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Still wondering what's folk these days?

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Lighter 03 Jun 15 - 12:16 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 03 Jun 15 - 12:26 PM
GUEST,leeneia 03 Jun 15 - 12:48 PM
GUEST,Jon 03 Jun 15 - 12:57 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 03 Jun 15 - 01:10 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 03 Jun 15 - 01:10 PM
GUEST,matt milton 03 Jun 15 - 02:42 PM
The Sandman 03 Jun 15 - 03:23 PM
Lighter 03 Jun 15 - 06:08 PM
Padre 03 Jun 15 - 09:11 PM
Sandra in Sydney 04 Jun 15 - 02:39 AM
GUEST,HiLo 04 Jun 15 - 03:05 AM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 04 Jun 15 - 12:30 PM
Lighter 04 Jun 15 - 01:18 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 04 Jun 15 - 01:41 PM
Mr Red 05 Jun 15 - 07:33 AM
GUEST,Desi C 05 Jun 15 - 08:41 AM
Gibb Sahib 05 Jun 15 - 08:44 AM
GUEST 05 Jun 15 - 09:01 AM
Airymouse 05 Jun 15 - 01:47 PM
Reinhard 05 Jun 15 - 02:06 PM
Spleen Cringe 05 Jun 15 - 02:54 PM
Tattie Bogle 05 Jun 15 - 05:29 PM
Don Firth 05 Jun 15 - 05:33 PM
Phil Edwards 05 Jun 15 - 05:38 PM
Steve Gardham 05 Jun 15 - 06:24 PM
Don Firth 05 Jun 15 - 06:29 PM
GUEST 05 Jun 15 - 06:43 PM
Gibb Sahib 05 Jun 15 - 07:08 PM
Don Firth 05 Jun 15 - 07:38 PM
GUEST 05 Jun 15 - 08:17 PM
Don Firth 05 Jun 15 - 11:09 PM
Lighter 06 Jun 15 - 04:03 AM
GUEST,Jon 06 Jun 15 - 04:17 AM
GUEST,Dave 06 Jun 15 - 04:22 AM
Musket 06 Jun 15 - 04:46 AM
GUEST,leeneia 06 Jun 15 - 11:34 AM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 06 Jun 15 - 12:02 PM
Jack Campin 06 Jun 15 - 12:42 PM
MGM·Lion 06 Jun 15 - 01:36 PM
Don Firth 06 Jun 15 - 02:28 PM
Lighter 06 Jun 15 - 02:57 PM
Steve Gardham 06 Jun 15 - 06:17 PM
Phil Edwards 06 Jun 15 - 06:46 PM
Gibb Sahib 06 Jun 15 - 06:55 PM
Don Firth 06 Jun 15 - 07:08 PM
GUEST,Phil 06 Jun 15 - 08:17 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 06 Jun 15 - 10:30 PM
MGM·Lion 07 Jun 15 - 01:31 AM
GUEST,Dave 07 Jun 15 - 04:05 AM
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Subject: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Lighter
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 12:16 PM

Submitted for your approval:

Music review by John Donahue in The New Yorker, June 8, 2015, p.26:

"Olivia Chaney and her harmonium are reinvigorating English folk music.....

"...She embraces songs about sex, death, unrequited love, and murder....

"...Chaney is bringing the grand tradition of British folk music into the twenty-first century...She often performs barefoot....When she takes her place behind the harmonium ... and, with a steely gaze, starts singing, it's as if a mystical spirit has entered the room. It's chilling when she slowly intones 'Stand by the roadside/ facing the headlights/ wait for the break of dawn,' on her adaptation of 'Blessed Instant,' by the Norwegian jazz singer Sidsel Endresen...."


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 12:26 PM

"She often performs barefoot...."

Damn those stinky cheesey foot fetishists..

not content with spamming all the online p0rn cam/chat sites..

now the kinky blighters wanna take over folk music as well....😜


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 12:48 PM

Hard to believe that somebody can reinvigorate folk with songs on the tired old themes of sex, death, unrequited love, and murder.

The harmonium, which has a lot of keys and therefore a lot of possibilities, may add something invigorating.

Does the harmonium have pedals, like a regular organ? If so, she may be playing barefoot simply to feel the pedals better. Good for her.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 12:57 PM

Puppet of a string is good barefoot. And yes, I'm sad enough to like this song)

Not sure where that gets us with what is folk though.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 01:10 PM

Fifty-six years ago this song by Bill Weldon was performed at the Newport Folk Festival, so maybe not much has changed:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eC2NMfsOEK8


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 01:10 PM

Never heard of her.. but listening now to youtube BBC Mark Radcliffe session..

