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'Occupy English Folk Music!'

Richard Bridge 06 Nov 11 - 03:42 AM
GUEST,glueman 06 Nov 11 - 04:04 AM
Will Fly 06 Nov 11 - 05:02 AM
GUEST,Jon 06 Nov 11 - 05:13 AM
GUEST,glueman 06 Nov 11 - 05:30 AM
Will Fly 06 Nov 11 - 05:32 AM
GUEST,glueman 06 Nov 11 - 05:52 AM
Dave the Gnome 06 Nov 11 - 06:00 AM
Richard Bridge 06 Nov 11 - 06:12 AM
GUEST,Jon 06 Nov 11 - 06:30 AM
glueman 06 Nov 11 - 06:36 AM
johncharles 06 Nov 11 - 06:56 AM
Richard Bridge 06 Nov 11 - 07:15 AM
GUEST,Jon 06 Nov 11 - 07:23 AM
glueman 06 Nov 11 - 08:15 AM
John P 06 Nov 11 - 11:25 PM
Dave the Gnome 07 Nov 11 - 03:01 AM
GUEST,Ralphie 07 Nov 11 - 03:30 AM
Big Al Whittle 07 Nov 11 - 03:32 AM
Richard Bridge 07 Nov 11 - 04:15 AM
Big Al Whittle 07 Nov 11 - 05:31 AM
Dave the Gnome 07 Nov 11 - 05:49 AM
Will Fly 07 Nov 11 - 05:59 AM
Big Al Whittle 07 Nov 11 - 06:03 AM
johncharles 07 Nov 11 - 06:24 AM
glueman 07 Nov 11 - 06:29 AM
Dave the Gnome 07 Nov 11 - 06:35 AM
Lizzie Cornish 1 07 Nov 11 - 06:47 AM
GUEST,Ralphie 07 Nov 11 - 06:47 AM
Big Al Whittle 07 Nov 11 - 07:03 AM
theleveller 07 Nov 11 - 07:07 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 07 Nov 11 - 08:08 AM
Dave the Gnome 07 Nov 11 - 08:17 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 07 Nov 11 - 08:47 AM
John P 07 Nov 11 - 09:16 AM
Big Al Whittle 07 Nov 11 - 09:33 AM
John P 07 Nov 11 - 09:49 AM
BTNG 07 Nov 11 - 09:53 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 07 Nov 11 - 10:25 AM
BTNG 07 Nov 11 - 10:30 AM
Big Al Whittle 07 Nov 11 - 10:32 AM
John P 07 Nov 11 - 10:43 AM
BTNG 07 Nov 11 - 10:51 AM
GUEST,Jim Knowledge 07 Nov 11 - 10:56 AM
Dave the Gnome 07 Nov 11 - 10:59 AM
BTNG 07 Nov 11 - 11:05 AM
theleveller 07 Nov 11 - 11:11 AM
Big Al Whittle 07 Nov 11 - 11:27 AM
glueman 07 Nov 11 - 11:35 AM
Dave the Gnome 07 Nov 11 - 12:13 PM
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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 06 Nov 11 - 03:42 AM

Read my lips. No-one is saying (well, no-one I have heard) "Folk good, the rest bad". What they are saying is "Folk is folk, other stuff is not folk".

Or, to put it another way, nothing is traditional until it becomes so.

Incidentally, anyone who says that 1954 definition folk music (even on the narrowest interpretation of the definition) had ceased to exist by 1960 is simply wrong - the Brazil family were discovered some time later and were still singing together as a community until at least 1977 and for all I know still are. "Folk singers" within narrow version of the meaning may by then have been scarce, but still existed.

Even if "Folk singers" are extinct (I don't think they necessarily are, if one takes a broad view of "community" and onward passage as referred to in the 1954 definition) there is clearly an overlap between "folk song singers" and "folk singers" in the time line. I am hoping that a traveller (to all appearances the archetypal Romany Rai) will come to the Lower Stoke Winter sings on November 13th - he said he would try to remember some of the old songs that he learned from his uncle and his uncle learned from his uncle before.

And with all due respect, Al, when you say "I don't think anyone would resent the traddies enjoying their own enclaves" that appears to be precisely what Lizzie does wish. She apparently wishes it to be compulsory for "traddies" to listen to and be MADE to enjoy contemporary songs - by violence if necessary, if you think that "violence" is an intrinsic part of an occupation by force.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 06 Nov 11 - 04:04 AM

"nothing is traditional until it becomes so"

There is no possibility of any modern song becoming traditional under the revival definition because there is no representative body that can be petitioned for a song to be included in the canon. Under other circumstances a song would be popularised by being sung, but as traditionalists insist modern compositions have no place in a folk context, the opportunity for admission is non-existent.

