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What makes it a Folk Song?

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GUEST,Shimrod 19 Mar 09 - 02:54 PM
The Sandman 19 Mar 09 - 03:04 PM
Rifleman (inactive) 19 Mar 09 - 03:14 PM
Sleepy Rosie 19 Mar 09 - 03:23 PM
Jim Carroll 19 Mar 09 - 03:31 PM
Rifleman (inactive) 19 Mar 09 - 03:37 PM
Don Firth 19 Mar 09 - 03:39 PM
Rifleman (inactive) 19 Mar 09 - 03:40 PM
Jack Blandiver 19 Mar 09 - 03:51 PM
Jim Carroll 19 Mar 09 - 03:51 PM
Stringsinger 19 Mar 09 - 04:07 PM
Bill D 19 Mar 09 - 05:06 PM
John P 19 Mar 09 - 07:49 PM
TheSnail 19 Mar 09 - 09:08 PM
Gibb Sahib 19 Mar 09 - 10:21 PM
Jim Carroll 20 Mar 09 - 05:06 AM
Jack Blandiver 20 Mar 09 - 05:45 AM
Jim Carroll 20 Mar 09 - 06:20 AM
Jack Blandiver 20 Mar 09 - 06:49 AM
Jack Blandiver 20 Mar 09 - 07:16 AM
Jim Carroll 20 Mar 09 - 07:36 AM
Dave the Gnome 20 Mar 09 - 08:28 AM
GUEST, Sminky 20 Mar 09 - 09:47 AM
Jack Blandiver 20 Mar 09 - 10:46 AM
Rifleman (inactive) 20 Mar 09 - 12:19 PM
Don Firth 20 Mar 09 - 12:31 PM
Rifleman (inactive) 20 Mar 09 - 12:50 PM
Phil Edwards 20 Mar 09 - 01:41 PM
Rifleman (inactive) 20 Mar 09 - 01:59 PM
Joe Offer 20 Mar 09 - 02:08 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 20 Mar 09 - 02:31 PM
Rifleman (inactive) 20 Mar 09 - 02:51 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 20 Mar 09 - 05:28 PM
Stringsinger 20 Mar 09 - 05:31 PM
The Sandman 20 Mar 09 - 05:48 PM
Jack Blandiver 20 Mar 09 - 06:07 PM
Don Firth 20 Mar 09 - 06:30 PM
Phil Edwards 20 Mar 09 - 08:02 PM
Musket 21 Mar 09 - 02:51 PM
Jim Carroll 21 Mar 09 - 04:03 PM
Rifleman (inactive) 21 Mar 09 - 04:09 PM
Don Firth 21 Mar 09 - 06:04 PM
GUEST,gmatkin 21 Mar 09 - 07:16 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 22 Mar 09 - 06:31 AM
Mr Happy 22 Mar 09 - 07:44 AM
Jim Carroll 22 Mar 09 - 08:21 AM
Jack Blandiver 22 Mar 09 - 08:42 AM
Mr Happy 22 Mar 09 - 09:06 AM
Leadfingers 22 Mar 09 - 10:14 AM
Leadfingers 22 Mar 09 - 10:14 AM
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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 02:54 PM

So, Snail, are you saying that the word 'book' (or 'snail' or 'plate' or 'tree') has a different meaning to the meaning it had 55 years ago (or 155 years ago, for that matter)?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:04 PM

Snail,you are up Barking creek without a paddle.
Folk music is the product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission. The factors that shape the tradition are:

      (i) continuity which links the present with the past;
      (ii) variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group;
      (iii) selection by the community, which determines the form or forms in which the music survives.

The term can be applied to music that has been evolved from rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by popular and art music and it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community.
The term does not cover composed popular music that has been taken over ready-made by a community and remains unchanged, for it is the re-fashioning and re-creation of the music by the community that gives it its folk character."


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:14 PM

Me? I'd rather listen to the likes of Harry Cox, Cyril Poacher, Bob Hart, Walter Pardon and Sam Larner, oh..and right at this moment Fairport Convention's take on The Bonny Bunch of Roses, than some quite nebulous definition


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:23 PM

It ain't bound and made of paper, but it's a book... Or so they say.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:31 PM

"Gets complicated , doesent it??? "
Not really - as somebody has pointed out, nobody expects to come away with a complete understanding of a subject just by looking it up in a dictionary.
The 1954 definition, as far as I'm concerned, does the job adequately, even without adjustment, in outlining an identifiable and unique body of material, but if you are going to understand the subject fully you have to look at it in the context of relative factors, for instance, folklore, extensively accepted and in use since it was first coined by William Thom in 1846. Also via the thousands of volumes of literature on the subject.
Anybody wanting to stretch and adapt the term to include new factors, as far as I'm concerned, has to present those factors for consideration, not by wishing a re-definition into place.
"I'd say it say it was simplicity itself; just sit back and savour. If you don't like it, go to the bar"
You mean you can't do these things and attempt to understand the music?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:37 PM

I think I'll just listen to the music (reaches for Hidden English
A Celebration of English Traditional Music, and puts in the player)


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:39 PM

I think some people want to use the word "folk" as some sort of stamp of respectability, like the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval." The songwriter seeks immediate acceptance of his or her work by labeling it a "folk song," attempting to give it an illusion of longevity and respectability, even if it was written only last week and the songwriter is the only person who sings it (or wants to). Likewise, someone who performs in folk venues might feel his or her status among their peers will be diminish if they like to sing songs that are patently not traditional. They try to justify what they want to sing (and also keep their place in a specifically folk venue) by insisting through convoluted reasoning that what they sing are folk songs.

If the Kingston Trio recorded "They Call the Wind Mariah," from the Broadway musical, "Paint Your Wagon," or the Brothers Four recorded "Try to Remember," from the off-Broadway musical, "The Fantasticks," that did not make them folk songs. When singing in coffeehouses in the early 1960s, I got requests for these and similar songs from people who didn't know where they came from and assumed they were folk songs because they had heard them sung by nominally folk groups. I sang them. But I told the audience where the songs came from. I didn't fell that I had to justify the fact that I was willing to sing them by insisting that they were "folk songs."

That didn't mean that they weren't good songs. They were just not folk songs. Besides, if they liked those, they might want to listen to some of the other songs in the musicals.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:40 PM

and there's this perfect quote from Bob Copper in 2002

""We just sing for the joy of singing. We love to sing these songs, and see the people join in and the atmosphere it creates."


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:51 PM

You mean you can't do these things and attempt to understand the music?

I've no bother with understanding or appreciating anything myself, Jim; I don't harbour those sort of prejudices. Otherwise see my earlier post Here.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 03:51 PM

"and there's this perfect quote from Bob Copper in 2002"
And an even better one IMO from Lowry C Wimberly's 'Folklore in the English and Scottish Ballads (1928):
An American Indian sun-dance or an Australian corroboree is an exciting spectacle for the uninitiated, but for one who understands something of the culture whence it springs it is a hundred fold more heart-moving."
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 04:07 PM

For all those who subscribe to the folk-song-is-anything-you-wanna'-make-it crowd
or the "cherry pickers" who classify the music they like as folk, you are all throwing the baby out with the bath water.

The continuity and the tradition still prevails. BTW there's some pretty boring and bad folk music that falls into this classification. Just 'cause it's "folk" doesn't always make it good.

And music of the past was not always the best just because it was old.

Still, the early traditional singers of folk songs have been marginalized by the pop music industry and the so-called singer/songwriter. This is true for the traditional folk songs as well.

I don't think a date-oriented definition defines anything...1954...2009.

Traditional folk music is different than the manufactured songs by contemporary artists.
Some of either is good or bad depending on aesthetic values such as melodies, musicianship, lyric content etc. But a good traditional folk song has a durability that you won't find with many contemporary attempts at songwriting. It's a folk song because it
stands up over time.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Bill D
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 05:06 PM

...and, there's not not a neat, simple cut-off point. Musical categories are on a continuum.

