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How can we make folk music more apealing

M. Ted (inactive) 13 Oct 99 - 03:38 PM
Frank Hamilton 13 Oct 99 - 01:17 PM
GeorgeH 13 Oct 99 - 01:17 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 12 Oct 99 - 07:07 PM
Frank Hamilton 12 Oct 99 - 02:53 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 12 Oct 99 - 01:00 PM
Ed, England 11 Oct 99 - 08:34 PM
GeorgeH 11 Oct 99 - 07:29 AM
Slanted and Enchanted 11 Oct 99 - 06:44 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 11 Oct 99 - 02:01 AM
poet 10 Oct 99 - 07:12 AM
poet 09 Oct 99 - 06:13 PM
martin o'neill 09 Oct 99 - 05:10 PM
Frank Hamilton 09 Oct 99 - 11:24 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 08 Oct 99 - 12:02 PM
GeorgeH 08 Oct 99 - 09:12 AM
Frank Hamilton 07 Oct 99 - 03:06 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 07 Oct 99 - 12:28 PM
GeorgeH 07 Oct 99 - 05:23 AM
Escamillo 07 Oct 99 - 01:39 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 07 Oct 99 - 12:59 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 06 Oct 99 - 08:03 PM
James Douglass 06 Oct 99 - 08:01 PM
Frank Hamilton 06 Oct 99 - 05:00 PM
Frank Hamilton 06 Oct 99 - 04:51 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 06 Oct 99 - 12:28 PM
GeorgeH 06 Oct 99 - 06:50 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 05 Oct 99 - 06:38 PM
Frank Hamilton 05 Oct 99 - 05:07 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 05 Oct 99 - 02:13 PM
GeorgeH 05 Oct 99 - 10:56 AM
Frank Hamilton 05 Oct 99 - 08:37 AM
Stewie 05 Oct 99 - 12:46 AM
catspaw49 04 Oct 99 - 11:11 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 04 Oct 99 - 10:59 PM
poet 04 Oct 99 - 07:00 PM
Frank Hamilton 04 Oct 99 - 05:19 PM
catspaw49 04 Oct 99 - 09:16 AM
Andy 04 Oct 99 - 07:10 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 03 Oct 99 - 11:34 PM
Stewie 03 Oct 99 - 09:15 PM
sophocleese 03 Oct 99 - 08:09 PM
poet 03 Oct 99 - 06:41 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 03 Oct 99 - 04:42 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 02 Oct 99 - 04:31 PM
Frank Hamilton 02 Oct 99 - 02:02 PM
Jack (Who is called Jack) 02 Oct 99 - 01:38 PM
rippythegator@hotmail.com 02 Oct 99 - 12:41 PM
Brian Clancy 02 Oct 99 - 12:28 PM
Frank Hamilton 02 Oct 99 - 11:02 AM
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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 13 Oct 99 - 03:38 PM

George, (and Frank too--)can I give you a big hug or something? Your comments are good, and pithy, but we don't disgaree--my point is really a small one, at least one that relates to the external factors that compromise the "folk process" that shapes and transmits folk music--

--I love Pete Seeger, and have great admiration for his unyielding optimism and good work--he has been an encouragment and support to artists and writers all over the world, and has especially important in fostering their use of music and art as a tool to overcome political oppression--and as for Woody, well, where would we be without him?

I was once an active performer of Balkan and Russian folk music(with forays into Hungarian and Polish and others) and relied heavily for these State sponsored ensembles for material--many of my friends had studied and collected behind the former Iron Curtain, and I had great but unfullfilled plans to roam the Planina, tambura slung over my shoulder, singing songs about Jane Sandanske--but the music that they play and the way they play it is not necessarily "authentic"--

McCarthy, and all his hangers on, well, you know about them--and in recent years, I have come to understand that he never knew or cared an iota about "The Red Menace", he was just a two-bit politician who had found his gravy train and did anything and everything to stay on it--

Anyway, Howard Fast, at this point, is a writer whose work was popular in another time--

My view of history is that there is a perpetual tug of war going on between two groups--the common people and those who have managed to accumulate some degree of power over --as a student of history, I am well aware that there have been many periods when the the great masses were virtual or actual slaves to the landowners and the clerics--

Even as we sit, there are are powerful forces who try to lever their advantage to get more control of our lives and of our property because they see an advantage to themselves in it--

Now I am going to try to work back toward topic--

In our little world of landowners, clerics, and the great masses, each domain has it's music--courtly music(the landowners and aristocracy) religious music (the clerics) and folk music (the folk)-

It develops that the richest of these three types of music is folkmusic, owning to the fact that A)since there are more common folk than any others, they have created and accumulated way more music B)Most of the musicians are common folk (even today, the pop superstars often start out that way)

Since there is a ready made body of music residing with the folk, anytime anybody in any of the other areas needed new material to work with, they just went out and collected a few folk tunes or dances or whatever and worked then into a symphony or a book of hymns or minuets, or whatever--

Now this did a lot for courtly music and clerical music, but it also began to have an odd effect on folk music--

the courtly or classical (which were, in effect, "commercial" began to feed back into the folk music--this began as a trickle--church melodies being carried back to be sung in the fields and court musicians taking popular court dance music and playing it for the old folks at home--

The trickle expanded to a good sized stream when it was discovered (with, for example, opera) that courtly music could be performed profitable for folk (or shall we call them "popular") audiences--it wasn't long before "courtly" or "classical" music was being written for the popular audience--not long either before it was written to imitate and expand on the folk music that was popular--

Somewhere in here we find Beethoven, who was the first composer who wrote chiefly for box office receipts, rather than commisions from patrons, and the Strausses, whose waltzes were a popular craze, paralleling later crazes like the jitterbug, the twist, and disco--

The dance, I believe was derived from an older folkdance called the Landler, and the melodies were often developed from those played by rural folk musicians--

And then comes musical theatre and cabarets and records and songbooks, all targeted at the popular audience, and all aware that it helps to claim a connection to the people's music, if you want to sell to them--

Now, everybody listens to this music and, in the days after is popularity has faded, but the sweet rememberence of it still glimmers bright in memory, comes to regard it as some sort of tradtitional or folk music, being as it is so essentially connected with their earliest recollections of the world--even more messy, a bunch of people write songs that sound a lot like the music that they liked so much in the first place--

And so a few people try to recreate this roots-seeming music because it means so much to them--now the question is, how are they to preserve this music, and what. exactly, is the music that these people are so set on continuing?


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 13 Oct 99 - 01:17 PM

M Ted, now that you've explained your position I can agree with some of it. The CP was not as organized as many would like to think it was, however. It didn't reach certain people who were members and then ex-memebers because like so many political parties including Democrats and Republicans it was never swallowed hook line and sinker by many of it's members. The Party as far as I was able to tell, and I was around a lot of ex-CP'ers, did not create the propaganda to sell their songs. The individual songwriters did. They were not in agreement with everything. As far as the efficacy of the CP, the proof is in the pudding. The membership dwindled in America and people left because it was so doctrinaire. This didn't mean that the ex-CP'ers joined the Young Republicans however or did a total castigation of the CP. The CPUSA did some laudable things such as influencing better race relations and organizing important unions. But the overall left-wing was strong in the country regardless of the CP which played a small part in it. The myth that someone like Woody or Pete took orders from the Kremlin is laughable. They had their own ideologies which they were trying to sell through their that were highly individualistic. I don't say that all of their songs were great and some of them reflected their ideological views which were inspired by how they perceived the Soviet Union at the time but by no means were they "puppets" or dictated to by anyone. You'd have to know Pete or Woody personally to know this.

