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Living Tradition and the Revival

26 May 03 - 07:47 PM (#959486)
Subject: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: Fay

What is the difference between these two parties?

What links do revival singers have with the tradition, and how does the tradition fit into the revival?

I've been reading some quite interesting books with refference to this matter and thought it would be good to get some first hand explanations of what it means to you lot.

26 May 03 - 10:13 PM (#959527)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: GUEST,Russ

Dange Will Robinson!!!

Trying to clarify the distinction is way more trouble than it is worth. Attempts to clarify it tell you too much about the person making the attempt and almost nothing about the phenomena. Your time is much better spent making music and/or listening to it than talking about it.

27 May 03 - 10:21 AM (#959744)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: Fay

Mike of Northumbria said a similar thing on a different thread, but if I spent all our time playing and never thinking about anything I'd just pop, besides,it wouldn't help me pass the academic side of my degree either.

Anyone got any interesting comments?

27 May 03 - 10:22 AM (#959748)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: MMario

That depends on the singer; their background; their experiences; and their material doesn't it?

An awful lot of variables to try to discuss.

27 May 03 - 10:32 AM (#959754)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: DMcG

I don't find it a very useful distinction either. Just how relevant is it that Jill of the Copper family learnt her songs from Bob and Ron but never had anything to do with farming; whereas Martin Carthy learned some of his originally from Sam Larner? Does it really make Jill fall into one category but Martin the other? Is Martin 'living tradition' for some songs but 'revival' for others? As a categorisation system it doesn't seem to work for me.

27 May 03 - 11:21 AM (#959786)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: Fay

Exactly, in the research I'm doing at the moment, I've got one guy, Walter Greaves, a blacksmith, winning traditional singing competition judged by Karl Dallas at the age of 65(ish). But he only 'discovered' folk music 2 years earlier, and learnt his songs in the same way the college students were, aroung the same time in the same area there was a group, The Jovial Crew, whose singer learnt all his songs from his dad, yet they were considered revival.

If we all agree these are silly terms, why are they so commonly employed, and we revivalists, or in my case second generation 60's revival (I'm 25) made to feel inferior because we're not farmers?

I read about Arthur Howard's Yorkshire television appearnces in Ian Russel's Singer Song and Scholar the other day and it made me laugh. The TV people had him singing whilst walking up hills and looking out over the sheep, not his usual practice obviously, and he couldn't do it because he was too out of breath.

What is this authentic traditionalist image we have in mind, and why is it different to what people are doing now. I guess that is my question.

27 May 03 - 11:28 AM (#959789)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: GUEST,Peter from Essex

As "traditional" performers get absorbed into the folk scene the distinction gets very blurred. Apart from some traveller families such as the Orchards I can't think of any living English singers or musicians who have not been significantly influenced by the revival.

I don't know about Martin but is Eliza Carthy a traditional singer and revival musician?

Can the Coppers be regarded as "traditional" as they perform from a historic text rather then learning and changing their material through the "folk process"?

27 May 03 - 11:35 AM (#959792)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: Fay

Is it all about exposure then, when a culture gains access to other types of music and starts analysing their own against other measures it becomes inauthentic.

Am I harming the folk proccess by considering these things, should we just plough on in ignorance to be regarded as truely traditional.

Or is this an extreamly offensive statement implying that singers of traditional material in years passed, or in marginalised sectors of the community don't have oppinions about their approach to music?

27 May 03 - 11:43 AM (#959796)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: Maryrrf

Well, I think we might as well accept that pretty soon there aren't going to be very many (if any!) truly "traditional" singers in the sense that their main influence and the place where they learned their songs was the family and the community. Most everybody nowadays has a CD player, radio, etc. and the days where an evening's entertainment consisted of sitting around with the neighbors and family singing songs that were passed on through the generations is finished. The tradition will have to be carried on by "revivalists" and there's no point in being embarrassed by the term - it's just that we were born and grew up in the age of television, radio, records, tapes, cd's etc.

27 May 03 - 12:15 PM (#959819)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: M.Ted

Don't beat yourself up for being inauthentic or being a revivalist. Nothing bad about being a revivalist at all.

