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It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?

Related threads:
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Richard Bridge 16 Mar 07 - 01:20 PM
PoppaGator 16 Mar 07 - 02:20 PM
Linda Kelly 16 Mar 07 - 02:29 PM
Peace 16 Mar 07 - 02:33 PM
Peace 16 Mar 07 - 02:47 PM
Little Robyn 16 Mar 07 - 02:54 PM
Peace 16 Mar 07 - 03:11 PM
Big Al Whittle 16 Mar 07 - 03:20 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 16 Mar 07 - 03:24 PM
Muttley 16 Mar 07 - 03:27 PM
Richard Bridge 16 Mar 07 - 03:51 PM
Richard Bridge 16 Mar 07 - 03:55 PM
Peace 16 Mar 07 - 04:11 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 16 Mar 07 - 04:16 PM
Peace 16 Mar 07 - 04:36 PM
Richard Bridge 16 Mar 07 - 05:35 PM
Peace 16 Mar 07 - 05:39 PM
Severn 16 Mar 07 - 05:56 PM
McGrath of Harlow 16 Mar 07 - 09:09 PM
Bert 16 Mar 07 - 09:19 PM
Lonesome EJ 16 Mar 07 - 09:26 PM
Fred Maslan 16 Mar 07 - 10:23 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 17 Mar 07 - 04:49 AM
Big Al Whittle 17 Mar 07 - 05:04 AM
Mr Red 17 Mar 07 - 05:15 AM
Big Al Whittle 17 Mar 07 - 05:34 AM
MikeofNorthumbria 17 Mar 07 - 05:44 AM
GUEST,Dan 17 Mar 07 - 07:23 AM
Duke 17 Mar 07 - 07:25 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 17 Mar 07 - 07:57 AM
Big Al Whittle 17 Mar 07 - 08:30 AM
GUEST 17 Mar 07 - 09:12 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 17 Mar 07 - 10:06 AM
GUEST 17 Mar 07 - 10:41 AM
Ernest 17 Mar 07 - 10:53 AM
Big Al Whittle 17 Mar 07 - 11:03 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 17 Mar 07 - 11:45 AM
Ruth Archer 17 Mar 07 - 12:11 PM
Ruth Archer 17 Mar 07 - 12:14 PM
GUEST 17 Mar 07 - 12:26 PM
Ruth Archer 17 Mar 07 - 12:30 PM
Stringsinger 17 Mar 07 - 12:49 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 17 Mar 07 - 12:51 PM
Richard Bridge 17 Mar 07 - 01:01 PM
Ruth Archer 17 Mar 07 - 01:06 PM
Little Robyn 17 Mar 07 - 02:21 PM
GUEST 17 Mar 07 - 02:32 PM
Peace 17 Mar 07 - 03:06 PM
McGrath of Harlow 17 Mar 07 - 05:19 PM
Big Al Whittle 17 Mar 07 - 05:47 PM
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Subject: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 01:20 PM

At Scrump's kind invitation I reprise my earlier question.

I said: "I think we need a new word. You see, to pedants like me, a folk musician should play folk music and folk music has been defined (see other threads). We also have very pleasant singarounds, song sessions, and sessions (note the Oxford or Harvard comma) at which quite a lot of music that is not folk music is played, listened to and enjoyed. That music is however distinguishable from other more populist types which (English and US readers will disagree over whether there should be a comma before "which") usually revolve around more amplification and have developed from, in many cases, different sources.

In practice the performers of this unnamed music are usually welcomed. It is the perfectly correct observation that what they are doing is not "folk" that gives the incorrect impression of exclusion.

I have previously suggested "New Folk" by analogy to "New Country" quite a lot of which is no longer new and quite a lot of which was never country.   Any better ideas?"

Scrump said: "I think this is worthy of a separate thread, Richard. Would you care to do the honours?"


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 02:20 PM

I think that the very-most-recent posting to that earlier (and now very long) discussion makes an excellent distinction, betewen "folksongs" and "folk music":

Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST, Mikefule - PM
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 01:20 PM
(Note the date and time; sooner or later, Mikefule's post will no longer appear at the bottom of the thread, as it does right now, as I begin writing this message.)

