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Folklore: What Is Folk?

Related threads:
What is a Folk Song? (292)
Who Defines 'Folk'???? (287)
Popfolk? (19)
What isn't folk (88)
Still wondering what's folk these days? (145)
What makes a new song a folk song? (1710)
Does Folk Exist? (709)
Definition of folk song (137)
Here comes that bloody horse - again! (23)
What is a traditional singer? (136)
Is the 1954 definition, open to improvement? (105)
Folklore: Folk, 1954 definition? (133)
So what is *Traditional* Folk Music? (409)
'Folk.' OK...1954. What's 'country?' (17)
Folklore: Define English Trad Music (150)
What is Folk Music? This is... (120)
What is Zydeco? (74)
Traditional singer definition (360)
Is traditional song finished? (621)
1954 and All That - defining folk music (994)
BS: It ain't folk if ? (28)
No, really -- what IS NOT folk music? (176)
What defines a traditional song? (160) (closed)
Folklore: Are 'What is Folk?' Threads Finished? (79)
How did Folk Song start? (57)
Traditional? (63)
Should folk songs be sung in folk clubs? (129)
What is The Tradition? (296) (closed)
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What is filk? (47)
What makes it a Folk Song? (404)
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Does any other music require a committee (152)
Folk Music Tradition, what is it? (29)
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definition of a ballad (197)
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Does it matter what music is called? (451)
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It isn't 'Folk', but what is it we do? (169)
Giving Talk on Folk Music (24)
What is Skiffle? (22)
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New Input Into 'WHAT IS FOLK?' (7)
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What is a folk song? Version 2.0 (59)
FILK: what is it? (18)
What is a Folksinger? (51)
BS: What is folk music? (69) (closed)
What is improvisation ? (21)
What is a Grange Song? (26)


nutty 13 Feb 01 - 11:03 AM
nutty 13 Feb 01 - 11:13 AM
granny 13 Feb 01 - 11:14 AM
katlaughing 13 Feb 01 - 11:31 AM
Mary in Kentucky 13 Feb 01 - 11:36 AM
Jon Freeman 13 Feb 01 - 11:44 AM
mkebenn 13 Feb 01 - 11:49 AM
Bert 13 Feb 01 - 12:46 PM
GUEST,The Dane 13 Feb 01 - 12:54 PM
nutty 13 Feb 01 - 12:57 PM
catspaw49 13 Feb 01 - 12:59 PM
Katcina 13 Feb 01 - 01:09 PM
katlaughing 13 Feb 01 - 01:12 PM
Jon Freeman 13 Feb 01 - 01:17 PM
GUEST 13 Feb 01 - 01:27 PM
McGrath of Harlow 13 Feb 01 - 02:06 PM
Bert 13 Feb 01 - 02:16 PM
Alice 13 Feb 01 - 03:06 PM
wysiwyg 13 Feb 01 - 03:08 PM
nutty 13 Feb 01 - 03:19 PM
Cap't Bob 13 Feb 01 - 03:22 PM
Jim Krause 13 Feb 01 - 04:31 PM
Art Thieme 13 Feb 01 - 05:10 PM
Tyke 13 Feb 01 - 07:12 PM
wysiwyg 13 Feb 01 - 08:05 PM
Burke 13 Feb 01 - 08:33 PM
Amergin 13 Feb 01 - 09:42 PM
poor lonesome boy 13 Feb 01 - 11:25 PM
GUEST,Blind DRunk in Blind River 14 Feb 01 - 12:09 AM
Les from Hull 14 Feb 01 - 01:38 PM
Little Hawk 14 Feb 01 - 04:00 PM
Tyke 14 Feb 01 - 08:20 PM
Bill D 14 Feb 01 - 09:30 PM
GUEST,Fred 14 Feb 01 - 10:14 PM
GUEST,Amanda 17 Apr 02 - 07:15 PM
Bill D 17 Apr 02 - 07:27 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 17 Apr 02 - 07:28 PM
Lonesome EJ 17 Apr 02 - 07:37 PM
GUEST,Zulu 02 Dec 06 - 05:56 PM
GUEST,ohnonotagain 02 Dec 06 - 06:00 PM
GUEST,Zulu 03 Dec 06 - 02:48 PM
GUEST 03 Dec 06 - 03:31 PM
Fidjit 03 Dec 06 - 05:19 PM
Scrump 04 Dec 06 - 04:54 AM
GUEST,Janine 04 Dec 06 - 10:28 AM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 04 Dec 06 - 01:33 PM
shepherdlass 05 Dec 06 - 07:55 AM
GUEST,JohnHenry 05 Dec 06 - 03:59 PM
M.Ted 06 Dec 06 - 12:01 AM
George Papavgeris 06 Dec 06 - 02:03 AM
The Sandman 06 Dec 06 - 05:00 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 06 Dec 06 - 02:33 PM
Declan 06 Dec 06 - 04:38 PM
Bill D 06 Dec 06 - 06:39 PM
GUEST,cecil. j . sharpe 07 Dec 06 - 03:27 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 07 Dec 06 - 04:29 PM
GUEST,Cecil.J.Sharpe 07 Dec 06 - 05:31 PM
Bill D 07 Dec 06 - 05:51 PM
M.Ted 07 Dec 06 - 07:51 PM
Tim theTwangler 07 Dec 06 - 10:40 PM
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Subject: HELP -what is folk music?
From: nutty
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 11:03 AM

I was admin on Paltalk a few evenings ago when I had to admonish a gentleman for not singing a folk song - his reply was

"Well , Hell - you tell me what it is and I'll sing it"

I've pondered on the question ever since and the only reply I can think of is

"If you knew a folk song - you wouldn't need to ask"

That isn't much help either
So come on Mudcatters - help me out

WHAT IS FOLK MUSIC?

HOW CAN/WOULD YOU DEFINE IT

IS DEFINITION DEPENDENT ON CULTURE(does it mean different things to different people)?

I would be really grateful for your comments


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: nutty
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 11:13 AM

Perhaps I should have posted this in the "Conversation Stoppers" Thread


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: granny
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 11:14 AM

Hmm..off the top of my head, I'd say, it's the stuff you sang or played because you felt like it and wanted to -- as opposed to repetoire you were required to learn, by someone.

In addition to that, songs/music that is not particularly written for shock value or for show, like a lot of rock, pop, etc., is. More like the music of thoughtfulness and reflection.


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: katlaughing
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 11:31 AM

Oh, nutty!! You've stepped in the BIG one now! **BG** This is the eternal question that drives us nuts for thread after thread of everyone's definition. Just to get an idea, put "folk" in the filter box, set the date to 3 years and watch what comes up.

Good luck,

kat


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 11:36 AM

Or take the easier route and click here, because Alice has already documented several of these memorable threads and made them easier to get to. This was found on the FAQs thread and the links page.


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 11:44 AM

Nutty, I'd hoped that question would not crop up in relation to PalTalk. The what is folk question does crop up fairly regulary in these forums and the only certainty is that there will be no agreed definition. Some may say a form of music that has been passed down in an oral tradition for x years, others may include modern songs written in a particular style, others may wish to bring commercialism into the equation, etc. I just settle on "if it sounds like folk to me, it is folk".

For the purposes of PalTalk, I would suggest that the definition could be any form of music that you would normally expect to hear in a Folk Club that accepts both traditional and contemporary music. I know this is vague and it doesn't answer how to explain Folk to others but it is the best I can come up with at the moment.

Jon


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: mkebenn
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 11:49 AM

Yea, Jon, that'll work. I don't want to question if a song is acceptable. I'm more worried if people will want to hear it. LOL Mike


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: Bert
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 12:46 PM

It's what we do here.


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: GUEST,The Dane
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 12:54 PM

How about this:

Folk music is the opposite to classical music. Where as classical music was traditionally written for the courts in Europe, folk music was written by and for the people.

This could also explain why so many folk song deal with rebel themes. This was one of the only modes for the people to express their opposition to the ruling classes.


