Jim Moray on the folk 'tradition'
Jim Moray writes:
If you are reading this, you are probably already interested in folk and acoustic music. You might even consider yourself a fan of traditional music. In some ways I'm not entirely sure that 'traditional music' as an entity exists. This might sound like an outrageous sweeping statement but let me explain...
In Georgina Boyes' book 'The Imagined Village' (the recent Simon Emmerson project was named after the book) she argues that what is presented as a coherent and tangible folk tradition is in fact a series of isolated and not necessarily connected things. The body of evidence collected in the first folk revival of the late 1800s and early 1900s was rationalised by the folk song collectors to fit their own patterns and preconceptions.
Just like in astrology it is probably human nature to join up the dots to create a picture, but what if they are just dots? We should be eternally grateful that the likes of Cecil Sharp, Lucy Broadwood and numerous others were out preserving the repertoire and documenting the music being made by ordinary people, but it's also important to keep an open mind as to what it all means. I'm not saying that I have the answers, but I'm not convinced that it has to mean anything beyond some fantastic songs and tunes that are worth treasuring in their own right.
Let's celebrate the music collected by these pioneers first and foremost because it is great music created by people just like us, and not allow the lust for categorisation and meaning to overshadow that.