I'll paraphrase his suggestion: "Folk Music" can be defined by the spirit and intention of its participants ~ playing for personal enjoyment, community intercommunication, etc., while "Folk Songs" are those whose particular histories define them as belonging to certain recognized traditional folk cultures.

Songs that are not folk songs can become part of "folk music," as defined here, and indeed do so very often. Songs originally written for the popular commercial music biz become so well known that folks spontaneously adopt them for their communal enjoyment. Examples: "Over the Rainbow," many Beatles songs, etc.

On the other hand, recognized folksongs can be performed in a commercial or otherwise gussied-up, non-"folk" context, and thus fail to be part of "folk music" in that particular guise. Mikefule gives the excellent example of Thin Lizzy's version of "Whiskey in the Jar."


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Linda Kelly
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 02:29 PM

At our Wednesday folk session, we sung Shallow Brown & Some Old Salty -and then did a jamming session till the early hours where we sung Neil Young, the Eagles, Simon & Garfunkel and God Forbid -the Bee Gees. I write songs in an English traditional style about events and communities in this country. I don't let the music define me, and I cannot understand why it seems so important that it is defined-although if you want it that way then that's fine by me. I wish though ,that we could talk more about our love of music than which side of the border we reside upon. (Please don't bother correcting my grammar-it's been a long and lousy day!)


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Peace
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 02:33 PM

I, think, this, is, a, great id,ea, for, a, thread, comma.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Peace
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 02:47 PM

Richard, you have done a great service to this site. For too long the 'battle' has raged about folk--which songs qualify and which don't. I really like your notion of 'new folk' to distinguish modern treatments of trad songs. Good one!


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Little Robyn
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 02:54 PM

It's probably easier to define if you put the word 'traditional' in front, or 'contemporary', 'country' etc. You can then have 'popular' folksongs of the 60s - P,P&M for example, or 'traditional' tunes for a dulcimer, or a 'modern' blues that was composed last week.
That way they can come under the umbrella of 'Folk' while staying in separate/definable pockets.
I prefer 'trad' stuff these days but can still enjoy 'popular' songs occasionally.
But I don't believe Beatles or Judy Garland songs will ever become 'Folk'.
Robyn


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Peace
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 03:11 PM

"But I don't believe Beatles or Judy Garland songs will ever become 'Folk'."

But does it matter? (No offense.)


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 03:20 PM

of course its folk - you're folk, aren't you? Not bloody kangaroos.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow - speaks more profoundly to a population shafted into outmoded social groups, for the most part doing rotten underpaid jobs that insult their intelligence, living in cheap accomodation, and eating whatever the supermarkets can get away with - just inside the legal definition of garbage.

More profoundly than some dull miserable recitation abot the Plains of Waterloo - probably written by someone who didn't come within a thousand miles of the battle.

The interface with the human condition is what makes it folk music - not what someone of endlessly crawling up the bum of the folk establishment thinks - if he could think.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 03:24 PM

If you don't make any money singing it, it's folk music... :-) I would think that we could call ourselves folk singers, us being folks and singing a fair amount of what is called folk music. I refer to the songs I write as "original," (although some could argue that they are hackneyed or re-hashed browns.)

I wonder how many people on here only do one kind of song? Not many, I'd guess. What we do is what we enjoy doing and it resists being limited to a single label.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Muttley
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 03:27 PM

OI !!!!

Don't knock the kangaroos!

They're folk, too - just bloody big rat-shaped ones!

Muttley


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 03:51 PM

The only kangaroo I know that's folk is Skippy (with two Ps).


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 03:55 PM

And if those who are depriving a village of an idiot would care to (fill in the gaps).


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Peace
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 04:11 PM

Real converstaion starter there. Have a good thread.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 04:16 PM

A suggestion for those of you who don't want to listen to 'real' Folk Music:

Why don't you set up 'New Folk Clubs' where you can sing/play anything you like? And why don't you and your audiences take some responsibility for whatever you decide to sing/play in them - instead of expecting we who are interested in 'real' Folk Music to approve of your choices?


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Peace
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 04:36 PM

Frankly, most of the musicians I know have never given a rat's ass whether you who are in 'real' folk music like what they do. I expect the feeling would be mutual.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 05:35 PM

I am rather disappointed by the turn the thread has taken. What one likes is subjective, and cannot be prescribed. What it IS, however, is a matter of definition - or of meaning.

