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Is traditional song finished?

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Paul Reade 23 Feb 10 - 05:14 PM
skipy 23 Feb 10 - 05:21 PM
Little Hawk 23 Feb 10 - 05:37 PM
Deckman 23 Feb 10 - 05:55 PM
Richard Bridge 23 Feb 10 - 06:57 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 23 Feb 10 - 06:59 PM
Bernard 23 Feb 10 - 07:03 PM
Jim Carroll 23 Feb 10 - 07:37 PM
Genie 23 Feb 10 - 08:44 PM
MGM·Lion 23 Feb 10 - 09:24 PM
Art Thieme 23 Feb 10 - 10:20 PM
Genie 23 Feb 10 - 11:16 PM
Genie 23 Feb 10 - 11:17 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 23 Feb 10 - 11:23 PM
GUEST,erbert 23 Feb 10 - 11:40 PM
Genie 23 Feb 10 - 11:50 PM
Little Hawk 23 Feb 10 - 11:57 PM
Genie 24 Feb 10 - 12:55 AM
Richard Bridge 24 Feb 10 - 06:35 AM
Jack Campin 24 Feb 10 - 07:08 AM
GUEST,Captain Farrell 24 Feb 10 - 07:24 AM
Dave the Gnome 24 Feb 10 - 07:26 AM
Flashmeister 24 Feb 10 - 07:37 AM
GUEST,ruairiobroin 24 Feb 10 - 08:07 AM
MGM·Lion 24 Feb 10 - 08:10 AM
treewind 24 Feb 10 - 08:13 AM
Richard Bridge 24 Feb 10 - 09:06 AM
Jim Carroll 24 Feb 10 - 09:15 AM
Gavin Paterson 24 Feb 10 - 09:37 AM
Genie 24 Feb 10 - 09:55 AM
theleveller 24 Feb 10 - 11:03 AM
Jim Carroll 24 Feb 10 - 12:05 PM
*#1 PEASANT* 24 Feb 10 - 12:11 PM
theleveller 24 Feb 10 - 12:21 PM
Bert 24 Feb 10 - 12:25 PM
Goose Gander 24 Feb 10 - 12:29 PM
Goose Gander 24 Feb 10 - 12:33 PM
Bert 24 Feb 10 - 12:49 PM
Goose Gander 24 Feb 10 - 01:00 PM
Bert 24 Feb 10 - 01:27 PM
Jack Campin 24 Feb 10 - 01:45 PM
Bert 24 Feb 10 - 01:57 PM
Goose Gander 24 Feb 10 - 02:19 PM
Brian Peters 24 Feb 10 - 02:27 PM
TheSnail 24 Feb 10 - 02:36 PM
Bert 24 Feb 10 - 02:40 PM
Jack Campin 24 Feb 10 - 02:47 PM
treewind 24 Feb 10 - 02:56 PM
Jim Carroll 24 Feb 10 - 03:11 PM
Bert 24 Feb 10 - 03:12 PM
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Subject: Is traditional song finished?
From: Paul Reade
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 05:14 PM

Have we reached the stage yet where there are no more "traditional" songs left to be collected?


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: skipy
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 05:21 PM

The songs of today are the traditional songs of tommorrow, so start collecting now, however 99.5% are shite! So only collect in the folk clubs!
Skipy


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 05:37 PM

You might better ask, "Is traditional life finished?"

I'll tell you something. It is fairly much finished in the developed word, having been destroyed by consumerism and a barrage of commercialism which profit on the ephemeral and exploit the traditional only when they see a quick profit to be made thereby...and in the process, make traditional forms shallow, ephemeral, vulgar, and devoid of real meaning.

Traditional life is far from finished in the less developed world and the less affluent societies and communities on this planet where the old traditional values are still very strong.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Deckman
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 05:55 PM

Perfectly said, L.H. Superb! But as far as traditional music, of course it's NOT dead. It's always being written. Why ... LOOK OUT ... JOKE COMING ... I just write a traditional ballad last week!

