Oak Publications a series of softcover and hardcover books covering just about every topic in American and British folk music. See also Asch, Moses and Silber, Irwin.
ocarina an egg-shaped relative of the whistle. The larger body gives it a slightly mellower tone. It tends to be sold more as a toy.
O'Carolan, Turlough see Carolan, Turlough
Ochs, Phil (1940-1976) a singer-songwriter who specialized in writing topical songs in the 60s that were clever, occasionally acidic, and nearly always singable. His non-protest songs were finely crafted and very inventive. Best-known songs: "I Ain't Marching Anymore", "Draft Dodger Rag", "Here's to the State of Mississippi", "Santo Domingo", "Changes", "There But For Fortune", "Cops of the World", "When I'm Gone" and "Flower Lady".
Sadly, he took his own life in April, 1976, depriving the folk world of one of its very best talents.
octave if one note is exactly half or twice the pitch of another, you have an octave. In between the two (counting inclusively) will be eight notes, the familiar major scale, so the term can refer to either the interval of two notes, or all the included notes.
There's an oddity - when you get to the octave note, it has the same name as the note you started from (see octave equivalence), which often makes it difficult to explain to the non- paper-trained how it's the same note, only different.
There are systems for octave notation, such as using apostrophes and upper/lower case - C c c' - or by adding numbers - C3, C4 - but they've never caught on in folk music. The beginner just has to bear with it until the meaning percolates in.
octave equivalence if a note is one octave from another, it's regarded as a duplication for the purposes of chord or scale theory. For instance, the pentatonic scale C D E G A can also include the octave note (C D E G A C) without disturbing the "penta" definition.
The octave, with its frequency ratio of 2:1, is said to be the easiest interval to recognize, but the equivalence of the octaves is as much psychoacoustic as it is theoretical. Diana Deutsch, in her "Psychology of Music", pointed out that octave equivalence "appears to be a function of musical training". She also noted that listeners in psychoacoustic tests picked intervals slightly sharper than the octave as the "best octave". The common wisdom that we're good at detecting doublings (octaves) or half-agains ( fifths) seems to be open to question.
octave notation there are a number of different systems using apostrophes, or sub/superscripts, but they're not used much in folk. In fact, considering the number of confusing different notations used throughout books about music, it's a wonder anyone uses them at all. However, a system widely used in tutorial books is shown below, with c' representing middle C:
C1 C c c' c'' c''' c''''
The above is a European system (Helmholtz); the American system uses octave numbering for seven octaves, with C4 representing middle C.
octave stretching see perfect pitch.
ode a lengthy poem, usually formal in style, with either a public subject (commemorating a victory, say), or a private subject, in which case it would be intense and introspective.
Odetta (1930- ) born Odetta Holmes in Alabama, she made her mark in the 50s and 60s NYC folk revival with her enormously powerful voice and style. Her repertoire covered all types of songs, from blues to spirituals to the contemporary songs of people like Bob Dylan. She has appeared at the Newport Folk Festival and has made over a dozen albums.
offbeat often used synonymously and incorrectly with upbeat - see rhythm, backbeat. It refers to the weaker beats - for example, beats 2 and 4 in 4/4 time in folk and some pop music. In much pop and rock music, stress is put on these beats to create a unique rhythm.
Okun, Milt musical director for Peter, Paul & Mary; he has also recorded a number of albums of traditional music on labels such as Stinson.
O Lochlainn, Colm (1892-?) Irish collector and performer, author of "Irish Street Ballads" and "More Irish Street Ballads".
old-timey older rural music of the American south and mountain districts, usually played by a string band (some or all of guitars, fiddles, banjos, dulcimers, autoharps, etc.). Country music of the 20s and 30s might be called old-timey. The New Lost City Ramblers are among the better-known old-timey revival bands. It's an imprecise term, as you might have noticed by the "y" on the end.
Old Town School of Folk Music see Stracke, Win.
O'Neill, Francis (1849-?) police chief of Chicago in the early 1900s. He was a fan of Irish fiddle tunes and made a huge collection of them, published as "O'Neill's Music of Ireland". It's still available today Oak Publications, and folkies refer to it as simply "O'Neill's". He is also the author of several books on Irish folk music and musicians.
online folk see Internet folk
open in stringed instrument playing, an un fretted or un stopped string is said to be open. See also open tuning.
open mike the same as an open stage.
open stage a singaround or jam session that's held in a club, restaurant, etc. Anyone can play and/or sing in this night (or day) of guest sets. There are some beginners, but there is usually a lineup of dazzling virtuosos. Also, "open sing", even though there are lots of instruments, and hootenanny or "hoot night", though the latter is rarely used nowadays, and "open mike".
open sing see open stage.
open tuning tuning a guitar (usually) to some other tuning than the usual E A D G B E (which is also known as Spanish tuning). Sometimes the notes of a major chord are used, with D A D F# A D (open D), C G C G C E (open C), and D G D G B D (open G) being popular. Open tuning permits rapid chord changes with a full, rich sound. It is usually necessary for bottleneck style guitar, at least if you want to sound like the country blues artists who popularized it.