These days, at least in the UK, there are few venues that require "folk music only". I gather NTMC used to be like that, and Peacehaven. Slats mentioned to me the other evening that his then band were once booked by a club - and turned up with double bass, 12-string, piano accordian and violin, their usual lineup, only to be told that the club had known only of their unaccompanied work and had a club rule of "no instruments". They did an evening as guests doing only unaccompanied song.

The point of seeking a new definition was to clarify the implication that a "folk club" would permit only "folk music". It was to prevent the unwarranted (I thought) inference of unworthiness of music that was not "folk".

So, a "folk club" might expect only folk music. A (whatever) club might expect music within the broader ambit of the new coinage. A "country music club" might expect only country music. A reggae open mic might be adversely surprised when an "oi" band (which is very different from an "oy" band) took the stage.

This had nothing to do with claims to primacy - indeed part of the idea was to avoid the implication that one form of music was better than another merely because the latter fell outside the definition of the former, and I think some early posters took that idea on board.

It does however follow that some types of music are not relevant to other types of music. Scandinavian death metal is not relevant to barbershop, and might not expect to be represented in an exposition of the latter.

If we had a new expression - like "new country" - it would be axiomatic that a "Folk" club" was about "Folk" music, and a "Whatever" club was about "Whatever" music, and expressions like "Real Folk" would not be needed so the implication that "Real Folk" was superior to "Whatever Music" would not arise.

This may have been part of what Shimrod was seeking to convey, and I think, Peace, that you may have found an unintended meaning - indeed one that was not really even implied. If I create an "obnig" music club, it is going to be about "obnig" music, not Neapolitan opera. Those who wish to perform the latter should not be surprised if they are treated as intruders at an obnig club.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Peace
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 05:39 PM

I agree, Richard. I have sung in clubs where the clientelle want trad songs. I sang trad songs. Only a cad or novice would inflict rock and roll on people who want songs about open country and the range. I do agree with you, and possibly I did misunderstand. Frankly, I am not much of a purist, but I'm not completely stupid either, contrary to some folks' opinions on this site. A fool would play X for an audience that had clearly paid money to hear Z. So, I'll leave what I hope becomes a great thread, and one long overdue, IMO. Best to you.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Severn
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 05:56 PM

I've heard "Over The Rainbow" and other songs like Elvis' hit "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You" used as lullabies to put infants to bed on various occasions. They are being used for the same purpose as "Go Tell Aun't Rhody" going into tradition for traditional uses in the same way songs by Stephen Foster and Brahms did toward the same end.

And if the baby won't go to sleep, you keep pulling out songs, ANY songs, from the hat until they do, because what worked for Gartan Mothers did not work on this particular night. Nor, maybe, did songs written specifically to be "folk lullabies",like "Hobo's", "Prairie" or "Liverpool" which folkies find perfectly acceptable. If the song gets the intended job done, it becomes a tradition, if only a family tradition, and if a lot of folkies from the 'burbs turned to the music out of frustration from lack of traditions, the lullabye will still thrive anyplace, any time, any culture.

See, you had a tradition all the time, but you managed to sleep through it without realizing it!

Apply the same criteria to other tasks and see what other songs have passed into tradition.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 09:09 PM

I think there's a trap i talking about tradition as if there was a single tradition, which is obviously rubbish even within countries or regions.

But the even bigger mistake is to talk about the tradition as if it were a thing, a kind of treasure chest maybe. A tradition, a living tradition at least, is a process rather than a thing, and it is a process that is ongoing. New songs and new tunes can be produced through that process, and they will be recognisably part of that tradition.

And other new songs and tunes will not be - though of course they might be part of some other tradition.

"Folk" is both too narrow a label for "what it is we do", and too broad. What I mean is, typically we will find ourselves bringing in songs and tunes from some other traditions than the ones thta are popularly termed "folk"; and at the same time we are completely unaware of all kinds of musical traditions that are unquestionably traditional folk music in any academic context. The only advantage is has is that it's such an "uncool" term that it scares off some people who can do with being scared off.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Bert
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 09:19 PM

I don't want to get TOO pedantic here, but "pleasant singarounds" is what 'FOLK' - REALLY is.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 09:26 PM

In the modern terminology used among the youth of this mighty nation, someone playing an acoustic guitar is likely doing Folk. If a violin or mandolin or banjo is also heard, it is definitely Folk.

