faa (Scot.) who.
Fahey, John (1939- ) an acoustic guitar player who travelled in the US south doing research on the blues; during this time he found such performers as White, Bukka and James, Skip, and received a degree in folklore that was based on the music of Patton, Charlie. He founded the Takoma record label, recording such musicians as Kottke, Leo. His own guitar playing (on Vanguard and Reprise as well as Takoma) favors an impressionistic rather than melodic style.
Faier, Billy (1930- ) recorded the 5-string banjo in the late 50s, and included traditional banjo and fiddle tunes, lute arrangements, etc. He's considered one of the foremost innovators in banjo playing, although commercial success eluded him.
fain (UK) glad, pleased, eager, as in "fain would lie doon".
fainting lest you consider the inclusion of this topic a legpull, have a look through any book of traditional ballads. People who receive bad news or a sudden shock faint dead away all the time. "Annachie Gordon" is a good example - so many people keel over in that ballad, the room seems to contain poison gas. Since people don't do this any more, either a peculiar and secret health problem has been clandestinely solved, or else fainting serves as a convenient dramatic device.
Fairport see Fairport Convention.
Fairport Convention an English group with success at electric folk. They formed in 1967 and lately, just call themselves Fairport. Although many of their performances tended to sound like self-parody, they produced a memorable body of work. Many of their songs owed success to the late Sandy Denny (d. 1978) (vocals and songwriting), including the powerful traditional song "Matty Groves", although they unnecessarily tacked on a version of "Orange Blossom Special" at the end, which was typical of their irreverent style. Much of Fairport's sound is due to their incredible fiddler, Dave Swarbrick, who also plays backup for Carthy, Martin. Ashley Hutchings and Richard Thompson were founding members, and the group has performed several Thompson songs (he left in 1971 for a solo career).
See also electric folk.
fake aside from the obvious mainstream uses of the word, there really is such a thing as "Hum it and I'll fake it." A good musician can quickly work out the chord progression (if it isn't too complex) and come pretty close to a rendition of the tune, assuming someone else is singing or otherwise filling in the gaps.
fake book a collection of songs that people are likely to ask for. The book gives lyrics, chords and the bare-bones melody. A good musician can flesh it all out. The songs are generally well-known, so even the non-readers can do it by playing by ear if the tune is familiar.
faker a musician who really is more flash than substance in the lead bits and solos. It's one thing to burst into a loud solo and quite another to take it anywhere and end it gracefully on the beat, all this without disturbing the context of the performance.
false fifth (archaic) the tritone.
falsetto a male singing above his natural vocal range, usually into the soprano. The effect is often comic, but with some practice, it's possible to sing smoothly in this range.
fancy any tune, usually a dance or fiddle tune, that suits the composer, so there's no specific structure. The tune name is usually of the type "McDonnell's Fancy". Generally synonymous with air or maggot. See also fiddle tunes.
Farina, Richard (1937-1966) singer, songwriter, writer, and dulcimer player. He was married to Hester, Carolyn in the late 50s; they separated in 1962. With his second wife Mimi (sister of Joan Baez), he recorded enough material for three albums on Vanguard. Their albums "Celebrations for a Grey Day" (1965) and "Reflections in a Crystal Wind" (1966) were landmarks of innovative writing while staying within the folk tradition. They released a single in 1965, "Reno Nevada".
His best-known songs are "Pack Up Your Sorrows" and "Birmingham Sunday" (which was set to the tune of "The Trees They Do Grow High"), and his up-tempo and inventive dulcimer playing set new standards for the instrument. He also made a 1963 LP in England with von Schmidt, Eric and Blind Boy Grunt ("Dick Farina and Ric von Schmidt"). He was killed in a motorcycle accident after leaving a party celebrating the publication of his first book, "Been Down So Long, It Looks Like Up to Me".
fasola see hexachord.
fause (UK) false.
feast in morris dancing, the annual formal dinner, usually paid for by the bag. It may be at a restaurant or pub, or it may be catered by folkie cooks.
fecht (Scot.) fight.
fee (Eng.) an inheritance, payment; (Scot.) to employ. Scottish songs occasionally mention a "feeing", which was a hiring fair, usually for seasonal farm workers.
feedback the familiar squeal from a club or festival sound system. It's caused by excessive volume or EQ settings - the sound from the speakers is picked up by a microphone and goes around again for more amplification. The cycle continues until the squeal results. Another cause is a reflective surface in front of a mike - a guitar, a face, etc., in which case a temporary cure is for the performer to step back until things are fixed.
A feedback tone that occurs only when the performer is making a sound is called ringing. It has the same flinch value as a dripping tap.
feere (Scot., also "fiere", "fere") mate, friend, fellow.
fell (UK) an upland pasture or highland moor.
female sailor there is a whole class of songs about women who disguise themselves as men and join the military, either to get away from the stereotypical woman's role or to be with a loved one. There is evidence that this actually happened, although it's puzzling how they could get away with it for so long.
One of the best (and most tuneful) is "Female Rambling Sailor". Another is "Willie Taylor". There is a hilarious sendup of the latter called "Willie-O" by Canadian Steve Sellors ( Sing Out!, Winter 1987) in which the woman disguised as a man discovers that the captain and crew are as well, and all of them "on a quest for their Willie-O".
There are also songs such as "Banks of the Nile" in which the woman plans to accompany her lover to the wars, but he talks her out of it (usually with a verse beginning "Your waist it is too slender, love, your fingers are too small").
See also female triumphs.
female triumphs women are not always treated in the best possible way in traditional lyrics; in some cases, they suffer the worst of sexism by anybody's standards (keeping in mind that many of the songs are centuries old). However, there are many songs in which the woman triumphs over a lover or an enemy. In "Bonnie Lass of Anglesey", the woman out-dances all the king's best dancers to win their riches. In one of the versions of the song "Geordie", the heroine races (successfully) to free Geordie from the enemy that has captured him. "The Famous Flower of Serving Men" tells the story of a woman who disguises herself as a man to get a serving position in the king's household (see also female sailor). After her identity is finally revealed, the king is so impressed with her that he offers to marry her; she accepts and becomes queen.
In "The Outlandish Knight" and "Banks of Sweet Dundee", the woman triumphs over a murderer and a cruel squire, respectively. There are other songs in which a woman bamboozles a man intent on seducing her (see night visiting song) and songs that mock virility or lack of it, such as "My Husband's Got No Courage in Him".
This is not to say that there isn't discrimination against women in folksong, only that the balladmakers and ballad-transmitters were not entirely one-sided.
fen (UK) low land, a marsh.
fermata a symbol placed just above the staff in notation to indicate that the note or chord underneath is to be held for a time value longer than written. It's usually left to the player's discretion how long to hold it; if creativity fails, twice as long as written is the default. A fermata over a bar line means to pause between the measures. Traditional singers don't need fermata signs; they're usually very free with time values and use rubato where and when it suits them.
The symbol looks like a semicircle (an inverted cup, say) with a dot in it. It often appears on the final note or chord of a work, which no doubt accounts for the word's meaning of "close".
fey (UK) strange, unreal. Also, doomed.
f-hole 1. The openings in the top of instruments in the violin family. 2. An acoustic or semi-acoustic guitar with f-holes instead of a round sound hole and with an arched top (and aka "archtop") - common in jazz playing.
fiddle a fiddle and a violin are the same thing, though some folk fiddles had an oval shape with no cutouts for the bow movement, which simplified the construction (and limited the playing - see also rebec). Which term you use depends on the music being played, and what level of respect you want to confer on the musician. Folk fiddling includes a huge number of styles. Prominent among these are Cape Breton, Ottawa Valley, Appalachian, Kentucky, and so on. Scottish and Irish styles ( Celtic) have contributed greatly to North American playing, particularly Canadian, both English and French.
For a superb discourse on the Canadian fiddle from its beginning to the present, see Anne Lederman's entry, "fiddling", in "The Encyclopedia of Music in Canada", second edition, University of Toronto Press, 1992.
The fiddle is tuned GDAE, with the G being the one below middle C, although folk fiddlers might use special tunings for different effects. See also bow, pizzicato.
fiddle pun all-time-best, world-class: "She fiddled with her handkerchief while waiting for her beau."
fiddle tunes fiddle tunes are categorized into a few main types. These are, generally, hornpipes, strathspeys, reels and jigs (and occasionally, from the Irish tradition, a planxty or humour). An air or fancy or maggot tends to be a tune that doesn't fit the other categories. The tunes tend to simple in structure, usually with three or four chords for the accompaniment. Tunes are named after anything that comes to mind - a look through a fiddle collection for titles shows some nice examples of creativity. The Scottish tradition includes wonderfully long names like "Neil MacKenzie's Compliments to Mrs MacPherson of Auchindoon".
Fiddle tunes tend to be stylized in a fairly rigid framework, like the blues or pipe tunes. They're usually in two parts, of the form ABAB, or AABB. People who aren't fans generally find that all the tunes tend to sound the same. They don't, of course, but it often takes a bit of listening to hear the subtle variations.
There is a sub-subculture of musicians who spend a great deal of time adapting these tunes for other instruments, particularly the guitar. Doc Watson is the acknowledged king of guitar fiddle tunes. There are flatpickers who are faster or more intricate, but no one who plays as cleanly or with such warmth. See Watson, Doc.
See also O'Neill, Francis, and Internet folk for related Web pages.
fiere see feere.
fife a small, transverse flute. Compare with whistle. It may or may not have mechanical keys.
fifth 1. The fifth note of the scale, counting inclusively; for instance, G in the key of C. 2. The interval produced when two notes are sounded a fifth apart, such as C and G.
Figgy Duff Newfoundland folk group using drums, bass, etc., for an up-tempo sound. Formed in 1975 and named after the island's raisin pudding, they seem to have been influenced by both English folk-rock ( Pentangle, Steeleye Span, Fairport, etc) and modern Irish groups. Their repertoire, while experimenting with pop, remains rooted in the Newfoundland tradition. They have a number of albums and continue to perform today.
figured bass (also "thoroughbass") in past centuries, the player of the continuo accompaniment was expected to know how to play the notes of a chord or its inversions from a simple numbering system that was used to simplify normal notation. The numbers "5" and "3" over a note, for instance, meant to play root - third - fifth. In some cases, the notation showed only the root note, which the player interpreted to mean the same thing. It was quite an involved system, for shorthand, especially when many chord inversions were used.
