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'Purist - a pejorative?

glueman 14 Jan 12 - 09:14 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 14 Jan 12 - 06:30 AM
Jim Carroll 14 Jan 12 - 05:34 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 14 Jan 12 - 04:31 AM
MGM·Lion 14 Jan 12 - 01:20 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 13 Jan 12 - 05:49 PM
Stringsinger 13 Jan 12 - 03:48 PM
Spleen Cringe 13 Jan 12 - 12:54 PM
Big Al Whittle 13 Jan 12 - 11:39 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 13 Jan 12 - 10:04 AM
Phil Edwards 13 Jan 12 - 09:11 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 13 Jan 12 - 08:14 AM
glueman 13 Jan 12 - 07:42 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 13 Jan 12 - 05:17 AM
MGM·Lion 13 Jan 12 - 03:10 AM
Phil Edwards 13 Jan 12 - 03:03 AM
Phil Edwards 12 Jan 12 - 04:20 PM
glueman 12 Jan 12 - 03:59 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 12 Jan 12 - 03:32 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 12 Jan 12 - 03:23 PM
Brian Peters 12 Jan 12 - 02:51 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 12 Jan 12 - 02:34 PM
Brian Peters 12 Jan 12 - 02:04 PM
Brian Peters 12 Jan 12 - 01:57 PM
Phil Edwards 12 Jan 12 - 01:52 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 12 Jan 12 - 01:21 PM
The Sandman 12 Jan 12 - 01:04 PM
Brian Peters 12 Jan 12 - 12:48 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 12 Jan 12 - 12:16 PM
Brian Peters 12 Jan 12 - 08:34 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 11 Jan 12 - 05:43 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 11 Jan 12 - 04:18 PM
Jim Carroll 11 Jan 12 - 04:12 PM
Howard Jones 11 Jan 12 - 03:18 PM
Howard Jones 11 Jan 12 - 03:11 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 11 Jan 12 - 02:59 PM
Brian Peters 11 Jan 12 - 01:18 PM
Tootler 11 Jan 12 - 12:50 PM
Brian Peters 11 Jan 12 - 12:44 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 11 Jan 12 - 11:56 AM
The Sandman 11 Jan 12 - 11:36 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 11 Jan 12 - 11:20 AM
theleveller 11 Jan 12 - 11:14 AM
Jim Carroll 11 Jan 12 - 10:58 AM
glueman 11 Jan 12 - 10:44 AM
The Sandman 11 Jan 12 - 10:28 AM
Brian Peters 11 Jan 12 - 10:10 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 11 Jan 12 - 10:05 AM
MGM·Lion 11 Jan 12 - 09:40 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 11 Jan 12 - 09:37 AM
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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: glueman
Date: 14 Jan 12 - 09:14 AM

It's difficult to know why MOR has become a term of abuse. Much of it is closer to the popular pretensions of folk music than almost any other form. Hardly a centenary birthday passes in an old folk home without the nurses knocking out a few rounds of Cliff Richard's 1968 eurovision song 'Congratulations'. Slade's 'Merry Christmas' and Robbie Williams's 'Angels' are standards at any seasonal cultural gathering. 'Whiter Shade of Pale' stands alongside any of the more cryptic ballads as a gnomic text.

All songs aspiring to mass popularity and achieving it beyond the normal thrall of tinpan alley product.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 14 Jan 12 - 06:30 AM

My dissection analogy still holds, I believe, for those who over emphasise the analysis to the detriment of their enjoyment of the item.

I spent nearly twenty years trying to teach my son that his disinterest in a particular genre did not mean that the genre was any less valid, but simply that he either didn't like it, or he didn't understand it.

I have no problem with anybody's choices of entertainment, but it always makes me cringe when somebody who should know better dismisses the creative efforts of a whole army of songwriters with a disdainful pejorative such as "Middle of the Road", or "Easy Listening", as if those are somehow intrinsically worthless and compounds the offence by reducing that to "MOR" or "EL".

I suspect that comments about "Finger in Ear Folkies" arouse righteous anger in one who doesn't even notice that his preferred genre is receiving no more than that which he thoughtlessly dishes out to theirs.

I am just as concerned with preserving the tradition as anyone here, but I do sometimes wonder how we can expect to turn more people on to the joys of traditional songs and tunes by rubbishing what they are now enjoying.

Does anybody here think that people drawn by curiosity to read some of these threads will be inspired with an irresistible urge to visit clubs at which they might meet some of us?

