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Shortest definition of folk

steve t 04 May 98 - 06:57 AM
Helen 04 May 98 - 08:00 AM
Ted from Australia 04 May 98 - 09:20 AM
Ted from Australia 04 May 98 - 09:29 AM
Sheye 04 May 98 - 10:46 AM
McGrath 04 May 98 - 11:05 AM
McGrath 04 May 98 - 11:08 AM
McGrath 04 May 98 - 11:12 AM
Art Thieme 04 May 98 - 01:41 PM
steve t 04 May 98 - 03:46 PM
Geoff (In England) 04 May 98 - 05:11 PM
steve t 04 May 98 - 05:58 PM
Roger Himler 04 May 98 - 06:19 PM
Bill D 04 May 98 - 07:22 PM
Jon W. 05 May 98 - 03:45 PM
Harald 05 May 98 - 03:57 PM
Jon W. 05 May 98 - 04:04 PM
Harald 05 May 98 - 04:38 PM
Jon W. 05 May 98 - 05:49 PM
Bill D 05 May 98 - 07:16 PM
dulcimer 05 May 98 - 11:54 PM
steve t 06 May 98 - 04:41 AM
Jon W. 06 May 98 - 10:33 AM
Bert 06 May 98 - 10:56 AM
Bill in Alabama 06 May 98 - 11:03 AM
Harald 06 May 98 - 04:13 PM
L Baker 06 May 98 - 05:13 PM
Bill D 06 May 98 - 05:37 PM
Joe Offer 06 May 98 - 06:23 PM
Will 06 May 98 - 10:02 PM
Frank McGrath 07 May 98 - 10:16 AM
Frank McGrath 07 May 98 - 10:19 AM
Bert 07 May 98 - 11:06 AM
steve t 07 May 98 - 12:52 PM
Bert 07 May 98 - 01:26 PM
Allan C. 07 May 98 - 01:41 PM
dick greenhaus 07 May 98 - 02:33 PM
Bill D 07 May 98 - 03:27 PM
Frank in the swamps 08 May 98 - 04:53 AM
Bill D 08 May 98 - 01:10 PM
steve t 08 May 98 - 04:12 PM
Joe Offer 08 May 98 - 05:32 PM
Bill D 09 May 98 - 01:28 PM
Bert 11 May 98 - 09:32 AM
Nora 12 May 98 - 11:17 AM
Jon W. 12 May 98 - 12:25 PM
Allan C. 12 May 98 - 02:01 PM
GUEST,samhall@madasafish.com 11 Oct 00 - 03:34 PM
Art Thieme 11 Oct 00 - 03:59 PM
GUEST,Les B. 11 Oct 00 - 04:22 PM
Bert 11 Oct 00 - 04:33 PM
GUEST,John Leeder 11 Oct 00 - 05:31 PM
Allan C. 11 Oct 00 - 05:45 PM
Naemanson 11 Oct 00 - 06:13 PM
Frankham 11 Oct 00 - 06:20 PM
Carlin 11 Oct 00 - 06:22 PM
Little Hawk 11 Oct 00 - 06:43 PM
Rich(bodhránai gan ciall) 11 Oct 00 - 06:45 PM
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Subject: Shortest definition of folk
From: steve t
Date: 04 May 98 - 06:57 AM

I heard this one on CBC radio:

Folk is music that does not rely entirely on commercial media for its distribution.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Helen
Date: 04 May 98 - 08:00 AM

Hi Steve

Nice definition, but a (mischievous) question: what was the definition of folk music before commercial media was invented?? :-)

Helen


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Ted from Australia
Date: 04 May 98 - 09:20 AM

Helen , Before commercial media was invented (and this includes TV, radio, records, CDs and printed or hand copied words and/or music)all music was folk.(or just music,no lables, they hadn't been invented either).;-)

Steve T, I LIKE it

Regards Ted


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Ted from Australia
Date: 04 May 98 - 09:29 AM

Helen , Before commercial media was invented (and this includes TV, radio, records, CDs and printed or hand copied words and/or music)all music was folk.(or just music,no lables, they hadn't been invented either).;-)

Steve T, I LIKE it

Regards Ted


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Sheye
Date: 04 May 98 - 10:46 AM

A profound quote from Canada... and I lived to see the day. (Tongue in cheek) Now if we could only convince the powers that be to let us have a decent anthem. Canada's motto: We have the only anthem that is completely politically correct. We keep repeating the same six words, but they are none the less, politically correct.

Seriously, keeping in line with Canada's citizen policy, I will go on record stating that I LOVE the CBC.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: McGrath
Date: 04 May 98 - 11:05 AM

How about this from the Irish Language.

Caint, Ceol agus Caric - Translates to:

Talk, song and fun.

I love CBC too! Great and varied educational programmes down through the years. Us Paddies have a great afinity to Canada and at least some of us remember Grosse Île.

Best Regards
Frank McGarth


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: McGrath
Date: 04 May 98 - 11:08 AM

Sorry! That should read;

Caint, Ceol agus Craic

Frank McGrath.....again!


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: McGrath
Date: 04 May 98 - 11:12 AM

Sorry! That should read;

Caint, Ceol agus Craic

Frank McGrath.....again!


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Art Thieme
Date: 04 May 98 - 01:41 PM

Piccasso said,

"...all art is a lie that lets us see the truth"


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: steve t
Date: 04 May 98 - 03:46 PM

Folk music away back when? Hmmm. I'd guess that even before money was invented, there were professional and semi-professional musicians, and that much music relied very heavily on religious and/or political subsidies for its distribution and continuance. Furthur, I'm surprised to conclude that wandering minstrels were professionals and therefore much of their music would not, at the time they were singing it, fit this definition of folk.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Geoff (In England)
Date: 04 May 98 - 05:11 PM

After almost 40 years of involvment in "Folk Music" as both performer and journalist I have not heard or even devised a short definition of the subject. Is it either possible or necessary ?

Was it Louis or was it Huddie who mentioned non singing horses ? I guess that says it all.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: steve t
Date: 04 May 98 - 05:58 PM

Uhhhhh... non singing horses? Gosh, Batman, I'm confounded again.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Roger Himler
Date: 04 May 98 - 06:19 PM

To Steve T. I think it was Big Bill Broonzy who said (and I paraphrase it here) "It's folk music, it's not horses singing it."

This is the elusive reference that has confused you.

Roger in Baltimore


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Bill D
Date: 04 May 98 - 07:22 PM

the 'non-singing horses' line is cute, pithy and totally useless! Uses the fallacy of 'equivocation'...different meanings of the word 'folk'...but everyone seems to have heard it, so it pops up almost every time the subject is mentioned.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Jon W.
Date: 05 May 98 - 03:45 PM

Music from a non-famous source that has passed the test of time.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Harald
Date: 05 May 98 - 03:57 PM

Jon, the second part of your definition: That´s it ! But I don´t agree with the first part. There are so many really great song-writers (famous ?!) who write songs, you could swear they only can be "time-proof" traditionals. That was what I first thought of songs I later knew as written by Eric Bogle and also Christy Moore, just to name a few.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Jon W.
Date: 05 May 98 - 04:04 PM

Well, by "non-famous" I was just trying to eliminate the classical composers, whose music has also passed the test of time. But I consider folk and classic to be closer than some might: composers from Beethoven to Copland have incorporated folk melodies in their music. (Besides, Eric Bogle and Christy Moore aren't all THAT famous.)


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Harald
Date: 05 May 98 - 04:38 PM

OK, Jon, I see your point. But can you compare that ? Classical componists write music for a full orchestra, while folk is for a few instruments, or even a singing voice only. Folk is some kind of the people´s singing voice. What I try to say: Folk deals with the people´s problems or at least things that are important to them. That´s the root for folk lyrics to grow, even for choice of instruments - remember lilting in Irish musical history. On the other hand orchestral music from the classic period was to satisfy aristocrats.
So, in my opinion, one should rather compare folk and pop to draw the line that limits the boundary of folk music. The reason is, because also pop has it´s roots in all the stuff that people are engaged with (additionally the focus point of making money...) so the roots (the source for lyrics and the tune itself) of pop and folk are the same. Just the intentions and the realisations are different.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Jon W.
Date: 05 May 98 - 05:49 PM

And besides, I forgot my own cardinal rule on defining anything (not just music) as "folk"--There has to be an identifiable population with which to associate the item.

