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Folk Process - is it dead?

Related threads:
what is the Folk Process (35)
The Folk Process (181)
Steps in the Folk Process (54)
The New Folk Process (youtube link) (19)
What does the term 'folk process' mean? (23)


George Papavgeris 29 Jan 07 - 10:05 AM
GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie 29 Jan 07 - 10:11 AM
Scrump 29 Jan 07 - 10:19 AM
EBarnacle 29 Jan 07 - 10:24 AM
Charley Noble 29 Jan 07 - 10:25 AM
George Papavgeris 29 Jan 07 - 10:39 AM
McGrath of Harlow 29 Jan 07 - 10:55 AM
dick greenhaus 29 Jan 07 - 10:57 AM
George Papavgeris 29 Jan 07 - 11:01 AM
George Papavgeris 29 Jan 07 - 11:02 AM
Folkiedave 29 Jan 07 - 11:05 AM
Scrump 29 Jan 07 - 11:06 AM
GUEST 29 Jan 07 - 11:16 AM
GUEST,leeneia 29 Jan 07 - 11:17 AM
Scoville 29 Jan 07 - 11:20 AM
Alec 29 Jan 07 - 11:20 AM
George Papavgeris 29 Jan 07 - 11:21 AM
The Borchester Echo 29 Jan 07 - 11:22 AM
George Papavgeris 29 Jan 07 - 11:23 AM
Scoville 29 Jan 07 - 11:23 AM
The Borchester Echo 29 Jan 07 - 11:26 AM
George Papavgeris 29 Jan 07 - 11:28 AM
Scrump 29 Jan 07 - 11:37 AM
George Papavgeris 29 Jan 07 - 11:42 AM
GUEST,greg stephens 29 Jan 07 - 11:42 AM
George Papavgeris 29 Jan 07 - 11:47 AM
GUEST,Seiri Omaar 29 Jan 07 - 11:50 AM
Scoville 29 Jan 07 - 11:53 AM
The Borchester Echo 29 Jan 07 - 11:56 AM
Scrump 29 Jan 07 - 12:05 PM
Scrump 29 Jan 07 - 12:09 PM
Cluin 29 Jan 07 - 12:11 PM
Scoville 29 Jan 07 - 12:15 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 29 Jan 07 - 12:23 PM
eddie1 29 Jan 07 - 12:32 PM
GUEST,Riverman 29 Jan 07 - 12:40 PM
bubblyrat 29 Jan 07 - 12:44 PM
Scoville 29 Jan 07 - 12:48 PM
GUEST 29 Jan 07 - 12:56 PM
wysiwyg 29 Jan 07 - 01:05 PM
Lonesome EJ 29 Jan 07 - 01:15 PM
McGrath of Harlow 29 Jan 07 - 01:19 PM
GUEST,Patrick Costello 29 Jan 07 - 01:25 PM
wysiwyg 29 Jan 07 - 01:47 PM
Alec 29 Jan 07 - 02:25 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 29 Jan 07 - 05:27 PM
Big Al Whittle 29 Jan 07 - 05:33 PM
GUEST,doc.tom 30 Jan 07 - 04:00 AM
Grab 30 Jan 07 - 05:01 AM
bubblyrat 30 Jan 07 - 09:23 AM
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Subject: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 10:05 AM

This question has been building in my head for some time now, as a result of discussions on other threads and boards around what can and what cannot be accepted as traditional song/music. In short:

Someone - I think it was Diane - stated that traditional music is a body of work to which one can no longer add (my own words, I cannot remember the precise expression used).

That got me thinking: Take a song such as Dave Webber's "Padstow May Song", which all agree is written "in the tradition", though not traditional today; now, in 200 years would that song not be traditional, simply because its provenance is known? And would it not be deemed to have been filtered through the "Folk Process" as different singers take it on and add their interpretations?

We seem to treat the "Folk Process" as something that happened in the past, when records were not made or kept, when songs passed from mouth to ear. We seem to imply a certain magic in that process, that hones a song to perfection in a way no "dot reader" ever could; that somehow smoothes any flaws in the original and renders a patina impossible to apply with modern means.