Those facts mean that historical folk music is destined to be a re-enactment or a museum piece. I have no qualms with that situation, it allows historic music to continue to be sung among enthusiasts but to pretend that it allows aperture for new material is completely disingenuous.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Will Fly
Date: 06 Nov 11 - 05:02 AM

historical folk music is destined to be a re-enactment or a museum piece. I have no qualms with that situation, it allows historic music to continue to be sung among enthusiasts but to pretend that it allows aperture for new material is completely disingenuous.

This thread follows the usual paths through the usual anal arguments this way and that and - once again - is based almost entirely on songs. Have you all forgotten - yet again - that traditional music contains thousands of wonderful tunes? Furthermore, there are hundreds and hundreds of tunes being written and played at clubs, concerts and sessions where the composers of those tunes - ancient and modern - are known and welcomed. Let's take some old geezers like Carolan. Let's mention some slightly younger composers like James Hill (early 19th c). Let's go all 20th century with Alastair Anderson, Andy Cutting, Tom Anderson, Joan MacDonald Boes - and many others. All writing in the traditional idiom and all co-existing side by side as "traditional" music.

The reason for this is that the tunes have less emotional, sociological and historical "baggage" than songs. They exist as timeless melodies - some with known composers and some with unknown origins - and that fact is irrelevant to us that play them. It's just great music in a centuries-old style.

So get a grip and broaden your horizons, you lot.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 06 Nov 11 - 05:13 AM

Have you all forgotten - yet again - that traditional music contains thousands of wonderful tunes?

I've not mentioned it this time round, Will but I've mentioned it several times in the past, commonly when we get into "meaningful words" type definitions of folk...

--

Personally, the largest part of my enjoyment with folk does come from things without words.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 06 Nov 11 - 05:30 AM

Tunes have long since left the constraints of folk definitioneering. Traditional melodies appear in all kinds of genres but that doesn't change the fact that folk songs have been problematised by the revival in a way that antiquates and abstracts them ordinary use.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Will Fly
Date: 06 Nov 11 - 05:32 AM

Very likely, glueman, but traditional music is songs and tunes, so any discussion labelled "Occupy English Folk Music" should be based on that premise.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 06 Nov 11 - 05:52 AM

I'm not familiar with any definition that insists on a combination of tunes and lyrics and anyway, the 'Occupy' theme is just a bait that people have risen to. If you want to re-define traditional tunes in a way that accommodates their entry into normal, i.e. popular usage with all the variation that encompasses, then that can only be to the good of the music.

I return to the point that the revival definition has no organising body, no trusted 'boot room' of sages who can be trusted to know what a folk song is or be petitioned to allow common sense to include later variations. That leaves the situation we have today - traddies who admit nothing without a few hundred years of variation while ensuring such changes are impossible in a traditional context, others who are traditionally inclined but trust themselves to know what a folk song feels like without a dictionary to hand, and a wider constituency who see folk as a format that includes the potential for any self-penned song. I'd suggest there's room for all those points of view and an informed appraisal that each has its merits as the music of the people, without the bun fight that ensues every time the topic comes up.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 06 Nov 11 - 06:00 AM

Al - PM on the way. I would love the album but even more so to see you live. Any gig lists about?

Reading back through the thread I can't help but notice the examples of 'exclusive' folkies date back to the 60's. Your own example of Roy Harper dates back to 1969 , Al. Over 40 years ago. It was in my home town that someone cried 'Judas' at Bob Dylan. Can anyone come up with any recent evidenced examples of any folk club saying 'you cannot play/sing that here. It's not traditional.'?

If so I will accept that SOME folk club organisers do indeed need updating. But only some. And I will never accept that because of the few the whole of 'English Folk Music' needs to be replaced, as the OP suggests, with something else.

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 06 Nov 11 - 06:12 AM

"the product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission. The factors that shape the tradition are: (1) continuity which links the present with the past; (2) variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group; and (3) selection by the community which determines the form or forms in which the music survives."

It is the acceptance into the community that governs admission. Thus it is perfectly possible for songs to become folk songs even if not sung in folk clubs. No admissions body is needed.

And incidentally that disposes of the assertion that it is inherent that the collectors and revivalists postulated that there was no individual creation and no creator appreciation.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 06 Nov 11 - 06:30 AM

And it's just one personal view, DTG. It's before my time so I have no personal memories but here is an alternative view. This was posted by Dick Gaughan to uk.music.folk a few years back (as part of a post dismissing the idea that McColl invented a rule which was then rigiddly enforced in all clubs):

Anyway, the idea of MacColl or anyone else turning up at, for
example, the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham or the MSG in
Manchester and attempting to dictate anything to those who became
archetypical folk club "star" performers - like Tony Capstick,
Alex Campbell, Johnny Silvo or Noel Murphy - will bring a wry
smile to anyone who remembers the way folk clubs developed in the
late 60s/early 70s. "Anarchic" would be the wrong word as most
never developed even that level of organised policy regarding
performance content. And a Good Thing it was, too.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: glueman
Date: 06 Nov 11 - 06:36 AM

Who are the community? Folk club singers? The English speaking people's?


