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The demise of Folk Music

GaryD 03 Mar 98 - 11:03 PM
Bruce O. 03 Mar 98 - 11:18 PM
Earl 03 Mar 98 - 11:31 PM
Bruce O. 04 Mar 98 - 12:09 AM
Bruce O. 04 Mar 98 - 12:22 AM
Bill D 04 Mar 98 - 12:35 AM
therapon 04 Mar 98 - 12:38 AM
Bill D 04 Mar 98 - 12:47 AM
Art Thieme 04 Mar 98 - 01:04 AM
dwditty 04 Mar 98 - 06:37 AM
Bruce O. 04 Mar 98 - 09:14 AM
Bill in Alabama 04 Mar 98 - 09:38 AM
GaryD 04 Mar 98 - 09:45 AM
Bruce O. 04 Mar 98 - 10:36 AM
Bert 04 Mar 98 - 10:46 AM
Bill in Alabama 04 Mar 98 - 10:46 AM
Earl 04 Mar 98 - 11:49 AM
Bruce O. 04 Mar 98 - 12:08 PM
Will 04 Mar 98 - 04:01 PM
Frank in the swamps 04 Mar 98 - 04:46 PM
Humdinger Folksinger 04 Mar 98 - 07:16 PM
dulcimer 04 Mar 98 - 10:37 PM
Sully 04 Mar 98 - 10:59 PM
Alex 04 Mar 98 - 11:46 PM
Jack mostly folk 05 Mar 98 - 01:08 AM
Alice 05 Mar 98 - 10:24 AM
Earl 05 Mar 98 - 10:39 AM
Dan K 06 Mar 98 - 10:23 AM
GaryD 06 Mar 98 - 11:27 PM
07 Mar 98 - 12:02 AM
07 Mar 98 - 01:25 AM
ed from cape cod 07 Mar 98 - 06:39 PM
Art Thieme 07 Mar 98 - 07:37 PM
Bill D 07 Mar 98 - 08:45 PM
Moira Cameron 08 Mar 98 - 12:47 PM
Art Thieme 08 Mar 98 - 03:38 PM
Bruce O. 08 Mar 98 - 05:45 PM
Bruce O. 08 Mar 98 - 05:59 PM
Bruce O. 09 Mar 98 - 03:17 PM
Bill D 09 Mar 98 - 03:39 PM
Paul Stamler 10 Mar 98 - 03:17 AM
Jack (who is called jack) 10 Mar 98 - 03:54 PM
Will 11 Mar 98 - 04:43 PM
Geordie 11 Mar 98 - 10:43 PM
Geordie 11 Mar 98 - 10:44 PM
Geordie 11 Mar 98 - 10:54 PM
MAG 12 Mar 98 - 11:07 PM
nobbler 13 Mar 98 - 02:00 AM
Earl 13 Mar 98 - 12:13 PM
GaryD 23 Mar 98 - 10:31 PM
steve t 24 Mar 98 - 02:37 AM
andy 24 Mar 98 - 05:19 PM
Bruce O. 24 Mar 98 - 06:14 PM
Bill D 24 Mar 98 - 09:05 PM
25 Mar 98 - 10:11 AM
Richard 25 Mar 98 - 08:33 PM
Earl 26 Mar 98 - 11:20 AM
Frank in the swamps 26 Mar 98 - 05:12 PM
Art Thieme 26 Mar 98 - 10:10 PM
Linda Bryant McSheffrey 27 Mar 98 - 06:53 AM
Art Thieme 27 Mar 98 - 11:36 AM
Earl 27 Mar 98 - 12:04 PM
Barry Finn 27 Mar 98 - 11:12 PM
Art Thieme 28 Mar 98 - 03:04 AM
steve t 28 Mar 98 - 03:56 PM
McGrath 28 Mar 98 - 07:20 PM
Art Thieme 28 Mar 98 - 09:13 PM
T. in Oklahoma 24 Apr 98 - 04:09 PM
Marc B 24 Apr 98 - 04:49 PM
JB 26 Apr 98 - 03:14 AM
JB 26 Apr 98 - 03:16 AM
MarcB 26 Apr 98 - 06:08 PM
aldus 27 Apr 98 - 09:49 AM
T. in Oklahoma 27 Apr 98 - 11:19 AM
Bruce O. 27 Apr 98 - 03:28 PM
Barry Finn 27 Apr 98 - 04:04 PM
Bruce O. 27 Apr 98 - 04:16 PM
Bert 27 Apr 98 - 04:44 PM
Pete M 27 Apr 98 - 04:52 PM
Bruce O. 27 Apr 98 - 05:22 PM
Earl 27 Apr 98 - 05:38 PM
erica 27 Apr 98 - 06:41 PM
Bruce O. 27 Apr 98 - 07:00 PM
T. in Oklahoma 28 Apr 98 - 02:01 PM
Bruce O. 28 Apr 98 - 02:12 PM
JB3 (formerly "JB" in this thread) 29 Apr 98 - 02:44 AM
JB3 (formerly "JB" in this thread) 29 Apr 98 - 03:05 AM
Bert 29 Apr 98 - 10:33 AM
erica 29 Apr 98 - 11:52 AM
Roger Himler 30 Apr 98 - 10:11 PM
T. in Oklahoma 01 May 98 - 10:44 AM
Jon W. 01 May 98 - 11:08 AM
Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca 03 May 98 - 05:26 PM
05 May 98 - 11:12 PM
steve t 06 May 98 - 04:59 AM
GUEST 09 Oct 01 - 05:22 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 09 Oct 01 - 07:55 AM
GUEST,Frank 09 Oct 01 - 11:33 AM
Art Thieme 09 Oct 01 - 02:42 PM
Jon Freeman 09 Oct 01 - 02:49 PM
Chicken Charlie 09 Oct 01 - 03:44 PM
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Subject: The demise of Folk Music
From: GaryD
Date: 03 Mar 98 - 11:03 PM

Had so much fun with our last discussion about street musicians, thought I'd see what you all come up with on the following: Why was their such a popularity of folk music in the 60's & early 70's, so much so that there were dozens of programs like hootenanny on major networks? On the flip side, what caused the demise of the same, so much so, that the only folk music you hear these days are some public radio stations & obscure street musicians, or revival concerts by some of the biggies? By following mudcat, I know there are a lot of you playing & singing out there for very appreciative audiences, but why not the outward public popularity anymore?


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bruce O.
Date: 03 Mar 98 - 11:18 PM

Fashions change in just about everything. There was a long period when Shakepeare was practically ignored. 19th century sentimental literature seems to be making a bit of a comeback, perhaps because of all the novels made recently for PBS and some Holywood TV specials, and even a few films.

Us diehards are trying to keep folk music from dying completely, (and we on this forum aren't alone by a long shot), so I hope never to hear a final gasp.

I think over-commercialization sometimes gets people disgusted, and they start ignoring, but anything commonplace starts getting slighted eventually, because our culture seems to always want some new advenures or thrills (even drugs). Things seem to last well only if it's something good to eat.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Earl
Date: 03 Mar 98 - 11:31 PM

Bruce, I have heard that there were folk music "booms" in previous centuries. Is this true? If so, what effect did they have on the music?


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bruce O.
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 12:09 AM

I really don't know about that. The only think I can think of is the popularity of Percy's Reliques, that got people started collecting traditional songs (and trying to imitate them). As far as music goes, some of the traditional songs got printed with their tunes. Herd's 'Scots Songs', 1769, printed a version, if I remember correctly, of 4 verses of "Saw you my father", and there were 7 verses in the 1776 edition (no music for either edition). But between these two editions there was a 5 verse version printed as a single sheet song with music. So there was obviously considerable interest. Look at the folksongs that Robert Burns collected and gave in the 'Scots Musical Museum'. One is the incomparable "Tam Lin". Folksongs are rather rare in 18th century English songbooks, but a few Scots ones had some folksongs (The Charmer (4 editions), the Goldfinch, St. Cecelia and The Scots Nightingale are a few I've seen with what I would call folksongs) and a slightly better English source were the broadsides. The vast majority were not folksongs then, but a very few were. This interest carried over in Scotland through about the first half of the 19th century, with Motherwell, Buchan, Jameison, Maidment, Walter Scot, and others. Northumberland songs were collected by John Bell and helpers in the early 19th century (MSS edited by Dave Harker for the Surtees Society, 1985). But in England it was well into the 19th century that the Rev. Broadwood first collected English folksongs.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bruce O.
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 12:22 AM

Percy's Reliques may not have been the only impetus. It's too late to go searching though BUCEM for the copies in English librarys of a German book of about 1773, entitled 'Volkslieder'. This is taken to be the origin for the word 'folksong'.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 12:35 AM

There were a number of things which pushed folk into the mainstream for awhile...the anti-war/hippie movement, a few 'special' people getting together and making some music in a few clubs...Jack Paar putting Burl Ives on TV....someone deciding to start "Sing Out" magazine... Moses Asch and a few others actually treating the music as if it were important...Entire books have been written on it.

Why did it fade away again? Because, as Bruce said, fashions change and once it became popular, there were too many getting into it for the money who simply changed things wholesale to put 'their' stamp on it--with little regard for accuracy or tradition. And after awhile, the innovators found that they were just in competition with themselves, and the 'folkies' were mostly back in living rooms, shaking their heads and singing. ...Of course, it never totally died, and in certain areas, one could always go hear some music by some pretty traditional musicians. At the same time, rock & roll was telling kids that there was a new tradition of forming bands and making some music...and there were those who moved back & forth between pop/rock & pop/folk and kept some elements of both 'on the charts'. But since there was no agreement about what a 'folk musician' ought to do, it was really difficult to sustain a national (much less world-wide) 'style' which could easily be promoted. Most of the effort went into Country, Bluegrass, Irish, etc...which are much narrower in focus and easier to promote in clubs, records, concerts...etc...There were just enough John Prines, John Hartfords, Kate Wolfs, etc. who 'had the muse' and really wanted to do something 'acoustic' to keep a semblance of the movement going.

And, of course, there will always be more temporary fads as new generations look at what was and try to adapt it to what is. Gee, I hope Max archives all this, so they can read all our musings and rantings and have as much fun as we did sorting it out!!!


