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Why do our songs last so long ?

Amos 12 Nov 06 - 10:36 AM
stallion 12 Nov 06 - 04:34 AM
Dave Hanson 12 Nov 06 - 04:01 AM
Effsee 11 Nov 06 - 09:55 PM
Naemanson 11 Nov 06 - 09:17 PM
Artful Codger 11 Nov 06 - 08:59 PM
Azizi 11 Nov 06 - 06:56 PM
Grab 11 Nov 06 - 06:15 PM
McGrath of Harlow 11 Nov 06 - 04:49 PM
Big Mick 11 Nov 06 - 04:17 PM
Peace 11 Nov 06 - 04:11 PM
catspaw49 11 Nov 06 - 04:04 PM
jacqui.c 11 Nov 06 - 03:46 PM
Bev and Jerry 11 Nov 06 - 03:33 PM
Bert 11 Nov 06 - 02:03 PM
GUEST,Richard 11 Nov 06 - 11:34 AM
Azizi 11 Nov 06 - 10:22 AM
Azizi 11 Nov 06 - 10:03 AM
GUEST,Wesley S 11 Nov 06 - 10:00 AM
leeneia 11 Nov 06 - 09:53 AM
GUEST,Wesley S 11 Nov 06 - 09:49 AM
Shaneo 11 Nov 06 - 09:43 AM
GUEST,Captain Pugwash 11 Nov 06 - 09:36 AM
GUEST,Nellie Clatt 11 Nov 06 - 09:33 AM
Azizi 11 Nov 06 - 09:09 AM
Azizi 11 Nov 06 - 09:07 AM
GUEST,thurg 11 Nov 06 - 08:24 AM
Shaneo 11 Nov 06 - 08:15 AM
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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: Amos
Date: 12 Nov 06 - 10:36 AM

There are hundreds of chanteys and work-songs in the Angl o tradition built on call and response, Aziz. One of the best known is "Haul Away, Joe". Another is "Hullabaloo-Belay". A faster-haul chanty is "Whoop Jamboree".

There's nothing about them of the "sit back and listen" style.

A


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: stallion
Date: 12 Nov 06 - 04:34 AM

I think "songs what folk sing" are what it is really about. As everyone learnt to read and write the oral tradition was bound to atrophy, because memory no longer had the "exercise" it needed, the advent of recorded music was another nail in the coffin. Numerous visionaries saw it coming and collected the songs for posterity. I think the human race, by and large, like to sing in communities, family, church, glee clubs, pub, whatever, it contributes to a "feel good factor" and in numbers the odd bum note or six isn't spotted. So, songs like Black Velvet Band and Wild Rover endured because it maybe the only song non officionados of folk know and are desperate to join in, to be included, probably a product of the decline in the oral tradition or perhaps the after glow of the oral tradition. In so far as different cultural slants go, whilst the music maybe different, although it has been pointed out that African/American styles have some resonance with Shanty singing and also it has been suggested that there may be a link with the old scottish traditional "kirk" choirs, it has to be said that the bottom line is that people like to sing together and folk songs are what folk sing whatever the genre, people will still be singing "Yesterday" in fifty years time, well at least the first few lines anyway and the officionados will still be curators of the music and the officionados will keep the music alive


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 12 Nov 06 - 04:01 AM

It's not just ' good music ' it's great music, and unlike so called pop music, it doesn't have a shelf life, which is why it will last forever.

eric


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: Effsee
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 09:55 PM

"there aren't any folk songs less than 50 years old.

"Skippers in the wardroom drinkin' gin"

"I went down to Sammy's Bar"

"Don't mind the waves or the rolling sea"

"Sorrow is my stock in trade....."

Need I go on?


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: Naemanson
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 09:17 PM

Why do they last? Because there are still some people who love them. They will last for as long as we, and our descendants, make them last.

Why are they so long? Because in the old days people did not have a problem with attention span. They were not inundated with distractions. It was not polite to interrupt other people. People were aware of that. When someone started a story, in verse or song, they were allowed to continue. And people wanted to hear the end.

Today, if a song is longer than three minutes nobody wants to hear it. Look at the uproar when Don MacLean released 'American Pie'! Nobody would believe a song could last that long and be a hit. How many long songs have been released since 1971 that have been as long? Maybe Lightfoot's 'Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald' (How long was that song?).

Modern humans don't take time to listen to music anymore. Most people just use it to fill in the background with pleasing rhythms and harmonies and most don't know the words.

