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What is The Tradition?

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Jack Blandiver 06 Sep 09 - 07:27 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 06 Sep 09 - 07:38 PM
Jim Carroll 06 Sep 09 - 07:45 PM
John P 06 Sep 09 - 07:46 PM
Jack Campin 06 Sep 09 - 07:46 PM
Herga Kitty 06 Sep 09 - 07:59 PM
dick greenhaus 06 Sep 09 - 08:24 PM
Bill D 06 Sep 09 - 08:48 PM
Don Firth 06 Sep 09 - 09:56 PM
Fidjit 06 Sep 09 - 11:19 PM
Jack Blandiver 07 Sep 09 - 04:01 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 07 Sep 09 - 04:09 AM
Tangledwood 07 Sep 09 - 04:55 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 07 Sep 09 - 05:18 AM
Mr Red 07 Sep 09 - 05:19 AM
Mr Red 07 Sep 09 - 05:26 AM
glueman 07 Sep 09 - 05:53 AM
GUEST,Paul Davenport 07 Sep 09 - 07:03 AM
Jack Campin 07 Sep 09 - 07:38 AM
Mr Happy 07 Sep 09 - 07:50 AM
Mr Happy 07 Sep 09 - 07:50 AM
Lizzie Cornish 1 07 Sep 09 - 07:56 AM
Jack Campin 07 Sep 09 - 08:17 AM
Lizzie Cornish 1 07 Sep 09 - 08:33 AM
GUEST,Gerry 07 Sep 09 - 08:40 AM
MGM·Lion 07 Sep 09 - 08:58 AM
glueman 07 Sep 09 - 09:37 AM
Amos 07 Sep 09 - 12:58 PM
theleveller 07 Sep 09 - 01:39 PM
Howard Jones 07 Sep 09 - 01:42 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 07 Sep 09 - 02:01 PM
glueman 07 Sep 09 - 02:13 PM
GUEST,Sedayne (Astray) (S O'P) 07 Sep 09 - 02:24 PM
Howard Jones 07 Sep 09 - 02:59 PM
GUEST,Paul Davenport 07 Sep 09 - 05:28 PM
Peace 07 Sep 09 - 06:08 PM
Bill D 07 Sep 09 - 06:33 PM
Peace 07 Sep 09 - 06:35 PM
Howard Jones 07 Sep 09 - 06:46 PM
treewind 07 Sep 09 - 06:57 PM
Peace 07 Sep 09 - 06:58 PM
Bill D 07 Sep 09 - 07:14 PM
Jeri 07 Sep 09 - 07:14 PM
MGM·Lion 07 Sep 09 - 10:12 PM
Jack Blandiver 08 Sep 09 - 05:58 AM
MGM·Lion 08 Sep 09 - 06:25 AM
Brian Peters 08 Sep 09 - 07:06 AM
Jack Blandiver 08 Sep 09 - 07:11 AM
Les in Chorlton 08 Sep 09 - 07:16 AM
glueman 08 Sep 09 - 07:26 AM
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Subject: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 07:27 PM

To what extent does the Revival actually represent The Tradition it purports to represent?

To what extent did The Tradition exist in the first place?

To what extent might the revival be said to be a Tradition in and off itself regardless (and irrespective as much (if not most) of it obviously is) of what may (or may not) have gone before?

In what sense might the stylistic conventions (and affectations) of The Revival be said to represent The Tradition - or are these stylistic conventions indicative of something else altogether?

What exactly is The Tradition anyway?

Is The Revival justified in claiming exclusive representation of The Tradition?

To what extent has The Revival succeeded in its aims and objectives with respect of The Tradition?

etc.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 07:38 PM

Have you read Georgina Boyes' The Imagined Village? - it certainly provides the background to a lot of those questions.

Mick


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 07:45 PM

"To what extent does the Revival actually represent The Tradition"
It doesn't, where is it claimed that it ever did?.

"To what extent did The Tradition exist in the first place?"
(Just) Been there - done that.