I argue that the Folk process is alive and well. Songs are still passed from singer to singer, indeed more easily now, given technology's advances. And that in turn means that more performers get to hear - and be tempted to try - the song, thus giving it more turns on the sharpener's wheel, so to speak. And 200 years from now, at some traditional folk song event, someone might rightly sing the Padstow May Song, attributing it to "that ancient bard Dave Webber", but probably somewhat changed from the original version. And all the better for it.

Your views?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 10:11 AM

I think you're right George, the folk process is alive and well and always will be as long as people are here to make up songs and new traditions. Some peoples minds are just far too narrow to accept that tradition exists outside of the supposed 'Folk' world as well as in it.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scrump
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 10:19 AM

No, it's just resting :-)

Interesting thread, George. I suppose the advent of sound recording means that, in theory, the folk process shouldn't occur any longer, because the 'proper' way a song should be sung (let's say by its writer, who has issued it on CD), will forever be available for anyone who wants to learn it. That means the process whereby the tune and even the words were altered by being passed from person to person in 'Chinese whispers' fashion, should no longer happen.

If anyone should change a tune or the lyrics of a song today, he or she will be pounced on for singing it 'wrongly'. This wouldn't have happened very often in the past, because there was usually nobody around who would have the authority to know if a singer had (intentionally or unknowingly) changed a song. Today, the 'definitive' version of the song is still available (e.g. on CD) for anyone to 'prove' how the song 'should' be sung.

(Sits back to await other responses!)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: EBarnacle
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 10:24 AM

As an example of a a piece whose provenance is known, several additional verses which I have written have entered the canon, including one to "four nights drunk" which I slipped to Oscar Brand more than 30 years ago. A couple of years ago, he played his version and said that he did not know where he got the verse. I called him and reminded him of the circumstances of the contribution, which he acknowledged. Folk process or not?

I see development as a normal growth process. Another example is "Fiddler's Green," which has been cited on several albums, including one by Schooner Fare, as Trad. There is the ongoing discussion between the purists and the rest about "in Fiddler's Green" vs "on Fiddler's Green."

The list of discussions and processes is extensive. As long as people change things for their own satisfaction or through mishearing the process will continue.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 10:25 AM

George-

Even Ewan MacColl agreed that the folk process was an ongoing process and that he himself engaged in it. Some are better that others at making changes that others accept as "improvements" but only time will validate that appraisal.

I do believe it is important to have reference material so one can see how a song has evolved, and that the various folk song collectors should be thanked when they did their job well, and damned when they edited their source material.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 10:39 AM

Scrump,
I don't think the fact the the originator of a song has recorded it on CD makes his/her version the "definitive" one; we get cover versions of the most popular songs all the time, and now and then a cover version is more to our liking than the original. Cover versions are part of the folk process too, then.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 10:55 AM

Why should the original version of a song be any more definitive than the original version of a joke?

People change and adjust and misremember and make up what they've forgotten and change what they don't like or can't make sense of. They always have and they always will.

Traditition is what was there before you, whenever you happen to live.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 10:57 AM

if you want proof that the folk process is alive an processing, go back and listen to some old recordings and see how much tune and verse have changed. A prime exampleis Burl Ives' "foggy, Foggy Dew"


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:01 AM

Jim Moray just gave a great example of the Folk Process in action: People singing "All along the Wathctower" invariably try to imitate the Hendrix version rather than the Dylan original.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:02 AM

"Wathctower" is Greek for Watchtower, of course. Our Hejova's Wintesses sell it door to door.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:05 AM

Hi George and thanks for starting what could be a long thread!!

I cannot personally see how we can claim it has stopped...if it did stop - surely you would be able to put your finger on when it....stopped. Now remember they sincerely believed that all the collecting to be done had been done by 1930. And Sharp rushed around (and in the Appalachians too) before all singers died. And so did Peter Kennedy - who was in part inspired by Stanley Slade - who he recorded from - and then when he went back was dead.

So if someone says the folk process is dead I ask when did it die?

And certainly here is Sheffield it goes on. At the carols new ones are brought into the repertoire. Not every year, but I can think of three now well established ones and I can remember exactly when they arrived. Frank Hinchcliffe was known as a terrific singer, his son carries on the tradition. And most people would look upon Will Noble as a traditional singer indeed the EFDSS put him on the front of the record commemorating their centenary alongside Harry Cox. Well, Will has been singing less than thirty years.