Don T.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Jan 12 - 05:34 AM

"The analytic and the appreciative-enjoyment are not mutually exclusive activities."
"An American Indian sun-dance or an Australian corroboree is an exciting spectacle for the uninitiated, but for one who understands something of the culture whence it springs it is a hundred fold more heart-moving."
Lowry C Wimberly, Folklore in the English and Scottish Ballads 1928
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 14 Jan 12 - 04:31 AM

For sure, the one thing enchances the other. It all comes down to what it is that moves the individual's passions. It takes all sorts. Like last night at The Moorbrook saw the the debut performances of the three songs (so far) of my Most Solemn New Year's Resolution which is to have at least 5 new songs simmering away in any one fortnight which I reckon will give a clear yield of 5 new songs a month - that's 60 in the theorectical year. These were: Long Peggin Awl,Out With My Gun in the Morning and While Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping. Though the they went down pretty well, especially for faltering first performances, no one was too bothered about wanting to know their provenance which to me is all part of the joy of such things - the song and the story indeed...

I also fumbled my way through the bones of an Old Ozark Folktale (Pissing in the Snow) only be told they'd first it from Bob Monkhouse and Mike Harding. Now Mike I could understand, but Monkhouse? The story and the story indeed; so I doubt I'll be taking it any further somehow...


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 14 Jan 12 - 01:20 AM

Do you not agree, tho, Don, that there are times and occasions and situations for both these approaches? And that sometimes they can co-exist simultaneously in the mind? The analytic and the appreciative-enjoyment are not mutually exclusive activities.

~M~


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 13 Jan 12 - 05:49 PM

""You know, even today I might just keep my gob shut in such choruses and allow the resonance to massage my soul; the perfect salve to drive sorrows away, or just make a good life all the more worthwhile.""

That sounds a lot more like the attitude I see among Mudcatters in general.

Are you sure that you aren't losing the point of experiencing music, with your over introspective analysing of the nature and origins of it.

Some of us can listen to Streets of London for its melodic qualities and enjoy singing the chorus, without feeling the need to delve too deeply into the attitudes expressed or the political implications.

I find it much more edifying to ponder the beauty of a live creation of nature, rather than to know all about its anatomy by dissecting it.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 13 Jan 12 - 03:48 PM

There is no "purism" anywhere. There is no pure race, culture, song etc. Everything definable has roots elsewhere. It's a silly term that is used as a pejorative by those enamored of pop music in the music biz.

There is room of course for all kinds of music and tastes and those, like myself, who appreciate the cultural depth of traditional folk music (with the caveat that not all of it is necessarily good) can appreciate pop music and other forms on different terms.

I think it's just a matter of donning different set of ears for each respective style of music.
You don't listen to jazz the same way as an informant from the Library on Congress field recordings or to Mozart, or Philip Glass.

I object to the term as stereotypical and knee-jerk.

A true musician can appreciate myriad forms of music on their own terms. You can also
respect and admire some forms of music without actually liking them.

I don't like Berg or Schoenberg but I respect the hell out of their musicianship.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 13 Jan 12 - 12:54 PM

Al. Most traddies I know sing, not read.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Jan 12 - 11:39 AM

Reminds me a little of Husyman, who reckoned he could experience England by sniffing an oily rope.

Personally, I think you can wriggle and twist - but English folksong without the broad mass of the English people - folk music minus folk - well its nonsense.

I think karaoke might be a good idea. wouldn't do it myself, but it might be better than crap accompaniment and words from an exercise book. It could get more people into it. It might be nice to sing along to Planxty, or Steeleye Span.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 13 Jan 12 - 10:04 AM

Ah! The Traddy Epiphany!

You know, even today I might just keep my gob shut in such choruses and allow the resonance to massage my soul; the perfect salve to drive sorrows away, or just make a good life all the more worthwhile. In the North-East it was wandering into clubs as a kid and hearing songs like Rap Her to Bank sung lustily with good courage - and the shantys, dear God. I was almost seasick the first time I heard Essequibo River with a ringing in my ears the following day familiar from rock gigs.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 13 Jan 12 - 09:11 AM

I'm glad I bypassed Folk in its post-modern post-Dynan hot-pot sense and I honestly can't see how the two things can possibly co-exist in Folk Clubs; I find it baffling, distressing and ultimately depressing as hell.

You know that moment - it'll be a while ago in your case, SO'P, but I was a late starter - when you look round the singaround you've wandered into and think Bloody hell, they all know these songs! They all know all these songs! I can pinpoint the moment in my own case - Les was starting the second half by launching into a song unannounced, as he does, & that night he went for Ranzo, which I'd never heard before. Everyone joined in - everyone walloped in - and it was glorious; and muggins didn't even know the bloody song. What's going on? What have I been missing?

It was an amazing moment, but for me there was a definite undertone of resentment - I've been going to that folk club for four, five years - I've been a regular at that folk club - and I've never heard any of this stuff. What's going on?


