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Jody Kruskal

What is folk music today? UK and USA

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10 hours ago, DickT said:

Coffee goes better with folk music than beer!? Wunks, have you been to a session in a good British pub where the real ale flows freely? Having a pint or two with the music is essential to my concept of folk music. You just cannot roar out a belting chorus on a cup of coffee.

 

 

 

 

British pub = warm beer.  No!!!!!!!!!!!!  Must.....have....American, thin, ice cold, dishwater, clambake beer or perish!😲

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10 hours ago, wunks said:

 

British pub = warm beer.  No!!!!!!!!!!!!  Must.....have....American, thin, ice cold, dishwater, clambake beer or perish!😲

 

Bphhhht. You mean the stuff college kids live on during Spring Break recess? The chemically synthesized substance sold at a Buck a gallon that makes your vomit turn bright daisy yellow?

 

I don't have any idea how I survived my Graduate years at IU even though I only got trashed twice or three times on that crap. Would have been enough poison to finish a small army though.

 

There are acceptable beers in the States, they're called Microbrews, but those certainly don't qualify as "thin" (and I'm not sure if many folk festivals get their supplies from Microbrewers).

 

Us Germans unfortunately don't have a lot of reason to claim pride in our cultural heritage (a terrible little lunatic with a ridiculous moustache and a single testicle has driven that out of the German soul for good among many many other things), but IF there is anything we may use to connect the terms "German" and "good" without a bitter taste, then it is beer (even though there are bitter brews in the portfolio. Pun intended!).

 

Anyways, that was just a side remark, let's try to keep the thread focussed on the issue of folk, right? :D
 

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2 hours ago, RAc said:

 

 

Anyways, that was just a side remark, let's try to keep the thread focussed on the issue of folk, right? :D
 

 

Agreed.  I do Like German beer however, And there is a generous amount of German music in what we play.  Folk cultural roots tend to survive despots.  We've survived our crappy beer, and intend to  culturally survive our current situation as well!

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Well, "folk" means "people", right?

And like the people themselves, the People's music has been formed over the years, decades and centuries by the social and political conditions, which are different in every country, or even region.

To focus on the UK and the US: here, we have two very differnt envioronments, although the common language does allow a certain amount of cultural exchange, specifically song lyrics. For a start, Americans tend to live wide apart in their great country, so in the days before radio, the rural populace had less contact with academic music than in England, where no farmer was all that far from a market town, where he could hear urban,  "bourgeois" music, such as the popular songs of the day, or even pretty classical stuff in Church on special days.

 

Then there's the material culture, as far as it affects musical instruments. The Americans were privileged to have had the banjo brought to them by the African sub-culture, and the guitar by the Hispanic group (and to have very good specimens of it made by the German luthier, Herr Martin.;)) The banjo enterd the UK in the hands of the (white) Minstrel Showmen, and was immediately adopted by polite society, up to the Prince of Wales himself.The Spanish guitar never really caught on, and the English guitar, a variant of the cittern, was mainly a bourgeois instrument that fell from grace some time after 1800. With this disparity in the availability of instruments, popular music just had to develop differntly in the UK and the US. The most extreme case is the music of the Western Isles of Britain, which, like the West of Ireland, were remote and poor and had no instruments at all - except perhaps for a fiddle here and there - so music is intensely melodic there. The UK had no entrepreneurs like Charles Zimmermann, who spread his Autoharps throughout rural Appalachia with the help of travelling salesmen and mail order.

On the other hand, British working-class musicians did have ready access to cheap German concertinas early on in the 19th century.

 

Of course, the British amateur musician now has access to chording instruments like banjos, guitars and Autoharps, like his American cousin, but he has had to build up a tradition of using them, based on an earlier, melodic way of making music. In the US, the way of making music with fiddle, banjo and guitar has a very long, uninterrupted tradition, to the extent that it has become resistant to change - an accusation often made against OT musicians over there. In the UK, the tradition of "string-band" music is relatively new, and it is only yet another influence to adapt to, like the changing tastes in music-hall songs and the drawing-room ballads that seeped out of the drawing-room into the worker's or farmer's kitchen. 

 

Perhaps we could say that the Folk of the UK have a tradition of assimilation, whereas the Folk of the US have a tradition of fiddle, banjo and guitar playing. It seems to me that, in the US, extraneous influences are greeted as new genres (e.g. ITM, Klezmer, Polka) rather than being added to the mix that the Folk, broadly speaking, identifies with, which is, for me, the definition of "folk music."

 

Cheers,

John

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2 hours ago, Anglo-Irishman said:

It seems to me that, in the US, extraneous influences are greeted as new genres

 

In my experience, that's generally true, and a good insight.

