melody and is considerably more vulgar than we're used to. I like melody, and while I like some minor vulgarity, I prefer it in small doses and not sexist.

That 5%, though, has (wait for it, wait for it) gotten a bad rap, by association. But look, there are probably 100 Avril Langnappe or whatever her name is for every Sheryl Crow, and that doesn't make all rock music bad; and the Serendipity Singer types were a lot more popular than the Leadbellies and the Guthries, and that doesn't make all so-called folk music bad.

Okay, I'm babbling, so I'll stop now.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: mousethief
Date: 02 Feb 07 - 12:01 AM

I'm with those who say the folk process will only be dead when the "OH MY GOD DON'T CHANGE ANYTHING" types have killed it. But presumably there will always be people like me (and others here) who will keep chipping away at the edges.

A friend of mine, who should know better, who does what she calls "Old Timey Music", once criticized me for taking liberties with "The Fox". Well, I learned it from a book, and my sight-reading sucks, so the melody was a little different from what she was used to. I like it. People I've sung it for that "don't know any better" like it. Why isn't that part of the "folk process" too?

Also, to people who don't like PPM or the Kingston Trio because they're too polished: good grief. Find a hobby or something.

O..O
=o=


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Feb 07 - 01:40 AM

Ah well...

My family is about as deep into performing traditional music as it is possible to be, and not a one of us has the least belief that the folk process is dead.

Consider the example of human evolution. When lifespans were shorter, people married in early teens, had children and died early. Evolution was faster, then. Imagine that the human lifespan, and our reproductive cycle, doubled in some future reality, as it has doubled in the last 200 years. Evolution would be slower yet.

My daughter sings "Muleskinner's Blues" the way she heard Odetta sing it. Most local performers sing it the way Bill Monroe sang it, except that most of them don't have copies of Bill Monroe's version. They change the arrangement and confuse the lyrics. Few have actually heard Jimmie Rodgers' original version, though it is available on CD.

It is as if the song were an organism that has found hosts in the singers of Appalachia. It is evolving and surviving. In the days before recorded music the lifespan of a particular performance was much shorter, and evolution was faster, but the process seems the same.

I have heard, in the past 3 months, five different performances of the Child Ballad "Geordie." Heaven knows why this classic has come out of dormancy now, but it has. With no definitive performance on CD, I don't doubt that the folk process is vigorously at work. Like some tough microorganism the song is living, multiplying, reproducing.

Folk music, in general and the ballads in particular, are very tough organisms indeed. I doubt that the entire World Health Organization could wipe out "Barbary Allen" in our lifetime.

Considering other songs, there is a "Dixie" eradication program at work in many settings. I doubt that we can find every carrier, so there will probably be an outbreak of "Dixie" sometime in the future.

The truth is that the folk process is a part of the core complement of lawful processes of human existence that seem to fit biological patterns. We fool ourselves when we suppose that basic, well-understood processes are no longer active.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Gurney
Date: 02 Feb 07 - 02:50 AM

Mousethief, I'd say that the erudite folkies are more likely to carefully listen to a changed version of an old song, and then buttonhole you later and sing you 3 or 4 variants of that song. Whether you want them to or not.
I doesn't seem to happen on Wolfgang's scene, but the British tradition is largely recorded by collectors, from oral sources, and then bowdlerised to remove the naughty bits, and consequently there are few 'original' traditional songs, just several folk-processed variants.

On second thoughts, I suppose it depends on your local pedants, really.
Bowdler was an English vicar and song collector. So was Spooner a vicar. What these clerics will do to be remembered.....


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Feb 07 - 10:23 AM

Mooh, compare the topics covered in rap with the stuff that goes on in traditional ballads. People have always had a horny, thieving, bloody-minded dark side - and folk music, from Child Ballads to Ice T, has always found a way to celebrate our basic earthiness in one way or another.

-Patrick


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 02 Feb 07 - 10:43 AM

Pretty clearly rap comes out of a folk tradition, or rather, a combination of folk traditions. Whether people like particular examples of it, or even the whole genre, is irrelevant. "Folk" isn't another word for "good", still less for "pleasant".

There are folk traditions in which the central element is passing on songs and music that has been formed already, and traditions where the central element is improvising within certain recognised patterns, verbal or musical. The two elements - continuity and innovation - are always present, but the balance can be very different.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Mooh
Date: 02 Feb 07 - 11:46 AM

Guest Patrick...I knew someone would mention that. Folk songs of violence don't preach it and are more often (note I said more often, not always) third person narratives rather than first person pronouncements.

All music is derivative so it stands to reason there's a relationship between folk and rap but that doesn't excuse rap of its violent tendencies, not does it make rap folk.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 02 Feb 07 - 12:42 PM

Having violent tendencies doesn't make something a folk song, and it doesn't stop it being a folk song.

That kind of argument is much the same as if someone were to say that a picture in front of them couldn't possibly be a photograph, because it showed something nasty happening, or even that it appeared the person taking the photo approved of the nasty stuff that was happening.

There's no use in trying to argue in a circle: "That song preaches violence. Folk songs don't preach violence. So that song can't possibly be a folk song."


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 02 Feb 07 - 01:29 PM

The element that will keep most rap out of the folk process is the lack of a tune. Broomfield Hill and Knoxville Girl were passed along not because of the fascinating aspects of homicide involved, but because you could hum the melody. The music becomes a memory aid and organizer. Most rap is beat related.
An example of a violent rap song...

Ludacris - Cry Babies (Oh No)

I caught him with a blow to the chest
My hollow put a hole in his vest
I'm bout to send two to his dome
Cry babies go home!
I just bought some new guns my mama said "it ain't worth it"
But I'm at the shooting range just cause
practice makes perfect
(from Word of Mouf, Defjam, 2001)

This points out another problem with rap. While the lyrics provoke an immediate gut response, there is no story line that can be grabbed hold of. It's as if Stagger Lee had not been written as the tale of a murder recounted by an observer, but as a diatribe by Stagger Lee himself about how bad he is. It might be shocking, and maybe you can dance to it, but I'd bet a dollar no body will remember this thing in 15 years, much less 150.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Mooh
Date: 02 Feb 07 - 01:43 PM

Lonesome EJ..."Lack of tune", that's it in a nutshell.

McGrath of Harlow...I'm not sure what your 12:42 post refers to, except I'm pretty sure it's not in reference to my previous one. PM perhaps?

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 03 Feb 07 - 11:22 AM

My post wasn't directed at anyone, but the argument arose out of points made in previous posts, including yours, Mooh.

My point was, the question of whether something is "folk" is quite separate from other questions, such as whether it a song we might wish to sing or wish to listen to. Saying that isn't an attempt to dismiss such questions as insignificant or wrongheaded.

I can think of a fair number of songs, that no one would deny are folk songs, which I do not like, or might even actively dislike. I suspect most of us could say the same, though we might (or might not in some cases) passionately disagree about which these were.
..................................

Lack of tune? Talking Blues don't have much of a tune. If that means they aren't properly called songs, that's fine - but if that was extended to imply they are part of our folk music tradition, I'd disagree.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 03 Feb 07 - 12:15 PM

My post wasn't directed at anyone, but the argument arose out of points made in previous posts, including yours, Mooh.

My point was, the question of whether something is "folk" is quite separate from other questions, such as whether it a song we might wish to sing or wish to listen to. Saying that isn't an attempt to dismiss such questions as insignificant or wrongheaded.

I can think of a fair number of songs, that no one would deny are folk songs, which I do not like, or might even actively dislike. I suspect most of us could say the same, though we might (or might not in some cases) passionately disagree about which these were.
..................................

Lack of tune? Talking Blues don't have much of a tune. If that means they aren't properly called songs, that's fine - but if that was extended to imply they are not part of our folk music tradition, I'd disagree.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: RTim
Date: 03 Feb 07 - 03:48 PM

The Folk Process.

I would like to tell you of what Frank Purslow wrote on an LP insert in 1975, and was recently re-issued on CD (on Forest Tracks Records) about a version of a song that I recorded - ie. The Saucy Sailor Boy. (on Folk Songs From Dorset)

"These are Mrs. Gulliver's words, but the very fine tune in the mixolydian mode (which was almost certainly pentatonic - minus 2nd & 6th degrees) is from Tim's own repertoire of tunes. This particular one he heard many years ago at Sidmouth and "it just stuck".
Should you feel this is cheating, I can only point out that singers have been altering tunes and texts and changing the relationship of tunes and texts for centuries: it is, in fact, an essential part of the "folk process" {HIS quotes} and is the main difference between art music which is always performed as conceived by the original composer - and folk music - which depends upon continual re-creation (regeneration or degeneration as the case may be) at the hands of each performer.
The usual type of tune to which this song is sung is not, in fact, very English: a heavily accented 3 / 4 obviously inspired by the landler type tunes beloved of the German bands which used to be a regular feature of 19th century towns. I do not think the words are of very great age, probably not earlier than the 1830's. The broadside texts I have seen are all of a fairly late date."

That is the quote in total. I think it explains The Folk Process.

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 03 Feb 07 - 05:01 PM

Lonesome EJ and Mooh,

I don't care for rap music much. I agree that it concentrates on violence. But there are plenty of spoken (not sung) rhythmic examples of folk music from Africa and other places.
The Talking Blues is a home-grown version. (No melody).

As to the violence...check out the Scot's Edward Ballad, American's Duncan and Brady or even T for Texas, Pretty Polly....they don't exactly advocate peace.

Alan Lomax had a theory that the American bloody ballads had an element of titilation for the singers which smoothed it over with a prosaic moral preachment at the end.

As to the tunes in folk music, some of them are dull. Some are beautiful in their simplicity. Some pretty tunes get turned into easilly sung monotous ones.

The big problem with the idea of a Folk Process has more to do with the "Image" of the performer than the material itself. What seems to be "dead" now is caracature of the folk musician. The music will live on. Not all songs can be "concert" art songs, jazz tunes or arias. Some have to be re-written, re-sung and re-introduced away from the stultifying sameness of the performances of artists on the media. Not that these performances are bad, it's that they offer no alternatives. Folk musicians do.

In time, there will probably be "variants" of many songs that are sung today in its original form. Some variants will be improvements and some not. Rap as part of popular culture has to be a part of this.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Mooh
Date: 03 Feb 07 - 05:57 PM

Agreed about spoken "songs" etc, but as for whether they're rap...

Anyway, I'm curious, does the rap community consider rap a form of folk?

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: John of the Hill
Date: 03 Feb 07 - 11:12 PM

I think that if you are hearing 'folk' in rap music it is a mondegreen.

