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GUEST,Frank Has The Folk Community Changed? (87* d) RE: Has The Folk Community Changed? 07 Feb 05

Jerry, I've thought a lot about what you've just brought up in this thread. One of the good things is that folk music in recent years has broadened my taste, interest and outlook. I grew up in essentially a left-wing orientation toward folk music and still enjoy this. But I started getting interested in a variety of musical styles from early trad country and blues through bluegrass and the popularization of groups who I also admire such as Bud and Travis, some of the KT and the Limelighters and my old buddy Erik Darling who played with the Rooftop Singers and the Tarriers. I went through a reaction to a doctrinaire political approach to folk music, through a trad period which some have called "purist" to jazz, pop music of the twenties and thirties, be-bop, and Broadway show music. I see the "folk community" as having expanded.
    I think that when I was growing up in the music in Los Angeles, there was a small coterie of folkies and we were a tight knit community at that time. This would have included Derroll Adams, Odetta, Dave Zeitlin, Ed Pearl (who started the Ash Grove) Pete Seeger, Guy Carawan, Woody Guthrie, Eddie Mann, Dave Arkin, Walle Hille, Earl Robinson, Marcia Berman, Ramblin' Jack, Moe Hirsch, Bess and Butch Hawes, Rich Dehr and Frank Miller and then when I hitch-hiked to New York I became part of the Washington Square scene. In Chicago, I was part of that scene with Art Thieme and the Old Town School of Folk Music. I agree with Art that there was (at least for me) more of a community spirit. There seemed to be more acceptance and it was a family type feel.
    Nowadays, the socializing element of folk music has been compartmentalized into various sub-groups such as the bluegrass community, old-time string band, celtic, blues...etc.
There is a lot less cross-polenization and eclectic interest amoung these groups.
    I think each of these interest groups have something important to offer. I've gone full cycle in my experience and am now interested in a political orientation and am working on songwriting as a result. One thing, I think that the folk musics that I've been exposed to has taught me is that it's important not to be rigid and doctrinaire. If you really love music, than there is all kinds to appreciate. Pete Seeger told me that what he saw as a "hootenanny" would encompass all kinds of musical expression with the common denominator that would bring all kinds of performers to a receptive public who would feel a part of the music presented. For example, there could be a counterline that an audience could sing while a jazz group playedan improvisation. The "hootenanny" idea goes back a long way and a long time. 1930's through the songs and publishing of Bob Miller who wrote "Ten Cent Cotton and Forty Cent Meat".
    This notion of sharing folk music came about precisely because of the left-wing movement and it was responsible for its national popularity although the left-wing song movement was at that time not broad-based at all. But you mentioned Ken Goldstein who was definitely a product of the Left-wing and many other folklorists such as Alan Lomax, Botkin, Archie Green etc.
who popularized the idea that American folk music was something inclusive and worthwhile. I remember that Pete Seeger was one of the first (if not the first) to introduce Scruggs style banjo playing to the New York area.
    Bluegrass, a recent phenomenon, has its own sub-culture and community. Like "rap" and "hip hop" it seems as though it views itself as separate from the well-spring of music that spawned it. This compartmentalization in recent years as different forms of music have been delved into with more depth
is in my opinion, the reason why the folk communities have become fragmented rather than interdependent.

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