 

2 hours ago, Anglo-Irishman said:

the mix that the Folk, broadly speaking, identifies with

 

But I don't agree with this.  I think that "the Folk" in the US (if there even is such a thing as one unified "Folk" here) don't generally identify with any traditional music at all.   I think that most people here tend to identify with whatever commercial music they were listening to during their teen and young adult years.

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I agree, Anglo-Irishman has a good point, and maybe, maybe Jody had a point I missed...

Hard to find "folk" music in the States.  Easy to find all kinds of folk styles, regional, ethnic, international, multi-cultural, etc. etc. 

No such thing as the "white bread" folk music anymore (think: Weavers, KIngston Trio) or first wave "black" (think Odetta, Paul Robeson).  

But all kinds of "synthetic" folk (think: Kreuger Brothers, Carolina Chocolate Drops).  One of our local bands: MIPSO.

 

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In my part of the world Jody (Remember Tom Bawcock )In and around Penzance I can go out every night of the week and find a session also sessions in the daytime .Every kind of music is catered for there are also many song groups dance groups Ukulele  and so on who play Folk including our own Cornish music .   Penzance is better for retirement than job seeking .Many people who come on holiday enjoy the music so much that they move here permanently.Most of the people in our Morris group and session players are older and I think it is a very sociable thing to do especially when working life has ended .Folk to me is what folk play and in my generation for instance Pop songs of the past  are now common in our sessions often mixed in with other music 

Irish, English ,Scottish , Breton ,Cornish ,Old Time American ,Bluegrass you name it there is a session and don't forget folk play Jazz as well .So I hope your music in the USA gets better attention Music is a big part of the next generations education   so surely there is hope that things will improve .As for distances of travel well I don't have the answer to that but you are sure of a welcome in my neighbourhood. Bob

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Posted (edited)

Folk music is now a misnomer.  It used to be the music of the folk: music that was endemic in mainstream working class culture.  Now what we call "folk" is a minority interest, no longer mainstream.

 

I have met people born in the 1970s who could sing every word of most of Buddy Holly's hits, and yet they had never been fans, and were born years after his death.  That music was endemic in their culture.  They had heard it so many times that they had just picked it up and they assumed that everyone knew it.

 

My personal opinion is that if the expression "folk music" retains any meaning at all in England, at least, it is to do with the context in which it is played.  A group of friends in a pub singing or playing collaboratively for their shared enjoyment are engaged in "folk music" whether they are singing broadsheet ballads about bold whale fishermen and coal mining, or performing a rousing rendition of "Delilah", or "Lily the Pink" or even a medley of Beatles songs.

 

On the other hand, when Thin Lizzy recorded Whiskey in the Jar, great record as it was, it was not folk music despite the traditional origin of the song.

 

Folk, traditional, and acoustic are not the same things, although there is considerable overlap.

 

In England, we have a thriving "folk scene" with the overlap of the Morris world, the folk clubs and folk festivals, and many people live in that bubble for so much of their lives that they forget what a minority interest it is.  Nevertheless, the folk community is thriving, changing slowly, and includes a lot of young and highly talented musicians, dancers and singers.

 

 

 

Edited by Mikefule
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4 hours ago, Mikefule said:

 

 

My personal opinion is that if the expression "folk music" retains any meaning at all in England, at least, it is to do with the context in which it is played.  A group of friends in a pub singing or playing collaboratively for their shared enjoyment are engaged in "folk music" whether they are singing broadsheet ballads about bold whale fishermen and coal mining, or performing a rousing rendition of "Delilah", or "Lily the Pink" or even a medley of Beatles songs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assuming for a moment this broader definition of "folk music", I wonder if anyone else is experiencing this sort of thing:  An international royalties management entity whom I won't name has on several occasions threatened legal action and effectively forced the shut down of small venue musical gatherings such as you describe that charge an admission, however small to come sit and listen.  This is in a very rural setting and an example is a vacant village grocery that wanted to start a folk club.  This appears to be an attempt to extract a licencing fee under a blanket assumption that " if you have musicians in there trading songs they most certainly at some point will play some of our protected material!"  I withhold judgement of this practice without further insight although it does seem part of a repressive effect of our U.S.  "culture"  on folk music in the above sense.  Is this widespread?  Is it widely acceptable?  Is it "Sharp Practice"?

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On 4/26/2019 at 10:27 PM, wunks said:

 

Assuming for a moment this broader definition of "folk music", I wonder if anyone else is experiencing this sort of thing:  An international royalties management entity whom I won't name has on several occasions threatened legal action and effectively forced the shut down of small venue musical gatherings such as you describe that charge an admission, however small to come sit and listen.  This is in a very rural setting and an example is a vacant village grocery that wanted to start a folk club.  This appears to be an attempt to extract a licencing fee under a blanket assumption that " if you have musicians in there trading songs they most certainly at some point will play some of our protected material!"  I withhold judgement of this practice without further insight although it does seem part of a repressive effect of our U.S.  "culture"  on folk music in the above sense.  Is this widespread?  Is it widely acceptable?  Is it "Sharp Practice"?

