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What IS Folk Music?

Related threads:
What is a Folk Song? (292)
Who Defines 'Folk'???? (287)
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Still wondering what's folk these days? (145)
What makes a new song a folk song? (1710)
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Charmain 12 Mar 07 - 05:53 PM
katlaughing 12 Mar 07 - 05:55 PM
Stringsinger 12 Mar 07 - 06:03 PM
Charmain 12 Mar 07 - 06:10 PM
Andy Jackson 12 Mar 07 - 06:10 PM
terrier 12 Mar 07 - 06:10 PM
Peace 12 Mar 07 - 06:11 PM
Jeri 12 Mar 07 - 06:13 PM
Old Grizzly 12 Mar 07 - 06:14 PM
Peace 12 Mar 07 - 06:16 PM
terrier 12 Mar 07 - 06:29 PM
Tootler 12 Mar 07 - 06:45 PM
Jim Lad 12 Mar 07 - 06:58 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 12 Mar 07 - 06:59 PM
Stewart 12 Mar 07 - 07:05 PM
Nancy King 12 Mar 07 - 07:08 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 12 Mar 07 - 07:17 PM
Don Firth 12 Mar 07 - 07:43 PM
GUEST,Greycap 12 Mar 07 - 07:47 PM
Bee 12 Mar 07 - 08:05 PM
PoppaGator 12 Mar 07 - 11:09 PM
greg stephens 13 Mar 07 - 07:12 AM
bubblyrat 13 Mar 07 - 07:27 AM
Dave Sutherland 13 Mar 07 - 07:38 AM
Scrump 13 Mar 07 - 07:39 AM
pirandello 13 Mar 07 - 09:15 AM
Kevin Sheils 13 Mar 07 - 09:40 AM
The Shambles 13 Mar 07 - 09:46 AM
Scoville 13 Mar 07 - 10:11 AM
Lox 13 Mar 07 - 10:21 AM
Scrump 13 Mar 07 - 10:21 AM
Scoville 13 Mar 07 - 10:25 AM
Bill D 13 Mar 07 - 10:46 AM
Scrump 13 Mar 07 - 10:48 AM
Scoville 13 Mar 07 - 11:04 AM
Stringsinger 13 Mar 07 - 11:10 AM
Scoville 13 Mar 07 - 11:14 AM
Scrump 13 Mar 07 - 11:33 AM
Dazbo 13 Mar 07 - 11:37 AM
Scrump 13 Mar 07 - 12:32 PM
The Sandman 13 Mar 07 - 02:00 PM
GUEST,lox 13 Mar 07 - 02:37 PM
GUEST,M.Ted 13 Mar 07 - 04:03 PM
Scoville 13 Mar 07 - 04:10 PM
Charmain 13 Mar 07 - 06:31 PM
Richard Bridge 13 Mar 07 - 07:50 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 14 Mar 07 - 04:37 AM
Scrump 14 Mar 07 - 05:29 AM
Dazbo 14 Mar 07 - 05:43 AM
GUEST,Crag Rat 14 Mar 07 - 06:09 AM
Scrump 14 Mar 07 - 06:25 AM
GUEST,Crag Rat 14 Mar 07 - 06:47 AM
pirandello 14 Mar 07 - 07:44 AM
Scrump 14 Mar 07 - 08:10 AM
Richard Bridge 14 Mar 07 - 10:16 AM
Richard Bridge 14 Mar 07 - 10:38 AM
GUEST, Grimmy 14 Mar 07 - 10:40 AM
Scrump 14 Mar 07 - 10:40 AM
Richard Bridge 14 Mar 07 - 10:45 AM
GUEST, Grimmy 14 Mar 07 - 10:45 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 14 Mar 07 - 10:54 AM
Richard Bridge 14 Mar 07 - 11:01 AM
Scrump 14 Mar 07 - 11:09 AM
GUEST,Guest Baz 14 Mar 07 - 11:09 AM
GUEST,Scoville at scanner 14 Mar 07 - 11:12 AM
GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz 14 Mar 07 - 11:21 AM
Peace 14 Mar 07 - 11:26 AM
Scrump 14 Mar 07 - 11:35 AM
GUEST,Baz 14 Mar 07 - 11:47 AM
GUEST, Grimmy 14 Mar 07 - 11:51 AM
Richard Bridge 14 Mar 07 - 11:54 AM
GUEST, Grimmy 14 Mar 07 - 12:03 PM
dick greenhaus 14 Mar 07 - 01:09 PM
GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz 14 Mar 07 - 03:03 PM
GUEST,lox 14 Mar 07 - 04:32 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 14 Mar 07 - 05:13 PM
GUEST,IknowwhatIlike 14 Mar 07 - 05:20 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 14 Mar 07 - 05:24 PM
GUEST,lox 14 Mar 07 - 07:21 PM
Richard Bridge 15 Mar 07 - 02:11 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 15 Mar 07 - 04:59 AM
Scrump 15 Mar 07 - 05:11 AM
GUEST, Grimmy 15 Mar 07 - 06:06 AM
GUEST,lox 15 Mar 07 - 08:03 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 15 Mar 07 - 09:02 AM
Grimmy 15 Mar 07 - 09:51 AM
GUEST,Jim 15 Mar 07 - 10:23 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 15 Mar 07 - 11:00 AM
Scrump 15 Mar 07 - 11:25 AM
Grimmy 15 Mar 07 - 11:31 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 15 Mar 07 - 05:37 PM
GUEST,Jim 15 Mar 07 - 05:45 PM
PoppaGator 15 Mar 07 - 06:45 PM
GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz 15 Mar 07 - 07:06 PM
GUEST,M.Ted 15 Mar 07 - 07:49 PM
GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz 15 Mar 07 - 10:13 PM
Lonesome EJ 15 Mar 07 - 10:20 PM
PoppaGator 15 Mar 07 - 11:48 PM
Lonesome EJ 15 Mar 07 - 11:57 PM
PoppaGator 16 Mar 07 - 12:14 AM
Malcolm Douglas 16 Mar 07 - 12:54 AM
Richard Bridge 16 Mar 07 - 02:17 AM
Scrump 16 Mar 07 - 05:12 AM
Scrump 16 Mar 07 - 05:33 AM
Richard Bridge 16 Mar 07 - 06:13 AM
Grimmy 16 Mar 07 - 07:07 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 16 Mar 07 - 08:13 AM
PoppaGator 16 Mar 07 - 12:52 PM
Ruth Archer 16 Mar 07 - 01:15 PM
GUEST, Mikefule 16 Mar 07 - 01:20 PM
Charmain 19 Mar 07 - 09:55 AM
The Sandman 19 Mar 07 - 10:44 AM
Mr Happy 19 Mar 07 - 10:49 AM
GUEST 20 Mar 07 - 03:25 AM
Scrump 20 Mar 07 - 04:15 AM
Scrump 20 Mar 07 - 04:20 AM
Charmain 20 Mar 07 - 05:27 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 20 Mar 07 - 01:55 PM
GUEST 21 Mar 07 - 02:50 AM
MikeofNorthumbria 21 Mar 07 - 08:17 AM
The Sandman 21 Mar 07 - 05:28 PM
GUEST,Sparticus 21 Mar 07 - 05:57 PM
GUEST 22 Mar 07 - 03:38 PM
The Sandman 22 Mar 07 - 04:11 PM
GUEST 23 Mar 07 - 03:58 AM
Richard Bridge 23 Mar 07 - 04:11 AM
Scrump 23 Mar 07 - 09:32 AM
Stringsinger 23 Mar 07 - 07:34 PM
Murray MacLeod 23 Mar 07 - 07:37 PM
Rog Peek 13 Apr 07 - 08:09 AM
Tootler 13 Apr 07 - 04:38 PM
The Sandman 13 Apr 07 - 05:17 PM
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Subject: What IS Folk Music?
From: Charmain
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 05:53 PM

Quite often when reading threads I see people writing that this or that performer is not really playing "folk" music. So what I'm asking is - What IS folk music?
Is it just traditional stuff or just stuff played with certain instruments or is there a more technical definition to do with structures or rhythms or subject matter?

To paraphrase the late lamented John Peel (bless his soul):
Never quite understood the definition of folk music or world music - isn't all music played by folk for folk in the world?

I'd be interested to hear what people think...


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: katlaughing
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 05:55 PM

Here's one Can o'worms. **big smile**


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 06:03 PM

It's music that has been handed down through the generations and is accessible, not so complicated so folks can play and learn it quickly.

It is not an academic excercise in exclusivity.

It generally isn't complicated like jazz, classical or swing music.

It lives because of a natural selection. (You could say it was a "meme")

There are different kinds of folk music because there are different cultures.

It isn't rocket science. Generally, you can recognize it when you hear it.

The more complicated it becomes, the less folk it is.

It generally has lyrics that tell a story. (Narrative ballads etc.)

Now the problem will be when you ask the next question. What is a folk singer?
That's the real can of worms, right there.

Frank


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Charmain
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 06:10 PM

Ok - but what about new folk music - surely there has to be some someday - otherwise its just the same stuff all the time -
Where do you draw the line for according something the title of being folk music?
Do you have to give something 20 years and have people mistake it for trad before it is folk music?


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Andy Jackson
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 06:10 PM

Think I'll just chuck in one of favorite sayings
"Today is tomorrow's rose coloured yesterday"
and leave it at that.

Andy


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: terrier
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 06:10 PM

Listen to some music. Try and place it in a certain genre,ie pop,beat,rock,indie,boy band, girl band, whatever you like, there's plenty to choose from. If you can't place it in one of these, then it's probably folk, but don't tell anyone or else you'll have an arguement on your hands. Probably the best person to ask WAS John Peel.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Peace
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 06:11 PM

It is the music I like.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Jeri
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 06:13 PM

A enigma, wrapped in a conundrum, wrapped in a riddle, onna stick.

Seriously, the more people argue about this, the more I think it's anything horses don't sing. Genres are categories invented for people to communicate. These days, if someone says they like 'folk', it's impossible to know if they like listening to Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen or Ewan McColl or the Copper family.

I think there ARE traditional songs and tunes, but they all got into the tradition somehow. I'm of the 'throw it at the wall and see what sticks' school of thought. We sing what we like and whether it has any meaningful shelf life isn't really up to us, but whoever's next in the chain. If categories get in the way of fun, they aren't worth it.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Old Grizzly
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 06:14 PM

What is folk music ?

Why is custard yellow ?


I doubt I'll ever get a clear answer :o)

Dave


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Peace
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 06:16 PM

I could help with the custard question, but you likely wouldn't want to know.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: terrier
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 06:29 PM

Jeri, I take it that this isn't Folk Music   ;-)


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Tootler
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 06:45 PM

On a forum like this you will get definitions that refer to things like tunes (songs) with no known author, oral transmission, songs that have been subjected to a kind of Darwinian selection known as the "folk process" etc. etc.

Then you go to a folk club and, yes a great many of the songs that are sung have been composed by that most prolific of authors "Trad". But the rest of the songs sung have been composed within living memory and their authors are known.

At that point you shrug your shoulders and settle back to enjoy the music.

Oh! and don't forget, you too can take your turn to sing a song - or play a tune, if that is your preference.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 06:58 PM

(((The more complicated it becomes, the less folk it is.))) I like that one, Stringsinger.

"Folk" is the nice music that doesn't annoy me.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 06:59 PM

Or even write one, for you will hear plenty of those at almost every club, and some of them are damn good. Yours might be as good or better, who can tell?

Don T.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Stewart
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 07:05 PM

Then when someone asks you what kind of music you play, does the answer "folk music" have any meaning. How do you explain it? Or do you even try? Just play the music!