But serioulsy, life changing events happen every day, and this is the stuff of ballads. Our values change, grow, diminish, etc. But the lifelongs tales that move us, inspire us, continue. We can't predict what the "traditional ballads" of tommorow will sound like, but trust me ... they will be sung ... and argued about! CHEERS, bob(deckman)nelson


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 06:57 PM

Wasn't it Sharp who said that there could be little doubt that every significant traditional English song had been collected - and then weeks later up popped "the Bitter Withy"?


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 06:59 PM

Given that Cecil Sharpe bowdlerised most of what he collected, to comply with Victorian moral standards, or what we are asked to believe were the moral standards of the era, we are in fact indebted to a seventeenth century clergyman, who had the nous to save the original, unexpurgated versions.

Who is able to say that there will not be another saviour out there, who will fill in the gaps in our knowledge?

We will only know when it happens, so, NO! Traditional song is not finished until we are so far in the future as to be certain that there is naught left to find.

And that IMHO will be Never!

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Bernard
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 07:03 PM

There's still loads of stuff on the Paul Graney tapes that hasn't been heard yet... okay, a lot of it is probably 'mainstream' stuff by today's standards, but there must be some gems still hidden therein!


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 07:37 PM

Sharp said it was, The BBC project in the 50s was said to be the mopping up of the remnants, Tom Munnelly, working in Ireland from the 60s to the 90s (a full time collector, probably the most prolific in these islands with 22,000 songs to his credit) described his work as "a race with the undertaker". All managed to unearth new material, but each were right in their way. The songs they were collecting were being remembered rather than part of a living tradition. The possible exceptions were the Irish and Scots Travelling communities among which old songs (particularly ballads) were still circulating and being adapted, and new ones were being made and absorbed.
As far as the Irish were concerned, this stopped somewhere between August 1973 and Easter 1975, when it became possible to buy portable televisions at an affordable price. Can't speak for the Scots, but I would guess the same would apply more or less.
Since then, the only way to argue that traditional songs are still being made, absorbed and adapted to serve the communities has been to attempt to either redifine the terms folk, tradition and community, or abandon any definition altogether and claim that everything not sung by a horse is folk and traditional - you choose.
This is not to say that songs yet undiscovered will not turn up in one form or another.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Genie
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 08:44 PM

Little Hawk, you are right that "raditional life is far from finished in the less developed world and the less affluent societies and communities on this planet where the old traditional values are still very strong."

However, with the spread of mass communication means and the increasing dominance of multinational coroporations even in "underdeveloped" countries, traditional music is as much in danger of extinction as are the small, local, mom-and-pop businesses that used to be seen in most cities and villages.   To the extent that, whenever a song or poem catches the fancy of the public by 'word of mouth' (or YouTube), it gets grabbed, sanitized, Hollywood-ized, and somehow copyright protected by a record label, it becomes harder and harder for a real oral tradition or "folk tradition" to flourish.    That said, I don't think we should expect today's folk/traditional music to sound like that of the 17th C. any more than we should expect today's working class people to dress like their ancestors did several generations back.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 09:24 PM

No, Jim ~ you are not allowing there for children's songs and football chants: both of which genres have as much right to be called 'folksongs', 'traditional songs', or what-you-will, & which haven't stopped being created, varied, developed.... They are sung on special occasions {at the match, playing in the playground} which aren't going to be replaced by telly-watching as were the Travellers' evenings when previously [as you relate] the would have sung.

So how about that then for a negative response to the thread title?


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 10:20 PM

Some songs are works in progress.

Some songs get finished.


Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Genie
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 11:16 PM

Good point, MtheGM. As long as there are children, there will always be "the folk process" and "traditional" songs. Their natural inventiveness and susceptibility to mondegreens will ever keep hand-me-down songs evolving.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Genie
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 11:17 PM

Art, I would add:
Some songs really should be finished (i.e, completed) and the "folk process" doesn't improve them any longer, but usually degrades them.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 11:23 PM

different traditions, different lives, different communities, different tools, different ways of transmission.   The rules apply, just to different standards than what we are used to.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: GUEST,erbert
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 11:40 PM

Yeah.. easy.. you can keep on adding stuff to old trad songs no problem.
like f'rinstance that one about the grumpy old bloke who comes home and finds his mrs in bed
with that young fella Matty Groves.
Right, so after the big bloody sword fight and everyone is stabbed and dies..

well anyone can make up a new verse like eg. the old bloke is on the run from the police
and holes up in a pub with a sexy young waitress,
make that twins, both red heads..
..and then theres another big gory fight with their dad the pub landlord, and a shoot-out with the cops and a horse chase,
and then the ghost of his mrs can come back and haunt him
and drive him mad and he falls out a window and gets impaled
on an iron fence, or something like that.

Then one of the sexy twins sells her story to a sunday newspaper
and gets a job as a model and gets very rich
and her own reality TV show.

And thats the beauty of Traditional Song.

In another 100 years someone else can add a verse about all the dead ghosts
coming back to haunt the sexy model when she's an old lady
and she goes mad and kills everyone in a local shopping mall..

or something like that...????


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Genie
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 11:50 PM

Well, erbert, Matty Groves was, presumably a real person who lived - and did certain things - and died in a certain era. Sure, maybe today's singers will bowdlerize the song and story.
But we have real-life sagas taking place in every new generation -- like the story of Bonnie and Clyde or the tale of John and Lorena Bobbit -- and those can always spawn new songs (sometimes in the form of a rap?) for those new generations.

It's not just about watering down or screwing up the stories from earlier times.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 11:57 PM

You are quite correct in what you say, Genie.

I have found the Third World really inspiring in trips to places like Cuba and Trinidad...the first being socialist, the second being capitalist. The richness of community life and social life and the strength of tradition, including home-made music is immediately apparent in both countries. Small "mom and pop" businesses are everywhere in those countries, as are self-taught musicians and strong traditions in family and neighborhood life.

Their young people are much more mature in outlook and much more self-sufficient than their average counterparts in affluent societies, and they also show more respect for the older people.

Trinidad has a couple of major problems, however. Poverty and CRIME! There is a tremendous amount of crime in Trinidad, including theft, break-ins, kidnapping (for ransom), and violent crimes. I'd almost call it an epidemic of crime. It's driven by extreme poverty for many alongside visible affluence for a few. You don't feel safe after dark on the streets in Trinidad.

You do feel safe in Cuba. Almost no crime there...and not much visible presence of the police either.

Traditions seem strong in both countries. So does family life, and people's religious convictions, which I find run much deeper with Third World people (on average).


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Genie
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 12:55 AM

Poverty and crime are indeed serious problems, Hawk. I daresay, though, that both have give rise to many a good folk ballad over the centuries. As has religion.

I'd love to see such countries rise above scourges of that sort, but I hope the resiliency and music of the people will not die as the standard of living rises.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 06:35 AM

I don't see a problem about "community". Communities depend on contiguity. Once that necessarily had to be physical, and mobility was limited (or at least slow). First modern travel enabled physical contact at greater distances. Now contiguity can be virtual.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 07:08 AM

There is a rather depressing quote in Geert Mak's little book about the Galata Bridge in Istanbul. He was talking to an urban busker on the Kurdish shepherd's flute, who said "I'm the last person to preserve the tradition of Kurdish shepherd's flute music - back home all the shepherds are out on the hills listening to their iPods all day long".


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: GUEST,Captain Farrell
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 07:24 AM

No


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 07:26 AM

End of Matty Groves -

Well that's the way this song's been sung since I don't know when*
But Matty he's pissed of with this in two thousand and ten*
"Is there a doctor in the house?" young Matty then he cried
"For a Million times I've fought this fight and million times I've died"

Up spake the St John's ambulance man "I'll patch you up real fast
With my first aid book, my TCP and my box of elastoplast"
Lord Arnold took his sword once more, it's edge just like a razor
But Matty beamed down James T Kirk, who zapped him with his phaser

* Words change to suit the year

Not mine I's sorry to say but almost traditional at our club now!

