In the 20th century music, in popular,
as well in classical, or artistic one - there appears a tendency to
bring back to the public eye the music unappreciated by the listeners.
In her article śMusic revival - towards a general theory” Tamara Livingston
states that revivals of different genres of music is one of the most
significant features of 20th-century musical scenery. The studies on
reviving the executive practice of Renaissance or baroque in Western
artistic music have long been the subject of musicological dissertations.
Similarly treated is also popular music: jazz, blues and folk music.
There constitutes a wide-spread trend of Music Revival, encompassing
many kinds of music.
śMusic revival” is an intentional attempt to awaken public interest
and enlarge knowledge on a certain field of music, the popularity of
which decreased. The phenomenon of music revival can also be defined
as a social movement with a view to restoration, protection and reintroduction
into the modern society of some particular musical traditions seen as
diminishing or completely relegated to the past.
The object of the revival can be the music from a large geographical
region but the revival can also have a narrower scope. In such a case,
the object would be a single instrument ( like the revival of the interest
of the śnyckelharpa” in Sweden), one musician, or one band. However,
usually the revival concerns genres or subgenres of popular music, e.g.
flamenco, calypso or strictly defined periods, whole decades, e.g. the
music of the 80.
Even restricting our look to 20th-century attempts to revive folk music,
we will find them all over the world, from Great Britain and the United
States of America through the Central Europe and Africa to Asia.
In some cases, revival concerns a repertoire which was once widely-known
and is still remembered. In other ones, it refers to music which was
forgotten because of a big time gap between its first appearance and
its revival, consequently the knowledge of it in the society is limited.
Another case is music revived in a different geographical context than
the original one. Then the listeners lack any knowledge of it. The harmonic
singing of Tuwa awakening great interest in Finland may be an example
here. In this case multitude of listeners and performers do not have
any, even temporarily distanced, memory about such a kind of music.
To sum up, revival can be referred to the music, the memory of which
among the audience is still alive, little or non-existent - as it is
in case of a revival in different geographical context.
The common ground unifying those multiple and diverse music revivals
is an explicit ideological agenda, the so-called core of the revival
movement group. Its objective is the recreation of the musical system
of the past. This revived system is, as Neil Rosenberg writes, the whole
of the shared repertoire, instrumentarium and performing style. It is
historically and culturally defined by such factors as : social class,
ethnicity, race, religion, commerce and art.
The basis of those activities aiming at the protection of musical tradition
that vanished or was forgotten is ideology. It is founded mainly on
being a cultural alternative - staying in opposition to principal trends
in culture and on enriching the already existing culture with values
based on historical continuity and śauthenticity”.
According to Tamara Livingstone music revivals are a middle-class phenomenon,
that is why ideologies of those movements seem to be constructed on
specific models of thinking and experience structuring, shared by people
belonging to middle class in consumer-capitalist or socialist society.
Those include e.g. categorisation of the culture into śmodern” and śtraditional”
classes, privileging exchange value over usable value, objectification
and rationalisation of different aspects of life, of modern ideology
and of imaginary national community. All those belief structures and
ways of thinking play a more or less visible role in music revival.
The revival, especially when it comes to folk music, is not accidental.
The choice of tradition to restore is influenced by many factors from
source accessibility, and therefore ease of renovation, to predilections,
fondness and likings of the revivers themselves. There can appear political
reasons that encourage reviving the music of particular minority groups.
In such cases the revival consists in differentiating the minority culture
from the dominating culture. Another factor supporting the revival is
linking the tradition with the feeling of cultural and social affluence.
The restoration of the traditional musical practice should remind of
those times, arouse nostalgia, represent the times of prosperity and
social and cultural boom.
