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Folk terminology

Jim Carroll 02 Mar 08 - 04:26 AM
Richard Bridge 02 Mar 08 - 04:36 AM
Gene Burton 02 Mar 08 - 05:29 AM
Richard Bridge 02 Mar 08 - 05:39 AM
TheSnail 02 Mar 08 - 05:56 AM
Gene Burton 02 Mar 08 - 05:59 AM
Gene Burton 02 Mar 08 - 06:03 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 02 Mar 08 - 06:10 AM
Marje 02 Mar 08 - 06:44 AM
TheSnail 02 Mar 08 - 07:05 AM
Gene Burton 02 Mar 08 - 07:31 AM
Waddon Pete 02 Mar 08 - 08:07 AM
RTim 02 Mar 08 - 08:25 AM
GUEST,Meggly 02 Mar 08 - 08:32 AM
McGrath of Harlow 02 Mar 08 - 08:35 AM
Jack Campin 02 Mar 08 - 08:38 AM
GUEST,redsnapper 02 Mar 08 - 08:44 AM
McGrath of Harlow 02 Mar 08 - 08:54 AM
GUEST,Chicken Charlie 02 Mar 08 - 09:54 AM
KeithofChester 02 Mar 08 - 11:04 AM
Barry Finn 02 Mar 08 - 11:23 AM
Brian Peters 02 Mar 08 - 01:24 PM
Stringsinger 02 Mar 08 - 01:38 PM
GUEST,JohnB 02 Mar 08 - 02:00 PM
Bert 02 Mar 08 - 02:14 PM
The Mole Catcher's Apprentice (inactive) 02 Mar 08 - 02:19 PM
Amos 02 Mar 08 - 02:21 PM
Folkiedave 02 Mar 08 - 02:30 PM
KeithofChester 02 Mar 08 - 02:38 PM
michaelr 02 Mar 08 - 02:55 PM
Bert 02 Mar 08 - 03:09 PM
greg stephens 02 Mar 08 - 03:26 PM
stallion 02 Mar 08 - 03:31 PM
GUEST,Acorn4 02 Mar 08 - 03:39 PM
Nerd 02 Mar 08 - 04:30 PM
Bill D 02 Mar 08 - 05:19 PM
Suegorgeous 02 Mar 08 - 06:54 PM
Art Thieme 02 Mar 08 - 07:15 PM
TheSnail 02 Mar 08 - 07:48 PM
dick greenhaus 02 Mar 08 - 08:10 PM
Jim Carroll 03 Mar 08 - 03:23 AM
Jim Carroll 03 Mar 08 - 03:30 AM
GUEST,doc.tom 03 Mar 08 - 03:54 AM
McGrath of Harlow 03 Mar 08 - 05:22 AM
Brian Peters 03 Mar 08 - 05:32 AM
Waddon Pete 03 Mar 08 - 06:43 AM
Richard Bridge 03 Mar 08 - 06:50 AM
GUEST,bill S from Perth 03 Mar 08 - 07:01 AM
Brian Peters 03 Mar 08 - 07:05 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 03 Mar 08 - 08:28 AM
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Subject: Folk terminology
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 04:26 AM

Being relatively new (6/7 years) to the computer, I have to confess that I am also fairly green when it comes to discussion forums such as Mudcat. While I find these both educational and enjoyable, I have to admit to a certain frustration at not being able to pursue, face to face, some points I don't fully understand; for instance, the term 'folk', which appears to have no definition whatsoever to many people who take part in these discussions.
Leaving that one aside for the time being, I hope people have no objection to my airing a number of confusions that have arisen in my mind during my participation in discussions on Mudcat.

1.   Finger-in-Ear.
It has always been my understanding that this term originated from the timeless and universal practice of cupping the hand over the ear while singing unaccompanied.   
Does the fact that it has now become a term of abuse mean that, in today's clubs it is no longer necessary to sing in tune. Alternatively, is the act of singing without accompaniment now frowned on by the folk establishment?
I seem to remember from having seen them perform in the past, that singers such as Martin Carthy, Norma Waterson and the late Peter Bellamy sang with both hands cupped over their ears; does this make them 'finger(s)-in-ear(s) singers, and therefore, doubly reprehensible?

2.   97 verse ballads.
In my experience a ballad performed at a folk club can have anything from 2 to around 20 verses on average. Though there are ballads and songs in print that exceed this number, I have never heard them performed, though I did once hear an octogenarian sing a 17 verse, 8 line song (The True Lover's Discussion) which lasted nearly fifteen minutes. So popular was his performance, that he was persuaded to repeat it later in the same session.
Is there an optimum length to a song when performed at a club; if so, what is it?
Does the same rule apply to, say reading; what is the ideal number of pages in a book, and should I take my copies of Dickens down to the Oxfam shop?
Then again, there's cinema; should 'Ben Hur', 'Heaven's Gate', '1900' and Branagh's 'Hamlet' have ended up on the cutting room floor?
As a footnote to this question, I should confess that personally, I find a singer-songwriter droning his way through a self-penned, 3 verse piece about his girlfriend (or 'chick') having run off (or 'split) with his bodhrán playing best friend (usually delivered in a pseudo-American accent), 3 verses too long; but there again, that's me!

3.   Folk police.
I have always believed that the police are there to preserve the status-quo and protect the privileges of the privileged; yet whenever I encounter the term 'folk police' it is invariable used by members of the present-day folk establishment against those who dare to challenge the status-quo.
Does this indicate that the term 'police' no longer means what it used to mean (sort of like the term 'folk')?   

And finally, the one I have the most trouble with;
4.   Folk fascist.
I am of the generation who associates the term fascist with concentration camps, gas-ovens, Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, and the systematic extermination of Jews, Gypsies, trades unionists, and those considered mentally and physically unfit to be part of the 'world order'.
Does the fact of the term being applied to 'folk dissidents' indicate the existence of establishments for dispatching to a better place, those who, say, prefer the singing of Harry Cox to Seth Lakeman, or Sam Larner to Jim Moray?
Thanks in anticipation,
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 04:36 AM

Very witty, Jim. But Heaven's Gate was about 3 hours too long and bankrupted Goldcrest, so perhaps it was not the best example!

By and large I agree with you. But you knew that, I think.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Gene Burton
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 05:29 AM

"singers such as Martin Carthy...sang with both hands cupped over their ears"

Is there a particular technique Carthy used to do this AND similtaneously play guitar? Did he used to have four arms and, if so, when/why did he dispense with the other pair??

I stopped singing unaccompanied trad songs for a while, but recently started again. Done reasonably well, I find it can really grab an audience's attention and make 'em watch during that tricky middle part of a gig when attention can sometimes start to wander...particularly if it's a younger crowd less familiar with the tradition. Would never have occurred to me that cupping my hands over my ears in the manner suggested would help my pitch, though...is there any science behind this? I always assumed it was just a mannerism some singers of a certain generation developed.

I've pretty well said my piece on folk police issues on other threads.

And I agree, calling ANYBODY a fascist for any other reason than literally being one, is reprehensible.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 05:39 AM

Don't be silly Gene. Putting even one hand over an ear considerably handicaps guitar work.

A hand put like an extended ear (or a Ferengi's lobes) helps reflect the singer's own voice into his ear to enable it to be heard more clearly - particularly useful when someone else is singing a harmony down each side of you.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: TheSnail
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 05:56 AM

Jim Carroll

It has always been my understanding that this term originated from the timeless and universal practice of cupping the hand over the ear while singing unaccompanied.

Never saw Pavarotti do it.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Gene Burton
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 05:59 AM

"someone else...singing a harmony down each side of you." Could be construed as assault, particularly if uninvited! But that would justify the use of the finger in the ear as self-defence, if nothing else...seriously, though, that's an interesting point.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Gene Burton
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 06:03 AM

Pavarotti, in fairness, had to act as well as sing, which might have constrained his vocal technique a little...


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 06:10 AM

I have seen woodcuts etc., depicting street singers and the like, cupping their hands behind their ears, presumably so that they can hear themselves above the general din of the streets.

