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Methodologies

Related threads:
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Origins: A methodology for dating songs etc. (50)
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Methodologies II (36)
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Methodologies -- who writes the songs? (12)


Peter Turner 20 Feb 98 - 02:58 PM
Bruce O. 20 Feb 98 - 03:17 PM
Bob Landry 20 Feb 98 - 05:16 PM
chet w 20 Feb 98 - 07:44 PM
chet w 20 Feb 98 - 08:06 PM
Joe Offer 20 Feb 98 - 10:49 PM
chet w 20 Feb 98 - 11:12 PM
Alice 21 Feb 98 - 12:29 AM
dwditty 21 Feb 98 - 06:16 AM
Frank in the swamps 21 Feb 98 - 07:40 AM
Bruce O. 21 Feb 98 - 01:25 PM
Bruce O. 21 Feb 98 - 01:43 PM
Joe Offer 22 Feb 98 - 02:29 AM
Bruce O. 22 Feb 98 - 02:23 PM
Frank in the swamps 23 Feb 98 - 01:18 AM
Bruce O. 23 Feb 98 - 10:48 PM
Joe Offer 23 Feb 98 - 11:41 PM
Charlie Baum 24 Feb 98 - 12:59 AM
Earl 24 Feb 98 - 01:01 AM
Joe Offer 24 Feb 98 - 01:32 AM
Art Thieme 24 Feb 98 - 02:40 AM
Joe Offer 24 Feb 98 - 03:03 AM
Frank in the swamps 24 Feb 98 - 05:51 AM
dwditty 24 Feb 98 - 06:18 AM
Bert 24 Feb 98 - 09:25 AM
Whippoorwill 24 Feb 98 - 09:56 AM
Alice 24 Feb 98 - 10:07 AM
Peter T. 24 Feb 98 - 10:56 AM
Alice 24 Feb 98 - 11:24 AM
Bruce O. 24 Feb 98 - 02:54 PM
Bill D 24 Feb 98 - 03:52 PM
Jack mostly folk 24 Feb 98 - 04:15 PM
Alice 24 Feb 98 - 04:24 PM
Earl 24 Feb 98 - 05:39 PM
Bruce O. 24 Feb 98 - 05:43 PM
dick greenhaus 24 Feb 98 - 05:53 PM
Jerry Friedman 24 Feb 98 - 06:46 PM
Joe Offer 24 Feb 98 - 08:57 PM
Art Thieme 24 Feb 98 - 10:56 PM
Bruce O. 24 Feb 98 - 11:28 PM
Corinna 25 Feb 98 - 02:01 AM
25 Feb 98 - 11:11 AM
Bert 25 Feb 98 - 12:17 PM
Bruce O. 25 Feb 98 - 12:49 PM
25 Feb 98 - 01:25 PM
Bruce O. 25 Feb 98 - 01:54 PM
Earl 25 Feb 98 - 02:31 PM
Bruce O. 25 Feb 98 - 03:35 PM
Bruce O. 25 Feb 98 - 04:05 PM
Bert 25 Feb 98 - 04:06 PM
Bruce O. 25 Feb 98 - 04:33 PM
Art Thieme 25 Feb 98 - 06:49 PM
Alice 25 Feb 98 - 10:04 PM
Art Thieme 25 Feb 98 - 10:56 PM
chet w 25 Feb 98 - 11:23 PM
Alice 25 Feb 98 - 11:45 PM
Art Thieme 26 Feb 98 - 12:43 AM
Bert 26 Feb 98 - 08:56 AM
Barry Finn 26 Feb 98 - 12:38 PM
Bill D 26 Feb 98 - 01:02 PM
Alice 26 Feb 98 - 01:11 PM
Earl 26 Feb 98 - 02:46 PM
Bill D 26 Feb 98 - 04:20 PM
Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca 26 Feb 98 - 07:03 PM
Earl 27 Feb 98 - 10:48 AM
Bruce O. 27 Feb 98 - 11:04 AM
SteveDN 27 Feb 98 - 12:22 PM
JASON SLACK@Barrie.Ontario.com 27 Feb 98 - 02:12 PM
Corinna 27 Feb 98 - 05:00 PM
toadfrog 25 Mar 01 - 05:21 PM
GUEST 26 Mar 01 - 11:38 AM
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Subject: Methodologies
From: Peter Turner
Date: 20 Feb 98 - 02:58 PM

I have been following a couple of threads (info on Barbara Allen; origins of John Henry), and I have noticed a new conversation has sprung up inside of them. It is a healthy and somewhat fierce debate on the fundamental question of how to think about, approach these songs that we all love. In essence, it is a question about methodology and, therefore, about one's philosophy of music appreciation. It seems an important question and one that is (for me) full of fascination and vigour. I would like to hear what a greater number of you think about the questions raised. Since the debate is no longer really about poor John and Barbara, I thought I'd try to liberate it from them and them from it, by creating a new thread. To anyone interested, check out those two threads and chime in here.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bruce O.
Date: 20 Feb 98 - 03:17 PM

I've stated my views, and I think I'm done. I want to go back to researching old songs, that's my bag, really. It's also pointless to argue about beliefs; 'facts' of one are opinions of another, and the winner is almost always the most fluent, and not necessarily the one best informed.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bob Landry
Date: 20 Feb 98 - 05:16 PM

I'm no musical scholar - as a kitchen musician, my eclectic tastes revolve around one basic requirement, that the music be good. But I do like to learn a little (and sometimes a lot) about the story behind the song I'm singing. I very much enjoy reading background information on tunes that I've known for a long time, the debates on whether a theme is factual or allegorical, the roots of a particular song, finding out who wrote it, the variants and additional verses, the different interpretations that appear throughout the folk process. These things make the music come alive for me and they greatly enchance my appreciation of the music. For this reason, Mudcat has become my favourite web site, the one I return to every day to see what new information you, my fellow Mudcatters, have posted about many of my favourite tunes. The diversity of your experience, the depth of knowledge you continue to express constantly amazes me. Keep it up. I'll keep coming back.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: chet w
Date: 20 Feb 98 - 07:44 PM

I think it's fine to look for and study the origins and the stories behind the songs. It appeals to me and I think it enhances my enjoyment of the music. But let's face it, such pursuits are not artistic, rather they are scholarly, which again is a fine thing if that's what one loves. But it's just that I've seen a number of my musical friends over the last few decades that took up this scholarly approach with such zeal that they became really boring as musicians, as artists, and sometimes as social company. From my point of view some moderation is in order. The friends I mentioned, who tend to be fiddlers, sometimes won't play a song unless they know at least one verifiable title for it. For me, I couldn't care less. If it's fun I'll play it. Most of the traditional tunes that I've been playing for a long time I don't even know a title for anymore, so if it comes up I just make one up. ("oysters in the henhouse" or some such. I'm truly not trying to convert anyone to this point of view, except to hold forth that scholarship and artistry, both admirable, are not the same thing.

Hard to be articulate on Friday night, Chet W.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: chet w
Date: 20 Feb 98 - 08:06 PM

I just remembered a great line from Thelonious Monk while writing on another thread. He once said, I think in response to some critics, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." He was a great artist, very quotable, and interestingly enough was the biggest-selling artist Columbia Records had before John Hammond the first discovered Bob (Zimmerman) Dylan. He also "discovered" Billie Holliday and Bruce Springsteen, and his son, the current John Hammond, is one of the finest artists and scholars on the blues of our time. If you happen to be a blues fan, look for the younger Hammond's documentary called "Searching for Robert Johnson". Then get a record and listen to the boy play. He reveres his roots, but his artistry, even when playing a Robert Johnson song, is his own. I guess that's sort of what I'm trying to promote.