John


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Eric the Streetsinger
Date: 03 Feb 07 - 11:40 PM

I don't see much evidence of a folk process here in Arizona. People don't sing to each other except at Karioke bars, where the folk tradition is short circuited by having "canned" music and follow the bouncing ball lyrics on a TV screen. The few places where you can see live music usually have folks from New Jersey dressed as cowboys playing music with pre-recorded rhythm tracks and Fake books - so they can get it "right" (meaning as recorded so the tourists will leave big tips!) Kind of horrible. Our pop culture seems bent on leaving behind anything of worth and replacing it with campy trash or "original" music which steals from the tradition without understanding it. I hope there are pockets of culture where people still sing traditional songs to each other, and sing them often enough to take ownership and add/subtract lyrics, modify melodies, etc.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Feb 07 - 04:11 AM

no.
it is evolving,people may pass on material through different mediums,eg learning a tune aurally recorded on a mobile phone.
I taught someone a tune by this method 5 days ago.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 04 Feb 07 - 05:56 AM

Wow, the discussion has moved apace; sorry, I am out of contact with only intermittent internet access. LEJ, good description of the steps of the process; I tried to challenge it in my mind, but failed - it seems to fit all examples I can think of. Scrump, beyond a certain amount of change, the song could be deemed to have a new variant, which could be attributable to whoever made those changes. A little bit like parodies can be attributed to the latter writer, even though a nod is given toward the original. And the two variants can co-exist without a problem, I think.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Feb 07 - 07:47 AM

So is LITTLE BOY BILLEE[written by w m thackeray]and performed by singer songwriter/traditional singer Bob Roberts, a variation of a traditional song or a new song in its own right[it also has a different melody].


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Feb 07 - 07:56 AM

THE SHIP IN DISTRESS,was the song I had in mind


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Alec
Date: 04 Feb 07 - 08:48 AM

Much as we all carry the DNA of our parents,a song could be said to carry the "DNA" of its "parents" also,so I would say the example you cite IS a new song in its own right but is a "child" of the original.
It also has the potential,given time, to become a traditional song in its own right.
This is all part & parcel of the Folk process.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 04 Feb 07 - 08:53 AM

Eric-

Aren't there places in Arizona where people just get together--not to make money-- but just to sing and play things they know--or think they do--without reading them out of books? Music parties, jam sessions or similar?

I would think that's where the folk tradition is more likely to carry on--people just singing things the way they think they go--and likely, as a result, changing the words, and possibly the melodies.

Seems to happen around here. (DC area)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Feb 07 - 11:32 AM

There is a jam starting up in Arizona you can find more info here - and typing your zip come into folkjam will probably turn up something close to home in other states.

-Patrick


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: BB
Date: 04 Feb 07 - 01:14 PM

I would never think of 'Ship in Distress' and 'Little Boy Billee' as being variations of the same song, and I doubt that Thackeray did either, if he even knew 'Ship in Distress'. Just because a song has similar subject matter doesn't mean that they are variants of the same song. I think there needs to be far more in common than, in this instance, the possibility of surviving on a ship by intending to eat a fellow member of the crew! That is the *only* thing in common, surely?

I'm sure folklorists somewhere would be able to define what makes a 'variant' - it's certainly not the tune - I think that's something of a red herring.

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Seiri Omaar
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 09:37 PM

It can be the tune. But my brain is failing to come up with an example. How annoying. Mooh?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 06 Feb 07 - 03:37 AM

Isn't this thread a part of the folk process?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 06 Feb 07 - 09:03 AM

Its depends how you see the folk process. To my mind Vanity Fair has been filmed and the story told so many times - and different slants given to the Becky, George, Dobbin and Amy charcters so many times - really its part of our folk culture.

Its probably a bigger part, of peoples consciousness than stuff in the folk process proper.

And I think if you're a working artist as the people who write folksongs have to be, that is what you must concern yourself with.

Leave the rest to the archivers and librarians - god help 'em. I shan't.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 04 Mar 08 - 01:25 PM

The "Folk Process" has been compared to biological evolution--and there are good reasons for accepting that comparison. Don't forget, though, that, in biological evolution, most mutations have no survival benefits, and, in fact, don't survive. The Folk Process isn't just about change, it's also about survival.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,squeezy
Date: 04 Mar 08 - 07:00 PM

Absolutely Dick, I was trained in Genetics and evolution and have often noticed the similarities between inherited traits in biology and the development of traditional music over the generations.

One thing I will add is that the size of a population generally is critical to it's survival - too small and the chance of adapting to it's surroundings is greatly reduced because the chance of a change or "mutation" being beneficial is proportional to the number of organisms existing at the time.

If they are the same, then that means that too few people interpreting folk traditions will make it less likely that the tradition will change in a way which appeals to modern sensibilities and therefore it will thrive less - a vicious circle of decline? That is why I'm of the school of thought that thinks that anyone getting the bug for traditional music is a bonus whether or not you personally like the way they're doing it! I think that the two worst things you can do are a) wrap the tradition up in a bubble and say it cannot be changed because it was collected at one point in history or b) disapprove of anyone trying their arm at folk music if their interpretation doesn't appeal to you at first.

You can take this analogy quite a long way and say that just like the species that have lived virtually unchanged for millenia (e.g. crocodiles), there are traditional works who's very design (whether designed from scratch or evolved over time) means that they have survived virtually unchanged despite multiple passings from mouth to ear.

The only thing that falls down in this discussion is that only in the last 100 or so years have we been able to listen back to the earliest recordings of traditional music - something which was never possible before and certainly slows down the natural evolution of traditional music while people are constantly put under pressure to constantly refer to it as "the right way to go about things"


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: redsnapper
Date: 04 Mar 08 - 07:17 PM

Absolutely Dick, I was trained in Genetics and evolution and have often noticed the similarities between inherited traits in biology and the development of traditional music over the generations.

Funny... I was also trained in genetics and evolution and had missed that! ( ; > ) )

RS


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 05 Mar 08 - 08:55 AM

One of Cecil Sharp's greatest contribution to folk song studies, apart from the huge amount of material that he collected, is possibly his insight that folk songs were subject to an evolutionary process.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Keinstein
Date: 05 Mar 08 - 09:31 AM

in biological evolution, most mutations have no survival benefits, and, in fact, don't survive. The Folk Process isn't just about change, it's also about survival.

So's biological evolution, even more so. As squeezy points out, though, because music can get set down (whether in script or recording), it can get redevelop long after its original environment has been destroyed. I'd compare this to cyst formation in bacteria- they can survive for hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of years in a dormant state.

Going further with the analogy, look out for the "gene"'s "strategies" to survive by mutation to exploit a new environment (folk rock?), symbiotic association (with beer and a laid back lifestyle perhaps in the UK?), incorporation in another genome (Vaughan Williams?) etc. Even ensuring replication by being controversial in the sense of "what's really traditional" is a "strategy" to get quoted, and therefore perpetuated.

But then Richard Dawkins and Susan Blackmore have had a lot to say about this kind of thing as regards selfish genes and memetics.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 05 Mar 08 - 09:50 AM

Squeezy said: "The only thing that falls down in this discussion is that only in the last 100 or so years have we been able to listen back to the earliest recordings of traditional music - something which was never possible before and certainly slows down the natural evolution of traditional music while people are constantly put under pressure to constantly refer to it as "the right way to go about things" ".

I had never thought of that, but as soon as you said it it hit me between the eyes. Quite an effect, too. It means that evolution is being in a sense hamstrung by the fact that we can listen to the old interpretations - well, not so much by that, but rather because of the resulting rise of "religious observance" of old styles of interpretation.

But this must have other effects also, some even counteracting the above; for example, the wider access to the various interpretations must surely mean that the critical population sizes now can be much smaller than before.

In other words, the methods of musical evoilution are themselves evolving. Even as we speak/write.

My brain hurts... Off to Oz.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 05 Mar 08 - 10:22 AM

Sorry, I've not read the whole thread & apologise if this has been said before, re tunes.

Years ago when I was first learning the squeezer, as I didn't read music, I'd try to remember tunes I'd heard in sessions but I'd often mis-remember them & end up playing snatches of one or more tunes in the same performance.

Sometimes, if others didn't know what I was trying to play would ask the name, or say 'that sounds like so & so'.

In this way evolved some original 'compositions' which I still play, even though I've now mastered the originals.

I guess this may be part of the reason a lot've sessh tunes can sound quite similar, possibly via others' misremembering?

A similar phenomenon happened last night when 'er indoors was doing her fiddle practice.

She can ply from the dots but lately is trying to play without them, so as to play more easily in seshes.

She started off with the A part of Fanny Power then played the B part of South Wind!

I'm going to try this 'new' composition at the sesh tonight, if no-one notices, I could claim it as an 'original'!

Not sure about the title though, 'Wind Power?'

What you think?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 05 Mar 08 - 10:41 AM

Hello Squeezy. Funnily enough I was trained in Evolutionary Biology as well (Richard Dawkins, no less, was one of my lecturers!) and the analogy you make is one I've often considered myself. As is the similarities between the fossil record and the patchy nature of folk song collection.

However I have to quarrel with both you and George about the "religious observance of old styles of interpretation". Several people in the folk revival who I admired made a point, early in my singing career, of opening my ears to the early recordings of traditional singing, but I don't remember anyone ever saying that these were "the right way to go about things". Rather, they were worth listening to in their own right, while at the same time offering stylistic points that could be learned from, as opposed to slavishly copied. No-one was a greater proseletyser for studying traditional recordings than Peter Bellamy, yet his own style was entirely individualistic - mainly because he absorbed all kinds of different influences, including blues and Appalachian balladry, alongside Sam Larner and Harry Cox, and mixed them all up with a large chunk of rock'n'roll attitude and his own flamboyant personality.

It's true that constant referral to recordings from the first seventy or so years of the twentieth century, as if they represented the definition of traditional style rather than merely a random snapshot of it, could conceivably interfere with the normal process of musical evolution. On the other hand, that process is being accelerated at an almost exponential rate by advances in communication, and gently applying the brakes from time to time isn't going to stop the runaway. Compare a recording made of Joseph Taylor in the 1900s with one of Fred Jordan in the 1950s and one of pretty well any English singer you care to name in 2000, and I'd suggest that there's been a qualitative stylistic change over the later period not evident in the former.

Personally I think music is more interesting when it's a bit weird than when it's bland, and if a few of those archaic stylistic features help to differentiate our music from the mainstream, that's no bad thing.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Keinstein
Date: 05 Mar 08 - 10:54 AM

Now Brian, what would Prof Dawkins say to you if you referred to something as interfering with "normal process of ... evolution"? I'm sure he'd point out that that's a progressivist viewpoint, and assumes that there is some goal towards which evolution (musical or otherwise) is directed.