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: johncharles
Date: 06 Nov 11 - 06:56 AM

why not carry our guitars down to the opera house and demand to play. sounds ridiculous but this is pretty much the basis of this thread.
Go to a folk club and expect folk music (the definition of which has been done to death), go to a jazz club expect jazz not native american flute music.
For anyone who can't find an appropriate venue set up your own.
Let the grey areas between genres remain grey as these are fertile grounds for musical development.
john


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 06 Nov 11 - 07:15 AM

Yes, glueman, that is the question (good heavens, so I detect a great breakthrough?) - but it has to be music in which they participate not simply consume.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 06 Nov 11 - 07:23 AM

Tunes have long since left the constraints of folk definitioneering. Traditional melodies appear in all kinds of genres

Traditional melodies may well appear in all kinds of genres but there are undoubtedly English, Irish, etc. session tunes.


but that doesn't change the fact that folk songs have been problematised by the revival in a way that antiquates and abstracts them ordinary use.

Or was it problematised by singer songers demanding their interpretation be THE accepted definition?

Perhaps the way I see it with songs the problem (which seems to be much greater on the Internet than I've observed in the real world) is that there are two conflicting camps in terms of "what is folk" and some can not agree to disagree.

Anyway, the way I see it with tunes and in terms of the sessions I go to is that they are selective in terms of what is appropriate and I guess it does work more in the traditional type way? ie. a new tune either fits in with the session and gets played more or it it doesn't without any folk definitions or any arguments as to why a particular tune must be a folk tune and therefore must be played.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: glueman
Date: 06 Nov 11 - 08:15 AM

"Yes, glueman, that is the question"

...and rather a big one if I say so myself. Because if folk definitions rely on the folk club 'community', the definition of that word has been stretched beyond what was originally intended by the proposers of 1954. And if it doesn't, why not include the output of the English speaking people and the entirety of genres and styles they have adopted?

The reality - and one many traddies have come round to - is 1954 has sealed the tradition off, whatever its advocates claim, because there is no sensible definition of community that obtained when the definition was mooted. Until someone comes up with a definition of the word that reflects the plurality and diversity of style, setting and treatment, there can be no inclusion.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: John P
Date: 06 Nov 11 - 11:25 PM

I don't give a damn about the 1954 definition. Traditional folk music, for me, is not historical, not set in stone, not revived, not anything except the music I love to play and listen to. Why does everyone have to demand lines and definitions? There is nothing inherently academic about learning and playing the music. It's just music. Why does it piss people off so much when anyone says it's a different genre of music from contemporary folk music? Why is it so important that there not be a few clubs where traditional folk music is the rule?

If you can't tell the difference between traditional folk music and contemporary folk music, you're not listening very hard. Also, the gray area between the two is so huge as to defy description.

If you want a song of yours to be accepted by the traditional folk music community, here's how:

1. Play nothing but traditional folk music, with other players of traditional folk music, daily, for 15 years.
2. Write a song or a tune.
3. Play it for your traditional folk music friends.
4. See whether or not they like it and start to play it.

Here's how to get a song of yours accepted by the jazz music community:

1. Play nothing but jazz, with other jazz musicians, daily, for 15 years.
2. Write a song or a tune.
3. Play it for your jazz musician friends.
4. See if they like it.

I could, of course, go on with any other genre of music. Why not just go play at folk clubs that welcome contemporary folk music, which includes very nearly all of them?


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 03:01 AM

Why not just go play at folk clubs that welcome contemporary folk music, which includes very nearly all of them?

Just like almost everyone else has said, John, and most people are in complete agreement, including myself. But the whole premise of this thread is that folk clubs are guarded by some sort of Folk Police who will not allow any new music and frown severely upon anyone who dare have any fun. I know it isn't like that. You know it isn't like that. Everyone that goes to folk clubs regularly knows that. But for some reason there is a faction who think that folk music needs to be 'occupied' by something else. Go figure as our American friends would say.