"What exactly is The Tradition anyway?"
Been there - done that.

"Is The Revival justified in claiming exclusive representation of The
Tradition?
Does it - if so, where?

"To what extent has The Revival succeeded in its aims and objectives with respect of The Tradition?"
What aims - where are they to be found?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: John P
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 07:46 PM

To what extent does the Revival actually represent The Tradition it purports to represent?

Huh? Who purports anything about any tradition?


Is The Revival justified in claiming exclusive representation of The Tradition?

Huh? Who made that claim?

To what extent has The Revival succeeded in its aims and objectives with respect of The Tradition?

Huh? Success? Aims? Objectives? Who has aims and objectives regarding tradition that they could be successful at?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 07:46 PM

Do Capital Letters make a Question more Important?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 07:59 PM

Tradition = you just do it because it's what you and your family do, and have done since anyone can remember. You might, as a bonus, enjoy doing it.

Kitty


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 08:24 PM

Which tradition are you asking about?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Bill D
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 08:48 PM

It's not so mysterious...."The Tradition" is what we remember and save and pass on thru the generations. To be really meaningful, things like songs need some time before they seem like they are gonna stay around as part of the tradition....


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 09:56 PM

The questions assume quite a bit.

I had heard singers of folk songs off and on all my life. I recall listening to a few programs about folk music on "American School of the Air" back in the late 1930s or early 1940s when I was barely more than a rug-rat, which meant I was more than likely listening to Alan Lomax, but hadn't a clue as to who he was until years later. I also heard singers like Burl Ives, Susan Reed, and Richard Dyer-Bennet early on.

I first became actively interested in folk music (active to the point of buying a cheap guitar, a book of chords, and a couple of song books) when the girl I was going with at the time, who had been interested in folk music for some time, inherited her grandmother's 1898 George Washburn "Ladies' Model" parlor guitar, and set about learning to play it to accompany the many songs she was avidly learning (mostly out of song books, and some off the few records that were available at the time). This was during in my second year at college.

I had already taken about a year's voice lessons as a teenager, and I started taking classic guitar lessons, because I wanted to learn the guitar faster and be able to do more than just strum chords. A few folk music enthusiasts "tsk! tsked! at this because they claimed that if I knew something about music, I couldn't be a folk singer because I would no longer be "natural." I wisely put this down as pure bovine excrement. Just because I could sound a bit like an opera singer if I wanted to didn't mean that I had to.

I studied and practiced and learned songs, and after a few years I started getting singing jobs. A gig here, a gig there, an invitation to do an educational television series on folk music (I wasn't just learning songs, I also learned about them), and once I had done that, I fairly readily got jobs singing in clubs and coffeehouse. Lucking into a chance to do a TV series gives you some pretty good "street cred." More television, concerts and such, followed.

I'll bet that there are a good eleventy-fourteen gazillion singers of traditional songs (but not raised in "the tradition") out there who traveled pretty much the same route I did, each with their own variations and side-trips. Some became well-known, others, not so well-known. Generally referred to as "revival singers."

Tradition? If I (and others like me) followed any tradition, it was the minstrel or troubadour tradition (taking a leaf from Richard Dyer-Bennet's book, who emphatically stated that he was not a "folk singer," he was a "modern-day minstrel"). Minstrelsy was a profession in and of itself, whereas "folk singers" or "traditional singers" were generally not professional singers. When they sang these songs, it was often while they were doing something else:   raising sail on shipboard, following the plow, weaving, rocking the baby to sleep, or singing for fun while sitting around in a pub with friends. But not as professional singers—someone who sings to entertain people and expects to be paid for it.

So—what tradition are we talking about?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Fidjit
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 11:19 PM

Tradition? It's our religion.

Just think I'm part of it.
I keep spreading the word. A-men!


Chas


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 04:01 AM

So I did start this thread. Thought I'd dreamt it; or else been Mudcatting in my sleep (again? You know, sometimes I might wonder...). That's what comes of five days solid folkery that is the Fylde Festival, which began for us at the Steamer on Wednesday night and ends, in the same place, tonight.