That it has changed by exposure to "source" recordings is undoubted; but just listening to early revivalist recordings, or looking at the often sanitised published arrangements suggests that the access to the recordings has allowed later revivalists to remove a layer of interpretation that (to my taste) we are better off without.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Mar 08 - 11:12 AM

People I talk to at sessions often asked whose or what style of music I copy when I play the fiddle. I explain that I am self taught, and obviously I will be influenced by the music I listen to regularly but dont copy any particular style or individual, I just play how I feel like playing! This seems to confuse some people.... why?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 05 Mar 08 - 01:07 PM

No quarrel Brian, I was purposely using extreme language. Like you, all that I admired and still do, and taught me, and still do, have exhibited no such "religious" signs or behaviour. Like in other things, it is as a rule among the less able that you are likely to meet those more "catholic than the Pope"; those that put form above content 100%. Neither are they a majority, by a long chalk. But they can be vocal above their numbers or knowledge in their disapproval of a singer's particular approach.

Yes, I too like some spice with my listening, and archaic does it for me also. But then so does barbershop, so what do I know...

Really have to fly now. On the plane in 3 hours. I'll dip in as I can for the next 3 weeks.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Mar 08 - 01:18 PM

slightly off thread, I would like to direct to those interested to
my space A.L.Lloyd.
The folk process is not dead, Here is an example,Irecently recorded Banks Of Claudy on my new cd.I listened to it ,yesterday,on my website www.dickmiles.com and I realised I have unconsciously changed the words already.http://www.dickmiles.com


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Mar 08 - 02:42 PM

Sorry Cap'n
It don't work like that - (Is that an argument I see coming over the horizon).
What you're describing could just as well be Alzheimer's.
I'm afraid the folk process (certainly as far as song is concerned) is as dead as Monty python's Norwegian Blue.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Gene Burton
Date: 05 Mar 08 - 03:48 PM

No, the folk process is not dead.

(nothing contentious to add, just...NO)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,The Mole catcher's unplugged Apprentice
Date: 05 Mar 08 - 04:23 PM

"The folk process is not dead, Here is an example,Irecently recorded Banks Of Claudy on my new cd.I listened to it ,yesterday,on my website www.dickmiles.com and I realised I have unconsciously changed the words already"

lovely bit of self-promotion there...nope the process definitely ain't dead *LOL*

Charlotte ('e's gorn to the great folk club in the sky)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 05 Mar 08 - 04:28 PM

Jim, can't agree with you there.

If folk song is subject to change and people are still changing folk songs then the process continues.

If (for example) A.L.Lloyd puts together a version of Tam Lin and so does Mike Waterson and so do plenty of other people then the process of continuity and change is in action. If Martin Carthy puts together a version of Famous Flower - and so does Damien Barber - then the process continues. If someone then combines these throws out a verse, puts a verse in, changes a couple of words to make them scan, mishears a word perhaps and substitutes another one then the process continues for it was ever thus. And that's without tunes!!

I am always wary when things are copyrighted - pop songs are copyrighted so they never change. Folk songs aren't - generally speaking. I know young singers who are doing precisely this - taking a song they like, chasing various versions (much easier nowadays with the internet and the Round Index on line for example) and taking the best, in their opinion, of what they find - and then putting together their "own" variation.

Seems exactly the right thing to do to my mind. It's not how it used to happen - but so what?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 05 Mar 08 - 04:35 PM

I know with new songs there has to be "an original version" - but more often than not, when I hear a song sung, and like it, I've no idea what that original version is, and there's no likelihood that I would consult it as a way to sing that song myself.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: The Mole Catcher's Apprentice (inactive)
Date: 05 Mar 08 - 04:43 PM

"mishears a word perhaps"

which I believe Ashley Hutchings did when taking down the lyrics to Matty Groves hence Lord Arnold became Lord Donald and the process continues..

Charlotte (the view from Ma and Pa's piano stool)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 03:23 AM

Dave,
What you are describing could be applied to any form of music from Wagner to the Beatles (copyrighted or not).
The folk process, as I understand it, involves communities in which songs are composed, performed, accepted, adapted, passed on, performed, accepted. adapted, passed on..... ad-infinitum. The songs need to have a significance in and reflect aspects of the communities in order to survive.
It is this process that produced 200-odd plus identifiable versions of Barbara Allen.
Nowadays the songs appear to have no significance away from the point of performance.
Unless you include your local folk club as 'a community' (I don't), this no longer happens generally; the population in general no longer plays any part in the creation and transmission of the songs, other than to act as passive receivers (consumers).
Would love tho find that this is not the case.
Jim Carroll
PS Love the idea of a 'Round' index.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 05:38 AM

Re: Original versions, since we can't know what 'traditional' originals were like, we can only make comparisons of contemporary song makers.

We know, across the whole realm of music, not just 'folk', that even the composers of works who also perform don't produce identical renditions of a particular piece every time they do it.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 06:04 AM

Hi Jim,
That was always the problem with the 1954 definion, there were other categories of music it could apply to.

I would argue that that in each community (travellers as one example, a village as another) there were people - but not everyone, who did this composing, performing, accepting, adapting, passing on, performing etc etc.

There are communities now (even if that is one of people - interested in/ making a profession from - folk singing) who go through that process.

Nowadays the songs appear to have no significance away from the point of performance.

I am not sure what you are saying here. To me a song only has a significance at the point of performance. (Or it is an academic study of course but I feel sure that is not what you meant).

I do include for lack of a better word "the folk community" as a community - and I am sure both of us could point to its generosity and humanity on numerous occasions - in the same way as we would expect any other community to be generous etc. - family, neighbours for example. Sometimes it/they aren't - but that is the way of the world.

Let's take an image we all must have - the old man/woman sat in a pub singing. Whatever they sang those who listened would I reckon hardly play any part in the process of ......etc .etc. They would be just as passive a consumer as people are nowadays.

Also I wonder if we substituted the word "tune" for "song" - if it would look so simple.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 06:20 AM

Let's take an image we all must have - the old man/woman sat in a pub singing. Whatever they sang those who listened would I reckon hardly play any part in the process of ......etc .etc. They would be just as passive a consumer as people are nowadays.
good point Dave ,but not if they were joining in the chorus.
or if they knew the song well and were joining in the verses with the singer,either in harmony or in unison .
The latter is a phenomenon that I know many folkclub goers find annoying,But must have happened with songs like Holmfirth Anthem,when people sung in pubs,outside the folkclub situation.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Suffolk Miracle
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 07:15 AM

"Unless you include your local folk club as 'a community' (I don't)"

I'm not sure that I accept this without at least some argumentation.
I admit that the folk club is likely to be a smaller and less heterogenous community than the ones which may have held the folk-song at earlier points in history, but do we really believe that for hundreds of years entire villages and even towns went about their daily lives all, to the last man woman and child, gaily singing folk songs. I suspect that in many places the community that held the folksongs were the men (see Ginny Dunn's Fellowship of Song if you think I am being sexist)who sang at the local pub - ok they probably did it more than one night a week, and didn't divide up into a room for the singers and a room for the 'normal' people and I don't suppose they had guest nights, and with any luck they didn't have their damned books of words in front of them: but otherwise were they so much different from the folk club?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 07:34 AM

Hello,

My six pennyworth!

"Let's take an image we all must have - the old man/woman sat in a pub singing"

I can take you to places near me where this still happens!

There are two overlapping communities...the folk clubs and the sessions.

Sessions help take our music to the general public in the same way as morris dancers et al do, songs are shared, discussed and enjoyed in an interactive way, and in the best ones, people join in with the verses and choruses in a sympathetic and supportive way.

Plenty of evidence of the folk process processing processsively round here!

No ego's...just good music.

Best wishes,

Peter


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,PMB
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 08:12 AM

I can't see how Jim can make a meaningful distinction between the "community" that currently sings "folk" songs, and any other community that formerly did so.

Lets be clear about what we mean by the characteristics of the folk process:

- personal interpretation of a song or tune by a performer.
- a community sufficiently steeped in music of a given type to select preferred variations.
- that community includes other performers capable of incorporating or rejecting such variations for their own purposes.

It says nothing about the scale of the community in which such a process takes place, though just as a biological community ("species") has a minimum size capable of effective survival, so the various folk communities will be more or less healthy depending on the number of participants. Other groupings which do not participate (the "general public") are simply irrelevant.

To me at least, there's no identifiable difference between a relatively closed community like, say, travelling folk, and the self- selecting community represented by (British) folk clubs. And when it comes to Irish instrumental music, all the essentials of any definable folk community are present in full bloom.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 01:41 PM

"...not if they were joining in the chorus." Chorus singing is pretty unusual in some singing traditions. And joining in the verses is likely to be recognised as bad manners.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 01:48 PM

Chorus singing is pretty unusual in some singing traditions.

And common in others.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 02:08 PM

According to the oft quoted definitions of "Folk Music", "Folk Song", and "Folk Singer", it would appear that, to the traditionalists at least, the "Folk Process" is alive only with respect to the evolution of such folk music as was composed more than one hundred years ago.

If a modern community produces songs about its everyday life, no matter how many times those songs may be sung within, and outside of that community, and no matter how many singers may refine and polish them, and no matter how long the period during which they may be sung, they are not, and never will be folk songs according to the "definitions", and those who perpetuate them will never be folk singers.

That concept fills me with an inexpressible sadness, as it heralds the passing of the music I love into the realms of the "Dead" languages, and the degradation of my own creativity (such as it is) into something that does not, and cannot, have an identity, as it does not fit into any known musical genre.

Thanks a bunch "Folkies"! I wonder what is it I have been doing all these years?

Don T (who always thought he WAS a folkie)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 02:13 PM

'Let's take an image we all must have - the old man/woman sat in a pub singing...'

I'm old. I sit in pubs and sing (sometimes).......perhaps if I was a man/woman?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Chicken Charlie
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 02:34 PM

Good point, Don T.

I'm one who has said that singer-songwriters are more than welcome to compose and present new material, but I have wondered out loud why they want to call their creations "folk" songs. I see your side; I really do. If you react emotionally to something in 2008 and you write and perform a song about it, you are doing exactly what I suppose balladeers did in the dim dark distant.

What I've been doing, I think, is thinking about it in terms not of the individual performer but of the whole society of "the folk," i.e., those who are receptive to and perpetuate "folk" music. From that standpoint, you can't WRITE a "folk" song any more than you can RECORD a "gold" record. It gets waxed/taped/burned and then if enough people like it, it goes gold. Septimus Winner wrote a song that touched enough people so that they remember, perform and enjoy, e.g. "Listen to the Mockingbird." That has been proven by "the test to time." More power to you and all composers, but how many songs that are launched from some "point of performance" at an open mic today are going to be remembered even five years, let alone 150 years from now? Are the ones on the "cutting room floor" also "folk" songs? From the composer's standpoint, yes; from the 'consumer's' standpoint, are they?

I don't think so, but you've got me rethinking my categories, so this is a great Socratic exercise.

And here I thought all these 'let's define folk' threads were boring.

