Oriel Arts Week does Daily Music

by Alasdair Cameron

All through Oriel Arts Week 2015, we’re providing a daily shot of musical inspiration to set you off to a good start! Make sure you come back daily for your music recommendation & explanation provided by Oriel College Music Society members.

Think folk music and phrases like ‘preservation of tradition’ might readily come to mind, accompanied by thoughts of beards, cider and poor personal hygiene. But while that’s all very well, and to some even desirable (especially the point about musicians not washing), much music placed under the folk banner doesn’t necessarily have to fit such descriptions. This is certainly true of Sam Lee, who, along with acts like Bellowhead, is part of a current generation of musicians, like many before him, channelling this inherited music through media relevant to the current times (think Steeleye Span for the 2010s).

His interpretations of many of the songs taught to him by his mentor, the Scottish balladeer Stanley Robinson, and others, incorporate methods of mixing, sampling and instrumentation commonly found in genres not normally associated with folk music (hip-hop, for example). Further, his music in performance reaches into a number of other areas of the arts, including interpretive dance, and the use of various forms of visual media. On top of this, his use of the lyric ‘I’ in many of the songs in his repertoire imbue them with LGBTQ implications which would likely have been entirely alien to, or at least much less explicit in, folk music twenty or thirty years ago.

Many of these elements can be found in his version of the Hampshire ballad ‘George Collins’, from his 2012 album Ground of its Own, demonstrating that ‘folk music’ is not exclusively a genre practised by pot-bellied middle aged men in committed relationships with their facial hair. Though some may not readily admit it, the ability of interpreters of this repertoire to highlight its relevance to us, whatever generation we may belong to, is one of the key reasons it has survived in constantly varying forms for hundreds of years. As such, ‘preservation’ of the folk tradition should arguably be less about an attempt to crystallise it within a particular set of temporal or geographic circumstances (as common misconceptions could often be said to be guilty of doing), but rather, it should centre itself around the possibility of musicians like Sam Lee to imbue it with a variety of novel elements.


Keep following The Poor Print for your daily shot of music recommendation! Provided for you by Oriel College Music Society!



The Poor Print

Established in 2013, The Poor Print is the student-run newspaper of Oriel College, Oxford, written by members of the JCR, MCR, SCR and staff. New issues are published fortnightly during term. Our current Executive Editors are Siddiq Islam and Jerric Chong.

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