Most songs in the let's call it the standard repertoire as evidenced by collecting like Sharp and Gardiner, are derived from broadsheets, a number of traditional singers had collections of them, so they were happy to sing from printed copy, by albeit unknown authors.

I suppose if you ask if it is dead then you need to define what it is...and then I suspect we are back into "What is trad?".

But no, for my two pennyworth I think not.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scrump
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:06 AM

I don't think the fact the the originator of a song has recorded it on CD makes his/her version the "definitive" one; we get cover versions of the most popular songs all the time, and now and then a cover version is more to our liking than the original. Cover versions are part of the folk process too, then.

Why should the original version of a song be any more definitive than the original version of a joke?

I agree - that's why I put 'definitive' in quotes in my posting. I was sort of playing devil's advocate and presenting a counter-argument to help get the thread going (hopefully).

I agree that any recorded version of a song is just a snapshot, and can't be regarded as definitive in any kind of absolute sense (in any other sense, the term is subjective, as was discussed in a fairly recent thread about 'definitive versions').

But, although you can have different versions of a song - different arrangements, for example - is it possible for somebody to change the tune or lyrics from the original words (I'm talking about a new composition here, rather than a traditional song whose author is unknown or Seth Lakeman), without being 'wrong'.

George - as you are a songwriter, how would you feel if someone else took one of your songs and changed the tune and the lyrics? Would you regard that as the 'folk process', or simply that the singer had got it wrong?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:16 AM

for some hack singer to change the words and lyrics of an attributable composed song is the artistic equivalent of breaking into the Louvre and painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:17 AM

I folk process stuff all the time.

For example, I just learned the original tune for "Peace in the Valley." I changed "I'm tired and weary" to "I'm weary and tired," because it fits the music better. I changed "no sorrow, no sadness, no trouble" to put the nouns in alphabetical order. That prevents a little glitch where otherwise I stop to think whether sorrow comes first or sadness.

I've shifted the verses of "She Walked through the Fair" to make a sensible story.

I'm sure other people do stuff like this all the time. That's folk process.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scoville
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:20 AM

Short answer: No.

Long answer: I always assume that somebody else is going to hear something different in a piece of music than I might hear, and I think that, logically, I have to extend this to things that I write. I've taught people tunes as they sounded to me, then heard them playing them slightly differently six months later. Sometimes they misremembered them, sometimes they heard another version somewhere else and borrowed something they liked from it, sometimes it was a "spontaneous mutation". Whatever. I don't take it personally. I also discourage people from getting too fixated on my dulcimer strum pattern, etc., when teaching tunes, not because I'm possessive about "my" version but because I would rather they focus on the spirit rather than the letter of the music.

I think "wrong" is relative--if I'm playing in a group and everyone else wants to play version A of "Granny Will Your Dog Bite" with no accidentals, and I insist on playing version B with the accidental, I'm relatively wrong, at least in that situation. It's the same tune overall, though, so I may not be absolutely wrong. But overall, I think one has to be pretty far wrong to actually be wrong.

Personally, I'd rather be variant-tolerant than a slave to the definitive version. It drives me nuts when people insist that so-and-so's way is the only way to do a tune.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Alec
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:20 AM

Anyone who has ever learnt a song,forgotten a bit,made a bit up to compensate then had that song taken up by someone else has contributed to folk process. I would dare to suggest that this is a more than daily occurence.
Whilst some art music may exist in a definitive recorded form,Dylan's live performances seem to indicate that his recordings are merely a record of what the song sounded like that day.
(I mean all of the above in a good way.)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:21 AM

They have: Andy Irvine changed two words in "Empty Handed", and his musical arrangement is very different - while the melody remains the same, there are some changes in the chord sequence. The result is a very beautiful and haunting version of the song; and I have now adopted one of the word changes.

Vin Garbutt changed the rhythm of The Flowers and The Guns, and introduced a slip into high register ("giving it wellie" as he calls it) in the last verse. I liked that, and though I could not copy him (I don't have his voice, after all!) I used the idea at a different point in the verse (where I could reach an octave higher).

Breezy's changed a few words here and there in my songs (he sings several), and I have accepted some of his changes into my own singing.

