Just Us Folk

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folk music

In my opinion, the influence of folk music on classical music is often underrepresented. Music History is taught as a linearly-evolving thing, perhaps diverging along French and German lines (Ned Rorem famously divided all Classical Music into “French,” and “German,” regardless of the composer’s nationality). There’s more to composers, however, than their arty predecessors.

In concert works of the 20th and 21st centuries, the influence of all types of non-classical music can be heard. One of concert music’s most influential antecedents has been folk music, of every conceivable shade and origin.

This week, we’ll concentrate on the influences, both subtle and overt, that folk music has had on classical music. Some composers have incorporated folk music into their work as a sort of homage to their native culture; others employ folk elements as a kind of exoticism; still others, much to their chagrin, have had the terms "folk" and "classical" thrust upon them.

To live as a music lover now is to listen to great quantities of massively different things from around the world. With all this globalization, do you think that different traditions of folk music are being saved or destroyed by new, diluted forms?