Tradition? It's our religion.

I think I'd agree with you on that one, Chas.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 04:09 AM

"If I (and others like me) followed any tradition, it was the minstrel or troubadour tradition (taking a leaf from Richard Dyer-Bennet's book, who emphatically stated that he was not a "folk singer," he was a "modern-day minstrel"). Minstrelsy was a profession in and of itself,"

Interesting post Don.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Tangledwood
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 04:55 AM

Wasn't The Revival forty years ago? Is that old enough to be traditional?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 05:18 AM

What answers were you hoping to receive/anticipating that you would receive to all those questions, SO'P? What are YOUR aims and objectives in asking them and what do YOU think the answers are?

What 'thought crimes' are you going accuse those of us who give the 'wrong' answers of?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Mr Red
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 05:19 AM

traditional is whatever people think it is. Ad (Fruedian slip retained) to that commercial interests and it means anything a speedy guy can falsify.

On this forum it does have more currency, it means old which is just as nebulous. "Older than me" is a good start, but "older than Grandad" might serve better. Throw in a smidgin of "anon" & "three chords" (two is C&W so "not folk", four has the smell of jazz).

But for me THE tradition is Jo(e) Public getting-up and having a go without the aid of electricity, and people joining-in or sitting listening, and applauding. After that the music is secondary but necessary. All else is marketing and commercialism and I will avail myself of that rarely unless it is a ceilidh.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Mr Red
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 05:26 AM

I became a born-again folkie the day I became a born-again bachelor.

And I have worshiped religiously since. Halleluya to that brothers and sisters. Halleluya .


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 05:53 AM

Not my religion at all, no music is. My tradition is an enjoyment of C20th rural romantic revival music for its simplicity and contrast to what else is around. An agreeable noise (usually) of universal values and themes in counterpoint to the industrialised age from which it emerged.

The past is unknowable, fragmented, a different country. It's foolish to project our expectations on a 'history' arrived at from so few sources and from a specific social milieu. We are creatures of our time, not another.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Paul Davenport
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 07:03 AM

I don't know of any culture other than the English 'folk' movement that makes this strange distinction between 'revivalist' (to be despised) and 'traditional' (to be revered). The really strange thing is that when pressed, the users of these terms produce definitions so nebulous that one can very quickly provide an example that refutes either definition.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 07:38 AM

No other music scene besides the Anglo-American one had anything like the "revivalist" movement. The Turkish "özgün" genre is a bit like it, but they adopted a specific name for what they were doing fairly early on - in almost any record shop that still stocks it, their stuff is in separate bins from "halk" (traditional music, or somewhat rocked-up and electronified versions thereof).

I don't suppose there's an Arabic word for pork scratchings, either.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 07:50 AM

I visited a local music sesh yesterday.

I'd not been at this venue for about 9/10 years.

Traditional?

Well the tiny gathering of 3 musicians + a bloke with guitar doing an occasional song, performed all the same sets as they'd done on my previous times there


Now I recall why I stopped going before.

From this example, I'm wondering if some sense of the meaning of 'Traditional' is never to learn any other stuff & keep playing the same tunes & sets ad infinitum?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 07:50 AM

Oops, pressed button too soon

IMO this is Stagnation!


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 07:56 AM

There is no Holy Shrine of Tradition!

Oh..for Gawd's sake!

They're just songs....they're no different from any other part of history that connects to our ancestors...

The only thing about *The Tradition* is that it's been invented and then encircled by those who love to control and exclude.

The first singer songwriter was probably a ploughboy....yet singer songwriters are now spoken of with derision, by those who purport to know better than the idiotic masses, or which I am one...because they have sought to intellectualise song.

What a load of ballyhoo.

'The Tradition' is a pain in the ARSS, that's what it is!

Long life to those who just sing songs because they love 'em and don't have rules and regulations to what, when, where, or how they sing 'em, whilst having no radar around themselves to keep 'The Others' out...

