Mudcat Café message #3937879 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3937879
Posted By: GUEST,Pseudonymous
17-Jul-18 - 06:28 AM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
I was looking again at the first book about folk in England that I bought, by Maud Karpeles, whom I later learned more about. I now know she was involved with an international body that came up with the 1954 definition referred to above in this thread.

The book discusses definitions, and, though I did promise myself not to get involved in dizziness-inducing circular arguments, I am going to quote some of what it says. The reason I do this is because, for me, it possibly contradicts any theory that for a hundred years people have argued that to count as folk song a song must have originated with the people.

" (i)The term folk music can be applied to music that has been evolved from rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by popular or art music and it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community;

(ii) The term does not cover popular composed music that has been taken over ready-made by a community and remains unchanged, for it is the re-fashioning and re-creation of the music by the community which gives it its folk character"

One might not like the implications of this, especially as it includes the dreaded term 'popular', but for me it makes it difficult to argue that for a century folklorists have worked exclusively with a different definition.


Karpeles' discussion is more subtle than a simple 'folk-broadsheet' opposition.

She also refers to a view that folk song 'composes itself', ascribing it to early German Romantic writers, saying that many later scholars believe that 'the songs owe their origin to individual ownership'. She refers to two schools 'the production theory' and 'the reception' theory'. She says neither school gives enough importance to the question of passing on via word of mouth.

This emphasis makes it difficult, in terms of Karpeles' view, to argue that material composed in, say, 1950 would count as 'folk' music, on the basis that it has not been through the mill of re-fashioning and re-creation.

Why do the manufacturers of squidgy stuff that comes in tubes so often choose the same shade of blue? It almost leads to unfortunate misapplication of the wrong sort of stuff to one's person.:(

Somebody should write a song about it :)