Rearguard action or leading from the front?

(June 20, 2016)

I’ve just read an interesting article on folk music, folk art and folk lore. There was much to intrigue, admire and consider. However, one attempt to define folk music and give it a ‘cultural position’ caught my attention (probably because of my continued dislike of classification). The paragraph concerned follows ... as does an attempt to put forward an alternative view:

“Folk music is an ancient art form that articulates the situations, values and desires of some past way of life. It also records the injustices, oppression and problems faced by people that lived that life. Today, that ‘way of life’ only exists in tiny enclaves or only resides in the memories of those who wish it still remained an every-day existence. The majority that subscribe to that view also consider that folk music reflects many valued ways of life, especially rural, that are steadily vanishing or under continued threat. To some this makes that music sacrosanct, fixed in time, recording only the past and immune from the present. It is simply a vehicle to preserve or revive a way of life or record its folklore for the benefit of those living it today and for future generations.”

All of which is true if folk music is only content to fight a rear-guard action and remain firmly rooted (in some views) in a bucolic, rose-tinted past. However, folk music today is far more than that. It’s morphing, evolving, expanding. It’s alive. It lives and breathes. Naturally, that original summation remains potentially valid in some quarters but consider for a moment an alteration that could be made thus:

“Folk music is a living, breathing, developing art form that articulates the situations, values and desires of many peoples’ and their way of life. It also expresses the views of the common folk dealing with injustice, oppression, conflict and disaster. That ‘way of life’ exists in both the broader and the narrower sense – from country to community. With its roots in memory and tradition, folk music gives validity and expression to the past, present and future. Its strength is its continuing vitality and readiness to evolve. Many involved with folk music see certain valued aspects of life under threat while others, such as corporate greed, prosper. For them, this music exposes those threats and tries to preserve or revive important human values for the benefit of all generations.”

Not preaching or advocating ... just a random thought or two.

Feel free to disagree, before the thought police attempt to remove your right to do so.

Click here to return to the Comment page