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Nancy King
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 07:08 PM

As for the question of new music, consider the phrase Mary Cliff (who has hosted a folk music program on public radio for many years) uses to describe the stuff she plays: "Traditional music and music in the tradition." By that she means both the old stuff and newer stuff that sounds like the old stuff.

Seriously, there are several very strict definitions of "folk" or "traditional" music, and we've hashed them out repeatedly (ad nauseum, even), as you can see if you read some of the threads katlaughing linked to. Perhaps the strictest definition is music that has been passed down in the oral tradition (i.e., not written down) until its origins are obscured in the mists of time. But nowadays that doesn't happen -- technology has made it possible for huge quantities of music to be recorded and thus heard by a far wider audience than the troubadours of old could reach, and we know who wrote a lot of it. To me, that just means the old "folk process" of passing songs along has been speeded up and opened to a wider audience. So much the better, I say. Of course the bad gets recorded along with the good, but it's the good stuff that people remember and learn and pass along.

Stringsinger outlined some of the characteristics of folk music (simple, uncomplicated, etc.), and noted that it lasts because of a kind of natural selection. That's pretty much right, as far as it goes -- and I don't think I want to go a whole lot further, except to say that there are lots of other kinds of "folk" music besides the narrative ballads he mentioned (work songs, lullabyes, nonsense songs, to name a few). When Mary said "music in the tradition," she meant music that respects and emulates the sound and style of the old, traditional music passed down from generation to generation in the old-fashioned way.

Does that help at all?

Nancy


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 07:17 PM

According to the marketing 'geniuses', in my local record shops, Folk is anything acoustic (apart from 'Folk Rock', of course)but excluding (acoustic) 'Country', 'Blues' and 'World', plus anything that doesn't fit into any other category, like Welsh Military bands.

I hope that's clear?

It isn't clear to me, but what do I know?

So ignore marketing people and any idiot who tries to tell you that there is "no accepted definition of Folk" (these are usually people who are desperate to play Rock Music in Folk Clubs) and read some of the zillions of threads on this Board, some of which give very clear definitions and explanations of what Folk Music is. And, no, most Rock/Pop Music probably won't be the "Folk Music of tomorrow".


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Don Firth
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 07:43 PM

Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803), a Prussian-born poet, critic, theologian, and philosopher, is the first person (as far as anyone knows) to use the term "volkslieder"—folk songs. He was referring to songs of the "rural, peasant class," and he recommended that composers collect and study this music as a means of helping them make their own compositions have a more regional or national character, thus giving their music some roots.

Back then, most people knew what kind of music von Herder was talking about.

But "rural, peasant class?" In this day and age, and in this country, we don't like to think of society being stratified into classes. This is a democracy, isn't it? Therefore, there are no classes. Especially a "rural, peasant class!" Dear me, NO! We can't have that sort of thing, now can we? Aren't we all "just plain folks?"

Thus, one gets non-definitions like "folk songs are the songs folks sing." Or the comment often attributed to Big Bill Broonzy when asked if a particular song was a folk song:    "Well, I've never heard it sung by a horse!" Or the ever popular introduction you hear at open mikes:   "This is a folk song I wrote yesterday when I was riding home on the bus."

There is a body of songs that are "traditional" or "folk songs." But these days, no one seems to be able to agree on where the boundaries are. I think most people would agree that a Child ballad is a folk song. And they would generally agree that "La donna e mobile" from Verdi's Rigoletto or the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah or "Wouldn't it be Loverly?" from Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady are not folk songs, even if they are regularly sung by human beings rather than four-legged livestock.

But are the songs Bob Dylan wrote "folk songs?" Or Woody Guthrie's songs? Or Tom Paxton's? How about "Greensleeves," which many people believe to be the quintessential English folk song (background music in a lot of movies when they want to evoke rural, pastorale England)? I have seen little evidence that "Greensleeves" was sung much by von Herder's "rural, peasant class' or that it meets the criteria usually set by ethnomusicologists to classify it as a folk song rather than an art song.

Where will the new folk songs come from? Anybody's guess. Just about any song can become a folk song if enough people learn it and sing it simply because they like it for some reason. And my bet is that the "folk song" that was written on the bus the day before singing it at the open mike probably won't make the cut, unless it appeals to enough people who learn it and sing it, and it continues to be learned and sung by more people over a substantial period of time.

What is folk music? As "Deep Thought," the monster computer in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy said when asked "What is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?"    "Hmm. Tricky."

If anything and everything can fit the definition of "folk music," then "folk music" has no real definition. A definition specifies that something is this, but not this, this, and even this.

For now, I guess about the best one can do is figure that folk music is whatever is found on the CDs you find in the bin marked "Folk Music" at your favorite record store.

And I pretty much agree with what GUEST,Shimrod says just above.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Greycap
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 07:47 PM

I know it when I hear it - I've got 47 years of interest & experience backing me up. 'Course, I'm sometimes wrong, like most people.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Bee
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 08:05 PM

If I can sing it, it's probably folk music, or well on its way. If I can play it on guitar, it's definitely folk music, 'cause I can't play anything more complicated (and damn those complicated folk tunes, anyway, like that #@%$&#*@ Night Herding Song, which I've now got two sets of chords for, neither of which works with the only tune I've heard, must be only cowboys allowed to sing it).


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 11:09 PM

THIS again???

There are so many different opinions, and my own is so different from that of most of the rest of you, that I won't even bother to try nailing it down. (Well, not at first, anyway.)

Regardless of a given person's prejudice, er, I mean, opinion, the term "folk" music normally makes some reference to musical expression that grows (or once grew) naturally out of some culture, i.e., some community of real people, and has some relationship to a living or dead "tradition."

I find myself interested in many discussions of "folk music," including the contributions of folks whose definition is very much different from my own, because I can apply their insights to the often-very-different traditions in which I am most interested. My understanding of what some such people have to say may be entirely different from what they had intended to communicate, in cases where their idea of "folk music" is nothing at all like my own, but it often leads to extremely interesting and valid conclusions.

As a New Orleanian, I have a number of favorite grassroots musical traditions. Some involve brass instruments; others are built around electric guitars and drums, and still others feature dissonant vocal chants accompanied only by the simplest percussion instruments. And, oh yeah, then there's the sound of huge gospel choirs accompanied by pipe organs, electric pianos, and rock-style rhythm sections.

As an Irish-American, I have a degree of interest (if not expertise) in deeply "traditional" Irish folk music, where songs are unaccompanied and instrumental tunes are never sung; also in more modernized versions of music from the same tradition, often performed along with contemporaray compositions in similar styles; and even in the most vilified, commercial, Americanized, sentimentally Irish songs like those popularized by, say, Bing Crosby. And just as I entertain an interest in this very broad spectrum of Irish music, I enjoy at least as wide a variety of American folk and popular song.

Years ago, when I was fresh out of college, I applied for a position at Rolling Stone magazine as a very simon-pure enthusiast of traditional blues music. The editor who interviewed me suggested I contact one of their freelance "stringers" who fairly regularly published articles about his own various quirky musical interests; maybe I would get a better idea of how to put together something I might be able to sell to the magazine. (An actual salaried position was obviously out of the question, at least for the moment.) The guy was very friendly and very interesting, but at the time I just couldn't accept the premise for his latest project: he was intent upon promoting the idea that Dick Dale's electric "surfer" guitar sound was a valid, genuine, American folk-music genre.

Even though I had long been willing to accept electric blues guitar as part of a genuine "folk" tradition, I was unable to buy into electric surf music as anything remotely comparable.

Now that I'm much older and hopefully at least a little bit wiser, I've come to believe that my would-be writing mentor was exactly correct: for my money, now, surfer-style rock ~ and indeed all forms of live "garage-band" rock 'n' roll ~ does indeed belong to a living musical tradition. And any insights that might apply to one tradition can validly ~ and quite interestingly ~ be applied to another tradition, even one that very few people would characterize as "folk." Hell, it's usually especially interesting to apply the insights of a "folk-music" discussion to an upstart or unconventional musical tradition.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: greg stephens
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 07:12 AM

Sure some music composed today will bec ome the folk music of tomorrow, but you'd need to be pretty clever to predict which songs/tunes would make it. Go down to your nearest garden centre, open all the seed packets, pour contents on the floor and then stir well. Most people would have extreme difficulty picking out the primrose seeds.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: bubblyrat
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 07:27 AM

Folk Music is what you want it to be !!---That"s the beauty of it.People can,and do,have all sorts of notions and opinions about it, but put them all in a room together, lubricate well with oil of oblivion, then commence to play some song that everybody loves to hate, and listen to them all join in with it !! That"s what Folk Music is !!


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 07:38 AM

Bert Lloyd often stated that is was as easy to define a folk song as it was to pinpoint the exact moment that dawn breaks and night turns into day.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scrump
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 07:39 AM

To me, folk music is what I define it to be.

To you, folk music is what you define it to be.

Some of what I think is folk music, you also think is folk music, but some of what I think is folk music, you don't think is folk music. And vice versa.

There's no problem with that, until I mention something that I think is folk music, and you don't think is folk music. Then we get into a bloody great argument. So it's best not to ask what folk music is, but as others have said, just enjoy listening to it and playing or singing it.

:-)


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: pirandello
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 09:15 AM

Shimrod, what you probably have forgotten is that what we call 'folk' today was the pop music of its time.
You might not like the idea but some of todays great songwriters like Bruce Springsteen and Townes Van Zandt will doubtless become the folk heroes of the future.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Kevin Sheils
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 09:40 AM

W B Yeats wrote the following about Folk Art, which of course includes Folk Music.

"Folk-art is indeed the oldest of the aristocracies of thought, and because it refuses what is passing and trivial, the merely clever and pretty, as certainly as the vulgar and insincere, and because it has gathered into itself the simplest and most unforgettable thoughts of the generations, it is the soil where all art is rooted"

Now as a starting point that's good enough for me. Of course you can manage to fit much into that broad definition, but it certainly gives pointers as to what to leave out.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: The Shambles
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 09:46 AM

House of Commons
May 8 2003

Dr. Howells:
I shall tread carefully, given the adult and fascinating debates that I have had with representatives of the folk music industry. I have thought a great deal about the matter over the intervening period, and I always worry about the definition of folk music.

Does some kid singing about the fact that he can't get no satisfaction in the late 20th century constitute a reflection on the quality of his life at a certain point in history? Is that any less valid than somebody who sings about canal boatmen, and the problems that they suffer because they cannot reach their sweethearts, in the 19th century? I always worry about such distinctions, not because I am doubtful of the validity and beauty of folk music—


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scoville
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 10:11 AM

Please, please, please, do a search and read some of the older threads before we start beating this particular dead horse again.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Lox
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 10:21 AM

It's when no one will let you in their band, so you take your songs and your guitar down to a pub where known accordionists, bodhranists and banjoists lurk dangerously in a corner.

You then get pissed out of your skull so that you can enjoy the resulting din, before going home to post some nonsense in the BS section of the Mudcat.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scrump
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 10:21 AM

Please, please, please, do a search and read some of the older threads before we start beating this particular dead horse again.

But beating the dead horse didn't do any good, on the umpteen previous times it was done. So what good would that do? :-)


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scoville
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 10:25 AM

Well, it won't do any more good this time around, will it?


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Bill D
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 10:46 AM

Why, it's very simple...just do a search of the Mudcat forum for MY name, mostly before 2001, and you'll know all you need to...*grin*.

