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Steamfolk

GUEST,Suibhne Astray 03 Jul 11 - 06:33 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 03 Jul 11 - 06:47 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 03 Jul 11 - 06:51 PM
Bugsy 04 Jul 11 - 02:03 AM
Spleen Cringe 04 Jul 11 - 04:19 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 04 Jul 11 - 05:19 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 04 Jul 11 - 05:33 AM
Will Fly 04 Jul 11 - 06:58 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 04 Jul 11 - 07:25 AM
GUEST,matt milton 04 Jul 11 - 08:26 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 04 Jul 11 - 10:11 AM
SteveMansfield 04 Jul 11 - 10:43 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 04 Jul 11 - 10:50 AM
GUEST,matt milton 04 Jul 11 - 11:05 AM
GUEST,matt milton 04 Jul 11 - 11:22 AM
Charley Noble 04 Jul 11 - 11:47 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 04 Jul 11 - 11:50 AM
GUEST,matt milton 04 Jul 11 - 12:22 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 04 Jul 11 - 12:35 PM
glueman 04 Jul 11 - 12:58 PM
theleveller 05 Jul 11 - 04:01 AM
theleveller 05 Jul 11 - 04:10 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 05 Jul 11 - 04:40 AM
theleveller 05 Jul 11 - 05:09 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 05 Jul 11 - 05:18 AM
GUEST,matt milton 05 Jul 11 - 05:32 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 05 Jul 11 - 05:41 AM
Charley Noble 05 Jul 11 - 07:19 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 05 Jul 11 - 08:12 AM
theleveller 05 Jul 11 - 08:39 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 05 Jul 11 - 09:16 AM
Brian Peters 05 Jul 11 - 09:33 AM
theleveller 05 Jul 11 - 09:50 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 05 Jul 11 - 09:58 AM
theleveller 05 Jul 11 - 10:09 AM
Brian Peters 05 Jul 11 - 10:11 AM
Brian Peters 05 Jul 11 - 10:32 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 05 Jul 11 - 11:35 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 05 Jul 11 - 11:36 AM
glueman 05 Jul 11 - 11:36 AM
theleveller 05 Jul 11 - 11:54 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 05 Jul 11 - 12:14 PM
GUEST,matt milton 05 Jul 11 - 12:20 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 05 Jul 11 - 12:22 PM
GUEST,Big Ballad Singer 05 Jul 11 - 12:35 PM
Brian Peters 05 Jul 11 - 12:41 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 05 Jul 11 - 01:41 PM
Brian Peters 06 Jul 11 - 05:56 AM
SomersetLee 06 Jul 11 - 07:32 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 06 Jul 11 - 07:53 AM
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Subject: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 03 Jul 11 - 06:33 PM

I've been fighting with this for a while, but the Mudcatter Formerly Known as Crow Sister unwittingly seeded my answer in a reference to Steampunk a few weeks back which had instant and familiar appeal. Those unfamiliar with the term, look it up. Now - Steamfolk - which I hatched whilst browsing the Steampunk Bible in Travelling Man in MCR yesterday.

It occurs to me that the only way of resolving the Innumerable Issues of Folk, is to view all Folk as being Steamfolk by default - i.e. a fantasy culture projected onto an era that never really existed via a select interpretation of so-called Folklore and certain aspects of so-called History - political, social or otherwise.

Either way it results in a perfect Folk Image - in FOP right now you can John Renbourn Band CDs for £3 a pop; Steamfolk classics; Shirley and Dolly likewise. So suddenly everything from Peter Bellamy's Kipling Albums, The Unthanks, Trembling Bells to the Damon Alburn Folk Opera on Dr Dee(on one songs he sings pushing an apple cart up Silbury Hill), The Transports, the John Barleycorn Reborn CDs make sense as Pure Steamfolk. Even the VOTP series, which masquarades as genuine scholarship, but is in reality Comfort Product for a whole bunch of Folk Myths. The important thing here is is - the music is great, and great fun besides.

Like Steampunks who dress the part & even evolve alternative personas, realities, technologies, folklore and traditions, the Folk Revival has been doing exactly that for over 60 years - and are still doing it now. Steamfolk sees all the cliches as Jolly Good Things to be Well and Truly Owned and Celebrated. On another thread I mentioned coming up with the name Wattle 'n' Daub as an alternative folk identity; some wag suggested The Macrame Owl Project which is pure Steamfolk, but the Owl Service do it for real! Shame we haven't got Woven Wheat Whispers anymore - apart from being the perfect name for a Breakfast Cereal, it was 100% pure Steamfolk - indeed Mark Coyle's steavenotes for the first John Barleycorn Reborn CD could be the Steamfolk Manifesto.

So - Steamfolk isn't a new thing, rather its a new way of looking at an old thing - it's accepting the image, culture and artefacts of the Colonial Folk Revival of the last 60 years (the so-called second revival) is, by and large, a projected collective fantasy reaction to the horrors of modern life. It's accepting this is a Very Good Thing, but in no way Real. Steamfolk accepts that the reality of Folk isn't in the slightest bit real, but has very real rewards for those who feel that warm homely glow as they peruse the various images and associations on the cover of (say) Liege and Lief or embedded in The Wicker Man or, or, or, or....

S O'P (tongue in cheek? partly!)


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 03 Jul 11 - 06:47 PM

PS - Seen the new hand pressed 100% cotton card jewel case inserts on the new Gillian Welch album? Here's Gillian & David telling how to coffee-stain the for Antique Effect.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZigVLW09YY

Pure Steamfolk!


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 03 Jul 11 - 06:51 PM

The Harrow and the Harvest.

What more can I say? I rest my case...


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: Bugsy
Date: 04 Jul 11 - 02:03 AM

Reading the title of this thread I thought it would be about "Steamfolk" the folk group from UK. But alas, no.


CHeers

Bugsy


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 04 Jul 11 - 04:19 AM

Of course, real Steamfolk would be automatically played on invented, steam powered instruments...


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 04 Jul 11 - 05:19 AM

No indeed, Bugsy, though if there is a group going by that name it shows the Steampunk idea is beginning to filter through into common consciousness - or maybe not. One fears the group Steamfolk to have missed the point entirely, certainly missed the inherent irony anyway, taking too literally the Folk Remit which compells us to mourn the past as a Real Country We Have (Somehow) Lost rather than a creation of our own. There is also (as a Google search will reveal) a SteamFolk site dealing in fantasy art of a Steampunkish Variety but with more Folkish elements. This is not what I'm talking about either, although it figures. Steamfolk is a way of accepting & celebrating the fact that Folk has been a fantasy construct from the off and continues to be so in perpetuation of its own carefully founded Myths, Orthodoxies, Assumptions, Attitudes and Aesthetics with respect of both The Tradition (that it first invents then claims to represent) or else the New Folk Idioms arising therefrom. These New Folk Idioms and artefacts are occuring all the time and are especially fashionable right now in any number of ways. We see Folk Tunics for sale in Women's Clothes Shops and Catalogues (try Marisota) and the very word Folk being used as noun, verb and adjective in common usage both by the intiated and uninitiated.

Steamfolk is about The Old as much as it is about The New. Indeed the very soul of Steamfolk would be those old Shirley and Dolly Collins albums they made for Harvest at a time when a (relatively) mainstream label would consider such a venture viable. Remember, they shared Harvest with 'pop' acts such as Pink Floyd, Third Ear Band, & The Edgar Broughton Band etc. In their original states Anthems in Eden and Love Death and the Lady have become definitive documents of an aesthetic which one might call Pure Steamfolk in terms of both its cultural viability and innate mythology & imagery - and that's not saying anything of the music! The CD reissues seem to miss the point rather (Staines Norris anyone?) although maybe only go so far as to confirm it after all*. Other re-issues of the Collins Canon, such as Adieu To Old England (which features a gawdy painting of the South Queensferry Burry Man - adieu to old England indeed!) and the erotic 'folk art' stylings of The Power of the True Love Knot (pert breasts but why the skirt?) seem to be the very essence of what I'm on about here. Then there's the very wonderful Snapshots CD of hitherto unreleased live material with its digipak vintage family photo album feel.

In any case, the status of Shirley and Dolly Collins to Folk Outsiders such as Current 93 and the old Woven Wheat Whispers 'community' (I ask you!) is something that, whilst not being fully understood by regular folkies, is par for the course to Steamfolk. And how nice to see the long overdue CD editions of Peter Bellamy's classic ARGO albums Oak Ash and Thorn and Merlin's Isle of Gramarye which confirms Rudyard Kipling to be the Godfather of Steamfolk, though at £15 a pop (in HMV MCR) I'll be making do with what's at hand in the unofficial stash a wee while longer yet. And yes, the Folk Police Oak, Ash, Thorn album is quintessential Steamfolk and very fine to boot. Anyway - I'll shut up about this soon, but not before preparing my Steamfolk t-shirt for this year's Fylde where our Bellamy: Kipling With the Tradition show will be Steamfolk par excellance, perhaps even more than the pevious years' Demdyke (who's grave has just been found so I hear... oo-er...). One of the things I miss most about the old Woven Wheat Whispers / Unbroken Circle / Harvest Home sites was the constant search on the part of the perpretator & self-styled Lord of Misrule for Convient Pidgeon Holes for the various aspects of Folk featured thereupon. No need now, Mr Coyle, for Steamfolk covers 'em all!

S O'P (in a waking dream...)

* I stumble upon seemingly inherent contradictions and dualities in the music all the time; I'll ponder this and come back to it later, or not, depending on how it goes, but in my experience Duality is A Very Good Thing.


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 04 Jul 11 - 05:33 AM

Of course, real Steamfolk would be automatically played on invented, steam powered instruments

Moot point; I reckon most Folkies think it already is. In their fondness for the Authentic Folk Instrument vintage Contertinas fetch sums way in excess of their actual value or musical usefulness. Why? Because Vintage Lachenals and Wheatstones are articles of a very particular sort of faith that insists on the genuine artefact, provenance and all. I think this is cool - I'm the same with the random ethnography that clutters up this place; exotic cargo cultism.

However, I note with as much interest as despair that Folkies invariably assume my Black Sea Fiddle (AKA Karadeniz Kemence) is either a) an Appalachian Dulcimer or b) a Bowed Psaltery. They never ask me what it is, they always ask Is that a BP / AD? - and look very puzzled when I tell them no, it is not..., and even more puzzled (afraid) when I go on to tell them what it is thus introducing them to a whole other realm of possibility. In folk there are Normal Stringed Instruments (guitars, violins, mandolin & bouzouki derivatives) and Unusual Stringed Instruments (Bowed Psaltery, Hurdy Gurdy, Hammered and Appalachian Dulcimer). If it's not one of these, then you must be dealing in some truly weird ju-ju!


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: Will Fly
Date: 04 Jul 11 - 06:58 AM

Concertinas fetch sums way in excess of their actual value or musical usefulness.

Yummy - a whole can of musical and craft worms to chew on here! :-)

I've often pondered on the disparate attitudes that endow a musical instrument with a "value". If you're a concertina buff, there seems to be little middle way between a cheap Chinese instrument costing, say, around £80, and the next step up to an instrument costing, say £800. And, yes, the magic names 'Lachenal', 'Crabbe', 'Wheatstone' usually come with 4-figure sums attached to them. I can understand that the high number of, and high quality of the parts in a good quality concertina will represent excellent workmanship and hours of labour - hence the high price. In the end, however, the cost of all works of art and craft - including musical instruments - depends on the mysterious and ever-changing amalgam of factors such as "name", "desirability", "rarity", "collectors' word-of-mouth", "fashion", "investment", etc., etc.

All of which robs the word 'value' of any real meaning. When I compare guitars - about which I know far more than I do about concertinas - I care only for playability and sound. Nothing else matters - not the price, not the name, not the association. The Martin Carthy Limited Edition Martin with zero fret and 3 brass bridge pins ain't a patch on the second-hand instrument made by a local luthier which I bought just over a year ago. But that's just my own personal value-rating. Shall we talk about Designer Folk...

As for musical usefulness... a well-played duet concertina in the right hands is truly orchestral. In real terms, the guitar is by far the earlier instrument - hundreds of years earlier - but somehow doesn't fit into SteamFolk quite like the concertina does. Strange, eh?

More Black Sea fiddles, I say!


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 04 Jul 11 - 07:25 AM

I'm just smarting because Ross lent me one of his precious vintage Lachenal Anglos and I can't make head nor tail of it at all. Most things I can make at least some sense of, but Melodeons, Anglos and Moothies are beyond me.

The beauty of the Guitar (another instrument I can't make sense of) is inherant in the Technical Tradition of Genre Trancendence. I know heavy-metal guitarists who drool over Martin Carthy and Nic Jones, and Folkies who worship at the the shrine of Frank Zappa and Steve Vai. I remember putting a link to a Derek Bailey YouTube up here once and one Folk Guitarist being intrigued by the technique of the man, if not the music, and every guitarist I've ever met acknowledges the Genius of Micky Jones. Say guitar - say - Scotty Moore, Sonny Sharrock, Steve Howe, Steve Hillage, Rory Gallagher, Tony (TS) McPhee, Alan Holdsworth, John McLaughlin* etc. and that's before you've touched Folk, Flamenco, Classical, Metal, etc. etc.

* Just discovered this on YouTube recently. I saw this lot on the same bill as Kevin Coyne at Newcastle City Hall circa 1976 and was suitably impressed. Those were the daze!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AzovMu-2LY


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 04 Jul 11 - 08:26 AM

" it's accepting the image, culture and artefacts of the Colonial Folk Revival of the last 60 years (the so-called second revival) is, by and large, a projected collective fantasy reaction to the horrors of modern life"

yes, this does more or less accurately sum-up the aesthetic of most of it.

But it also explains why Alasdair Roberts' songs are so great. Because, while he is undoubtedly a man who relishes anachronisms and antiquity, his own songs have little to do with fantasy, using clear-eyed folk idioms to address "the horrors of modern life" square on. (The fact that he's a writer comparable to Wallace Stevens or Basil Bunting certainly helps too.) He even has a knack for picking traditional songs that seem to end up sounding like comments on fundamentalism, or the alienating effects of technology on labour. There's nothing twee or 'transcendent' or even nostalgic there.

I also don't buy the idea that "all" folk is steamfolk. There are plenty of current acts that present folk as acoustic pop - Seth Lakeman, Jim Moray, Bella Hardy, a lot of the graduates of the Newcastle Uni folk degree - for example. (Note, I'm not dismissing their music, merely pointing out the face that that they present to the world.) In America, they have their counterparts in Sarah Jarosz and others.

It might not be your cup of tea, but it is folk, and it is is worlds away from any self-conscious wrangling with an imagined, idealised past.

If anything, they are just as programmatic as your 'steamfolkers' but in the opposite direction: presenting folk as one popular-genre-choice of the 21st Century among many, like any other. They play folk for the same circumstanctal reasons their friends play R&B or nu-metal. They even wear the same jeans and trainers as those friends.


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 04 Jul 11 - 10:11 AM

I think the Folk Degree Course is one of the ultimate conceits of The Folk Revival, and is essential Steamfolk. How can it be otherwise? This doesn't mean the results aren't amazing - I've been to performances by Folk Degree students and just basked in the glory of it all, but it's total Steamfolk, whatever the underlying academic / cultural gloss might be. These days that become increasingly evident as Universities become even less of an option for people on the whole, let alone the population of Tyneside. After all, all you need to play nu-metal is the chops; folk was never just chops and the same is true today. Folk is a myth predicated on a Bourgeouis Fantasy of working class culture; most Folk music is still couched in these terms even unto today. I call it psuedo academic because it is a very closed unit, and their methods are far from falsifiable, much less their conclusions, which are more akin to Religion than Science.

I'm not complaing BTW - that's just the way it is - the Folk Reality - which has given us so much truly amazing music over the years & continues to do so, but then again so has Roman Catholicism, but one doesn't have to become a Roman Catholic Covert or agree with one word of the inane Theology of same to appreciate the mastery of the first Vivaldi Gloria (much better than the second), much less the transcedent beauty of the Allegri Miserere. In fact it probably helps if you don't, which is what Steamfolk is about - being able to see this stuff for what it is without throwing out the babies with the bathwater. In fact, it keeps the bathwater too (whiter than the whitewash on the wall!) as an essential component of a very modern cultural phenomenon which is still expressing itself in those terms - as it does in the new (very excellent!) CDs by Jim Causley and John Kirkpatrick, both of which are unashamedly Steamfolk in that sense.

As I suggested in my review of the former for Stirrings: ...there is a sense here that the new generation of Folkies (of whom Jim Causley is particularly bright star) are using the idiom in a way which post-modern irony serves as a more genuine sort of subversion, however so innocently innocuous this music might otherwise sound. Hey, maybe that's the nub of Steamfolk right there?


