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Does it matter what music is called?

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Subject: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 04:10 AM

"theres nothing wrong with your definitions Richard - except that they're sod all use to man nor beast"

One joker and one queen from the folk pack of cards have said that on another thread.

If that is so, why do the many different sorts of metal music from death metal to speed metal to straightedge to norse metal to speedmetal to doom and many more argue about their appellations?

Why is reggae not ragga?

Why is not all rap hip-hop?

Why is Schoenberg not romantic?

Why is Stravinsky not medieval?

Why is operetta not opera?

Why are mini-skirts not A-line dresses?

Why is a 1935 Aston Martin not a vintage car?


Me, I'm formly wedded to the idea that wrds have meanings, and teh more accurate they are thenthe clearer communication is. But I think I may well largely sit back and see what others think.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,JM
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 04:50 AM

*yawn*


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 05:04 AM

It's not that easy Richard. Some words have very precise meanings: hippocampus, 2,4-dinitrobenzene, cementite, ampere. Most words are a lot less precise: crane, ommelette, tuxedo, barilla, straight- and there may be some argunment as to whether a specific item is covered by the word. Other words still cover a range: beer, yellow, European. And for some others, like truth, beautiful, faith, patriotism, terrorism, it's difficult to say if they have any meaning at all.

Folk is more like beer and yellow than cementite or terrorism.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: theleveller
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 05:24 AM

It's not just words, Richard, it's labels. What's the difference between pickle and chutney, between tomato sauce and ketchup, between lavatory paper and toilet tissue, between brown bread and wholemeal bread, soup and broth? It's a matter of perception and, as Husserl said, perception is intentional


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: greg stephens
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 06:21 AM

Some defitinions are very useful: eg an instruction "don't prod rattlesnakes" is of no conceivable use without some backup information as to what the term "rattlesnake" might mean. And to be of any use, the definition in that case should be as clear and unambibuous as possible.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,Rich
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 06:27 AM

"Me, I'm formly wedded to the idea that wrds have meanings, and teh more accurate they are thenthe clearer communication is."

That really tickled me.

p.s.

"Why is reggae not ragga?" - its the other way round, ragga is a dancehall form of reggae with intros/ chat etc. from a DJ. So if you like, ragga is a form or reggae, but not all reggae is ragga.

Why is not all rap hip-hop? - rap is hip-hop, but not all hip-hop is rap, instrumental breakbeat type music is still hip-hop but there is no rapping, so it isn't called rap.

But I'm guessing you didn't really want to know any of that?

I believe the difference is, with Reggae/Ragga/Ska/Rocksteady or with Rap/Hip-Hop people are generally using the definitions to describe songs and styles and convey to somebody how something sounds. I think this is a good reason for having definitions and knowing what different musical styles are called.

HOWEVER, it seems to me that on this forum, the only reason people ever want to define 'folk' is to decide which acts can be excluded from the genre, as opposed to helping to describe/define different styles or preferences within the genre. This, in my opinion, is a negative reason for having a definition, and why I am no longer interested in the definition debate.

I think the need to define 'folk' and use it to exclude certain artists is because people want to guard something which they feel is their own, and perceive that defining it very strictly will allow them to do just that. I can understand how this situation has developed, but I do not agree with it.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,LJW
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 06:29 AM

It matters when it offers something meaningful, coherent, and dare I say practical; if it helps understanding or leads to a wider appreciation of it's context and content. What the 1954 edict offers a very tiny minority is the opportunity to indulge in musical masturbation


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 06:42 AM

What the Flook is this "1954 edict", why can't people learn that the possessive "its" has no apostrophe, and is musical masturbation something to do with Gentlemen Prefer Themselves?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 06:43 AM

The reason I want descriptions that mean something is so I don't waste my time.

I guess Richard started this thread as a result of the Seth Lakeman one, so I'll use him as an example. I find his stuff as dull as fuck, the same middle-of-the-road soft-pop I've been avoiding for 40 years. No way do I want to get suckered into spending an evening listening to it and I have no interest whatever in learning to play it. So whatever label is applied to it, it better not be the same one as is applied to stuff I *do* want to hear or play. I've wasted whole evenings that way. (Yes, Roslin Folk Club, this is about you).

I have pretty much given up on "folk" as a term which would identify performances or sessions I'd want to attend, and mostly it isn't an issue - Lakeman-music is more often described as "acoustic". But there are venues around which specialize in music rooted in folk tradition rather than Cole Porter, George Martin and Chet Atkins. And there isn't a widely understood description they can use any more.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: theleveller
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 06:43 AM

"musical masturbation"

I think aural onanism would be a better description.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Crane Driver
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 07:06 AM

To me, it only matters in the sense of letting me know what's on offer. If something is described as an evening, or a weekend, of 'Folk Music' I like to be reasonably sure what most of the music will be like before I go. I certainly don't demand that certain people shouldn't be 'allowed' at 'folk' events, but if I go to a 'folk' event and get mostly accoustic pop, jazz, blues, C&W or whatever, I may feel that I have been mislead. I may well enjoy the evening, but I'd rather have been told more accurately what I was in for. Especially if I've paid for it.

Our local folk club, on singers nights, is happy to welcome anyone who comes along singing anything they like, although most of the regulars usually sing stuff that at least sounds like traditional folksong. Some of us write our own. We've never said to anyone 'that's not folk, you can't sing that here'. But it's still a 'mostly folk' club, and people know what they're likely to get.

Guest nights, when people have to pay to get in, are a different matter, and some professional performers, good though they may be at what they do, may well be considered 'not folk enough', though the definition seems (I don't do the bookings) fairly elastic.

To me, it looks more as though the rows over definitions which have raged here are down to people who profess to despise and detest the sort of stuff that the term 'Folk Music' was coined to describe, wanting to broaden the definition so that they can get gigs in folk clubs. That's similar to someone like myself, who dislikes opera and wouldn't want to sing it if I could, trying to redefine opera as 'any fat bloke who shouts a lot' so that I can sing my own type of music in opera halls. Don't think that would work.

Just my take on this - your experience may differ.

Andrew


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 07:06 AM

"I believe the difference is, with Reggae/Ragga/Ska/Rocksteady or with Rap/Hip-Hop people are generally using the definitions to describe songs and styles and convey to somebody how something sounds. I think this is a good reason for having definitions and knowing what different musical styles are called.

HOWEVER, it seems to me that on this forum, the only reason people ever want to define 'folk' is to decide which acts can be excluded from the genre, as opposed to helping to describe/define different styles or preferences within the genre."

The author of the above quote seems to be suggesting that it's OK to use definitions, and different shades of meaning, to differentiate between 'different' types of popular music but it's NOT OK to apply such distinctions to Folk. I have always suspected that this attitude stems from an underlying belief that Folk Music is really 'just' another form of Pop music (in the late Twentieth Century/early Twenty First Century sense) and 'should' be more like those forms of Pop music. People seem to be mysteriously outraged that Folk doesn't conform to their preconceptions and start throwing accusations of compulsion and exclusion around. Folk just isn't the same (which is one of the reasons why I am interested in it) - get over it and get on with making what ever type of music you like - I'm not stopping you! If you're so desperate for the approval of pedants like me, and a handfull of others on this board, you must be lacking in self-belief - that's all I can think ...

And, yet again, seeking to define something has nothing to do with preference - how many more times?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 07:21 AM

there isn't a widely understood description they can use any more

'Traditional'?

Phil


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 07:23 AM

I was referring to the genre - Neil Young, Simon & Garfunkel, Dylan, John Prine, etc. You could equally well call it Sheryl-Crow-music or John-Denver-music. I haven't knowingly heard anybody here perform an actual Lakeman song. I suppose the same people who do "Annie's Song" in sessions labelled as "folk" will get round to it eventually.

You seriously think listening to somebody like Lakeman is going to get people interested in Lizzie Higgins or Catherine-Anne MacPhee? The point of his marketing strategy seems to be that he can't actually hack it as a pop musician. So he does pop anyway but calls it something else, aiming at an audience that thinks maybe they ought to be listening to something other than pop as well. And behold, they listen to something labelled as "folk" and like it. Hardly bloody surprising when it's the same pop they've always listened to, only coming out of a different bin.

Eddi Reader (a *lot* better-known than Lakeman in Scotland) has slightly different strategy. She's another failed popster, but instead of relabelling pop as folk, she's tried doing genuine folk, but in the performance style she's used to. It isn't working all that well.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,Rich
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 07:40 AM

Nimrod - In response to your "but it's NOT OK to apply such distinctions to Folk" allegation.

Thats not what I'm saying AT ALL, if you read it, I'm saying that 'in my experience' people are using it, on this forum, mainly for negative purposes, and that makes me uncomfortable. Using definitions to help communications is one thing, but when thread after thread, its just to exclude certain groups/ artists, that is what has bothered me. I even said "as opposed to helping to describe/define different styles or preferences within the genre." i.e. constructive use of definitions etc. within folk.

Not even sure how you have managed to get the impression that I'm "desperate for your approval". I'm quite baffled by that to be honest. My comments were merely on the use of 'definitions' for (in my opinion) negative as opposed to positive purposes.

For the record. No, I don't believe 'folk' is another form of pop music. No I don't believe it should be made to be more like it. No, my music collection does not start 50 years ago (just in case that's what your thinking).

"People seem to be mysteriously outraged that Folk doesn't conform to their preconceptions" - that's just classic. Think about what you've written.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 07:41 AM

I suppose I'm saying that the word 'folk' is more or less lost to us now, and suggesting that we keep the 1954 definition for what we do but relabel it 'traditional'.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: greg stephens
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 07:41 AM

Words like reggae, hip hop, ska etc give us an idea what we expect music to sound like. Folk,as the termused to be employed, provides no such information. The term "folk" was used to describe the way in which the music was made, and how it related to society. So it contained no prescription at all as to how the music should sound: English, Usbek and Fiji folk music naturally sounded pretty different to each other, as they were created by similar processes but in widely differing cultures. That is how I tend to use "folk" in most discussions. Obviously the word is also used as a catch-all description for "music you mighht hear at a folk festival in the UK/USA/ wherever you live), in which case it covers mostly guitar based acts and a lot of singer-song writers.
So on one occasion I might say "I am studying polyrhythms in Melanesian folk music", and on another I might say "at the moment, folk performers like Seth Lakeman seem to be getting a lot of mainstream airplay". It is perfectly usual fro the same word to mean different things in different contexts. But it can lead to strange anomalies: as in a previous post when someone put "folk" and "blues" as different categories of music.In my book, blues is a sub-category of folk. Oh dear,life is so complicated, and some people get so very angry if their favouties aren't labelled as folk by everyone.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 08:05 AM

"failed popster", The phrase is both incorrect and sensationalist, Jack, but if you prefer to move your normaly sensible posts into the realms of gutter press reportage then please feel free.

For what it is worth the Fairground Attraction single, "Perfect", with Ms reader fronting the band, reached number 1 in the UK charts in May 1988 and won best single award at the 'Brits' in 1989. The Album 'First of a million kisses' reached number 2 in the album charts. Eddie Readers solo career saw her 1992 self-named album reach number 4 in the charts and won her best female singer at the Brits in the same year. The charts and the Brit awards may well not be an indication of the quality of pop music - But they are how sucess in that world is measured.

As to her return to folk not 'working all that well'. She was awarded an MBE for her work on the Robert Burns project in the New years honours of 2006 and has subsequently received at least two, may be three now, honarary doctorships from emminent Scottish universities for her work in music and education of young people in music.

You must set your standards very high, Mr Campin, to label her as a failed popster who isn't doing too well!

As to the original question. Yes it does matter. Even if it is a very broad label that covers all sorts of things outside my definitions. Labels do at least give an indication what you may find in the tin and I do prefer to have an idea what I am letting myself in for:-) The definitions may sometime be inaccurate but, hey, you can't please everyone.

One label I would put on them all though....

"Warning: This music may contain nuts!"

Cheers

Dave


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 10:57 AM

Yes, it matters what music is called. If somebody's advertising a concert, certain types will appeal to me and others will not.

However, given the capacities of our computer age, I wonder why musicians don't cut through all the labeling problems and simply post some samples of their playing to their web sites. That way, customers can HEAR what they're supposed to buy.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Banjiman
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 11:06 AM

Here's a thought:

The 1954 definition tells us nothing about how a song/ tune sounds, only rules about how it came to its current state.

Reggea, Ragga, Hip-Hop speedmetal etc attempt to describe how something does sound, not the process of how it got to sound like it does.

Therefore, I suggest that the 2nd group of labels is more useful than "Folk" if you care what music SOUNDS like rather than its provenance.

Can I go back to sleep now?

Cheers

Paul


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: pavane
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 11:07 AM

I would guess that the 1935 Aston is classed as a PVT, or "Post vintage thoroughbred"


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 12:16 PM

I quite fancy the 1964 DB5 complete with machine guns and ejector seat...

:D


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 12:38 PM

Well, you know, some people simply cannot exist unless everything is carefully packaged and labelled (somewhat like the major record labels do), unless there are definitions attached (another form of labelling) I think it was Frank Zappa who said that there are only two types of music, good and bad. Sounds about right to me.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 12:56 PM

"To me, it looks more as though the rows over definitions which have raged here are down to people who profess to despise and detest the sort of stuff that the term 'Folk Music' was coined to describe, wanting to broaden the definition so that they can get gigs in folk clubs. That's similar to someone like myself, who dislikes opera and wouldn't want to sing it if I could, trying to redefine opera as 'any fat bloke who shouts a lot' so that I can sing my own type of music in opera halls. Don't think that would work."

'Crane Driver',

I think you've hit the nail on the head!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: greg stephens
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 12:57 PM

Amwen to the last post by Lord Batman's Kitchener. There are irate people prowling around Mudcat demanding that we applaud Seth Lakeman because he is sclassified as a folk performer. Now, if they only demanded that we applaud him because he is good, that would be a fine thing Classification is good for academic research, ludicrous as a shorthand for "what I like".


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 01:06 PM

I think Banjiman has put his finger on the problem.

I KNOW a folksong/tune when I hear it because it possesses certain characteristics.

Those characteristics differentiate it from other forms of music (just as a rattlesnake has certain characteristics which differentiates it from other snakes. You can't 'define' a rattlesnake).

The problem I have with the 1954 definition is that it requires more - I have to research the song/tune's origins just to make sure it has undergone the 'the process of oral transmission' or 'subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community' (whatever that is) before it qualifies as 'folk'.

If a song/tune sounds/looks/tastes/smells like folk music. If every fibre of your being tells you that it's folk music. Then what the hell else is it (even if it was written yesterday)?

There is something bizarre in the fact that some 'modern' songs are mistaken for 'traditional' - yet fail the 1954 'folk' test.

Some delightful 'ancient ballads' which fooled the experts (because of their characteristics) were subsequently derided once their true provenance was uncovered.

Surely to God we could come to some kind of agreement as to what the characteristics of folk music are. And leave the microscopic analysis to those with an interest in such things.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 01:12 PM

Seth Lakeman isn't bad, he's simply not my personal cup of tea, but, yes, you're right, greg, I noticed the irate posts about SL, and was simply amazed by the veracity of the 'yes Seth Lakeman is a folkie' (no he's not). Another musician who comes to mind right at this moment is Gram Parsons, who when approached with label 'country rock' replied, "no, I prefer to call it Cosmic American Music. " Another label, I know, but this time from the horses mouth. Parsons, by the way, is reported to have loathed the term country rock. My source for these two Parsons quotes is, Hickory Wind: The Life and Times of Gram Parsons by Ben Fong Torres.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 02:56 PM

The obvious answer to the question is Yes--to those who care. Those that don't care should probably stay out of the discussion.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: greg stephens
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 02:58 PM

A group that comes strongly to mind in this discussion, more so than S Lakeman, is the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. They had very poweful folk elements, much more so than Lakeman I would have thought, but they were not generally classified as folk, for reasons best known to festival organisers and the press. Loads of folkie musicians play the PCO's "Music for a found harmonium", for example, and the tune is quite clearly a very traditional style reel, somewhat modernised and quirked up a bit. Yet that is generally kept out of the "folk" camp, even by the "inclusive" brigade, whereas Lakeman isn't.
All of which, of course, has b*gger all to do with whether they are good or not, competent or not, popular or not, or whether you like them or not. But nobody spits fire if someone says the PCO aren't folk, do they? Whereas the reaction to someone saying the same about Lakeman is an instant splutter of "exclusive", "folk police", "Aran Sweater", "self-appointed gatekeeper", "letting our music down", "beard", "semantic based smug-arsedness" etc. Are we all being stirred up by some clever trolls? The logic has always defeated me.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 03:05 PM

"Those that don't care should probably stay out of the discussion. "

Except for the fact that those that disagree are the ones that make up a discussion. If you only have one opinion, it is not a discussion by definition of the word.

The answer is not obvious, it is complicated. I do care and I count myself among those who see numerous distinctions and diversions.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,Peace
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 03:07 PM

"However, given the capacities of our computer age, I wonder why musicians don't cut through all the labeling problems and simply post some samples of their playing to their web sites. That way, customers can HEAR what they're supposed to buy."

Damned good idea. Thank you, Leeneia.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 03:16 PM

Its not nice to exclude people from the total vision of what is folkmusic in their own country. Particularly people who have dedicated their lives to the propostion of being a folk musician.

You may fail to see the attractions of Annie's Song; you may fail to see that someone may play that song as a starting place on the way to expressing themselves.

There are a myriad points at which to choose to start failing with the rest of humanity. Its a pain inthe balls though when you keep insisting that your failure to empathise with the largest part of the population, is some measure of your artistic vision.

You are excluding people to feel important and different from the plebs - that simple. a lot of the music and musicians you pretend is enjoyable is monstrously and confrontationally bad. And you get a kick out of the situation.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 03:29 PM

So anyone who disagrees with Mr. Greenhaus doesn't care about music

Self-righteousness has a name and I think we all know what it is.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 03:30 PM

Thanks for that, Greg - I think the PCO comparison is an interesting one.

Seth Lakeman and his ilk remind me of the Goth Morris sides that we were talking about a bit back - their rationale is to be traditional but new. The implication is that being just plain old traditional is boring, and that bits of the tradition can be discarded at will if they don't fit (I think it was Richard B. who said that the trouble with Seth Lakeman's arrangements of traditional tunes is that you can't hear the tune any more).

To those of us who don't buy into "traditional-but-new", it looks like adulterating the tradition in the name of keeping it alive. To people who do buy into it, it's more or less synonymous with "traditional-but-alive", and opposition to it must come from people who want to keep music dead.

And that's why attacks on Seth Lakeman get such a strong reaction - in another forum praise for him would probably have the same effect. He's working in a field ('contemporary folk') which is defined as like-that-other-stuff-only-better; both its opponents and its partisans feel strongly about it by default. The Penguin Cafe Orchestra escaped all this precisely because they were never defined as folk in the first place. (Lucky them, some might say!)

Phil
sticking with this sobriquet for the time being


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 03:41 PM

There are people who use the term "animal" to refer to "mammals".

If they were argumentative about such things, in the Mudcat tradition, I suppose they wouldl tear into each other about what to call duck-billed platypuses, frogs and caterpillars so as to distinguish them from oak trees and mushrooms.

The varieties of folk music around the world are far far wider than the particular types of music that tend to be given that label around here - and musically they do not have that much in common. What they have in common is stuff like the kind of social situations in which they have developed, and the kind of people who make the music and make use of it for social interaction of various sorts.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 03:43 PM

I don't believe Seth Lakeman has ever defined himself as a folk musician ( I might be wrong), that's the fault of the listeners and the marketers.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 03:50 PM

"So anyone who disagrees with Mr. Greenhaus doesn't care about music
Self-righteousness has a name and I think we all know what it is."


That's not fair and that certainly is not right.   I know Dick Greenhaus and it is because of people like him that the music we love is perpetuated and shared.   We may disagree about definitions, but I completely understand where is coming from and admire his concern.   It is one thing to disagree with someone, but to attack someone like Master Batman (you aren't worthy of being a Lord) did is uncalled for.

I won't put words in his or anyones mouth, but I realize that there is a concern that because some of us have a more liberal definition of terms that the original source and tradition will be lost. I disagree, I belive it evolves and that is why we have such discussions.    What I think people fail to realize is that because of the marvelous work of people like Dick Greenhaus, we have the original sources saved and ready for reference and revival.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 03:52 PM

Besides, you Brits screw up the word "beer" all the time! I wish I had a nickel for ever twit that has referred only to "lager" as beer and "ale" as some catagory until itself and not part of the "beer" family. Shame on you for messing with definition!! Your loose morals and abuse of the English language is destroying our culuture and heritage!!!!!!!!!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 04:01 PM

Funny how those stereotypes of the British and beer, folk music/musicians and beer travel so far and wide.

I'll stand by my original postbecause I obviously don't care about music!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 04:13 PM

It seems pretty sensible, and not in the least oppressive, to suggest that, if someone doesn't think it matters what music is called, it's a bit pointless to waste time in a discussion which is all about what it should be called.

By definition anyone who spends time in this thread has to think that it does matter what music is called.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,Rich
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 04:14 PM

Ron,

We may screw up the word beer, but at least we don't screw up that category of beer we know and love - Ale - by making it cold and bubbly ;-)


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 04:16 PM

has to think that it does matter what music is called.

Let me repeat my earlier posting, simply because I don't say one thing and mean something completely different.

'Well, you know, some people simply cannot exist unless everything is carefully packaged and labelled (somewhat like the major record labels do), unless there are definitions attached (another form of labelling) I think it was Frank Zappa who said that there are only two types of music, good and bad. Sounds about right to me.'


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 04:19 PM

"We may screw up the word beer, but at least we don't screw up that category of beer we know and love - Ale - by making it cold and bubbly ;-) "

You mean like Bass Ale?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 04:24 PM

As far as I can see , 'FOLK' in USA seems to mean 'Singer-Songwriter'
while traditional means Pre 1940 !

In UK 'Folk' cover a VERY wide field of very different musical styles , Including a LOT of Singer-Songwriter material , with a fair smattering of Music Hall , as well as the songs and tunes resurrected by Childe , Sabine Gould et al !!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 04:28 PM

"As far as I can see , 'FOLK' in USA seems to mean 'Singer-Songwriter'
while traditional means Pre 1940 !"

Spirituals, chanteys, fiddle tunes, Cajun, Native American, and the numerous ethnic groups whose native music evolved in this country all have "traditional" songs and tunes, yet each is distinct. Therefore, how can a label such a "folk" really be a descriptive?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 04:29 PM

The music I play, English and Welsh Trad. and where I'm from, North Wales, say exactly where my loyalties lie.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 04:32 PM

I've heard "Music for a Found Harmonium" in folk sessions many times. Bit of a bummer if all you've got is a D whistle, and it isn't one of my favourite tunes, but I have yet to hear anyone suggest it shouldn't be played. I've heard nothing by Seth Lakeman covered in a session as yet.

The things that ticks me off about this particular misascription is that there is already a perfectly good category that Lakeman's music fits into. It's middle-of-the-road pop. There are hundreds of other performers working in the same genre who feel no need to say that what they're doing is folk and that people whose primary interest is in Shetland fiddle music or source recordings of Child ballads have some sort of obligation to buy their stuff. Apparently we're supposed to rush out and buy Lakeman's CDs and go to his concerts because his parents knew Bert Lloyd or something. Fuck that.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Peace
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 04:34 PM

"Apparently we're supposed to rush out and buy Lakeman's CDs and go to his concerts because his parents knew Bert Lloyd or something. Fuck that."

So don't rush. Saunter instead.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 04:36 PM

At the same time as being neither here nor there about Seth Lakeman, I find most of the so-called source recordings completely unlistenable and the folk that trumpet those same source recordings as being equally unlistenable.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Peace
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 04:40 PM

Anyway, I was in the supermarket looking for kiwis. Never mind why. I checked the dairy section. Looked in toiletries. I searched in the meat section, pharmacy--then it struck me. I asked for directions. Lady said to try where the fruits are. Guess what?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 04:57 PM

Ron - thats exactly where we are in UK - Folk covers ALL the various styles , and I was NOT putting the US thing down = Two nations divided by a common language again !


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 05:06 PM

BTW, the only preference I expressed is one for meaningful terminology. I play and sing music which I consider to be folk, and music which I don't. Repeat after me: FOLK IS NOT A VALUE JUDGMENT!

I recognize that there are many to whom such a distinction is meaningless. What I don't understand is why they should get involved
with attacking other folks' definitions.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 05:34 PM

As far as performance is concerned there are only TWO kinds of music ! The stuff Iplay and the stuff I DONT play ! And a label appended by someone else has NO bearing on either category !


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 05:35 PM

I'll repeat one more time, musical definitions mean nothing to me, besides I'd rather be playing the music than labelling it, not being a major record company nor a music retailer. I mean is that SO hard to understand, apparently it is for some people.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 05:39 PM

"Ron - thats exactly where we are in UK - Folk covers ALL the various styles "

I think we are in agreement there, no matter which side of the Atlantic we view the sunrise/sunset from. My disagreement with your statement is that there is a large faction in the U.S. that accepts singer-songwriter as one of the folk styles - but not to the exclusion of the traditional forms.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 05:54 PM

"I'll repeat one more time, musical definitions mean nothing to me, besides I'd rather be playing the music than labelling it, not being a major record company nor a music retailer. I mean is that SO hard to understand, apparently it is for some people."

It's hard to understand why you're participating in this debate.

Oh yes, your medal for 'not giving a shit' is in the post. Wear it with pride!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: TheSnail
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 06:01 PM

Ron, what does it matter what it's called? If you enjoy it, drink it.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 06:07 PM

I am deliberately not participating...

Much

And for some reason many people seem to think of me as a dyed in the wool chauvinist who refuses to listen to or play anything that does not fit the 1954 definition (whereas in fact I think the defintion is useful because it tells us what something is not merely what it sounds like)

But tonight I have been experimenting with trying to put metal style guitar chugs onto some tunes that I think are trad but put in to a minor key for a morris side, and played the Stones "Play with Fire" and the Small Faces "All or Nothing" on my 12-string. Those chugs are hard work on a 12-string.

I am however put in mind of Magrath's eponymous "THe Bovril's with the gravy but the Marmite's with the Jam".


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 06:33 PM

Shimrod, from reading your posts on many threads, well what can I say...?, and I give a damn about the music, it's categories I don't care about.

I mean is that SO hard to understand, apparently it is for some people, apparently Shimrod you are one of those people.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,glueman disguised as a
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 06:37 PM

"the only reason people ever want to define 'folk' is to decide which acts can be excluded from the genre"

True. The loathsome puritanical streak gnaws away until folk is no more than a reference in an academic journal, so pure and revered that nothing meets the definition, even 1954 left behind as the vague and inclusive trawl of dilettantes and revisionists. One Santa lookalike with a sore throat singing to nobody in a closed pub, the austere beauty of it noted only by the landlord who had all his punters driven away by the wretchedness of their own condition in its awesome, awful, beautiful, tuneless, pathetic thrall.

The thread also touches on my other pet hate, the time served folkie, as though dedicating your life to the music compared to a single iota of talent.
Have we done the misunderstood unappreciated folkie yet?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 06:42 PM

I don't think that even middle of the road pop can be definitive. We have heard Mr Lakeman categorised as such. Righty or wrongly is irrelevent. There is the rap style of Emimem which the real rap fans say is MOTR pop. The jazz of Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball were in their day MOTR pop. And what on earth did the Oyster Band (aka Fiddlers Dram) do with 'Day trip to Bangor'?

So called purists love to label anything that is vaguely akin but not quite 'their style' as MOTR and, more often than not, rubbish. It isn't bad. It's middle of the road and popular for a reason. It's comfortable. People like it. It's like going to a Little Chef instead of the French bistro down the road. It will never be as good as the best the bistro can offer but the quality will be consistent and, quite often, better than some of the some of the dishes at le petite cordon bleu:-)

Why can't we be happy to sample a little off each plate and, as many have pointed out before me, just decide what is good or bad? I would still like to know, in advance if possible, if I am eating Chinese or Italian though!

Cheers

Dave


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 06:57 PM

Whilst recognizing that we couldn't exist without definitions, someone has already posted that the language is evolving all the time, and therefore definitions are also changing all the time, some words, e.g., ballad, going around in circles and from one extreme to another. Whilst institutions nowadays are largely responsible for proposing new meanings (definitions) it's the 'people' who decide/accept/reject these meanings. Lexicographers merely collect these meanings (yes and they perpetuaute them by publishing them). With 'folk' the people have spoken and they obviously like the wider meaning, so no amount of whingeing on these threads is going to make a hapoth of difference to that!!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 07:03 PM

It matters only for purposes of identification. That way a person can select the music according to taste.

There are, however, musical values that apply. These have to do with musicianship,
theory, construction, counterpoint etc.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 07:27 PM

I have a substantial library of books such as Carl Sandburg's American Songbag, Folk Song U. S. A., by John and Alan Lomax, English Folk Songs in the Southern Appalachians, by Cecil J. Sharp, The Ballad Tree, by Evelyn Kandrick Wells, and a couple dozen others along this line. I also have a large collection of recordings of many of the songs in these books, variations thereof, and other songs like them. When I hear someone use the words "folk song," I immediately think of the kind of songs I find in these books and on these records.

I discovered that a young woman who lives upstairs in this apartment building has just released a CD. She and I got together and we chatted some. She doesn't say that she regards herself to be a folk singer, but she writes her own songs and, for want of a specific category, I believe she considers them to be folk songs. She told me she learned all about folk music from a friend of hers who also writes his own songs and has some of his songs on MySpace. I listened to him. The only resemblance he has to what I might think of as a "folk singer" is that he accompanies himself on an acoustic guitar. I don't think either of them have ever heard the names "Lomax," "Sharp," or "Child."

In the spirit of "support your local musician," I bought a copy of Melissa's CD from her. The songs on it are quite interesting and certainly a very worthy effort. She has a way with words and she puts her words to distinct melodies (as contrasted with the three or four generic tunes that most singer-songwriters seem to employ). And she has a very nice singing voice.   She doesn't play guitar or anything, she just sings, and someone else accompanies her on the CD—guitar, drums, and bass. Her songs are somewhat different from the usual singer-songwriter fare. One song in particular on her CD is a bit of a gripper!

I would not, however, regard the songs she and her friend have written as "folk songs" because 1) all their songs have been written within the last couple of years, and 2) they are the only "folks" who sing them. I guess I'm just weird that way. . . .

She's a very nice young woman, and I'm not going to argue the point with her. But—I may try to slowly and gradually educate her over a period of time.

Don Firth

P. S. I do think words should have meanings. Otherwise, we're back to grunting and pointing.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 07:35 PM

"Ron, what does it matter what it's called? If you enjoy it, drink it. "

That is exactly my point!   Words I live by!!!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Peace
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 07:51 PM

OK. Booze I understand.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Nick
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 08:25 PM

What do I do about John Martyn?

First time I saw him was in Leicester put on by the Leicester University FOLK club (who also put on Wizz Jones - Derek Brimstone - John Renbourn - and many others) and he played Spencer the Rover. Now I believe that's Trad and, (perhaps because I was in an educational establishment and they wouldn't get things wrong would they?) I thought he might be a folk musician along with some of the other people I liked at the time.

But apparently none of these people are folk at all. I must write to someone and complain. I reckon it must have confused a lot of people along with me because I've come across people who think that Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, ISB, Pentangle (jazz band surely? The Cuckoo doesn't go like that), Jansch and Renbourn, Davy Graham and loads of other people had something to do with folk. James Taylor doing the Water is Wide - how dare he take so shamelessly from another genre? Roy Harper (singer songwriter). Dylan. Donovan.

I blame the educators who pulled the wool over my eyes for so long. If I'd only known. My sister who is a few years older than me used to go to well known folk clubs in London in the late 60's onwards and I think she might also have turned my view with all the wrong people that were put on at that time.

These folk people in the 60's and 70's had already gone way off track and have a lot to answer for as they cocked it up for two generations of people. Now seemingly they are looking for someone to blame and it's our fault - or the young musicians - or the people who buy Seth Lakeman CDs - or whoever.

Language does evolve and things change. The acid test used to be the 'man on the Clapham omnibus' and if anyone lives around Clapham or Wandsworth (and isn't in a Starbucks or Wine bar) and still uses public transport perhaps they could ask the man what he thinks.

Because of the definition of folk that I was brought up with (I went to see Judy Collins at the Albert Hall in 1969 and she sang Turn Turn Turn and all sorts of things that I thought were folk music) I haven't really had the angst that many who post here have. I have enough brain (and there is enough computer access) to know how to check out people before I go.

