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Music revival

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 examined.
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 the movement.
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 music performances.
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 styles.
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.

Magdalena Sobczak
translated by Iga Kulig



Warsaw Village Band
The Saint Nicholas Orchestra
Trebunie Tutki Group
Jorgi Quartet
Broda Group
Ensemble Polonais

prof.Jan Adamowski
Maria Baliszewska
prof. Jerzy Bartmiński
Małgorzata Jędruch
Tomasz Janas
Wojciech Ossowski

Folk Groups and Singers Festival in Kazimierz
Folk Music Festival of The Polish Radio "Nowa Tradycja"
International Folk Music Festival "Mikołajki Folkowe"
Folk Meeting "Z wiejskiego podwórza"

"The first and second existence of folklore" - prof. Anna Czekanowska
"Folk is longitudinal" - Marcin Skrzypek
"Music revival" - Magdalena Sobczak
"Names of folk" - Ewa Wróbel

more soon...


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