The other night I caught the end of a TV programme about the relationship which developed between the radical black American singer, Paul Robeson and the miners of South Wales in the 1950s. I'm sure there was a clip of Robeson singing with his hand cupped behind his ear ...? Did anyone else see it?

Anyway, as an unaccompanied singer myself I can confirm that it is a useful technique. Sadly, though, it has been extensively mocked by idiots who are upset that Folk Music is different to fashionable, commercial pop and rock music (which is usually just about all the music that they can cope with).


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Marje
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 06:44 AM

If it really was helpful to sing with your hand cupped over your ear, you'd think it would have caught on more extensively beyond the folk genre. There may be isolated examples elsewhere, but I've can't say I've never seen a classical or jazz or pop singer do it.

In many informal venues, some of your audience may be on the far side of the protruding elbow. This means that although the singer gets satisfing feedback and enjoys the sound of their own voice more, for part of the audienc the hand and arm muffle the sound somewhat, and block the view of the singer's face. It always seems a bit self-indulgent to me, as if the important thing to that singer is that they can wallow in the sound they're making. To my mind, it makes more sense for singers to tune in to the acoustic of the room and get used to hearing their voice this way.

As for doing it in harmony singing - well, the whole point of harmony is to blend with the other voices, not block them out. If you don't listen to the other parts, you won't tune in properly to them, but come across as 2 or 3 soloists singing together (which, to my ear, is often how classsical/opera singsers sound in trios etc).

I agree though, Jim, that terms like Folk Fascist and Folk Police are ludicrous. Folk is by far the most unregulated and inclusive form of musical activity in our (UK) culture, which is both its greatest asset and its biggest drawback. Any other musical genre will be found to have far more in the way of rules, expectations, auditions, and agreed styles of performance.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: TheSnail
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 07:05 AM

Gene Burton

But that would justify the use of the finger in the ear as self-defence

Nah. The best form of defence is attack. Stick your finger in someone else's ear.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Gene Burton
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 07:31 AM

And pass up the chance to inflict my unimpeded singing on said foe? Never!


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 08:07 AM

Hello,

Time was, when you saw someone with a hand clasped to their ear you knew they were a traditional folksinger (or a singer of traditional songs),(or a singer singing a song from a tradition).

Nowadays you know they are on their mobile phone.

Seriously tho' the finger cupped round the ear serves the same purpose as musicians with ear pieces...you can still hear what you are doing when everyone else is playing or singing. If you listen to the Beatles recordings of their live playing, in the days before such ear pieces, you'll notice they are out of key in their singing.

People will always mock what they don't comprehend.

97 verse ballads is shorthand for, "he/she is a lovely person, but they do go on a bit" (In whatever genre!)

Folk Police.....when people feel they've been hard done by they need to blame it on some-one other than themselves. Sometimes they're right...sometimes not!

Fascist....reprehensible usage...click past such postings and avoid in future.

Best wishes,

Peter


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: RTim
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 08:25 AM

I only find it a problem when the audience cup their hands over their ears!

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: GUEST,Meggly
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 08:32 AM

Referring to point 3 I think you may have got the terminology the wrong way round. When hearing the term Folk Police I've always thought it referred to the people stopping the dissidents from performing their own brand of folk rather than the dissidents themselves. But mebe this is a form of defence; by labelling those challenging the status quo as the Folk Police, the real Folk Police become the Secret Folk Police there by causing confusion.

By the way, I wasn't aware that Status Quo had written anything vaguely folky apart from 'Pictures of Matchstick Men'. But I'm now expecting them at a folk club near me any day and I expect that the Secret Folk Police will be out in very secrect force.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 08:35 AM

I've seen a lot of photos of pop musicians wearing headphones while they are recording, which is high tech equivalent.