As far as I can see, a living tradition exists if there is community that exists in time and space, where a body of songs and a style of performance are passed from one generation to another.

A "revival" means that the living tradition has ended or is ending, and the material is collected and brought into another area where it can be kept alive. It is also possible for a living tradition to spread, which is a process that has nothing to do with revival--such as sailors leaving songs where they travel, and missionaries teaching hymns.

Bottom line is that revivals often become traditions themselves, as they pick up bits from here and there and become coherent entities of their own. The reverse of that is that is true too-- all the things that we think as traditions really are a collection of bits and pieces from diverse places that settled in a particular community and were then passed on.

The thing is to appreciate that you are playing and singing as part of a community that exists in the present, and, God willing, will continue into the future, becoming a tradition of its own--In fifty years, some aspiring young person may sit you down in front of a recording device of some sort and try to get you to remember the songs that you played in a time and place that are only memories--

27 May 03 - 01:09 PM (#959849)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: Malcolm Douglas

It's a difficult area and subject to much disagreement. One useful (though by no means exclusive) criterion is the context in which the singer's involvement with the music has developed; where they learned their attitude toward it, and their basic style. Repertoire can come (and probably always has) from anywhere, but it may be that one distinction between the traditional and revival singer is whether or not they have grown up (physically or as a singer) in an existing and identifiable tradition. That's largely what forms attitudes.

To an extent, everybody carries tradition of one sort or another, but that isn't really the point. Class and profession aren't the issue (though many people have supposed that they were), but it's generally true that traditional songs have persisted best in coherent communities where they were a normal part of life. As to whether or not Mr Greaves should be considered a traditional singer, I'd say that it might depend on his background; on where he's coming from in his relationship with the material rather than where he got it.

Context again; it is, for example, quite beside the point that the Coppers sing from written texts. Equally, singing traditional songs doesn't of itself make a person a traditional singer, any more than a traditional singer makes a song traditional by the mere act of singing it (though that may be the start of a process through which it will become so). You will probably want to look at the way in which many traditional singers would effectively serve an apprenticeship in their art; Ginette Dunn, Fellowship of Song, is particularly useful on that (perhaps you've already read the book) and it also illustrates that many traditional singers have quite strong opinions both on their material and on its meaning to them and to others.

The terms are neither silly nor irrelevant; but they are limiting. There is considerable scope for further serious study of the mechanisms of transmission within the Revival, the extent to which it overlaps with identifiable and continuous tradition, and the extent to which it may be considered that new strands of tradition are emerging. This, after all, is a continuing process; tradition is made by time and continuity (as well as by change) and we can't just appoint ourselves to it. One does not "harm" the folk-process (a term almost as misused as the word "Celtic") by examining it, any more than we harm nature by studying the migration pattern of birds.

27 May 03 - 01:10 PM (#959851)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: Marje

I've always found it a bit of a confusing distinction, and can't really see that a "source" singer is anything of the sort: the source of traditional songs and music goes back a lot further than the so-called "source" or "traditional" singers.

It's not about oral versus written tradition. Many of the traditional singers and musicians performed songs and tunes that had at some time been written down, and they may or may not have learnt them from written words or music. Equally, many "revival" singers(and many reading this, I should think) have learnt many songs and tunes from others without ever seeing them written down.

And it's not to do with occupation, either. Even the singers who are accepted as "traditional" used to sing songs that did not arise directly from their experience - they may have sung seafaring ballads and yet never seen the sea. It would be a dull old world if farmers could only ever sing songs about sheep and lbrarians about books.

The "revivalist" folk musicians and singers who are now the custodians of traditional music are teachers, computer operators, engineers, salesmen, etc, and not sons of the soil, but they still share and pass on this music. They use modern methods to do it, but this doesn't invalidate it in any way, IMO.

Musically, we've always been open to other cultural influences. Polkas and waltzes came from central Europe, jigs probably from France, and so on. So it's not a matter of cultural purity or intergrity, either.

So the more I think about it, the harder I find it to recognise any real distinction between traditional and revivalist musicians and singers. There's a much bigger distinction to be drawn between, on one hand, all those who respect and are inspired by traditional sources, and on the other, those who concentrate on recently-written material that has little to do with the tradition. But that is a whole nother topic....