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 13 Jan 12 - 08:14 AM

I suppose I'm blessed to know people who do operate on that sort of level though, glueman - people for whom Traditional Song is a means to a very radical end, however so reactionary that might at first appear. It's like any form of conservation really, the impulse is essentially a radical one and beneficial in the face of a more cynical view of progress and development which is steadily destroying the planet. It's a sensitive ecology for sure, a gentle optimism born of its Fabian heritage that has faith in art and spirituality to touch hearts with more than hollow mass sentiment. The older I get, so the more precious this becomes - cherished indeed - and The Old Songs become more than just relics, or portals into a vanished past, but cornerstones of something worthwhile in a brash and cynical world where true value is at a premium. The more I see that sort of karaoke lowest common denominator replication going down in Folk Clubs, so the more I despair...


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: glueman
Date: 13 Jan 12 - 07:42 AM

You credit the typical folkie with a lot more reflection than is the case SO'P. The whole point of reaction (Folk Music II, The Revival is the very utterance of the reactionary impulse) is to avoid self examination and put faith in The Text. Reflexivity is anathema and always was - look too closely and the doors fall off and you realise you're in the matrix. Some of us can accept the virtual nature of the revival and appreciate it on the visceral level, others want constant reassurance the four walls are where they were always told they were, the ceiling is in place and they're standing on something solid. If it works for them, who cares? So long as they don't impose their folk holodeck on the rest of us, it's a compelling soundscape and everyone goes home happy.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 13 Jan 12 - 05:17 AM

Okay, Pip - try this. You yourself are a passionate exponent of Traditional Folk Song who seeks (as many of us do) to use the Old Songs as a means of breathing life into another level of musical creativity - as oppose to the usual revival conceit of claiming to breathe life into the old songs which I regard as palpable nonsense. My point here is that all compositional process emerges from such idiosyncratic continuities - even the remaking of a Traditional Song in a Traditional Context is essentially an act of individual musical creativity as each performance is a unique event based upon what went before it, but in any case different. Things will, and must, vary; and in time, those micro variations will lead to macro variations; just as in time human eyes have evolved to gaze upon peacock tail feathers and ponder intelligent design.

The crucial thing here is what went before it - the tradition of the idiom, which in classical music will include as many masterclasses on The Goldberg Variations as musicological lectures on where they came from in the overall scheme of musical continuity. I've heard it suggested that Bach could have improvised The Goldberg Variations, and that what we have today is a written record of an essentially improvised musical process. After all there's nothing in TGV quite as astonishing as (say) Art Tatum playing the Tiger Rag or Dollar Brand's African Piano album on ECM.   

A lot of this is down to attitude. In oral popular culture things are going to be more obviously different to how they are in a literate culture of entrenched idealised correctness. Much of the Modernism of the 20th century reacts against the stuffy conversatism of such 'tradition' - even The Folk Revival itself might be said to be part of that radical reappraisal of what constitutes culture. Cecil Sharp was, after all, a radical; and many may raise an eyebrow when one speaks of the Modernist Approach to Mediaeval Music but in the work of (say) Rene Clemencic we see exactly that. Sadly, it's the Ren. Fair Re-enactment approach to Medieval Music that prevails, and a similar stuffy conservatism exists in the Folk World though not with the Traddies, rather the Big Al Whittles of this world, insisting the common-minded volkish reactionary self-evident correctness of The Mob (if I read his stance correct). Traddies are refined and noble radicals by default; theirs is a revolutionary perspective that believes the potentials of Traditional Folk Song may reinspire a culture grown moribund by its own endless replication. From what I've read, I think that's what Sharp might have had in mind too, however paternalistic his approach, but I've no doubt whatsoever that his heart was in the right place.

For what it's worth, I myself came to an appreciation of Traditional Folk Song via a passion for Ethnomusicology which was itself integral to the Experimental / Free Improv culture of the time which I got into via the more radical Prog bands like Gong, Henry Cow and the Third Ear Band. I'm glad I bypassed Folk in its post-modern post-Dynan hot-pot sense and I honestly can't see how the two things can possibly co-exist in Folk Clubs; I find it baffling, distressing and ultimately depressing as hell. But that's personal. I'm big on change, process and evolution; the irony is that all is change, process and evolution - even culture at its most conservative and reactionary is subject to change, process and evolution, though sometimes in the Folk World I might have my doubts...

*

As for The Streets of London, it's one of the persistent spectres of 20th century MOR popular music - ubiquitous indeed; a radical sentiment couched in a cosy twee comfort blanket & equally as nauseating as his Hiring Fair on all sorts of levels but who's to say which version posterity will choose as definitive? If any? To any one of the 10,000 common or garden folk singers who sing it in any given Folk Week, it exists as a perfect idyll of radical righteous romance and self-delusion, comforting as a mantra or Rosary prayer; a medium for a very particular sort of seance. And remember, it will always be the first time for someone, just as it will always be the last...

S O'P (Looking out upon blue skies this morning & wishing he had a gun to go out with...)


