November 15th, 2022
Pop vs. Folk Culture
Yesterday we identified culture as the set of customs, languages, and other artifacts/ideas that a group has in common. But what makes culture so difficult to determine or define?
In any group, there are those who want to hold on to the old ways (usually elders in the group), and there are outliers (usually younger) that desire change. Each group’s ways are constantly being evaluated by the group as a whole to determine what may be the most important aspect of culture: what should we keep versus what should we change?
As you can see this is tricky. The line between these two groups is not stable, as culture tends to adapt to changing environmental and social conditions. So geographers developed the concepts of folk (local) culture, and popular culture. These concepts aren’t completely stable or separate, but they aid in the understanding of social phenomenon.
Music is not only an excellent way to show the differences between these types of culture, but also allows us to explore some of the murkiness in defining customs within a group. Pop culture, if it's around long enough, eventually becomes folk culture. Likewise, songs that were popular 50 years ago can now studied as cultural moments, or artifacts of a time and community far behind us.
But culture doesn't simply fade away and disappear. You probably know of many modern songs that are remakes, remixes and reboots of older ones that played on radios long ago. Today we explore that blurry line between old and new - let's learn about Florida folk music!
Yesterday we learned about Florida's identity through it's symbols. Let's dive in a little deeper - ask students what they know about Florida's state song?
Old Folks at Home (Way Done Upon the Suwannee River) is a fascinating piece of Florida history. As our culture has evolved, so has the song with it.
As you and your students listen to the song, take a look at this information sheet documenting changes to the song's lyrics over the years.
"The music presented on Where the Palm Trees Shake at Night was selected from hundreds of hours of Florida Folk Festival performances and field recordings spanning 25 years, from 1977-2002.
Alongside the down-home folk traditions of Emmett Murray, Richard Williams, and Moses Williams are performances of standard Blues by Albert "Buck" Thompson, Charles Atkins and Martin "Tampa Blue" Locklear. The Piedmont finger-picking style of North Carolina guitarist Etta Baker was captured at the Florida Folk Festival, as was the renowned Washington, D.C. duo Cephas and Wiggins’ more modernized interpretation of Piedmont Blues.
The blues has enjoyed a rich and varied tradition in Florida. Folklorists such as Zora Neale Hurston, Alan Lomax, and Stetson Kennedy documented blues from the late 1920s until the early 1940s. Blues musicians received widespread attention during the 1960s blues and folk music revival. In 1978, the North Florida Folklife Project began to reexamine and document performances by blues musicians throughout the state.
The music presented on this CD was selected from hundreds of hours of Florida Folk Festival performances and field recordings spanning 25 years, from 1977-2002. Alongside the down-home folk traditions of Emmett Murray, Richard Williams, and Moses Williams are performances of standard blues by Albert "Buck" Thompson, Charles Atkins, and Martin “Tampa Blue” Locklear. The Piedmont finger-picking style of North Carolina guitarist Etta Baker was captured at the Florida Folk Festival, as was the renowned Washington, D.C. duo, Cephas and Wiggins’ more modernized interpretation of Piedmont blues.
Other performances from the Florida Folk Festival include renditions of classic blues forms on piano with powerful and colorful vocal performances from Ida Goodson, Mary McClain, Marie Buggs, and Alex McBride. Florida Folk Heritage Award winner William "Washboard Bill" Cooke's unique combination of blues, street performance, and folk art illustrates the musician’s love for his home state. Songs by Roy Book Binder, Johnny Brown, Sammy Lee Williams, and Johnny Shines exhibit masterful talents with traditional blues forms through their performances of original material.
With the work of folklorists and archivists, as well as the legacy of creation passed on to future generations by the artists themselves, Florida blues music will remain to be treasured and enjoyed."
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Previously on #FLGeoWeek: