Thursday, October 10, 2013
Is folk music even possible anymore?
By “folk music,” I refer not to the diluted meaning of the term, where anyone with an acoustic guitar or a fiddle can be considered a folk musician. I’m talking about true folk music, songs that are created by and for a small, self-contained community, where musicians are performing for friends and neighbors in a style they all grew up with. These folk musicians don’t have to bring out the universal—or generic—elements in their songs because they’re not traveling to play for strangers.
A singer/songwriter who travels the continent with her banjo and Martin guitar is not a folk musician in this sense; she’s a pop musician with different instrumentation.
Himes' article is a good read on how mass media and the consumer culture impacts indiginous and organic art forms. He also warns that the "diminishing possibility of folk music" impoverishes popular culture. Himes thus defends popular artists that "play old styles the same way previous generations did," arguing that if those artists did not, "what [wells of musical tradition] would we drink from?" Himes writes, "When the teenagers in every Appalachian gas station and every Mississippi convenience store are wearing ear buds, can there be a region isolated enough to evolve its own mutated music?" Can there, indeed.