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: SteveMansfield
Date: 04 Jul 11 - 10:43 AM

I've no idea what most of this thread is talking about - but (as a concertina player) I've often been struck before by the idea that a concertina is a very steampunk instrument - all those levers and buttons and pads and arched springs and hinges and gawd-only-knows what else, like some musical difference engine ...


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 04 Jul 11 - 10:50 AM

And yet in the hands of a skilled player it all - works. A truly wondrous machine...

And talking about concertinas, remember this?

Folklore: Concertina Weasels


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 04 Jul 11 - 11:05 AM

"I've been to performances by Folk Degree students and just basked in the glory of it all, but it's total Steamfolk, whatever the underlying academic / cultural gloss might be"

yeah? you really think so? so are The Corrs steamfolk?

(because many of the musicians I'm thinking of sound like The Corrs. They don't sound anything like Peter Bellamy)


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 04 Jul 11 - 11:22 AM

"After all, all you need to play nu-metal is the chops; folk was never just chops and the same is true today."

see this is totally where I disagree with you about the 'reality' of folk.

I would say 99% of what I hear released on folk record labels is "just chops", particularly from younger musicians.

I'm probably more sympathetic to the Woven Wheat Whispers/CDR label type stuff, which tends to be a lot less "chopsy" and which does tend to fit your 'feral folk' or 'steamfolk' tags. (except when it's ninnyish goth like Current 93, or insufferably twee)

but I don't see the point in trying to fit that cap on heads that clearly don't suit it.

If something sounds like James Blunt and dresses like him too, what's the point in pretending that that is in any way as interesting or quirky a cultural by-product as steampunk (or psych-folk, or free improvisation, or Grime, or whatever)?


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: Charley Noble
Date: 04 Jul 11 - 11:47 AM

Shovel in the coal and let 'er fly!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 04 Jul 11 - 11:50 AM

I'm not posulating a new musical movement here, or even a category, just seeing Folk in terms of it being a Cultural Construct and trying to put a positive spin on why that should be. I too have my preferences, but regardless of them I may extend the concept of Steamfolk to stuff I don't like as much as that which I do. Pentagle's Cruel Sister album is a Steamfolk Icon, but you won't find it in the Sedayne household, much less The John Renborn Band albums even at £3 a pop in Fopp (as they are in MCR right now) but that's personal taste. I don't say it's crap, I say I don't much care for it. Like Steeleye Span and Fairport; I don't like them personally, but I know what they mean in a general sense.

*

Hopefully by Chops I mean a lot more than mere Technique which doesn't do too much for me either, but I'm not knocking it. Culturally my Mother is Folk, but my Father is Free Improvisation; how they ever came to have an experimental bastard like me I'll never know but I love them both very dearly, just my Mother's always been overly precious & prissy, whilst Daddy's prone to too much politics and philosophy. In the old days I found it very exciting the LMC was on Gloucester Avenue just up the road from the Cecil Sharp House. In my heart it's still just a hop between the two!


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 04 Jul 11 - 12:22 PM

Did you go to this year's Freedom of the City festival? (programmed by Eddie Prevost, Evan Parker and Martin Davidson). It was held in Cecil Sharp House!

There are some commonalities between free improv and folk.

For instance, have you ever heard Sue Ferrar's album 'A Boy Leaves Home'? If not, beg, borrow or steal a copy. It's a beautiful album, and features, among other things, Lol Coxhill singing 'Shenandoah'.

http://www.jazzloft.com/p-44906-a-boy-leaves-home.aspx


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 04 Jul 11 - 12:35 PM

London is a long way away these days, but that makes me smile & I'll be sure to follow that link...

*

Following the inevitable Divorce neither of my parents gained full custody of me; too folky for Dad, too free for Mum, but at least Dad was more tolerant of Folk and was always happy to listen. In Mum's house there was a lot of hostility to other ways of doing things, much less improvising whilst singing a ballad. For example, Dad liked the Dick Gaughan / Ken Hyder duo album; Mum hated it. Naturally I loved it, but then I loved Talisker and Sun Ra and Don Cherry and Johnny Mbizo Dyani and The Art Ensemble of Chicago who were all about Folk Music anyway. Dad loved them; Mum hated them. Weirdly I loved both my parents equally, and happy they got together to have me. I suppose their marriage was the Third Ear Band...


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: glueman
Date: 04 Jul 11 - 12:58 PM

Steamfolk sounds compelling but it's worth remembering that the first tenet in the catechism of folk music is that it is part of an unbroken line. Dogmatists/purists do not complain, by and large, that you can't hear a good night's folk revival any more. Like opposing poles of a magnet, the closer one moves to its mysteries, the further the other magnet moves away. Folk does not want to be bridged to anything, which is tenet number two.

The steam analogy is interesting. I've often pondered on the reality that some steam locomotives have run three or four times longer in preservation than they ever did on the rail network and with infinitely larger passenger numbers on the train. It's only a short analogy away to suggest steam punk (or whatever one might call the tail that's wagged the dog for the last 40+ years) has become the thing itself.

Steam punk would have to encompass 'normal people' under its umbrella and not just the equivalent of engine drivers in their blue overalls, polka dotted neckachief and oiltop cap for it to be more than a folkmania branchline, but if it manage to Come All Ye I'd sign up for a season ticket.


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: theleveller
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 04:01 AM

Oooh, don't hold with this new-fangled Steamfolk stuff. What we do is good old-fashioned Horsefolk (although we call it Ruffian Music).

http://www.whipstaff.co.uk/www.whipstaff.co.uk.htm


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: theleveller
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 04:10 AM

...actually, Horseshit might be a better term - even the website's donkey-powered and was built by the local blacksmith.


