Mudcat Café message #2960223 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #131220   Message #2960223
Posted By: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
07-Aug-10 - 03:59 PM
Thread Name: What isn't folk
Subject: RE: What isn't folk
If we take the 1954 Def. at face value (i.e. The Orthodox Usage as favoured by Richard Bridge) a good 99.9% of the music that happens in the name of Folk and is discussed here on Mudcat isn't folk at all. That sort of Folk (if we dare call it such) is an idiomatic musical genre (howewever so derivative) which must cover everything done in the name of The Revival too - including your own covers of Traditional Material which presumably you call Folk, but which fail to meet the requirements of the 1954 Definition. You can also write off the Northumbrian Bagpipe Tradition of Written Composition and the efforts of any songwriter who has been moved to write a song in the Folk Idiom (not least Peter Bellamy) and we can exclude the songs of George Bruce Thomson, Tommy Armstrong and pretty much anything Martin Carthy ever had a hand in.

Scarey stuff, eh? 99.9%? Make that 100%! As far as Actual Folk goes, all we would be left with is the theory of a music based entirely on the collected & field recorded remnants of a once thriving Oral Tradition. The EFDSS would have to drop the word Folk from its title, as would folk clubs, folk festivals, folk record labels, folk magazines, folk forums etc. etc. and all because, if followeed to the Intention of the Letter, the sort of music the 1954 Definition is describing can only occur in specific contexts all of which are now lost to us for good.

What is Folk? An extinct idiom of popular song that can only exist in a highly rarified pre-technological environment perpetuated by illiterate rural cap-doffing peasants entirely innocent of the true significances of what they did. One is reminded of Maud Karpele's assessment of Jean Ritchie as not a proper Folk Singer because she'd been to university!

What isn't Folk? Well, pretty much everything that's ever been done in the name of Folk since the first Folk Song was collected for a start.


As we have seen animals not only interbreed, they also adapt and evolve. They do not exist in isolation, rather they inhabit the same environments and prey upon one another in a symbiotic ecosystem where each species is essential to the balance of the whole. All animals evolved from a common source because of the same adaptive mechanisms common to all, hence species diversify as part of thre self-same process. As with animals, then so with music. Folk is no different to any other, and certainly not because of the condescending reactionary folkloric shite that consitutes the 1954 Definition. So there.