Whatever happened to folk music?
Anonymous Soprano has left a new comment on "Music for four accordions":AS, it is a good point you make. We are all guilty of overlooking folk musicians. For instance, missing from my recent thread on musicians as novelists was Woody Guthrie, who is seen in my header image. In 1946 the folk singer wrote the 400 page mystical novel titled Seeds of Man. Initially the book failed to find a publisher; but it was eventually published in 1976, ten years after Guthrie's death. As well as writing iconic songs including This land Is Your Land, Guthrie was a major influence on musicians including Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Peter Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Ramblin' Jack Elliott and of course his son Arlo Guthrie.
This brings up the subject of how anything "folk" is perceived by the supposed musical elite -- both music and instruments. See: John Jacob Niles, for instance. The only exception to this seems to be if it comes from somewhere else -- i.e., the performer is always been if they're from a long ways away. "Folk" instruments are respected if, say, they're a Shakuhachi, but not, say, the nearly identical Native American instrument.
I guess it's because the assumption is that "folk" music and instruments aren't "educated" properly, and therefore can't possibly contribute anything to the realm of "proper" music? I don't know. All I know is that the best composers pretty much all appropriated folk tunes and sometimes folk instruments...even Mozart.
In the 1940s Woody Guthrie worked with Pete Seeger at People's Songs, whose sponsors included Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein. Folk music has been a major influence on classical with many composers, including Béla Bartók, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Copland himself. In recent years though rock and increasingly world music have supplanted folk as classical's closest cousin. Perhaps folk music is no longer seen as relevant in the YouTube age, and the only recent collabaration I can think of is Leonard Cohen supplying texts for Philip Glass' song cycle Book of Longing. But, to prove that YouTube hasn't totally passed folk by, here is one of only two surviving brief clips of Woody Guthrie:
Woody Guthrie's approach to life is nicely summed up by the following story which he used to tell. Two rabbits were being chased by hounds. They ran until they couldn't stand it any more; finally they holed up in a hollow log. The hounds bayed, but the little rabbits nestled inside, out of reach. The boy rabbit turned to the girl rabbit: "What do we do now?" Stay here 'til we outnumber them," she answered. Classical influenced folk musicians making appearances here recently include Ferran Savall and John Jacob Niles. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk