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Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?

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The Sandman 21 Sep 07 - 03:51 AM
PMB 21 Sep 07 - 04:06 AM
Les in Chorlton 21 Sep 07 - 04:13 AM
Richard Bridge 21 Sep 07 - 05:03 AM
GUEST,doc.tom 21 Sep 07 - 05:29 AM
greg stephens 21 Sep 07 - 06:03 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 21 Sep 07 - 06:17 AM
greg stephens 21 Sep 07 - 06:31 AM
The Sandman 21 Sep 07 - 06:41 AM
Les in Chorlton 21 Sep 07 - 06:42 AM
TheSnail 21 Sep 07 - 07:13 AM
greg stephens 21 Sep 07 - 07:14 AM
Les in Chorlton 21 Sep 07 - 07:16 AM
Ruth Archer 21 Sep 07 - 07:27 AM
The Sandman 21 Sep 07 - 08:22 AM
Ruth Archer 21 Sep 07 - 08:28 AM
greg stephens 21 Sep 07 - 08:40 AM
Uncle_DaveO 21 Sep 07 - 09:41 AM
GUEST, Sminky 21 Sep 07 - 10:10 AM
Peace 21 Sep 07 - 10:17 AM
greg stephens 21 Sep 07 - 10:36 AM
s&r 21 Sep 07 - 10:41 AM
GUEST, Sminky 21 Sep 07 - 10:47 AM
An Buachaill Caol Dubh 21 Sep 07 - 10:52 AM
Peace 21 Sep 07 - 10:55 AM
Peace 21 Sep 07 - 10:55 AM
GUEST, Sminky 21 Sep 07 - 11:27 AM
The Sandman 21 Sep 07 - 11:30 AM
greg stephens 21 Sep 07 - 12:02 PM
Bill D 21 Sep 07 - 12:11 PM
Ruth Archer 21 Sep 07 - 12:16 PM
The Sandman 21 Sep 07 - 12:56 PM
greg stephens 21 Sep 07 - 01:00 PM
TheSnail 21 Sep 07 - 01:05 PM
GUEST,John Garst 21 Sep 07 - 01:15 PM
Les in Chorlton 21 Sep 07 - 01:19 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 21 Sep 07 - 01:19 PM
greg stephens 21 Sep 07 - 01:23 PM
greg stephens 21 Sep 07 - 01:25 PM
GUEST,countrylife 21 Sep 07 - 01:36 PM
dick greenhaus 21 Sep 07 - 01:43 PM
The Borchester Echo 21 Sep 07 - 01:46 PM
Bill D 21 Sep 07 - 01:50 PM
Richard Bridge 21 Sep 07 - 01:51 PM
GUEST,Russ 21 Sep 07 - 02:08 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 21 Sep 07 - 02:43 PM
GUEST,John Garst 21 Sep 07 - 03:55 PM
GUEST,John Garst 21 Sep 07 - 04:00 PM
greg stephens 21 Sep 07 - 06:16 PM
Richard Bridge 21 Sep 07 - 06:19 PM
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Subject: Isthe1954defining,improvable
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 03:51 AM

Definition of Folk Music, decided by the International Folk Music Council in 1954.
    Folk music is the product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission. The factors that shape the tradition are: (i) continuity which links the present with the past; (ii) variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group; and (iii) selection by the community, which determines the form or forms in which the music survives.
    The term can be applied to music that has been evolved from rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by popular and art music and it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community.
    The term does not cover composed popular music that has been taken over ready-made by a community and remains unchanged, for it is the re-fashioning and re-creation of the music by the community that gives it its folk character.
Is this definition open to improvement, and do you have any suggestions as to how it can be improved. Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: Isthe1954definition,open to improvement
From: PMB
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 04:06 AM

It excludes most "folk music" played and sung these days, as major (the major?) transmission mechanisms are recorded material, whether written or electronic.

I don't know why they needed the qualification of "popular" on music which has not been re- created. And if re- creation is a major criterion, most jazz, other than the strictest New Orleans variety, would qualify as folk. Unless of course you define "community" to exclude (jazz) musicians.

Or to put it another way, why bother trying to define a process as a static object?


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Subject: RE: Isthe1954definition,open to improvement
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 04:13 AM

Oh, bring me my tools of misunderstanding
Where is my spear of sarcastic rhetoric
With the unavoidable opportunity to open old wounds
And deliver me the utter joy of personal abuse kindled afresh
Without a care in the world for a perfectly reasonable request

(Jones 2007 ©)


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 05:03 AM

Nice to see an intelligent discussion on this, but how long will the horse brigade stay away?