Among the past winners of the Grammy for Folk Album of the Year...Roger McGuinn for an album that featured Roger, Judy Collins and Jean Richey performing traditional music...and Steve Earle for an album of self-penned songs featuring amplified instruments and thundering drums. But I think Steve had a mandolin in there somewhere.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Fred Maslan
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 10:23 PM

I am reminded of what Sharon Lois and Bram defined as childrens' music,,,anything children want to sing.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 04:49 AM

Thanks to Richard Bridge - yes, I think you have grasped what I was trying to say.

Actually, if I ran a Folk Club (which I don't, and have no intention of doing) I don't think that it would be too unreasonable to have some sort of club policy concerning what type(s) of music the club should feature. Nevertheless, this might be extremely difficult to write and, contrary to what many people might think of me, I would strive NOT to make such a policy too restrictive (eg. a policy which requires only unaccompanied singing is patently absurd!).

I still believe that the key problem is related to the dominance of the 'Rock' form, and it's various Pop offshoots, in our culture. It does seem to me that many people just can't see beyond this particular form and think that all music should sound like Rock (speaking personally, I don't particularly like Rock and this is one of the reasons why I started going to folk clubs in the first place!).


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 05:04 AM

Just re-read what I wrote and of course, its rubbish - still that's what mudcat's about - aplace where you can talk rubbish.

Of course Plains of Waterloo is a great human document. And its as much wish fulfilment as Somewhere Over the rainbow.

In those days . as now - people went off to the war and got ruined every which way. Life didn't supply the happy endings - so songs had to.

Rather like the New Deserter. In life the bloke got shot - in folksong, Prince albert comes up and saves him. And there is passion there. We should not be singing anything just because its dull and worthy and its tradtional.

And a lot of people - not just floorsingers - are doing just that.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Mr Red
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 05:15 AM

Open Stage, song circle, come all ye, ballad session, acoustic session, jam, singaround

As (take yer pick) Buddy Bolden, Louis Armstrong, Big Bill Broonzy, Fats Waller have allegedly said. It's all folksinging - "I ain't never heard a horse sing"

For me it has to be folk singing/playing. If an electrical switch is involved it ain't folk singing - it is electronics. And I should know.

Or entertainment and there is more than enough of that at the flick of a switch.

Mr Red (MIEE)


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 05:34 AM

how do you stand on vibrators Mr Red?
to flick the switch, or not to flick the switch.....


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: MikeofNorthumbria
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 05:44 AM

Hi Everybody,

Some sage comments here from McGrath of Harlow and Richard Bridge, which I'm happy to endorse. Forgive me for blowing my own trumpet but I wrote a piece about this question which appeared in Living Tradition magazine (Issue 68, May-June 2006), under the title "Do We Still Need That F-Word?".    If anybody out there read it, and has comments, I'd be delighted to hear from them. And if you haven't read it, the answer was "Yes, we do".

Wassail!


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: GUEST,Dan
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 07:23 AM

Nice idea Richard, if the rest of Britain wasn't way ahead of you... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nu-folk

The mainstream media has been talking about "nu-folk" for a year or so as a way to describe all these non-trad acts.

It is a good idea though!


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Duke
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 07:25 AM

To define something is to limit it. I don't like to lable my music, I just play it and hope for the best.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 07:57 AM

Interesting how much important this issue seems to be in England. Last year, I led a workshop titled Church And Street Corner Harmony, showing the black gospel roots of doo wop. My friends in an a capella doo wop group and my gospel quartet split the program. I've also noticed that Doo Wop is being sung informally at more and more folk festivals. I suspect that it would never be sung at a folk festival or folk club in England. The Doo Wop group, The Persuasions have also performed at folk clubs here. Doo Wop would most likely not fit the definition of many Catters in Europe, and yet it has many of the qualities of folk music: It came out of local communities where people sang with simple accompaniment, or unaccompanied. The singers were rarely professionally trained and singing occurred as a natural part of community life. I'm not making a case to call Doo Wop folk music... just that people seem a little more relaxed over here about labels. To me, it doesn't matter whether someone calls it folk. I wouldn't. I'd call it Doo Wop, just as I'd call Blues "Blues" and Gospel "Gospel." I can't even imagine going to a club or coffee house to hear someone just on the basis that they were doing "folk" music. It would be like saying to my wife, "Honey, do you want to go hear a concert of classical music?" As long as someone's music is adequately described. that's all I need to decide whether I'd like to hear them or not.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 08:30 AM

Its like the hunting thing Jerry; in England it polarises people on a class basis.