Regarding Howard Fast, you don't have to warn me about the author of Spartacus and other fine books. But forgive me if I don't think he may be the historical oracle that some would like to attach to him. He might be resentful if he felt he were abused or betrayed in some way. This well might color his perceptions. Denning, on the other hand offers an academic overview of the era without having to lick any wounds.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: GeorgeH
Date: 13 Oct 99 - 01:17 PM

Personally I am sick to the back teeth of the tired old argument about "communist party line". In a US context, and from where I'm standing, the "discipline" it sought to impose is INSIGNIFICANT compared to that enforced by "McCarthyism". Despite the claims of the right wing, and despite the attempts of the Kremlin, many of those in the CP DID demonstrate their own individuality, not least in their work for the Folk Revival. But it's hardly surprising that CP members/supporters sympathised with or created "pro labour" songs. And what the hell that, or the state's use of a re-created and orchestrated tradition for propagandist purposes (actually I'd disagree that the purpose was "propagandist" in any meaningful sense, but that's another issue) has to do with the subject of this thread I totally fail to see. At least the Communist block states were supporting a derivative of their national music and dance - as well as more "classical" music and theatre. The fact that their regimes were obnoxious doesn't invalidate everything that they did - just as the fact that the US and UK allow (in general) their citizens a high level of personal freedom doesn't prevent their Governments from perpetrating great wrongs - within their own societies and internationally.

Excuse the rant!

G.


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 12 Oct 99 - 07:07 PM

The American CP enforced ideological discipline-as I undertand it, many people, Woody Gutherie, for example, were kicked out for being at variance from the "Party Line"--

All of the Communist Party organizations throughout the world were very closely connected to the Kremlin, and were subject to strict hierarchical direction--the Party in the US being no exception--

The CP in the US was, at one time, very powerful, in American domestic politics--The US Party has contributed more to effort of the world communism than is generally discussed--and American party members have played a significant role in directing the Central Committee, from the beginnings until surprisingly recently--

As to your feelings about Howard Fast, well, I cannot forget that he went to prison, did not testify against his friends, and stood with the party much longer than most people of prominence--I will warn you that he is a writer of the "And then I wrote a book that was translated in 22 languages and inspired people all over the world"I will read Denning's book--

I brought this subject up purely within the confines of our discussions about what is and isn't folk music--you have pointed out that commercial interests have manipulated content and even definitions of folk music--I was commmenting that the content and definitions had been manipulated for ideological and nationalistic reasons as well--

The degree to which individuals associated with folk music the have knowingly carried out directives of the CP is a topic thread that I don't want to start--I believe that I mentioned something to the effect that the party used folk music for propaganda purposes--folk music being "The People's Music" and the Communists have done a great deal to create and propagate images and icons that elevated the working person to mythic proportions, but this is not a big secret--

I only point out that great people's choruses singing carefully selected and professionally arranged(and occasionally rewritten) folksongs and wisecracking troubadours whose "folksongs" always decry injustices done to the working person and whose punchlines always target the "fatcats" are selling something too--


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 12 Oct 99 - 02:53 PM

M Ted, your comment rergarding the so-called "party line" in relationship to the people that I knew is material for another thread. I disagree that many of the people that I knew of leftist circles in folk music were strictly adhering to a party line. The CP in this country was never that well-organized. Browder supplied a connection to the folk music and the working class somewhat formally. But you recommend Howard Fast's book which I will read skeptically since he is a former "true believer" who took an 180 degree turn. For an objective view, I would recommend that you read Micheal Denning's book, "The Cultural Front" for a meaningful look at the historical relationship of the left wing movement and the arts.

Regarding "C for Conscription" this was not just a view at the time held by the CP. It was a national view. During that period, not many realized what Stalin or Hitler was up to including the US who supported Hitler at the beginning and later referred to Stalin as Uncle Joe. The song reflected the mood of the country at that time. The mood of the country changed after Hitler invaded Russia.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 12 Oct 99 - 01:00 PM

Ed, thanks for a very clear perspective--I liked it, because I agree with it--as you point out, word, melody, and step are are all the in the stewardship of entertainers, who though they may not actually need to eat, like to eat--and it tends to color their perspective on what and where, and how to play--


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: Ed, England
Date: 11 Oct 99 - 08:34 PM

Goodness, this is a lengthy old discussion.

I'm not sure that, as was earlier suggested, folk music existed and survived for some altruistic reason, ie presevation of traditions. Making a few bob from playing for a dance, or singing a good entertaining song in pub for a pint is not a modern phenom. And folk custom is not free from the smack of commercialism. For example, The North Waltham Mummers in Hampshire, England used to go out and perform around the area on Christmas eve, Christmas Day and Boxing day. Their families hardly saw them. But they could make damn near 2 or 3 weeks wages aver the Christmas period, which was quite handy in a farming community in the depths of winter. It wouldn't be too far from the truth to say that many of the customs, songs, tunes and dances survived long enough to be collected by Sharp, Broadwood etc because they were still a way of turning a few bob, as they say. This doesn't mean to say that the protagonists didn't love what they were doing. After all, no matter how good the wages, if the job stinks, you'll leave eventually. But they would change and mould a song or a tune as the fancy took them, no differant from a modern performer. They were, after all, entertainers. An unfortunate side effect of the collectors "saving" these things from obscurity is the crystalising of them, in word, melody or step. These records ofcourse should be treated with respect and more especially gratitude. They are a priceless record of countless (well okay not literally countless) beautiful tunes and lyrics, with the power to move you like nothing else can. But they are not the whole movie, more a series of stills. Stuff happened before that point, otherwise people would still be dancing estampees, and stuff happened, and is still happening, after it.

I run a club in Surrey, and the intro thing gets me a bit. It is interesting to hear sometimes that a variant of a song came from so and so singer, but to then have the performer try to render a faithful copy of that persons style is, well, pointless. Let's hear what this performer has made of the song. That has to be more important if the perfomance is to have life, and therefore run the risk of being entertaining. If a performer tries to do anything but his own version of a song or dance, it can be no more than an historical reconstruction. Hmmmm educational.....

Well that's muddied the waters a bit.

Goodnight.

Ed


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: GeorgeH
Date: 11 Oct 99 - 07:29 AM

Bruce, thanks for an interresting contribution. We can and do argue endlessly about "what is folk", but certainly your "unpretentious music containing the ability to tell a story and to express oneself freely" is, as you say, an important feature of "the spirit of the music".

As I commented before, this discussion keeps turning up new points of interest.

G.


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: Slanted and Enchanted
Date: 11 Oct 99 - 06:44 AM

Hello, Mudcatters. I am not a regular member, and this is the first discussion I have read and posted to.

I thought that you might be interested in the viewpoint of one of the "kids" that you are trying to introduce to folk music. I am an 18 year old who has been interested in folk music for several years. Although my main musical tastes run in a more contemporary vein, I enjoy traditional folk music, especially played live. I believe that there are many younger musicians today who are carrying on the tradition of folk music. Although it may not always be immediately recognizable as such, modern musicians are playing folk or at least count folk as a major influence. I'm not referring to singers who television and radio commonly label as folk singers. Most of these individuals or groups play rather boring (in my opinion) acoustic pop that has little to do with folk.