First thing needs mentioning is I absolutely love harmonium drones..

and she sounds pretty good and a potential favourite singer...



But that reviewer John Donahue does appear to be a bit of a pillock
making reference to her feet as though it's some big deal...

It's the 21st century .. we at least want belly buttons these days...😈


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 02:42 PM

She does actually perform some traditional folk songs too y'know


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: The Sandman
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 03:23 PM

but does she fit the 1954 definition,and would Jim Carroll like her


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Lighter
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 06:08 PM

> She does actually perform some traditional folk songs too

Donahue doesn't mention them. Either he found them uninteresting, or he thought they were secondary to her real "folk" repertoire. Or both.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Padre
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 09:11 PM

Of all the things about which I am concerned, 'what is folk these days' ranks WAAAY down the list. Somewhere below how to cook an aardvark.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 04 Jun 15 - 02:39 AM

strangely enough I didn't attend this gig advertised as 'Gothic country, industrial folk and heretical gospel'

sandra


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: GUEST,HiLo
Date: 04 Jun 15 - 03:05 AM

Just watched her a bit on youtube , liked it a lot. She did a grand version of Joni Mitchell, "A Case of You."
I don't know if she is "folk" or not but she is very good. Thanks for the introduction!


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 04 Jun 15 - 12:30 PM

Barefoot eh? God that's soulful. I wonder where I put all those brass tacks.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Lighter
Date: 04 Jun 15 - 01:18 PM

The question is, "What kind of music are people probably talking about today when you hear them call it 'folk'?" What should you expect to hear at a "folk" concert?

Let's see, you can have one performer or several.

The instruments can be acoustic or electric.

Any melodic scale is acceptable.

Any genre except classical is likely to appear in a "folk" performance.

Large orchestral backups are a possible disqualification. (Is Celtic Woman a "folk" act?)

Singer-songwriter music is preferred. In fact, it might be the most important element.

If so, "folk music" chiefly means music and (especially) song performed by the composer/songwriter, along with whatever else sounds sort of like it - as long as it isn't classical.

True?


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 04 Jun 15 - 01:41 PM

I think by now most of us are suffering "Folk Definition Battle Fatigue"..??? 😣

I for one just feel worn out and listless, and want it all to end quickly and painlessly.....


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Mr Red
Date: 05 Jun 15 - 07:33 AM

"Folk" is the bag that reviewers use when they can't put a specific label on the performer.

"Folk" is one of the labels that bands attach to their adjectival list, because they think it will pull in Folkies as well as punkabilly or rock-o-funk afficianados. Other mishmashes are available.

It is a sign of "fusion" music if you are kind, and imprecise focus if you are critical.

It is a current trend/fashion, as I perceive it, and given a the distance of time it will fall inevitably in the bag of "Folk Process".

But at least, with Olivia Chaney, it sounds as if there is a competent performer who, given enough listening, would do justice to a "Folk" song. Or one I (or you, or a critic on the New Yorker) would class as Folk.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 05 Jun 15 - 08:41 AM

What is Folk, b y far the most asked question on Mudcat, and no one has yet been able to come up with an answer, and I'm not about to change that ;)


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 05 Jun 15 - 08:44 AM

"Folk" is whatever gets people hard/wet whose values disincline them towards music perceived to belong to elites and to (too great a degree of) commercial pandering. The label is affective and ideological.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Jun 15 - 09:01 AM

Thinking now, I'm not sure I'm consistent on the classical one. I'm not always fond of classical voices for "folk" but John McCormack works for me as does say Bonnie Mary of Argyle on this

A mostly Irish session I sometimes get to has part of Handel's Royal Firewoks as an occasional tune. Dit dit dit dit deeddle deelele dee.

