Mudcat Café message #2721824 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #123472   Message #2721824
Posted By: Mick Pearce (MCP)
11-Sep-09 - 04:15 PM
Thread Name: The Folk Process
Subject: RE: The Folk Process
I despair of these threads. There seems to be an inability of people to understand the basics of any scientific argument. Logic and balance of proof of points seems to be beyond the grasp of some participants. I normally confine myself to posting tunes and lyrics, but there's a certain morbid fascination in reading this. So without wishing to get drawn into the debate on what is folk/the folk-process/the tradition - all of which seem to be rehashing the same things - here's a few observations on this thread.

I don't intend to check all the references, but as far as Child 61 - Sir Cawline - goes, although Child may give only a single set, my copy of Roud's index lists 13 entries for the song under a three or four titles. I suspect if I bothered to check others in the list of singular entries from Child a similar situation would apply. Having a song once or more than once in folk-collections is not really relevant (I have a friend is has a special interest in songs that have only been collected from a single source). These are snapshots of a particular place at a particular time; nothing more. And with regard to Child, it has already been mentioned that he was interested in ballad text, not folk songs as we would understand them (in any sense of the word).

Quality of songs (and the criterion of quality doesn't matter) is an irrelevance that Dick brings up repeatedly. There is dross in all genres of songs; but being dross doesn't prevent the song being an example of the genre. As a child, on car journeys, my parents sang to me The Birdy Song (Let's all sing like the birdies sing...). I learned it orally and I might sing it to other children, who might pass it on. I might well consider it a folk-song. That doesn't mean it isn't a rubbish song. If there is such a thing as a folk-process, you might expect that over time the dross would be weeded out;people will remember and sing the better songs. But not necessarily - one man's dross may be another's gold nugget. Applying a goodness quality criterion to select songs is no better than the (different) selectiveness that the 19th/20th century collectors have been accused of. All goodness tells you is whether the song is a good folk song or a bad folk song; nothing more. Whether you choose to sing it or not, whether anyone will listen to it or not is a different question. I'm now begging you - Please, please, please stop asking if Masters of War is better than Hitler's Only Got One Ball (or whatever). As far as I can see it, the countless times across these threads noone has disputed that Masters of War is a good song; they've only disputed whether it can be called a folk-song. (And for what it's worth Lloyd would dispute about the commonality of Masters of War with traditional song; IIRC he says at the end of FSE with respect to protest songs something along the lines of protest songs are fairly rare in the English tradition. But that's his opinion and that is something you could debate).

The general point seems to be that Dick (and some others) wants modern written songs to be called folk songs - his post of 03:35 has at the start modern folksongs, which precludes any disputation of their naming; the other side wants modern written songs to be in a different category from what we may recognise as traditional songs (this is the same argument that Lloyd was making in the article cited in a recent thread; in FSE he thought it did a disservice to the modern songs to call them folk-songs - maybe if Bob Dylan hadn't been so strongly associated with folk he would't have been booed so much for refusing to work on Maggie's Farm). In general usage the boat has probably sailed - they are all indiscriminately referred to as folk songs. Personally, I see nothing wrong in distinguishing them in a technical sense; it doesn't stop me singing Masters Of War any more than having them all called folk songs would stop me singing The Lass Of Lochroyal. But noone's changing sides. One side has a set of criteria which has been used in the past to define folk-songs; Dick offers a new set of criteria which would allow him to include modern written songs as folk-songs. No-one is seeing any merit in the others' viewpoint. Save yourselves from the endless name-calling and mudslinging and retire these threads gracefully.