But what it is NOT is "whatever anyone wants it to mean" ....if you are going to use a word, it's got to have some meaning narrow enough to be useful, else it means almost nothing. It's just a practical matter. 'Antique' collectors have basic definitions of what is 'antique', and people who cook BBQ have rules and definitions of types of BBQ. Other kinds of music, (opera, madrigal, Dixeland...etc.) are reasonably clear....why does "folk" need to be so broad as to mean anything anyone wishes?


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scrump
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 10:48 AM

I'm not so sure, Scoville. Maybe someone new here who wasn't around last time. might have some fascinating new insights into the subject.

Well, it may be unlikely, but you never know...

[Sorry Scoville - I just realised my previous posting might have offended you. I'm sorry, it wasn't meant that way, and I was careless enough not to realise it at the time. I did put a ":-)" in though!]


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scoville
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 11:04 AM

why does "folk" need to be so broad as to mean anything anyone wishes?

I don't think anyone said it did, it's just that there are a lot of definitions being tossed around that are more restrictive than either necessary or fair. Actually, even if you take out what most agree is NOT folk (opera, Mozart, the Spice Girls), even that narrows it down past "anything anyone wishes".

I don't expect there ever to be a consensus about this but everyone is going to have a different viewpoint based on preferences and experiences that is going to conflict with somebody else's preferences and experiences, so asking an open-ended question like, "What is folk" is like popping popcorn with the lid off. Chaos ensues. We've done this over and over again: Is blues folk? Is bluegrass folk? Is rap folk? I've been told they are and that they are not, but where I live I can assure you they most certainly are, by qualifiers that most people here seem to think are the most important. So I say "yes" because that's my experience (if not my preference; I can't stand rap). There's a lot of the Folk Revival that I'm pretty sure is pop but that others will swear is folk. I disagree but, OK; obviously it means different things to us.

As my old boss would say, "It's a bit like a wild bull--you can get him in the corral but you may never get the ring in his nose," meaning that you may have to settle for narrowing it down rather than defining it to a T.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 11:10 AM

Charmain,

The definition of folk means it has to be around awhile and picked up. It has to be accepted and recognized. Just someone writing a song doesn't make it a folk song. Some day many popular songs will become folk songs as people accept them and make them their own.
Remember that a lot of popular songs require a production value from a recording. Earlier show songs or movie songs are too complicated to really be folk for the most part. Some songs like "Over the Rainbow" or "Blue Skies" are good candidates for future folk songs.
You draw the line when people pick up the songs in a couple of decades or more. It has to be mellowed by time. And usually there are different versions of the song called "variants".
But to say just because someone composes a song, it automatically becomes a "folk song" is silly.

Don Firth,

There is a rural peasant class and a working class today. As you say, it does exist in America and people are aware of it. This is supposed to be a democracy but we know that there are class lines and distinctions based on economics and education.

Big Bill's simplistic comment has confused people. i think when nailed to the wall, people would agree that contemporary pop songs or show, opera, etc. are not folk songs.

Some songs really reach large audiences and have gone into the area of folk songs. This Land Is Your Land is known throughout the world by schoolchildren of all ages. Country Roads was popular in many countries and might qualify easilly.

Greensleeves was essentially a show song in the time of Shakespeare. Was it sung by a peasant class? Could have been as many of the early songs the troubadors from Europe were picked up by rural classes. Greensleeves actually has variants. It was repopularized by Ralph Vaughan Williams but it remains in various tunes.

Dylan, Paxton don't yet qualify. Guthrie, maybe now since "This Land". Popularity of a song for a brief time doesn't give it folk status. Years from now, inconceivable as it may sound to wild-eyed officianados, Dylan's songs might be forgotten or place on an epochal back burner. Then again, "Imagine" might just take off and be remembered eras from now.Who can predict?   Not me.

One thing though, a folk song defies copyright. Why? Because one of the definitions is that it gets changed and reworked. It gets played and replayed and people who play it change it when it becomes relevant to do so.

I think that the reason it is defined at all is that people recognize it for being a folk song or at least a song written in a folk-style. In order to write convincingly in a folk-style, you have to know what a folk song is, sung them and lived with them. As great songwriters as Dylan or Paxton are, there is considerable doubt in my mind that they have written folk songs that stand the test of time. All you can say it we'll see.

But Barbara Allen is a folk song. It has many variants and has changed hands so many times that you can pick it up in different parts of the country or world.

I care about what folk songs are because I recognized the difference between them and art songs, show songs, recently composed songs and if you care to pin me down, I can tell you the difference in terms of music and lyric.

I think the closest to folk music maybe dirty street rhymes, schoolyard chants..."There's a place in France....", "glory Hallelujah, teacher hit me with a ruler" etc. and stuff associated with work or "Sound Off" from the army. Sometimes sayings get incorporated into songs.

In time, maybe the garage band tunes can become folk tunes. Is the style of playing "folk"? Well, when you get into the subject of what is a "folk performance"...now the waters become muddied. When Doc Watson does "Over The Rainbow", is it a folk song because he does it? I don't think so. (Yip Harburg would raise hell if you thought so.)
Most of the garage band doggerel isn't folk doggerel yet. Why? Because not enough people recognize those tunes and haven't assimilated them completely into their cultures.

So what are the lyrical and musical characteristics of a folk song? The lyrics are in process. They change. The tunes are messed with and sometimes messed up but change.
A song from the British Isles can wind up as an African-American work chant. Ex. Lowlands.

Sam Hinton put it best. A folk song in print or on a record is like a picture of a bird in flight.

Also, watch it when someone claims authorship of a folk song. That's really easy to do and they can clamp a copyright on it. John Jacob Niles apparently delighted in suing those who thought his songs were trad. On the other hand, he re-wrote some of those songs and claimed a copyright.

The Lomaxes copyrighted a lot of the songs they collected. Alan's rationale was that he was keeping the songs from being appropriated by folk-style songwriters looking for copyrights. He said he wanted to "protect" them.

"Streets of Laredo"/"St. James Hospital"/"St. James Infirmary"

"Rockin' The Cradle"/"Whoopee Ti Yi Yo

"Robert Kidd"/"Sam Hall"/"What Wondrous Love is This"

Others with many variants such as "Springfield Mountain"
"Ten Nights Drunk", "Katy Cruel", "Edward", "Geordie"......all defy copyrights and don't count as Art Songs, Pop Songs, Show Songs, Movie Songs...etc.

If Bing Crosby or Elvis sing a folk song, is it still a folk song? I think so.

If a tree falls in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, I say it's still a folk song.

Frank Hamilton




















I find myself interested in many discussions of "folk music," including the contributions of folks whose definition is very much different from my own, because I can apply their insights to the often-very-different traditions in which I am most interested. My understanding of what some such people have to say may be entirely different from what they had intended to communicate, in cases where their idea of "folk music" is nothing at all like my own, but it often leads to extremely interesting and valid conclusions.

As a New Orleanian, I have a number of favorite grassroots musical traditions. Some involve brass instruments; others are built around electric guitars and drums, and still others feature dissonant vocal chants accompanied only by the simplest percussion instruments. And, oh yeah, then there's the sound of huge gospel choirs accompanied by pipe organs, electric pianos, and rock-style rhythm sections.

As an Irish-American, I have a degree of interest (if not expertise) in deeply "traditional" Irish folk music, where songs are unaccompanied and instrumental tunes are never sung; also in more modernized versions of music from the same tradition, often performed along with contemporaray compositions in similar styles; and even in the most vilified, commercial, Americanized, sentimentally Irish songs like those popularized by, say, Bing Crosby. And just as I entertain an interest in this very broad spectrum of Irish music, I enjoy at least as wide a variety of American folk and popular song.

Years ago, when I was fresh out of college, I applied for a position at Rolling Stone magazine as a very simon-pure enthusiast of traditional blues music. The editor who interviewed me suggested I contact one of their freelance "stringers" who fairly regularly published articles about his own various quirky musical interests; maybe I would get a better idea of how to put together something I might be able to sell to the magazine. (An actual salaried position was obviously out of the question, at least for the moment.) The guy was very friendly and very interesting, but at the time I just couldn't accept the premise for his latest project: he was intent upon promoting the idea that Dick Dale's electric "surfer" guitar sound was a valid, genuine, American folk-music genre.

Even though I had long been willing to accept electric blues guitar as part of a genuine "folk" tradition, I was unable to buy into electric surf music as anything remotely comparable.

Now that I'm much older and hopefully at least a little bit wiser, I've come to believe that my would-be writing mentor was exactly correct: for my money, now, surfer-style rock ~ and indeed all forms of live "garage-band" rock 'n' roll ~ does indeed belong to a living musical tradition. And any insights that might apply to one tradition can validly ~ and quite interestingly ~ be applied to another tradition, even one that very few people would characterize as "folk." Hell, it's usually especially interesting to apply the insights of a "folk-music" discussion to an upstart or unconventional musical tradition.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scoville
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 11:14 AM

None taken, Scrump. I should have put a ;-) after mine, too.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scrump
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 11:33 AM

The problem is that even the erudite statements made by Stringsinger above would not be agreed by everyone. That's just his view, and of course he is entitled to it. But he should not expect everyone else to agree (and he probably doesn't!)

The trouble starts when people give their definition of folk music as fact, when it's only their opinion. That's why I said, it's best not to try too hard to define it, because for every one person that agrees with you, there will usually be several who don't.

I think it's true to say (IMO of course!) that certain types of music or songs would be agreed as being folk, by most people (but again, I expect not all!). Then there are lots of other types of music that some would call folk, and some would not. The line between the 'generally agreed' part and the 'not generally agreed' part is difficult, if not impossible, to define.

For example, many people would consider Guthrie, Dylan and Paxton as folk singers, and (some of) their songs as folk songs, unlike Stringsinger.

If Bing Crosby or Elvis sing a folk song, is it still a folk song? I think so.

Yes, I agree. The song is still a folk song. A 'pop' performance of a song doesn't change that fact (IMO!)


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Dazbo
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 11:37 AM

But you can't go wrong if you follow this: "It's what I (Dazbo) says it is - if anyone else disagrees they are wrong"

Dead simple really






It's like art. Art is what ever the artist says is art.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scrump
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 12:32 PM

Yes, Damien Hirst thinks shite is art (probably literally) :-)


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 02:00 PM

folk music is the music, that I enjoy singing.http://www.dickmiles.com


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,lox
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 02:37 PM

If you look in a dictionary, under many words you can find a numbered list of definitions.

So to argue the point over whose definition is right or wrong seems more about self importance than about helping to improve our understanding.

Pehaps there are several definitions, which don't have to be tied together by a common principle?


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,M.Ted
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 04:03 PM

I generally agree with Frank--my addition is that there are a lot of living music traditions that many people who consider themselves experts on folk music know nothing about. Also, I think that American Jazz is a folk /raditional music form, and that it is the driving force behind 'American" music of all kinds.

Also, a lot of music is defined by it's association with a specific place, time, and subculture--like garage music, but we don't really have a term to distinguish those sorts of music from folk and traditional music--


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scoville
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 04:10 PM

Well put, M.Ted.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Charmain
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 06:31 PM

I've been interested to read a lot of what has been written here - a few people have exclaimed "Oh NO not this old chesnut again" or words to that effect - and I can understnd why - but some of us are less regular or newer visitors to this forum so please excuse our lack of knowledge as to what has gone before.

I'm glad to know that most people seem to have a fairly similar view to mine - it being that in folk music are elements of the traditional and the new and sometimes different instrumants fit and sometimes they don't but that essentially it is the spirit of the thing that matters... I think thats what I've gathered anyway...

I'm relieved to know that as long as I think music is folk music thats OK!!