Anyone who says that the cupped hand doesn't help them hearing themselves when singing, especially in a noisy environment, either hasn't ever tried it, or they must be deaf in that ear. For an unaccompanied singing, if anything, the affectation is to make a point of keeping your hands away from the ear.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Jack Campin
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 08:38 AM

Holding your hand behind an ear is absolutely normal in all genres of singing in the Middle East, from Koran reciters and muezzins doing the call to prayer to folk ballad singers to cabaret performers. I haven't found an image to prove it yet, but I'd bet it goes far back into pre-Islamic times.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: GUEST,redsnapper
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 08:44 AM

hand clasped to their ear

I'm not mocking it... I just don't comprehend it! (;>)


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 08:54 AM

Try it next time you are singing in a noisy setting, redsnapper, especially if the noise includes other people singing, and I think you will notice the difference. It helps you hear your own voice better. (It can be a chastening experience, if your voice is off that night...)


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: GUEST,Chicken Charlie
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 09:54 AM

At the risk of being de-Mudcatted, Jim, let me actually try to address your original questions.

Never experimented with cupping, but literally putting a finger in one ear does help me hear whether I'm in harmony or not, and since I don't have the best musical "ear," I resort to that when I'm trying to harmonize.

On length, it's the old saw: It's not how long you make it; it's how you make it long. Actually you answered that yourself with the 17 x 8 example. I'm used to the regulars at my usual open mic and I know there are some who'll have me climbing the wall in three minutes and others I could listen to all night. My mental preferences (which I will posthumously publish as the Claremont Protocol), are, so far, just: Don't scream or bellow at me; don't repeat ANY phrase four times; don't be obscene; don't get up there and tell me you haven't had time to rehearse--go home and get the damn thing down and then come back and do it right; and if you have multiple guitars, don't have everybody playing in the same position. Anything beyond that will be gravy.

I am a dyed-in-the-wool lover and performer of old stuff from 1901 back. I have no problem listening to singer-songwriters who say, "Here's a folk song I wrote last week." I WONDER at the use of the term "folk"--they could just say, "Here's a song I wrote last week." But I don't "have a problem" with the usage. I would occasionally enjoy hearing somebody else finger-pick, but hey, that's just me.

I only know one twisted individual who would qualify as Folk Police, and he goes around snorting "that's not TRADITIONAL" at everybody else while innovating like a mad thing himself. "Folk Fascist" is over the top. As someone mentioned, Fascists put people in ovens; even for Mudcat that is IMO not something to joke about or dub someone just because they like "Barbree Ellen."

I don't detect any enmity toward unaccompanied singers; I just don't think many performers are confident enough to try this.


Anyway--good questions. You used the word "rules" a lot, though. I won't say there are no rules--there are rules of etiquette, for example--but whatever builds a connection between you and your audience is valuable, regardless of length, accompaniment, principalities, powers and all that other stuff.

Chicken Charlie


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: KeithofChester
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 11:04 AM

The Folk Taleban will be along in a moment to tell you that you are ALL wrong!


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Barry Finn
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 11:23 AM

At the Press Room we often get a table full of folks that come down to the end of the room where the session's being held so they can hear the music better while they talk & joke & carryy on very loudly. Well, just 2 nights ago I happen to be singing unaccompanied & this table started carrying on very loudly, I was singing only a few feet away, so I had to stand up to sing "over" them, they continued to carry on, they got so loud I did it, I stuck my finger in my ear, so I couldn't hear them, not so I could hear my self, there's a difference. It may be that many people sing with a finger in the ear rather than cupping the ear? If I had had enough fingers I would've stuck everyone at that table in the ears but alas if I had that many fingers I wouldn't be singing unaccompanied.

As to 97 verse ballads, I haven't heard one since the late 60's, I expect never to hear one again. But I could sing you two.

Barry


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Brian Peters
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 01:24 PM

1.   Finger-in-Ear.
A term employed by lazy journalists (usually in conjunction with the phrase 'woolly sweaters') to describe any activity within the folk scene over the last fifty years. Also used by a few folk club organisers who don't enjoy traditional songs to rebuff performers who sing them (as in: "We don't go for that finger-in-the-ear stuff at our club"). A stereotype possibly to be blamed on MacColl imitators who adopted the head-back, eyes shut posture, as well as the hand over the ear. However, I can't say I've seen one of those in a folk club for twenty years or more.

