Folk Music, Art Music, and All That Jazz: An Assessment

Folk music, art music, and all that jazz – what’s the difference? In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the three different genres of music and assess their relative merits.


Folk music, art music, and all that jazz: an assessment is an article written by Alan Lomax that was published in the summer issue of The Journal of American Folklore in 1961. In it, Lomax sets out to define and demarcate the boundaries between folk music and art music. He does so by looking at various aspects of each genre, such as their history, structure, and aesthetic value.

Lomax begins by pointing out that folk music and art music are two of the most common terms used to describemusic, but that there is no real consensus on what each term actually means. He then proceeds to give a brief overview of the history of each genre, tracing their development from the 18th century onwards. He argues that folk music is more rooted in oral tradition and vernacular culture, whereas art music is more likely to be written down and codified.

After this historical overview, Lomax looks at the structure of folk and art music. He argues that folk music is usually simpler in form and content than art music, and that it is often more tuneful and accessible to a wider range of listeners. Conversely, art music is often more complex in form and harmony, and its meaning is often more opaque to non-specialists.

Finally, Lomax assesses the relative aesthetic value of folk and art music. He argues that both genres have merit, but that folk music is generally more honest and expressive of human emotions, while art music is more intellectual and cerebral. In conclusion, he states that both genres should be valued for their respective strengths, and urges people to listen to both with open minds.

What is Folk Music?

Folk music is the music of the people. Art music is the music of the elite. All that jazz is the music of the soul. These three genres of music have one thing in common: they are all rooted in the human experience. Folk music is based on the traditions of a culture, art music is based on the traditions of a society, and all that jazz is based on the traditions of a community.

The Various Types of Folk Music

Folk music is a genre of music that is passed down orally from one generation to the next. It is typically associated with traditional songs and dances, and often has a centuries-old history. While folk music may be based on older musical traditions, it can also be quite modern in its approach.

There are many different types of folk music, each with its own unique history and style. Some of the most popular folk genres include Celtic, Appalachian, and British Isles folk music. Celtic folk music is often associated with Ireland and Scotland, and includes traditional songs about love, loss, and history. Appalachian folk music originated in the mountains of North America, and is known for its driving rhythms and simple melodies. British Isles folk music encompasses a wide range of styles from England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.

Folk music often has a strong connection to the land where it originated. For example, Celtic folk music is often steeped in the history and mythology of Ireland and Scotland. Similarly, Appalachian folk music often tells stories about the hardscrabble life of early settlers in North America. This connection to the land can givefolk music a deep sense of place and identity.

While some types of folk music are clearly tracable to specific regions or cultures, others have developed more broadly across multiple cultures. For example, bluesfolk fusion is a type of contemporaryfolk music that blends elements of both genres. This type of fusion can create new kinds offolk music that are uniquely suited to our time and place.

The Origins of Folk Music

The word “folk” has a variety of meanings, but in music, it refers to the traditional and usually anonymous music of a culture that is passed down orally. Folk music is usually created by common people for their own amusement, and it is typicallysimple in form and content. The instruments used in folk music are often everyday objects that have been adapted for musical use, such as washboards, spoons, and buckets.

Folk music often reflects the local culture and can be influenced by the geography, history, and politics of a region. For example, Appalachian folk music is rooted in the traditions of British and Irish immigrants who settled in the Appalachian Mountains in the United States. This type of folk music is typically characterized by its simple melodies and harmonies, as well as its focus on storytelling.

Folk music has existed for centuries, and it continues to be an important part of cultures around the world. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in folk music, thanks in part to the popularity of artists like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. Folk music has also been adapted by contemporary artists who incorporate elements of folk into their own musical styles.

What is Art Music?

Art music is a term that covers a wide variety of styles of music from different cultures and periods. It is generally used to refer to music that is not popular or folk music. Some examples of art music include classical, opera, and jazz.