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 04:40 AM

Horsefolk might be a better term for it actually, but (get this) Horsefolk is one of the essences of Steamfolk, which has nothing to do with Steam per se, much less Horses, although it's mostly a matter of Cultural Evaporation resulting in the sort of twisted fundamentalism we know (and love) to be an integral aspect of The Colonial Folk Revival.

When I was a lad, we got all our genuine coal-steam powered electricity from Blyth Power Station which looked like either heaven or hell, or both simultaneously, depending where your head was at. Long demolished, it remains iconic in my dreams but has no place in Steamfolk, despite childhood memories of queueing in the rain on dark rainy mornings with our buckets to get our weekly electricty allowance. Grandma would make a tasty ice-cream-style dish from the used electricity as an end of the week treat. Hard times, but we were happy. Nuclear-steam electricity just doesn't taste the same somehow. I'm off to write a song about it.

Note: Actually, come to think of it, Ewan McColl did write a song about the building of Blyth Power Station, or at least the Irish workers who did the graft. It features here at around 1.30:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5xwK6dNhtw

And I climb the narrow ladder where the stack looks out the sea,
I'm building power stations now for electricity...


So Steamfolk in the literal sense...


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: theleveller
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 05:09 AM

Ah, happy days! We live just down the road from Drax. In winter everyone in the local villages is given a supply of beans, then we have to queue up at the boiler room in alphabetical order on set days so that they can light our farts to boost production (it's Drax's concession to gas-power).

My elder son used to have a job cleaning the insides of the cooling towers at Ferrybridge, Eggborough and Drax. Crap job but well-paid.


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 05:18 AM

I love those mighty power stations; you used to get a good look at Ferrybridge from the A1 before they re-routed it around the back which is still impressive, but not as impressive, much less traditional... Drax sounds (and looks) like a God.

That must have been one hell of a job!


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 05:32 AM

Renewable energy has its mighty power stations too, complete with evocative names and inspirational mechanisms.

Dinorwig, also known by the nickname of 'Electric Mountain' (now there's a name for a 70s metal band), is a beauty. The only low-carbon power station in the UK capable of a "black start" - a re-firing of the National Grid in the event of a total blackout.

It uses nothing but discrepancies in height (helpfully provided by that old Welsh standby: a mountain) and kinetic energy (helpfully provided by that old Welsh standby: water) to do so. Earth magic indeed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:DinorwigPowerStation01.jpg


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 05:41 AM

Awesome.


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: Charley Noble
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 07:19 AM

SA-

Will I have to do an upgrade to my 5-string banjo so that it is steam-powered? It's currently not functioning well on it's solar-powered batteries, especially during late-night sets.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 08:12 AM

Actually, Charley, it's worth checking out some of the Steampunk modifications to instruments on line; my wife was thinking the other day of ways of Steampunking her 5-string Deering. Like here, where they put Skeleton keys on a guitar for tuners:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfS-lOf94OM

There's some amazing stuff being done by way of Steampunk, but I think Steamfolk already has the look!


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: theleveller
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 08:39 AM

"But it also explains why Alasdair Roberts' songs are so great. Because, while he is undoubtedly a man who relishes anachronisms and antiquity, his own songs have little to do with fantasy, using clear-eyed folk idioms to address "the horrors of modern life" square on."

I've always felt that he draws heavily on The White Goddess and The Golden Bough - with a liberal smattering of Jungian archetypes. Quite often the result sounds like something W B Yeats might have created. Whatever, there's a hypnotic quality that means The Amber Gatherers and Spoils are seldom off my CD player for long.


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 09:16 AM

The White Goddess and The Golden Bough rest at the heart of Steamfolk; both are cherished source for material which is founded a notion which is thankfully long since discredited, The Golden Bough especially, but the Folklore Myth still persists, much as does The Pagan Green Man, in many ways the face of Steamfolk - embraced as an Ancient Archetype, but an entirely Modern Invention (likewise Jung's fanciful notions of Archetypes become the bedrock of the so-called New Age). Put simply, Folk is default Steamfolk on account of such rabidly reactionary anti-Modernism, but the world it creates and celebrates is a modern fantasy (or construct at best) none of the elements of which bare up to anything like close scrutiny, and yet the credos of which are couched in such absolutist and simplistic terms regarding the significances of things and their hidden / symbolic / occult meaning.

The Wicker Man is an expression of this and a warning of its dangers, yet remains a cracking film with a splendid musical score. To some however, it remains a Pagan Film. All these things - these fantasies, these yearnings, these myths, these absolutes - are integral to what Folk is, and yet, as I say, look for any of it in the real world and you'll be looking for a very long time!


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: Brian Peters
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 09:33 AM

"a projected collective fantasy reaction to the horrors of modern life"

Dammit, and there was me thinking I liked it because of the noise it made...

"the VOTP series, which masquarades as genuine scholarship, but is in reality Comfort Product for a whole bunch of Folk Myths"

Got me again. I'd been labouring under the impression that VOTP was a bunch of recordings of people singing songs that were important to them, and which sound great.

Just because we don't buy the myth of an idyllic rural England, doesn't mean that those songs didn't get sung.


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: theleveller
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 09:50 AM

"The White Goddess and The Golden Bough rest at the heart of Steamfolk"

I'd agree about The Golden Bough but The White Goddess is an exploration of the origins of the poetic muse - it's also an excellent treatise on comparative mythology.


"Quite often the result sounds like something W B Yeats might have created."

Swear by what the sages spoke
Round the Mareotic Lake
That the Witch of Atlas knew,
Spoke and set the cocks a-crow.