Chicken Charlie
Who Must Now Re-Invent His Inner Chicken


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 02:37 PM

'I can't see how Jim can make a meaningful distinction between the "community" that currently sings "folk" songs, and any other community that formerly did so.'Community' and 'folk' are specific terms with set definitions'.
It wasn't the fact that they sang folk songs which defined them as communities, rather, many communities included folk singing among their activities (while others didn't).
Taking the arguments here, we may as well describe the local book club or darts team as 'communities', which would be nonsense, as the participants in these pursuits only come together for the purpose of pursuing a specified activity, whereas a community includes everybody living within its bounds.
Sam Larner and his neighbours met at 'The Fisherman's Return' every Saturday night to sing songs, as long as he could remember. That session was a part of the Winterton fishing community, as was the local football team, bible reading class, temperance meeting..... that existed in the area.
To describe them all as 'communities' would make the term meaningless.
It seems to me that, just like the term 'folksong' it has become another comfort blanket to somehow validate (totally unnecessarily) our mutual interest in a type of music.
PMB
Not sure where your characteristics came from, but would they not be equally applicable to, say karaoke, music hall.. or numerous other forms of singing?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 03:11 PM

I can't agree with this at all Jim.

"Taking the arguments here, we may as well describe the local book club or darts team as 'communities', which would be nonsense, as the participants in these pursuits only come together for the purpose of pursuing a specified activity, whereas a community includes everybody living within its bounds".

In the same way Sam Larner and the fishing community came together, in my area there is a "community" and an easily defined one, which comes together and sings what most people would recognise both as folk songs indeed many of them are traditional - but it is not the folk songs that defines them. They do it once a month.

A similar community would be the farming community who come together in shepherd meets - which still exist around Sheffield. What defines them is not singing which takes up a large part of the evening - but their membershp of that "shepherding community".

Both groups sing folk songs, those and those songs are altered within that community.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Old folker
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 03:13 PM

Of course it's dead; killed by those who first defined it, mutilated by those who first attempted to commercialise it. Ewan MacColl springs to mind. Mind you, I've been happily enjoying and contributing to the mutilations for years - long may it continue!


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 04:00 PM

Remember the old story about the rumor that starts at one end of a line of people and, by the time it has been passed completely around the group, is almost unrecognizable to the originator? The "process" is not exactly like that, but certainly related to it.

Everyone who sees or hears a piece of music passes it through their own filter of experience and taste, no two being alike. Performing it adds another element. Then, one adds a verse here, a slight change of a chord or a melody line there, and what comes out is "processed."

The point is, there is no possibility of absolute purity or fidelity to an original, given time and human nature. We hope to preserve the essence, but we inevitably change what we touch. I don't happen to think it's good or bad, just inevitable.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Chicken Charlie
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 05:29 PM

Guest: I agree with the "process" you describe. Yes, it is inevitable. I think it's more likely to happen with public domain stuff than it is with newly recorded, copyright protected stuff. When I've heard multiple versions of the same old 'standard,' I'll probably have a favorite, and it won't necessarily be the original version. Maybe I'm wrong about there being more freedom to improvise-within-limits within "Folk" than outside of it. What does anybody else think?

Chicken Charlie


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,doc.tom
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 07:19 PM

Oh what a sad person I am - I've just re-read this whole thread! I was stupid enough, early on, to ask if anyone would like to offer a definition of 'folk process' - and of course there were several summaries - mostly idiosyncratic, but justifyable. What is now obvious is that the functional definition of 'folk process' has evolved during the progress of the thread.

There must be a moral there somewhere.

Tom


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Chicken Charlie
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 07:30 PM

Tom: I think it's "Sokrates was right after all." Sokratic questioning makes us re-think all our definitions, hopefully for the better.

CC


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 03:15 AM

Dave,
No, the fishing community did not come together once a week to sing - just a dozen or so of them; they were not the community, just a part of it. No more does 'the farming community' come together at shepherds' meets, again, just a small part of it.
Would you honestly describe the half dozen or so people who meet regularly in this town to discuss the book they've been reading, a 'community'? Come on, give us a break!!
Guest TJ,
Funny you should mention that game - it always comes into my mind when I get involved in these discussions. It's called Chinese Whispers, and its purpose is to show how wrong people can get a simple message.
Tom - definition;
There are enough examples to be found describing the folk process, Lloyd, David Buchan - Funk and Wagnall gives a beauty, look it up, it's part of the 'folk song' definition. Reluctant to put it up as I'll be accused of sending too long postings (97 verses maybe)! But it's there for the perusal.
Discussions like 'what is a folk song?' I 'am a traditional singer' and now, 'what is the folk process? always call to my mind the Alice In Wonderland statement "words mean what I want them to mean"; I invariably find myself looking over my shoulder for a white rabbit with a pocket watch or a dormouse in a teapot.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,doc.tom
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 04:31 AM

Precisely,Jim. Asking for a definition could, of course, be rhetorical.
Tom


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: mattkeen
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 04:49 AM

I am 100% with Don T


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 05:09 AM

Now that he has gone to another place(OZ)
Over a year ago El greko mentioned he doesnt enjoy songs with subtlties in the music reduced to a three chord trick.
I know what he means(just)
However isnt it better that a less tallented or experienced player can
join in the joy of playing some of the wealth of music around.
Maybe bring a little entertainment or pleasure to the lives of freinds
family and workmates,and in the proccess(folk?) be putting his "version" of a song into the memories of the people who hear him?
Who may then carry that memory forward and at some point pass it on to another set or even generation of people.
I think I understand that it may be somewhat irksome to have your own painstaking work traduced in this way.
But as a very weak peformer myself I would be upset to think that my own enjoyment of the music I love was one of the reasons that others saw as degrading it.
Dunno quite what the process is,and suspect it may be some elitist clique sort of thing.
Hope it isnt and if it has been the reason that I am able to hear so many songs of the past around today
Well,long may it continue


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: TheSnail
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 05:09 AM

Jim Carroll

The folk process, as I understand it, involves communities in which songs are composed, performed, accepted, adapted, passed on, performed, accepted. adapted, passed on..... ad-infinitum. The songs need to have a significance in and reflect aspects of the communities in order to survive.

Sam Larner and his neighbours met at 'The Fisherman's Return' every Saturday night to sing songs

No, the fishing community did not come together once a week to sing - just a dozen or so of them; they were not the community, just a part of it.


Not trying to pick holes Jim but genuinely trying to understand what you mean. Are you saying that Sam Larner and his neighbours were not folk singers because they were not The Community just a part of it? Is song only "folk" if the whole community are involved?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Banjiman
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 05:20 AM

I've resisted posting on this thread for 160 postings but I can contain myself no longer. The postings by the dyed in the wool traddies are starting to remind me of the (UK) TV caricature of a certain Welsh news reader where nobody but himself is Welsh enough.

I agree wholeheartedly with Don T, by any common usage of the word I am sure that he is a "folk" singer. The academic definitions are just that, purely academic and bear little relationship to what is going on in the real world.

Anyone who is part of this real world (not people who are "looking over my shoulder for a white rabbit with a pocket watch or a dormouse in a teapot." erm....do you see many? ) will know the folk process is alive and well with songs being written, adopted and a adapted on a daily basis. Who are you to tell me, or anyone else, that we are not part of the communities in which we live....what is your basis for this?

Paul


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 05:23 AM

A definition of a community.

Best wishes,

Peter


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,doc.tom
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 05:49 AM

Congratulations banjiman on your restraint. So, we presume the 'real world' is (only?)the one you live in? Yes, academic definitions are academic definitions - and spurious definitions are spurious definitions, and elitist definitions are elitist definitions, and...

"Anyone who is part of this real world.. will know the folk process is alive and well." by definition it must be - it is a truism of your own definition. You're not the first person to prove that, according to your own opinions, you are correct!

Who are you to say any particular individual is a "dyed in the wool traddie"? - are you working to some sort of definition here?

Tom


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,banksie
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 06:52 AM

>I always assume that somebody else is going to hear something different in a piece of music than I might hear, and I think that, logically, I have to extend this to things that I write<

Quite agree, and there are other, sometimes practical reasons for the folk process to continue working now and into the future. For example, I have written (if that is the right word) a couple of dances used by Redbornstoke Morris, together with the tunes. But the folk process of matching such pairings during practice sessions has, over time, resulted in subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) changes to both the dance and the tune that the difference is very noticeable - and the ressult much better.

And I know of other people singing one or two of my songs, but I would hate it if they thought it right and proper to try and mimic the way I do them - dammit, I can't mimic it, sometimes :-).

If the folk process is dead then all that is left are tribute bands and tribute singers (subject of a different thread, if I recall)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Banjiman
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 08:12 AM

Tom,

Thank you for your congratulations.....

"Who are you to say any particular individual is a "dyed in the wool traddie"? - are you working to some sort of definition here?"

You could try the 1954 one and see if it fits? I can't see that it is valid as applied to what most people understand as "folk" but it might be a good definition of "traditional".


Your point about realities is valid, and yes I am describing the world that I observe. It seems real enough to me (but who knows?).

I accept that your opinion (for that is also all it is) may be that I am incorrect about the folk process being alive & well.....


Paul


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 11:19 AM

the song Wildwood flower,was recorded by the Original Carter Family.
I believe it was originally a 19 century song,a few of the words were misheard by the Carters,so that we have a nonsensical line about pale leader.
the Carters material was what the ordinary folk were singing in their community,and which they learned by ear,so under the 1954 definition it would be folk music,the mishearing of the words pale amarylis is part of the folk process.
they are now classified as country singers,despite the fact they recorded songs from their community[including a version of the golden vanity]which they learned by ear.
the folk process will never die while singers and musicians learn tunes and songs not from a written source,even if the music is from a written source the folk musician will change it unconsciously[the folk process]to suit his/ her style .he may also change it consciously as A LLOYD did[that IMO is also a folk process,although it is arguable] Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,doc.tom
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 12:26 PM

Thanks banjiman.

The 1954 definition had a go at 'folk' rather than at 'traditional' - and, with a couple of caveats, it's still not been bettered (in my opinion) but then we've had long threads on that already - lets not start that one again.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 03:26 PM

Snail,
No, certainly not, and more or less (not necessarily all, but enough of them to ascertain that the songs 'took') - in that order.
Banjiman
"The academic definitions are just that, purely academic and bear little relationship to what is going on in the real world."
Once again you are telling us what is relevant to your "real world" (how do you apply to join - I seem to have been missing out)?.
The reality of 'the real world' is that by and large most people don't give a toss about folk music (whatever the definition).
I will admit that we are all here due to academic tossers like Sharp, Child and Bronson, and we took much of our definition (and songs) from their academic ramblings - what did they know?
"white rabbit with a pocket watch or a dormouse in a teapot." erm....do you see many?"
Yup, just spotted a beauty - welcome to the thread.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 04:42 PM

Can I just interject for a mo to congratulate El Capitan Ricardo Kilometre on his excellent musical taste? Every thread I read seems to feature Dick eulogising about some aspect or other of my favourite music. I instinctively LIKE this man! When you next play Manchester, let's have a pint!


