Mudcat Café message #1951400 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #98509   Message #1951400
Posted By: Lonesome EJ
29-Jan-07 - 01:15 PM
Thread Name: Folk Process - is it dead?
Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?

A while back I posted a thread called "Steps in the Folk Process", and the following was cut and pasted from the opening post...

'I write Folk Songs," said the man.
"No," said the other man, "you hope you write Folk Songs."

The term Folk has been bandied about on this Forum since the beginning, with many and various definitions of what Folk means. We may never agree on the definition of what a Folk Song is, but I believe the process by which a song becomes a Folk Song may be clearer. I had the idea that it might be interesting to chart the steps through which the evolution occurs.

1) Initial Introduction as Popular Material. Folk songs of today and yesterday began their lives as popular tunes, whether spread and popularized by the electronic media today, or spread by traveling minstrels 1000 years ago. An example of a song in the popular mode with folk potential might be With Eyes Wide Open by Creed. At this stage of the process, the song is fairly well known, and closely connected to its author. Usually, the author is still alive and producing new material.

2) Persistence in Popular Music. The song has experienced the initial wave of popularity, but due to its intrinsic value or other aspects (re-release or recording by other artists, for example), the song persists in the popular idiom. Paul McCartney's Yesterday might be a good example of this stage in the process. At this stage, the song is taking on a persona independent of its author, and may not be attributable by the majority of its hearers.

3) Song Takes On Traditional Aspect. The song has become entrenched in the deeper layers of the culture, so that the majority of its hearers no longer know the author or consider the author's identity to be significant, so that the song is considered "traditional" by most hearers in the culture. This Land is your Land would appear to be on the verge of this stage, while America the Beautiful and My Old Kentucky Home have reached it. The song at this stage is well-known and often repeated orally.

4) From here, it seems to me the song will take one of three paths :

A) Song Fades from the Folk Process. Because its references are too obscure or specific to another time, or because its intrinsic value as music is weak, the song drops out of the oral tradition of the culture, and if it is remembered at all, it is remembered by a small group of scholars. Many of the Child Ballads would come under this heading, had Child not foreseen this possibility.

B) Song Is Revived as Popular Material. Although the song may have nearly disappeared from the culture, and its author obscure or unknown, it is revived in the popular idiom and re-introduced to the Folk Process. Wild Mountain Thyme and Carrickfergus may be seen as examples of this path.

C) Enduring Persistence in the Culture. Although the author is unknown, and despite the fact that the song has experienced no significant popular revival, its intrinsic power or musical quality has guaranteed its continuity. Greensleeves is an excellent example of this path.

That's it. Do you think this kind of analysis is valid, or am I grossly over simplifying the process? Can you think of songs that fit the different stages, if so which songs stand the best chance of moving from Stage 1 to Stage 4C?'