2. 2.   97 verse ballads.
A term used by people with a short attention span to describe any traditional song over four verses long. Alternatively, a bad performance of a five-verse ballad.

3.   Folk police.
People who care about the meaning of words.

Incidentally, Jim, I'm not sure who you're referring to as the 'folk establishment', but around the folk clubs I visit an awful lot of the floor performers sing unaccompanied, whether the song is traditional or not.

'Folk Taleban' - that's a new one. I must buy myself a turban.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Stringsinger
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 01:38 PM

Hi Jim,

I'll throw in my 2 cents here.

" the term 'folk', which appears to have no definition whatsoever to many people who take part in these discussions."

I wouldn't say it has no definition but certainly conflicting ones depending on your vantage point and reason for being a part of a "folk process".


"1.   Finger-in-Ear.
It has always been my understanding that this term originated from the timeless and universal practice of cupping the hand over the ear while singing unaccompanied.   
Does the fact that it has now become a term of abuse mean that, in today's clubs it is no longer necessary to sing in tune."

Singing in tune is an arbitrary discussion since from the time of the tempered scale,
there has been no precise tuning in music. Many folksingers who are authentic sound
out of tune to those who are not familiar with the vocal folk styles. Some notes are deliberately or unconsciously altered to reflect a musical tradition or history. Some consider that they can hear themselves better if the mess with their ears. This may be
delusional on their part, however.


"Alternatively, is the act of singing without accompaniment now frowned on by the folk establishment?"

I don't think so. There are plenty of a capella small groups who like singing that way.
The "folk establishment" is not specific enough. There are many "folk establishments".

"I seem to remember from having seen them perform in the past, that singers such as Martin Carthy, Norma Waterson and the late Peter Bellamy sang with both hands cupped over their ears; does this make them 'finger(s)-in-ear(s) singers, and therefore, doubly reprehensible?"

Agreed that this could be some kind of affectation. But it also made them shut out extraneous noises such as out-of-tune accompanists or well-meaning players who didn't know the songs.

"2.   97 verse ballads.
In my experience a ballad performed at a folk club can have anything from 2 to around 20 verses on average. Though there are ballads and songs in print that exceed this number, I have never heard them performed, though I did once hear an octogenarian sing a 17 verse, 8 line song (The True Lover's Discussion) which lasted nearly fifteen minutes. So popular was his performance, that he was persuaded to repeat it later in the same session.
Is there an optimum length to a song when performed at a club; if so, what is it?"

I think it's what the market will bear. I once sang with Alan Lomax and we traded fifteen
minutes on verses to John Henry. The audience was highly amused.

The griots of Africa are able to present verses to their epic songpoems that can last for many hours. I personally like long ballads if they tell a story in an elegant way.

More responses to your questions later.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: GUEST,JohnB
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 02:00 PM

"Finger in the ear", is the cheaper equivalent of "a bit more vox humanis in the monitors please" or the even more expensive single or double "in ear" monitors which lots of the richer bands use these days.
I personally only resort to a quick shutting off of my right ear with the middle finger, when I hear a "strange" note in the harmony.
I just want to check that it isn't me.
JohnB


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Bert
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 02:14 PM

Alternatively, is the act of singing without accompaniment now frowned on by the folk establishment?

There are clubs where you won't get to sing if you don't have a guitar.

AT one song circle I used to frequent there was a woman with a beatiful voice who complained of the same problem. So every now and then just for fun (or if I didn't know the chords) I'd put my gutar down and sing unaccompanied. It is something we should all do from time to time to improve our singing.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: The Mole Catcher's Apprentice (inactive)
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 02:19 PM

"97 verse ballads."


"Is there an optimum length to a song when performed at a club; if so, what is it?"

I was wondering the same about some postings on Mudcat....

Charlotte (the Sunday view from Ma and Pa's piano stool


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Amos
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 02:21 PM

By the way, Fascism and Nazi-ism are two different things. Fascism is the authoritarian marriage of state and corporations. While the Nazis were also fascistic, the classic paradigm of Fascism, and the original definer of the word, was Mussolini.