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,The Mole Catcher's unplugged Apprentice
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 05:24 PM

"Isn't this thread a part of the folk process?"

one supposes it could be part of the process, more so than alot of the music

Charlotte (the view from Ma and Pa's piano stool)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: TheSnail
Date: 08 Mar 08 - 06:03 AM

Jim Carroll

No, certainly not, and more or less (not necessarily all, but enough of them to ascertain that the songs 'took') - in that order.

So why were Sam Larner and his neighbours, who met every Saturday night to sing songs but were only a part of the community, folk singers while people who meet every week, if not more often, in folk clubs and sessions are not?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 08 Mar 08 - 04:25 PM

The notion of the "folk process" as a popular concept may be dead but the actual process
goes on. It is necessary to change the concept of "folk process" to fit today's evaluation of it. "Folk music" was co-opted by the popular music business and redefined by it to sell recordings. The actual process is one of modifying, changing and assimilating styles of music that have roots in traditional cultures. This modification might mean "modernizing" them by introducing new musical elements. Example: blues on an electric guitar
or Doc Watson playing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow".

The "process" in my view is one of assimilating the style(s) of folk music and incorporating them into a new context. Where it gets sticky is when the assimilation hasn't really taken place and "anything" is called folk music. To me that's like saying "Boogie-woogie" piano styles are "classical" music or "rock" music is traditionally chamber music. It's too broad and too loose.

The reason this question comes about is that whoever decides to go into this style of music faces the problem of "authenticity". This may be a red-herring. What is valuable, though, is an understanding of folk music from a historical, cultural and musical point-of-view. In some cases, this might be academically learned but as a musician, I think it's a matter of intensive interest in the idiom and you feel your way.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Mar 08 - 03:48 AM

Snail,
'The folk process' as I understand it, is used to describe how songs evolved in the tradition.
Sam Larner, Harry Cox, Walter Pardon et al were part of that tradition, today's singers are not. They (some of them) are a part of a revival of those songs and, as far as I'm concerned, can no more be described as traditional singers, than a modern singer of Elizabethan madrigals can be described as 'Elizabethan'.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 09 Mar 08 - 07:59 AM

mmmmmm....we do talk about Shakespearian actors. None of them actually shook hands with Bill and bought him a pint.

if you think semantics will disguise the general confusion and muddleheadedness on this subject Jim - I think not!


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Mar 08 - 02:40 PM

"if you think semantics will disguise the general confusion and muddleheadedness on this subject Jim - I think not"
In that case, let's go back to the books - if I don't have the answer I know a man who does.
Works most times for me.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 09 Mar 08 - 03:02 PM

If the folk process is dead then all that has gone before is frozen in amber.

Which a moment's thought will tell you it isn't.

I would argue that MacColl's taking of Sam Larner's spoken cadences and turning them into the Shoals of Herring is part of a folk process.

I would argue that the constant adaptation and change of tunes in sessions by musicians by ear is part of the folk process. I cannot believe that you believe the folk process only dealt with song Jim.

And if the tunes are evolving then the process is alive.

But I am wary of getting into a "What is Tradition" argument.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 09 Mar 08 - 03:27 PM

Which book did you have in mind?

The Burl Ives Song Book, Five Hundred Folksongs for the Campfire, You Can Play Donovan's Greatest Hits with Three Chords.....all classics in their own way!

an' Ezra Pound and TS Eliot are fighting in the Captain's towers
Whilst calypso singers laugh at them and fishermen throw flowers

I think that's a pretty clear reference to Sam Larner, and as such we should admit it to the tradition.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 03:49 AM

"But I am wary of getting into a "What is Tradition" argument."
Sorry Dave, all these arguments come to that in the end.
Folk process, as I understand it, applies to the tradition - if that's alive, so is the process - thirty years of field work has convinced me it isn't any longer, as much as I would like it to be.
WMD
Not familiar with any of the books you refer to, but if they offer alternative definitions, put them up, will be happy to consider them. Sorry, the quote meant nothing to me out of context, and as far as I understand it, we don't get a vote to accept or to reject what goes into the tradition - it's a process.
If I don't know the meaning of something I'll pull a book off the shelf and look it up - habit of a lifetime.
I will not make up a definition because it's convenient to me personally, nor will I accept an opportunist definition (or in this case non-definition - nobody has attempted throughout these arguments to offer an alternative), by somebody with a stake in there not being one. George Orwell called that process 'Newspeak' and we have some wonderful examples at present with 'special rendition', 'collateral damage' and 'friendly fire'.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 04:18 AM

Well in context. Its from Desolation Row by Bob Dylan. Basically its a song saying the point from which song - folksong if you like - works - is isolation. The individual forced to look to his own resources. Rather than the chaps fighting in the captain's towers, or vying for places on the university library bookshelf. It starts off with a montage of horrifying images from the newspapers - they're selling postcards of the hanging.....

In 1964/5 - Dylan must have felt very isolated after his rejection by folksong buffs. He wanted to keep his mind focussed on this world and look for ways of expressing that. His folksong fans wanted him to keep rewriting traditional themes like Franklin, Scarboro Fair, and Who'll Count Your Chickens?

To me and and thousands like me, his search for expression has a perfectly honourable place within the tradition. We don't need an academic formula for folksong. It can only diminish what is already patently there.

Big Al whittle


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 05:33 AM

I am happy to accept that tradition is a process. I just don't believe it is as dead as you believe.

Traditional tunes are still subject to the process.

If the folk process has stopped then you have to accept that the songs to which it applied are now frozen in time.

If they are then we will only be singing the frozen version (or we aren't singing at all). Since we are singing the process continues. Some of the traditon bearers (a phrase I prefer) are still there and others will follow them, from within their communities.

I know the story of how the people you were collecting from stopped singing Jim but at the same time others were collecting from other people and they were still singing (and in some cases still are).

The hunt community still sings around here and so do the commiunity which meet at shepherd's meets. I alluded to this earlier. The folkies trend to ignore the hunters because of the way they chose to spend their free time (when not singing) and I am not supporter of hunting but their singing tradition does continue and as older people go out at the top end so to speak - younger ones from that community do join in.

I interviewed a fiddler on my radio programme a couple of weeks ago who comes from a long line of traditonal musicians and singers both in his family and his community and he learnt material from both by ear from a very early age. By any definition he is a traditional fiddler (and singer) unless you can tell me what stops him from being considered one. I suspect that that same "community" is almost certainly still producing similar musicians and singers.

He is 29. Are you really saying that the folk process as far as he is concerned has stopped?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: TheSnail
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 06:39 AM

Jim Carroll seems to have abandoned The Community in favour of The Tradition and The Tradition is a foreign country; people do things differently there. He seems to relegate folk song to the glass cases in the museum of anthropology. Beautiful, perfectly preserved and dead. Sam Larner, Harry Cox, Walter Pardon are noble savages from an alien, and now extinct, culture.

For some of us, folk music is alive and well.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Suffolk Miracle
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 07:27 AM

I generally regard myself as a diedinthewool traddy, but for once I, like Robert Clive, stand here amazed at my own moderation. I do not feel the 1954 is helpful to evaluating the folk process. These definitions exist, and have to exist, for the purpose of academic funding. Noone will give money to any reseach into traditional dance until it has been defined tightly enough to be sure that the academic or institution concerned cannot get away with spending it on lap dancers. But for everyday purposes it's more helpful to rely on the fact that if it looks like a camel and smells like a camel, it probably is one and at any rate should be treated as such. I think the bottom line is that performers in folk clubs should have traditional songs/tunes as a part of their repertoire. Note I do not say 'a major part' or even 'a substantial part' - but a part none the less. If you are unable to interpret a traditional song then you are in the wrong place - the more so if you are interested only in performing ONLY your own composed songs (however folky), because I do not believe that level of conceit has ever had a place in the tradition.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 07:41 AM

hard to argue with, Miraculous suffolk person. the thing is though, dyed in the wool traddies tend to be so sniffy as to what actually is traditional. Its hard to get it right. I make no bones about it. I didn't listen to many of the famous traditional singers and I didn't go and see them in the 1970's - the clubs that booked them in Brum were SO unfriendly. so bloody sure they were god's gift.

to be honest I liked the way Joan Baez taught us all Geordie say, more than Martin carthy's attempt to convey how the lady he learned it off used to sing it. And why not. I'm a modern person. my sensibility is what it is. Perhaps I should educate my pallette - but to what end - so that as few people understand what I do as possible?

then I'll be able to walk around in splendid isolation, thinking wot a good boy am I!


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 02:12 PM

more than Martin carthy's attempt to convey how the lady he learned it off used to sing it.

What on earth makes you say that?

Are you also saying that Martin Carthy tries to do that with all his songs? Never heard such round spherical objects.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 03:06 PM

No I'm not. I think you have to be into what Martin does to follow what I'm saying. I have the greatest respect for him.

Joan Baez in her versions usually works to a 4/4 rhythm - which most people are used to listening to. Martin points out that the originals weren't like that. And it matters a lot to him. that's why he has devised the technique that he has.

I think the Baez originals are easier to listen to for the non adventurous listener. You have to respect what someone like Martin sees as the essence of the piece. You could talk about the strange rhythm he uses for Byker Hill, those sort of hesitations in The New deserter. have you heard these things and never wondered or asked him, or yourself about them.

He has a profound respect for the people who sang these songs originally. Usually old people, often gypsies - people not really plugged into the mainstream of everyday culture that most of us live in the midst of.

My own feeling is that I'm glad I learned High Germany in singing together. You obviously have your own opinions - but I'm entitled to mine. I'm sure your ideas aren't balls - neither are mine.

al


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 03:37 PM

"Sam Larner, Harry Cox, Walter Pardon are noble savages from an alien, and now extinct, culture."
Walter Pardon put the death of the tradition in his area a couple of years before the outbreak of WW2 (have it on record); Sam stopped singing publicly around the same time till he was found by Philip Donellan, and it was exclusively the revival that gave Harry Cox his audience.
We can date the death of the singing tradition among Travellers to within 18 months, somewhere between summer 1973 and Easter 1975 when portable televisions ended the singing session.
In West Clare, where the singing tradition lasted longer than in Britain, the singing took place almost entirely at house dances, many of which disappeared following the dancehalls act in the 1940s, when all dances were taxed (about the same time the priests helped to break them up 'because of the risk of immorality').
Not to say that there weren't singers who still remembered the songs, but virtually all the ones we recorded hadn't sung since their youth.
No, I don't regard the songs as museum pieces; I'd guess I've put as much time as anybody on this forum organsing and singing at clubs (when they were still presenting folk songs). I am saying the continuum was broken with the death of the song tradition (music is in a different position Dave - at least in Ireland).
We came in as outsiders, formed the clubs, and for a time did a good job at it. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way we dropped the ball.
No - I didn't abandon the community in favour of the tradition - the tradition was part of the community until they went elsewhere for their diversion.
WMD
Didn't explain why the piece you quoted should be considered a folk song.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 03:42 PM

What you have written there makes perfect sense.

