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date: 04 December 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Numerous claims have been made by a wide range of commentators that punk is somehow “a folk music” of some kind. Doubtless there are several continuities. Indeed, both tend to encourage amateur music-making, both often have affiliations with the Left, and both emerge at least partly from a collective/anti-competitive approach to music-making. However, there are also significant tensions between punk and folk as ideas/ideals and as applied in practice. Most obviously, punk makes claims to a “year zero” creativity (despite inevitably offering re-presentation of at least some existing elements in every instance), whereas folk music is supposed to carry forward a tradition (which, thankfully, is more recognized in recent decades as a subject-to-change “living tradition” than was the case in folk’s more purist periods). Politically, meanwhile, postwar folk has tended more toward a socialist and/or Marxist orientation, both in the US and UK, whereas punk has at least rhetorically claimed to be in favor of “anarchy” (in the UK, in particular). Collective creativity and competitive tendencies also differ between the two (perceived) genre areas. Although the folk scene’s “floor singer” tradition offers a dispersal of expressive opportunity comparable in some ways to the “anyone can do it” idea that gets associated with punk, the creative expectation of the individual within the group differs between the two. Punk has some similarities to folk, then, but there are tensions, too, and these are well worth examining if one is serious about testing out the common claim, in both folk and punk, that “anyone can do it.”

Keywords: punk, folk, collective, amateur, Marxism, anarchism, novelty, tradition

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