27 May 03 - 01:24 PM (#959862)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: Willie-O

I'm going to differ with Marje somewhat. I think it helps to have and understand one's connection to the lifestyle described in song, whether it's first-hand or a family heritage. That is where the music comes from, after all.

Sailors are better shantiers, and (if I ever get around to learning a decent selection of em) I'm a better performer of "songs of the great north woods" for having been a forest worker.

As for sources, I learned em from old records and sometimes books. Imagine.


27 May 03 - 01:55 PM (#959876)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: GUEST,Russ


I apologize if my initial response sounded too snotty.

If your interest in the distinction has an academic component, then one of your jobs is a review of the literature. You could probably get an entire thesis or dissertation out of the debate. It's been going on for well over a century.

"If we all agree these are silly terms, why are they so commonly employed, and we revivalists, or in my case second generation 60's revival (I'm 25) made to feel inferior because we're not farmers?"

But that's the point. Such distinctions are too often made to exclude and denigrate. To use a very old fashioned word, the distinction is "political." It is made to justify giving or withholding funds, to put people in their place, etc. Academics SHOULD use the terms purely in a classificatory way. For them a distinction is a tool. Non-academics often use the distinction to make value judgments. For them the distinction is a weapon. At your age you should consider very carefully the source of pejorative uses of the term "revivalist." At least some of them might be expressions of one generation's traditional dissatisfaction with a younger generation's aesthetics.

You cannot "harm" the folk process any more than you can harm the water cycle. However, you as an individual can affect other individuals including traditional musicians. It's an old story, but traditional musicians tend to play and sing what the collectors want to hear. Also, the relation between academic and traditional musician is fairly often viewed as exploitive by the musicians and their communities.

27 May 03 - 03:53 PM (#959978)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: greg stephens

The difference is of course notoriously difficult to define, and can lead to some acrimony, particular by some revivalists who get ratty when someone else says they prefer traditional folk music. But. difficult to define or not, surely anyone without cloth ears can tell the difference.
   Listen to, say, a recording of Joseph Taylor, Leadbelly, the crowd at Padstow, Bob and Ron Copper, and a Rumanian village wedding band. Your ears will tell you these very different musics have a quality in common. Then listen to recordings of traditional folk material arranged by Vaughan Williams, or Benjamin Britten, or the Kingston Trio, or Faitport Convention, or Martin Carthy. You are listening to something else. Anyone can detect these differences. The first category I would call traditional, the second revival.
   Defining the difference is tricky, not least because anyone can think of challenging borderline cases (as with all classification systems). I take care of the awkward in-betweens by saying it is possible (though perhaps unusual in England) to be a traditional and a revival performer at the same time. And of course, you can play rock'n'roll and classical music as well if you wish, also difficult to define but easy to recognise.

27 May 03 - 06:57 PM (#960076)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: M.Ted

Interesting phenomenon here in the US, Greg, musicians from outside of, say, the Rumanian ethnic communities, who learn the traditional music from recordings and in academic settings, and then start to play for events in the ethnic community, often with musicians from the tradition. Even some instances of these folks teaching young people who are part of the communities to play traditional material--

27 May 03 - 07:41 PM (#960102)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: Art Thieme

One of them could secure grants from the National Endowment For The Arts to further their work here in the U.S.A.

The other couldn't !

Art Thieme

28 May 03 - 03:58 AM (#960291)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: a gud ole bwoy

If yu wanst to know everythin the is tu know about the tradition then why dunt yu ask them whats still around. 'Cos there is sum of em yu know. Down in amogst them twisty lanes of Suffolk, there's a few of them gud ole bwoys still a singing, and gells for that matter.Bill Dalby, Jack Tarling and Beryl frum Colchester fur a start. There's folks what have researched it an all, like Katie Howson and Rod Stradling but they went there from sumwhere else. The one I cun think of what lived there all his life and new em all is Neil Lanham. I could ask im if eed let yu write to im about it if yu want.
Mind you i dunt think them ole bwoys worries much as tu whether their traditional or not they just gus of out and entertains folks just like they alwus did.
I rekon like what wus said afore that it's aright old complicated goin on and in writin it down and fathoming it out your likely to end up with aright old headache.
Well i betta goo und get on

28 May 03 - 09:06 AM (#960428)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: Snuffy

I think it's important to distinguish between "traditional" material and the singing tradition.