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 07:50 PM

There are some informed contributions here - mostly from Americans.

As for the rest - for !"£$%^&*()_+   sake go away and come back when you understand the DEFINITION from the 1954 World Folk Music Council. It maybe invalid in some cases and respects, but when you understand it you can criticise it.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 04:37 AM

In my ideal (albeit rather draconian) world, people would be banned from contributing to this topic until they had read and demonstrated an understanding of the definition that Richard Bridge refers to above, and/or can display the depth of thought, experience and erudition shown by 'stringsinger' (now that is a really 'openminded' and thought-provoking contribution - for a change).


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scrump
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 05:29 AM

Charmain, IMO the posts above from Richard Bridge and GUEST,Shimrod demonstrate the intolerance to new posters raising this 'old chestnut'.

Richard - if you would like Charmain (or any other would-be contributors to this thread) to read the document, it would be more helpful IMO to provide a link to it.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Dazbo
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 05:43 AM

After some digging:

'Folk music is the product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission. The factors that shape the traditions are: (i) continuity which links the present with the past; (ii) variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group; and (iii) selection by the community, which determines the form or forms in which the music survives. […] The term does not cover composed popular music that has been taken over ready-made by a community and remains unchanged, for it is the re-fashioning and re-creation of the music by the community that gives it its folk-character (Journal of the International Folk Music Council, VII, 1955, p. 23).

Pretty much my own definition that I came up with all on my own (more or less)


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Crag Rat
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 06:09 AM

Trouble with using a dictionary is that it only gives a snapshot in time. Definitions change over the years. When Chaucer used the word "nice", he mean't "not very nice at all" but since the 17th Century the word has had positive connotations. In our own time words like "wicked" and "bad" have been used in a positive way. It's all very well saying that people using such terms positively are wrong but common usage will override any Cnut trying to hold back the tide.

It might well be that the terms "Folk music" and "folk song" have more than one meaning now, and all we can do is treasure our own without being arrogant enough to tell the other fellow he is wrong.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scrump
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 06:25 AM

any Cnut trying to hold back the tide

Thank heavens you mistyped that, Crag Rat :-)


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Crag Rat
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 06:47 AM

I knew a wise old owl like you would work out the anagram, Scrump!


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: pirandello
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 07:44 AM

People like Richard Bridge are the sort that want to protect and cossett folk music as though it were some kind of holy artefact only the privileged cognoscenti are allowed to talk about.
The fusty attitude displayed is guaranteed to put anyone showing an interest the quickest way to the door.

Mr Bridge, I encourage you to check your calendar; it isn't 1954 anymore and folk music, performers, attitudes and definitions have moved on. I'm sure that you too would benefit from a slightly more open minded and less blinkered approach.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scrump
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 08:10 AM

Richard Bridge is as entitled as anyone else to his view on what folk music is or isn't.

Likewise, anyone else is as entitled to their view as Richard.

IMO, trying to stop other people (such as Charmain, the person who started this thread) from even discussing what folk music is or isn't is just plain arrogant and ill-mannered. Why should Charmain or anyone else have to read a document from 50-odd years ago before being allowed to discuss folk music? The fact that this has been discussed ad nauseam before is irrelevant to the poster.

The question raised by Charmain was "What is Folk Music?", not "What do you think of the definition of folk music from the 1954 World Folk Music Council?".

Richard, if you or others think you've 'heard it all before', then feel free to ignore the thread. No-one is saying you have to read it. The clue is in the thread subject.

<flameproof coat ON> :-)


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 10:16 AM

It is usually wise to have some knowledge before opining. It is one of the fetishes of our time that the opinions of the uninformed and irrational are as valuable as those of the informed and rational.

If you think I preserve folk music in aspic you haven't heard me play.

If you think I play only folk music you haven't heard me play.

If you want to play strict tempo, you ought to know a quickstep from a waltz.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 10:38 AM

From a asemi-academinc paper I heard in Nottingham University in late 70s or early 80s>

"Folk Song in England

In 1954 the International Folk Music Council adopted this definition:—

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

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

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

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



'Conclusions', by Cecil Sharp~

A folk song is always anonymous.
Modal melodies, set to secular words, are nearly always of folk origin.
Song tunes in the minor mode are either composed tunes, or folk airs that have suffered corruption.
Folk tunes do not modulate.
Folk melodies are non—harmonic: that is to say, they have been fashioned by those in whom the harmonic sense is undeveloped. This is shown:—

a.       in the use of non—harmonic passing notes.
b.       in a certain vagueness of tonality, especially in the opening phrases of modal tunes.
c.       in the use of flattened seventh, after the manner of a leading note, in the final cadence of modal airs.
d.       in the difficulty of harmonizing a folk tune.
e.       Folk melodies often contain bars of irregular length.
f.       Prevalence of five and seven time-measures in folk airs.

In giving evidence in 1835, Francis Place reported that ballads sung about the streets during his youth could not be adequately described in present company. 'I have given you in writing words of some common ballads which you would not think fit to have uttered here. At that time the songs were of the most indecent kind: they were publicly sung and sold in the streets and markets: no one would mention them in any society now!



Another consideration.

"The mind of the folk singer is occupied exclusively with the words, with the clearness of which he will allow nothing to interfere. Consequently, he but rarely sings more than one note to a syllable and will often. interpolate a syllable of his own rather than break this rule.

"O abroad as I was wordelkin'
I was walking all alone
When I heard a couple tordelkin'
As they walked all along"



The Greek/Mediaeval/Folk Song Modes ~

The scales on which many English folk tunes are based are not the same as those with which we arc familiar through classical music.
The Greeks were the earliest musical grammarians in Europe and laid the foundation of the scientific system which was to be, in a modified form, our inheritance for plainsong and folk song.

       There were seven Greek Modes       (The white notes on a piano).
Dorian (Plato considered this the strongest)       D to D
Phrygian.       E to E
Lydian       F to F
Mixolydian       C to C
Aeolian       A to A
Locrian       B to B
lonian (our major modeNodus lascivus)       C to C

"Sumer is a--cumen in", our oldest Mss is in the Ionian Mode.

English folk tunes are most frequently found cast in the Dorian, Phrygian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Ionian modes. Occasionally in the minor: Cecil Sharp wrote: "The majority of our English -folk times, say two~thirds, are in the major mode. The remaining third is fairly evenly divided between the Mixolydian, Dorian and Aeolian modes, with, perhaps, a preponderance in favour of the Mixolydian,

The pitch of the mode may of course be varied, the relationship of the notes being constant.



The Pentatonic_Scale

The pentatonic scale (five notes to the octave) is widely distributed in folk music and is found in the traditional music of many oriental countries. We also know that it was practiced in ancient times in China and Greece. It is common in Scotland and Ireland.

In its most common form it possesses no semitones, the intervals between the notes consisting of whole tones and one—and—a—half tones. It can be played on the black notes of a piano, or on the white notes, omitting B and B.

According to the relative position of the tonic, there are five pentatonic modes, though some scholars prefer to regard them as segments of the same scale.

English songs also show a number of Hexatonic (six—notes) tunes, usually with the sixth missing.

Sharp held the theory that the present seven—note diatonic scale is a development from the pentatonic scale,




Ballads

"'Therefore,' while each ballad will he idiosyncratic, it will not be an expression of the personality of individuals, but of a collective sympathy: and the fundamental characteristic of popular ballads is therefore the absence of subjectivity and self—consciousness. Though they do not ~"write themselves" as Grimm has said - though a man and not a people has composed them, still the author counts for nothing, and it is not by mere accident, but with the best reason, that they have come down to us anonymously." Child.

Romantic Ballads       Child Waters, The Gypsy Laddie, The Maid Freed from the Gallows.

Tragic Ballads       The Two sisters, Lord Randal, Barbara Allan.

Historical Ballads       Sir Patric Spens, Mary Hamilton, Queen Jane, The Hunting of the Cheviot.

The Outlaw Ballads       Robin and the Three Squires, Johnnie Cock.

Supernatural Ballads       Lady Isobel and the Elf—Knight, The Unquiet Grave, The Demon Lover, The Wife of Usher's Well.

Humorous Ballads       Our Goodman, The Farmer's Curst Wife,





Conventional Elements

Conventional_diction       cerbain archaisms not found in common parlance — a song about lords and ladies will use "steed", "morrow," etc.

.Conventional Epithet       "milk—white steed," "Lily—white hand," "Fair Margaret."

Conventional Phrase       Tears "blind the eye," blood 'trickling down the knee."

Commonplace       e.g., the rose—briar stanza.

They buried her in the old churchyard (epithet)
They buried him in the choir
Out of her grave grew a red, red rose (epithet)
And out of his a green briar. -

Opening/Ending Formula         "As I walked out one Nay morning,"
       'It fell upon a..      
       "Come all you young fellows and listen to me.





"Voice and ear are left at a loss what to do with the ballad until supplied with the tune it was written to go with…. Unsung, it stays half—lacking.'

Robert Frost. "


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST, Grimmy
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 10:40 AM

What IS Folk Music?

'Folk music', Charmain, is a deceptively harmless phrase guaranteed to start wars amongst otherwise benign human beings.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scrump
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 10:40 AM

It is usually wise to have some knowledge before opining. It is one of the fetishes of our time that the opinions of the uninformed and irrational are as valuable as those of the informed and rational.

Whether you like it or not, Richard, on Mudcat everyone's opinions are valued equally. That's what some of us like about it. We don't need to have any particular qualifications or experience before we comment. As I said, you're free to ignore our comments if you don't like them or agree with them.

If you think I preserve folk music in aspic you haven't heard me play.

I never said I thought that, and you're right, I haven't heard you play. But maybe you are referring to pirandello's comments.

If you think I play only folk music you haven't heard me play.

I don't think anyone said that at all, or did I miss it? In any case, again, you're right, I haven't heard you play.

If you want to play strict tempo, you ought to know a quickstep from a waltz.

You've got me there, I'm afraid. I can't argue with it, though.

In short, I didn't think this thread was particularly about you, Richard - I thought it was about answering the question "What is folk music?"

(Btw, Richard, don't think I'm having a go at you - I'm just trying to respond to your comments that I thought were a little unfair on the person raising this question.)


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 10:45 AM

thread.cfm?threadid=78170


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST, Grimmy
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 10:45 AM

BTW Richard, Mixolydian is G to G, not C to C.

SEE WHAT I MEAN????


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 10:54 AM

"It is usually wise to have some knowledge before opining. It is one of the fetishes of our time that the opinions of the uninformed and irrational are as valuable as those of the informed and rational". (Quote from Richard Bridge, above).

Amen to that, Richard!

And to all of you who insist that they are "entitled to their opinion", yes, of course you are! But I am also equally entitled to disagree with it! Additionally, there is absolutely no 'rule' which says that I have to respect your opinion (it's a tough old world!).

I have a particular lack of agreement and respect for the "all music is folk music" opinion. This is because I suspect the motives of those who so opine. I suspect that you hold this opinion because you want to perform (or to listen to) pop/rock music in a folk club. Well, go ahead, play or listen to what you like, I CAN'T stop you! Just don't expect me to approve, that's all ...

Oh, I get it! You don't actually have the courage of your own convictions, you want someone else to take responsibility for your choices and you actually crave approval - am I getting warm?


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 11:01 AM

Grimmy, you've picked up on part of a topic there. Mixolydian is G to G on the C scale. There is also a Mixolydian mode (ie the set of notes with the relative intervals between them that would be found by playing the usual Mixolydian) from C to C.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scrump
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 11:09 AM

I have a particular lack of agreement and respect for the "all music is folk music" opinion.