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: GUEST,Ralphie
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 03:30 AM

A slight aside (but germain to the discussion I think) Back in the 80's I wrote a tune (My only one BTW) for the Molly side I was working with at the time. It's called "Fairlop" (after a Central line tube station.) Imagine my surprise when I found it being lustily played in a session at a festival a year later. I'd just popped in for a light lunch (not even playing)..Half an hour later, I asked the chap who had started the tune about it's provenance. He said "Oh, it's hundreds of years old....!" I didn't have the heart to tell him that I'd made it up 3 years earlier!
I didn't inform this chap that he was wrong. And in a strange way, I quite like the idea that a tune that I wrote has wormed it's way into the tradition. Am I upset? Not at all.
I do agree that the tune side of the scene is more forgiving and encompassing than the singers perspective. Songs obviously have a lot more power, as they are making statements in words. Tunes just noodle around.
Everything is right. Nothing is wrong.
The idea of "Occupation" is pants.....a bit like knitting fog.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 03:32 AM

No you've missed the crux of the argument.

Blair Dunlop debuts his first album at Cecil Sharp House. In the tradition.

Gerry Lockran never got invited to play the place. Derek Brimstone in a very long career got to play the place twice when he was accompanying someone or other. never invited to play in his own right. In folk clubs.

The problem is lack of respect from one side by the other. The insinuation that lies at the heart of it is that if you're not 'in the tradition' you're some sort of flash harry - barely one stage up from the protoplasm that plays the X factor. Whereas 'in the tradition' are serious artists.

Go figure.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 04:15 AM

C#Ho can invite who they like. As can any other club. You can't compel them to have what they don't want, and they can't and don't prevent you from having what you want. They don't want to invade you AFAIK. Why should you invade them?

Incidentally, I don't see why you call X factor contestants "protoplasm" - on one of those talent thingies a couple of years back there was a very short clip of two contestants singing just for fun as they walked down the street - no instruments, and dammit they were GOOD, once you took the razamatazz crap so central to the Tin Pan Alley aspects of the programme away.

Glueman - the expression "community" in the 1954 definition has to contemplate discrete communities, not a whole nation. Think about it. The question in modern times is whether a "community" needs to be physically contiguous, or can be connected in another way - as an online community is.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 05:31 AM

Yeh, but Cecil Sharp's gang of heavies are a focus for all the inequalities and injustices of the present system. So the heavy weight reviews get denied to the great mass of even traditional players, let alone contemporary artists. Blokes like our own Dick Miles.

Meanwhile a reviewer spends an entire column giving Rosie Kemp one star for her album, regretting that that sainted family have for once slipped from grace. Meanwhile some other poor sods lifeswork is lucky to get a mention in the AND THE REST pile.

Basically all this tradition and 'in the tradition' business stinks. Its just a mask for those fine old English traditions of nepotism, favouritism and 'jobs for the boys-ism'.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 05:49 AM

I think I am missing the crux then, Al. When you say, of Derek Brimstone he was 'never invited to play in his own right. In folk clubs'
I know that to be untrue because I am have seen him at our folk club and a few others. I guess what you mean is that he was never invited to play etc. at C# house folk club.

In which case - Yes, I accept your argument that there is a folk club that does not invite some non-traditionalists. One. At C# house. There are hundreds of folk clubs all over the country that will invite DB, Gerry Lockran and uncle Tom Cobley and all. Provided that they have the space and money of course. And as Richard says - They can invite who the heck they like anyway.

Is the crux of the argument that C# house is so influential that it dictates the policies of all English Folk Clubs? I think not. Just what is the crux of the argument then?

Cheers

Dave


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Will Fly
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 05:59 AM

Sorry Al - can't go with you here. How much of what Cecil Sharp House does or doesn't do is actively a part of the mindset of all the people who run clubs, singarounds and sessions? Very little for the most part, I suspect. I've never had a yen to even go to Cecil Sharp House, much less perform there - why should I when there's so much going on in my locality? And when I was gigging in London in the '60s and '70s, the main target was to headline at somewhere like the Cousins or the Troubadour, or even Bunjies. They were the places to be - not C#H.

As for folk awards, I never bother with them and they don't impact on me one little bit. I read the odd music review in the Guardian or the Observer from time to time but, to be honest, unless you're of one mind with the reviewer, they're often a waste of space. What gets me to gigs as part of an audience is hearing records that friends recommend, hearing the buzz from people whose musical tastes I trust, and my own knowledge gleaned from all sorts of sources. To say that:

Cecil Sharp's gang of heavies are a focus for all the inequalities and injustices of the present system

is investing them with too much power and authority, IMO. They become men of straw - puppets to be put up and knocked down as the source of all problems. There are all sorts of reasons why good musicians don't get gigs - and some of them are complex and personal - but nominating a "gang of heavies" seems a slightly simplistic catch-all to me. No offence intended to you, Al, but I'm not convinced with this one.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 06:03 AM

No Dave.

But you know the old Australian joke. How do you get fifty poms in a phone box? Make one a foreman, and the rest will crawl up his arse.

Its a bit like that. Make one a member of Steeleye, The watersons, Fairport......etc.