Multitude and diversity of revival movements and some repeating, specific
properties present in them allow to construct a model of revival. Tamara
Livingston treats it as a kind of basic recipe where certain ingredients
are indispensable, others depend on different factors. In such a way
every time the unique movement is created. This model is grounded on
six fundamental components on the basis on which the revival movement
is established: 1) an individual or a small group of people constituting
śthe core of revivers”; 2) revival informants or/and original sources
e.g. archival recordings; 3) revival ideology and discourse concering
it; 4) a group of followers who form the basic revival community; 5)
the revival movement activity e.g. organisations, concerts, festivals,
contests; 6) non-profit and/or commercial initiatives and companies
rendering services on the revival market.
This model should serve as a framework for understanding the whole musical-social
phenomenon that is the music revival in 20th century. It does not aim
to be a structure, but a descriptive outline on the basis of which revival
movements of every kind of music: popular, folk or classical can be
The central role in every music revival plays one or a few people. They
constitute so-called revival core - a group of activists, śinsiders”
or śoutsiders” of the tradition revived, who feel such a strong link
with it that they want to make sacrifice to save it from sinking into
oblivion and transfer it to others. Usually they come from middle class.
They can be total dilettantes, amateurs or professional musicians, for
example, Cecil Sharp, who had such a great impact on British folk music
revival or Andy Statman and Walter Zev Feldman on klezmer music revival.
The revival core śbuilds up the tradition” . The activists create a
new ethos, musical style and aesthetic code in connection with the ideology
accepted by them and their personal preferences. By introducing the
traditional norms, behaviour patterns, customs that all constitute the
way of living, the character of a new group is defined. Stylistic and
aesthetic parameters of the music revival are based on what, as the
revivers believe, is the common part of individual informants’ style
and archival recordings. In this way is created the śessence” of the
musical style that serves as a criterion to assess later performances.
The main point of the ideological emphasis is the balance between individual
musicians’ innovations and suiting the traditional stylistic norms.
At the moment when the musical tradition has been already revived and
gained its own, natural existence, among the revivers there always appears
a question: how to maintain balance between the protection of tradition,
that is - exact obedience to stylistic norms and the innovation, even
if thanks to the latter the revived tradition gets a chance to draw
greater attention of the audience. śThe transformation of tradition”
that is how Neil Rosenberg calls this process consisting in transforming
the accessible sources’ traditional style into the revived musical style,
in creating the ethos of a group and in working out the aesthetic code
filtered by the revival ideology and personal preferences.
An important role in transforming the tradition is played by the informants
and archival recordings. Their significance cannot be overestimated.
They constitute a base for each revival, without which it cannot appear.
Folk recordings, collected by members of the movement, influence the
genre definition, they create the śessence” of the traditional musical
style welcomed by the revival community.
Music revivals are not region-dependent. Even if they usually emerge
in specific locations, they spread rapidly, crossing state and national
borders. Networks of interested individuals form movements. Their members
can cross local and national frontiers, they often link paths of people
who would never met of not for the revival. Many revivals even distance
from their real geographical and temporal locations.
Because of such a wide-spread distribution of members all over the world,
it is essential to induce the community spirit. That is the function
of revival magazines, radio broadcasts, records that help to unify separated
people, overcome the geographical distance. Festivals and musical contests
allow to connect people physically. The members of the revival movement
of a given musical genre can meet face to face, share the repertoire,
the musical experience, discuss the strong and week points of their
musical community. During such meetings, they learn actively, experience
the revival ethos and the aesthetic code, they socialise with other
musicians. Those events, all festivals and concerts are essential for
the success of the revival. They complement with a lively, direct contact
what have been previously learnt from books or heard from albums. The
revival, as Tamara Livingston highlights, has usually a highly pedagogical
character, it teaches tradition, even if it is the tradition already
transformed and filtered. It id favoured by direct meetings, workshops,
reviews, concerts, festivals.
Motivation behind the activities aiming at the revival of a genre or
at participation in a revival movement is usually complex. However,
there are some easy to pinpoint motives of the members (initiators)
of the revival.