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: therapon
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 12:38 AM

I suspect that one reason folk songs were so popular in the 60's -- and aren't now -- is that they work well to crystallize grass-roots political issues. The political climate of the civil-rights/Vietnam era had a need for folksongs that, popularly, we don't seem to feel now. Music and poiltics certainly often went hand in hand 30 years ago. The poiltical climate these days, for whatever sad reason, is much less charged, much more apathetic. I would even go so far to say that the music of today's youth culture reflects that. Bruce, to ask an offshoot of Earl's question, I'd be interested to know if you know of other eras in history that have seen folk music serve a popular political need. Robert the Bruce's Scotland pops into my head, but not because of anything I know about it.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 12:47 AM

Every era has had its poets and singers and writers commenting on it...if the musical/poetic commentary were good or interesting enough musically, it 'got remembered'..sometimes even published...and became part of the 'folk process'...look at "The Vicar of Bray" or all the Green Irish vs. Orange Irish songs! We sing some of those hardly thinking how serious they were at the time they were fresh.(and still are to some!)


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Art Thieme
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 01:04 AM

Yep, the more things change, the more they get different! Art


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: dwditty
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 06:37 AM

Let's face it. Today's "Hard Copy" world does not seem to provide fuel for the folk tradition. The closest today's public comes to understanding poltics, for example, is to determine whether or not Bill & Monica did it. While I am sure these topics inspire some form of music, folk just doesn't seem to me to be the appropriate venue.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bruce O.
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 09:14 AM

In my list of Scots ballad collectors above remove James Maidment. He had a good eye for old popular style songs and ballads, (like Charles Kilpatrick Sharp and David Laing) but wasn't an actual collector, and is probably best called a literary antiquarian. Francis James Child doesn't seem to have mentioned anywhere that he ever heard a ballad sung, so he's really a literary antiquarian, too.

Other countries folkmusic I knwo nothing about. It was noted the Queen Elizabth's secretary, Robert Cecil, read published broadside ballads, because he said that that was a good way to keep informed of the concerns of the populace. i.e., the way the political winds would soon be blowing.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bill in Alabama
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 09:38 AM

Most professional and academic folklorists are leery about accepting the collection of Sir Walter Scott, since it is known that he could not resist making literary "improvements" on the material before he published it.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: GaryD
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 09:45 AM

Great input... I got to thinking about my question, and it seems to me also, that perhaps the music became a bit too honest or true for the mainstream public. You are absolutely right when you hear "Music reflects the soul of Mankind!"..the truths of folkmusic were instrumental in change. Think about the protest songs, the freedom riders music, etc. Even the political jabs of music by the Smothers Brothers were too close to home for TV executives who yanked their show.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bruce O.
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 10:36 AM

Bill in Alabama, I've always wondered about a ballad from Sir Walter Scott, Child #190, "Jamie Telfer of the Fair Dodhead". James Telfer was one of Scott's helpers in collecting old ballads in Scotland. He was also one of John Bell's helpers collecting old songs and ballads in Northumberland.

I suspect it was Telfer that got a hold of an old Scots tune MS, the 'Leyden MS of 1692'. The manuscript was long lost, but someime in the late 1960's or early 70', I think, that the manuscript was discovered in Newcastle Universary Library among the song. ballad, and music collection of Robert White of Newcastle (It's now MS White #42).

I have notes someplace about a fraud of Scott's that I don't know has been exposed yet. I'll go look for may notes. Scott later admited that a piece he published as an old song was a fragment that he 'coopered up', but even that was a lie.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bert
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 10:46 AM

I think that Bill D. Has the answer

There were a number of things which pushed folk into the mainstream for awhile....

I have always considered the 'Folk boom' of the Sixties as somewhat an anomaly.

I think folk music has been going fairly strongly in the background for many years and will continue to get stronger.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bill in Alabama
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 10:46 AM

Bruce: I'm sorry that I can't be more specific in my statement. I just remember the statement about Scott from a discussion in a graduate seminar in Folklore many years ago.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Earl
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 11:49 AM

I agree with Bert. The demise of folk music seems like a bit of an overstatement. In the early sixties it was nearly on a par with pop music. An exciting time but, I think, impossible to sustain. In general, I think it is healther outside the spotlight.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bruce O.
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 12:08 PM

More on Scott and two songs and a tune.

I forgot what Scott said about his old song in my note above. Sir Walter Scott published "The Resolve" in imitation of an old English poem, in 1809. Scott later said 'It is mine: and it is not - or, to be less enigmatical, it is an old fragment which I coopered up into its present state with the purpose of quizzing certainjudges of poetry, who have been extremely delighted, and declare that no living poet could write in the same exquisite taste'. ('Scott's Complete Poetical Works'). Scott didn't extend his 'fragment' at all.

Scott changed some words around and switched many odd and even numbered lines around of a song in 'Pills to Purge Melancholy', which was probably his source. Commentary on this song in the literature is usually fouled up, because the song is an old one with the 1st and last 3 verses of six switched around. Even an early broadside ballad noted below has them switched around. The original title was "The blazing torch (was soon burned out)" (see all the songs and notes to 'blazing torch' in my broadside ballad index). The switched version was not known by the original title, and "The blazing torch" was thought to be lost, because no one knew for sure what the original song was. The song seem to have appeared about 1624. Here is one of two early MS copies I've turned up of the original song.

Folger Shakespeare Library MS V.a. 345, f. 162, c 1625-35. [Also in BL MS Add. 30982, f. 150v, about same date]

The blazing torch is soon burn't out
The diamond light abides
The one his glory shines all out
The next his vertue hides
That spark if any shall be mine
That els give light to none
But if to every one she shine
I'le rather lie alone

No woman shall deceive my thoughts
With colours not in graine
Nor put a robe into my hands
So lightly wrought again
Ile pay no more so dear for it
Ile live upon my owne
Nor shall affection hinder it
I'de rather ly alone

But all in vaine I must confess
My loving labour lost
I'le be no more so rarely blest
Nor yet so stangely crost
The lonely Phonix sure doth die
The turtle loves but one
They chuse no mate no more will I
Ile rather lie alone

Yet bootless I must needs complain [Start of Pills version
My fancy is gone to extreemes
I lov'd and was belov'd againe
And al was but a dreame
For as that love was quickly got
So twas as quickly gone
Ile trust no more to love so hot
I'le rather ly alone

No creature be she ne're so fair
Shal ever now beguile
My fancys with a fained teare
or tempt me with a smile
Such fond affections shal not cause
My grieved hart to grone
Ile keepe me saffely from their clawes
And rather ly alone

Should then she like god conspire
Againe to entrap my minde
ot think to set my hart on fire
Alas the boy is blinde Ile never venture sighes for smiles
Nor change my mirth for moane
Nor yet regard a womans teares
Ile rather ly alone.

The first six verses of "The faithful Lovers Resolution", 'Pepys Ballads', I, 256 is very close to the text above except for the order of verses, where the broadside has verses four to six, followed by verses one to three. The tune direction for the broadside ballad is "My dear and only love take heed." (Given below.) The only early text, c 1625, that I've found of "My dear and only love take heed" is in Folger Shakespeare Library MS V.a. 339. The only 17th century broadside copy is much later (ZN1795) [The tune "My dear and only love" is one that most of you will have heard. It's in Simpson's BBBM, and is the one called "Chevy Chace" or "Montrose Lynes" in Scotland. This is my favorite 17th century tune. I seem to remember contributing "The Angle Gabriel" to DT last Oct. Or Nov., but can't remember what thread it was in, and whether I included it's tune, that below.]

The first five verses, following, of "A Good Wife, or none," 'Roxburghe Ballads', I, p. 418 are almost the same as that in 'Wit and Drollery', 1661 (reprinted in 'Bagford Ballads', II, p. 1018. See p. 578 of BB for source.) Francis Coules as publisher indicates that this broadside is before 1640. [He is Cowles or Coles later]

The blazing Torch is soon burnt out
The Diamond's light abides
The one in glory shines about
The other its vertue hides
That spark (if any) should be mine
That else gives light to none
For if to every one she shine
I had rather lie alone

The Glow-worm in the dark gives light
Ubto to the view of many
The Moone she shewes her selfe by night
And yeelds herself to any
But if my Love should seem to be
Of every one so knowne
She never more should shine on me
I had rather lie alone

Ile not consume, nor pine away
As other lovers doe
For such as, wandering, walk astray
And never will prove true
Ile set as light as any shee
As shee by me hath done
And fixe mys love on constancie
Or else will lye alone

A willow garland on my head
I never meane to weare
I need no pillow for my bed
I am yet void of care
A single life is without strife
And freed from sigh and groane
For such contentments of my life
Ile choose to lie alone

Once did I love the fairest Love
That ever eye did see
But she did most unconstant prove
and set no love by me
And ever since my mind is such
to lend my love to none
Because I have been crost so much
Ile ever lie alone

X:1
T:I'll never love thee more
N:Highly probable that it was also "The Blaazing Torch"
N:from Simpson's BBBM #228
L:1/4
M:6/4
K:G
D|D2DG2G|B2BD2D|B2BA2G|(E3E2)D|\
D2DG2A|B2BD2D|B2BA2G|(d3d2)d|\
B2BA2G|c2d.e2d|d2BA2G|(E3E2)D|\
D2DG2A|Bcde2d|dB2A2G|(G3G2)|]


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Will
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 04:01 PM

I suppose it depends on how one defines "folk music" whether it has demised or not. If you view Billy Brag, or Ani DiFranco, or Steeleye Span, or June Tabor, or Leon Rosselsohn as folk (and they play at the Ark, so they must be), then it seems very alive to me: new recordings, active tours, lots of good music that sings about people and the ways that they live.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Frank in the swamps
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 04:46 PM

If we exclude from our definition of folksong those songs which are written by a known author who claims copyright to his work, it would be safe to say, we aren't likely to have many new folksongs. I suggested in another thread that perhaps from now on, we'll have folk "styles". It certainly seems silly to look at the vast number of people who go to rock concerts and suggest that they are not "folk" audiences. When I was a child, a rag & bone man (junk collector) periodically came down our street in a horse drawn wagon, ringing a bell. We also had "tinkers" who sold kindling wood for the fireplace, along with other odds & ends, also in a horsedrawn wagon. They were incongruous with the times, remnants from a recently fading world. It's sometimes difficult for those of us who weren't around at the turn of the century to realize just how radically the world has changed within living memory (I'm not that old by the way, this was in Lancashire in the early 60's).