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 13 Jan 12 - 03:10 AM

Pip ~~ I am as I was.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 13 Jan 12 - 03:03 AM

Er... no two performances by the same pianist would be identical. As you were.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 12 Jan 12 - 04:20 PM

Even The Streets of London is an example of this, and even in a culture hell bent on repetition, I doubt if any of the 10,000 performances that take place of this song in any given Folk Week can be said to be identical.

I'm sure they're not, but they are aspiring to approximate to the correct version - and there is a correct version, complete with canonical recording and copyrighted lyrics. (And they are taking place in a culture hell bent on repetition, as you say.)

Has anyone mentioned the Goldberg Variations yet? I love the Goldberg Variations - I don't know any piece of music like it for the interplay between compulsion & drive and silences & hesitations. Any two interpretations by different pianists are recognisable as such, and any two performances by the same pianist would be identical. But it's all in the performance: there's a score, and at the level of the dots there's a right way and a wrong way to play it. Go up to C instead of A at the end of the first bar and you wouldn't be folk-processing it, you'd be getting it wrong. The difference between the Bachosphere and the soundworld that gave us the Unfortunate Streets of White Mercury is vast.

You seem to be celebrating the micro-differences and nano-differences, while denying the existence of the macro-differences - including the honking great macro-difference that Sharp & his successors identified all those years ago, between musics that are trying to stay put and those that exist in the flow of change and improvisation. (Is folk song word jazz?)


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: glueman
Date: 12 Jan 12 - 03:59 PM

"And for the umpteenth time, the Folk Process is about evolution, not creation. It's Darwinism rather than Genesis".

Far too many people believe that to be true, I fear. Both are steam age concepts and attractive to a certain mode of thinking that places good order above everything else. TFP and Darwinism are interesting ideas and reasonable as far as they go, but only half the picture now dualism and quantum physics and the unplumbed depths of consciousness gape before us invitingly. 1954, like materialism, is in dire need of a spring clean.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 12 Jan 12 - 03:32 PM

PS - Of course what I should have said was no two foxes are exactly alike; and no two elephants, African or otherwise...


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 12 Jan 12 - 03:23 PM

They're different in all sorts of ways; certainly different enough to be compelling. It's a bit like in evolutionary theory really saying that a town fox and a city fox aren't as obviously different as an Indian elephant and an African elephant. Big differences are the results of little differences and the minute increments of organic process which is everywhere. All is change; all is changing...

The TFP-hypothesis is oft expressed thus on Mudcat; soon as it crops up again I'll be sure to alert you. Actually, I quite like the more random elements of the theory, as well as the creative ones. In short, I suppose, my beef here is as much with the nomenclature as anything else when such process is universal and not restricted to Folk Music. After all, Mondegreens do happen and do lead to some some great variations.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 12 Jan 12 - 02:51 PM

"I have 7 CDs each containing very different performances of Henry Purcell's 12 Sontas of Three Parts"

So how different are they, compared with Mr. Radish's 'seventy-three different versions of The Unfortunate Rake (or Lass)'?

And who was it who said on here that TFP was nothing but mondegreens? ...huh?


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 12 Jan 12 - 02:34 PM

I've read many accounts of TFP here on mudcat and they all seem to involve factors extraneous to what might be considered the normal proper running of things. Recently someone said one of Purcell's Abdelazer Hornpipes had been 'Folk Processed' by dint of it being included in Playford (The Hole in the Wall) and becoming a folk standard thereafter. I've also heard this said of Byrd's Earl of Salisbury Pavan - which to me is more associated with the Soft Machine (A Certain Kind*) than even early music performance. Of course music process comes in all guises - both random (Oblique Strategies anyone?) or deliberate but they key to all this is that the essential fluidity is the idiom itself and the various manifestations of it. Even The Streets of London is an example of this, and even in a culture hell bent on repetition, I doubt if any of the 10,000 performances that take place of this song in any given Folk Week can be said to be identical.

At heart, I'm a Taoist; I rejoice that we live in a universe that can never quite replicate itself, and that the flow of 10,000 things (even TSOL) inevitably manifests in organic diversity no matter how close the intention might be. When it is not being performed a song is just a concept, but once it's out there, then it lives and breathes in its own unique space & time. This is why I have 7 CDs each containing very different performances of Henry Purcell's 12 Sontas of Three Parts - that and the fact I'm a sad old bastard to whom nuance and minutiae are the stuff of life.

* If you want process listen to early versions of this song with the 15-year-old Richard Sinclair singing it with The Wilde Flowers & compare it with later Soft Machine versions.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 12 Jan 12 - 02:04 PM

Excellent contribution from GSS there...


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 12 Jan 12 - 01:57 PM

"...random amalgramation of memory loss and mondegreens which seems the prevalent orthodoxy here on Mudcat..."

Your arguments might be taken more seriously if you didn't insist on traducing the arguments that your opponents have made. I don't remember ever reading a post on Mudcat that suggested that the above was the essence of the 'Folk Process'. Rather, I've seen (and written myself) many posts arguing the opposite: that individual creativity must be an essential element - while acknowledging that garblement has in some cases obviously been at work too.