One of them is the will to reintroduce a kind of music considered more
śauthentic” and therefore valuable. This will is often accompanied by
the feeling of disapproval of modern music. The image of the revived
musical practice is seen as a musical and social continuity, as a totality,
in opposition to, perceived as erosive, mass production effects, fads
and media propaganda.
Connected with the revived music, the concepts of better times, individual
and common creation not impeded by the parade of progress are other
motives behind the activities of reviving the forgotten and marginalised
folk music practice. Usually, also the personal motivations of so-called
revival core constitute the bases for ideological superstructure of
In the ideology of folk music revival the most important in the process
of aesthetic and ethic code formulation are the ideas of śhistorical
continuity” and organic purity of the practice revived. A term, used
as a synonym to both these ideas and as a main ideological weapon is
śauthenticity”. It serves as a simple distinguishing feature of the
revived music from all other musical practice. The ideology of śauthenticity”
should be constructed carefully, it is used to create the aesthetic
and ethic code, and later to classify and assess the musical material,
performances of the revived music. That is why for folk music revivals
a group of criteria of śauthentic” folk music was formulated.
śAuthentic” music, as its revivers believe, is transmitted from one
generation to the next, outside the principal music market. It is characterised
by anonymity and variety. It comes from simple, usually uneducated people
- mainly farmers. It exists usually in oral transmission.
In later arrangements there manifest also some prevailing aesthetic
preferences. There belong: intonation precision, technical fluency,
complicated arrangements, privileging contrast over continuity, exaggerating
exotic scale elements, in opposition to Western diatonicism. These aspects,
next to the śauthenticity” category, shape the aesthetics of the revived
Another manifestation of the ideology is rejecting modern amplification
technology, sound processing and retaining (but not in case if it serves
the aims of the revival, as it happens during recording and publishing
albums), electronic instruments, influence of a modern style in favour
of acoustic instruments and historically and executively appropriate
Almost every music revival, besides ideology, works out its own musical
industry. It consists of non-profit as well as commercial initiatives.
There belong: concerts, festivals promoting the revived music, as well
as sale of instruments, albums, magazines and other publications e.g.
pedagogical (handbooks, ‘teach-yourself’ books on playing an instrument).
It is a sign of our times that no revival movement would survive without
creating financial support sources from concerts, albums sale or festival
organisation. So, ideologically opposed revivers have to ground their
activity on consumption patterns and basic music market.
Some activities, like publishing magazines, begin usually with modest
publications for few fans. There are some that managed to survive for
quite a long time, however, they had to undergo the process of standardisation
of form and content to achieve a level satisfactory for the readers.
Another interesting process, a product of the music market of revival,
is changing amateurs into professionals. Folk music lovers at first
play for themselves, develop their abilities for their own satisfaction,
having in mind no objectives. When it turns out that the music performed
by them gains popularity, the amateur is invited to more and more festivals
and concerts, and they turn into a professional, somebody who makes
a living by performing such a music.
One of the processes present in the revival, processes that have a connection
with the music market, is recontextualisation, that is, finding and
giving a new context to the music revived. We can easily observe it
on the example of folk music that, in its original performance context,
was an inseparable part of everyday life, it accompanied all activities
and rites. Revived, it is found on the stage, played during concerts.
Inevitable relationship between revival movement and the whole cultural
industry causes that in some cases, the revival can appear to be a popular
culture phenomenon. It is so because revival movement animators, when
they want to spread their ideas and present their aesthetics, they have
to use the means available on the main music market.
The presented image of creation and development of the revival should
be also completed with its fall and transformation. There are some processes
that have significant influence on the static image of the revival movement.
Even if the first need of the music revival is conserving the musical
purity from the past, often flexible and vital styles and forms respond
to the needs of the present and undergo transformations. When the care
for śauthenticity” ceases to be the superior and the innovation base
overweighs stylistic clarity of the movement, then the revival will
split into other styles.
translated by Iga Kulig