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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
lamarca Who Defines 'Folk'???? (287* d) RE: Who Defines 'Folk'???? 31 Mar 03

I went back and looked at the "Essentially Ellington" website that Spaw linked to, and understand the question a bit better.

We're not trying to define "Folk" here, a topic that has been repeatedly battered to death on the Mudcat ever since I first started posting in 1996. What we're looking for is someone to design an educational program around, that would expose schoolkids to the widest possible variety and wealth of "Folk Music" in their country.

I submit that teaching American schoolkids about American traditional musics from the John and Alan Lomax collections would offer a breadth and depth of exposure that would provide a good grounding. Kids could learn about the patterns and textures of different musical threads that have gone into the American tapestry of folk music. Field recordings, revival versions of those recordings, modern songs and music influenced by those original sources - all of them could be presented to give kids an idea of the richness of American folk traditions. As with an Ellington jazz program, the introduction could lead interested students into exploring other collectors, other styles, and other types of "folk" musics.

Although as an American, I'm not as familiar with the UK, I believe that Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams created a similar curriculum for English schools in the early 20th century, and that any number of British folk revivalists had to get over the general public's memories of their forced exposure to sanitized English folk song in school to show people the excitement and riches in their own heritage. At a time in the late 50's and early 60's when young British musicians were going ga-ga over American traditional music forms like skiffle and blues, it was the revivalists like Martin Carthy and Ewan MacColl who were saying "Hey, wait a minute - we have bloody great traditional music of our own!" A British Isles program shaped around their great collectors from Sharp, Burns, Greig-Duncan, Baring-Gould, Grainger, and early Scottish and Irish tune collectors to later 20th century collectors like Peter Kennedy, Sean O'Riada, Sam Henry, Hamish Henderson, etc could do the same for schools in the UK and Ireland. As I'm not as familiar with the UK, I can't come up with one name that covers the same breadth of British, Scottish and Irish musics as the Lomaxes do for American musics - maybe our UK 'Catters have a good suggestion.

But please, folks - let's not return to the "What is/isn't Folk Music" discussion - that non-folksinging horse has been beaten to death long ago...

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