Mudcat Café message #2723544 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #123472   Message #2723544
Posted By: Brian Peters
14-Sep-09 - 02:53 PM
Thread Name: The Folk Process
Subject: RE: The Folk Process
"So, my questions are: are these songs folk songs and, if not, what are they; will they ever become folk songs; and, if not, why not?"

I'm going to take theleveller's question at face value. First he/she is clearly writing good songs if they can move to tears people from the community they're written about. I sometimes sing Keith Marsden's 'Prospect Providence', which has the same kind of power.

Are they 'folk songs'? Well, a couple of weeks ago someone told me they'd heard a song I wrote twenty years ago being sung in their local singaround. That was mildly flattering but would never lead me to claim 'folk' status for it. If I'd walked into my local pub and found the bar ringing to the sound of my song, belted out by a roomful of people gathered around the old joanna (never mind that I've not heard a pub piano in our part of the world since I was seventeen), then... maybe. If I'd heard it crooned by drunken voices through the open window of a passing coach, then, maybe. One person in one little corner of the folk world...? I don't think so.

Like it or not, the folk music world is a small, specialised bubble which impinges only occasionally on the imagination of the populace at large. I tried to point out on the 'What is the Tradition' thread (which this one is rapidly coming to resemble in all its ill-tempered and often tedious detail) that's the folk scene is a very different beast culturally from the old singing tradition.

There are people who regard processes going on within that section of the folk scene (or revival, or whatever) where participatory singing takes place, as analagous to processes that used to go on in the wider population. If you believe that, and your songs take off within that specialised world, then you might want to call them 'folk songs'.

But why the need? Whether they're 'folk songs' or not is immaterial to their acceptance in any of those 'designated folk environments' that Mr. O'P likes to tell us about. In thirty years I've never found a folk club, festival or pub session (even ones liking to call themselves 'traditional') where there's been an insistence on nothing but 'folk processed', '1954', or 'authentic' material being performed. The traditionalists on this forum make no such demands of singing venues. Those kind of concepts only take the stage when someone - either for reasons of genuine curiosity or faeces-agitation - asks the question 'What is Folk?'

Just be happy that people are being moved by your songs.