Bruce O. said fashions change, I think the folk boom of the 60's GaryD spoke of had many elements of fashion to it. I wouldn't be surprised if, fifty years from now, someone walking down the street who heard a couple of kids playing electric guitars & drums, singing new, topical songs of the day with a bo-diddly beat referred to them as "folk" musicians. There is currently a small fashionable boom in so called "Celtic" music, I bet your neighborhood record store has a little section, filled with Scots/Irish music recorded & overdubbed & doubledubbed with guitars, fiddles, violas, electric basses, synthesizers, pianos, bazoukis, whistles, flutes, didjeridoos and dobro slide guitars. The changing world is changing the definition of folk culture, and it's happening so fast that trying to define the day is like trying to predict the future. A day late.

Fashion of the day may on occasion lift our popularity, but I expect that folkies like us are largely a "niche market" from now on. Anyway, if I seem to have babbled on, it's bedtime for me, goodnight all.

Frank.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Humdinger Folksinger
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 07:16 PM

Funny ... I never thought of folk music as having been in a state of demise. I knew there were lots and lots of individuals who were still into it. And, while the civil unrest in the 60's brought it more popular focus (how many people do YOU know who think Trini Lopez' version of "If I Had a Hammer" is the "real" verson) the individuals who have kept it alive are those of us who love it for the stories it tells. My personal story is that I was groomed for several years to enter Julliard to study opera, but when I "discovered" folk music in the early 60's, changed my mind. I loved the freedom and artistic license in singing it, but for the same reason I loved opera (and still do) I loved folk music for the stories. I've probably taken this thread a little far afield but thanks for posing the question ... Humdinger Folksinger


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: dulcimer
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 10:37 PM

Consider also--folk music often seems to harken back to a simplier less complex time or at least perceived to be so. Situations, values, events seem to be more clearly defined and to some extent more genuine. I would liken folk music revivals (for it never really dies) to the romantic movements in US and England and agarian reform movements in the US, a longing to return to the fundamentals, away from the sophisticated. I'm not suggesting that folk music is simple and straight forward. Most of the folk lyrics are infinitely more sophisticated and complex than most so-called popular or contemporary music. Simply I'm suggesting how folk music comes off. Much of what has been said about popular about I would hardily agree with. I would suggest there may a yin-yang of music tastes in a society. If "folk" music appears to be demising, it may only be one side of the coin.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Sully
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 10:59 PM

Bruce, I think the next generation, i.e. the children of the hippies, got a little sick of the gentle peace and love of the 60's and early 70's folk scene, hence bands Metallica and Black Sabbath, and even some ultra-cheesy, low-or-no talent horse-shit bands like Slaughter and the like with the feminine, long, curly hair and tight, leather pants.

But as the blues has taught us, types of music experience cycles of appreciation and neglect, but I think the best part about this is that certain amounts of evolution might take place or at least thats my theory. And I'm living proof, a young blues fanatic, rare as it may sound.

So, thats my take on it. I'd wager to say that folk will come back around.

M.S.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Alex
Date: 04 Mar 98 - 11:46 PM

Some of the musicians who were around at the time refer to the "Folk Scare" of the sixties. Folk music is not in its demise, it continues on under the notice of the popular media. The internet may turn out to be the greatest thing that ever happened to folk music because it has opened up this music to a vast intelligentsia who were never before aware of it. Garnet Rogers said that being a folk musician was like being in the Federal Witness Protection Program - they know you are out there but they can't find you. The internet with sites like Mudcat are the reason that folk music will survive - it is, like the internet, the voice of common people.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Jack mostly folk
Date: 05 Mar 98 - 01:08 AM

The Great Folk Revival Scare of the Sixties" is how U "Utah" Phillips so perfectly states it. It's popularity might well have to do with the political overtones the music was stating. I believe Earl is right in thinking that Folk music might be healthier out of the spot light. The folk boom years brought and converted a great deal of us folkies. We realize that those great songs have been around as long as time itself, andthat we owe a great deal of graditude and appreciation to those "Folk Pop" artist. They simply opened our eyes and made us realize that we to can sing/perform/play/share songs and music without the big time productions airing on the TV's and radios. I still can selectively tune in and find those desirable folk programs, I just have to look harder. The folk artist are well and some even edge over to the country charts for the temptation of measuring their success by how much money they can earn. Most singer/songwriters are going to write and perform with or without the monetary guage. The sixties political issue shall always be remembered for a civll rights march or a protest of a war not so popular. Any folkie knows about the Weavers and their demise, but everyone in the country and most of the world knew or heard the Kingston Trio who rarely did any politcal protest songs. But their popularity and spot light did open some doors to Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs to write and sing in protest. For years nows I have been waiting for the new folk boom to arrive, now I can see it's likely healthier today than ever, there are more people playing and singing today, there just isn't any real need to be protesting a bad war or cause. Oh yes! enviornmental issues, I guess the process is still at work. SING OUT AND SING OUT LOUD.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Alice
Date: 05 Mar 98 - 10:24 AM

A few months ago, PBS (public broadcasting in the US) aired a documentary made by Kentucky Educational TV called "Moutain Born - The Jean Ritchie Story". (There is info about it at the PBS websit.) In it she describes not only the way she brought her Kentucky folk songs (hundreds that her family would sing) to her work in New York, but how she and her husband went to Ireland and Britain when she did research with a Fulbright award. In one town she went to a home of Mrs. Makem, who went around to the neighbors and arranged a gathering to sing at their house. With Jean's tape recorder and her husbands photographs, she gathered the songs and pictures of the people. Mrs. Makem's teenage son, Tommy, played the pennywhistle, but knew only one song to sing. The documentary then shows the present day Tommy Makem saying, this lady from Kentucky came knowing all the old songs of her people, so I decided that my people's old songs may be "important" enough to learn and collect, if she was collecting them, too. The film also how Jean Ritchie brought popularity to the song Amazing Grace, which she sang a cappella at the Jazz Festival. People were stunned. After that, eveyone started recording it and taking more notice of folk music.

" 1922 Jean Ritchie born in Viper, KY

1946 graduated from University of Kentucky, moved to New York City

1948 first formal concert: Little Greenwich Mews Theatre

1950 married George Pickow

1952 first solo recording: Jean Ritchie Sings Traditional Songs of Her Kentucky Mountain Family

1952 Fulbright award to study folk music in the British Isles

1955 first publication of Singing Family of the Cumberlands

1977 album None But One wins Rolling Stone Critic's Award

1996 latest recording: Mountain Born"
"Ritchie was born in 1922 in Viper, Kentucky, into a family that considered music extremely important. In addition to singing as a means of entertainment, they had songs to accompany nearly all of their activities, from sweeping to churning to working in the fields. When they got together in the evening to sing as a family, they chose from a repertoire of more than 300 songs. Among them were hymns, traditional love songs and ballads, and popular songs by composers like Stephen Foster. For the most part, these songs were learned orally and sung without accompaniment.

While much of the music that was to become central to Ritchie's later performance repertoire originated at home, other influences on her musical development cannot be overlooked. Besides the songs of family and friends, she was exposed to the music of the Old Regular Baptist church meetings the family attended regularly and to popular culture, particularly radio and recording. It is interesting to note that the one thing absent from Ritchie's musical background is formal training.

After graduating from high school in Viper, Ritchie attended Cumberland Junior College in Williamsburg, Kentucky. From there she went to the University of Kentucky, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1946. With a bachelor's degree in social work in hand, she moved to New York City to work at the Henry Street Settlement. There she drew on her knowledge of family songs to entertain the children in her charge.

Gradually, Ritchie's reputation as a folk singer grew, and she was asked to perform more formally. (Many of these concert experiences are discussed in the video.) For folk music fans of the 1940s, Ritchie represented the ideal traditional performer: She grew up in the mountains of Kentucky, sang songs that she learned from her family, and played a little-known instrument called a dulcimer."

she has a webpage at http://members.aol.com/greenhays/pages6.htm

It would be fun to have her join our discussions. I've invited her.
alice in montana


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Earl
Date: 05 Mar 98 - 10:39 AM

That would be great! I've learned a lot from her books and records.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Dan K
Date: 06 Mar 98 - 10:23 AM

This is an intresting discussion. Like any public art form folk music ebbs and flows, probably doing just that in different areas of the country right now.One of the failures of the 60's and 70's folk boom was the lack of vision. I was around during that time and I remember how so many performers did not want to perform in schools, they only wanted to sing in clubs and colleges. There was a feeling that many performers only wanted to sing for the converted. There were, of course some who did do schools, but I remember that most of my folkie friends didn't want anything to do with kids. Those kids grew up and guess what?? They went to the music that was being aimed at them, rock and roll. Here in my town there have been dozens of school residencies done by folk musicians and storytellers in the schools. At our concerts we have a healthy percentage of young people in their early twenties making the choice to be at these folk shows. Some are even taking up the guitar and banjo. Never ignore your audience - they'll ignore you. Hopefully when the next folk boom hits we'll avoid the same mistakes


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: GaryD
Date: 06 Mar 98 - 11:27 PM

Wow, I'm amazed at the thought provoking concepts my little question engendered! Much thanks to all of you who contributed so far. Of course I am aware that folk music never really "died" but continues to be a vital part of life, even if it is more obscure than in the 60's. I especially liked the quote above which bears repeating: "Garnet Rogers said that being a folk musician was like being in the Federal Witness Protection Program - they know you are out there but they can't find you." (Thanks for that one, Alex!)

I guess that's what I'm really lamenting...I just can't find it out in the public, programming to experience folk music around here. The few so called "folk music" programs broadcast on the local campus stations limit themselves to Irish music & stuff that is too electrified, too polished, & too produced to meet my definition of "folk". Perhaps my professional musician friend is right, when he says that when a performer discovers "slick" for sales, his creativity ceases. He uses an example of Kenny Rogers, who, he maintains, was far more creative & truer to folk in his early days (before he discovered what "sells", & found the pattern like Lucille, Gambler, etc.)..Although they are good songs, I really miss the songs that "really" mean something to the performer. One last comment..loved that input about Ritchie..would love to have some of the more famous folks check in on Mudcat, too! (& wouldn't it be a kick to have Rogers respond to that last comment?)