I suggest that the point about "popular" was that it was the most likely source of taint, and that rather than simply deleting that word, it should be replaced by the words and symbols "popular (or other)"

Much jazz would I think fail branch (i) of the 1954 definition but "trad" jazz would get within it and IMHO rightly so since it is the "folk" music of a particular part of the community. The borderline could get a bit iffy though!

This particular form of the definition does not require that the work should be of no known authorship, and so long as the other branches of the test are satisfied that might be a good idea and resolve part of the argument with the ARSS tribe.

The consequence would be that (for example) "Fiddlers Green" and "Ride On" would then be "folk".


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: GUEST,doc.tom
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 05:29 AM

Well said Richard! The IFMC were happily going with thier definition when Douglas Kennedy, the then Director of EFDSS, proposed the addition of the third paragraph. It addresses, specifically, the issue of contemporary popular music - very well in my opinion. To quote my own PhD (sorry!)

"It is debateable that there had been 'a community uninfluenced by popular and art music in England for several centuries. The three 'factors' given in paragraph one of the definition, together with the 're-fashioning' and 're-creation' cited in the third paragraph, are important aspects of the definition. They actually focus not on the music but on the performer and, crucially, define him or her as creator rather than copyist - even though the material may be received, rather than invented by the performer(s). The definition distinguishes between this and meterial that has been 'taken over ready made' - and thus suggests that manner or style of performance mat be at least as important as the content. The question of context appears to be crucial to any definition of folk material although this is not considered within the IFMC definition which seems to have assumed the retention and performance of the material only within the communities within which it was 'discovered'. The IFMC definition also precludes any newly written material being classed as 'folk' until, and unless, it has undergone the process of 're-fashioning' and 're-creating."

The people who created the definition knew what they were talking about (I don't mean they were correct, just that they understood what they were talking about!) - and it was very different to what the folk revival calls folk! I don't see how their definition can be improved - for a contemporary definition we would need to take a new starting point!

But it's fun trying - and people undoubtedly will.

Tom


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: greg stephens
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 06:03 AM

It depends what you mean by "improvement". Does that mean, "broadening the definition to include some other stuff you like that you heard a girl singing with a guitar at a folk festival"?
A definition defines what it attempts define.An improvement, surely, would be to narrow and make a definition more precise and less open to ambiguity.I wouldn't consider it an improvement to a definition to broaden it hugely from what the people were attempting to define in the process.
If you say " a biggish animal, somewhat horse-shaped, covered in broad black and white stripes in an irregular pattern", well that's a definition of a zebra. You could of course change that definition by adding "or a very tall animal with an irregular pattern of brownish blotches separated by paler lines, with two little horn things. This would clearly change the defintion, by including giraffes within the definition of zebras. Whether you consider this an "improved" definition is an open question.
   I consider the definition of folk music as quoted above a pretty valiant attempt to get to grips with a very fluid mental construct. As mentioned earlier by doc.tom, it is not all that sound on context as opposed to content.But it is a useful definition.We all know there is a difference between a shepherd singing "Searching for Lambs" and a football crowd singing the latest rude chant on the one hand, and the Halle Orchestra or the Spice Girls on the other. We know there is a difference, even though you could come up with things that sit mid way on the spectrum between the two.The 1954 definition is a good bash at saying just what that difference is. Enlarging the definition to include some other stuff you happen to like as well serves no useful purpose that I can see.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 06:17 AM

I propose that we 'cut the Gordian knot' and replace the IFMC definition with the one implied by the 'Folk' section of my local branch of HMV:

ie. 'Folk music is any sort of 'acoustic' music, although it excludes 'acoustic' 'Country Music' and includes 'Folk Rock'. The term also embraces any sort of music which doesn't fit in any other category, for example the music of military bands.'

There! That should keep many of the contributors to this board happy, and they can now perform anything they like in a folk club (although why they should seem to need permission from 'higher authority' to do so continues to puzzle me).