I tend to have a harder time with some varieties of singer song writers. But that's just me. I might even prefer a more rigid definition of a "folk song" but I do consider what may work in a given say "folk club" setting a different matter. The venue may or may not in varying degrees be for me but I can find things that suit me in the variety we have.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Airymouse
Date: 05 Jun 15 - 01:47 PM

I don't know what a folk song is and I have ceased to care. A C# song
is a non-degenerate equivalence class of tunes and words at least one member of which was collected by Cecil Sharp, or would have been collected by him had he come across it. The equivalence relation, which is perhaps not well defined, is that any reasonable person upon hearing two members of the class would say, "the words are different and the tunes are different, but they are obviously the same song.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Reinhard
Date: 05 Jun 15 - 02:06 PM

a competent performer who, given enough listening, would do justice to a "Folk" song

... like e.g. The False Bride which Olivia Chaney sings on her current album even if The New Yorker does not mention it.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 05 Jun 15 - 02:54 PM

Or Poor Murdered Woman which she sang a lovely version of on the first Woodbine & Ivy Band album. She also does a cracking version of Bellamy/ Kipling's The Brookland Road.

http://youtu.be/R23uood10MU


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 05 Jun 15 - 05:29 PM

I played barefoot at a ceilidh a few weeks back: why? Because both my shoes and socks were wringing wet from an earlier venture into the May morning dew. No chance to go home in between and get dry socks and shoes, and there was a handy radiator behind me to dry them out on, so at least I could go home with dry feet! Sure my pedal control was better in bare feet........?


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Don Firth
Date: 05 Jun 15 - 05:33 PM

The first songbooks I purchased back in 1952 or '53 were A Treasury of Folk Songs, by John and Sylvia Kolb, a 35¢ paperback (Bantam Books), Best Loved American Folk Songs (Folk Song U.S.A), by John and Alan Lomax, and The American Songbag, by Carl Sandburg. I subsequently picked up other collections, such as Dick and Beth Best's Song Fest, Evelyn Kendrick Wells's The Ballad Tree, and such. I now have about twenty feet of bookshelf space devoted to folk songs and ballads, from academic collections (Sharp) to collections, such as Folk Songs of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, compiled by William Cole.

In addition, I began learning songs from the records of Burl Ives, Susan Reed, Richard Dyer-Bennet, and others as I became aware of their records. Miscellaneous Seegers, Ewan McColl, A.L. Lloyd, many others. About six feet of shelf space of LPs, and a great stack of CDs.

I have also learned several dozen songs directly, from people like Walt Roberson, John Dwyer, Bob Nelson, Patty McLaughlin, Claire Hess, and many others who wrote out or dictated the words, and sang me through the tune.

All of these songs have a "provenance," a history, like a piece of antique furniture. People have "used" these songs. None of them were "fresh from the workshop" or written on the bus last week. They've all been around awhile.

I do sing other songs from time to time. But I don't try to peddle a bass-baritone operatic aria from a Bryn Terfel record or comic song I learned from an old Tom Lehrer record as a "folk song."

No, I think I have a pretty good handle on what constitutes a folk song…..

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 05 Jun 15 - 05:38 PM

It's perfectly simple - folk consists of

a) all traditional songs, irrespective of what you do to them
b) all traditional tunes, irrespective of what you do to them
and
c) varying quantities of other stuff, defined by varying criteria but usually not irrespective of what you do to it.

So Long Lankin played by Metallica and remixed by the Aphex Twin would still be folk, but if you want your own stuff to be folk you generally have to play an acoustic guitar or similar. The rules are even stricter for cover versions, which should include at least two designated folk instruments. Hence London Calling can be called folk when done by the Bad Shepherds (fiddle, mandolin and whistle) but not when done by the Clash - or when played by Metallica and remixed by the Aphex Twin, for that matter. This also explains the controversy over Jim Moray's cover of All You Pretty Girls, most of which only includes one designated folk instrument (melodeon) - bad form there, Moray.

Joking apart, I'm really not bothered about this any more. I know what works for me, and most of it is traditional. It's a bit like being a massive fan of a particularly distinctive artist - Leonard Cohen, say, or Tom Waits: you aren't going to like everything they record, but you know that any random album of theirs is likely to contain more tracks that really do it for you than any album by somebody else. I don't like every traditional song ever recorded (!), but traditional songs have a much, much higher hit-rate for me than just about anything else. (Even if they're played by Metallica and remixed by the Aphex Twin - or arranged by Bellowhead.) Which is why I used to get arsey about the definition of 'folk' - if you can't hear this amazing music anywhere but designated folk contexts, it's a shame for it to get crowded out even there. I still think that's basically correct, I just don't think it's useful to get riled about it.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 05 Jun 15 - 06:24 PM

Neatly explained, Don and Phil.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Don Firth
Date: 05 Jun 15 - 06:29 PM

I saw a film clip of operatic bass-baritone George London singing "Lord Randal" recently. He gave it the full operatic treatment, and you'd think he was doing the final act of Mussorgsky's "Boris Godunov," (The Death of Boris). Now, George London is one of the world's great operatic bass-baritones, but his rendition of Lord Randal was more that just a bit "over the top."

