folk music

Music held to be typical of a nation or ethnic group, known to all segments of its society, and preserved usually by oral tradition. Knowledge of the history and development of folk music is largely conjectural. Musical notation of folk songs and descriptions of folk music culture are occasionally encountered in historical records, but these tend to reflect primarily the literate classes' indifference or even hostility. As Christianity expanded in medieval Europe, attempts were made to suppress folk music because of its association with heathen rites and customs, and uncultivated singing styles were denigrated. During the Renaissance, new humanistic attitudes encouraged acceptance of folk music as a genre of rustic antique song, and composers made extensive use of the music; folk tunes were often used as raw material for motets and masses, and Protestant hymns borrowed from folk music. In the 17th century folk music gradually receded from the consciousness of the literate classes, but in the late 18th century it again became important to art music. In the 19th century, folk songs came to be considered a “national treasure,” on a par with cultivated poetry and song. National and regional collections were published, and the music became a means of promoting nationalistic ideologies. Since the 1890s, folk music has been collected and preserved by mechanical recordings. Publications and recordings have promoted wide interest, making possible the revival of folk music where traditional folk life and folklore are moribund. After World War II, archives of field recordings were developed throughout the world. While research has usually dealt with “authentic” (i.e., older) material not heavily influenced by urban popular music and the mass media, the influence of singer-songwriters such as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan expanded the genre to include original music that largely retains the form and simplicity of traditional compositions.

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Dance that has developed without a choreographer and that reflects the traditional life of the common people of a country or region. The term was coined in the 18th century and is sometimes used to distinguish between dances of the people and those of the aristocracy. Courtly and formal dances of the 16th–20th centuries often developed from folk dances; these include the gavotte, gigue, mazurka, minuet, polka, samba, tango, and waltz. Seealso country dance; hula; morris dance; square dance; sword dance; tap dance.

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Art produced in a traditional fashion by peasants, seamen, country artisans, or tradespeople with no formal training, or by members of a social or ethnic group that has preserved its traditional culture. It is predominantly functional, typically produced by hand for use by the maker or by a small group or community. Paintings are usually incorporated as decorative features on clock faces, chests, chairs, and interior and exterior walls. Sculptural objects in wood, stone, and metal include toys, spoons, candlesticks, and religious items. Folk architecture may include public and residential buildings, such as eastern European wooden churches and U.S. frontier log cabins. Other examples of visual folk arts are woodcuts, scrimshaw, pottery, textiles, and traditional clothing.

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The music sub-genre known as anti-folk (or antifolk) takes the earnestness of politically charged 1960s music and subverts it into something else. It is still highly debated what exactly the defining characteristics of this sub-genre are, as they vary from one artist to the next. Nonetheless, it is fairly accepted that the music tends to sound raw or experimental; it also generally mocks the seriousness and pretension of the established mainstream music scene in addition to mocking itself.

New York anti-folk

The New York anti-folk movement began in 1984 at The Speakeasy, a club in Greenwich Village, New York City. It was conceived by artist Darryl Cherney as an alternative venue to the popular Folk City club, which generally booked more established artists. Roger Manning printed Anti-Folk T-Shirts. Musicians involved included Axe Masterson (AKA Axman Horowitz & The Blind Rev. Axeman), Billy Nova, and Steve “Wheels” Cottrell (Wykked Trip), were collectively known as The Big Bang.

Singer-songwriter Lach started an after-hours club – the Fort – on the Lower East Side, after a booker at Folk City told him his music was "too punk". The Fort's opening coincided with the New York Folk Festival, so Lach dubbed his own event the New York Antifolk Festival. The Big Bang became The Fort house band when needed. Other players included Irving Louis Lattin, Billy Syndrome, Ross Owen and his RoarSharks, Zane Campbell, Michael America.

The original Fort was shut down in 1985 and moved from location to location, including East Village bars Sophie's and Chameleon, before winding up in the back room of the Sidewalk Café in 1993 where it has stayed to this day. The Antifolk Festival continues to be held semi-annually in the East Village (outlasting the original Folk Festival). Events have also taken place in the bandshells in Tompkins Square Park and Central Park.

A number of notable music artists spent time in the New York anti-folk scene, including Beck, Ani DiFranco, Cindy Lee Berryhill, Paleface, Regina Spektor, Kirk Kelly, Joie/Dead Blonde Girlfriend, Hamell on Trial, Diane Cluck, Jeffrey Lewis, Major Matt Mason USA, Dufus, Adam Green, Brenda Kahn, Michelle Shocked, Grey Revell, Nellie McKay, Krusty Dz, Kimya Dawson, Antsy Pants, and The Moldy Peaches.

Anti-folk in the UK

The anti-folk scene in the UK derives mainly from U.S. influence. The UK anti-folk scene (largely centred in London, Manchester and Brighton) has established its own identity, which has been written about in a six-page feature in the September 2007 issue of Plan B magazine. Plan Bheld an anti-folk night at the Huw Stevens-curated Sŵn in Cardiff in November 2007. The beginnings of the UK anti-folk scene were in London, with shows promoted by Sergeant Buzfuz that, although not billed as anti-folk, featured many U.S. and UK anti-folk singer/songwriters. In 2004, the lo-fi musician Filthy Pedro started seasonal anti-folk festivals, which he promoted with Tom Mayne of the band David Cronenberg's Wife. The Brighton scene was quick to follow, curated primarily by Larry Pickleman and Mertle. Other key figures within the UK anti-folk community include Dan Treacy of Television Personalities, JJ Crash, Lucy Joplin and Paul Hawkins. Emmy the Great is loosely connected with the English anti-folk scene, having played at Sgt Buzfuz's nights in 2003 as part of the duo Contraband. Kate Nash started her music career playing anti-folk-style shows, including a voncert promoted by Larry Pickleman and mertle in Brighton. Laura Marling is sometimes linked with anti-folk, although this is less to do with the UK movement and more to do with her perceived musical style.

Anti-folk-influenced acts such as the Bobby McGee's have begun to pick up regular national radio airplay and media coverag. In August 2006, Timeout Magazine called anti-folk "One of London's hottest subcultures". The first anti-folk UK compilation album, Up the Anti, was released in 2007, mastered by Mark Kramer (producer of Jeffrey Lewis, Galaxie 500, Butthole Surfers). Anti-folk has also taken off in Wales, following the rise to national (Wales) fame of Mr Duke.

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