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Folk Music


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Elizabeth-Burton Jones
“Folk Music”
The folk culture is extremely complex and diverse. To some people, a folk artist could be a person that tells stories of a culture. Folk artists could be a group of nomads that make spontaneous music. To other people, folk music can be defined as an art form that is left untarnished, a rare form of music left pristine, simple. The main thread that holds the vast group of artists together is their ability to embrace simplicity. 

In today’s music society, it seems as though, current artists are returning to the basics and leaving some of the “mass studio  production” behind.  For instance, this year at the Grammy’s there were so many “non-traditional” nominees. Some of the artists were not “overly produced” by their managers, they were simply artists.

The notion, of going back to the basics is very multifarious because in some instances, it seems as though going back to the basics means adding a gimmick to make the artist fit into this category. The notion is also complex because going back to the basics seems impossible when music is already a remix of remixes. So how do we distinguish the code of the rudimentary from the gimmick code?

Nevertheless, the act of going back to more of a folk performance, leads to the American Folklife Center. Last semester, for the final Cultural Hybridity paper, I visited the American Folklife Center. I loved going in there because it was such an interesting mix of people drawn to the origins of a culture and what a culture means. For this weeks assignment, I decided to look at the Folklife website.
 The folklife website defines Folklife in this way:

What is Folklife?

The everyday and intimate creativity that all of us share and pass on to the next generation:The traditional songs we sing, listen and dance to / Fairy tales, stories, ghost tales and personal histories / Riddles, proverbs, figures of speech, jokes and special ways of speaking / Our childhood games and rhymes / The way we celebrate life 
    – from birthing our babies to honoring our dead / The entire range of our personal and collective beliefs 
– religious, medical, magical, and social / Our handed-down recipes and everyday mealtime traditions / The way we decorate our world
    – from patchwork patterns on our quilts to plastic flamingoes in our yards, to tattoos on our bodies / The crafts we create by hand 
    – crocheted afghans, wooden spoons, cane bottoms on chairs / Patterns and traditions of work 
    – from factory to office cubicle / The many creative ways we express ourselves as members of our family, our community, our geographical region, our ethnic group, our religious congregation, or our occupational group / Folklife is part of everyone’s life. It is as constant as a ballad, as changeable as fashion trends. It is as intimate as a lullaby, and as public as a parade. / In the end … we are all folk.”

Another part of the FolkLife Center would have to be the “Global Jukebox”. The “Global Jukebox” is an interesting technology. The jukebox essentially stores the history and keeps cultures going. Through this chronicle, people can learn about specific cultural norms and traditions.

Essentially, folklife is an integral part of the continuous chain of life and the “Global Jukebox” stores all of the cultural chains. In the music realm, there is another chain. Music continues to link to each other. The chain continues and continues. In the NICOLAS BOURRIAUD
 POSTPRODUCTION 
CULTURE AS SCREENPLAY: HOW ART REPROGRAMS THE WORLD reading it mentions sampling music and the chain of music.

The chain can be a bit edgy especially when dealing with copyright infringement. However, in the Bourriaud reading I really enjoyed the explanation of the chain and the position in the chain. For instance, he mentions that  the song meaning depends on the place in the chain  (“its meaning depends in part on its position in this chain”). This is interesting because it is true. No matter the extent of the remix and no matter how “scrambled the boundaries” are, the music is still up for interpretation of the time and space of the notes. In addition, the reading quotes Gonzalez-Foerster’s idea of “me” and “others”. “‘Even if it is illusory and Utopian,’ Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster explains, ‘what matters is introducing a sort of equality, assuming the same capacities, the pos- sibility of an equal relationship, between me – at the origins of an arrangement, a system – and others, allowing them to organize their own story in response to what they have just seen, with their own references.'” (18-19).

The idea of the chain relates to folk music, because folk music is often thought of as a chain of notes and sometimes a flow of simple music. Therefore, the Bourriaud reading validates folk music’s place in the music world.

Some music:

http://youtu.be/RIfy3kQg61o 

Further research:

Standards vs. Folk stories

Lullaby recognition

Call and response singing

Music and Improvising

Folk vs. Indie

Folk origins and Manager ambition

Questions:
How do we distinguish the code of the rudimentary from the gimmick code?
How do you define folk music?
Is all music essentially folk music? 

Reference:

http://www.culturalequity.org/rc/ce_rc_psr_global_jukebox.php#universe

http://www.culturalequity.org/rc/ce_rc_teaching.php

http://www.loc.gov/folklife/teachers/subject_list.php?subjectID=207&subject=Folk%20music

http://www.loc.gov/folklife/teachers/index.html

http://www.loc.gov/folklife/edresources/index.html

http://www.loc.gov/folklife/

http://www.loc.gov/folklife/whatisfolklife.html