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: greg stephens
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 06:31 AM

I appaud Shimrod's last paragraph. I recall folk clubs in my youth, when I went to such places. Lots of people performed folk music, and for a nice change people occasionally slipped in bits of Dowland lute music, Django/Grappelli type duets, songs they had written about nuclear disarmament/girls friend's departure etc, The Flight opf the Bumble Bee" on the fiddle, the Overture to William Tell on the penny whistle or a bit of redhot Scott Joplin or boogie if there was a piano in the corner etc etc. I enjoyed it all, but did not therefore feel that all the music had to be called "folk music".Some I felt was, some wasn't, some maybe. That's always suited me fine.But it doesnt mean I want to find folk magazines full of reviews of performances of Rossini.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 06:41 AM

I did not suggest improving it to include, any of my personal
favourites,or anybody elses favourites,Nor has anyone else suggested that.
Neither is every football chant/song rude[Fields of Athenry][youll never walk alone].[the red red robin][I am forever blowing bubbles]or the Norwich city football song.
Richard Grainger was also commissioned to write one for Middlesborough FC which extolled the players skills.
The definition does not take into consideration the use of the computer, Mudcat itself is a community,As is every forum on the internet,so it could be argued that the definition is outdated.
Fiddlers Green is already considered by many ordinary citizens to be folk.
Language and Society are constantly changing [dictionary definitions get altered],Folk music is also by its very nature changing.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 06:42 AM

Argh, "folk clubs". Different beast entirely.

I always intend to sing a traditional song, a serious one even, maybe a mining disaster or one with dead sailors or maidens. When it's my turn I am following 3 singer-songwriters who have serious relationship issues, (I paraphrase)so I sing a daft song to avoid generating another mass-suicide attempt.

The point being? Dunno really, something about the audience to which we perform?

I went to Cecil Sharp House once, avoided daft songs and played Adderbury-Black Joke but couldn't help explaining that it was one of the many morris tunes the Bob Dylan had collected on his early visits and later used for his own songs.

The old songs are a joy but the audience at folk clubs are many and strangely varied none more so than when we stand up to sing the Lyke Wake and stare them in the face.

But the basic definition will be ok until somebody gets seriously stuck into it.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: TheSnail
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 07:13 AM

I'm sorry for asking, but what would you do with a perfect definition if you had one?


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: greg stephens
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 07:14 AM

"Folk music is also by its very nature changing".You said it, Cap'n. Clearly that change is part of your personal definition of folk, as it is of mine. Other people, however, think defined pieces of music like the new product of a singer-songwriter can also be "folk". I, on the other hand, say "wait and see". Herein lies the difference that sets off the arguments.
    Dictionary definitions change, you point out.Of course. A dictionary definition attempts(in England at least) to explain how a certain word is used by present day writers and speakers. So naturally, as usage changes, it will need changing. But here, we are talking about the definition of a word, which in this case happens to be "folk". That is a completely different philosophical thing from defining a genre of music. One is a word, the other is a kind of music. Just as, in the analogy I used earlier, "zebra" is a word, and it is also an animal. So the definition of the word is a different thing from the definition of an animal, because words are different things from animals.
   To put the matter simply, "folk" is a category, and it is also a kind of music.You have to be clear in your head which you are talking about at any one time. One is a label on a record bin, one is a noise you hear with your ears.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 07:16 AM

Saver(?) it, wallow(?) in it, sorry I cannot spell most of these words, introduce it to all my friends, take it down the pub and give it a good time, take it to bed .................... no, sorry wrong website


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 07:27 AM

because of the wholesale co-opting of the term "folk" by the music industry (which has pretty much rendered it useless, as is exemplified by the definition at HMV), I would suggest that the 1954 definition now applies to what we think of as "traditional" (though as we all know, traditional singers were often influenced by the popular music of the day).

Folk means whatever you want it to mean.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 08:22 AM

Ruth, would it be sensible to redefine 1954 the definition ,replacing the word Folk with Traditional?
Would not some Country music,be covered by Clause [111]
if it is,that might be a good reason for redefining,if it is possible to find better wording.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 08:28 AM

To be honest, Dick, there will always be people who take exception to aspects of such a definition, no matter what you call it.

Not that I am particularly iconoclastic (oh, that's right, I am), but the minute someone provides an institutionalised definition of a music genre, I instinctively want to kick out against it as a matter of principle.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: greg stephens
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 08:40 AM

Folk as process, or folk as product? Completely different concepts, completely different definitions. Does it really matter? Not a lot, except if someone earmarks some lottery money for folk music. Then everyone wants to be folk musicians.
It could be worse. We could be discussing just why some people call Jamie Cullen jazz.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 09:41 AM

One change that might be an improvement would be a clarification of "community" as referred to in the definition.