Enjoying the discussion, Chet W.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Joe Offer
Date: 20 Feb 98 - 10:49 PM

I have mixed feelings on this issue. I love to study the origins and development of songs, and I think it's important that songs are somehow preserved in their original form.
On the other hand, I love to sing, and to involve other people in singing. Songs that are 400 years old just don't work for group singing unless they've been adapted a bit. I would hope that the adaptations would be tasteful, and that they would preserve as much as possible of the original song. I'm sure many here would disagree with me, but I think performers like the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary did a lot to bring traditional music to my generation. If it hadn't been for groups like these and the changes they made to the old songs, I think there are many of us here who wouldn't be calling ourselves "folkies." It's a wonderful thing to preserve these treasures, these songs that have been sung for centuries - but the primary purpose of music is enjoyment, and I'll do whatever it takes to make the music enjoyable for the people I'm with.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: chet w
Date: 20 Feb 98 - 11:12 PM

I'm with you, Joe. I guess the question has to come up, though, how do we find the original form of much of our music? I recall going to the Fiddler's Grove Festivals (just down the road from the Union Grove Bluegrass Festival, each put on by one of the VanHoy brothers) back in the 70's. The whole thing, as far as music on the stage was concerned, was set up as a contest; one for each instrument and one for stringbands. If your band didn't sound a whole lot like the 1920's records (in other words, the first records) of stringbands such as Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers, you had not a chance of winning. Those 1920's records had become their idea of the "original" form, and it was not to be messed with. If you had something as exotic as a mandola or a pennywhistle in your band, forget it. We all played anyway, because they gave you the price of your ticket back. I often wonder how people decide on these kinds of standards. For a non-musical example, how did the Hassidic Jews in New York, a five thousand year old religion, decide that men's clothes fashionable in the 1850's were to be important to them. Beats me. There is a super-fundamentalist college in Greenville, SC called Bob Jones University, where the students wear clothing of the 1950's. I went to another college in the same town; never got a handle on that one. Fascinatingly, they (BJU) at least once applied for a permit to have mounted 50 caliber machine guns in their guardhouse at the gate. Boy were they righteously upset when they didn't get it. I know I've gotten off the subject. It's been a long week and I'm going to bed.

Music is a wonderful thing, Chet W.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Alice
Date: 21 Feb 98 - 12:29 AM

I think I mentioned this in another thread, but I feel that finding out as much as I can about a song helps me grow into it, so to speak. Then when I feel that I have lived with the song and its history for a while, I can make it my own, adapting a word or note here and there to make it more singable for me. I still treasure what I know about its earliest sources. The fanaticism that clings to an arbitrary idea reminds me of the science fiction novel that was popular back in the 60's, "Canticle For Leibowitz" (sp?).... anyone else remember that one? alice in mt.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: dwditty
Date: 21 Feb 98 - 06:16 AM

All pretty heady stuff. In the words of a Bahamian street musician I heard once, sometime a song just "complexifies my mind."


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Frank in the swamps
Date: 21 Feb 98 - 07:40 AM

I found this thread compelling enough that I wanted to respond to it, but I sat here for ages thinking "I could just go on and on, what's the point?". I guess the point is that we come to folk music because there's more to it than meets the eye. If Joe Offer and Bruce O. don't mind my singling them out, I'd like to posit them as polar ends of a continuum, if all Joe wants to do is sing, why not just go along with flavour of the month pop tunes? And if Bruce O. is just into arcane origins, why not go solve the mystery of Jack the Ripper? Folk music has the magical quality of bringing the past to life. By singing, or even just listening to these songs, experiences of people long gone are experienced anew. Joe & Bruce are both, I believe, coming to the same place from different directions. I'd love to know the origin of "Little Sir Hugh". Is it a story bred from anti-Semitism, or anti-Semitism overlayed on an old folk motif? Whatever the case, it's a good song and a worthy subject for historical research. Frank I.T.S.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bruce O.
Date: 21 Feb 98 - 01:25 PM

I don't think Joe and I realy differ all that much. I'm concerned that we don't lose the roots, and don't mythologize them. That way, if evolution takes us to a sterile end we've got the originals to go back to.
It seems to me that's what the folk music boom in the 1950's and 60's was all about. There were interesting folk songs that one could sing that related closely with our own experiences and cultural background, and gave us a more realistic view of it than that found in those of the pop and country song singers and writers.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bruce O.
Date: 21 Feb 98 - 01:43 PM

Frank in the Swamps. Child, ESPB #155, points out two tellings of the tale of "Hugh of Lincoln" of the mid 13th century. I regret that I did not copy down author of title of a subsequent book or article on the subject. My recollection is that no historical basis has ever been found for the charge of ritual murder by the Jews, but it was a widely disseminated belief. I suspect it was drempt up as a post facto justification for the murders of all the Jews from the 1st starting out of the 1st crusade.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Joe Offer
Date: 22 Feb 98 - 02:29 AM

Well, Frank, I started reading your message, and my first response was, "Oooh, that smarts!" You did soften the blow a little later, though; so now I don't feel so bad. Yeah, I think Bruce and I are probably in basic agreement. Although we may have different perspectives, I'll bet we'd be able to get together and have a great time singing the night away.
My training is in theology and languages, and I've encountered similar problems with the scriptures. I've learned a lot by studying early texts of the Bible in Hebrew and Greek and Latin and King James English and Martin Luther German. However, I read those texts for study, not for inspiration. I prefer something in more modern language for everyday use. I find the most satisfying translations are the ones that don't get too modern, the ones that preserve the tone and dignity of the earlier texts. I guess I feel most comfortable with the Revised Standard Version, although there are may other good translations.
Same goes for modernizing folk songs - I think we have to be careful that our adaptations respect the original tone. I have to say, though, that Bruce's Bawdy Ballads don't need any adaptation. They're great just the way he presents them. Keep 'em coming, Bruce!

Now, Frank, "flavour of the month pop songs"? C'mon! I'm not that bad, am I?

-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bruce O.
Date: 22 Feb 98 - 02:23 PM

Sorry Joe, several people that contribute here or look in here can attest to my lack of singing ability. I did not say I thought all songs should be sung only the way they were originally written, and I've pointed out under "Dumbarton Drums" that I thought the traditional version from the Beers family was a far superior song than the original. There are others the same. I only want to establish facts and keep straight what are facts, so we don't burn our bridges behind us. That's usually thought to be a rather poor idea.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Frank in the swamps
Date: 23 Feb 98 - 01:18 AM

Sorry Joe, I didn't mean to sound like I had you guys categorized and neatly boxed. I was exagerrating the approaches that I see in order to make a point. Using you and Bruce made it a little more concrete, as you make it clear your main intent is to get people singing, and if Bruce isn't well researched... well. I've no doubt all the Mudcaters are far more subtle than comes across on the monitor screen. Why even I have been known to get my foot out of my mouth and shoes on my feet.

Frank I.T.S.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bruce O.
Date: 23 Feb 98 - 10:48 PM

This seems like a good place to start a discussion (or big fight).

What's a folksong? A folksong is a song collected from a traditional singer. (What do you mean by 'collected'.) What's a traditional singer? Any brave soul want to start the ball (or battle) rolling?


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 Feb 98 - 11:41 PM

Hmmm...could we say maybe that a song becomes a folk song when it loses its identification with an individual songwriter and becomes part of the culture and tradition and history of a community? I think that's where a song starts to become "folk" - when it moves from individuals to a community. If it is truly a "folk" song, it should express the character of the community from which it springs.
That's only the start, though. I think it's a slow evolution. Most songs don't become "folk" until they've gone through many changes. If there's only one form of a song, maybe it isn't really a folk song.
Thirdly, I think a folk song should have a certain timelessness. It should express both the past and the current character of a community. If it is no longer relevant to a community, perhaps it it becomes an artifact, and not a true folk song.
That, in three paragraphs, is my less-than-humble opinion.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Charlie Baum
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 12:59 AM

Perhaps the battle above is ageless: the scholar seeks to study the history of something, but in order to do so, he must crystalize what he wishes to study long enough to get a handle on it. The problem is that such a crystallization sometimes leads to ossification-the song turns to something like dead stone and ceases to live. (It's after midnight--pardon the mixing of metaphors.)

But if I'm going to go to the trouble of learning a song and singing it with regularity--I want to make it mine, and let it live through me, and as someone who now posseses the song and uses it for my own purposes (whether public performance or private entertainment), I reserve the right to make whatever subtle (or not-so-subtle) changes necessary to personalize the song and make it my own.