The use of fascism and naziism as joking references to people who get puffed up with arbitrary authority and act dictatorial is pretty wide spread. Saturday Night Live created a classic in their skit about the Soup Nazi, "No zoup for you!!!" routine. People have coined terms such as fashion-nazi and such, and folk-fascist is just an extension of this describing people who elect to dictate to others what is acceptable enjoyment in the folk circus.

A


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Folkiedave
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 02:30 PM

Brian Peters has it absolutely spot on, except it isn't just lazy journalists and it seems particularly prevalent in the BBC with the honourable exception of Woman's Hour. Even when discussing with Chris Woods in a reasonably sensible way last week - Libby Purvis just had to mention it.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: KeithofChester
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 02:38 PM

Posibly the funniest parody.

Springtime for Hitler

I'm sure with a good camcorder, some arran sweaters and tankards it could be updated...


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: michaelr
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 02:55 PM

Just remembered a guitar workshop I attended where the brilliant guitarist Nina Gerber talked about the evolution of her craft and said "...and I turned into a theory nazi".

While this usage may be frivolous, it's pretty easily understood. It's just shorthand.

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Bert
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 03:09 PM

The optimum length of a song is three minutes.
The optimum length of a Mudcat post is twenty lines.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: greg stephens
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 03:26 PM

I think "97 verse ballad" is a perfectly acceptable bit of humorous hyperbole. Much like "17 pints of lager". The terms just mean "a very long song" and " a lot of beer" and that is fine by me. In general, I share Jim Carroll's viewpoint on this.I especially get rather tired of the tankard/sweater/finger in ear school of journalism.. I am a traddy(though also one of the dreaded multi-cultural fusion innovators as well),but I have never worn an Aran sweater, never sung in public with a hand anywhere near my ear(though I've tried it out at home), and I have NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER walked along the front at Sidmouth with a tankard attached to my belt, or to any other part of my clothing or my anatomy.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: stallion
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 03:31 PM

I go with guest john B, recently we were singing with a PA and I couldn't hear myself on the monitors , I had no idea what sound was coming out which made me incredibly self conscious, I cupped the dreaded ear and heard the right sort of sounds, such was the blend I just couldn't pick my voice out of it, it was there but I needed the reassurance cos with only three voices one is a tad exposed if you hit a bum note and at worse several!


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: GUEST,Acorn4
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 03:39 PM

You can sometimes have affection towards something you appear to be mocking - don't take yourself TOO seriously! - I like to hear anything that's performed well, or if not technically well, at least with character -some traditional singers can make it seem like 97 verses, some singer-songwriters can have you reaching for the Wilkinson Sword within 3 minutes - there are a range of clubs all with a slightly different focus -it's a case of "when in Rome!" sometimes.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Nerd
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 04:30 PM

I live in the U.S., and we don't really have the finger-in-ear stereotype. I guess we don't have a Ewan MacColl-type figure who did it.

I put my finger in my ear when I sing in a noisy bar, so I can hear myself. It's not delusional, Frank--try it sometime, if you're at a gig with lousy monitors and can do a song without the guitar. Or better yet, if you're in a noisy bar!

Amos, the Soup Nazi was a character on Seinfeld, not Saturday Night Live. Just sayin'....

Jim, do you really think singer-songwriters sing three-verse songs about their "chick" who "split?" I think you're engaging in the same type of silly stereotyping you're decrying...and 40 years out of date, at that.

Nowadays they sing about their "feelings..." Uh, oh, now I'M doing the silly stereotyping...and probably twenty years out of date! Sorry, singer-songwriters!


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Bill D
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 05:19 PM

Well, with some hearing loss accompanying old age, *I* certainly hear better with my hand cupped to my ear...for my own singing particularly, but sometimes to hear others in an acoustically difficult room.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 06:54 PM

These days I tend to sing unaccompanied into mics at places I'm pretty sure people are going to shut up and listen most of the time, and hear myself pretty well. But I resorted quite naturally to finger in ear recently while at band practice, when I couldn't hear myself for the others playing, until I realised I could turn myself up!

