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Festival of American Folklife

"Folk" is as much a process as it is a body of material--musical, verbal, or three dimensional. What distinguishes folk from other cultural forms are style and the method by which traditions are passed from person to person. Leontyne Price and Aretha Franklin may sing the same spiritual, but one sings in bel canto style learned from vocal coaches while the other belts out the piece as she learned it from her father, a singing preacher. The difference in style is immediately apparent. Both are rooted in time-honored traditions, but one depends on the printed page and the other, on oral transmission alone.

The "folk process" preserves the ...

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