The accretion of these changes, as the communal song is made personal and then passed along to others, is the folk process; when a song becomes distant enough from its original composer to have this process wreaked upon it, it becomes a folk song.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Earl
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 01:01 AM

I basically agree with Joe, as long as we can define "community" very broadly in the modern world. Growing up in a middle class suburb of Buffalo we had no indigenous music. Via the folk boom I developed a love for blues and Appalachian music and later for the roots of both. I feel a definite connection to the musical traditions with very little legitimate connection to the communities that created them.

I've heard performers who seem anxious to turn living folksongs into artifacts. On the other extreme, there have always been performers who use folksongs as the basis for musical experiments. A good song, that tells a good story, like "Barbara Allen" will shine through in both cases.

That's my two cents. Looking forward to the big fight.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 01:32 AM

Earl, I can't imagine that exclusivity is a trait of a true folk song. I think the song becomes part of all who treasure it. It not only expresses community - it builds community among all who share the treasure.
A true folk song is an organic, living thing. It contines to grow and change, but it carries with it all it has been through in the past. "Static" and "archaic" are other traits that don't fit folk songs. Folk songs stem from history and tradition; but they must progress with time, or they will die.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Art Thieme
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 02:40 AM

THE LAW IS whatever the Supreme Court says it is at any given moment.

A folksong is whatever we think it is at any given moment.

In Memphis (Flk.Alliance) you can see that NOBODY agrees on what a folksongs is!

Bill Broonzy said he never heard a horse sing. Just people. So all songs are folksongs.

Mountain climbers say they climb a mountain because it's there. I sing folksongs because (for the most part) IT ISN'T THERE!!

Once wrote a letter to the editor on this WHAT'S A FOLKSONG question saying, "I know what I like! I like folksongs! Other songs (mostly) I don't like (except Thelonious, Bird, Diz, Chet Baker & a few thousand others). So--if ya want to know if it's a folksong just ask me! If I like it, it is one! If I don't like it, it aint one.

Reminds me of a Bellafonte calypso tune called "Man Piab"----IT WAS CLEAR AS MUD AND IT COVERED THE GROUND AND THE CONFUSION MADE MY BRAIN GO 'ROUND!!

Robert Kennedy once said, "30% of the people are against everything ALL THE TIME!" (or does this belong with the Kennedy thread?????) (Whoops, no--it should be an ALL NEW ROBERT Kennedy thread.)

Again I'm reminded of the Buddhist saying about JOYOUS PARTICIPATION IN THE SORROWS OF THE WORLD! (But then this should be in that strange Buddhist thread.)

This is all enough to make one ANTISEMANTIC!

Probably it's time to end this (If it wasn't for time we'd have to do everything all at once!!)

I love it all! Art (SMILE--please)

This


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 03:03 AM

I love that one, Art - ANTISEMANTIC. Sums it all up in one word, I think. Of course, a word like that could get you in a lot of trouble with politicorrectomaniacs who can't spell.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Frank in the swamps
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 05:51 AM

Maybe this should become an annual event, Like catching the greased pig at old fashioned county fairs. I think that the age of mass commmunication has completely ended folksong as it has always existed, now we have folk styles perhaps? Bluegrass, generally accepted as a folk style, didn't exist a hundred years ago, and rockabilly keeps popping up amongst the young'uns. I feel Joe's description of folksong is pretty much in synch. with mine, but it's hard to imagine how any new songs that are succesful enough to endure will lose their known authorship, along with all that implies.

It would be nice if performers could be more precise about what they play, nowadays if I see in the newspapers that So and So, folksinger/songwriter/guitarist etc. is playing, it doesn't tell me a lot. Or one I've seen frequently "Folk music concert" with So and So. I often simply don't go, my free time is too rare to gamble.

Frank the-more-I-think-about-it-the-more-I-grumble.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: dwditty
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 06:18 AM

Here's the deal - some songs I like, some I don't. In either case, I may or may not categorize the songs into categories - folk, blues, jazz, classical, calypso, gregorian chant, show tunes, rap? (Listen to Oscar Brown - Bid 'em In or Man, Earnest Boy for circa 1960 rap), etc. Now, while I've spent most of my life listening to and playing music, I ain't no scholar. Sure, I've read tons of books and articles about musical subjects that I wanted to find more info/history about. But, again, this exercise may or may not add to my experience when I hear/play a song. I like songs that make me feel - joy to pain and everything in between. Once I take a song into my soul, it is, for me, a folk song. So, I guess that includes just about everything. Ok, Ok - we'll leave Stairway to Heaven out (grin).


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bert
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 09:25 AM

Art,

I just love your definition

"If I like it, it is one! If I don't like it, it aint one."

I suggest we use it for the next Mudcat Tee Shirt.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Whippoorwill
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 09:56 AM

Elsie, they're at it again!


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Alice
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 10:07 AM

I have a copy of the folk-lorist and musicologist Herbert Hughes "Irish Country Songs" in four volumes, and it has been one of my favorite sources. I looked up "The Star of The County Down" for that thread, but when I found his comments on variants, I thought I would add them to this thread, instead. He wrote..."We are too much inclined to pedantry on this subject of variants, forgetting that what matters most is not that an air is 'correct', but that it is good. I am not at all convinced that there is really such a thing as a correct version of any traditional tune, even if you can point to its earliest appearance in print. In this part of the world, where ballads have been composed apparently without a break for generations, tunes are often borrowed and adapted to fit the words at the discretion either of the author or the singer, or both....one of two things is bound to happen to the tune: if it is distinctive enough it will be kept fairly intact; if it is not, it will take some slightly new shape according to the singer's inventiveness, and be modified gradually by the community until it becomes more or less fixed...(...in the ballad it is the words that matter first and last)." A couple of pages later he ends this introduction to volume four with..." As I write here from the wooded seclusion of Villa Nova, with the stark slopes of Castlequin and Knocknatobar behind me, the lively little town facing me across the Ferta, and Valentia out in the Atlantic to my right, I find myself preoccupied with impressions and memories of the last few months. Light-heartedness and conviviality, dignity and gentle manners, are outstanding characteristics of a community that faced pillage and death only a few years ago and will, no doubt, face the problems of tomorrow with equal fortitude.... Success in dealing and bargaining may bring as much credit and respect as it deserves; but the ballad is more honoured than the newspaper, if only because it is regarded as permanent and more true to life, and no one is more welcome round the fireside than the singer of a good song" Herbert Hughes, Cahirciveen, September, 1936


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Peter T.
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 10:56 AM

Thought I would chime in here with a new idea, which for the sake of simplicity we could call resonance. This has to do with the rich quality that a great folk song or folk singer of great folk songs has that causes a deep response in the listener. Without pushing it too much, there are different ways of getting to that sense of depth. One way is the resonance of experience -- the overtones and depth you get from listening to someone who has lived, even if it isn’t overt in the song -- for example, the later Billie Holliday or any number of blues singers. Another might be an organic relationship of the song to its listeners: it speaks to a common historical or geographical experience, so that it resonates with, connects with many facets of their lives. There are some quirky resonances as well: I think most people have one song or songs that speak directly to some experience of their own, which they sing better than anyone. (Also of course there are songs that are so close to people that people sing them badly and weepily -- go to a karaoke bar sometime). One reason why historical or other kinds of research work for some people is that it gives the song more resonance, it connects with their experience, or it just has new layers, like varnish. The problem with the “bad” version of the scholarly approach is that the person doesn’t seem to allow the long history or the multiple traditions enrich the resonance of the song (including the richness of variation), but that it is turned into a kind of rigidity. I think any sensitive listener feels that something is missing, even though they cannot quite put their finger on it. It is this quality of resonance (a deepening of experience provided by the song) that isn't there. Whew. Yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Alice
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 11:24 AM

Peter, you are so right. I think when the singer is truly feeling the emotion of the song, because of personal experience, that is communicated in a way that cannot be studied or faked. The same holds true for the listener. When an audience is touched personally by the words, and the emotion of the singer, the experience of the song really touches a deep chord. I see this happening amongst the listeners at our session. There are alot of college students that come and sit around on the floor or up in the balcony, but the music to most of them is just "background", as they smoke cigarettes and talk. On the other hand, many older folks show up singly and in couples, and watch and listen intently. You can see the expressions on their faces and in their eyes when they are touched by the music. You can see them tap their toes, and you know that the music is bringing back memories for them.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bruce O.
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 02:54 PM

Whippoorwill, can't you think of something to get the pot boiling. Almost everyone who thinks at all has come up with something that many another gets highly incensed at. Well, I'm off for an hour in the dentist's chair, and I'm sure that with all that time I'll be able to come up with something. Here's a starter.

