Before the twentieth century, a major difference prevailed between cultivated music and folk music. Cultivated music was generally composed by educated, formally trained musicians and composers. Folk music, on the other hand, was performed by anyone and everyone else.

Generally speaking, cultivated music was created by and for the upper classes, and was taught and transmitted within a written tradition; while folk music was created by and for the lower classes, and they were usually not written down, but transmitted orally.

Since folk songs were remembered rather than written down, they changed and developed over time, or there may be more than one version of a similar title. The changes or development may take place gradually over centuries; or they may ttake place all at once at the hands of a particularly innovative interpreter.

The changes might be accidental, resulting from a lapse of memory, or a deliberate improvement.

Since the songs and variations belong to the whole community, instead of associating with specific individuals, this communal re-creation becomes one of the defining characteristics of folk music.


~ Written by Boon Sin Ler

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