I went to see Jenna Reid recently (wonderful but is she folk music? - it was put on at the Early Music centre in York by the Black Swan Folk club - how misguided and confusing is that); I enjoyed listening to Christine Kydd and Janet Russell singing on a tape I have (I think that is folk music - but they do a version of the Bluebell Polka which has just thrown me again); I have been to our weekly (folk? - it's what people who come choose to label it) gathering and have had a bucket of unaccompanied song, Ewan MacColl song, load of fiddle tunes and then I had to go and cock it up by playing a Tom Waits song (Boden and Spiers got away with it so why not?). And I liked the story in Joe Boyd's book about Taj Mahal, Bob Copper and the Watersons which suggested that most of them have some grasp of what sort of tradition they have hold of.

I am a lover of music trapped inside a wrong definition. I'm going to go and lie down now and see if I can sleep with all this confusion racing through my head.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 08:29 PM

Well yes it does matter what music is called, from the standpoint of the person who is deciding whether or not they are going to buy a CD, attend a performance, or otherwise go out of their way to listen to it. The term 'folk' can and is very broadly defined by some - if I was told about a folk festival I'd never heard of I'd probably check out the list of performers and the description of the acts and, if it was mostly singer songwriters I probably wouldn't attend. If it looked like there was a strong traditional element, which is what I'd be looking for - I might give it a shot. If it was opera, pop, rap, or some other genre I know I have little or no interest in then I wouldn't even bother to check who the performers were. At least the label 'folk' enables us to narrow things down a bit, although there are subcategories and 'crossover' acts that may have crossed over just a little too far (for my tastes) into some other category such as pop or rock. At the concert series I run I state clearly that it is 'traditional folk' and define what I consider that to be http://www.richmondfolkmusic.com . That way potential performers know what we are looking for (and it is further clarified in the 'Information for Performers" section), and the prospective audience knows what kind of music they can expect.   I do get inquiries from performers who clearly don't fit with the kind of music we present, but I just politely reply that we are looking for traditional folk music, and we specialize in traditional folk because we feel there are so few venues that feature it. That's our 'niche'. There's another concert series in town that mostly features singer songwriters that also bill themselves as 'folk' and that's okay with me.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 09:56 PM

From Richmond Folk Music website -
"Most traditional music enthusiasts would define "traditional" folk music as songs and tunes which have been handed down through several generations, and which have no known author. This is what sets traditional music apart from "folk" or "acoustic" music, which could include very modern material that may not sound traditional at all. Traditional songs often tell stories and vocals may sometimes be sung unaccompanied. The beauty of traditional music is that it has been honed over the years by countless singers and musicians, all of whom have left their mark on the song or tune. "

I'm sorry, but your definition tells me ver little about what to expect. From the standpoint of a person who is going to decide to buy a CD or attend a festival, your description tells me very little. It is the same with using the words "opera" or "rap" - it says very little about what the music is - unless you have a stereotype in your mind about what the music is.   Opera and rap are just as diverse as folk.

But that is the whole damn point! You do not need to tell me more! Folk music is not like buying a box of cereal where you need to read the ingredients to find out how much salt, nuts or fiber is contained.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 09:59 PM

... Maryff, I forgot to add something.

When I looked at your list of artists, I fully understood what EACH one of them represented by the brief, but appropriate, description you gave. Your series truly covers a number of diverse folk traditions, and I can pick and choose what I please.

A simple word like "folk" or even "traditional" is only a starting point. No one should be expected to read the label and know what they are getting by those two words alone.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 10:46 PM

No, Ron, but a meaningful label helps.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 10:54 PM

Labels only help, they do not define the content. The problem is, people are trying to put the meaning into a singular word like "folk", which cannot be so simply defined. It is also a word that evolves, and meanings change with the times.

People tend to look at labels as a stereotype and become hung up on definition instead of content.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: katlaughing
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 11:35 PM

Bravo, Nick!:-)


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 09 Jul 08 - 11:45 PM

Question:   the difference between definition and content?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 02:30 AM

Gigi alleges that "folk" is only ever defined so that material may be excluded from the genre.

A similar spirit seems to lurk in the minds of others.

The oddity of it is that I don't think I have ever heard a '54 definitioner assert that other people should not play or listen to material that was not "folk".

Why do people continue to assert Gigi's malevolent falsehood?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Nick
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 03:16 AM

What about Hissyfit and Linda Kelly? They seem to be playing a lot of Folk festivals and venues. Again these misguided people who arrange and book these things seem to be getting it terribly wrong.

Are Linda Kelly's songs folk? Northern Tide or Sweet Minerva for example. By those who are stuck with trying to return to a definition that coincidentally is contemporaneous with my birth (perhaps someone did it out of spite when they heard I was on the way) this is not folk. It's unaccompanied; it has structure and content; it is rooted in community and a way of life; it talks of feelings and truths etc etc and it sounds like folk but apparently it isn't.

So if the word 'folk' has a place in explaining what sort of music to expect (or avoid) and is related to the content and the sound of the music how does it help me to know what Hissyfit are like when they are expressly excluded from the definition? Is it a bit like 'I Can't Believe it's not Butter'? Should we have an 'I Can't Believe it's not Folk' category - then people would know what it almost is? What point does it serve?

'Pop' music has changed in meaning over time as many of the types of music that form a subset of the whole did not exist then - though they had their roots back then. Would you have had Oasis without the Beatles or a lot of Indie music without the Sex Pistols?

'Jazz' seems to have managed too and probably is hugely more diverse than any of the other ones.

Surely 'folk' in common parlance is an umbrella term that has a much wider definition than the narrow 1954 one in the same way that 'jazz' is not just a specific southern US style of music as played in the early 20th century (or perhaps it is - oh god another group of purists offended)? Within that umbrella lies that particular genre that a lot of people cherish greatly and would dearly love to reclaim the word so that it refers to what it used to and what they believe it should refer to. The problem is you can't reclaim it because it's gone too far in the public consciousness to get it back. You can't remove the connotations of the word now and cleanse it anymore than the happy, frolicking Elizabethan chaps can have 'gay blade' back again to it's original meaning.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 03:28 AM

Should we have an 'I Can't Believe it's not Folk' category - then people would know what it almost is?

I think that's my point - what we have now is precisely a 'Folk-Only-Not-Quite' or 'Like-Folk-Only-Different' category, but it's called 'folk'. To quote myself from further up, "[Seth Lakeman]'s working in a field ('contemporary folk') which is defined as like-that-other-stuff-only-better; both its opponents and its partisans feel strongly about it by default."


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: theleveller
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 03:37 AM

Why can't we just accept that some words and phrases defy definition?

For instance, ask a group of philosophers, a neurologist and a poet to explain 'consciousness' and you'll end up with a brawl.

What this thread has done is prove the original argument: that any definition of 'folk' is ... "sod all use to man nor beast".


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 04:29 AM

For instance, ask a group of philosophers, a neurologist and a poet to explain 'consciousness' and you'll end up with a brawl.

If you ask folkies* to define folk, do you end up with the Horse's Brawl?




*I originally wrote "folies" there. What about the Folkies Bergere?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 04:43 AM

It's a 'malevolent falsehood' I'd love to claim Bridgie but I was merely concurring with Rich further up the thread. Like yourself I was applying no original thought to the matter.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 05:37 AM

One of the (many) amusing facets of this debate is that those who privilege unattributed transmission of music get their knickers twisted when the common, unidentifiable, word-of-mouth man decides what music shall be called. That it seems, is the work of committees and academics.
Well folk have decided what folk is called and ignored the dead hand of authority - which is perfectly in keeping with its progenesis.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Peace
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 05:54 AM

"Does it matter what music is called?"


If it doesn't, then may I suggest Horatio Boonswoggle of Hillsworthy until such time there is a formal selection?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 06:06 AM

Bah, Hillsworthy was a nest of liminal hybrids and amplification. Some were passing polyphony off as folk in the pub. There was never a swirly trouser or leather tankard seen in that village. A pox on your Boonswoggle.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Peace
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 06:13 AM

Too true. But a POX on my Booswoggle? What a great time to discuss 'the pox' in both trad and contemporary song.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: theleveller
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 06:21 AM

By POX, I assume you're referring to Preternatural Oral Xenophobia or the irrational fear of foreign folk songs.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 06:23 AM

: What this thread has done is prove the original argument: that any definition of 'folk' is ...
:"sod all use to man nor beast".

The original message was a lot more general than that. Sure, "folk" in the English-speaking world is too fucked up to be any use any more. So people reinvent new terms to do what it can't: the singer-songwriters use "acoustic" to exclude traditional tunes and ballads, people who do those describe theor act as "traditional".

The people with the largest problem and the most refined solution to it are the pop and rock performers. Look at the "want to form a band" ads in any music shop and you see cards with lists of "influences". The effect of that is that the advertiser is defining their own subgenre in an extremely precise way, which they need to do because they have a LOT of subgenres. And if the ad lists Velvet Underground and The Pixies, you are *not* going to persuade them you'll be a useful addition by saying you used to be in a Fairport covers band and "there are only two kinds of music, good and bad" (bleurgh).


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: theleveller
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 06:32 AM

You say 'tomatoes' and I say 'tomatoes'. What's the last line....?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Peace
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 06:34 AM

Either either, neither neither.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 06:42 AM

Worth reading what Tom Bliss has done. VERY smart approach.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,Peace
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 06:43 AM

That guest was me.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 06:55 AM

I like the way Tom's thumb creeps round the E string too. If guitars were made to be pinnioned with a thumb they'd a) have a slot in the back, b) be made of a matt material, c) wouldn't have a convex neck. Seems like a pragmatist all round.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: theleveller
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 07:33 AM

Right, I think I may have come up with the answer - two types of folk music: Traditional Folk and Hyphen Folk (as in folk-based, folk-style, folk-inspired, folk-orientated etc.). Anyone buy that?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 08:01 AM

Folk-off?

:D


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 08:22 AM

Interesting credit on the song playing when you open Tom's site.

I'm not clear precisely what on his site is deemed a "smart approach" - but if it's offering a choice of a singer-songwriter set or a folk set, I think Travelling Charles Fyson used to dotaht, and indeed go one stage further by offering US folk/county or English folk as options as well as singer-songwriter.

So maybe it's a trad of folk solution to the problem.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: theleveller
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 08:23 AM

Oh, and, of course, what-the-folk.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Peace
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 08:47 AM

That's closer to something I'd like to see, leveller. I have never been a folksinger. I've done a few folk songs, but they appealed to me and I arranged a few to suit sets I did. Today, I'm just another singer-songwriter whose influences include but are not limited to people like Tom Paxton, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Joni Mitchell, Kingston Trio, Mitchell Trio, Lonnie Johnson, Joan Baez, Kytrad, Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, PP and M, Pat Sky, Stan Rogers, Dave Edmunds, The Kinks, JS Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Dave Brubeck Quartet, Glenn Miller, Miles Davis, The Double Six of Paris, Bikel, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Dixie Chicks, Shania Twain, Richie Havens, Country Joe, The Incredible String Band, Bill Garrett, Noah Zacharin, Ron Bankley, The Ville Emard Blues Band, Bill Staines, Maddy Prior, Steeleye, Whittle, Papavgeris, Moorhouse, McKeever--dang. I could go on for another five hundred people I've listened to closely to learn techniques, phrasings, etc.

For me, music is not about categories--and I think it isn't to most folks. But the traditionalists have a good point. Whether the 1954 declaration still holds true is really beyond my scope/knowledge. There are people on this site who talk and I listen. Malcolm Douglas, Q, Azizi, Jim Dixon, Jack Campin, Kytrad, Nerd. They are serious researchers/scholars in their chosen areas of expertise. There are wonderful areas of music that MUST be preserved, imo, and they in their ways cause that to happen. I would never call myself a folksinger. I'm not. I neither put myself in that category (nor do I wish to be spoken of as if I belonged in that category).

The world of music does not start or stop with the UK. But the people doing collecting and preserving of folk songs are entitled to the same respect we would give other serious experts in fields of study. Whether I agree with their conclusions to do with Seth Lakeman is another matter. I like the guy's work. I've listened numerous times to him and I like his work.

I would love to go to some trad clubs in England/Scotland/Ireland and be part of the audience. I would also love to go to a performance by Lakeman. I simply like to listen to people who are good at what they do. We are all of us composites of our influences. I doubt that will ever change. I hope not, anyway.

Best wishes to all of you.

BM


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Nick
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 08:52 AM

I always thought the quote attributed to Duke Ellington (though it's attributed to lots of others too) was:

"There's two kinds of music: good and bad. I like both."

Being very lazy and not knowing the history of all this but when did this problem start?

If people keep looking back 54 years to a definition I wonder why someone felt they had to define it THEN? Perhaps someone could explain. You only try and define things that have existed for a long time when you have a problem and folk music predates 1954 (by defintion!!) - for example compare measurements which were non standard for a long time (my cubit's not your cubit) and needed standardising at a time when precision became relevant and important.

Presumably in 1954 it was felt that the situation was already out of hand and needed sorting out.

What was the problem THEN and when did the problem start?

Why are people constantly trying to return to 1954 when there was already a problem?

Why did everyone ignore it between 1954 and say mid 1970s and include all these other non-folk stuff under the folk umbrella? By then my idea of folk had already been corrupted. I don't think that Seth Lakeman - like him or not - is really the problem


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: theleveller
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 09:06 AM

"I would never call myself a folksinger"

Ah, Peace, but would you call yourself a folk-singer?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 09:07 AM

It's not a mater of return to 1954. It's not a matter of exclusion. It's simply that some of us, who have preferences (or limited time and means), would like to see a meaningful label for a bin of recordings (most "folk" is now filed under "pop-rock" ), and a rough guide as to what to expect when considering attending an event featuring someone we haven't heard before.

If you don't like "folk" as such a label, can we come up with another one? "Traditional" is well on its way to meaninglessness.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Peace
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 09:10 AM

I agree with Dick.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 09:25 AM

1954 definitions are held so dearly because they support the illusion that the tradition is under threat. If you want to make something precious beyond its normal currency tell people its under attack. They'll rush to support it in a way that suggesting folk's simply been ignored and drifted from popularity would never do.

If it was under threat, the horse had already bolted; the fox was shot by 1954. There is enough 'hard copy' of traditional music and recording available that it will never disappear so that leaves the idea that folk music is a cultural-historical artefact that should be foisted upon school children and others in a similar way to industrial archeology, a separate sealed diegesis about the old days divorced from context.

What appears to have happened is the core concerns of folk - acoustic music of intimate scale about disenfranchisement and/or locality - has survived in rude good health free of the distraction of attribution and academic formuli.
My taste doesn't run to Dylan or Simon and Garfunkel (or even Steeleye Span come to that) and I wouldn't visit places that included their songs as 'folk' but their music is more widely spoken of as such than that defined by 1954 advocates.
A new word, or words would be handy but the onus is now on traditionalists to prove committee defined nomenclature under the weight of popular assimilation.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 09:29 AM

"Question:   the difference between definition and content?"

Definition is a group of predetermined words to describe what is expected, content is the description of the actual item. There can be a huge difference between what is expected and what is.

I agree with Dick too - "folk" as a label should give a rough idea as to what the content might be. However, the problem is defining the term. Pigs will fly before that gets settled.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 09:41 AM

"Interesting credit on the song playing when you open Tom's site."

Credits are usually expressed as: Author / composer.

In Mary's version ('Oh No My Love Not I') she "extended/amended and rearranged the constituent parts (two highly amended verses from Lucy White, a verse from Peacock's Newfoundland collection and part of a verse from Mrs Overd, plus bits from the Newfoundland Sailor broadside with the sexes reversed. The rest is pure Humphreys. Cecil Sharp's tune from Lucy White, has only been ever-so-slightly fiddled with, so I have declared it as Trad."

So the author is Humphreys, the composer is Trad.

I rearranged the words and added a new last verse, and arranged a new accompaniment for solo guitar. So the arranger is Bliss.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 12:48 PM

"the time served folkie"
glueman I LOVE this, and Mudcat has more than few of the "I've been a folkie for x number of years so I know better than you!" sort...


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 01:07 PM

People seem to have some innate need to categorize or compartmentalize things in order to more efficiently process and store information in their cranial computers for later retrieval. Apart from the appropriate classifications of the scientific arena, I have always detested "labels," whether for people, art, music or politics. Still, when most people hear a new genre of musical expression, they simply have to call it "something." I take songs one at a time; liking, disliking or being ambivalent about them as they happen to impress me. I really don't give a mouldy fig what you may call them.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 01:14 PM

a new genre generally created by a major record label. May those that like their music categorised should apply for jobs with EMI, Universal, WEA, Sony etc..etc..


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,Densewood
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 01:23 PM

ok, for the next 7 days I'm going to call music

"Crotchless Underwear"


So lets see what difference that makes
in any conversations I have with other musicians,
friends, and strangers ?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 01:30 PM

I think you need to take another look at the definition of "definition," Ron.

It is not predetermined, it is determined by the nature of that which it defines.

Genus, the broad category, followed by differentia, the characteristic that differentiates from other members of the broad category.

[Formal definition of "definition" by Aristotle.]

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 01:31 PM

Well you go for it, Densewood, fill your boots, as it were.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 01:44 PM

Don, you get the point I was making. No need for nonsense.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 02:28 PM

Yes, I get it, but I disagree with it. No nonsense.

Language has a function. And if one can take a word and make it mean anything one wishes, then that function is compromised. My comment about about "pointing and grunting" is very much to the point.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin (on a cookieless computer)
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 02:35 PM

When I was kid I was impressed by John Caldwell's "Desperate Voyage". It's still in print and available here:

http://www.smallcraftadvisor.com/books.html

While trying to sail his small yacht solo across the Pacific, he was hit by a typhoon and reduced to a jury rig. The water destroyed much of his provisions, and what survived was in tins with the labels all washed off. He could never tell if he was going to get beans or pineapple.

I take it some of the posters here cook that way on purpose.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 02:48 PM

"Language has a function. And if one can take a word and make it mean anything one wishes, then that function is compromised."

I agree- to a point. Language evolves. It is not a matter of MAKING a word to mean anything that ONE wishes, but it is how PEOPLE evolve a word to take on new meanings.   

I do not agree with rigidity that prevents or stands in the way of natural changes in language, music or culture. Sort of like "not seeing the forest for the trees". Imagery and symbolism require a flexibility.

When it comes to a phrase like "folk music", it becomes obvious that there is more than one ACCEPTED definition. People can piss and moan, but that does not change reality. Arguing over what bin to put the music in loses the beauty of the music.   To say that we need a definition in order to attend a concert defies logic in my book.   Take a look at concert listings for any type of music. How much detail do we need?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 02:53 PM

"He could never tell if he was going to get beans or pineapple.

I take it some of the posters here cook that way on purpose. "

Suppose you find someone who has never tasted a bean or a pineapple. How much of a difference does the words have on a label?

The point is, a word matters very little.   It is the experience with the content that determines.   We do not have blank discs in front of us. We have CD's with words and pictures and we can find out the information. If you go into a supermarket and buy something that you are not familiar with, you take your chances.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 02:56 PM

Don,
What you say is simple logic. They're winding you up!

Here's a bit of background history. The earliest uses of the word 'folk song' a book of self-penned material c1860 that turns up pretty regularly on Ebay. c1880-> the early collectors started to use the term following the relationship with folk-lore. The main reason 'folk song' has gathered a much wider meaning is largely because of the ordinary punters, people who follow the music around and PAY to go to folk festivals, folk clubs and buy the merchandise. Many of the performers are folk singers singing folk songs who largely perform at folk festivals and folk clubs, whether they write their own or sing the older stuff. IT DOESN'T MATTER ANY MORE.

As Sue Allen said on the previous thread the 54 lot stopped using the word 'folk' a while ago and used something else instead, so why do we need to get our knickers in a twist over it? It's now been hi-jacked by the 'folk scene'. So what!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 02:57 PM

The point is does a 54 year old definition hold weight? The answer of course is yes and no - yes, it provides an accurate analysis of where traditional music was in the post-war years and no, events have undermined it, like the word 'gay'. People who use the word meaning bright and joyful are either very old or making a social point.

To be meaningful any musical definition would need a committee to monitor history (formally removing any song whose provenance was revealed) and pass judgement on current issues pertaining to the music such as amplification. 1954 offers only certainty and unequivocation where nuance and discussion might shed more light. In that sense insistence on 'folk' as only orally transmited, unattributed song makes as much sense as the campaign to re-claim gay; fun in a cranky sort of way but largely irrelevant to what's going on in the world. And completely denying any future to what made folk folk in the first place.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 02:59 PM

'1954' has never carried any weight with me, right, that's that out of the way!

JackCampin is one of those people who simply has to have everything labelled, see, he get's confused otherwise.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: John on the Sunset Coast
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 03:13 PM

I don't know whether it matters what music is called, as long as it's good. Vaughn Williams, Copland and others take folk themes and turn them into 'serious' music.

Last night, I went to a concert that featured Willie Nelson with the Wynton Marsalis Band. Not a pairing I would have expected (Natalie Cole was supposed to appear). Nelson sang some of his hits in his current old man style, the band did jazz riffs...and the whole thing was good. But I don't know what to call it, or even if that matters.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 03:31 PM

John,
In your fairly accurate description there you used several adjectives,
good, folk, 'serious', current, old-man, jazz, good again. I got a pretty 'good' idea of what you had listened to, for which you could perhaps have employed words like 'fusion', 'cross-over', I don't know, I'm not an expert, but the point I'm making here is that many many people (I nearly used the word 'folk' here) use the adjective folk in a similar way and it simply helps to give them a rough idea of what someone might have been listening to, as opposed, say, to jazz, or classical or even 'serious'.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: greg stephens
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 04:18 PM

If it doesn't matter what music is called, why get mad if somebody says somebody isn't folk?This seems to be the paradoxical dilemma that a lot of people sem to have got thewmselves stuck in.They swear blind that classification means nothing to them, but actually it gives them apoplectic fits. Curiouser and curiouser.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 04:42 PM

Greg - that is a very good point. I'm guilty. Thanks for pointing that out and giving me, at least, something to think about. Each of us are free to develop our own terms and it really doesn't matter if someone else agrees.   Thanks Greg, I think your post was the best one yet!!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Gene Burton
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 05:23 PM

Does it matter what music SOUNDS like??


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,Rich
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 05:30 PM

Leveller, what about:

not-folk
old-folk
old-folk(s)
this-folk
that-folk
shit-folk
not-your-kind-of-folk

and when you're sure they won't like it:

I'll-get-me-cloak-folk

p.s. loved your Sir Patrick Spens on the 'nice but dim' thread yesterday.

Just waiting for the responses from the people who think 'they' refers to them (it doesn't by the way).


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Gene Burton
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 05:34 PM

Nowt so queer as folk.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 05:34 PM

whatever you say greg stephens, whatever you say....


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Bill D
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 05:55 PM

Go back and read Crane Driver's post WAY back up there. He said it just fine. I have had many sad experiences spending money on something and finding stuff I was not expecting...or wanting...hiding behind a slippery new usage.



Words are important....but there must be some basic agreement among users as to what the referents are. The old Alice in Wonderland exchange between Alice & Humpty Dumpty needs to be quoted more often:

" 'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a
    scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean --
    neither more nor less.'

    'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make
    words mean so many different things.'

    'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to
    be master -- that's all.'"

Ron Olesko suggests that meanings gradually change...and so they do - but the older meaning meant something, and just because 'some' people (51%?? how do we count?) don't care to follow that older usage, it doesn't follow that the older one is now 'meaningless' or obsolete!

If 'folk' or 'trad' meant a narrow set of referents originally, and now some consider the words 'convienient' to mean a much broader set.....what, I ask for the 27th time, are we to call that older set when we WISH to refer to the narrower meaning?

Why should the careless and lazy folks determine that THEIR broad usage is all anyone needs?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 06:01 PM

Someone, I think it was the English singer, John Tams, refered to the music as popular music, which would be a good definition, if you need one. It sure as hell wasn't called folk music.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Bill D
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 06:09 PM

"...the music.."???

**WHICH** music? That is what we are trying to sort out.

'Pop' or 'popular' music sure doesn't cover all the needs.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 06:11 PM

"Each of us are free to develop our own terms and it really doesn't matter if someone else agrees."

There is an interesting allegory in, I believe, Genesis 10 and 11.
And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off building the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth.
For your amusement and contemplation.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 06:13 PM

We? you mean you, don't you?
I'm not interested in 'covering all the needs'. Popular music, not to be confused with modern day pop music, was what the so-called 'folk music' was. But argue it out with John Tams, I'm merely passing on what he said.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: greg stephens
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 06:25 PM

BUt what do you mean by "popular" in that context?Are you going for "of the people", or "liked by a lot of people". Two radically different meanings of the same word.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 07:26 PM

"Ron Olesko suggests that meanings gradually change...and so they do - but the older meaning meant something, and just because 'some' people (51%?? how do we count?) don't care to follow that older usage, it doesn't follow that the older one is now 'meaningless' or obsolete!

If 'folk' or 'trad' meant a narrow set of referents originally, and now some consider the words 'convienient' to mean a much broader set.....what, I ask for the 27th time, are we to call that older set when we WISH to refer to the narrower meaning? "

I think we call the older set folk, and we call the newer set folk. There is plenty of room, no matter what definition that you use, for both. I don't think anyone has suggest that the "older usage is either meaningless or obsolete - it has simply grown.   Grab a dictionary and look up the definition.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 08:32 PM

Certainly there is room for both. But you're taking an apple in one hand and an orange in the other and saying that it's perfectly all right to call them both "apples." They're both fruit, and they both grow on trees, but they are not the same thing.

I see neither logic nor common sense in that. It certainly leads to nothing but confusion. As we have seen.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 08:39 PM

"But you're taking an apple in one hand and an orange in the other and saying that it's perfectly all right to call them both "apples." "

THAT'S THE POINT - NO ONE IS CALLING THEM APPLES. WE ARE CALLING THEM FRUIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   AN APPLE IS AN APPLE AND AN ORANGE IS AN ORANGE!!!

Sorry Don, you are interpretting this all ass-backwards. No one is saying that an apple is an orange!!!!!!

Folk music is to fruit what apples are to sea chanteys and oranges are to contemporary singer-songwriters.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Peace
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 08:50 PM

In these days of cloning, an apple just MIGHT be an orange.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 09:03 PM

Temper, Ron. Anyone can pick an analogy apart and I think you're the one who's missing the point.

I don't see what is "folk" about a song that was written within the past year or two, has been copyrighted by the person who wrote it, and which no one else sings or is particularly interested in singing. And should there actually be someone, the writer of the song gets very upset if that person either accidentally or intentionally changes a word or alters the tune a bit.

I'm not talking theory here. This happens.

You're buying into the "just plain folks" idea, which is one step removed from the "horse" definition.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 09:31 PM

WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can pick apart your analogy simply because it does not make sense to reality. YOU have missed the point!!

Pick up a dictionary. You are creating your own definition now.


American Heritage -

1. Music originating among the common people of a nation or region and spread about or passed down orally, often with considerable variation.
2. Contemporary music in the style of traditional folk music

Many of the songs that I hear fit both catagories quite nicely. The way music has been "passed down" in the last 100 years is not just using the "oral" tradition, and hence the second definition.

Sorry Don,your arguement no longer makes sense.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 09:36 PM

I disagree, but there is no point in continuing this.

"Folk" means anything you want it to mean. All the same, grunt.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 09:41 PM

By the way, that must be a fairly recent edition of the American Heritage dictionary. The second definition reflects the revisionist idea that came into vogue in the 1960s.

Okay, I surrendered. I disagree, but I surrender.

On to other things.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 09:46 PM

Who uses old dictionaries anymore? Life changes everything.   

Sorry Don, but that is the way it goes. No one is saying that folk means anything we want it to mean, but you are trying to say it only means what you want it to mean. Life goes on.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 09:52 PM

Merriam Webster -
Main Entry: folk song
Function: noun
Date: 1847
: a traditional or composed song typically characterized by stanzaic form, refrain, and simplicity of melody


Random House:
folk music
–noun 1. music, usually of simple character and anonymous authorship, handed down among the common people by oral tradition.
2. music by known composers that has become part of the folk tradition of a country or region.

(a great case can be made for contemporary folk songs having entered the tradition of a country or region - or a community)


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 10:38 PM

". . . you are trying to say it only means what you want it to mean."

Not any more than you are, Ron.

By the way, I rescind my surrender. I don't have time to pursue it now (getting late here), but, dictionaries reflect common usage, and common usage is often quite imprecise. Unacceptable to specialists within a particular field. So dictionary definitions notwithstanding, I have several more points to make that I think will put the current trend into perspective.

Not that you will necessarily agree, but that's the way it goes. I will put it out for others to consider.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 11:06 PM

Of course, folk music and folklore reflect a study of "common usage".

Sorry Don, you are missing the point of what I, and others, have been saying. You have blinders on and won't accept that definitions can, and should, change with the times.

I am not disagreeing with you or anyone on what constitutes the so-called "folk tradition" and how the oral tradition enabled folk songs to be shared from generation to generation. I know, and respect, the scholars who study this - but it does not change the facts that the situations that they were studying and the methods that they used to collect 100 years or more ago have changed. There is a large community that shares contemporary songs and use them in the fashion that earlier generations shared their songs.   You do not have to agree, that is your choice. Folk music is a living tradition.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 11:34 PM

However, Gresham's Law applies. It gets harder and harder to hear traditional music at "folk" venues. Or on "folk" radio.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 12:01 AM

I would not call it "Gresham's Law" because I don't think there is "bad money" involved. I certainly do not consider contemporary singer-songwriters to be "bad money". They are just as important to perpetuating the tradition as the old song.

I would certainly not wish to be restricted to only playing music by a set of ancient rules that go against the spirit of folk music, a living tradition. Music is not meant to be a museum piece.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 03:16 AM

Ron Olesko
"There is a large community that shares contemporary songs and use them in the fashion that earlier generations shared their songs.   You do not have to agree, that is your choice. Folk music is a living tradition".
Where?
As far as I can see, 'folk' or 'tradition' required extensive participation in its creation, selection and performance, none of which the general population have any say in   - we have now become recipients of our culture rather than participants in it and creators of it - unfortunately our oral and musical traditions are as dead as Monty Python's parrot.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: theleveller
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 03:40 AM

Interesting point that, Jim. At a singaround a few weeks ago, I sang a song that I had written and have sung on quite a few occasions at clubs and festivals. Someone came up to me afterwards and asked if I had really written it as he had heard someone else sing it recently and claim it was a traditional song. So, is it a folk song? Have I taken the first step to joining that great songwriter Trad. or am I still just Anon.?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 04:21 AM

"However, Gresham's Law applies. It gets harder and harder to hear traditional music at "folk" venues. Or on "folk" radio."

An interesting point Dick and probably true. You have to ask why? Some people on this board might claim there's a conspiracy by corporate music/pop radio/the maaan. Other's would suggest it was just folk (and real folk at that) finding a way to continue the music that wasn't only past tense.

A recurring theme is that enthusiasts buy their music, unheard, by the label and they're being conned when they open the box and put the CD on the turntable. Can this be true? Is there a straw filled barrel nestling with recordings where a lucky dip will guarantee you'll like the music? Do people see a folk header in a catalogue and a picture of a cute girl in a floaty dress with a guitar and think, yup, that'll be folk? I have a soft spot for the first wave of English punk but even that narrow title would mean that as well as Buzzcocks I'd enjoy Eater, Slaughter and the Dogs and Eddie and the Hotrods none of whom I'd touch with the proverbial folk bargepole.
If you haven't heard it before musical titles are a notoriously unreliable way of getting satisfaction whatever the genre.

'Traditional' is the only word that comes close to suggesting unattributed music and I commend it to label johnnies on both sides of the counter. Incidentally, quite some years ago I went to see a low-key Maddy Prior tour on the back of her work with Steeleye Span and more especially Silly Sisters. I expected traditional but I got stuff about low flying aircraft in whatever idyllic vale she inhabits and other light music. Not my cuppa but who was to blame, MP for trying something different or me for not doing my homework?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 04:23 AM

Leveller -
I tend to think that the songs need to be taken up and re-made outside the 'folk family' before they can be considered folk songs.
It might be claimed (though never by himself) that some of MacColl's Traveller songs 'passed into the tradition'; we recorded numerous versions of Freeborn Man from Irish Travellers. Jeremy Sandford in his 'Songs of the Roadside' even suggested (totally without substantiation), that MacColl had 'adapted' them from traditional Travellers songs; - one Scots 'academic' once claimed at a conference (again, without evidence) that he 'stole' Freeborn Man from a Traveller.
Even among Travellers, the song tradition seems to have disappeared, (we can almost put a date on it - sometime between August 1973 and Easter 1975), when they got portable televisions and stopped singing round an open fire.
Are you even 'anon' - virtually all the songwriters I know put their names to their compositions, many even hang a price-tag on them by copyrighting them, thus limiting their free currency.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: theleveller
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 05:07 AM

It was interesting to hear John Conelly talk about how he enjoys looking around music shops when he goes to Ireland to find books where Fiddler's Green is listed as Trad. He says that one day he might write to the publishers to demand his royalties – but he never has.

To be honest, Jim, Trad., Anon. or whatever is fine by me. I think it's a compliment that anyone wants to perform one of my songs.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 05:23 AM

If it doesn't matter what music is called, why get mad if somebody says somebody isn't folk?

Good point. I don't think anyone here's really indifferent to definitions. Some people seem to be saying "don't define music" but meaning "don't define the music I like as not being folk".

I can see both sides, I have to confess. I got into folk in the first place through Steeleye Span in one of their noisier periods, so I completely understand kids watching Seth Lakeman shredding his bow and thinking this is how folk ought to be. (Although I'm sure Peter Knight used to play actual tunes. Tsk, kids these days...) Even when I got into performing (much more recently) I only had a very hazy idea of which bits of my repertoire were echt Trad and which came from earlier folkies; one of the first songs I did in public was The Snows, which I introduced as an old song by Bert Jansch*. And when I started writing and singing my own stuff, well, that was when I felt like I was getting somewhere with this folk music lark. Most of the younger performers I hear seem to think the same way - 'singer-songwriter' is the goal, the traditional repertoire is just another source of cover versions.

But I've moved, just within the last few years, to a much greater appreciation of traditional songs and tunes. The thing is, it's very largely thanks to my exposure to a handful of performers, floor as well as pro, all of whom I've seen at the local club (in between the singer-songwriters). I think it's tremendously important that more people get that opportunity - and the more 'folk' becomes synonymous with 'someone playing an acoustic guitar', the less likely that is to happen. Unless we can collectively do a Tom Bliss - settle on 'traditional' for what we do and leave 'folk' to the acoustic-contemporary crowd. (A fine and talented crowd - I'm not dismissing that kind of music, I still write it myself from time to time. But traditional music is different.)


*I know, I know, I know. If your toes are curling think what mine are doing.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 05:43 AM

"Some people seem to be saying "don't define music" but meaning "don't define the music I like as not being folk".

To be fair Pip I think it's the other way round. These threads almost always start from 1954 definitions and suggest anyone who doesn't stick to them is being a charlatan. The truth is the cat's been so long out of the bag that it only has any life on forums like this. It's like saying steam locomotives are the only ones worthy of the name and forgetting diesel traction has been consigned to history too and the general public are riding on multiple units made in the Czech republic.

This is against a background of fine diferentiations between what 'English Traditional Music' means, if anything.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 06:46 AM

Leveller:
"I think it's a compliment that anyone wants to perform one of my songs."
I think I would feel like that if I wrote songs, it must be even nicer to have them mistaken for 'trad'.
Glueman:
"These threads almost always start from 1954 definitions and suggest anyone who doesn't stick to them is being a charlatan."
Never saw that one - where was this suggested?
The misuse of language is not 'being a charlatan'' it's just misusing language.
Pip:
Welcome - nice to have someone as receptive on board, but be ready for a rough ride!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Peace
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 06:47 AM

Much of it has to do with ownership. With who decides. With who calls the shots. Trad means thousands of things all around the world. I would suggest that more people around the world know a stanza from "Blowing in the Wind" than know any stanza from any Child Ballad. If music is supposed to be shared and passed around, then let people do it. A song like "Last Trip Home" speaks more loudly to me than anything from the 1700s.

That said, when I send out CDs of my own writing to prospective radio stations, they will be sent NOT based on what various radio shows call themselves. The CDs will be sent based on their play lists over the past six months. If they played Prine, Staines, Lightfoot, Dylan, Steele, Lakeman (and newer contemporary songwriters)--hey, maybe they'll play something from me, too. If they have played Trad, then they have no need or want for anything I've ever done. That's the way a market place works.

Some of this stuff reminds me of a Literature class I was in about 25 years ago and a discussion that centered around the true meaning of LITERATURE. I horrified the prof when I said, "Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' makes me want to chew my leg off." Keriste. You'da thought I pissed on the Persian rug. He tried to belittle me as opposed to ask why. I suggested that more people had read Robert Ludlum than had read Joseph Conrad, and while that did not necessarily speak to the quality of either writer, it certainly spoke to their popularity. He responded by saying that popularity often results from people appeasing their baser instincts. Twenty five years later and nowt's changed. To get 'honours' in the course I jumped through the hoops and wrote 'all the right things', and Ludlum was still out-selling Conrad. And Dylan is still out-selling Child.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 06:58 AM

"The misuse of language is not 'being a charlatan'' it's just misusing language."

But the only people who care are those I wouldn't invite for dinner. So pedants and 1954 Taliban get no fish and chips at our house. Sorted (in the non-postal service derivation of the term).


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: TheSnail
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 07:09 AM

"By the time he recorded the song, in March 1970, Dylan may have even checked his copy of Child's five volumes of British balladry, English & Scottish Popular Ballads, published between 1882 and 1898, a copy of which, Allen Ginsberg once confirmed to me took pride of place on the shelves of Dylan's MacDougall Street townhouse."

Clinton Heylin "Dylan's Daemon Lover"


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Peace
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 07:15 AM

You are saying he was influenced by traditional music. Of course he was. I was saying he out-sold Child.

Don't let your blind arrogance and complete stupidity from another thread muddy your thinking.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 07:25 AM

> From: Lord Batman's Kitchener - PM

> Jack Campin is one of those people who simply has to have everything labelled, see,
> he get's confused otherwise.

I don't get confused, I get my time wasted.

I go to sessions to play (many instruments) or occasionally sing. I can adapt to a number of different styles, from Scottish and English instrumental and vocal trad to blues, bluegrass, classical Arabic, British music hall and French musette, but have zero interest in spending an evening playing nothing but Denver, Dylan and Prine. (I've been hearing that stuff for forty years and if it was ever going to do anything at all for me it would have done by now. I just want it out of my way). I have recently ended up in a pub for an evening with people whose interests and knowledge were that narrow. I got bored with their stuff very fast and they couldn't even accompany Soldier's Joy, let alone the range of trad tunes I'd have liked to do. Nothing in the email announcement suggested it'd be like that. Since the place was an hour's travel away in a one-pub village, I couldn't just walk round the corner and find something else, and since it went on with the same stuff all evening I couldn't just go for a pee and come back when they'd switched to something different. That was an evening out of my life I won't get back.

I have by now worked out case-by-case which sessions feature the range of stuff I like - the Hole in the Wall in Linlithgow is great, no session in Midlothian seems to be worth me bothering with any more - but a label would help. I would be happy with "roots" to describe the range of stuff I like playing, and I think the singer-songwriter crowd would generally be happy with "acoustic" for the narrowly exclusive events I'm trying to avoid. (Except presumably for people like you who think you can only get an audience by false advertising).


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 07:32 AM

Well, I'm off to the supermarket - I need some tomatoes.

But you can be damned sure I'm gonna check out when they were planted - where - by whom - when they were picked - when and how they were transported and who packed them.

Because they may look, smell and taste like tomatoes, and it may even say 'tomatoes' on the packet but, hey, I'm not stupid!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: theleveller
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 07:41 AM

"it may even say 'tomatoes' on the packet "

As I pointed out above - you say 'tomatoes' and I say 'tomatoes'.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: TheSnail
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 07:52 AM

Peace

You are saying he was influenced by traditional music. Of course he was. I was saying he out-sold Child.

You are not comparing like with like. Food out-sells cookery books.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Peace
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 08:10 AM

LOL--that was good.

I agree that trad was the basis for some of Dylan's work. But his work today is not trad. My saying he out-sells Child does not mean I say he's better or more important. Just that he out-sells him.

Where have you been all the day,
Rendal, my son?
Where have you been all the day,
My pretty one?
I've been to my sweetheart, mother
I've been to my sweetheart, mother


Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains,
I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways,
I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests,
I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans,
I've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard,
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard,
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.



Issues of the time.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 08:31 AM

Glueman: These threads almost always start from 1954 definitions and suggest anyone who doesn't stick to them is being a charlatan. The truth is the cat's been so long out of the bag that it only has any life on forums like this.

I agree that 'folk' now means something much broader and vaguer than it used to, and as a result includes a lot that it used to exclude; I don't think anyone here would dispute that. The question is how we feel about that redefinition.

I'm very suspicious of the sheer amount of energy some people are expending on saying they don't care about definitions; I don't think there's anyone here who really doesn't care what gets called what, or more specifically what gets called folk. I think there are people who think it's a positively good thing if the doors are thrown open, and people who think it's a bad thing. I certainly think it has some bad consequences, which I've commented on.

I agree with Nick in many ways; John Martyn was great in his day, and it would be daft to go through your Pentangle albums skipping the self-composed tracks (you'd miss some of the best stuff on Basket of light). To me what went wrong is that labels like folk-rock and jazz-folk never stuck, and that there never really was a label for sensitive-young-person-with-acoustic-guitar (apart from 'protest song', and for obvious reasons that didn't last). Lots of people doing folk-and- or folk-plus- or folk-sounding-, and somehow they end up with the unhyphenated 'folk' label.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,Peace
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 08:33 AM

Pip nailed it, imo.

It's a two-way street. Traditionalists don't want it misapplied and guess what? Neither do contemporary singer/songwriters.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 10:20 AM

I'm just amazed that everyone is so confused that they need their handheld in order to determine if they "might" enjoy something.

If you see a sign saying "jazz concert" - do you really know what you are going to hear?   You could hear anything from swing to bebop to cool jazz to fusion to hard bop to Latin jazz to Dixieland to who knows what.   Same for "rock". There are so many variations that a single word cannot describe, yet the single word encompasses a genre.

We are not comparing apples and oranges or tomatoes. What we are discussing is whether we it can be classified as a fruit or a vegetable (technically, they are all fruit - but most people think of a tomato as a vegetable - should we scold them???)

While I am hearing the Folk Altercockers of Mudcat pontificate about the importance of language and sanctity of the words "folk music", I have yet to hear specific examples of what they consider folk as there are many different traditions.   Would something Don Firth considers "folk" be considered "folk" by Jim Carroll?   

Since there are many different traditions, why is there such a reluctance to even considering that there are contemporary communties that have developed their own culture and music - influenced by their environment and common tools of their time?   Is it so hard to conceive that the person who first wrote "Barbara Allen" was doing anything different than what John Gorka does? Granted, there were no recording devices back then and the song evolved as it was passed from generation to generation and community to communuity.   Yes, there is a certain charm to realize that traditional music has gone through an oral tradition and been added to, but when you boil it down - isn't the beauty of the words and tune and the way they are delivered more important than whatever lineage can be traced?   You can breed dogs as pure as wish, but who really gives a crap when the joy is having the companionship that your best friend offers?

By a purist definition, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Lead Belly, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Si Kahn, Joe Jencks, Janis Ian, Joni Mitchell, Anne Feeney, Utah Phillips and so many others do not sing folk songs. From an academic standpoint, I understand and respect that.   However, I feel that academia does not dictate human behavior and culture. The songs created by the individuals I've noted above have played an important role in establishing a modern community and influencing culture.   I cherish their songs and feel no qualms with calling them "folk songs". They are not traditional, but they are music of the people.

You cannot box people in with rules designed by committee. Folklore is the study of culture, and culture continues to evolve. You can take a snapshot to freeze a moment in time, but you cannot expect the subject to keep the same pose forever.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 11:02 AM

Altercockers

Mmmm... that word again. Delicious.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 11:06 AM

"By a purist definition, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Lead Belly, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Si Kahn, Joe Jencks, Janis Ian, Joni Mitchell, Anne Feeney, Utah Phillips and so many others do not sing folk songs."

I don't actually give a flying fuck what you call them, I do in fact like some of those people's work. But I want for people who set up events where the kind of music I know much more about and actually play is excluded, to be honest enough to tell me they're excluding it so I don't waste an entire evening going to their club or session.

It's very common practice for people into singer-songwriter music to try to keep all other kinds of music out of their venue. The problem isn't exclusivity in verbal definition, it's exclusivity in actual practice, hidden behind the verbal screen of the word "folk".


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 11:09 AM

Nowhere at anytime have I ever said that I'm a 'folk singer/folk musician', I'm not, and if I did say I was, THAT would be false advertising. By the way, I'm not a singer/songwriter either.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 11:18 AM

"It's very common practice for people into singer-songwriter music to try to keep all other kinds of music out of their venue. The problem isn't exclusivity in verbal definition, it's exclusivity in actual practice, hidden behind the verbal screen of the word "folk". "

You need to get out more Jack, and ask more questions. Perhaps in your corner of the world it is common practice for singer-songwriters to keep other kinds out of their venue, but I do not see that here.   I will grant you that there are economic forces that factor into booking possibilities, but I do not see exclusion of traditional music in circles like you described. I do see more exlusivity among traditional artists and venues than I do the singer-songwriter genre - here in the northeast.

I really don't give a flying fuck if you wasted six hours of your life at a session that wasn't your cup of tea - and if you could not convince the others to explore traditional music, then either you did not speak up or they were too limited in range to explore.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 11:35 AM

I cherish their songs and feel no qualms with calling them "folk songs". They are not traditional, but they are music of the people.

I get a bit peeved with this argument. I revere Dylan - I think he's one of the greatest poets of the 20th century - and I don't doubt that his work would be passed on, from singer to singer and from father to son, if it wasn't possible to listen to recordings. If recording technology were somehow abolished next week, a 22nd-century collector might well pick up local variants of Blowin' in the Wind and Mr Tambourine Man. But we'll never know: Dylan isn't music of the people, Dylan's a recording artist. Traditional and folk-transmitted music survives here and there - football chants, playground rhymes, some hymns and carols - but there's no really music that's of the people in the sense of living and developing among ordinary people in the course of their lives. The ubiquity of broadcast and recorded music changed everything.

That's a real break in the history of music, and a very recent one. Traditional music - folk music, as far as I'm concerned - is all about reaching back before that break and finding out what people used to do for music, before they could all listen to the same thing at the flick of a switch. And if you want to do that and put it in a regular 4:4 with a backbeat, or draft in a jazz bassist, or even throw in a couple of your own, that's fine - as long as you don't lose sight of the fact that the bits that make it folk are the bits that were there before you. We seem to be in a position where the bits that have been added on to folk are seen as compulsory, or at worst as defining what folk is.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 11:44 AM

"no really music" should be "really no music", of course.

No really.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Bill D
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 11:45 AM

Yeah, definitions change...most children call riddles 'jokes', because most adults are too careless to explain the difference.
   I have been served 'Strawberry Shortcake' which was merely some strawberries poured over this spongy bit of yellow stuff, rather than real *SHORTBREAD*.
I do woodworking, and have to constantly fight the tendency of wood dealers to try to sell me 'rosewood' that is NOT in the Dalbergia genus. (THEY say 'rosewood' is just a descriptive term and that I am being too particular, and that it is pretty wood and the term is useful because it 'resembles' rosewood).
I buy frozen 'Mexican' food from Trader Joe's, but they have recently reformulated a couple of my favorites by changing the recipes to be less spicy and to have appeal to Yuppie tastes with cilantro and chopped exotic greens on it. It may still have a vaguely Mexican base, but it-ain't-the-same, and the metaphysical question arises: How many changes can they make and still suggest it is Mexican food?

Ron---you have a radio program, right? What do you play on it? Music?

Probably so, but is that what you tell people you meet? They are bound to ask you "what kind?" Do you play jazz? Opera? Gregorian Chant? Rap? (cough).....oh...FOLK! I see...that's different from jazz & opera 'other stuff'. What if I complain that your label is too narrow, and that what I hear on your program is just 'music'?
I **KNOW** definitions and usage change over time....but certain types of changes muddy & dilute any hope of clarity. Just as 'music' wouldn't convey enough information, so now neither does folk...or even 'trad'!! There are those who wish to say Dylan is 'trad', when all they mean is 'popular' and 'older than me'.

If a word is to be really useful, it cannot be too broad: YOU wouldn't go into a restaurant and ask for 'food'...or even 'soup' or 'bread' or 'meat'...and if it purported to be ethnic (Italian, Chinese...etc) there are certain basic recipes you'd expect...even though there ARE variations! If you do NOT like chocolate sauce on your Rigatoni, you'd wonder why they didn't say somewhere that they practice nouvelle cuisine in Italian.

"Does it matter what music is called?" ....only if you wish to be able to converse about it without constant disclaimers and order it without risking frustration.


Do I expect this, Ron, to alter your concept of musical nomenclature? No...of course I don't....but it IS an alternate viewpoint that can sit here for others to ponder and perhaps make them think twice and ask before offering the latest singer/songwriter hit in the midst of a Child ballad session.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 12:03 PM

Bill D - I think we are talking over each others heads and not listening to one another.

I am not arguing against descriptions. What I am arguing is that "folk" is a broad term.   When you say "folk music", it is the equivalent of going into a restaurant and asking for "food". There are many different folk traditions at play here. An evening of English folk song would differ from an evening of African-American folk song.

What are you expecting when you hear the words "folk music"?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 12:05 PM

Personally I prefer to play rather than converse, but to each their own.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 12:05 PM

Batman- what do you play?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 12:12 PM

I am a singer and player of traditional tunes


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 12:13 PM

Oh, so you must play a lot cajun fiddle??


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 12:20 PM

I don't play fiddle. Guitar and melodeon are my instruments and the British Tradition only


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 12:26 PM

Bingo!! You made my point!!!!!!

What you are playing cannot be accurately described as "folk music".

When you said "traditional tunes", that can desribe a variety of instruments and cultures.   Someone who dislikes British Traditional music would be bored to tears with what you play.

This is the problem with labels!   Having a bin that says "folk music" does NOT tell me if what you are playing is something that I would like.   While we can argue about whether contemporary singer-songwriters belong under the umbrella.

Folk music = fruits and vegetables (sometimes in more ways than one!)


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 12:33 PM

Far as I'm concerned it definitely wasn't called folk music when the songs and tunes were written (I'll stick with popular music) The term 'folk music, for me, is a generic one, covering a multitude of sins.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 12:35 PM

By the way if the term singer of traditional songs is good enough for Martin Carthy, it's definitely good enough for me. Somewhere in the Mudcat forum is a posting from Eliza Carthy stating that her fther is not a folk singer but a singer of traditional songs.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 12:43 PM

:: It's very common practice for people into singer-songwriter music to try to keep all other
:: kinds of music out of their venue. The problem isn't exclusivity in verbal definition, it's
:: exclusivity in actual practice, hidden behind the verbal screen of the word "folk". "
: You need to get out more Jack, and ask more questions. Perhaps in your corner of the world
: it is common practice for singer-songwriters to keep other kinds out of their venue, but
: I do not see that here.

Other people do see it: we had a long thread on Mudcat recently about an event in the US North-East, much bigger than any I've ever attended, which the thread initiator described as a "Not Folk" festival. It had the same sort of exclusivity I'm talking about, except there they stated it explicitly (which is easier to deal with -it doesn't matter so much when people tell you up-front that they're making up new meanings for words).

I suspect one factor in this divide is the increasing tendency for guitarists to learn from tab instead of using their ears. It's easy enough to find tab for singer-songwriter music; memorize it and you're there, your fingers are emulating a karaoke machine. Most of the people going to "folk" events in Midlothian seem to have learned that way. But learning how to back a traditional tune effectively, even with the simplest possible I-IV-V7 chordings, is a different skill that needs practice in its own terms (ear training, and inventing harmonies and rhythms on the fly). Most people who learn DenverDylanPrine stuff never take that additional step.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 01:05 PM

"The term 'folk music, for me, is a generic one, covering a multitude of sins."
At last, we agree on something. If that is what you have been saying all along, I apologize for not recognizing it.

"we had a long thread on Mudcat recently about an event in the US North-East, much bigger than any I've ever attended, which the thread initiator described as a "Not Folk" festival. It had the same sort of exclusivity I'm talking about"
I agree with you, that sort of exclusivity is not right. The promoters of the festival are doing a disservice, yet I still feel they can call themselves "folk".   That particular festival is making a huge mistake.

"Most people who learn DenverDylanPrine stuff never take that additional step. "
I agree. It is their loss. It is also a loss when DenverDylanPrine material is not learned (at least Dylan and Prine), but that is an individual choice and their loss.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 01:06 PM

Individual choice is, in the end, what it's really all about, regarless of whatever any of us say.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Peace
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 01:08 PM

I think people who are stuck liking just one kind of music are doing themselves a disservice, big time. It leads to having scratch pads a half inch wide.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 01:59 PM

LBK: Guitar and melodeon are my instruments and the British Tradition only

Ron: What you are playing cannot be accurately described as "folk music".

Eh? Whyever not?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 02:04 PM

For the final time, I do not consider myself a folksinger/musician, I am a singer and player of traditional songs.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 02:10 PM

Pip - what I am saying is that "folk music" does not give enough of a description to know that he is playing only British Tradition.   

Yes, it is indeed folk music - but that doesn't tell me everything - not that I am expecting a full description from two words like "folk music". Many of the posts in this thread seem to indicate that simply saying "folk music" is enough of a description. My arguement against the need for labels is that they only pigeonhole, and they are not inclusive of modern acceptance.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 02:11 PM

Batman - it really doesn't matter what you call yourself.

Perception is reality.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 02:15 PM

The term" folk music" is fine if you're into a generic/bland label. What I call myself matters to me, what doesn't matter is what other people call the music I play


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 02:24 PM

You are exactly right Batman! Perception is reality!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 02:26 PM

whatever you say


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 02:31 PM

I'm with you.. the label means nothing.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Bill D
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 04:28 PM

*sigh* I guess *I* have not been clear. It is quite true these days that the label 'folk' means nothing. My point is that it should mean something....and 40 years ago, it did, even though it was already fraying about the edges. In any area where definitions are not absolute and monitored by a committee, such as those who control biological names, there are vague in-between gray areas.

Music is like that...we know "Barbry Allen" is folk AND trad, we know "Stardust" is not...and we debate everything from most of Utah Phillips to all of Lou and Peter Berryman. Now, when the Berrymans were here, I went and saw them, and 'mostly' enjoyed them, but if I were in charge of organizing a **Folk Festival**, I would not include them, though I might well include Utah..(well, if...). It's a subtle distinction to spell out, but it feels obvious to me that what Bruce Phillips did was ummm..72.039% 'in the tradition' compared to the Berrymans'...ummmm..41.638%..YMMV. Dylan songs, to me, vary individually from 70-80% down to 20% or so...which means Dylan is hard to place, but since (to me again) most of his are below 50%, I'd tend to NOT list him under 'folk'....

This has NOTHING to do with good or bad, but only with relevance to historical perspective and style and melodic forms and subject matter...etc...(maybe 3-4 more categories).
The point is..if I were in the promotion business, and you knew me, you could at least have a good idea of what I'd offer, and a VERY good idea of what I would not. You might not guess what I played that day, because I might have done a Berryman song...just because it was fun.

I don't suppose 'folk' will ever be rescued, and 'trad' is on slippery footing, and when people ask me what kind of music I 'mostly' listen to, I will, if I wish to be clear, always need to add a 3 paragraph disclaimer if I tell them 'folk'. 40 years ago, I didn't have to do that.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 04:35 PM

"and 40 years ago, it did"

and 40 years ago I was 22

That was 40 years ago, today is today, fortunately there is no going back.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Bill D
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 04:54 PM

fortunately? I see your milage DOES vary.

I'm just glad I won't have see what they do to the language 40 years from NOW!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 04:58 PM

My mileage does what? That would be laughable, but...Let's just say I honour the tradition by playing the music, but I'm not chained to the past, besides, as I've said at leat twice, this will be three times, I don't consider myself a folk singer/musician.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 05:08 PM

"I don't suppose 'folk' will ever be rescued, and 'trad' is on slippery footing, and when people ask me what kind of music I 'mostly' listen to, I will, if I wish to be clear, always need to add a 3 paragraph disclaimer if I tell them 'folk'. 40 years ago, I didn't have to do that. "

Bill, the sky is not falling. Folk does not need rescue and "trad" is standing up quite well.

40 years ago, these very discussions were going on. I'm a bit younger than all of you geezers, but one just needs to read the publications and books from the time, and speak to those who were there.   Purists had issues with Woody Guthrie in the 1940's.

I get the impression that people are trying to clarify a label as if that will make everything better.   When you say "folk" needs rescue - do you sincerely think that it is being ignored because no one can define it to your satisfaction?   Your own words, as published a few notes ago, give notice of that "gray" area - should Utah Phillips and the Berryman's be considered "folk" for a festival.

If the Berryman's are excluded from a folk festival, I would rip off the arms off of the artistic director and give them a sound thrashing with their own limbs to beat some sense into them. In your description, you create your own rating system and give percentages to determine how "folky" the artist is. You would step in less bullshit if you went rollerskating in a cow pasture.

You do not need a 3 paragraph disclaimer. If you need to have an artist give you references and footnotes about the pedigree of a songs authenticity, then folk music WOULD be in danger of boring the living crap out of any listener. You are sending up huge roadblocks to anyone who will discover the music as you and I did - simply for the joy and beauty of the song.   I don't give a rats ass if the song was written yesterday or is rooted 500 years ago - enjoy what you can while you are still around to enjoy it, don't get hungup on labels!!!!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: M.Ted
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 05:10 PM

BillD, and his Trader Joe Mexican Food problem, has finally defined the issue in a way that makes it more addressable--to wit:

The "Mexican Food" items that BillD talks about originally were food items from Mexico that TJ's simply packaged and sold to a wider market outside the culture of origin, and in that sense, were both "traditional" and "folk" foods that had been borrowed.

Over time, the recipes are modified by the borrowers to suit their own needs and tastes, which are different from the folk/ethnic culture where the food item originated. The question is, how much, if any, does the food change before it stops being Mexican?

In the same way, the Folk/Traditional music of certain British/American subcultures was collected, compiled, and introduced to wider audience outside the culture of origin(by Child,Sharp,tge Lomaxes, et al), and in that sense, it was both "Traditional" and "folk" music that had been borrowed.

Over time, the music was modified by the borrowers to suit their own needs and tastes, which differed from the folk/ethnic culture where the music originated. The question is, how much, if any, does the music change before it stops being "folk/traditional" music?

You can work it out from here...


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 05:17 PM

Whatever you wish to call it, there's a fundamental difference between what one hears at most "folk" festivals and what one hears from more traditional singers. And that's why, despite the spate of Folk Festivals in the US, I'm going to travel some 3000+ miles to go to Whitby Week (which doesn't even call itself a folk festival) to listen to the kind of music I like to listen to.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: greg stephens
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 05:21 PM

WEll I am delighted to say I have just platyed at Glastonbury festival(England's biggest, I think?). It is big but it has hundreds(literally) of venues of all sizes. And all genres of music are represented, and the same stages often put on lots of kinds of music, so for one glorious long weeken classification breaks down and means little or nothing.Sociability starts to define lifew, rather than tribal affiliations. I play my gigs, and otherwise wander around and just hear stuff serendipitously.Great, and for a while it doesnt matter at all whether you call it folk.    Incidentally, as there is a nice cross-Atlantic mix on this thread: the most interesting new band I heard were absolutely fabulous Americans, called These Unites States. Anybody know them? Would they be called folk, or rock, or what, in the USAS? Do enlighten me, if you've heard of them. They were three of them,young, bearded, and in some strange magical way a bit reminiscent of the Band in the early days, not musically but sort of historically.The lead singer was called Jesse Elliott, as far as I can recall.
Anyway, for that wee moment in time, genres didn't matter at all, which is why I like mixed festivals more than folk festivals generally. AS long as there is plenty of folk of course!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 05:24 PM

" I'm going to travel some 3000+ miles to go to Whitby Week (which doesn't even call itself a folk festival)"

Does Whitby know it doesn't call itself
Whitby folk week

talk about editing to suit the purpose!!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 05:24 PM

That is exactly right Dick! You go to the festival where you know you will enjoy the music. I believe though it is known officially as "Whitby Folk Week".


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 05:29 PM

Never even heard These United States (the band, not the country)


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 05:38 PM

I just thought of a festival Dick can go to and not feel guilty,AND it definitely doesn't have the word 'folk' in it

Fairport Cropredy Convention


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: greg stephens
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 05:51 PM

Well, I had a little google on These United States and found they are from Washington DC. So Bill D, get away from your lathe and anciemn folk song books and pop round the corner and check them out. If an old fogey like me can like them, so can you! And I have found them variously described as electro-folk, psych-folk, and alt.country. Yer pays yer money, and yer takes yer choice.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 05:54 PM

I am motivated, so this is a long screed. Be forewarned!

No, Ron, I am not missing the point and I am not wearing blinders. I see the issue perfectly clearly, certainly as clearly as you do.

I'm not exactly new to folk music, and shortly after I first became interested in it, I took it seriously enough to take courses at the University of Washington from Prof. David C. Fowler, who has written books on medieval scholars and on balladry. And when I had the opportunity, I attended workshops with or had informal discussions with such people as ethnomusicologists Archie Green, Roger Abrahams, and, in 1964, with Charles Seeger. I have written papers on folk songs and ballads, and I was co-host on a series of television programs, "Ballads and Books," on KCTS Channel 9 in Seattle, funded by the Seattle Public Library.

In the course of my perambulations, I've had the privilege of meeting and talking with a substantial number of well-known singers, from Almeda Riddle to Mance Lipscomb to Ewan MacColl to Richard Dyer-Bennet to Marais and Miranda to a couple of members of The Brothers Four. A fairly broad spectrum of approaches, all the way from people born and raised in the tradition to a quartet of singing fraternity brothers.

I did not just learn the songs I sing from Kingston Trio records, and my knowledge of the field goes a bit deeper than merely reading the notes on the backs of record jackets.

I have an abiding love and respect for the material itself, and I have devoted my life to studying it, learning it, and presenting it. Many songs have historical roots, and historical importance. And this is an integral part of traditional songs.

I have been performing actively (and professionally) since the mid-1950s. I do not call myself a "folk singer" (nor, for that matter, a "folksinger"). I call myself a "singer-guitarist." And I sing a wide variety of songs, not just traditional songs limited to a particular region or nationality. I am urban-born and I come to this material by choice. I have had musical training, and I identify with the idea that I am an art singer, not a folk singer. Whenever I adopt an accent or regional mannerisms, it is more in the nature of acting than any attempt to convince my audience that I'm authentically from a given area or background. And my audiences know this.

I make certain that my audiences know what they're getting.

Often, during the early 1960s, while singing in clubs and coffeehouses, I would get requests for songs like "They Call the Wind Mariah" and "Try to Remember," undoubtedly because they had been recorded by the Kingston Trio and the Brothers Four. When responding to these requests, I would mention that "Mariah" was from the Broadway musical, "Paint Your Wagon," and "Try to Remember" was from "The Fantasticks," a long-running off-Broadway musical. Just to avoid confusion and to indicate that these were not really folk songs as some may have assumed. And when I sing songs like Richard Dyer-Bennet's setting of "So We'll Go No More a Roving," I identify it as a poem by Lord Byron; likewise, "Down by the Salley Gardens" as a musical setting of a W. B. Yeats poem.

I make no qualitative distinctions between traditional folk songs and the products of singer-songwriters. At least some singer-songwriters. Tom Paxton, Kris Kristofferson, Joni Mitchell, Townes Van Zandt, for example, have all written excellent songs, some of which I sing myself. I do not recall that any of these people insisted on calling their songs "folk songs." I do make qualitative distinctions between individual songs, whether they be traditional songs (not all of which appeal to me) and composed songs (some of which are very good indeed and I may chose to sing them, and some of which are just bloody awful).

####

In 1966, the Seattle Folklore Society was founded. It was made plain from the very beginning that, as far as sponsoring concerts was concerned, the organization would present traditional singers only. This meant singers who had grown up in the folk tradition. Jean Ritchie, yes. Joan Baez, no. And that, of course, ruled out singers such as myself. I must admit to having been a bit miffed, and I thought it was more than just a bit draconian, but I could see where they were coming from. Okay, so be it.