There's real, genuine, old traditional songs that no one would doubt, and then there's stuff with obvious 'folk roots' that has been processed and 'modernized'....either by messing with the tune, the words, the pace... or just the type of instruments used for accompaniment. This leaves us with stuff at both ends of the scale....and a gray area in the middle. I can usually tolerate the gray area being passed off as folk/trad...but some people want the gray area expanded as far as THEY define it- possibly because 'folk' is such a nice, easy, handy word.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: John P
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 07:49 PM

I have, in my mind, a clear distinction between a traditional song in a musical sense and a traditional song in the manner of its presentation. Messing around with the instrumentation, harmony, speed, or style of singing doesn't change the melody or the lyrics, which remain traditional.

A traditional presentation (if that's the right word) is, for me, a different animal. My problem with trying to quantify that is that we start talking about history: which instruments are traditional for that song? Do we have to find out which instruments were in use when the song was first being sung? If so, what does that do to the living tradition? I perform songs that cover a range of about 700 years, and come from most of Europe and half of the United States. In order to be "traditional" in the presentation of all these songs, do I have to go around with a truck full of different versions of historical instruments? Should I dress the part for each era and country?

Which venues are traditional for the playing of traditional music? If I'm trying to be traditional in my music making (as opposed to playing traditional music), should I only play dance music in barns or village dance halls? What about using a PA system?

Trying to play music traditionally opens a huge can of worms that doesn't exist if I define traditional music in a musical sense but don't worry about doing it in a traditional way.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: TheSnail
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 09:08 PM

GUEST,Shimrod

So, Snail, are you saying that the word 'book' (or 'snail' or 'plate' or 'tree') has a different meaning to the meaning it had 55 years ago (or 155 years ago, for that matter)?

Are you saying they always existed? Are you saying their meaning was decided by a committee? The time scale varies. Has this word stayed the same?

I just get the impression that some people are more interested in the word and the definition than they are in the music.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 19 Mar 09 - 10:21 PM

"Folk" as an adjective is almost completely worthless. Take any phrase that has it and remove the word "folk" and you'll find that the phrase still means exactly the same thing, without the excess verbiage. People only add it because they've fetishized the word; for them in connotes some extra-special-good quality, one that really doesn't exist, but one which they and others with the same fetish have convinced themselves exists. When they use the word, they are communicating to those "others" that they share the sentiment/fantasy; it helps them identify one another, puts them in the same club.

Q: "What is a folk song?"
A. It's a song.

The characteristics of a song --how it was learned, who wrote it, what is its intent, how fast is it, what instruments is it played on, what gender performs it, etc etc etc-- are all different and notable. But once you've slapped it with the "folk" label, you've stopped saying anything objective about the song and started saying how you feel it fits the fantasies of a particular set of people.

Gibb


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 05:06 AM

"Q: "What is a folk song?" A. It's a song."
What is 'Banks of Sweet Primroses' - It is a folk song; What is 'Come Into The Garden Maud' - it is a parlour song by Tennyson.
Song = general, folk = specific.
We specify our requirements so we don't end up with a tin of mulligitawney soup when we'd rather have mushroom.

"Has this word stayed the same?"
According to my dictionary it has.
Gay (gay) adj. gayer, gayest.
1. Showing or characterised by cheerfulness and light-hearted excitement; merry.
2. Bright or brilliant, especially in colour.
3. a. Homosexual, b. Of, pertaining to, or for homosexuals. 4. Full of or given to social or other pleasures.
5. Rare. Dissolute; licentious.
As with many words it has several definitions, all totally independent of and unaffected by one another.

"I just get the impression that some people are more interested in the word and the definition than they are in the music. "
And I get the impression that some people are constantly attempting to seperate the music from its origins, its form, its social, historical and cultural implications in order to put bums on seats.
As far as I'm concerned, people are welcome to become involved in folk music from whatever aspect they choose, as a listener, as a performer, particular or easy-going in what they listen to or play.
Some of us have stretched that activity to include taking a closer look at what we are involved in.
Yes, it's about the music, but it's also about the people who made it and kept it alive, and passed it down, about the circumstances and conditions that gave rise to it, and all the other cultural baggage that the music carries with it.
IT IS NEVER JUST ABOUT THE WORD.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 05:45 AM

What is 'Come Into The Garden Maud' - it is a parlour song by Tennyson.