The system has its modern-day counterpart in lead sheets. The chords might be indicated by simple numbers instead of full notation - the number 1/3, for instance, would mean the tonic chord with the third in the lowest note position; see also progression.
filk filksongs are folk-type songs or parodies of folk songs, originating with science-fiction fans and sung at SF conventions. The topic can include just about anything. The word is said to be (or not to be) from a typo for "folk", is also said to be (or not to be) a cross between "filch" and "folk", and has been connected in some way with "fan" and "Celtic" (Many SF fans are into folk music and folklore).
fill to insert a musical phrase in a pause between verses or other musical phrases. It can be improvised, or a simple shuffle, or a snippet of the main melody. Usually done by a sideman, although a singer playing an instrument simultaneously can add fills. Compare with run, turnaround.
filler songs used to flesh out the required number of songs on an album. The judgement is subjective - some filler material is later dug out and revitalized, and is often preferred to the original hits.
final the beginning and ending note of a mode, the equivalent of the usual scale's tonic or keynote. The final appears in the demonstration of the song "House Carpenter" under pentatonic scale.
fingerboard the part of the neck of a stringed instrument just under the strings. It can be fretless, as in the violin family, or fretted, as in guitars, banjos, etc. (in which case it's often called the "fretboard"). See also sweep, truss rod.
fingerpicking widely used in folk music for guitar playing, and always for the 5-string banjo (see also frailing). The righthand fingers are used to pluck the strings. The classical style uses the thumb and first three fingers; some folkies use the thumb and first two fingers ( clawhammer style). The thumb-and-two-finger style is often called "three-finger" picking. Some guitarists, such as Travis, Merle, use only the thumb and index finger.
Some use metal or plastic fingerpicks on the thumb and fingers to increase the volume and eliminate the hazard of broken fingernails.
Fingerpicking yields an intricate, rippling sound, often giving the impression of two guitars going at once. It can also become very mechanical and tedious if the player sticks to the beginner's basics, as many do. An interesting syncopation results from double-thumbing. Fingerpicking's opposite is flatpicking. See also pattern picking, dead thumb.
fingerpick 1. (n.) a metal or plastic loop worn over the fingertips. A small projection catches the strings of guitars, banjos, etc., producing a louder sound. Generally used in conjunction with a thumbpick, which is much the same thing designed for the righthand thumb. 2. (v.) to play an instrument using fingerpicking.
finger-style to play a stringed instrument (usually guitar) by fingerpicking.
fifth 1. The fifth note of the scale, counting inclusively; eg, the note G in the key of C. 2. The interval formed by playing two notes a fifth apart (such as C and G together).
Note that intervals are defined by counting upwards; C and the G above form a fifth, but C and the G below it form a fourth because you're now counting G-A-B-C. This is called an inversion.
fipple the mouthpiece of a whistle. The slot cut in it produces the sound. Sometimes the term refers only to the slot itself.
Fitzgerald, Winston (1914-1988) Cape Breton fiddler who made many recordings that helped maintain the traditional fiddle repertoire of the area. He was technically accomplished and raised the standards of any fiddlers who emulated him.
Five Hand Reel Scottish group performing up-tempo arrangements of traditional songs and tunes with both acoustic and electric instruments. The sound was powerful, sometimes too powerful, but remained rooted in the tradition. They made several albums for RCA before disbanding in the late 70s. Members included Gaughan, Dick and Bobby Eaglesham.
flag (also "hook") in notation, the tail on the stem of a note to denote the time value.
flageolet 1. A pennywhistle or tin whistle. 2. (musicology) A harmonic used as a musical note.
flailing see frailing.
flamenco the folk music of the Spanish Gypsies. The best of the flamenco guitarists are considered to be the top of the heap of the world's folk musicians, the real gaffers. They are probably the equivalent of jazz or classical guitarists.
flamenco guitar flamenco music is generally played on the classical guitar, which has nylon strings. The true flamenco guitar is similar, but often has friction tuning pegs instead of geared tuners.
Flanders and Swann in England in the 50s and early 60s, Michael Flanders and Donald Swann built on the music hall tradition to produce songs of unparalleled lyrical and musical excellence. Their best known songs are "The Hippopotamus Song" ("Mud, mud, glorious mud"), "The Reluctant Cannibal" ("Eating people is wrong!"), "A Transport of Delight" ("Ninety-seven horsepower omnibus..."), "The Gnu" ("the gnicest work of gnature in the zoo"), "Madeira, M'Dear" ("He said as he hastened to put out the wine, his cigar, the cat, and the lamps") and "The Armadillo" who fell in love with an army tank.
Their albums, "At the Drop of a Hat" and "At the Drop of Another Hat", were produced by George Martin, who later went on to fame as the producer of the Beatles.
flat 1. (v.) To reduce a note's pitch by one semitone, the smallest precise unit in the musical scale (but see cent, microtone). Sometimes seen as "flattened" instead of "flatted". 2. (n.) The symbol for a flat, which looks like a "b" and is placed on music notation to indicate the key or a note that's been flatted. See also double flat. 3. (adj., informal use) Used to describe a musical performance that sounds unpleasant because of wandering pitch, a lifeless performance, or even wrong notes.
flat chord (archaic) a major triad with the third flatted. This changes it to the parallel minor chord - C major becomes C minor.
flatpick 1. (n.) A small, flat piece of plastic or similar material, used to strum chords or pick notes on stringed instruments. It's the method of choice for rapid notes, such as playing fiddle tunes on the guitar. Compare flatpicking and fingerpicking. Also called simply "pick" and (almost never) a plectrum. 2. (v.) To play an instrument using a flatpick.
flatpicking to pick notes on a stringed instrument using a flatpick. The advantage is the ability to go very fast. The opposite to fingerpicking. Strumming chords might not be called flatpicking, even though it might be done with a flatpick - the term implies playing the melody.