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: nutty
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 12:57 PM

Jon - the question was asked and I am just trying to be fair and find an answer - there is no ulterior motive here

I was particularly interested on the "CULTURAL" aspect of the question as, even in my own folk club, there is a definite blurring of the edges for traditional folk/contempory folk/blues/county songs/gospel songs/hymns, all of which are acceptable to sing

Yes,Kat - I did try to bring up the threads but was 'timed out' before I got a result - I presumed there were just too many for the search engine to cope with.
If you think it's all been said and don't wish to comment - thats no problem at all - I will just have to make up my own mind


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: catspaw49
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 12:59 PM

Oh yippee.........yet another thread on the subject huh? Gee, will someone finally have a definitive answer we can all agree on???(no) Will we hear the horses/cows/pigs don't sing line??(yes) Will everyone think they are right??(yes) Will anyone bother to go back and read the voluminous quantities already written??(no) Has the very word now been so bastardized and stolen that this is an incredible waste of time, just talking about it??(yes) Am I less than in a good mood??(yes)

Spaw


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: Katcina
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 01:09 PM

Poor Spaw needs a warm fuzzy something.


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: katlaughing
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 01:12 PM

Sorry, nutty, didn't mean to offend...that's what the **BG** was for.

MaryinK, thnaks, I am sorry, Alice, that I forgot about that documentation.

Spaw, darlin'...tok the words right outta my mouth, i was jist trying ter be perlite.**BG**

kat


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 01:17 PM

Nutty, I never thought otherwise. Why I had hoped it would not crop is simply that I have read hundreds of posts on this subject and have never seen agreement on the subject.

I have proposed a definition that I think would be suitable for PalTalk, what do you think about it?

With regards to the Song Circle room, I do expect some degree of difference of opinion as to where the boundaries of folk lie just as I expect Adimins to use thier own judgement as to what that clearly is not folk may or may not be acceptable in the room.

There is for example a certain amount of pop music that I would let go at least once round without getting excited about, an example could be an accoustic version of Hotel California. Another Admin could hear the same song and put their foot down straight away.

Jon


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 01:27 PM

Granny comes closest among responses so far.

But, It whatever it is it is certainly classical music. It's just that it's the people's classical music - what folk's acturally sing, like in their kitchens and on the porch, or in ceremonies, political rallies, anywhere, and if they really sing bad, there's always the shower.

It's world-wide and it's no particular muscial style and it's been around since creation, certainly since before musical notation.

With few exceptions, you don't get paid to sing it, with even fewer exceptions you don't much to sing it.

Mudcatters come closer to getting it right than most, in that they treat blues is a slice of the folk pie. All of what I wrote above would apply to blues.

Some would certainly agree, although it sounds crude, that it's like diarea. Meaning that you can only hold it in so long, then its got to come out. Its an art form that satisfies a need to express just like with canvas and brush.

Some think of humans as the industrious, brainy creatures with opposible thumbs, the tool users or tool makers. I disagree; humans are the communicative creatures. It's our mouths, not our thumbs, where our basic characters manifest.

Check out those who are deaf or mute - how cleverly they compensate. Communication is the most intense human compulsion. Think about solitary confinement; that most basic prison discipline. Folk music, for those with music in their genes, in whatever form, satisfies that fundamental need to to express.

When I see paintings on the walls of caves in southern France, I wonder what vocal arts may have accompanied.


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 02:06 PM

"the opposite to classical music"

The term opposite doesn't mean anything in this context. It's like saying that the opposite of an apple is a banana. And it doesn't work anyway - Carolan is classical music, for example, and round our way he gets included in most sessions.


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: Bert
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 02:16 PM

Hey Spaw you miserable ol' fart. I gave you a definition just 3 posts before yours. So stop ranting on and read the bloody thread - you never know, even YOU might learn something.

Gotcha!!! ;-)

Bert.

P.S. Gotta do something to jar him out of that bad mood.


