Traditional music

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Traditional music is the term now used in the terminology of Grammy Awards for what used to be called "folk music". Full details of this change can be found in the terminology section of the World music article. Other organizations have made similar changes, though in non-academic circles, and on many CD sales websites, the phrase "folk music" is used in a very all-encompassing way.


Defining characteristics

From a historical perspective, traditional music had these characteristics:

  • The music was often related to national culture.
  • They commemorate historical and personal events.

As a side-effect, the following characteristics are sometimes present:

  • Lack of copyright on songs
  • Fusion of cultures
  • Non-commercial

Subjects of traditional music

Apart from instrumental music that forms a part of traditional music, especially dance music traditions, much traditional music is vocal music, since the instrument that makes such music is usually handy. As such, most traditional music has meaningful lyrics.

Narrative verse looms large in the traditional music of many cultures. This encompasses such forms as traditional epic poetry, much of which was meant originally for oral performance, sometimes accompanied by instruments. Many epic poems of various cultures were pieced together from shorter pieces of traditional narrative verse, which explains their episodic structure and often their in medias res plot developments. Other forms of traditional narrative verse relate the outcomes of battles and other tragedies or natural disasters. Sometimes, as in the triumphant Song of Deborah found in the Biblical Book of Judges, these songs celebrate victory. Laments for lost battles and wars, and the lives lost in them, are equally prominent in many traditions; these laments keep alive the cause for which the battle was fought. The narratives of traditional songs often also remember folk heroes such as John Henry to Robin Hood. Some traditional song narratives recall supernatural events or mysterious deaths.

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