The tradition is essentially informal, social and communal - people making their own entertainment, with no real demarcation between performer and audience: everyone was both to some extent. People got songs from all over the place: handed down; broadsides and sheet music; minstrel shows and music hall; later radio and recordings. Anything that caught the fancy was taken on board.

The tradition of people doing their own thing in pubs, family parties, on coach trips etc, was the way that many songs were preserved and disseminated - not all of them "traditional" by any means.

To my mind, half-a-dozen inebriated 40-something ladies in a wine bar bawling out "Simply the Best" or "I will survive" is part of the continuing tradition: Martin Carthy singing traditional material in a concert hall is not.

Concerts, Folk clubs and recordings, with a more or less passive audience being entertained by a "priesthood" are "revival" rather than traditional. Singarounds are on the dividing line between the two, but often feel traditonal to me, especially if there is a bit of discussion or banter and joshing between the songs.

28 May 03 - 12:03 PM (#960560)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: radriano

Okay, so if Martin Carthy sings a traditional song in a wine bar he is part of the continuing tradition but if he sings the same song in a concert hall, he is not. In other words, being paid for singing makes it not traditional.

28 May 03 - 12:27 PM (#960584)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: Frankham


The intersection between the traditional and the revival is essential for the appreciation of folk music. It's ok to make the distinction because it helps both. The traditional singer learns to appreciate his/her form. The revivalist carries the music forward to new audiences.

The reason that the revivalist should study the music of the tradition is that it furthurs the understanding of style, nuance, lyrics, and appreciation for the song. It can be used as a valid springboard for other interpretations by revivalists. Why not? If it's musically interesting and yes, entertaining, what's wrong with that?

I don't agree that the traditional and revival music have merged into one form of expression. That's just a cop-out by those who don't want to take the time to examine the traditions of the music. At the same time, I think it's a cop-out to pretend to be someone you're not.
Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery but there is a specious side to this. (Example: when a young white kid tries to imitate a black singer or a rural musician). This doesn't mean that the young white kid can't interpret the music of his/her choice. But the differences have to be allowed for. There's not one white guy I know who is going to sound exactly like a Delta Blues musician who was born and raised black in southern Mississippi. There may be great interpreters of that music, however, such as Ry Cooder and others.

So what if they don't sound exactly like that? Who really cares? If they bring music to life for others, give them a window to appreciate traditional music such as people like Pete Seeger, Burl Ives or others, why not? This is great.

Tradition is the key word here. It means something like history. If you understand it, study it and appreciate it, then something comes out of it that's special if it's done with taste, respect and ability.

I believe that traditional and revival singers should share the same stage. What the best of both worlds have in common is that they appreciate the depth and breadth of the music.

This would be true for jazz. Why not folk music?

Frank Hamilton

28 May 03 - 12:49 PM (#960607)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: GUEST,Les B.

The pay for play issue that radriano brings up is interesting. In the recent biography of bluegrasser Bill Monroe, "Can't You Hear Me Calling," there's a brief discussion of the folk ethics of the 1960's, when collector/perfomer/academics like Ralph Rinzler and Mike Seeger were discovering southern musicians like Monroe and Doc Watson.

The prevailing "folkie" attitude in the north, apparently, was that musicians shouldn't be getting paid for making music but be willing to play it for free. On the other hand, as one of the Dillards (the mainly brothers bluegrass group that moved from Missouri to Hollywood to appear on the Andy Griffith Show) put it (paraphrased) - "we gave up jobs, homes and family to try to make a living at this."

28 May 03 - 05:17 PM (#960779)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: Marje

Willie-O: I don't disagree with what you say, I do think that it's better if you can relate the song in some way to your life. But I think we can still do this with old songs about the past, as it's still part of our heritage.