I believe this kind of thing is called a 'Straw Man'....


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 12 Jan 12 - 01:52 PM

As with all other Music Idioms (be they Popular, Classical & Sacred) process and fluidity are integral to the nature of the beast

Maybe so, but...

Given the various conditions of the Natural Habitat of what we now think of as being Traditional Folk Song (primarily oral, no copyright, highly creative master singers and song makers well versed in their tradition, static communities interfacing with other static communities via marriages, migrations, mendicants, travellers, no radios, no records other than ear wax &c. &c.)

it seems to me that process and fluidity were a much more prominent feature of w.w.n.t.o.a.b.T.F.S. than they are of art forms that are written down, widely communicated in that written form, broadcast on the radio, recorded, etc; you could even say they were a defining feature. As witness the fact that there are approximately seventy-three different versions of The Unfortunate Rake (or Lass) - and slightly different versions of those versions are being performed at singarounds most weeks - while there's precisely one authentic (ha!) version of Streets of London, of which faithful copies are performed at folk clubs equally frequently.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 12 Jan 12 - 01:21 PM

I'd dearly love to say so, Brian - it was a beautiful old co-op rocking chair too, but that fell to pieces years ago. Just been out today with Ross for a piece of stout ply that (effectively) completes a very timely rejuvination of our IKEA sofa bed, new cushions & all, so it's looking & feeling quite sweet, if you forgive the pun - the other two pieces are those IKEA Poang bouncing chairs which I don't believe I've ever actually sat in, because they're either covered in guests, books or, right now Seinfeld, Planet of the Apes, Studio Ghibli and Naeturvaktin / Dagvaktin / Fangavactin DVDs...


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Jan 12 - 01:04 PM

GRANDFATHERS COCK


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 12 Jan 12 - 12:48 PM

Grandmother's Old Armchair?


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 12 Jan 12 - 12:16 PM

And for the umpteenth time, the Folk Process is about evolution, not creation. It's Darwinism rather than Genesis.

Actually, along with the whole concept of Folk, the Folk Process remains very much a theorectical perspective on a plethora of Popular Traditional Musical idioms for which there are a plethora of theorectical mechanisms. All music is subject to process (evolution as a creative process / creation as an evolutionary process) but dare I say that it takes as much faith to believe in the Folk Process per se (i.e that random amalgramation of memory loss and mondegreens which seems the prevalent orthodoxy here on Mudcat along with other such quare notions) as it does in the literal truth of Genesis?

Fact #1: Folk is an anomalous quasi-academic and ultimately patronising theoretical gloss on any given music, or act of working-class art / ceremony or functional object. For example, I made reference earlier on to the early 20th century Gypsy Clothes Peg I bought at the weekend from an antique shop over near Keighley. Whilst I bought it to use as a fiddle mute, I did so primarily because it beguiled me as a piece of beautifully made early 20th-century Roma Folk Art Treen. To the person who made it, of course, it would have simply be a) a clothes peg and b) a means of making some sort of income from frantic housewives trying to keep their laundry from blowing away of a blustery washing day. I hope it had a long life being used for exactly that, because whilst it's crap as a fiddle mute, it continues to beguile as a piece of beautifully made early 20th-century Roma Folk Art Treen. Now that's what I mean by patronising, even though that's exactly how I feel about it, so I can well empathise with the Antiquarian urge of folklore believe you me.

Given the various conditions of the Natural Habitat of what we now think of as being Traditional Folk Song (primarily oral, no copyright, highly creative master singers and song makers well versed in their tradition, static communities interfacing with other static communities via marriages, migrations, mendicants, travellers, no radios, no records other than ear wax &c. &c.) then is any surprise that each performance of any given song was a creative act in & of itself and quite different from any that had gone before it? I think not. Thing is, there would have been no actual record of that - a germ perhaps, or a notion, some line or image remembered and later built upon - unless (as in certain cases) those telling instances where a Broadside version becomes almost the definitive text as far as we call tell. As with all other Music Idioms (be they Popular, Classical & Sacred) process and fluidity are integral to the nature of the beast & might be said to be one of music's defining factors.

Fact #2 : The songs existed without Folk Theory; just as the birds exist without Ornithological Theory. In both cases taxidermy is an imperfect way of understanding the subject. Of course in many cases it's all we've got to go on, but the important thing here is to keep an open mind without wading in with pompous absolutes based on outmoded shibboleths, because that's no way of understanding anything.