Subsequently, the SFS started the Northwest Folklife Festival over the Memorial Day weekend. But if they were going to have any participants at all, they had to back off from their "traditional only" policy and allow urban-born singers of traditional songs. It drew singers from all over the United States and Canada. The festivals became massive. Thousands of singers, dancers, musicians, and hundreds of thousands of people attended. And although none of the participants in the early festivals were paid, they soon began hiring well-known singers. One year, they brought in Elizabeth Cotton. That was consistent with their initial policy. A couple of years later, they brought in Emmylou Harris. I've always regarded her more as Country than folk. It was not long before—

Well, let's put it this way:   early one afternoon when I arrived at the festival, the first thing that assaulted my ears was a garage band doing "Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl, Earl, Earl. . . ." There were several thousand people scheduled to perform on various stages around the Seattle Center grounds (all passed by the SFS board), not counting an army of buskers. Singers of traditional songs on the official schedule? There were only about a dozen of us. Several dozen others had submitted tapes, but had not been accepted. Those few who had been approved were crammed into the meeting rooms up in the northwest corner of the Center grounds.

Last year, Jeff Warner, son of song collectors and folklorists Frank and Anne Warner, was appearing on the West Coast, and contacted the Seattle Folklore Society to see if they would sponsor a concert by him. He was asked, "What songs have you written?" He responded that he did not write songs, he sang traditional material." The SFS then responded that they were not interested. "Singer-songwriters only."

At the same time, for the past several years, Victory Music has been running open mikes at various venues in this area. Singer-songwriters only. No traditional songs.

Except, of course, many of the singer-songwriters, both at the festivals and at the open mikes, introduce their songs with such comments as "This is a folk song I wrote a about month ago. . . ."

And whereas the songs of singer-songwriters such as Tom Paxton and Townes Van Zandt consist of lyrics and melodies that are eminently memorable and singable, the vast majority of the songs one hears at these festival stages and open mikes are pedestrian and so easily forgettable you can't recall the tune thirty seconds after the song is over.

####

There is a retired chemistry professor here in this area who is avidly interested in traditional folk music and has become very active locally. In fact, he has become a real Force! Dissatisfied with the "singer-songwriter only" open mikes, he approached other potential venues and began running open mikes of his own. Then he opened his home to house concerts. When he heard of the SFS refusal to sponsor Jeff Warner, he sponsored a concert by Warner in his home.

With the hearty approval of Bob Nelson and me, he has exhumed and revitalized the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society, which was initially organized in 1953 by several people including Walt Robertson and myself. In the mid-1950s, the short-lived PNWFS succumbed to the Communist Scare through a series of circumstances that verged on the Kafkaesque, despite the fact that the organization was dedicated to collecting local folk music and folklore and presenting performances of folk activities (singers, musicians, dancers, crafts), and was completely apolitical.

With the resurrection of the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society, its original purpose has also resumed:   collecting and preserving local folk music and folklore (much more difficult now than in the 1950s) and presented traditional material in concerts and performances at a number of venues locally. This sometimes involves sponsoring performers that the Seattle Folklore Society is not interested in. So it is not necessarily a matter of competition between the two societies. The PNWFS is filling a need. And the response has been very gratifying.

####

Dick Greenhaus' post at 10 Jul 08 – 11:34 p.m.:   "However, Gresham's Law applies. It gets harder and harder to hear traditional music at 'folk' venues. Or on 'folk' radio." Dick's comment is very much to the point.

There is a local radio station, KBCS in Bellevue, Washington (one of the three NPR affiliates I can pick up locally), whose daily program schedule includes such listings as "Lunch with Folks" from noon to 3:00 pm. (described as "a daily diet of folk and bluegrass"), "Folksound" on Tuesday evenings, and "Sunday Folks," all purporting to play folk music. In three hours of listening, if I'm lucky, I may hear maybe eight or ten actually traditional folk songs. The rest is singer-songwriter, some quite good, most very pedestrian and unmemorable.

A local NPR station used to broadcast Fiona Ritchie's "Thistle and Shamrock" on Saturday afternoons. It was one of my favorite programs and often I would tape it. It was replaced some years back by an hour of "Contemporary Folk." If I want to hear programs like "Thistle and Shamrock" now, I have to see if I can track them down, then hope I can stream them off the internet.

####

On the matter of definitions and common usage:   the semi-popular science-fiction television series of a couple decades back, "Battlestar Galactica" (the one with Lorne Greene – sometimes referred to by wags as "Cattlecar Galactica" or "Bonanza in Space"), apparently did not have a science advisor on the staff. Scientific sounding terminology was often incorrectly used, and if you had taken an astronomy course or two or had read a book on the subject, sometimes the "technobabble" got quite bizarre.

They consistently used the term "galaxy" to refer to a solar or planetary system, such as our own sun and attendant planets. I had acquaintances who were fans of the show who began referring to our solar system as "our galaxy." The galaxy in which our solar system resides, consisting of an estimated 200 to 400 billion stars, most of which are quite probably complete with planetary systems of their own, includes quite a bit more real estate than our solar system alone does. That became "common usage" among many "Battlestar Galactica" fans for some time, and I'm pretty sure some of those same fans still don't know the distinction long after the show went off the air.

No matter what they believed, or may still believe, that doesn't make it correct.

Had this goof actually become "common usage" generally, then astronomers and cosmologists who objected to this incorrect terminology would undoubtedly be told by some folks not to be so stuffy. Get up to date. "Take your blinders off." But that would leave the problem of what would one call the Milky Way or the Andromeda Galaxy if the word "galaxy" now referred to a single star and its orbiting planets? You'd have to come up with a new term. And get everyone to agree to that. Much easier to just insist on correct usage it in the first place!

####

I conclude my remarks on this subject by quoting Michael Cooney:
Most of today's "singer-songwriters" are writing stuff that's indistinguishable from pop music. Those who become popular, in the commercial sense, usually do become pop singers. So I think that almost all of what the industry calls "folk music" these days is really just low-budget pop music. If those performers could afford it, they'd have elaborate backups and music videos, etc.

So why are all these new songs called folk songs? I think it's because there isn't another nice-sounding phrase to describe them. Calling them "folk" songs gives them an undeserved stamp of pre-approval. [Emphasis mine – DF]. Please, please, someone come up with a pretty phrase to replace "folk songs" for these singer-songwriters.

A folk song is a song that has evolved through the oral process. Someone may have written a song to start, but that wasn't really a folk song; it is the cumulative effect of all the changes on the song as it travels from person to person that make it a "folk" song. (Or a "traditional" song, as some say, in attempt to get away from the confusion; but, alas, I have heard people say they just wrote a traditional song. [Again, emphasis mine – DF]).
His full article is HERE.

Beware!! I may be back!!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: greg stephens
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 06:07 PM

Nice one, Don. A lot of festivals and clubs went that way. If you mention that you don't like it, people just say"Well start one yourself and see how you do".And there's really no answer, is there?
I like your galaxy story, but at least that was only a TV programme, where you don't expect much scholarship. The Science Editor of the Guardian, which is reckoned to be the UK's most intellectual paper, recently wrote an article in which the word "physician" was used to mean a person who studied physics. The science editor of a major newspaper! Of course, words just mean what people use them to mean etc etc


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 06:30 PM

Anyone care to comment on how this works in other langauges and cultures? I think what we've got here is a uniquely Anglo-American development. As I understand it:

Turkish: "halk muzigi" means folk music in a pretty narrow sense definitionally, but with a very wide audience. Doesn't matter who's playing it or on what instruments, but melody is nearly always either improvised or anonymous trad and the text will be from anonymous tradition or bardic lineage most of the time. Singer-songwriter is "özgün" and not all that popular any more. Folk tunes and lyrics are often adopted by rock and pop musicians, but they don't think of themselves as "folk-rock" or "pop-folk" for doing so, it's just a natural thing for them to use.

German: "volkslied" has a narrow denotation, pretty much the 1954 one but with extra-careful footnotes to sidestep the way the Nazis tried to take it over. Singer-songwriter is just "lied" with no linguistic category distinction being made between Schubert and Wolf Biermann.

Italian: "canti populari" means folk in a very narrow traditional sense, so narrow that it doesn't actually have much of an audience.

Hungarian: the word "nép" means "folk" in a national as well as sociological sense. There doesn't seem to be a single word that covers the traditional music of all the ethnic groups in the areas where ethnic Hungarians live, but there is so little musical interchange between them it doesn't actually matter all that much. They had a particular problem in trying to separate out the bourgeois wannabe-folk of the 19th century, but for better or worse that stuff has largely gone the way of Moore's Irish Melodies by now - dead genres don't need labels.

French: their terminology seems a bit of a mess to me and I don't understand it, but it's a different kind of mess from English.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 06:52 PM

Maybe we need to develop a system by which we'd have, for instance:

"Child Folk", for instance, might be one describable category. folk music by the parameters described and used by Professor Child. (Which specification, frankly, I've never quite bought or liked some of its assumptions, but what's referred to is fairly easily understood.)

Or "Oral folk". Meant to refer to "folk" music which has been passed and developed by the oral traditional method. This would be a wider grouping which presumably would include the "Child folk" group of meanings.

Or "Modern acoustic folk" If I used this expression I might be referring to The Weavers or to Peter, Paul and Mary and their ilk. I would NOT be referring to The Grateful Dead. Others, of course, might categorize those groups differently.

Then there would probably be "Rock Folk", and (god help us!) "Hip-Hop folk".

I don't hang my hat on any of these as the beau ideal of folk categories, although I think the clearest of them is "Child folk".

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,step and turn brit pop
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 07:03 PM

i'm really sorry everyone, but i think we all need to stop the pseudo academic point scoring.
I'm a 'young' folkie, and yes i have regularly taught English/Irish and Scottish folk songs to young people and intend to keep 'traditional' folk songs going. seth lakeman is unfortunately attempting to bridge the gap between genres and missing both markets simultaneously, as a pop/rock lover and a folk music baby i feel slightly embarrassed that he is touting his musical style as folk. I don't want to take anything from his musical talent, but the mix of trad. lyrics and pop/rock inspired backing in uncomfortable to listen to if he labels what he does as folk.
I suppose what i'm saying is that even as a young'un i expect folk music to beat least the traditionally inspired homages to tunes i've grown up with, if i attend a folk roots night (at which i will often be found dancing my socks off!) then that preconception is out of the window.....
as part of a generation who isn't supposed to conform, i'm a total believer in the ronseal 'does what is says on the tin' -ism as far as 'traditional folk is concerned'. folk to me means the old man in the corner recounting (often at a painfully lengthy attempt,) songs or tunes that i've either heard a thousand times before, or is so familiar that i feel like i have.... and i think that the point, ,sound like a trad tune, and i like you, sound like something trying to be 'cool' and you lose out in my book....


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: greg stephens
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 07:03 PM

WEll, Uncle Dave-O, I'm afraid to admit I'm working on a hip-hop/trad folk fusion project at the moment with kids in Liverpool: blending shanties, hornpipes and rap. Gold help me, eh?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Bill D
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 07:12 PM

Thanks M. Ted for 'getting' my point and helping clarifying it.

And thanks, Dick for your usual trick of making most of my point in a couple of lines.

greg..I may find that band, and I 'may' enjoy them...just as I sometimes enjoy the Berrymans....just beware of how I classify them. In the same way, Ron, I might GO to a festival where the Berrymans were included - I just wouldn't put them in one that *I* organized under the banner of 'folk/trad'.


Ron...re:" When you say "folk" needs rescue - do you sincerely think that it is being ignored because no one can define it to your satisfaction? "

Well, you didn't ask the question right... I do indeed think that much of certain music is 'being ignored', not exactly because it is not defined to my liking, but because other stuff has been smuggled in under its name. If all one found at Trader Joe's was the 'new' Mexican food, how would most people even compare it with traditional stuff? In the Wash DC area, I have struggled for years to find 'trad' Mexican cooking ...even when they know HOW...because they are convinced that the locals won't like it 'that hot' or with chunks of potatoes & peas. If kids MUST find their way to occasional FSGW concerts or concerts to hear 'the old stuff', how will they know if they like it? You, Ron, go to Mystic.....what if groups like The Pyrates Royale, as much fun as they are, were all that was heard there?

Now, I will go read Don Firth's screed...if I have time. I am off to our monthly 'open' sing tonight (topic: "inland waterways" where I will sing one fairly 'trad' song ("Brazos River") and one which is hard to classify ("Silver Bell"). And if there is a 3rd round, a traditional syrupy gospel ditty "Row Us Over the Tide".
During the evening I will no doubt hear...& tolerate... a few songs which will probably not 'fit' my narrow concept of folk, but since this has for 40 years been an 'open' sing, I KNOW the usual mix and am either surprised or bothered....(well...sometimes I have to bite my tongue....*grin*)

Once more... I


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 07:24 PM

Don Firth - I appreciate your lengthy resume, but once again, you are missing the point of what I have been attempting to say.

I am not disagreeing with you about the pedigree of folk song. I too can say that I "did not just learn the songs I sing from Kingston Trio records, and my knowledge of the field goes a bit deeper than merely reading the notes on the backs of record jackets."

I am not arguing against any of the facts that you have stated. I know the difference between what Joan Baez does for entertainment and what Jean Ritchie has lived. I too have a lengthy list of individuals I've had the honor of interviewing who have collected and introduced true folk songs to the public.

I am in complete agreement with you as to what constitutes traditional music.

Where you and I break, is along the question of "what is modern folk music".   I realized that by academic definitions that the oral tradition has been replaced by modern technology that probably will eliminate the folk process in the future.

While you are sticking by the lessons you learned when you received your degree 40 or 50 years ago, I feel that the study of folk lore and folk music has continued and that the reason dictionaries have acknowledged modern song is because of those changes.   If we stuck by the knowledge we had of astronomy from 40 or 50 years ago, think of all the discoveries we would have missed.

I am honored that you have chosen to share you knowledge, and I respect your background.   I am sorry you feel that my input can be summarily ignored, but if the rest of the world wants to call "Blowing in the Wind" a folk song, I am not going to stamp my feet and hold my breath to turn blue in protest. The change in the usage of the words "folk music" has NOT diminished the traditional music that you have studied.

People were not turned off by Bob Dylan plugging in his guitar, they were turned off the the pedantic arguments that ignore the living tradition of folk music.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 07:31 PM

A lot of people who loved folk music weren't turned off by Bob Dylan plugging in his guitar--they were just turned off by Bob Dylan. If you want to call modern pop stuff "folk", fine, but please provide a different term for what used to be called folk.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 07:36 PM

"You, Ron, go to Mystic.....what if groups like The Pyrates Royale, as much fun as they are, were all that was heard there?"

I would be horrified and probably stop going.   I go to Mystic and Eisteddfod because I can enjoy and learn the music that I truly love.

Yet, if the Pyrates Royale were booked for another festival -

I know some of you may not believe me, or think that I am hypocritical, but I truly love and respect traditional music. You may be at odds with my belief that there is contemporary folk music being created, but so be it.   I see a vibrant community of singer-songwriters who are creating songs for the same reasons that the traditional songs we have been talking about were created - to share stories, teach lessons, protest, and entertain.   There is a difference between these singer-songwriters and popular music and there always has been. I understand and accept that there is little support for such thought here on Mudcat, I am reassured that I am not off base. I would only hope that discussion can remain civil. I know I cracked a few jokes, and I apologize if anyone was offended. This music is very important, and I am comforted to know that it will not die because of the work many of you have done.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 07:36 PM

"If you want to call modern pop stuff "folk", fine, but please provide a different term for what used to be called folk. "


Sorry Dick, "folk" fits it just fine.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 08:02 PM

Ron, I am not a fossil and I am N O T   M I S S I N G   T H E   P O I N T, as you keep insisting.

Unconfined to the ivory tower you seem to think I inhabit, I am fully aware of what's been going on during recent decades and the changes that have taken place and continue to take place. Several songs I have learned recently, I have learned from singers on YouTube videos. That's certainly a new variation on "oral transmission." I wonder what Cecil Sharp would think of that.

To continue to call both a song that may very well have described a historical incident and has survived through centuries via oral transmission and has been sung by, perhaps, thousands of people over the generations, and a song about teenaged angst written two weeks ago and sung by a breathy young girl, and which no one but her will ever sing, as "folk songs"--well, refer back to Dick Greenhaus's comment about Gresham's Law.

At the very least, there should be a qualifier added to the work "folk" in order to give at least a foggy idea of what one is talking about. If you insist on using the word "folk" for both of these songs, then some way of differentiating one kind from the other would most certainly be in order. Perhaps "traditional folk" for the one and "contemporary folk" for the other.

I don't think that's unreasonable to at least hope for.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Gurney
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 08:04 PM

I couldn't be bothered to read my way down to here, so if someone said this before, sorry.

It matters to me what it's called for one reason: I then know where to start looking in the record shop/music lists.

Imagine if there were NO categories!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Peter Beta
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 08:08 PM

Lord Batman=Def Shepard=Mole Catcher's Apprentice?

Could be wrong, but very similar posting style & profligacy. Also not much overlap when you look at when each were active on here.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Bill H //\\
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 08:30 PM

A general critigue---if you will.   I just happened onto this thread and, as most threads, they tend to drift in tangents that perhaps lawyers would appreciate in the defining of terms---at many dollars per hour.

But beer. I loved that. A short tale. I am not a beer drinker and, while truly loving its look totally not liking the taste. Yet, many years back whilst in dear old England I ordered Shandy in a pub. Liked it a lot. Later while on the return flight (and I do not like flying) asked the steward if they might be serving Shandy--his comment--Why the hell would anyone want to ruin a good beer with lemonade. Oh well--sort of like my episode with the Sheriff of New Orleans years back. He was a wine lover and, I guess, an expert. One night in Antoines he did the ordering---I could not drink it. The next night in a local place near him he said "..you order the wine". I don't care for wine so I ordered a NY State Sauterne--tasted good to me. He said it was pure "piss".

SO---I stick to Vodka and and hope this will not lead to a lawerly like discussion of wine and beer on this thread. OR--does it matter what booze is called? My fee there is 200.00/hour.

SKOL

Bill Hahn


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Betsy
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 08:35 PM

Yes it does matter - I don't want to accidentally spend my night at a Country and Western night.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 08:43 PM

Gurney, I think you've got the gist of it.

Sorry, but I just can't resist this:

Does it matter what butter is called?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 09:53 PM

Don - you are not a fossil. You have years of experience and have a great knowledge to share. I turn 51 tomorrow. Now that my life is 1/3 over, I appreciate more and more people like yourself who have made it possible for me to enjoy the music that I love.

You heard a song about teenage angst that you could not relate to. I don't blame you. There is a lot of self-therapy sessions that try to pass itself off as music. It does not have a long shelf life, and it is not something I enjoy either.

"Traditional folk" and "contemporary folk"?   Actually, I thought that was what most people called it and it is usually the way I would describe it as well, but of course there are sub-variations as well. The Whitby Week that Dick pointed out early is a folk festival, but it is a traditional British folk festival. There are also many people that would reject "contemporary folk" as well. So be it.

There are also people who need to refer to an instruction manual to figure out how to wipe their ass. So be it. If I walk into a record store (the few that remain), I am old enough not to judge a CD by its cover.   I also realize that the store owner cannot possibly have a section for each catagory of music that has an audience. So be it.

Life goes on. I enjoy playing and listening folk music of all kinds.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 Jul 08 - 11:42 PM

Actually, I have nothing at all against singer-songwriters. One of my particular favorites is Gordon Bok, who sings a lot of traditional material along with songs of his own. The beauty of what he does is that the songs he writes are practically indistinguishable from traditional songs, and if he didn't tell you, it would be next to impossible to determine which is which. This comes from his being sufficiently steeped in traditional material to be able to duplicate the elements thereof—not something that can be said of very many singer-songwriters!   I have swiped many songs from Gordon's records, both traditional and songs he has written (for which I always give proper credit).

I am indeed glad that singer-songwriters are hard at work cranking out songs like link sausages. And that at least some singer-songwriters are really trying to emulate the best elements of traditional songs. Future folk songs have to come from somewhere.

But there are a couple of caveats about that. First, let me note that Woody Guthrie wrote thousands of songs. Some of them are excellent, and a few are close to being accepted as genuine American folk songs, despite the fact that the writer is known. But Woody used what he called the "shotgun technique." He figured that if he wrote enough songs, then just by accident if nothing else, a few of them might turn out to be pretty good. And he was wise enough to round-file the ones that didn't work.

Which brings me to an important point:   An artist friend of mine once remarked that "An artist's most valuable tool is his waste basket!" Being able to look at your own work and admit that "This is crap!" helps to assure that what you do present has a better chance of being good. A lesson that the vast majority of singer-songwriters I have heard could profit by.

Throughout the ages in the realm of classical music, believe it or not, only a small percentage of the music written in all that time is known today. Nobody really knows how many truckloads of manuscript paper were used to light fires because the music on it, at best, roused no more interest than the composer's wife saying "That's very nice, dear," and the audience he first played the music for kept stifling yawns as they edged toward the door. The musical works that consistently inspired enthusiasm over time and in many listeners have become known as "classics." But they were not "classics" when the composer first sat down at the harpsichord or the piano to play them for an assembled audience. A long string of audiences, and other musicians who wanted to play the work, and a sustained interest over a substantial number of years determine whether a work is a "classic" or not.

I'm quite sure that all of these composers certainly hoped that their works would eventually be considered "classics." But not that many were stone-dumb enough to announce, as they sat down at the piano, "This is a classic I wrote last week."

Capische?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 12 Jul 08 - 12:48 AM

Don, I agree with you - but the issue in this discussion has not been quality. Naturally there is a lot of "bad" songs out there.   There were also traditional folk songs that were deemed "unworthy" by collectors - sometimes for reasons other than quality. I'm also sure there were millions of songs that never made it through the oral tradition because of quality and a short shelf life.

When you say that Gordon Bok is steeped in traditional material, I do agree with you.   But don't you think that the traditional material that Gordon is steeped in represents a regional and cultural preference that he himself was steeped in? I'm not hearing much flavor of Appalachian folk in his music.

The point is, contemporary singer-songwriters are writing in styles that are reflective of their own community - a community that has been evolving and influenced by the modern era and all that comes with it. There is probably a reason why you can hear a similarity in the music of a singer-songwriter from Texas and one from New York City.   It is probably more honest than the music that was created during the so-called folk revival. Instead of mimicking someone elses roots, contemporary singer-songwriters are writing from the community that they know. Perhaps that is why it sounds so different.

You can call their music "link sausages", but that is truly an unfair stereotype. I'd rather hear a singer-songwriter churn out honest songs as they hone their craft rather then hear someone mimic a style or regionality that has nothing to do with their experience.

There is a reason that the Carter Family does not sound like the Copper Family, and that is an honesty.   For someone from Brooklyn to sound like either is not a honest effort, but rather an effort in impersonation.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: M.Ted
Date: 12 Jul 08 - 02:33 AM

There was another thread inquiring about "snake handling music", and someone posted a nice YouTube link--the music was the Carl Perkins-like and great--real, living, traditional American folk music, from a real, living culture--nothing mainstream about it--bottom line, culture is a key element--

It isn't so much what you play as who you play it for--Hip-Hop, which was mentioned at the top, is all about culture, At a club off 52nd street in West Philly, it's Hip-Hop--move it to the UK and it isn't Hip-Hop anymore--it is borrowed--it might be good, or even great music, but it's like TJ's Mexican Food--


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lowden Jameswright
Date: 12 Jul 08 - 04:26 AM

"The Whitby Week that Dick pointed out early is a folk festival, but it is a traditional British folk festival. There are also many people that would reject "contemporary folk" as well."

The Whitby Folk Festival is a festival of folk - in its broadest sense. There may be those who prefer to ignore that fact, or who try to ignore what is going on all over the town - people playing all types of music (not just "folk") and enjoying themselves. It is a fantastic festival, richer because of the acceptance of a very wide variety of music and "folk" music. The places I go to there aren't characterised by characters analysing their butts off about definitions. I'll go so far as to say the "traditionalists" are very much in the minority in the Whitby Folk Week - but they will respond in that statement in their own inimitable way.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 12 Jul 08 - 11:12 AM

Really and this "Whitby Week" feels it has no need to advertise itself in any way? Because sure as hell I can't find any reference to it anywhere on the internet, yet there seems to be a plethora of references to Whitby FOLK Week

There is also The Moor and Coast Festival of Traditional Music, but that's already occurred (May Bank Holiday Weekend)


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 12 Jul 08 - 11:20 AM

Well "Peter Beta" if you feel that way I invite you to do something about it, but accusing people of being someone else is a definite breach of good manners, or it used to be, maybe that's changed as well.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 12 Jul 08 - 01:44 PM

Ron, you persist in applying the narrowest interpretation to what I'm saying and don't give me credit for having already having thought things out.

Maybe we'd just better let it lie.

I've got deadlines to meet and I don't have the time and energy to keep refining everything I say in a vain attempt to forestall you're assumptions about what I don't know or haven't figured out long since.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 12 Jul 08 - 02:20 PM

Sorry Don, I know I keep saying it - but you really aren't understanding my point and now you are accusing me of not giving you credit. I do understand what you are saying and all I am doing is giving my opinion and countering some of the points you make. You cannot expect everyone to agree with you, and I certainly do not expect you or anyone to agree with me. I'm sorry if you consider someone voicing their opinion to be an attack.

This discussion has become pointless and as you suggest, it is best to let it lie. Sorry to inconvenience you with an attempt at a civil discussion.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 12 Jul 08 - 03:33 PM

Sorry if you feel I'm insufficiently civil, Ron. But you, too, have to be prepared to accept that not everyone agrees with you. Disageement is not necessarily incivility.

I don't see how my saying that a song I've written is a "folk song" makes it a folk song any more than if I wrote a piano sonata or a string quartet and proclaimed it a "classic" actually makes it a classic.

I can write these things in the style of a Harlan County coal mining song or a fo'c'sle chantey, or a string quartet in the style of Beethoven or Schubert, but it is not for me to say that the song is a "folk song" or the quartet is a "classic."

The artist I mentioned above who said that an artist's most valuable tool is his wastebasket, when asked what he did, responded, "I paint pictures." People would usually say, "Oh, you're an artist?" "Well, I paint pictures," my friend would say. "Whether I am an artist or not is for others to decide, not me."

Ric was not a particularly humble person. But he didn't like to make grandiose claims that might ultimately be judged embarrassingly false.

This is my last post to this thread.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 12 Jul 08 - 03:41 PM

Just one question, Ron.
In your view, what isn't folk?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 12 Jul 08 - 03:43 PM

The siren rocks on which these discussions founder is authenticity; the impossible, realer-than-thou (or at least thou's taste) quest that feels, nay knows, there's a place beyond quality and discernment where folk lives free of the vicissitudes of modernity. It's an unnecessary burden for any label to carry and ends in a music that feels and looks like the image of the person doing the looking. A comfortable place and full of prime hogwash.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 12 Jul 08 - 03:45 PM

Thanks Don. We simply have a failure to communicate. I'm sure if we were sitting face to face it would be easier for each of us to understand what the other is trying to say.   

I'm not claiming that you can sit down and write a TRUE folk song, but I have no problem with someone who wishes to classify it as such. You and I understand that it does not fit the historic definition, but I allow for contemporary usage to change meanings. I understand your relucatance and reasons why that should not be, but that is where we disagree.   No one is right or wrong.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 12 Jul 08 - 03:58 PM

In the end, dispite all the arguing and carrying on, each of us will do what we do and life will go on.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 12 Jul 08 - 04:07 PM

"In your view, what isn't folk? "

Pop music that was created solely as a commercial enterprise, classical music that was created for similar purpose and designed to be performed and played for a higher ranking of society.

As I have tried to get across, I am not overly concerned with definitions. I realize that what I said in the first paragraph leaves a lot of gray areas.   There is a certain "sound" and "feel" and a sense of community in the music that I enjoy listening to and playing on my radio show. While I admire Bob Dylan, I rarely play his music on my show.

One of the attractions that I had to traditional folk music was the sense of history and purpose behind the songs. Learning not only about the subject matter, but who sang the songs and has always been of great interest.   I've learned a great deal about communities from different regions of the world and about the lives of the individuals through traditional music. Naturally I discover the different traditions that come from different cultures which to me makes the simple term of "folk music" akin the word "fruit" or "vegetable".   It does not describe specifics, but creates a starting point.

When I hear contemporary songs in the same vein, teaching me about contemporary issues and culture in the same fashion that the traditional songs were created - I feel that is following in the folk tradition.

The is also an artistic judgement. You can look at paintings or literature and see differences in style. Go into a bookstore and look under "fiction" and you will find everything from Beowulf to Bukowski. You need more than a word like "fiction" to describe the content, just as "folk music" cannot tell you the content of a CD. I do not expect to walk into a book store and find the Beat writers separated from Mark Twain. Content wise, they are completely different, but you can only have so many sections.

Of course I understand the difference between traditional and contemporary. I understand the desire to cling to certain words, but I differ in the opinion that changes to these simple words are destroying traditional music.

Dick, can I ask you a question - what do you consider "folk music"?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Peter Beta
Date: 12 Jul 08 - 06:10 PM

"Do something about it"? This isn't the school playground, y'know...
I just made an observation, that's all. Interesting to see how you got so defensive, though. Do you actually DENY it?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 12 Jul 08 - 07:52 PM

"The siren rocks on which these discussions founder is authenticity; the impossible, realer-than-thou (or at least thou's taste) quest that feels, nay knows, there's a place beyond quality and discernment where folk lives free of the vicissitudes of modernity. It's an unnecessary burden for any label to carry and ends in a music that feels and looks like the image of the person doing the looking. A comfortable place and full of prime hogwash. "

If you performed in public well enough for people to take an interest in the sounds you make, you'd sooner or later encounter the question "where can I hear more music like that? what kind of music is it, anyway?".

And you'd give them THAT answer?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: M.Ted
Date: 12 Jul 08 - 11:04 PM

In order to be a folk song, as song has to be adopted by some culture--in other words, it has to become popular with some group of people--they have to play it, sing it, dance to it, etc. In order to be traditional, that group has to pass it down generationally.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 05:11 AM

"And you'd give them THAT answer?"

No Jack, just the last sentence. Besides, a lot of people would argue with "If you performed in public well enough for people to take an interest in the sounds you make" as being anti-folk with its imtimations of 'quality', virtuosity and performance. I wouldn't but plenty here would.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: goatfell
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 06:01 AM

when a song/tune is called 'Traditional'was written by someone years ago and they've died, so what is 'Traditional'?, and what is Folk Music anyway, music by the people for the people that's what Folk music is well according to me anyway, so songs by Cole Poter, Johnny Cash, Aerosmith can be considered as 'Folk Music' if a song is sung in a folk music envorment then it is folk music, but then the purists will say that's not right, but as I ask what is Folk Music?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 06:34 AM

: when a song/tune is called 'Traditional'was written by someone years ago and they've died,
: so what is 'Traditional'?

Two answers, both of which you've been given already in this thread:

1. it's traditional if it's in the style of some specific tradition (blues, Highland pipe lament, whatever)

2. it's traditional if it's actually been passed down orally.

I'm more interested in the first aspect, as that is what determines whather I'll want to listen to it and whether I can play along with it, and if so on what instrument. In Scottish instrumental traditional music, nobody makes a genre distinction between music with recent known composers and ancient stuff from way back. There are differences in style, but I sometimes put a tune from 400 years ago in the same medley as one written this millennium.

: and what is Folk Music anyway, music by the people for the people that's what Folk music
: is well according to me anyway, so songs by Cole Poter, Johnny Cash, Aerosmith can be
: considered as 'Folk Music'

Cole Porter and Aerosmith are BY the people? No matter how popular they may have been at one time, that was never true.

I'm interested in knowing what the music on offer (on a website, on a CD, at a concert, at a session) IS. There is some of Johnny Cash I find okay, and I have actually played along with that song about killing a man in Memphis once. Aerosmith I have no idea about, I couldn't name or identify any ot their songs, but if they're sorta-heavy-metal I might have *some* interest (it can be fun playing the flute with that stuff, and it's quite easy for a folk instrumentalist to pick up as its tonality is similar to that of Western European traditional music). Cole Porter just makes me want to puke; music for Readers Digest subscribers and geriatric queens.

: if a song is sung in a folk music envorment then it is folk music

What's that supposed to mean? Is something a "folk music environment" just because people use the word?

: but then the purists will say that's not right, but as I ask what is Folk Music?

What's the point of asking if you don't want any answer?

And WHY don't you want an answer? What's so threatening about trying to describe what we play and listen to?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 07:06 AM

Anyway. I've decided to call mine Alf - In memory of my Paternal Grandfather. (Maybe A Little-like Folk?)

D.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 07:16 AM

The glitch is the purist or sentimentalist argument, as wiser counsels than myself have pointed out, is that someone must have generated the song in the first place. I'm prepared to accept that there are archetypal cultural motifs - the simplest hummed lullabies, two chord worksongs (with the emphasis on the work, not the song), but as soon as verses enter the fray, an authorial hand can be recognised and it's no longer folk - a cultural observation has been made and artifice can be deduced, someone, somewhere done it.