Many popular songs don't even have enough words to fill a thimble. A good folk song is wordy. The rhyme scheme is complex. And the story appeals. Modern people don't want to be bothered.


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 08:59 PM

I think the question is based on several faulty premises. First, HAVE they lasted, in terms of being widely popular? No, they haven't. There aren't that many folk songs that young people do know, and those aren't really the best (in terms of quality) but rather those which their mothers sang to them in early childhood, or which they sang on the playground skipping rope, or which they learned at summer camp. People seldom sing folk songs while they work, or to amuse themselves. They are more likely to switch on the radio or put on a rock CD and sing along with that - if they sing at all. WE make them last, but we really have to work at it. Many that we now sing were ones that people pretty much stopped singing until revivalists came along.

Second, there is the implication that folk songs will continue to last. But the commercialization of the music world, and copyright control of modern "folk" material has already sounded the death knell for folk music. Like classical music, it will continue to survive among small pockets of people who make it a priority, but among the population as a whole, it's already a novelty, a dead issue, only subject to periodic resurgence of interest among the masses.

Third, there is the presumption that the rock music of today will not last. This I partly agree with and partly disagree with. There are several aspects of the commercialization of rock which diminishes the shelf life of individual songs: They were written to be performed by professional groups. The melodies and lyrics are less important than the total piece as a performance, including pyrotechnic visuals; most can't satisfyingly be duplicated by amateurs, much less by individuals. And it is contrary to the interests of corporations (which control dissemination via radio and concerts) to have the public be satisfied with old stuff when they want people to constantly buy new stuff. So they actively encourage young people to turn up their noses at anything which they've already bought.

But there are still songs from virtually every rock period that will persist. As time marches on, their popularity will quickly fade, just as most folk songs we know only date back about 50-200 years, and represent only a small fraction of all the songs that were written during that period. You can think of musical interest tapering off like nuclear radiation, in a sort of logarithmic progression. The folk songs we think of as lasting are just the relative few which survived this natural tapering.

The other clue about lasting is inherent in the term "traditional" - some songs (notably hymns and Christmas carols) have become part of our social tradition, and so get revisited year after year. "Auld lang syne", as a song, is hardly among the best, but because of its association with New Year celebrations, it will persist until some other song takes its place. And even there, only one verse can really be said to have lasted.

Other songs last because of some notable phrase or context which has grabbed the public attention, and which gets them continually recycled in the public mind. Think of "Stand By Your Man" and "Imagine". The songs most likely to survive for coming generations will be those which have a phrase or message which Madison Avenue can easily exploit to sell a diversity of products. When Gen-2020ers think of folk music, they'll probably be thinking of the Oscar Meyer Wiener song, while they hear the anti-consumerist anthem "Money" recycled yet again in the background of a luxury hovercar commercial.


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: Azizi
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 06:56 PM

Imo, some responses to the question "why our songs last so long?" are the same as some responses to the question "what makes a song good?".

I googled that last question and found what I consider to be an interesting discussion at this non-folk music forum:
http://homerecording.com/bbs/archive/index.php/t-23342.html

Maybe some folks here will also find that discussion interesting-and on topic for this thread.

Here's some excerpts from that forum:

"It takes great metaphors, lyrically. It takes a memorable and catchy chorus. It takes dynamics or some kind of tension and release or contrast. And it takes some element of surprise, wether harmonically, structurally, or stylistically. And I know it must take many more things which I can't quantify."
-Aaron Cheney

**

"A good tune is a good tune....is a good tune."
-RockinRobert

**
"A good song makes people feel something."
-Jvasey

**
"A good song does not require any effort to listen to it."
-CyanJaguar

**
"Personally, I think what makes a good song, is writing material that everyone can relate to...it's being able to write material that has a hook, that everybody can sing along to, and anybody can relate to...that's what I think makes a great song."
-Tim Brown

**
I believe a great song often has an element that contains, and transcends, the precise experience of the songwriter.
-Fab4ever

**
"the greatest songs are those with a universality.
- Fab4ever

**
"If it still makes you cry after the 238th time that you've played it, then it's probably a good song."
-LI Slim

**
...great music stands the test of time...
-Vease

-snip-

etc. etc etc.

In addition to agreeing with those opinions I cited, with regards to folk music [and other genres of music] I think that someone save the music {by putting in print and it being recorded} is a big factor as to why a particular good song lasts so long. Thanks to collectors, we have some but not all of the good songs that were sung centuries ago. Also, I think a song lasts because someone eventually promoted the song. Perhaps it was picked up and sung by someone who became famous or was famous when he or she sung it, and then was associated with that famous person. Or perhaps it was included in some hit musical or show.