We once went to Portsmouth to visit Nelson's flagship the Victory. You can see the spot where Nelson died, you can see the cramped sleeping quarters the sailors endured and the whips they were beaten with. When you hear that sometimes they were taken on this ship for seven years and never allowed on shore (yes, this very ship, which is still there for us to see and touch) it gaves a whole new depth to all those songs about sailors going away for seven years, and helps you appreciate why they had recurrent fears about not being recognised or loved when they got home.

So I think the personal connection with the song does matter - it needn't be a first-hand connection, but there needs to be something in the song you can relate to directly. That way, it's still part of the traditional process when you sing and share the song.

29 May 03 - 06:39 AM (#961103)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: GUEST,MikeofNorthumbria (at home)


Lots of thoughtful comment in this thread. I've enjoyed reading it - hope you found some useful material for your essay. Most of the points I would have made have already been logged. However, a while ago I did write a piece on this topic which you might find helpful, and I'll try to email you a copy tomorrow.


30 May 03 - 10:22 AM (#961874)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: MikeofNorthumbria


For some further discussion of the Traditional/Revival question, go to Rod Stradling's Web Magazine Musical Traditions, at   

Then click on the link labelled "Enthusiasms - shorter articles on subjects of interest, concern or outrage!"

On the "Enthusiasms" page, go to "No 30 - Matters of Texture, Function and Context - Rod Stradling sounding off again about traditional and revival singing ."

The debate kicks off with a thoughtful contribution from Rod (somewhat confusingly, this is located at the bottom of the page, rather than at the top). There are also replies to it from Mike Yates and myself, and Rod's comments on our replies.   Some of this material might be of use to you.

Good luck with your essay,


30 May 03 - 11:37 AM (#961939)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: curmudgeon

This is certainly one of the most thoughtful and thought provoking threads I've ever encountered on Mudcat. The input has been polite, balanced and most insightful.

At the risk of thread creep, I should like to ask, at what point does the revival singer become the source singer? My reasons for this query are as follows.

Last fall, a younger singer, who has been part of our sessions for some years, asked if he might come by my house with a tape recorder to start getting some of my songs. Of course I immediately acquiesced - a real ego boost for this old greybeard. Shortly after, I learned that the state arts council had money for
"Traditional Arts Apprenticeships." We got our paperwork together and sent it in and should be hearing in the next week or so.

Like most of you, I have gleaned my songs from people, books, and recordings. Many, if not most of them, have been recorded by others and are, therefore, available to anyone who knows where to look. However, i do know that, for good or ill, I no longer sing most of these exactly the way I first learned them.

Sometimes a word or phrase has been changed due to a flawed memory, too much beer, or on purpose. In some instances, I have put two or more versions of a song together to fill it out. At other times, a discovery to do with the source of the song, its historical context or social setting has resulted in a change of tone or inflexion. And of course tunes never remain static.

Your thoughts and comments will be appreciated -- Tom

BTW, the section from mustrad that Mikeof Northumbria cited is wel worth the read.

30 May 03 - 06:04 PM (#962213)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: 8_Pints

We agree that this is a very interesting and potentially contentious thread. For some time we have been involved with a group of traditional singers who believe that it is the song, not the singer that is really important. We used to meet every week in a pub in Manchester (until the pub was renovated and we lost our room!) and called ourselves the "Song Carriers" club. We hosted a weekend to commemorate the life and work of Ewan MacColl 3 years ago and from that has developed the North West Critics Group. We meet monthly with the aim of becoming better singers and performers of traditional material. The objectives are probably similar to those that Ewan originally had for the Critics Group, in that the songs deserve to be sung properly, by people who have worked at developing their skills. The group is not exclusive, anyone is welcomed who genuinely wants to improve their understanding, style and delivery. No-one is "ripped to shreds", in fact the opposite is true - the group is very encouraging.
I don't think many of us have been lucky enough to collect our material from source singers directly, but have been able to listen to original recordings and discuss their interpretations and techniques. This helps us to appreciate what the song is saying and hopefully aids our own performances. We do not try and copy the collected versions - of course we use our own interpretations, but they are a very useful starting point for any song.

There is a very interesting letter in this month's 'Living Tradition' about the lack of traditional songs being sung in folk clubs generally. It is certainly worth a read.

Sue vG and 8 Pints

30 May 03 - 06:15 PM (#962225)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: dick greenhaus

Of course, it's an error to speak of THE tradition, as if there were only one.

