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Methodologies -- who writes the songs?

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28 Feb 98 - 11:05 PM
Art Thieme 01 Mar 98 - 01:26 AM
Alice 01 Mar 98 - 10:13 AM
Bruce O. 01 Mar 98 - 03:32 PM
Joe Offer 01 Mar 98 - 09:33 PM
Bert 02 Mar 98 - 09:00 AM
Bert 02 Mar 98 - 09:07 AM
Bruce O. 02 Mar 98 - 11:23 AM
Songster Bob 02 Mar 98 - 01:04 PM
Jerry Friedman 02 Mar 98 - 11:56 PM
Bill D 03 Mar 98 - 04:59 PM
Will 04 Mar 98 - 09:55 PM
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Subject: Methodologies -- who writes the songs?
From:
Date: 28 Feb 98 - 11:05 PM

A lot of people in the previous Methodologies thread have stressed that a folksong must grow out of a community to be a folksong. It must be part of the community and represent the community. Huh. Most of us would agree, but what are we agreeing to? How DOES a song represent a community; how does it express the concerns of a community? Should we understand the songs in the same way many people interpret myths, i.e., not just as stories but as ways to express and resolve tensions in the community? Or should I just shut up and sing? (Which would actually be a very hard thing to do simultaneously.)


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Subject: RE: Methodologies -- who writes the songs?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 01 Mar 98 - 01:26 AM

Well, Ive heard myth defined as OTHER PEOPLE'S RELIGION.

It does seem to be a big thing to us humans to find a way to divide THEM from US. Yes, the ingroup exists to be recognized by the outgroup!And the other way around too. (Under capitalism people exploit people; under communism it's just the reverse.)Solidarity with your community pushes you and your faction closer together---but the like minds you share separate you from the other guys too. And that's got to be O.K.---(especially when you're correct and they're not)! Confusing, huh? Just like the endless arguments in some threads. But we must like the fight or we wouldn't be coming back for the new start of each round. It is fun!! I love it! Good to have someone or something to push against. In Kansas the wind is always blowing. One day it stopped and everyone fell down!!!

Then there's the old Buddhist attitude of "Joyous participation in the sorrows of the world!" That, more than anything else, is what mellows me out lately. (Oh, single malt scotch helps too!)--------And I just figured out a way to strap a pen to my horse's hoof; he wants to be a SINGER/songwriter! Can't get the hang of Travis Picking though.

Art Thieme

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Methodologies -- who writes the songs?
From: Alice
Date: 01 Mar 98 - 10:13 AM

Art, maybe you could randomly toss words out from the dictionary and your horse could tap once for yes, twice for no........


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Subject: RE: Methodologies -- who writes the songs?
From: Bruce O.
Date: 01 Mar 98 - 03:32 PM

I said nothing about this 'community', but others elsewhere have. I don't believe much that I've seen about that anyhow. It's true that that's where collectors most often caught up with them, but I think most were brought in by people that left a wandering life in order to settle or retire to a 'community'. I think the sources of most are from soldiers, seamen, loggers, fishermen, traveling salesmen, traveling music and dancing teachers, musicians, singers, perhaps even former hobos, and the like.

I don't say all were learned from the travelers and former travelers; there were cheap songbooks, broadsides and chapbooks available, too, at times.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies -- who writes the songs?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 01 Mar 98 - 09:33 PM

I dunno, Bruce. Think again about that community aspect. As I see it, a "community" can be any group of people who have something in common. Soldiers, seamen, loggers, fishermen, and the others on you list tend to form communities. They gather together and share what they they have in common. If we're lucky, music can flow from those gatherings.
I'm still wondering, though, what will be our next crop of "traditional" music. With the advent of recorded music, has the canon of traditional music closed? Do you think that some music from our own time will be thought of as "traditional" in the future? Does anybody have predictions of what some of those new "traditional" songs might be?
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Methodologies -- who writes the songs?
From: Bert
Date: 02 Mar 98 - 09:00 AM

Joe,

"traditional" in the future....The only songs that are going to be left are those that we are singing now. So go along to your local club and SING! (all of you, not just Joe) sing anything that 'you' like; the best ones will survive. Those that you don't sing will die despite the best efforts of collectors and folklorists.

Make your own ENDANGERED list and SING 'EM.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies -- who writes the songs?
From: Bert
Date: 02 Mar 98 - 09:07 AM

Just because songs are about the community and our way of life doesn't make them folk songs. I write some songs that fit into that category but wouldn't consider them folk songs.

Of course, you are most welcome to sing them and set them off on that long road towards posterity.

Bert's songs


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Subject: RE: Methodologies -- who writes the songs?
From: Bruce O.
Date: 02 Mar 98 - 11:23 AM

Joe, I agree that your 'community' is probably where the songs were first sung traditionally (or should I say non-commercially), but most were collected later in what has been called 'traditional village community' (or retirement homes) by former members of such occupation groups.