DeG


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Flashmeister
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 07:37 AM

I think what Jack is saying is rather poignant as there does appear to be a rapidly dwindling culture of active participation in traditional arts and music in favour of more transient and throw-away 'music' on the whim of whatever zietgeist is currently tittilating the pop moguls that have sadly saturated the vast majority of music heard in this country.
I do, however, think that music being made by contemporary musicians shouldn't be dismissed out of hand as I believe it will eventually become part of the traditional culture - especially songs written in a trad or story-telling style as it is all capturing a little piece of history in song. Take for example the miners' protest songs - recent history but nevertheless when sung in a folk session setting very much absorbed into the genre and style of traditional music - happily sat alongside little Matty Groves and Lord Randall.
There are plenty of musicians writing in the traditional style and I'm hearing those more contemporary songs already being passed around in session and folk club circles - it's not that traditional song is finished it's merely that in some cases the paradigm has shifted somewhat in the way that trad music is being played and kept alive - you're more likely to hear a shanty in a folk club now than on a boat! :-)


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: GUEST,ruairiobroin
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 08:07 AM

i would have thought that to be traditional it had to be vulgar .


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 08:10 AM

Would you, ruair? ~~ Well, goodness, how sad.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: treewind
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 08:13 AM

"a rapidly dwindling culture of active participation in traditional arts and music"

I wonder.

We see the music scene dominated by mass-marketed stuff designed to make money, but there are still a few people making their own music. Before 100 years ago, that type of mass market didn't exist and most of us simply didn't hear any music at all from one week to the next. I'd guess that about the same number of people were making music for themselves then as are now - it's just that they are lost in the noise now whereas in the past they were much more noticeable and unusual.

Some kinds of amateur and independent music making are more accessible now than they used to be. Making and publishing recorded music is now a cottage industry, whereas you used to have to pay huge sums for studios and manufacturing. Anyone can make a CD now, or put their songs on a download site. Or make music videos for YouTube, as I've discovered recently.

Many of the songs collected in Sharp and RVW's time had filtered down from the music halls and theatres, so they were probably quite recently composed. I agree that the songs written today will become the trad songs of tomorrow - not all of them, but the good ones that tell a story or describe timeless human conditions and emotions that future listeners will be able to relate to, and have tunes and words that can be learned, taken away and sung again.

Incidentally there a lot of material that was collected in early 1900's but hasn't been published yet. The research isn't over yet...

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 09:06 AM

I think that Rory refers to "vulges" - the people, for those who remember their Latin. If so he is probably right, but in one sense we are all working class now, and in another the vast majority of us are middle class now so that the lumpenproletariat is rare, although there is a substantial underclass.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 09:15 AM

"you are not allowing there for children's songs and football chants:"
You are right of course Mike; I should have given a nod to the tiny handful of exceptions, but I do think they fade into pale insignificance next to what has disappeared. Even the children's songs are very much on the wane, or so I am told by teacher friends.
It is the adult culture I was referring to (I can't speak for the terraces, where I wouldn't venture without protective clothing!)
In spite of very much unqualified and unsubstantiated declarations to the contrary we have become passive recipients of our culture, playing no part whatever in either its making nor its transmission - they have even provided us with hand controls so we don't have to rise out of our armchairs to be entertained or inspired. The present 'canned culture' that we now sold NO LONG SPEAKS FOR US as it once did through our traditional songs and stories.
One of the things we first noticed when we started recording traditional singers, both from Travellers with a living, if ailing tradition, and here in Ireland, with on that had largely disappeared, though still very much within living memory, was how relatively newly composed songs fitted in functionally with the old ones, not just as entertainment, but also as carriers of information, emotions, aspirations, values.... all the things that made the tradition a homogenous whole, as the Topic series put it 'a voice of the people'.
I believe that it is this that has disappeared, not the songs, which will be with us forever in one form or another.
This is why I believe that the jury is very much still 'out' on whether Anahata's statement that "the songs written today will become the trad songs of tomorrow" comes to fruition. I very much hope so; it was MacColl's dream and has always been mine, but.......
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Gavin Paterson
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 09:37 AM

It's unlikely that there will be any unattributable songs for future generations, as a result of technology such the device upon which your eyes are trained.

