Folk music

Folk music includes both traditional music and the genre that evolved from it during the 20th century folk revival. The term originated in the 19th century but is often applied to music that is older than that. Certain types of folk music are also called world music. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted by mouth, as music of the lower classes, and as music with unknown composers. It has been contrasted with commercial and classical styles. One meaning often given is that of old songs, with no known composers; another is music that has been transmitted and evolved by a process of oral transmission or performed by custom over a long period of time. Starting in the mid-20th century a new form of popular folk music evolved from traditional folk music. This process and period is called the (second) folk revival and reached a zenith in the 1960s. This form of music is sometimes called contemporary folk music or folk revival music to distinguish it from earlier folk forms.[1] Smaller similar revivals have occurred elsewhere in the world at other times, but the term folk music has typically not been applied to the new music created during those revivals. This type of folk music also includes fusion genres such as folk rock, folk metal, electric folk, and others. While contemporary folk music is a genre generally distinct from traditional folk music, in English it shares the same name, and it often shares the same performers and venues as traditional folk music. Even individual songs may be a blend of the two.

Definitions A consistent definition of traditional folk music is elusive. The terms folk music, folk song, and folk dance are comparatively recent expressions. They are extensions of the term folk lore, which was coined in 1846 by the English antiquarian William Thoms to describe "the traditions, customs, and superstitions of the uncultured classes."[2] The term is further derived from the German expression Volk, in the sense of "the people as a whole" as applied to popular and national music by Johann Gottfried Herder and the German Romantics over half a century earlier.[3] Traditional folk music also includes most indigenous music However, despite the assembly of an enormous body of work over some two centuries, there is still no certain definition of what folk music (or folklore, or the folk) is.[4] Folk music may tend to have certain characteristics[2] but it cannot clearly be differentiated in purely musical terms. One meaning often given is that of "old songs, with no known composers",[5] another is that of music that has been submitted to an evolutionary "process of oral transmission.... the fashioning and re-fashioning of the music by the community that give it its folk character."[6] Such definitions depend upon "(cultural) processes rather than abstract musical types...", upon "continuity and oral transmission...seen as characterizing one side of a cultural dichotomy, the other side of which is found not only in the lower layers of feudal, capitalist and some oriental societies but also in 'primitive' societies and in parts of 'popular cultures'."[7] One widely used definition is simply "Folk music is what the people sing".[8] For Scholes,[2] as well as for Cecil Sharp and Bela Bartok,[9] there was a sense of the music of the country as distinct from that of the town. Folk music was already "seen as the authentic expression of a way of life now past or about to disappear (or in some cases, to be preserved or somehow revived),"[10] particularly in "a community uninfluenced by art music"[6] and by commercial and printed song. Lloyd rejected this in favour of a simple distinction of economic class[9] yet for him true folk music was, in Charles Seeger's words, "associated with a lower class"[11] in culturally and socially stratified societies. In these terms folk music may be seen as part of a "schema comprising four musical types: 'primitive' or 'tribal'; 'elite' or 'art'; 'folk'; and 'popular'."[12] Music in this genre is also often called traditional music. Although the term is usually only descriptive, in some cases people use it as the name of a genre. For example, the Grammy Award previously used "traditional music" for folk music that is not contemporary folk music. [edit]Characteristics From a historical perspective, traditional folk music had these characteristics:[11] It was transmitted through an oral tradition. Before the twentieth century, ordinary farm workers and factory workers were usually illiterate. They acquired songs by memorizing them. Primarily, this was not mediated by books, recorded or transmitted media. Singers may extend their repertoire using broadsheets, song books or CDs, but these secondary enhancements are of the same character as the primary songs experienced in the flesh. The music was often related to national culture. It was culturally particular; from a particular region or culture. In the context of an immigrant group, folk music acquires an extra dimension for social cohesion. It is particularly conspicuous in the United States, where Polish Americans, Scottish Americans, Irish Americans, Asian Americans and others strive to emphasize their differences from the mainstream. They learn songs and dances that originate in the countries their grandparents came from. They commemorate historical and personal events. On certain days of the year, such as Easter, May Day and Christmas, particular songs celebrate the yearly cycle. Weddings, birthdays and funerals may also be noted with songs, dances and special costumes. Religious festivals often have a folk music component. Choral music at these events brings children and non-professional singers to participate in a public arena, giving an emotional bonding that is unrelated to the aesthetic qualities of the music. The songs have been performed, by custom, over a long period of time, usually several generations. As a side-effect, the following characteristics are sometimes present: There is no copyright on the songs. Hundreds of folk songs from the nineteenth century have known authors but have continued in oral tradition to the point where they are considered traditional for purposes of music publishing. This has become much less frequent since the 1940s. Today, almost every folk song that is recorded is credited with an arranger. Fusion of cultures: In the same way that people can have a mixed background, with parents originating in different continents, so too music can be a blend of influences. A particular rhythmic pattern, or a characteristic instrument, is enough to give a traditional feel to music, even when it has been composed recently. It is easy to recognize the presence of a bagpipe or a tabla in a piece of music. The young are usually much less offended by the dilution or adaptation of songs this way. Equally an electric guitar can be added to an old song. The relevant factors may include instrumentation, tunings, voicings, phrasing, subject matter, and even production methods. Non-commercial. [edit]Origins Indians always distinguished between classical and folk music, though in the past even classical Indian music used to rely on the unwritten transmission of repertoire. Throughout most of human prehistory and history, listening to recorded music was not possible. Music was made by common people during both their work and leisure. The work of economic production was often manual and communal. Manual labor often included singing by the workers, which served several practical purposes. It reduced the boredom of repetitive tasks, it kept the rhythm during synchronized pushes and pulls, and it set the pace of many activities such as planting, weeding, reaping, threshing, weaving, and milling. In leisure time, singing and playing musical instruments were common forms of entertainment and history-tellingeven more common than today, when electrically enabled technologies and widespread literacy make other forms of entertainment and information-sharing competitive.[13] Opinions differed over the origins of folk music: it was said by some to be art music changed and probably debased by oral transmission, by others to reflect the character of the race that produced it.[2] Traditionally, the cultural transmission of folk music is through learning by ear, although notation may also be used. The competition of individual and collective theories of composition set different demarcations and relations of folk music with the music of tribal societies on the one hand and of "art" and "court" music on the other. The traditional cultures that did not rely upon written music or had less social stratification could not be readily categorized. In the proliferation of popular music genres, some traditional folk music became also referred to "World music" or "Roots music". The American conception of "folk composition" has often drawn on Afro-American music. The English term "folklore", to describe traditional folk music and dance, entered the vocabulary of many continental European nations, each of which had its folk-song collectors and revivalists.[2] The distinction between "authentic" folk and national and popular song in general has always been loose, particularly in America and Germany[2] - for example popular songwriters such as Stephen Foster could be termed "folk" in America.[2][14] The International Folk Music Council definition allows that the term "can also be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten, living tradition of a community. But the term does not cover a song, dance, or tune that has been taken over ready-made and remains unchanged."[15] The postWorld War II folk revival in America and in Britain started a new genre, contemporary folk music and brought an additional meaning to the term folk music. The popularity of "contemporary folk" recordings caused the appearance of the category "Folk" in the Grammy Awards of 1959: in 1970 the term was dropped in favor of "Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording (including Traditional Blues)", while 1987 brought a distinction between "Best Traditional Folk Recording" and "Best Contemporary Folk Recording". After that they had a "Traditional music" category that subsequently evolved into others. The term "folk", by the start of the 21st century, could cover singer song-writers, such as Donovan from Scotland and American Bob Dylan, who emerged in the 1960s and much more. This completed a process to where "folk music" no longer meant only traditional folk music.[5] [edit]Subject matter Armenian traditional musicians. Apart from instrumental music that forms a part of traditional folk music, especially dance music traditions, much traditional folk music is vocal music, since the instrument that makes such music is usually handy. As such, most traditional folk music has meaningful lyrics. Narrative verse looms large in the traditional folk music of many cultures. This encompasses such forms as traditional epic poetry, much of which was meant originally for oral performance, sometimes accompanied by instruments. Many epic poems of various cultures were pieced together from shorter pieces of traditional narrative verse, which explains their episodic structure and often their in medias res plot developments. Other forms of traditional narrative verse relate the outcomes of battles and other tragedies or natural disasters. Sometimes, as in the triumphant Song of Deborah found in the Biblical Book of Judges, these songs celebrate victory. Laments for lost battles and wars, and the lives lost in them, are equally prominent in many traditions; these laments keep alive the cause for which the battle was fought. The narratives of traditional songs often also remember folk heroes such as John Henry to Robin Hood. Some traditional song narratives recall supernatural events or mysterious deaths. Hymns and other forms of religious music are often of traditional and unknown origin. Western musical notation was originally created to preserve the lines of Gregorian chant, which before its invention was taught as an oral tradition in monastic communities. Traditional songs such as Green grow the rushes, O present religious lore in a mnemonic form. In the Western world, Christmas carols and other traditional songs preserve religious lore in song form. Work songs frequently feature call and response structures and are designed to enable the laborers who sing them to coordinate their efforts in accordance with the rhythms of the songs. They are frequently, but not invariably, composed. In the American armed forces, a lively tradition of jody calls ("Duckworth chants") are sung while soldiers are on the march. Professional sailors made use of a large body of sea shanties. Love poetry, often of a tragic or regretful nature, prominently figures in many folk traditions. Nursery rhymes and nonsense verse also are frequent subjects of traditional songs.