I was making a distinction between what what was going on in the folk clubs. and what was happening in this abstraction....' inthe tradition'.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: johncharles
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 06:24 AM

Well said Mr Fly.
As far as I can see the level of patronage and nepotism in the folk scene is no different from that seen in all aspects of life.
Cecil sharp House is in its own words "a membership society with 4000 members" and London-centric; its impact on the wider scene is minimal.
As with any form of club the members will have common interests or it would'nt be a club. If some clubs prefer the more traditional end of the folk/roots/acoustic spectrum that is their right as is their right to book who they want.
If you want something different go to another club or start your own event.
The group I play with wanted a more open type of event so we started our own -         
"Accoustic Jam session, bring an instrument and join in, all musical styles and abilities welcome."
string theory
Get out and play instead of naval gazing would be my motto.
John


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: glueman
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 06:29 AM

"Glueman - the expression "community" in the 1954 definition has to contemplate discrete communities, not a whole nation. Think about it. The question in modern times is whether a "community" needs to be physically contiguous, or can be connected in another way - as an online community is".

Nice try. The question in 'modern times' is whether folk means people who belong to clubs and sing in the back rooms of boozers. I put it to you in all conscience that it clearly does not and never did. Hobbyists and enthusiasts and historians are not The People. Not now. Not ever.

As for nationhood, why bother talking about English folk music if the nomenclature has no meaning?


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 06:35 AM

I really am sorry, Al - I know it is me being thick. I still don't understand the issue. If what is going on in the majority of folk clubs is OK, why does it matter what goes on at C# house? Neither I nor any other organiser I know have taken any instruction from C# as to what we should do or who we should book.

I could be completely wrong here but I think you (and Lizzie) are seeing enemies where they don't exist and barriers that were pulled down 40 years ago.

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 06:47 AM

"But you know the old Australian joke. How do you get fifty poms in a phone box? Make one a foreman, and the rest will crawl up his arse."


Absolutely, Al!!!! :0)


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: GUEST,Ralphie
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 06:47 AM

I'm not sure where this is going. I've played C Sharp house many times over the last 40 years...Either booked/paid, Floor spot stylee. As a sound engineer mixing for bands. whatever.
Never a sign of exclusivity, and also the chance to explore the amazing library.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 07:03 AM

of course you're right jc. Its no worse than Carruthers at the Foreign office and half the front bench of both poliyicaL parties having fagged for each other at Eton.

As the poet/folksinger said, "Its life and life only....."

Sorry richard, not a real folksinger, singing real folk music.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: theleveller
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 07:07 AM

Like most grass-roots movements or activities, folk music is essentially anarchic and therefore cannot be subjected to either definition or central control. The assumption that an arbitrary and sweeping definition made almost 50 years ago can in any way be relevant to the music as it is today (or maybe even as it was then) is, to my mind, ludicrous.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 08:08 AM

Paranoia and conspiracy theory are all very well, but the bottom line is here that ENGLISH FOLK is a disparate cultural phenomenon entirely dependent on the passions & enthusiasms of those involved with it on any number of levels from musician, singer, journalist, folk club / festival organiser, producer, MC, radio host, etc. etc. whose only agenda is the love of the thing, rather than its definition. In my experience ENGLISH FOLK is an inclusive musical phenomenon that's about as easy to define as CHRISTMAS. Of course there will always be those eager to tell you all about The Real Meaning of Christmas - taking it back to the events in Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago; or yet further to the time when Ancient Druidic Sun-priests first spotted a gap in the Solar Market - but the fact o' the matter is, and in terms of Genuine 100% Folkloric Custom, Usage and Authenticity, Christmas begins when Santa Clause is flying high in the food hall of the Trafford Centre and will 'mean' something different in every single beating heat of every single person who sees Him hanging there. How can it possible be any different?

Same with Folk really. Ultimately Folk is whatever it means to the individual, be it writing comedy songs on uxoricide or shamelessly plagiarising the artistry of Martin Carthy ballads and passing them off as being somehow Traditional. Folk accommodates all shades and shapes of self-confessed Folkie, no matter how broad or narrow their particular Church happens to be; and no matter whether they think the 1954 Definition has any currency whatsoever other than as an in-joke on the same level as the one about the many-haired fellows with the long faces. Folk is simply observing that it can be any number things on any number of occasions and realising that Folk is Right There at any given time, and yet at other times it might not be there at all. Folk is not telling other people what is is, or what it isn't, because right around the corner there'll be someone else telling it differently. Folk lives in our Hearts and comes out in a collectivity which will ALWAYS be about a myriad of unique perspectives, however so impassionedly felt or curmudgeonously expressed, but the common denominator will be the willingness to partake, and call it Folk, and bask in the pure transitory Joy of the thing.