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From:
Date: 07 Mar 98 - 12:02 AM

Howdy folks!! Rodgers here!!!! Yep, it's me--THE SINGING BRAKEMAN! I've been dead since 1933 & I bet you are amazed I'm showing up here at Mudcat. But I always did love a well cooked Mudcat. Here's a few long-held views from the great beyond: I always thought that Hank Snow and Lefty Frizzell did my songs better than anybody else. Grandpa Jones, who just got here, did 'em pretty fine too----matter of fact he's STILL doin' 'em just great! That other guy from Canada, Leon Redbone, does 'em nice when he puts his mind to it, but I wish he was more friendly & came out from behind those Orphan Annie glasses he wears all the time. One last thing: There's been no demise of folk music! It's all folk music!Heck I never did hear a horse singing!! (I remember tellin' that to Bill Broonzy a while back.)That big guy from Illinois said that in a thread recently too. (I don't mean Dan.)

So take it easy, but take it----as my buddy Woody is always sayin"! TWO THUMS UP!!!

Jimmie


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From:
Date: 07 Mar 98 - 01:25 AM

I dreamed I was there in Hillbilly Heaven.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: ed from cape cod
Date: 07 Mar 98 - 06:39 PM

folk music has been going strong around here for as far back as i can remember,even before the 60's. on any given night a person can attend a live folk venue within a 50 mile radius of boston at any one of the more than 70 clubs,cofee houses or churches that have a hall. not to bring up the newport folk festival that has been spotlighting the brightest and best for many ,many years and attended by over 60,000 loyal folk fans every summer. there are four, full time am and/or fm folk only radio stations in the area and a troop of performers that are as good and some better than the legends that we all know and love. i don't know if this is a passing thing or if it has settled in this area because of all of the collages in that are in the boston area but i see no signs of folk music even fading with new venues opening almost yearly and there has always an opening performer new to the stage i think that if you build it they will come, stop morning the passing of folk and support it and we will have something to pass on to the next generation.

life is music,listen to the music ! ed :-)


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Art Thieme
Date: 07 Mar 98 - 07:37 PM

After having been on the road for quite a long time I can pretty much say that Ed from Cape Cod's area is one of the few in the entire U.S.A. where things could be described as "healthy". Ed, do you ever get away from the northeast to observe other folks realities? Feel lucky you have all the venues close to home there! I used to enjoy coming out there for a 6 week tour every so often but I hated driving in that absolutely insane Boston area!! Art


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bill D
Date: 07 Mar 98 - 08:45 PM

here in the DC area, whic was 'almost' folk heaven for awhile, the two best radio programs have been crammed into late Sat. night ...in conflict with each other, and often in conflict with the Folklore Society's programs.I guess in a couple of years they'll say "oh, listenership is way down...we might as well cancel them.."

We still have a quite large membership, but the 'core' group that really sings and does the work is growing smaller and older. Maybe I'll have to retire to Cape Cod!!


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Moira Cameron
Date: 08 Mar 98 - 12:47 PM

Whether folk music has demised or not depends very much on where you're living, I think. In Canada, the oral tradition has never died in parts of the East Coast. Right now, the east of Canada seems to be working its influence throughout the rest of Canada. Our National CBC television station regularly brodcasts specials on folk music festivals and performers. There seems to be a real revival in the past 10 years of what I consider "mainstream" folk with weekly programs like the Rita McNeil Show, and specials featuring the Rankins, Natalie McMaster and others. Celtic Music definitely seems to be 'in' right now. There's a show coming on CBC television soon called "Celtic Electric." I don't get the feeling up here that folk music has demised. However, the music that is always highlighted on our television and radio programs is always by the performers who have a "mainstream" sound. I doubt I'd ever see performers like Paddy Tutty, Ian Robb, the Friends of Fiddler's Green, etc. on National Television.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Art Thieme
Date: 08 Mar 98 - 03:38 PM

Yes, it's true, Celtic is VERY mainstream now. It can be listened to as "new age", as dance music, as quiet background while you're dusting the house or reading---almost the way classical can be "beautiful music" and has been utilized that way for generations. Mellow jazz too. The East Coast of Canada and the U.S.'s northeast is a good area because it's where the celtic musicians land when they come for their little tours. Those same good folks rarely get further west than St.Louis. And that is rare too (unless they're the Chieftains etc.) So far, Japanese music hasn't become popular on our West Coasts, but that will happen one of these days. Now it's called World Music. But the ballads that tell of the history of our lands since the colonization days are rarely (almost never) heard in these times. Even the University of Chicago Folk Festival---a wondrous traditional fest---had NOBODY I would've called a ballad or even song singer this year. Only bands that represented ethnic World and Blues sounds. No sign of "Buffalo Skinners" being sung. That's politically incorrect now! So are other songs of how we built our nations: lumber camp songs, cowboy songs, Woody's songs of river dams for electricity, song of the mountain men (trappers of animals), songs of whaling days, fishing songs, songs of the building of railroads----Few of these songs are "listened to" at festivals lately. Several times I've done a workshop called Politically Incorrect Songs-----all songs from my repertoir that I can't do now (or hesitate to do) simply because of the passing of time and changing attitudes! And that's O.K. It's got to be O.K. The more things change, the more they get different! And, as Alex said in a recent e-mail, "When one door closes, another door shuts!!" I fully expect that, since WATER WAS DISCOVERED ON THE MOON and Nasa is planning to USE IT for colonies or for space fuel or whatever (just like folks, people, used resources to further their wants and needs when settling the New World) that it will, someday, be seen as incorrect to utilize that water as a resource! But we'll conveniently only come to see it that way when we've just about run out of that supply and we can get nostalgic about the good old days. But there's two sides to every coin. A yin and a yang. Paradox. Good and bad in every act! As Bobby Kennedy once said, "Thirty % of the people are against everything ALL THE TIME!" That's why there was a Phil Ochs & Tom Paxton as well as a "Ballad Of The Green Beret's"! This thread should more accurately be called THE DEMISE AND RESUGENCE OF FOLK MUSIC! And if we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of MEAT ??

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bruce O.
Date: 08 Mar 98 - 05:45 PM

I found a newspaper account of 'moon water' from last Friday, but NASA sites do not seem to be updated yet. Most info was attributed to Alan Binder, but the news on his website is from last January. 'Clementine' did not make a direct detection of water, and the newer 'Lunar Prospector' still won't make a direct detection. They're looking for hydrogen, and assuming it's in water. The latest 'Lunar Prospector' report on the NASA/Ames website doesn't say anything about water.

I'd take some ordinary water along just in case. That moon stuff is supposed to be at -280 F, and you'd break your teeth trying to bite that stuff, or use up all your fuel trying to melt enough for a drink. The stuff's supposedly at the poles, so solar power converters aren't going to be very effective. [cosine term for projected area, is going to nearly kill that. Normal solar radiation will probably be the same as that on earth, about 1355 watts/sq. meter, but at 89 degrees incidence angle, efficiency is less than 2%]


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bruce O.
Date: 08 Mar 98 - 05:59 PM

I tried searching the web for a paper on specta of very cold water vapor that 3 co-workers and I published in 1996. Some of my papers had used to be listed on the web.

Instead I found some old songs I sent someone, that I didn't know were on the web.
www.pbm.com/~lindahl/ballads/olson.html


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bruce O.
Date: 09 Mar 98 - 03:17 PM

That was pretty dumb of me above. You can tilt the solar panels to compensate.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bill D
Date: 09 Mar 98 - 03:39 PM

what, no solar-wind mills? tsk!


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Paul Stamler
Date: 10 Mar 98 - 03:17 AM

While all this is going on (water on the moon? it was bad enough on my knee!), the last two years have seen an interesting phenomenon: the reissuing of a treasure trove of traditional folk material of many sorts, in accessible form (CDs). Beginning with the Robert Johnson reissue and its surprising above-ground success, we've seen in the last year the massive Alan Lomax collection, the Harry Smith Anthology, the Treasury of Library of Congress field recordings, and several excellent compilations on labels like Yazoo (I've been playing "Before the Blues" over and over). More interestingly, the mainstream culture has taken notice, particularly of the Lomax and Smith reissues; they've gotten rave reviews in publications ranging from the New York Times and NPR to punk mags, and they've even sold in respectable quantities. My hope is that the buyers aren't limited to us old folkies, but that they include a new generation who will discover these treasures for the first time and, just maybe, begin a whole new revival.
Peace. Paul


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Jack (who is called jack)
Date: 10 Mar 98 - 03:54 PM

I think most of the 'Popularity' of folk music in past decades was weighted most heavily on a very few acts who had channeled their own interest in the larger history of folk music into their work. As an example I would cite the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's landmark "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" album. I suggest that in a representative poll in which you asked people if they had heard of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, many would say yes.

However, far fewer would have heard of

Doc Watson, Merle Travis or Jimmy Driftwood

and even fewer would know the names of

Maybelle Carter Vassar Clements Roy Acuff Jimmy Martin Junior Huskey Uncle Dave Macon etc.

Similarly, a lot more recognize Richie Havens than Jean Ritchie.

So I don't think the popularity of "folk" has waned.

In fact, with all the re-releases and boxed sets being sold in CD format, it is probably easier to get hold of (and more people are buying) recordings of, say, the Memphis Jug Band now than back in the 1960's.

Forums like this and rec.music.folk are still thriving.

A surf over to the Dirty Linen festival listing shows that there are many long-lived folk festivals still running.

And musicians are still being transformed by the old sounds.

(BTW. Did anyone see the CBS Sunday Morning piece on the Anthology of American Folk Music?)

Trust me. This music is still alive.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Will
Date: 11 Mar 98 - 04:43 PM

Found an interesting statement in a CD booklet from the Butterfield Elektra Years Anthology (1997). I had forgotten that Butterfield played at the same 1965 Newport Festival at which Dylan went electric, and I don't think I ever knew that Mike Bloomfield and Sam Lay, from Butterfield's band, backed Dylan in his electric set. In any case, the liner notes argue that, in tandem, Dylan's performance and the performance by Butterfield

"sounded the death knell for the folk music era and ushered in the age of amplification and rock".

Seems a bit over-blown of a claim, regarding both the death knell of folk and the ushering in of amplification (I seem to recall a few amplified pieces of music pre-dating 1965, but maybe my memory is going).

