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The History of British Folk Music
by Alex Cosper (12/4/13)

British folk music, also known as English traditional music, goes back many centuries and remains an important part of music history throughout the world. The genres lives on more in hybrid versions of modern pop and country music. The lute, harpsichord and fiddle were some of the instruments that helped shape the sound of English folk in the 16th century, although the term "English folk" likely goes back many centuries before that era. Folk tended to be viewed in contrast of artistocratic tastes, which leaned toward classical music.

By the 19th century folk had a more solid definition and was associated with the Romantic Movement, which was an artistic vision from the early 1800s to about 1850 that celebrated natural sciences and liberalism as part of art and culture. Folk art was a revival of medievalism as an escape from industrialism in favor of exotic imagination. In other words, it was the opposite of realism, which became an artform in the second half of the 19th century.

An influential body of folk songs in the late 1800s was compiled by Francis James Child, published as a cllection called The English and Scottish Popular Ballads issued in 1882. It included songs that dated back to the 1600s. This collection covered a vast array of diverse themes from romance to morality to deception to hallucination to violence. Folk artists such as Fairport Convention and Joan Baez have incorporated these ballads in their work.

Cecil Sharp is another 19th and 20th century folk revivalist whose music influenced later recordings and dances in England. He composed operas as well as folk music. He collected hundreds of songs from folk singers to use as material for teaching students about English folk songs and dance music. In 1907 he began publishing a series of collections and traditional English music called Morris Books. Then in 1911 he founded the English Folk Dance Society, which taught traditional English music through workshops. This organization later evolved in 1932 to become th English Folk Dance and Song Society.

Folk music was popularized in the 1950s and 1960s in America by a string of artists that included Woody Guthrie, The Weavers, Burl Ives, The Kingston Trio, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. These storyteller artists, along with the roots of English folk, affected artists in the UK such as The Beatles, Ewan MacColl, Donovan and Fairport Convention. The Beatles' album Rubber Soul was inspired by the folk movement and went on to inspire many more artists. By the 1980s there were many British artists who mixed social and political messages in their folk-inspired music. Some of these artists included The Pogues, Billy Bragg and XTC.

Check out information on the following British music scenes:

Bangor, UK
Belfast, UK
Birmingham, UK
Cambridge, UK
Cardiff, UK
Coventry, UK

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