Singers of folksongs are usually generous in citing the sources of their songs, but reseach of many scholars has turned up the writers of some of the songs. Why don't the songwriters get credits, too. It seems to me that it's pretty rare that they do.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bill D
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 03:52 PM

whipoorwill, they certainly ARE at it again!! and I am just as bad..or worse...

Elsie sort of took on people 'head-on'...not always condusive to productive discussion! I would rather analyze it to death!

For those who are new...this has been chewed on at length with about the amount of consensus you'd imagine! I am hoping to convert the world to MY viewpoint..*grin*..but I end up making it so complicated that no one will read far enough to agree with me!

Basically, my attuitude is..." everyone can..and should..like & sing whatever kind of songs moves them, but if we have 'NO' agreement about catagories, it creates problems when labeling bins in record stores and assembling material for databases of songs online"

Frank in the swamps said.."It would be nice if performers could be more precise about what they play, nowadays if I see in the newspapers that So and So, folksinger/songwriter/guitarist etc. is playing, it doesn't tell me a lot. Or one I've seen frequently "Folk music concert" with So and So. I often simply don't go, my free time is too rare to gamble."

that is MY point...made better than I have made it in the past....forgive me Art, but I have heard that line about 'horses don't sing' way too often! It is cute, but it solves NOTHING! There are, in the links section of the Mudcat, many lists of WWW pages where one may find songs/music of different kinds, and if I want a 'country-western' song, there is a place or two to go look. And, to get to the point: If I want to immerse myself in folk/traditional music for the day, I want to go to a record store, or a concert, or a database..etc.. and be confident that the majority of what I find there is what I expected, and not vaguely related stuff put there by those who think that 'folk' began with Bob Dylan!

You find this problem in almost EVERY area where people have different backgrounds, interests, hobbies, tastes and opinions on what is good, fun, tasteful...etc...Quilt collectors argue, gourmet food addicts argue about whether 'X' recipe is 'traditional', beer drinker argue about whether Budweiser is 'real beer' (of course it isn't!! *wink*)

so...even though is is not EASY to construct a way to evaluate whether song 'x', done at 'x' tempo, with 'x' tune, and 'x' words...etc..is 'really' folk or not, it certainly IS possible to exclude some songs...or there is no use having a logo on this forum which says " a magazine devoted to blues and folk music".....surely even those of you who kind of like 'a bit of everything' can see that statements like "if I like it, it's folk" are of little use in a 'serious' discussion about what to put into a concert, database, or record bin. I personally LIKE (and sing) a number of songs which I know are not traditional, but is I were to make a record, or give a concert labeled 'folk' I would feel obligated to do things which fit mostly 'folk/trad' related criteria. Yep...the line is often fuzzy...what was obviously NOT folk 40 years ago may be borderline now...and 40 years from now, may be totally accepted.Just because a song is done with an acoustic guitar, by a singer who also once sang 'The Great Silkie', it is NOT automatically included!! And, I'm sorry, but calling yourself a folksinger because you know 10 'Peter, Paul & Mary' songs does not work! And neither does the jump in logic that says "because I am a 'folksinger', anything I sing is a 'folksong'". There are a couple of 'traditional' tules of logic broken there!

Tsk,,,Bruce..you done pushed the button!! But I suppose this has to be done now & then, if only to stir up our brain cells and remind us that it ain't all obvious!


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Jack mostly folk
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 04:15 PM

They're Here.... Purist, traditionalist, music cops, song gestapos,debating song origins is something that is never going to sink into perfect harmony because everyone is entitled to their own tastes and opinions. I'm with Joe, lets just sing them and enjoy them for what they are. Great songs and noteworthy of origins but certainly not to debate how they should be done. If I had to sing and play a song to someone elses perfection, then I guess I just would'nt bother. So lets just sing them and when some expert pops up and says "Thats not the original version", just reply, "I know, thats how the oral tradition works" I've seen and heard good folks tell me such and take their turn singing and not follow their own rule of origins to the point of nearly taking as long to explain the difference as singing their song. I just accept the fact and appreciate the little history lesson and figure the lecture of song is really what the person wanted to convey. SING OUT and ENJOY THE MUSIC.....Jack mostly folk


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Alice
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 04:24 PM

I come back to my quote of Herbert Hughes, above, "I am not at all convinced that there really is such a thing as a correct version of any traditional tune..."


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Earl
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 05:39 PM

We'd really experience a paradigm shift if someone could find a singing horse.

I'd like to hear some opinions on this. If a folksong is 400 years old, obviously there are going to be many versions and the most common version today is probably not going to be the original. Let's say the most common version is only 200 years old. That's good enough for us to call traditional but what about 200 years ago? Were there people then complaining that no one does the old songs right anymore? How about 200 years from now, will the Fairport Convention version be traditional?


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bruce O.
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 05:43 PM

As to Alice comment and note above, I appreciated the quote from Hughes, since I never found out where to get the 4th volume. [Hughes, however, seems to have expurgated some of his songs, so didn't give us the real folksongs. "The Stuttering Lovers" is an example of which I've found the 17th century version.]

It seems to me obvious there is no 'one' correct version a traditional tune. A traditional tune is just that, a traditional tune. There are a few instances where it seems that someone didn't record the tune of a traditional singer or player correctly, and only in such a case do I think there is a basis for saying the tune isn't a correct 'traditional' tune. But all really traditional tunes are correct traditional tunes, even if they aren't the 'original' tune for the song. [It has been argued by some competent musicologists that 'Londonderry Air' wasn't noted down correctly; it's just too unlike any other known Irish air, and possible corrections have been suggested.]


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 05:53 PM

Re new Tee-shirts-- They'll have to wait until me move more of the ones we have already. THough I was thinking of one showing a horse playing a lute and caroling away. One of the reasons the DT (and later, Mudcat) was set up as it is is that I woul never dream of any agreement about what folk music is and isn't. or what people wish to do with it. Or whatever.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Jerry Friedman
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 06:46 PM

I agree with Bruce that songwriters deserve more credit (as do screenwriters--most of us quote movies as if the lines were written by the characters or the actors). I also think sonwriters deserve more respect. Some composers and other artists don't mind having their work changed by performers, but some do--especially if the performer distorts their intention or makes them look bad.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 08:57 PM

I'd like to chime in on the songwriter attribution issue with a gripe. Did you notice that on lyrics sites on the Web, songs are usually attributed to the performer, and not to the songwriter? Often, the songs are even indexed by the name of the performer, and not even by the title of the song. Once again, it proves how extraordinary we are here. We sure are good, aren't we?
smugly,
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Art Thieme
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 10:56 PM

Bruce O.-----Sure do hope your visit to the dentist went well!! Personally, I never get novocaine; I'd rather transcend dental medication!! When my uncle died he was entombed with his head sticking out of the ground; the hammer broke before we got him all the way in! He became his own monument. We just put a plack on his forehead; took in off his teeth!

P.S.---- To better understand why Big Bill made his obviously tongue-in-cheek comment about "horses singin" and "all songs being folksongs", just take a look at the amazing musically diverse career of this extremely talented musician. He never let on to the urban folkies that he had previously played many other styles of music. When Doc Watson first came to the University of Chicago Folk Festival in '62 he never mentioned he'd played electric guitar in a rock-a-billy band for years to earn money.He came there with Clarence Ashley who didn't want to talk of his early career as a minstrel show performer for fear it would ruin his standing with the...Oh, what the hell---I'm getting sick o' this argument. It's been going on for 50 years I know of personally. And I'm angry with myself for bein' drawn in again. P.S.-----My son once told me he wanted to be a folksinger when he grew up. I told him he couldn't have it both ways!


