Mudcat Café message #2277172 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #109111   Message #2277172
Posted By: Jim Carroll
02-Mar-08 - 04:26 AM
Thread Name: Folk terminology
Subject: Folk terminology
Being relatively new (6/7 years) to the computer, I have to confess that I am also fairly green when it comes to discussion forums such as Mudcat. While I find these both educational and enjoyable, I have to admit to a certain frustration at not being able to pursue, face to face, some points I don't fully understand; for instance, the term 'folk', which appears to have no definition whatsoever to many people who take part in these discussions.
Leaving that one aside for the time being, I hope people have no objection to my airing a number of confusions that have arisen in my mind during my participation in discussions on Mudcat.

1.   Finger-in-Ear.
It has always been my understanding that this term originated from the timeless and universal practice of cupping the hand over the ear while singing unaccompanied.   
Does the fact that it has now become a term of abuse mean that, in today's clubs it is no longer necessary to sing in tune. Alternatively, is the act of singing without accompaniment now frowned on by the folk establishment?
I seem to remember from having seen them perform in the past, that singers such as Martin Carthy, Norma Waterson and the late Peter Bellamy sang with both hands cupped over their ears; does this make them 'finger(s)-in-ear(s) singers, and therefore, doubly reprehensible?

2.   97 verse ballads.
In my experience a ballad performed at a folk club can have anything from 2 to around 20 verses on average. Though there are ballads and songs in print that exceed this number, I have never heard them performed, though I did once hear an octogenarian sing a 17 verse, 8 line song (The True Lover's Discussion) which lasted nearly fifteen minutes. So popular was his performance, that he was persuaded to repeat it later in the same session.
Is there an optimum length to a song when performed at a club; if so, what is it?
Does the same rule apply to, say reading; what is the ideal number of pages in a book, and should I take my copies of Dickens down to the Oxfam shop?
Then again, there's cinema; should 'Ben Hur', 'Heaven's Gate', '1900' and Branagh's 'Hamlet' have ended up on the cutting room floor?
As a footnote to this question, I should confess that personally, I find a singer-songwriter droning his way through a self-penned, 3 verse piece about his girlfriend (or 'chick') having run off (or 'split) with his bodhrán playing best friend (usually delivered in a pseudo-American accent), 3 verses too long; but there again, that's me!

3.   Folk police.
I have always believed that the police are there to preserve the status-quo and protect the privileges of the privileged; yet whenever I encounter the term 'folk police' it is invariable used by members of the present-day folk establishment against those who dare to challenge the status-quo.
Does this indicate that the term 'police' no longer means what it used to mean (sort of like the term 'folk')?   

And finally, the one I have the most trouble with;
4.   Folk fascist.
I am of the generation who associates the term fascist with concentration camps, gas-ovens, Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, and the systematic extermination of Jews, Gypsies, trades unionists, and those considered mentally and physically unfit to be part of the 'world order'.
Does the fact of the term being applied to 'folk dissidents' indicate the existence of establishments for dispatching to a better place, those who, say, prefer the singing of Harry Cox to Seth Lakeman, or Sam Larner to Jim Moray?
Thanks in anticipation,
Jim Carroll