Suggesting that Martin sings Geordie the way he does because he wanted to convey the way a woman he learnt it off, doesn't.

The major reason for that being simply wrong is that the biggest influence on his singing of that song was Levi Smith.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 04:04 PM

Jim - the question was not, "Is the folk process as seen in singing dead?"

I do not see on what grounds you can separate songs and tunes as far as the process is concerned. And it is clear that the folk process as far as tunes are concerned goes on.

What you are in fact saying is that the singing traditon as far as your experience is concerned stopped. That isn't my experience.

Even then, if that is so, then those songs stopped developing there. Stuck in amber. For if they are being changed and I would argue they are - who or what is changing them?

It clearly isn't (or extremely rarely) the world of commercial music. If it is individuals then it was ever thus. Those individuals will rest in a variety of "communities" which could be a family, a larger group of friends, a village community, a hunting community, a shepherd/farming community, a travelling community a community choir, a group interested in carols, or whatever.

As they always did.

And we have not looked at Scotland at all. Though the 29 year-old fiddler I mentioned earlier came from there.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 04:15 PM

And to go on Jim, if Walter Pardon dated the end of the folk process/singing tradition in his area as being in the late 30's then he was clearly wrong - it went on just up the road at Winterton until much later.

It went on at the Eel's Foot and the Ship Inn much later (hardly a long way away) and amongst the travelling community another 35 years from when Walter dated its death, even in your own words. So Walter was actually wrong about the singing tradition - he was right about it in his experience. That's all.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 04:28 PM

I ain't going to look it up but the lady he mentions on his recent DVD is (I think) called Karpeles.He goes as far as to impersonate her speech - ('angin in frames of gold - that's 'angin that is!)
I see no reason for snottiness on the subject. Perhaps he heard two sources, before deciding how to sing it.

Desolation Row containing a reference to Sam Larner was intended as a joke, Jim. A poor thing, but something of my own.

al


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 08:22 PM

Not knowing a lot of Karpeles's it was probably Maud.

She was an influence on his singing to the point where he learnt a song off her as a source singer/ tradition bearer and tried to imitate her?

Remarkable.

Where did he hear her sing?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 04:00 AM

Dave,
We were in the Winterton and did a little recording there in the early 70s; it was rapidly changing into a holiday village. No singing there, (and hadn't been for a long time) three very elderly singers (one a nephew of Sam Larner) - now all dead.
Yes - there were pockets that continued, virtually all gone now (Sheffield Carols hmmm - maybe). Hasn't the Blaxhall Ship been turned into a C&W cum line dancing venue?)
Tom Munnelly, full time collector for Irish Folklore department, collected 20000 songs here, and as far back as 1975 described his work as a "race with the undertaker". He was still working in the field until the early 90s (getting bits and pieces) when his work dried up and he became desk bound.
This particular area was rich with singers 25 years ago - now the singers are all dead and none of their families took up the songs. That was our experience - if you can produce other field workers whose experiences were different, lets here from them (some work being done in Elphinstone, but looking at their current events - largely with revival singers). The only way, it seems to me, that it can be claimed that the tradition is still alive is by re-drawing your terms of reference, and claiming 'traditional' for revival singers - as has happened numerous times on this forum.
Even when Walter and his contemporaries were still around and singing, we were well aware of the tiny handful of clubs where they were invited to sing, most preferring a navel gazing, guitar scratching product to the real thing.
We helped run the clubs, we arranged bookings for a few of our source singers, we know how difficult it was to get them heard.
Don't believe me - go and look at the pitifully small sales figures for companies like Topic and Leader; (John Reilly, Mary Anne Carolan, Robert Cinnamond, George Dunne, Cecilia Costello - Bill Leader actually went bankrupt trying to give us traditional singers).
If we wanted to put out a record of any of the singers we recorded we had to raise the money ourselves or get support from sympathetic bodies, we certainly couldn't rely on the clubs to cover our expenses. The traditional singers did not get the respect they merited while they were alive, I doubt if they would get it today.
It really pisses me off when somebody describes our work as 'museum keeping'. We tried to introduce the traditional singers we met to the clubs, through personal performances and through albums of their songs - they were appreciated where they were heard, but as I said - navel contemplators won the day - look at the list of 'What's being sung around the clubs'.
Nowadays, our best hope is to archive our recordings and make them available that way. We're in the process of helping set up a local archive here - and guess what - we've still got to find the money ourselves.
Thanks to National Sound Archive, Irish Traditional Music Archive and OAC people will be able to listen to Walter Pardon, Tom Lenihan, Mary Delaney, Mikeen McCarthy and the rest of them a century from now; let's hope that future generations appreciated them more than this one did.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 05:10 AM

Jim,

You are answering the wreong


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 05:53 AM

Sorry about that I pressed the wrong button.

Cecil Sharpe went around collecting just less than 100 years ago because he believed the songs were dying out.

The Folk Song Society believed there were virtually no more songs to collect in 1931.

Walter Pardon "put the death of the tradition in his area to two years before..... [WWII] " ;

Peter Kennedy started collecting after the death of Stanley Slade (about 1952)

It seemed to have died in Winterton around 1960 and amongst the travellers you were talking to in 1972.

Tom Munnelly thought it was a race with the undertaker in 1975 - but went on racing for another 15 years.

The collection from tradition bearers has slowed down and may end eventually - though in my opinion has been greatly exagerrated time and time again - as those descriptions show. And there are tradition bearers as young as 29. I met one the other week as I said. Learnt his music and songs through his family and the part of his village community that was interested in that sort of thing. Even went on family holidays singing and playing with uncles and aunts. As he said - "All my friends were going to Mallorca and Greece for their summer holidays, I was going to Skye to learn music with my uncles". Incidentally his father is still passing traditional muscic on - someone contacted me after the interview and told me shortly after the show.

But we are not talking about collecting - we are talking about the folk process of - to put it simply, adaptation and change.
It may not be adapting and changing in the rural villages, or the travelling communities as mch as it was - though with the hunts it still happens in at least two areas to my certain knowledge. And there are a number of shepherd meets locally.

When I started carolling in 1972 I went to one particular pub. Shortly afterwards the pub changed building structure and the pianist died and a couple of the main singers died and the carolling stopped. All the evidence pointed to the death of the tradition and all for the usual reasons.

I didn't conclude that the carolling tradition had died out. Just as well since it was thriving in Padstow; Glenrock in Pennsylvania where a direct line to England could be traced; Odcombe in Somerset and of course two miles up the road. And that tradition is still adapting and changing and still has tradition bearers singing at it.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 06:01 AM

No I didn't say he imitated her singing voice - her talking voice.

Why not get the dvd - its very good. he talks a lot about his abandonment of the current folkstyles of the 1960's. Particularly the trendy DADGAD guitar tuning - how he tried to stop the guitar dictating the tune - rather than accompanying it. Which is what I was tryting to say.

he says the there was no tradition of English folk guitar playing and he had to try and make it. Its as though he believes the songs simply didn't fit those Baez patterns - not really!

All I was saying, was that I'm damn glad I heard Baez singing henry Martin before I heard The Lofty Tall ship. i think its catchier and has more purchase on the sensibility of a modern audience. I can't see that my observation is even controversial.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 06:22 AM

to be honest I liked the way Joan Baez taught us all Geordie say, more than Martin carthy's attempt to convey how the lady he learned it off used to sing it.

No I didn't say he imitated her singing voice - her talking voice.

Clearly you don't see a contradiction there. I think it was an easy mistake for me to make, to assume that you meant her singing.

Does he say why he imitated her talking voice?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,PMB
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 06:27 AM

re-drawing your terms of reference, and claiming 'traditional' for revival singers

Agreed

(1) that the "old" singers usually died out without handing their songs on to anyone else in their local communities.

(2) that this means that the songs can no longer develop within those communities.

(3) that therefore those lines of "the folk tradition" have died out.

But that's claiming a lot more for "the folk tradition" than most would agree with- that a tradition can not be transferred to another community, and that a tradition only exists within a defined economic group. The isolated peasant farming communities of the west of Ireland, small scale fishing, sailing ships and cowboys- all disappeared as economic conditions changed (in Ireland only the isolation really changed for many).

If a tradition can't transfer to a new community, the Appalachian songs collected by Sharp and Karpeles weren't traditional. Unless of course some communities have a mysterious stamp of approval.

If the traditions are bound to economic conditions their demise is inevitable, and must have happened many times in the past. So no music has ever been traditional?

And you are still ignoring the undeniable vibrant and triumphant existence of the Irish instrumental music tradition (for one)- which illustrates the point that you can't really tell the difference between "tradition" and "revival"....




... unless we're going to have a new full- hour session on how and when diddlydiddley segued from the one to the other.....


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 06:30 AM

>> i think its catchier and has more purchase on the sensibility of a modern audience. <<

You are posing an interesting question here, and one that ties in with the "complex arrangments" thread. Is what we now call 'folk music' high art or mass entertainment? Does it belong in the concert hall or the tap room? Should it appeal to the afficionado or the casual listener?

Someone should start a new thread (or has this one already been done?)....

Captain???


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 07:37 AM

"Does he say why he imitated her talking voice? "

I got the impression it was for the pleasure of recalling - as one does. You know, you think of your mate down the road and you copy his intonation to illustrate his character.

You might be entertaining the masses Brian - it tends to be a solitary pursuit in our house. Not even the wife likes it that much. As is the case with so much in life....(as they say).


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: The Sandman
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 12:11 PM

Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Brian Peters - PM
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 06:30 AM

>> i think its catchier and has more purchase on the sensibility of a modern audience. <<

You are posing an interesting question here, and one that ties in with the "complex arrangments" thread. Is what we now call 'folk music' high art or mass entertainment? Does it belong in the concert hall or the tap room? Should it appeal to the afficionado or the casual listener?

Someone should start a new thread (or has this one already been done?)....

