What we're about

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Cityfolk is a folk song-swapping collective that will meet monthly in DC. Prior knowledge of folk music is not required, nor is great technical ability. We are amateurs with common musical and political interests who are pooling our efforts to enjoy and learn more about folk music. Any instrument is fine--hopefully not too many guitars.

At meetings each member performs one or two songs of their choice for the rest of the group, and presents any background information on the song’s lineage and melodic/lyric variants they can find.

By learning songs and arrangements and then teaching them to the group, members can improve their musical and performance skills while also expanding their general knowledge of folk music. Think of it as a musical pot-luck.

Our archives are the many anthologies and indices that have been compiled over the last few centuries, some of which are available free online. These include the Roud Folk Song Index, the Child Ballads, Jacobite Reliques, the American Songbag, and many others.

The guiding ethos of Cityfolk is that folk music is a cultural expression of the people. More than just “handed-down songs,” folk music is a process. Before the age of the recorded music industry, music-making was a part of everyday life. Songs were not considered the original creations of a professional music-making class who owned the song. The songs belonged to everybody and nobody, and as they circulated among regions and across generations, they were tweaked by a million hands, each adding one more stroke of polish until the song attained a clarity of form that is archetypal.

Capitalism has stifled the folk process. Now songs are produced as commodities by professionals for a market, while the rest of us experience music as consumers, not makers. The songs cannot enter the folk process because of copyright laws, and they ossify into objects. Cityfolk regards the anti-commodification power of the folk process to be a vital cultural force in the fight against capitalism. The practice of the folk process is a political act.

If interested, please contact me with a word or two about your level of interest and seriousness. This will kind of be like a study group, and will require a bit of effort. Also, we'd like to keep the group small and intimate. Thanks for reading.

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