In all those cases, the changes all resulted in improvements to the songs.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:22 AM

Hmmm. George has half-quoted some of what I said. So that I don't get tarred with the Chinese whispers f*lk process of being blamed for what was not the sum total of my 'definition' (which was done off the top of my head in the middle of the night in response to a challenge and I thus now wish I'd given it more thought), I may as well reproduce it:

The tradition' comprises art forms of a distinctive national, ethnic or social group rooted
in that community's lore and customs and passed on orally, aurally or by demonstration
rather than by written/recorded or formal didactic means. It has thus belonged collectively
to that community, rather than to individuals or the state, and tells the history of the
people from their common experience.

In the case of music, its platform has been predominantly the informal social gathering,
the workplace or the home rather than the theatrical stage or concert hall, and pieces
tended to be known by what or who they were about rather than by composer. This is not,
of course, to say that trad musicians have not borrowed and adapted from formal
composers or from other cultures. Obviously they have, and do, which is why the tradition
continues to evolve.

However, three factors in the current revival are forcing ever more rapid and inexorable
changes:

(a) digital archiving, obviously, as mentioned
(b) writing, consciously, 'in the tradition' and registering the result with MCPS/PRS
(c) population mobility resulting in monumental cross cultural influence and collaboration.

It will, thus, never be the same again. 'The tradition' will remain that static body of
information that has been quite literally passed down before the irrevocably altered times
put an end to the centuries-old process (cue Richard Thompson . . . ). What is NOT
traditional, by definition, is a recently composition of known origin. Even if you call it The
White Hare.



NB No reference works were harmed (or even consulted) in the concoction of this
definition.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:23 AM

It was a good definition, Diane; I always used to have my best ideas late at night. No longer - I am just asleep now;-)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scoville
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:23 AM

GUEST: No, it's not, since you're not destroying the original version of the song. It's the equivalent of going home and painting your own Cubist version of the Mona Lisa, which does no harm at all to the original and might be a worthy and insightful work of art on its own.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:26 AM

I've never heard anybody criticising the Copper Family for changing the tune of Rose Of Allendale noticeably for the better. Time changes are another matter. It is my personal belief that ironing out metres into universal 4/4 should be prohibted by law.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:28 AM

Diane, agreed and can I add the flattening of interesting chord changes to 3-chord tricks?


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scrump
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:37 AM

That's interesting, George. But whether you can call the amendments by Andy, Vin, etc., the 'folk process' rather than amendments proposed to you by the other singers and accepted by you, is open to question, IMO. In other words, you could consider them as contributing to the writing process and helping you refine the songs. The result is that the original version is changed to incorporate the changes. Is that the folk process? I'm not sure.

You obviously liked the amendments and accepted them, but I wonder if this would always be the case? I've heard people singing songs that I know well, by other living authors, and recognised that they had changed the words and/or the tune, in a way that I would not necessarily describe as an improvement (sometimes the tune had been 'flattened' or made more similar to another tune - I suspect the singer had done this inadvertently by mixing up two similar tunes; which could be easily done). I just wonder if the authors of those original songs would always be as magnanimous as you in accepting these changes (which I suspect were unintentional).

Still playing devil's advocate! :-)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:42 AM

Indeed I have heard other changes which I did not like, or not enough to adopt them. But I would not call the amendments by other artists "co-writing" (what are you trying to do to me? they'll be wanting royalties!), in that this was not an agreed or conscious partnership in the writing of the songs - and the fact that they are well-known does not exclude them from being part of the folk process.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,greg stephens
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:42 AM

So, Countess R, changing things into 4/4 should be prohibited by law? How about the traditional custom of modifying old 3/2 fiddle tunes into unaccompanied 5/4 song tunes? Crime,or interesting folk processing? Discuss.
Reducing songs to three chords a Bad Thing, eh George? How about Peter Paul and Mary expanding Bob Dylan's three-chord trick Blowin' in the Wind into a masterpiece of 60's wet by adding a few extra relative minors? Now, that really was a crime.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:47 AM

Peter, Paul and Mary and relative minors - hmmm. You could be right there, Greg. Though I'd put the "wetness" of their version down to the sickly sweet vocals - compared to Bob's straight-from-the-gut rendition.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Seiri Omaar
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:50 AM

Food for thought


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scoville
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:53 AM

"Improvements" are often in the ear of the beholder. This goes both ways--what you or I might consider a bad idea might have sounded great to somebody else in the audience.

Reserve judgment on changing to 4/4 time and simplifying chord structures since I think it depends on the song. I've heard songs that were injured by this but I've also heard songs that had more chords than they needed and did better with less pretentious chord progressions.

