Mudcat Café message #2593370 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #119547   Message #2593370
Posted By: Jack Blandiver
20-Mar-09 - 11:17 AM
Thread Name: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
Subject: 1954 and All That
Further to what is currently going down on the What Makes it a Folk Song? thread, I'm opening this up specifically to discuss what relevance, if any, the 1954 definition has to do with what actually happens in the name of Folk in 2009.

The 1954 definition:

Folk music is the product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission. The factors that shape the tradition are:

      (i) continuity which links the present with the past;
      (ii) variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group;
      (iii) selection by the community, which determines the form or forms in which the music survives.

The term can be applied to music that has been evolved from rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by popular and art music and it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community.
The term does not cover composed popular music that has been taken over ready-made by a community and remains unchanged, for it is the re-fashioning and re-creation of the music by the community that gives it its folk character.


My feeling is that a Folk Song is any song sung in a designated Folk Context. At other times, and in other contexts, the same song might be something else entirely, a Pop Song for example, or yet a Jazz Standard, a Victorian Parlour Ballad, a Musical Hall Song or even an Operatic Aria. All of these I have heard sung in Folk Contexts and have, by dint of that context, accepted them as being Folk Songs. So what makes a song a Folk Song is the context in which it is being sung and appreciated as such.

I don't believe there is anything in the 1954 definition to contradict this, although others obviously do, for reasons which haven't as yet become clear. Your thoughts & erudition in this respect would be most welcome. Likewise, if you will, your experience of what is actually being sung in The Name of Folk these day and how you feel this fits, or doesn't fit, with the 1954 definition.

Where is WLD when you need him?