:0)


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 08:17 AM

Oh look.

Somebody else who Likes To Capitalize Things.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 08:33 AM

As I said, 'The Tradition' has been taken invented by those who love to control and belittle others, and you, Jack, have just given Absolute Evidence to my point.

I use Elizabethan English (Liz I, not II) so may I Politely suggest that you get over your Capital Letters problem, along with your Belittling Problem.

Thank you.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 08:40 AM

Jack Campin wrote, No other music scene besides the Anglo-American one had anything like the "revivalist" movement.

I'm not sure I agree. Wouldn't you say klezmer had a revival starting in the late 1970s?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 08:58 AM

I take many of the points made above: but, while some categories can be stultifying, others can be useful. In a Folk Review article on this very topic [what else!?], I once wrote "If every item of household furniture was called a chair, we wouldn't know where to park our arses". My dear dead and still much-missed friend Peter Bellamy [a name to conjure with on these threads as the Who·Defines? one shows] liked my formulation so much that he took to quoting it in any & every discussion on the subject that arose for the rest of his all-too-short life. And it is a formulation I would still stand by — or we run the risk of getting back to the 'dreary axiom' [Bert Lloyd's description of it] about the bloody non-singing horse if we go on in this vein much longer...


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 09:37 AM

Revival is not a put down, it's a valuable term that is recognised as a modern take on music that went before, once the conditions that gave rise to it no longer obtained.
It's just a shorthand so people understand and appreciate what they're doing in the right context and don't pretend they're plugged straight into the the past.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Amos
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 12:58 PM

MgM:

Of course we would know where to park our arses!! It would require the subtle ability to discriminate between sit-in chairs and all other kinds of chairs. Maps are just maps, not blindfolds!


A


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: theleveller
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 01:39 PM

I've come to the conclusion that, as we have to keep asking the question and never get a satisfactory answer, 'The Tradition' does not actually exist. Traditions exits, as do legends, myths, songs and stories - all part of our history and social background. I don't know who invesnted the idea of 'The Tradition', maybe someone who wanted to give a context, or historical repectability to their delving into things folkloric. In the end, it doesn't matter because we'll just go on singing the songs and dancing the dances and changing and reinventing them to suit ourselves.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 01:42 PM

So far as English music is concerned, the Revival is quite different from the Tradition in the way songs are sung and instruments are played. While some people in the Revival have immersed themselves deeply in the Tradition and reflect its aesthetics and style in their own performance, others (probably the majority) are either unaware or uninterested, and prefer the polished Revival sound to the simpler, but sometimes challenging, sound of the raw Tradition.

The two exist in parallel, but with a degree of overlap.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 02:01 PM

"Oh look.
Somebody else who Likes To Capitalize Things."

Oh Jack, don't become a professional bore, your post stand out here as being interesting and educational!

Incidentally though, why do you use a Z rather than an S? I thought that an American convention. Or is it more common in Scotland?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 02:13 PM

"the polished Revival sound to the simpler, but sometimes challenging, sound of the raw Tradition"

That's the trouble with words, you don't know whose mouths they've been in. Serial music is challenging, base jumping is challenging, riding the Tour de France is challenging, listening to a bloke who can remember a 50 verse ballad and sing it unaccompanied is just a personal preference.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Sedayne (Astray) (S O'P)
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 02:24 PM

What 'thought crimes' are you going accuse those of us who give the 'wrong' answers of?

I started this thread in a dream & I'm still sleepwalking in the sweetest of folk-dreams after our Traditional Monday-After-Fylde jaunt to Southport, there to relax & scour antiquarian bookshops & walk the pier and spend a small fortune on the vintage penny-falls and one-arm bandits.

As I've said elsewhere, as far as I'm concerned all music can be folk music (depending on human context); and quote once again the aims of International Council for Traditional Music: to further the study, practice, documentation, preservation and dissemination of traditional music, including folk, popular, classical and urban music, and dance of all countries.

