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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Tom Bliss Is traditional song finished? (621* d) RE: Is traditional song finished? 28 Feb 10

Richard Mellish:

I wasn't saying there was a 'Sharp' dividing line, far from it. I was saying that there are two processes which share many characteristics, but which need to be seen as different.

And yes, there is a big grey area in the middle, which also sneaks and leaks out in curly wisps along both axes.

I see a lot of entrenched views in these discussions, yet always hope each side will recognise the weaknesses in their own arguments and the validity of those opposite - because there is right on both sides.

There is no sharp line.

(Please note my 'T's and 't's forthwith)

Some 'island' communities, or those which maintain a really strong community with a continuing aural tradition (I prefer that to oral, because it's the listening which is key) have gone on making new Traditional songs to this day. Plus, as we've said, there are still various traditional and evolutionary influences at work. But neither of these factors are influential enough to generate the localisation, the occupationalisation, the regionalisation and the vast numbers of variants, that we find among the main body of Traditional material. Therefore we can interpolate far less historical, sociological and musicalogical information from them, and we can only know this if we know which type of material we are dealing with. Hence why Traditional material needs to be labelled correctly.

Contrariwise, collectors since the dawn of time, 'folk song Shakespeares', broadside printers, court musicians and others have had more influence, I believe, on Traditional music than is frequently suggested. But by the same token, these influences worked within and alongside the aural Tradition, giving us the archive we see today. It is equally wrong to suggest that these influences are akin to those of today's mass media. Yes, the two groups have some similarities, but they are so different in scale as to be incomparable.

So yes there is overlap, but glueman has it (Jim said something similar). In the latter case we are dealing with a revival, after the original process had effectively stopped. So there IS a line, a thick, grey, smudgy line, but it spans the two World Wars, and largely anything from before that can potentially be Traditional, anything from after it can't.

Then add in the rules of law and common decency around copyright and attribution and you wind up with the position I have taken above.


Jim, I've said this before: working professionals have to work with the market as they find it. They have to research the terminology and expectations of the people they hope will buy their product, and then express their sales pitch in that 'universal' language rather than the rarified language of academia. My problems were never about using the words 'Folk,' 'Traditional' and 'Songwriter' within the movement - it was around using them outside the movement.

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