Where Did Folk Music Come From?

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Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

Folk music has been around for centuries, but where did it come from? This blog will explore the history and origins of folk music.

Origins in the British Isles

Folk music has its origins in the music of the people who reside in the British Isles. This music was passed down orally from generation to generation and eventually made its way to the United States. Folk music is typically made with acoustic instruments and often has a simple, catchy melody.

Celtic music

The music of the Celts is incredibly diverse and has influenced everything from classical and rock to pop and hip-hop. The Celtic sound is created by a variety of instruments, including the fiddle, tin whistle, bagpipes, accordion, mandolin, bouzouki, bodhran (Irish drum), harp, and uilleann pipes ( Irish Bagpipes).

There are many different styles of Celtic music, but some of the most popular are Irish Traditional Music, Scottish Traditional Music, Cape Breton Music, and Galician Music. Celtic music has been around for centuries and has undergone many changes over the years. It is truly a living tradition that continues to evolve today.

Anglo-Saxon music

Anglo-Saxon music was, for the most part, functional. It was used for work, for worship and for recreation. Music was an integral part of everyday life in Anglo-Saxon England, but very little of it has survived to the present day.

The Anglo-Saxons were a Germanic people who came to Britain from the middle of the 5th century AD, overthrowing the Romano-British ruling class in the process. They brought with them their own musical traditions, which were gradually assimilated into the existing musical culture of Britain.

Over time, Anglo-Saxon music became increasingly influenced by Celtic music, as well as by Christian liturgical traditions from Continental Europe. By the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066, Anglo-Saxon music had evolved into something quite different from its Germanic roots.

Only a handful of musical manuscripts from Anglo-Saxon England have survived to the present day. These include the Winchester Troper (c. 950), the Cotton Genesis (c. 1000), and the Bodleian Library MS 579 (c. 1000). These manuscripts contain mostly liturgical music, including plainsong chant and settings of chant for use in services.

The Spread of Folk Music

Folk music has its origins in the oral tradition of storytelling. Folk songs were often about real people and events, and were passed down from generation to generation. As people began to migrate, they brought their folk songs with them, and the music spread.

The United States

Folk music in the United States is often thought of as music that comes from the deep south, music that is related to the blues, or music with a Celtic influence. In reality, however, folk music in the United States is a genre that is deeply intertwined with the history and culture of the country. Folk music has its roots in the songs of immigrants who came to the United States in search of a better life. These songs were often about their homeland, their struggles, and their hopes for the future.

As these immigrants settled in different parts of the country, their music began to reflect their new surroundings. For example, Irish and Scottish immigrants who settled in the Appalachian Mountains brought with them a style of folk music that was influenced by their own Celtic heritage as well as by the music of African American slaves. This unique blend of cultures resulted in a style of folk music that was distinctly American.

Folk music in the United States continued to evolve as different groups of people came to the country. Immigrants from Italy, Greece, Poland, and other countries brought with them their own musical traditions, which often blended with existing American styles of folk music. This process of blending and borrowing has resulted in a rich tapestry of folk music that is uniquely American.


Folk music has been found in every culture around the world, but it is particularly associated with Europe. Some of the earliest known folk songs come from ancient Greece, and there is evidence that folk music was popular in Roman times. In medieval Europe, troubadours and minstrels performed songs that told stories of chivalry and romance. By the Renaissance, folk music was an important part of courtly life in countries like England, France, and Spain.

During the Industrial Revolution, many people left the countryside to work in cities. This led to a decline in traditional folk music, but it also led to the development of new genres like gospel music and blues. In the 20th century, folk music was revitalized by musicians like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. Today, there are many different types of folk music, from Americana to British folk rock.

Asia and Africa

Folk music originated in Asia and Africa, and it has been around for centuries. It is a type of music that is usually handed down from generation to generation, and it often has a strong cultural or regional identity. Folk music can be very different from the music you might hear on the radio or at a concert, but it can also be very similar.

People have been singing folk songs for thousands of years, and they continue to do so today. Folk songs can be about any topic, including love, loss, work, and play. They often tell stories or express feelings that are important to the people who sing them. Some folk songs are happy and upbeat, while others are sorrowful and melancholy.

The Revival of Folk Music

Folk music has been around for centuries and has been passed down from generation to generation. It was originally created by the common people and was meant to be a form of expression. In recent years, there has been a revival of folk music. This is likely due to the fact that people are now looking for a more organic form of music.

The British Folk Revival

The British Folk Revival of the early 20th century was a movement to collect and record traditional folk songs, stories, and instrumentation, which had been declining in popularity due to increasing industrialization in Britain. The movement began in the late 19th century and reached its height in the 1920s and 1930s. The Revivalists were mostly upper-middle class people who were educated and had the leisure time to pursue their interest in music.

The Revivalists were influenced by the work of scholars such as Cecil Sharp, who collected traditional songs from the rural areas of England, and by musicians such as Bob Johnson and Ewan MacColl, who performed them. They were also influenced by the American Folk Revival, which was happening at the same time.

The British Folk Revival had a significant impact on British music, both traditional and popular. It helped to revive interest in regional variations of English dialects and culture, and it influenced musicians such as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Percy Grainger, Benjamin Britten, and Aaron Copland.

The American Folk Revival

The American folk music revival was a phenomenon in the United States that began during the 1940s and peaked around the mid-1960s. Its roots were in protest and social activism, particularly with regard to the rights of African Americans and workers. The revival brought traditional folk music back into fashion, inspired new interpretations of existing material and stimulated the creation of new folk songs and works.

Folk Music Today

It’s no secret that folk music has enjoying something of a renaissance in recent years. But where did it come from? In this article, we’ll take a look at the origins of folk music and how it has evolved over the centuries. Whether you’re a fan of Bob Dylan or The Lumineers, you’ll find something to enjoy in this article.

Contemporary folk musicians

Contemporary folk musicians often incorporate elements of other genres, including rock, pop, jazz, and country. While some musicians have strayed far from the traditional sounds of folk music, others have stayed true to the older forms and kept the sound alive. Folk music has also been adapted for different purposes, such as political protest songs and love songs. Some contemporary folk musicians who have kept the sound alive include Arlo Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Emmylou Harris.

The influence of folk music

Folk music has been around since the beginning of time. It is the music of the people and has been used to tell stories, express emotions, and share history. Folk music has been passed down from generation to generation, and it is still being created today.

Folk music has had a significant influence on many different genres of music, including country, rock, and even jazz. Bob Dylan, one of the most influential folk musicians of all time, helped to shape the sound of popular music in the 1960s with his unique blend of folk, blues, and country. Folk music has also been a source of inspiration for many contemporary singer-songwriters.

Despite its long history and influence, folk music is often seen as a relic of the past. However, there is a new generation of folk musicians who are keeping the tradition alive and introducing it to new audiences. These artists are creating new ways to tell stories and express themselves through music. Thanks to them, folk music will continue to be an important part of our musical heritage.

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