To all those who think it's an affectation - nope, it really does work, and in noisy places can be crucial, I imagine.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Art Thieme
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 07:15 PM

In the 1950s I collected songs from a street singer who was the original Elvis imitator. More often than not, his finger was not in his ear---it was up his nose. He said folks told him he sang through his nose, so plugging up one side of it helped him a lot with diction and tone quality. I asked him what was wrong with his diction? I didn't hear any problem at all. He answered, "Where my diction is concerned, my main problem is that the damn thing keeps falling out of my pants!" ----- So I gave him a rim-shot!!!

Just about then a cop started to hassle him about playing on the street and he, without missing a beat, stuck a broomstick up his ass and went into "You Ain't Nothin' But A Hound Dog"----The shaking of his legs and hips got that broom to moving so good that he was doing a real credible job of sweeping that street and immitating The King all at the same time. With an exhibition of civic pride like that, there was no way the cop could bug him. He was, at long last, an asset to the community.

As far as Ferenghis are concerned, I've always felt they should all be given lobe-otomies. That'd help their hanging lobes problems with their unique ears for sure. The question we're left with is: Can Ferenghis all play by ear?

And do they get calluses on their lobes from doing that??

Truth be known, Ferenghis, being the devious super patriotic pure Capitalists and dollar hoarding, money grubbing creatures that they are, we should've seen before now that they've inhabited the Oval
Office here in the USA for the last eight years--. PEOPLE, Euros aside, we are in a ton of trouble when the dollar falls behind a bar of gold pressed latinum! -- 'Nuf said...

And another thing,
getting back to that folk terminology discussion palaver: I've known for the last decade, at least, maybe three or four decades, that nobody knows what the hell folk music is but me!!! (Maybe Joe Hickerson and Barry Finn too.) Like George, I will stay the damn course!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Love,

Art


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: TheSnail
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 07:48 PM

we should've seen before now that they've inhabited the Oval

WHAT? The Ferenghis play cricket?


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 08:10 PM

I guess I've always been much less concerned with what went into a singer's ear than what came out of his mouth.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 03 Mar 08 - 03:23 AM

"The optimum length of a song is three minutes."
Bert;
I assume this is the limit of your attention span.
Coincidentally, the BBC adopted the 'three minute' rule back in the sixties, on the basis that this was the maximum length of time an audience could be expected to listen to a song. There was a heated debate about it at the time. To me, is smacks of patronising arrogance.
If my postings at too long for you - please feel free not to read them.
I was a little surprised at the response to the 'hand over ear' technique. There are illustrations of it being used in England as early as Tudor times; Tuer's 'Street Cries of Old London' has a half a dozen examples in woodcut form. It was used by many singers in the early revival, Ewan and Bert being the best remembered. I have always assumed it was introduced by Lloyd though his work in Eastern Europe, where it was a common technique.
Folk Police.
Not a term I use or like, and certainly not confined to lazy journalists.
I have always considered it a phrase used for scoring points and diverting attention from an argument by people running out of ideas.
To me, it is the myth of being 'instructed' how to sing and what to think, rather that the reality of vociferous argument.
The nearest I ever got to 'folk policing' was to be told on this forum (a couple of weeks ago) that what I (and many others) have been listening to, singing and studying over the last four decades 'can have no possible relevence to modern life' - now there's a descision made on my behalf!
If some people find Fascist (and even Nazi) acceptable terms to be used when discussing music, well..... it takes all sorts I suppose.
Personally, I thought I'd left juvenile name-calling back in the playfround of Birchfield Road Junior School all those years ago.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 03 Mar 08 - 03:30 AM

PS
Nerd wrote:
"Jim, do you really think singer-songwriters sing three-verse songs about their "chick" who "split?" I think you're engaging in the same type of silly stereotyping you're decrying..."
My point exactly - stereotyping is wrong, wherever it comes from.
".....and 40 years out of date, at that.":
I don't go to many clubs nowadays, but I heard this one at a singing session recently - which makes it around four weeks out of date I'm afraid.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: GUEST,doc.tom
Date: 03 Mar 08 - 03:54 AM

Hello Jim

Well this turned into a more sensibly argued thread than I would have expected! even though it's drifted a bit lately.

