Mudcat Café message #1384494 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #77564   Message #1384494
Posted By: George Papavgeris
21-Jan-05 - 01:41 PM
Thread Name: Contemporary song in folk music
Subject: RE: Contemporary song in folk music
Bugger it, I missed SYDNEY CARTER!

OK, to tackle some of Chris' other questions:

3) Are you a songwriter yourself? How do you relate to traditional song styles?
Yes "George Papavgeris" of above. I am - often unwittingly - influenced by traditional songs that I admire. But (and I think this would be valid for most contemporary songwriters), being a child of my times and having a lot more access to music of other geographies and periods than "anon" ever had, am influenced by so many styles that it is frequently impossible to pick out a single influence in a song. Occasionally I set out to write a particular type of song (drinking, industrial/trade, anti-war, hymn etc) and there the influences will be clearer.

4) Are modern 'composed' songs (as opposed to anonymous 'traditional' songs) a part of the folk repertoire and should they be?
Undoubtedly yes, IMHO. The fact that many of the folk songs are anonymous has more to do with the poor recording (and reading & writing) practices of yesteryear. If we followed exclusively the "anon" definition for folk, or even for trad folk, then there can never be another song in that category, ever again - silly! (Sorry Cecil, but "a folk song is always anonymous" doesn't cut it any longer). But if we follow some of the other definitions set out by Richard above, all of the writers in the list further up this thread have created folk songs - you might argue about the extent of folk or trad influences, but you can have contemporary folk songs with few such influences.

Why? Because you should look at the influences in context. For example, most of the folk songs of Cecil's collections might not be influenced by the Music Hall style - that was still "contemporary". But Music Hall has meanwhile entered itself the realm of folk itself, and so is by now a legitimate "folk influence" on today's songwriting. You could stretch the point further - why should not a Beatles or Dylan influence of 40 years ago be a legitimate "folk influence" in a contemporary song now?

And so, folk, and with it trad folk, evolve to include more and more influences as we move along the time line. By now, one might even question the "purity" of folk, as more international influences are included - but in my view, that would be a wrong and futile question: the world moves on, international travel and MP3s are all part of the folk process now, and any "purity" one might strive for would be false and fictitious.

5) How important/relevant are 'pastiche' styles of songwriting, e.g. Kate Rusby using antiquated language in her modern songs?
I see them as irrelevant, simply some contemporary writers' trick to dress up a song in older garb, in an effort to make it more palatable to those of more traditional tastes. It does NOT constitute "writing in a certain style". If I wanted to be really bitchy about it, I could say that such writers are missing the point: A style is defined by the musical forms and do's and don'ts therein, and by the subject matter of the lyrics, and not by tricks like finishing every line with -oh. Such songs MAY be mistaken for traditional in years to come - but traditional of a different period to the one they were written in. How much better to be writing a song of one's own times, in an older style if so wished, but speaking of the trials and tribulations and stresses and fears of one's own period! And if THIS song might one day become "traditional", it will be clearly identified with the period it belongs to - because it speaks of it.

Enough - Snorbans Windward calls...