30 May 03 - 08:21 PM (#962288)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: Art Thieme

I've always felt that there would be more room for us tradition-oriented revivalists if the term electronic-oral tradition had been coined so songs learned from source singers through various technologies and electronic ways of passing on the tradition would be seen as of some value also. Ever so s-l-o-w-l-y these ideas are changing---. I hope I'll be able to see a time when urban folksingers like Paul Geremia will be seen as possibly on an artistic level with Lemon Jefferson.

On we go...

Art Thieme

31 May 03 - 05:40 PM (#962640)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: Little Robyn

I think there should be a third category in this thread - FOLK.
A revivalist singer can sing/play a traditional song/tune in a traditional manner. It's when a 'Folk' singer gets hold of that same Trad song and starts folking around with it, we call it the folk process but that's when I believe we should start differentiating.
But then the earlier singers tended to change things too, either consciously or from memory lapses.
How many 'Living Traditions' are left anyway?
Padstow's Obby Oss? Most of the others have been revived since WW1 or WW2. The Halanto had died out. How many Morris sides would still be dancing if C Sharp hadn't 'discovered' them and started teaching others? Who changed the 'Traditional' way of playing an autoharp on your lap (and who would want to go back to that method?) and was 'Traditional' singing just a lone backporch affair or do concerts figure in some traditions?
I guess what you find acceptable depends on where you live and what you've grown up with.
New Zealand doesn't really have a 'Tradition' - the Maori music has been changing ever since white settlers or sailors first came here, but there was no 'Folk' tradition until the Folk Revival hit. So I guess that makes us all revivalists over here!
But I still sing and play 'Traditional' stuff!!

31 May 03 - 08:34 PM (#962672)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: John P

I find tunes and songs I like, from whatever source they come. I play them on whatever instrument the tune fits on best. I sing them in whatever way seems to work well for the song. I freely alter the words and melody, sometime by accident and sometimes on purpose. I play, both by myself and with others, in the living room, at dances, on friend's back porches, at parties, at weddings, at dances, and in concert. My playing is influenced by all of my musical history, which includes years of playing rock, blues, jazz, early music, and 21 years of playing mostly "traditional" material. I am not deeply versed in the history of the performance styles of traditional music. That doesn't seem very important to me. I don't really care if it is called folk music, traditional music, revival music, folk fusion, or whatever. None of those categories make any difference to the melody or the words. It's just music. We all just play it.

It is very interesting to see everyone else's take on all of this.

John Peekstok

05 Jun 03 - 05:56 PM (#962893)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: curmudgeon

Refresh, please.

06 Jun 03 - 09:30 AM (#963200)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: GUEST,John Moulden

I'm firmly of the opinion that this kind of discussion serves no purpose. The subjects of my interest are the people who sing and the songs they sing - not some of them - all of them. I don't like all of the singers, or their songs and I only sing songs I know and like but I don't restrict myself any further - I don't say my songs are worth more than his.
However, I will say this - this argument comes about because the people who formulated the definitions which made a distinction between folk songs and other kinds didn't know enough of the facts of how things worked to be able to frame an adequate set of definitions. We may either choose to formulate a new one to accommodate all the new factors or choose not to - but if we choose not to we have to understand that there's nothing left to talk about.

06 Jun 03 - 09:33 AM (#963201)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: John P

OK, I was wrong. I've been thinking about it and I don't want to be called a revivalist. I'm not reviving anything. I'm just playing the music I like in the way it sounds good to me. "Revival" seems to carry a connotation of looking to the past, recreating something from a bygone era, studying the "masters" who are "source" musicians for guidance. I'm not doing any of those things. Maybe the academics need another category for folks who play traditional music for its own sake instead of for the sake of reviving it. Just don't call it post-revival!! Yuck!

I don't feel like a revivalist, and I'm certainly not a source musician in the sense of having grown up in a culture that produced the music I play. No, wait, maybe I am! The culture that first sang these songs created the culture I grew up in. So maybe I'm a part of natural cultural evolution, and the way I play music is the only truly traditional form of music making that there is. Oh dear, neo-traditional is almost as bad post-revival . . . .