Folk today (as often in the past) is a movement outside the popular musical taste. Indie (independent or underground) artists such as Will Oldham, Lou Barlow, Songs:Ohia, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Beck (his indie album, "One Foot in the Grave" is one of the best modern folk albums ever) are writing music in a definite folk vein. While they may not be playing folk music in the traditional sense, they still follow in the spirit of folk music. I think that the true nature of folk lies not in the music itself, but in the spirit. The ideal of an unpretentious music containing the ability to tell a story and to express oneself freely with whatever instruments (or lack of intstruments) one has at hand definitely underlies the folk ethic. Folk shares this theme with punk . This individuality and lack of gloss probably guarantees that folk music will not gain a mass following. As someone pointed out in an earlier posting, one of the reasons that Bob Dylan has gained a large audience is his image as a rebel. Maybe that is where he departs from his folk roots.

I hope that this was a useful contribution to your discussion. If anyone would like to email me, my address is bwillen@mica.edu I will try to respond as quickly as possible.

-Bruce


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 11 Oct 99 - 02:01 AM

Frank, if I said that I thought that folksongs wouldn't change over time, I didn't mean that, exactly--

I do think that tradtitional material can stay remarkably intact over long periods of time--in terms of melody and text--although it can be startling how much change in performance style can take place in a relatively short period of time--

My point on Bob Dylan was just to indicate how the popukar image of Folksinger came to include one who composes their own material--not to reduce the bohemian culture to a dylan fan club--

As far as the use of folk music for nationalistic purposes, the thing that comes to mind are the former eastern bloc folk ensembles, such as the Bulgarian Koutev Ensemble(which is familiar to most people because of the recently popular albums of women's singing--a couple cuts of which have even ended up in American TV commercials), which consist of dance and music that has been professionally choreographed, arranged, and performed--

As to the influence of the CP on folk music, I Can do no better than refer you to Howard Fast's book,"Being Red" in which he explains the "from the top down" policy structure of the American Party, as well as being very specific on the creation of the Party's folk music cell and some of it's efforts--

No one that you know may have been aware of where the decisions came from, but I am sure that they will acknoledge that there was extreme pressure to conform to the party line on all issues--

In this regard, I cannot help but think about The Alamanac Singer's ""C" for Conscription" which derided congress for implementing the draft at the onset of WWII--I have always understood it as support Stalin's Non-agression pact with the Axis--


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: poet
Date: 10 Oct 99 - 07:12 AM

My word I must have been in a bad mood last night this is the second apology i've had to post.

Grovelling a little.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: poet
Date: 09 Oct 99 - 06:13 PM

I am probably a biot late in this dicussion to re-raise this topic from earlier in the postings but i am not a little irritated by the casual brush off about money Quote:- Folk music is not about money unquote. you are quite right it is NOT basically about money. However the singers you employ to sing Have to make a living. the club that employs the singer has to break even ( thats usually all they care about). Your private singaround(circle) does not spread the word it only encourages Clique 'ism the word is only spread through public performance and that in this modern day costs money. As an organiser of folk clubs and a regular annual festival both of which owes me approx £8000 pounds which I have written off as the price you pay for the music i love. and as a musician who will happily play for a pint of lager even if I must pay for it myself, just to be able to perform my music. I take grave exception to people (purists) who casually expect other people to organise and finance there opportunities to play while saying the money does'nt matter. I and all the other organisers out there are not profiteers we just need to break even. I know an organiser who every year takes out a mortgage on his house to run a festival in the UK, one day its going to go wrong and he,s going to be in the shit can any of you armchair purists say the same. I'm sorry you hit a sore spot there.

Graham (Guernsey)


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: martin o'neill
Date: 09 Oct 99 - 05:10 PM

I'm origionaly from Belast Ireland, a life time of playing irish traditional music\folk music on stage both in this great country and in Ireland\Europe.Just back from the All Ireland Fleadh ceol.Pink Floyd are one of the loudest folk bands around.The culture of the Ballad does not have the same roots here as it does in Ireland\Europe.A lot has to do with the messenger or performer if you like.There are some awful folk melodys that performers insist on singing just because they are''Folk songs''.Asking how can we make the music more appealing is on the same par as asking why Americans insist on associating the Scottish bagpipes with the Irish........answer.....they don't really care nor feel the need to to sit through a beautiful folk ballad 6 verses long.


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 09 Oct 99 - 11:24 AM

Thanks George. I appreciate your compliment.

M Ted, Most folklorists would disagree that a folk song would not be changed over a period of time. Variants.

Communicators may want to keep some elements of a song in tact. But not all of them. And not the whole song.

I agree with the statement about evoking a sense of history or past without specifically referring to a historical incident. It might be a mythological theme rather than an actual event or an event that's been elaborated on to idealize say Jesse James or Billy the Kid. Nobody knows who the real John Henry or Casey Jones was but they have an idea about some of the people who the legends were based on.

Much of Woody's work did come after he left his environment but he still carried those musical elements with him. These are written songs and perhaps like "This Land" budding folk songs. Time will tell.

Woody was thrown out of the CP. He was too radical. His songs are consistent with his social views. He was never a slave to any party line. In those days, many were naive about Stalin. There was an idealism in the air. Nobody in the folk music world that I knew took orders from the Kremlin.

In dealing with the use of songs for any propaganda purposes, we have to determine if this is the case. Then we have to prove it. A song used explicitly for propaganda purposes has a very short shelf life unless it is a national anthem which is usually composed and never changed like a folk song.

Many of the songs created by the left-wing movement were not folk songs but based on folk material. And some in the case of the Little Red Songbook of the IWW were based on popular songs of the day and written as parodies. There may be some songs that emanate from the labor struggles of the past such as coal mining songs that are closer to the folk tradition. I maintain that a song like "If I Had A Hammer" is not a folk song but a composed song that had popularity in the left-wing community for a period of time.

I lived in the Village and observed the Bohemian community during the 50's. Many were as far away from Bob Dylan as you could get. There was an interest in Jazz and there were the folkies in Washington Square, some of whom thought Dylan was not so hot. He, by no means, would have reflected the views of the people I knew in that circle at that time.

Later in the 60's there was a self-conscious attempt to define that community in New York as a "folk community" but seeing what happened to the popularity of music after this flurry before the "folk scare", when young people embraced the Beatles and rock and roll, there is little to support any generational connection of a folk tradition.

The popular misconception of folk music is tied to all kinds of performers these days from John Denver to the Indigo Girls.

The attempt to redefine folk music is a self-conscious effort on the part of the music industry, music show business practioners and ancillary participants to sell their product. This has nothing to do with traditional folk music.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 08 Oct 99 - 12:02 PM

George, you're not trying hard enough! Everything thatFrank says brings up another question-(a sign of a good discussion!!!!)

