Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Vinyl reviewed by David Atkinson in Folk Music Journal

David Atkinson, editor of Folk Music Journal, has written a warm review of Vinyl. He says, ‘I wanted to notice this book because I think anyone interested in the history of recorded sound will really enjoy it. It takes an imaginative approach to its subject and it is both highly informative and readable’. What’s interesting about the review is its slight trepidation. Atkinson begins by saying, ‘It is possible that some readers might baulk at my including a brief review of Richard Osborne’s Vinyl: A History of the Analogue Record, but I would maintain that, like it or not, songs, including folk songs, have long enjoyed an existence as material objects, and that for at least a century that material existence was embodied in analogue records’. Here he’s tapping into the anxiety that the folk music world continues to feel about the recorded form. On the one hand, this anxiety could be considered strange. As Atkinson points out, recordings have been the primary way of preserving (as well as promoting and creating) folk music for more than 100 years. Many folk fans will have first come to the music via records, and recordings have been central to the development of some strands of folk (including the folk revival of the late 1950s/early 1960s, as I detail in my book). On the other hand, this anxiety should not be gainsaid. It is too simplistic to dismiss folksong as merely being fakesong and its audience as middle class rustics trying to imagine the music of a romanticised working class. There is a power in some of the best folk music that reaches backwards to a world before recorded sound and sideways to a milieu that wants some relief from mediation. And folk music songs don’t have to be ancient to achieve this transcendent state. Each country has a traditional culture that is there for all to share and to build upon. We might live in a world in which technological mediation is dominant, but that doesn’t mean that this technology engulfs everything completely. That said, the folkies are right to be afraid.

1 comment:

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