Folk is music that demands an intelligent and listening audience in a way that much pop music doesn't. The instruments can't be turned up to eleven. Its music, much of which, doesn't fit into brash and noisy surroundingd with chattering drunken audiences.

Some people can't resist the impulse to make it even more exclusive - and so we have talk of a esoteric 'tradtion' that only the initiated and wise will comprehend and appreciate.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 09:12 AM

This has nothing whatsoever to do with class warfare (or hunting - good grief, does this man have a chip on his shoulder or what?)!

There IS a body of work called - perhaps unhelpfully - the tradition, which was created in a particular way which can no longer be replicated today (though other processes do function). That makes it valuable and worthy of respect (not ossification - respect).

It's not esoteric nor only available only to the initiated or the wise. It's everyone's, and free to anyone willing to listen and learn.

No-one is trying to make it excusive, or use it in some class struggle.

What people do try to do is make sure that a now-lost process and finite catalogue is respected, rather than being plundered willy-nilly with no attribution or recognition of its unique values, or, worse, diluted and confused with other different (though maybe equally good new works) which were not made by that now lost process.

It's only the same as recognising and respecting, say, the Impressionist Movement, or De Styl.

If someone today painted a house brick and called it art we could have a debate about its merits and value. But if they said it was a Dutch Master they'd be plain wrong.

And that's all people are doing.

Sadly some writer/players today like Mr Drummer seem so keen to have their own works recognised that they interpret all attempts to preserve the rights of others (in this case a continuum of others) some blockage of their rights.

Sour grapes, it seems to me.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 10:06 AM

Oh unnamed Guest: I love traditional music, respect and value it greatly. And I respect what you have said. It grieves me that so few people have an interest in it anymore. My difference in perspective is that if traditonal music is to be revered and preserved, I think it would be better served to take it out to the "folk," not limit it to folk clubs and folk societies. If I sing Three Nights drunk for a group of people who have no idea what folk music is, and in honesty, no interest in the proper definition, they respond to the song. They don't give a damn who recorded it, or where I learned it, or how many variants there are or whether Cecil Sharp collected it. All they have is the song, not presented in hushed reverence. Just the song. And they love it. If we love and value the songs, we should trust them enough to set them free in the world, not carefully nurture them in the nest. I've done Coal Man Blues at a street fair in an inner city area and people got up and danced to it.

We need something greater than folk enclaves. We need to take the songs back to the people; most of whom have no idea what folk music is.

Trust the music.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 10:41 AM

You are completely right Jerry.

But by the same token, when we set those songs free we have a duty to tell people where they came from, and point them to that archive, so that maybe a few will go and do the same.

THAT's what's important. Attribution. Plain and simple.

It's like real ale. If you only ever gave people cask ale in a plain can labelled only 'beer,' and did the same with lagers both rare and rubbish, they'd never know the difference. And what a shame that would be. Half the pleasure comes form knowing how it's made, and where. No?

It drives me mad that people like Drummer, for whatever strange reason, always see the simple desire to provide correct and informative 'consumer information' about music as some attempt to stop people listening to it!


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Ernest
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 10:53 AM

Great post, Jerry!

But the best thing about it is: you can have both.

You can entertain people who don`t know anything about the background of the song one night and still give a lenghty introduction on the same song the next night if you have a audience interested in it.

You can play a tune traditionally one night and amplified, jazzed up ot whatever suits you the next.

A good f-song or tune is indestructable (I am not so sure if that works with other kinds of music...haven`t heard unplugged techno yet).

Do we need a new word? I don`t think so. Every genre of music has so many sub-genres nowadays that just the one word isn`t very descriptive. Seems we just need MORE words (did I mention that I am a lawyer? ;0)

Best
Ernest


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 11:03 AM

No, what distresses me is that great artists are discounted , because the tradition is like some awful hegemony that grabs all the creative opportunities , outlets , commissions, government subsidies, festival budgets for itself and still moans, and moreover prevents other acoustic artists from being heard.