But "Lord Randal" is still a traditional (folk) ballad.

But had he done "The Death of Boris" like I feel "Lord Randal" should be done, that wouldn't have worked either.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Jun 15 - 06:43 PM

Out of curiosity, Don. We have a Cerys Matthews CD she sings with a varitey of people. One of them is with BT. They do Migildi magildi and I quite like it.

It's a primary school song (I was born in England and don't sairad cymraeg but lived in N Wales a couple of times) and I guess with others like Dacw Mam Yn Dwad would have been learned by generations.

Ever heard that one?


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 05 Jun 15 - 07:08 PM

Folk is an aesthetic of consumption.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Don Firth
Date: 05 Jun 15 - 07:38 PM

No, Guest, I'm not familiar with either the singer or the song.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Jun 15 - 08:17 PM

I guess I shouldn't have shortened Bryn Terfyl to BT...


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Don Firth
Date: 05 Jun 15 - 11:09 PM

Ah! Missed it! Sounds interesting, Guest. I'll try to track it down and give it a listen.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Lighter
Date: 06 Jun 15 - 04:03 AM

> All of these songs have a "provenance," a history, like a piece of antique furniture. People have "used" these songs. None of them were "fresh from the workshop" or written on the bus last week. They've all been around awhile.

"Folk" is thus one of the least popular musical genres in the English-speaking world. Even pseudo-folk is an also-ran compared to hiphop, CW, etc.


> But "Lord Randal" is still a traditional (folk) ballad.

But that doesn't make George London a "folk singer."

Or...does it?...


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 06 Jun 15 - 04:17 AM

I think if you do find the CD (not sure what's happened to ours) Don , the liner notes are probably better than a lot of the performances. Still, there's nothing like nostalgia and that particular track does work for me.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: GUEST,Dave
Date: 06 Jun 15 - 04:22 AM

Not so sure of George London, but the late Kathleen Ferrier of course recorded a magnificent version of Blow the Wind Southerly (Roud 2619). Did that make Kathleen Ferrier a folk singer? Or did it make Blow the Wind Southerly a classical piece. It certainly propelled it into the repertoire of many a choir.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Musket
Date: 06 Jun 15 - 04:46 AM

Perhaps in 1954 she wouldn't have been able to afford shoes? Especially in the post Marshall plan UK.

Sounds nice. Fits my definition of what I refer to as folk and as the genre term is owned by no one, it is folk. Musket says so.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 06 Jun 15 - 11:34 AM

I realize now that my question above about foot pedals was silly. I thought at the time that a harmonium was the very small organ that I sometimes see at concerts. But no, that's the positif.

I searched for Olivia Chaney on YouTube and selected her song 'Waxwing' to listen to. Now I know what a harmonium looks like. I would have to say that the melody and harmony sound traditional. As for the lyrics, I can't tell you, because I can't understand anything except the word 'Waxwing.'


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 06 Jun 15 - 12:02 PM

The idea of folk music arose from people noticing that the music moving in oral tradition was largely a different thing from the music in the professional music tradition, and the observation of that reality wasn't contingent on preferring folk music over non-folk music or vice-versa.

For instance, "Hop Joint" is considered a folk song because John Hurt learned it from a friend for fun in about 1902 and we don't know of any professional musicians performing "Hop Joint" earlier than that, and "In The Good Old Summertime" is considered a non-folk song from 1902 because we think Ren Shields and George Evans actually wrote it and didn't lift it from oral tradition. Of course, that is not defining "Hop Joint" or "In The Good Old Summertime" as folk music based on how much anyone gets excited by each song.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 06 Jun 15 - 12:42 PM

Kathleen Ferrier of course recorded a magnificent version of Blow the Wind Southerly

It's mannered, bizarre and inspired a generation of crappy sanitized performances of traditional songs...

It certainly propelled it into the repertoire of many a choir

...like those.

Chaney is far more idiomatic.

My mother was a Kathleen Ferrier fan (she had a vaguely similar voice). I found her utterly offputting and my father's taste in singers (the Glasgow Orpheus Choir, Peter Dawson and Inia Te Wiata) didn't do much more for me. I didn't get traditional song till I heard Jean Ritchie.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 06 Jun 15 - 01:36 PM

"I guess I shouldn't have shortened Bryn Terfyl to BT... "
.,,.

'Deed not, Guest. You had me wondering what # I would have to punch into my phone to hear it on British Telecom...

≈M≈


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 Jun 15 - 02:28 PM

This is not rocket science.