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: Alice
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 03:06 PM

The List ( What is a Folk Song? http://www.mudcat.org/thread.CFM?threadID=2224 --

Acceptable in Folk Club http://www.mudcat.org/thread.CFM?threadID=2225 --

How to Create a Folksong (FS for Dummies) http://www.mudcat.org/thread.CFM?threadID=2624 --

young folkies? http://www.mudcat.org/thread.CFM?threadID=3532 --

Methodologies http://www.mudcat.org/thread.CFM?threadID=4110 --

Methodologies - - who writes the songs? http://www.mudcat.org/thread.CFM?threadID=4215 --

The demise of Folk Music http://www.mudcat.org/thread.CFM?threadID=4255 --

The demise of Folk Music, Part II http://www.mudcat.org/thread.CFM?threadID=4914 --

Oldest Folk http://www.mudcat.org/thread.CFM?threadID=4913 --

Shortest Definition of folk http://www.mudcat.org/thread.CFM?threadID=4892 --

Old Folkers http://www.mudcat.org/thread.CFM?threadID=8373 --

Mudcat's Future http://www.mudcat.org/thread.CFM?threadID=8715 --

Brand new folksongs available http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=13012 --

Art Thieme, Allan C. http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=13044 -- and others) Mudcat Threads Discussing "What Is Folk?" - follow this link and you'll find more than enough.

Alice


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 03:08 PM

Yeah, nutty, simply asking questions can be hell, eh? *BSEG* (friendly)

OK, TODAY my thought is, it's whatever music people are willing to argue about as to whether it is or ain't FM.

Now if only we could reclaim those intitials we could take over all the FM radio stations and each one could have its own format reflecting what they think FM is. Cool. Get the Martians behind that one heh!

~S~


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: nutty
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 03:19 PM

A couple of hours ago this seemed important

Since then - I've tripped over one of the dogs and broken a toe - at least , if it isn't broken it should be - it's black , swollen and excrutiatingly painful

Till the pain subsides I will definitely be back in the real world


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: Cap't Bob
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 03:22 PM

I am rather curious as to when the term "Folk Music" came about. I grew up during the 30's and 40's and don't recall using the it during those years. "Folk Music" (at least the term), to my recollection, became popular during the 50's and 60's.

Cap't Bob


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: Jim Krause
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 04:31 PM

I have been avoiding this thread whenever it pops up, but I can't any longer.

Folk music is that music which people perform for their own enjoyment and entertainment. When money changes hands, it ceases to be folk music, and becomes business.
Jim


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 05:10 PM

I've said all I ought on this---at least until somebody pushes my button -- and then it's like finding a hundred dollar bill laying in the street. I probably could not just walk on by. I might just keep it to (for) myself. But probably I'd feel a need to be honest with this old world -- and tell it like it is -- the truth of it.

(For that point of view, please see all those other threads.)

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: Tyke
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 07:12 PM

Sorry i don't know what "Folk Music" is! It might be music that I lisent to in an English Pub. Even if I have paid to get into the room it could still be Folk Music. The money paid insure that the people in that room have come to listen! To the music and not to talk over it. A minnimal ammount paid on the door put's the room under the control of the Organisers giving them the right to ask people to keep quiet and observe some common curtisy to the singer's. I would walk in or out of a Folk Club whilst someone was in the middle of a song. Broken conections aside I apply the same rule to myself whilst in the Paltalk Room.

The oldest Folk Club in the World is the Topic Folk Club in Bradford West Yorkshire England. It was established in 1956 when the Rusians sent Tanks into Hungary (I thik it was Hungary my History might not be that good!). The Bradford Communist Party all resigned in protest and started the Topic Folk Club so that they could all still meet on Friday Nights and sing the Same Songs. The pit falls of deciding who is singing an apopriate song for the Paltalk room are many. Including what happened one Friday Night at the Topic FC. Bob Dylan turned up to do a floor spot before he was famous. He was turned away because he had an Acoustic Guitar and this was a Traditional Club! I wonder if who ever it was that turned him away has ever lived it down! I bet his or her mistake drove them nutty (Sorry could not resist that)Its a minefield being an MC you have my simpathy even if and when you get it wrong. I refer you to an Old Yorkshire Saying " Them what never make's a Buggar make's Buggar all" Cheers


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 08:05 PM

Dang, Tyke, you're hot! Welcome to the Mudcat!

Sorry, gotta shout-- WELCOME TO THE MUDCAT!

~S~


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: Burke
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 08:33 PM

nutty, Sorry about your toe. Such a little thing that can hurt so much! Put it up & listen to some music.