Last week, Jack Hudson took his seat onstage in a Derby folk club. The audience, as one, laughed ironically when someone shouted out - Hell freezes over then Jack! apparently Folkweave had played one of Jack's recordings.

That the local BBC radio station should choose to practically never play any of the music of this giant of the folk club world is a sheer bloody disgrace. As also is the fact that the late Roger Brooks of Nottingham never had a record released in this country.

If you were to ask me if it had anything to do with jack Hudson coming from a very working class background - I'd say yes, I damn well do believe that.

For myself, I have been very lucky. I had a hit record abroad, was flexible enough never to have to beg for work on the folk scene, so I've been able to continue my work as an artist without your gracious help.

As far as I'm concerned, most days i wish the tradition would combust spontaneously, particularly smart arses like your self, Mr Faceless Guest.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 11:45 AM

"If you have an audience interested in it." Attributed to Ernest

Ah Hah, there's the rub.

The audience determines the performance.

I've heard performers give "too much information" on the background of a song and who recorded, it in a public setting where Mom and Dad and the kids stop by for a minute to hear what's going on. I can't believe that they're likely to rush out and buy a Buell Kazee CD after the performance. The performers weren't respecting their audience's interests, or the setting.

I ran a folk concert series for 27 years, and the audience became quite knowledgeable about traditional music, because that's all that I booked (with the notable exceptions of Gordon Bok and Bill Staines.) One festival, I booked a performer for workshops who was very knowledgeable. He did a workshop at 1 in the afternoon, and his introductions were so long, that several people in the audience actually dozed off. You'd think that if you were giving long introductions and you saw that your audience was falling asleep (the room was well lit, so the performer couldn't help but notice,) you'd lighten up a little and cut back on the information.
He didn't. And, I never booked him for a full concert.

Caution: Do not listen to these introductions while operating heavy equipment.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 12:11 PM

weelittledrummer above is talking nonsense. Guest above is absolutely spot on.

There is no exclusivity about the tradition apart from the kind of reverse snobbery sometimes applied to anything which requires a little bit of effort to engage with. Just because something is takes time and understanding doesn't make it elitist. What a load of dumbed-down nonsense. The only people excluded from an appreciation of the tradition have imposed that exclusion upon themselves.

"the tradition is like some awful hegemony that grabs all the creative opportunities , outlets , commissions, government subsidies, festival budgets for itself"

Excuse me while I fall about laughing. Festival budgets? Government subsidies?! The amount of money spent on traditional arts by the government in this country is laughable - and about to get worse, once all the sports lummoxes have finished plundering the lottery fund for their little party in 2012. Traditional music and dance is not prioritised in any way by government subsidy - it's the bastard, red-headed stepchild of "high art" - orchestral music, ballet, opera. Now THAT's elitism. The kind of entertainment you pay £100 a ticket for - not a canon of traditional work that's available, freely and openly, for anyone to access if they can just be arsed.

And where are these huge festival budgets being plundered by "traditional" music? Look at Cambridge, one of the biggest folk festivals in the country. Where are the "traditionalists" that are monopolising their lineup? You might get a sniff of trad on the Club Tent stage - everywhere else it's commercial folk, singer/songwriters, Americana and world music. Cropredy must be the biggest folk festival in the country in terms of attendance - where are the "traditionalists" monopolising their budget? It's folk rock heaven, and nary a 36 verse Child ballad in sight - unless Fairport happen to be singing Matty Groves.

The kinds of festivals that are dominated by tradition are the sorts of homespun, DIY affairs much valued by the people of this parish. And why? Because there's no bloody money in the tradition, that's why. All the money goes into the more commercial end of the folk market - the stuff that shifts units and gets played on the radio.

It's not bloody rocket science, is it?


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 12:14 PM

"f you were to ask me if it had anything to do with jack Hudson coming from a very working class background - I'd say yes, I damn well do believe that."