I agree that acceptance of a song is a key to it's becoming part of the folk culture--and there is a process of weathering that takes place--although I do not think that material must be changed materially over time--

I think that there is something else that is critical--a there is a quality that I call "luminous coherence"--that is to say, certain songs(and stories), have elements that are so compelling, .that communicators want to keep them intact, as much as possible--

An example might be, "Roses are red dear, violets are blue, Angels in heaven know I love you", or "never speak harsh words to your true lovin' husband, he may leave you and never return"

A sort of core, which can stay intact, regardless of the vagaries of memory--sometimes it is only a line, other times it is a verse or even a whole narrative-

Also, there is another quality that makes something part of a culture, rather than just a moment--and that has to do with a sense of its past--

A real traditional song, or folksong, has to evoke a sense of history and community among its listeners that has nothing to do with the text of the song--it helps listeners to visualize a world that a song is part of, and it bonds them to it--

Next Question--

The question of how to deal with Woody Guthrie is a real fundamental one--he may have come from a folk culture, but most of the work that he did came after he was out of his element, and a significant amount of it was intended to forward various political and social goals--

His WPA work of course, and there is the touchy business about his long time association with the Communist party--so many of his songs (don't get me wrong, because I love his songs, and if not for Woody most of us wouldn't be here--) intentionally advanced ideas that were consistant with the Communist party line--

Now down get me wrong--I don't object to using music for political purposes--my father worked with the the UAW, and we knew "Joe Hill" and many other songs from the union halls--and I don't object (in the main) to any of the ideas that Woody expressed--

My question is--how do we classify or deal with the deliberate use of music and other folkloric materials to advance political ideologies and to foster nationalism? The material is always presented as being authentic, historical, folkloric and of the people, and yet it isn't, because it has been newly created, but in a way that it has all the perceived positive attributes of folk music--

This may even be the problem at the root of our discussion--

You brought up Bob Dylan, whose music has always been identified with folk music,--but really was a poet (Robert Bly told me so!!) -- Though he did not have come from an identifiable folk tradition-- Dylan became the central figure in the 1960's manifestation of the "Bohemian" culture traditionally associated with the Greenwich Village and Lower East Side communities in New York City, which was self defined as "a folk music" culture. In actuality it was defined by its strong connections to artistic and social movements that were reaching a fruition at that time--

And because these movements have figured so prominently in the culture of America and the world since, the popular definition of Folk Music is still tied to it--

The definition is further muddied, because, along with the interest in and the revival of tradtional and folk music in this mileau, there was a parallel (and often overlapping) popular artistic movement of singer/songwriters who used folk instrumentation, folk melodies and folk motifs, also stemmed from this mileau, and were self-defined as folksingers.

I've been working on this too long today--the worst thing is that I keep wanting to expand and clarify the points--


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: GeorgeH
Date: 08 Oct 99 - 09:12 AM

Drat you Frank H . . A posting where I can't find a single idea, thought or suggestion to disagree with!

Thanks for an excellent encapsulation.

G.


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 07 Oct 99 - 03:06 PM

M Ted, I think you've asked a very important question. It may be the key to the discussion about what is folk mmusic. "How can a folksong be a folksong when it goes through the folk process?" I recall Sam Hinton's quote of Charles Seeger's metaphor, "A folk song on record or in a book is a snapshot of a bird in flight."

The "folk process" I believe is misunderstood. Changing a folk song around arbitrarilly in my view does not necessarilly indicate a "folk process". In order for a variant to be sucessful in it's change, it has to not only be acceptable to that cultural community from whence the changer comes, it has to be created by someone who has assimilated those cultural nuances by being part of that musical culture so thoroughly that the history of that culture continues in the creating of the "new" version. This is the key. It's not writing for a marketplace that creates this new variant as in pop music. It comes out of the context of a specific tradition. When song variants are written about coal miners by someone who has come out of that tradition and comments on the prevalent time he/she finds him/herself in order to reflect the values of that community, I would call this a budding folk song, It matures as it is accepted by the community and is passed down through generations.

Woody Guthrie is close to his roots. The songs that he wrote which were contemporaneous with his time may well pass into aural tradition. The reasons that they may become folk music is that he was in touch with his musical/cultural tradition. Most of the music for the songs that he composed can be traced to earlier tunes. He borrowed heavilly on his roots and the songs of the Carter Family. Bob Dylan attempted to do the same thing. He used "Nottamun Town" for his "Masters of War" and "Patriot's Game" for "God On Our Side". Even the first part of the tune "Blowin' In the Wind" sounds similar to the first part of the Nova Scotian melody of "Marianne". The difference between Dylan and Woody is this. Woody came from a specific cultural sub-group, the Oklahoma share cropper community which assimilated rural music by country performers through a birth right. Dylan used eclectic tunes for his poetic statements and fused them with a show business image as a youthful rebel which caught on with the young people at the time. Dylan was never a part of a spcific folk culture. As a matter of fact, he appropriated Woody's style, garb, vocal mannerisms and references in a self-conscious way because it served him on stage. He abandoned that later when the music market changed. The fact that he is a talented songwriter and performer is irrelevant to the discussion of what is folk.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 07 Oct 99 - 12:28 PM

I think that this point that you make, GeorgeH, is a really important one--"the people who history effectively ignores can produce a vibrant, compelling and richly diverse music"

The question that I always end up wrestling with is-- to what degree did they produce this music, and to what degree did they, because of their isolation, preserve something more wide spread from a time gone past?

It is no accident that the great repositories of folk and traditional music(whatever these things turn out to be) tend to be places like the Appalachians, the Balkans, the Cape Breton Islands, The Bayou, etc etc that are geographically isolated, and that the people who preserve or continue these traditions are also isolated from the mainstream by religion, ethnicity, language etc

The odd meters and peculiar scales that seems unique to Balkan Music were prevalent in the music that existed in the rest of Europe before the composed court and church music became popular during the Renaissance--and that that these same meters and scales-appear, often as isolated examples, in other remote areas--such as Brittany--

I wonder as I wander through all of this--what is going on? Are traditional songs and music forms being preserved, or are they evolving, through the "Folk Process"?

Frank, you say that you don't believe in modern folk songs--because they have to be passed down from generation to generation--and presumably pretty much intact, to qualify as folk songs--

I am afraid that this thread will end if I agree with you on anything, but Icome pretty close to agreeing with, or at least understanding this point--

The question that I have is, how can a folksong be still be a folksong when it goes through the "folk process", and is substantially reworked in the course of transmission?


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: GeorgeH
Date: 07 Oct 99 - 05:23 AM

Frank: A small clarification; when I said we can't redefine folk into "the context of modern western civilisation" I meant that to imply that there ARE still cultures where Folk is live, well and ongoing; i.e. I agree entirely with the point you made.

And - unusually for a discussion verging on "what is folk" I don't think we're going round in circles to no point; certainly I'm finding each loop of the spiral turns up new points of interest and new questions to ponder.

James: I'd say Mudcat already includes all the music that any mudcatter feels inclinded to talk about here. But I think it's vitally important to recognise Folk music (in all its variety) in its own right. To me that importance is far more sociological than musical (if only because the variety of folk music makes it impossible to define Folk music in purely musical terms). It matters enormously to me that the people who history effectively ignores can produce a vibrant, compelling and richly diverse music. THEY deserve that we continue to recognise their contribution to our culture.

G.


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: Escamillo
Date: 07 Oct 99 - 01:39 AM

Just to say that this is one of the reasons for which many people are in the Mudcat: it is a place where you can always learn something important. A lack of intervention does not mean that we don't read a thread. We are here listening. Thanks !
Andrés Magré


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 07 Oct 99 - 12:59 AM

James--

Frank and I are going around in what seem like silly circles, but it is all in a good cause--I don't think either of us cares to restrict any of the music that is discussed or performed or whatever, in the context of Mudat or anything, but I think we are very concerned about finding ways to asssure that the music that we love continues to be heard, and preserved or...well that is where the questions start to come up--

First, we have to figure out what music we are talking about, then we have to figure out what to do--would it be good if more commercial artists played it--or would it be better if artists who were raised in the tradition were encouraged, and on and on--and it is all very vague and frought with dispute--

The one thing I know is that, at times, I feel a a painful sense of loss when I hear some old recording of say, the Blue Sky Boys, or of the only surviving recording of some barely remembered bluesman, or the wonderful voices of Serbian men, singing the about forgotten battles with the Turks, or how beautiful their long disappeared village was-