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bruce O.
Date: 24 Feb 98 - 11:28 PM

Art, can't you tell by the sort of drawl and sometimes backward articulation that Bill D. and I am former midwesterners. (He's Kansas; I'm Nebraska, then Washington state). [I've been gone so long I've forgotten most of the outhouse jokes I knew. Nobody around here seems to know what those were. Wow, when you ran through the Sears Catlog pages and had to go to corn cobs, that really made a man out of you.] Anyway if my tooth fix holds I won't need a new crown.

Funny how tastes go, Doc Watson, I can take or leave, but Clarence Ashley, Doc Boggs, and a few others I loved, and still have records of many of their songs. I finally convinced one son that being a full time professional juggler wasn't really a red hot idea. Now he's a computer programer in Silicon Valley during the week and juggler on the weekends.

[This was typed up hours ago, then I got bogged down in some ABC's just sent to SCOTS-L, and forgot this one. But Joe Offer has now set the stage for it very nicely.]

It seems strange that in literature the author usually gets the credit, but except after they're famous the songwriters, usually don't.

I picked up a book on the all the songs that made the hit parade list from 1890 to 1954, 'Pop Memories' by Joel Whitburn, 1986. We find in it the singers, date song made the hit parade, position on the list, weeks on the list, band or ochestra acompanying the song, record label and number, just about everything except who wrote the song and who composed the tune.

One page in the back, p. 635, lists songwriters and composer of the 21 songs that won academy awards for movies songs, and the two pages following list the 40 songs and songwriters honored in the 'National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame'. P. 639 lists 30 songs from the Billboard Disc Jockey Polls. All these are a minuscule fraction of the total number of songs noted in the book. The performers get almost all of the credit. They should get some, but it seems to me that the major credit should go the the inventors.

But that seems to have always been the situation. I've seen it stated that the writers of the 17th century English broadside ballads got 1 shilling for each song accepted for publication. Entry in the Stationers' Register constituted copyright protection for the publisher, not the author. The Stationers' Register rarely name the author, and then only when the publisher wished to note it.

In spite of this we now know that Laurence Price wrote "The Demon Love/ House Carpenter" (Child #243, ZN2466), "The Famous Flower of Serving Men" (Child #106, ZN2944) and "Robin Hood's Golden Prize" (Child #147, RZN11). Folksongs versions of Price's other ballads are "Some Rival/ The American's have stolen my dearest away" (ZN1980) and "The Merry Haymakers" (ZN800). Evidence is incomplete, but he probably also wrote the English folk carol "All you that are to mirth inclined" ("The Sinner's Redemption", ZN112). I've heard most of these sung, but with never a mention of Price. Martin Parker, Thomas Robbins, Lawrence White, and Joseph Martin are among other 17th century ballad writers that wrote songs that have become folksongs. Samuel Smithson wrote a parody of the Robin Hood ballads (probably a dig at Thomas Robbins, who wrote 3 of them), (Child #150, RZN3), but Prof. Child, not quite fathoming Smithson's sense of humor, called it a silly ballad, precisely what Smithson intended.

I'm always a little annoyed when somebody asked for the singer[s] Z's song, then names a folksong, as if Z had invented the folksong. They are folksongs because they have outlasted at least two generations of singers. If it's Z's song and Z is still living it isn't a folksong in my book.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Corinna
Date: 25 Feb 98 - 02:01 AM

Interesting discussions...Bruce and Joe seem to keep stirring the pot. You can lead a horse and a historian to water but ya can't make them sing. You can always take a singer and make them sing about history but you can't make 'em sing it like they sung it in the past if they don't want to and less likely if they are drinking water. Sometimes even the inaccuracies are entertaining and enlightening about the times and the people associated with a piece of music. I personally like to know something about the music, just don't talk too much and make sure to play with feeling. Just as there are all kinds of folks there are all kinds of folk music. Perhaps the only commonalities are the topics (love, death, living life, family, community, cosmic questions) the delivery (I'm here to tell ya a story, Didya hear about the..., Once upon a time...) and a strong or haunting refrain for the crowd to join in. I believe I have covered the Global Folk Song Methodology which would allow for Stairway to Heaven to be included as a folk song. [Gnashing and wailing or great rejoicing depending on your folkal (focal, too?) inclination.]


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From:
Date: 25 Feb 98 - 11:11 AM

Ugh! those academics again. We've been joined by a Master of Creative Obfuscation.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bert
Date: 25 Feb 98 - 12:17 PM

Well this is all SO polite. I sure miss Elsie.

However I see the point that we do need categories of some kind.

I get really annoyed when our local folk song society sponsors a concert and it turns out to be a singer/songwriter and has nothing to do with folk.
In fact I think that is the one category we can all agree on. If a singer/songwriter sings only his* own original material then it isn't folk.
One exception to this would possibly be a modern interpretation or version of a traditional song. This could marginally be considered a folk song.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bruce O.
Date: 25 Feb 98 - 12:49 PM

I have a hard time trying to decide in some case whether or not I want to call it folk (better - traditional. Folk has now gotten to be practically meaningless). I'd like to say that if no traditional singer sang all the verses verses of some version to that tune, then it isn't folk, but that doesn't always work. Ewan MacColl got some verses of "Eppie Morrie" and the tune from his father, but had to fill out the song from printed sources in order to have a coherent text. I can't say it's not traditional, but it's not pure traditional.

My stringent definitions drops out a lot of conflated texts of songs like 'The Seeds of Love/ Sprig of Thyme' and other such lyrics, because no one traditional singer is known to have sung the song that way. Where do we draw a line, or can we?

Even in the English Folk Song and Dance Society's early journals, traditional tunes were often given with verses partially or almost completely drawn from a chapbook or broadside text, so we have a lot of traditional tunes, but a lost less really traditional songs there.

I was initially appalled at some of the songs in Alfred Williams 'Folk Songs of the Upper Thames'. There were a lot that at that time I didn't consider to be folk songs at all. Now I think Williams probably has a good sampling of what traditional singers really sang, and he didn't listen for only the type of songs that other collectors were trying to get that fit those collectors notion of what was a folksong.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From:
Date: 25 Feb 98 - 01:25 PM

Trsditional is a better category to play with than folk, because (1) "folk" became something very different, and very diluted in the American sixties. I wonder if a song is really a folk song anymore when there is a industry of non-performers built on it (i.e., record company executives going out and finding a folk singer-songwriter). Of course, you'd have to make room for, say, Folkways. (2) if folk is only living music, as some here have argued, you could include songs that Phil Ochs wrote about the political situation in the 60's, but exclude songs from dead cultures like the ancient Greeks, who sung mostly highly traditional songs. Just because no one sings it, shouldn't mean (for definitional purposes)that it is not a folk/traditional song. We are most of thinking of Anglo and American music. This is too limiting.

So I agree with your terminology, Bruce, but also I don't think it clarifies matters to say that a tune is traditional if it is sung by a traditional singer. That is just begging the question. What, then, constitutes a traditional singer?


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bruce O.
Date: 25 Feb 98 - 01:54 PM

What then constitutes a traditional singer is indeed the question, and I started this line out with that question, and it's a very difficult one. There's a lot of room between someone who only sings to himself in the shower, and a full time professional singer of traditional songs. Can we make an approximate dividing line to come up with a traditional singer?

Let me kick something in for a starter, and see what develops. I would take a traditional singer as one who learned his (old) songs from someone else (not directly from some book, broadside or chapbook) and sings them to himself or an audience, but someone who usually does it for free entertainment for the audience. I wouldn't exclude some singing for pay or other remuneration, it that wasn't the primary occupation of the singer.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Earl
Date: 25 Feb 98 - 02:31 PM

I assume the traditional singer would also not have learned his songs from recordings. Would he also have to be isolated from mass media to guarntee the purity of his sources?


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bruce O.
Date: 25 Feb 98 - 03:35 PM

My last post was just supposed to be a starter. Keep kicking in the comments with additions or objections.

I think the songs would have to be learned from another traditional singer, and ideally should be 60 years or more from any printed source.