The words were extracted from Tennyson's epic Maud presumably by the composer of the song, one Michael William Balfe. For the full text begin Here - you'll find the Come Into the Garden sequence at line 850. Seems he wrote it at Brancepeth Castle, in Country Durham - one of my own former residences...

As for the song, I have sung it myself in Folk Clubs very much as a Folk Song (though not, of course, as a Traditional Song which is a very different beast). Parlour Songs, it would seem, can be Folk Songs too.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 06:20 AM

"Parlour Songs, it would seem, can be Folk Songs too."
Only if you abandon any definition or replace the existing one with one of your own - I do neither.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 06:49 AM

Inputting Folk & 1954 into Google I came up with this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pq65UvyX1uM


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 07:16 AM

Only if you abandon any definition or replace the existing one with one of your own - I do neither.

All I'm doing is reporting on what I've see around the UK Folk Scene for the last 35 years, which leads me to say that:

A Folk Song can be any song sung in a designated Folk Context. At other times, and in other contexts, the same song might be something else entirely, a Pop Song for example, or yet a Jazz Standard, a Victorian Parlour Ballad, a Musical Hall Song or even an Operatic Aria. All of these I have heard sung in Folk Contexts and have, by dint of that context, accepted them as being Folk Songs. So what makes it a Folk Song is the context in which it is being sung and appreciated as such.

As for what makes a Traditional Song, the lines are clearer with respect of a canon of material collected, recorded, catalogued, cut and dried, sourced and analysed, numbered, indexed, with occasions, performers and variations duly noted. Sometimes Traditional Songs might be sung as Folk Songs, other times they might be sung as Classical Songs, Rock Songs, Wyrd-Folk Songs, Jazz Songs, or Pop Songs. Anything is possible with a Traditional Song - but the song, essentially, remains the same, whatever the context.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 07:36 AM

Sorry SS - utter gibberish and totally at odds with anything I have experienced either on the folk scene, among traditional singers or in anything I've read - a typical case of make-it-up-as-you-go-along-to suit-your-own-particular-circumstances. (Lack of) reasoning like that makes communication between people totally impossible.
Re your somewaht apt Marx Brothers clip - as much as I love them, I'd rather go to a more reliable source for my information.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 08:28 AM

I fully understand the definition as applied to a lot of the 'trad' and even 'trad/arr' songs that appear regularly at folk venues. I am a little unclear about some of the more contemproary ones. Can I go through an example with you please? The factors, as detailed above, are -

(i) continuity which links the present with the past;
(ii) variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group;
(iii) selection by the community, which determines the form or forms in which the music survives.

So, let us apply these to a particular song regularly performed by a friend of mine - American Pie.

Does it have continuity which links the present with the past? Yes. In two ways - It has been performed in various ways for over thirty years while pertaining to events that occured half a century ago.

Dose it have variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or group? Yes. They way it is performed by this particular person (Phil Atkinson - he will not mind the mention:-) ) it varies wildly from the original. The group eoften add to these variations. And on occasion it varies from performance to performance but that's another story...

Has the form in which it survives been selected by the community. Yes. No-one else can ever get away with another version at our folk club and one or two other venues Phil has made it his own at:-)

So, is Ameriacn Pie a folk song? By the above definition, yes it is. As is The Beatles 'Blackbird' and McPeakes 'Wild Mountain Thyme' and a host of other contemporary songs, including most of MacColls.

Have I got the gist or am I barking up the wrong tree? Or barking mad? Well, I suppose that goes without saying but you know what I mean...

Cheers

DeG


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 09:47 AM

Dave - the definition states: "The term does not cover composed popular music that has been taken over ready-made by a community and remains unchanged, for it is the re-fashioning and re-creation of the music by the community that gives it its folk character".

A wonderfully vague expression which can, and doubtless will, be interpreted differently by various protagonists.

With regard to the example you gave, a "composed popular" song has been "re-fashioned" "by a community". It therefore qualifies as a folk song according to the definition.

Now wait for the howls of indignation.....


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 10:46 AM

utter gibberish and totally at odds with anything I have experienced either on the folk scene, among traditional singers or in anything I've read - a typical case of make-it-up-as-you-go-along-to suit-your-own-particular-circumstances. (Lack of) reasoning like that makes communication between people totally impossible.

Nice one, Jim. What I'm saying is that whilst we might be clear on how we define a Traditional Song, any definition of Folk Song has to be more inclusive to reflect the realities of what actually happens in the name of Folk. I'd say Jim Eldon is a perfect example of this, taking Pop Songs and shaping them to his particular idiom. Here he is singing his reworking of a Pop Song by Jim Holt, made famous by Blondie:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_ovw1-Zjsw

In no way Traditional, but most certainly Folk, even by the somewhat vague standards of the 1954 definition, which, as I've shown above is utterly meaningless in outlining how so-called Folk Song is different from any other.

Now, please, if you will, and without resorting to personal insults, kindly explain your objections.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 12:19 PM

I really do dislike those (and you know who you are)who try to tell me thatI must follow certain rules/definitions. Balderdash, rubbish and poppycock are three words that come immediately to mind, there are others, but my mother taught me to be polite. lease don't try to tell me that I must follow some damned definition that was cobbled together 50 some odd years ago, engraved in stone and trumpeted as the be all and end all.It wasn't then, it isn't now, and it never will be. I am very very aware of from whence I come, I am very aware of my cultural heritage..yes, unlike some I actually do come from a rural background (not that really matters) Please don't tell me that I must follow the somewhat vague standards of the 1954 definition in order to "undertand" and thoroughly appreciate the songs and tunes I sing and play, because that truly is utter and complete balderdash.

Oh heavens, I'm getting as wordy as Jim Carroll *LOL*


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Don Firth
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 12:31 PM

Sir Isaac Newton formulated the math for the Law of Gravity back in the late 1600s. Anything over a few years old is obviously irrelevant for our times, so let's just rescind the Law of Gravity and then we can all fly!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 12:50 PM

to misquote Richard Thompson/Dave Swarbrick, The Journeyman's Grace.

And if the anti -1954s won't depart,
drive a stake into their collective hearts
And leave me to my leisure


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 01:41 PM

Please don't tell me that I must follow the somewhat vague standards of the 1954 definition in order to "undertand" and thoroughly appreciate the songs and tunes I sing and play

I've no idea what you're talking about - can you explain? I mean, as far as I can see the 1954 definition is a way of telling one set of material from another. You've said that you play traditional material, so, er... what's the problem?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 01:59 PM

I'm not interested in definitions, it's that simple.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 02:08 PM

Well, I've learned that I don't really want to go to "folk" concerts any more, because they're all that singer-songwriter stuff. I have to go to "traditional folk" concerts - many, maybe most of the songs I hear have been written in the last half-century, but they're in a traditional, mostly story-telling style - and they can be sung by anyone, not just by the songwriter.

Definitions help because they define the market. They help audiences find the music they want, and they help performers find audiences that will appreciate them.

That being said, any old definition of traditional folk music will work pretty well for me. The definitions presented here all have more-or-less the same elements, and I think we all know more-or-less what we're talking about.

I'm happy with the 1954 definition, although I suppose it does not include most of the "traditional-style" music I listen to.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 02:31 PM

"Please don't tell me that I must follow the somewhat vague standards of the 1954 definition in order to "undertand" and thoroughly appreciate the songs and tunes I sing and play, because that truly is utter and complete balderdash."

'Rifleman', no-one is telling you to do, or not to do, anything! Sing what you like, and "thoroughly appreciate" what you like, but if you sing recent pop songs (or jazz standards, or operatic arias, or Victorian parlour ballads etc., etc.) in a folk club, and I'm in the audience, don't expect me to greet your efforts with much enthusiasm.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 02:51 PM

actually we, one of the bands I play with, on occassion, have been known to do a Victorian parlour ballad or two, but then again we also have the song Long Black Veil by Marijohn Wilkin and Danny Dill in our repetoire. The Tradition is but a part of what we do.

We look forward to you complete lack of enthusiasm! *LOL*


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 05:28 PM

Please remember, 'Rifleman', that these endless 'definition' threads have absolutely nothing to do with what you (or I, for that matter) like or dislike. And I repeat, in speaking up for the 1954 definition no-one is questioning your taste or telling you what to sing or what not to sing.

The point about pinning down a definition is that it has a bearing on what is sung, or not sung, in folk clubs. In the past many artists and agents saw folk clubs as easily accessible launching platforms for the careers of people who struggled to find such platforms elsewhere. It was a crucial part of their agendas to convince everyone that 'all music is folk music' and, hence, 'anything goes in a folk club'. In some cases 'real' folk music completely disappeared from certain clubs to be replaced by a sort of 'mush' of pop, comedy and introspective singer-songwriter stuff. Nowadays, of course, a younger generation have convinced themselves that their particular 'acoustic' effusions are 'folk music' too. In short 'real' folk music is fragile and can easily be displaced (from folk clubs) by the latest non-folk fad(s).


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 05:31 PM

Here's the problem. There is a body of traditional material that has been eclipsed by the performance rights societies who derive income from the use of copyrighted songs on the media. Many of these traditional songs have become obscured and like folk tales or stories which have become replaced by sit-coms and t.v. dramas, these songs and the style of presentation has been pushed aside. Nonetheless, these songs and styles (folk songs) remain as do the legendary folk tales and stories. They will continue regardless of all the other songs written and performed by entertainers who are generally professional or semi-pros. The issue transcends mere definition.

In the last decades because of the recording industry, T.V. and now the net, a kind of
musical "imperialism" has taken hold. Publishing a folk song runs the same risk as the
"definitive" song which as a folk song, it can never be. Sam Hinton's metaphor about a printed folk song like a picture of a bird in flight is apt.

There is another notable problem. Songwriting has suddenly become so ordinary in the
music field that the quality of the music and lyrics has been dumbed down for the marketplace. This is often what passes for "folk song" these days. So anyone can write a folk song? I don't think so.

If you listen and research a good amount of traditional field recordings of folk songs (and by research, knowing how they came about) you will find that folk songs and their singers have a different quality then the modern interpreters or singer/songwriters. Not all of it
is wonderful, some are boring, but mostly vital and reflective of a cultural past or tradition. Tradition means something that extends over time.

So it's not just about definitions but preserving something worthwhile that is getting
lost in the commercial economic shuffle.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 05:48 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0zAr1t6nTE&feature=channel_page how about this


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 06:07 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0zAr1t6nTE&feature=channel_page how about this

Lovely!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Don Firth
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 06:30 PM

"I'm not interested in definitions, it's that simple."

. . . living in a world made of Silly Putty. . . .

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 08:02 PM

I'm not interested in definitions, it's that simple.

In that case you are a folksinger.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Musket
Date: 21 Mar 09 - 02:51 PM

Definitions?

A few years ago, I thought that elitist waffle had gone for good.

Then came along the likes of iTunes and it's fascination with genre. Bad enough when a song I wrote was classed as celtic because the band playing it were Scottish, but Bob Dylan albums seem to be classed at random from folk, rock, world, etc etc.

Folk music as we experience it, (perhaps the best test?) tends to be in folk clubs. Therefore, over the years, I would have said that despite people saying it should be about recording traditions, how communities evolved etc etc zzzzzzz   folk music tends to be defined by any song that can be played in a pub without amplification, with a polite audience.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Mar 09 - 04:03 PM

"A few years ago, I thought that elitist waffle had gone for good."
Because there a still people around who believe that the ideas you have just put forwards are not only wrong, but are detrimental to the future of the music we are involved in, this subject is still relevant and will come up continually until some sort of consensus is reached, or until the whole house of cards crashes about our ears - count the number of threads and postings on this and similar subjects.
You may be satisfied with what is happening - some of us ain't.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 21 Mar 09 - 04:09 PM

"In that case you are a folksinger"

not at all, as I said somewhere, traditional music is but a small part of what I play and sing, both as a solo artist and a member of a couple of bands.