Therefore: Folk music is music which has passed beyond the creative intent of the original author, and which is considered by a particular folk population to be their own, and which has usually passed the test of time.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Bill D
Date: 05 May 98 - 07:16 PM

hmmm..Jon...that is the closest I have ever seen to a 'short' definition that I could tolerate!! By BEING short, it leaves some questions, but I kinda like it...


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: dulcimer
Date: 05 May 98 - 11:54 PM

So when were the first tunes written down or the first lyrics that were clearly identified as a song written down?


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: steve t
Date: 06 May 98 - 04:41 AM

Written down? I feel that's a prime characteristic of folk -- that it CAN be passed on without being written down.

I do get the feeling that most of the really early songs we know of, like By the Waters of Babylon, were ceremonial, and I don't think ceremonial music can be folk music.

But maybe if I start a new thread, someone can answer...


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Jon W.
Date: 06 May 98 - 10:33 AM

One of the meanings of my statement "passed beyond the creative intent of the original author" is that the music and/or lyrics have been changed in the (usually oral) transmission. Once it is written down changes are less likely to take place.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Bert
Date: 06 May 98 - 10:56 AM

Folk is "What we sing"


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Bill in Alabama
Date: 06 May 98 - 11:03 AM

I like your thinking, Bert.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Harald
Date: 06 May 98 - 04:13 PM

Hm, under the shower I like to sing horrible 50th songs, Alice and Erica recently confessed the liking of singing operas, my neighbour produces the whole Stones-repertoire nearly every night - hey Bert, that´s all true folk ???


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: L Baker
Date: 06 May 98 - 05:13 PM

Folk music is the music that people who profess to like folk music listen to.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Bill D
Date: 06 May 98 - 05:37 PM

tsk...circular and empty definitions...if 'folk' is 'what we sing', then why call it folk? Just call it 'songs'!If a definition is to mean anything, whether it is agreed with or not, it must differentiate. "A rose is a rose is a rose" does nothing for those who have never seen a rose.
The fact is, we DO mean something by 'folk' as opposed to 'Bluegrass' or 'pop' or 'rock' or 'Gregorian chant' ...we may not agree on the details, but a definition has gotta have some content....mine is up to several pages of characteristics and disclaimers now...(and I still like the direction of Jon's...I just want to define how records should be sorted in the music store...or categories in a database....obsessed masochist?? naaahhhh....)


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 May 98 - 06:23 PM

Well, this thread is certainly not going to be the "shortest definition of folk"! We certainly are a wordy lot, aren't we? I saw this thread pop up a couple of days ago, and I knew it was going to be a long one. I think that, at least in this forum, "short definition of folk" is an oxymoron.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Will
Date: 06 May 98 - 10:02 PM

Found a nice definition in Chambers Dictionary, my favourite source of elegent etymology.

Folksong: A song originating among the people and traditionally handed down by them.

Not that the definition clears up the discussion much, or at all, 'cause "originating among the people" is open to many interpretations and "handed down" to even more.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Frank McGrath
Date: 07 May 98 - 10:16 AM

I am constantly being told to "Folk Off".
What does this mean?? Is it good??
Frank McGrath


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Frank McGrath
Date: 07 May 98 - 10:19 AM

Me Da and Ma. = Definition for my Folk(s).


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Bert
Date: 07 May 98 - 11:06 AM

Harald,

Yup, sure is.

Bill D.,If you wish to be pedantic about it perhaps I should have said... "The stuff in DT & Mudcat" which would also make it the longest definition. :-)


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: steve t
Date: 07 May 98 - 12:52 PM

Or how about, "Everything that ought to be in the DT." ;-)


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Bert
Date: 07 May 98 - 01:26 PM

Steve t.,
Yes, that's better.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Allan C.
Date: 07 May 98 - 01:41 PM

Seems to me to be a whole lot about nothing. On the assumption that you were refering to folkmusic rather than defining folk, which Frank did most succinctly, I would have to say that the words both separately and (especially) together are self defining.

I submit that it is virtually axiomatic that neither would last very long without the other.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 07 May 98 - 02:33 PM

I thought I could resist getting into this, but old habits are strong...

The meaning of the word "Folk" depends upon what you're looking for. Folk music to a musicologist is something entirely different than Folk to a cultural Anthropologist. It's like arguing about whether a cow is a mammal, or a vertebrate or a device for converting grass to milk.