George London, a classical singer, sings "Lord Randal," a folk song. Kathleen Ferrier, a classical singer, sings "Blow Ye Wind Southerly," a folk song.

Miracle of miracles!! George London and Kathleen Ferrier are still classical singers and "Lord Randal" and "Blow Ye Wind Southerly" are still folk songs.

Richard Dyer-Bennet, a classically trained singer and classic guitarist, sang mostly folk songs. The songs didn't change because he sang them. They remained folk songs. Dyer-Bennet himself did not claim to be a folk singer. In fact, he denied it. He billed himself as "the twentieth century minstrel," evoking the image of a self-accompanied travelling singer following an ancient tradition.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Lighter
Date: 06 Jun 15 - 02:57 PM

>are still classical singers and "Lord Randal" and "Blow Ye Wind Southerly" are still folk songs.

That certainly suggests that Olivia Chaney isn't a "folk singer" either, no matter what they say. Mostly she sings non-folk songs.

So what does a prominent critic mean when he says she sings and plays "folk"?

My personal belief is that he's drunk the marketing Kool-Aid (as we say in the States), but evidently Chaney thinks she's a folk performer too. (Because of the marginality of "folk," surely she could make a [slightly] better living calling her music something like "light jazz" or "New Age.")

It's a real question. What makes her sort of music "folk" in anybody's mind?

> The label is affective and ideological. ...Folk is an aesthetic of consumption.

Undoubtedly (I think). But the question is "What do most people mean today when they say they play or like (or don't like)'folk'?"

Obviously there's no air-tight definition covering all possible cases. Chaney-Donahue, however, is clearly a mainstream case. Mainly people seem to mean something "privitive" (i.e., something defined by what it's not rather than by its own intrinsic qualities).

Has any other musical genre ever been defined primarily by what it's *not*?


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 06 Jun 15 - 06:17 PM

What is it that makes 'Blow the wind southerly' a folksong? Just curious. I've never come across it anywhere else other than in a Kathleen Ferrier context. It certainly made an impression on me but I don't remember ever hearing any other versions.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 06 Jun 15 - 06:46 PM

1. All traditional stuff is folk. Call it folk(1).
1.1. Folk(1) is folk(1) regardless of how it's performed.

2. Some other stuff gets called folk - call it folk(2).
2.1. Music that's called folk(2) is generally performed in certain ways (e.g. the solo acoustic guitarist, the guitar/banjo/fiddle combo).
2.2. However, music that's performed in those ways doesn't have to be called folk(2) and very often isn't.

More generally:

3. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to what does and doesn't get included in folk(2), and you'd go mad trying to find any kind of "airtight definition".
3.1. It varies from decade to decade, year to year, week to week, and needless to say from country to country.
3.2. Some people regard this endless, omnivorous openness as a good thing, or even as the distinguishing feature of folk(2).

A couple of other things:

4. The folk audience means the kind of people who like folk(1), folk(2) or both.
4.1. Who these people are, what combination of folk(1) and folk(2) they like, and what they think of as folk(2) will also vary from year to year and country to country.

5. A folk artist is somebody whose work the folk audience likes.
5.1. Folk artists can play anything at all without ceasing to be folk artists - unless they do something the folk audience doesn't like.
5.2. Some audiences will positively welcome folk artists embracing different kinds of material and turning them into folk(2) - see 3.2.

Beyond that I'm not playing.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 06 Jun 15 - 06:55 PM

Has any other musical genre ever been defined primarily by what it's *not*?

Not to get hung up too much on semantics, but I don't think the "folk" being discussed is a "genre." That aside…

"Classical," "Popular," and "Folk" are three (large scale) musical "spheres" (the word I'd use -- I hope it doesn't sound pretentious) distinguished in Western society. Each is partially defined by what it is not. That is, they are defined against one another.

Yes, there is no air-tight definition of any—which is why I object to using "folk" as a category of scholarly analysis.

Roughly speaking, "Classical" became distinguished as the music of elites in the 19th century, in distinction from vernacular or "popular" music.

German-language discussants considered "Volk" to be that which was particular to people of a "nation" (not a nation-state, but an ethnically-defined nation).

English-language discussants came along and said, "Ah, music of a nation! We like that way of circumscribing music like that! But we have to get the true spirit of the Volk. That is not found in new-fangled and cosmopolitan [under the influence of interactions with others] Classical/art music. And we've got this popular music too, but look: it's been corrupted by industry and media."