Flatt and Scruggs see Scruggs, Earl.
Flatt, Lester (1914- ) Tennessee guitar picker who was a star of the Grand Ole Opry and a member of the Blue Grass Boys, which was headed by Monroe, Bill. In the late 40s, he teamed with Scruggs, Earl to form one of the most famous duos in bluegrass history.
flatted a note reduced in pitch by one semitone. See also flat. Its opposite is sharped. Sometimes seen as "flattened" - but if this isn't incorrect, it certainly ought to be.
fleaching (Scot.) teasing, cajoling.
fluff 1. A type of clam. 2. Music or lyrics or performances lacking any substance.
flute similar to the whistle, but the sound is made by blowing over a hole rather than into a fipple. The Irish flute, being made of wood and having a mellow tone, is a great favorite. The flute is held out to the side ("side-blown" or transverse) as opposed to the straight-ahead (end-blown) position of the whistle. In the classical flute, mechanical keys add sharps and flats to produce a chromatic instrument.
Foggy Foggy Dew a song that has occasionally been bowdlerized in songbooks for being a bit too liberal in its sexual metaphor. As for the meaning of the title, Kennedy, Peter had this to say:
"James Reeves, in trying to discover the significance of the title, suggests `fogge', the `Middle English for coarse, rank grass of the kind that grows in marshes and bogs where the atmosphere would be damp and misty', and this would represent maidenhead, and the dew would imply virginity or chastity. `Foggy Dew' may be an English tongue's best attempt at the sound of the Gaelic, and derive from `Oroce dhu' meaning a black or dark night. Robert Graves proposed a theory that it stood for the black pestilence of the church and that the girl was really being protected from entering a nunnery. There seems no end to what can be interpreted from the lines of folksongs."
(From "Folksongs of Britain and Ireland", Oak Publications, 1975.)
foldback a recording studio term that refers to the portion of the sound sent to a performer's headphones. Performers can hear their own microphones isolated, or a mix, or the mikes mixed with tape playback. It's the studio equivalent of the stage monitor speaker. Also known as a cue or cueing system.
Folkbook see Internet folk
folk boom see folk revival.
folk dance see clogging, country dancing, EFDSS, garland dance, morris, Playford, squaredance.
Folkie Profile some of the common characteristics to be found throughout the subculture.
*Dress - strictly informal, although some are neater than others. Definitely more conservative than the flamboyant 60s. Only the occasional image-artist. There is no pressure to conform to a dress code - they just like it loose and comfortable, which you usually aren't in conservative clothing.
Long hair and beards are popular with men. Women show a much wider variety of hair styles. They may or may not wear makeup. There are no rules, only a general tendency towards the relaxed.
*Education - almost all are highly-skilled, either through formal education or a burning curiosity (or both). Someone once remarked that folk music had been taken over by academics, which isn't quite true, but does reflect on the intelligence of the participants.
This results in an oddity: well-educated middle- and upper-middle class folkies singing about ploughboys, miners, fishers, and so on, while the workers themselves are more likely listening to pop music on the radio. See Never-Never Land.
*Diet - eclectic, for the most part, though some of the meat-'n- potatoes types will never change. Ethnic foods of all types are always a hit. The trend to wholesome, real foods began in earnest with the underground in the 60s (not to be confused with media "hippies" and others who were used to flavor the news). There is a fairly high percentage of vegetarians. All folkie events provide vegetarian food. There is also a high percentage of very good cooks of both sexes. See potluck. See also real ale.
*Entertainment Interests - this is so mixed that it's difficult to say anything for sure. Sports, television, movies, all are possibilities. The hardest of hardcore traditionalists may be a fan of heavy metal rock, or sitcoms, or football, or what have you. To generalize, there's a preference for off-the-beaten-track cult favorites rather than mass entertainment. Science fiction is a big hit, especially the old and new "Star Trek" (and see filk). "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", "Blackadder", and "Monty Python's Flying Circus" would be prime examples of the offbeat. Most folkies have memorized all the good bits. Classic cartoon shorts from the 40s and 50s and modern versions such as "Ren & Stimpy" are popular, though this might be a male preference.
While there may be a certain amount of consumption of the pop media, many spend far less time at this than the average (which is said to be 24 hours a week of TV watching), preferring something that requires active participation.
*Other Interests - tend to vary widely. Most are voracious readers and music listeners. Not surprisingly, a large percentage play instruments of some kind, ranging in expertise from beginner to virtuoso. It would be instructive to have statistics on this. Many (probably most) can sing, although the thought of a solo would intimidate the majority. Group singing (as in filling out a chorus song) is extremely popular, and singers rarely have trouble getting an audience going.
Many have considerable talent in some area outside the job. This is quite different from a hobby - they show remarkable abilities in professional-quality instrument making, textile crafts, drawing/painting, cabinetmaking, etc. All tend to love the art of conversation. This includes a love of wordplay, complex humor, etc.
It should be pointed out that an interest in folk music is almost never seen as a "hobby" - more often than not, it's an all-encompassing lifestyle. As someone once put it, "You don't take up folk music. It takes you up."