Folk is like Art. What is Art? Is it Art? Who cares? Art is all things to all people. I'm a recent covert to the genius of Grayson Perry who crosses over into much that also defines the Folk Aesthetic too - for me at least. We popped into the wee exhibition at the Manchester City Gallery the other day and were highly delighted, not least by his Print for a Politician, though I'm sure you could re-label it Print for Folkies and have some fun changing the categories too: traddies, singer-songwriters, purists, English concertina players, Anglo concertina players, Folk Police, Death Eaters, Muggles, Morris Dancers, Strawhead fans, Bellamists, Guitarists, Dulcimer players, EFDSS members, non-EFDSS members, Mudcatters, Fylde goers, Sidmouth goers, hurdy-gurdy players, bagpipe players, bodhran lovers, bodhran haters, banjo players, banjo jokers, balladeers (unaccompanied), balladeers (accompanied), head singers, nose singers, naval contemplators, tankard wearers, Folk Righteous, Christian Folk, Pagan Folk, neo-Folk, nu-Folk, no-Folk, post-Folk, Shanty Fans, Chantey Fans, Forebitters Only fans, Catheyites, neo-Cartheyites, Folk Against Fascism, Folk for Nationalism, Whistlers, fiddlers, Comedians, Storytellers, Poets...   

Occupy English Folk Music? Last time I looked, it was already occupied; but the sign on the door said Come-All-Ye and, yeah, that door was forever open to all with plenty of room inside for Thousands or More to pass therein. Folk is big enough and small enough to accommodate all and their mutterings, their loves and their hates, their pride and their prejudice; so much so that one may never say quite what it is, just say that it is there, for better and for worse, in the hope that people will one day just get on with what they do without feeling the need to barf up their sour grapes in public and make it unpleasant for everyone else in the process. But maybe such barfing is part of it too? Which is fair enough, just as long as they are made to clean up after themselves. As in life, we come, we go; we pick up, we let go, we move on; and, as in life, Folk's too precious a thing to waste by moaning over what ought to be when it's always going to be exactly what it is regardless of what YOU happen to think it ought to be.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 08:17 AM

Wonderful post, SA. But at the end of the day I KNOW that us Anglo-concertina playing, guitar strumming, antediluvian, repressive, suggestive, digestive, bottom-feeding, left-wing pinko, traditionalists are better than anyone else :-)

DtG


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 08:47 AM

Me too, DtG; though the flip-side is a deep seated inferiority complex dating from the time when my potential Hero Status at School was denied me by a copy of the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. It went something like:

Headmaster: You do realise, Sweeney, that songs about incest and sunsequent sorocide are going to be deeply upsetting to certain pupils, especially those of a nervous disposition?
Unrepentant Adolescent Self: Yes, sir.
HM: Quite apart from the fact that the subject matter of such a song can be said to obscene regardless of the fact that you almost caused young Daisy Michaelmas to have a nervous breakdown?
UAS: Yes, sir.
HM: Poor girl didn't sleep all weekend according to her mother, who only got the full story when on the one occasion she did get to sleep she woke up screaming in the wee small hours. I suppose this one of those new fangled Punk Rock songs that the media is currently up in arms about, is it?
UAS: No, sir.
HM: No? Then, what the devil sort of song is it, boy?
UAS: It's a Folk Song, sir.
HM: A Folk Song, you say?
UAS: Yes, sir.
HM: A Folk Song as in - Lovely Joan you mean?
UAS: Yes, sir.
HM: And where did you get this - Folk Song, Sweeney?
UAS: From a book, sir.
HM: A book, eh? A what book might this be?
UAS: This book here, sir.
HM: The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, eh? Edited by Ralph Vaughan Williams and A.L.Lloyd. My goodness, Sweeney - I'm impressed.
And - which song was it that so upset young Miss Michaelmass?
UAS: It's on page sixty-five, sir - right after Lovely Joan.
HM: Sixty-five. Ah! Yes. Lovely Joan. Lucy Wan. Jolly good. Now this casts an entirely different light on the matter - quite a different light altogether. My goodness, Sweeney - to think that such songs are still so much a part of the shadows of our collective subconsciousness that they might still have such a profound effect on the tender hearted - even in this day and age. Not your fault at all, of course, though you might like to assess your audience more carefully in future.
UAS: Yes, sir.

35 years on, I still live with the shame.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: John P
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 09:16 AM

The insinuation that lies at the heart of it is that if you're not 'in the tradition' you're some sort of flash harry - barely one stage up from the protoplasm that plays the X factor. Whereas 'in the tradition' are serious artists.

How is it that I and almost everybody I know have been playing folk music all our lives and don't really experience this? Could it be that it only exists in Big Al's head?