Furthermore, imo, a song lasts when that song's words remain understandable [meaning their meaning of its lyrics haven't changed too much, the references mentioned in the song are still known, and their words are still "politically" correct.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

****

Off topic, thanks GUEST,Richard and Bert for your comments on my behalf. I very much appreciate them.


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: Grab
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 06:15 PM

Dead right, McGrath. Broadsheets were the pop music of their day - light, fluffy and no real substance to them. Most of them never did get remembered. Then there's classical - more like the rock music of its day for being technical and everything. A lot of that's been around a while. More recently, jazz filled both roles, with some stuff staying around and some stuff forgotten (for all that it may be recorded on some record that no-one ever plays).

Shaneo, what you're basically saying is "Isn't it funny that songs from 40 years ago or less aren't as old as those ones from 100 years ago?" To which I'm afraid the only suitable answer is, "well, DUH!!!!" ;-)

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 04:49 PM

With pop music[the good stuff] it has a life span of no more then 40 years or so , and then it's heard no more.

I suspect there are a good few songs that won't be true of. There are plenty of songs from the pop music of a hundred years ago and more which are very much alive still - as indicated by the fact that if you start singing them today with an adult crowd people will know them and join in the chorus (teenagers tend to get embarrassed to admit knowing them, but they do know them often enough).


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: Big Mick
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 04:17 PM

Amen.


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: Peace
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 04:11 PM

"Why do our songs last so long ?"

Because they are good.


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: catspaw49
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 04:04 PM

Yeah Bev and Jerry...........Not to put too fine a point on it but there aren't any folk songs less than 50 years old. Maybe its 40 or 60 or 35 or 75.....I dunno'.......But to be a folk song the firsat requirement is that it is taken up by others and the second is that it has to withstand the test of time. There are no "new" folk songs. Some new songs may become folk songs but only those two things above can tell us. You can't "create" or write a folk song, it creates itself.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: jacqui.c
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 03:46 PM

Anyone who was at the Getaway last weekend will know that European and European-American folk music is not for sitting back and listening to.

To hear up to 100 voices raised in harmony, singing old familiar songs is the only explanation that is needed for why this music has lasted so long.

I have been to very few song circles/folk concerts where the audience does not participate. That is what makes this the music I love.


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: Bev and Jerry
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 03:33 PM

Folk songs have been around so long simply because people like 'em.

A list of all known English language folk songs would only contain hundreds or perhaps a few thousand. Even the DT has only about ten thousand and many of them are modern songs. Think how many songs must have been composed in the last few hundered years that are completely unknown today. In short, the popular and well liked songs survive while the rest don't.

Of the forty or so songs that we've written, only two (that we know of) have been "good enough" that other people have learned and sung them.

Also, pop songs tend to remain unchanged from their first recorded form while folk songs are continuously changing. The changes that are good (ie well-liked) stick and the others don't. So, good folk songs have been polished over time to become even better.

Bev and Jerry


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: Bert
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 02:03 PM

Some have been around a long time because they are good enough to have survived.

There are others that were 'collected' and have been preserved like pickled onions.

Hey, GUEST Nellie Clatt, one of the things we like about Mudcat is that we can bring our own opinions and our own cultural heritage into discussions. Nobody complains if I put a Cockney slant to a message or if Skarpi tell us something about Iceland.

So tell us something about yourself intead of criticizing others.


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: GUEST,Richard
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 11:34 AM

I suspect that they've lasted so long - are held in memory so long - because they address our concerns, and become a way of talking to ourselves. And because they work. Ballads that reconfigure archetypal situations have a way of being recalled. Same with love songs, and broadside tales of murder and hanging; they allow us to work through the various theatres of our fears and aggressions and live to sing the song again.

And melodies are a miraculous consolation all by themselves. When they support words we like, we remember them on purpose. I'm heading off to work today with a song in my head that should last me through the worst moments that retail can conjure.

Primitive stuff perhaps, but we're still pretty primitive. Look what happens when someone from another tribe wanders in! Or, more exactly, when one of us reminds the rest of us that her tribal memories are different from ours. Tough, and smart, and thoughtful, Azizi is one of my favorites, when I venture into Mudtown.


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: Azizi
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 10:22 AM

Oops!

"Bet" does not mean "Black Entertainment Television"

;o}

It's a typo for "Best".

But I couldn't resist adding another reference to Black "culture"
{and with regards to BET, imo, "culture" is not really the operative word}

:o)


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: Azizi
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 10:03 AM

Nellie, ditto what Wesley said.

