Saturday, September 15, 2012

What is a traditional story?

What is a traditional story?
by Norah Dooley and wiki 



The author telling traditional tales to children in South Boston through the literacy program, Read Boston, 2012

Since we announced our Folk and Fairy Tale Slams, all sorts of people I thought would know,  have been asking me, "Huh? What is a traditional story?" In the article below I have tortured and twisted a wikipedia article into illustrating a Miller Analogy Test type statement. My main intent was to explore and hopefully explain the difference between traditional storytelling and contemporary 1st person narrative in performance. Secondly, I hoped to save time by lifting lots of the material for my explanation. This process is sometimes called slapdash, and when less transparent, also known as plagiarism or "lack of artistic integrity" and will be covered in another post. Just as soon as I find an essay on that topic from which I may quote... But I digress. 

The statement I am working with is: traditional stories are to contemporary 1st person narrative stories as traditional folk songs are to singer-songwriter's songs. Imagine an acoustic performance of Arrow, by Cheryl Wheeler next to a performance by Simon And Garfunkel "Scarborough Fair"  or any other traditional ballad of Great Britain.  

The song Arrow is a beautiful contemporary love song, with melody and lyrics composed by Cheryl. Scarborough Fair is a song in the public domain; melody by Anonymous ( not the hackers but in the late 16th century sense via late Latin from Greek an┼Źnumos ‘nameless’ ) and words by Anonymous. In the article below I have substituted "story" or storytelling for every citation of song or music. There are way more interesting things to know about folk tales but this will have to do as a start.
Odetta was a folk singer of the late 20th century revival. She left a career in opera & musical theater to sing folk songs.
From a historical perspective, traditional folk music storytelling had these characteristics:
  • It was transmitted through an oral tradition. Before the twentieth century, most people, especially ordinary farm workers and factory workers were illiterate. They acquired songs stories by listening and memorizing them. Primarily, this was not mediated by books, recorded or transmitted media. Contemporary yet traditional  Singers  storytellers  extend their repertoire using broadsheets, song story books or CDs, but these secondary enhancements are of the same character as the primary songs stories experienced in the flesh.
  • The music  Storytelling was often related to national culture. It was culturally particular; from a particular region or culture. In the context of an immigrant group, folk music storytelling acquires an extra dimension for social cohesion. It is particularly conspicuous in the United States, where immigrants and  oppressed minorities strive to emphasize their differences from the mainstream. They may learn songs stories  that originate in the countries their grandparents came from.
  • Stories They may commemorate historical and/or personal events. On certain days particular songs stories celebrate the yearly cycle. Weddings, birthdays and funerals may also be noted with  songs stories...Religions and  religious festivals traditions often have a folk music storytelling component especially a set of teaching stories. Choral music Stories at communal events bring children and non-professional storytellers to participate in a public arena, giving an emotional bonding that is unrelated to the aesthetic qualities of the music performance.
  • The songs stories have been performed, by custom, over a long period of time, usually several generations.
As a side-effect, the following characteristics are sometimes present:
  • There is no copyright on folk songs. stories. Hundreds of folk songs tales from the nineteenth century have known authors but have continued in oral tradition to the point where they are considered traditional for purposes of music publishing. This has become much less frequent since the 1940s. Today, almost every folk song tale that is recorded or written is credited with an arranger author.
  • Fusion of cultures: In the same way that people can have a mixed background, with parents originating in different continents, so too music storytelling can be a blend of influences. A particular rhythmic speech pattern, or a characteristic instrument, cultural detail or element is enough to give a traditional feel to music, stories even when they have been composed recently. The young are usually much less offended by the dilution or adaptation of songs stories this way. Equally a electric guitar digital element can be added to an old songs story creating a new genre for the art form of storytelling.
  • Traditional storytelling is non-commercial.
Please let me know in the comments below if this makes sense to anyone else but me? All the words in bold italic have been added by the blogger.