Just passing; at my in-laws for soup and cake on our way to The Steamer for the Fylde survivors sing tonight.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 02:59 PM

When I first heard a recording of a traditional singer, quite frankly I didn't like it. It sounded very rough, and not very good. Traditional melodeon players just sounded thumpy, and fiddle players screechy. That's what I meant by "challenging".

With more listening, and especially after hearing traditional performers in a live setting, I began to understand and to hear the subtleties in what they were doing. But it took time.

I remember being at a party where the host couldn't get people to go home, so he played an album by a certain well-known traditional singer. It worked.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: GUEST,Paul Davenport
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 05:28 PM

I can't find any country where they do this to their culture. Why is there a 'revival' and a 'tradition'? Anyone who attempts to pigeonhole on these two definitions is going to come to grief. Harry Cox, Sam Larner, Joseph Taylor, to name but three can all be shown to have used written sources and to have invented their own material. By the same argument, most singers have learned stuff from aural sources. Mary Taylor (Joseph's daughter) learned her father's songs but was roundly rejected by the 'revival' and those arbiters of what is 'real'. Similarly, her brother John was considered too 'churchy' and similarly rejected despite both fitting the 'traditional' criteria perfectly.
The term, 'revivalist' has been, and is, used perjoratively (not sure I spelled that right) and is unhelpful. Again, in my neck of the woods both carol singing and brass bands are 'traditional' music and involve copious use of written texts. I have learned loads of stuff from other singers but don't sing their stuff – because its theirs. Its all a mystery to me. Does being literate automatically render one 'not trad'? If that's the case then Walter Bulwer and Bertie Clarke both drop into second division by being classically trained at on stage. It's also interestig to try to get hold of that great Klezmer fiddler, Izaak Perleman. You'lll have to look in the 'classical' section in the record store because that's what that 'traditional' musician is most famous for.
Go figure


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Peace
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 06:08 PM

Read "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Bill D
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 06:33 PM

The Lottery? That's pretty extreme definition of tradition, Peace....

"Tradition" is a useful word...if we allow it to be. People use it to mean something. Words like 'folk' and 'traditional' to differentiate most newer stuff from a lot of older stuff...for a reason!

In music especially, many older songs & tunes just 'feel' different from newer music. The subject matter, the style, the meter and speed, the verse arrangement, the presence of absence of a chorus...etc. Some people really LIKE much of the older music better, and thus want a way to refer to it.
   Those who try to suggest that "all music can be 'folk music'" in the right context might be technically correct, but they miss the point.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Peace
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 06:35 PM

Once it's written down, how can it 'stay in the tradition'?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 06:46 PM

My take on this is that we have this dichotomy between the Revival and the Tradition because the English Revival got its initial impetus from the American revival, and when it started to take up English material it continued with the American performance style it had originally adopted. The guitar was the iconic instrument of English folk music from the beginning of the revival, despite having virtually no place in the original tradition. Revival singers got much of their material from written sources, and even where they went to source singers (or recordings of them) in most cases they then performed the material in a more modern style.

The folk revival has its own quite distinct aesthetic and style, which is recognisably different from that of the original tradition. This was not merely an evolution of an old style under the influence of modern music, it was the creation, virtually from scratch, of a particular performance style which drew its material from the tradition but little else.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: treewind
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 06:57 PM

"Once it's written down, how can it 'stay in the tradition'?"

Huh? How can it not?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Peace
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 06:58 PM

But traditions do change with input from younger generations. So, how's THAT work?


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Bill D
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 07:14 PM

"The Tradition" is not a defined 'place', like a museum. It doesn't have specific, unchanging content, either. It is a concept...a word to refer generally to a body of material that has, by application, been deemed worth of being remembered as a source.....and obviously, not everyone sees the exact same items as belonging there.....but if you took everyone's list and extracted all the stuff that are on most lists, you have a general idea of what it is. (This, technically, is what is known as an 'ostensive' definition). That is, we list examples until we all recognize the basic concept.