I've known Traditional Storytellers (rather that Tellers of Traditional Stories) who were master story-makers in the Tradition of the Indo-European Folk Tale - extemporisers indeed, which chimes in with what Georgina Boyes quotes Joseph Jacobs as saying in The Imagined Village about the abilities of the old storytellers to make such stuff up on the spot, and something Jim Carroll said a while back about singers being able to improvise idiomatic Folk Song and Ballad. Such traditions of Free Styling exist in other idioms the world o'er, so it wouldn't really surprise me. But this no is no Process as such, rather it's just music, common, like Jazz, or Hip-Hop, or Indian classical music, or blues, or Western classical musicians like Messiaen and Bach improvising at their respective organs: all are defined by the essential fluidity of their respective traditions. Again, it's the nature o' the beast.

S O'P (armchair theorist maybe, but it's not just any old armchair...)


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 12 Jan 12 - 08:34 AM

"Anyway, nothing to do with anything, or everything to do with everything, but I came across this clip on YouTube today via a Facebook friend, and I just know you'll all love it as much as I do:
http://youtu.be/8oihcjnw9VE",/i>

Everything to do with everything, I'd say. S.O'P.'s wonderful clip of Canray Fontenot (which I commend to all readers) is - on the one hand - a piece of pure-drop, back-porch, unrefined folk music (in contrast to the more modern trends in Creole music of funk, soul and rock influence). On the other hand, Canray's music was the result of the collision of two quite different musical species - French and African American - transplanted unwillingly to an alien environment in the swamps of the Southern USA. Oh, and quite a lot of individual genius of course! So where's your purity there?


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 05:43 PM

"""OK, now define "the folk idiom" (without using the word 'folk'in the definition)."""

I've always interpreted this to mean "In the style, manner, or format of the tradition".

Richard Bridge, who has been the staunchest supporter of the 1954 definition has commented in the past that some of my original material, while it is not "Folk", is created "in the style of the tradition".

This is a critique I can easily live with.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 04:18 PM

My biggest grumble is they've edited out Felix Doran's spoken intro from The Fox Hunt. That's another old favourite album - The Last of the Travelling Pipers, just listening to it earlier on.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 04:12 PM

".....which were criticized for not saying enough about the actual songs"
Can I say that, as contributors to the series, we were extremely annoyed that the editors neither consulted us (and presumably any contributors) on song notes, transcriptions or information on the singers; nor did they seek advice on their own efforts. This led to not only insufficient notes but also to some schoolboy howlerish mistakes in the song transcriptions; (the clerk in version of The Keach in the Creel transformes himself into a cat; Buck St John is identified (and now immortalised in the Roud index) as Burk's Engine......
I noticed recently that in some cases where they have taken a previously issued song, they have altered the title from the one it bears on the original album, presumably given by the collector, nor does the new title match up with any previously documanted title - the proverbial hap'orth of tar to what was otherwise an excellent ship, as far as I'm concerned.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 03:18 PM

And for the umpteenth time, the Folk Process is about evolution, not creation. It's Darwinism rather than Genesis.

It seems obvious that if you go back far enough - a long way back in some cases - these songs and stories must have been created by an individual, or perhaps one or more collaborating together. However the existence of many different versions surely shows that as they get passed around they have been changed, and the changed versions changed again, until we end up with distinct variants.

It seems to me that the folk revival celebrates both the original creativity and the creativity of all those who helped to shape these songs and stories.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 03:11 PM

Whether it's a song-based or singer-based approach, you can't say that one is better than the other - they're just different, and serve different purposes. You may prefer one over the other, but that's a personal choice.

Virtually all other published recordings including VOTP should be viewed as samplers rather than definitive studies. It comes back to the pragmatic rather than academic. As so often, you're criticising something for not being what it was never intended to be.

If you want to study these singers in depth, you need to got C#House or wherever to listen to the all original recordings. For most of us, the published versions, selective as they inevitably must be, are sufficient.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 02:59 PM

Oh, I'm pleased, Brian - delighted in fact. I'm not throwing anything out here, just wishing they'd focussed on the singers rather than random categories. I find it a tad disorientating to my listening pleasure when having been having been lulled by Bob Robert's Gamekeepers I'm then racing with Geordie Hanna's On Yonder Hill then off to the borders with Willie Scott's Irthing Water Hounds. In one sense, of course, it makes perfect sense, but in terms of musical (& geographical / cultural) continuity it's wee a bit much to deal with - know what I'm saying? Especially when Songs from the Sailing Barges is another dear old cherished favourite. Of course, if all this stuff was on-line, one could cross-reference the archives in all sorts of ways, as one can on the Max Hunter Collection - but even there things aren't perfect. For example, I'd dearly love to have extensive biographical notes on the singers, and their own sources, and overall approach to such things, like the amazing Ollie Gilbert with her vast repertoir that is far from a casual collection, Mrs Pearl Brewer (another of my heroes of folk song) likewise.