I probably should have added railroaders to my list too. Not many were collected directly from such occupations groups, except in the islands of the Carribean from stevedores, cane cutters, and fruit gatherers.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies -- who writes the songs?
From: Songster Bob
Date: 02 Mar 98 - 01:04 PM

I write the songs! -- Well, actually, I write songs, and I sing 'em for friends in living rooms and small concert halls (when I'm lucky enough to get the stage to myself) and I sing the songs I write and those that I like from among all the other songs that get written (but not those songs that get written wrotten, 'cause I haven't the time to sing bad songs). And my small group knows my songs -- some of 'em even learn my songs, at least the choruses -- and my small group is a folk group. In the way that sailors, lumberjacks, students, cowboys, railroaders, circus folk, local 301 of the steelworkers' union, etc., are "folk" groups. The commonality, the in-group knowledge and lore, the "groupness" makes it a folk group (in our case, a self-concious "folk group," because we're all aware of "folkness" as a concept).

Make the group too large, stretch the ties that bind, and you'll have popular culture, only able to "agree" on broader cultural commonalities, such as well-known songs (made well known by such media as the radio and TV) or generally-accepted behavioral norms (encapsulated in laws and mores).

Make THAT group too large, and you have national groupings, with even more amorphous ties, even more slow-to-change mores and laws, and new concepts that begin to be used to obtain cohesion, concepts like "nationality," "race," or "the people." (Note -- these concepts ARE at work in smaller groups, down to the smallest "folk" group, but don't seem to me to be as much encapsulated and codified -- nor manipulated -- as when identified with a nation.

Gee, I got carried away there! What I meant to say is that, as long as there are small groups with common goals and common self-identities, there will be folklore, including music, that exists within the group and means something different when taken outside the group. It's just that many of the old standby groupings are becoming scarcer. We just have to look for new groups when we discuss the topic.

Groups like this one!


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Subject: RE: Methodologies -- who writes the songs?
From: Jerry Friedman
Date: 02 Mar 98 - 11:56 PM

Either Joe O. or somebody else was talking about the difference between Gershwin or Cole Porter songs and folk songs, both of which may be familiar to many people. If I may try to nutshell what I think he was saying, "standards" are sung by someone to an audience; folk songs are adopted by a wide group (perhaps in accordance with the intention of the author). The one Gershwin song I'd call a folk song is "Summertime"--but then Porgy and Bess was called a folk opera.

So "folk" can mean any of three kinds of songs to me. 1) Anonymous and probably the work of many voices through the "folk process". 2)Composed with a strong influence of the styles of music of type 1. 3) Performed by people with or at least for each other.

The first week I was in college, I remember fellow freshman gathered around the piano (played by a sophomore) and singing Beatles songs, "Those Were the Days", etc. If I could sing I would have joined them. (It doesn't take a psychologist to figure out why new college students might enjoy a combination of togetherness and nostalgia.) There's a big historical and musical difference between "Ticket to Ride" and "The Water is Wide", but the social difference may not be that great.


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Subject: RE: Methodologies -- who writes the songs?
From: Bill D
Date: 03 Mar 98 - 04:59 PM

Perhaps that's gonna be the distinction that endures here...Dick is 'sort of' discriminating about what goes into the database to emphasize the 'musical' difference, but out here in the forum, for 'social' purposes, people chat about everything...


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Subject: RE: Methodologies -- who writes the songs?
From: Will
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 09:55 PM

I found the following text on Bob Bossin's home page http://www.island.net/~oldfolk/obituary.htm

Its an excerpt from an interview he did with the Canadian Folk Music Bulletin in 1995.

For those who don't follow Canadian folk music, Bossin was a co-founder, with Marie-Lynn Hammond and others, of Stringband, a justly-celebrated part of Canadian musical life from 1971 to 1986 (btw, he's not dead, as far as I know, despite the "obituary" in the URL).

I should also add that Bossin doesn't think that there are many modern folksingers by the following definition (I disagree).

"Folk music is the music that rises naturally from a community. As a definition, that may not be airtight, but I see it like this: Making music is an absolutely natural thing to do, as natural as running, as natural as speaking. I can sure see that in my two-year-old. People just sing. And left to our own devices, we'd sing about anything we'd talk about. People have always sung their protests, just as they have sung their love. They made up songs about their friends. About tragedies, controversies, work. They made up songs for weddings, played tunes for the dance, made up a ditty and dedicated it to someone for a birthday. If people in the community were talking about something -- cutting down a forest, putting in a highway -- they sang about it too.

But that natural music-making dropped off as the music industry took over and inserted itself between the makers of music and the consumers of music. Songs became commodities you purchase pre-fab. In order to have music, we think we have to pay Sony. We think real music is something you buy a ticket to hear. They hooked us, made music slick and mass-produced, and replaced the music that comes naturally. But the natural thing is to be singing in our own way about our own subjects, including lots of subjects that now get weeded out by the censorship of the marketplace.

That's what folksingers do; they still sing those other songs. That's what Seeger has done, and that's what I do. We're throwbacks. We are professional folksingers, which is almost a contradiction in terms, though not quite. Because while we do sing for money, we don't create the stuff for the money. If I wasn't being paid I would still write and sing pretty much the same songs. I don't think "Oh, here's a song that could really get popular" or "Here's a song that I could sell to so-and-so." I know there are people that write that way. In fact, they write some really nifty stuff. But I'm not one of them. I write about the things on my mind, which are the things on the minds of people in my community."


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