The reason why songs are 'trad' or unattributed is surely just down to the method of distribution of the song.

Now that just about everyone can record and distribute their own songs, the authorship should hardly ever be in doubt.

So, does that mean that traditional song is finished?


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Genie
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 09:55 AM

What is likely to keep today's songs (and any others published after 1922 in the US) from becoming "traditional" or "folk music" is the current US Copyright law, which The Mouse got thru Congress a decade or two ago.   Copyrights now extend to many decades beyond the death of the songwriter/author -- far enough that a song is likely to have fallen out of popular favor long before it becomes public domain.

This doesn't keep the songs from being sung but it does put a damper on their being performed or recorded professionally.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: theleveller
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 11:03 AM

Of course, as has been pointed out, songs can no longer become traditional in the 'traditional' sense as our society has totally changed and that means of transmitting and recording songs is no longer in existence. However, that doesn't mean that the skills and desire to produce songs in the traditional style or styles have been lost. Traditionally-inspired songs are still being produced and, to my mind, have no less merit than the conventionally traditional ones.

A good analogy would be, say, the Windsor chairmaker who uses the same skills and artistry as were employed in previous centuries to produce a chair that is not a reproduction but a genuine piece that is the result of the extension of a craft that has been around for hundreds of years. True, it will be sold to a different clientele, used in a different setting and, because it will probably bear the maker's name, it will not be anonymous, but it will not be in any way inferior to the chairs made by previous generations.

We value the skills of traditional furniture makers, thatchers, trug makers, willow weavers, dry stone wallers and the like, so let us not undervalue the products of today's songwriters who create wonderful offerings in a traditional style.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 12:05 PM

"However, that doesn't mean that the skills and desire to produce songs in the traditional style or styles have been lost."
Absolutely right; but when I look at S O'Ps shopping list of what passes for folk in some/many of todays clubs I am left with the impression that this is very much on the wan too - please prove me wrong - please.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: *#1 PEASANT*
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 12:11 PM

Dont know about songs but many of the traditional song composers of the folk of the lower incomes would never be able to afford to get into or stay long at venues in the contemporary market place- they would be excluded by economic segregation.

This is a bad problem and seems to me is limiting transmission as well as new composition.

They could also not attend the folk conferences either! Probably not be adequately clothed and bathed and be sober enough to be allowed in either. Such is the development and growth of elitism even in the so called folk world.

Conrad


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: theleveller
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 12:21 PM

"please prove me wrong - please."

OK, I'll try. Well, for a start there's the songs of Richard Grainger, Brother Crow, Wendy Arrowsmith, Jim Radford, Anna Shannon, Penni MacLaren Walker...oh, and on Saturday, I heard Gordon Tyrell sing a superb song he'd written called Leeds Bridge. Not forgetting, of course, Mike Waterson. And that's just a few people I know of personally.

Every year Richard Grainger runs the Klondike Songwriting Award and there's always a host of really good entries, mostly from songwriters from the north east. This year it was won by Jim Radford, with Wendy Arrowsmith and me as runners up. From what I can see, the craft is still very much alive.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Bert
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 12:25 PM

Finished? It was never started!

What we speak of as 'traditional' is just a vignette of what people were singing when the collectors were on the rampage.

Ordinary people will go on singing as they always have, regardless of collectors and folk clubs.

And songwriters will go on producing songs of all genres and all qualities despite snide remarks from 'Folkies'.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 12:29 PM

Isn't there an active carol-singing tradition in the south of England?


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 12:33 PM

"What we speak of as 'traditional' is just a vignette of what people were singing when the collectors were on the rampage"

No, it isn't. 'Traditional' in this context refers to a specific body of English-language balladry and song, created and passed on under specific conditions. Sharp, etc. deliberately overlooked much of "what people were singing" (music hall, and other more recent commercial compositions) because it did not fall within their working definition of 'traditional' or 'folksong'.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Bert
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 12:49 PM

You're right Goose Gander.