So, "Folk" becomes a sort of "pure music of an ethnic group"—"pure" because it is uninfluenced by others or by education or by media or by industry. This generates an aesthetic of authenticity, and a proportional valuing of older as better and regional as better, etc.

The idea of "Folk" goes on to influence the thinking of elites (ironically?) in many places, and these places come up with somewhat different connotations. I've mentioned before that from my observations in India, *regionality* (and being sung in "regional" languages) is one of the very important characteristics of what people think of as "folk"—more so than oral transmission, since "Classical" music of India is all oral transmission, and old! This leads to mix up such as Anglophones in the West maybe thinking Classical Indian music of some sort is "folk"—it's being perceived as "of a people (essentially)," old, and oral leads to this judgement that an Indian would never make.

So what the English-speaking discussants first developed as a "Folk" concept—their reactionary split off from popular music that emphasized purity and race—wasn't scientific because 1) It wasn't universal and 2) the operating principle of definition was really subjective -- something to do with perceived authenticity. They tried to make it more scientific (C. Sharp et. al.) by attempting to quantify authenticity with the idea of "folk process" -- and idea that brings together both of the values of orality and age. But much of music in the world that wouldn't be described as "folk" undergoes that "process". It's just subjective again, a matter of degree-- a degree that satisfies the seeker of the folk aesthetic.

So something is "folk" when it satisfies, to sufficient degree, the aesthetic of the person holding a concept of folk. In the Anglosphere that concept includes the ideas that great age, orality, simplicity, corporality (bare feet?), etc etc (among a host of connotations) are indicators of authenticity. Because authenticity is the ultimate goal, however, the indicators of authenticity have been able to shift with times. A performance might be "authentic," not because it is old or orally produced, but because the performer "kept it simple" or "sang in an untrained voice."

On a more basic level of musical style though, something is "folk" for Westerners if it signifies any combination of (perceived) "untrained/unrefined," "ethnically-specific," "old," "provincial," and "tradition."


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 Jun 15 - 07:08 PM

I have it in a couple of books of English folk songs, and a quick Google reveals that several people other than Kathleen Ferrier have recorded it.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: GUEST,Phil
Date: 06 Jun 15 - 08:17 PM

"Still wondering what's folk these days?"

More like amused by the sort of wailing and gnashing of teeth when Dylan went electric or Belafonte being burned in effigy in Trinidad. Sometimes the audience reaction is more entertaining than what's up on the stage.


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 06 Jun 15 - 10:30 PM

My biggest discomfort with most usual definitions of the music and social culture of 'Folk'
is I'm just not a 'people person'...

I'm much happier listening to good CDs at home in solitude.....😌


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 07 Jun 15 - 01:31 AM

"She does actually perform some traditional folk songs too y'know"
.,,.
True -- I just found a video of Ms Chaney singing The Dark-Eyed Sailor, with portative organ rather than harmonium. But mostly it seems to be that MOR sort-of-uplift that people who don't know much about folk delight for some reason in calling folk music. As I once wrote in a Folk Review article called "A plea for categories", [from memory] 'It's a free country: call it all folk if you like. But remember the necessity of precise communication in nomenclature. If every article of household furniture was called a chair, we shouldn't know where to park our arses' -- a formulation, I recall, that much appealed to Peter Bellamy, who went around quoting it for quite a time.

As for Ms Chaney as a performer: she seems to me deficient in clarity of articulation -- even if she did study at Chetham's & The RAM. Someone should have told her not to sing quite so close to the mic: as it is, her words get muffled and are hard to make out. Even tho she was here singing a song I know, I could only clearly hear about one phrase a stanza & had to go back to the DT to remind myself of the words. I find her a bit strident myself.

≈M≈


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Subject: RE: Still wondering what's folk these days?
From: GUEST,Dave
Date: 07 Jun 15 - 04:05 AM

There is a thread here on Blow the Wind Southerly, and it seems to be a traditional Northumberland song, although there is a possible attribution of authorship to John Stobbs (some time in the 19th century). I think if it had not been for Kathleen Ferrier's recording it would have been an occasional part of the repertoire of folk singers particularly in that area. However the popularity of Kathleen Ferrier in the dark years after the war, the shock of her early death (her illness had been kept secret), and the fact that this particular song became her signature tune meant that it came to the attention of a much wider audience than those normally interested in folk music. Not that I remember, I was 5 months old when she died, it was on my parent's generation that this had a great impact. And I suspect that there was far less impact outside the UK.

Hence, when you type the song name into a search engine, or Youtube, you find little else.


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