Mudcat Café message #2600702 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #119547   Message #2600702
Posted By: Spleen Cringe
30-Mar-09 - 04:20 PM
Thread Name: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
Subject: RE: 1954 and All That - defining folk music
There seem to be about half a dozen separate but connected arguments going on here. It's a shame this seems to have turned into another 'definition of folk music' thread.

A few points:

1. The "folk process" is probably alive and well in those bits of the rainforest where the inhabitants have yet to make contact with the modern world.

2. In the UK context "traditional music" has become a genre: its a body of work from the past that is sung or played usually in a particular context in a particular style. You can take it out of that context and sing (or play) it in a different style, but that's the exception rather than the norm. Personally I rather like those exceptions when they're done well (so keep that Strat plugged in and cranked up, Rifleman!) but can totally understand why others wouldn't. I don't think it's likely that the 'traditional music' canon can be added to in an age of modern technology and communication. Even on the Steppes of Siberia the Tuvan throat singers are groovin' to the sounds of Sonic Youth...

3. Folk music can either mean 1954 definition folk music (which describes - imperfectly or otherwise - a process not a type of music; or it can mean folk club music/folk scene music - a context not a type of music; or it can mean what the general public/media/music industry think of as folk music (everything from Waterson Carthy to the Corrs to KT Tunstall to James Bl*nt to a metal band with a bit of acoustic guitar) - a marketing concept not a type of music. There's no point in trying to bolt any stable doors: the horse has bolted and he's singing his little head off.

4. The one thing that unites the three variants on 'folk music' above is that none of them describe a genre/type/style of music - they are all simply convenient shorthand for describing something else.

5. This leads me to the conclusion that there is no such thing as folk music.

6. Don't get me started on the folk. What have we/they/it got to do with folk music?

a)I'd suspect that 1954 folk music, to paraphrase Morrissey, "says nothing to us about our lives". I'd suggest it was the soundtrack to the lives of some of our ancestors. Everyone likes a sing song, don't they? And once upon a time we didn't haave radiogrammes and the like... Now this music is the tipple of choice for a proportion of those who identify with folk music. It may also all be a bit arbitrary because it's dependent on who was collecting what and when and with what agenda.

b) As far as folk club music goes, it's up there with train-spotting and ferret-fancying as a Great British Minority Enthusiasm. Nothing wrong with that, but only the music of a very narrow band of the folk who happen to like going to folk clubs rather than consuming a different sort of music in a different context.

c) The folk probably tolerate the marketing guru's take on folk far more than the first two, because it fits in with the other stuff that saturates the airwaves, the adverts and so on that is part of the fug we all have to breathe. Plenty of the folk bought "Beautiful" by James Bl*nt. Plenty are happy enough to sing along to "American Pie" in the pub. If it's about the folk as in the people, there's yer folk music!

7. So maybe folk music, which we've already established doesn't exist as a type of music, also no longer exists as the music of the folk.

8. Personally, I'd sooner listen to the sound of my own ears being forced though a traditional Spong meat mincer than have to sit through another bearded loon puking his way through Hotel California or have to endure another throw-yer-head-back-and-mewl-and-emote The Fields of friggin' Athenry, but that's not the point is it? It's not about what I want. It's about what we've got.

And we haven't got folk music. Because there is no folk music.