Swear by those horsemen, by those women
Complexion and form prove superhuman,
That pale, long-visaged company
That air in immortality
Completeness of their passions won;
Now they ride the wintry dawn
Where Ben Bulben sets the scene.

See what I mean?


Tell you what, this is getting pretty scary - I've just realised that I'm sat here dressed like a bloody Steampunk (except for the goggles); now that is very scary!


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 09:58 AM

It's not the songs, but the product itself, and the manipulation of the songs by way of creating a new context for the recycling of old recordings, rather than an open archive accessible to all. Not to mention the edits (well, one that I find particularly irksome where they lose the spoken intro to Felix Doran's Fox Hunt which really sets the scene).

Does anyone like folk purely for the noise it makes? I know I don't; it's always more than that, by way seance, communion, reverence, same as I get when faced with anything hoary I suppose. Still, as I said at the outset of this thread, Steamfolk is a personal solution to an ongoing personal crisis! A veritable epiphany indeed...


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: theleveller
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 10:09 AM

"Steamfolk is a personal solution to an ongoing personal crisis"

Isn't that something like what Frankenstein said? You've created a monster out of bits of Van Helsing and Ewan MacColl - how are you going to stop it running amock now?

Well I'm enjoying it anyway.


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: Brian Peters
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 10:11 AM

In their fondness for the Authentic Folk Instrument vintage Contertinas fetch sums way in excess of their actual value or musical usefulness. Why? Because Vintage Lachenals and Wheatstones are articles of a very particular sort of faith that insists on the genuine artefact, provenance and all.

The prices of vintage concertinas have certainly gone bonkers, but that's because the best old ones play faster and sound nicer, and there are a lot of musicians in Ireland and the USA Irish diaspora who want to own one. Market Forces, old chap. Colin Dipper's concertinas have no provenance as traditional artefacts, but they cost a fortune too, because they're bloody good. And a significant number of players are now turning to newly-made mid-priced instruments with accordion reeds (frowned upon by concertina purists, of course), which don't sound quite so sweet but go like the clappers.

It's all very well setting out to debunk myths, but this thread seems to be creating new and ever more far-fetched ones with every posting by the OP.


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: Brian Peters
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 10:32 AM

Does anyone like folk purely for the noise it makes? I know I don't; it's always more than that, by way seance, communion, reverence, same as I get when faced with anything hoary I suppose.

Many people attracted by the noise it made chose to take their interest further into all kinds of different realms, be they musicological, historical, mystical, or simply the crap dress sense. I confess to a certain sense of awe in the presence of a 600 year old Devil ballad, but 'seance and reverence'? No thanks.

There is a grain of truth in what you say about 'reaction to the horrors of modern life': I remember finding Bob Copper's memoir of life in rural Sussex on A Song for Every Season heartwarming precisely for its contrast with the turmoil of my own late teenage years. It's just too bad Bob isn't here now so that you could tell him that his reminscences were nothing more than some kind of mythic comfort blanket.


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 11:35 AM

It's all very well setting out to debunk myths,

Who said that? It's about owning myths and celebrating them. As for concertinas, as I think I said above I'm smarting because Ross lent me of of his vintage Anglos (Lachenal) and it makes no sense to me at all - thus far!

A Song for Every Season

Well, it might have been inteded as a mythic comfort blanket, but it's certainly become one - one of mine certainly, along with any number of others. After years of nursing an old autumnal (to say the least) Paladin paperback edition I found an old copy of the Country Book Club edition in tha second-hand bookshop in back of the Arndale in MCR last year and my life was complete. See HERE for the very happy bunny in Subway pic.


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 11:36 AM

Might NOT have been intended that is!


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: glueman
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 11:36 AM

Any folk without introductions is alright by me.


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: theleveller
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 11:54 AM

"I remember finding Bob Copper's memoir of life in rural Sussex on A Song for Every Season heartwarming precisely for its contrast with the turmoil of my own late teenage years."

I'm finding a similar thing with H V Morton's In Search of England which I'm reading again after many years. Astonishing how quickly things have changed.


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 12:14 PM

My copy of ASFES sits alongside my cherished George Ewart Evans books - old Faber paperbacks, beautiful, durable, and essential. One of my old bibles was The Leaping Hare (Ewart Evans and David Thompson, who wrote The People of the Sea)- I still love it as much as I do The White Goddess, but, like The Bible itself, although very beautiful in places, but not to be taken too literally these days. That said I was riding on a considerable high when a hardback copy turned up in one of my favourite antiquarian booksellers in Southport earlier this year.

So, owning myths, accepting them, delighting in them; you should see my collection of book on the Green Man, maybe everything ever published on the subject after Basford's seminal study of 1978, and only three of them I actually agree with. All highly cherished though.


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 12:20 PM

"But it also explains why Alasdair Roberts' songs are so great. Because, while he is undoubtedly a man who relishes anachronisms and antiquity, his own songs have little to do with fantasy, using clear-eyed folk idioms to address "the horrors of modern life" square on."

"I've always felt that he draws heavily on The White Goddess and The Golden Bough - with a liberal smattering of Jungian archetypes. Quite often the result sounds like something W B Yeats might have created. Whatever, there's a hypnotic quality that means The Amber Gatherers and Spoils are seldom off my CD player for long"

Yes, I agree on the Jung. Never read 'the white goddess' or 'the golden bough' and never wanted to, so can't say.

it might sound like hyperbole, but I think Alasdair Roberts is a much better versifier than Yeats. He's more of a modernist. He might *use* mystical elements, but the end result isn't mystical.

As you can probably tell, I rate him highly - I think Spoils is one of the best albums ever made, in any genre.


