Wednesday, August 20, 2008
More Thoughts On Folk Music
In the posts from October 1st and 2d, 2007, this blog grappled with some of the ways folk music can be defined, as we seek to preserve whatever it is from the tremendous onslaught of things we know it isn't. Both posts offer quotes from the festival program from 1967, and one can see how some perceptions have changed over forty years, and how some things are very much the same. Forums such as Mudcat Cafe have batted this subject around endlessly, to the point that the oldtimers groan whenever someone re-opens a similar thread. Word junkie that I am, I'm always looking for new ideas. I see a couple of trends today that seem to be addressing the issue in productive ways. The term "acoustic music" is actually fairly useful, as long as all instruments in a group fit the description - it at least provides a dividing point that is understandable to all. Less general but more provocative is the idea of "roots music", which implies a folk-based starting point but often ends up with an electric bass here or there, maybe even drums. Of course, drum sets exist mainly to accompany the louder sounds of the electric guitar or jazz horns, but they are sometimes well employed in the execution of roots music, especially blues. I like the "roots" term because it implies a common link between blues and folk, and opens up the definition to include both the source of the style and it's progress through the folk process. At once easier and more problematic is the concept of "traditional music", and how it ties into all of this. To some, the terms "folk music" and "traditional music" are interchangeable. Others draw a definite line and tend to feel that the "acoustic music" and "roots music" terms just cloud the issue - or blur the lines.