Big Al, what the fuck are you talk about? Taking your words as written, you're talking about me and everyone else who likes traditional music. Where do you get off being such an asshole?

Speaking of assholes, I have encountered traditional music pedants who wanted to tell me how what I was playing was WRONG. I've also met singer-songwriters who wanted to tell me that my music lacks creativity because I didn't write it, and people who have said that one should only sing songs that one agrees with the message of -- as singer-songwriter-centric idea if I ever heard one. But the whole point is that I didn't blame any other people for these people being assholes. I just figured I had met some assholes.

As I have now. Big Al, the biggest thing that pisses me off about folk music is when people tell me -- or anyone else -- that we ought to be doing one thing musically instead of another. Or that we ARE doing something which we aren't. Which, like it or not, is what you are doing in this thread while complaining about it being done to you by an unspecified "them". In spite of the fact that EVERYONE in this thread except you and Lizzie have given you lots of explanations along with descriptions of real-world experiences that show your complaints to be imaginary, you continue to barf up statements like the one above. Sorry to be so rude, but everyone has been really nice to you so far and you've just been offensive in return. I get tired of it.

If you want to be involved in a conversation, it is usually a good idea to actually respond to what other people say. When you don't, the conversation doesn't really go anywhere and people get frustrated. You could start by answering some questions I asked earlier:

Why is it so important to you that there not be any places where traditional folk music is the rule?

Why would you want to play music in a club that programs a different genre of music?


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 09:33 AM

'Sorry to be so rude'

Yes i can see it gives you pain.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: John P
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 09:49 AM

Actually, I am sorry. I don't like calling people out on threads. But I like even less having people like you turn threads into offensive fantasy slams at me and other people. Any chance you want to engage in the conversation instead of endlessly repeating statements that have already been responded to and proved to be untrue? Here's a place to start:

Why is it so important to you that there not be any places where traditional folk music is the rule?

Why would you want to play music in a club that programs a different genre of music?


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: BTNG
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 09:53 AM

Oh right


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 10:25 AM

I've also met singer-songwriters who wanted to tell me that my music lacks creativity because I didn't write it

I've regularly argued that working with Traditional Folk Song inspires a degree of creativity far greater than that evident in the work of many popularist singer-singwriters who are quite happy to stick to well-trod formulas and cliches. As an idiom, singer-songwriter style tends to revert to a path of imitation and repetition greater than anything you'll find in the far wider parameters of Traditional English Speaking Folk Song, which is also a good deal less insistent of its own righteousness, be it in terms of music, or (God forbid) message and (horror of horrors) fecking comedy. Traditional Song inspires new life, new ways of looking at things, and fresh outlooks; whereas rehashing the three-chord trick in servility to the graven image of Dylan is just plain tedium and an insult to our hard-won intelligence.

Either that, or I just don't like it. Opinions, eh???

Thing is, I love great songwriting: Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Gillian Welch, Dave Cousins, Sandy Denny, Robert Wyatt, Scott Walker, Daevid Allen, Captain Beefheart, etc etc but much of the Folk Style just doesn't do that much for me. I'm not about to negate it though, much less place it into some false opposition of Us & Them. My personal Atheism is all consuming; I regularly play alongside people who do it with aplomb. I welcome them into my singarounds and sessions as I would anyone else because Folk is a very Broad Church and whate'er my personal tastes & consequent musical philosophies might be, I will recognise a common Joy when I see it. I will even bask in it; I will even join in on my violin & venture into such idioms where appropriate. The one thing most certainly does not preclude the other. Heavens, I even know people (whisper it mind!) who dare to do both...; likewise those who take a more catholic approach to both Traditional and Popular Idioms and synthesise them with canny & idiosyncratic knack no more or less valid than any other. It takes all sorts, which is just as well because all sorts are out there doing it, instead of sitting on their computers telling the rest of us what we ought to be doing & thinking and why they are so justified in feeling so very hard done to.

So love what you do by all means, but soon as you start saying your way is somehow better then you've lost the plot completely - because there are any number of ways of saying that it is (quite possibly) a good deal worse. The Folk Police are only ever the delusion of very paranoid imaginations; those that not only will create its devils in its own image, but then will send them raging against itself in an imaginary war.

In the words of Edgar Broughton: Out demons out!


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: BTNG
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 10:30 AM

there's a plot to this?


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 10:32 AM

Alright. My last word.

Let us assume that you and Richard are correct You have read the smoke signals correctly and you have divined what is the tradition of English folk music.

I have no quarrel with you having your little enclaves, covens whatever wherein these black arts - hidden from the general population - are practised. Exclusive as you like. No riff raff.

What I object to is the elevation of these opinions into a code of practice, that disciminates and plots against the careers of people not in your frame of mind about what is the English tradition.

