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Define Folk Music


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Posted on Feb 7, 2012 12:00:03 AM PST
kevn kinney is a folk singer, humdinger

Posted on Feb 6, 2012 9:39:46 PM PST
Brian says:
Mark Gormley.

Posted on Feb 4, 2012 8:05:08 PM PST
Michael row the boat ashore ????? Maybe?

Posted on Feb 4, 2012 12:39:49 PM PST
R Banner says:
PS on the subject of passing on songs, can anyone recall an old folk song along the lines of: the small boat took my love to the big ship moored on the strand?

Posted on Feb 4, 2012 12:37:07 PM PST
R Banner says:
Folk music was traditionally 'handed down' through the playing and hearing in times when many people could not read and write, let alone read music. It was, therefore, the peoples music (working class). Look at blues, the words covered up the true meaning i.e. when 'my old lady' was giving me a hard time it meant the plantation boss, in English folk terms like 'when the nightingale sings' meant having ones wicked way ;-)
These songs had meaning, (listen to The fields ao Athenry'.

Posted on Jan 30, 2012 9:43:45 PM PST
music for folks.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2012 1:29:54 AM PST
Jimbo says:
I agree -- everybody does have "creative expression," but that can be manifested in many ways, not just folk music. Creative expression is in every form of art -- music, dance, sculpting, painting, writing, acting -- everything.
But what does folk music have that the other art forms, including other forms of music, don't have? What makes it different, unique? What makes it "folk" music? That, for me, is the problem that the industry has when making a case for anything, because the term seems to pretty much mean anybody with an acoustic guitar.
Case in point -- Suzanne Vega was the keynote speaker at the NorthEast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) Nov. 2011 annual conference -- a three day gathering of major import in the "folk" industry. Now, is she a singer-songwriter par excellance? Absolutely. But is she a folk singer? To me, not even close.
Her songs are personal tales, perspectives on relationships, love found, love lost -- that's singer-songwriter material. It is not "folk" in any social commentary or activist perspective. Folk music, to me, has to be about the lyrics. Vega is credited by NERFA as being a "leading figure in the 1980s contemporary folk revival." I would disagree. She revived the genre of quality singer-songwriter, not folk music.
Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" isn't categorized as folk, but it's lyrics are such that it delivers a folk music concept. The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" is not folk music, but its lyrics deliver a social statement that is folk in its content.
While those two examples are certainly dated, I don't think anybody would argue with the excellence of the songwriting, and countless such examples of folk concepts in non-folk music continue right up through today.
But you won't find those concepts being voiced to a great degree in the "folk" industry because folk has been redefined to be artistic, sedate, calming, introspective songs. If you want social commentary -- although there are, proportionately, some who are putting out activist material, they just don't get a lot of recognition or air time -- you have to go to music realms that are, perhaps, not viewed as snooty as folk music -- rock, country, rap, blues -- pretty much anywhere except folk.
So my concern is that the industry that should have the loudest voice for social change in this country is instead doing nothing.
"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies -- but the silence of our friends." -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Posted on Jan 4, 2012 6:26:04 AM PST
Barry Smith says:
I was watching the great Murray Lerner documentary film "Festival" which chronicles the Newport Folk Festivals from 1963 to 1966. Within the film, they interview various people, who give their own opinions and definitions of what folk music is. One young Bob Dylan fan calls it "creative expression" and says that "everybody has creative expression." I think he's right.

Initial post: Jan 3, 2012 9:06:38 PM PST
Jimbo says:
As someone who made a homegrown CD two years ago and has taken a long hard look at the "folk market," I have to say that the term folk music is almost valueless at the current time because it just has too many meanings.
To me, it means the social/economic/governmental/environmental/topical type songs of the 60s, as long as they're predominately acoustic in their sound.
Ironically, there is a whole world of music out there, from metal doom to rap, that incorporates those same concepts in their lyrics, and which in a very true sense offers up the original meaning of "folk" -- music of the people, the culture -- whether it's a shady grove in olde England and Appalachia or an urban street in America or Europe.
But those musics, and all the styles in between, have their own names -- blues, hard rock, jazz, hip-hop, and on and on -- regardless of their lyrical content.
So, for me, I break the folk concept down into three areas --
1 - regional/national cultural ethnics (Hungarian, Mid-Eastern, Olde English, etc.,),
2 - singer/songwriter (acoustic love/loss songs), and
3 - acoustic topical songs (labor, civil rights, environment, political, etc.).
So where is the folk market if you're looking to sell the third type? It is next to nowhere.
"Folk" stations, college radios, "folk" festivals, and the industry itself focuses almost exclusively on type #2 -- love a/o loss songs, with a strong smattering of type #1 -- cultural ethnic, and which usually bleeds into embracing bluegrass.
Now I'm not complaining about my CD not getting any airtime even though I've sent it, literally, all over the place. Maybe it's not good enough, but I think the songs stand up well, although I did keep the melodies and tracks fairly basic to let the focus be on the lyrics, which may detract people. Who knows.
What I am talking about is that when I look at the play-lists for a lot of "folk" stations, I am astounded at how commercially bland -- and even dated -- they are, that's if they're even playing an occasional cut of type #3 at all.
Their goal is to play "music," not expound a variety of social beliefs through lyrics, and that is specifically what is wrong.
Is type #3 "folk" music then dead as a medium of communication? Are the only places where social comment will now be heard to be within rock and rap? Has "folk" music lost its ability to change America? I hope not.
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Discussion in:  Folk Music forum
Participants:  7
Total posts:  9
Initial post:  Jan 3, 2012
Latest post:  Feb 7, 2012

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