Talk:Folk music/Archive 1

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Archive 1 Archive 2

Folk rock?

Someone wrote:
More recognizable, perhaps, is a type of what is generally called rock and roll called [folk rock]? or simply "folk," which included performers such as [Joan Baez]?, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, [The Mamas and the Papas]?, and many others.

I've tried to clarify this. "Folk rock" is used very specifically and is typically far more recognised by instrumentation than form. Many folk musicians of the 60s (Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs etc) sang new, topical material (which distinguished them from traditional folk musicians) but in the folk idiom (acoustic instruments, traditional arrangements and often traditional melodies.)

Re: the comment about "marketers" in the first paragraph. If language reflects common usage, what is now called "folk music" has as much right to the name as any other form.
Gareth Owen

To the latter: fair enough, but does the first paragraph actually imply otherwise? --LMS

Cynical remark

I like the page in general but wonder if the following is unnecessarily cynical (implying, as it does, a financial rather than artistic incentive to change musical styles):

"Some of these performers, of which Joan Baez is an excellent example, began their commercial music careers performing traditional music in a traditional idiom, but soon transformed their style and accompaniment to suit popular tastes."

Ya know, I agree, but I don't know how to change it right off. Anyone else want to give it a stab? --LMS

The deletions are merely of things that seemed redundant. Additions may solve the problem of tone mentioned above. One bit of the original puzzles me, so I corrected the grammar but left it in--but what does "unrecognizable to its source" actually mean?

I like the new additions--lots of good new information here. I added some more. The problem now is that the article is rambling and disorganized, and I am probably not the best person to organize and clarify it. BTW, using the word "purist," without the quotes, makes it sound as if the authors of the article are not purists, which we don't want to imply. :-) See neutral point of view. --LMS

"Purist" is generally a derogatory term. A more neutral term would be "conservative". Anything that is described as "traditional" tends to be conservative by definition, although folk music genres also generally (traditonally) allow for some individual variation (improvisation) by the performer. (talk) 13:47, 12 July 2008 (UTC)July 11, 2008


Perhaps someone who knows the facts :-) could add in "Skiffle" music, from whence the Beatles sprang, which was evidently a British folk form in the 1950's. Certainly the Beatles stole (er, utilised!) many folk forms in their music. (date of question unknown, but it predates the answer below by months.)

There is already an article on Skiffle Music.
Skiffle started in London in 1956, with the Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group.

John Lennon, of the Beatles, formed a group called The Quarrymen in 1957. Later, Lonnie Donegan brought skiffle to a wider audience. G4sxe 20:10, 16 January 2006 (UTC)

I think we are going to need a List of folk musicians at some point soon. user:sjc


This page is ridiculous. I agree with the POV, but it is still a clear and obvious POV. I'm not sure how to fix it right now, but I will and come back. Tokerboy 09:00 Jan 18, 2003 (UTC)

Article is getting long so I put in section headings; also a little bit on the classical composers who went folksong collecting. Sorry about the clash of prose styles.

Opus33 21:20, 24 Sep 2003 (UTC)

Old list

I removed the following list of folk styles, because I think it's too highly debatable to include without annotation. Maybe it could be moved to List of genres of folk music or something, but I'm not sure of the value of such a thing given the lack of any terribly agreeable definition of folk music. Tuf-Kat 20:41, Dec 19, 2003 (UTC)

"horses" remark

Is there any citation for the remark attributed to Louis Armstrong? I believe I've heard pretty much the same attributed to Bill Broonzy and I bet this obvious joke was made more than once. If it is there as a direct quote, it should be cited, otherwise at least it should be worded as an indirect quote. -- Jmabel | Talk 21:35, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)

For what it's worth, a quickie Google search found:
On the other hand, I'm not really that crazy about having the quote in there at all; back when I was editing this page, I left it in simply as a courtesy to a previous editor. It's perhaps useful as a way of illustrating different attitudes about what folk music is, but I'd prefer to emphasize the view of people (scholars) who've studied it seriously. If you'd like to just take it out, Jmabel, it would be fine with me. Opus33 22:08, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Here's a citation for Broonzy saying this: [1], probably from a better source than a generic "quotes" site. And another: Michael Cooney, citing it here, is a pretty solid folk-revival musician himself (although he misspells "Studs Terkel"): [2]. Another site says it's attributed variously to Big Bill Broonzy, Woody Guthrie and Igor Stravinsky. [3]. Someone could probably do a pretty good article on the history of this quotation. I think I'll keep the quote in the article, use a better wording of it than the one there right now, and indicate how unclear it is who said it. -- Jmabel | Talk 22:49, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)

"Many feel"

In the section "Variation in folk music" the phrase "Many feel..." begs for some citations. -- Jmabel | Talk 23:05, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)

It certainly does. Please give me a few days, I need to get the references from a library. Opus33 00:18, 26 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Horses again

I feel that the horse passage is really landing us in a muddle--we've got Igor Stravinsky as a popular musician now, which surely isn't right. The passage adds a lot to length, and it's not helping readers to understand folk music. So I excised, hoping not to elicit rage (or reversion)...

I'm intrigued that the saying has been attributed to so many people, and think it might be worth installing elsewhere--say, in the Louis Armstrong article, or in Wikiquote?

On another front, I pondered, and decided that the "Many feel..." passage is utterly POV and should go, too. Opus33 05:42, 26 Oct 2004 (UTC)

For what it's worth, the removed paragraph (as I had left it, but with one further edit -- I had missed that misplaced word "popular") reads:

Louis Armstrong, Bill Broonzy, Woody Guthrie and Igor Stravinsky have all been credited saying that all music is "folk" music: as Broonzy is claimed to have said to [[Studs Terkel, "I never heard no horses sing none of it!" [4], [5], [6] This emphasizes the universality of people's love for music (which folk music also attests), but it also misses a distinction. Stravinsky, of course was a classical musician. Armstrong was a gifted performer within a sophisticated music tradition, which by his time had evolved to be very different from its folk origins. Broonzy and Guthrie were also professional musicians, albeit both with strong folk roots.

Probably doesn't belong in this article, perfectly glad to be rid of it. Wikiquote might be a good place for an extended version of this. Surely not in the Louis Armstrong article: I'd venture that he is one of the least likely of the people to whom it is attributed. My vote would be for Broonzy; Studs Terkel is still alive, so someone just might be able to get confirmation of that from the horse's mouth, so to speak. -- Jmabel | Talk 05:59, Oct 26, 2004 (UTC)

The Singers' Club

"the Singers' Club and was the first, as well as the most enduring, of what became known as folk clubs" Neither the first (Newcastle's folk club began in 1953) nor the most enduring (it closed its doors in 1991). The Troubabor lives on, as does Edinburgh's Sandy Bell's.

  1. The Singers' Club (as the "the Ballads and Blues Club") was also 1953. [7] Any particular basis for claiming that the Newcastle club started earlier in the year?
  2. "Troubabor": I assume that's "The Troubador"? Yes, that was founded in 1954 and would now be far older than the Singers' Club ever got to be. Has it been in continuous operation? If not, with what degree of interruptions? Anyway, you should edit the article accordingly. Probably the Singers' Club should still be mentioned for its uncommon purity of concept (it was an acoustically good room with no amplification at all). -- Jmabel | Talk 09:07, Nov 5, 2004 (UTC)

Gundula Krause

Is Gundula Krause well-enough known to merit mention in this article? I will readily admit to never before having heard of her. -- Jmabel | Talk 18:41, Jan 15, 2005 (UTC)

Yes, in Germany she´s wellknown under the name "göttliche Teufelsgeigerin" (divine fiddler of devil). Audax 12:08, 17 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Márta Sebestyén

Same question about Márta Sebestyén. I love her work, but is it that influential? --JButler 22:18, 9 August 2005 (UTC)

  • Pretty major star in her own country, known worldwide, and unlike Krause, working in the folk tradition of her own country. I'd tend to think she belongs in the article. -- Jmabel | Talk 05:22, August 10, 2005 (UTC)


Anyone know why in "References", Charles Seeger is a sub-section of Richard Middleton - or is this just a formatting error? -- SGBailey 22:19, 2005 Feb 6 (UTC)

Seeger is cited in Middleton, I've never seen nor touched the Seeger book. Hyacinth 04:29, 7 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Traditional music

I have redirected traditional music here, and added a paragraph on the term (please clean up the paragraph -- I can't think of a more graceful way to explain it). See talk:traditional music. Tuf-Kat 21:45, Apr 21, 2005 (UTC)

Anglocentric Viewpoint

Since both ethnic music and traditional music redirect here, this article ought to be written from a culture-neutral point of view. As it is, nearly all the examples are from the American/English/Irish traditions only.

