Mudcat Café message #2718683 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #123472   Message #2718683
Posted By: Howard Jones
08-Sep-09 - 05:54 AM
Thread Name: The Folk Process
Subject: RE: The Folk Process
Sminky, variants are also evidence of a unique creative process, one which is not the work of an individual or people working in collaboration, but the work of a series of people each bringing their own individuality not only to the performance but to the actual structure of the song.

Of course modern creations can enrich the repertoire, and I sing a good many myself. It's not impossible for newly-created songs to become "folk songs" in time - it's happened with John Connolly's "Fiddlers Green" and a number of Ewan McColl's songs, for example. It's perhaps more difficult than it was, because we have a mental concept of a "correct" version of a song and easy access to printed or recorded sources to verify the correct version, but it's not impossible.

Modern creations have always enriched the folk repertoire - where do you think the songs came from? Some were undoubtedly created by now-unknown "folk", while others can be traced back to popular music of the time. In both cases, it is the evolution of the songs as they are passed on which makes them "folk songs". Most singers included both popular and traditional songs in their repertoire, and some (Walter Pardon for example) made a clear distinction between them. However, quite often music hall and other relatively recent popular songs found in the repertoires of traditional singers varied from the originals, so you could say they were going through the folk process.

There seems to be a feeling in all these discussions that by making a distinction between songs which have gone through the folk process and modern creations, we are somehow saying that the modern creations are not worthy. That's not the case. All we are saying is that traditional songs have a particular characteristic - they have shown longevity precisely because they have appealed to successive generations of singers, each of whom has left their own imprint, not just in interpretation but also on the structure of the song itself. I happen to think that makes those songs particularly interesting. A modern song, no matter how fine, has still to do that.

I find it helpful to be able to differentiate the two, just as Walter Pardon did. But when it comes down to songs I wish to sing or to listen to, there are only good songs and bad songs, and they can come from either category.