Personally I'd prefer a narrow definition of folk, but for something like PalTalk you have to be more flexible. What was done that you thought did not fit?


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: Amergin
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 09:42 PM

How about if we discuss something that can actually be answered....like How many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll in the center of a tootsie pop....


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: poor lonesome boy
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 11:25 PM

100 bottles of beer on the wall. Everyone knows the words and the tune and nobody can remember how they learned them. Of course, nobody's gonna pay me to play it on a Friday night, so I'll stick to retuned acoustic Johnny Cash songs as a backup.


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: GUEST,Blind DRunk in Blind River
Date: 14 Feb 01 - 12:09 AM

It's 99 Bottles of Beer, loser!

Okay, so, like for a sereous questiobn like this, eh, ya gotta sit back, crack of cold one and think.

Okahy.

Well, I figger its' like music that comes from the folk, eh? and the folk are, like, losers cos they probably don't never listen to Ozzie or Guns n Roses or even Metallica, eh? The folk are either old geezers who lost their friggin brane cells in the 60's or else they are weerd chicks who where them stragne expensive kind of sandles...like Birkumstocks, eh? And they eat helatth food too, eh? Like that stuff...well, it's made of beans or something. you know? That white jiggly stuff. It's grooss!!1

Anwyway, maybe that's folk music.

So who flippin cares? Not me. I'm gonna have another beer instaed. I got real tired thinking about this wuqestion. UUURP! Pardon my French.

- BDiBR


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: Les from Hull
Date: 14 Feb 01 - 01:38 PM

Quick nurse - the screens! It's happening again.


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 14 Feb 01 - 04:00 PM

"Less" is right. I've been to Hull. :-D (sorry, I couldn't resist!)

- LH


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: Tyke
Date: 14 Feb 01 - 08:20 PM

Sorry my Dyslexica srikes again! My last controbution shoud have read I would NOT walk in or out of a folk club room whilst someone was singing.


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: Bill D
Date: 14 Feb 01 - 09:30 PM

since Alice posted those threads, I don't have to say anything..*BG*...almost everything I have said is in them, and I am the best authority.

(I don't always DO folk, but I know when I'm not *WINK*)


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Subject: RE: HELP -what is folk music?
From: GUEST,Fred
Date: 14 Feb 01 - 10:14 PM

I still like Tom Lehrer's line: "The problem with folk music is that it was written by the people."


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Subject: What is Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Amanda
Date: 17 Apr 02 - 07:15 PM

I am doing a essay on folk music for school, and I would like to know if some of you could help me out with what it is, what it is all about, and some of the most famous songs and/or artists. You help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks

- amanda


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Subject: RE: What is Folk Music?
From: Bill D
Date: 17 Apr 02 - 07:27 PM

better tell us what grade this is for, amanda...the type of answer you get will ....ummmmmm....vary..


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Subject: RE: What is Folk Music?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Apr 02 - 07:28 PM

You might start with this thread: folk


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Subject: RE: What is Folk Music?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 17 Apr 02 - 07:37 PM

Check here also


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Subject: Folklore: What is folk
From: GUEST,Zulu
Date: 02 Dec 06 - 05:56 PM

The question was asked again last night at MRFC and i think i know part of the answer.No not all the answers,but,just part of it.Is it how many names you can drop into the intro pre song?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What is folk
From: GUEST,ohnonotagain
Date: 02 Dec 06 - 06:00 PM

no.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What Is Folk?
From: GUEST,Zulu
Date: 03 Dec 06 - 02:48 PM

Well have i been to some other kind of clubs for the past 20 years then ?Could have sworn i heard at least 20 name drops per performer at the last Trad Folk club i went to.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What Is Folk?
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Dec 06 - 03:31 PM

What is folk? That which by any other name would be a rose.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What Is Folk?
From: Fidjit
Date: 03 Dec 06 - 05:19 PM

Someone mentioned Tom Lehrer.
Well. "We are the folk song army. Every one of us cares"

Chas


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What Is Folk?
From: Scrump
Date: 04 Dec 06 - 04:54 AM

My understanding is this: the definition of folk music is music that cannot be defined.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What Is Folk?
From: GUEST,Janine
Date: 04 Dec 06 - 10:28 AM

If I like it it's folk music: if I don't it isn't. Probably

Jan


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What Is Folk?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 04 Dec 06 - 01:33 PM

I've been studying folk music for many years. It seems to be a prism. It depends on which light you shine on it. Usually a definition would include that which is accessible to people, music that can be easilly reproduced by those who haven't studied music formally.