Back up to Alice's posting of Herbert Hughes comments. It seems there are two ways to look at 'correct traditional tune'. By definition a traditional tune is a 'correct' traditional tune. There are big problems in correctly noting them down with all the timing variations and ornamentations of a tune that a traditional singer uses, and folklorists have written articles on this. I am not about junk all tunes that aren't taken from hi-fi recordings of traditional singers. We wouldn't have many left.

I say hi-fi here for a reason. The 'Grieg-Duncan Folk Song Collection' is now complete in 7 volumes as to the texts and tunes, 1515 different songs. A few years after Greig and Duncan had collected these songs an American by the name of Carpenter went to the British Isles, and recorded quite a few of these songs from the singers that had supplied the versions in the Greig and Duncan collections. This was done on an early wire recorder, and the results are terrible by modern standards. [Original and taped copies in Library of Congress and copy at Ralph Vaughn Williams Memorial Library of EFDSS] The wire speed varied considerably and noise is big. It's hard (impossible for me on a few songs) to understand the words in the verses, and I don't know how one would note the tunes. [Audio specialists know how, by Fourier transform methods, to compensate to some extent for the variable wire speed and do frequency domain filtering out of much of the noise. The cost to do this is at present prohibative to have done professionally, and it's maybe now just possible for a talented computer jock to do some of it on a personal computer with enough extra software and hardware for digitizing long files (hi-fi .WAV files for about 3 to 4 minutes duration) and with Fourier transform programs that can access extended or expanded menmory.]


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bruce O.
Date: 25 Feb 98 - 04:05 PM

Maybe I should show where my biases come from. I grew up in a family with no musical instruments, no phonograph, few songs, and sometimes no radio. I later discovered that I had been 'deprived', and have gorged myself on folksongs ever since. I have taken as my most valuable background that from texts and notes in collections of traditional songs published by the primary collectors, or by students and grad students of literature professors (e.g., Belden -Missouri, Brown -North Carolina. The latter usually know more about older printed texts. Phillips Barry usually knew just about everthing of earlier history of songs and tunes that he or his collaborators collected.)


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bert
Date: 25 Feb 98 - 04:06 PM

Tentative categories.

EXTINCT: We know there used to be such a song but no one remembers it.

ARCHIVED: We have the words and music but no one sings it any more.

TRADITIONAL: Has been sung for many years(generations?) in a community.

FAMILY TRADITIONAL: Has been sung for many years (generations?) in one family.

FOLK: People sing it now at gatherings.

SPONSORED: Sung only in sponsored groups such as schools, political parties, other organizations, choirs etc..

ENDANGERED: Songs that shouldn't be lost but not many people sing them any more.

PSUEDO-FOLK: The "Sixties" stuff that a lot of people think of as folk.

SINGER/SONGWRITER: Sung by the writer only.

Add your own categories, there must be more. My favorite one is ENDANGERED, I think that folk singers have a duty to sing any song which, in their opinion, should not be forgotten. This duty exists whether or not others consider the song folk.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bruce O.
Date: 25 Feb 98 - 04:33 PM

Good start Bert, but as always there will be arguments. Lots of songs now sung by 'folksingers' seem to be dead, but ARCHIVED ones. Some collecting is still going on, so we can't really conclude anything is ever really dead. There have been some remarkables surprises turn up after no known mention of a song for 200 years or more, and a few remarkably good versions of some very old ballads have collected in the last 20-30 years.

Collecting is still going on, but collectors don't have it easy. Fields are not as green as they used to be, and financial support for a folklorist to do field collecting is practically non-existant. Some like Peter Kennedy have managed to make a living from publication of books and issuance of recordings, but I don't think many collectors died rich men (or women). A recent Ph. D. graduate as a folklorist has a difficult time finding a job.

My sister in Washington state became acquainted with a retired logger, fisherman and handyman from Alaska that knew lots of old and unfamiliar songs that he had learned in his younger days in Alaska. I inquired at the library of Congress Folklore Archive for name and address of a folklorist in Washington state, and got it. However, the state had fired him, not being sure that they needed a folklorist, and the position was in limbo for about two years, and the last word I ever received in reply was that the folklorist was reapplying for a job as state folklorist. By this time the old logger had died.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Art Thieme
Date: 25 Feb 98 - 06:49 PM

EXTINCT---Formerly a skunk---now roadkill!

TRADITIONAL----Songs we all know but we MUST sing them from the book (folk bible) RISE UP SINGING!

FAMILY TRADITIONAL----Inbreeding within our family causing mutations like the two-faced double standards often exhibited on this (and other) music scenes!

FOLK-----any carbon-based creature EXCEPT HORSES!! (Sorry Big Bill!)

SPONSORED-----What one must have when attending Folksongs Anonymous meetings!

ENDANGERED----The feeling that causes one to cross to the other side of the street because a banjo player is seen approaching on your side of the street!

PSEUDO FOLK-----Sings old ballads but wears BLUE PSEUD SHOES! (rarely gets gigs)

SINGER/SONGWRITER-----A stoolpigeon who now resides in SING/SING!

FOLK D.J.-----Similar to a folk O.J.---They get away with murder!

FOLK ALLIANCE-------Britain and Ireland (AND all the folks writing in these threads) AGREE TO MAKE PEACE!!!!

Affectionately, Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Alice
Date: 25 Feb 98 - 10:04 PM

Hey, whatever HAPPENED to Elsie??

This thread reminds me so much of Herbert Hughes writings, that I had to go back to his introduction to Vol.4 to add this quote,
"To the folk-lorist, as to the sociologist, the present phase of our national life presents an unprecedented spectacle. With the creation of a limited Free State has come the intensive cultivation of Irish in the national schools. This has raised problems, economic and scholastic, which it is not my business to discuss here. The policy, far-seeing though it may be, is, however, having curious paradoxical reactions in the domain of folk-music. Partly through a desire for standardisation, and partly through the modifications created by music print, the old rhapsodic beauty of such songs as [two title printed in a Gaelic type font] is being shorn and trimmed into a neat Anglicisation which it is the very object of authorities to avoid. Children with beautiful voices, singing in unison and phrasing with admirable unanimity, are unconsciously helping on this deadly work day by day, and unless the matter is taken in hand now the next generation, brought up even more effectively on compulsory Irish, will receive a tainted and discredited legacy.
This is a danger, of course, that does not confront the more modern Anglo-Irish ballads of the kind included in these pages. These are songs of leisure and relaxation sung in the kitchen or round the public-house fire, songs that conform more easily than do the traditional Irish to the notation of the tempered scale. More than once I have had to abandon the attempt to make an air fit into the conventional five-lines-and-four-spaces of a musical clef, a difficulty that generally besets the "collector" of Irish tunes. The question of harmonisation I have fully discussed in previous volumes, and I need only admit once more that much of the essential character of an old song is lost the moment it is brought into contact with harmony - in other words, with the piano. At the best, it is created anew, and if the spirit is retained that is all the interfering musician can hope for."


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Art Thieme
Date: 25 Feb 98 - 10:56 PM

Yep, If the shoe fits (and is comfortable) I'll wear it. No need for it to be in style.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: chet w
Date: 25 Feb 98 - 11:23 PM

Again, if you want authenticity for a 400 year old song, how are you going to know when you find it. Except for those few traditional songs that got written down (which takes it out of the oral tradition, right?) we don't know what most of these tunes sounded like until Edison's talking machine was first used for traditional/country/folk songs in the 1920's. Assuming that the people playing on the records may have learned them from previous generations, we might set that beginning 40 or 50 years before that. But beyond that how can you really know? If anyone knows, I'd truly love to hear how it's done.

Sincerely, Chet W.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Alice
Date: 25 Feb 98 - 11:45 PM

I couldn't transcribe all of what Hughes had to say, but he goes on to relate an example of having a young man with a good tenor voice came and sang a few songs for him, including "Down By the Sally Gardens". The singer had learned it from listening to the radio, to an arrangement Hughes himself had done, but Hughes pretended not to know the song at all. The youth sang the song a little differently than the tune that had been recorded, but he remembered Yeats's words perfectly. The singer had created a new variant that matched the words and spirit of the song completely. I think his point is... to just keep singing. The songs will be molded this way and that way, and they will take on a life of their own with the spirit of the singers that sing them.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Art Thieme
Date: 26 Feb 98 - 12:43 AM

Some have heard me tell this tale about my mythical uncle. He said he had the same gun he'd carried through the Civil War. I pointed out to him that the lock looked newly machined. He said "Yes, the old lock blew apart so I put a new one on. The termites got the stock so I replaced that. Then the barrel bent so I replaced that. Other than a new lock, stock and barrel this is the same old gun!"

