The canadian folk music is designed for performance usually by a single instrument, less often by a strictly circumscribed group of instruments. Moreover, it is purposive, it is designed as concomitant either to a voice, sometimes substituted for by a particular voice-like instrument, such as flute or pan-pipes, or to vigorous dancing. It is based on the elaborate interplay of instrumental voices; music that is designed to be listened to, not sung or danced to; slow and stately dance music; processional or martial music, these constitute court music, not folk music. Such music was, and is, scripted for the entertainment of the leisured, moneyed classes by professional musicians, not by ordinary people for their own enjoyment.
If a song has elaborative passages, of persons or of settings, then it is not a folk song; if it recounts in any detail the emotions of the singer or the persons about whom he is singing, then it is not a folksong. In the folk idiom, descriptions are brief and emotions described sparely. This will let the listener to enhance those descriptions or emotions from his or her own experiences. True folk songs are almost never exhortative and do not have any explicit message. Sometimes a moral may be haggard from the story in the last stanza. Folk songs are almost always implicitly, if not explicitly, dovish; usually they regret the bitter consequences of war; only rarely do they extol its glories.
Sadly, traditional folk music little heard nowadays to be understood by most Canadians. This is in part a consequence of an expansion of the rich and idle classes. By the definitions of past ages or whole present-day world, there are few poor people in Canada, few who must make their own music, not through choice but because it is the only music they can reasonably expect to hear. It is also in part an effect of the handliness of radio and television, tapes, records, and films, all at prices that can be afforded by most of us and all serving to fill up the time during which we might have been making our own music.
Moreover, they have many good singers in traditional style; not just recent immigrants, like Ian Robb and Margaret Christ!, Jon Bartlett and Rika Ruebsaat, but also native Canadians like Charlotte Cormier, Phil Thomas, Paddy Tutty, Jonn Wiznuk, Jim Paynes and many more, as well as a positive plethora of excellent musicians on fiddle, guitar, accordian, and a variety of other instruments.
We cannot reasonably expect that folk music will ever attain the popular attention, or the earnings, of commercial or country-and-western music, for it is never likely to become “big business.” If we can demonstrate that our music has even minority support, we can bring folk music back into the consciousness of our fellow Canadians. Not only can we keep our music from extinction, but we can also bring it to a new and greater fruition.
I am a singer/songwriter that plays acoustic guitar, and occasionally play with electric guitar players.I have produced my first album to be released shortly called Never Look Back.
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