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 12:22 PM

Well I'm enjoying it anyway.

That is all that matters - the love of IT in all its gloriously wonky totality.

I'll think about the bits of Van Helsing and Ewan MacColl without wishing to be too obvious about it...


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Big Ballad Singer
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 12:35 PM

I've always enjoyed folk music, at least what I consider to be more trad-leaning folk music, not only for the 'noise' it makes, but also for the statements the songs make about our modern society, whether for good or for ill.

I do admit a certain penchant for dressing the part when I perform (at least some of the time). When I was WAY into Woody Guthrie, and then, by association, the Carter Family, et al, it was the canvas work pants and a flannel shirt and old boots and tousled hair and a beaten-up guitar. All specifically BECAUSE I was playing at open mic nights at very college-town, trendy bars where I would never have been hip enough for the room anyway. I walked in and looked and sang like someone who had stepped out of a History Channel documentary about migrant farm workers, and more often than not, the whole vibe just mesmerized people.

I think even the choice to SING folk music in the first place is already itself a commentary on the so-called 'modern' world around us, so I definitely see the value in presenting what others would see as 'anachronistic' as anything BUT... in other words, as I and others have said in other threads, why not just OWN what you sing and where it comes from and its whole vibe and aesthetic and everything and just allow yourself and others to step out of time and place and experience somewhat of a different world?

That's always been the value of folk music to me... 'steamfolk' just seems to be a wonderful and most logical extension of same.

Did I make a bit of sense? I sure hope so.


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: Brian Peters
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 12:41 PM

It's about owning myths and celebrating them

Celebrating? "Folk is a myth predicated on a Bourgeouis Fantasy of working class culture" doesn't sound very celebratory to me.

I accept happily that the folk revival is an artificial construct, and that doesn't affect my enjoyment of it any more than it does yours. However, when you get to:
"Folk has been a fantasy construct from the off... with respect of The Tradition (that it first invents then claims to represent)..." then we part company. Just because one academic with an agenda a mile wide chose to call his book Fakesong doesn't actually make it all a fake. Too much evidence there for that.

I recently came across Carrie Grover's collection of songs from a family of mixed British and Irish ancestry in Nova Scotia, written down when she lived in Maine in the 1950s. It's the book where Paul Brady found Arthur McBride, incidentally. Mrs Grover provided a vivid and moving introduction about the role of singing in that small rural community. She did this without any prompting from, or indeed knowledge of, Cecil Sharp, Bert Lloyd or any of the usual suspects. Just an ordinary woman in an ordinary place. When you've read these extracts, perhaps you can tell me which bits are 'Bourgeois Fantasy'...

'The singing of songs played a large part in the daily lives of my family as no doubt it did in the lives of other families of that time. My grand-mother sang at her spinning wheel and at her loom, for she spun and wove both wool and flax. My father's older sister used to spin for my grandmother Long and I have heard my oldest brother say that she would spin and sing all day and never sing the same song twice. He said she knew more songs than anyone he ever knew.

In my home the singing of songs and ballads seemed a part of our daily lives. Mother always sang at her work, melancholy songs or gay songs according to her mood, or just a humming of the tune without any words. Often in the evening before the lamp was lighted, as father sat with his elbows on his knees, his pipe held between his hands after his evening smoke, he would start singing and mother would join him, the steady click of her knitting needles sounding like a sort of accompaniment...

We lived at the foot of a pond called Sunken Lake, which was nearly a mile long. The road seemed to wind around this pond, never far from the shore. A voice would carry a long way across the water and when father would be on his way home after delivering a load of wood or lumber, he would begin to sing when within a mile of home and mother, who would go out and listen when she thought it was about time for him to be coming, would hear him and have his supper ready when he got there.

Almost everyone sang or tried to sing these old songs and ballads. Neighbors were few and far between, books and magazines were scarce and we had to make the best of what we had. In all our little neighborhood gatherings the singing of a few songs was a part of every evening's entertainment. If a stranger came to the house or to one of our neighborhood gatherings, it was considered a breach of good manners not to ask him to sing.

Sometimes when two good singers got together they would have a friendly contest and first one would sing a song and then the other, till one or the other had run out of songs or they had both sung till they could sing no more. I have heard of these singing matches lasting until two o'clock in the morning.

It was a real grief to my parents to realize that the time was fast coming when these old songs would no longer be sung, and with the passing of their generation the songs that been kept alive through so many generations of singers would pass away with the people who sang them. I once overheard my father say to mother, "Liza, when we die our old songs will die with us. There will be no one left to sing them."

As I began to grow old myself, I came to a better realization of what these old songs meant to my parents, and began working on my collection in real earnest... I hoped that this collection of songs and ballads with the notes that accompany them rnight give my children and grand-children an insight into the lives of their ancestors, who lived at a time when the singing of these old songs was almost their only recreation and helped, I believe, more than anyone thing to lighten the burden of their hard working lives.'


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 01:41 PM

Celebrating? "Folk is a myth predicated on a Bourgeouis Fantasy of working class culture" doesn't sound very celebratory to me.

It's the truth though, and as such it needs facing up to, accepting and celebrating. I'm still hovering over my (borrowed) copy of Fakesong (even though so far it seems entirely reasonable and not at all as I was expecting) but having recently read Georgina Boyes' The Imagine Village then the case seems to be pretty conclusive. Now, that's the facts of the case which gives us what we know and love today, even in this class-ridden shit-hole of a country of ours, but as one who was most definately born on the wrong side of the tracks, one of the points of this thread is by way of acknowledging that with good grace rather than hurling Molotov Cocktails through the windows of The Cecil Sharp House.

