What is folk music, what is art music; is there some difference?
This is an idea that has been debated (fruitlessly, it could be argued) over the centuries.
Some see the so-called rise of interest in folk music to be a product of the nationalism of the Romantic era. In this narrative, as European nation-building evolved in the age of revolutions, organized collecting of oral traditions becomes another way of forging a national identity. In a vast arc that includes Robert Burns and his hugely popular celebration of Scottish song, through Zoltán Kodály 120 years later taking a cylinder phonograph to rural villages, “songs of the people” became somehow separated from music composed by people who were (to put it crassly) paid for their efforts.
Total time: 01:00:02
|Original Recording Format|
Legacy Audio spekars
Daniel Shores, David Angell
Sono Luminus Studios, boyce, Virginia
|Recording Type & Bit Rate||
|Release Date||July 7, 2016|
The origins of folk music are vast and wildly diverse. There are connections to classical music, (Corelli, Haydn, Beethoven), traditional English poets (John Dowling), Finnish, Celtic, American roots and many countries from both hemispheres. At different times in the culture, there have been resurrections of these genres (the Seegers, Woody Guthrie in America and bands like Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Steeleye Span and The Chieftans in Europe). The musicians distill the essence of the songs in a modern socio-political context. There is also a profound desire to capture the aesthetic purity as traditional instrumentation graces the arrangements. Like American blues, listeners are re-introduced to folk music, and the festival circuit continues to thrive.
A group by the name of Ayreheart has released a compelling audiophile recording of this material, Barley Moon. In keeping with authenticity, the album is framed by a pair of lutes with Irish tenor vocals. The opening track is one of the most “popularized” folk songs of any era, “John Barleycorn”. Many listeners will be familiar with the version by the rock band Traffic off the album of the same name. Brian Kay brings the weird tale of brewery to focus with his winsome voice. He is joined on lute by Ronn McFarlane, Willard Morris (on a sort of bass lute called colascione) and percussionist Mattias Rucht. This version is lively and emotional. With an awareness of traditional structure, the romantic ode “In A Garden So Green” (which dates back to Scotland in 1682) has the lyrical, droning resonance. The lute play is prominent. The instrumental prowess of the band is showcased on “Mr. Dowland’s Midnight”
The influences and darker narrative of Dowland are a significant part of this folk music. “Fortune My Foe” captures the sorrowful tone. But it’s not all darkness. On “My Lady’s Hunsdon Puffe” there is a playful dance arrangement. There is a sense of historical context on “Henry Martyn”. The tale of Scottish “privateer” Sir Andrew Barton is evocative and demonstrates great storytelling. (The liner notes indicate that Burl Ives and Donovan have recorded this). The lute play is rhythmic and executed with forceful strokes. Historical connections are everywhere, from the mournful “Lully Lulle” to the finale “Nottamun Town” (which has been recorded by Fairport Convention and modernized by Bob Dylan on “Masters Of War”). The back-to-back instrumental pieces “Solus Cum Sola”, M George Whitehead, His Almande) : are thoughtful and feature the acoustic verve of the band. But Ayreheart inevitably return to the doleful themes on “Twa Corbies” (which was also recorded by Steeleye Span).
Barleycorn is a masterful achievement. The mix is vibrant and expansive, without losing any of the instrumental precision. The lutes have a rich, natural reverberation. Traditional folk music with a hi-res boost. This is a worthy sonic upgrade to traditional music!
Millennium Music on WRTI
“Here is music that is born of what has come but leads us into where we can go: old forms born anew and ever fresh”.
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