The Various Types of Art Music

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the term art music was used to refer to Serious Music—the type of Western classical music performed in concert halls and Opera houses, and heard on recordings. Today, art music is used more broadly to describe any type of serious, or non-popular, music.

There are many different types of art music, including:
-Classical Music: This is the most well-known type of art music. It includes symphonies, operas, and solo concerti by composers such as Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms.
-Romantic Music: A subgenre of classical music, this style includes works by Romantic Era composers such as Chopin, Schumann, and Liszt.
-Modernist Music: A reaction against Romanticism, this style includes works by early twentieth-century composers such as Stravinsky and Bartók.
-Minimalist Music: A late twentieth-century style characterized by repetitive patterns and stasis; it includes works by Terry Riley and Philip Glass.
-Postminimalist Music: A late twentieth-century style that builds on Minimalism; it includes works by John Adams and Steve Reich.
Art music is typically contrast with popular music (also known as commercial music or pop music). While art music is usually composed for performance by professional musicians in concert halls or opera houses, popular music is composed for performance by amateurs in nightclubs or bars, or for playback by listeners at home on their stereo systems.

The Origins of Art Music

Art music is a term that covers a wide range of styles of music from the Western classical tradition. It is used to describe music that has been created by trained composers who have written down their work using notation, and it encompasses everything from medieval plainchant to brand-new works by contemporary composers.

The origins of art music can be traced back to the period between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance (roughly 400-1400 AD). This was a time when music was primarily for Christian worship, and it was mainly performed by monks in monasteries. Over time, secular (non-religious) music began to emerge, and by the Renaissance, art music was being written for concert halls and other secular venues.

One of the defining characteristics of art music is that it is typically learned and performed by professional musicians. In contrast, folk music is usually passed down orally within families or communities, and it is often notated only sporadically (if at all). Jazz is another style of music that has its roots in folk traditions, but it has also been adopted by professional musicians and composers.

The Relationship Between Folk Music and Art Music

Music can be divided into many different genres and subgenres, but two of the most general categories are folk music and art music. Folk music is music that is passed down orally and is typically associated with a certain culture or region. Art music, on the other hand, is music that is written by composers and is typically performed by trained musicians.

The Similarities Between Folk Music and Art Music

Though there are some obvious differences between folk music and art music, the two genres have more in common than one might think. For starters, both folk music and art music often tell stories or convey messages. In fact, many of the earliest art compositions were based on folk tales or myths. Furthermore, both genres often make use of repetition and variation, though art music is usually more complex in this regard.

Both folk music and art music can be performed solo or in groups, though ensemble performances are more common in art music. Finally, both genres are regularly taught in schools and conservatories around the world. This is perhaps one of the most important similarities between the two genres, as it highlights their importance in the musical canon.

The Differences Between Folk Music and Art Music

Art music, also called classical music, concert music, or serious music, is music that is written by composers for performance by trained musicians in a concert setting, as opposed to music that is performed by you and me in everyday life. Folk music consists of the musical traditions of a people that are passed down through the generations by oral tradition. It is the music of the common people, as opposed to the music of the elite.

Folk music is usually sung or played on simple instruments such as guitars, fiddles, and harmonicas. Art music is usually played on more complex instruments such as pianos, violins, and cellos. Folk music often has a dance-like quality to it, while art music usually does not. Folk songs often tell stories about the everyday lives of ordinary people, while art songs often deal with more abstract themes such as love, death, and nature.

So there you have it: the main differences between folk music and art music. But what about all that jazz? Jazz is a type of music that originated in the United States in the early 20th century. It blends elements of both folk and art music and can be difficult to categorize!


In conclusion, looking at folk music, art music, and jazz from the perspective of both musicians and listeners, it is clear that there are various ways in which these genres can be appreciated. Each has its own unique history, form, and style that make it enjoyable in different ways. While some may prefer one genre over another, there is no wrong answer when it comes to enjoying music. Ultimately, what matters most is that we take the time to appreciate the variety of sounds and styles that music has to offer.

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