Social identity and the nature of the musical event : a sociological consideration of the British folk scene
This study seeks to understand a particular genre, folk music, in terms of identifying the social factors that give it coherence. It stresses the need to understand social action. The performance of music is dependent upon a whole range of musical, para-musical and non-musical actions from which and through which it derives meaning. This study has examined the pre-determinants of musical events focusing upon the construction and meaning of performance, staging, and sound, and the association of these with social identity. The central questions posed were: Is the central appeal of folk music a certain organisation of musical sound, or is it something beyond this? If so, what is it and how does this relate to the nature of the musical event? Is the music doing something other for a folk audience than 'simply' providing musical enjoyment? Is the link with the past which is affirmed in the notion of revival, an aspect which audiences directly relate to and identify with? A variety of methodologies are applied including: (i) A historical examination concentrating upon the changing ideological functions of the folk revival; (ii) An in-depth audience survey examining: (a) attitudes to the musical content, (b) socio-economic profile of attenders, (c) dispositional and attitudinal correlates of adherence to folk music; (iii) Semi-structured interviews with performers and those involved in organising folk events; (iv) A qualitative and participatory study of folk events in terms of musical and other social dynamics. The folk scene is found to be highly atypical of Western musical subcultures and articulates features such as: informality, participation, historical continuity, and the suppression of overt forms of staging, all in highly specialised ways. The findings are used to contribute to understanding the defining criteria of musical genres.