* * * * *

A local neo-Celtic band recorded a version of "Wild Geese", which uses the tune to "Planxty John Irwin", and changed it from 3/4 time to a reggae beat. Some people were put off by it, but overall it worked out very well. I say that, and I don't even like reggae.

Come to think of it, right now I'm listening to "Deux-Pas des Condamnés", which is a two-step that is normally "Valse des Condamnés" in--you guessed it--waltz time. Works great either way.

For both songs, it would have been a pity if they hadn't at least tried the new version, even if it was "wrong".


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:56 AM

How about the traditional custom of modifying old 3/2 fiddle tunes into unaccompanied 5/4 song tunes?

Absolutely fine if the song sounds better in 5/4 as it often does. The crime would be to put the triple hornpipe into crash bang Span time.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scrump
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:05 PM

Indeed I have heard other changes which I did not like, or not enough to adopt them. But I would not call the amendments by other artists "co-writing" (what are you trying to do to me? they'll be wanting royalties!), in that this was not an agreed or conscious partnership in the writing of the songs - and the fact that they are well-known does not exclude them from being part of the folk process.

Well put, George (LOL) :-)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scrump
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:09 PM

I've heard songs that were injured by this but I've also heard songs that had more chords than they needed and did better with less pretentious chord progressions.

I agree with that - there are some songs where I've deliberately 'simplified' the arrangement when compared to the one I've copied it from, because I think the over-complicated arrangement detracts from the song (as opposed to those where I've merely done it because I can't play all the chords ;-))


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Cluin
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:11 PM

"for some hack singer to change the words and lyrics of an attributable composed song is the artistic equivalent of breaking into the Louvre and painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa"


An analogy worthy of an archivist, not a singer.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scoville
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:15 PM

Not even worthy of an archivist. We don't mind things changing as long as you a) don't mark up the original and b) keep a copy of each version.

;-)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:23 PM

"The Folk Process - is it dead?"

I believe that Chairman Mao was once asked:

"What effect did the French Revolution have on the course of Human History?"

And he is said to have replied:

"I think it's too early to tell."

So, ask me the 'Folk Process' question, above, in another 100 years or so ...

Nevertheless, it's a good question, George.

A couple of random thoughts:

1. A few years ago, at a conference, I heard a paper by the scholar Chris Bearman. The paper was about the communities of singers that Sharp collected from in Somerset. In some areas of Somerset there were few singers, in others, like Langport or Hambridge, for example, there were many - little communities of singers ('nests of singing birds' - to use a favourite expression). I couldn't help thinking that these little communities were very like me and friends up here in North West England, in the early 21st Century: a group of people who love old songs, share them, sing to each other and encourage each other to dig up 'new' songs (ie. songs which may be old but which are new to the group).

2. I've said this numerous times (but I suspect that many people don't want to hear it!): A song doesn't have to be from an anonymous source in order to become traditional. Its not the source of the song that's important but the process it's been through ... silence! ... is anybody there?!


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: eddie1
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:32 PM

IMHO, the folk process would indeed be dead if it was only an academic exercise – but it isn't.
Yes, there are individuals/clubs even who will claim a song or tune must be played exactly as per the original version but perhaps their process is the one that is dead. If we write a song and then sing it to others either directly or by recording it, we set it free for those others to place their own interpretation on it. This can mean changing place names to "localise" the song (how many versions of Aragon Mill are there?), altering the rhythm, words, order of verses, even the whole tune because we prefer our own "version", because we can't play the chords to the original or because we misheard it.
A listening audience does not sit analytically, each having heard the original, and then decry the altered version.
Hamish Henderson was doing some Gaelic recordings back in the fifties on one of the Hebridean Islands when an elderly woman sang him an altered version of "The Banks of Sicily" which she insisted she had learnt from her mother. Hamish of course had written the song about ten years earlier. Was he annoyed? Of course not, he was thrilled to bits!

If the folk process is dead then so are we!

Eddie


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Riverman
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:40 PM

The general concensus seems to be that it still goes on and I couldn't agree more. The fact that methods of communicating songs has changed makes not one bit of difference. Broadside, oral or CD it's still communicated and that's enough.