I don't know how one is to get around the problem of "uninfluenced by popular and art music". As someone pointed out above, it would be hard to find such a condition in today's world, or even in the world of many yesterdays.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 10:10 AM

I agree that the 1954 definition is probably adequate for 'traditional' music.

However, because of its emphasis on the 'creative process' (oral transmission etc), failing to foresee the rapid changes in recording/storage technology of today (or indeed of tomorrow), it falls short as a definition for what came/comes after.

I've always found the concept that a song must change before it can be accepted as a folksong as rather bizarre. If, in 200 years time, people still sing a Bob Dylan song unaltered then, IMO, that's still a folksong. (BTW I chose Dylan deliberately because I don't happen to like his music).

I am not going to suggest an alternative definition because that too will become obsolete in time. Let's not repeat the mistakes of the past.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: Peace
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 10:17 AM

The only people who do not 'recreate' music are hermits and monks. If you are (one is) a capable musician, then you WILL be influenced by anything and everything y'ever heard. That is hard to get away from.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: greg stephens
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 10:36 AM

Uncle Dave O: you have a problem with the"uninfluenced by popular and art music" part of the definition. But that is only in the first part of the relevant sentence. The second part covers folk music in communities where the condition does not apply. They weren't totally stupid when they drew up document, they were perfectly aware that folk music reacted with other forms.
   I have plenty of problems with the definition, and can think of ways it can be modified. But what I am totally sure of is that it is a legitimate attempt to define a branch of music which is distinctively different from some other forms.And "folk" was the word they chose for that branch of music. It's not an old term, it was deliberately coined as a means of classifying the music.Zebras belong to a species, even if they don't use the words "zebra" or "species" themselves.
Tinkering with the definition, therefore, as far as I am concerned should merely tighten up the accuracy of the analysis. It should not broaden the category so as to make folk indistinguishable from other forms of music.
    But remember, folk is defined by a lot of things. There are three questions to ask: how was it made, what does it sound like, and what is it used for? Any one of the answers can make it folk.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: s&r
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 10:41 AM

I think any definition of folk will be modified by the folk process until it means what you want. If it matters, define it if not enjoy it

Stu


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 10:47 AM

The only people who do not 'recreate' music are hermits and monks. If you are (one is) a capable musician, then you WILL be influenced by anything and everything y'ever heard. That is hard to get away from.

Maybe. But that's a matter for the individual and should not be a prerequisite for what defines a folksong.

BTW you need to add classical musicians to your list.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 10:52 AM

Interesting debate (as ever). I wonder would it be useful, as part of the process of arguing about the merits of definitions or discussing the qualities of products, to see what happens if we try the opposite tack; that is, define what "folk music", or what "traditional music" is/are NOT? (This is not to imply that "what's left over" can be categorized neatly). Just a thought that occurred.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: Peace
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 10:55 AM

I agree. I think that 'defining' which pigeonhole to put the song in is good for collectors and scholars. Me? I'm just a guy who likes to play songs. So, really, I don't give a rat's ass.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: Peace
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 10:55 AM

Sorry--post was for Sminky.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 11:27 AM

Me? I'm just a guy who likes to play songs. So, really, I don't give a rat's ass.

Me too Peace, (especially on a Friday afternoon). High fives all round!
Though I've an idea this debate is far from over....there are some notable absentees ;-)


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 11:30 AM

The amusing thing about Greg Stephens earlier comment about favourites,is that of all the people on the uk folkscene.
I have consistently sung,99 percent, traditional material,even at times when it wasnt very fashionable.
And most of my favorite songs happen to be traditional.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: greg stephens
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 12:02 PM

Most of what I have recorded is of traditional origin too.The Boat Band's six albums have I think three "known composer" numbers on. Though the majority of my record collection is the opposite.What I mean is, I don't confuse "what I like" with "what I call folk".


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: Bill D
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 12:11 PM

Seems to me there is a difference between what you can get away with singing in many gatherings of those who consider themselves 'folk aficionados', and what was sung by those in an earlier day who didn't KNOW they were doing 'folk'.

I see several posts in which those who espouse a pretty broad definition also note the limits beyond which they would NOT consider certain music to be folk. Perhaps if we take all the definitions and combine them, almost nothing would be excluded.

I have tried for years to make the point that if you are going to use the word, it has to have a narrow enough meaning to be useful....otherwise, the category ends up just being "music"..(or "music *I* like").

   I have proposed more than once the concept of taking a bunch of music/songs and submitting them to some sort of analysis, such as greg stephens notes above..."There are three questions to ask: how was it made, what does it sound like, and what is it used for? Any one of the answers can make it folk.?"
   There could even be several more criteria, depending on whether you refine those 3 ...'age', 'anon', 'method of transmission'...etc..but the idea is there.
Given this concept, I'd guess that most of the songs in the Digital Tradition database would pass the test...that is, that most 'folk aficionados' would agree that they are 'folk/trad'.

Now...take a bunch of music that is not in the DT, but is widely heard done by people with guitars and much of which is written BY self-proclaimed folk aficionados, and you start to get some differences of opinion. You begin to get those "grey areas".
   At this point, it becomes a matter of what you can get away with. You know that there are some places and some groups where you will cause an uproar if you try to do music outside certain bounds.
So...are we just interested in deciding what grey areas will be tolerated in lots of places, or are we concerned with abstracting from all this a reasonably concise linguistic definition, like the 1954 attempt, which attempts to explain why those difference exist and keep the term narrow enough to have real usefulness?

We will go on singing the same songs...songs we like to sing: but maybe we can at least be more aware of their place in the hierarchy, even as we participate in the eternal process of 'processing' them INTO 'folk'. ...(I know *I* sing many songs which would not fit under the narrowest type of 'folk/trad', but I also know that I am deviating, and there are places & circumstances when I would avoid those from the grey area.)

So,,,is that convoluted enough?


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 12:16 PM

"I don't know how one is to get around the problem of "uninfluenced by popular and art music"."

Indeed. I'm reminded of the song "I'm a Romany Rai", which has been throughly adopted by the traveller community - of course, it started out as a music hall song. What about broadheets? Were they not popular music? They certainly weren't being disseminated orally...

The idea of some pristine community untouched by popular culture is a load of romanticised nonsense, surely.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 12:56 PM

IN THESE HARD TIMES,a fine song but a music hall composition[Weston and Lee]?,strictly speaking it fails the 1954 definition,yet it has been recorded by Roy Bailey and is frequently heard at folk festivals/clubs.,and stylistically fits
GENTLE ANNIE,written by Stephen Foster and originally a popular/art song ,has become a folksong?
,because it has acquired additional australian verses,or is it still an art song.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: greg stephens
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 01:00 PM

At this point in the proceedings, someone generally introduces another angle: is a folk song necessarily folk music? For example, I am sure we all agreee with the statement that the version of the Foggy Dew as sung by Peter Pears with Benjamin Britten accompanying him on the piano is "a folk song". But is a recording of that performance(or the live performance) "folk music"? Or, for that matter, "folk song"? Or is it just "music of folk origin"? Hmm, some doubt creeps in,doesn't it?


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: TheSnail
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 01:05 PM

Black Joke mentioned by LesinChorlton was a (very smutty) "pop" song in 1730. @displaysong.cfm?SongID=669


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: GUEST,John Garst
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 01:15 PM

The 1954 definition would eliminate from consideration most of what people, even scholars, consider to be American folk music.

I think that definition is best forgotten.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 01:19 PM

Greg, what an idea: "music of folk origin". Oh yes! We can have the MOFO Awards!

And the MOFO Award for a song with one toenail in the morris tradition and another in a pre-christian fertility rite goes to .................


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 01:19 PM

I don't dispute the definition - it is what it is. But, if that is our standard, much of what we have been hearing and performing over the past 50-60 years or more will have been disqualified as "composed." Though I have affection for many of them, I seriously doubt that there is, in reality, a very broad audience for songs that spring only from the oral tradition. They are for scholars to pursue; a rather arcane pursuit for a passionate few. To be frank, for most modern audiences, even in the coffee house venues, you can only do songs like Barbara Allen or The Golden Vanity so many times before eyes begin to roll back in the audience's heads.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: greg stephens
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 01:23 PM

I don't follow you, John Garst. I have a huge record collection of American folk music, and it fits the definition perfectly in every respect. From Leadbelly to Charlie Poole, Robert Johnson to Georgian Island singing, Jean Richie ballads to chain gang songs. All straight from that definition. Wonderful music. Pure folk. How do you mean that most American folk music doesn't fit?


