Folk or pop - your choice

(May 07, 2007)

Does traditional music have any 'meaning' or is it as vague as modern pop and is 'pop' nothing more than candyfloss?


The answer is yes - much traditional music has meaning today, but not at all of it. Then again, that’s because a lot of it hasn’t survived. What’s survived may not be the best but it’s material that has meaning, which is a fundamental of folk music. That’s because folk songs reach out and touch people, they are songs that tell stories that people can relate to and understand, even 300 years after they were written. They are relevant because they speak of the human condition. They are as relevant as Shakespeare.


So is modern pop music the traditional music of 300 years in the future? Some will be but I think not all. Much pop music is candyfloss and poor candyfloss at that. Of course, there is some relevant pop – and by that I mean popular music of people. Folk music if you will. There are elements of ‘pop’ that are relevant to what’s happening today, songs that comment on the human condition - those songs will become the traditional music in the future. Unfortunately, most music defined as ‘pop’ is superfluous. That’s because pop fulfils a different role to folk music. Folk music is social commentary - pop music is social function.


There is little taking part in and sharing ideas with most pop music. It’s something that requires no effort, strikes no chords (pun intended) and has little permanent impact. Pop music is like Big Brother. Ten years from now who’ll care (actually with Big Brother it’s more like ten seconds – as if anyone cared in the first place). Folk music talks about shared experience and understanding. So much pop music is about fad and fashion. Too much pop music today is infected with cool. Cool is transient but talent is not. Most pop today is ‘music in the elevator’ and about as relevant.


Perhaps there should be further exploration into the longevity of music, as well as its content. Perhaps most pop music has no depth. I’m not altogether certain about that view. It’s also argued that all pop music is disposable. Again, I’m not sure about that view because it depends on your definition of ‘pop’ (see above).


The Beatles were pop music and much of their music had depth – and mostly because of the influences that affected them. Their influences were not from the English, Scottish or Irish folk tradition, their roots were mainly blues and American-oriented black music – and there’s music with depth that speaks of the human condition.


Perhaps it’s also question of direction and refinement, and maybe a little bit of growing up. There’s little depth found in songs such as I Wanna Hold Your Hand. Then again, Elanor Rigby has more to it each time you listen. However, some people will give you an absolute answer and not contemplate any debate.


And that my friend is part of the problem.

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