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Thread: What makes a song traditional?

  1. #26
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    Hmmm ....
    D'oh!

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    Big and Rich all the time? count me in!
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  3. #28
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (lgc @ Oct. 22 2007, 08:50)
    It is actually very hard to find traditionals that are safe to record because the vast majority have some copyright on them. I would be interested to know how far off a specific arrangement you have to be to not infringe.

    I like how Monroe would just slightly rewrite tunes like Molly and Tenbrooks to copyright it. I think it is a term, legal that has very little meaning.
    You can copyright an arrangement of a traditional song; then, if someone uses your arrangement note-for-note, they are infringing. You can't be the copyrighted composer unless you wrote the song.

    Hate to take on Col. Roget, but "traditional" has to have a more specific meaning than "accepted" or "usual" in the context of music. You could say, "That's the traditional way to play Soldier's Joy," (meaning "accepted" or "usual"), but that's different from saying "Soldier's Joy is a traditional tune."
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  4. #29

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    To the best of my knowledge, Roget din't play American music. I think what the poster asked was what makes a song "A traditional." Are you saying Soilder's Joy is not a traditional?
    -1

  5. #30
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (lgc @ Oct. 23 2007, 08:46)
    To the best of my knowledge, Roget din't play American music. I think what the poster asked was what makes a song "A traditional." Are you saying Soilder's Joy is not a traditional?
    No. Jbmando quoted from Roget's Thesaurus which stated that the most exact meaning (or synonym) for "traditional" was "usual."

    This may work in some contexts ("I drove home from Syracuse the traditional way, through Auburn"), but it doesn't apply to our discussion of "what is a traditional song."

    Of course Soldier's Joy is a traditional song, but that's because it's [1] old, [2] public domain/composer unknown, [3] passed down at least partially through "oral" (can you say an instrumental is passed orally?) tradition. Not because it's usual, accepted, etc. or the other definitions Col. Roget supplied.

    If one accepts the thesaurus definition, any song that's played in a widespread, accepted style is "traditional." A good example of that would be Happy Birthday to You, which is most certainly not a traditional song. In fact, I believe it's still under copyright.
    Allen Hopkins
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  6. #31

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    I would totally disagree about "happy birthday". I think it is completely a part of the American tradition and is used almost ubiquitously throughout our culture. A traditional song could be taken from a literal sense in that it is part a tradition. The "Star Spangled Banner" has an author but it is tradition to sing it at sporting events in America so thus it is traditional. There is a difference between a standard and a traditional and I think time and usage generally determine that crossover.
    -1

  7. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by (allenhopkins @ Oct. 23 2007, 12:13)
    Of course Soldier's Joy is a traditional song, but that's because it's [1] old, [2] public domain/composer unknown, [3] passed down at least partially through "oral" (can you say an instrumental is passed orally?) tradition. #Not because it's usual, accepted, etc. or the other definitions Col. Roget supplied.
    This sounds like the best description of a traditional song I've seen in this discussion.

    It seems, though, that because the word "traditional" is such a broadly defined word with multiple definitions, some choose different definitions to use. It is the context that typically guides the usage, though, and in this case, the world of music most often uses the one above.
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  8. #33
    jbmando RIP HK Jim Broyles's Avatar
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    Are you trying to say that "traditional" songs are not expected to be played with "usual, accepted" arrangements and instrumentation, and that the reason they are "traditional" is because "that's the way we always played them?" I think you guys are conflating the definitions of the words 'traditional' and 'old/public domain.' Even the wiki article linked in this thread (which I have already stated is a matter of opinion and not a true authoritative source) does not define traditional music in those terms. They call "lack of a copyright" a "common feature" of traditional music, but not a prerequisite. The main definition is that it is what used to be known as "folk music." I maintain one can write a new "traditional" song.
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  9. #34
    Registered User Andrew Lewis's Avatar
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    I don't know. You make some good points, too, and I do agree that someone can write a new traditional song (as I was thinking in my first post). Perhaps the application of the word is more along the lines of an either/or scenario. It is a nebulous concept, no doubt!
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  10. #35
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Think we're going to have to "agree to disagree." If being "part of the American tradition and used ubiquitously throughout the nation" makes a song traditional, then you could make a good case for Mr. Tambourine Man, Born To Run, Your Cheatin' Heart and Material Girl. My definition would be quite a bit narrower, as I summarized it --

    But you guys are welcome to your definitions, as well. To me, a "new traditional song" is an oxymoron. You can write "a new song in the traditional style" (again, I cite Gillian Welch as a marvelous contemporary practitioner), but to me, it ain't traditional until the copyright expires, at the very least.

    Thanx to everyone for a very stimulating discussion! I'm bowing out, having run my mouth (or my keyboard) hard enough. This is the kind of good-natured back-and-forth that makes a board like the Cafe well worth participation.
    Allen Hopkins
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  11. #36
    Registered User Andrew Lewis's Avatar
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    Well said, Allen.
    Andrew Lewis
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  12. #37
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    "To me, a "new traditional song" is an oxymoron."

    I'm in your camp on this one.
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  13. #38

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    i cant remember word for word, but at some point marshall said something to the effect of

    "the way traditionals are made is they come from songs that are really had to mess up, cause if your playing sally in the garden then by golly its sally in the garden."
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  14. #39

    Default Re: What makes a song traditional?

    Been trying to learn this one (right) for twenty years... almost got it this morning on the Octave. Yeeehaaar!
    What makes this traditional?
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