The problem is that the definition of 'folk music' lies somewhere between that, and "no music is folk music" (I don't know of anyone who holds that latter opinion, but some people's definitions come pretty close to it :-)). Each individual peobably has a different idea as to where in between these two extremes the definition lies.

And that's the problem. Each person thinks their definition is right, and everyone else's is wrong. So the question cannot be answered in a way that would satisfy everyone.

Proving Fermat's Last Theorem was a piece of p*** compared with this :-)


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Guest Baz
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 11:09 AM

Firstly, I must say that I find the very existence of a 'World Council of Folk Music' amusing in the extreme...to me, it seems to be an anathema to the ethos of 'the community re-fashioning and re-creating the music' to have a World Authority to it.

That said, I do agree with their definition, although it doesn't bode well for the 'future' of folk music if you take it at face value. That's because the definition strictly excludes 'published' music that it taken verbatim from the source - there must be some alteration / evolution of the song for it to be folk.

You can easily imagine how this happened back in the day. With no records and hardly any sheet music, the 'common folk' learned music by ear, and sometimes they learned it 'wrong' or maybe deliberately changed it. Someone made a comparison to a meme upthread. Fair enough, that seems very reasonable. The 'good' songs survive (although in various mutated forms), and the 'bad' ones die out because nobody can be bothered to sing them.

But these days, if I write really good songs (which, I hasten to add, I don't), chances are, I'm going to try and get them recorded at some stage. If the songs are VERY good, they might end up on a CD bought in massive numbers, or on the radio. (Of course I understand that just because a song is on a CD or radio, it doesn't necessarily make it good - but bear with me...). But THAT means that when my millions of doting fans learn my songs, they learn them from the 'official' or 'proper' version. It doesn't change with time like a REAL folk song does, because if they play their rendition of the song to someone else, and that someone else decides that THEY'D like to play it too, they refer back to the original source to learn it...in this case, my platinum selling CD.

What you end up with is maybe 1000 people playing my song, but with no variations other than the ones imposed by different musician's limitations.

Now, there are guys at my local folk club who do write songs, and they're not on CDs, and not on the radio. So if I learn one of them, and play it to someone else, who then learns it from me, and so on and so on, then OK, there you have a bona fide folk song (or at least you will do in say 60 years if it lasts that long). But, the crucial question is, how many of these real new folk songs are in YOUR repetoire? I don't want to make too many assumptions, but I'd guess not many. That might be wrong - if it is, tell me!

So, my assertation is that folk music is a shrinking gene pool, because technology (CD's / radio / the internet) make mass dissemination of music so readily available. The folk process doesn't apply any more, and if a song must be subjected to the folk process to qualify as a folk song, then there just aren't going to be many new ones about.

That's my 2-penneth anyway.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Scoville at scanner
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 11:12 AM

My intent was not at all to prevent Charmain or anyone else from discussing--I only wished that s/he had looked it up first and considered refining her[?] question beyond Square One in the hopes of avoiding some of the mudslinging and restating that invariably ensues. I thought it was a fair suggestion considering many of these threads are fairly recent and have content posted by current members, which would give her[?] an idea of what is on our collective minds without reinventing the wheel. (If you notice, I then went on to discuss it myself, anyway. I even meant to be civil.)

I'd never even heard of the 1954 definition of the Folk Music Whatever It Is. Richard's post is the first time I've ever seen it. I can see its point, but I'm afraid I find it both outdated and utterly Anglocentric, Classical and Medieval tunings aside. Does Turkish folk music follow those rules? Does Japanese? African? I don't know, but I'm betting there are loads of exceptions that are very much folk music. (I hate the term "world music", too; everyone's music is somebody else's "world music" once you go over an international border.)


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 11:21 AM

Folk music is music by folks for folks. bob


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Peace
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 11:26 AM

Yo, Bob. E-mail me would you? Have a question for ya and I don't know what I have done with YOUR e-mail address. (Basically, what are you doing the end of July? Specifically July 27 and 28.)


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scrump
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 11:35 AM

Richard - thanks for posting those various extracts.

GUEST,Guest Baz - your comments are interesting too. I agree with you about modern recording and mass distribution of recorded music making it very unlikely that in future, the author/composer of songs written today will be of unknown authorship (while the world survives, anyway).

So Cecil Sharp's conclusion "A folk song is always anonymous" quoted by Richard above is unlikely ever to happen again, and if that were a requirement for a song or tune to be considered as 'folk music', then folk music would remain as a finite set of songs and tunes that could never be expanded.

Is that what we want? Maybe some people would say "yes" but I doubt very much whether all of us would.

[Btw, I'm quite enjoying this thread, and that's why I am opposed by any attempts to stop people discussing this subject. Yes, it has been discussed many times before, without any definite conclusion being reached as to an answer to the question in the thread subject. But I don't think it's fair to expect newcomers who were not part of the original discussions to just read the old threads and prohibit them from airing their views. Mudcat is an interactive forum, and people should be allowed to have their say if they wish, regardless as to whether it's been said before by other different people. Part of the fun is working things out for yourselves, by discussion.]


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Baz
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 11:47 AM

Scrump said 'Part of the fun is working things out for yourselves, by discussion.'

Hear hear! That's why this a forum and not a text book.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST, Grimmy
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 11:51 AM

Since I predicted a war I may as well take part.

Richard, your very informative notes (above) include, under "There were seven Greek Modes (The white notes on a piano)." the following:

"lonian (our major modeNodus lascivus)       C to C"

which is correct, and:

"Mixolydian       C to C"

which is not.

Of course, one can play a Mixolydian scale from C to C, but not on the white notes.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 11:54 AM

Sorry, that is a fault from the OCR reader I used to scan the hard copy of the article, that I did not pick up on proofreading.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST, Grimmy
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 12:03 PM

Hey Richard - no problem ;-)

I reckon attempting to define Folk Music is a bit like trying to explain to a blind person what the colour red is. I know what it is but...


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 01:09 PM

An elephant is a vertebrate. An elephant is a mammal. An elephant is a gray object. An elephant is an herbivore. An elephant is an object of significant mass. What IS an elephant?


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 03:03 PM

PEACE: I can be reached by going to www.myspace.com/bobryszkiewicz. Or, Google Bob Ryszkiewicz. As for July 27/28, I have no idea. My studio is running, and we're producing music in various genres. THE SOUL EATER(my new track) will soon be coming out... Maybe a hundred years from now, somebody will open a time capsule and say, "so THAT's what Folk Music was..." Maybe Folk Music "speaks like silence. With no ideas of violence. Never has to say she's faithful, she's true, like ice, like fire." bob


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,lox
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 04:32 PM

Perhaps if folk music evolves and changes over time depending on the folk who listen to it then so does it's definition.

Perhaps in the age of internet, radio, tv, cassette, mp3, cd, lp, MD, dvd, isdn, cable, sattelite etc etc etc, the reality of the context in which folk music exists is so significantly different to what it was in the 1950's that rapid evolution has occurred/is occurring/will occur/ ... needs to occur ...

Maybe bob dylan, his contemporaries and those who have emerged since, appeared on the scene too late to ever be examined fairly in the light of the 1954 declaration.

When everyone all over the world already knows his version of "blowin in the wind" off by heart and has resulting expectations of it, they are more often than not going to revert to it.

It's more convenient on the record and more reliably accurate and satisfying too.

But more relevantly, it hasn't needed to be passed on by word of mouth. Technology has rendered that a comparatively redundant means of communication. Folk everywhere have music technology at their fingertips nowadays, even if just a transistor radio or a simple cassette recorder.

If bob dylans music hadn't been recorded and marketed so successfully on such a grand scale, wouldn't the line "how many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man" have been sung by increasing numbers of performers, all eager to spread the songs message at a time when those words, coming from a white man, meant so much to those who had lost faith in white men and who were tired of being called "BOY"

Would Sam Cooke have sung it, redefining it in his own inimitable style? He was one of many who were deeply moved and inspired by it. In his case, so much so that he wrote "a change is gonna come".

So the message in that case was added to in a different way because the song was already out there and didn't need to be spread in the same way as other folk songs have been.


Just some thoughts :-)


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 05:13 PM

"Proving Fermat's Last Theorem was a piece of p*** compared with this..."

"I reckon attempting to define Folk Music is a bit like trying to explain to a blind person what the colour red is."

Etc., etc., etc...ad nauseum.

It's only difficult if you don't want to know the answer!


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,IknowwhatIlike
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 05:20 PM

I'd prefer not to know the answer. I might be hugely disappointed.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 05:24 PM

Yep! Reality tends to be like that.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,lox
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 07:21 PM

Why do we exist?

A difficult question or one to which we would simply prefer not to know the answer?

Shimrod, are you saying that you have the answer and that if people only listened to it everything would be much simpler?

Is the 1954 definition analogous to a religious text?

A frivolous comparison yes, but useful nonetheless?


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 02:11 AM

To revert to my point, the stuff I reposted above came from old mudcat posts. So what's the point of coming in and asking "What is folk music" unless you have something new to say? There is a definition. There is general academic consensus. You may not like the definition, but unless you can provide a sensible argument why the definition is wrong, why open the door for idiots?


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 04:59 AM

"Shimrod, are you saying that you have the answer and that if people only listened to it everything would be much simpler?"

No, lox, I don't have a definitive answer and the 1954 definition is certainly not a "religious text". I do think, though, that it is an excellent starting point for thinking about the question, "what is folk music?" and the associated question, "how does folk music differ from other types of music?" I am also a good enough scientist to know that the category 'Folk Music' has fuzzy borders and can never be definitively pinned down. BUT this is not a fault with the original definition! Many aspects of the universe tend to be organised like this - it's just the way reality is - you can ALWAYS find exceptions and counter-examples.

But the main point of my interjection above is that there seems to be a vociferous group of people out there who don't want to know what folk music is because such knowledge might prevent them from 'shoe-horning' their own particular favourite type of music into the category 'Folk Music'. I'm not sure what their motive(s) for such wilful ignorance are - one possibility might be that they think the resulting vagueness legitimises their playing of their favoured musical type in a folk club. What puzzles me is why they think that their choices need to be legitimised. I have a growing suspicion that these people don't actually have the courage of their own convictions and they want 'other people' (ie. 'experts') to take responsibility for their choices. When they don't receive such legitimisation or, worse still, approval of their musical choices from audiences, they start bleating about 'Folk Police'.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scrump
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 05:11 AM

To revert to my point, the stuff I reposted above came from old mudcat posts. So what's the point of coming in and asking "What is folk music" unless you have something new to say? There is a definition. There is general academic consensus. You may not like the definition, but unless you can provide a sensible argument why the definition is wrong, why open the door for idiots?

The point is, Richard, that newcomers (or as you call them rather disparagingly, 'idiots') who were not party to the original 'general academic consensus', wish to air their opinions.

They don't want to be told "this has been discussed many times before, therefore there's no point in discussing it any further and we're not interested in what your views are so %$£# off", which is what you seem to be saying.

If you or anyone else doesn't want to take part in this discussion, the answer is simple - you can just ignore the thread. Nobody is forcing you to look at it, let alone contribute.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST, Grimmy
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 06:06 AM

Shimrod, I hope you are a "good enough scientist" to provide evidence for your theory that "there seems to be a vociferous group of people out there who don't want to know what folk music is because such knowledge might prevent them from 'shoe-horning' their own particular favourite type of music into the category 'Folk Music' ".

I can categorically assure you I have no such motive or intention. I happen to believe that there is no satisfactory dictionary definition of Folk Music, and even if there were, it would only be temporary (just as the 1954 one was, with its reference to oral transmission).

