Mudcat Café message #498868 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #35698   Message #498868
Posted By: GUEST
05-Jul-01 - 09:14 AM
Thread Name: The 'Celtic Music/Dave Bulmer' saga
Subject: RE: The 'Celtic Music/Dave Bulmer' saga
As Tyke/George Clarke points out, there are fairly complex issues regarding reproduction from old masters, as well as the viability of releasing audio recordings from those sources.

I'd also agree with him that it is Bulmer who has shown the most integrity by not publicly criticising others, whether for legal self-preservation or otherwise. He has been unfairly villified in some circles (which I originally tried to point out here), and as Pete pointed out in his editorial, the hearsay and half truths being promulgated as "fact" in certain circles seems to have reached epic myth levels in the UK folk community.

There rarely is anything to be gained by airing such personal or professional grievances in public. If there was something to be gained, then parties with personal grievances against Bulmer--or even those who are seeking legal remedies from him--would have won some concessions from Bulmer by now.

Eluned's remarks about the "national treasure" issues are astute. I didn't mean to sound as if I so easily dismiss those who do have an interest in preserving history and national identity. I honestly don't share their conviction.

My preservation concerns run more along the lines of what is of of musical value which transcends cultural boundaries and national borders. Because I don't share the convictions and values of the cultural and national preservationists, I wouldn't be a person who could speak adequately to their concerns.

Most important, I think, is to realize that certain people and institutions look to preserve music for it's cultural/national value, while others will look to preserve it for it's music value to the world community. Those two communities won't always agree what is of value, and what isn't.

British and American folk music traditions are the best, most extensively documented folk music traditions in the world. At some point, I think we need to look at the importance of other music traditions, particularly those which are not well documented or documented at all, especially since the rapid spread of our English speaking cultural homogeneity is one of the main causes of half the world's 6,800 remaining languages now being spoken by fewer than 2,500 people. And nearly all of the music traditions native to those languages will disappear without a trace.

It is estimated that in the 15th century, approximately 15,000 languages were spoken. Since then, it is estimated that 4,000-9,000 languages have been wiped out due to war, genocide, legal and other bans by colonial forces, and assimilation. The 15 most common languages in the world are now spoken by nearly half the planets inhabitants, and the top 100 languages spoken by 90% of the world population. My main source for these statistics, if people are curious about these things, is a fairly new book called "Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the World's Languages"--don't have it to hand right now to give the author's name, but as I recall, it is published by Oxford University Press.

That is a lot of folk music rooted in specific languages, which has already disappeared without a trace. Some anthropologists are beginning to view the loss of diverse linguistic knowledge with the loss of biodiversity and habitat. A tremendous amount of localized knowledge, which is so central to survival, is lost when a language dies. So I'm more concerned with preservation of music of value on that level, than I am of getting a few Leader wax cylinders released to what would likely be a very small audience in the UK and US.

Preservation resources being as limited as they are, archivists and collectors are always having to set priorities and make decisions about what they will make available to the public, and what they will leave in a box/storage. Dave Bulmer, by virtue of what he has acquired, is setting those priorities and making those decisions. But if folks would take a deep breath, and try and get a grasp on the bigger picture--ie beyond what I view as a sanctimonious "our culture, our national heritage first" mindset, and spend time, energy, and limited resources preserving music traditions we otherwise will lose, we might make a difference that really matters to future generations.

There are some people who have chosen to publicly take Bulmer to task for what he has chosen to release, and what he has left in a box. There are also some who have suggested we should still be grateful for what Bulmer has done by purchasing some valuable liquidated assets of the British Folk Revival, which otherwise may well have been lost or destroyed. I am squarely in the latter group.

I certainly understand and empathise with Nic Jones' circumstances regarding his back catalogue, and inability to collect royalties, particularly because of his disability. But what happened to Nic has also happened to many musicians who made choices a long time ago to sign on the dotted line, and not make financial and legal plans for securing the rights to their masters and royalty rights. As someone else pointed out, there isn't much in the way of a financial safety net for musicians involved in industrial accidents, making Nic's case even more of a tragedy. The suggestions that musicians get involved with MU, both to protect their rights and avail of the pension, insurance and other benefits, is very sound advice. Nic's case is a classic example of the importance of that to other musicians.

Even if Bulmer hasn't done anything with some materials he has collected, and which there appears to be a commercial market for (ie Nic Jones' and Leaders' back catalogues), as Tyke/George Clarke has pointed out, it might take a considerable amount of money to do so. Bulmer has the right to set his priorities, as both a collector of valuable recordings and archivable materials, and as a businessman. Others have a right to disagree, and jump on the let's publicly bash Bulmer bandwagon.

And Eluned, thanks for pointing out this thread has been of some value. I don't think we'd have gotten there if it had just continued on as another of the many "let's blast Bulmer" threads that keeps appearing with regularity in Internet folk forums. I'd like to say thanks too, to Malcolm Douglas, Tyke/George Clarke, and Jenny Bellamy, for contributing what they know, which has added to our body of knowledge and understanding of these complex, but fascinating issues.

I've enjoyed the time discussing them here as a guest of Mudcat.