It's hard not have sympathy with those who take a hard line on the first definition of folk and hope to trace a primitive and essential structure to music but once types of instruments are mentioned, song sheets and the rest of the bourgeois, academic, new masquerading as old stuff all bets are off and folk is no different to any other acoustic form with similar preoccupations.

Personally I don't need anyone to tell me what 'folk is', which is a realistic response to a mediated definition that comes from outside community. The community have decided and that's folk enough for me.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 08:02 AM

So you have absolutely no need to distinguish between Sam Baker, Esma Redzepova and the Red Hot Chilli Pipers when buying a CD or a concert ticket? Any of them would fit the bill under any circumstances - so long as it's labelled as "folk" by the promoter, that's enough for you?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 09:00 AM

On the contrary, I'm saying 1954 definitions of folk are too broad and inclusive to have any meaning. They're top down distinctions that have nothing to do with real folk.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Betsy
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 09:49 AM

Of course it matters what it is called .
If I see an ad.( in the UK ) for Country and Western ,Folk ,Old Timey Blue grass or whatever I want to know which ones I would like to attend .
If someone advertises an acoustic session , I might go in the knowledge that I could expect to hear any of those categories mentioned ,and probably including Beatles , John Denver , Buddy Holly and others (take your pick ),but Folk would be probably any song which has been sang in Folk clubs since the revival, which, is a fairly wide church.
If we don't have singer songwriters in Folk clubs we may as well disappear up our own backsides.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 09:58 AM

At this time I interrupt the Don & Ron Show to point out that there's a difference between "getting" someone's point and buying the point.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 10:08 AM

"but Folk would be probably any song which has been sang in Folk clubs since the revival."

That's as good a definition as any Betsy, and better than most. The thread title is just another chance for pedants to air their definition phobias, most people have made their mind up about what the F-word means.
The old definitions really do defy logic, so there's no point applying deductive reasoning to them. A 15 verse, tightly rhyming song with a specific tune and choruses that doesn't carry the imprint of a single person? Do me a favour. Valorised for the simple fact that we don't know his/her name? What's that all about. And how come that's folk? I think we should be told. Properly.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 10:52 AM

Folk songs are songs that were almost certainly made, but were definitely taken up, sung and adapted by 'the folk' (sorry - another dictionary definition) -ie the 'common' or 'ordinary' people. They acted not only as entertainment, but as reflections of the experiences, emotions and ideas of the people who made them and the communities that accepted and transmitted them. They were composed in such a universal manner as to not only circulate in the communities where the originated, but were taken up and adapted by other communities - hence 200 plus versions of Barbara Allen!!!)
It is this that makes them unique and underlines their importance.
The manner of their transmission and because those who made and transmitted them were almost certainly illiterate, they were virtually all anonymous compositions, or were so changed from their original forms (whatever that may have been) as to be untraceable; they became common property; this is what gives them their 'folkness'.
They are inseparable from their companion genres of folklore ('common' practice and belief) and folktales (the oral literature of the 'common' people).
Not only are folk songs anonymous, but there is no evidence that they were even started by one individual - we know of at least two which were begun by groups of people (one made by Irish Travellers and another by a group of fishermen in West Clare). On both occasions the singers we got them from were unable to remember who began to make them up in the first place (they remembered the incident but not the participants).
I often wonder why many singer/songwriters are so desperate to label their compositions 'folk' especially as so many of them are in the forefront of those claiming that definitions are unimportant.
Perhaps if they removed their names from their songs and didn't copyright them they migh make the grade..... but I won't hold my breath!
Jim Carroll
PS Schubert wrote songs and died - traditional??? Don't think so really.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 12:58 PM

If we don't have singer songwriters in Folk clubs we may as well disappear up our own backsides.

I couldn't agree less. The traditional repertoire is vast; there's enough there to keep any number of folkies going indefinitely.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 02:11 PM

I'm ba-a-a-a-a-a-ack! Sorry about that, but I thought I'd look in from time to time and occasionally kibbitz as I lurk up here in the chandelier.

"At this time I interrupt the Don & Ron Show to point out that there's a difference between 'getting' someone's point and buying the point."

Well spotted, Uncle Dave!

As to the idea that if it were not for singer-songwriters adding to the repertoire, we soon wouldn't have anything to sing (colorfully and acrobatically described as disappearing "up our own backsides"), I have a working repertoire of a couple hundred songs (what I tend to call "folk songs," ones where the authors' names are not recorded in history and that have been around anywhere from several centuries to fairly recent times—along with several that I don't regard as folk songs, some of which are old and some new, where the author is known, and that are not generally sung except by professional singers), I know a couple hundred more that I would need to refresh because I haven't sung them for some time, and several thousand more in books and on records, tapes, or CDs that I would like to learn and sing, but I doubt that I will live long enough to absorb more than a small fraction of them.

And most of the singers of folk songs that I know personally, such as Bob (Deckman) Nelson, Nancy Quensé, Stewart (Stewart) Hendrickson, Mike (miken) Nelson, John Weiss, Judy Flenniken, and a couple dozen more, have repertoires as big as mine and are constantly learning new songs. Folk songs, by the strict, hard-nosed, academic definition. We know many of the same songs. But we each know many songs that the others don't. And we learn songs from each other (a la good old fashioned folk tradition), but there again, none of us will live long enough to learn all of each others' repertoires.

So I don't lose much sleep over the danger of running out of songs to sing!

Jim Carroll says, "I often wonder why many singer/songwriters are so desperate to label their compositions 'folk' especially as so many of them are in the forefront of those claiming that definitions are unimportant.

Perhaps if they removed their names from their songs and didn't copyright them they might make the grade..... but I won't hold my breath!"

I echo that wonderment.

(Okay, I'll crawl back up in the chandelier. For now.)

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 02:24 PM

glueman - let's take some examples. I learned the song "Fare thee well my dearest dear" from a version recorded by Shirley Collins. Shirley Collins learned it from a version written down by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and he learned it from somebody who sang it to him, in 1904. What's recognisably the same song, with variations, can be found on broadsides dating back to the seventeenth century. Obviously somebody wrote it - I don't think anyone here's claiming that traditional songs emerge fully-formed from the collective unconscious. What's important is that, some time in the eighteenth century, that song entered the oral tradition, and it was still being passed along orally when Vaughan Williams turned up with his notebook.

You can do something similar with a lot of traditional songs. "Pleasant and delightful" comes off a nineteenth-century broadside; "Sam Hall" was a music hall turn; "Rosebud in June" was written for a play (it was a show tune, in other words). Old pop songs, really - not chthonic outbreathings of the soul of the people. But they're still folk - it's how they've reached us that makes the difference. This is why Bert Lloyd cared enough to fake the attribution for "Reynardine" and "The recruited collier", and also why many people care that he did this.

But "Streets of London", say, isn't a folk song and never will be. The problem is that there's a single, readily-available answer to the question: "what should that sound like?" We know the right melody, the right chords and the right words, and if we want to know how it all fits together we can listen to the writer singing it. That's a huge change from the conditions that existed as recently as a hundred years ago. Oral transmission, as a primary route for handing songs along, is essentially dead; the universal availability of recorded and broadcast music killed it. Oral transmission within the community of folkies goes on to a small extent, but that's not a community so much as an optional, part-time network that's selected itself around a specialist activity. It's a fantastic activity and an important network, but it's not a community: we are not the folk.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 02:39 PM

Excellent analysis, Pip!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 03:12 PM

A very good analysis Pip but I'd take one issue with it. Streets of London, a song I carry a particular antipathy for, is a folk song because it's generally spoken of as such. If we're going to be particular about language, then we must also be consistent and recognise terms like 'the common people' and 'oral tradition' are meaningless. They wouldn't stand up unaided in masters degree let alone a court of law.

My favoured position is closer to 1954 than many would give credit for but where I depart is the idea that folk can have no present or future tense, that 'we are not the folk' and never can be because of the vicissitudes of recording. Human nature hasn't changed so we're left with a verbal abstraction. The hard line/authentic definition has its merits but has created a popular image of folk music as anachronistic and of being of no more relevance to the common man than a breast plough. It's an activity like pretending to be a Napolionic foot soldier, quite possibly enjoyable but divorced from the realities than necessitated the job and mainly about fancy dress.

As I've said before, what people usually mean by folk is folk revival, the frozen moment, the historical snapshot which saw time compressed. It's illusory because it puts mid-Victorian sensibilities on a par with medieval ones while making it impossible for the current day to add its mark. Truly, most people don't give a flying **** about titles, they're just getting on with making music in the tradition.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Bill D
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 05:17 PM

Ron..you ask Dick Greenhaus "Dick, can I ask you a question - what do you consider "folk music"?"

I do not presume to speak for him, but the DT database is a pretty good indication of his general view, I'd guess...*grin*.

It is VERY heavily oriented toward traditional music...with songs by known authors included when they seem to exhibit many of the characteristics of traditional music. I have argued for years that a working definition of folk/trad could be obtained by examining the DT, looking at all the songs which everyone would agree are 'folk', and asking what common characteristics such songs share.

Those criteria could be used when looking at a song about which there is doubt.
Yes, yes...of course there would still be gray areas and songs where there was disagreement whether it was "written mostly for commercial purposes" or whether it "had a melodic style too complex to be trad" or whether the subject matter was 'universal' or 'personal navel gazing'....etc.

   We'd still never get a perfect, universally agreed on list of NEW stuff...but the very exercise of EVALUATING the common characteristics of the OLD stuff would help un-muddy some points.

Dick & Susan have created a database that DOES show what the more 'picky' of us fossils think is a good starting place. To them...and to guys like me, it is 'almost' intuitive what should be listed in a 'folk' database. This database is one of a few 'lines in the sand' that help keep alive the very idea that there is a difference between 'folk' and 'faux pholk' that gets labeled because it's such a nice, short, convenient word.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 05:44 PM

"At this time I interrupt the Don & Ron Show to point out that there's a difference between "getting" someone's point and buying the point."

I've been saying that all along.   I understand what Don is trying to say even though I don't buy his point.

There are a great many traditions that can fit Bill D's answer to the question I posed asking to Dick to share his definition of "folk music".    I completely agree with Bill D's answer, but - and here is where we diverge - I do consider that there is such an animal as a "new tradition" and "new community" and that common usage of the word "folk music" for contemporary singer-songerwriters will not cause the Earth to spin off it's axis or the planets to fall out of alignment - or even more important, IT WILL NOT HURT TRADITIONAL MUSIC.

The work Dick and Susan have done is amazing, and the Digital Tradition Database is a valuable resource that we are lucky to have. I am very happy that many of the contemporary singer-songwriters are included in the Digital Tradition Databse. No need to think up a new term, we all understand the differences between songs.

Contemporary society has changed the definition of folk music. No big deal.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 06:49 PM

"Contemporary society has changed the definition of folk music."

Sorry, no cigar. A few members of contemporary society (some of whom have a vested interest in giving their work a legitimacy that they would not possess otherwise) would like to change the definition of folk music to something much looser, fuzzier, and more indefinite, so they can include anything they want to include, whether or not it meets any established criteria beyond their own wishes. But—until they get far more general agreement than they have now, the definition remains unchanged.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 07:07 PM

I'm sorry you disagree Don, but I feel that contemporary society has already changed the definition of folk music - and the change can be traced back to the early days of the folk revival of the 1940's.   It does NOT include ANYTHING "they" want to include. It is more than just a "FEW" members of contemporary society who have worked to recognize the change. I think if you look hard enough, you will see that most people are comfortable with the way the words have evolved.

You are right though, because basically the definition remains unchanged - it just has a much broader interpretation than you wish to attribute to it.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 02:47 AM

Glueman,
"'the common people' ..... meaningless".
Only if you choose to make it so - they are to be found in numerous books on social history on my shelves; several of which include them in the title
Oral tradition ....meaningless ..... balls!!!! - Ruth Finnegan, John Blacking et al roll over.
I find it interesting the way you feel free to dismiss existing definitions in the arbitrary way you do, then scurry behind 'masters degree' and 'courts of law' to bolster up your somewhat leaky point!
"contemporary society has already changed the definition of folk music"
Contemporary society has done no such thing, any attempts to change the existing definition have come from a small and dwindling group of singers motivated by personal taste and self interest who have been unable to find their own pot to piss in and want to use this one. Society in general doesn't give a toss - but they can always go to the dictionary should they change their minds.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 03:13 AM

basically the definition remains unchanged - it just has a much broader interpretation than you wish to attribute to it

Horse feathers. No amount of interpretation can make the 54 definition fit contemporary singer-songwriters' work. More to the point, I don't understand why anyone would want to make it fit - or want to claim the word 'folk' for their own compositions.

glueman: where I depart is the idea that folk can have no present or future tense, that 'we are not the folk' and never can be because of the vicissitudes of recording. Human nature hasn't changed so we're left with a verbal abstraction

'Human nature' is a verbal abstraction - I'm talking about actual changes in the way people live The uniformity imposed by mechanical reproduction has been eroding the diversity of the oral tradition for a long time, going back to pianolas and mass-produced parlour songbooks. Ironically, the oral tradition finally gave up the ghost (in this country at least) at around the same time the Revival was really getting going.

We aren't the folk, and the folk aren't singing. We're singing - which is great, and I hope some of our own material will be good enough to stand the test of time. But it won't be folk music.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 03:51 AM

You're flapping Jim! Which oral tradition? Who are these common people? What makes them common and why are they no longer able to contribute?
I'm not hiding behind language, the proponents of those definitions are - they're wooly terms, comfortable, suggestive certainly but they don't stand up to scrutiny. Medieval song and their singers have nothing to do with 19th century ballads except in the minds of C20th folkies. By using them loosely they've lost the historical high ground and turned themselves into a cult with no more relevance than Mods and Rockers.

These threads are always about the same thing, a rearguard action to stop the word folk being used in an ongoing, creative, contemporary context. There is no legal framework to stop it's use, it's not a trademark so you've lost I'm afraid.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: greg stephens
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 04:48 AM

There are indeed vested interests who have have a very real reasojn to enlarge the definition of "folk" to involve contemporary acoustic/singer song writer music. There are bodies who provide funding to maintain examples of traditional architecture for example, and similarly some art funding bodies have been induced by campaigning to help out the world of "folk" with some ring-fenced funding. And if there's a bit of money about, the supply and demand works in this as in any other field: naturally the number of people who want a slice of the money increases. So if the Arts Council coughs up some money to make films about folk, or some funds are avaiable to take folk into schools, suddenly there are more people who suddenly become "folk". A whole new world has quietly grown up in the last generation: I well remember when I had a phone call from a regional arts organisation ten or fifteen years ago, asking if I'd go into schools and help the kids write folk songs about the canal. No I would not, very emphatically. I've been writing songs for the theatre for years, and would happily work on song writing with kids, and I do. But no, I will not go and write "folk songs" with kids. Load of baloney. But, you see, there was special "folk money" in it!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 05:00 AM

I don't think it's just about singer/songwriters and others trying to find a label - I think the nature of what the rest of the world considers to be folk music has been changed irrevocably by the music industry itself, which has commodified the term and changed it beyond all recognition.

Unfortunately, Sony and HMV have a lot more clout than I do, and if they categorise certain artists or genres as "folk" (even with qualifying prefixes such as "nu" or "twisted" et al) the world believes them. It's a term we've lost, to all intents and purposes, as describing a specific type of music which conforms to certain parameters. And I don't feel it's one we're likely to get back - at least, not in any meaningful form.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,B etsy at Work
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 05:23 AM

Who really gives a Folk ?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 07:54 AM

Agreed Ruth


Thats largely why I prefer to use the term traditional for what many here call "folk"

There is of course still the question of how anybody working now can add to the canon of material. Assuming that they are working identifiably within the traditional style. Whose characteristics I belive to include use of narrative based on experience, modal based or modal sounding tunes etc etc.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 08:07 AM

Guest,

'There is of course still the question of how anybody working now can add to the canon of material. Assuming that they are working identifiably within the traditional style.'

The only people who can decide whether something is or is not added to the folk 'canon' are the 'folk' themselves, whoever they are, certainly not the song writer or you or me. Where there is a strong lively oral tradition (soccer chants, playground songs) material is being added all the time but it is filtered subconsciously by the folk involved first.

If you mean added to the folk-scene canon then anything rejected by the folk police is liable to make it.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: TheSnail
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 08:11 AM

Assuming that they are working identifiably within the traditional style. Whose characteristics I belive to include use of narrative based on experience, modal based or modal sounding tunes etc etc.

From Richard Bridges essay on the Seth Lakeman thread -

Cecil Sharp wrote: "The majority of our English -folk times, say two~thirds, are in the major mode.

And if the Child ballads were based on experience... they led interesting (if short) lives.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 08:14 AM

Some quite intersting and thoughtful comments here.

I recall an anecdote which I think reinforces both Pip's definition and Glueman's query about 'Streets of London'. A few years ago, a singing session I was in was visited, and particpated in, by a perplexed singer-songwriter. We would say 'this is a Robert Burns song' (or whatever), and eventually he burst out 'don't you do anything except cover versions?'

Actually that was quite a good question. when does a cover version (of 'Streets' etc) become 'actually, no we are absorbing songs into an oral tradition and thereby passing them on as folk songs'? (Which is what we like to think we were doing).

I think it comes to what Pip said about there only being one way to play/hear Streets of London and what Jack C said earlier about guitarists learning verbatim tab. If we change the tempo, key, accompaniment sufficiently, we are starting a song off into the oral process (even if its something contemporary - I've heard a folk club version of David Gray's 'Babylon'). But, if I learn the tuning, fingering and Tab for say, Martin Simpson's arrangement of Polly on the Shore (which is a traditional folk song), I'm not really passing on an oral tradition if I play that arrangement exactly as written (if only...).

How does that sound?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 08:43 AM

Well, well. How nice to see some others supporting the concept of a definition of folk music (one consistent with other academic uses) while not using it as a badge of quality.

I've been away at Ely "FOLK" festival and alas there was comparatively little English "FOLK" - but there was a very nice "guilty pleasures" session in the beer tent late Sunday night with a good range of 60s and 70s pop songs - in some cases in forms starting to show adaptation and possibly assimilation...

There was also some very fine squeezing at breakneck speed...


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 09:10 AM

Ruth
"I think the nature of what the rest of the world considers to be folk music has been changed irrevocably by the music industry itself, which has commodified the term and changed it beyond all recognition."
Who "in the rest of the world" and to what has it been changed?
Even if I were to allow a body as predatory and self-serving as 'the music industry' to change my concept of a music I am familiar with, whose interests would it serve to accept their definition (which is what)?
The general populace has no conception of the term 'folk'; our failing is not to have managed to involved them in what we believe important - so where does "the rest of the world" come into it.   
Is re-defining the term going to put one more bum on one more seat?
By accepting the singer-songwriters (or anybody who choses to describe themselves as 'folk') into the definition how then are we going to relate our music to the terms 'folklore' or 'folktales' or the hundreds of books which have been and are still being published under the banner 'folk'?
On a more personal note, is any change going to make it easier for me to find the music I (or anybody) would like to go to a folk club and listen to occasionally? On the contrary - it would be accepting the mis-use of the term by making it meaningless.
The only winners in all of this would be the usurpers of the term who have been largely responsible for the present mess the folk scene is at present and who, so far at least, haven't even bothered to produce a viable alternative (at present it seems to range from "whatever I choose to call 'folk' to 'anything that is presented at a folk club'.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: mattkeen
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 09:12 AM

Steve said: 'There is of course still the question of how anybody working now can add to the canon of material. Assuming that they are working identifiably within the traditional style.'

The only people who can decide whether something is or is not added to the folk 'canon' are the 'folk' themselves, whoever they are, certainly not the song writer or you or me. Where there is a strong lively oral tradition (soccer chants, playground songs) material is being added all the time but it is filtered subconsciously by the folk involved first.

If you mean added to the folk-scene canon then anything rejected by the folk police is liable to make it.


Largely because of technology, it is almost impossible for a composer to be "Anon." Assuming that all other factors are the same as (for example) the writer of a tune in 1620 that was then taken up by folks and has come to us now, does that mean that if the composer is named then the composition cannot be a folk tune/song?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 09:43 AM

"There are indeed vested interests who have have a very real reasojn to enlarge the definition of "folk" to involve contemporary acoustic/singer song writer music."

From a business standpoint, that would be ridiculous. "Folk" is a commercial "F" word, conjuring up impages of old men in flannels and grandmas in paisley dresses singing out of tune songs about whales or cowboys. If a singer-songwriter wanted to hitch onto a commercial trend, they would call themselves rock or alternative or country or new age or anything but folk. There is a terrible image of what "folk music" became, and the examples of bickering that goes on here reinforces reasons why outsiders look at the music a big joke. There is more harm done in the holier than thou attitude and indignation that goes on over what songs should be sung that you are burying the music you love out of selfish pride.

You are not wrong to consider the criteria of what constitutes a traditional "folk song", and what tradition that particular song belongs to - but when you create a country club attitude, you are slamming the door in the face of future generations. You will be remembered as the ones who killed the tradition.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 09:52 AM

Jim:


'Who "in the rest of the world" and to what has it been changed?'

I'm thinking of the vast, music-listening public beyond the "folk world". They are constantly being told that some new singer or band or phenomenon is folk music, and why should they argue? So anything acoustic is now folk. A lot of music that references late 60s psychedelia is thought of as a type of folk. Any music that is remotely rootsy falls within the folk category.


'Even if I were to allow a body as predatory and self-serving as 'the music industry' to change my concept of a music I am familiar with, whose interests would it serve to accept their definition (which is what)?'

I think, realistically, it doesn't matter whether we within the folk community accept these eternal definitions or not. What I'm trying to say is that the music industry communicates with many, many times more people than the relatively small folk community. As they persist in using "folk" as a catch-all term, it develops and evolves beyond whatever we might understand into something else, or many somethings else. And it becomes less and less useful as a descriptive term.


'The general populace has no conception of the term 'folk';'

I disagree, Jim. The term has been used a lot over the past 10 or 15 years to describe all sorts of music - just because the general populace's understanding of what folk is may be different from our definition doesn't mean their conception(s) is the one which will eventually die off. As I've said, there are lots more of them than there are of us.


"By accepting the singer-songwriters (or anybody who choses to describe themselves as 'folk') into the definition how then are we going to relate our music to the terms 'folklore' or 'folktales' or the hundreds of books which have been and are still being published under the banner 'folk'?"

Actually, this is clearly problematic. I kind of feelthat the use of 'folk' to describe music has become almost seperate as an entity from folklore, folk tales and folk art - largely because these entities have not been commodified within popular culture to anything like the same degree as folk music.


"On a more personal note, is any change going to make it easier for me to find the music I (or anybody) would like to go to a folk club and listen to occasionally? On the contrary - it would be accepting the mis-use of the term by making it meaningless."

I'm afraid I see this as a lost argument. We can't make people stop "mis-using" the word, and at the end of the day it doesn't belong to us.

"The only winners in all of this would be the usurpers of the term who have been largely responsible for the present mess the folk scene is at present and who, so far at least, haven't even bothered to produce a viable alternative (at present it seems to range from "whatever I choose to call 'folk' to 'anything that is presented at a folk club'."

Again, I'm not sure what you could do about this. The "userpers" will use the word and define folk however they choose. And this willcontinue to undermine the usefulness of 'folk' as a descriptive term for music.

Have a look at this:

Who Gives a Folk?

From the website above:
"In the last few years, however, a revival of English folk music has seen a plethora of new folk styles sprout up, from nu-folk to twisted folk, from Bat for Lashes to Tunng and even twindie, a new generation seems to be giving folk new meaning and an unexpected lease of life. Has folk finally left behind its parochial, twee image?"

IMHO, this event is a perfect example of the fact that we have no control over these debates. Apart from Chris Wood, is there anyone on the panel that strikes you as a leading voice on the folk scene? The sort of people who ought to be spearheading such a debate? I certainly don't think so...but look at how folk is being defined, and the sorts of bands being namechecked. Do they mean folk to you? They don't to me. But they do to other people. And they're a lot sexier and more media-friendly than the kind of stuff that you and I might define as folk. Moreover, the music you and I would describe as folk is written off here as parochial and twee. So how on earth do you fight it?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 09:52 AM

Matt,
Please forget this one. Whether the composer is known or not is totally irrelevant.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Zen
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 10:03 AM

Apart from Chris Wood, is there anyone on the panel that strikes you as a leading voice on the folk scene? The sort of people who ought to be spearheading such a debate?

Barb Jungr was certainly a regular on the folk scene while back...

Zen


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 10:08 AM

Your last point is well made mattkeen. Any form that uses a known name as the criterion of whether music is folk deserves to implode from nit-picking. A musician may have used a nickname or be known by something other than his given one which was common in rural communities. Does that validate his folk credentials by his identity being hidden? And can an author be included in what's loosely called the canon by virtue of insufficient research being performed into the song's authorship?

Then there's the issue of 'who are the folk?' Who indeed? A rag tag band of rural enthusiasts from the 1960s. Edwardian middle class music collectors with a temporal telescope? Some latter day self-appointed folk police? Victorian social hobbyists? Then there's the point about singer songwriters assuming the condition of traditional performer. Are they really trying to do that, to have their work changed by successive use? Are beleaguered record company execs trying to highjack folk, one of the most unpopular of popular forms and sneak it under the noses of folk's border control? I think we should be told!

Any folk festival that exclusively used 1954 definitions as a condition would be short of punters. Folk is a broad church as the Cambridge Folk Festival (a title that's yet to receive a legal challenge AFAIK) will attest.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 10:28 AM

Ruth;
In a hurry (off to see 'Kung Fu Panda and see if he has any answers).
It seems to me that unless you provide a viable alternative definition you throw our music to the media wolves (Time Out included) and let them decide what it is . Lets face it; when have the media ever got it right? Sorry, - too important for that, I'll stick to what I know. If I was prepared to let others do my thinking for me I'd probably devote my life to Amy Winehouse and Madonna (now there's a thought!).
Are you equally prepared to accept the Grocer's apostrophe and geneology? (my spellcheck tells me no).
Another problem I omitted from my previous posting and have constantly been blanked on in the past; how do you propose to deal with the mix of public domain and copyrighted material - do we accept that 'folk' no longer falls under public domain, or are our composers happy to remove their name and any claim from their compositions as a gesture of goodwill?
More later.
"anything rejected by the folk police is liable to make it."
Thought we'd managed to avoid schoolyard invective in what so far has been a fascinating and civilised discussion - pity.

Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 10:36 AM

Jim - I don't want a different definition; I want a different word. :)


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 10:50 AM

"It seems to me that unless you provide a viable alternative definition you throw our music to the media wolves (Time Out included) and let them decide what it is ."

Jim, the part I am having difficulty with in this discussion is the danger people like youself see in the term as applied to the style of contemporary music.

Even the 1954 "definition" as created by the international Folk Council has some wiggle room that is open to interpreation. They stated that the term "folk music" could be "applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and subsequently has been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community."

I truly believe that our communities and traditions have evolved since 1954, and as the esteemed commmittee recognized, it is a "living tradition".

What also concerns me in this conversation is what seems to be a link to ONE tradition - a tradition that starts with a British tradition and splinters toward cultures in the North America and elswhere, but it completely different from other cultures. To use a term such as "folk music" is perfectly acceptable to me if it includes music from the Balkans, Italy, Spain, China, Nigeria and other countries of the world - and the various regions and traditions in each.

Perhaps I am wrong, but I get the impression that those of you who are arguing against the "looser" interpretation of the words "folk music" have a sterotyped image of a singular tradition.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 10:52 AM

It's curious how the expansion of the word 'folk' is still spoken of as a new phenomenon that must be nipped in the bud lest it gets out of control. Userp? When does a word reach normacy? Is that userp in the sense that the Normans have userped 'our' culture?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lowden Jameswright
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 10:56 AM

"I've been away at Ely "FOLK" festival and alas there was comparatively little English "FOLK" - but there was a very nice "guilty pleasures" session in the beer tent late Sunday night with a good range of 60s and 70s pop songs - in some cases in forms starting to show adaptation and possibly assimilation..." (R Bridge)

assimilation.... resistance is futile.....


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 10:56 AM

"To use a term such as "folk music" is perfectly acceptable to me if it includes music from the Balkans, Italy, Spain, China, Nigeria and other countries of the world - and the various regions and traditions in each."

Just to clarify the point I was trying to make here:

People have used the example of going into a store and looking for a CD under "folk music" and having an idea of what it contains. My point is that there are so many traditions at play that two words cannot give an accurate description, rendering that argument pointless.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 11:04 AM

Does nobody else rejoice in the fact folk can mean a gloomy, home counties chick with a Martin and a Balkan shepherdess with the same lovelorn aspect? It's a wonderfully inclusive term and I commend it to the 'ouse.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 11:08 AM

"Does nobody else rejoice in the fact folk can mean a gloomy, home counties chick with a Martin and a Balkan shepherdess with the same lovelorn aspect?"

I agree with you 100% Glueman, but I have the feeling that others are not as inclusive. I'm afraid some consider it a country club.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Lord Batman's Kitchener
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 11:09 AM

So I went into two shops yesterday, first of all a greengrocers, I asked for some fruit. The rejoineder was;yes but what sort of fruit? Next I went into a record and CD shop and asked for some folk music.....well I'm sure you can guess the rest..


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 11:19 AM

Ron, perhaps I'm naive in thinking that there are two ways for folk music to evolve and expand: organically, in the Balkan/Home Counties analogy, but also as a very cynical and premeditated marketing tool. One I'm quite happy to accept, but the other is what makes me want to abandon the F word altogether.

Have a look at the link I provided up the page. Have you heard bands like Bat for Lashes? The Meeedja is telling us that we should now consider them folk music. Have a listen on Youtube. Tell me what you think. If that represents a "new meaning and an unexpected lease of life" for folk, how does the word have any meaning left at all? I'm not saying it isn't good music, but it's pop music. Why on earth cite it as the saviour of folk? Is folk really so desperate that it needs a salvation that has nothing at all to do with folk music?

By the way, the pejorative sense that you attributed to the word "folk" is more of an American phenomenon, I think. Every few months in the UK we seem to have some sort of new, trendy folk phenomenon.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 11:21 AM

glueman - I used to. Then I started to get a bit tired of 'folk' nights that were 20% trad, 20% Richard Thompson/John Martyn/Hank Williams and 60% I-wish-I-could-be-Richard Thompson/John Martyn/Hank Williams. Then I started going to singarounds, which were 90% trad - and I found them much more enjoyable and, oddly enough, much more varied. At that point I began to feel that I'd been missing out.

Ron: I truly believe that our communities and traditions have evolved since 1954, and as the esteemed commmittee recognized, it is a "living tradition".

Do you sing while you work? Do your workmates? Do you sing at home to relax? When your friends or family want some music of an evening, do they suggest having a few songs?

The oral tradition - and the 1954 definition - is about communities and societies where people can, by and large, answer Yes to all four. Those conditions may still obtain in some parts of the world, but they certainly don't in Britain or the US. Folkies pass songs along, but that doesn't make us a community. We're singing, but we're not the folk.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: mattkeen
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 11:25 AM

I must admit that prior to coming to the world of Mudcat, I thought "folk" was the broad winsome sort of acoustic stuff that has been mentioned (and assumed that the word had developed this meaning since its use in the 60's to mean "Dylan and Baez").

I stupidly used the term "traditional music" to describe the the music and song as performed by the Coppers or Scan Tester for example.

I also believe that you can, and in fact are almost duty bound to try, and add to this canon of music if you are a composing /creative musician working with this sort of material.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 11:30 AM

"We're singing, but we're not the folk."

I really don't understand this Pip. It seems to come from a peculiar self-loathing combined with a search for some bucolic hearthfire. Kids are making acoustic music together and delivering it to their friends. My Richard Thompson and John Martyn stuff is gathering decades of dust, unplayed, the Hank Williams still gets an occasional spin. Folk is still happening, just not in folk clubs which is why I never visit the damned places.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 11:48 AM

I'll be more inclined to accept people as having something to contribute to a discussion about the meanings of words when they can spell "usurp".

Plainly, to those who can read, the 1954 definition is not culture-specific. Hence (apart from the issue of known authorship) most Delta Blues is American Folk music, while what the Coppers do is English Folk music, and more or less the same applies in respect of the Balkans, etc, and a wide range of African Folk music.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 12:55 PM

I really don't understand this Pip. It seems to come from a peculiar self-loathing combined with a search for some bucolic hearthfire.

I've explained what I think about three times in this thread alone, so I'm not sure why I'm bothering to try again, but here goes.

Live music is a specialised activity in this society. It wasn't always, but it is now. That's not bucolic fantasy or self-loathing, it's just the way history's turned out.

Obviously there are degrees: singing in a pub, playing tunes in someone's kitchen or getting a band together in a garage is a lot less specialised than getting your kicks at the Wigmore Hall - but it's still specialised. See how many pubs have a singaround going on and how many garages have bands in - on an average night it'd be one in what, 100? Live music made by ordinary people without making a big deal of it - because it's what you do, because it passes the time, because everyone's got a song in them - has basically died out in this society. Live music made by enthusiastic amateurs (and a few enthusiastic professionals) is great - I'm well into it, without any loathing whatever - but we're not the folk, and any new music we make is never going to be folk music.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: TheSnail
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 12:55 PM

glueman

Folk is still happening, just not in folk clubs which is why I never visit the damned places.

Dontcha just love the logic?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 01:21 PM

Still the school teacher, eh Bridge? 'Userp' was a response to an earlier misspelling. Besides, I didn't think you still marked spelling and grammer as having any bearing in your profession? The whiff of the staff room pervades your posts Herr Bridge. Is that camphor or embalming fluid I smell?

"we're not the folk, and any new music we make is never going to be folk music".
You're wrong there Pip and as a quick shufty at any record store rack will confirm. As well as grossly outnumbered.

"Dontcha just love the logic?"
Ah, undone by a tense. I should have said I don't visit the places anymore, 1973 being the last time I ventured into one. Have they changed much? My issue with them - as I'm sure you're dying to know - is that any traditional that needs a club to keep it going is no sort of common man tradition at all and anyway they'd already been taken over by Ralph McTell and John Lennon clones. Festivals are more rewarding, you can chose who to listen to and when to go to the bar. In a club I'd be sat near a Santa lookalike with a tankard and halitosis droning on about some agrarian job he'd never had.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 02:02 PM

That might be "grammar"?

What profession do you think I pursue?

And the smell is petrol.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: TheSnail
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 02:10 PM

glueman

I should have said I don't visit the places anymore, 1973 being the last time I ventured into one.

Might suggest that you're not that well qualified to judge.

Have they changed much?

If you never go you'll never know. Actually, in 1973 I was going to well attended traditional clubs with competent residents and a strong guest list and that's what I'm doing now. Can't say it's been like that all the time in between though.

any traditional that needs a club to keep it going is no sort of common man tradition at all

You seem to have shifted your position there from saying that there is no folk happening in folk clubs to saying they shouldn't exist at all.. I'm afraid that young Jonny no longer ploughs by horse; they don't cut the corn with scythes and the milk maid has been replaced by the milking machine. On the other hand, we do have antibiotics, anaesthetics, piped water, decent sanitation....

That world has gone. Either let folk music go with it or keep it alive wherever you can. I don't see why the Folk Festival is any more or less a legitimate place to do that than the Folk Club.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: M.Ted
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 03:13 PM

Here's a real traditional artist, STEFCHE STOJKOVSKI in addition to the wonderful music clips, there is a bio, which explains the means by which Stefche came to be considered a traditional folk musician.

It won't settle anything, but music is much more interesting than anything anyone ever has to say about music.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 03:26 PM

Having gone to a grammar school I know letters and stuff. Sometimes I gets irritable vowel syndrome. Actually folk, 1954 and living, foreign and domestic is overrepresented in my record collection. Which is where I prefer it, filed in a cover. Not hey nonny nonnying in close proximity while I think up excuses to be somewhere, anywhere else.
Fireside singalongs and story telling have been prematurely consigned to the bin, they still happen. The only telly in our house is the eldest son's and he's learning to give it up and listen to blues, hymns, gospel, northern soul, funk. Like most country boys his folk is electric rock but then he's ten and doesn't know any better. I also repeat the lies my mother taught me and still put coal on the fire. Oh yes, we're proper folkie, us. It didn't die on The Somme.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 03:31 PM

: What also concerns me in this conversation is what seems to be a link to ONE tradition -
: a tradition that starts with a British tradition and splinters toward cultures in the North
: America and elswhere, but it completely different from other cultures. To use a term such
: as "folk music" is perfectly acceptable to me if it includes music from the Balkans, Italy,
: Spain, China, Nigeria and other countries of the world - and the various regions and traditions
: in each.

Me too, because I'm quite happy to gove any of those a go. (Whereas I've already heard enough Dylanoid crap to know I never want to hear any more of it, whatever it might be called).

I already raised that issue, by asking what people knew of the way the word for "folk" is used in other cultures. The one I know most about is Turkish, where the word "halk" is used, if anything, MORE restrictively than the "1954" usage, while attracting a much larger audience than in the English-speaking world. Whereas singer-songwriter music independent of folk tradition, unlike the situation in English, DOES have a distinctive label - "özgün" - and virtually nobody gives a shit about it any more.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 04:45 PM

You're wrong there Pip and as a quick shufty at any record store rack will confirm.

If the only question were how the word 'folk' is currently used this discussion would have been over before it began.

Really, that's an idiotic argument. For the last five days we've been discussing how the word 'folk' should be used. You've got one view about that, I've got another. Neither of us is going to have our mind changed by market forces. (In a couple of years' time, when the nu/weird/twisted caravan has left town, the 'folk' racks may be full of trad material again. That won't prove anything either.)


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 04:56 PM

The question was 'does it matter what music is called?' The answer is 'to some extent' but it's not worth every tenth thread. The hardliner/pedant/folk police's favourite word applies to a lost, past tense, museum piece music that they insist is under threat because it's been adopted by living music.

Surely you must see that's very funny?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,In My Humble Opinion
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 04:58 PM

*and virtually nobody gives a shit about it any more*

The same can be said about alot of people regarding the British Tradition or whatever you want to call it, and all the arguing in the world simply isn't going to change that.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 05:01 PM

Well, not a belly laugh but I'm having a chortle!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 05:02 PM

And does that reflect some ill?

Touche mon ami!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 05:09 PM

Surely you must see that's very funny?

Actually I've never been much of a one for laughing at the losing side.

What I do think is very funny (at least in the sense of funny-peculiar) is the number of people who airily dismiss the idea of defining 'folk' as reactionary and futile, but who turn out to be fiercely attached to a definition of their own - and, in most cases, either unable or unwilling to say why they're attached to it.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Tootler
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 05:30 PM

Interesting article


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 05:37 PM

Tootler.
Interesting, but April article. Wonder if it had any influence on Folk musicians being invited to take part in the Proms. Can you post any articles in the press on reactions to this please? Wonder what the classical critics made of the Folk content.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 05:39 PM

Perhaps modernism and folk will create cereal music. Ba-dum, tschhh.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 07:32 PM

: From: GUEST,In My Humble Opinion

Another GUEST we've never heard of before Why are you concealing your identity?

:: and virtually nobody gives a shit about it any more
: The same can be said about alot of people regarding the British Tradition

Again, for the hard of thinking: I was giving an example of what happens when you label singer-songwriter music accurately, with all the additives listed on the tin. I don't think the difference between Turkish and white Anglo-American cultures in the fortunes of s/s music is entirely cultural (they have a potential market of middle-class weekend rebels there too, albeit a slightly smaller one). The stuff *needs* to be sold under false pretences to get established at all, and white Anglo-America is where that's happened to the largest extent.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 08:30 PM

"The stuff *needs* to be sold under false pretences to get established at all"

I kinda doubt that logic. In this country, if it were labeled as "rock" or "country" it would at least be eligable for commercial radio airplay and a chance at being covered by the media.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Jul 08 - 03:04 AM

"Jim - I don't want a different definition; I want a different word"
Why?
Why should we abandon a word that has had a valid use since 1846 and is still very much in currency in its proper sense? - Apparently to include a handful of square pegs (who don't even like folk music and find it overlong and boring) into our particular round hole - sorry Ruth - I found Kung Fu Panda more convincing.
Nobody has even attempted to answer any of the major questions - how does the 'new folk music' relate to the existing one, do I have to go and get my 8 volume set of The Greig Duncan Folk Song Collection re-bound, where do we go to listen to music we used to know as 'folk', will the change put more bums on seats or will it compound the confusion, where do I send my PRS cheque (silence again), what do we idiots who have been working on folk music now have to identify it as, what ARE we going to do about 'folktales', oh - and why does the phrase 'pig-in-a-poke keep creeping into my mind?
I'm afraid my response remains 'come back when you've thought this through'
"To use a term such as "folk music" is perfectly acceptable to me if it includes music from the Balkans, Italy, Spain, China, Nigeria and other countries of the world - and the various regions and traditions in each".
Who ever claimed that it didn't - the 1954 definition is an international one - It seems to me that - having convinced us of the need for change, you then need to pop across the channel and make a start at convincing all the other eejits - good luck folks (whoops - sorry).
Jim Carroll

Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 15 Jul 08 - 09:34 AM

"Why should we abandon a word that has had a valid use since 1846 and is still very much in currency in its proper sense?"

That statement could also be made as "Why should we cling to a word that has been in use ONLY since 1846 and has always been controversial about making proper sense?"

"Nobody has even attempted to answer any of the major questions"
I think we have, either you missed our answers or simply ignored them. You do not have to agree, but you should recognize that there is more than one opinion to something that is NOT a "yes" or "no" question.

"how does the 'new folk music' relate to the existing one"
Different community, different time, different technology - same reasons for existence.

"do I have to go and get my 8 volume set of The Greig Duncan Folk Song Collection re-bound"
Of course not, unless you have worn out the cover. That is an excellent collection of folk song.

"where do we go to listen to music we used to know as 'folk'"
Good question. Of course, the places YOU went to listen to 'folk" music was either the source, or a manufactured setting where people mimicked the music that was collected.   The question should be, why are people creating places to listen to the music that YOU knew as "folk"? I'm sure that there are people wondering why there are fewer places to hear any tradition that they grew up with.

"where do I send my PRS cheque (silence again)"
Sounds like a Brit thing and since I have no idea what a PRS cheque is, perhaps I could suggest you make it out to cash and I will send you an address.

"what do we idiots who have been working on folk music now have to identify it as"
The obvious answer is - folk music. With a qualifier as to what "folk music" you are referring to, as I assume you have always done.

"what ARE we going to do about 'folktales'"
Continue to enjoy and share them. I would suggest reading Pete Seeger's book on the subject of storytelling. Best way to carry on the tradition.

"oh - and why does the phrase 'pig-in-a-poke keep creeping into my mind? "
My you have a dirty mind!! :)   

"Who ever claimed that it didn't - the 1954 definition is an international one - It seems to me that - having convinced us of the need for change, you then need to pop across the channel and make a start at convincing all the other eejits "
So many eejits and so little time!    Seriously, there is no need for CHANGE. If you accept the 1954 definition it can be applied to modern times. No one is stealing your tradition. You just need to observe it as a living entity.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 15 Jul 08 - 09:53 AM

"how does the 'new folk music' relate to the existing one"
Different community, different time, different technology - same reasons for existence.


No. As I said yesterday:

"Do you sing while you work? Do your workmates? Do you sing at home to relax? When your friends or family want some music of an evening, do they suggest having a few songs?

"The oral tradition - and the 1954 definition - is about communities and societies where people can, by and large, answer Yes to all four. Those conditions may still obtain in some parts of the world, but they certainly don't in Britain or the US. Folkies pass songs along, but that doesn't make us a community."


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 15 Jul 08 - 10:27 AM

"about communities and societies where people can, by and large, answer Yes to all four"

I know of no historical record that pertains to those conclusions. There were certainly work songs, there was leisure and community singing but the image you portray is of a background of continual music making. I'd like to see evidence that past music was more prolific AND community centred AND constant in all of pre-Edwardian Britain.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 15 Jul 08 - 11:05 AM

"The oral tradition - and the 1954 definition - is about communities and societies where people can, by and large, answer Yes to all four."

Could you show us where the 1954 council definition says that? The copy I have does not mention that stipulation, but perhaps you have something different.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,In My Humble Opinion
Date: 15 Jul 08 - 11:07 AM

The '1954 definition' is akin to the American Constitution, there people who will rewrite to suit their own needs, thus rtendering the original totally useless


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 15 Jul 08 - 11:31 AM

I'd like to see evidence that past music was more prolific AND community centred AND constant in all of pre-Edwardian Britain.

That would be an awful lot of evidence. Besides, that's a lot more than I've been arguing. What I'm saying is that people like to have a bit of music while they're working, socialising or relaxing, and that it's only very recently that we've been able to get all that music from recorded sources - so there used to be a lot more music-making than there is now.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 15 Jul 08 - 11:38 AM

Jim, my response was somewhat facetious (did you see the little smiley face at the end?)

You may feel that folk is still a very specific word describing very specific musics and processes. I agree that in the rarified environment of certain internet discussion groups, organisations such as EFDSS, and amongst the friends within my own folk community, we all more or less agree a definition. No problem.


"Why should we abandon a word that has had a valid use since 1846 and is still very much in currency in its proper sense? - Apparently to include a handful of square pegs (who don't even like folk music and find it overlong and boring) into our particular round hole - sorry Ruth - I found Kung Fu Panda more convincing."

The problem is that when you go beyond those groups into the wider world, suddenly the parameters all change. The definition widens beyond any usefulness or meaning. There is nothing that we can do about this, but if we all hope to be understood by people in the "real world", outside of these rarified communities, it's something we have to acknowledge. Amongst all the people using the F word, we are, in fact, the handful, Jim. We're the square pegs.

If you only ever want to talk to other scholars and hardcore enthusiasts, that's fine. But ifyou're interested in the dissemination of traditional culture to a wider, more mainstream audience, I reckon it's kind of important that we understand how the F word is being used, perceived and commodified out there.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 08:10 AM

Ruth,
Not really interested in rarefied discussions - I know where I go to find those.
I am interested in the fact that the confusion surrounding the term 'folk' had decimated the clubs and stands to destroy the club scene altogether - (with the help of PRS and IMRO).
I'm sure neither of us would be happy to see that happen.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 08:35 AM

I think the club scene has far more to worry about than misinterpretation of the F word, to be honest.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 09:54 AM

"I am interested in the fact that the confusion surrounding the term 'folk' had decimated the clubs and stands to destroy the club scene altogether "

That speaks to the point that I was making earlier. The confusion with the word "folk" is nothing new AND it more of an individual indulgence issue.

Folk music, that is - traditional music of specific cultures, was NOT invented in clubs. The clubs became more of a social gathering to share the music and if you boil it down - the scene has nothing to do with "tradition" of where the music came from but is more of an entertainment function. You created a "tradition" during the folk revival when clubs sprouted up. Decades later, the clubs have evolved.

The danger is NOT in having a "scene" destroyed. The music that you and others thankfully preserved and shared will not be forgotten. The works of Shakespeare are not forgotten simply because subsequent generations continue to write plays. It is not a question of being forced to listen to something you do not enjoy. Celebrate the music that you enjoy and has meaning to your culture, but do not browbeat someone else who thinks differently. Wrapping the great gift you have given us in a diffent color wrapping paper is not going to change the content of the beautiful art inside.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 01:18 PM

Sorry Ron and Ruth,
I, and thousands like me stopped going to clubs when it became possible to spend a night in one and not hear a folk song.
Of course folk music wasn't invented in clubs, but for me and many of us it was where we went to listen to it, and the clubs gave rise to the hundreds of records of the real thing.
Argument isn't browbeating, it's the exchange of ideas.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,In My Humble Opinion
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 01:35 PM

Folk Clubs are fast becoming a waste of time, partly as Jim Carroll says, because its possible to spend a night at one and not hear a single folk song and partly because of the people there who will insist to you that what you just heard was indeed folk music. (Argument isn't browbeating, it's the exchange of ideas.)


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 01:57 PM

"Argument isn't browbeating, it's the exchange of ideas."

Exactly right. When someone is made to feel that their opinion is unwanted or invalid, then we have roadblocks that quickly block others from enjoying the prize.

Perhaps things are different in the U.S., but if "thousands" of people stopped going to clubs for the simple reason that they weren't offering the music these folks were interested in - someone would have come along and opened a venue that caters to this audience. On the other hand, if it only caters to a small minority - why bother?

In the U.S., our interest in folk music was not tied as closely to the clubs which is perhaps there seems to be less of a perceived threat. Traditional music was always more of an "underground" taste.

It seems the media and commercial interests are easy targets to blame, but I happen to feel that people have more sense than they are given credit for. Just as YOU discovered music that spoke to you through the clubs in YOUR day, people today discover their own style.   In effect, the clubs were taking traditional music out of a natural environment and having the songs "covered" by other individuals. While the style of music has changed, it seems that the "tradition" of going to a club to hear and make music has simply evolved with the time.

Jim, if I am not mistaken I am sure you are the same Jim Carroll who was responsible for collecting so many wonderful songs and source singers in Ireland and Great Britain. I am very grateful for the work you did (and probably still do) and I have played some of the recordings that you made that were commercially released.   I am curious about something, and I am not asking this to stir up an disagreement - this is a sincere question that I am about to ask.

The songs you collected from Walter Pardon were, I believe, learned largely from an oral tranmission from his uncle. My understanding is that Pardon's songs were not being sung elsewhere and he sang a number of Music Hall songs. I understand that he also knew the difference between true traditional folk songs and these oher styles. My question is, if you recorded Walter singing both styles, what would you label the record as?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: TheSnail
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 02:02 PM

Jim Carroll

I, and thousands like me stopped going to clubs when it became possible to spend a night in one and not hear a folk song.

This is a line you trot out quite often, Jim, and it has me baffled. Weren't any of those thousands involved in organising the clubs? Didn't it occur to the organisers that they were driving their audience away?

GUEST,In My Humble Opinion

Folk Clubs are fast becoming a waste of time

As a matter of interest, when did you last go to a folk club and how many have you been to over the last, say, five years?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,In My Humble Opinion
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 02:07 PM

Ahhh..the numbers game, alright Snail, I'll play..last week is the answer to you first question, and at leat 25 to 30 is the answer to your second question (I do have a family that requires my attention occasionally, odd as that may seem to some)) Right do I win a prize or something?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: TheSnail
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 02:13 PM

GUEST,In My Humble Opinion

..last week is the answer to you first question, and at leat 25 to 30

Then I humbly apologise. The last person I asked in similar circumstances said 1973. I didn't bother with the supplementary question. Did none of those have any folk songs?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,In My Humble Opinion
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 02:18 PM

Of course some of them featured actual folk, but many were passing off the singer/songwriters as folk, when in many cases it would (the music) be best described ast soft pop/rock, yest I had one person absolutely insist that it was indeed folk, I left in disgust, even leaving half my beer on the bar.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 02:23 PM

The man from '73 may be me who knows? I do keep an ear and at least one nostril to the ground and my spies tell me folk clubs aren't known for their fondness for folk music. One doesn't wish to mark (twain) their demise yet but it sounds as though the fat lady is warming up and it isn't something she stole from Bert Lloyd.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: TheSnail
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 02:23 PM

...and that's enough to justify "Folk Clubs are fast becoming a waste of time"?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,In My Humble Opinion
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 02:29 PM

Festivals for me are the way ahead, besides I'd rather be outside that in a little room upstairs, or in the back of some pub.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: TheSnail
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 02:31 PM

Yes, Glueman, it was you but it's not an uncommon phenomenon. If you never go yourself (and maybe sing a traditional song) you'll never find out. The fat lady is singing Child ballads and more in the clubs I go to and so are a lot of her friends, fat and thin, short and tall.

Just off to play some tunes.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: TheSnail
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 02:33 PM

GUEST,In My Humble Opinion

Festivals for me are the way ahead, besides I'd rather be outside that in a little room upstairs, or in the back of some pub.

Fine but that's a different reason from the one you gave before.

Must go.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,In My Humble Opinion
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 02:36 PM

One of many reasons for not going to folk clubs and all of them valid I assure you... and there goes a perfect example


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 03:21 PM

if "thousands" of people stopped going to clubs for the simple reason that they weren't offering the music these folks were interested in - someone would have come along and opened a venue that caters to this audience

You're arguing like the economist who never looks down, because if there were a pound coin on the pavement someone would have picked it up.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 03:31 PM

Okay Pip, that is a little too British for me to follow.

What is stopping others from forming a club with the music that traditionalists want to hear shared?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 03:48 PM

Ron - you're arguing like the economist who never looks down, because if there were a dollar bill on the sidewalk someone would have picked it up. HTH.

To answer the question, there are plenty of people with enough talent and self-confidence to perform in a club, but people with the dedication, patience, thick skin and spare time to actually run a club are few and far between. Venues willing to host a club don't grow on trees, either. If ten people drift away from a folk club, the likelihood of one of them starting a new folk club is actually pretty slim.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 04:05 PM

Maybe I'm slow, or maybe it is because "economist" is something that I could never be - my wife won't allow me to touch a checkbook, but your analogy is not sinking in my thick skull. Must be a Brit thing.

I guess that is the difference with our countries. By your description it sounds like there are more people with dedication, thicker skin, spare time and the spirit of volunteerism to run "our" version of folk clubs, which are very different than yours.   Rather than having 10 people sit around to wax poetically about how bright the old lightblub shone, one of our folks would think about how easy it is to change the damn bulb and see the bright light once again.

I think you are stuck with your model of a "club" - meaning that you need a venue that serves beer to be a home. (It also leads to the joke that you need to be half in the bag to enjoy British folk!!!) In this country, our "folk clubs" are run in church basements, coffeehouses, public schools, libraries, and other gathering spaces that would rent space.   Even more important, people sing in each others homes and we also promote folk concerts.

There is no excuse for letting something die. It sounds like a group of people seeing a body in the street and letting it bleed to death because no one is bright enough to pick up a phone and call for help.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 04:39 PM

Ron, I'm a Brit and reckon you have a point. The decline of the folk club is down to a number of issues: an aging audience, a certain unfashionability, infighting by cliques about what is and isn't folk music, distance between enthusiasts, rising fuel costs and so on. The same decline isn't seen at festivals where the most uncompromising music will gain an audience and there's always a youthful contingent. Groups like Mawkin Causley and Bellowhead (best national radio live act three years running) as well as Rachel Unthank's crossover into the mainstream show there's an audience for folk however you define it, but most club gates are insufficient to book performers outside their locale.

Even a sucker for lost causes like myself sees the writing on the wall for clubs as we know them. There may be a club opning nearby soon in which case I'll give it a go, with a healthy dose of realism about how it'll turn out.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 04:48 PM

There is no excuse for letting something die. It sounds like a group of people seeing a body in the street and letting it bleed to death because no one is bright enough to pick up a phone and call for help.

So we've gone from "that would never happen", through "that would never happen here", to "that should never happen". I guess that's progress.

But no, I don't think it does sound like ten people collectively deciding not to do anything to save the music they love. It sounds more like ten different people individually deciding not to go to a particular club any more, and none of those people happening to have the energy, dedication and spare time to start a new club.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 04:54 PM

I always wondered what 'shrill' meant.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 04:56 PM

"So we've gone from "that would never happen", through "that would never happen here", to "that should never happen" "

No, I have not changed. I speak of what I see here in the United States.

It is not as hard as you make it seem. One person can make a difference, but if you are lacking someone with the dedication to do tha - or if you enjoy complaining instead of fixing, the grave you did is your won.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: M.Ted
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 05:04 PM

The idea, Ron, is that the economist won't bother to even look to see if the dollar is there, because he assumes that even if there was a dollar on the sidewalk, someone would have picked it up already.

There are flaws beyond number with this example--first being that in America, the economist is not going to be walking down the sidewalk, he is going to be driving, or, if he is in New York, riding in a Town Car, and the meter is going to be running, so if he was to stop to pick up a dollar that he saw on the sidewalk, it would actually cost him money.

Furthermore, as everyone knows, that money on the sidewalk belongs to some homeless man, because these squares of pavement are his territory, and anybody else that touches it is in big trouble.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 05:22 PM

Ron, if you're going to shift between descriptive ('what happens') and normative ('what ought to happen') at will, it's going to make it basically impossible to argue with you.

You began by challenging Jim's statement that 'thousands' had been driven away from folk clubs by the lack of traditional music, on the grounds that if that had happened somebody would have started an equivalent number of traditional clubs. I explained why I didn't think you could assume that anyone would have done.

Your reply seems to consist of saying that what I described shouldn't happen, and I shouldn't assume that it had to. But I agree that it shouldn't happen, and I don't assume that it has to. I'm just saying that it's perfectly realistic to say that, very often, it does. And if it happens enough, you can get the results Jim describes.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 05:43 PM

You certainly are a Pip!!

I was not "challenging" Jim's statement about 1000's leaving, but asking why something has not been done about it by those who are leaving. YOUR statements made some implictions that I also questioned the inevitable results that you claim would occur.

Simply asking questions should not be grounds for you to start a linguistic challenge. This is not an arguement as you claim, this is a discussion with different points of view being raised and questions asks. I am not saying that you or Jim are wrong, just wondering why you indicate that it will occur.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 05:57 PM

Hmmm. I think there's been some transatlantic misreading here, at least on my side. Divided by a single language and all that. No offence meant.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 06:57 PM

None taken. It is often hard to understand as I had difficulty with your economist note. No offense meant, and none taken.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: TheSnail
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 08:07 PM

IMHO, I'm sure you may have perfectly valid reasons for not going to folk clubs. That is not the issue. It is your sweeping -

Folk Clubs are fast becoming a waste of time, partly as Jim Carroll says, because its possible to spend a night at one and not hear a single folk song and partly because of the people there who will insist to you that what you just heard was indeed folk music.

...that I am challenging. You say yourself that "Of course some of them featured actual folk" so you know that it's perfectly possible to spend a night at one and hear plenty of folk music. That is certainly my experience. Go to the ones that give you what you want and leave the others to those who want something else.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Jul 08 - 02:57 AM

Ron
"I understand that he also knew the difference between true traditional folk songs and these oher styles. My question is, if you recorded Walter singing both styles, what would you label the record as?"
Sorry - just woken up - will try to join in later.
We didn't issue albums of Walter's songs, they were done by Bill Leader, then by Mike Yates. Most of our recordings of him were interviews of him talking about the songs and music.
Some of his his opinions are to be found and debated in two articles on the Musical Traditions website, by Mike Yates entitled 'The Other Songs' and by me, 'By Any Other Name'.
Mike's recordings were issued as 'Put a Bit of Powder on it Father' on the Musical Traditions label.
Walter learned virtually all his songs from his Uncle, Billy Gee and other members of his family. He took an interest in them as a young man, and when he returned from the army in 1946 began to write them down in notebooks. His notebooks indicate that he was differentiating between the different types of songs as early as 1948 and he spoke at length to us about the differences, both musically and poetically.   He referred to them as 'music hall' parlour ballads, popular songs and folk songs.      
Have taken the liberty of PM-ing you a copy of an article Pat and I wrote on Walter for a festschrift for collector Tom Munnelly last year.
More when I've woken up
Jim Carroll
PS It is not my intention to make people feel that their opinions are unwanted or invalid; it is not how I feel; I'm sure I get more out of arguments than I put into them.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Jul 08 - 02:59 AM

Sorry,
Should have said
Mike's non-folk recordings were issued....
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 17 Jul 08 - 09:50 AM

Jim,

Thank you so much for the fascinating article on Walter Pardon, and also for clearing up my error about the recording. It is the research and collecting from people like yourself that make this genre so intriguing and I am honored to be able to learn something new each day.

The question I asked previously was more of a rhetorical question. A number of people in this thread have commented that they have issues with the definition of "folk music" in that they wish to walk into a record store and see a "folk" section and know what they are getting. For that reason, they consider contemporary singer-songwriters unfit for the term "folk music".

My question is - for someone like Walter Pardon who clearly understood the distinction between true traditional music, Music Hall and popular music. While I understand that the recordings made of his performances are primarily traditional songs - supposing someone were to issue a CD of only his performances of popular or Music Hall songs.   Would you place the CD in any catagory other than "folk"?   Granted the songs contained might not be defined as "folk", but would anyone expect to find them anywhere else?

It may seem like a fine, and perhaps silly point, but I think it comes back to what, and more importantly - who is defining "folk".


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Sue Allan
Date: 17 Jul 08 - 10:38 AM

Jim - can I ask a favour? Would you mind PM-ing me too with that article about Walter Pardon? You mentioned in once before in another thread and I tried to hunt for it via my university's access to journals, but no luck. I'd be really grateful. Many thanks in advance.

Sue


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Jul 08 - 01:08 PM

Ron,
"Would you place the CD in any catagory other than "folk"?"
That's what these threads are about really.
Personally, I wouldn't issue them - not that I have anything against them, but they are not my field; I simply don't have the knowledge to comment on them or to judge their importance. I certainly don't categorise them as folk, but this doesn't mean they have no entertainment value, nor are of interest.
I value them as an important part of our work with singers and have never refused them or attempted to avoid recording them. Walter's repertoire of music hall material was particularly interesting in that they were early pieces, many of which he had learned from a neighbour, Harry Sexton. Walter had a phenomenal memory and absorbed many of his songs without consciously setting out to learn them. He took great pride in his traditional repertoire and often commented that he didn't understand why people insisted on asking for "that other stuff".
Blind Traveller woman, Mary Delaney, gave us around 100 traditional songs and knew at least another 100 which we never got round to recording. She could have doubled that number again with country and western and Irish pop songs which she refused point-blank to sing for us. She told us "they are not the songs you want" and said "they have the old songs destroyed".
When we asked her why she learned them she said they were the ones "the lads" (the other Travellers) asked for in the pub.
Like Walter, Mary had a phenomenal memory and could retain a song after only one hearing.
I believe that much of the confusion that seems to exist around the question of definition stems from the fact that we have very little recorded information on what source singers thought about their songs. It was the main thing that motivated Pat and I to embark on collecting in the first place.
The only concentrated work on this appears to have been done in the US with singers such as Sarah Cleveland, though I have never come across a published commentary on that work.
Jim Carroll
PS I don't know if you know the story our collector friend, the late Tom Munnelly told of meeting elderly singer, Martin Howley, who had a repertoire of quite rare and important songs. During the first recording session Martin insisted that he sang The Old Armchair.
Tom's time was limited and he kept putting Martin off until he finally insisted, and began to sing:
"Knight William was sitting on his old armchair; Lady Margaret was sitting on his knee" - a ballad that dates back to the early 17th century; the only version ever to have been found in Ireland.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 17 Jul 08 - 02:00 PM

Hi Jim,

Wonderful post! I enjoy the insight that you share. That is an amazing story about Martin Howley and it makes me wonder how many other songs of the type were lost, and also thankful that collectors saved such cherished songs.

However, I don't think that my original question was quite clear. I understand completely about the interest in the traditional songs on both yours and Walter Pardon's part - but my question is more hypothetical and trying to get to some sort of "common ground" about the issue of catagorizing.

Again, I understand and agree with the definition and conditions that you apply to traditional music. Just for the sake of discussion - IF anyone were to compile a CD of only the Music Hall songs as performed by Walter Pardon - would it be more appropriate to place such a CD in a bin marked "folk" or would a store owner place it under "popular" or perhaps "Musicals"(which in our country incorporates film and forms of musical theater).

The point I am trying to make is that someone interested in the repetoire of Walter Pardon might be more inclined to check for such a mythical CD under "folk" as opposed to another catagory.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 04:23 AM

Ron
"mythical CD under "folk"
Not so mythical - 'Put a Bit of Powder on it Father' contains much material which neither I nor Walter would consider folk.
I have no doubt that if it ended up in the shops it would land on the shelf marked folk because of the singer's reputation.
On the other hand, recently I posted a review of an Eliza Carthy CD recently which I took from The Irish Times; it was listed under 'Rock music'.
Are we really satisfied to allow those not directly involved in the music to define it on our behalf; the Rupert Murdochs and Richard Bransons of this world, whose only musical interest and objective is that of the cash-till?
When Pat and I used to scour the second-hand bookshops of England to build up our library; we invariably ended up searching the 'Childrens' section' for 'folktales'; and I can't count the times we found books on 'folklore' on the shelves marked 'religions' (though I am always amused that our atheist local bookseller places all religious books on the 'folklore shelf').
People have fought hard over the years to gain recognition for our music; the battle has been partly won here in Ireland; I don't believe we have made any headway at all in the UK. (should explain - born and bred in Britain - moved to Ireland 10 years ago).
Here I can turn television or radio on 7 days a week and almost be guaranteed to find well played traditional music, programmes discussing the subject or highlighting singers like Joe Heaney, Margaret Barry, Luke Kelly, Seamus Ennis. Pat and I have just finished giving interviews and supplying recordings for 3 programmes due to go out on national radio on the Travellers we recorded in London; and we are in the process of applying for an Arts Council grant for an autobiography of one of those Travellers, which we will probably get.
All this is a recent phenomenon brought about by a handful of people who know what the music is and who fought for its recognition.
Thirty or forty years ago, along with a flourishing club scene in the places I have lived; (Liverpool, Manchester and London), I was able to listen to A L Lloyd's 'Folk Music Virtuoso' and 'The Lament' and 'his 13 part 'Songs of the People'. MacColl's 'Song Carriers' is still the finest analysis of traditional song forty years on.
It seems to me we have rolled backwards rather than moved forwards. The UK hasn't even got a comprehensive folk music sound archive.
I am convinced that much of this is down to the confusion which surrounds the word 'folk'.
If somebody asked you "what is 'folk'", where would you direct them?
To record shelves which would range from Seth Lakeman to Cecilia Costello? To a club which could include anything from the occasional folk song mixed in with music hall, Victorian Parlour ballads, early 20th century pop songs... et al., to the evening of Beatles songs put on by a Yorkshire folk club not so long ago?
There are, of course, clubs which specialise in folk songs, but I believe they are few and getting fewer.
My dream, along with others I worked with, was not only to popularise the music I love and feel is a vital part of our culture, but to use the musical and poetic forms to create new songs, which may or may not become folk songs, but which reflected the life and experiences of the people I lived and worked with.
I am now further away from that dream than I have ever been - nobody's fault - we all managed to drop the ball somewhere along the way.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 08:17 AM

To record shelves which would range from Seth Lakeman to Cecilia Costello? To a club which could include anything from the occasional folk song mixed in with music hall, Victorian Parlour ballads, early 20th century pop songs... et al., to the evening of Beatles songs put on by a Yorkshire folk club not so long ago?

I had a very enjoyable evening at my local folk club last night - 17 acts, more than one of whom were good enough to play a much bigger venue. But I don't think I heard a note of British (or Irish) traditional music.

We actually had our own Beatles night in 2006. (I did "Here there and everywhere" and "For no one" - the latter in 3:4 and with an abbreviated version of the French horn solo played on a G whistle.) We've also had two Dylan nights ("Hard Rain" and "Visions of Johanna") and a 'Canadian' night ("Don't let it bring you down").

One of these days I'm hoping we have a 'traditional' night.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 09:26 AM

I don't know if anyone has looked recently, but in most stores there is no bin marked Folk.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 10:06 AM

"If somebody asked you "what is 'folk'", where would you direct them?
To record shelves which would range from Seth Lakeman to Cecilia Costello? To a club which could include anything from the occasional folk song mixed in with music hall, Victorian Parlour ballads, early 20th century pop songs... et al., to the evening of Beatles songs put on by a Yorkshire folk club not so long ago?"

THAT is a complicated question, and I daresay that it is one that has ALWAYS been difficult to answer.   It would be like someone asking me where to find the best pizza. I could not simply answer - go over the George Washington Bridge and it is in New York City. The individual would be lost trying to find the building among the thousands of streets and restaurants in the city. They could sample each one they find until they decide for themselves, which might ultimately be the best solution, or I can give additional directions and explanations until they find the pizzaria that I enjoy the most.

As we've all agreed upon, there are numerous folk music traditions around the globe. I also think we are in agreement (or close to it) on what a "traditional" song is. The part that gets complicated, and where there are numerous opinions, is what "tradition" the more contemporary songs play. Here in the United States there is a strong "folk tradition" that can be traced to the 1940's folk revival and the emergence of songs from the political left, which influenced a songwriter tradition during the 1960's folk revival which in turn is influencing a generations of contemporary songwriters. Granted,this is NOT traditional music - but I argue that it comes from a community that has been "settled" in modern times under modern technology and circumstances. The roots can be traced. I also feel that it meets the criteria AND more importantly, the spirit of that infamous 1954 resolution. Granted, there are many people that disagee with me about that - and I accept that.

Jim, there was one section of your recent post that concerns me. I don't think you are giving yourself enough credit!! -

"My dream, along with others I worked with, was not only to popularise the music I love and feel is a vital part of our culture, but to use the musical and poetic forms to create new songs, which may or may not become folk songs, but which reflected the life and experiences of the people I lived and worked with.

I am now further away from that dream than I have ever been - nobody's fault - we all managed to drop the ball somewhere along the way."

First, if you "popularise" the music, the danger of commercialism creeps in - and I feel it is unavoidable. Yet, you say that you wish people to "use the musical and poetic forms to create new songs" - well, isn't that what is happening? It may be a form that differs from the traditions you study and cherish, but the musical and poetic forms are a tradition unto themself. Here in the United States, we can trace a lot of form development coming out of the Greenwich Village "Fast Folk" music scene or the Texas music scene - both of which grew out of the traditional music revival of earlier times.

Please do not think that you "dropped the ball". We owe you and others whose work has preserved, educated and created a body of work that will be studied for many generations to come.

It is a vital part of your culture, as our folk traditions are a vital part of ours. The problem that I see - you cannot force culture down the throats of the masses. Everyone on Mudcat who has an interest in traditional music came to this for specific reasons that related to our needs. We cannot expect the needs that we had are the same for others.

The well has been dug and the water tapped. When people are thirsty, they will drink from it.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 10:13 AM

"I don't know if anyone has looked recently, but in most stores there is no bin marked Folk."

I guess it depends on where you shop. Barnes & Noble and Borders each have extensive folk bins that carry a variety of styles. I even found a "folk" section in Target. There few remaining Mom & Pop stores in our area also carry a folk bin, but they are small - and dusty.

I will admit, I have noticed a trend to lump "folk" with country music (another term you cannot accurately describe anymore). XM has their folk channel lumped in with country, and Sirius did as well - before they dropped it.   Their traditional offerings are few. I do hear some Dock Boggs and Bascom Lamar Lunsford on occasion, and a bit more Irish and Brit folk, but largely they play contemporary music.

Of course, not everything is evident. Maps help us get to where we want to go, but sometimes the journey and the search becomes more rewarding than having it handed to us.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: TheSnail
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 10:41 AM

I had a very enjoyable evening at my The Royal Oak Folk Club last night. One chap did a song from The Band and I think there may have been a couple of music hall songs. Apart from that, I heard a great deal of traditional music and song, mostly English and a little Irish and one or two written-in-the tradition songs. Not a Beatles song to be heard.

This evening I'm going an informal singaround which, judging from the people I anticipate seeing there will be largely Scottish and English traditional.

Tomorrow night, it's the Lewes Arms Folk Club where we have guests Mick West and Frank McLaughlin. More Scottish traditional. I expect the floor spots will be mainly English traditional.

Perhaps Lewes is a foreign country; we do things differently here.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Nick
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 10:56 AM

Nothing can be done about this. It's an impasse. The last 9 days of this thread (like the previous 54+ years) have changed nothing and can't.

You need to find the person who let the word 'folk' get away. It's probably a long time pre-1954. Once you find who it was then you can start to unravel it and get it back.

It was damaged and confused when I came to it (I'm 54) so it must be you 70+ year old people who must have messed it up or the 90+ lot or... - so who is going to take the responsiblity?

You are the people who would like it back but also the people who let it get away and I don't understand how you can have it both ways. In a lot of these discussions you are also the people who are not involved in 'it' any more as 'it' isn't what 'it' was and you have no control over 'it' anymore (whatever 'it' is or was).

Surely it must be YOUR responsibility rather than ours as - umless you are into EST (Werner Erhard bless his soul) - responsibilities tend to go up generations not down.

You can't blame the youth of today for the sins of the fathers/mothers/grandparents etc because it is our/your fault isn't it?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 11:13 AM

Bullseye, Nick.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,Rich
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 11:37 AM

As much as I didn't want to enter this debate, something odd just struck me. This is just a question, so please don't shoot me.

Jim C, you refer to (a long way up the post, I know, apologies):

"...The manner of their transmission and because those who made and transmitted them were almost certainly illiterate"

regarding traditional folk songs, which is similar to a number of comments in similar threads recently about passing down orally, and songs not having a single (unknown) author. These just seem to be very strong statements with little to support them. At least with reference to ballads there seems to be evidence to the contrary, for example the Bodleian Library in Oxford holds:

"over 30,000 ballads in several major collections. The original printed materials range from the 16th- to the 20th-Century."

Given that thousands of these ballads were written down and passed on via a written medium from the 1500's onwards, suggests that (at least some of) the performers of these songs were not illiterate. In addition, this was, during the time, a commercial venture, as they were sold (although the performance of them may not have been). Indeed, some people may have learned the songs just from listening, but the number and longevity of this medium suggests that lots of people were using the written form.

So I suppose the question is just are we so sure about the statements we make regarding the nature and transmission of music, the further we move back. The 20th century may be one thing, but how confident can we be about the methods 2, 3, 4 hundred years ago?

This is just a question, not a criticism, because I am interested (in the history I suppose than the definitions).

I'm sorry if this has been asked before, it's just something I have been thinking about. The following is a summary from the website regarding the project of bringing them together (again apologies if this has all been discussed before). Also, look at the first five words, interesting stuff:

"Broadside ballads were popular songs, sold for a penny or half-penny in the streets of towns and villages around Britain between the sixteenth and early twentieth centuries. These songs were performed in taverns, homes, or fairs -- wherever a group of people gathered to discuss the day's events or to tell tales of heroes and villains. As one of the cheapest forms of print available, the broadside ballads are also an important source material for the history of printing and literacy. Lavishly illustrated with woodcuts, they provide a visual treat for the reader and offer a source for the study of popular art in Britain. held in collections at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford."


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 12:31 PM

Perhaps Lewes is a foreign country; we do things differently here.

Lewes does have a bit of a name for doing things differently - particularly in the first week of November.

Seriously, it certainly sounds as if the scene there is in good health. I wonder if it's a local achievement or a Sussex thing (although I somehow doubt that Brighton is humming with Eng. Trad.) Or maybe the whole of the rest of England is doing great and Manchester's the odd one out - in which case I blame that Mike Harding...


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: TheSnail
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 12:58 PM

No wonder all those professional trad folkies are complaining about not being able to make a living if Lewes is the only town booking them.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 01:35 PM

I hadsaw that John Kelly in the backfront of our folk club once. He did all that old folkie stuff with the twiddly bits an' all. Don't know if he does any Beatles though.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 03:22 PM

"You can't blame the youth of today for the sins of the fathers/mothers/grandparents etc because it is our/your fault isn't it?"

Well, Nick, not exactly. You see, it works like this:

In the late 1950s, a trio of college boys recorded a mountain murder song they had probably learned from a, then, "obscurity label" recording (Elektra) of songs sung by a folk song collector named Frank Warner (scroll down a couple). It became a hit song. Got a lot of play on the radio (and opened a can of worms). This commercial success with a folk song inspired repetition. Within a couple of years, there were "folk" groups popping up like mushrooms. I don't need to give you a list of such groups, as I'm sure you can figure that out yourself.

There was a major problem with the songs that these people were recording. Record companies and radio stations are set up to pay royalties to the composers and/or music publishers of the songs they play on the radio. "Okay," says the radio station manager, "who do we send the royalty check to?"

"Nobody. It's a folk song. It's public domain."

There was all this potential ASCAP and BMI money floating around, and nobody to claim it.

"But— but— but we have all this money that we've got to pay somebody!"

"Oh? Oh! Well, okay—um—I guess I wrote it. . . ."

As a result of this, suddenly there were some nineteen different people at one time claiming to hold a copyright on "Darling Corey." Pick up a paperback songbook of folk songs and ballads published in the early to mid-1960s, and you'll note that there is a copyright notice at the bottom of the page for every song in it. From "Greensleeves" (no kidding!) to "Haul Away, Joe," to fourteen variations on "Turtledove," to pick a song, any song.

Since there was money—and lots of it—to be made, "folk" groups like The Brothers Four and the New Christy Minstrels began recording songs that were written for them—songs that sounded more-or-less like the folk songs they had already recorded. I knew a guy, Terry Wadsworth, who wrote several songs that were recorded by the New Christy Minstrels, one of which, as I recall, was "Don't Cry Suzanne", and since the composers of these new "folk songs," like Terry, registered a copyright, there was no danger of lawsuits over who really wrote the songs, as there had been over such songs as "Down in the Valley." So as the early 1960s progressed, these "folk" groups recorded more recently composed songs and fewer traditional songs. But they called them all "folk songs."

An interesting application of Gresham's Law.

Since Terry sang with a "folk" group (NC Minstrels) for a brief period of time, people assumed that he was a "folk singer" and the songs he wrote were "folk songs." This, despite the fact that Terry was a professional performer and songwriter, and prior to his stint with the Minstrels, he had written several do-wop-type songs for a soft-rock group called "The Fleetwoods" (no relation to Fleetwood Mac).

In the early to mid-1960s, many of the groups extant, and some individual singers (e.g. Jimmy Rodgers of "Honeycomb" fame), sang a mixture of traditional songs and songs that were written "in the folk vein," often specifically for those groups or individuals. In the public mind, all of these songs were lumped together as "folk songs." Including such songs as "They Call the Wind Mariah" and "Try to Remember," from Broadway musicals.

Then you had singers who were generally associated with folk music, such as Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan, et al, writing songs and singing them—to the accompaniment of an acoustic guitar. What more does a song need for the general public to consider it, even if newly written, to be a folk song? I do not recall that any of these singers referring to the songs they wrote as "folk songs." I think they knew better. But the general public, not used to the fine distinctions that ethnomusicologists and folklorists make, assumed that they were folk songs due to the style in which they were sung and by the generic term they were used to hearing for these professional entertainers and songwriters rather than the pedigrees of the songs themselves.

When performing, I always gave program notes on the backgrounds of the songs I sang ("I knew he was a folk singer because he spent ten minutes introducing a three minute song."), and whenever I sang a song that was not a folk song, such as a Yeats poem set to music, I told my audiences what it was. I also had a television series on folk music called "Ballads and Books" on my local educational channel, singing songs and ballads and talking about their backgrounds and travels.

I did the best I could, Nick, as many others did. But when the music industry itself gats involved and there is lots of money floating around just for the grabbing, provided the waters are sufficiently muddied regarding what constitutes a folk song and what does not, it gets a bit like King Canute trying to order the tides to recede.

It's not that some of these newly written songs might not eventually become folk songs. But to proclaim them to be folk songs when the ink is not even dry?

Sorry, Nick, but we tried. Many of us old geeks did the best we could.

Don Firth

P. S. By the way, one of the biggest jokes in the mockumentary movie, "A Mighty Wind," was that, of all the songs sung by these alleged folk groups in the movie, there was not one single genuine folk song in the entire movie. All of the songs were written for the movie itself.

Of course, there are those who might want to argue that point. . . .


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 04:06 PM

"But the general public, not used to the fine distinctions that ethnomusicologists and folklorists make, assumed that they were folk songs due to the style in which they were sung and by the generic term they were used to hearing for these professional entertainers and songwriters rather than the pedigrees of the songs themselves."

BINGO!!! As usage became accepted, the definition changed - just the way the term "folk music" was first brought into usage from the German words.

Most people that are looking to enjoy will not bother checking the pedigree as long as the dog fetches the slippers and brings comfort.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 04:15 PM

If 6,000,000,000 people all agreed that the world is flat, that still wouldn't make it flat.

That's kind of a basic concept.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 04:29 PM

No, it is not that same type of basic concept.

With the world being flat, you are dealing with a commonly understood definition of what is round and what is flat. You are also dealing with scientific principles that are understood by most.

With folk music you are dealing with an artform, history and literature - all of which are open to interpretation that can be different based on individual perspective.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 04:31 PM

"If 6,000,000,000 people all agreed that the world is flat, that still wouldn't make it flat."

Actually, the definition of "flat" would probably be going through a change!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 04:45 PM

I read a review in the local paper today which I think is relevant to this discussion.

[Quote]
Manchester duo The Winter Journey conjure up gorgeous tapestries of rustic country folk music.
[as opposed to urban country folk music or rustic city folk music, presumably - PR]

Like a merry meeting of Nick Drake, Belle & Sebastian and BBC's Springwatch programme, it's the sort of music which effortlessly evokes images of woodland retreat and summery splendour.
...
Make no mistake, The Winter Journey are definitely worlds apart from your typical Manchester acoustic folk act. As you'd expect from a band named after a short story by the celebrated French author Georges Perec, The Winter Journey are a group dripping with quaint romanticism, bookish sophistication and lots and lots of cool refinement. Think Stephen Fry were he to form an acoustic folk group, and you might be getting close.
...
[the album] sits up there with the best debuts by a local act this year – a bewitching journey through Seventies pastoral folk, but with a daring sonic palette which squeezes in influences from Elliot Smith to Gainsbourg to Krautrock. ... it's also an album oozing a warm-blanket intimacy. – Each of the eleven songs strives for a pure, old-world innocence and romance, and firmly intent on keeping those values safe from the big, bad avaricious world we live in.

"There definitely is a dusty vinyl quality to the album," explains Anthony. "It's the sort of record which tries to ignore the modern world and popular culture. It's almost from another age, and that reflects our retro influences."
[endquote]

(I do like the idea that it's harking back to a lost world... where music was on vinyl! Some of mine still is, I'll have you youngsters know.)

I've listened to some of their stuff on their Myspace page; it's pleasant enough in a close-miked, mostly-acoustic, slightly creepy way, like Nico recording demos with James Yorkston.

What it's not, of course - and never claims to be - is traditional music in any way, shape or form. It's music that (supposedly) sounds like something called "Seventies pastoral folk": it gets the 'folk' label because it sounds a bit like Vashti Bunyan, in other words. This is daft, really - it sounds a bit like a lot of people, not least the Velvet Underground. And then look what happens - it's 'folk' but it's also a bit like Serge Gainsbourg and a bit like Krautrock. So you go from

1) artists called 'folk' because they do folk material
to
2) artists called 'folk' because they do their own material in a similar style to group 1)
to
3) artists called 'folk' because they do their own material in a style that's a bit similar to group 2) only different ('worlds apart', even)

And repeat - give it a couple of years and The Winter Journey may be a touchstone of what contemporary folk sounds like - with new 'folk' acts coming through that sound a bit like them, only different.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 05:11 PM

Ron,
If it changed - what did it change to?
I've shown you mine - now you show me yours
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 05:17 PM

Jim, I'm not sure of what you are asking. Are you asking me how "folk music" has changed?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 05:41 PM

How did the definition change? If the category of music that (in your view) can reasonably be called 'folk' has a definition, what is it?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 05:56 PM

If I ever meet 'Winter Journey' in Market Street there's a chance that I might spontaneously throw up on them!


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 06:04 PM

"With folk music you are dealing with an artform, history and literature. . . ."

Well, with music, there doesn't seem to be much disagreement between most people on what constitutes Renaissance music, or Baroque, or main-stream classical, or what constitutes a fugue, or a cantata, or an operatic aria, or an art song (e.g., Schubert lieder). I rarely hear anyone trying to argue that "Some Enchanted Evening" is hip-hop or grunge rock. I've never actually heard a rapper try to claim that what he or she does is "folk music," although they might be able to make a good case for that.

I don't know of any playwright these days who claims to write "Shakespeare plays." Or composers who claim to write "Baroque operas."

I'm just not sure why Melissa, the young woman who lives upstairs and who knows very little about folk music, has only the vaguest idea of who Pete Seeger and Joan Baez are, has no idea at all of who Francis James Child, Cecil J. Sharp, or John and Alan Lomax are, and who lists "Tom Waits, Dolly Parton, Elvis Costello, Gillian Welch, Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, Kris Kristofferson, and Everything but the Girl" as her musical influences, wants to call the songs she writes "folk songs."

Her songs are interesting and she has quite a nice singing voice. She doesn't play an instrument and is backed on her brand new CD by somebody 'layering" a drum-set (much too loud and obtrusive) and an acoustic guitar, with occasionally electric guitar, and the CD is Cool Edited complete with overdubs of her voice.

She is a very nice young woman, and she's working hard at her music. She aspires to professional success as a singer and as a songwriter, and she's a bit worried about the success of her CD. She commented that she has to sell 250 of them at $15.00 apiece to make back her investment, even before she starts to make any profit on it. I bought one from her in the spirit of "support your local musician." I felt bad for her when I heard that her CD release party two weeks ago was something of a bust.

Except for the acoustic guitar in the background (played, not by her, but someone else), her songs don't sound even remotely like folk songs. She'd be one helluva lot better off trying to sell herself and her songs as some other genre or something entirely unique than she would trying to sell her stuff as "folk songs."

The Pacific Northwest Folklore Society, dedicated to traditional folklore and with which I am associated, would not be particularly interested in what she does, but since both the Seattle Folklore Society and Victory Music are interested in singer-songwriters, I'm trying to see if I can hook her up with them.

But folk songs? Clearly not.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 06:52 PM

"How did the definition change? If the category of music that (in your view) can reasonably be called 'folk' has a definition, what is it? "

Check the dictionary that I quoted earlier in this discussion. That fits for me.

"her songs don't sound even remotely like folk songs. "

Based on YOUR definition of what a folk song should sound like.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Bill D
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 07:00 PM

"Based on YOUR definition of what a folk song should sound like."


mercy, mercy...Ron, no matter how loosely you want to apply language, it is OBVIOUS that something has changed about the music! It - does - not - feel - the same as it did, and those who do not care for all the 'new' forms should not have the WORD for what they like taken away and co-opted just because it is short & convenient.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 07:31 PM

"It - does - not - feel - the same as it did, and those who do not care for all the 'new' forms should not have the WORD for what they like taken away and co-opted just because it is short & convenient."

I think what you are saying is that "it" does - not - feel - like - the - music - that - was - part - of - YOUR - tradition.

No one is saying you should care at all for the "new" form. I'm not even sure what folk song tradition you are caring about.

The words were co-opted from their German origin and the 1954 definition that was quoted is simply that - a definition that was made in 1954. Folk music has existed before that date and after that date.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 08:32 PM

I don't want to be difficult, but I just got back from seeing the Winter Journey live. Excellent stuff, but nowhere near as good as the godlike genius of Dan Heywood who they supported.

It's not folk by any definition, particularly one wrought in 1954 (for fuck's sake!!!) but it's bloody good predominently acoustic live music, that possibly has a place in the world of "folk clubs" (whatever they are) and is prone to causing mass outbreaks of general pleasure.

Which is surely the whole point?

on some levels...

Much as I like traditional music.

at least it's not some FUCKWIT singing "Hotel California"...


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 09:05 PM

Ron, I can tell the difference between a pop song such as the ones Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett recorded, and a grunge rock song sung by the late Kurt Cobain, or a blues as sung by Lightnin' Hopkins. I can tell the difference between an operatic aria and a Gregorian chant. I know the difference between a song written and sung by Michael Jackson and song by Cole Porter. What gives you the idea that I'm insufficiently perceptive to distinguish between a traditional song that has been around for a couple of centuries or a more recent mining song or fo'c'sle chantey and a song written by, say, Bill Stains or Townes Van Zandt?

I don't hear any arguments between knowledgeable people, such as symphony musicians, conductors, composers, and music professors when it comes to differentiating between various kinds of music. I don't think you'll hear any arguments between Daniel Barenboim, Simon Rattle, and James Levine about whether a piece of music is Baroque or late classical period.

Nor would they ask for a vote of the population as a whole. Because no matter how the vote came out, it wouldn't change the facts.

Between the records and CDs of folk music that I have on my shelves (many CDs quite recent), not to mention the songs I have learned and sung for years, and THIS (one of Melissa's songs~~click on the little arrow), I simply would not put the latter in the same category of song.

Pop? Country? Perhaps. But—it doesn't sound remotely "folk" to me. I'm not saying that it's "better" or "worse." But for any one of a number of reasons, it's one helluva stretch to say that it's a "folk song." I would not call it a folk song for the same reasons that I wouldn't call "I Did It My Way" or "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" folk songs.

Clear enough?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 09:07 PM

(Sigh). Of course not. It will never be clear enough.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Nick
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 09:10 PM

>>Sorry, Nick, but we tried. Many of us old geeks did the best we could.

Good for you for at least trying to do something about something you cared about - many people don't bother. But I'm sorry to report that I don't think you succeeded and that your chances of turning the clock back fifty years and getting your word out of common usage and back into it's 'proper' place are very small.

I went to a mini folk festival today (it said it on the pub window - "Folk Fest here") but I'm not sure that I heard ANY folk songs at all. I played along with some Irish, Northumbrian etc tunes. I heard country and western (both sorts of music). John Martyn. Joni Mitchell. Irish songs (Wild Rover of course). Some blues. A bit of bluegrass. Some pop songs (including the Kinks). Steve Tilston. Phil Ochs. But no folk music that I spotted though there may have been some in the other room.

If the 'folk' crowd have given up singing folk songs it's a long way back.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Nick
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 09:14 PM

And I'd agree totally Don that that ain't folk music.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 09:24 PM

Don - no one is arguing over what is "traditional". I would certainly hope you can tell the difference between Sinatra, Townes Van Zandt and the rest.

You keep saying mentioning about the "sound" of what folk is to you, but I would love to hear some examples of YOUR tradition.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 11:08 PM

Ron, I don't know what you mean by my "tradition." I was urban born into a middle class family in the early 1930s, grew up listening to all kinds of music (pop, classic, opera, country). In high school, I developed a taste for performing. I knew a lot of kids who were into music and drama, a few of whom went on to careers as singers and actors. In my first years in college, in 1952 or so, I met Walt Robertson, Sandy Paton, and a few others who were interested in folk music and I became interested myself, bought a guitar, and set about learning to play it. I learned songs from Walt and Sandy and from the few folk records that were available then, by singers such as Burl Ives, Susan Reed, Richard Dyer-Bennet, Cynthia Gooding, and from song collections such as Sandburgs American Songbag and Lomax's Folk Song U.S.A. Meeting Pete Seeger in 1954 and Richard Dyer-Bennet a couple of years later were great enthusiasm builders, and I began getting paid to sing in the late 1950s. I was lucky enough to be called on to do a television series on folk music, as I mentioned above. Through the rest of the 50s and well into the 1960s, I made a fairly decent living singing in coffeehouses, doing concerts, folk festivals, and so on. I've detailed all of this a number of times elsewhere.

As to my "sound," I don't think I have a regional sound. Since people are willing to pay to hear me sing, I guess I must be a halfway decent singer (bass-baritone), and I'm a somewhat more than competent guitarist. I probably sound similar to singers such as Ed McCurdy and Gordon Bok. I sing a wide variety of songs, English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and American songs, from Appalachian ballads to California mining songs to Pacific Northwest lumbering songs, to sea chanteys to—whatever happens to appeal to me. And in aid of doing the songs well, I try to learn as much about them—histories, backgrounds, the people who sang them, and why—as I can. I'm fairly good with accents and dialects whenever it seems appropriate, which is an aid in doing songs from different traditions and locales, and although some people here on Mudcat consider that sort of thing phony and reprehensible, my audiences don't seem to mind, and I do not try to make them think that I am anything but what I am.

So I'm a urban-born singer-guitarist who sings mostly (but not exclusively) traditional songs and ballads learned from song books and recordings, and I imagine I sound something like Gordon Bok on an off day.

I don't know if that helps or not.

Don Firth

P. S. I hope to have a CD of my own out in the near future. Working on it. In fact, I learned quite a bit from Melissa about doing a CD, including a few things not to do (not speaking artistically, but in a business sense).


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 11:33 PM

Thanks Don. That was exactly the answer to my question.   What you have described is actually similar to the music that I became involved in - perhaps about 10 years or so later than you. Much of what you described is traditional folk music that comes from a British Tradition - either originally or traversing to the United States.   There is a unique "sound" to that body of work. As you note, you do not have a "regional" sound, but what you described is a typical American folk song background.   It is also typically a "white" urban background - and I am not saying that with any disparaging or racial undertones. What you describe is a typical background, that I believe most of the posters to this thread from our side of the pond, grew up in.

There is nothing wrong with that.   Two artists that you mentioned, artists like Gordon Bok and Ed McCurdy, wrote songs in a similar style.

However, there are "other" traditions at play. Cajun music is folk music tradition. African-American folk music is a huge body of work. Mexican-Americans have a strong folk song tradition. We cannot overlook Native American music either.   Each of these have a unique "sound".

I perfectly understand your point of not enjoying contemporary "folk" because it does sound "different" and feels foreign compared to what came before it. Yet there are many items that it shares in common with the makeup of communties of the past.

Natually, a song like "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream" that Ed McCurdy wrote in the 1950's cannot be considered a "traditional folk song" in the definition of musicologists. Yet Ed McCurdy, the Weavers, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie are closely recognized as being part of the folk music community. I agree that there music is not traditional folk music, nor would any of them dare to call it that. Yet each one is recognized as performers of folk music - and I dare anyone to try to alter that status in the minds of their audience.

Richard Dyer-Bennett was a brillant scholar and collector, but he was really a cabaret performer who did not sing any style that you could find in field recordings. The Weavers arranged their "folk songs" to fit pop culture. Josh White did not sing in the same style as the original songs were set.

Even you Don use your own artistic vision to perform the songs as you see fit.

There is something unique happening in contemporary music, and I do not believe that anyone is trying to pass it off as "traditional". They are following in the footsteps of others, and creating an honest sound that is speaking to a new community.   A society that creates a Chuck Brodsky or a John Flynn or a Joe Jencks or an Anne Feeney is doing something right in carrying on a unique FOLK MUSIC tradition.   

It isn't about numbers, it is about style and substance.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 11:34 PM

P.S. - Don, I truly hope I can sure your CD with my listeners. You are a part of the tradition and a voice that should be heard.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 19 Jul 08 - 03:01 AM

Check the dictionary that I quoted earlier in this discussion. That fits for me.

"2. Contemporary music in the style of traditional folk music"

I guess you could argue that Joni Mitchell, Donovan or the String Band qualified as folk on that basis. But where does that leave contemporary music that bases itself on the style of Joni Mitchell, Donovan or the String Band? Do we accept that that can be called 'folk' too? If so, where does it stop - or is the definition going to go on expanding indefinitely?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Jul 08 - 03:33 AM

Ron,
How the word 'folk' is used by a small group within a slightly larger, but still minuscule group of people involved in folk clubs, may have changed, but that doesn't mean that the definition has changed - language doesn't work like that, nor should it.
Now matter how many people talk about 'special rendition', torture will always be torture (TBTG).
I find these discussions interesting, stimulating, even vital, but in the end they are academic - no matter what a handful of us might argue on a thread on Mudcat, nothing will happen to the definition of 'folk' until somebody produces a new one, - i.e., researches the subject, documents it and gets it accepted. The existing definition meets all these requirements, and there is both a consensus and a large body of literature to back this up. Anything else (so far) is wishful thinking on the part of a small group of people with a personal stake in the subject.
Earlier you offered 2 definitions which I would be happy to consider should my opinion ever be sought.
1. Music originating among the common people of a nation or region and spread about or passed down orally, often with considerable variation.
2. Contemporary music in the style of traditional folk music.
I suggest that both of these are a million miles from an evening of Beatles songs at a folk club, or letting the record shop owner decide, or whatever is put on in folk clubs is folk.
I've argued for a long time that the '54 definition needs re-visiting, but it has to be based on what we have learned about the defined music since then, rather that a strange desire the part of people who wish, for some unfathomable reason, to identify their compositions with a music they neither like nor understand.
Guest Rich:
You made an important point some time ago which I intended to respond to, but got bogged down elsewhere.
You are, of course right; the question of literacy and folk music is a complicated one and is very much one of the aspects of the definition that needs expanding on.
Some of the most interesting (to me) work we did was with a Traveller who was illiterate, yet who produced and sold ballad sheets round the fairs of Southern Ireland in the 1940s.
Literacy and the oral tradition is not the black-and-white issue that I implied it was in an earlier posting - sorry.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 19 Jul 08 - 04:15 AM

Nigel - I'm sure they're good, but I don't see any reason to call them 'folk'. (Or rather, I think refusing to call acts like that 'folk' is justifiable & interesting, not least in the reactions it provokes.) As for folk clubs, after the MEN feature I doubt they could afford 'em...


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 19 Jul 08 - 10:42 AM

They're good. They're not folk. I shouldn't post when pissed...


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Nick
Date: 19 Jul 08 - 12:11 PM

A question for you Jim so that I understand something that I don't. This is not a windup question I promise you.

Is it the songs themselves or the style that they are performed in?
Does that matter?

Is there are a hierarchy which goes (and this may not be it but

TOP Manner in which transmitted
NEXT DOWN The style of the song
NEXT DOWN The perceived genre of the performer
etc
etc

Does the 'genuineness' of the source singer matter?
Does the intention matter?
Does the sound of the song matter?

When I grew into music in the 60s I liked what I percieved was folk music and I now realise it's not what folk music was - and Don's post was enormously useful to me to understand some of the heritage of that. But it was the folk I came to and folk means something different still in 2008.