Then you're deluded. Many traditional folk artists come from a working-class background. That godawful dreary Damien Dempsey played the main stage at Cambridge with his dirges. Annd there's no one working the prolier-than-thou vibe more than he is.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 12:26 PM

And where, Mr Drummer, did you get the inspiration for your famous Overseas Hit? For that matter, how did you even become a Folk Musician? Where did you cut your teeth? Where did you learn your craft? And where did your heros and role models get their ideas from? Where did THEIR idols get their inspiration? And where did your audience acquire its taste for this flavour of music?

You owe it ALL to music that was inspired and informed by the tradition. If not you'd be a Pop, Funk, Grunge, Reggae or some Other type of musician. It is ungracious in the extreme of you to want to see the tradition eradicated. (But then I've read your posts in the past so I'm not surprised).

But you can't deny the influence of traditional music, and be taken seriously by anyone. Ever.

Myself; I don't do much trad stuff, and I've been turned down by many trad clubs for that reason. But I don't mind. I recognise the importance of seed-corn and the preservation of a gene bank - and the right of those clubs to favour the music they love.

Now. This class thing - you are just SO wrong. A majority of the pros who work the club circuit and bestride festival stages are of 'working' stock. But in any event you're fighting a battle that became irellevant in the last century, for many reasons.

In folk, the music is everything. It's a meritocracy. People's reastion is based on how well you do it. And market forces cut in when money changes hands - as with anything else. And even more so when it comes to radio.

They'll never play me - but that's not a class-based decision. That's about money, percentages, play-list policy, audience shares and production values. Contacts help, but that's always been the case everywhere. (In the old days it got you a job down the mine too).

As for length of introductions - that's a different matter. Yes, some go on way too long and provide far too much detail. But that's not the issue. The issue is just saying who made the song or tune, and respecting that person or persons' creation.

How can that be a bad - or a class-based - thing?

Look - we have no problem with someone from Cuba starting up a Cuban restaurant if that's what they do best. We wouldn't go in there and demand a curry and complain because the waiters were not Indian, would we?

Traditional - or other - clubs are no different. They've been started, and supported, by people who like a bit of antiquity and historical depth to their music. Nothing wrong with that.

They don't book me or MrDrummer. But only one of us resents it. I wonder why.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 12:30 PM

"They'll never play me - but that's not a class-based decision. That's about money, percentages, play-list policy, audience shares and production values. Contacts help, but that's always been the case everywhere. "

spot on once again, Guest.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 12:49 PM

Actually there are two "Folk Musics". One is the music of the show business public persona of the folksinger whose concerts are attended by officianados and requires a separate bin in the record stores or online to define this type of performance.

The other is songs and music that stand the test of time that reflect a cultural background.

I don't see why the two can't coexist comfortably as long as one type of folksinger respects the output of the other.

This thread is more academic wrangling that ultimately goes nowhere because the "folk" will decide what "folk music" is and not some gray-bearded semanticist.

It doesn't matter really what you call it. The audience will decide.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 12:51 PM

When I was young, I thought that talent would be heard. If you were good enough to be recorded, you would be. If you were a good writer, you would get published. Now, I'm older and wiser. People record music to sell it. Same with books. If there is no mass market for your music or writing, no matter how brilliant you may be, no one is going to make money off of your work. Ask Van Gogh or the endless number of brilliant visual and performing artists who struggled in obscurity. The correlation between talent and commercial success is tenuous, at best. To quote my old friend Gordon Bok: "Is no "should," is just "is." Commerce and art are strange bedfellows.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 01:01 PM

I'l confess, if it makes wikipedia any happier. I tried to start a similar discussion about 4 or 5 years ago too - also using the suggestion of "New-Folk" - but no-one took me up on the invitation at that stage. Sorry Dan. Nu-folk is clearly a back-coinage from nu-metal.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 01:06 PM

I think it's useful having a separate category for traditional music, for all the reasons given by Guest above.

Traditional music is a sub-category of folk. People who want to can decide amongst themselves what "folk" means - but at least we know what we mean by the tradition, and there's no need to confuse it with, or set it up in conflict with, all the other subsections of "folk". Folk is a term that has been conveniently co-opted so many times by the media and the marketplace - every time they add another interpretation or brand, the term itelf becomes more meaningless.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Little Robyn
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 02:21 PM

Our local folk club changed its name to Acoustic Music Club which meant you could sing/play practically anything from Somewhere over the rainbow to slitty wrist stuff.
Only the electric people were left out.
However, it folded because no-one wanted to come and listen to the people singing.
Nowadays we have a weekly 'session' in the local pub and it's not run as a club but more like a 'come-all-ye'. Any type of music is tolerated but most people stay with 'folk'. And there is an electric bass!
Robyn


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 02:32 PM

Ruth - you put it so simply and so well as ever.