Any news on the Folkways archives anyway? I've still got a rare wee pile of Seamus Ennis tapes (songs, stories, pipe tunes and even a bit of fiddle & whistle) which would make a fine wee CD boxset (on the stories you can hear Jean Ritchie laughing). Taking of which, what do you (or anyone) reckon to this? Can it really be Seamus Ennis singing with his fiddle? I'm about 99% convinced it is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b20G-IcUeNw


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 01:18 PM

"at the expense of the more usual song-focussed approach"

To clarify, I was referring to the liner notes (which were criticized for not saying enough about the actual songs) rather than the way most of the CDs are organised. Just goes to show how hard it is to please everyone.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Tootler
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 12:50 PM

I've got certain issues with the VOTP series, in that it fragments many earlier collections (albums) that were given over to individual singers and compiles the songs according to category rather than singer...generally I lament the umbrella approach taken on VOTP which I regard as ever so slightly patronising too...

I can't see why the approach taken by Topic to VOTP is patronising. They've simply chosen to organise the songs by category rather than singer which is their privilege. You would have preferred that the songs were organised in a different way. Fair enough, neither is right or wrong, just matter of choices. But I fail to see how they are being patronising simply because they have chosen a different way of organising their material.

... and essentially misleading as an ethnomusicological document, which, of course, it isn't.

In which case that statement is irrelevant to your argument.

... Even the original records are very selective in that respect; one wonders how much stuff was overlooked to give the right sort of impression.

If you have more material than you can fit on a record or series of records (or CDs) then you have to make choices. Are you sure those choices are made to give a particular impression or simply to illustrate the variety of material, or just chosen because they represented the best songs and/or performances by the particular singers?

The truth is, you don't know and are simply speculating and trying to then fit your speculations into your particular world view without providing proper evidence to support your view.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 12:44 PM

"I've got certain issues with the VOTP series"

You're not the only one, Sean - some of those criticisms have been voiced by others. However, my point was that Reg Hall had made a particular effort to focus on the singers and their art, even at the expense of the more usual song-focussed approach.

I understand what you're saying about the original conception of 'folklore', the mismatch between the academic and the vernacular (you could say much the same for the disciplines of anthropology and sociology, mind you), and the disdainful attitude of F. J. Child - who never heard his ballads sung by anyone - towards the 'degenerative' effect of ongoing oral tradition. What I don't accept is that attitudes of collectors and folk revivalists in general haven't altered in 100-odd years. Even Cecil Sharp, as I've tried to point out (his status as pantomime villain has become drearily tedious, whatever his undoubted failings), was learning on the job as far as valuing the artistry of the singers he met was concerned.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 11:56 AM

Sorry, GSS - I'm trying to do about ten things at once here as well as answer all your points as well... I think I'm cracking up. Influence, and inspiration, yes, of course; I just wish I had tenth of the voice Bellamy had, you know? Then I'd be happy.

Anyway, nothing to do with anything, or everything to do with everything, but I came across this clip on YouTube today via a Facebook friend, and I just know you'll all love it as much as I do:

http://youtu.be/8oihcjnw9VE


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: The Sandman
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 11:36 AM

I said you are heavily influenced by bellamy, i did not say what you are saying that i said.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 11:20 AM

Brian - an aside maybe, but I've got certain issues with the VOTP series, in that it fragments many earlier collections (albums) that were given over to individual singers and compiles the songs according to category rather than singer. I still have many of those old Topic albums & cherish them very dearly - The Singing Molecatcher of Morayshire is an especial favourite - but generally I lament the umbrella approach taken on VOTP which I regard as ever so slightly patronising too, and essentially misleading as an ethnomusicological document, which, of course, it isn't. And f that wasn't bad enough, the disk I was listening to last night was only 65 minutes or so... Even the original records are very selective in that respect; one wonders how much stuff was overlooked to give the right sort of impression. So, for sure, there are always going to be issues, but, as I say, it's part of the overall picture of something that's held me in it's thrall for most of my life & will no doubt continue to do so, so I'm in awe of these guys too, you know? Jim Caroll included, even though we might not see eye to eye on certain issues but I'd like to think that really is besides the point. In a way the Max Hunter Collection remains my ideal of how such material should be presented in the internet age, and I think it's a shame that Topic have gone for the Product rather the Document approach given what can done these days.

Dick - I'm not sure about this as I'm not that hung up on Folk as a matter of Style, Traditional, Revival or otherwise, though obviously I do refer to those conventions. Voice wise, I'd say you get what you're given & I'm always impressed by those singers who work within their own limits - be they Traditional Singers, and people like my heroes Rene Zosso, Jim Eldon, Mark E. Smith and Robert Wyatt, or my own Grandfather who would sing Kipling and old Tyneside songs in a Northumbrian baritone halway between Jim Reeves and Paul Robeson - but maybe we're staying a little off the point here... You're the only person who's ever said I sound as if I'm trying to be Peter Bellamy though; even when I'm singing Bellamy songs he's the last person I'm thinking of. The best Folk Singer I've ever heard is Dave Peters of Preston; I don't try to sound like him, but do I listen very closely whilst basking in the beauty of it. And he doesn't sing like anyone else either.