The issue of whether folk music is commercial or not is up in the air. There have been folk artists deemed traditional by folk music scholars (maybe an oxymoron here) that have made money at it.

Coming to it from the standpoint of a musical educator, I would say that it must be music that is easilly taught either by imitation or through having it in your cultural background.

But there is something to be said for folk music being morphed from popular music of the stage, or other media. Many of the folksongs that we know were originated as popular show pieces such as "Angeline the Baker" or "Old Dan Tucker".

The traditional ballads might have originated from epic poems by a single author and then played with or changed by others throughout the years.

I think the definition of what it is has expanded through the years and can't easilly be pinned down any more. You can't define it by a method of exclusion which seemed to be the way it was done in the Fifties and Sixties by various folk clubs and organizations with an agenda. Are the songs by Ewan McColl (AKA Jimmy Miller) typical of the folk tradition?
Some have a question about that. Ewan was a professional entertainer, actor, playwright.
Now take Pete Seeger who has been known to use thirteenth chords on his banjo accompaniments. Is he a folk singer? He eschews that term applied to himself these days.

So we have to look at the music from different standpoints. If it is music "of the people" then Irving Berlin would have to qualify. Somewhere in the world, a Berlin song is being played today. If folk music reflects a specific tradition of music then the parameters are narrowed to a particular sub-culture and that gets tricky too. Lomax in his use of "Cantrometics" attempted to show that there wasn't much variation in the early traditional country music singing styles of the US and the later commericialized approach   later.

Then you have to separate the performance from a song. When Doc Watson does "Over the Rainbow", has he suddenly stopped being a folk singer?

In short, we are playing around with semantics. The same discussion takes place amoung jazz musicians. Is jazz strictly improvisation or can arrangements of jazz by big bands be called "jazz" as well?

The problem is that when we use words to define music we run into all kinds of headaches. It may not be necessary to define folk music by sorting it out.

Maybe there is a relative basis here. Some songs or performers are more "folk-like" then being all or nothing.

At this point, I simply don't care any more. I like the performer/song or not and go with that.

The problem arises when academicians who have their agendas start dissecting music for their scholastic enterprise and some of this may be helpful and sometimes not.

If some would like to imprison music into certain parameters, that's OK if the rules of the game are understood by the participants.

In the meantime, let's just enjoy folk music whatever it is.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What Is Folk?
From: shepherdlass
Date: 05 Dec 06 - 07:55 AM

When I'm dealing with folk revivals for academic study, because I'm looking at revivals, I define folk music as what they chose to perform in folk clubs at a given time (leaving tradition - another vexed term - to define anything with a clear continuity to past non-revival players). But these are merely definitions of convenience - and I've always had to state them as such.

In the real world, outside these definitions, folk can be as broad or as narrow as you like. Almost everyone ("the folk"?) can sing a version of "Yesterday" or "Angels" ... are they folk songs? Or are only the popular songs that have lasted a century or so qualified? Then comparatively few people know even the more famous "folk" songs like "Mattie Groves" or "Hughie the Graeme" - so are they folk or traditional or are they now appropriated and adopted into art songs, even though they originated among "the folk"? Oh, these threads just tie you up in knots, and I'm feeling particularly knotted by now.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What Is Folk?
From: GUEST,JohnHenry
Date: 05 Dec 06 - 03:59 PM

folk music is the music of any peoples of any culture of anywhere. It is different to classical music but its also different to popular music. Folk music is any song sung, tapped, hummed, whistled or played on anything by anyone who isnt a professional musician. Thats not to say professional musicians dont or cant play folk as some of these people could be trained,its worth noting the 'Cultural Assets' policy run for quite some time now in South Korea where skilled musicians considered to be playing national music (and folk is national relative to the context whether pro or anti the location) are taken as cultural assets and required to teach a certain number of people their skills over a period of time. This could be seen as restrictive artistically but questions of aesthetics have no real place in folk music, its only people with comfort that question such things


