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date: 27 February 2020

Folk musiclocked

  • Carole Pegg


This concept has been defined and developed in multiple ways by collectors, scholars and practitioners, within different geographical locations and in different historical periods. Widely used in Europe and the Americas, it has been used both covertly and overtly in the construction and negation of identities in relation to class, nation or ethnicity and continues to be the source of controversy and heated debate. At its root lie questions about the identity and identification of the ‘folk’, the delimitation of musical repertories, how these repertories are transmitted and the assessment of sounds.

Volkslied (‘folksong’) as a term was coined by the German cultural philospher, theologian and writer Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803) and established by his publication ‘Stimmen der Völker in Liedern’, Volkslieder (1778–9). Among its characteristics, he posited the necessity of its production by ‘communal composition’ and an aesthetic of ‘dignity’. German scholars have extensively debated the ontological status of the concept, its characteristics and delimitations, and the effectiveness of its replacement by the term ‘traditional’ (...

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