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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2009

Matthew Gelbart
Affiliation:
Boston College, Massachusetts
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Summary

Americans of recent generations will remember a game on the children's television show Sesame Street called “One of these things is not like the others,” which teaches young children to balance similarities and differences by establishing categories. Most people today would have no problem playing that game with these three tunes:

  1. the Scottish fiddle dance tune “John Anderson My Jo,” probably derived from a bawdy song;

  2. “MacLeod's Rowing,” a Piobaireachd (“pibroch”) for Highland bagpipe;

  3. Jean-Baptiste Lully's air “Sommes-nous pas trop heureux” from the ballet L'Impatience (1661).

The last here certainly seems the odd one out. It is French and the other two are Scottish. More importantly, by today's usual reckoning standards, it is “classical”: part of a well-funded world of urban, sophisticated music-making – and part of a literate tradition in which authorship is clearly established, and pieces are communicated as fixed texts reflecting that author's apparent intentions. The other two tunes, meanwhile, are apparently varieties of “folk” or “traditional” music: part of a communal tradition, usually disseminated anonymously through oral communication, and thus undergoing constant minor variations and additions.

Facile categorizations such as those encouraged by the Sesame Street game are always problematic on closer view of course, and “folk” and “classical” are among the most problematic of all. For example, one could easily argue, as many writers now do, that the pibroch is a form of classical music.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Invention of 'Folk Music' and 'Art Music'
Emerging Categories from Ossian to Wagner
, pp. 1 - 13
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2007

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  • Introduction
  • Matthew Gelbart, Boston College, Massachusetts
  • Book: The Invention of 'Folk Music' and 'Art Music'
  • Online publication: 22 September 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511481918.001
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  • Introduction
  • Matthew Gelbart, Boston College, Massachusetts
  • Book: The Invention of 'Folk Music' and 'Art Music'
  • Online publication: 22 September 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511481918.001
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Introduction
  • Matthew Gelbart, Boston College, Massachusetts
  • Book: The Invention of 'Folk Music' and 'Art Music'
  • Online publication: 22 September 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511481918.001
Available formats
×