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Rosa Lee got hair like a mermaid out on the sea - Ernest Lewis - Rosa Lee

Author Topic: When We were Good, The Folk Revival  (Read 721 times)

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Offline Mr.OMuck

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When We were Good, The Folk Revival
« on: April 12, 2013, 06:54:48 AM »
It has Mississippi John Hurt on the Cover
Here's the Amazon description or the book flap piece.


When We Were Good traces the many and varied cultural influences on the folk revival of the sixties from early nineteenth-century blackface minstrelsy; the Jewish entertainment and political cultures of New York in the 1930s; the Almanac singers and the wartime crises of the 1940s; the watershed record albumFolkways Anthology of American Folk Music; and finally to the cold-war reactionism of the 1950s. This drove the folk-song movement, just as Pete Seeger and the Weavers were putting "On Top of Old Smokey" and "Goodnight, Irene" on the Hit Parade, into a children's underground of schools, summer camps, and colleges, planting the seeds of the folk revival to come. The book is not so much a history as a study of the cultural process itself, what the author calls the dreamwork of history.
Cantwell shows how a body of music once enlisted on behalf of the labor movement, antifascism, New Deal recovery efforts, and many other progressive causes of the 1930s was refashioned as an instrument of self-discovery, even as it found a new politics and cultural style in the peace, civil rights, and beat movements. In Washington Square and the Newport Folk Festival, on college campuses and in concert halls across the country, the folk revival gave voice to the generational tidal wave of postwar youth, going back to the basics and trying to be very, very good.
In this capacious analysis of the ideologies, traditions, and personalities that created an extraordinary moment in American popular culture, Cantwell explores the idea of folk at the deepest level. Taking up some of the more obdurate problems in cultural studies--racial identity, art and politics, regional allegiances, class differences--he shows how the folk revival was a search for authentic democracy, with compelling lessons for our own time.


Has anyone read this? Any opinions yea or nay?
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline Stuart

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Re: When We were Good, The Folk Revival
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2013, 09:13:38 AM »
I've read it, but it's been a while--ten plus years or so. Check the library--they should have it. And I have an article by Robert Cantwell, "Smith's Memory Theater: The Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music" from The New England Review that I believe made its way into the book, but I can't remember if it was revised or not.

Looks like the article is available via JSTOR:

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/40243455?uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21102131635057

I have access, but it appears a trial version is available that will allow you to read three articles.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2013, 10:48:32 AM by Stuart »

Offline Stuart

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Re: When We were Good, The Folk Revival
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2013, 07:22:58 AM »
Another book worth reading is Baby, Let Me Follow You Down: The Illustrated Story of the Cambridge Folk Years by Eric Von Schmidt:

http://www.amazon.com/Baby-Let-Follow-You-Down/dp/0870239252

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: When We were Good, The Folk Revival
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2013, 11:42:11 PM »
I was given this as a birthday present in 1996 by a well meaning relative. Not really being "my bag" I found it hard going and had to give up on it. All way above my head.

For an "uninitiated" like myself the dense prose I found incomprehensible. In one place I bookmarked a particular statement which must have irked me because I followed it with numerous pencilled exclamation marks.

The offending sentence? Cultural cathexis, dreaming the felt but untheorized political urgencies of the present into historical memory. To whom was this being applied? Mike Seeger!

My mind's eye can also visualise the term "gallant fraudulence" (whatever that may be) used in respect of Dylan.

It's very rare for me to give up on a book. I only keep it because it was a gift.

But, as the French say, "chacun au son gout", so don't let me put you off O'Muck.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: When We were Good, The Folk Revival
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2013, 07:59:27 AM »
Thanks Alan. Sounds like a thesis or something that rhymes with it to me. My allergy to "academese" has not abated, so I think I'll give it a pass..and thanks! Cathexis was the tip off! Do these people REALLY expect anyone to wade through this tortured language? This language seems not just to have been tortured , but subjected to an entire Spanish inquisition all its own, and as we know....


My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Stuart

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Re: When We were Good, The Folk Revival
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2013, 09:20:18 AM »
I've read so much of this stuff that I subconsciously translate/re-write it in the process of wading through it. But even then, it can try my patience. It's not so much that it's "academese" as Phil puts it, but just bad writing (the external record of bad thinking). Still, it can be the source of useful information, albeit poorly expressed. Whether or not it's worth the time and effort to torture oneself to see if there is really any useful info in there is a personal choice.

Offline Cleoma

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Re: When We were Good, The Folk Revival
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2013, 04:43:13 PM »
I really enjoyed the book, despite it's dense prose -- I guess I just skipped over the words I didn't understand.  It's been a long time since I read it, so I don't remember specifics, but I know I enjoyed reading his ideas about the "folk scare". 
A previous posting reminded me of one of my favorite Mike Seeger quotes:  "Theses is species of feces."

Offline eric

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Re: When We were Good, The Folk Revival
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2013, 04:08:29 PM »
Act now - operators are standing by...



But wait, there's more...
--
Eric