Mudcat Café message #3179653 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #138735   Message #3179653
Posted By: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
01-Jul-11 - 08:25 AM
Thread Name: Do purists really exist?
Subject: RE: Do purists really exist?
Hardly flat-earthism, Brian; indeed, not recognising that such processes are an integral aspect of all music and the very palpable consequence of what musicians do as a matter of course might well be. Is Mozart's famous memory feat regarding the Allegri Miserere part of the folk process I wonder? For sure, one can't accept that it remained in any way unchanged in the process - & the removal, by whatever means, of music from one context to another seems an essential part of what is being suggested here. Things change and all things are the consequence of change; nothing exists that remains unchanged. I suppose it's all a matter of detail, or else willingness to accept the fluidity in which all things exist; or even the implication that the opposite must somehow also be true - that there exists in this universe of chaotic flux at least something that remains permanent!

The widespread nature and diversity of the old songs evidences human creativity in an oral-culture; so what? The making, hearing and remaking of songs is the very waters of music to a greater or lesser extent. Musicologists might speak of such fluidities and traditions in the interpretation of Chopin; Jim Carroll has said on various occasions that especially skilled ballad singers could free-style such stuff on the spot. Indeed, in other Traditions, they do - one hears of bardic competitions in Croatia where they have needles between their lips to limit their vocabulary - one bi-labial slip and they're pierced! Certainly in comparing various old field-recordings one gets the feeling that this fluidity existed not just from one version of a song to the next, but from one singing of a song to the next. Maybe our understanding of this Folk Process doesn't go far enough, or maybe it only works in comparison; like Flan O'Brien's De Selby examining a reel of film frame by frame and dismissing cimematography as tedious. What is surprising to Folkies, is par for the course to Jazz buffs, who just accept it.

All things are the consequence of what proceeded it; nothing comes out of nowhere, and all things must change, or pass, and even those rare songs (folk or otherwise) we might find in single versions had to come from somewhere. Whilst examining the Misericords in Bristol Cathedral the other week I found myself looking at a medieval carving of a story I'd hitherto only been familiar with in the 19th century collections of eventyr of Asbjorsen and Moe (I see it's also in Mike Harding's Little Book of Misericords as a vignette on P. 44) - a variant of anyway, because all things are but variants and analogues of something else.      

And all this, mark you, in the unchanging reactionary and ultra conservative realms of The Colonial Folk Revival in which I might accept the notion that some things might as well be written in stone but out here in the real world those processes are part and parcel of the very thing we think of as being Music, or life, or anything else for that matter. I might conclude that it's only to the Folk Religious that The Folk Process appears so remarkable, because they, like De Selby, refuse to see the wider picture that Folk is, in essence, no different from another other music, all of which exist in a myriad diversity, and all of which have their Traditions, Processes, Conventions and (perhaps, God forbid) their Priestly Purists too.


Remember Back Door? I (like many) hold them in great esteem as being one of the true greats of English Music; this tight little trio who drew on the traditions of Jazz, Blues, R & B etc. to make a music quite like no other, not least for their fondness for minimal durations and virtuosic economies. It's Popular Music in the classic sense - something Anthony Braxton might call restructuralist; but even in the split-second tightness of a Back Door performance I well recall smiling at the variations, nuances and spontaneous references that peppered their songs*. Indeed, in 2003 they returned to the studio and made an album largely comprised of new recordings of their classic repertoire. This has pride of place on my CD shelves alongside the old (as well as the variant BBC sessions from the early 1970s issued by HUX) to stand as vivid testimony to musical fluidity and creative tradition. Likewise, when the Clemencic Consort re-recorded their landmark 1976 Carmina Burana originals in 2008. At the other end of the musical spectrum I was listening recently to an early jam by Yes essaying an embryonic Siberian Khatru, and even Saint Hillage running his power-trio to their limits in an embryonic Salmon Song. Embryonic in retrospect that is; now they stand as classics in their own right - as documents of musical process which is part of the culture of popular music & continues to be so with sampling, remixing and increased emphasis on using the medium of recording to enhance the very nature of musical fluidity.

Shame that such things are rare on Folk album re-issues though: no extras on the new OA&T and MIOG CDs, but maybe that speaks volumes too??

S O'P - Heliocentric to the bitter end!