And I want to do something to keep it alive, even though the world it came from is gone--


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 06 Oct 99 - 08:03 PM

I haven't time to reply to you in the obsessive detail that you deserve--but I will make a couple of points--first, and sadly, the tamburica (sorry if I don't spell it Walter Kollar style) is not the much played by the younger musicians(at least among the Serb and Croatian nationals) the play accordian,and write and play songs, just like musicians tend to do--because they need material to play for the dancing--my little kolo was an U Seste that we stuck into a medley for the oldest reason of all, because we didn't know more than one tune for U Seste, and the dancers called for more--

As to the Hoppa Hoali music--most of it was written by Hawaiians, but even that that wasn't was played in the ethnic style--slack key guitar is very popular, but the ukulele and the steel guitar are just as traditional, if not more--

I think it is important to distinguish between folk music and material that happens to be traditional in the sense that you discuss, because the music of a particular subgroup, like worksongs, may exist as a body only as long as the subgroup exists--even if it is only a generation, the body may still be valid folkmusic--some elements may be passed along to other situations and other generations, and some might have been drawn from previous generations and such--that would be more in keeping with the idea of traditional music, as you are presenting it--


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: James Douglass
Date: 06 Oct 99 - 08:01 PM

Shouldn't we just be concerned with the keeping alive of good, LIVE, acoustic music that reflects the human condition and potentialities for betterment; rather than quibble about what is genuine folk music? Enough already. We who play music from the heart, whether it be blues, jazz, "folk" (I just have to put the quote marks), or uncategorizable, as long as it speaks to an audience (rather than agresses), isn't that the REAL DIVIDING LINE? Between those who are living genuine moments and presenting themselves genuinely, and those who are part of some money scam? I'm sure no one will respond to this because I read the first 60 pericopes and not the last 30 of this thread, and it probably sticks out; but I've heard this discussion before.

Can't we broaden the mudcat to include all "heart" music? Since it's such a cool place anyway?


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 06 Oct 99 - 05:00 PM

Another point. If you want folk music to appeal to younger people, it's important not to compromise it in order to sell it.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 06 Oct 99 - 04:51 PM

M Ted, I think we can do this. Let's talk about the Kolos written in 1999. Are they written by tambouritzan players or singers in that tradition? Are they widely known in the Croatian community as traditional? Did anyone learn this song from their parents or grand parents? Or in fact are they modeled after the folk music of Croatia in which they might be called a song in the "folk music style" without being an authentic folk song which is handed down from preceding generations? What song are we talking about here? And finally, are all kolos traditional folk music? You've written a kolo and that's fine. A person could have written an Elizabethan song or a Missippi Delta blues but would that be authentic folk music? Would it be part of that tradition? Would it have withstood the test of time? I don't think so.

Example: Ruz Marin (the Rosebush) has roots in the Croation tradition. It has variants found in different parts of the area. Makedenko Kolo is a variant of the Greek Samiotissa, (Girl from Samos). Both variants have been around for a while and have been used in folk dance circles. No one author/composer can be identified here.

Did Stan Rogers ever write a sea chantey that was used on shipboard as a halyard, capstan, long-haul or any other viable work-related song? If so,where did he learn it from? Where's the generational connection?

Grunge music was a trend, concocted by young rockers as a fashion statement. It was not generational and based on much but a show business point of view. It was a rebellious image created to appeal to this in young people. Definitely not generational. No viable predecessor with the exception of popular music forms in rock and roll.

Art music, classical, jazz et. al. may influence folk music and vice versa but they are still different forms from folk music. The tune for "Twinkle Little Star" was written by Mozart but survives as a folk song because it is generational and has many lyric variants. However it's connection to a unified sub-cultural group, (not a manufactured one for the music industry) is tenous. Still the tune survives although it's hardly attributable to Mozart these days. Louis Armstrong's early jazz music is closely related to folk music because of the cultural music roots that it emanated from. Maybe not the tunes themselves which were composed by early songwriters. St. Louis Blues was written in a "folk style" but Handy had some connection to the tradition of this stevadore work song so he wrote it in a "folk style". The tune and the lyric of the first part of the song has been used in traditional blues verses and hollers. Louis trumpet style has a lineage of musical elements that might be called traditional folk. The early brass bands of New Orleans had a connection to a generational culture that employed an amalgam of early blues, hymns, creole and hispanic elements that were learned by the player's forebears. I think that this is a key issue.

George, this is why I don't believe in modern folk songs. There may have been a tradition of football songs that have been handed down from preceding generations. Perhaps some of those songs have been around to qualify as folk songs but I'd be skeptical here. Certainly I'm not skeptical about Scarborough Fair. I think we can agree that this is a folk song because it has withstood the "test of time" and has many different variants. And we don't know who wrote it do we? (We know it wasn't Paul Simon).:)

Personally M Ted, I would'nt call many Hapa Haole songs folk songs because many of them were composed by Tin Pan Alley composers but the musical style of singing or playing them might be characteristic of a Hawaiian musical folk tradition. Slack key guitar certainly has venerable roots in earlier forms of Hawaiian music. There is a generational connection here.

George, I don't think modern civilization's technology extends world-wide. There are some cultures in the world that have never used a computer. Folk cultures existed when the Wright Brothers were flying airplanes and even today they may flourish where we least expect them to. Rap music may be a case in point. Also, the form of "break dancing", even "tapping" which could be related to earlier tap and clogging forms which have roots in other antecedent dances. Who invented "break dancing"? Who started the "tapping" craze? Did it stem from earlier clogging and tap dance teams? I think so.

I've said enough for the moment. Let's pursue this.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 06 Oct 99 - 12:28 PM

Thank you George--I am also in favor of giving the folk artist status to the black and hispanic DJ's who couldn't keep their mouths shut, even while the records were playing, and started throwing in little toasts and roasts, and finally just dropped out the vocal tracks altogether, and made up their own--In addition to creating some interesting music, it was a great symbolic gesture for lovers of live entertainment everywhere--sort of a "Take Back the Night" thing--


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: GeorgeH
Date: 06 Oct 99 - 06:50 AM

MTed: And at the point when Grunge existed possibly without a name it was possibly a folk music . .

There are "active" folk musics in the western world. Kids playgrounds are one source; and in the UK many football terraces have their own songs which have a good claim to be a modern "folk" song. And a case can be made for the Rugby club songs. I haven't a clue whether there are any parallells in the US.

Some of these examples may demonstrate that not all folk music is good music, but that's another issue.

And aural transmission by keep listening to the tape you made from your friend's CD isn't quite the same as the folk process (IMO). Indeed, once it comes to "new" forms of music possibly being "folk" I'm not convinced we can usefully redefine Folk into the context of modern western civilisation . .

G.


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 05 Oct 99 - 06:38 PM

Well, actually, Stan Rogers did write sea songs, and to the degree that they could be used while doing the various tasks on a ship, they would be chanties--as to to kolo, poeple are writing kolos in 1999, I wrote a couple myself, a few years back--all you need is for the dancers to be able to dance to it, and it is a kolo--the same with a hula--does't have to be from anywhere or anyone special, if the dancers can dance to it, it's a hula--no problem there--

Miss Otis Regrets was a parody of murder ballads--

I suppose I should be humbled by your remark about folk music being discernable to those who know what it is--but I am kind of thick headed-- I sure would appreciate a list from you, examples of songs, styles, and artists, so we could beat this thing into the ground good and sound--

As existing independently from popular, classical, art, and jazz--None of those media could exist without folk music, so I find it unlikely that folk music could exist without them--

Grunge existed, possibly without the name, but certainly with out the fame before any of the record companies caught on to it--


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 05 Oct 99 - 05:07 PM

George, I agree that folk songs are in the public domain. When the composer/writer ceases to become important and the song has variants, it's a folk song.

