An Extensive Encyclopedic Music Dictionary

An Extensive
Traditional and Folk Music
Encyclopedic Dictionary

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(Section F2)

finger-style to play a stringed instrument (usually guitar) by fingerpicking.

fipple the mouthpiece of a whistle. The slot cut in it produces the sound. Sometimes the term refers only to the slot itself.

first-inversion. a tertian chord whose third is in the bass.

first-species. 1:1 counterpoint, i.e., note against note.

F-is a note of the scale (= Italian, French: fa).

Fitzgerald, Winston (1914-1988) Cape Breton fiddler who made many recordings that helped maintain the traditional fiddle repertoire of the area. He was technically accomplished and raised the standards of any fiddlers who emulated him.

Five Hand Reel Scottish group performing up-tempo arrangements of traditional songs and tunes with both acoustic and electric instruments. The sound was powerful, sometimes too powerful, but remained rooted in the tradition. They made several albums for RCA before disbanding in the late 70s. Members included Gaughan, Dick and Bobby Eaglesham.

flag (also "hook") in notation, the tail on the stem of a note to denote the time value.

flageolet 1. A pennywhistle or tin whistle. 2. (musicology) A harmonic used as a musical note.

flailing see frailing.

flamenco guitar flamenco music is generally played on the classical guitar, which has nylon strings. The true flamenco guitar is similar, but often has friction tuning pegs instead of geared tuners.

flamenco the folk music of the Spanish Gypsies. The best of the flamenco guitarists are considered to be the top of the heap of the world’s folk musicians, the real gaffers. They are probably the equivalent of jazz or classical guitarists.

Flanders and Swann in England in the 50s and early 60s, Michael Flanders and Donald Swann built on the music hall tradition to produce songs of unparalleled lyrical and musical excellence. Their best known songs are "The Hippopotamus Song" ("Mud, mud, glorious mud"), "The Reluctant Cannibal" ("Eating people is wrong!"), "A Transport of Delight" ("Ninety-seven horsepower omnibus..."), "The Gnu" ("the gnicest work of gnature in the zoo"), "Madeira, M’Dear" ("He said as he hastened to put out the wine, his cigar, the cat, and the lamps") and "The Armadillo" who fell in love with an army tank. Their albums, "At the Drop of a Hat" and "At the Drop of Another Hat", were produced by George Martin, who later went on to fame as the producer of the Beatles.

flat 1. (v.) To reduce a note’s pitch by one semitone, the smallest precise unit in the musical scale (but see cent, microtone). Sometimes seen as "flattened" instead of "flatted". 2. (n.) The symbol for a flat, which looks like a "b" and is placed on music notation to indicate the key or a note that’s been flatted. See also double flat. 3. (adj., informal use) Used to describe a musical performance that sounds unpleasant because of wandering pitch, a lifeless performance, or even wrong notes.

flat chord (archaic) a major triad with the third flatted. This changes it to the parallel minor chord - C major becomes C minor.

flatpick 1. (n.) A small, flat piece of plastic or similar material, used to strum chords or pick notes on stringed instruments. It’s the method of choice for rapid notes, such as playing fiddle tunes on the guitar. Compare flatpicking and fingerpicking. Also called simply "pick" and (almost never) a plectrum. 2. (v.) To play an instrument using a flatpick.

flatpicking to pick notes on a stringed instrument using a flatpick. The advantage is the ability to go very fast. The opposite to fingerpicking. Strumming chords might not be called flatpicking, even though it might be done with a flatpick - the term implies playing the melody.

Flatt and Scruggs see Scruggs, Earl.

Flatt, Lester (1914- ) Tennessee guitar picker who was a star of the Grand Ole Opry and a member of the Blue Grass Boys, which was headed by Monroe, Bill. In the late 40s, he teamed with Scruggs, Earl to form one of the most famous duos in bluegrass history.

flatted a note reduced in pitch by one semitone. See also flat. Its opposite is sharped. Sometimes seen as "flattened" - but if this isn’t incorrect, it certainly ought to be.

Flat-The word "flat", indicated by a sign derived from the letter b, shows that a note should be lowered by a semitone. In a more general sense music that is flat may simply be out of tune, its pitch below the accepted pitch.

Flautist-A flautist is a player of the flute.

fleaching (Scot.) teasing, cajoling.

fluff 1. A type of clam. 2. Music or lyrics or performances lacking any substance.

flute similar to the whistle, but the sound is made by blowing over a hole rather than into a fipple. The Irish flute, being made of wood and having a mellow tone, is a great favorite. The flute is held out to the side ("side-blown" or transverse) as opposed to the straight-ahead (end-blown) position of the whistle. In the classical flute, mechanical keys add sharps and flats to produce a chromatic instrument. ;The word flute may indicate a variety of wind instruments without reeds. The modern orchestra makes use of transverse flutes, augmented as necessary by a smaller transverse flute known as a piccolo and very occasionally by a larger instrument, the alto or bass flute, pitched a fourth lower. The straight flute is known in English as a recorder (= French: flûte à bec; German: Blockflöte; Italian: flauto dolce) but was not used in the orchestra after the later Baroque period.