The tradition will survive regardless of the sky is falling, the sky is falling Chicken little attitude of some.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Don Firth
Date: 21 Mar 09 - 06:04 PM

The vast majority of the songs I sing are traditional songs and ballads.

But not all. I also do a few poems set to music (such as Byron's So We'll Go No More a-Roving, or Yeats's The Song of the Wandering Aengus, or James Joyce's Golden Hair [melody composed by a friend of mine], along with couple of songs from Shakespeare's plays—and so on. I don't try to pass these latter off as "folk songs." I tell my audiences what they are.

I try not to bill myself as a "folk singer." Other people usually do that for me. But I consider myself to be a singer-guitarist who sings a variety of songs and plays a bit of classical guitar, but the majority of the songs I sing are traditional songs and ballads; what most people refer to—or, at least, used to refer to—as "folk songs." I want people to know what I do so they can come to a performance with a fairly good idea of the kind of songs they're going to hear. I don't want people to come if they are expecting me to do a program of songs I have written, because (unlike many) I know my limitations and, although I write other things, I don't write songs.

I especially don't want them to stay away because they think they would be hearing songs written by me instead of hearing an evening of primarily traditional material.

Likewise, I don't want to go to a concert or other venue where the performer is billed as a "folk singer" expecting to hear traditional folk songs and ballads, and instead I hear only songs that he or she wrote, with nary a traditional song or ballad all evening.

I will, however, go to a performance by a singer-songwriter whose songs I like.

I do not want to go to an open mike which, I am told, is devoted to folk music, and be told that I can't sing because they want only singer-songwriters.

Time was when if someone says to me, "I hear you are a singer. What kind of songs do you sing?" I could respond that I sing folk songs, and that person then has a fairly good idea of what I do. If that same conversation occurs now, they haven't a clue as to what I sing.

Likewise, I don't like pop a couple of pieces of bread in the toaster, then open a jar of orange marmalade (according to the label) and find it's actually a jar of gherkins.

Clear?

Don Firth

P. S. Also posted on the other thread currently running.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,gmatkin
Date: 21 Mar 09 - 07:16 PM

Jim's right. The 1954 definition has meaning. Words have to have clear meanings so that we can understand what we mean. Change them to suit our own purposes and we can get into trouble, because people will be able to interpret what we say in ways that suit them...

There's folk music as understood by the 1954 definition and the similar concept outlined in Folk Song in England. The rest is stuff we enjoy - or not.

Gav


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 06:31 AM

I have little patience with people who don't like definitions - 'anti-analytical primitivists' I think they have been called. Wilfull ignorance is not an attractive trait and is, in my opinion, the cause of many of the world's problems.

Nevertheless, such people should be aware, as I have stated above, that we wouldn't need to endlessly agonise about this if the 'it's all folk music' brigade weren't so all-pervasive and intrusive.


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 07:44 AM

I wonder, did the people of olden, f traditionalf times know that the songs they enjoyed were efolkf songs or that they were traditional?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 08:21 AM

The ones we recorded tpd us the folk songs were different from other types they knew of and may have even sung - ie music hall, Victorian parlour songs, early pop songs etc.
They often used different terminology - my Daddy's songs (even though they may not have learned them from the family), come-all-ye's - fireside songs, (in the case of the Travellers 'Traveller's songs (which included standard folk songs) or simply the old songs.
Walter Pardon used the term folk songs and was catergorising them as early as 1948 when he started writing his family's songs down in a notebook. We have half a dozen tapes of him talking at length on the differences between all his types of song.
See my article on Musical Traditions web-site on the subject under the title 'By Another Name' in the Enthusiasms section.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 08:42 AM

I wonder, did the people of olden, f traditionalf times know that the songs they enjoyed were efolkf songs or that they were traditional?