I often find that when I go back to recordings from which I've 'learned' songs that they've been inadvertently changed a bit with whole verses missing sometimes to give them more narrative sense and sometimes a bit more edgy.

It was Carthy that said (not exact quote) "If we all copy each other exactly then folk music becomes as dead as some people claim it to be".


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: bubblyrat
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:44 PM

Dear Guest "Shimrod" ---I wonder, if the wonderfully-named C Sharp were to be resurrected,paid your little corner of England a visit,wrote down and recorded all those songs that you love so much,and then went off and got 3 or 4 of the best-known contemporary composers to re-write all the tunes in order to suit his personal musical taste,how you would feel about that ?? I"d be LIVID !!!


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Scoville
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:48 PM

It would just one more version of infinite versions since, thanks to modern technology, we can easily bypass folk-process bottleneck, unlike in the past where there might only have been one version written down by one collector, whose tastes and motives might have been suspect.

So, yes--it would be extremely annoying but it is much less likely that those would be the only extant versions 200 years from now.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:56 PM

I think there is an over-emphasis on the folk 'process'.

Songs were transmitted orally (thus rendering them open to adaptation) not because people thought that it was the 'done thing' or 'traditional', but because there was simply no other way for them to do it. The means of noting, recording, archiving, distribution etc were simply not available then.

BTW bubblyrat, Mr Sharp did indeed 'edit' some of his collected songs.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 01:05 PM

Folk Process - is it dead?

If it is, there's a whole lot of weekly music and permathread maintenance I'll have to give up. :~)

It's MY "folk process" (small letters)-- it's too soon to tell if it will ever be part of a larger Folk Process valuable to posterity. I try to leave what clues I can, as long as they don't interfere with present-time creativity.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 01:15 PM

George

A while back I posted a thread called "Steps in the Folk Process", and the following was cut and pasted from the opening post...

'I write Folk Songs," said the man.
"No," said the other man, "you hope you write Folk Songs."

The term Folk has been bandied about on this Forum since the beginning, with many and various definitions of what Folk means. We may never agree on the definition of what a Folk Song is, but I believe the process by which a song becomes a Folk Song may be clearer. I had the idea that it might be interesting to chart the steps through which the evolution occurs.

1) Initial Introduction as Popular Material. Folk songs of today and yesterday began their lives as popular tunes, whether spread and popularized by the electronic media today, or spread by traveling minstrels 1000 years ago. An example of a song in the popular mode with folk potential might be With Eyes Wide Open by Creed. At this stage of the process, the song is fairly well known, and closely connected to its author. Usually, the author is still alive and producing new material.

2) Persistence in Popular Music. The song has experienced the initial wave of popularity, but due to its intrinsic value or other aspects (re-release or recording by other artists, for example), the song persists in the popular idiom. Paul McCartney's Yesterday might be a good example of this stage in the process. At this stage, the song is taking on a persona independent of its author, and may not be attributable by the majority of its hearers.

3) Song Takes On Traditional Aspect. The song has become entrenched in the deeper layers of the culture, so that the majority of its hearers no longer know the author or consider the author's identity to be significant, so that the song is considered "traditional" by most hearers in the culture. This Land is your Land would appear to be on the verge of this stage, while America the Beautiful and My Old Kentucky Home have reached it. The song at this stage is well-known and often repeated orally.

4) From here, it seems to me the song will take one of three paths :

A) Song Fades from the Folk Process. Because its references are too obscure or specific to another time, or because its intrinsic value as music is weak, the song drops out of the oral tradition of the culture, and if it is remembered at all, it is remembered by a small group of scholars. Many of the Child Ballads would come under this heading, had Child not foreseen this possibility.

B) Song Is Revived as Popular Material. Although the song may have nearly disappeared from the culture, and its author obscure or unknown, it is revived in the popular idiom and re-introduced to the Folk Process. Wild Mountain Thyme and Carrickfergus may be seen as examples of this path.

C) Enduring Persistence in the Culture. Although the author is unknown, and despite the fact that the song has experienced no significant popular revival, its intrinsic power or musical quality has guaranteed its continuity. Greensleeves is an excellent example of this path.

That's it. Do you think this kind of analysis is valid, or am I grossly over simplifying the process? Can you think of songs that fit the different stages, if so which songs stand the best chance of moving from Stage 1 to Stage 4C?'