M Ted, Perspective has a lot to do with credibility.

Genre words or labels have intrinsic problems attached to them. IE: does Stan Rogers write sea chanteys? Can one write a kolo in 1999? Are all hulas folk music? Round and round we go. Miss Otis Regrets is a murder song ala Frankie and Johnny but it was written by Cole Porter.

I disagree that folk music is vague. It's discernable to those who know what it is. There may be some disagreement about what it is but it exists independently from popular, classical, art, or jazz. It doesn't arbitrarilly mean what you want it to me

Rap might be folk music in that the Griots from Africa might be the basis for it. We'll see in another hundred years or so. Heavy Metal and Grunge are recording company marketing terms. They are fashions and trends and I believe rather disposable in time.

Jean Ritchie represents her tradition well. She was born with it. Her singing style is that. It doesnt matter that she sells records to validate her being a traditional folk singer.

I think that to call a nebulous "vague body of music" traditional folk music is not helpful.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 05 Oct 99 - 02:13 PM

I am supposed to be working on some proposals, and I keep getting sucked back into this fracas!!

I think that defining "folk music" is a perspective problem--a lot like the problem of deciding who "discovered" America--the question can be redefined from many different and valid perspectives, each redefinition produces a different set of answers--(Columbus, the Vikings, Chinese Buddhists, the Ancient Romans)--even more interesting because each set of answers tends to make another set seem absurd--

My favorite answer came from one of those "Kids Say the darnedest things" type things, and went something like " no one discovered America, it was always here, but no one used to what it was"

"Folk music" is the music that was always there, but nobody knew what it was---It was collected because it was there, and seemed intrinsically interesting--and then, collectors being what they are, explanations were called for and created later--different perspectives tending to render other ones absurd-

"Folk music" refers to a large, vague, body of music that "nobody use to know what it was" and any effort to define it tends to rule out things that certain groups feel are included, and to include things that other groups feel should not be included--

There are more specific genre words that we can use, like Sea Chanty or Kolo, or Hula or Work Song, or Strathspey, or Murder ballads, that we are more clear about, so they are easier to discuss--

Anyway, as far as your definitions go, Frank, they don't help much--popular music follows strict genre rules--lyrics tend primarily to be a fomulaic reworking of what ever set of folkloric images and ideas are temporally appropriate--the melodic material generally being the least reworked aspect of all, often just lifted--and it evolves through the "folk process" as well--

As to Aural transmission--all rock music is aurally transmitted--and the rock genres--such as heavy metal, grunge, and rap do reflect a cultural subgroup--they are create within the subgroup, utilized with in the subgroup, and when they are popularized, they flow from the subgroup to the broader culture--

And, as to issues of culture--what do you do when you present "Traditional music" to a auditorium full of kids, or a club full of yuppies(I only use this term in the best sense) but to commercialize it--come to think of it, even someone like Jean Ritchie is "commercializing", which is to say, marketing her music to an audience not of the culture that "folk-processed" it--

As a parting thought,we would have been much more focussed if the thread had been titled, "What can we do to make murder ballads more appealing?" or some such thing--


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: GeorgeH
Date: 05 Oct 99 - 10:56 AM

A few comments (some of which repeat what I've said before) . .

I don't think that answering a point someone's raised in a discursive thread can be construed as "avoiding the issue" . .

I never took any class in US history (ok, and it shows . . )

High-energy performance is ONE way to gain SOME converts to SOME parts of Folk . . but if you limit Folk to the material which suits that treatment you bowdlerise it . .

Much "entertainment" is pretty mindless . . so let's pitch ourselves in with those entertainments which expect at least a degree of attention from the audience . . .

I thought the song introduction lasts as long as it takes to tune this damn guitar . . .

I avoid "what is folk" like the plague, but IMO what matters with folk song is not whether we know who wrote the song, or whether someone's being paid to perform it, but a question of ownership - whether the community in which it is being performed feel it's THEIR song (rather than knowing it's owned by big music corporation somewhere). It's often pointed out that "Traditional" singers very often sang songs which were the popular songs of the day rather than traditional . . It's less often remembered that most (? much?) of the time those singers COULD (and if asked would) make a distinction between those songs which belonged to the community and those which they'd imported from elsewhere. Even if they might not get it right!

G.


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 05 Oct 99 - 08:37 AM

Stewie,

Not all of the Lomax recordings for the Library of Congress featured professional musicians who made recordings for the likes of Ralph Peer. Many of these were field recordings by unknown musicians and singers. Some of these recordings may have been made well past 1928 by singers who were not known on any record labels by such people as Sidney Robertson Cowell.

As to the loss of valuable documents, I don't know how many were lost. I do know that the Lomaxes, particularly John Senior was collecting folk songs before the Library of Congress. John senior's compiling of cowboy songs was not received with much support. Although we owe something to the recording process by the commercial labels in the twenties, this by no means represents the body of music called traditional folk.

Poet,

My suggestions have been 1. Smaller concerts, intimate venues, school classrooms, house concerts, and more field study to unearth more traditional material. I don't think that traditional folk music has to follow the "brass ring" of the commercial music business to succeed.

M.Ted,

Some folk music has been commercialized. But not all. The process of commercialization has nothing to do with folk music. But popular songs written in a contemporary vein or by established composers are not folk songs because they 1. have not gone into aural transmission, 2. don't necessarilly reflect a cultural sub-group, 3. have not undergone changes such as many variants, 4. are often composed to make money in the music business, and 5. are somehow frozen in a published form which if deviated from creates infringement of copyright law suits.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: Stewie
Date: 05 Oct 99 - 12:46 AM

Frank, at the risk of causing ire for further thread creep(if that's the correct terminology - it sounds like it should be dealt with by a dose of worm mixture), a quick response to your comments to me. I am aware of the work of the earlier folklorists, collectors and pioneers. However, in respect of recordings, isn't it a fact that some 200 of John Lomax's 250 cylinder recordings, made in Texas and Oklahoma in 1908-10, were lost because of his carelessness? The Archive of American Folk Song was established in 1928, a full 6 years after commercial hillbilly recording - at its most folkloric phase - was in full swing. The Lomaxes were loaned recording equipment in 1933 and their 1934 'American Ballads and Folk Songs' was based on a variety of sources, including commercial phonograph recordings.

Stewie.


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: catspaw49
Date: 04 Oct 99 - 11:11 PM

Good job Ted!! Keep up the work.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 04 Oct 99 - 10:59 PM

Just to be brief--I don't really know what folk music really is--and I have spent a goodly number of years performing just about every sort of folkloric thing from Michigan Lumberjack songs to Albanian dance music to hoppa-haoli music for Hula dancers--sometimes for people who never heard it before and sometimes for people who knew it better than I did--

I do know that the "people" don't differentiate between folkmusic and commercial music--I used to play occasionally Serbo-Croatian music at Churches and such, and the Serbs liked "Blue Eyes Crying' in the Rain" which they sang in Serbian and thought was an old Serbian song--on occassion, some one would translate a verse into English, and it would come out "In the rain, your blue eyes are filled with tears"--

And they all sang "Yugoslavio" (when there used to be such a place) right along with the Stare Gradske Pesme--(the old city songs, from before the turn of the century, which they tend to like to sing and dance to--Yugoslavio was written in the old folk style as part of a sort of Tito/ revisionist folklore revival for the country--it sounds sort like Alouette, in 7/8 time, and they dance to that, as well)

Anyway, I am working on a project, as we say, that, owing to this discussion, now is going to incorporate a a lot of traditional music, the only thing is, I am afraid it may get a little out of hand--for the purists, anyway--

I hope you all like it--I will keep you posted--


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: poet
Date: 04 Oct 99 - 07:00 PM

Frank I agree with almost every thing you said in your last post but the question was ! how can we make folk music more appealing. you are obviously a well read and experienced person if you avoid the question what chance have we got.
graham.


