The Blues Formula: A Response to Taft

The Blues Formula: A Response to Taft Dialogue David Evans michael taft ends his response to my critique (2007) of his book, The Blues Lyric Formula (2006), on a heroic note, describing how, at the 1972 annual meeting of the American Folklore Society, he survived Albert Friedman's criticism of his position on formulaic composition in the blues (2009:80). I personally witnessed several of Friedman's harsh remarks to hapless graduate students at academic meetings and saw how they left permanent scars on some, reduced others to tears, and drove still others from the field of folklore studies altogether. Therefore, I congratulate Taft for his ability to hold his ground and go on to a distinguished career as a folklorist. The beginning of his response, however, is far less heroic, as he tries to make a virtue out of his faulty transcriptions of the lyrics of early blues recordings. Taft admits to a shocking error rate of "perhaps 10 percent of the words in any given song" but claims that his inaccuracies "tended to make my corpus seem less formulaic than it actually was" (2009:75). He states that "transcribing for the purpose of formulaic analysis" is likely to result in an inflated number of formulas, which is http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of American Folklore American Folklore Society

The Blues Formula: A Response to Taft

Journal of American Folklore, Volume 123 (488) – Apr 11, 2010

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Publisher
American Folklore Society
Copyright
Copyright © American Folklore Society
ISSN
1535-1882
Publisher site
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Abstract

Dialogue David Evans michael taft ends his response to my critique (2007) of his book, The Blues Lyric Formula (2006), on a heroic note, describing how, at the 1972 annual meeting of the American Folklore Society, he survived Albert Friedman's criticism of his position on formulaic composition in the blues (2009:80). I personally witnessed several of Friedman's harsh remarks to hapless graduate students at academic meetings and saw how they left permanent scars on some, reduced others to tears, and drove still others from the field of folklore studies altogether. Therefore, I congratulate Taft for his ability to hold his ground and go on to a distinguished career as a folklorist. The beginning of his response, however, is far less heroic, as he tries to make a virtue out of his faulty transcriptions of the lyrics of early blues recordings. Taft admits to a shocking error rate of "perhaps 10 percent of the words in any given song" but claims that his inaccuracies "tended to make my corpus seem less formulaic than it actually was" (2009:75). He states that "transcribing for the purpose of formulaic analysis" is likely to result in an inflated number of formulas, which is

Journal

Journal of American FolkloreAmerican Folklore Society

Published: Apr 11, 2010

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