Oddly, few take the bother to learn to read music once they start playing folk music; in general, only those who had previous training ( paper-trained musicians) are musically literate. There are some who feel that notation has no place in folk, since the music is at its best in oral tradition. While this may be true, there's no reason you can't have it both ways.
Many folkies have an interest in (or participate in) related activities such as morris dancing, country dancing and/or mummers plays.
*Politics - almost all are left to left-of-center. Some are apolitical. There may be a few rightists, but they're rarely encountered (or keep it quiet to avoid heated discussions). Nearly all are anti-bureaucratic, anti-authoritarian, and very much against stupidity in the ruling classes. Almost all are against the military-industrial complex, yet almost all would be in favor of unseating a cruel dictator who abuses his people, though the heavy-handedness of Desert Storm might be an exception.
The many peace songs created by the folkies were against ignorant wars carried out by ignorant politicians, with Vietnam being the prime target.
Folk music fans have always been concerned with worker's rights, civil rights, feminist issues, and in general, the hope of a united world free of prejudice (we're still working on it - results ASAP).
Today's Green movement had its public start among folk audiences in the late 1950s, and reached a peak in the 1960s. Many songs about the environment were turned out in the 70s, and the trend continues, although today many songwriters are wary of the commercial exploitation of the environmental movement.
*Racism - if there's any racism in the subculture, it keeps a very low profile. Most folkies are utterly devoid of it, and in fact, folkies have always been in the forefront of civil rights movements, efforts to bring other cultures to the fore and so on.
*Technology - although the public perception of folkies (which may hark back to the live-off-the-landers of the 60s) is as Luddites, the majority are conversant with technology to some extent. A surprising number of computer hackers turn up in folk music, and many of them play instruments. Even the 60s minimalists now have mortgages, cars, CD players, etc.
There are no songs in favor of the nuclear industry, and many songs against it. Despite this, no anti-nuke song (in the sense of power plants) has ever become really popular. The majority may realize that there are no easy answers when it comes to generating the energy that everybody wants.
*One Other Thing - all folkies seem to own a Swiss Army knife or a variation.
folk Nazi this is rather difficult to define, but generally means traddies who have cast-in-concrete ideas about how folk music should be, and will rail against anything that doesn't suit their ideas of folk music in general. They refuse to accept any sort of change, especially in instrumentation (see electric folk), and are definitely against a song's being commercialized. Sometimes they don't understand that songs have variants, and believe passionately in The One True Way of doing a song (theirs). In general, their attitude results from naivete more than anything. They're occasionally known as moldy figs.
Sometimes the term might be applied to a traddie who simply believes that you can't get too far away from traditional before it isn't traditional any more. This attitude seems to be eminently sensible, and they should just let any perceived insult go by.
On changes in tradition, it's worth quoting from "The Ballad as Song", by Bronson, Bertrand:
"Last year's blooms are not this year's, though they spring from the same root. For each season there has to be a fresh re-creative effort; and in the day of Burns, thanks to a living tradition, as good versions were burgeoning as perhaps had ever flowered."
folk process (see also oral tradition) the method of learning a song, forgetting some of it, adding bits of your own, and then teaching the song to someone else, complete with changes. This happens all the time, with the expected result that there are often no definitive versions of songs. Ancient publication doesn't mean much - if the song has been improved over the years, no one will go back to the authentic but inferior version, but still, the song retains its original form for centuries. See also collectors near the end of the entry, oral tradition, communal origin, and electric folk for relevant quotes and comments.
Sometimes improvements are not the result - Roy Acuff popularized "Wabash Cannonball" but garbled the words, and we've been singing those peculiar verses ever since. Maybe it's for the better - when verses make a strange sort of sense, they're often more interesting than the original. See also Wildwood Flower.
There's an amusing example of distortion in "The Gypsy Laddies". Some well-meaning singer or collector notated this (and it ended up as Version G in the Child collections):
"The Earl of Castle's lady come down,
With the waiting-maid beside her,
And as soon as her fair face they saw
They called their grandmother over."
The grandmother offers no opinion, and in fact is never heard from again for the rest of the song. The proper words are "They cast their glamour oot o'er her". "Glamour" is used in Scottish dialect with the meaning of magic, or a magic spell (see also grammarie). For more on this ballad, see historical accuracy. Child was aware of the error, incidentally, and poked fun at it in the Glossary.
"The MTA Song" provides an interesting example of the folk process. In the late 19th century, Henry Work (see Work, Henry Clay) wrote a song called "The Ship That Never Returned" ("Did she ever return, no, she never returned, and her fate is still unlearned..."). This was the indirect forerunner of "The Wreck of the Old 97" (see train songs). In 1948, J. Steiner and Hawes, Bess Lomax wrote a parody of it called "The MTA Song", a humorous poke at Boston's Metropolitan Transit Authority, who had raised the subway fare. The song is about a man named Charlie who can't get off the subway because he lacks the nickel that must be paid before exiting ("He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston, he's the man who never returned..."). The song was actually a campaign song for a politician who promised to repeal the fare increase. In the late 50s, it was recorded by the Kingston Trio, who had a popular hit with it, though the politician "George O'Brien" is fictitious.
See also Lass of Roch Royal for a song that has worked its way into UK and North American traditions.