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 04 Oct 99 - 05:19 PM

Hi M.Ted,

It doesn't really matter if anyone made any money off of folk music. That has nothing to do with folk music. It's intent is not to make money. It's to perpetuate tradition. A folk song can start off as a composed song and go through a variety of changes. It goes into aural transmission. The key to the process is the changes that it goes through. Art and pop music are frozen and attributable to a single author/composer. Folk music works differently. It is in constant change but it requires a period of time to be distilled. Fragments of the song are found differently in many parts of the country. A theme, a legend and a style of singing persists that has nothing to do with whether it is deemed commercial or not. You can't pay for a folk song. You can pay for a commercialization of it though but it doesn't change the nature of the music except perhaps in the intent to commercialize it, it may bowdlerize it as in the case of the "folk revival" singers who "sweeten" it to make it more acceptable to the general public.

Stewie, the recordings of the 20's helped to recognize some of the American traditinal folk musicians but not all of them. The groundwork was done much earlier by collectors, folklorists and pioneers such as the Lomaxes who recorded for the Library of Congress Folk Arts Division. Some of these people were not professional entertainers.

M.Ted, I must tell you that I don't place a judgement on the commercialization of music. I happen to enjoy a lot of popular music. I have no problem with traditional folk musicians or "revivalists" or singer/songwriters making money at music. I have no problem with people taking traditional folk songs and doing with them whatever they want to. But bottom line, it ain't traditioanl American folk music. It's something else and that by me is OK.

As to going around in circles, I submit that information is being shared. If there are five reasons why it is a folk song, I would please ask for them. This would be useful information.

I think the problem stems from a misperception that there is a "validity" issue regarding music in general. I've often advocated that there is folk music that is unmusical and popular music that is very musical. These are subjective values but have nothing to do with the identification of traditional folk music.

As to the PhD's that do "damage" to folk music, I don't believe that what they say or do can affect what it is. They may damage someone's appreciation for it and here I'd be inclined to agree with you. But there are many "folk music authorities" who don't agree with each other on how to present it or what to do with it. But it will go on whether we like it or can recognize it or not. It requires time, change,(variation) and a connection to a cultural tradition.

Here's the problem as I see it. In American we have to have instant fast food, instant solutions, instant forms of communication, instant technology and instant folk music. I submit to you that that "instant folk music" is an oxymoron.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: catspaw49
Date: 04 Oct 99 - 09:16 AM

Hey Ted----Stealing a line from brother Rick...."I love you, I want to marry you and have your children."

There have been, as you probably know, about 9 bezillion words written in this and previous threads on "The Meaning of Folk".......I'm more than willing to go with Sandy Paton's excellent definition of "Folk" and lump the other stuff into "Folk-Like"----but even that seems to be somehow unacceptable by some. Your point about money has always bothered me too......about the time someone actually makes a buck, that seems to throw them into the "Sold-out" category. I've quit even trying to participate in these threads.....generally I just read, get pissed, and move on. I did have to respond to your post.....Fight the fight my friend and know you are not alone. Some of us are just worn out though.

I like Frank Proffitt, and thanks to the likes of PPM, Arlo, and others, my wife will even let me play him when she's in the same room......and that wouldn't have been true 10 years ago.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: Andy
Date: 04 Oct 99 - 07:10 AM

H*ll this thread is going to run and run !

Sadly however we are still gettign in to circular esoteric discussions as to what is folk ? Does the paymetn make a difference ? Even where it is performed ? (In the Folk club sense). All good stuff I read some of the mails and I am spitting others and I smile. Wher are we can we go.

Comments about floor spots explaining too long bring back old memories - most of us have been there - When calling dances I could give potted histories or full explanations - experience has taught me what to do when !

Please don't get on to quality of floor spots - we all had to learn. Money yes it is the Organisors problem - But it goes deeper - what about teh band which told it's caller (as for reasons beyond the callers control) as she didn't do much that night they were giving her less than the agreed fee !

At this rate Folk Musicians, Stand together Do not heed the ......... Keep your etc.....

Does any one feel we have got any closer to an answer, if so it missed me - sorry - Perhaps I'll be more constructive tomorrow.

Keep talking please we are bound to get soeme where in the end even if it is only broafdening our understanding so we can get the message out.

A XX


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 03 Oct 99 - 11:34 PM

Sometimes I think that a Ph.d in Folklore and a grant from the Smithsonian in the wrong hands can do more damage to folk music that all the record company execs, top 40 program directors, and music publishers put together--(present company excepted)


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: Stewie
Date: 03 Oct 99 - 09:15 PM

Well said, MTed. If it wasn't for the commercial recordings of oldtime and blues artists of the 20s and 30s, many folksongs and tunes would not have been preserved at all. Traditional music is not a delicate flower to be tiptoed round and treated in a particular way. It's strong and resilient and its quiddity will withstand any innovation or supposed indignity that is brought to bear on it. A couple of young people in the Mojave Desert putting traditional music in the setting of samples and beats is as valid as what the folk rockers or the Kingston trio or the Weavers or the oldtimey bands did to it. If a new setting exposes a new generation to the timeless relevance of the old songs, I reckon that is great. Who knows, it might inspire a few of the youngsters to seek out the originals - just as many of us did in the 60s and the 70s.


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: sophocleese
Date: 03 Oct 99 - 08:09 PM

poet. I have to admit one thing, among the many good points, that you said really resonated with me. That was the 'long introduction' before any song. I have heard performers who like to give a thorough introduction to every single piece that they are doing. Sometimes the introduction is longer that the song itself, honest I have heard this, and it is ultimately boring as all hell. Lengthy introductions to some songs are appropriate but certainly not to all. A plot synopsis of a song is only necessary if you are planning on singing without pronouncing the words. If we want a folk song to be as interesting to others as we find it ourselves we need to have faith that it WILL be interesting on its own. Then we need to perform with that faith.


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: poet
Date: 03 Oct 99 - 06:41 PM

I'd like to put in my two pennorth. to Brian Clancy you have a good point, not in all cases but in the main you are right.

However I believe that we should start in clubs themselves. How many clubs are in the top room of a pub, Little hard chairs usually cold three flights of stairs to the bar and four to the toilets, How many performers (especially floor spots) insist on giving long lectures and explanations which are generally wrong before actually singing. How many Clubs Never start on time. lots of little things make for a BIG pain. How many clubs treat their guest performers like dirt ie leave them to find their own way to the club, fail to provide decent accomodation (a camp bed in someones garage was one I heard about) and worst of all how many clubs Short change the fee at the end of the night because they had a bad night on the door.

If your club is like any of this then take it and shake it.

make your custmers comfortable near a bar and toilet (not in the same room) start on time every time. Meet your guest somewhere easy to find (for me thats easy the airport)put him/her up somewhere in comfort look after them they will respond trust I know this from experience encourage the young if you make the evening a pleasant place to be you will get more interest.