Gotta admit that I like the Butterfield tape, though. Great versions of "Born in Chicago" and "Song for Lee".


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Geordie
Date: 11 Mar 98 - 10:43 PM

I grew up in English folk clubs in the late 60's and early 70's. There was never a shortage of performers and a mixed program of English,Scottish,Irish and American traditional songs was quite common. The clubs were usually located in small, smokey bar rooms, with the (mostly) very appreciative audiences huddled around their pints of beer. My fondest recollections are the "chorus" songs and of the audience joining in with great harmonies. And the silence during the quiet ballads. I remember the Watersons, the Young Tradition, Lou Killen, Shirley Collins and Anne Briggs. Great singers and great songs. Are these clubs still around?


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Geordie
Date: 11 Mar 98 - 10:44 PM

I grew up in English folk clubs in the late 60's and early 70's. There was never a shortage of performers and a mixed program of English,Scottish,Irish and American traditional songs was quite common. The clubs were usually located in small, smokey bar rooms, with the (mostly) very appreciative audiences huddled around their pints of beer. My fondest recollections are the "chorus" songs and of the audience joining in with great harmonies. And the silence during the quiet ballads. I remember the Watersons, the Young Tradition, Lou Killen, Shirley Collins and Anne Briggs. Great singers and great songs. Are these clubs still around?


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Geordie
Date: 11 Mar 98 - 10:54 PM

Sorry for the double entry - I guess I got carried away by the nostalgia.......


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: MAG
Date: 12 Mar 98 - 11:07 PM

Is this thread still going? Being one of those who hit adolescence during the Folk Scare, (really, Bruce?) my friends and I glommed on to it largely because mainstream muzak was just so bad, and lots of people thought so. We were definitely reacting against the 50's, which had to be the nadir of American culture (except for the beats).

Folk music was still seen as pinko, rightly or wrongly. The way I understand it, organizers in the 30's needed entertainment for the meetings they put together, and, having no money, they improvised with do-it-yourself entertainment, which is still the idea, in my book. (and that of my current club, Friends of Acoustic Music, and whichever club I joined in my travels.) Mary Travers learned "Motherless child" from Paul Robeson. We loved Chad Mitchell becuase the group was irreverent. The music was about something real. I had great Burl Ives records -- still do; I work with kids. Play "Oh freedom" every Black History month and talk about it. etc etc.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: nobbler
Date: 13 Mar 98 - 02:00 AM

Oh man, here we go, one of my fave subjects, I had this conversation in the pub recently.

What do you (or we) use to measure 'demise' in folk music?

If it's market share in recording sales (which I'm sure you don't mean), then that probably defeats the origins of the music, and in my mind it would be a poor yardstick.

Many of the songs are simple in structure and very easy to play and sing, They were probably written originally for that reason, the more people that played and sung them, the more popular they became. No sign of a gramaphone back then and the lute player in the family probably needed them to be easy.

The use of cd's, records, tapes, radio etc can be a handy tool for people such as me as a means of learning a tune, but I always prefer to sit with someone and have them teach me either a new song or song I hadn't previously heard, because that's where we move back to the origins, the song being passed on.

Enough people do this and as we have seen time and time again, two or more very different versions evolve much to the frustration of future generations, who will no doubt argue as to the best version or the original version of the song. Hey, that's the fun!

Many may argue for and against my stance that songs SHOULD evolve, and maybe have a few lyric changes down the years. We now have a problem. The yardstick becomes the written music score or even worse, the recording itself. Recordings and scores become weapons in the hands of the boo boys who constanly whine about someone performing the "mis-noted version of Danny Boy" (as I saw above somewhere). It does little for developments, especially in the newer songs. If I were to stand up in a folk club somewhere and do a version of Fred Eaglesmith's 'I like trains' song, people have the advantage of comparing my perfomance against his, and woe betide me if I chop and change it too much. Comparison? Now that's demise!

Very few of the older songs that have become standards were ever originally scored, most were scored at a later date and collectors love to try and find earlier versions of the song. Alas, this is not going to happen again with these new fangled recording techniques, the perfomer and his original perfomance, structure, melody and feel is immortalized.

Newer songs do not develop the way that they used to, that's demise. Families rarely sit together and sing songs on a Sunday night (they have to watch the X-iles right)? That's demise. I fear that fewer families even have a musician capable of fingering a couple chords on strings or a piano, that's demise. People have become lazy listeners in the newer faster paced societies, they don't make the time or have the patience to listen to lyrics anymore, that's demise. There are a lot less Hippies in the 1990's - This is progress! :-) (just joshin).

nobbler


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Earl
Date: 13 Mar 98 - 12:13 PM

I have to take exception to the statement that the 50's were the "nadir of American culture." Because it was the decade when pop culture took over, it is left with a very bland, manufactured image. However, not to far beneath the surface a lot was happening. Jazz in the 50's was much more exciting than what followed. Expressionist art in the 50's was much more emotionally satisfying than the pop art of the 60's. The beats were mentioned; the 60's turned that into the cartoonish image of the "beatnik" without producing any comparable literature of its own. In spite of McCarthyism, there was political activism, most notably in the civil rights movement. There was a growing interest in eastern religions and existential philosophy. There were the seeds of the drug culture and the sexual revolution. And, there was folk music, as there had been in the 40's and the 30's and the 20's etc.

What happened in the 60's was that as each of these underground movements rose to the surface they were all thrown into the same stewpot so it looked like a brand new culture was spontaneously emerging. The problem for folk music is that the 60's were not concerned with purity and tradition but with experimentation and improvement on the past. By the end of the decade you could call yourself a folksinger without knowing any folk songs.

Today, I wish there were more venues to hear and play traditional music. I wish there were more young musicians digging deeper for their material. I wish they were teaching folk music in schools (there is less now than in the 50's.) I wish there were more diversity in music on all forms of mass media. But I don't think anything would be gained by going back to the time when Peter Paul & Mary had top 40 hits.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: GaryD
Date: 23 Mar 98 - 10:31 PM

I am astonished & tickled to see the incredible twists & turns my thread has inspired. Most of you are very insightful & thought provoking & thanks for your input. I just wish there weren't thousands of miles of wires between us, so we could eyeball each other & discuss in person what you have so generously shared with us via this great medium.... It is good to know that the music I love so much is alive & kickin'..Sure wish I was able to beam over to those sites you have talked about. Along those lines... Anybody from the Winnipeg area who knows anything about the Folk Festival this coming summer? I am planning on attending.. Any suggestions of what, or who to see, or where to go?...


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: steve t
Date: 24 Mar 98 - 02:37 AM

Steve Earle once said folk music was the music people wrote and sang themselves about their own lives. He claimed that the only healthy folk scene was the hip-hop music of the ghettos.

Ok. That's one label. I don't agree, but sometimes it does seem to me that most of the songs I sing are evasive -- that they give me a chance to express emotions without telling the full story.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: andy
Date: 24 Mar 98 - 05:19 PM

I think the name folk is getting a bad name with all the boring lilith fair musicians. Real folk has flava. For example Bob Dylan, robert johnson, son house, woodie guthrie, G-love and special sauce.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bruce O.
Date: 24 Mar 98 - 06:14 PM

I once heard it stated the Utah Phillips had defined folksings as those that sang by ear through the nose. I don't think he'd heard Jeannie Robertson, Ewan MacColl, or A. L. Lloyd.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bill D
Date: 24 Mar 98 - 09:05 PM

steve t has expressed very well a couple of the things that bother me about what music has become...people used to sing a lot about their 'life'...now many songs are, as he says, about emotion that doesn't tell much story...(one friend of mine refers to something he calls "young girls singing their diary". My own favorite description is 'navel-gazing' songs. Another I have heard is 'the beingness of being'...the themes are simply different than the 'external' subject matter that used to be so common.

None of this solves the problems we have been discussing, but it is one way to explain that there ARE differences.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From:
Date: 25 Mar 98 - 10:11 AM

Folk music is music that people use while doing something else at the same time: traditionially, worshipping, dancing, eating, or making the music at the same time as listening to it. Hence the same song is a folk song in church and an art song in the concert hall. It is an art song if I sit in my living room and do nothing but bathe in the music of my CD. If I'm vacuuming the living room at the same time, it's folk music. Muzak is folk music if used as background music in restaurants.

Sometimes when people speak of the decline of folk music, they are speaking not so much as a loss of repertoire, but of the loss of captive audiences. Many of the old songs were learned of old simply because singing was on of few available forms of recreation. Now the cultivation of the old songs is an individual accomplishment, bought by means of an investment of money and effort. This change is a result of greater individual freedom. I don't think I would give up my freedom even for the coziness of a homogeneous traditional small-town culture.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Richard
Date: 25 Mar 98 - 08:33 PM

I am not sure either that there has been a demise of folk music, except in the popular culture sense, ie Kingston Trio and PPM. WEe host a house concert series and the majority of the music is what I would define as "folk", or roots or traditional or country or....

Bill D. mentioned that folk songs used to be "about life" rather than a song fo a diary. Agreed. If you want the "about life" thread try cowboy poetry. Maybe that's where it has gone, or shifted, as it is certainly becoming popular.

Alos have to look at demographics and the shifting age of those who listened to "folk"

If there has been a demise I would put part of the blame on the folk police---those who berated festival organizers with charges of not booking the "proper" acts. Those who would say, "you really mustn't sing that song that way" or "I have a much better version than that", those who so narrowly defined "folk" that it simply became a pain in the ass to listen to their unaccompanied wailings of some obscure English ballad that no longer had any relevance to today's life.

That being said I still like a cappella ballads, but it can all get to be a bit much with some folks.

I could go on. What most folks want is to be ENTERTAINED with music. Nothing wrong with that. That's what has kept it alive, that and folks like Bruce O and Mudcat who keep the music acessible.