I've never heard of that happening in England with folk clubs.  We have laws requiring venues to be licensed for the performance of music, and there is a Performing Rights Society licence system relating to royalties.  However, folk clubs are usually a very informal affair in an upstairs room (or back room).  Very often, the pub does not charge the club for the room, knowing that they will make beer sales from the club members (or the pub may make only a small charge).  The club itself is non profit making, with any proceeds solely for the benefit of members, helping to fund later club events such as guest bookings.  On non-guest nights, many clubs ask for voluntary donations rather than an admission fee.

 

I've had the most enjoyment from Morris sessions.  English licensing laws have an exemption for unamplified singing and music associated with Morris dancing, so the pub doesn't even need a music license.  The sessions are "all mates together" with no charge for admission and no formal structure.

 

As for copyright law, many folkies inadvertently introduce sufficient spontaneous variation in the words or tune that many songs unintentionally count as a new composition.

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Posted (edited)

Thanx, that's very informative,  and it inspires a new thread........  I'll reference RAc's post about Christoph Pelgen instead.

Edited by wunks

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Wunks wrote:

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

While my sentiments align with those above,  I sense a need for at least a minimal level of protection of attribution.  It seems a regular practice in the "industry" to use the promotional formula "such and such a tune" by "such and such a recording artist" to imply authorship.  "as played by" would be fine.  It seems to happen a lot with folk music of uncertain origins but I've seen it with contemporary tunes as well.  What would be a minimal protection for casual compositions ?  Does playing a tune on a site like this and declaring authorship help?  Given the sometimes cannibalistic nature of the Music/Money biota, I can envision facing legal action for playing one's own creations........

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

I believe this discussion might as well be kept here as it addresses the nature of folk which correlates quite weill with the thread title. I understand that there are entire folk degree programmes at universities that exclusively deal with definition attempts for "folk," so hopefully someone with that type of background will chime in.

 

An observation that may be in place here is that there are a number of "classical" pieces that made their way into the standard folk repertoire, therebye losing its origin and authorship attributes. Random examples are the Huntsmen's Chorus ("Freischütz" bei Carl Maria von Weber), the Fowler (Mozart's Vogelfänger) and Michael Turner's Waltz (also a Mozart piece). Those are frequently found in tune collections, sometimes attributed, most often not. Folk repertoire appears to be more interested in anonymous pools of danceable tunes, although (in particular in English music) there is also a tradition of honoring local musicians and their work by keeping their names in the titles of the tunes (which is the safest way to ensure the names don't get dropped). Walter Bulwer and Fred Pidgeon spring to mind here.

 

I strongly believe in intellectual property, and I would very much appreciate it if the composership and creative achievement would be honored over time. However, in (particularly folk) music good pieces tend to get lives of their own and will be kept alive even after the death of the composer, which would be an argument in favor of "forgetting" the composer over time.

 

Very creative composers like Pat Shaw and Christoph Pelgen will eventually be remembered as long as original collections of their works are preserved, so researchers and collectors will be able to trace down the orgin of the tunes. 

 

All of this is of course difficult in the times of the internet, in which IP is assumed to be free and part of the public domain, as you suggest. I personally hope that this attitude is just a phase and will fade over time, giving way to the consciousness that it's always and only individual humans who create something new and original, and their names should be honored (and, more importantly, their work will be honored through allwoing those individuals to make a living on their work). Time will tell.

 

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Agree with RAC, we could add John Playford and most of the Renaissance to the "folk" trad....(Think Parsons Farewell, Newcastle, Kettledrum, All in a Garden Green, Ash Grove, Goddesses, etc.)  No IP problem after 400 years!

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Well, I’m glad that  “What is folk music today? UK and USA” has sparked the sort of lively and convivial discussion I’ve come to expect from C.Net. In contrast, imagine what an uproar this topic would have created on Mudcat Cafe? Good on us.

 

If you want details and have a few hours to spare, just go to Folk Music Wikipedia for a highly inclusive and nuanced assessment.

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2 hours ago, Jody Kruskal said:

Well, I’m glad that  “What is folk music today? UK and USA” has sparked the sort of lively and convivial discussion I’ve come to expect from C.Net. In contrast, imagine what an uproar this topic would have created on Mudcat Cafe? Good on us.

 

If you want details and have a few hours to spare, just go to Folk Music Wikipedia for a highly inclusive and nuanced assessment.

 

Certainly got me wound up!  Thanx  Jody.

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While scanning the wiki Jody mentioned, I saw a link to the American Folklore Society. On the AFS Home page I noticed a piece of folk sport - duckpin bowling. A little off topic, I suppose, but interesting to me, anyway. 

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