What To Call It

What To Call It

Would you consider the terms, “Traditional music” and “Folk music” interchangeable?

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Not any more….. 🙂

At the most, I’d consider “Folk Music” these days to be more of an umbrella term covering various forms of acoustic music, singer song writer material, folkie influence folk/jazz, even blues, country, as well as the “traditional” and “national” music of various countries.

Of course, folk music was the term used to describe the two last mentioned musics mentioned above but everything has become blurred now, probably from the late fifties/sixties onwards when skiffle, protest songs, and etc Bob Dylan arrived on the scene.

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‘Reckon it’s all Folk Music. Never heard no horses singing it…’ Attributed to folk singer Cisco Houston. Probably been attributed to numerous others…
Seems less than interchangeable with ‘Traditional’ music, but isn’t that the point of the discussion?

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I don’t call music anything.

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I rarely hear the term Folk Music used anymore. Singer/songwriters strumming an acoustic guitar and singing about life all seem to be considered Pop musicians now.

For most people here in the US at least, I think Folk Music refers to a period of time back in the 50’s and the 60’s, hilariously spoofed in the Christopher Guest film “A Mighty Wind.” That might have put an end to anyone calling themselves a Folk singer now.

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Well, “Here in Scotland” and in elsewhere “in these islands”, we still have folk festivals.

Depending on which ones you visit, you could hear just about anything!

Some are more “traditional” than others, of course, or a tolerable “mix” at least.

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I always assumed, although very simplistically, that “folk” music referred to the music produced by travellers and people living in rural communities who were relatively isolated from the current popular urban musical fads and fashions. Today’s vast instant communications network means that those days are in the past.

“Traditional” music nowadays to me refers to a branch of the music business where more and more of the performers have degrees in music.

I don’t think that either term on its own really describes accurately the music played in sessions nowadays.

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No they are not in anyway interchangeable. I know pretty much what I will hear at a concert of “traditional” music. A “Folk” concert could be anything at all these days. The term has become totally meaningless.

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I think folk music is based on a melody, rather than a formal compositional structure. That includes pretty much everything outside of classical or what is known as “serious” music. Serious, in that it is written within a specific discipline, not in the sense that it is more valid than folk music. For convenience, folk music has been thought as being dance tunes and songs the casual player can write or play with less formal training.

Traditional music is folk music that is based on the roots of a regional style. It can be a new composition, but crafted to sound like the early tunes or songs it is founded upon. So trad is folk, but folk isn’t always trad, imo.

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I don’t have a lot to add, but it’s interesting that this comes up from time to time… https://thesession.org/discussions/10617

I call what I play “Irish Traditional Music”, and I call songs written by the likes of Stephen Foster “American Folk Music”. But I am not adamant enough about any of it to put up much of an argument either way. 😉

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I have issues with getting Irish Trad thrown into the World Music category. A smart response I got was from someone who said to me - “is Ireland not in this world?”
I didn’t grace him with a response

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All genres have fuzzy edges.

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“Here in Scotland”, we also have fiddle and accordion clubs where they refer to the style of music they play….mostly strict Scottish Dance Music but also pieces….as “traditional”!

Those who play within a less strict setting including sessions, “listening/performance” settings are scathingly referred to as “folk fiddlers etc…”

There is also a very strong F & A/Dance Band presence at some Scottish Folk Festivals e.g Keith, Kirrie, Newcastleton and so on where they are very prominent and even dominating some of the sessions.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a place for everything but it’s a bit of a minefield with all of us arguing what is folk and what is tradtional…. 😉

And don’t get me started about the Scots TRAD awards… 😉

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Based on some posts here, I thought it was called Irish Country Music…. 😉

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For me it depends who I’m talking to.
If it’s to most “lay” people I might say “Folk Music” - maybe qualify that by adding “Irish” or “Irish and Scottish” or something, or maybe “Traditional Irish Instrumental Folk Music” to give a clearer (?) picture…..yes, the semantics do become a minefield. But to you lot I’d just say “Trad”.

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‘Trad’ means early jazz played by revivalist hep cats in duffle coats, beards, sandals, medallions and berets, drinking coffee and taking sulphate with George Melly and other young men in the pre-Beatles, post-WW2 Soho, London.

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Yes, we never called it “Trad” in the old days. That was an abbreviation associated with jazz, as you say.

In the sixties, we talked about Traditional V Contemporary Folk Music but it was mostly song based back then. There were “tunes” as well, of course, but they just seemed incidental.
“Here in Scotland”, the instrumental side of things took off in the early seventies although there was always a S C Dance/ceilidh scene before that.

Nowadays, the terms are all mixed up.
We talk about “traditional music” and, sometimes, people even use daft terms such as Contemporary Traditional Scottish/Irish Music to indicate taht a tune has been recently written or in a more modern style!

Even worse now, we have terms like Americana, Celtic, and so on which are even more meaningless.

Celtic Connections Festival, for instance, now tends to focus on the “Connections” part as it gives them the opportunity to promote whatever kind of music they like!

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@Johnny Jay - “Celtic” is not a legitimate term?

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Love it or loathe it, I think everyone seems to understand ‘Diddley Widdley’.
And as Mr Gill would point out ‘Diddly Widdly’ is its Caledonian cousin.

I quite like ‘Diddlement’!

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Does anyone still play Trad in Soho?

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Don’t know, I’m a Londoner. You’d have to ask a tourist. They are the inhabitants uptown!

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Ah yes, I remember the Trad versus Skiffle punchups in Brighton . . .

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Yeah Johnny and Yhaal, you’re right of course, that is what Trad meant back then. Yhaal’s description is perfect. In fact a stereotype - just like yourself ye bliddy auld hippie! 🙂
But as I said, I’d only use the term Trad to you lot, ie on here, but that’s mosty because I despise the abbreviation ITM.

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YH, I was just wondering if the ‘Trad’ you’re talking about is taken serious in some corner of Soho. Having been in tourist places I’ve noticed that it’s not the main drag but the side streets, hole in the wall establishments, etc. where the interesting music & life happens. Didn’t a young Amy Winehouse (I respect her music) sing in Soho? Not too many recordings from Soho w/Ms. Winehouse. Anyone not familiar with her music; here is a clip.
https://youtu.be/R-iM3nxjXdE

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I grew up with the Trad Jazz boom of the early 60s and would call it …. Trad Jazz rather than just Trad.

If asked what music I like, I would say “folk and traditional” which maybe implies that they are separate entities, though I tend to think of them as a broad spectrum rather than just one or the other.
I also like what people call classical music, although this again can be a bit of a misnomer as there is a definite “classical period” within all that gets lumped together as being “classical music”.

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Johnny Jay: I though L Donegan was London (via Glasgow!)! Not Irish despite his surname!

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You are right. He’s Scottish but it’s a song about an Irishman and he’s taking on that part.

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Almost every style of music has the same word problems. “Jazz”, “rock”, “folk”, “classical”, etc. can all be used broadly or specifically. “Classical” can mean romantic, renaissance, or anything which is not “popular”, or it can mean the very specific classical period (Haydn, Clementi). “Folk” can mean anything which is not “art” music, or the specific Kingston Trio type of 60’s folk music.

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You can’t define such terms, except perhaps by contextualizing them.
As Wise Old Uncle Bob once reminisced:

I walked down there and ended up
In one of them coffee-houses on the block
Got on the stage to sing and play
Man there said, “Come back some other day
You sound like a hillbilly
We want folk singers here”