Mudcat Café message #2154187 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #104892   Message #2154187
Posted By: MikeofNorthumbria
21-Sep-07 - 08:13 AM
Thread Name: Folk Music for the Middle Class
Subject: RE: Folklore: Folk Music for the Middle Class
All this talk about class only confuses the issue. Wake up guys and gals - class is history!

Granted, there are a few people at the top of the heap who get lots of power, privilege, money and celebrity, while a much larger number at the bottom get almost nothing, and those in the middle get by as best they can. Nothing new there. But the difference is that today class as it used to be understood - has little to do with who gets what.

Just look around you. On the one hand, people with historic pedigrees and cut-glass accents are regularly treated with scorn and derision understandably, given how badly so many of them behave. On the other hand, people that my Granny (a former charlady who lived and died in a Council flat) would have called "common as muck" become rich and famous overnight, and millions adopt them as role-models.   And somewhere along the way, the baby of civility got thrown out along with the bathwater of deference, so that anyone who displays good manners, clear speech, and a smattering of education in public is liable to provoke suspicion and hostility, if not actual physical assault.

And what does that have to do with folk music? Well the story goes something like this, I think. There are many people in the folk community who just enjoy the music for its own sake, and don't worry about its origins. There are others who like to day-dream about a mythical arcadia, free from all the irritations of modern life. And there are quite a few who take a serious scholarly interest in the folk tradition.   Most of them don't seem to worry overmuch about the relationship between music and class. But there are others who do.

For these people, folk song is primarily a protest against injustice. Sometimes they sing about injustices which they themselves have suffered - but more often they rage about injustices inflicted upon others with whom they identify. Nothing unhealthy about that but the problems start when protesters realise that they may be indirect beneficiaries of the historic injustices they sing about. Things get worse if the protesters find that descendants of the people their ancestors exploited don't welcome their retrospective expressions of fraternal solidarity. End result guilt, followed by denial!

"Oh no, it's not me that's inauthentic it's just those horrible middle-class folkies singing about a way of life they've never experienced. Well, yes, I may have an office job and a bank account and a mortgage and an insurance policy and a pension plan but that doesn't make me middle class! My father/ grandfather/ great-grandfather was a miner/ mill-hand/ farm labourer, and I'm a committed Socialist. I shall stand alongside the exploited masses (with whom I belong in spirit, if not in crude socio-economic terms) until the day of Revolution finally dawns."

Dream on comrade! If the Revolution comes, you and your kind will soon be heading for the Gulag, along with the rest of us bourgeois intellectuals.

Wassail!