Other than having new words and a new tune these are the same old songs also! Art


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bert
Date: 26 Feb 98 - 08:56 AM

Alice, that's the most important thing
... to just keep singing

Art, BLUE PSEUD SHOES. I love it.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Barry Finn
Date: 26 Feb 98 - 12:38 PM

Traditional or folk or contempory accoustic singer/songerwriter or whatever. Songs sung for generations in a family or community, wheither the song is traditional or not, traveled from afar or not, if it's been adapted to a family or local style and/or adopted and embraced by that community is it now a traditional song? A singer from this family or community, would they not be a traditional singer & if someone got a song or two from one of the singers of this group would they then be a trad singer or would it take 25 or 30 songs or maybe it would need to be their whole repertoire? Would the street singer of the broadside (singer/songwriter) tradition be considered a trad singer of trad songs 100 yrs ago, any more or less than they would be today, even though their intent was commerical, & if a trad singer got hold of their broasheet material & took it back to their own community & made it theirs', does it then have to be sung for many generations first before it's considered entered into the traditional oral tradition? If I have a number of these songs in my repertoire from a number of these sources would I/could I be then a Trad. singer or am I a folk singer of trad music or just a singer who thinks he sings traditional/folk music which may in fact turnout to only be contempory accoustic music that happened to sneak into the repertior of a trad singer & accidently got recorded by a collector of trad music? If a trad singer gets paid are they no longer or are they less of a trad singer, if so then I won't pay to hear the Copper Family anymore & hope they'll come back & sing for free because I'd hate to contribute to them losing their status & become a family of professional folk singers, just doing a hand me down song. I used to play at sessions & parties with a friend, whom many consider to be one of the foremost Irish fiddlers living today, if I play the tunes I that I may have got from him, would I then be a trad musician or just a bodhran player or if I played the fiddle, a trad fiddler at least or would this friend just be a nice guy to have put up with my playing on what may or may not be a trad instrument? I also write songs, does this mean I hate myself or do I just hate what I write or do I hate what others write if it's not trad or folk & they say it is. They're are a few great writers & many lousy ones around that claim to be singer/songwritters in the folk tradition (?) & turn out accoustic trash & get paid, will their stuff die if it it's not accepted as folk or will it be pushed to the commerical limits, within in the realm of folk & we as folkies are forced to swallow a bitter pill? A politcian I once knew who got thrown out of office, not because he liked trad. music, once said (I don't know if he quoted someone else & refused to give credit) "if it looks like a duck & it walks like a duck & it talks like a duck, then it's a duck, but I'm not sure everyone would agree on what a duck is & we might end up fowl over a geese or a swan or that occassional mallard getting thrown in to fil out the bill. I do have an opinion on what is or isn't trad or folk or singer/songerwritter or contempory or trask but those are my own opinions & I'll hang on to them & hope others tolerate them as much as I would hope to tolerate theirs. Barry, who may or may not sing what he thinks he sings anymore & realizes that he answered nothing here.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bill D
Date: 26 Feb 98 - 01:02 PM

hmmmmmm...I know the 'George Washington's axe' version...guy says he has an axe once owned by G.W., 'course, it's had 3 new heads and 6 new handles...

seriously, though..that lets me get on MY soapbox...IF someone tried to sell you that axe, you'd look at him pretty funny!!It may be a FINE axe...but it isn't G.W.'s!!

We all know that songs get changed-sometimes accidently, sometimes on purpose, and we all have our personal opinions about the virtues of the changes, both in general and in particular cases.

My point is, that IF we at least keep track of those changes and know ..'to the best of our ability'..how it WAS, we are then able to choose more easily and discuss more intelligently, and most important, SORT these songs, so that those who particularly WANT the old ones..(or the 'new' ones, for that matter), ot the ones of a certain style, can find them!
I think that Bruce O. believes this, and makes more effort than most of us to discover origins....I simply 'like' a lot of the older songs and styles better, and though I have no inate aversion to 'folk-processing', I dislike it when the processor is set on 'puree'.
....So, the discussion of 'trad' vs 'non-trad' is, for me, a truly pragmatic one.... I NEED a little corner of the world where I can retreat when I want to hear, study, and explore the 'non-singer-sonwriter', 'non-Kingston Trio', 'non-pop/folk/rock' world.

Let me try to say this as clearly as possible....
"I DO NOT CLAIM THAT OTHER KINDS OF MUSIC ARE INFERIOR-ONLY THAT IF WE DUMP THEM ALL INTO THE SAME BARREL, I WILL HAVE A LOT MORE TROUBLE FIND THE ONES I WANT" ...yes, it IS work coming up with a sorting system...and even more work getting those with very wide-ranging tastes to agree that any manner of sorting is even desirable, but it is NOT a silly or unreasonable thing.
...This internet thing is fast...I have bookmarks for MANY different music sites...I am perfectly willing to go one place for serious gospel and another for bluegrass...(wouldn't the bluegrass sites have a fit if someone started asking them for Child ballads!)

One problem here is Max's cleverness..(if doing amazing stuff can be called a 'problem')...NO place else seems to have anything like this forum...it is just TOO tempting for someone who 'just wants some lyrics' to something P,P &M did...or someone who 'just needs a tune' to his favorite Irish melody...or someone who 'really wants the chords' to his favorite singer-songwriter's hit...to pop in here and beg. I can't say I blame them...thet need someone to make a forum similar to this for THEM ,so we could refer them to a better venue...(and some of our more knowlegeable regulars are doing this)

Perhaps you might argue that if I have such a narrow notion of what I want in a database/forum, why don't I start my own? Well, obviously, it ain't easy to do what Max has done...and suppose I had the skills? What would I call it?

Unless I made it something like "The Totally Traditional, Purist-Snob, No pop music allowed ,Reactionary, 'We don't have anything past 1923' Database", I would soon have the same situation. Those who outnumber me would come flocking in...lets face it..there are more Mary Chapin Carpenter fans than Jeanie Robertson fans!
...Now, I have said before that I am quite aware that this is NOT my place...Max runs the forum, and Dick fills the database...and they are BOTH more eclectic and forgiving than I would be.... so I do not pretend for a moment that I can do anything more than express an opinion.---and I guess I have just done that!...so, sing, play, enjoy any durn thing you want, my friends...I just hope that when you do it here, the sign on the door that reads 'for blues and folk music' will cause you to reflect a bit on your choices...

*stepping down from soapbox and fading into the crowd as others shout for THEIR turn*


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Alice
Date: 26 Feb 98 - 01:11 PM

Where is Elsie when we need her? I am sure she would love our rant. We have managed to keep it up quite awhile.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Earl
Date: 26 Feb 98 - 02:46 PM

I think there are three seperate issues here. 1.What is a traditional song, 2. what should we expect to find in the Mudcat database, and 3. what should be talked about in the forum.

1. I'm perfectly happy to let people who know what they're talking about define traditional songs and I'm glad they come here and share it with the rest of us.

2. The Mudcat database is called a "folksong" database. I think we all agree that, for better or worse, folksong no longer equates to traditional song. This database encompases all the many and varied definitions of folk (to the horror of some and the joy of others.) If Bruce had a database it would be a wonderful, useful, important thing. No one in their right mind would go there looking for Peter, Paul and Mary songs. On the other hand, it's good that people can come here to find Peter Paul and Mary songs, as well as the "correct" versions of songs done by PP&M.

