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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Tom Bliss Is traditional song finished? (621* d) RE: Is traditional song finished? 27 Feb 10

I don't know why I'm doing this really, but maybe it's a reaction to the rugby football.

There are unfortunately two largely similar but also crucially different forces at work here, and, again unfortunately, they go by the same term - one that ends in 'aditional.'

One of them describes a process set out, famously, in 1954 (only, of course, in 1954 they used another word which now also has two conflicting definitions). Jim has been fighting this corner very well in this thread.

The other describes a more modern version of that process, and quite a few other people have been championing this here.

We see this debate a lot.

In my view we all need to recognise BOTH the similarities AND the differences between these two processes.

Jim is right to remind us that the advent of audio recording, radio and other technologies changed the old process for ever. And we do need a word to describe songs and tunes that were formed and changed in the pre-technology era.

But the others are also right to claim that there is a modern equivalent - and that neither the existence of versions of audio recordings of songs (old or new), nor any copyright legislation, can entirely ossify a song. It can and usually will still be taken up into communal ownership to some extent, and then varied.

It's just that this second process, while similar to the first, is crucially different, because of the massive influence of the recorded versions, as broadcast by numerous media, on that process.

Why do we need to recognise this difference? For the same reason that we need to recognise the difference between an antique and a reproduction (not a perfect metaphor but the closest I can find). Yes, the reproduction may in time become as valued (or even more valued) as the antique, but it can never become the same thing.

So really we need two words, one for each process.

Having struggled with this for years I opted for a simple solution which I would again commend to this house.

Songs in the first category are often said to be in The Tradition. Note the capitals.

So, for me, old songs that fit the 54 definition are: "Traditional." (note the upper case)

Newer songs which are now being associated with some traditional activity, and/or which sound like Traditional songs, or which seem to be entering some modern equivalent of The Tradition may, repeat may, sometimes, with care, repeat with care, be associated with the "traditional" - but NEVER defined as such. (note the lower case).

Why? Because the word Traditional also has a quasi-legal meaning, vis; 'in the public domain' and it would be caddish, even potentially criminal, to apply that word to songs which are still in copyright.

All 'Traditional' songs are public domain - whether the writer is known or not, and regardless of the number of variants.

Some 'becoming traditional' songs are now in the public domain, but not many.

In time, as the lapse of time between the invention of the radio and record player and the break point on copyright lengthens, we may need to find another word for the in-betweens. Songs made in the mass media era may by then have have become traditional, but they can't ever become Traditional because the stable door was bolted before they were written.

So, for now; 'caveat emptor'


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