Folk Review English folksong magazine, covering all aspects of British and North American folk. Noted for performer and recording reviews that never pulled any punches - nobody got away with anything.
folk revival folk songs became quite popular in the 50s, thanks to performers like the Weavers, the Kingston Trio, and Ives, Burl. Several music writers have said that when pop music changed from Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly to bubblegum performers like Fabian and Frankie Avalon (always the examples given), young people turned to folk, or that folk was seen by the industry as an antidote to the frenetic, sexual R&B of the 50s. It could also be that the simplicity and honesty of folk music was a welcome change from a pop music dominated by the big music corporations. In any case:
The singers and musicians contributing to the revival were what you might call "first-generation" ( Seeger, Pete, Guthrie, Woody, Elliott, Jack, Leadbelly) and "second generation" (the younger performers of the late 50s and early 60s). By the 60s, folk was almost a mania. It produced fame for such performers as Pete Seeger, Dylan, Bob, Baez, Joan, Collins, Judy, Ochs, Phil, Paxton, Tom, and many others. Some of the finest songwriting in contemporary folk was done during the period, especially in protest songs, since the civil-rights, anti-war, and environmental movements were fertile ground for songwriters.
It also produced fame for a host of trios and quartets, who always seemed to wear identical clothes. These included the Tarriers, the Limeliters, the Brothers Four, and the Chad Mitchell Trio. These groups had a sound that by today's standards would be considered somewhat slick and show-biz, but they stimulated a wide interest in folk traditions. Lots of fans looked into the vast wealth of folk music that inspired the formulaic trios, discovering bluegrass, old-timey, sacred harp, country blues, and many other styles.
Some performers, such as Van Ronk, Dave, felt that Bob Dylan's success as a songwriter changed the folk revival from traditional musicians to songwriters, which certainly seemed to be the case after the mid-60s. Popular interest in tradition faded, but it was replaced by folk clubs and folk performers who specialized in it - tradition was there if you looked around, and it was better than ever, if lacking in quantity.
Eventually the commercial boom slacked off, leaving an enormous subculture and legions of brilliant musicians.
Folkies occasionally refer to the commercial boom in the 60s as "the folk scare" or "The Great Folk Scare" - a comment on the fact that the commercial popularity wasn't always in the best interests of the music. The scare went away, as trends do.
folk-rock see electric folk.
folk scare see folk revival
folksong, definition few subjects can cause such hot debate among folkies. Everyone knows what a folk song should *sound* like, and what one *shouldn't* sound like, but a firm definition eludes all.
There is a tired and unhelpful homily attributed to both Louis Armstrong and Broonzy, Bill, along the lines that all music is folk music, since horses don't make it. T'ain't so. There *is* such a thing as a folk song. Pinning down the characteristics is the difficulty.
The favorite characteristic would be a song that has filtered through a certain amount of oral tradition and folk process. This shows us what it's made of, as opposed to a modern flash-in-the-pan (as Michael Cooney once wrote, "if some of these [contemporary] songs were to go through the folk process, nothing would come out"). Yet there are many excellent songwriters who can compose in the traditional vein and make you swear that a song composed yesterday is centuries old. Also, we can't dismiss a song simply because it was released on record and simply faded away - this happened to many of the old broadside ballads, but they were revived by collectors to join the folk tradition.
There are certain characteristics, called markers, that define the type of song and let the audience relate it to it (and each other). Many of these are archaic expressions, locales, customs, etc., but their presence is no guarantee of anything. Skilled songwriters who write in the older styles can often fool anyone.
Some feel that the song should be anonymous. Other than the fact that this indicates the song has been in circulation long enough for people to have forgotten the author's name, it isn't really important. "My Grandfather's Clock" would pass inspection as a folk song, but it was written by Work, Henry Clay - the authorship makes no difference at all. The same could be said for many of the songs by Paxton, Tom or Foster, Stephen.
The basic problem is that people want a simple, concise definition for an enormously complicated subject. Not only are there centuries of different types of music packed into folk, but it's an ongoing, living tradition that changes all the time. See moldy figs for a relevant quote from Bronson, Bertrand. Much related information is available in the book "The Study of Folk Music in the Modern World", by Philip V. Bohlman, Indiana University Press, 1988. No Golden Rule emerges, but it does put things concisely into perspective.
Various writers have taken a stab at the definition. Here are the characteristics of folksong listed by "Introducing American Folk Music" (see books). Proving or disproving them is left as an exercise for the reader:
1. Music that varies over distance but not time.
2. Music from a specific, identifiable community.
3. Authorship is generally unknown.
4. Folksongs are generally passed along by word of mouth.
5. Folksongs are most often performed by non-professionals.
6. Short forms and predictable patterns are fundamental.
There may not be an answer. Let it be.
folksongs, military see military folksongs.
folksong, types anything is fair game for folksong topics. See the individual entries for ballad, blues, hollers, protest songs, shanties, worksongs, love songs.
Folkways a record label begun in the 1940s by Asch, Moses to preserve the American folk music heritage. By the time it closed in the 80s, there were thousands of LPs of traditional and contemporary folk musicians, plus international, educational, and scientific titles. This enormous resource was taken over by the Smithsonian Institution, which makes the recordings available.