Frankly, it doesn't particularly bother me - so, unlike some, I'm not going to obsess about it.

A fundamental characteristic of folk music is that it evolves. Some of our traditional songs retain echoes of ritualistic chants, possibly, according to Bert Lloyd, going back to the Bronze Age. Time and circumstance have altered their original meaning and significance - and will do so again.

I am content with that.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,lox
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 08:03 AM

Richard,

I'd like to return to MY post:

GUEST,lox
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 04:32 PM

in which I arrive at a valid question concerning the significance of technology and the media revolution in the context of folk music And how it's boundaries are defined..

There lies grounds for a debate concerning a valid criticism of the 1954 declaration.

That was what you asked for wasn't it?

Thanks Shimrod for your answer.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 09:02 AM

Hi Grammy,

If I really was a good enough scientist I would go back over the last few hundred Mudcat threads, and trawl through numerous folk music paper publications, and count how many times phrases such as 'Folk Police' etc. have been used - and interview as many of these posters/correspondents as possible. Trouble is it would take too long, this thread would be off the board - and I can't be arsed (!)

Of course, you can try it if you like!

I think that I might find (but, of course, don't actually know until I - or you - do it!) that most of these disgruntled individuals think that existing definitions of 'Folk Music' are too narrow and should be adjusted to include their own particular favourite type of music. I think that I also might find that these people just want to assert that their favourite musical form is 'folk' but they want an 'expert'or 'authority' to justify their position for them.

Could be completely wrong, of course (it's just an hypothesis), but I suspect that I may be getting warm.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Grimmy
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 09:51 AM

I obviously have more faith in the robustness of the tradition than you, Shimrod.

Over the last thousand years it has embraced - and probably rebuffed - numerous instances of 'other' music forms and will continue to do so. The 1954 definition states, as a factor that shapes the tradition,
"Selection by the community, which determines the form or forms in which the music survives."

How could it be otherwise?


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 10:23 AM

Seems we've had this discussion many times before, but I'll risk repeating what I probably said on an earlier thread.

I've heard, although I don't necessarily agree with these definitions:

If you know who wrote it, it ain't folk.

If it takes more than two trips to get your stuff in from the car, it ain't folk.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 11:00 AM

Actually Jim, folk music doesn't necessarily have to be composed by 'anon.' and note that the 1954 definition doesn't mention anonymity of composition at all. Cecil Sharp believed that the author of a folk song had to be anonymous, but since his time this view has been modified.

The classic example of a traditional song with a known author is 'The Famous Flower of Serving Men' which was published in July 1656 by Laurence Price (see 'A Book of British Ballads' by Roy Palmer, Llanerch Facsimile Reprint, 1998).

It is of course the PROCESS that the song has been through - not the question of whether it has a known author or not. And the IMPORTANT thing about C# is that he was a pioneer of this evolutionary view of folk song and not that he may have got some of the details wrong. People who assert that such and such a song (usually a favourite of theirs) will be "a folk song of tomorrow" might (just possibly, IF the 'folk process' is still operating) be right, but only time will tell!


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scrump
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 11:25 AM

The question of anonymity of authorship is interesting, because what would happen if somebody uncovered documentary evidence that (say) Shakespeare had written a song that had hitherto been regarded as "Anon". Would that mean that a song previously regarded as 'folk' would suddenly be disqualified? Cecil Sharp would have said so, presumably.

I think that I might find (but, of course, don't actually know until I - or you - do it!) that most of these disgruntled individuals think that existing definitions of 'Folk Music' are too narrow and should be adjusted to include their own particular favourite type of music. I think that I also might find that these people just want to assert that their favourite musical form is 'folk' but they want an 'expert'or 'authority' to justify their position for them.

You may well be right that some people have such motives, but I don't think you can assert that applies to all people who think that existing definitions of 'Folk Music' are too narrow. I think many of us just want to get closer to a definition that includes what we think is folk music, that others might exclude from their definition. This needn't be our 'favourite musical form', just something that we consider ought to be included in the definition. These people are not necessarily 'disgruntled', they are just trying to come up with a better definition than one that currently doesn't satisfy everybody.

As others have said, things have moved on a bit since 1954. At that time there probably weren't some of the types of music now regarded as 'folk' by some people, e.g. the contemporary songwriters who perform(ed) their own songs such as Guthrie, Dylan, Paxton. If these people had been around in 1954, maybe the definition would have been different? I'm not saying it would have been, because I bow to the knowledge of those who are familiar with the document in question, but I'm just raising questions like this as part of this discussion (which again I assert our right to have, regardless of previous discussions that may or may not have taken place).

I think the term 'Folk Police' is shorthand for blinkered bigots who have their own idea as to what folk music is or isn't, and tries to impose that view on everybody else, riding roughshod over any objections.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Grimmy
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 11:31 AM

If I write a song, what process must it undergo (other than its acceptance by the folk community) for it to become a 'folk song'?


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 05:37 PM

Hi Scrump,

"The question of anonymity of authorship is interesting, because what would happen if somebody uncovered documentary evidence that (say) Shakespeare had written a song that had hitherto been regarded as "Anon". Would that mean that a song previously regarded as 'folk' would suddenly be disqualified? Cecil Sharp would have said so, presumably."

Yes, I think that this is a very interesting question and it is my personal opinion that Shakespeare's song would still qualify as a folk song (I like to think that I would have the courage to argue this point with C# - but I'd probably 'wimp out'! "Of course you're right, Mr Sharp - you are, after all a leading authority - sorry, THE leading authority!").

As for moving on from the 1954 definition, I suspect that this definition is still correct IN ESSENCE if not in every detail. In the same way we may have moved on since Darwin's day but that still doesn't negate the pioneering work that he did on the Theory of Evolution.

As for "blinkered bigots", yes, there may be a few of those around - on both sides of the argument! You may think, Scrump, that I am a blinkered bigot (?) and I do admit that I was rather churlish towards you in a previous thread (for which I sincerely apologise). The trouble is that I am rather passionate about the subject of traditional music and can get carried away when discussing it. I also think that, in this forum, if you don't make your points 'robustly' you can get ignored. And, let's face it, in real life I am a sober, law-abiding, upright citizen but here I can get away with being just a bit anarchic (Shimrod is, if you like, my wicked alter-ego - and he's beginning to get out of control - AAAAHHHHH!!!). If I get a bit outrageous, now and then, just ignore me


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 05:45 PM

Although I suggested the above definitions, as I stated, I don't necessarily agree with them. In fact I think that trying to define "folk" is a thankless task. Sing Out! readers have been attempting this for about fifty years.

I heard one performer at a folk club say, "It's a four letter word that starts with F and ends with K and if you use it, your songs won't get played on the radio."


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 06:45 PM

Although my first reaction upon seeing this subject-title was "THIS again!!?!?!?!", I see nothing wrong with rehashing this never-ending discussion, with or without reference to earlier iterations. If you don't like it, don't read it!

As always, some interesting things are being said that some of us may never have considered before ~ as well as a few angles that NONE of us ever had a chance to consider previously.

Of course, the most interesting contributions seem always to come from those with the least restrictive definitions. (Note that I'm not saying that these are the moist valid or true contributions ~ just the most interesting. Of course, I'm prejudiced because that's the camp to which I belong.)

Another thought, for consideration only by those open to the idea that amateur rock'n'roll ("garage rock") might, just conceivably, be considered as a "folk" form:

A few years ago, some forum open to discussions of blues/rock/pop music presented a question, "What are the greatest 'cover' versions of all time?" (Maybe it was here, maybe elsewhere.)

Someone quickly mentioned what would have been my own nomination, Jimi Hendrix's reinterpretation of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," a performance so definitive that The Bob himself has had no alternative but to "cover" Jimi's version ever since. (IMHO)

Jimi Hendrix having been mentioned, I immediately thought of "Hey Joe." As anyone as old as I am knew at the time, this song was pretty widely performed live, by amateur bands at high-school dances all over the US, for several years before Jimi recorded his version. Even though it was NEVER a hit record, and no one seems to remember the name of the writer or of the band/artist who released the original recording, it achieved great popularity among semi-skilled young electric guitar players because it had a cool sound, a slightly unusual but very easily played chord progression, and (most importantly) a catchy bass run.

Some bossy individual ~ a forum moderator, or maybe the person who had started the thread ~ responded to me in a huff: Jimi's "Hey Joe" could not be considered a "cover" song, because the originator was not readily identifiable and no earlier commercial recording had been a widely known "hit." This blowhard expert concluded that he was forced to rule, by fiat, that "Hey Joe" be credited to Jimi Himself.

I'm sure that Jimi himself, were he still with us, would readily admit that it's a song he learned . . . somewhere, somehow. He probably didn't know who actually wrote it until he was ready to record, and someone had to look up where the royalties were to be directed.

I'm sure that there is, somewhere, a record of who gets credit and earns money from "Hey Joe," but for the millions of guitar (and air-guitar) players who knew it quite well, even before the Hendrix performance filmed at Monterey and his subsequent recording, it might just as well be "anon" or "trad," and that's why I offer it as an example of the type of piece that might be considered as a 20th century, electronic-age, "folksong."


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 07:06 PM

PoppaGator: To the best of my knowledge, Hey Joe was written by Bobby Roberts, a New York Folksinger! Tex Koenig used to talk about this with me after he came to Canada from The Village in New York, circa 1967. Hendrix picked it up there. bob


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,M.Ted
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 07:49 PM

Written, apparently, by Billy (William Moses) Roberts, Jr., from South, Carolina--he played on the West Coast coffee house circuit, not in NYC, though --the story, such as it can be acertained, is hereHey, Joe There are conflicting ideas as to where Hendrix got it--some say from hearing Tim Rose, at the Cafe Wha?, some say from the British group, The Creation, who Hendrix had apparently seen a lot in London--

PoppaGator is certainly right that this song circulated by what we'd sort of have to call "The Folk Process", rather than through Pop Radio--and, in true folk style, it isn't really possible to pin it down--


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 10:13 PM

Thanks M.Ted: I remembered it as Bobby, looks like it was Billy. 40 years is a long time...
Tex did mention the Cafe Wha? a number of times. Thanks. bob


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 10:20 PM

I've got one thing to say.........



ARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 11:48 PM

I'm so glad I wrote up my "Hey Joe" diatribe ~ it's been on my mind for quite a while. It's been a few years since I participated in that "favorite cover songs" discussion, and that pompous ass's "ruling" that Hendrix wasn't "covering" the song has always bugged me!

I should have known that a mention on Mudcat would have brought me as much information as I'd ever want about the real-life songwriter. I'm glad he's properly identified, and thus probably got his well-earned royalties when the song finally got a high-profile recording. I'm also kinda glad, and not surprised, that he's an old folkie!

Since Jimi was an American, even though he spent time overseas as an Airborne Ranger and then as an expatriate rocker in the UK, I'm sure he first heard it (as I did) in some basement, garage, or high-school gym before he every met The Creation in London...

Is Lonesome EJ freaking out because we're even talking about "Hey Joe"?


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 11:57 PM

Nah, Pop, I'm reacting to the thread title.

BTW, did Hendrix claim authorship for Hey Joe on Are You Experienced?