3. The forum should have no limitations. The discussions will tend to be about things that interest people who also have an interest in the database, but not even limited to music (e.g. "Urban Myths.") If no one is interested in a thread, they won't respond. If someone is really on the wrong track they can be gently directed elsewhere.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bill D
Date: 26 Feb 98 - 04:20 PM

Earl...as much as I hate to admit it, you are right about folksong no longer equating to 'traditional' song...I wish that 'folk' were not such a neat, easy label...but like 'gay' it is short and easy to spell and thus functions as a wagon which it is easy to jump on and ride until you get hold of the reins....much easier than building your own wagon and buying horses! And if PP&M were the outer limits, I would have no problem...I can at least see the relationship there. (as a matter of fact, Dick G. DOES exercise some restraint in what goes into the database...he puts in more than I would, but I can certainly live with it..)

as to #3, though, I wonder if you mean 'NO' limits? I presume Max would 'edit' it if it got too far afield (like into bicycle repair), but even now a lot of threads drift pretty far from what I would expect on a page with 'folk music' on the door..(I guess 'urban myths' IS a kind of folklore..*shrug*)


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca
Date: 26 Feb 98 - 07:03 PM

Bruce O., how does one get the words to the songs listed on your web page? I'd like to see the words to "When This Old Cap Was New", or Time's Alteration (think I remembered that second title correctly), which I suspect is the full version of the song I know as "When This Old Hat Was New."


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Earl
Date: 27 Feb 98 - 10:48 AM

It's not that everyone wants to include everything as folk music, but everyone has their own exceptions. One person might say "tradional music and anything by Eric Bogle or Stan Rodgers", another might say "traditional music and songs from the labor movement", or "traditional music and songs we sang in the sixties", or "traditional music and anything else sung in the basement of a Unitarian church." Put it all together and you have anything not sung by horses.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Bruce O.
Date: 27 Feb 98 - 11:04 AM

Timothy, eacg copy of a ballad has a sourece code, just before then printer and separated from it with a : . St top of file is code for book or cvollection it's in, e.g., E = Euing, RB is Roxburghe Ballads, P = Pepys Ballads.

I think I added "When this old hat was new" to a thread, about 9-10 month ago, but can't remember the name of the thread. I've since then heard LaMarca and her husband sing the traditional version.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: SteveDN
Date: 27 Feb 98 - 12:22 PM

I really enjoy a discussion that, by virtue of its nature, can have no resolution. Each of us has his/her own definition of what we would call "folk" or "traditional."

Whenever we attempt to apply hard and fast rules, we will undoubtably exclude a whole bank of tunes that someone else may consider to be their favorite "folk songs."

For instance, can we really say that the folk revival of the sixties *killed* folk music? Does that mean that future generations have nothing to look forward to and sing about? I certainly hope not.

I could go on (and on and on...), but I can't even see why we should exclude songs sung by horses. After all, I think Mr Ed once did a rendition of "Camptown Ladies." ;)

Anyway, we probably agree on the meanings of the terms more than we disagree. The discussion does remind me of a line from Ken Kesey's "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" that I'd like to mis-quote here:

"We can't define that term, because if we say that it is one thing, then it can't be something else."

I guess the important thing is to keep a song in your heart, and teach it to a young'un somewhere along the line.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: JASON SLACK@Barrie.Ontario.com
Date: 27 Feb 98 - 02:12 PM

Canada.Ontario.Barrie.Canada.


We get the point, Jason. It's really cute. Now, chill out.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: Corinna
Date: 27 Feb 98 - 05:00 PM

I personally like diving through the bins/barrels for the long lost treasures (archived and archaic music). To limit the definition is to "box" the musical spirit of many performers and songwriters who are not easily catergorized. Just like mallards, the ugly, lame, and dead ducks are ducks too. Don't be surprised to find an occasional swan who crosses over categories either since neither ducks nor swans read labels like Folk Traditional, 60's kinda Folk, Folksy Sounding Wannabes, etc. Ducks and boxes aside, I agree with Earl for clarity of purpose and Steve (Electric Kool Aid Testing just might be the way to acid test -pls forgive the pun- if a song or singer is "worthy"). Just a reminder that being a folk snob is most likely to be seen as an oxymoron by others, including the long dead folks who created and sung the songs in the first place.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: toadfrog
Date: 25 Mar 01 - 05:21 PM

FOLK MUSIC, WHAT?
My definition

Try this one and see what you think. I'd be very interested to hear responses.
The best approach I ever heard was by Earl Robinson, in or about 1956, who said something like this:
(1) Folk music is music which has been smoothed over time by passing from one individual to another, each making a small contribution, until the music is perfected in ways no individual composer could achieve.
(2) In order for the folk process to work, the people involved must understand the music they perform. They must either be raised in a musical tradition, or must pay careful attention to it and follow it.
(3) Robinson, who composed the "Ballad for Americans," "Sandhog" and "Joe Hill," among other things (and was very proud of it) did not call himself a composer of folk music. He said he had heard changed versions of "Joe Hill," and thought it would evolve into a folk song.
(4) Robinson thought that classical music was great only to the extent it derived from folk roots. He argued, this is why Bartok is a greater composer than Schoenberg. (I'm not sure whether I agree, but it is an interesting point.)
(5) These were political points Robinson was making, as he considered folk music to be the property of the Left.

In the same vein, I heard Bess Hawes say that she had taught a course in singing folk songs. One week, for an exercise, she had all her students choose a well-known singer and imitate him/her as closely as they could. When the class met, no one could tell who it was that anyone was trying to imitate. But ALL the students sang better than they ever had before. In other words, they improved because they had to think about what they were doing.

That being said, I suggest the following, and ask for comment:
(1) Folk songs are SIMPLE songs. Because folk songs do not have a lot of complicated instrumentation, chord progressions, etc. they derive their force from very small things, like small variations in rhythm and vocal inflection. The best folk recording I have ever heard is "Alabama Bound" with Leadbelly and the Golden Gate Quartet. All either a capella or with a single guitar line, but the rhythm and phrasing are perfect.
(2) The best folk music is performed by people who are raised in a tradition and stick to it. Good folk music requires that the performer at least treat the tradition with respect. There are trained opera singers who patronizingly include a few simple folk songs in their repertoire. No matter how magnificent their voices are, they rarely sound good.
(3) The best folk music is moving because of a nuanced combination of words, tune, rhythm, vocal inflection, and instrumentation (if any). A folk singer raised within a tradition may understand these things without needing to think about them. An outsider who wants to sing the songs should think about them very carefully. That is why Leadbelly is better than Odetta, and Odetta is superior to Judy Collins. That is also why Prof. Child was wrong when he said the words of a ballad are more important than the tune. He was wrong because it makes no sense AT ALL to think about the words in isolation from the tune, or even in isolation from the singer's accent and phrasing.
(4) Songs composed by singer-songwriters may be good, but they are not folk music. And the more complex the composition gets, the farther it probably is from anything that could be called folk music.
(4) The idea of creating "fusion" music, or bringing all the traditions together to create something to unite mankind, is wrongheaded. Homogenized music is like Kraft homogenized cheese. The idea of "liberating" music from rules is wrongheaded. Traditional music is good because it is traditional. Traditions are local and have rules.
(5) Although folk songs are associated with the Left, Songs of Protest are not necessarily folk songs. And a bad song does not become a good one because the sentiment is good, or politically correct.JWM


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Subject: RE: Methodologies
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Mar 01 - 11:38 AM

I Believe old American folk music represents Freedom. These days electric guitar, bass, and drums plus probable 2nd guitar, and optional keyboard are such a boring norm. Back then they were unencumbered by standardization- Blues musicians played Banjo and Fiddles. Washboards and jugs escaped their household duties to play on Beale street. Diffrent styles rose up regionally and in some instances strange odd wierd music unlike anything heard before or since crawled forth from some isolated hill country were the residents were not indoctrinated into the "norm". Stack o lee unfetered by copy right laws met various fates for his crimes, chain gang members sang sympathetically of him as a heroic figure, while others saw him hung for his deeds. Rocky Racoon has no such history he tries to shoot Dan and gets shot everytime and we are always left to believe he will be Ok ,"good" Rocky never passes away in his room for his possessive voilent stalker routine. Purists are wrong, Let freedom ring. Freedom is the tradition.
Well, this thread is getting kind of long. Let's all go over to Methodologies II.

Please don't post any more messages here.

-Joe Offer-


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