John Peekstok

08 Jun 03 - 10:09 AM (#963976)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: John P

08 Jun 03 - 05:27 PM (#964156)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: GUEST,Frankham, away from his computer.

Hi Les B.

The problem posed by folks like Rinzler and Seeger is this. Kinda' like Christopher Columbus discovering San Salvador. It was already there. City folks just found out about it. These musicians were known in their communities and prior to Rinzler and Seeger, there was Lomaxes, Lunsford, Sharp, Thomas, Scarborough and others who were part of the Revival.

Uncle Dave Macon was a great performer and to my view representative of the very best in folk music. He was paid for his services on the Grand Ol' Opry. Leadbelly was paid. Woody..paid. Jean Ritchie...paid. Doc Watson...paid. Many trad performers became "pro" in some way or another.

My point, both the traditionalists and the revivalists are part of the process...both needed for clarification, understanding and dissemination of great musical expression(s). If they are paid, great!


09 Jun 03 - 07:45 AM (#964451)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: Fay

Thanks again to you all for interesting postings, I will print out and peruse (sp?) at my leisure xx

09 Jun 03 - 01:02 PM (#964601)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: GUEST,Les B.

Guest Frankham - yeah, I probably didn't state that the best I could. Rinzler & Seeger knew musicians needed to be paid (Rinzler, as you know, became Bill Monroe's manager for a while, and also helped Doc get on the road), it was the casual Washington Square masses that thought music should be free. After all it was also the era of free love! :)

My point is that the traditional southern musicians used their music as a way to make a living, just like they'd use a sawmill or a mule and plow - if they could they did. So some of the earlier discussion about the philosophical differences between ladies singing in a pub or a concert performer appearing on stage would have meant little to them.

The other element I'm starting to become aware of as I read and listen and see materials on old time performers, like Uncle Dave Macon, is that they were indeed entertainers. Not just conveyors of song, but singin' dancin' fools! To draw a crowd they knew how to put on a show. What parts of this were traditional, or from other genres, like minstrel, vaudeville, etc. would be interesting to find out.

09 Jun 03 - 05:53 PM (#964746)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: GUEST,Frankham

Les B, I believe you are right. I'm glad that Seeger and Rinzler were able to provide work for those fine musicians.

An interesting idea, though, is that folk songs were not composed to make money even though their singers did by playing or singing them. The songs were a way of applying a "security blanket" (to quote Alan Lomax) to their culture. Uncle Dave was a masterful performer who had a repitiore of traditional tunes. Maybe he "fooled around" with them, though. His version of "Death of John Henry" seems to be unique. Other songs he does seems so too.

Then folk songs become changed by every performer who does them? A strong possiblity that no one learns songs to be duplicated exactly.
I "fool around" with songs all the time and invariably change them so that they are not exactly like the sources from which I learned them. I think this is inevitable as we are not clones.

If these fine traditional musicians can make money at what they do, more power to them.


09 Jun 03 - 07:23 PM (#964799)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: Snuffy

My "earlier discussion about the philosophical differences between ladies singing in a pub or a concert performer appearing on stage" had nothing whatsoever to do with being paid or not.

The point I was trying to make was that traditional singing tends to be spontaneous, whereas revival is always premeditated. It is "shut up and listen" rather than "join in on all the bits you think you know". Revival is done for you (or even to you), tradition is when you do it yourself.

And many people can be both tradition and revival, depending on what and where they're doing it. The Coppers singing at home or in their local pub is carrying on their tradition; when they sing at Carnegie Hall to a huge audience it's something else, which I have called "revival" as a convenient label.

09 Jun 03 - 11:34 PM (#964874)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: Les B

Snuffy - I like that definition - "Revival is done for you, tradition is when you do it yourself" - works for me !!

10 Jun 03 - 12:00 AM (#964879)
Subject: RE: Living Tradition and the Revival
From: GUEST,.gargoyle

Fay - Please... a listing regarding:

been reading some quite interesting books.

would be greatly appreciated.


You have stated the obvious, traditional is not judged and never has been.....Revival however, was created to fatten the pockets of "festival fat-cats" from the overflowing larders of unsuspecting dupes.