Captain??? .
I am off to play music ,Ihave given up on these futile discussions.Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 12:37 PM

Too bad, Dick - you have been an effective agent provocateur.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 03:12 PM

Dave,
Tom M was right - he spent fifteen years collecting memories (as we did)
Walter was right - no more singing in Knapton.
Kennedy was also largely collecting memories (song carriers MacColl called them).
Music situation is not clear cut - I know, it happens on my doorstep.
More later
Jim


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 03:19 PM

The persistence of the instrumental tradition (in Ireland, West Virginia, etc.) is an interesting phenomenon. Is playing an instrument somehow more 'romantic' or otherwise appealing in comparision to unacccompanied singing? It certainly takes a good deal more effort, and yet it seems to be much more vigorous.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: TheSnail
Date: 12 Mar 08 - 09:26 AM

I agree wholeheartedly with GUEST,PMB. Jim Carroll's "200-odd plus identifiable versions of Barbara Allen" didn't arise spontaneously and independantly in 200 different traditions. The song was passed from singer to singer and community to community over the centuries. I doubt if either the original song or the original community from which it came still exist. Of course, if that original song still existed, it would not be a folk song under the 1954 definition. Society changes, communities rise and fall, generally depending on how they earn their living, but the songs and the music go on.

I really don't understand what you want, Jim. You complain that people are not singing the songs but then tell those who do that they are not folk singers because they are not part of the tradition. You say "It really pisses me off when somebody describes our work as 'museum keeping'." and then say "Nowadays, our best hope is to archive our recordings and make them available that way."

Do you want people to sing the songs or not? If so, you're in luck because I hear them on a regular basis. On another thread you said "There is some (not enough, for my taste) excellent singing here from people who respect and enjoy the songs enough to put in the effort. Didn't get that in my last few experiences in the UK - sorry."

I'm sorry, Jim, you went to the wrong clubs.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Mar 08 - 03:45 AM

Snail,
"Do you want people to sing the songs or not?"
That's what I have spent the greater part of my life trying to make happen - too late in the day to change my mind now, even if I wanted to.
The question was: "Folk Process - is it dead?".
My answer is 'yes it is' and I have given my reasons for believing so.
Others have said it isn't - as long as you include in the definition forgetting the words and making it up as you go along; or if you are prepared to abandon any definition of the term 'folk' completely - sorry, won't do that!
I agree entirely that I went to the wrong clubs; the problem is (from the 'what is being sung in folk clubs' thread, it is these clubs that dominate the scene now.
What do I want ? Weellllll..... I'd like a wall-to-wall session of good singing from Kevin Mitchell, Len Graham, Antaine ó Farachain, Jim McFarland, Terry Yarnell, Bob Blair, Sheila Stewart, Alison McMorland, Joe Aitken, Roisín al Safti, Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin, John and Tim Lyons, Con 'Fada' O'Driscoll, Rosie Stewart, Roisín White (if there is a predominance of Irish singers here, this isn't necessarily my personal taste, just what's available to me nowadays)... and all the other singers who give me a buzz... Failing that, I'll settle for an occasional evening of a good mixture of traditional songs and newer ones made using traditional poetic forms and musical styles, sung to a reasonable standard by people who sound that the enjoy and understand them.
What I don't want is evenings of 'Blue Suede Shoes' and 'Yellow Submarine'.... and all the other songs that appear to pass as 'folk songs' in some peoples minds.
Neither do I want arrogant clowns using terms like 'finger-in-ear' and '97 verse ballads', whose own tastes run to songs that apparently come with a sell-by date and a break-off point of three minutes, telling me that the music I have been listening to "could not possibly have any relevence today".
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 13 Mar 08 - 05:18 AM

Jim,

I have argued long and hard about the relevance of traditional music to today and indeed said so in the EFDSS magazine (Xmas issue). I have also argued long and had for standards to be high and higher.

But if all those people (many of them people I have heard and admired too) are still singing then I would suggest the process is going on.

Either that or all of them have stopped learning songs.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Banjiman
Date: 13 Mar 08 - 05:51 AM

Paul with big pants, painted on smile and red nose here, oh and I've just fallen over.

Jim,

How long have you worked for the Sun? I assume you are quoting me when you mention "finger-in-ear" and "97 verse ballads". This is out of context as we were discussing what puts "the public" off attending folk clubs not what has intrinsic value as a folk song.

I like and value traditional music (and very scarily, I found myself with my hand cupped around my ear last Saturday night when involved in a mass sing at a Front Room Folk gathering), but it is not the whole story.

Even more scarily I agree with you that "Yellow Submarine & "Blue Suede Shoes" would not be my choice of listening (even when they are dressed up as "folk" songs).

I maintain that there is still a process of adoption, adaption and creation of a form of music that sounds to me very like "folk" within a community that I am part of. This involves a lot of traditional material as well as "newer ones made using traditional poetic forms and musical styles, sung to a reasonable standard by people who sound that the enjoy and understand them".

I struggle to understand why this being part of a revival or an unbroken line of tradition makes it sound any better or worse? Please feel free to educate this arrogant little upstart.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Mar 08 - 05:57 AM

Jim,your post tells me a lot about yourself.
all the singers you mention are unacccompanied singers.
I too can listen to a good unaccompanied singer for a whole evening providing they vary their material, tempos,keys,and story of songs.
I am also quite happy to hear skilfully accompanied traditional/modern[ with trad influence] songs.
I think that the unaccompanied singer[because he/she is relying entirely upon the voice]has to be very conscious of good presentation of the material,has to be able to stimulate audience partricipation[ maybe30/40 percent chorus songs],because many modern audiences are not familiar with unaccompanied singing,and might find an hour of it ,hard going.
I do not believe the folk process is dead ,it may change,the way we acquire new information may change [via the computer, even learning by ear via the computer],but people will still go on learning the old songs,as well as modern songs.Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: mattkeen
Date: 13 Mar 08 - 08:13 AM

What Banjimam has been saying expresses what I feel about the subject.

Thread goes to prove that when viewed from outside of the folk community we are our own worst enemies.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: TheSnail
Date: 13 Mar 08 - 08:39 AM

I've had a browse through the "Folk clubs - what is being sung " thread and, as far as I can see, (I'm not very good at lists) it consists largely of traditional songs with a proportion of songs written "in the tradition". There are a few oddities like Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead but, for the record, 'Blue Suede Shoes' and 'Yellow Submarine' are not mentioned. In over thirty five years, I have never heard them in a folk club.

Jim Carroll's response was -
Have been out of the club scene for some time. This thread has convinced me that I have not missed much.

In this thread he says -
I'll settle for an occasional evening of a good mixture of traditional songs and newer ones made using traditional poetic forms and musical styles, sung to a reasonable standard by people who sound that the enjoy and understand them.

That is the current folk scene that I know, on top of which, I have seen at least six out of Jim's list locally (Sussex, England). Most recently Roisín White. Two 45 minute sets of unaccompanied singing that kept a packed club spellbound. His nightmare scenario of navel contemplating guitarists singing pop songs may exist somewhere but I don't see it. They certainly don't dominate the scene that I know about.

When did you last go to a folk club, Jim? Drag yourself away from Taggart and get out more.

Apropos of nothing, for those who don't know, my name is Bryan Creer. One of the versions of Barbara Allen was collected from Ellen Creer of Castletown, Isle of Man. I haven't tracked down whether she's a relative.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 13 Mar 08 - 11:51 AM

Kevin Mitchell had some interesting comments regarding singing v. the instrumental tradition in this interview first published (I believe) in Living Tradition.

"Great players, of course, but that's all some of them want to do - play. They don't seem to know the tradition, the 'rule' that you give people space, that you put down your instrument and listen to an unaccompanied song, maybe. Many youngsters, I'd say, don't have any real understanding or respect for the singing. Not just youngsters either. Still, I'm not downhearted. Here in Glasgow, Colin MacAllister and Owen Kelly of Comhaltas are running regular mixed-age workshops on Irish song. At these - they're packed out, by the way - youngsters learn what the tradition means, including respect for other performers and different musical styles. That's a good way forward, I believe."


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Mar 08 - 11:59 AM

Dou know you guys have inspired me. I'm going to write a song about contemplating navels.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Banjiman
Date: 13 Mar 08 - 12:09 PM

WLD,

Don't forget the fluff!!!!!

Paul


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: TheSnail
Date: 13 Mar 08 - 12:12 PM

weelittledrummer

Dou know you guys have inspired me. I'm going to write a song about contemplating navels.

Your own or someone else's?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Mar 08 - 12:14 PM

Would such a song fall within the folk tradition?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Banjiman
Date: 13 Mar 08 - 12:16 PM

Guest....only in a community of navel gazers who have never been recorded or had any contact with the modern world. LOL


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Mar 08 - 12:49 PM

You are obviously a newcomer, we have established by lengthy debate and common consent that my work falls outside 'the tradition'.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Mar 08 - 03:51 PM

Cap'n
Glad to see you back - thought we'd pissed you off
More later - off to Joe Ryan's funeral and a long-long-long-long-long night of music
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Mar 08 - 04:27 AM

Bryan - (hate some of these tag names),
You may be right, don't get to clubs as much as I used to, but I still get in the odd visit when I get the chance (about a year).
I rely on forums like these and magazines like fRoots and The Living Tradition for my information nowadays - and the impression I am left with was the one I have expressed. The clincher for me was when a visitor here told us of the great night he had attended in his local FOLK club when they put on an evening of Beatles songs - where's me hat!!!
There is no club scene here in the west of Ireland, though there are a number of singing clubs, most of the ones we have visited, with few exceptions are..... well, nuff sed!
Can I clear up one point that seems to have crept in.
I have never made a good-or-bad distinction between the 'revival' and the 'tradition', or between 'the folk process' and the conscious role by (some) revival clubs to keep the old songs alive (and use their form to create new songs). In talking about the two as not being the same, it's a question of difference, not of quality or importance.
There exists an odd situation at present, two different languages being used to discuss the same subject; the one used by (some) clubs and the other spoken by those who research, collect and write - from learned tomes to dictionary references). The last major work to be published was 'The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection' (8 volumes), which presents folk song as I understand it, as did Bert Lloyd's 'Folk Song in England' forty years earlier and 'The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs' eight years earlier again.
Personally, I have a foot in both camps; while Pat and I have worked to get some understanding of how the tradition was, we have both got a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction as performers and audience in the clubs. We dearly wish that others continue to get the same pleasure as we did.
In the eighties, the folk scene we were part of imploded, audiences disappeared and most of the clubs folded. I am not aware that the situation has changed radically. It seems to me that we stand a great chance in the not-to-distant future of losing entirely what Lomax, MacColl, Lloyd, and all the other pioneers set up half a century ago.
Here in Ireland the 'MUSIC' has been guarenteed a future with a huge influx of young players (80 odd teens and pre teens playing on last St Pat's parade in this town).
The same is not the case with the songs, the bulk of the singers being around my age, with no new blood coming into the scene.
It seems to me that, apart from some small pockets in the UK, the situation is pretty much the same (though I do suggest that the the standard of singing is far higher in Ireland than it is here). Please tell me this is not the case!
If we're going to salvage anything from what has gone before, it needs to be from a clear understanding of where we are and what we need to do (IMO).
Banjiman;
It's more than a little arrogant to speak on behalf of the population at large in describing our songs as 'irrelevant'.
In my experience, the 'ordinary' people (whoever they are), gained their impression of 'folk' from school music lessons, from the folk boom, Spinners Concerts, Christie Moore performances, Riverdance.... et al, not from what happens at folk clubs, most of which seem to be as remote and mysterious as Freemason's Lodges to the general public.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Banjiman
Date: 14 Mar 08 - 05:22 AM

Jim,

Please can you provide the quote where I suggested "our" songs are irrelevant.....I really can't remember saying that.