Now your side gets any subsidy going. It gets the World Council Tours. It gets the one hour long BBC2 documentaries and concert specials. It gets more review space. It gets slots on BBC arts programmes. It gets the invitations to appear all over the world at folk festivals. It gets the Brit awards and the Mercury awards and the OBEs, and the MBEs. It gets the invitations to supply music for Shakespeare plays at Stratford. Even a radio 2 programme and plays on Andy Kershaw and other interested parties.

Our side - well we get to bitch about the inequality of it. And we're not giving that up.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: John P
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 10:43 AM

Yes, I like great songwriting as well. At the last folk festival I played at, I played two sets. One was traditional Swedish folk music. The other included songs by Joni Mitchell, the Indigo Girls, and folky/bluesy versions of Summertime and songs by Beatles and Led Zeppelin. I don't have any problem calling all of it folk music, since the word has taken on a different meaning since the sixties, but I'm also keenly aware of the differences and similarities between modern composed music and traditional folk music.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: BTNG
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 10:51 AM

"differences and similarities between modern composed music and traditional folk music"

I think most people are......


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: GUEST,Jim Knowledge
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 10:56 AM

I `ad that Sublime Ashtray in my cab the other day.
I said, "`ere Sub, I saw your skit about the schoolboy and `is song on that Mudcat thread, "Occupy English Folk Music". You`re wasted `ere. You ought to be with the BBC or someone."
`e said, "Ta Jim, it`s nice to know someone appreciates me. But you and your lot do gigs all over, what`s your take on English folk music?"
I said, "Well, put it this way. I thought "Chasing the WREN" was an English folk song until I joined the Navy and discovered SMIRNOFF!!"

Whaddam I Like??


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 10:59 AM

If I may address that last word, Al.

There is no code of practice as far as I know. I would be happy to be proved wrong by anyone highlighting it's existence.

There are plenty of subsidies to art forms outside the English tradition. I would be happy to get the details of all the grants if that were possible but I suspect a tiny fraction of them go to the traditional folk world. In my own experience we have had grants awarded for our festival when it is based primarily on modern folk - Our guest list has looked like a who's who of singer-songwriters or modern cover artists. We have not applied for a few years because we have downsized but the main guests this year were Paul Metsers and Marie Little. Neither of whom are exactly representative of the traditional folk scene.

Plenty singer songwriters get documentaries on TV. Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, James Taylor, Mark Knopfler - I have seen docs. on all of them and more. If you mean that there are no documentaries about unknown singer-songwriters then, yes. I agree. There are no documentaries about unknown traditional performers either.

More modern songs are reviewed by the media than are traditional ones. How can that be in any doubt when all you have to do is open any of the music papers?

There are festivals all over the world that cater for all types of music. I suspect there are less dedicated to traditional folk that there is to modern music but must admit that is a guess.

How many Brit awards go to trad musicians and how many go to singer-songwriters? I will let someone else do the research on that but I am pretty sure it will be a landslide victory for modern music.

Need I go on any more?

Honestly, I don't think that anyone here is getting at you. I am certainly not. But to say that the media is biased towards traditional folk music is just plain wrong!

Cheers

Dave


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: BTNG
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 11:05 AM

everyone fighting to have "THE LAST WORD" now THAT is funny!


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: theleveller
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 11:11 AM

Al, I'm a huge supporter of the role of the singer/songwriter in folk music – to my mind it really is the continuation of the traditional craft put in a contemporary context – but I don't recognise the situation that you're citing. Have you watched the excellent singer/songwriter series on BBC4, for instance? Think how often you hear Mumfords or Martin Simpson as backing tracks on TV programmes. And, as far as theatre is concerned, the multi-talented John Tams is a master at producing songs for plays. Plus you frequently hear songs written by the likes of Mike Waterson et al performed alongside traditional material – as indeed they should be.

Splitting into 'sides' merely dilutes an already thinly spread audience for our music. Ad that's to nobody's benefit.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 11:27 AM

no I'm not fighting for Dave's last word. I just can see - people think differently to me. well that's okay - its a democrarcy.

die Gedanken sind frei - as Pete Seeger sang.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: glueman
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 11:35 AM

Grayson Perry, eh? I bought a cravat with one of his prints yesterday, a girl (presumably GP) pushing a pram outside some kind of factory. I only wished I'd have bought one of his pots when I first fell in love with them and they didn't require a mortgage to purchase. Oh well.

As I said some many posts back, both come all ye and abominable no men could make a case for being the true inheritors of folk. Neither have the intellectual high ground because the past is another country, so we make the future up as we go along.


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Subject: RE: 'Occupy English Folk Music!'
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 12:13 PM

OK - Ia m not going to post 2 to the other thread to make the century - but on here -

300!

And yes, people do think differently. That is what makes life such fun :-)

DtG


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