Interestingly there is no 'folk' category on Napster. Eliza Carthy is now a part of 'Americana' which I find enormously entertaining (can we have our tea back?)

Fairport, Incredible String Band, Judy Collins, The Byrds, John Martyn. Pentangle were all people I heard and liked. Each in their own way presented traditional folk music wrapped up in a parcel that I understood and liked. They sang a lot of folk songs but arranged enormously differently (Spencer the Rover - Lyke Wake Dirge - Pretty polly - etc etc)

It's much like blues. After an early introduction to Robert Johnson (which in it's raw form is quite hard to get into when you're young I'd suggest) I go in to blues via John Mayall, Paul Butterfield and BB King.

Or Beria, Xenakis, Stockhausen who made precious little sense to me until someone traced their heritage back to things that I understood and explained how they got to where they are/were.

The raw source material is quite hard to get in to - it makes more sense once you start with something that is nearer to what you hear on the radio and work backwards. At some point you get to a place that you are comfortable with. Mine stops the popular side of Walter Pardon who I know does lots for you (for heritage - genuineness - quality - whatever) but does precious little for me. Steve Gardham posted somewhere on here that when he found the Watersons it clicked and worked and that was him - and not even a path I would guess he was looking for (I may be wrong of course)

It's that beauty of serendipidity that takes you at some point to a home you love which is the beauty of music and life.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Jul 08 - 05:08 PM

Nick
"Is it the songs themselves or the style that they are performed in"?
Neither; it's the process that the song has undergone once it is passed on from whoever made/wrote it.
The songs have been passed on through time and distance - so much so that is virtually impossible to tell where they originated.
They have been adapted by those who took them up, quite often to fit the new circumstances.
A song say with a sailor as a main character turns up altered to say, a soldier, or a farm worker, or a miner.
At the height of the tradition styles probably differed from place to place, but as it died off singers tended to be remembering them rather than performing them and many of the stylistic elements disappeared.
It is debated whether the English tradition was ever ornamented, yet in Ireland, where much of the repertoire was brought in from Britain, many of the singers use a great deal of ornamentation.
English and Scots songs tend to be straightforward narratives (stories), while in Ireland the songs are more lyrical, ie. contain much more description and commentary which is probably superfluous to the main stories of the songs.
""Does that matter?" depends on your interest - it is to me, it may not be to you.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: goatfell
Date: 19 Jul 08 - 05:16 PM

music is music, and not matter what you do or say, you just can't please everyone.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 19 Jul 08 - 05:28 PM

"Is it the songs themselves or the style that they are performed in"?
Neither; it's the process that the song has undergone once it is passed on from whoever made/wrote it.


Amen to that.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Jul 08 - 06:24 PM

And that's where I'm coming from. To me, if a song hasn't gone through that process, I cannot accept it as a "folk song." It may be an excellent song, and it may sound like a folk song, but if, so far, it is sung only by the person who wrote it, it simply does not qualify. It may eventually. But the person who says, "This is a folk song I just wrote" simply has no concept of what a folk song really is.

A folk song is like a well-worn bannister, lustrous with the polish of long usage by many hands.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Jul 08 - 06:26 PM

By the way, I just noticed. That was 400. (Big deal!)

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Bill D
Date: 19 Jul 08 - 10:37 PM

I just read an aphorism that kinda hit me....

"Art is anything you can get away with."
         Terence Trent D'Arby

So, it would seem these days, is 'folk'. The word has about as much meaning anymore as 'awesome' or 'cool'.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,twonk
Date: 19 Jul 08 - 10:45 PM

Terence Trent D'Arby

oh wow

what a cool awesome dude..


his first LP is a secret deadly weapon
for bedding inpressionable
young 1st year undergraduate chicks..


but thats probably not 'folk' ?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Jul 08 - 11:21 PM

"So, it would seem these days, is 'folk'. The word has about as much meaning anymore as 'awesome' or 'cool'. "

It is much easier to be dismissive and cynical as opposed to being open and willing to accept challenges to long-standing ideas.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Jul 08 - 11:27 PM

"To me, if a song hasn't gone through that process, I cannot accept it as a "folk song." "

I actually do agree with you Don, but it can still be "folk music" even if it is not a "folk song".


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST,twonk
Date: 20 Jul 08 - 12:24 AM

doesn't matter what music is called
while heavy handed self apointed censors
determine public communication and expression


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Jul 08 - 02:48 AM

"but it can still be "folk music" even if it is not a "folk song"."
Can you explain this please Ron?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: TheSnail
Date: 20 Jul 08 - 06:15 AM

GUEST,twonk

his first LP is a secret deadly weapon
for bedding inpressionable
young 1st year undergraduate chicks..


The subject matter of quite a few folk songs.

"His voice was so melodious it charmed her where she stood."


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Nick
Date: 20 Jul 08 - 06:30 AM

Jim

Again so that I understand your thinking -

Is 'folk' song a historical thing that is now over - like Baroque music that finished in the 18th century and can now be played or "written in the style of" but not in anyway added to?

Within the various definitions and discussions there at the same time seems to be the suggestion that folk song can be added to - how does that happen in a world where communications are different and things are written down and recorded (in writing-in recordings-on video)?

If I take a song that, to me, is very much in the folk tradition what would you consider it is? Northern Tide by Linda Kelly is a favourite song of mine. I learned it from hearing it sung by Linda (and others) and I sing it to others who add it to their repertoire. If you don't know the song there is a verse or two here (it was done in practice so is not that cleverly sung so apologies to your ears in advance as it doesn't do the song justice).
Now to me it sounds like a folk song. Content-wise it feels like a traditional folk song. But by all the definitions and stuff it would appear that it can't be one. Is the only way for it to become a folk song to be changed over time to become something else? And if it isn't folk music what is it?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 20 Jul 08 - 07:39 AM

You could argue for a folk song to be changed by different hands it has to be fundamentally 'simple' in some way. That doesn't mean short or uncomplicated but that the central motifs have currency that can be adapted. If a song utilises the particular at the expense of the general, say for instance it's about a given historical character with a chronolgical build up, a tight thyme and well known tune it may be an old song but has no transferable currency that can make it a folk song.

In folklore emblematic variables are one of the defining traits.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 20 Jul 08 - 07:41 AM

Clumsy digit - that should read rhyme.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 20 Jul 08 - 07:58 AM

I meant to say that you could in theory write a contemporary song that was readily adaptable to suit difference circumstances, contained a simple chorus, circular motifs, etc., which would make it much more likely to become a folk song within a generation or two.
What makes current songs unlikely to be taken up as folk (by purely traditional definitions) is that they are generally recorded and offer a perma-text for comparison which militates against transformation and the desire for recognition by the writer/singer.

It's not beyond the bounds of possibility for relatively new material to be passed off as folk, given a reasonable enough pastiche and some hidden provenance of the 'collected from the diaries of an old man in the village' variety.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 20 Jul 08 - 08:52 AM

You can argue that a "folk song" has to fit the set of criteria that has been constantly referred to - the old "oral tradition". Frankly, it is a set of self-fullfilling rules that will give you the type of song you are looking for. I assume that if you discover that someone wrote the songs that Walter Pardon sang, and it did not go through such a process, then it is no longer a traditional folk song.

"Folk music" is the process of transmitting songs and sharing within a community.

You can make a very clear scientific case that will show that Pete Seeger, the Weavers, Odetta, Ed McCurdy, the New Lost City Ramblers and others do not belong in the genre "folk music" - but what is the gain in that?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 20 Jul 08 - 10:52 AM

"Folk music" is the process of transmitting songs and sharing within a community.

I'd call that the "folk process". Folk songs are songs that came out of that process (which is now effectively over, or surviving in the odd cultural pocket, like Japanese soldiers on Pacific islands).

You can make a very clear scientific case that will show that Pete Seeger, the Weavers, Odetta, Ed McCurdy, the New Lost City Ramblers and others do not belong in the genre "folk music" - but what is the gain in that?

They're not part of the folk process - nobody, or hardly anybody, is - but they do or did perform folk songs, as well as songs that aren't folk songs.

glueman: What makes current songs unlikely to be taken up as folk (by purely traditional definitions) is that they are generally recorded and offer a perma-text for comparison which militates against transformation and the desire for recognition by the writer/singer.

Zigackly. Most music that most people listen to isn't transmitted orally, which in turn means that there just isn't enough oral transmission going on for the folk process to happen. Which in turn means that folk song is (in Nick's terms) a historical thing that is now over - like Baroque music that finished in the 18th century and can now be played or "written in the style of" but not in anyway added to

Having said that, folk songs are still being tinkered with and embellished and added to, by folk enthusiasts. New songs that sound like the old ones are still being written and sung and learnt by ear, by folk enthusiasts. Folk in performance is a living museum, and being part of it's a huge pleasure as well as a privilege. It's still a museum, though.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Nick
Date: 20 Jul 08 - 11:00 AM

I'm being relatively flippant in this post.

We have a chap who comes and sings and plays sometimes at our gathering. Every now and then someone will sing a song and he'll lean forward and go 'what's that called?'

Usually about three - six weeks later the song reappears with a different tune. Is this part of the folk process? To me 'Mr Punch and Judy Man' and 'Summer Before the War' are both fine tunes that don't need re-writing but it's good to see that the tradition of partially remembering things and then doing them differently still exists! :)


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 20 Jul 08 - 12:18 PM

Museums are fascinating places but few choose to live their lives as shepherds. Even so, lots of people fancy a thatched roof and oak beams. The genus 'traditional' will always exist but observation of its influence suggests it no longer has a unique claim to the word folk - outside of boards like this. Music will never restrict itself to being overseen and compartmentalised by committees, boards, taxonomists and intellectuals, especially the music of the people because that's not the way music works. You can't stop transmission because a few people suggest you'll knacker it by doing so. The evidence suggests we're all getting a lesson, and a living lesson in what folk really is.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 20 Jul 08 - 12:36 PM

"Frankly, it is a set of self-fullfilling rules that will give you the type of song you are looking for."

Precisely Ron. The myth is that folk is a set of criteria which enable a provenance. If that was the totality of it folk enthusiasts would run holding their ears from the possibilities it suggests. The reality is it's a sound as well on the level of consumption and that's the detail where the devil lives - people can explore that sound endlessly and continue to do so. The problem isn't that the new stuff is different, but that it's so damned close, which leads to discussions like this.
Another myth is that the tradition is under threat. I have suggested that there's enough copy in different formats for the tradition never to die, which just leaves the professional careers of its exponents. And when was a music's morphology ever shaped by someone's career?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 20 Jul 08 - 12:41 PM

What do you mean by "the music of the people"?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 20 Jul 08 - 01:15 PM

Pip, that has been discussed before. Go back and re-read what I posted earlier and you will understand the community that makes the "music of the people".


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 20 Jul 08 - 01:25 PM

"What do you mean by "the music of the people"?

The music that began with oral transmission.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 20 Jul 08 - 01:55 PM

Fortunately or unfortunately you have to be able to market music somehow. Otherwise
musicians would be obscure. To do this, you produce labels. Yes it matters what it's called if you care about exposing good music to the public. I think that it matters what you are selling.

The categories no longer fit the classical definitions of the music. For example, academic
folklorists would say that Pete Seeger and Joan Baez are not folk musicians since they come from a "trained" perspective and not part of an agrarian culture that supported them.

"Classical" music is now a misnomer as well. Some today think of American Jazz as being a "classical" music and there is a case to be made here.

Some say that Bluegrass or Blues are different than "folk" so that label has been bowdlerized.

What makes a difference however is that in order to introduce certain types of music to
the public, this requires a definition of what they play. The problem arises as to whom the definition falls.

The critics today don't know too much about a variety of music enough to make informed
and educational contributions that would support musical artists. Many don't see the connection between the music they review and its antecedents or history.

For example, the recent development of Bluegrass is predicated on the early string band ensembles that played for dances in the Appalachian community which would be considered "folk" by historians familiar with this idiom.

Those who think that Rap or Hip Hop started in a vacuum and   sprouted out of the ground do not see the connection between a rhythmic speech narrative style of performance that is in the African and African American cultures. The griots of Senegal
make this clear as does the political commentary of Fela Kouti (maybe one of the
earlier starters of "rap"). The early poetry to jazz experiment in the early Sixties (Ken Nordeen or Bob Dorough) may have had some effect inadvertently also.

In short, it not only matters what music is called, it matters how music is affected historically and culturally and only this context can it really be appreciated or understood.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 20 Jul 08 - 02:24 PM

I am most grateful for your posts here Jim Carroll.

Guest, Twonk, I wonder if you are aware of the customary meaning of that word?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 20 Jul 08 - 03:04 PM

Glueman - the last thing I want to do is stop oral transmission. I think it has stopped, outside the restricted circles of people like us who care about this stuff, but that's another matter.

An open question to those people here who are arguing against restrictive (e.g. '1954') definitions of 'folk': do you think 'folk' has any definition, other than 'music somebody labels as folk'? Is it ever possible to point to something that's called 'folk' & say, "Actually, no, that's not folk, because to be folk it would need to fit this definition"?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 20 Jul 08 - 05:04 PM

The problem isn't that 1954 definitions attempt to demonstrate that an oral tradition existed or to isolate the factors that made it what it was but its remit has been to foreshorten the natural consequences for traditional music. Instead of viewing that music as purely historical and the conditions which served its existence as no longer pertaining - which is a logical conclusion to make - traditionalists insist that the music can (indeed must) continue to be performed from a finite though broad set of material today. It seems like having your cake and eating it.
If the music limited itself to historical re-enactment (your 'museum') no-one could complain about folk as descriptive title. If on the other hand it presumes to occupy an oral space in the present it has to accept that the people transmitting it are creating a pastiche, they are infected by the whole range of musical influences - classical, pop, jazz and the inflections those forms bring. I'm much closer to your idea of folk as a museum but I fear that isn't the position many traditionalists will see of themselves, they will perceive their role as maintaining a living music. I can't buy that, the demands their modernity brings to it transforms the music.
If however the tradition saw itself as a springboard for contemporary folk (or whatever), a tradition that was wholly undiminished by what came subsequently and differed in subtle ways but was in keeping with sound and social space (a practical application I feel the vast majority of folk fans have embraced), rather than picking at the stitches of difference, logic would be served. Instead 1954 trads isolate the newer music as being no different to pop - fine, but lets not have any nonsense about living traditions, standard bearers and the rest of the bollox. The music is dead. This raises our circular and vexed question of wanting an authentic label because "then I know I'd like it", as though the tag was a guarantor of musical correctness.

In real terms folk exists in multiple spaces concurrently with people taking a relaxed view of nu-folk because its preoccupations, sound and performance resemble traditional music - singers may readily switch between the two in a set - and it offers the music the opportunity to find new audiences in the spirit of the tradition. Personally my listening is nearer 1954 but I trust my ears - a lot of the rest of the stuff I'm told is sung in folk clubs is not folk.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 21 Jul 08 - 03:26 AM

It seems to me glueman (if I truly follow your somewhat convoluted post) that you are confusing what is done with how it is done.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 21 Jul 08 - 04:19 AM

I'm surprised you have time for literary criticism RB, what with your scepter'd isle persecution hokum thread.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 21 Jul 08 - 04:47 AM

The difficulty comes in trying to wrap it all up in taxonomy, which is part & parcel of the same cultural autism to which Folk, as a concept rather than an actuality, aspires. The other side to this of course is people, like myself, for who taxonomy is anathema and the 1954 definition is just so much academic wank, preferring to believe that a) what happens happens and b) things either is or they ain't *, in which case, I would suggest, that the Horse Definition as supplied by Louis Armstrong** is of infinitely greater value.

My only contact with the Folk World is strictly empirical - the folk clubs, singarounds and the occasional festival, where things seem to be getting along just nicely and people do what they do without troubling too much over why they're doing it. At least this is the impression I get - they might all have deeply held personal philosophical convictions, but when it comes to the moment, they're out there, vibrating in terms of pure experience. I stopped buying Folk Product long ago, or subscribing to any notion of Folkish Celebrity which to me is just a contradiction in terms, believing as I do that this thing we call Folk (as with Holy Mass, Sexual Intercourse and Golf***) is better served by participating in the ephemeral social interactive & experiential context which is as much the thing as the thing itself as continuity becomes enshrined in the purity of the moment. Thus, at the end of it all, we might go home enriched, enlightened, or else simply roll over and go to sleep; and, in any case, tomorrow is always another day...

Truth to tell, I'm past caring what it's called and how it's defined; just as long as it's happening; just as long as there's singers in singarounds and musicians in sessions, because Folk is the singers and the musicians (as oppose to the celebrities) who do this stuff and make it somehow real, or else corporeal in terms of an experience ritual, whereby there is always at least the potential for transcendence, be it realised or not.   

* Sun Ra, quoted in the sleeve note to Friendly Galaxy.

** For one whom the Hot Fives & Hot Sevens represents a near miraculous manifestation of the divine in human folkish form then I'd personally rather it be Louie who said this than anyone else.

*** I am as perplexed by golf as a televised spectator sport as I am by the existence of Folk CDs or Pornography; gigs and dogging might well represent a different level of participation, albeit at a significant remove, but nothing like the remove of watching golf on TV.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 21 Jul 08 - 05:08 AM

Anyone who quotes Sun Ra sides with the angels.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Jul 08 - 07:06 AM

Insane Beard
"the 1954 definition is just so much academic wank"
No - the real tossers of this world are those who dictate to the rest of us what our interests should be.
You need to remember that not everybody takes their brain out and leaves it in a glass at the side of the bed (and forgets to put it back the following morning) - whoops sorry, dropping to your level now!
Glueman;
Can't find much to argue with in your posting, apart from your analysis of what 'the traditionalists' (whoever they are) expect from a 'folk club'.
I don't know, and can't remember ever knowing anybody who would not enjoy a night of folk songs and ballads mixed in with compositions of say MacColl, Seeger, Rossleson, Tawney, Graham Miles, Ed Pickford, Eric Bogle, Paul Smith, Adam McNaughton, Enoch Kent, Jim McLean, Con 'Fada' O'Driscoll, Fintan Vallely... and all the others who have drawn from the tradition for their inspiration.
While I believe one is folk and the other isn't, I also believe the clubs would, as you rightly say, become museums without the input of all these people.
This is a bit of a long haul from the songs that drove me out of the clubs; the bland, navel gazing, introspective pieces that owe more to middle-of-the-road pop than any folk song I've ever heard; the unsatisfactory music hall stuff (not unlike American/Chinese food - one belch and you're hungry again), the early 20 century pop-pap, et al, and I'm hardy likely to respond well to an evening of Beatles songs. I left home in the sixties because I found that if you didn't like football or the Beatles, Liverpool had sod-all else to offer - not even work!
As far as research is concerned, the term 'folk' is specific - it refers to a specific music, literature.... whatever. Yes, the process that once created the songs is as dead as Baroque, main stream classical, Victorian parlour and tavern singing... but this doesn't mean that the creative folk forms can't be used to make new songs - who knows, we might be able to win back the tradition - but we won't do so by pretending it hasn't gone away.
In the end it all boils down to the fact that I want to know what's inside the tin before I open it, otherwise I'll go to another shop.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 21 Jul 08 - 05:58 PM

Traditional folk music is like a river and keeps flowing. The tradition in music can be
conveyed in a variety of ways. One way is exposure to the cultural practitioners. The conditions for the existence of this music remain in the interest of those who understand and attempt to recreate it. The basic idea of folk music is still that people get together
to sing it and share it regardless of its commercial value as a performance art.

Folk music has always been a "pastiche" in that any musical isolated form borrows from
and antecedent. 1920's jazz informs the Piedmont blues pickers. Old time string band music informs Bluegrass. The Irish, Scottish, British traditions of unaccompanied singing
is found in Appalachia. There is no folk music. Classical, pop, jazz etc. has always informed folk music and vise-versa.

When folk music becomes a "museum piece" it is because it is frozen into a performance art piece for an audience that expects it. It has no longer entered the river.

There is a difference between historical understanding and re-interpretation and re-enactment which usually turns out to be wrong since unless you are transported to
the time of the music, you really don't know how it was done. Recordings are only
a small window of that experience.

Folk music is always transformed. It has a cultural base but is changed to adapt to
new environmental situations. Hence, Barbara Allen finds herself walking the "highway" home instead of the cowpath.

Living traditions are often not identified by the uninitiated who are not folklorists.
1954 is not a starting point for any particular attitude regarding "what is folk".
Who is to really say what the "vast majority of folk fans" embrace?

A living tradition means that there is an interest in furtherance of this tradition.
The "museum piece" concept is inimical to the folk process. Sam Hinton put it succinctly.
A printed folk song is like a photograph of a bird in flight.

Folk music traditions are not dead but survive underground in various forms although
they may not be recognizable to many. They are not associated with coffee house venues or staged concerts but whenever a lullaby to a child is sung, folk songs tend to survive.

Folk music is inimical to musical correctness as well. The approach to classic anthropology has always been to study and secure a knowledge of a culture from
the outside looking in rather than to be a part of it. This is akin to taking a picture
rather than receiving the subject in the "flesh". Pop music is not folk. It is predicated
on the business of music however some pop music becomes folk through assimilation.
"Old Dan Tucker" or "Angeline the Baker" finds its way into folk culture through the people who retain the songs and them. This is an important ingredient
in assessing folk music. Hence, Schubert songs become integrated into German folk music. "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" travels from Mozart into a myriad of forms such as the children's "A.B.C." song.

Songwriting is not necessarily folk music because some songs have not been processed
by acceptance into a folk community. What is this community? It exists outside of
most people's perceived recognition of it. It may be going through mutations and variations today and perhaps the music that groups of people are singing today away from the commercial music business of the so-called "singer-songwriter" might be
the folk music of tomorrow.

In order to discover folk music, it is important to rid ourselves of a rigid definition of
what we associate as being folk music. It may include perhaps "rap" on the streets or
"do-wop" being changed or singers deciding that certain changes in songs should be
changed to fit new times and different environments. It might be a cross-pollination
of music from different countries (acculturation).

I think to really understand what folk music is, we have to free ourselves from the
restriction of our perceptions based on what others who don't know it think it is.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 21 Jul 08 - 06:13 PM

Not that I agree but Don, Tony Bennett insists that he is singing a kind of "folksong".
That's how he classifies his tunes.

Maybe they may become folk songs in time when those who have re-written "Over
The Rainbow" such as Pete Seeger (much to the chagrin of Yip Harburg), find a variant
song in times to come. This is the folk process as it goes from one voice to another.

In many ways, the current commercial songwriter is antithetical to the process in that
they claim the royalties for their composition unchanged.

The index is the acceptance of a variation of a song by an assortment of people who
constitute a kind of cultural milieu. The retention of this variant exists over a period of
time. In this sense, "This Land" or "We Shall Overcome" follow a folk process and can
be said to be a part of this tradition. Songs from the Civil Rights Movement, Labor songs,
parodies, kid's schoolyard ditties, and other forms undgo changes and find new acceptance in different times.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 22 Jul 08 - 04:49 AM

Maybe they may become folk songs in time when those who have re-written "Over The Rainbow" such as Pete Seeger (much to the chagrin of Yip Harburg), find a variant song in times to come. This is the folk process as it goes from one voice to another.

It's certainly a similar process, but I don't think you can call it the folk process unless the folk are involved. If you add up all the professional singers, would-be professional singers and enthusiastic amateurs, you'll only get a small fraction of the population - most people aren't making music, they're listening to it.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 22 Jul 08 - 05:21 AM

I agree with Stringsinger.
Especially: "When folk music becomes a "museum piece" it is because it is frozen into a performance art piece for an audience that expects it".

And: "They are not associated with coffee house venues or staged concerts but whenever a lullaby to a child is sung, folk songs tend to survive".


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 22 Jul 08 - 05:21 AM

At what point did 'Barbara Allen' become a folk song?

What type of song was it before that point?


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 22 Jul 08 - 05:39 AM

In its application and consumption folk music has become a 'sound'. In practice that's what folk now is. If a musician or singer performed folk that ticked all the boxes except audience expectation of a certain noise most of them would run a mile. There's a lot of denial on the matter but that reality it puts a lid on what folk might really be so it becomes self-fulfilling.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: glueman
Date: 22 Jul 08 - 05:41 AM

English deserted me on the last sentence but you get the drift.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Jul 08 - 02:13 AM

"folk music has become a 'sound'. In practice that's what folk now is."
Thinking about all the different sounds claimed to be 'folk' by various people, clubs, music journalists... etc. If you start with Harry Cox, Robert Cinnamond, Paddy Tunney, Joe Heaney, Ewan MacColl, Frankie Armstrong.... onto Seth Lakeman, Jim Moray, Eliza Carthy... then to The Watersons, Steeleye Span, Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Ralph McTell. If you include music hall as 'folk' you have Two Lovely Black Eyes, Knock 'Em in The Old Kent Road, Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom De Ay, She Sits Among the Cabbages and Peas.... Then of course there's 'Parlour Ballad Folk' like Come Into The Garden Maud and Oft In The Stilly Night; not forgetting songs that have "recently become 'folk'" according to some schools of thought like Yellow Submarine, Heartbreak Hotel, Viva Espania...... I wonder what that 'sound' might be now considered 'folk' - all of these, or none maybe.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 27 Jul 08 - 04:58 PM

It seems to me there are two versions of the broader definition, both fuzzy but in different ways. There's "six degrees of separation" folk music, which starts from yer actual folk but radiates outwards - new songs in a trad style, new songs in an affectedly archaic style, trad songs in a contemporary style, new songs in a contemporary style by somebody who's known as a folk artist... When people say folk is a 'sound', what they usually seem to be thinking of is the next stage after all of those: new songs in a style emulating - and modifying - one of the many sounds which have been used by people known as folk artists. There are a lot of people working in that broad area; it's a healthy enough scene, but there's nothing at all that unites it - musically, lyrically or in terms of instrumentation.

This overlaps with another broad definition, "you bring it, you sing it" folk music. My local club is very much of this persuasion: we've had honky-tonk piano, we've had classical guitar, we've had songs by the Seekers and the Snow Patrol. Lyric sheets are common and sheet music is not unknown. Again, there's nothing at all that unites everyone in the area (although the acoustic guitar comes close).

The only thing that those two definitions have in common is that they've got very little room for traditional music. I think that's a shame.


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 27 Jul 08 - 05:51 PM

Here is something about a man who apparently did know something about that of which we so freely speak.

http://www.mudcat.org/threads.cfm


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 Jul 08 - 02:48 PM

Sorry Richard
Am I being fick - or what?
Keep getting bounced back to this list through your website address.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 28 Jul 08 - 02:57 PM

Jim

Not so fick! Looks like Richard made a circular link - presumably unintentionally!

Regards


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 28 Jul 08 - 05:31 PM

Not quite circular. Now I'm going to ahve to find it again...


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 28 Jul 08 - 05:38 PM

Earwig Go


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Jul 08 - 06:05 PM

Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Tootler - PM
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 05:30 PM

Interesting article.
ha bloddy ha,since when has Madam Bonaparte,been a reel,its a set dance played as a hornpipe,whoever wrote this is an ignoramus.
however Glueman is right to a certain extent,the sound of traditional english ,scottish, irish, welsh, folk music,does have narrow boundaries the melodies are restricted to four modes,the major ,mixolydian dorian and aeolian,once you start using other modes it no longer sounds authentic.
flamenco music uses different modes,and to try and write an authentic sounding tune and pass it off as english, scottish, Irish, Welsh,would not be convincing.
Jimmy Miller [Ewan Maccoll],was quite fond of the Dorian mode,and his songs are well written,and sound as if their roots are melodically in his native tradition.Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Jul 08 - 03:20 AM

Thanks for that Richard.
Hugh was a wonderful man; his book on narrative song should be top of the reading list of anybody with an interest in folk song - a man who had no problem in understanding and explaining the word.
There is a very strong case for gathering together Hugh's articles and publishing a selection of them; would make threads like these redundant.
Now I'll go and make myself a strong cup of coffee and try and work out the previous posting - still corpse-wrestling the Jimmy Miller/Ewan McColl battle after all these years I see Cap'n!
Can't work out who has earned your disapproval this time, but not everybody who makes mistakes is an ignoramus - we all do from time to time, and I seem to remember........ ah well!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 29 Jul 08 - 03:55 AM

Nice one, Richard, given that the target thread had been started by me!

Regards


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Tootler
Date: 29 Jul 08 - 11:40 AM

"Interesting article.
ha bloddy ha,since when has Madam Bonaparte,been a reel,its a set dance played as a hornpipe,whoever wrote this is an ignoramus."

Just because the article has an error does not mean the article is not interesting or have a useful point to make. You may not agree with it. I am not entirely sure about what the article is saying, but the author still has an interesting point to make. IMHO.

On your point about Madame Bonaparte, to quote from Michael Raven's book "One Thousand English Country Dance Tunes" on Hornpipes and Reels

"...Hornpipe and reel melodies are especially fluid in their application...By simply varying the tempo and lilt, the same tune can be made to serve both dances..."


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Jul 08 - 01:34 PM

but the point is it is a set dance,like the Blackbird,the Garden of Daisies,Rodneys Glory,St Patricks Day.
It is a specific tune for a specific dance.
and if anyone ruins the Blackbird, by turning it into a reel,I will throw a pint of beer over them.
Madam Bonaparte is an irish set dance.I like the northumbrian variations but I do not like it as a reel.
Tootler, you are free to do with it what you will,but dont expect me to like it.
Jim Carroll,hi ,is it raining in Clare.
Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Jul 08 - 02:03 PM

Micheal Raven,cuts no ice with me.hornpipes /reels are interchangeable at the musicians discretion,some work, some dont.
IMO The Scholar works. IMO Madam Bonaparte does not The rest of the article seemed to be a promotion for a band.Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 29 Jul 08 - 03:12 PM

Nick,

The problem is one of a broader perspective than a narrowing of definitions.
The educators are not at fault because their education was limited. Most of the people
who evaluate folk music today are not aware of other kinds of music and what they contribute to the folk process. There has always been an interactive relationship between formal musical composers and what we know as folk music. Many self-styled folk authorities have never heard of Jussi Bjorling or Cecil Taylor. It reinforces the old
bromide that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing". In short, folk music educators
have not been doing their job well enough, so you may have a point there.

To put a limitation on folk as to 60's or 70's is missing the point that folk music transcends eras or trends. There are so many practitioners in the folk revival that were at one time known but now forgotten as well as many traditional artists who emanate from
a specific cultural milieu. I remember that a narrow view of folklorists such as the one who refused to have Joan Baez at a UCLA folk concert because she wasn't "authentic" enough really caused a breach which didn't have to be there.

I submit that the very definition of folkmusic implies evolution and change. As there are
no pure racial stocks, there is no pure folksong as much as that concept has been idealized by romantic ex-urbanites or college sophomores.

Even at the period of the late 1940's and early 50's, the notion that folk music was somehow recognized is to deny the point that many of those who grew up in the Left-Wing Popular Front era did not support folk but preferred to dance to Benny Goodman.

Judy Collins is a fine artist and singer. "Turn Turn" is a Pete Seeger classic. In the sense that the song may be a folk-styled song, it doesn't represent a particular "folk" culture.
Judy has the breadth of musicianship and sophistication to know what's "folk" and what's not. She is a highly trained singer not unlike those who aspire to art song or opera or the best of popular music or Broadway stage. I never thought she was a folk singer in the way that we have come to know the term, although, like Jo Stafford, she did sing folksongs
quite well with a great deal of artistic integrity. "Texas" Gladden or Almeda Riddle she wasn't. (Jeannie Robertson or Margaret Barry as UK examples).

I don't know Jenna Reid, Christine Kydd or Janet Russell but I'm sure I would enjoy them
beside the fact that I appreciate "Big Bill" Broonzy or Doc Boggs as well. It is not confusing to me that they may sound different and have respective dissimilar musical backgrounds.


Ewan's raison d'etre was to revive the unaccompanied ballad tradition in music and I think he popularized this very well as did A.L. Lloyd and Frank Warner over here. They were concerned with the traditional aspects of folk music and not singer/songwriters which is
a different genre these days.

Although I am not familiar with Bob Copper and have heard the Watersons on occasion, I can attest to the fact that Taj Mahal has grasped and mastered the tradition from which he emanates.

I think that as a lover of music, you are not trapped into a wrong definition but perhaps
a narrowed definition given to you by those who have an incomplete grasp of music.

Much of what can be learned about any specific musical form is highly accessible today.
All it requires is the requisite time to absorb this information. The problem is that
the marketing of music tends to be about trends rather than valuable info.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Does it matter what music is called?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 29 Jul 08 - 03:13 PM

P.S. If you don't know why a music is called what it is, you haven't studied it.

Frank


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