Sunday, March 9, 2008

No 3/9/08 Playlist, BUT here's something terrific:

Sorry, no S.N.F.F. tonight due to a sports-preemption -- but here's a special treat -- Eliza Gilkyson has just posted her keynote speech given at the 20th Annual Folk Alliance Conference, held last month in Memphis. Here's the beginning:

Keynote Speech, Folk Alliance Convention, February 21, 2008
By Eliza Gilkyson

Good morning and welcome to the 20th annual Folk Alliance Convention! Are we really that old?

Oh my god, I can't believe I agreed to be a keynote speaker at this thing! What was I thinking? I am
so not a speaker! Forgive me; I’m going to have to read this thing to you today like a high school kid reading her term paper.

This assignment has been hanging over my head like the Sword of Damocles for the last three months.

It ruined my holidays and haunted me my whole time off from touring. No matter what I did, the
knowledge was always back in there somewhere, "You have to come up with something to talk about for 20 minutes!" I don't do "talk." I've already got my shtick, and I'm comfortable with that. Do I
HAVE to do something new?

But then, how could I turn down an opportunity to open for Janet Reno? I’ve always wanted that
opening slot! Just think of the ways it would expand my fan base! The mind reels!

Actually I had no idea of the incredible compilation that Janet has produced, called Song of America, a chronicling of American history through song. This comprehensive body of work, performed by roots-based as well as current popular artists, gathers the different historical/cultural contributions, cross-connections and roots that define this genre in America described as “music by and for the common people.”

The Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary defines folk music as "music of the common people that has
been passed on by memorization or repetition rather than by writing, and has deep roots in its own

According to Webster's Dictionary, folk music is the "traditional and typically anonymous music that
is an expression of the life of the people in a community.”

So, what is the difference between folk music and pop music (besides the fact that there's not a lot of money in it!)? Ok, let's start with Janet Reno, for example. Her name has been reduced to a sound bite by a pop culture that is addicted to the latest sensation - and that is exactly what I want to talk about today: the role of folk music in a culture that wants to reduce everything and everybody to a seven-second sound bite. Because that IS the goal of pop music: to take a complex and many-faceted person or idea and reduce them to a simple sound bite, a commercial product that can then be force-fed to the masses by an industry that truly does not think along any other lines than of what will sell.

This machine is so all pervasive and dominant that those of us who do not hold the keys to the magic kingdom via youth, beauty, scandal, wealth, attitude or sexuality are made to feel out of it and
marginalized, if not non-existent altogether. Other than the occasional visitations from rock royalty,
folk music seems at best to be a sidecar to the real music business machine.

Years ago I wanted into that machine so bad I would have sold my firstborn for it, and in some ways I did sacrifice my kids to that dream. I was pretty obsessed with the idea that I could be the latest
whatever, and I honestly did not give them the focus they deserved growing up. I regret that. But I do
remember my ex-manager at the time (also my ex-husband - that's what you're supposed to do: marry your manager!) ... anyway, in protest he decided that he wouldn't shave his face until he got me signed to a major label. Well, years later one of the reasons he couldn't get me signed was because the beard was so long and straggly he looked like one of the Minor Prophets, and people avoided him.

Needless-to-say, I never did grasp the brass ring. I remember the moment when I realized that "IT"
wasn't going to happen for me. I was too old (like, older than 35...), the music I made was never going to be hip enough, I was way too accessible, kind of corny in an ex-hippie sort of way, and the machine had really rolled on without me. I was alone by the side of the road.

For the rest of the talk, go to

No comments: