Folk Music Essay

1589 words - 6 pages

The ‘folk’ genre has roots all the way back to the 19th century. Put simply, ‘folk’ is “ballads and songs which are composed and transmitted orally, without ever being written down at all.” (http://www.balladtree.com/folk101/002a_origins.htm) Though what we perceive as ‘folk’ today is stylistically very different to what ‘folk’ was during the 19th century. At its core, it still holds the same values and ideas, lamenting the simpler times. In the coming speech, we will discuss the genre of ‘folk’, it’s origins, the changes it underwent in the 20th century and the factors that influenced each development and also the characteristics of the genre, including singing styles, rhythm and instrumentation.

Folk as a genre, consists of a civilisations history passed down through generations in spoken word form rather than being written down and recorded. Different countries and different regions around the world, all had varying styles of the ‘folk’ music they produced. Cultures from England would have had a different style to those from Scandinavia and the Scandinavians would have had different style of ‘folk’ to the Dutch and Germans and the tribes from Africa too.

“The folk music of the Germanic people is known in different phrases and varying degrees. For the English-speaking peoples there exists a vast body of ballads, collected in England as well as America. Of German folklore we know best the songs that have come into repertory rather recently. Swedish folk music happens to have available a large collection of fiddle tunes, because some Swedish collectors have concentrated on this aspect of music.” (Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents Bruno Nettl)

Here Bruno Nettl states some of the obvious dissimilarities between cultures and how their own folk music differed from other cultures. Conversely, due to the nature of traditional folk music being passed down through generations orally; through songs and music, a lot of the history has been lost throughout the decades.

After the 19th century, the folk genre faded away, making way for other musical styles and genres to come to the fore. It was not until the early 1960’s that folk came back and became quite popular. No longer was folk a means to pass down and record one’s history, it had now translated into something more. Something more meaningful, something political, it was now a means to express stories and feelings about the day and age. Some popular artists from the folk revival of the 60’s include: Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Buffy St. Marie. A lot of these artists however lifted lyrics from the traditional folk music songs and incorporated them into their own music. One such example is Bob Dylan. In his song, ‘A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall’, he uses the lyrics “Oh where have you been my blue-eyed son, Oh where have you been my darling young one.” These lyrics are taken directly from an early British folk song titled ‘Lord Randall’. The song ‘Lord Randall’...

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