Just off out now, but I'll come back tomorrow and answer the rest of what you say here with respect of the Bourgeois Fantasy. Meanwhile:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuqhEix8lGY


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: Brian Peters
Date: 06 Jul 11 - 05:56 AM

I'm still waiting to hear which bit of Carrie Grover's testimony (or, for that matter, Bob Copper's, Walter Pardon's or many of the other singers whom collectors took the trouble to ask) you think is "Bourgeois Fantasy". Here is a first-hand account of the vital role of active singing in every aspect of life, private and social, work and play. That's what folksong is - or was. Come down from the ivory tower and listen to the people who were there.

If you want to make blithe statements like "Folk has been a fantasy construct from the off" (in a tone suggesting that this is established fact which only those with very little brains have failed so far to grasp), you're presumably going to be telling us that Broadwood, Sharp, Greig, Frank & Anne Warner, Mike Yates and all the others made up the songs they claimed to have collected? Or that Carrie Grover and Bob Copper were lying through their teeth? That those recordings on Voice of the People you so despise have been cleverly faked in a state-of-the-art studio? If not, what is your point?

"having recently read Georgina Boyes' The Imagine Village then the case seems to be pretty conclusive"

What case is conclusive? The Imagined Village has plenty of interesting stuff to say about Sharp's attempts to exert hegemony over the Folk Revival, but what it does not do is to demonstrate that the concept of folksong is a myth. Sharp's findings and theories were doubtless interesting to those seeking to create their own myth of Englishness, but to acknowledge that is not to disavow the entirety of folksong research, which of course goes far wider than Sharp.

And of course you'll be aware that Harker's academic rigour in analysing Sharp's account of his collecting in Somerset has been, shall we say, questioned.


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: SomersetLee
Date: 06 Jul 11 - 07:32 AM

So is a new song played by a folk muscian about the modern era steamfolk? Say someone like Chris Wood?


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Subject: RE: Steamfolk
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 06 Jul 11 - 07:53 AM

That's what folksong is - or was. Come down from the ivory tower and listen to the people who were there.

Thing is, music still has exactly that role in people's lives today but I don't see many Folkies taking much of an interest in it by dint of its context alone, much less its content or else the purity of the folk experience. Knock on any door, any where, and you'll be able to talk to someone - anyone - who'll be able to give the same sort of impassioned & moving testimony about the music of their life and times. Now, whilst that sort of experience is not uncommon, it is far from objective, but to use it as some sort of Exhibit A (as you have done here) turns it into a fantasy. Both mawkish and voyeuristic, it becomes a myth.

See my earlier post regarding my feelings about The Bob Copper book.

If not, what is your point?

That the evidence is incomplete, selective, agenda driven and motivated by means of cultural condescension, as indeed most so-called folkloric studies were back then. It's a legacy that endures today - one of the pure-blood Passive Carrier, or Tradition Bearer. After all, how can these grubby so-and-sos possibly understand the significance of their own songs, much less their modal structures, analogues, origins, processes or even the purity (or otherwise) of their traditions? It's a pure Paternalistic Colonialism visited upon the grubbier members of one's own society who have failed to appreciate their own culture by letting it go to wreck and ruin. The very necessity of the revival is evidence enough of that, much less the Moral Visions of Sharp et al that underwrote the whole thing, and continue to do so despite the very obvious fact that Popular Culture still has real and vivid meaning to The Folk and always has, and always will.

but to acknowledge that is not to disavow the entirety of folksong research,

I'm not disavowing anything, just seeing it for what it is / was. The songs are real*, the testimonies likewise, the dances, rites, riots, etc. etc. But once they are collected and revived they become something else entirely, and it's that something else which gives rise to the various idioms, conventions and orthodoxies we're dealing with in the revival to this day. Kipling was aware of this; in his more obvious Folk poetry he demonstrates a yearning for the clack of the common tongue (however so contrived) or else the structures of the old songs themselves (False Night = Danny Deever etc.); even his mawkish celebrations of conservative colonialism, such as his Ralph & Ted fantasy of The Land which only seeks to confirm the golden rule of The Rich Man in his castle and the Poor Man at his gate. That later generations (but not PB!) choose to see The Land as some sort of Socialist Pamphlet is one of the supreme ironies of the innate reactionary conservatism of Folk; that Kipling could write the supreme Humanist Hymn (A Pilgrim's Way) is not.

This might sound harsh, but I personally find it deeply appealing and worthy of my attention and passion for what it tells me about the race of which I am but one miniscule fragment, and yet we, each & every one of us, contain the entire world within us as a subjective cherished treasure.

And of course you'll be aware that Harker's academic rigour in analysing Sharp's account of his collecting in Somerset has been, shall we say, questioned.

One would hope so; it's in the nature of academia to be under constant peer-review and questioning, which is no doubt why the 1954 Definition is still quoted chapter and verse.

*

Leave then...

England is my home; much as Folk is my home. Indeed, it is my country; and in embracing it, we must not only own both the good and the bad, but also accept that one man's bad is at least going to be good to someone. My Atheism is all-consuming, and the dragon will always have more than the one tongue, and dialogue (and above all Freedom of Speech) is an inherent birthright with respect of ones own country and the culture thereof which is never to exclude the experiences of others. I despair of England as much as I love it; I despair of its governments, its councils, its developers, its art councils, its middle-class media dominance, its elites and its housing schemes. I love its multi-cultural and multi-ethnic diversity; I love the vibrancy of cities as much as I hate the blandness of what has come to pass as Countryside. I also love Kipling, but I'm aware of his racism; and the reasons for that racism (which is never to excuse it); I love the old songs and the new; the vibrancy of UK hip-hop and... and...

S O'P

PS - This is still a Fun Thread BTW...


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