Cheers, Richard


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Earl
Date: 26 Mar 98 - 11:20 AM

The problem with folk music as popular entertainment is that audiences seem to behave with a herd mentality. Maybe it's always been like that but it seems worse today. People without a personal connection to a musical style don't trust their own ears and wait until the mass media give them permission to like it. It's ok to like Robert Johnson but people glaze over if you mention his contemoraries.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Frank in the swamps
Date: 26 Mar 98 - 05:12 PM

What Earl said is something that has bugged the bejesus outta me for ages, people who have never listened to either Mozart or Ellington will nod and say "Oh yeah, geniuses" but they're not expressing an opinion, just aping one. These same people often regard folk music as less valuable because there seems to be an assumption that there is a certain cap, or top level of musicianship which folk musicians are cabable of. It's true that more sophisticated forms of music require a minimum level of skill, you can't do an adequate version of the "Moonlight Sonata" it had better be good or it won't fly. And you can do an adequate rendition of "Old Smokey" but there is no ceiling on artistry just because the music is folk. Too many people don't trust their own response to music. They just wanna give the "right" answer and not be laughed at.

Frank i.t.s.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Art Thieme
Date: 26 Mar 98 - 10:10 PM

When young, I did look to the songs for the "real life" I'd find within. A bit vicarious, but a grand way to time travel and to be inside the folks of another era and know some of their experience then. Of course, the real downside of that other time was (thankfully) not a part of the deal. I'm thinking of their diseases as well as the other hardships of their lives because they had none of our conveniences.

NOW, six decades (almost) into this adventure, I don't need vicarious troubles.Real stuff in moving, enlightening and wondrously horrific too---SUBLIME. And I love the old songs that still transport me miraculously. But I've no need to wallow in the detritis like I thought I must (in order to learn about life) when I was 20 years old.

So---has folk music demised? I doubt it! We've changed though---and that's cool. The music will ALWAYS BE THERE for those who wish to venture off the beaten path in order to find it. The quest IS the grail. The more things change, the more they get different.

Yes, it's the loneliness that's inherant in the demise of anything that seems to worry so much. But the loneliness of the long distance runner can, truly, be exhilerating.

Art


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Linda Bryant McSheffrey
Date: 27 Mar 98 - 06:53 AM

RE: Art Thieme's comment to Ed from Cape Cod about being grateful for all the folk music in his area:

I'm also from the Boston area...Art, you're right...I don't really appreciate how wonderful the "folk music" scene is here until I hear a discussion like this. I live in a small town just south of Boston (Avon) and I can find folk music just a block away on weekends (traditional folk music at that) and there's a new church coffeehouse almost next door to me. I wish everyone could spend some time in this area to see that folk music is alive and well.

But, Art, do we really drive all that bad???

Linda


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Art Thieme
Date: 27 Mar 98 - 11:36 AM

It's just those damn rotaries and the fact that Beantown roads were put down on cattle trails that make it so impossible to drive easily there. Got so lost last time I almost missed my gig for FSGB.

Give my regards to S.Alarik & S. Mrozak!

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Earl
Date: 27 Mar 98 - 12:04 PM

And of course the rudeness is legenary. A couple of years ago one driver was driven to kill another with a crossbow.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Barry Finn
Date: 27 Mar 98 - 11:12 PM

Being Boston born & bred, I guess I'm out of the demise loop, been around folk music here since the mid 60's, I've never wanted, I'd say San Francisco was on the same level, but I'd be going back over 15 yrs. From freinds it's still very healthy there too. The Boston Globe had a headline article in it's calendar section yesterday, ( a major national paper giving folk music a headline plus 3 pages) "Catching The Folk Wave" by Scott Alarik. It goes on saying 'Boston is the healthiest folk scene in the country with over 200 folk venues, the only 7 day a week, all day folk format in the country (WUMB-FM), & more folk air time than place in the country. It continues to say that this (at least in this area) dwafts anything that happened in the 60's, the last great folk revival'. At one point I counted 22 sessions a week, for someone coming to visit. As for our cow paths, Art once we get you here we don't like to see you go, an old trick to keep the music going. Don't know Scott but I'll pass along a hi to Suzanne for you, she's at NEFFA this year along with mudcatters, Wally Macnow & LaMarca. Sorry there's no demise here, come & stay awhile. Barry


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Art Thieme
Date: 28 Mar 98 - 03:04 AM

Barry, Howdy,

Don't get me wrong; I loved being in Boston---playing at Passim when Bob Donlon was there. Old Vienna is a grand place. And the FSGB---good folks all. Wish I was there now!

Scott A. is a good buddy---a fine singer as well as writin' for the Globe! Half of my promo packet was written by him! Did a good article in Sing Out about my being with Folk Legacy and Sandy Paton. (The issue with Nancy Griffith on the cover)Now, if he only had a sense of humor...(smile)...Did ya see FARGO?? That's Alerik!! (smile)! Wonderful Minnesota dialect tales!

Ask him about the Minnesota gal who married a Palestinian! Their kid was named Yassir youbetcha!! (Yah, sir)


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: steve t
Date: 28 Mar 98 - 03:56 PM


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: McGrath
Date: 28 Mar 98 - 07:20 PM

I am taken aback by this discussion. I haven't heard that folk songs were in decline.

Quite honestly folk singing is still thriving in Ireland and I just assumed that it was heathy in the USA also.

In fact the only thing that concernd me were that there are so many popularised folk songs in Ireland currently that many old songs are not being sung anymore. That, and the slight decline in unaccompanied singing are (or were) my only concerns regarding folk singing.

I certainly hope that things improve in the USA as I have a great admiration for the great American Folk song Tradition.

Keep the flag flying.

We have a singing club with a recently established web site. Our site lists just some of the other clubs we know and visit regularly. There are many more which we have not listed yet.

Come visit us. We are called the Nenagh Singers Circle and our web site is; http://www.geocities.com/Broadway/Alley/4749/

I have included a live link here --> Nenagh Singers Circle

Regards,

Frank McGrath


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Art Thieme
Date: 28 Mar 98 - 09:13 PM

Come to think of it,vacuuming is a great thing to sing to---would sound better than the Scottish bagpipes (but not the Irish pipes). A great drone!! (Some might say it sucks though!) SMILE!

Dan Keding has told me that his various trips to England as well as Ireland have been exhilerating precisely because so many young folks are becoming wonderful traditional devotees there! Norma Waterson's daughter (sorry, can't recall her name) is a wonder I hear. It's quite thrilling to see young folks looking to the best parts of the past to find, music and values. Isn't happening here very much! A bit sad, but O.K.! That's life. Wait a bit and it'll change. Like the story about how the Illinois weather changes all the time. A fellow plowing with his prize bulls. One of 'em died of heatstroke and, while he was skinning it, the other one froze to death!

Oh---why was he plowing with his prize bulls?? He didn't want 'em to think life was all romance!

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: T. in Oklahoma
Date: 24 Apr 98 - 04:09 PM

Time to revive this thread. Some of the discussion in the "Bullgine" thread is starting to overlap with this one.

Regardless of how we want to define "folk" music, I think we *might* all be able to agree that

1) much instrumental and vocal music circulates (through writing or through hearing, or both) as one-line melody.

2) much of this music is diatonic, containing no accidentals at all, or none but what would be b-flat if the music were transposed to a staff with a key signature showing the key of C. (That doesn't mean the music itself is in the key of C, just that the staff has no sharps or flats in its key signature.)

3) much of this music starts out in a certain key or mode and stays there throughout.

4) much of the music described in (1) (2) and (3) is used for dancing.

5) much of the dance music referred to in (4) is in identifiable genres such as waltz, two-step, reel, jig, hornpipe, strathspey, march.

Much (but by no means all or even most) of the music referred to as "folk" music is has the features enumerated above.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Marc B
Date: 24 Apr 98 - 04:49 PM

The most fascinating phenomenon about the popularity of folk music to me(being in the trad English/Irish tradition) is that in terms of people listening to the music is never fails to be "liked". It ALWAYS hooks people even if they encounter it by chance. Shantey's for example. So in that sense it is intensely mainstream popular. Yet it has never been hugely COMMERCIALLY viable, even in the hootenanny days.

In my experience(since the '60's) the only demise I notice is in the number of venues in which to perform(though it depends on geography). Seattle(my original home) is very healthy on the folk music front. My current home in Dallas is much less so. Just got back from a trip to England where there are pub sings all over the place on a regular basis, both circle and guest singer types. And full of talented singers.

And there are goods and bads to the current Celtic wave. Good in some great talents getting some play(as happened in the blues) like Sharon Shannon. Bad in Celtic getting stuck on the front of any dreck and selling it as folk music. But truth is, folk music is LIVING tradition and so will weave and permutate and wander and mutate as it will. Kind of like these conversations:)

Anyhoo, long may we wave. Marc


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: JB
Date: 26 Apr 98 - 03:14 AM

When I think of folk music, I think of the long refining process a song goes thru by means of the oral tradition. These songs have survived, not just because antiquarians love to study obscure subjects, but because the tradition lives. When you like a song well enough to learn it, and then well enough to perform it in another's hearing, and if they love it well enough to learn it, it keeps on. The songs that last are the ones that mean something to people thru time. Who knows what of the mish-mash of musical styles prevalent now will stand the test of time. A folk song lives not just because someone stands to gain financially but because it strikes a chord(!) in enough people for it to survive.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: JB
Date: 26 Apr 98 - 03:16 AM

The demise of folk music has been somewhat exaggerated. Thanks for letting me get on the soapbox!


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: MarcB
Date: 26 Apr 98 - 06:08 PM

JB. Really nice thought above. One of the best descriptions I've seen of the reason for it all. Thanks.

Marc


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: aldus
Date: 27 Apr 98 - 09:49 AM

You can"t have the accepted definition of folk music if there are no "Folk". What many contributors seem to want is I9th century people in the late 20th century. I do not believe thast it was rock that killed folk in the sixties, I believe it was this same kind of narrowness of mind that we see in this arguement. Rap may not be your cup of tea but it is far close to the tradition of "Folk" than Annie Defranco is. As For the maidens of Lilith Fair... these are talented womenand women of convivtion. PLEASE, this discussion has been going on for fifty years..lets just enjoy music without "bashing" what we disapprove of or don"t enjoy.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: T. in Oklahoma
Date: 27 Apr 98 - 11:19 AM

Obviously whether "folk" music is in decline depends on how you define "folk" music. If we define it broadly as simply all music made by human beings, we are zoologically correct--human music differs from the music (if we call it that) of whales and birds--and we will find no evidence of decline. But then we will need to find other words in order to classify and describe historical and other distinctions within the field of human music.

On the other hand we might define "folk music" so narrowly we will be forced to conclude that it never existed.