I should have said "What we speak of as 'traditional' is just a vignette of what collectors thought was 'traditional' when they were on the rampage"

Fortunately we have DT which actually collects the real stuff.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 01:00 PM

Wrong again, Bert. Those early collectors, for all their faults, had a clear idea of what they were looking for and we have literally thousands of traditional songs available to us, thanks to their efforts. You may have a hard time understanding and accepting this, but much of this music would have been lost without Sharp, Lomax, Randolph, etc. They didn't create it, but they preserved it.

And who is this DT? I'd like to thank him. If you're referring to the Digital Tradition, then you must know that much of the lyrics and tunes contained therein are taken from the collections of early folklorists.

But why let facts get in the way of a snide comment?


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Bert
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 01:27 PM

...but much of this music would have been lost without Sharp, Lomax, Randolph...

Of course, I didn't say otherwise. What I am trying to say is 'They missed a lot' Perhaps that was of necessity because they didn't have the almost unlimited computer databases that we enjoy today.

I think that traditional song really includes a lot more than some purists would have us believe. There is a tradition of singing in London that rarely includes what we tend to call traditional music.

It is a tradition that leads on from songs like 'While London Sleeps' to Streets of London, and rarely includes the 'Fair Maid of Islington'.

And when I say 'it never started' I mean that tradition is an ongoing thing with no definable beginning.

...And who is this DT? I'd like to thank him. If you're referring to the Digital Tradition, then you must know that much of the lyrics and tunes contained therein are taken from the collections of early folklorists...

Yes it is Digital Tradition, and when you say 'much of the lyrics and tunes contained therein' also includes much that isn't, which is kinda what I was saying.

And don't be so up tight. Viewing a valid comment as a 'snide remark' shows more about your attitude than perhaps you would really like to reveal.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 01:45 PM

The songs of London are among the best documented of anywhere, and from at least the 16th century have been the starting point for a huge number of later-collected rural English folksongs (as the collectors of those songs were well aware).

I've no idea what "While London Sleeps" was, but tunes like "Buggering Oates, Prepare Thy Neck" have a rather longer track record than "Streets of London".


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Bert
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 01:57 PM

...tunes like "Buggering Oates, Prepare Thy Neck" have a rather longer track record than "Streets of London"...

That doesn't mean that "Streets of London" is not part of an ongoing tradition.

And if you don't know "While London Sleeps" it doesn't say much for the statement that Songs of London are among the best documented.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 02:19 PM

Bert, it was you who made a distinction between 'traditional' as collected by folklorists "on the rampage"; and the DT, which is "the real thing." It might be interesting to see what percentage of lyrics and tunes in the DT are drawn from collections of folklore, and which come from other sources. Unless you are going to make an 'all music is traditional' argument, then you should be able to understand that folklorists with limited time and resources had to first define what they understood to be traditional, and then focus their efforts upon collecting what they could of this material.

That being said, there is a range of possible approaches: Sharp collected older ballads that had been in circulation for some time and were unquestionably traditional; the Lomaxes leaned toward such material but also recorded newer songs; Randolph collected just about anything, including stage songs, commercial hillbilly songs, etc. So I'm still failing to grasp your "valid point" unless you are simply peeved that these folks and others weren't as all-encompassing as you feel they should have been.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 02:27 PM

"Ordinary people will go on singing as they always have, regardless of collectors and folk clubs."

I'm very doubtful about this, although of course it depends on who you describe as 'ordinary people'. Treewind is correct in saying that cheap home recording technologies, and internet sharing sites like Youtube, are providing opportunities to democratize music-making. Thirty-four years ago we had people saying that Punk Rock was the new Folk Music and, in the sense that you only needed a a Woolworths guitar and amp and a couple of chords, they were right. But both of those examples (and of course the modern 'folk scene' itself) concern self-selected groups of 'musicians', rather than the much wider community that the phrase 'ordinary people' conjures up.

To hear people singing while they worked or went about their business was once common, according to many accounts. Parents sang to their children. People gathered in pubs to sing together. Many of the traditional singers who were actually asked about it, told of siblings, parents, uncles and aunts who sang. I don't believe that any of those instances of 'ordinary people' singing is common today.