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What Is Folk?
From: M.Ted
Date: 06 Dec 06 - 12:01 AM

If Pete Seeger eschews "folksinger", and Frank Hamilton doesn't care anymore, then it doesn't matter anymore.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What Is Folk?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 06 Dec 06 - 02:03 AM

don't think twice - it's all right


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What Is Folk?
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Dec 06 - 05:00 AM

m ted, sorry but if I go into a greengrocers and ask for potatoes ,Iexpect to get potatoes not tomatoes.
If I go to an evening of jazz I expect just that, not an evening of classical Music.
If i go to a folk club I have a fairly good idea of what to expect, PARTICUARLY IF THE ORGANISER CLARIFIES FURTHER eg contemporary singer with guitar etc.,personally I prefer Home made music   to the term Folk,    but we all know what folk music is APPROXIMATELY [even if its hard to define]FROM BLUES TO SEAN NOS it is quite a broad church.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What Is Folk?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 06 Dec 06 - 02:33 PM

'GUEST Frank Hamilton'
Do you describe Bob Dylan as 'Bob Dylan (AKA Robert Zimmerman'? Just wondering ...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What Is Folk?
From: Declan
Date: 06 Dec 06 - 04:38 PM

I'm re-entering a debate I told myself I wouldn't ever do again, but for what its worth my opinion is roughly as follows.

Labels are useful to point you at things you are likely to find interesting. For example if I go into a record shop with a Folk Music section, I expect I'll be more interested in what I find there than the stuff in the hip-hop section. Whether this is true or not depends on how knowledgable/diligent the shop staff are in filing their content. The same goes in choosing festivals. Once I go to the appropriate section I will make my choices based on what I find there and will not agonise over whether or not it meets someones definition of what is 'folk' or 'traditional'.

The term traditional has a specific meaning in copyright law which is useful in resolving legal disputes, but to me has no other meaning in classification of music.

In formal academic study people tend to define the meaning of the terms they use in the context of what they are writing. These will vary from time to time and from place to place. Given the 'revival' happened 30-40 years ago in the countries that needed a revival, the term revivalist is losing/has lost its meaning. The work of the early revivalists has passed through a couple of generations at this stage and probably merits classification as traditional as much as much of the music that was classified as trad by the early revivalists.

If a source singer who wrote/learned a song in the thirties was trad to someone in the 50s, surely a song from the 50s is trad to someone born in the nineties and singing/playing in the naughties.

To me the importance is whether the song is rooted in a style or tradition which can be described as folk or traditional. It may be of interest to academics to split hairs between calling something tradional or 'in' or 'of' the tradition, but I couldn't be bothered.

What matters to me is whether the tradition is in a healthy state and where I come from I am delighted to say this is the case. There are more young musicains in Ireland playing music in traditional styles (and many of them are more aware of this than people of earlier generations) than there were at the height of the so called revival.

To me the important thing is that the body of music (or song) is traditional rather than a particular tune or song. I love tradtional Irish music (and music from many other traditions considered folk or not). If the tune is a quality one in the tradition it doesn't matter to me whether it is a week old or hundreds of years - although I am delighted that some songs and tunes from those days have survived.

I'm off now to play some music, in a variety of styles, at my local session. And no one will care much what the source of the music is - as was very much the case when the original collectors went out collecting the songs/tunes.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What Is Folk?
From: Bill D
Date: 06 Dec 06 - 06:39 PM

ah, Captain Birdseye! A man with discernment! *smile* It IS a 'broad church', but there is much that does NOT belong in the pews.
---------------------------------------------------------------------

" Once I go to the appropriate section I will make my choices based on what I find there and will not agonise over whether or not it meets someones definition of what is 'folk' or 'traditional'."

This is reasonable unless the section is large and the store has vague ideas of categories, making the process of choosing tedious.

"... surely a song from the 50s is trad to someone born in the nineties and singing/playing in the naughties."