Just as the Blackbird doesn't know that it's a Blackbird, much less carries the beautiful Latin name Turdus merula. So I'm out there, watching birds on the salt marsh when up comes a Twitcher asking what sort of birds I've seen today. Just birds, I reply, not knowing their names, much less their rarity value, or nothing of the nerd-like tedium that goes with enthusiasm of any persuasion. It's not birds they're interested in, it's the taxonomy.

I like Folk as Flotsam because, although a traddy, I like people - everyday people, coming to a folk club after a hard day's work in the fields (or on the cabs, the Job Centre, the hospital, the school, the building site, the ministry, or computer terminal) to sink a few pints and sing whatever the fuck they want to sing without some tosser telling them it isn't folk. This is where the Horse definition wins out, because it comes from the folks themselves, not the academics telling us how it ought to be, but obviously isn't.

Although a Traddy, I'm with the folks on this one; the academics can go fuck themselves. And that's not by way of 'anti-analytical primitivism' - just that the 1954 definition only works if you want it work, otherwise it's very much The Horseshit Definition and means nothing at all without being complicit in the sort of academic fantasising that gave rise to such nonsense in the first place.

Is Folk Music of the Folks or the Academics?

*

Folk music is the product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission.

No musical tradition has ever evolved without the process of oral transmission.

The factors that shape the tradition are: (i) continuity which links the present with the past; (ii) variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group; and (iii) selection by the community, which determines the form or forms in which the music survives.

All musical traditions are thus shaped - from Hip-Hop to Free Jazz, from Karaoke to Gamelan, from Drum & Bass to Dub Reggae, from Elvis Impersonators to Crusty Didgeridoo Players, from Trad Jazzers to George Formby Enthusiasts, from Neo-Medievalists to Death Metal Headbangers. This is the very nature of musical tradition, simply to be utterly dependent on the people playing it, who, in being fully conversant with the past are nevertheless re-determining it for both themselves and thus assuring its future survival.   

The term can be applied to music that has been evolved from rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by popular and art music and it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community.

All music has evolved from rudimentary beginnings and I very much doubt there has ever been any such an uninfluenced community except in the twisted fantasies of academics who postulate such bullshit. Otherwise - all music has thus originated and been absorbed and transformed. In the composing of a Pop Song, for example - an idea becomes a composition, which is then further interpreted by a community of arrangers, session players, engineers and producers ever before the finished product hits the shelves. There we have The Folk Process in a nutshell. And was anything ever unwritten? Hell, even The Copper Family sing from a fecking book; and there are both Chapbooks and Broadsides to consider.   

The term does not cover composed popular music that has been taken over ready-made by a community and remains unchanged, for it is the re-fashioning and re-creation of the music by the community that gives it its folk character.

No music ever remains unchanged, however so conveniently one might qualify the word change; each performance is a renewal within the expectations of its community which are further transfigured by its corporeal & empirical experience. A performance of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas in 2009 will be, out of necessity, very different from a performance of Dido & Aeneas within the same community from 40 years earlier. Ditto a rock band comprised of variously talented 14-year-olds going over Eleanor Rigby in a garage are re-fashioning a music, re-creating it, and giving it its folk-character. Likewise, a Folk Singer adapting Eleanor Rigby to their own needs and abilities for performance at his local Folk Club is effecting a transformation over a given piece of music, thus giving it its Folk Character.   A Karaoke singer singing Eleanor Rigby is doing exactly that too, likewise the worker who whistles the melody of Eleanor Rigby as they go cheerfully about their daily business, or else the schoolboy singing Eleanor Rigby as he walks to school.

If this is not the case, then please tell me why. If it is the case, then what use is the 1954 definition?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 09:06 AM

Hear, hear!!


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 10:14 AM

When Martin Carthy collected 'Rose OF Allendale' from the Coppers , it was a Folk Song - Now that we know it was an early Victorian parlour song , does that stop it being a Folk Song ?


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Subject: RE: What makes it a Folk Song?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 10:14 AM

100


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