Introduction to Folk Music

What does folk music attempt to express?

Folk music is an art that people tried to express their feelings, interests and thoughts. Folk music also attempt to express “the character of ethnic and social groups and sometimes a nation”. It is the music of the people. A folk song can “express political or religious beliefs, tell a story or describe history, or just provide amusement”. Bohlman (1988) had talked about folk music’s ability to “express the most profound of human values”.

How were folk songs traditionally learned?

Folk songs are learnt by listening to others playing it and then copy them instead of reading the notes. They were passed down by generations to generations and from people to people. It is said that say it is a tradition that folk song is “orally transmitted” or “handed down orally”, meaning that the music is not written down but taught by speaking.

In what ways did folk music evolve?

Folk music changes over time by accident or by purposeful alternation. The words or melodies often changes. Sometimes tunes are shortened or lengthened, pitches and rhythms are altered, and portions of one song may be combined with part of another. Words of a song may also change over time due to the reality that everyone has a different voice and have different speaking tones or intonation. 

What would cause folk songs to evolve over a period of time?

Since the people are taught by listening to the song, they don’t know how to read music nor write music. Also everyone has a different voice and different intonation. In the past, the person who taught those folk song might not be able to recognise or sing out the song every time with the exact same rhythm and melody. The one who is listening might learn from a new style or creating their own, therefore it is not reliable. 

List the various classifications of folk songs. Explain each type and give examples of what those 

songs would be about. 

 The ballad

-tells a story often about real events

-one of the main types of folk song

-in strophic form

-melody is repeated for each of several verses

-may have a refrain that is repeated several times. 

deal with a particular activity, occupation, or set of circumstances

includes work songs, prison songs, war songs, and the like

spiritual songs, songs for children, songs about life’s stages, and many songs are just for celebration, dance, and enjoyment.

So……….what IS folk music?

Folk music is a type of music that originates in traditional culture and it is written in such a style. It reflects the lifestyle and thoughts of people in the past. It is taught by the other generations to the younger one by singing it to them and then the younger one repeat them. 

Find a You Tube link of what you believe is a great example of folk music.  It can represent any culture, but you must know which culture is comes from.  You need to support your choice.  You will play a portion of this video during next class and explain your choice.  

Blowin’ in the Wind” is a song written by Bob Dylan in 1962. Although it has been described as a protest song, it poses a series of rhetorical questions about peace, war and freedom. The refrain “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind” has been described as “impenetrably ambiguous: either the answer is so obvious it is right in your face, or the answer is as intangible as the wind”

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