"Free of the taint of manufacture" – that phrase, in particular, is heavily loaded with the ideology of what the Victorian socialist William Morris called the "anti-scrape", or an anticapitalist conservationism (not conservatism) that solaced itself with the vision of a preindustrial golden age. In Britain, folk may often appear a cosy, fossilised form, but when you look more closely, the idea of folk – who has the right to sing it, dance it, invoke it, collect it, belong to it or appropriate it for political or cultural ends – has always been contested territory. . . .
In our own time, though, the word "folk" . . . has achieved the rare distinction of occupying fashionable and unfashionable status simultaneously. Just as the effusive floral prints of the radical William Morris now cover genteel sofas, so the revolutionary intentions of many folk historians and revivalists have led to music that is commonly regarded as parochial and conservative. And yet – as newspaper columns periodically rejoice – folk is hip again, influencing artists, clothing and furniture designers, celebrated at music festivals, awards ceremonies and on TV, reissued on countless record labels. Folk is a sonic "shabby chic", containing elements of the uncanny and eerie, as well as an antique veneer, a whiff of Britain's heathen dark ages. The very obscurity and anonymity of folk music's origins open up space for rampant imaginative fancies. . . .
[Cecil Sharp, who wrote about this subject, believed that] folk songs existed in constant transformation, a living example of an art form in a perpetual state of renewal. "One man sings a song, and then others sing it after him, changing what they do not like" is the most concise summary of his conclusions on its origins. He compared each rendition of a ballad to an acorn falling from an oak tree; every subsequent iteration sows the song anew. But there is tension in newness. In the late 1960s, purists were suspicious of folk songs recast in rock idioms. Electrification, however, comes in many forms. For the early-20th-century composers such as Vaughan Williams and Holst, there were thunderbolts of inspiration from oriental mysticism, angular modernism and the body blow of the first world war, as well as input from the rediscovered folk tradition itself.
For the second wave of folk revivalists, such as Ewan MacColl and AL Lloyd, starting in the 40s, the vital spark was communism's dream of a post-revolutionary New Jerusalem. For their younger successors in the 60s, who thronged the folk clubs set up by the old guard, the lyrical freedom of Dylan and the unchained melodies of psychedelia created the conditions for folkrock's own golden age, a brief Indian summer that lasted from about 1969 to 1971. . . . Four decades on, even that progressive period has become just one more era ripe for fashionable emulation and pastiche. The idea of a folk tradition being exclusively confined to oral transmission has become a much looser, less severely guarded concept. Recorded music and television, for today's metropolitan generation, are where the equivalent of folk memories are seeded. . . .
All of the following are causes for plurality and diversity within the British folk tradition EXCEPT:
- paradoxically, folk forms are both popular and unpopular.
- that British folk continues to have traces of pagan influence from the dark ages.
- that British folk forms can be traced to the remote past of the country.
- the fluidity of folk forms owing to their history of oral mode of transmission.
Which of the following statements about folk revivalism of the 1940s and 1960s cannot be inferred from the passage?
- Even though it led to folk-rock’s golden age, it wasn’t entirely free from critique.
- Electrification of music would not have happened without the influence of rock music.
- Freedom and rebellion were popular themes during the second wave of folk revivalism.
- It reinforced Cecil Sharp’s observation about folk’s constant transformation.
The author says that folk “may often appear a cosy, fossilised form” because:
- it has been arrogated for various political and cultural purposes.
- folk is a sonic “shabby chic” with an antique veneer.
- the notion of folk has led to several debates and disagreements.
- of its nostalgic association with a pre-industrial past.
The primary purpose of the reference to William Morris and his floral prints is to show:
- the pervasive influence of folk on contemporary art, culture, and fashion.
- that what was once derided as genteel is now considered revolutionary.
- that what is once regarded as radical in folk, can later be seen as conformist.
- that despite its archaic origins, folk continues to remain a popular tradition.
At a conference on folk forms, the author of the passage is least likely to agree with which one of the following views?
- The power of folk resides in its contradictory ability to influence and be influenced by the present while remaining rooted in the past.
- Folk forms, despite their archaic origins, remain intellectually relevant in contemporary times.
- Folk forms, in their ability to constantly adapt to the changing world, exhibit an unusual poise and homogeneity with each change.
- The plurality and democratising impulse of folk forms emanate from the improvisation that its practitioners bring to it.
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