A dangerous distinction....Simply being a bit 'older' is not enough to
qualify something as truly 'trad'. There are a number of reasons to reserve some label for those 'older' songs or tunes which go back, (in style, subject matter, mode of presentation, mode of transmission...etc.) to the era before serious recording and 'commercial' music. It has nothing to do with 'good', and it is possible to play both 'trad' and 'sort of related to and derived from trad' in the same evening....but IF I wish to go to a concert and/or buy a CD of older stuff with a certain feel, it is helpful to have a label that assures me that's what I will get. Gradually subsuming more & more under 'folk' and 'trad' also gradually dilutes the categories until they lose most of their meaning.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What Is Folk?
From: GUEST,cecil. j . sharpe
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 03:27 PM

Oh shut up !!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What Is Folk?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 04:29 PM

Is Bob Dylan folk music? In one way yes. People are familiar with his work which is based as was Woody Guthrie on a body of traditional work. So this fits the theory of songs being changed to fit different times.

Does his songs resonate with a large population who likes to sing his songs? Sure.

Bob has done his homework in that he knows who the trad singers are who have influenced him.

He is also a popular music singer and does this take him out of the trad folk category?
Don't think so. A lot of early country folk musicians such as the Carter Family sold lots of recordings in their time.

So we have to expand the definition of folk music as again the prism.

This doesn't mean we have to exclude the traditional field recorded singers or players.

What this all means is that we have to open our ears and minds to include the idea that anything that appeals to a large population might be a form of folk music if it is accessible in terms of being able to be reproduced by easilly by real people.

In this way rock might well be folk. If enough kids can sit down and make music in different settings with the same songs that are recognizable and easilly played...well it's the "people's music".

We have to get used to the idea that not all folk music is really good. Some of it is doggerel...bowlderized to such a degree that it has become incomprehensible over time. Some of it may require too many footnotes to communicate.

One of the hallmarks is that it may not be confined to one way of doing it. Lyrics and tunes can grow, change through time by a communal process. This is one definition of folk which again is a way of looking at it.

It might defy copyright laws if it is to survive as folk over a long period of time.

It's the old "blind men and the elephant" game. It depends on which part of the anatomy we are "looking" at.

Dylan would have to be placed alongside of Woody since both derived their songwriting from traditional sources as did A.P. Carter or Leadbelly. Are they folk singers? Why not?

That said, many art and pop singers are out of the loop. They may have imitators but they are too sophisticated or highly specialized to be accessible to everyone who wants to perform their songs.

Folk=people. Songs that everyone can somehow participate in their recreation.
I think the part of folk music that I believe defines it is its accessibility.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What Is Folk?
From: GUEST,Cecil.J.Sharpe
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 05:31 PM

I'm buggered if I know, or care for that matter music is music man!!!! 'When it hits you feel no pain' Bob Marley, folk singer


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What Is Folk?
From: Bill D
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 05:51 PM

why, Cecil! And I have always held you in the highest esteem! *grin*

"music is music".....indeed! So if I advertise a concert saying there going to be "music", you'll be right over?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What Is Folk?
From: M.Ted
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 07:51 PM

Captain Birdseye, if you have to ask whether something is a potato or not--well, you deserve whatever the fellow gives you;-)

At any rate, I like what Frank Hamilton has to say--I am very interested in the things that are derived from tradtional/folkloric sources-

I also make careful note of this comment "I'm off now to play some music, in a variety of styles, at my local session. And no one will care much what the source of the music is"-as it seems to be true that those who are part of a living tradition define the tradition as something that exists in the present--even though they may be aware of it's past, and also of what is and isn't part of the tradition--


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What Is Folk?
From: Tim theTwangler
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 10:40 PM

Jeez how many more times will there be enough bored and sufficiently anal catters to go through all this again.
Folk music is what I say it is you are all wrong and so am I.
The constant navel gazing about it is a waste of energy just go somewhere and do it.
If we all spent as much time writing and performing and listening to the stuff as we do discusing what it is we might have some decent music on the radios and Tv,s of the world instead of the stuff that gets out there because there is a dollar to be made by some person who neither write perfoms listens or cares what folk music is.
Next topic
WHich is the best guitar to buy?
I allready own......Blah blah blah!!!!!!!


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