Incidentally, "Folk", to the Digital Tradition, is anything someone likes enough to bother copying down.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Bill D
Date: 07 May 98 - 03:27 PM

funny, isn't it, I like Steve's line about 'everything that ought to be in the DT', so Bert and I are in agreement(insert one of those winky emoticons here...is there one that indicates tongue stuck firmly in cheek?)....I also doubt, Dick, that you mean what you said literally....there are whole realms of 'music' that people like that are NOT represented in the DT...even you have your limits!

I guess that may be the real question...what to leave out! There are things already in there that I personally like and sing, but disagree about this being the place for them, but I am not doing the choosing. As I have said, I would LOVE to see sister sites..or even different threads/databases in one site...for country music, bluegrass, singer-songwriter,etc. Even blues, a major focus of the Mudcat, is not too well represented in the database. In the cyber environment, moving to a different page, thread, or even a different site, is only a couple of clicks and a few seconds of time. I know that some of us now frequent sites and songlists that are especially for Celtic music, though much of Celtic music has more claim to 'folk' status than some of the stuff that appears here....it is just too large a category (like bluegrass) to do justice to here, though there are those among us who could certainly explain at length how they are related and share certain roots.

Still, I realize that until someone does create specialized on-line sites (WITH question & answer forums!)for the music with narrower focus, Mudcat will continue to be the venue of choice when looking for lyrics or help on anything even vaguely related to folk music.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Frank in the swamps
Date: 08 May 98 - 04:53 AM

How many times must some folks sing a song,

before it's a folk song they sang?

Groooaan.

Frank i.t.s.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Bill D
Date: 08 May 98 - 01:10 PM

Frank....umpty-leventeen, but you gotta hold your mouth right and look off in the corner of the room and think pure, folky thoughts--or it doesn't count and you gotta start over ;-)


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: steve t
Date: 08 May 98 - 04:12 PM

Frank i.t.s, simply put: brilliant.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 May 98 - 05:32 PM

But if it's a real folk song, Bill, ya gotta sing with your finger in your ear.
-Joe Offer, who doesn't-


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Bill D
Date: 09 May 98 - 01:28 PM

*sigh*, Joe, Im afraid I DO...well, with hand cupped there anyway...hearing is not what it once was, and there are times in chorus songs when I simply can't tell whether I'm on key without that help..(it's nice to play the Autoharp, 'cause I can simply lean my left ear against it and hear the vibrations...)


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Bert
Date: 11 May 98 - 09:32 AM

I'm told that the Muezzin cup a hand behind the ear when they are calling the faithful to prayer. What wonderful singers those guys are. It's very moving to hear people putting so much passion into their singing.

I heard one on television the other day in a program about Alexander The Great. It brought back happy memories of the time I spent in Bahrain.
Bert.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Nora
Date: 12 May 98 - 11:17 AM

Isn't there a bit on a Rosalie Sorrels record called 'Aunt Molly Jackson Defines Folk Music Once and For All?' I may be misremembering it, but I think the idea is folk music = real people singing about their real lives.

Of course that lets in a lot of stuff we might not like. I think sometimes we spend to much time trying to narrow the definition to exclude everything we don't like: add electric guitars, or drums, or god help us the performer actually makes a living performing and it can't be folk music.

I do think there is something about once a song gets loose in the world it becomes part of folk music. I heard a story once that Leonard Cohen was traveling in eastern europe and heard some people singing 'Suzanne' in whatever language they were using. It seems like the point of the story was that the singers had no idea that he was the tune's composer.

As I said in another thread: Folk music wants to be free.

Nora


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Jon W.
Date: 12 May 98 - 12:25 PM

Which brings up the question of how to get a folk musician off your front porch. (Pay him for the pizza.)