One definition which I greatly dislike defines "folk" music as meeting what I call (1) the criterion of non-literacy and (2) the criterion of ignorance. According to this definition, "folk" music is music which is transmitted without the aid of writing or recording or electromagnetic broadcast among peoply who do not distinguish it from other kinds of music.

I dislike this definition especially for the second part, what I call the criterion of ignorance. I doubt that it describes the realities that exist among the very people whom I suspect the formulators of the criterion had in mind when they formulated it. I think it may rather verge on being an insult. The first criterion does sometimes apply, but I suspect that it can't be applied too strictly to the pragmatic realities workaday life in literate societies. Also, as George Pullen Jackson pointed out, the criterion of non-literacy was partly responsible for the folklorists overlooking the shape-note singing societies for a number of years.

The venerable definition of "continuity, variation, and selection" avoids patronizing anyone and provides a useful description of how music evolves. But much music which the folklorists would not consider "folk" music evolves by means of these same processes. J. S. Bach selected and varied old German hymns and passed them on to subsequent generations (continuity), which have arranged them (variation) for instruments, ensembles, and media which did not even exist in J. S. Bach's day.

So in my posting of April 24 I tried to avoid the "folk" definition trap altogether. Instead I tried to define the category of (1) one-line (2) nearly diatonic melody of (3) consistent tonality throughout. This describes much of what folklorists would call "folk" music and leaves plenty of room to trace the historical development of the various cultural settings in which it is used. One may be able to identify many "declines" of various uses to which this category of music is put (player pianos? maybe they are flourishing, maybe they are declining).


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bruce O.
Date: 27 Apr 98 - 03:28 PM

Even the professional folklorists on another list are having a hard fime defining 'folk music', 'folk song' and the like (Dick and Susan of DT are probably still on it as well as others that comment here). (I'm been off that for a while, their server doesn't like my messages. No problems with a 'majordomo' type). I'm of the old school. Song has to survive 50 or more years by oral tradition alone-alone-alone. Rare is the song that was noted by a traditional singer using musical accompaniement. That's not all, but I won't go into minor details here. Folk Lyric records had an 'Interpreter' series for traditional songs sung by professioanal singers, and I'd like to see that expanded to include such as Ewan MacColl, who sometimes sang songs that he learned from traditional singers, sometimes he expanded traditional texts from printed sources, and sometimes got his old songs and tunes entirely from printed sources. Same for A. L. Lloyd.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Barry Finn
Date: 27 Apr 98 - 04:04 PM

Bruce, just to throw a slight curve here. Both MacColl & Lloyd wrote songs that have been collected as traditional songs from traditional singers, MacColl collected one of his own, much to his amazement. Conolly, wrote "Fiddlers Green", which is fast entering into the tradition, along with many others. I'm pretty stubbon myself on what I consider to be folk & traditional, but it's my own, & I'd certainally say that it's these songwriters that keep the tradition alive. But then it's a matter of taste & that's again personnal, no? E Bogel, C Twaney, S Rogers, A Fisher, T Lewis, J Payne, K Wolfe, E Pickford, S Kahn, J Richie, S Gunning, B Wheeler, all of these people & more have written (folk?) songs, that I'd say will be around for some time to come, maybe even becoming traditional some day soon. Barry


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bruce O.
Date: 27 Apr 98 - 04:16 PM

If it hasn't been collected from a traditional singer born after the original composer died, then it's not a folk song in my book, in may just be the author/singer's reputaton keeping it alive, like many of Elvis Presly's songs. There's a lot of folk type songs that we do not know if they will last. 50 years is about a minimum span to tell us that, in my estimation.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bert
Date: 27 Apr 98 - 04:44 PM

Bruce O.,
I would say that that is a petty good definition of a traditional song.

What do 'you' call all the stuff that people are singing nowadays?

This forum has a pretty good cross section of the songs that ordinary people are interested in and are singing. We call it 'Folk' but you, as a serious collector must have your own name for it.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Pete M
Date: 27 Apr 98 - 04:52 PM

I have to take issue with Aldus, my perception of this discussion is quite the opposite of narrow minded. Just because we disagree with an expressed viewpoint does not make us narrow minded; the denial of that viewpoint would, but thats not what we have. Just to throw in my own two pennyworth, and I hasten to add that it is an opinion not a definition; whilst I have some sympathy with the arguments of T in Oaklahoma, I am much more inclined to Bruce O's view. What is missing from the first, and what is to me far more important than the derivation or style of the music, is that the lyrics make a social point relevant to the time they were created. Those that endure tend to be those where the point is timeless - seduction, desertion, incest, lock outs, disasters etc. Of course a good tune helps but these are frequently around and can be picked up for re-use. So if any one wants to listen to someone, female or otherwise, "singing their diary" fine, but in my book its not folk now and certainly wont be in 50 years time.

Pete M


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bruce O.
Date: 27 Apr 98 - 05:22 PM

I'm not trying to cast something in concrete, just trying to isolate one thing that has some modeately well defined meaning. We need some other categories as we get farther away from that towrd more modern 'folk' style all the way to Steeleye Span, John Denver, John Hartford, Phil Ochs, etc (newer ones I don't even know about). There's lots of borderline stuff I don't know what to do about. And then there's the touchy definition of what's a 'traditional singer'. Do we include old the time semipro entertainers that put Child ballads on phono records in the 1920's. How about the semipros like Obray Ramsay and others that recorded solos with their own accompaniment in the 1950's and early 60's. Jean Ritchie is a traditional singer when she sings her own old family songs, but the last two concerts I've heard her do were mostly her own compositions. Frank Warner was a collector, not a traditional singer, but he tried hard to imitate his traditional sources. He's about my ideal for an interpreter', and I think his son Jeff falls in the same category, as do Art Thieme, Lou Killen, Michael Cooney and a few other 'big' names.
Harry Ballafonte got much of his material from Caribean collections in the Library of Congress Folklore Archive, but I have no idea about how much he adapted it to be his own style.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Earl
Date: 27 Apr 98 - 05:38 PM

I think the problem is that the word "folk" is so slippery we're often not talking about the same things in these discussions. Traditional songs are always folk but folk songs (in many current definitions) are not always traditional. Contemporary songs are, by definition, not traditional but there are contemporary songwriters writing songs that most people, even here, would call folk songs.

Some have argued (myself included) that types of rock music that emerge from distinct ethnic or regional communities should be considered folk. I now think that broadening the definition like that is not really helpful. However, I think without any grassroots input the whole processes is a little too self-conscious. A songwriter writes a song in a traditional style and fifty years later we find out if its folk.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: erica
Date: 27 Apr 98 - 06:41 PM

Going way back to Marc B's 24th April comment about folk's propensity toward being "liked," i definitely think that it has a mighty pull to it. When i was in high school, i sang an a capella Irish song ("When a man's in love" off of a Chieftains album) in the midst of the pop and rock and cheezy taped accompaniments of the rest of the talent show. Being as bold and brazen as i was (am?...nah), i did it just cause i loved it and didn't really think it'd go over well, but didn't really give a damn either--and so i got up, i sang, and got a whole auditorium of rather disrespectful, talking students to be quiet for a few minutes. I was sort of shocked by the response, and a few years later, i still am wowed by the hush that occasionally falls over rowdy bars when i get up in the midst of an open mic and my voice and I start a ballad. I don't know where the magick of the songs comes from--maybe it's just that particular arrangements of notes have this amazing enrapturing effect on people. But come on, that's not it...and i guess we're coming up to my meek little sort-of-definition of "folk" to add into the thread. I think that the draw of folk, its magick, comes from the lives of everyone who has sung it. They're life songs, and they pick up a little bit of each person as they're passed down through the years, whether they're sung while rambling down the road town to town, doing the barn chores, vacuuming or on the stage. Regardless of specific story scheme, they contain one of the pure human sentiments that are timeless and inherent in each feeling being, and begin to develop a geneology of their own...q heard the song from p who learned it from o who got it from n.... and it gets its own history of people who were touched by it. i think that's what it is for me, anyway, and i also think that i just ended up writing a very longwinded explaination of someone else's concise thought (JB, maybe?) nevermind me...i'll just stick to singing. sorry for the ramble...


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bruce O.
Date: 27 Apr 98 - 07:00 PM

I'm on a mailing list with Scots songs and music on it, and 'folk' still seems to have some meaning there. On the other hand the subject of 'Jacobite' songs turned up, and those could be just about anyting along those lines from 1684 when Catholic James I came in, to 1998, on either side, but usually favouring the rebels. They haven't really defined the term.

The advantage of the 50 years is that folk wisdom also has time to separate the wheat from the chaff. Traditional songs aren't senseless ditties, unless they were made to be humorously nonsensical. They should have long outlasted the original singer, so we know its the song that's good not the author/singer. I'll repeat here what Art Thieme added to a prior note, and I gave in an earlier thread, a bit of folk wisdom from an uncle: The song isn't good because its old, its old because its good.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: T. in Oklahoma
Date: 28 Apr 98 - 02:01 PM

Bruce O's tried-and-true criterion strikes me as useful in the sense that a given group of musicians (amateur or professional) might indeed distinguish 'new' from 'old' in the works that they perform. For example, Flora Thompson's semi-fictionalized autobiography, "Lark Rise to Candleford" describes a singing-session in a Victorian English small-town pub. The evening begins with the young unmarried men singing show-tunes and other popular songs. It ends with the old men singing 'summat as has stood the test o time' -- namely Child ballads. But there might be other situations where the distinction between new and old is not made.

Bruce O.'s "always-always-always" non-literate transmission criterion strikes me as less useful. It could lead to making absurd distinctions between versions of a song. Suppose singer A learns a song by having it sung to him repeatedly until he remembers it, while singer B learns another version of the same song but writes it down in order to help himself learn it. The non-literate transmission criterion would require us to put up a phoney wall between the two versions, calling A's version "traditional" or "folk" or "authentic" and the B's version "literary" or "inauthentic". In a literate society, both hearing and writing are part of the transmission process, and the fact that a song has been transmitted by one means or the other, or by a mixture of them, should not be used as a basis of classification unless different transmission routes can be shown to have made a difference to the end product.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bruce O.
Date: 28 Apr 98 - 02:12 PM

Not many distinctions are that absured. Songs collected from singers on some sort of recording devise have often been cut down to convenient size for issue as a commercial recording, so one does not even get the whole song. Singers often edited their material. Those are not folksongs in my book.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: JB3 (formerly "JB" in this thread)
Date: 29 Apr 98 - 02:44 AM

I loved erica's thoughts about the magick of folk songs. There is a sum to a traditional folk song that is greater than its (definable) parts. While I have to say I'm a traditionalist and agree with Bruce O.'s definition, I do feel there are contemporary writers like Jean Ritchie who are so immersed in traditional music that their composed songs are passing almost seamlessly into the tradition. Here's hoping we all live at least another 50 years, so we can find out!