However, when I don't consider race to be a factor in a discussion, I don't refer to race. And, no, I'm not going to cite examples when I haven't mentioned my race and/or other folks' race in various threads that I've started or otherwise posted on. If you really want to know which threads those have been, you can click on my name and check out my posting record.

Bet wishes,

Azizi


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: GUEST,Wesley S
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 10:00 AM

And there is the ear worm factor. I havn't been able to get "The Long Black Veil" out of my head all morning.


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: leeneia
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 09:53 AM

First of all, there are many folk songs which did not last.
----------
I believe that the songs which did last have two characteristics: good melody and good rhyme. Melody is indefinable, but when I think about it, I guess you could define it as that which makes a sequence of notes memorable.

And it is amazing the way rhyme makes words easy to remember. Consider the baloney that people perpetuate (such as "no pain, no gain") merely because the words rhyme.


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: GUEST,Wesley S
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 09:49 AM

Nellie - as a WASP I can only add a WASP's viewpoint to these threads. As an African-American I can only expect {and hope} that Azizi will continue to add an African-American viewpoint to her posts. There is no escaping the influence that Africans have had on "our" folk music.

So why do you think these songs have lasted so long?


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: Shaneo
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 09:43 AM

Expand all you like Azizi , and yes I was referring the length of time the songs have been around as opposed to the song length of verses.


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: GUEST,Captain Pugwash
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 09:36 AM

Our Enlish and european sea shanty songs have a ' call and response '
it's nor just an African thing.


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: GUEST,Nellie Clatt
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 09:33 AM

Azizi, why do turn every threa into a ' black ' or ' African ' subject
when it is not so ?


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: Azizi
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 09:09 AM

Sorry,-I know preview should be my friend-here's a correction to my post:

"were {are} performed by a performer {or performers} and the audience's role is largely to sit back and listen?"


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: Azizi
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 09:07 AM

Hello, Shaneo. I just saw your name on another thread. If you are new to Mudcat, welcome!

When I read this thread title, I thought it referred to the length a song itself-such as the length of English ballads which have verse upon verse upon verse etc etc etc. My first thought was that the reason why these folk songs had that textual form is because they were composed to be sung by a single person-as opposed to a married person ;0)

-sorry I couldn't resist that-

But if by "our folk songs" you're referring to the European and European American folk ballads, isn't it true that these songs were {are} performed by a performer {or performer} and the audience's role is largely to sit back and listen?

I contrast this with the textual structure of African American {and other African Diaspora} folk songs whose call & response patterns have a built in expectation that audiences will participate. Furthermore, the short verses and repeated lines in African American folk music {which should also be considered "our" folk music-at least if you broaden your definition as to who "our" includes} also lend themselves to audience participation.

Als, with regard to African American folk music {in the context of this thread I mean secular slave songs & spirituals}, the music was often open ended-verses could be composed on the spot and added to the song and verses from other songs could also be added to the songs thus helping the song to "last so long".

FWIW, I think that African American dance songs from slavery that have become part of the American folk song genre, and other American dance songs were open ended because people wanted to get their dance on". The longer the song, the more time they could spend dancing.

Also, with regards to spirituals and songs used during Shout religious worship {Shout=men & women walking in counter clockwise circles while repeatedly singing the words of a religous song}, the reason why the song "lasts so long" was to help worshippers reach a certain state of worship which some might rightly or wrongly consider a trance state which after all just means a different {if not elevated} state of consciousness.

And yes, Shaneo, I gather that you meant by your title and initial post that this thread would be a discussion on the continuity of certain folks song, and not the structural composition of those or other songs, but I hope you don't mind me expanding the scope of the discussion.

Best wishes,

Azizi


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Subject: RE: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 08:24 AM

Part of the reason is that people are over-exposed to the pop songs, on radio, etc., whereas for most people, the only time they hear folk music is when they attend a live performance. So while a performer may be sick of a song like Black Velvet Band, in the general public there are many people who have never heard it, and if they do happen to hear it, they'll love it ... (go, figger) ...


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Subject: Why do our songs last so long ?
From: Shaneo
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 08:15 AM

So why does our folk music last as long as it does , I have being through my set list and most of the songs are at least 50 years old , some as old as 200 years,
Is it because of the way they are written ? or is it because we have such a passion for them to keep them alive that we just keep singing them.
With pop music[the good stuff] it has a life span of no more then 40 years or so , and then it's heard no more.


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