A perfect one to look at is our very own "Digital Tradition", a collection of songs that (almost) everyone agrees fits the pattern, even if they might debate some of the details.

Younger generations? They do add things....but it detracts from the idea if items are added just because they are 'well-known' today. You lose the IDEA of 'traditional' if there is no basic test of time....


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jeri
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 07:14 PM

I think there's the museum diorama tradition and then there's the tradition in the wild. The former always remains the same and songs should be performed as close to how they were when collected as possible. The latter, the living tradition, is one of change. I think most people try for a balance between true-to-the-past and creative adaptation. It's the degree of each that we argue about.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 10:12 PM

I don't think we can entirely escape the 1954 statement, ESPECIALLY   the existence-of-variant-versions requirement. It is something that non-folkies don't understand — I once many years ago played my father the Copper Family's Presents Song - ie their version of The 12 Days Of Xmas, & he was genuinely distressed and disorientated: "But that is an absolutely standard song that everybody knows" he kept saying. Whereas we all know about versions, the oral tradition, and so on; and it is to a huge extent the existence of variants that bespeaks to us the true traditionality of a song, tale, dance, &c, however any particular individual might perform or choose to accompany it and in whatever style.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 05:58 AM

(Cut & Paste Deja-Vu warning: As MtheGM repeats the statement he made here on The Folk Process thread, I'm repeating my response, with an addition...)

I don't think we can entirely escape the 1954 statement,

Not around here you can't anyway, MtheGM - a not altogether unexpected state of affairs given the autistically intransigent Cultural Fundamentalism that is is the defining factor of the Folk Revival. What is The Folk Process anyway? Or rather - what was it? What were its laws? What were its mechanisms? Sure the evidence is there, but the interpretation of that evidence seems to overlook the fundamentals, seeing humanity in terms of its collective objectivity rather than its individual subjectivity.

This is a fundamental flaw of not just TFP and the 1954 Definition but also the foundation of the folk song revival as a whole - in effect a social condescension which saw these grubby rustics as passive carriers of a cultural phenomenon they couldn't possibly understand, rather than the active determinators of that phenomenon that they most surely were. Could, therefore, our entire concept of The Folk Process (and the 1954 Defination) have its roots in the sloppy, selective & agenda driven field-work on the part of the early collectors who saw the songs as being of greater significance than their lowly, ill-educated singers? Perish the very thought!

*

But that is an absolutely standard song that everybody knows

First published, I believe, in Bruce and Stokoe's Northumbrian Minstrelsy (1892)


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 06:25 AM

"Well spotted, Pike! I wondered who was going to see through that one..."


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:06 AM

The question 'What is the Tradition' is like one of those on the 'QI' TV show with Stephen Fry (apologies to non-UK readers who don't know what I'm talking about), to which a panellist gives the 'obvious' answer and is then greeted by the sound of klaxons and the deduction of ten points. So I proceeed with some caution.

Statements in some of the above posts to the effect that there never was such as thing as 'The Tradition', or that there's no distinction between 'Tradition' and 'Revival', strike me as bizarre. To keep it simple, let's stick for the moment to songs, and to England. From where I'm sitting, 'The Tradition' is the passing of a body of songs from generation to generation - often within families - amongst working and travelling people in mostly rural communities, partly for their own entertainment and partly because that was 'the way it was done' in that community.   Most of these people had no formal musical training, and much of the transmission prior to the 20th century was oral, although printed copies from the broadside presses acted to stabilise song form against the countervailing force of oral evolution. New material was constantly being added to the repertoire, through broadsides or - later - from commercial sources such as the music halls or the radio. The 'museum diorama' Jeri speaks of (if it exists at all) certainly has nothing to do with the constant change in the actual tradition.

'The Revival', on the other hand (I'm assuming we're talking about the 1960s here, not Cecil Sharp) was a self-conscious movement with an agenda that was political and educational as well as merely musical. [Other contributors who were actually there at the time might like to correct me if I'm wrong]. The footsoldiers of the Revival were a very different constituency from those of the Tradition: urban, educated, often subscribing to the counter-culture, often drawn from the middle classes. Most were not the heirs to a family or community singing tradition: they learned their songs from books, magazines and records produced by the Revival for the Revival. The Revival constructed its own performance circuit of folk clubs and festivals, completely separate from any remaining traditional singing environment, and a new class of revival professionals acted as icons of performance style and sources of repertoire.

The Revival repertoire was itself largely separate from that which had gone before. When I first became involved in the mid-70s, the kind of songs that typified the folk clubs were 'The Wild Rover', 'Wild Mountain Thyme', 'Poverty Knock', 'Fiddlers Green', 'The Blackleg Miner' and 'The Manchester Rambler'. A bit later I began to hear a lot of those songs that were discussed here a little while back on the 'Bertsongs' thread: 'The Recruited Collier', 'Reynardine', 'Three Drunken Maidens', 'Handweaver / Factory Maid', etc. All of the above were either recent compositions or the result of revivalists' (mainly Lloyd's) tinkering and popularising. The core revival repertoire - and here I speak from a Northern perspective - included comparatively little that you might have found in a rural 'Singing Pub' ('Pleasant and Delightful' excepted) or the collections of Sharp.

The Revival developed its own performance styles (as Howard Jones mentioned above), from the ubiquity of the guitar as accompanying instrument - later augmented with things like concertinas which were scarcely more authentic - to the standard 'folkie' voice we used to hear a lot of, the jokey introductions and so on. If you spliced a performance of a song - even an unaccompanied one - by a professional performer or a typical folk club singer into one of the 'Voice of the People' CDs it would stick out like a sore thumb. As Bill D said above, they just sound different.

The Revival is simply a different beast. It's a little disingenuous to state, however, that it never claimed to represent the Tradition. Maybe its founders did not, but the movement as a whole has been more than happy to include the word 'Tradition' in the names of its venues, its periodicals, its record releases and its band names. On the other hand it's undeniable that the Revival - or at least a section of it - has been enthusiastic about giving a platform to those singers from the Tradition that it could still locate, and to recording their songs for posterity. As the Revival developed, more performers (including several of today's younger generation) started going back to the collections and the recordings for their source material, and a few have tried to absorb elements of the singing style.

Personally I use the term 'Revival' (actually I scarcely ever would use it unless someone asked the question first) simply as a descriptor, with no value judgement attached. The Revival has been going for fifty years now (perhaps it deserves a more mature-sounding title?), has produced all kinds of wonderful music along the way, and is a cultural phenomenon in its own right.

I hope that's addressed some of your questions, Suibhne. I need a coffee after all that scribbling.


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:11 AM

and is a cultural phenomenon in its own right.

Absolutely.

Think I'll join you in that coffee actually...


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:16 AM

Is it appropriate to see the tradition associated with a community?

So we have a tradition of songs associated with rural working people. We have a tradition of sea songs and shanties associated with a community of sea going working people. We have a tradition of songs carried by Travelers and so on.

In a similar way we have a tradition of songs associated with people who have been singing in Folk Clubs since the 1950s. These traditions and communities are different but they overlap.

L in C


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Subject: RE: What is The Tradition?
From: glueman
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 07:26 AM

"In a similar way we have a tradition of songs associated with people who have been singing in Folk Clubs since the 1950s."

Bang on the money there Les. Stephen Fry used to talk about that age when you develop a signature, arbitrary flourishes of the pen, inventions, conceits that define you thereafter. Folk is similar, a set of ideas, ideals and expectations that accumulate around it like lint on a jumper and eventually become part of the thing itself.

Unfortunately that aggregation of stuff differs very slightly from person to person, or is reduced to such an extent by definitions as to be meaningless. So we have 'The Tradition', capitalised arguments about a thing that never really existed in the first place but dragged a few shibboleths round until they began to look like something substantial.

Now if you're talking about the folk revival as seen through folk clubs since the 1950s you got a reasonable basis for a pub discussion and something with a bit of solidity to it.


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