Especially without the list of folk styles (above), the whole article gives the impression that folk music applies to certain cultures only, which is lamentable.

Maybe a "folk music around the world" section would be in order? I'd also love to see "foreign" examples mixed in with the existing ones in the rest of the article also. --CodeGeneratR 18:57, 8 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I tend to think this article should be mostly generic, meaning that it should just discuss what separates folk music from popular or classical music; this will, of course, require using a few examples, which should probably come from a variety of regions. Trying to explain any individual kind of folk music here is a bad idea, because it would not really be neutral to only explain some kinds (even a balanced description of one Western European style, one East Asian style, etc, would still be ignoring many other kinds). It would be better to keep this article generic and have a link to an appropriate page for someone looking for a specific kind of folk music (I've been working on User:TUF-KAT/List of genres of music by region, which would be a good pointer once it's complete). However, I should also note that most English-speaking people probably don't use the term folk music very precisely, and may come here looking for information on folk-rock or singer-songwriter or something else, and we should make it easy for those people to find a more appropriate article. Tuf-Kat 20:58, Jun 8, 2005 (UTC)

Texts not consulted in this article include (to name a few of the most egregious ommissions):

  • Article on Folk Music in the latest edition of the Harvard Dictionary of Music
  • The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music [10 volumes] : Volume 8, Europe, Edited by Timothy Rice, James Porter and Chris Goertzen (2000), Series edited by Timothy Rice and James Porter (Bruno Nettle and Ruth M. Stone, advisory editors).
  • Ted Gioia's: Work Songs (Oxford University Press, 2006)
  • Anglo-American Folksong Scholarship Since 1898 by D.K. Wilgus (1959) (note: UCLA has just gotten a grant from the Grammy Foundation to digitize and make available Wilgus's folksong collection of 8,000 commercially recorded albums and 2,800 field recorded tapes.)
  • The invaluable Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (1994) by Peter Burke.
  • C.J. Bearman "Who Were the Folk? The Demography of Cecil Sharp’s Somerset Folk Singers" in Historical Journal (2000) 43, 3. pp.751-775, and C. J. Bearman, "Cecil Sharp in Somerset: Some Reflections on the Work of David Harker" in Folklore (2002) 113, pp.11 - 34

I won't even mention David Evans, Robert Palmer, Bill Ferris, and Jeff Todd Titon. People interested in this topic should consult all of these first. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:02, 15 July 2008 (UTC)

The article as it stands is completely unacceptable. For one thing, as pointed out by others, it covers too small a geographical area and narrow time frame. The article "folk music" in the New Harvard Dictionary of Music (1986) by Bruno Nettl ought to be a model for how such an article ought to look. Nettl is the foremost authority in the field. His omission from the references is really telling. Nettl's Harvard Dictionary article is quite long -- 5 double-columned pages of small print -- as befits this complex topic. Also, since he is not American born, he has a broader point of view.

Readers should know that Peter van der Merwe and Dave Harker, who appear to be the principle sources for the present wikipedia article, are controversial figures, who write from outside the mainstream. Though they may be very much worth reading, they should not be read in isolation from more reputable and balanced authorities by anyone who is seeking to inform themselves about what folk music is. Readers of Wikipedia deserve to be told what the objections are to van der Merwe and Harker's points of view. Perhaps there ought to be a separate category about the history of folk music scholarship and the various controversies and questions connected with it. The urban folk revival and folk rock also deserve separate entries. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Mballen (talkcontribs) 16:56, 6 August 2008 (UTC)

I'd agree that this article needs a huge amount of editing, but not with attributing blame to bias towards Peter van der Merwe or Dave Harker, whose views, IMHO, barely crop up in the mish-mash of most of the article. In particular the "Blending of Folk and and Popular Culture" looks such a mess, it needs a complete re-write. Hohenloh (talk) 23:55, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
Harker is not currently cited. Unless someone can cite a source showing he is "outside the mainstream" I don't buy it. Hyacinth (talk) 01:17, 7 August 2008 (UTC)
Um, no. David Harker is the first reference cited. Harker is an expert on broadside ballads, who describes himself as a Trotskyite Marxist. He believes that folksong is a "construct" derived from broadside ballads, a belief that would surprise the hundreds of scholars that collected oral literature worldwide for the last five centuries and before, including in places and in languages (such as Faroese) that were not written down and from informants who were blind from birth and couldn't read. I am not saying that his views are not worth consideration, only that they are singular. In addition, some commentators, notably C.J. Bearman, have accused him of exaggeration if not outright of misrepresentation of facts and statistics. Wikipedia readers deserve to know this. Mballen (talk) —Preceding undated comment was added at 18:27, 27 August 2008 (UTC)


Is RiotFolk really of enough significance to merit a mention in a general article about folk music? -- Jmabel | Talk 16:31, Jun 18, 2005 (UTC)

it should probably be moved to see also. --Buridan 17:19, 18 Jun 2005 (UTC)
done -- Jmabel | Talk 17:51, Jun 25, 2005 (UTC)

Traditional music again

See talk:traditional music. I'd appreciate anyone's comments on what to do with that article (as well as trad and roots music, while we're at it). Essentially, I redirected traditional music to folk music some time ago, then took a wikibreak. During the wikibreak, someone made an article on trad, and there was a VfD about it, and it was redirected to traditional music on the basis that some non-folk compositions are credited "trad", and so a redirect to folk music would be inappropriate. I can see the logic here, but I don't know what traditional music could ever be about -- the practice of citing traditional popular songs as "trad"? That seems an absurd subject for an article. The user in question is no longer active, so I'm posting here in the hopes of getting some other opinions. (Roots music is completely unrelated to the current discussion, but I thought I'd bring it in since it's a related topic and may as well be dealt with at the same time) Tuf-Kat 04:44, September 9, 2005 (UTC)


Recently added paragraph beginning "Yet the ability to sing 'reasonably well' can be defined many different ways… seems to me like pure POV. I won't revert unilaterally, but I'm seeking consensus on that. -- Jmabel | Talk 06:26, September 9, 2005 (UTC)

I agree, but than that it's a bit baffling. The writer is obviously expressing support for something but I can't quite see what. Flapdragon 22:52, 9 September 2005 (UTC)
Thanks, JMabel. Opus33 14:42, 11 September 2005 (UTC)

I think one must be extremely careful in using the term 'tradition' or deeming music/songs to be 'traditional'. Firstly, both imply the fixed and unchanging existence of a concrete 'tradition,' which is quite simply false. Secondly, these debates have been the centre of disucssion by academics, artists and fans for decades and there is as yet one, unified definition of such terms. Some interesting reading could be done of some works by those like Philip Bohlman or Ron Ayerman and Andrew Jamison (amongst a hundered others; especially 'Poplore' by Gene Bluestein) and these would highlight certain aspects regarding this subject. Primarily, i feel such works are quite correct in their identifying no singular 'tradition' of folk music and therefore the impossibility of 'traditional' music. It is true music may belong to a 'tradition,' but only in its borrowing of particular practices or musical elements from the past. Thus, tradition is always the recreation of the past in the present moment, and as such 'tradition' is often created by those with political ideals for political purposes - as was the case with both the British and American folk song revivals. Thus, people like Llyod, MacColl and, Lomax and Seeger in America, were somewhat eager to portray the rural idealism of some imagined past community, in which people all worked together and orally passed on their songs and stories. To an extent this is true and oral transmission is a fundamental part of the folk process, but the singers/performers of these rural communities were not themselves 'traditional' as such, as they were only recreating the past in the present in their own time, which we can see in their appropriation/continuation of Child Ballads and other European ballad-forms in Virginia and Appalachia. However, to portray a unified community and the identity created through this is extremely useful propaganda for left-wing parties in particular who can use and have used the music to firstly, build national pride and secondly, unify large numbers of people under an ideology.

Like i say, many have written entire books on this subject alone and therefore its somewhat difficult to say everything here but, just a few things to consider.


"People like Llyod, MacColl and, Lomax and Seeger in America, were somewhat eager to portray the rural idealism of some imagined past community, in which people all worked together and orally passed on their songs and stories."
Some Trotskyite Marxist writers (notably Dave Harker and his followers) have claimed that "People like Llyod, MacColl and, Lomax and Seeger in America, were somewhat eager to portray the rural idealism of some imagined past community" but a careful examination of their writings does not support this claim. See C.J. Bearman's "Who Were The Folk" for a careful examination of this question.
It is true that the introduction of the alphabet and the invention of printing both had a marked tendency to stabilize customs and folklore (expressive behavior). The fact is, however, that for most of the past, until about 1950, the vast majority of the the human population was in fact, rural. Books and schooling were confined to the few (in "advanced" industrialized nations, such as England and France, public education and cheap paper for books and newspaper only became widespread at the end of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries.) Most communication was oral. It is not "idealization" to accept this historical fact. It is idealization to propose that all customs, save those of the industrial "vanguard" of proletarian workers, be discarded as unworthy relics of a benighted past, on the other hand. Pace Eric Hobsbawn's "the invention of tradition," all traditions are continually reinvented, both when every generation collectively decides what part of the past to keep and what to discard, and with every individual performance act of a ritual or custom. Think of "ethnic" cooking, for example.
It is surprising that the point of view of the Trotskyite Marxist coterie acquired such widespread and unthinking acceptance, while the work of legitimate, serious scholars such as D.K. Wilgus and Bertrand Harris Bronson, two name a few, fell into unjustified neglect, although the work they did is in no way superseded. The fact that Lloyd, Seeger, and Guthrie wanted to use folk song to effect social change and the subsequent Cold War reaction against the Progressive movement of the thirties and forties, to which most folk enthusiasts belonged, may have had something to do with it. (talk) 01:19, 11 July 2008 (UTC)July 10, 2008
I should add that a disciple of Harker, who claims Harker's savaging of Cecil Sharp as his model and inspiration, is Benjamin Filene. In his 2000 book, Romancing the Folk, which opens with an encomium to Harker, Filene disputes the very existence of folk music as a category because it is a 'construct". He dismisses the older generation of folksong scholars as "elistists," implying, without actually coming out and saying so, that they financially exploited of the subjects of their study by collecting their songs and writing about them. Nevermind that folk song scholarship is as old or older than the invention of print and that virtually all folk song scholars, with one or two exceptions -- namely contrarians Zora Neale Hurston and John A. Lomax, who nevertheless socialized exclusively with progressives -- have been progressive, and even democratic or Christian Socialist reformers. In the peculiar perspective of Trotskyite Bolshevism all reformers, and possibly all scholars and historians in all countries (except true believers like themselves) are to be despised as romantic "utopians" (unlike themselves, presumably), elistists, or "populists" to be reviled as reactionaries. Filene, who has a PH.D. degree in American Studies (not music) from Yale, has written that he dislikes folk music: and he also despises the New Deal. He is currently employed as a " historian at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. Romancing the Folk was acclaimed by rock critic Robert Cristgau in a review in the NY Times Sunday (12, 10, 2000) Book Review section, which savaged Francis James Child, Cecil Sharp, and the Lomaxes as condescending racists and exploiters. Cristgau-style attacks have been repeated by his friend, Dave Marsh and by others, in the pages of the NY Times, the Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere. I am not putting in a link, but Cristgau's review is available on the NYTimes and on his own websites. (talk) 17:34, 12 July 2008 (UTC)July 12, 2008.
I should also add that according to Wikipedia's entry on the Popular Front (to which most of the folk singers of the 1930s and 40s belonged) Trotsky believed "popular fronts were useless because they included non-working class bourgeois forces such as liberals. Trotsky also argued that in popular fronts, working class demands are reduced to their bare minimum, and the ability of the working class to put forward its own independent set of politics is compromised. This view is now common to most Trotskyist groups. Left communist groups also oppose popular fronts, but they came to oppose united fronts as well." (talk) 00:16, 13 July 2008 (UTC)7/12/08