Sometimes the tuning is only part of a major chord, as in D A D G A D. See also modal tuning. These sound particularly good with a fingerpicking style, since the lowered bass strings have a deeper, richer sound and the treble strings still ring brightly. They also allow a drone similar to a dulcimer and often simplify the lefthand fingering for difficult passages. Sing Out! reports that Dick Gaughan uses the tuning D G D D A E for special effects.
The disadvantage to open tunings is that overuse produces a sameness in all arrangements, aside from the guitarist's difficulty in getting in and out of them. It also limits the possible keys.
Other instruments use different tunings. There are many for the banjo and fiddle, for instance, although in these cases the purpose is usually to simplify a particular style of playing rather than to obtain the full, rich chords of guitar open tuning.
Sometimes called slack tuning, although this term can also mean tuning an E A D G B E guitar down in pitch by a tone or more to give a richer bass; this tuning is common with the 12-string.
opposite chord see parallel, sense 2.
oral tradition in general, the transmission of a culture without an assist from the printed page. It consists of songs and stories that detail the traits of the culture. Historical accuracy is generally less important than getting across the idea of what constitutes a particular people. In this lexicon, folk process tends to be used instead, since the topic is mostly folksong and how it finds its way around.
There is always debate whether the audio recording process has frozen oral tradition and ruined the folk process, and the same things have been said about collectors and their publications. Still, folk songs do go their merry way, and even if some performers insist on exact reproductions of a recorded version, the better ones add their own stylings.
From "The Ballad as Song" by Bronson, Bertrand: "Throughout history, folksong, in spite of continual contamination, has proven almost incorruptible..."
See also communal origin, historical accuracy, song family.
oral transmission see oral tradition.
organ the organ is used occasionally in folk music, although its use obviously will be restricted by size. There are three main types of portable organs: the electric types (Hammond, etc.), the reed organ, and the synthesizer. The last is usually preferred because of its small size.
It's of interest that medieval portable organs in paintings had the bellows on one side and the keyboard on the other; the keyboard was at a right angle to the player's chest. The only comfortable way to play was with two right-hand fingers; apparently this affected large organ design for some centuries - the black keys were often extended almost to the edge, making today's fingering system difficult.
organgrinder see barrel organ.
organum only distantly related to organs. This is an old term for a type of early medieval harmony that favored parallel intervals, such as the fourth or fifth; see Gregorian chant. These are also favorite harmonies in folk music, but since parallel harmonies can drag if carried on too long, they're generally used only on cadences.
Organum in later medieval times became more adventuresome, and was the forerunner of independent polyphonic music - the harmony notes changed from simple parallels, which in effect produced another melody. In 1332, Pope John XXII (who also turns up under moldy figs) banned polyphony in church music, but decided to exempt organum. (He died two years later, and the ban must have been lifted.)
ornament 1. (n.) Any type of grace notes or other effects used to add interest to a melody. In some cases, the ornamentation defines the tune as belonging to a specific style - see Scots snap. Also called "decoration". 2. (v.) To add ornamentation to a melody.
ostinato a short, persistently repeated melodic phrase.
oud (pron. "owd" or "ood") a member of the lute family from the Middle East. Being fretless, it's capable of great expression, and has a powerful bass. Instrumentalist Bull, Sandy recorded some oud tracks on his albums in the mid-60s, which is probably its first appearance during the folk revival.
outlandish the older use of the word means "pertaining to the outlands". "The Outlandish Knight" (aka "Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight", Child 4) came from far away, although there's a certain ambiguity to the term in the context of this song. The word later came to mean bizarre.
outro the ending of a song or tune; the opposite of an intro.
outtake recorded material that was not used in an album, CD, etc. Sometimes the reason is that the performer(s) might feel that the quality isn't right; in some cases the outtakes are just held for future use.
overblowing see whistle.
overdubbing see dubbing, multi-tracking.
overtone in general, a harmonic.
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The Folk File: A Folkie's Dictionary Copyright © 1993-2009 Bill Markwick, All Rights Reserved.