I'm with MtheGM in looking to football chants and children's rhymes as amongst the last outposts of traditional singing (although if you talk to Sam Lee he will tell you that singing is still going on in several Englsih traveller communities).

Jim Carroll wrote:
"Even the children's songs are very much on the wane, or so I am told by teacher friends... It is the adult culture I was referring to (I can't speak for the terraces, where I wouldn't venture without protective clothing!)"

There were still old songs circulating and new ones doing the rounds when my younger son was in primary school seven years ago. Not sure about now. As for the terraces, I've recently resumed my attendance at Old Trafford after a long break (no more terraces, and no protective clothing required these days!). Although the old custom of gathering on the Stretford End to sing for an hour or two before kick-off has now disappeared, I can report that several of the songs I knew in the 1970s are still around, and new ones are being composed, either to tunes previously associated with United chants, or as parodies of opposing supporters' songs, or to fresh tunes drawn from popular music in its widest sense (new chants are rehearsed in the pub beforehand). Whether they are up there with 'Tam Lin' as examples of great 'folk art' is open to argument, but the oral tradition is still alive there.

Before I go, I just have to question the sixth post in this thread, since no-one else seems to have:

"Given that Cecil Sharpe bowdlerised most of what he collected..."

Er... in what sense is that a 'given'?


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: TheSnail
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 02:36 PM

Jim Carroll

please prove me wrong - please.

Come to Lewes and see for yourself. Here you'll hear the songs of Graeme Miles, Brian Bedford, Roger Bryant, Mick Ryan, Mike O'Connor, Barry Temple, Dave Weber and many more amongst a wealth of traditional material.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Bert
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 02:40 PM

Goose, I don't believe that all music is traditional. It is just that my idea of traditional is closer to Dick's than that of most purists.

...first define what they understood to be traditional, and then focus their efforts upon collecting what they could of this material.... Yes of course, and we are greatly indebted to them.

I tend to think that tradition is an ongoing living thing rather than a museum piece. Not so much that we don't need the purists and collectors, but that we really need more of them covering a greater range of song.

Brian, Yes things are changing. People are sharing songs on Youtube nowadays where they used to share songs at parties and in pubs. But they are still sharing songs.

Another good trend is that people are writing more songs now. Songwriting clubs are a much bigger thing now that they were even ten years ago.


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 02:47 PM



There are tens of thousands of them so it's hardly surprising that somebody living in a different country might miss one that you happen to know. (Have you read the whole of the Roxburghe collection? I have).


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: treewind
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 02:56 PM

It's unlikely that there will be any unattributable songs for future generations

It's well known that some songs have already been robustly asserted as traditional when the author was still alive, even to the face of the actual author.

"Attributable", yes, but not everybody bothers. Many will pass in to the body of songs that "everybody knows" or that were learnt from another singer who got it from someone else... and it will take significant academic research to find out who the author was.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 03:11 PM

"Come to Lewes and see for yourself."

I am not arguing for one minute that people are not writing songs Bryan - of course they are. But by and large they are not leaving the greenhouse conditions of the folk club, more often than not they remain unchanged and unadapted (except for a few self-concious tweaks) and there is a whole mass of people out there who never get to hear them. One of the great failures of the revival is that it has failed to engage with the population at large and it has failed to draw the attention of the general public to their own songs - not finger pointing, I was as much a part of that failure as anybody.
The arbitrary abandoning of folk song by many of the clubs and replacing it with 'singing horse music' has exacerbated that situation.
Anybody tempted to dip their toes into folk song for the first time is as likely to find SO'P's rag-bag as they are to find good folk songs and ballads well enough sung to catch their imaginations the way mine was (by the Spinners) in the early sixties.
Unfortunately the Universe doesn't start and end in Lewes.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is traditional song finished?
From: Bert
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 03:12 PM

...(Have you read the whole of the Roxburghe collection? I have)...

No, but if I was to discuss a song on Mudcat, then I would look it up before comparing it with another song.


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