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: greg stephens
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 01:25 PM

TJ: I thought we were trying to define folk, not discussing whether or not people want to hear it in coffee bars.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: GUEST,countrylife
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 01:36 PM

"Definition of Folk Music ,decided by the International Folk Music Council in 1954."

well there's those that perform and those that have meetings about musical definitions

" a perfect definition if you had one?"

there isn't any such animal.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 01:43 PM

Why not just leave it as it is, and make up a new category for the composed stuff?


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 01:46 PM

Well, of course, Black Joak is qute obtusely smutty and all about people doing what they do.
It's going to feature on the next Morris On recording by the Jim Moray 3: Black Joak, so it's bang up to date.

I've defined what f*lk music is, many times. If you have any interest in knowing what I said, look it up. It was mainly in the context of what tossers like Smoothops try to lay down in the context of the Folk Awards and is therefore of little consequence.

However, in repy to the Californian person above who decries performance of Barbara Allen and The Golden Vanity, just what sort of venues are you frequenting at which audience's attention begin to roll? I wonder just how these amazing songs are being portrayed. These are two of he most significant songs in English social history. To become platitudinal, if people don't understand where they have come from, however can they know where they are going?


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: Bill D
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 01:50 PM

There IS one, Dick.."Singer-songwriter",,,it just ain't short & catchy enuf to put on their sign. So they use that 'short' word, whether it fits or not.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 01:51 PM

It seems to me quite a number of people are not taking a balanced reading of the definition given above by the good Captain before weighing in with criticism.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 02:08 PM

The concept of "Folk" has consistently been exclusionary and usually evaluative in a positive way.

As in
"folk" good.
"non-folk" bad, or less valuable, less worthy, etc.

I know this is hard to believe if you've heard the term "folk music" being used pejoratively. That's a fairly recent phenom.

The history of the concept is quite interesting.

It has never been value-neutral.

That said, it's never surprising when a definition of "folk" excludes large swaths of musical terrain.

In the definition above note the implicit contrast between
"folk" and "popular." Now that's a real can of worms.

Russ (permanent GUEST)


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 02:43 PM

Sorry to create such a maelstrom with my comments. For all of you who are passionate about folk music, as opposed to slickly produced and packaged compositions, I certainly have no brief. In truth, I'm not judging what should or should not be played in any venue, just taking stock of the fact that folk music that adheres to the stated definition has a fairly narrow audience when compared to pop, country, jazz or classical music. Since the advent of recorded music, I suppose it has always been that way. Horses for courses, I supposes.

And, by the way, I happen to love both the songs I mentioned, and have often done them myself. It's the audiences who seem to have less patience these days for traditional pieces. And, I must admit, I can only judge from local experience in recent years. I truly hope you have had a better one.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: GUEST,John Garst
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 03:55 PM

I don't follow you, John Garst. I have a huge record collection of American folk music, and it fits the definition perfectly in every respect. From Leadbelly to Charlie Poole, Robert Johnson to Georgian Island singing, Jean Richie ballads to chain gang songs. All straight from that definition. Wonderful music. Pure folk. How do you mean that most American folk music doesn't fit?


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: GUEST,John Garst
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 04:00 PM

I don't know how the previous message got sent without my sending it, but there it is, just a copy of what Greg Stephens wrote without any attribution, as if it were mine, which it isn't, obviously. Sorry.

Greg Stephens wrote:

"I don't follow you, John Garst. I have a huge record collection of American folk music, and it fits the definition perfectly in every respect. From Leadbelly to Charlie Poole, Robert Johnson to Georgian Island singing, Jean Richie ballads to chain gang songs. All straight from that definition. Wonderful music. Pure folk. How do you mean that most American folk music doesn't fit?"

The first line of the definition reads, "Folk music is the product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission."

If this means that folk music relies solely on oral tradition, then we don't have any such music.

I haven't really read the thread, but I'm certain that others must have made this point already.


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: greg stephens
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 06:16 PM

John Garst: what the definition actually says is"Folk music is the product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission ". You completely reinterpret this as"If this means that folk music relies solely on oral tradition, then we don't have any such music". Of course it doesnt mean that, it means what it says. "A musical tradition that has evolved through the process of oral transmission".Of course that applies to American folk music. Are you seriously claiming that no American music has ever been performed by one person to another, without the intermediaries of microphone and record? Have a look at the definition, even better have a think about what it means, than come back and tell us your opinion..


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Subject: RE: Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 06:19 PM

Quite so Greg.

Other points attempted above suffer from similar mis-reading.


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