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: JB3 (formerly "JB" in this thread)
Date: 29 Apr 98 - 03:05 AM

I loved erica's thoughts about the magick of folk songs. There is a sum to a traditional folk song that is greater than its (definable) parts. While I have to say I'm a traditionalist and agree with Bruce O.'s definition, I do feel there are contemporary writers like Jean Ritchie who are so immersed in traditional music that their composed songs are passing almost seamlessly into the tradition. Here's hoping we all live at least another 50 years, so we can find out!


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Bert
Date: 29 Apr 98 - 10:33 AM

Bruce O.,

Unfortunately, for most of us ordinary folk, our first exposure to Folk Music is through Commercial Recordings. I know they don't fit most definitions of true folk music but they are better than nothing. I first got interested in American Folk Music in the Fifties after listening to recordings by Lonnie Donnegan. I know he was criticized by one well known collector over here, but he introduced a whole generation of British Youth to American Folk Music.
Which is more that can be said for that particular collector.

Not that I wish to put down collectors, they have done (and are still doing) a wonderful job.
It's just that we need both. Commercial recordings introduce songs to the general public. Then, those whose interest has been aroused will look to the collectors who have preserved the songs along with their historic backgrounds.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: erica
Date: 29 Apr 98 - 11:52 AM

that's a really good point that Bert made about commercial recordings being the initial exposure--sometimes they're the first step in. and even though the introduction was made through a CD or something like that, once a person's hooked it's likely they'll go beyond recorded stuff, into the collectors' realm. part of me is also wondering what the problem is with commercial recordings--they make the music more accessible to those who enjoy it and can't make it out to festivals and jams and sessions everytime they get a musical itch. sure, you're gonna get those people who buy it and don't FEEL it, but every musical genre has those borderline dabblers. they don't really harm the core too much. and maybe one thinks that the technology and mass distribution of folk is all weird and slightly wrong, that the digitalization of tradition is... hey, wait a minute. i think that was the reaction of a fella when i told him i got some lyrics off of the net...something about mudcats... : )


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Roger Himler
Date: 30 Apr 98 - 10:11 PM

If one holds onto the criterion that recording a song pulls it away from being traditional and away from being folk, then demise is inevitable. If enough people like a song, someone will record it. Eventually what is left are songs that few people like.

I am not very scholarly, so I just want to add my feelings about this subject. The Uncertainty Principle says we cannot measure something without fundamentally altering it at the same time. I believe labels act the same way. So my preference is to duck labels.

But let me talk about the music I love. My guess is that all the songs under traditional and folk started with one person. Part of the process of oral transmission means others add both their ideas and their misunderstandings. This is where media may interfere. They can create the idea of one right or true version.

I used to think that folk music was written for pleasure, perhaps even just the original writer's pleasure and only coincidentally was passed to others. Songs written to impress others were naturally not folk.

But when I think of a song like The Texas Rangers (Come all ye Texas Rangers whereever you may be), if feels like folk. It was probably derived from a Broadside and so was written for money, but passed into an oral tradition.

What I think has happened in the last ten years or so is an increasing amount of recorded music. It is simpler to record and distribute music on a small scale than was ever possible before. This means that music that may have only had oral transmission before can now have media transmission. I believe this makes it unlikely that any song will exist in just the oral tradition for very long if it has redeeming value to others. Someone somewhere will write it down and/or record it. Certainly this is a loss in some sense. I believe the oral tradition allows for a song's rough edges to be sanded down and smoothed out. It is this process that I believe makes traditional and folk music so likeable.

It may be that this sanding process will continue to take place, but will take longer. Just as the original Broadside of Texas Rangers may no longer exist, the CD's and tapes and songbooks will also fade away. This is happening with music on vinyl already.

I believe that good music will continue to be written and sung by others. Some of it will pass into song circles, patios, living rooms, and other places were people gather together to enjoy music. Some of it will adhere to the definition attributed to Michael Cooney (If it takes more than one trip from the car to bring it in, it ain't folk).

I am not worried about the demise of folk music. This digital tradition provides one of many new forums for people to share their love of music. Whether we call it folk or traditional is of less importance to me than that there be music that is accessible to people at a social level that is not shovelled out by some conglomerate who has their own idea of what the people want.

There remains much music that survives simply because people love to hear it. That is what I care deeply about.

Roger from Baltimore


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: T. in Oklahoma
Date: 01 May 98 - 10:44 AM

Roger from Bal'mer:

I agree that merely writing or recording a song doesn't necessarily deprive a song of "folk" status it would otherwise have, by any definition of "folk" which defines a category of music which actually exists in the workaday lives of members of a modern, literate, industrialized society.

The same attention to context, though, requires me to grant at least half a point to Bruce O. In his posting of April 28 he spoke of the needs of the commercial market bringing new versions of songs into being. I'm not sure I would agree with Bruce O. that the commercialized versions are any less (or more) "folk" than the pre-existing versions. But the influence of the commercial market on the evolution of a given piece of music must be taken into account.

The commercial market has been a factor influencing music since the 17th century and perhaps longer. Valid historical questions are (1) whether the commercial market for printed music caused some music to develop differently from how it would have otherwise, and (2) whether the modern mass electronic market creates influences that are new in kind, or only in degree, from the commercial influences of past ages.

A further point this thread may consider is whether a musicological definition of folk music can be offered independent of a sociological definition. So far on this thread I have only given a sociological definition: Folk music is music people use while doing something besides listening to it. My example was singing or listening to a CD while vacuuming the living room. This is not a musicological definition because the same music is "folk" when I listen to it while vacuuming, and "art" music when I listen to it in a concert hall. A little later I tried to define a musical category of one-line, mostly diatonic melody of consistent tonality, but I didn't (and still don't) require the word "folk" be applied to it. Perhaps any musicological definition of "folk" music won't be able to have precise boundaries; perhaps it must be allowed to overlap a great deal with other categories, such as "popular" music.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Jon W.
Date: 01 May 98 - 11:08 AM

I wouldn't worry too much about recordings stopping or ever slowing down the changes to songs we call "the folk process." Most every one who learns a song, whether it be from another person, from a record, or from a book, likes to put something of their own expression into it and perhaps leave out something of the song they don't find quite as attractive. This is true, I think, even of classical music which is farther from being set in concrete that most people realize.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca
Date: 03 May 98 - 05:26 PM

Folk music is on the television all the time up here in Canada. Mind you, it doesn't do me much good because I don't own a TV, but its there for people who want to watch it. Mostly celtic and celtic influenced stuff, but better than the days of the 1980's when CBC cancelled the Ryan's Fancy TV show, which used to feature guests from North America, the UK, and Ireland. The man who cancelled it said he never again wanted to hear fiddles on national television. Natalie and Ashley have put an end to that, although this being Canada the show times are changed from time to time to accomodate the Stanley Cup playoffs.:)


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From:
Date: 05 May 98 - 11:12 PM


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: steve t
Date: 06 May 98 - 04:59 AM

RESTARTING THIS THREAD WITH TITLE: The demise fo Folk Music, Part II


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Oct 01 - 05:22 AM


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 09 Oct 01 - 07:55 AM

Sorry that I got in so late... Is the question the demise of folk music, or the demise of commercially viable folk music that you can make a living singing? Those are different questions. Commercially viable folk music is a little bit of an abberation. Maybe not quite an oxymoron, but at heart, folk music has always been primarily for home and community entertainment, made by people who had day jobs. In that regard, folk music has "demised" at all. It's like it always has been, except for occasional reincarnations in popular music. Nobody said folk music demised when the Weavers, Harry Belefonte and the Kingston Trio stopped producing hit records. It sounds like the question is more, "Why isn't folk music in the top 40 anymore?" Perhaps the one single thing that has made people aware of more traditional folk music has been the popularity of Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? Who would ever thought that I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow would win an Emmy as best country song of the year? Certainly not Emry Arthur, who originally recorded it. A female friend of my 26 year old son bught the soundtrack and loves it. She'd never heard anything like it. The gospel chorus I'm in sang for an elementary school a while back, and a little black girl about 8 or 9 asked "I'm Christian, why haven't I ever heard gospel?" Folk music will never "demise." It's just that these days, for the most part, you have to sing the music out of love for it, and just the shear enjoyment of it. If you use it as a springboard to country music, rock or pop, you're not reviving it. Most people who make it as a popular music star reject the label "folk Singer." People like Steve Earle and even Bruce Springsteen are the exceptions. Steve Earle's songs are as much "folk music" as I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: GUEST,Frank
Date: 09 Oct 01 - 11:33 AM

As long as there is history, there will be folk music. It may go in and out of vogue but it's part of who we are regardless of where we come from.

Sometimes you might have to search for it a little harder but it'll be there.

Frank


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Art Thieme
Date: 09 Oct 01 - 02:42 PM

Alas, Jerry, we've rehashed this here and in a million other threads like those on 'what is folk music. You and the new folks here might as well have a go at it. Many who previously joined in this thread are not here much these days. Said our piece and went on. Having nothing these days but too much time on my hands, I'll be lurking and jumping in---but with less verbosity than before I'm pretty sure.

Art


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 09 Oct 01 - 02:49 PM

The more observant may have noticed that this thread had ended with a notice that it was to be continued in part II. It would seem to me to be rather more logical to continue the discussion where it ended than re-starting in the middle.

PART II Starts here.

Jon


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music
From: Chicken Charlie
Date: 09 Oct 01 - 03:44 PM

Hypothesis on the demise: The arrangements were so watered down to suit the public ear ("three chord specials") that novelty soon wore off. Those who chose to be more authentic limited their own audiences by so doing. Plus, as mentioned, the only constant is change.

CC


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