If it's four week out of date, perhaps it's becoming traditional.

'no possible relevence to modern life'? - if that's true then either we've all stopped being human beings or I've just given up on modern life.

Tom Brown


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 03 Mar 08 - 05:22 AM

Songs about lovers parting are hardly a new phenomenon. It's even been known to happen in real life. The relevant thing is whether a particular song about such matters is a good song or not.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Brian Peters
Date: 03 Mar 08 - 05:32 AM

>> I think "97 verse ballad" is a perfectly acceptable bit of humorous hyperbole. Much like "17 pints of lager". The terms just mean "a very long song" and " a lot of beer" and that is fine by me. <<

Yes, Greg, but the former is invariably used in the third person ("Oh Christ, he's doing a 97-verse ballad") and the latter in the first ("What a great night, I must have drunk 17 pints of lager"), which suggests a subtle difference of intent. While it's best not to take this kind of thing too much to heart, it does sadden me - as one who thinks that the ballads are the cream of the traditional song repertoire - to hear them either dismissed out of hand as of necessity long and boring, or performed so indifferently that they *become* long and boring. I once sat through a performance of Matty Groves of spectacular melodic inaccuracy and lack of committment, only for the singer to finish a couple of verses prematurely with the words: "I can't remember the rest - anyway they all end up dead." It would have been preferable (although still incorrect) if he'd said that after verse 1.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 03 Mar 08 - 06:43 AM

".....he's doing a 97-verse ballad"

I must say I've never heard the phrase used in this way...mayhap I've been lucky! It is used differently in our neck of the woods, (see my posting near the top of the thread).

Some songs are long while others just seem that way!

Best wishes,

Peter


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 03 Mar 08 - 06:50 AM

Oh no, 17 pints of lager and a vindaloo is commonly used to describe a certain sort of person. They probably drive a modified Subaru Impreza with an exhaust the size of the Blackwall tunnel and have two mobile phones both with cameras which play some fusion-pop-mobo song that you have never heard of and it tuneless anyway as a ringtone.


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: GUEST,bill S from Perth
Date: 03 Mar 08 - 07:01 AM

Finger in the ear
I was too lazy to learn an instrument so I sing without, very occasionally I find my finger in the ear to adjust the pitch. In my local folk club the floor spots are mainly unaccompanied, we've had guests who were unfamiliar with this and amazed that people could sing without hiding behind a guitar. No fingers in ears though. I must admit to grasping a tankard now and again especially when it suits the theme of the song and I have walked through Sidmouth with one on my belt many years ago. We don't wear sweaters in Perth or anoraks. Favourite intro in Cairns "well there's this bloke and he doesn't play guitar and he doesn't use mikes and he's called Bill"
97 verse ballads
The longest song I remember following was in Gorton and was sung by a West Indian band, we asked how long it was and were told 123 verses, where are they now, we asked, he listened and said 61, so we asked if we had time for a pint, were told yes and went to the pub.
One of Australia's leading trad Australian bush singers admitted that he knew most of the Robin Hood ballads but couldn't sing them because it was not what was expected of him.
Back in Uni days we had a resident regularly singing Queen Eleanors Confession slightly flat and that was our sign for a beer break, it was years before I realised what a good song it was.
Sorry I couldn't reach 20 lines


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: Brian Peters
Date: 03 Mar 08 - 07:05 AM

>> 17 pints of lager and a vindaloo is commonly used to describe a certain sort of person. <<

OK, granted. I was thinking about William Hague (though to be strictly accurate, Ol' Shining Pate's boast was of having drunk a mere sixteen).

The rest of your description actually fits my son pretty well (although he can't as yet afford the Impreza).


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Subject: RE: Folk terminology
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 03 Mar 08 - 08:28 AM

"One of Australia's leading trad Australian bush singers admitted that he knew most of the Robin Hood ballads but couldn't sing them because it was not what was expected of him."

Wow! Has he been recorded?


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