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Folk Music and Modern Sound

Folk Music and Modern Sound

William Ferris
Mary L. Hart
Amiri Baraka
Doris J. Dyen
Dena J. Epstein
David Evans
Kenneth S. Goldstein
Anthony Heilbut
William Ivey
Charles Keil
A.L. Lloyd
Bill C. Malone
Robert Palmer
Vivian Perils
Mark Slobin
Richard Spottswood
Charles K. Wolfe
Copyright Date: 1982
Pages: 215
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  • Book Info
    Folk Music and Modern Sound
    Book Description:

    The essays in this collection range from the impact of technology on the British folksong revival to regional characteristics of early rock and roll in New Orleans. Attention is given to the blues, Sacred Harp singing, ethnic music, both black and white gospel, country music, and the polka. Other essays consider the relationship of music from the Yiddish-American theater with that of Broadway, the wide influence and commercialization of black music in today's popular music, myths about early black music, and Charles Ives as folk hero. Contributors include Amiri Baraka, Doris J. Dyen, Dena J. Epstein, David Evans, Kenneth S. Goldstein, Anthony Heilbut, William Ivey, Charles Keil, A. L. Lloyd, Bill C. Malone, Robert Palmer, Vivian Perlis, Mark Slobin, Richard Spottswood, and Charles K. Wolfe.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-099-4
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    William Ferris

    The collection, study, and commercialization of American folksong in this century is a rich and varied tale. The folksong movement has roots in the romantic transcendentalist emphasis on return to nature and the common man as expressed in Thoreau’s philosophy. Whitman’s poetry in turn identifies the common man as the source of America’s spirit. His “I Hear America Singing” inLeaves of Grass(1855) is then echoed in Carl Sandburg’sAmerican Songbag(1927) andThe People Yes(1936).

    The love of Whitman and Sandburg for folk music was shared by dedicated fieldworkers such as John and Alan Lomax, who amassed...

  4. PART I The Anglo Connection

    • The Impact of Recording Technology on the British Folksong Revival
      (pp. 3-13)
      Kenneth S. Goldstein

      THE FOLKSONG REVIVAL in Britain, begun after World War II and continuing to the present, is a complex phenomenon. It is not an easy task to unravel the many strands which make up the warp and woof of its fabric. The few such attempts, includingThe Electric Musewith important contributions on the British scene by Karl Dallas and Robin Denselow,¹ and the more recentFolk Revival: The Rediscovery of a National Musicby Fred Woods,² have been, at best, only partially successful in describing the phenomenon and even less so in explaining it.

      It is not my intention in...

    • Electric Folk Music in Britian
      (pp. 14-18)
      A. L. Lloyd

      FROM NATCHEZ to New Guinea, all over the world, it seems to be the destiny of folksong to be changing from a domestic and ceremonial music for insiders into a public performance music for an audience including outsiders, perhaps comprised entirely of outsiders. Technological change means changes in society, and that means changes in culture, too, including folksong. So the function of folksong alters; some bits become redundant and get lost, especially the ceremonial songs and those accompanying obsolescent work processes. Other bits assume a dominance they didn’t have before, especially the shorter lyrical songs, love songs and such, dealing...

  5. PART II Ethnic Voices

    • How the Fiddler Got on the Roof
      (pp. 21-31)
      Mark Slobin

      ACROSS THE WORLD the emergence of a commercial popular music based on folk sources is a sure sign of modernization. In Western Europe the impulse began as early as Elizabethan England, spreading out in wave-like fashion first to Eastern Europe, then to the vast global reaches of the colonial powers. The Russian Empire felt the stirrings of this movement relatively late, well into the nineteenth century. For the Jews of Eastern Europe, a repressed subculture within that imperial world, it was not until the 1870s that an autonomous ethnic popular musical style developed.² It was closely tied to the emergence...

    • Slovenian Style in Milwaukee
      (pp. 32-59)
      Charles Keil

      WHEN OUR FRIEND, downstairs neighbor, colleague, and polka book collaborator, Dick Blau, left our American Studies in Buffalo to create and administrate some fine arts in Milwaukee, we looked forward to expanding our polka horizons. Sure enough, after a time, we were invited to a conference on ethnic studies and the arts that would pay our way to Wisconsin and give us a few days to investigate some very disturbing clues to missing persons and mistaken identities. For, according to Dick and the people who were giving him his ethnic orientation to Milwaukee, Polish-American polka bands were conspicuous by their...

    • Ethnic and Popular Style in America
      (pp. 60-70)
      Richard Spottswood

      IT IS GOOD to note that the seventies have brought about an enlargement of the arena devoted to the study and discussion of American popular and folk music to include the current and historic activities of ethnic minority elements of our society. The survey of what, for want of a better term, is called “ethnic” music has already begun to prove particularly rewarding, as is evidenced by the fine work being done by scholars like Mark Slobin and Charlie Keil.

      My own interest in ethnic music evolved while I was in the process of editing and selecting materials for the...

  6. PART III The Religious Sound

    • New Directions in Sacred Harp Singing
      (pp. 73-79)
      Doris J. Dyen

      I WANT TO SHARE with you some thoughts I have had on the subject of recent developments in Sacred Harp singing, and to invite comments and discussion on new trends that I perceive in this constellation of folk music traditions. I am particularly concerned with the relationship of Sacred Harp singing both to the mass media and to the scholars and fieldworkers who have been endeavoring to document the music for research. The aims of scholars and the aims of media specialists are different from each other: scholars want mainly to document traditions and preserve them for present and future...

    • Gospel Goes Uptown: White Gospel Music, 1945-1955
      (pp. 80-100)
      Charles K. Wolfe

      IN DECEMBER 1953,Billboard,the leading trade publication for the commercial music industry, surveyed the status of gospel music in America, and began by explaining:

      The gospel field includes a wide variety of music—hymns, popular gospel songs, religious folk tunes bearing a close relation to spirituals and religious adaptations of pop tunes. There is an even wider variety of gospel artists. They include large groups like the Chuck Wagon Gang which has been spreading the word on Columbia records for many, many years; choruses such as the Anita Kerr singers on Decca, vocal quartets like the Blackwood Brothers on...

    • The Secularization of Black Gospel Music
      (pp. 101-116)
      Anthony Heilbut

      IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY, John Wesley wondered in straightforward Methodist style, why the devil should have all the good tunes, as if saints and sinners could divide music up into spiritual and secular provinces. Perhaps in other times and places, sacred and worldly music comprised discrete entities. But the music of the black folk church has been grappling with secular forces since the early twenties, a period coinciding with the massive distribution of recordings for black audiences, if not earlier. There has been a continual dialectic between the “songs of Zion” and the “devil’s tunes,” and as happens in the...

  7. PART IV Pure Country

    • Honky Tonk: The Music of the Southern Working Class
      (pp. 119-128)
      Bill C. Malone

      THE COUNTRY CHURCH, the county schoolhouse, the village barn dance, and the family parlor all occupy honored places in the history of country music as shaping forces in the evolution of the genre. All of them mirror the pastoral origins of country music, just as their continued emphasis in written accounts reflects a rural bias on the part of scholars. The honky tonk, on the other hand, which Hank Williams described in the above song, has been anything but pastoral, but it may have been the most powerful influence yet. Since antiquity a powerful interrelationship between drinking and musical entertainment...

    • Commercialization and Tradition in the Nashville Sound
      (pp. 129-138)
      William Ivey

      THE ENTIRE QUESTION OF TRADITION and its ability to survive in a contemporary urban context has certainly been of major significance to American folklorists. As filmmaker Jean Renoir stated, “It is practically the only question of the age, this question of primitivism and how it can be sustained in the face of sophistication.” Folklorists have answered this question in a variety of ways, and I will not digress by restating Richard Dorson’s arguments for relating folklore to the American Experience, nor will I present the work of contextualists or the more recent argument (formulated rather opaquely in Del Hymes’s unfairly...

  8. PART V Myths and Heroes

    • Charles Ives: Victorian Gentleman or American Folk Hero?
      (pp. 141-150)
      Vivian Perils

      THERE IS AN AIR OF MYSTERY about Charles Ives, an unsolved riddle, an enigma. This is surprising, considering Ives was a contemporary figure—he lived until 1954, and there are still people alive who remember him and who worked directly with him. Ives’s life, his music, and his place in twentieth-century history have been closely examined in several substantial books and articles; he has been the subject of an extensive oral history project¹ and a documentary television drama.² Yet it is almost more difficult to describe Ives than Mozart or Beethoven. A look at the Ives picture reveals not a...

    • Myths About Black Folk Music
      (pp. 151-160)
      Dena J. Epstein

      THE MISSISSIPPI-BORN WRITER Irwin Russell lived only twenty-six years, from 1853 to 1879, yet he seems to have had a better grasp of black folk music than many of the scholars who have considered themselves authorities. His poem “Christmas Night in the Quarters” pictured a celebration on a plantation including dancing to the fiddle and banjo. The stricter evangelical churches would not have approved, but these musical occasions did take place and can be verified in other contemporary sources. More than that, Russell wrote two lines that could have been taken as a motto by many of the writers who...

  9. PART VI Blacks and Blues

    • Blues and Modern Sound: Past, Present, and Future
      (pp. 163-176)
      David Evans

      FROM ITS VERY BEGINNINGS as a musical form the blues has played a role in popular music and in various manifestations of the “modern sound.” It has contributed to popular music at a general level as well as in specific ways to almost every major form and style of American music in the twentieth century. Yet despite these contributions, blues also remains a distinct musical form with its own traditions. Certain performers are still known specifically as “blues singers” or “bluesmen,” and many of them perform virtually no other type of music. Such performers have existed throughout the history of...

    • Black Music: Its Roots, Its Popularity, Its Commercial Prostitution
      (pp. 177-193)
      Amiri Baraka

      MOST PEOPLE, by now, except for the very young, the willfully or conditionally ignorant, or racists, know the origins of two important American musics, blues and jazz. They are, historically and originally black musics, or part of Afro-American musical tradition. They are also, and fewer might understand this, the major framework in which the majority of popular and “serious” American music has emerged. (I make the distinction popularandserious only to take into consideration the narrowmindedness of academics, bathed as they are in such essentially elitist false distinctions!)

      The roots of black music are, of course, the African people...

    • Folk, Popular, Jazz, and Classical Elements in New Orleans
      (pp. 194-201)
      Robert Palmer

      AS A PRACTICING CRITIC of popular music and a kind of amateur or ad hoc folklorist, I’ve noticed that among many folklorists and other academics concerned with American music, rock and roll still seems to be a dirty word (or words). This attitude has been around as long as rock and roll, and implicit in it is the idea that rock and roll is a single, monolithic beast, manufactured solely for profit and the shattering of refined eardrums. I’ve been involved in researching, teaching, and writing about the early history and pre-history of rock and roll for some years now,...

  10. Contributors
    (pp. 202-204)
  11. Index
    (pp. 205-215)