Folksongs and Their Makers

Folksongs and Their Makers

Folksongs and Their Makers

Folksongs and Their Makers

Excerpt

The relationship between folklore and popular culture is to many people unclear, and it is therefore debatable. On one extreme in the debate are those theorists who think that today's folklore was yesterday's popular culture. On the other extreme are those who believe that there is little direct relationship between the two. The truth, as usual, probably lies somewhere between.

The folklore that lasts is the creative acts of single individuals and the recreative acts of many persons—the mass of the folk. Larry Gorman, Woody Guthrie, and others of their kind, were creative geniuses who were of the folk. The material they created was from and of the folk, contained characteristics easily taken up and possessed by the folk. But these individuals were active creators. The mass of the folk, on the other hand, are passive recreators. The material they accept and recreate must be their kind of lore. They do not simply absorb indiscriminately the popular culture and recreate it in their own image.

To a certain extent popular culture becomes so much a part of society at large and therefore so cliched that unwittingly the folk absorb it— through the pores, as it were. But such lore is once removed from popular culture. Generally, therefore, although much of the stimulus for the creation of folklore might come from popular culture or from the same sources popular culture comes from, folklore and popular culture are borne through similar but separate channels.

This is not to say, it should never be forgotten, that the two channels never have any intercommunication. Indeed they do. Jan Brunvand is perfectly accurate in seeing that there are in fact two kinds of folklore and one is exceeding close to popular culture: "Folklore is what the professional folklorist is usually studying .... Folklore is part of popular culture: those elements in culture that are said to have circulated traditionally in the past in oral or customary form among rural groups, but which in reality circulate only in printed or broadcast form in the mass media." And he quite properly adds that . . .

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