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 12:14 AM

Billy Roberts is credited on the "Are You Experienced" album. (I learned that just now by following a chain of links around Wikipedia, starting from the reference offered above by M.Ted.)

heyjoe.org provides three or four pages of very interesting stuff, including the harmonic analysis that the song's repetitive chord structure ~ a straight-ahead "circle of fifths" ~ is something that many guitar players have undoubtedly "written" independenly, each pretty much on his own after learning a few basic chords plus a little bit of elementary music theory


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 12:54 AM

On a point of information, I should inform those of you who have never actually read Sharp's English Folk Song: Some Conclusions that those conclusions were based on only a short (though pioneering, and very intensive) study of one part of England only, and that Sharp himself made it clear that they were provisional conclusions only, and subject to re-assessment in the light of new information. Had he lived longer, we might have other conclusions to consider.

He also did not say that folk song 'had to be anonymous', and I do wish people, some of whom at least ought to know better, would stop claiming that he did. The point he was trying to make was that original authorship was essentially irrelevant; it is what happens to a song after it has been written that determines whether or not it can be considered a 'folk' song.

Unfortunately, Sharp is always being mis-quoted and mis-interpreted. Most objections in discussions of this kind to what he said seem to be, in reality, objections from people who have not read what he said to mis-representations of what he said made by people who either have not read what he said, or have not understood it.

The problem with discussions of this sort is that people come to them with very different understandings of the term 'folk music'. Some prefer the careful definitions formulated by people who have studied the subject in depth (the 1954 formula has, you may be sure, been subject to continual re-assessment and modification over the years; though it is still a useful starting point for anyone genuinely interested in learning, and understanding, more) while others prefer the more recent and more elastic terms promulgated largely by the major record companies.

In the same way, some will understand a 'ballad' as a narrative song of the kind studied by Child; others will think of any romantic song recorded by Frank Sinatra or Tom Jones. That's the difficulty; without agreeing at the start what we are actually talking about, much of the debate will continue at cross purposes and achieve the same results it did last time, and the time before; not very much.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 02:17 AM

Surely Arthur Lee and Love recorded Hey Joe before Hendrix, or have I go tthe dates in the wrong order? I would have thought, however, that there was a difference between a cover, which is intended to evoke the performance covered, and a further recording of the same song, in which the intention differs.

"Come away Melinda" is a good example, perhaps, with maybe the three best known versions being Tim Rose, Uriah Heap, and Clannad - and the three are so different that at first listening one would doubt whether they were the same song. If I "cover" one of those versions I am surely not "covering" another.

Scrump, frankly, you seem to wish, unlike some of the other contributors to this thread, to have an uninformed discussion.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scrump
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 05:12 AM

Re. Hey Joe - as well as Love, didn't the Byrds also record it before Hendrix, on an album? My memory could be playing tricks on me, but I thought I'd heard theirs before his (and I did hear his version pretty early on, as it was plugged on Radio London, to which I was a keen listener in those days).

Scrump, frankly, you seem to wish, unlike some of the other contributors to this thread, to have an uninformed discussion.

I'm not saying that, Richard. I'm simply saying I wish that those who would like to have a discussion about this subject, are allowed to do so, whether informed or not, without being insulted or berated for not having read document X or previous Mudcat thread Y.

I wish also that 'informed' contributors like yourself could contribute with resorting to insults. Failing that, I would prefer you and others of like mind to simply ignore the thread. It would have been more helpful, as I said in response to your first posting in this thread, if you could have referred us to the document in question, preferably with a link to a source.

It's not as if previous discussions have answered the question to everybody's satisfaction - if they had, then perhaps you may have a point (even so, you could have expressed it more politely).

I don't want people inhibited from contributing to the discussion for fear of having their heads bitten off by people like yourself who think they are talking rubbish. As for me, I am trying to keep an open mind on the subject, and want to see what other's views are, even if I don't agree with them personally. As I said, there are many people here who weren't party to the original consensus, and you never know, some of them may have valid contributions to make.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scrump
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 05:33 AM

Yes, I think that this is a very interesting question and it is my personal opinion that Shakespeare's song would still qualify as a folk song (I like to think that I would have the courage to argue this point with C# - but I'd probably 'wimp out'! "Of course you're right, Mr Sharp - you are, after all a leading authority - sorry, THE leading authority!").

Fortunately, you won't have to put that to the test :-)

From what others have said since your posting, there may be some doubt he actually claimed anonymity as an essential requirement anyway.

As for moving on from the 1954 definition, I suspect that this definition is still correct IN ESSENCE if not in every detail. In the same way we may have moved on since Darwin's day but that still doesn't negate the pioneering work that he did on the Theory of Evolution.

Point taken.

As for "blinkered bigots", yes, there may be a few of those around - on both sides of the argument! You may think, Scrump, that I am a blinkered bigot (?) and I do admit that I was rather churlish towards you in a previous thread (for which I sincerely apologise. The trouble is that I am rather passionate about the subject of traditional music and can get carried away when discussing it. I also think that, in this forum, if you don't make your points 'robustly' you can get ignored. And, let's face it, in real life I am a sober, law-abiding, upright citizen but here I can get away with being just a bit anarchic (Shimrod is, if you like, my wicked alter-ego - and he's beginning to get out of control - AAAAHHHHH!!!).

Thanks for your apology, Shimrod. I would like to apologise too, for my own 'robust' response to your comments in another recent thread. I haven't done anything like that before (at least, in Mudcat) and it was out of character for me, but I felt goaded into such a response at the time (it was late at night when I posted that response - not usually a good time to do that sort of thing. I probably should have slept on it). Anyway, I hope we can agree to put that aside and air any future disagreements more amicably from now on.

If I get a bit outrageous, now and then, just ignore me
Did somebody say something? :-)


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 06:13 AM

The problem, I think, is that a new term is needed to describe whatever it is that is now performed as we are discussing. I have just made a suggestion to the "our club" thread. Ventilating the depths of one's ignorance is not the same as a discussion, and when relevant information is readily available, is not helpful either.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Grimmy
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 07:07 AM

Had he [Cecil Sharp] lived longer, we might have other conclusions to consider.

It's unfortunate that practically any discussion about folk music history eventually lapses into 'the Gospel According To Cecil Sharp', the man revered as a god, whose every utterance is taken to be the unquestionable truth.

Let's explode a few myths here - most of the famous collectors were educated 'gentlemen' who went amongst the 'plebs' to collect songs in much the same way as their peers collected fossils, butterflies or Egyptian artifacts. They were treated with suspicion and even, in some cases, hostility by the local people, to the extent that many songs/ballads were withheld from them.

Their methodology was far from scientific; Baring-Gould butchered many of the songs he collected, that's if he bothered to record them at all (it is well known that he would note only one verse of a song if he thought it crude in either its poetical merit or its 'indelicate' content), he would subsequently 're-write' or compose his own verses if he thought fit.

To his credit, C# did at least attempt to trace the ancestry of the songs he collected and in that sense he was a pioneer - and he conceded that there was much more to be done.

Well, here we are 80 years after his death, with a wealth of information and research at our fingertips/keyboards that C# could only have dreamed about - and yet we still hang on his every word.

As I have stated in earlier posts, the folk music tradition is an evolving one; it has evolved since its pagan origins, it has evolved since C#'s day, it has evolved since 1954, it will continue to evolve after we are gone.

Those who fear this evolution can cling to the writings of Cecil Sharp and his ilk if they wish. But any definition of what folk music is or is not, that is more than one day old, is out of date.

Since I am likely to be burned as a heretic, this weekend will be a particularly boozy one. I'm going to listen to Hendrix playing 'Hey Joe' (which, according to Colin Harper's bio of Bert Jansch, was written by two Scottish folksingers in Edinburgh). I reckon C# would have approved (eventually) ;-)


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 08:13 AM

"Let's explode a few myths here - most of the famous collectors were educated 'gentlemen' who went amongst the 'plebs' to collect songs in much the same way as their peers collected fossils, butterflies or Egyptian artifacts. They were treated with suspicion and even, in some cases, hostility by the local people, to the extent that many songs/ballads were withheld from them."

I think that myths might be being piled on myths here!

If you want an up-to-date view of Sharp's relationship to his informants try Vic Gammon's excellent introduction to the equally excellent song book, 'Still growing: English Traditional Songs and Singers from the Cecil Sharp Collection' (efdss in association with Folk South West, 2003). Dr Gammon considers the written evidence and concludes, "...some of Sharp's informants would speak very warmly of him. No doubt, once over the initial shock [of being approached by a middle class folk song collector?], many people enjoyed the interest he took in them and their songs."

Much of this 'myth' that Edwardian folk song collectors were JUST callous robbers of plebs' cultural heritage comes from, what I consider to be a mischievous, biased and misleading book, Dave Harker's 'Fakesong' (Open University Press, 1985).


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 12:52 PM

As an American, I'm more familiar with the collecting work of the Lomaxes, et al, than with Cecil Sharpe. But I can still have an opiion, quite possibly valid, about his project, or that of any such pioneering collector, in any country at any time, but especially during the era when recording technology first became available

I have the general impression that this kind of project always, inevitably, would have to have involved some barrier to complete communication between the educated and sophisticated collector and the less worldly subjects. Whether one portrays this problem as crippling and even hostile, on the one hand, or virtually insignificant on the other, depends almost entirely on one's own preconcenptions (political opinion, class origin, etc.)

I think that the actual songs and performances that were collected contitute the most important contribution, and that any accompanying subtext (theory, interpretation) is certainly interesting, important for learning as much as possible about the collector and his intentions and strategies, but surely to be taken with a grain of salt, especially as the years go on.

I have no problem with those who adhere to a narrower definition of "folk music" than I do. On the contrary ~ I fully recognize their right to mark off a given well-defined bit of musical territory and to concentrate their efforts upon its study. All well and good, and in fact, truly deep study is only possible by concentration upon a relatively restricted database.

I simply refuse to seriously consider any argument that my own interest in a wider field is "wrong." I try not to be offended, because many of those who hold to tighter restrictions than I find tolerable often have very interesting and valid things to say, and I often enjoy applying their insights to subject matter that they themselves would never consider.

My one "bugaboo" or "hobbyhorse," something I can't help but repeat, is my utter impatience with the assumption that songs and styles that were accidentally current at the time Mr, Collector arrived ~ with his notebooks or wire recorder or reel-to-reel tape gizmo or whatever ~ that these particular versions and approaches to these particular sets of lyrics and melodies are somehow sacrosanct.

How can we possibly know that the folksong of, say, 1921 (or 1892, or whenever, if discussing written rather than recorded research) may not have been entirely different from what was being sung and played in 1903, or 1850, 1690, or whenever? Why should the state of things at the time of a given researcher's arrival be any more deserving of respect than what's happenning today?


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 01:15 PM

Poppa, Sharp collected in America, too.

Just sayin'.

The moment of collection is just that: a moment in time; a snapshot. However, those collected versions, especially the recorded ones, are our link with the heritage of the song. Imperfect it may be, but I always feel that if you're going to sing these songs, it's nice to be aware of where they came from (or at least what we know of that history). That's because of the very nature of traditional song.

I like Sam Larner and Harry Cox and Fred Jordan a lot. If I sing songs from their repertoires, I certainly don't try to copy them, but I like it that I know their version. Especially if I know a more recent version as well, as I can see what different singers have brought to the song.

And then I'll sing my own interpretation, which may be influenced by those other singers, or it may be all my own - and sod anyone who doesn't like it.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST, Mikefule
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 01:20 PM

I am firmly of the opinion that "folk music" has nothing to do with rhythm, chord structure, subject matter, the instruments played, the age or source of the material, or any stylistic details. It is to do with context.

Thin Lizzy singing Whiskey in the Jar to an audience of thousands was rock music.

Me singing Ace of Spades unaccompanied in a pub session is folk music. Ditto when one of my mates sings "Delilah" and everyone in the pub joins in the chorus.