Folk will decide what is folk music, of course - and it can be whatever anyone likes.

But traditional has a reasonably clear, albeit conflicting, set of definitions, which are at least partly supported in common law (though not by Smooth Operations), as they should be.

We really need a debate on how to clarify the definitions of traditional in its various forms, and we need some new words too, because the current situation constantly creates legal, cultural and financial problems.

Having people confuse 'folk' and 'trad' is unnecessary and unhelpful.

I like 'New Folk' - it's is a step in the right direction. (Nu Folk is another existing sub-set and of no help here).

We can go on using the words trad and folk, but we need to take much more care to explain what we mean by each - and that needs new terms.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Peace
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 03:06 PM

I have often gone to pubs where Irish music is sung to listen to the singers and drink coffee. I like the music, the melodies and the words. I tolerate some of the songs so I can enjoy the others.

I would not cross the street to hear someone singing "The Log Driver's Waltz" or "The Black Fly song" unless I knew the singer to be someone with excellent phrasing/someone from whom I could learn to improve my own skills in the craft/art. I would travel a few hundred miles to hear The Rankin Family because of their musicianship, harmonies and songs--which go all the way from rock to Irish Gaelic trad music. Fact is, I am less interested in the category than in the songs themselves and the presentation by the performers. I do not know where those who like things in categories would put Susan Aglukark. Her I'd go listen to. And The Dixie Chicks. And Bob Ryszkiewicz (a Montreal-based bluesman with great phrasing and aspects of drama in his material). But the fact is I wouldn't cross the street to hear Robert Johnson because I don't think he was all that good.

Some of the songs presented in trad performances are tired, like some of the newly-written songs by people who want to be songwriters. Trad doesn't not equal good anymore than modern equals good. Of course, the converse holds true. Unless you have done something brilliant and new with an arrangement of "Greensleeves", thanks but I don't want to hear it for time 861. This speaks only for me. I've listened to people like Louis Killen, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, Richie Havens, John Lee Hooker, Lonnie Johnson, Janis Ian, Joni Mitchell, PP and M--all up close and personal. Frankly, it's the music, writing and performances I enjoyed. As for the categories, I really don't care.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 05:19 PM

If an electrical switch is involved it ain't folk singing

So we've got to sing in the dark, have we? Or maybe by candlelight.
....................................

I wouldn't cross the street to hear Robert Johnson because I don't think he was all that good.(Peace) "Because I don't like the way he sang and played" would be about personal taste, and no one can dictate that. "I don't think he was all that good" makes a claim that goes beyond that.

I think Mark Twain's comment "Wagner's Music is Better Than it Sounds" encapsulates the right attitude to take about stuff we don't personally like but which clearly possess some kind of excellence in the view of people whose views are to be respected.


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Subject: RE: It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 05:47 PM

These are the thoughts that sustaine me as an artist and they have come to me through years of working as a musician and artist.

they are what I understand, because they are what I have seen.

i don't know what you two have been doing. As you won't put your heads above the parapet, i can't see why you're so damn keen on insulting my views.

my views are the basis of a working attitude - yours just seem to spring from the need to insult.

the point is that public and minority radio has never been about market share and all that music industry bollocks. (and if you'd ever worked in the music industry - you'd know that's exactly what it is -just sophistry by rich guys making crap decisions).

To return to my point there has always been a sort Reithian intention about the BBC but it falls on its arse when it comes to music.

I used to gig in a country and Western band (in the 70's the Brit country and western scene was awash with talent - mainly from the Irish showband scene that was coming to an end), and I'd slip out in an interval to a rock club - from someplace where the audience had been going mad throwing their knickers in the air. you'd go across the road to a rock club that was empty, but it was the rock club that got the Peel sessions , the reviews in NME, etc.

And the reason that thecountry scene was never reviewed or written about was that it was working class.

And the same situation obtains here and now with the folkscene.

that's the way English people continue to be disenfranchised from their folk voice, by the 'tradition'.


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