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 01:19 PM

"the artistic equivalent of breaking into the Louvre and painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa

A fallacious analogy. In no way is the original song affected. A more accurate analog would be someone buying a poster of the Mona Lisa and painting a moustache on it, or using it in a collage Which is the kind of thing that has happened often enough - for example. Meanwhile the original Mona Lisa is still up on the wall in the Louvre, and available on the Internet, for all to see.

I was pleased to see George's readiness to accept changes and variations to his own songs, and in no way surprised. Good songs are resilient, and don't need to be treated as if they'll fall to pieces if they don't get handled ultra-carefully.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Patrick Costello
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 01:25 PM

As long as musicians are making music, as long as people are willing to share and as long as kids are encouraged and inspired to explore this craft with no limitations the folk process will continue.

Sure, things have changed. I learned to play from people I met on the street. Now I have students finding me in cyberspace. The information isn't quite as personal - but the information is still being freely transmitted.

Yeah. I said freely.
http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=Dobro33H
http://howandtao.com
archive.org stuff
-Patrick


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 01:47 PM

LEJ, I could add parallels from the Spirituals "tradition," so yes, that works for me as far as it goes, and I may be able to connect that up with some other stuff I've been mulling/working on to extend it further and/or add examples from the spirituals.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Alec
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 02:25 PM

That works for me as well LEJ,I would venture to suggest that "Blaydon Races" has passed through stages 1 to 4c.(Albeit at a regional level)
As for songs that will pass through these stages,I suspect a goodly number created/popularised by Elvis,Dylan,(esp)The Beatles,Beach Boys & the Stones will go the distance.
BUT I think it's WAY to soon to do anything other than suspect this.
(I've always liked the Mao quote mentioned by Shimrod earlier,possibly the only perceptive statement ever made by a Leninist on the subject of History.)


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 05:27 PM

I'd probably be livid too, 'Bubblyrat' ... but your point is?

'LonesomeEJ' - I think you're analysis is very interesting. I wish I could have that 100 year perspective on what's happening now.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 05:33 PM

yeh its dead, and bloody good shuts to it.....


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: GUEST,doc.tom
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 04:00 AM

Late in the day perhaps, but would someone like to offer a definition of "folk process" in all this? "Traditional" is easy enough - it's defined by customary usage and other people's expectation (whether origin is known or not, but "folk", let alone "folk process"?
Tom


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: Grab
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 05:01 AM

I don't actually see how much influence the existence of other versions has. Sure, they're around, but how many people are going to go back to find them? How many people will go hunting for a recording of Arthur Crudup doing "That's alright mama" when they have the Elvis version? If they're real completists then maybe, but most people won't. So the chances of everyone going back to the original are pretty slim, and hence the folk process will go along quite nicely with everyone changing a bit here and there as they prefer.

Incidentally, there's talk here like we're the first generation to ask this question. We're not - the first generation was the generation that invented the printing press and enabled cheap reproduction of sheet music, and that's been a few years back now. There's a whole bunch of people now looking back through the Bodleian and other archives to find the sources for some of these songs, but anyone could have done that at any time in the past, and they didn't. Even at the time, anyone could have asked around for the original broadsheets, but chances are that they didn't.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Folk Process - is it dead?
From: bubblyrat
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 09:23 AM

To answer "Shimrod "-- My point is relevant to the thread topic,ie the Folk Process. My own personal view is that it would be best to leave folk-songs in as close to the original form in which they were learned and handed down as possible,in order to preserve their historical & cultural identity, which is often what makes them so interesting in the first place.If an artiste ( Martin Carthy is a good example ) is at pains to point out the subject matter,and the meanings of some of the more obscure terms used ,in a song which he is about to perform,then I am better able to understand what the song is all about, have been entertained,and have quite probably learned some interesting new facts about how people lived & worked in former times .I voiced an opinion about the otherwise admirable Mr.Sharp, inasmuch as I disagree with his decision to get messrs.Granger,Vaughan Williams ,& Holst ( ET AL ??)to add to,or alter,the tunes of many of the collected pieces, as I question his reasons for doing so !! I suspect that,as a trained musician himself, he couldn"t resist the temptation to "improve " the melodies !! And,to be honest, I suspect that this kind of adulteration continues to this day, in which case the "Folk Process " is very much ALIVE----But I don"t have to AGREE with it !!!!!


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