Foggy Foggy Dew a song that has occasionally been bowdlerised in songbooks for being a bit too liberal in its sexual metaphor. As for the meaning of the title, Kennedy, Peter had this to say: "James Reeves, in trying to discover the significance of the title, suggests ‘fogge’, the ‘Middle English for coarse, rank grass of the kind that grows in marshes and bogs where the atmosphere would be damp and misty’, and this would represent maidenhead, and the dew would imply virginity or chastity. ‘Foggy Dew’ may be an English tongue’s best attempt at the sound of the Gaelic, and derive from ‘Oroce dhu’ meaning a black or dark night. Robert Graves proposed a theory that it stood for the black pestilence of the church and that the girl was really being protected from entering a nunnery. There seems no end to what can be interpreted from the lines of folksongs." (From "Folksongs of Britain and Ireland", Oak Publications, 1975.)

foldback a recording studio term that refers to the portion of the sound sent to a performer’s headphones. Performers can hear their own microphones isolated, or a mix, or the mikes mixed with tape playback. It’s the studio equivalent of the stage monitor speaker. Also known as a cue or cueing system.

folk boom see folk revival.

folk dance see clogging, country dancing, EFDSS, garland dance, morris, Playford, squaredance.

folk Nazi this is rather difficult to define, but generally means traddies who have cast-in-concrete ideas about how folk music should be, and will rail against anything that doesn’t suit their ideas of folk music in general. They refuse to accept any sort of change, especially in instrumentation (see electric folk), and are definitely against a song’s being commercialised. Sometimes they don’t understand that songs have variants, and believe passionately in The One True Way of doing a song (theirs). In general, their attitude results from naivete more than anything. They’re occasionally known as moldy figs. Sometimes the term might be applied to a traddie who simply believes that you can’t get too far away from traditional before it isn’t traditional any more. This attitude seems to be eminently sensible, and they should just let any perceived insult go by. On changes in tradition, it’s worth quoting from "The Ballad as Song", by Bronson, Bertrand: "Last year’s blooms are not this year’s, though they spring from the same root. For each season there has to be a fresh re-creative effort; and in the day of Burns, thanks to a living tradition, as good versions were burgeoning as perhaps had ever flowered."

folk process (see also oral tradition) the method of learning a song, forgetting some of it, adding bits of your own, and then teaching the song to someone else, complete with changes. This happens all the time, with the expected result that there are often no definitive versions of songs. Ancient publication doesn’t mean much - if the song has been improved over the years, no one will go back to the authentic but inferior version, but still, the song retains its original form for centuries. See also collectors near the end of the entry, oral tradition, communal origin, and electric folk for relevant quotes and comments. Sometimes improvements are not the result - Roy Acuff popularised "Wabash Cannonball" but garbled the words, and we’ve been singing those peculiar verses ever since. Maybe it’s for the better - when verses make a strange sort of sense, they’re often more interesting than the original. See also Wildwood Flower. There’s an amusing example of distortion in "The Gypsy Laddies". Some well-meaning singer or collector notated this (and it ended up as Version G in the Child collections): "The Earl of Castle’s lady come down,With the waiting-maid beside her,And as soon as her fair face they sawThey called their grandmother over." The grandmother offers no opinion, and in fact is never heard from again for the rest of the song. The proper words are "They cast their glamour oot o’er her". "Glamour" is used in Scottish dialect with the meaning of magic, or a magic spell (see also grammarie). For more on this ballad, see historical accuracy. Child was aware of the error, incidentally, and poked fun at it in the Glossary. "The MTA Song" provides an interesting example of the folk process. In the late 19th century, Henry Work (see Work, Henry Clay) wrote a song called "The Ship That Never Returned" ("Did she ever return, no, she never returned, and her fate is still unlearned..."). This was the indirect forerunner of "The Wreck of the Old 97" (see train songs). In 1948, J. Steiner and Hawes, Bess Lomax wrote a parody of it called "The MTA Song", a humorous poke at Boston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, who had raised the subway fare. The song is about a man named Charlie who can’t get off the subway because he lacks the nickel that must be paid before exiting ("He may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston, he’s the man who never returned..."). The song was actually a campaign song for a politician who promised to repeal the fare increase. In the late 50s, it was recorded by the Kingston Trio, who had a popular hit with it, though the politician "George O’Brien" is fictitious. See also Lass of Roch Royal for a song that has worked its way into UK and North American traditions.