AND NEVER RENEGOTIATE THE FEE AFTER THE GIG. THE DOOR IS YOUR PROBLEM NOT THE ARTISTS.Sorry if I shouted but really annoys me.

Graham (Guernsey)


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 03 Oct 99 - 04:42 PM

So did I kill this thread? I didn't mean to, but it's been 24 hours and not a word from anyone on this--

So I'll post one last thing, and that is this--folk and traditional music may at times seem like a social movement of some sort--but everything really just radiates from the efforts of the individual--if people like what the individual is doing, they gather round and listen--the more compelling the individual, and the longer the individual persists, the more gather round to listen--it is just that simple--

What the people who gather around look like, what they wear, what they do for a living,and where they gather--all vary with the times as does what they like best and what they choose to learn for themselves--but it all happens because an individual somewhere decides to make it happen--


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 02 Oct 99 - 04:31 PM

Frank,

Why is the the fact that someone, somewhere did something for money make any difference at all?

Even dear, sacred Leadbelly played for money--and he learned all those songs in his wonderful and monumental repertoire because they were songs that people would pay money to hear--and all those witty couplets in the blues songs from Blind Lemon Jefferson and Charlie Patton were put in there to get a response from the crowd--and a few more nickels in the pan--

As to the Foster business, he tended to draw on operatic sources for his inspiration, and, as you know, the great operatic composers drew melodic material from folk music--so it was probably a folksong, an operatic melody, a Foster minsteral song, a dance number, and then a folk song again--which gets us nowhere--

I think we could go around on things til the cows come home, each of us as earnest as the day is long, and it wouldn't ever amount to much--especially since we actually like a lot of the same music(Except for maybe "Louie, Louie"), and we just put different labels on it--

I would say,"listen to this, it's a great folksong", you'd say, "yea, its great but it isn't a folksong", and I'd say, "Oh, Yeah? Here's five reasons it is" and rather than listening to the song, everyone has to listen to the discussion--

The crux of things is that I believe in teaching songs simply and letting people do what they want with them-- (because they do what they want, whether you want them to or not, and whether they know they are doing it or not--)

I have sat for hours trying to learn all manner of folk ornaments and to make esoteric discernments in style("Oh, no-you can't do that in a Piedmont Blues, that only goes in a Delta Blues!!) and it means something to me, but that stuff is a barrier rather than a doorway for most people, and if you insist on making it an issue, they vote with their feet--

When I taught blues guitar classes one of my students started a band at his school did Devo-style punk version of "Frankie and Johnnie"--It was a big hit when they played at the free concerts in the park--what could I say? I did teach them a swing rhythm, they just didn't like it that way--

I tend to view that as a success for folk music--(and anyway I think they grew out of it later, and started a "real blues band") but my guess is that it would not be acceptable to you--

As interesting a thread as this is, I'd like to go out and do something that is do-able--and am beginning to suspect that it isn't possible to come up with anything that can be done with the somgs that we all like that is both workable and philosophically acceptable--Tell me I am wrong--


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 02 Oct 99 - 02:02 PM

Brian, I think it's unfair to characterize the issue as folks pontificating. One can also pontificate about how a performer needs to sell his product by introducing more energy through show biz hype. I think that there is a sincere effort here to want to share the music that we grew up with. I think that there is a problem with this thread in that for me folk music is already appealing. It just needs to be introduced to young people.

There are other valuable ways to present music which require a different type of a listening attitude. One of the intriguing aspects of the folk music performance be it by traditional singers or "revivalists" is that the level of energy is different. It doesn't require a loud, sensual blaring of a rock band to make it happen. There are people today who are bored by anything that doesn't bludgeon them to death with some kind of surface razz-a-ma-tazz.

Jack, As to the way in which folk music can be hyped to the public, I think that there are different levels of performance and presentation. Some are geared for mass audiences as reflected by many of the pop stars and personalities. They are held in big stadiums to maximise revenue for the producers and artists. Other venues might be small concerts (house concerts are a great way that suggest the way folk music has been traditionally performed), school classrooms, even church or temple suppers. Small gatherings seem more suitable to maximise the experience IMHO.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: Jack (Who is called Jack)
Date: 02 Oct 99 - 01:38 PM

Frank, remember what Milton Berle said. Great comedians don't copy, they steal.

I've resisted posting to this thread, but here goes.

Just about everyone in america grew up taking american history and social studies units on the Civil War. About 90% of the time the subject was painful and dull. Along comes Ken Burns, and tells the same story and violoa, its a compelling story full of ties to the way we think and live to this day.

15 million people can't tear themselves away from a TV show which is pretty much a bunch of still photographs and letters interspersed with a narrative and score.

Hundreds of thousands rediscover Shelby Foote's narrative.

So how did HE do it?


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Subject: chords req: Evangeline
From: rippythegator@hotmail.com
Date: 02 Oct 99 - 12:41 PM

Hi, I'm looking for the chords to the song "Evangeline" which can be found on John Allan Cameron's Glencoe Station album. Thanks.


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: Brian Clancy
Date: 02 Oct 99 - 12:28 PM

I played in Louisville, Colorado last night...a room full of twenty-somethings with a few older folks mixed in. Playing nothing but Irish ballads and pub songs they were all singing their hearts out asking for Waltzing Matilda (really--the only one they knew) and wanting to get up and dance and sing or clap to everything they could.

Many of you don't get it. You can't pontificate on a stool telling younger audiences that this music is good for them while you play folk music as though it was written for funeral parlors. You, yes YOU, have to put some ENERGY behind a performance.

Think about it....you fell in love with folk music when you heard Pete Seeger or the likes...they were real performers. Today's "Folk" performers, by and large, are just plain boring. Audiences are there, we just have to reach them by hard work. You get out of an audience just what you put in, regardless of their age or background. Quit blaming them when what folk singers really need to do is look at themselves.


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Subject: RE: How can we make folk music more apealing
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 02 Oct 99 - 11:02 AM

There are examples of popular songs going into the folk tradition. For example the following songs come from the minstrel show which was a commercial venture. Daniel Emmett wrote Old Dan Tucker, Dixie and Stephen Foster wrote Angelina Baker. These songs entered the aural tradition and were changed extensively. The North had their version of Dixie and parodies came up including the one recorded in Sandburg, A Horse Named Bill. Angelina Baker became a fiddle tune favorite of early country folk perfomres sometimes known as Angeline The Baker. Old Dan Tucker added versions and became a hoedown fiddle tune. The key is this, that they went through variants and time to get there so that they were no longer a commercial venture to gain popularity on the stage, screen, TV or radio. This might well happen with Louie Louie. Time will tell. It's a worthwhile project to collect these variants. Dirty songs are certainly part of the folk tradition. If they are reflective of a specific cultural group of people who have adapted the song to fit their own environment it may qualify as a folk song. We'll have to see if it stands the test of time.

As to the influence of Lonnie Johnson on Robert Johnson, this is musical material that is associated with African-American folk music of which blues is a part. Copping licks is the way folk music is processed. Woody Guthrie adapted some of his guitar styles from the Carter Family, probably Sarah Carter. Leadbelly was influenced by the ragtime pianists he heard in Texas. He also knew other blues guitarists. It was in the culture. Imitation is one way musicians learn from one another regardless of musical style. but the difference is that some musicians reflect their cultural heritage in a clear manner. Also, there is a time-tested musical environment that is inherent in folk music. It may be that rock and roll songs could become the folk music of the future or they could go the way of the current trendy fashions of the time, the popular music that vanishes when it's use is no longer expressive of a culture.

Frank Hamilton


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