Glueman - I'd still say it's pretty cool here; if VI scale there is, we're still well in the black.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: theleveller
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 11:14 AM

My goodness, what a lot of posts! MtheGM will probably put me in detention for not paying attention and keeping up, but I'm afraid I do have to work for a living. Although, this afternoon work was more of a pleasure as the almost-impossibly urbane Italian wine producer who I am writing some literature for (hopefully with no split infinitives) introduced me, at some length, to the qualities of the Vermentino grape as it appears in several Sardinian wines ("...do not make a confusion with the Gallura, Peter.") which I've never come across before.

"....so you will notice, Peter, that the bouquet is harmonic with peaches and apricots ...and the aftertaste it is lingering with the almond."

Oh yes, the aftertaste it was definitely lingering with the almond – I confirmed it (just for the sake of veracity) on several occasions during the afternoon.

So forgive me if, for the moment, 1954 seems even further away than it did before. For now, I am still enjoying the aftertaste that is lingering with the almond. I think I'll linger with it for a while longer just to ensure that I avoid making a confusion with the Gallura!


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 10:58 AM

Up to comparatively recently, if you wanted to hear Child ballads at their best, you had to plouter your way across a Travellers site.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: glueman
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 10:44 AM

This thread has just gone VI 9. I'm sure we can reach double figures if we just put our manners, good taste and humility to one side?.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: The Sandman
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 10:28 AM

"I'm not saying these are bad people though; I'm not saying MtheGM is a bad person "for mimicking Harry Cox, it's just patronising to do so that's all"
no its not, it is sensible to listen to traditional singers, to get an idea of style, this applies to any music if you were to sing blues it is a good idea to listen to and to [start wit memphis minnie and bessie smith., it is not patronising, neither is it patronising to listen to and imitate carl perkins if you were to sing rock and roll, or hank snow/hank williams if you were to sing country and western
the general idea is that by listening to a lot of tradtional singers the singer absorbs some of the different styles.
mimicking a particular singer or instrumentalist[lets say padraig o keefe or oscar woods] is a useful stepping stone to developing ones own traditional style.
MTHEGM does not sound like a copy of sam larner he sounds like himself, you however sound extremely heavily influenced by Peter Bellamy.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 10:10 AM

"The Revival doesn't value working-class creativity"

Is this some kind of Looking-Glass-World in which it's obligatory to turn truth on its head at every juncture? I know you've listened to 'The Voice of the People'. What is that project about, if not 'valuing working-class creativity'? And it's a pronduct of The Revival.

Why did collectors like Sharp take the trouble to notate the melodic variations and ornaments that some of the singers they heard were extemporising, if they didn't value individual creativity?

What do you think Jim Carroll's career as a collector is all about?


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 10:05 AM

Not quite the past I was thinking of, Pip - more of our lost bucolic paradise in which the specialised conditions of a more orthodox reading of the 1954 Definition might thrive - The Imagined Village indeed - however so real it actually was, today we view it from afar, through the pages of George Ewart Evans and the songs on the VOTP CDs.

I'm not looking down on anyone, Shimrod - I'm just being realistic, telling it like it is, albeit subectively, but, most of all loving it accordingly. It's all there, you know? Pure & simple! So rejoice & be merry.

And I love your singing of the Old Songs, MtheGM - much as I love Shimrod's singing of them too - hence my earlier link on the Icaros - Shamanic Healing thread - and would never question you the right to do it, however so ultimately patronising I might find it, but I take a similar view of certain aspects of Bellamy's work too. A local chap recalled to me the time half the audience walked out of an early solo Bellamy booking, not on account on any outrage at his politics or his sartorial flamboyance, but because (as he put it) he introduced songs like the lord of the manor and yet sang them like an old ploughman.

Again - rejoice / be merry.


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 09:40 AM

Ah; now that is different. I don't think I sing it much like Sam Larner: it is ever my endeavour to sing every song like me, whomever I might have learnt it from. But one must always allow for the unconscious influence of intertextualty, must one not? And who can be accurate judge or critic of one's own efforts? But take my word for it, no mimicry was intended, of Sam or anyone else. It was put there at your request, Sean! There's gratitude for you. Glad it still goes down well with you.

One of my sponsors for membership of the Groucho did say at the time that I might very well be invited to do some sort of folk presentation or whatever; but I am still waiting.

Best

~M~


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Subject: RE: 'Purist - a pejorative?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 09:37 AM

So, Suibhne, let's get this straight. Your're looking down, with rather amused (but tolerant) disdain, on the largely middle class dilettantes who 'appropriated' working class culture while the middle class dilettantes are looking down on the working class people who they appropriated the material from? My! There's a lot of looking down going on!


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