Mudcat Café message #2543037 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #116964   Message #2543037
Posted By: Jim Carroll
19-Jan-09 - 09:51 AM
Thread Name: Why folk clubs are dying
Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
The first thing to say about the 'old' songs is that they are not just 'old', they are timeless; the themes, love, lust, passion, hardship, loss, injustice, pride in work, hatred of authority, triumph.... whatever, all are, or have at one time been part of my life, and, I suspect, most other peoples. I can't think of any single emotion or experience covered by folk song that I can't relate to in some way or other.
I can still laugh at the predicament of a cross-dressing ex-suitor hiding from the Duke of Athol's Nurse's brothers, or get caught up in the chase of the eloping Earl Brand and his lover, or say "serves the bastard right "when the Outlandish Knight gets thrown into the sea. I still listen with a lump in my throat when Sheila Stewart tells the story of Tiftie's Annie being beaten to death by her family because she wants to marry a servant. The idea that Henry Harbutt could have been sent to the other side of the world for taking a few rabbits from what was almost certainly enclosed common land by a magistrate who was almost certainly one of the people who carried out the requisitioning still makes me angry.
The universality of the themes, stories, people and situations that gave rise to thesongs are as relevant and as enjoyable and involving as they were when they were made, they are a part of my history and my culture, and of many like me that's why they lasted as long as they did and continued to entertain right into the 20th century.
Also, the straight, narrative form in which they were composed makes them accessible to anybody who is prepared to take the trouble to listen; that's how I came to them in the first place, and I still passionately believe that if we do our job properly and take the trouble to present them well and thoughtfully enough, that's how they will survive for future generations but that, of course, is the problem we are faced with.
I am not an antiquarian; I'm not particularly interested in 'authenticity' I don't know what is 'authentic. We came to our song tradition when it was on its last legs and when (with a few notable exceptions) our singers were past their best and remembering the songs rather than interpreting them. I was lucky enough to be introduced to the singing of MacColl, Lloyd and others, who were, in their way, modernising and re-creating the songs WITHOUT BETRAYING OR ABANDONING THEIR BASIC FUNCTION THAT OF NARRATIVE INTERPRETATION AND COMMUNICATION.   
Unlike modern songs which appeal to the 'yoof', THEY DO NOT COME WITH A SELL-BY DATE. If you discard them because of their age, or because they are not relevant to the younger generation, be sure you leave enough room in the bin for Aeschylus, Homer, Shakespeare, Johnson, Boccaccio, Fielding, Chekov, Hugo, Zola, Hasek, Dickens, Hardy, Joyce, Graves, Greene, Hemmingway, Steinbeck.... and all the others who have given me a great deal of pleasure during my lifetime.
Having said that, my interest is not confined to the 'old' songs; you know about The New City Songster, edited by Peggy Seeger, which went into 20 odd editions and made available hundreds of newly written songs (including one of your own). It has always been my belief that the creation of new songs is possible even necessary to the future of folk music I'm not talking about the navel gazing masturbatory, 'private - keep out' compositions which masquerade as 'folk', but songs that say something to us all, and can be used by all to express our own opinions and emotions. I believe the universal form of the tradition is one form that can achieve this; personally, I can't think of any other that can do the job half as well, but I'm open to suggestions. Modern forms don't work for me, not because they are inferior, but simply that they are not narrative enough to hang an idea or an experience on.
Best and again happy birthday,