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Allan C.
Date: 12 May 98 - 02:01 PM

Yes, Jon. But why would you want to? What a time we would have if a bunch of us could gather on a front porch (or back even) as the shadows start to fall and perhaps do as much music making as we do talking here. Nora, I felt a twinge of pain when you spoke of making a living from performing folk music. I suppose it can be done. I have heard about it. Mostly rumors, I guess. But getting back to the subject, I think there will always be those who will constantly search for "the real thing" and those who will choose to tailor their music to suit their purpose and their personal sentiments. I don't mind a bit being listening to either. They are all welcome on my porch anytime.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: GUEST,samhall@madasafish.com
Date: 11 Oct 00 - 03:34 PM

FOlk Music is "what you can sing in the bath" You know the words, the tunes memorable and has therefore entered the oral tradition. It's accoustic and doesn't need any fancy equipment to perform


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Art Thieme
Date: 11 Oct 00 - 03:59 PM

Trad.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 11 Oct 00 - 04:22 PM

Seen on a poster somewhere in the past 35 years: "Folk - Timeless tunes for tuneless times !"


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Bert
Date: 11 Oct 00 - 04:33 PM

That's gotta be the shortest Art, and dammit it's true.

Another definition could be "Anything that we can slip past the Harry Fox Agency"


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: GUEST,John Leeder
Date: 11 Oct 00 - 05:31 PM

A couple of tongue-in-cheek definitions (with a kernel of truth):

-A folk song is any song whose lyrics you can hear.

-Folk music is any music you can't make a living playing.

Some years ago, the Canadian Folk Music Society tried to come up with a definition of "folk music". We ended up changing the name of the society to get rid of the f-word.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Allan C.
Date: 11 Oct 00 - 05:45 PM

I have to tell you that I'm getting a kick out of seeing this thread surface again. It contains my very first posting to the Mudcat! *Sigh*


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Naemanson
Date: 11 Oct 00 - 06:13 PM

At the risk of steering this thread on to dangerous ground, i.e., a serious beating of that old dead horse, this thread began with "Folk is music that does not rely entirely on commercial media for its distribution"

When it was new folk music WAS the commercial media! Consider that people like O'Carolan and his ilk wandered the countryside carrying the local news (gossip and actual news) as part of their stock in trade. Consider how many old street calls have come down through the ages as folk music. Consider how many are stories, embellished to entertain.

I apologise if I am repeating what someone wrote earlier in this thread. I considered reading the whole thread but I have to fight with my daughter for computer access and can't read everything I'd like too. For those following the "Milestones" thread, this is the part of parenting where you look forward to the imminent departure of the kid. But not very much!


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Frankham
Date: 11 Oct 00 - 06:20 PM

steve1,

The CBC definition means that the Folk Music Revival is not folk music. The Revival in the States depended chiefly on the sale of recordings. If recordings are not media, then this definition might work. Except that the Kingston Trio would not be folk music because they relied heavilly on media for the sale of their recordings as did the Weavers. The Kingston Trio and the Weavers therefore do not do folk music. (Whew!)

Geoff, it was Big Bill Broonzy.

Roger,

The quote is when Bill was asked if the music he did was folk music, he said, "I ain't never heard no horses sing it."

JonW,

The definition is thorny because Mozart wrote the tune for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (considered durable and a folk song.) Schubert Leider has gone into aural transmission in Germany as well and is considered folk music.

I think the most important ingredient is this. It is subject to change and variations over a period of time by many people. A shorter definition: a folk song is a variant of an original source that persists.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Carlin
Date: 11 Oct 00 - 06:22 PM

Folk song....any song that you can sit down at a campfire and play a recognizable version of on your guitar (or fiddle, or mandolin, or fill in the instrument of your choice) and at least one other person will know the words...


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Little Hawk
Date: 11 Oct 00 - 06:43 PM

Actually, it was originally called FOLC Music...

"For Ordinary Low Commoners" (the Margaret Thatcher definition...) :-)

I'd say seriously, however, that folk music in a general sense is music that is created without a specific commercial objective in mind, but rather simply for its own sake. As such it is generally ignored by the mainstream commercial media, except in the case of artists who are so remarkable that they attain broad public notice DESPITE the fact that they play folk music.

Folk music can be in almost any recognizable style, from trad to country to classical to new age to ethnic to celtic to aboriginal to whatever you please. And it can be about any subject whatsoever. It usually includes lyrics, but not always. The lyrics are usually a bit more important to the song than in many other styles of music. Folk audiences tend to listen a bit more closely to the lyrics, hopefully....

It is written and sung for its own sake, because people like it for its own sake.


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Subject: RE: Shortest definition of folk
From: Rich(bodhránai gan ciall)
Date: 11 Oct 00 - 06:45 PM

ASCAP-proof music!

Rich


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