I repeat (ad nauseam) that I have a healthy respect for traditional songs, it's just not the whole story.

Within the community I live in, 3 small villages in a rural part of North Yorks, not to far from 2 smallish towns, we are doing a lot of work to involve "non-folkies" in what we are doing at Kirkby Fleetham Folk Club. I know from talking to my friends and neighbours what they find accessible (and inaccessible) about "folk" music. Agreed this is not an academic study, but if we get it wrong, the club will not survive. The "folk" population alone is too small to sustain it. I am not talking here about putting on 60's/ 70's pop/rock dressed up as folk but music that could broadly be defined as "within the tradition" (occasionally leaning towards modern "acoustic") but well sung/ played and well presented.

This has ranged from trad unaccompanied singers (which goes down well if the performer is good enough and makes good choices around material....and really turns "non-folkies" off when done badly) to self penned singer songwriter/ guitarist types writing on traditional and/or local themes and lots of other variants. I guess we are trying hard to open the doors of the "lodge" and yes, this does mean some compromise, but probably not as much as you think.

Paul


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 14 Mar 08 - 05:51 AM

What you haven't grasped Banjiman is that things aren't what they was. And people aren't what they was. Surgically remove the folk, the actual people of the 21st century from the equation and you've got bloody brilliant folkmusic - going on everywhere. In fact there it goes again.....


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Banjiman
Date: 14 Mar 08 - 05:58 AM

WLD,

I wasn't around when things were what they was......maybe that's the problem!

Still, I'm happy in my own little world, got Tom Bliss, Franana & Robin Bailey on at KFFC tomorrow night and our own gig on Sunday at Loftus, KFFC Bluegrass (can I mention Bluegrass on Mudcat?) Special on Monday night.....and the process goes on!


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Mar 08 - 03:41 PM

Banjiman:
You wrote :
"What is the point?....we're not ever going to agree...you appear to have a completely closed mind to anything that doesn't fit into a box that was defined in a previous era that can't possibly exist (or have any relevance)in the modern world. Please enjoy your museum."
You were spot on in your first bit though.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Tootler
Date: 14 Mar 08 - 03:46 PM

What you haven't grasped Banjiman is that things aren't what they was.

You've hit the nail on the head, WLD. I detect more than a hint of "years ago when everything was perfect" about some of the posts in this thread.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 14 Mar 08 - 04:53 PM

I am not aware that the situation has changed radically.

Starting with great books - the re-issue of Penguin as Classic English Folk Songs, the new edition of Marrowbones and Traveller's Joy are all excellent publications. As a s/h dealer Bronson will last for minutes on my shelves and I can sell all the complete sets of Greig-Duncan I can get hold of as well. These are emphatically not going to book collectors - I know every single person who has bought Bronson from me has used it, likewise the two sets of G-D I have sold. I currently have a customer who both sings and writes songs, contemplating purchasing the original Child. And they don't come cheap!!

I really think the folk process here is alive and doing well. Decent festivals with quality artists are legion. Loughborough last week was a sell-out, near as dammit, yes it had Lau (persoanlly I think they are great) - but it also had Geoff Wesley. It set out to use the "National" as a model for part of the festival. Yes it had a Distil Showcase - but it had that traditional strand too. And I don't see them as exclusive to each other anyway. And this from a strictly commercial enterprise. But that same succesful enterprise got a really good grant to take traveller culture into schools in the hopes of increasing understanding - with music and dance.

The scene has changed and in my opinion not always for the better but I suspect people were using similar words 50, 100, 150 and 200 years ago!! The difference is that we can now communicate it.







But of course it is much easier now to get at publications via the web.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Banjiman
Date: 14 Mar 08 - 07:06 PM

Jim,

Out of context again....this was in response to the (your) 1954 definition of "folk" music, not the music itself.

Tootler,

I don't know about you but I thoroughly enjoyed almost everything served up last Sunday afternoon, a fair mix of trad, self penned and other stuff. It seemed to gel as a whole though. Shame I missed the glory years!

Paul


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Mar 08 - 04:02 AM

Paul,
If I have misunderstood, I apologise.
However, if the 1954 definition is out of date and irrelevant it surely must have been replaced by one more in keeping with the times - surely?
I look forward to hearing it............. nah, no I don't - couldn't possibly hold my breath that long!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Banjiman
Date: 15 Mar 08 - 06:29 AM

Jim,

OK, so I don't have a better definition at my finger tips and frankly life is too short to worry about it! These are only labels after all.

I would like to call a truce, you get on with what you enjoy as folk and I'll do the same. You have clearly done a lot of work around preserving traditional music, I do respect this.

Meanwhile, is the "folk" process alive or dead?

Paul


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Mar 08 - 01:19 PM

"Meanwhile, is the "folk" process alive or dead?"
Isn't this where we came in?
Dead as mutton!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Tootler
Date: 15 Mar 08 - 01:20 PM

Paul,

I agree that last Sunday's shanty sing was an excellent afternoon. Good singing, good choruses and a good mix of traditional and songs with known composers whether recent or otherwise.

I very much liked your Wife's song about the Robin Hoods Bay rescue. As well as being an excellent song in its own right, it is, IMHO, a good example of a recently composed song which has been influenced by traditional song.

As to the subject of the thread, I think some of the discussion around the nature of traditional song and the 1954 definition is something of a red herring. Surely the question is about whether the folk process is still operating both on traditional song and on more recently composed song.

I think that as long as people are singing songs from memory and interpreting them in their own way, the answer must be "yes" because inevitably individuals in interpreting the song will incorporate changes either deliberately, or because they forget something and have to improvise, or they because make a 'mistake'. Most of the changes will be lost, but sometimes they will be taken up and a variation of the song will arise. It is, I think, a natural evolutionary process and will occur in any popular genre of music where the convention is to sing from memory, but I think that changes are more likely to be accepted in folk music because that is seen as being a natural part of the form.

Incidentally I this applies as much to instrumental music as it does to song.

Geoff


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Banjiman
Date: 16 Mar 08 - 08:53 AM

Jim,

Indeed!

Geoff,

Thanks for kind words re "The Visitor" . You tube link here for those who haven't heard it and are interested.

I agree with your points with regards to the folk process. Whatever you want to call it, there is a process that is ongoing that is still creating some great music from both traditional and more contemporary sources.

Paul


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Melissa Pinol
Date: 05 Dec 16 - 03:39 PM

I think the Folk Process is clearly surviving in what people call "Mondegreens(sp?)" Or misunderstood lyrics.Even in copyrighted material this is apparent. For example, if you look up Phil Ochs "No More Songs" online, there seems to be a difference of opinion in one line in the last stanza.Some people think it says "he waivers on the beat, he's dying" others think it is "the whale is on the beach, he's dying". If you listen to him sing,in most cases it sounds like he is saying the interpretation about the whale, which fits with a reference to " a white bone in the sand" in other words beach imagery is being used ( there's also the fact whales also sing)But Mudcat's lyric archive has the "waivers on the beat"version. I learned the song from Leslie Fish,who wrote a mythic/ allegorical Phil Ochs tribute called " Chickasaw Mountain" and she sang the whale version. I actually found it touching, considering the helplessness of beached whales, and whalesong.I sang it that way for years, but at one event someone actually burst out laughing yelling "whale on the beach!" How rude!This is an example of the folk process in my opinion.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,al whittle
Date: 05 Dec 16 - 08:58 PM

i don't know the song - but if you want to sing about beached whales and/or waivering on the beat,
this sounds like a valuable and worthwhile addition to your repertoire.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 06 Dec 16 - 05:23 AM

The "folk process" is not only alive, it's more significant than ever. That was what won Trump the election: the propagation of lies, misrepresentations and ever more mangled messages by his support network. Compared with that, a typical Jacobite balladeer was as straight-up as a court stenographer.

(If you've read a bunch of 17th century religio-political broadsides you'll see exactly where alt-right rhetoric comes from - truth, insight, elegance, wit and style didn't come into it; the only point was to be as brutally insulting as possible).


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Dec 16 - 12:31 PM

Nice one Jack, but lying and conniving politicians are deliberate, the folk process in natural, though both are unconsciously produced and instinctive on occasion
Even broadsides have to be passed through a creative process before beicoming 'folk'
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 06 Dec 16 - 01:53 PM

The point is that the sort of bollocks about Hillary Clinton that won Trump the election was not all made up by a central bullshit agency - given the initial impetus, the right-wing folklore machine amplified and elaborated it.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: leeneia
Date: 07 Dec 16 - 09:59 AM

Back to folk music.

No the folk process isn't dead. I do it myself.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 07 Dec 16 - 02:27 PM

In answering this question it all depends (unfortunately) on which of the many usages of the word 'folk' you believe in and accept. If you follow the 54 definition religiously then yes the process is all but dead as the communities it then applied to are either no longer in existence or have been swamped with more modern types of music. If you use 'folk' in the wider sense used by the majority of the population, albeit heavily influenced by the media and commercial interests, similar processes are still operating, but within largely different communities (the folk-scene for instance). You can't begin to answer the OP's question without addressing this.

There are in pockets here and there still now communities where the 54 processes are still going strong. They are out of the main spotlight and totally ignored by people of the folk scene, but they exist even in places like England where we assume these processes have died out.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: SPB-Cooperator
Date: 07 Dec 16 - 02:46 PM

Maybe I need to read the discussions from 8 years ago, but in my view I have seen the 'folk process' as a justification for losing touch with verifiable, collected material to the extent that the collected versions (and styles of performance) begin to lose their relevance, and even become referred to some people as an authentic source with reference to the material it has moved away from.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: TheSnail
Date: 08 Dec 16 - 06:30 AM

Perhaps Leslie Fish's "the whale is on the beach, he's dying" is a reference to Stephen Foster's "whale that is heard upon the shore".

Sorry.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,DTM
Date: 08 Dec 16 - 07:13 AM

Just to throw a wild card in here.
I like what I like and I don't care how it's classed as a song/tune whether folk, rock, MOR, C&W, it doesn't matter to me as long as I like it.
Mind you, if I DON'T like it, well that's a different story ;-)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 08 Dec 16 - 09:11 AM

Okay, DTM, you go into a music shop and have to spend all day looking for what you want as none of the music has been classified, and all of the assistants are far too busy dealing with a long queue at the counter to give you any help?


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