Folk Review English folksong magazine, covering all aspects of British and North American folk. Noted for performer and recording reviews that never pulled any punches - nobody got away with anything.

Folk revival folk songs became quite popular in the 50s, thanks to performers like the Weavers, the Kingston Trio, and Ives, Burl. Several music writers have said that when pop music changed from Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly to bubblegum performers like Fabian and Frankie Avalon (always the examples given), young people turned to folk, or that folk was seen by the industry as an antidote to the frenetic, sexual R&B of the 50s. It could also be that the simplicity and honesty of folk music was a welcome change from a pop music dominated by the big music corporations. In any case: The singers and musicians contributing to the revival were what you might call "first-generation" ( Seeger, Pete, Guthrie, Woody, Elliott, Jack, Leadbelly) and "second generation" (the younger performers of the late 50s and early 60s). By the 60s, folk was almost a mania. It produced fame for such performers as Pete Seeger, Dylan, Bob, Baez, Joan, Collins, Judy, Ochs, Phil, Paxton, Tom, and many others. Some of the finest songwriting in contemporary folk was done during the period, especially in protest songs, since the civil-rights, anti-war, and environmental movements were fertile ground for songwriters. It also produced fame for a host of trios and quartets, who always seemed to wear identical clothes. These included the Tarriers, the Limeliters, the Brothers Four, and the Chad Mitchell Trio. These groups had a sound that by today’s standards would be considered somewhat slick and show-biz, but they stimulated a wide interest in folk traditions. Lots of fans looked into the vast wealth of folk music that inspired the formulaic trios, discovering bluegrass, old-timey, sacred harp, country blues, and many other styles. Some performers, such as Van Ronk, Dave, felt that Bob Dylan’s success as a songwriter changed the folk revival from traditional musicians to songwriters, which certainly seemed to be the case after the mid-60s. Popular interest in tradition faded, but it was replaced by folk clubs and folk performers who specialised in it - tradition was there if you looked around, and it was better than ever, if lacking in quantity. Eventually the commercial boom slacked off, leaving an enormous subculture and legions of brilliant musicians. Folkies occasionally refer to the commercial boom in the 60s as "the folk scare" or "The Great Folk Scare" - a comment on the fact that the commercial popularity wasn’t always in the best interests of the music. The scare went away, as trends do.

folk scare see folk revival

Folkbook see Internet folk

Folkie Profile some of the common characteristics to be found throughout the subculture. Dress - strictly informal, although some are neater than others. Definitely more conservative than the flamboyant 60s. Only the occasional image-artist. There is no pressure to conform to a dress code - they just like it loose and comfortable, which you usually aren’t in conservative clothing. Long hair and beards are popular with men. Women show a much wider variety of hair styles. They may or may not wear makeup. There are no rules, only a general tendency towards the relaxed. *Education - almost all are highly-skilled, either through formal education or a burning curiousity (or both). Someone once remarked that folk music had been taken over by academics, which isn’t quite true, but does reflect on the intelligence of the participants. This results in an oddity: well-educated middle- and upper-middle class folkies singing about ploughboys, miners, fishers, and so on, while the workers themselves are more likely listening to pop music on the radio. See Never-Never Land. *Diet - eclectic, for the most part, though some of the meat-‘n- potatoes types will never change. Ethnic foods of all types are always a hit. The trend to wholesome, real foods began in earnest with the underground in the 60s (not to be confused with media "hippies" and others who were used to flavor the news). There is a fairly high percentage of vegetarians. All folkie events provide vegetarian food. There is also a high percentage of very good cooks of both sexes. See potluck. See also real ale. *Entertainment Interests - this is so mixed that it’s difficult to say anything for sure. Sports, television, movies, all are possibilities. The hardest of hardcore traditionalists may be a fan of heavy metal rock, or sitcoms, or football, or what have you. To generalise, there’s a preference for off-the-beaten-track cult favorites rather than mass entertainment. Science fiction is a big hit, especially the old and new "Star Trek" (and see filk). "Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy", "Blackadder", and "Monty Python’s Flying Circus" would be prime examples of the offbeat. Most folkies have memorised all the good bits. Classic cartoon shorts from the 40s and 50s and modern versions such as "Ren & Stimpy" are popular, though this might be a male preference. While there may be a certain amount of consumption of the pop media, many spend far less time at this than the average (which is said to be 24 hours a week of TV watching), preferring something that requires active participation. *Other Interests - tend to vary widely. Most are voracious readers and music listeners. Not surprisingly, a large percentage play instruments of some kind, ranging in expertise from beginner to virtuoso. It would be instructive to have statistics on this. Many (probably most) can sing, although the thought of a solo would intimidate the majority. Group singing (as in filling out a chorus song) is extremely popular, and singers rarely have trouble getting an audience going. Many have considerable talent in some area outside the job. This is quite different from a hobby - they show remarkable abilities in professional-quality instrument making, textile crafts, drawing/painting, cabinetmaking, etc. All tend to love the art of conversation. This includes a love of wordplay, complex humor, etc. It should be pointed out that an interest in folk music is almost never seen as a "hobby" - more often than not, it’s an all-encompassing lifestyle. As someone once put it, "You don’t take up folk music. It takes you up." Oddly, few take the bother to learn to read music once they start playing folk music; in general, only those who had previous training ( paper-trained musicians) are musically literate. There are some who feel that notation has no place in folk, since the music is at its best in oral tradition. While this may be true, there’s no reason you can’t have it both ways. Many folkies have an interest in (or participate in) related activities such as morris dancing, country dancing and/or mummers plays. *Politics - almost all are left to left-of-center. Some are apolitical. There may be a few rightists, but they’re rarely encountered (or keep it quiet to avoid heated discussions). Nearly all are anti-bureaucratic, anti-authoritarian, and very much against stupidity in the ruling classes. Almost all are against the military-industrial complex, yet almost all would be in favor of unseating a cruel dictator who abuses his people, though the heavy-handedness of Desert Storm might be an exception. The many peace songs created by the folkies were against ignorant wars carried out by ignorant politicians, with Vietnam being the prime target. Folk music fans have always been concerned with worker’s rights, civil rights, feminist issues, and in general, the hope of a united world free of prejudice (we’re still working on it - results ASAP). Today’s Green movement had its public start among folk audiences in the late 1950s, and reached a peak in the 1960s. Many songs about the environment were turned out in the 70s, and the trend continues, although today many songwriters are wary of the commercial exploitation of the environmental movement. *Racism - if there’s any racism in the subculture, it keeps a very low profile. Most folkies are utterly devoid of it, and in fact, folkies have always been in the forefront of civil rights movements, efforts to bring other cultures to the fore and so on. *Technology - although the public perception of folkies (which may hark back to the live-off-the-landers of the 60s) is as Luddites, the majority are conversant with technology to some extent. A surprising number of computer hackers turn up in folk music, and many of them play instruments. Even the 60s minimalists now have mortgages, cars, CD players, etc. There are no songs in favor of the nuclear industry, and many songs against it. Despite this, no anti-nuke song (in the sense of power plants) has ever become really popular. The majority may realise that there are no easy answers when it comes to generating the energy that everybody wants. *One Other Thing - all folkies seem to own a Swiss Army knife or a variation.

folk-rock see electric folk.

folksong, definition few subjects can cause such hot debate among folkies. Everyone knows what a folk song shouldsound like, and what oneshouldn’t sound like, but a firm definition eludes all. There is a tired and unhelpful homily attributed to both Louis Armstrong and Broonzy, Bill, along the lines that all music is folk music, since horses don’t make it. T’ain’t so. Thereis such a thing as a folk song. Pinning down the characteristics is the difficulty. The favorite characteristic would be a song that has filtered through a certain amount of oral tradition and folk process. This shows us what it’s made of, as opposed to a modern flash-in-the-pan (as Michael Cooney once wrote, "if some of these [contemporary] songs were to go through the folk process, nothing would come out"). Yet there are many excellent songwriters who can compose in the traditional vein and make you swear that a song composed yesterday is centuries old. Also, we can’t dismiss a song simply because it was released on record and simply faded away - this happened to many of the old broadside ballads, but they were revived by collectors to join the folk tradition. There are certain characteristics, called markers, that define the type of song and let the audience relate it to it (and each other). Many of these are archaic expressions, locales, customs, etc., but their presence is no guarantee of anything. Skilled songwriters who write in the older styles can often fool anyone. Some feel that the song should be anonymous. Other than the fact that this indicates the song has been in circulation long enough for people to have forgotten the author’s name, it isn’t really important. "My Grandfather’s Clock" would pass inspection as a folk song, but it was written by Work, Henry Clay - the authorship makes no difference at all. The same could be said for many of the songs by Paxton, Tom or Foster, Stephen. The basic problem is that people want a simple, concise definition for an enormously complicated subject. Not only are there centuries of different types of music packed into folk, but it’s an ongoing, living tradition that changes all the time. See moldy figs for a relevant quote from Bronson, Bertrand. Much related information is available in the book "The Study of Folk Music in the Modern World", by Philip V. Bohlman, Indiana University Press, 1988. No Golden Rule emerges, but it does put things concisely into perspective. Various writers have taken a stab at the definition. Here are the characteristics of folksong listed by "Introducing American Folk Music" (see books). Proving or disproving them is left as an exercise for the reader: 1. Music that varies over distance but not time.2. Music from a specific, identifiable community.3. Authorship is generally unknown.4. Folksongs are generally passed along by word of mouth.5. Folksongs are most often performed by non-professionals.6. Short forms and predictable patterns are fundamental.