Mudcat Café message #3372263 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #120890   Message #3372263
Posted By: GUEST,Blandiver
05-Jul-12 - 07:10 AM
Thread Name: New Penguin Book of English Folk Song
Subject: RE: New Penguin Book of English Folk Song
It's not even Folkloristic any more, Jim - if it was then it would be seen from the sham that it is, where community is enshrined in terms of idyll and romance rather than humanity. These days we have ethnomusicology and ethnology; instead of the International Folk Music Council, we have the International Council for Traditional Music. As others have pointed out - the 1954 Definition attempts to prescribe the conditions of a pre-existing music rather than describe what that music is. That it can be applied to any community - be it village musicians in Bali, or heavy-metal musicians in Whitley Bay housing estates - tells how useless it is; as you say, an outdated shibboleth in severe need of revision.

My argument is that we don't need definitions and that the very concept of Folk Music, like Folklore, is long past its sell-by date. Folk is an anomalous construct quite seperate to the songs, musics, customs, dances that it perceives as being 'Folk'. For sure, such traditions thrived and existed long before anyone postulated the existence of a Folklore, or a Folk Music, whatever the evidences might have been pre-revival. Post-revival it's very different; Folk becomes (in part) a precious gathering of the authentic wherein everything is accounted for in terms of its likely provenance and 'meaning', rather than what it actually is i.e. disparate random happenings where the experience is different for everyone.

Folk is born of social & cultural apartheid. When we were kids I remember our Folkish Pedagogues telling us that our innocent playground rhymes were echoes of The Black Death, and our Xmas tree decorations vestiges of ritual sacrifice. All that can be shown to be palpable nonesense now, thank God, although 'The Folklore of Folk' is such that such ideas persist as myths in their own right. Even the long discredited work of Sir James Frazer et al is enjoying a modest revival in the murkier corners of the revival. Talk about idyll & romance! We still have 'professional' storytellers telling children of the Green Man and how the grisly goings on at Hallowe'en are rooted in Pagan practise and veneration; and still there persists very queer notions of the pure and the proper and the authentic in terms of hierachy rather than meritocracy - thus we have 'folk families' and pure-blood traditions & exponents thereof where all I see is a free-for-all melting pot of cultural opportunism & diversely gifted & creative individuals giving rise to some great music, just as they always have done.

My personal taste is for the old songs 'n' ballads, just I find the folkish myths a bit precious. Likewise with the Green Man and other less obvious iconography of the Medieval Christian Tradition which Folklorists are keen to tell us are Pagan, but which most demonstrably are not. These things fascinate me because I love them so much; I see them as immediate manifestations of vernacular genius, but the very term Folk is so loaded as to be next to useless - all a long way from your rather silly idea that working people are capable of artistic creation. It is that silly idea that I hold on to though my very life depends on it; indeed, it is that silly idea that Folk would serve to deny.