The context is this: that the musicians and singers are participating for their mutual pleasure in the music. The songs and tunes are ones they all know or in styles they all recognise. It is an activity, not a performance.

That's "folk music".

A "folk song" or "folk tune"defined by its source and is still a folk song or tune if performed in a rock style (e.g. Whiskey in the Jar, House of the Rising Sun) but it is not "folk music" if it is performed in a non-participatory context.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Charmain
Date: 19 Mar 07 - 09:55 AM

Thanks to everyone for chirping in with their opinions on this one - despite the impression I may have created with my starting this thread I have been immersed in folk music for my whole life - I really just wanted to see what people out there thought as I had read many times on the forum of this or that not being "folk"
Thanks also for the links to previous discussions some of them make quite interesting reading...
I have to say though - Mikefule - I like that - I like it a lot - I think you're on to something there!


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Mar 07 - 10:44 AM

poppagator, excellent point,Music other than classical music[where the composer has stipulated certain interpretations]evolves and changes.,and as you say just because it was sung in a certain way in 191O,it doesnt mean it was performed the same way thirty years previously.
an intersting remark that Alistair Anderson made,is that the styles traditional musicians play in, is affected by their geographical environment,someone playing and living in the fens of east anglia will play very differently from someone living in northumberland.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 19 Mar 07 - 10:49 AM

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folk_music


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Mar 07 - 03:25 AM

I've never really understood the (apparently self-imposed) confusion that surrounds the term 'Folk music'. I can go to my bookshelves and take down several hundred books that use the term in a way I recognise it. Though there are a couple that might question that deninition, I can't think of one that challenges it seriously - can anybody? Dave Harker and Georgina Boyes have made their names as 'folk dissidents' but I find their work deeply flawed and poorly researched. Apart from them, is there anything else?
If anybody asked me 'what is folk?' I would hand them Lloyd's 'Folk Song in Engand' and 'The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs' and tell them to start there.
It seems to me that, until a better one comes along, the definition as recognised by Sharp, Vaughan Williams, Lucy Broadwood, Lloyd, MacColl, Lomax, Joyce, O'Neill, Bronson, Sheilds, Buchan, the IFMC et al, is the one we are stuck with.
I've never heard a horse sing - I've never known a horse come up with a half-decent alternative to the term 'folk music' - though some people seem to be quite happy to take their knowledge from horses - and other dumb animals.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scrump
Date: 20 Mar 07 - 04:15 AM

And then I'll sing my own interpretation, which may be influenced by those other singers, or it may be all my own - and sod anyone who doesn't like it.

Well said, Ruth. That's my approach too.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scrump
Date: 20 Mar 07 - 04:20 AM

A "folk song" or "folk tune"defined by its source and is still a folk song or tune if performed in a rock style (e.g. Whiskey in the Jar, House of the Rising Sun) but it is not "folk music" if it is performed in a non-participatory context.

Very interesting comments, Mikefule. But if you sing a folk song (say one without a chorus or obvious lines for others to join in), unaccompanied, and no-one but you is singing it, does that make it "non-participatory" , and therefore not folk music? I assume you don't mean that, but can you clarify what you mean by "non-participatory" in this context?


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Charmain
Date: 20 Mar 07 - 05:27 AM

Ah-Ha - a very good point Scrump...


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 20 Mar 07 - 01:55 PM

"I've never really understood the (apparently self-imposed) confusion that surrounds the term 'Folk music'."

I've said this before, Jim (probably in this thread), that it's all about people who want 'experts' to take responsibility for their choices. It works something like this:

Singer A doesn't (a) particularly like Folk Music and/or (b) know much about it, but likes some other category of music and wants to perform it in a Folk venue. He/she then conceives the notion (being a great original thinker) that "all music is folk music" and hence his/her favourite musical form can safely be played in a folk venue. Nevertheless, Singer A doesn't really have the courage of his/her convictions so demands that an Expert B validate his/her 'great thought'. When Expert B fails to do so he/she is demonised as a "Folk Policeman".


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Mar 07 - 02:50 AM

A "folk song" or "folk tune"defined by its source and is still a folk song or tune if performed in a rock style (e.g. Whiskey in the Jar, House of the Rising Sun) but it is not "folk music" if it is performed in a non-participatory context".

So when classical singer Peter Pears sang 'The Lyke Wake Dirge' or Anthony Newley sang 'Strawberry fair' that continued to be 'folk'?
Likewise, if the London Symphony Orchestra played Beatles numbers, 'Yesterday' then could be considered a classical piece?
Try telling that to the punters on the South Bank.
In performance, folk music is much more than notes or words divorced from their style, origin or intention.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: MikeofNorthumbria
Date: 21 Mar 07 - 08:17 AM

Hi Folks,

In the long run, definitions tend to change as our culture evolves - that's the wonder of language.   Meanwhile, in the here and now, all definitions are debatable. The debate running through this thread has been quite interesting, but we still seem to be a long way from a consensus.

Perhaps instead of asking "is this or that definition right or wrong?" we might do better to ask, "is it helpful or unhelpful? - does it clarify or confuse our understanding of the the thing we're trying to define?"

I think that Mikefule's point about context does clarify the discussion - but it might work even better with a further refinement. Suppose we try opening up a little more space between the concepts of "folk song", "folk singer" and "folk singing"?

With folk singing, it's relatively straightforward. If we sing for fun, let's call it folk singing - if we sing for money, let's call it show business - whatever the kind of songs being sung.

If we call something a folk song (define it how you will), then let's accept that it remains a folk song, even when being sung in a showbiz context.

And finally, let's agree that folk singers (define them as you wish) are doing folk singing when they sing non-commercially within their own community - but accept that when they get paid for singing to an audience, they have moved (temporarily) into show business.

This would not solve all our definitional problems - but it might help us to see more clearly which problem it is we are trying to solve.

Wassail!


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Mar 07 - 05:28 PM

Jim carroll,your remarks as always are interesting.
you suggest starting with the penguin book of english folk songs,why.
I would take a more international approach,
I would send off some of the posters on this forum to collect songs from the Borneo head hunters.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST,Sparticus
Date: 21 Mar 07 - 05:57 PM

"I would send off some of the posters on this forum to collect songs from the Borneo head hunters."

Interesting point, Captain Birdseye! I wonder, if some of the posters here were sent back in time to express their views to the source singers, would they be told to "folk off"????


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Mar 07 - 03:38 PM

Hi Cap'n,
Why 'The Peguin Book! Because I believe it to be the best 'general' collection of English songs in existence, covering ballads, lyrical, humourous, narrative - etc. - a good, representitive survey of our national repertoire.
If (highly unlikely) there are still headhunters in Borneo, (apart from those working for recruiting agencies), I doubt if there are many of us who would be able to make head nor tail - (is that too obvious?) of their songs. On the other hand, the songs in P.B. speak pretty much for themselves to anybody genuinely interested in discovering what the term Folk (as most of us know it) refers to. I would guess that most of us of my generation used it as a jumping off point - I certanly can't think of anything as comprehensive.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Mar 07 - 04:11 PM

but why England JIM,Folk music is more than english folk songs,Why not the penguin book of Australian or Canadian folk songs,or the Scottish folksinger,OR alan lomax book of american folk songs,allof them comprehensive,
The question was what is folk music,notwhat is the best collection of English Folk Music


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Mar 07 - 03:58 AM

Cap'n,
If somebody new comes asks about Indian food you don't introduce them to the whole menu - from biriani to phal, but you choose something that will ring bells with them - and not put them off.
With folk music, surely you give them something that they might be able to relate to.
Different cultures have different musics with different origins,. disciplines, styles and objectives.
Sure, you can point them to Ninon Leader's 'Hungarian Classical Ballads and their Folklore' or Jan Ling's excellent 'European Folk Music', or Willard Trask's 'The Unwritten Song', or the works of John Blacking or Ruth Finnegan - and a whole host of other important contributions to our understanding of folk music.
It is my opinion that you start your definition as near to home as possible - would you feel competent enough to explain the music of the Russian Steppes, or the ritual dances of the Cherokee Indians, or Mongolian throat singing - I wouldn't!
There was an excellent series of 13 programmes in the 70s by Bert Lloyd - 'Songs of the People', which covered the whole international gamut of world music, from Pygmies imitating the sound of bees in order to gather honey, to the magnificent complexity of Joe Heaney's singing. Anybody who wishes to take their understanding of folk music further would certainly do well to seek those out (I know there are copies floating around). Or Lloyd's 'Folk Music Virtuoso' -well worth getting hold of.
But I repeat, in my opinion, to anybody asking the above question I would have no hesitation in pointing them to 'Folk Song in England' for a down-to-earth, extremely readable and entertaining answer, and to 'Penguin' for examples of the genre.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 23 Mar 07 - 04:11 AM

People may have noticed I have stopped contributing to this thread.

You can take a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Scrump
Date: 23 Mar 07 - 09:32 AM

Well said, Richard. There's no compulsion to contribute to this thread, or even read it, if people don't wan to.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 23 Mar 07 - 07:34 PM

The most significant aspect of folk music is that it is represented by a sub-culture who carries it forward into subsequent generations.

The other vital importance is that it reach people on a simple and straightforward level and impel them to want to participate in it.

If people don't want to be a part of it, then it really doesn't qualify as folk music. There is the human element which is part of it that has to do with identification. Alan Lomax called it a "security blanket" because it was recognized by a community or sub-group that felt comforted and unified by it.

I think that the impelling aspect of folk music is that it somehow leaps off the page of a songbook or from the mouth of a singer and says "sing me" to enough people. The deal with pop music is that it requires a production value to make the song happen. Folk music doesn't need that. The song's "got legs" and it will perpetuate itself in spite of itself.

There are songs that have traveled through the ages and are recognized because they live in variants with themes that are universal. They are songs that are in motion and not frozen to a copyright or a specific manner of doing them.

All you have to do is look at any particular folk song and it will make itself clear from its history. Streets of Laredo has its antecedents in The Unfortunate Rake and there are clear routes of travel from Ireland to the US cowboy. St. James Hospital is another variant of this song. "When it's chittlin' cookin' time in Cheatham County" uses a tune that becomes a vehicle for the St. James Infirmary lyric which is a variant of what we are talking about. I use this as an example to indicate the history of a folk song in its travels which defines it pretty well I think.

Are there songs being written today that will become folk songs tomorrow? We'll see if we stick around long enough.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 23 Mar 07 - 07:37 PM

I thought to myself, "Richard Bridge has stopped contributing to this thread "

Then I refreshed the thread and realised I was mistaken ...


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Rog Peek
Date: 13 Apr 07 - 08:09 AM

I'd say that when it comes to Music genre, there's an awful lot of snobbery around.

I believe it was Louis Armstrong who said:

"All music is folk music, I ain't never heard no horse sing a song!"

I'm not sure I would agree with him entirely, but I think I can see whwere he's coming from.

(apologies if this quoitation has already been posted I must have missed it.)


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: Tootler
Date: 13 Apr 07 - 04:38 PM

This post from another forum makes interesting reading. Just read the last paragraph.

It helps me explain why I have always felt dissatisfied with the 1954 definition. I did not feel there was anything wrong with what the definition said, but I always felt that there was something missing but never could put my finger on what.


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Subject: RE: What IS Folk Music?
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Apr 07 - 05:17 PM

What is folk music,it is international,the songs and the tunes get carried from one country to another.,by traditional singers or by singers of traditional songs or by song carriers[who cares,is the terminology as important as the doing].
in my opinion folk music is home grown music,rather than mass produced commercial pop.
Jim Carroll,I dont believe your not competent enough to explain Scottish and Irish music.


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