For further information, contact them at:
Center for Folklife Programs and Cultural Studies,
955 L'Enfant Plaza, Suite 2600,
Washington, DC 20560,
(valid as of Apr/94)
The Folkways recordings were noted for their cheerful homemade flavor. Despite Moe's technical theories, which he expounded for Sing Out!, the sound quality was poor by today's standards, and since many of the recordings were made in the field, it was not unusual to hear clocks ticking, chairs creaking, and so on. Many of the performers were either green or elderly, so a lot of the tracks would have been redone in today's studios.
Despite sonic flaws, Folkways recordings remain an enormous treasure. They rank in importance to North American folk music as the collections of Sharp, Cecil do to British.
Fool a morris dancer who is not in the side itself, but dances in and out of the side, almost always wearing some outlandish outfit (traditionally, something like a Robin Hood character, The Green Man, aka Jack in the Green, or a hobbyhorse - anything goes). The Fool collects bag money from the crowd, functions as barker and clowns as much as possible.
While it might appear to be a dance position to keep beginners occupied, the opposite is true. The Fool has to know every dance in order to weave in and out of the side gracefully, and might also replace any dancer who has to leave. See also Fool's Jig.
Fool's Jig an energetic morris dance performed as a showpiece solo, usually with intricate manipulations of a morris stick. See also Fool and Kemp, William.
foot in the analysis of lyrics ( prosody), it's the unit of meter, which corresponds to the beat of the tune. In general, there will be two or three syllables per foot, and one to eight feet per line, with the most common being four (tetrameter) or five (pentameter). See also scan.
There are four main kinds of meter - four ways of accenting the syllables within the foot: anapestic, dactylic, iambic, and trochaic. These terms are from classical scholarship, when they thought that Latin prosody would transfer nicely to English, so we're stuck with them. While folkies don't introduce songs by pointing out the anapestic pentameter, the terms are used all the time in musicological writings. In the examples below, the caret (^) indicates the accented syllable, which in rhythm would be the downbeat:
Anapestic: three syllables per foot with the accent on the third. "As I roved out one morning, all on a fine day..." ^ ^ ^ ^ Dactylic: three syllables per foot with the accent on the first. "Saddled and bridled and gaily rode he..." ^ ^ ^ ^ Iambic: two syllables per foot with the accent on the second. "As I came in by Fisherrow.." ^ ^ ^ ^ Trochaic: two syllables per foot with the accent on the first. "I don't know but I been told..." ^ ^ ^ ^
There's also a special type of foot called the spondee - two syllables with the accent on both. It's used only for a special effect here and there.
"Hot Dog!" ^ ^(cry of musical enthusiasm from Macon, Uncle Dave)
Ford, Tennessee Ernie (1919- ) had an enormous hit in 1955 with "16 Tons" by Travis, Merle. Although he was primarily a C&W singer, the folk boom at the time must have inspired him, since he brought out an album of traditional tunes such as "Barbara Allan".
foreman in the morris, the person of either sex who's in charge of dance instruction and occasionally, organizing the music.
forebitter one of the types of shanties.
fork fingering see cross-fingering.
formant the harmonics of a sound, clustered in groups, that give a sound its timbre or characteristics. The amplitudes of the various groups of harmonics let us tell a flute from a violin playing the same note.
The formants of the voice are determined by the vocal tract, the tongue and cheek position, the jaw opening, the nasal cavities, and so on. To demonstrate to yourself what you've been doing all this time, sing and sustain any note using an open-mouthed, open-throated approach (it will probably sound like "aw-w-w-w"). Now say the vowels in turn, a-e-i-o-u while keeping your jaw unmoving. You'll notice the various muscular movements as you turn a fixed-pitch note into a wide variety of sounds.
Trained singers will put a great deal of energy into the formants around the midrange frequencies (2-3 kHz), which allows them to sing, unamplified, over an entire orchestra. Untrained singers (folkies galore) will force the energy into the frequencies around 500 Hz to 1500 Hz - this gives an apparent loudness, but it doesn't have the penetrating quality of the boosted mid-frequencies.
Whether folkies develop the mid and upper formants is a matter of choice. Some prefer the "back-porch mumble", while others go for open-throated loudness for projection into the back row. There's no "right" way to do it.
The formants of an instrument are determined by its design and physical construction, which can be complicated indeed. Even the best of quality instruments can have one or more notes that sound different from the rest (see wolf tone).
fornent (UK, some North American usage, also "fornenst") over against, or in the face of. Similar to anent.
forte loud. Loudest would be fortissimo. Opposite piano.
Foster, Stephen (1826-1864) a songwriter with the remarkable gift of making his songs sound as if they've been around forever. "Oh Susannah" and "Camptown Races" will probably last for centuries.
Some of his songs written about the US south (he was from the north) sound embarrassingly naive today, but not all of his songs were in the play-party cast: "Hard Times" (aka "Hard Times Come Again No More") is atypical and has real substance.
fourth 1. The fourth note of the scale, counting inclusively; eg, the note F in the key of C. 2. The interval formed by playing two notes a fourth apart (such as C and F together).
fourth chord a chord formed from fourths; for example, C-F-Bb.
Fowke, Edith (1913-1996) Canada's foremost folklorist and collector. She prepared many folk music radio shows for the CBC from the 50s to the 70s, and has made many field recordings of Canadian singers (for example, see Abbott, O.J.). Her books include "Sally Go Round the Sun", "The Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs", "Folklore of Canada", and dozens of books co-authored with others. She received the Order of Canada in 1978.
foxhunting songs there are many songs of the hunt from the 18th and 19th century UK, and all of them glorify it to some extent (even the songs of working-class origin). Today, the foxhunters are seen as the idle rich, trampling farmlands and harassing animals for their own purposes, but the songs continue on. No small part of this is the fact that the surviving songs have wonderful melodies and choruses, making them ideal for group singing. See also Reynard.
Typical examples are "Echo, Bright Echo", "Bold Reynard the Fox", and "The Innocent Hare".
frailing a style of banjo playing that seems to have originated in the American rural mountain country. The strings are played by brushing downward with the fingernails, the hand being made almost into a stiff fist - much more rigid than the plucking-upward style of fingerpicking. The thumb then plucks the thumb string on the upbeat. The sound is much softer and more fluid than the clawhammer style of playing. Occasionally called "flailing", it's used a lot in old-timey music and is ideally suited for song accompaniment as well as instrumentals.
fratching (UK) arguing.
Freedom Singers see Reagon, Bernice. Formed in 1962 to promote the songs of the civil rights movement, the group consisted of Bernice Johnson (Reagon), Rutha Harris, Cordell Hull Reagon and Charles Neblitt. They made many appearances, including the Newport Folk Festival.
freedom songs songs from the US civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s. They include "Oh, Freedom", "If You Miss Me at the Back of the Bus", We Shall Overcome, "Ain't Afraid of Your Jail" and many more.
free reed see reed.
French harp (?) another name for the harmonica.
frequency is the number of vibrations per second that a note makes, and is specified in cycles per second, or hertz, abbreviated Hz (in older texts, it's written as CPS). This determines its pitch. Note that frequency is a physical quantity that you can measure on test equipment, while pitch is our subjective reaction to it. The two are not locked together - with very low or very high pitches, an octave may not sound like an octave at all. This is why wide-range instruments like the piano are a tuning nightmare. For more on pitch versus frequency, see perfect pitch.
frequencies, equal-tempered see equal-tempered scale.
frequencies, just see just intonation.
frequencies, meantone see meantone scale.
frequencies, Pythagorean see Pythagorean scale.
fret 1. (n.) The strips of metal across the neck of a stringed instrument, used to define the note when the string is pressed down onto them. In the past, frets (and strings) were often made from gut. 2. (v.) To press a string onto a fret, or substitute for the fret with bottleneck style or other method.
Note that electric basses and banjos lend themselves to fretless necks. These can do very smooth gliding tones.
fretboard see fingerboard.
Friedman, Albert a US professor of English who published "The Viking Book of Folk Ballads of the English-Speaking World" in 1956. His copious notes on the songs confirm his reputation as an expert in folklore.
frog the end of the bow that's held by the player; it has a metal knob for adjusting the tension of the bow hairs.
frontman (or simply "front" to avoid sexism) a member of a group chosen to do the intros. Usually someone with a pleasant stage manner, a quick wit, and a bottomless bag of jokes. "Front" can also be used as a verb: "I'm fronting for the band this week."
Fruit Jar Drinkers see Macon, Uncle Dave.
Fugs an underground group formed in 1964 out of the Greenwich Village music scene. The original members were beat poets Tuli Kupferberg and Ed Sanders, and Ken Weaver. They produced songs about drugs, anti-war sentiments, and various counterculture topics. Their backing musicians varied, but included Stampfel, Peter and Steve Weber, Grossman, Stefan, and Carole King. They recorded various albums from 1965 to their disbanding in 1970. There was a reunion in 1984 and they recorded until the late 80s.
fugue see round.
fuguing see sacred harp.
Fuller, Blind Boy see Blind Boy Fuller.
Fuller, Jesse (1896-1976) occasionally known as "Lone Cat", Jesse was the author of "San Francisco Bay Blues". He played a unique blend of ragtime, blues, and gospel with a one-man-band approach: his act included the 12-string guitar, kazoo, harmonica, washboard, and a homemade foot-operated bass he called the "fotdella".
Although he had always been a musician, he became much more widely known following the folk revival, and from the late 50s until the time of his death he played most folk festivals and clubs. He made about 30 albums.
Some Jesse trivia: in the late 40s, Leadbelly was making some radio broadcasts in the San Francisco area, and claimed that he was the only 12-string player in the country. Jesse wrote to the station to correct this. Leadbelly subsequently came to his house several times and they jammed together. What folkie wouldn't sell his soul for tapes of that?
fundamental the lowest frequency tone in a harmonic series; the one that determines the pitch of the sound.
It's interesting to note that our ear/brain combination can supply a missing fundamental. Small inexpensive radios and telephones rarely have any response below about 200 Hz, which eliminates most fundamental tones below about middle C, and certainly should eliminate any tones that would be perceived as bass - and yet we hear bass tones. As long as the upper structure of the series is reasonably intact, the brain fills in. The down side of this apparent magic is what the sound magazines term "listener fatigue"; it takes a bit of energy to do this.
fundamental bass in which the bass line is made up of the roots of chords that would harmonize with the melody.
funky a difficult word to define, since it tends to mean whatever the speaker intends, but in general, it refers to a musical sound with a bit of edge to it, something earthy or sexual. It also implies a certain cleverness, emotional content, and syncopation - just getting loud and distorted won't do it.
furlong (UK measure) 220 yards, or 1/8 of a mile.
O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z - Appendix - Search
The Folk File: A Folkie's Dictionary Copyright © 1993-2009 Bill Markwick, All Rights Reserved.