Three River Revival: Traditional Music

Welcome to the Three River Revival! This blog is an attempt share with you, dear listeners, my appreciation for traditional and folk music.

This being the inaugural post, let me lay the ground work for entries to come. My goal: I’d like to explore the question, “what is traditional music?” Rather than summing it up in a concise answer (Wiki it, the answer is not so concise) this blog will take a thematic approach that looks into traditional music from the U.S. and around the world. I want to explore what threads connect the music of the past with the music of today.

To start, there are a few generalizations I will make to make defining traditional music easier.

Simply by definition, traditional music is the root of all styles that succeed it. But it’s silly to assume that nothing exists before traditional music. “Traditional” can be assigned to a particular people (even a single person), instrument, style, region, event, etc. and it is born of a culture. More often than not a classification will be the result of a few of these cultural variables: Give a banjo to a man in New Orleans and he will give you a Dixieland rhythm. Give a banjo to a girl in Galax, Va. and suddenly you have a bluegrass picker. Find Woody Guthrie in the middle of unionization and you get “1913 Massacre.” Find Dylan in the middle of the Civil Rights era and you get “Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.”

Another assumption I’d like to make is that this music has significance within its culture of origin. This can mean purpose but it can also mean popularity. Traditional music can aid in the storytelling, passing, and propagation of a culture. Basically, it found an audience willing to embrace it and also to recreate it while transforming it into new styles, rendering the old “traditional.”

I write because I love the folk tradition and I believe it has much to offer those who want to understand music and its relationship to people. Modern music has its place. I can lie down on my couch, close my eyes, chill out of the B-side of The Avalanches or Neat Beats, and tell you how meta it is to smash pop culture to pieces and then rebuild it. But unique to traditional music is it still provides a sense of identity, in some cases even when the heyday of its style is long past. Look, there are still people blowing alpine horns for no apparent reason other than to party at the top of mountains.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for future installments of Three River Revival.

Paperhouse: On Foals

There comes a time in every boy’s life when he becomes a man. For some, it is when they lose their virginity. For others, it is their first drink or their first fight. For others still (hint: Carnegie Mellon students), it is running their first program. For me, however, it was when I first heard Foals.

Foals is an indie rock band from England. The core members of the band started their musical careers in a small math rock group based in Oxford, but they disbanded and created the band Foals in 2005. Moving away from hard math rock, a very rhythmically complex genre, and into a more math-inspired indie rock feel, the band released its first album in 2008, titled Antidotes. It was this album that turned me into a man.

I don’t remember exactly how I came upon the album, but it was good enough that I actually went out and bought a physical copy. Never before had I found something that challenged me musically and intrigued me as much as Foals did. So when its second album, Total Life Forever, was announced in 2010, I had to preorder it. Total Life Forevercontinued with the band’s departure from math rock into a much more indie (some would say accessible) sound, but it remained uniquely identifiable as Foals.

The band’s new single, “Inhaler,” dropped last Monday. Once again, Foals moves even further away from math rock and Antidotes. Put simply, “Inhaler” is less math, more muscle. The album, called Holy Fire, comes out in February, and you can bet your plaid pantaloons that I’ll be preordering it as well. Foals isn’t just the funkiest, most fun-loving band out there. Foals has the musical genius that bands strive for years to emulate, and it does something that very few other bands can do: hange its sound, and remain just as good as it was in the first place — if not better.

(Originally published in The Tartan)

WRCT: a Fall Dance Party

You’ve been waiting all semester long for the chance to dance, and your patience has paid off. WRCT: A Fall Dance Party is this Friday, Nov. 9. Your favorite WRCT DJs, your favorite Shadow Lounge, the best night of your life. We’ve got a jam packed lineup so there will be something to dance your butt off to. Satisfaction is guaranteed.

Party starts at 9 p.m. Don’t be late.

More info (including DJ lineup!) on the Facebook event page:

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