Abstract and Keywords
Folk music, folk songs, and ballads are nested categories of traditional expression: folk songs are folk music that has words, and ballads are folk songs that tell stories. These genres are universal; all people make music, and almost all start with what scholars would call “folk music.” Nevertheless, this chapter suggests specific ways to find and study them in an American context. Music, songs, and ballads are created by individuals, circulate orally, are adapted by other individuals, and thus become communally re-created works of art. Finding and studying such works is a challenge, requiring us to combine aspects of historical inquiry, literary and linguistic analysis, musicological study, and ethnography. These genres have also become part of popular culture in ways that have been called “folkloresque,” one of which is the movement generally known as “the folk revival.” Virtually all Americans hear folk music in the context of these folkloresque adaptations.
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