Mudcat Café message #1955281 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #98509   Message #1955281
Posted By: GUEST
02-Feb-07 - 01:40 AM
Thread Name: Folk Process - is it dead?
Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
Ah well...

My family is about as deep into performing traditional music as it is possible to be, and not a one of us has the least belief that the folk process is dead.

Consider the example of human evolution. When lifespans were shorter, people married in early teens, had children and died early. Evolution was faster, then. Imagine that the human lifespan, and our reproductive cycle, doubled in some future reality, as it has doubled in the last 200 years. Evolution would be slower yet.

My daughter sings "Muleskinner's Blues" the way she heard Odetta sing it. Most local performers sing it the way Bill Monroe sang it, except that most of them don't have copies of Bill Monroe's version. They change the arrangement and confuse the lyrics. Few have actually heard Jimmie Rodgers' original version, though it is available on CD.

It is as if the song were an organism that has found hosts in the singers of Appalachia. It is evolving and surviving. In the days before recorded music the lifespan of a particular performance was much shorter, and evolution was faster, but the process seems the same.

I have heard, in the past 3 months, five different performances of the Child Ballad "Geordie." Heaven knows why this classic has come out of dormancy now, but it has. With no definitive performance on CD, I don't doubt that the folk process is vigorously at work. Like some tough microorganism the song is living, multiplying, reproducing.

Folk music, in general and the ballads in particular, are very tough organisms indeed. I doubt that the entire World Health Organization could wipe out "Barbary Allen" in our lifetime.

Considering other songs, there is a "Dixie" eradication program at work in many settings. I doubt that we can find every carrier, so there will probably be an outbreak of "Dixie" sometime in the future.

The truth is that the folk process is a part of the core complement of lawful processes of human existence that seem to fit biological patterns. We fool ourselves when we suppose that basic, well-understood processes are no longer active.