By Bruno Nettl

What intrigues the scholar of folks song is the instability of his topic. A folks tune takes no crystallized shape; it's a part of those that sing it and of these who listen it move it on. Treating the sort of important and human topic as though it have been a part of an excellent method with common, immutable legislation will be like classifying the habit of a fowl within the laboratory and ignoring its unfastened flight.

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In 1985 forty of her best interviews (from Coco Chanel and Billy Sunday to Alfred Stieglitz and James Joyce) and twentythree of her drawings, dating from 1913 to 1931, were published. Evident in her journalism, as in her fiction, is a criticism of American middleclass vulgarity ("mink-trimmed minds and sealedged morals") and a sense of the superiority of the artist. Though Barnes once called herself naive during this period, her writing certainly was not. Her satiric pieces occasionally focused on young girls full of illusions and vanity.

Yet certain themes run throughout the plays: her concern with morality, social conformity, sexual repression, and self-deception. In At the Root of Stars (1917), The Death of Life (1916), and Kurzy of the Sea (1920), Barnes shows the artist or an outsider confronting middle-class attitudes. Occasionally she uses Irish dialect in her plays, a direct reflection of the influence of John Millington Synge (The Playboy of the Western World, 1907). "Synge first touched the Irish in me," she said. Barnes's plays were occasionally praised but not often understood.

A Wave. New York: Viking Press, 1984. Selected Poems. New York: Viking Penguin, 1985. April Galleons. New York: Viking Penguin, 1987. OTHER WORKS A Nest of Ninnies. With James Schuyler. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1969. Three Plays. : Z Press, 1978. The Best American Poetry, 1988. Edited by John Ashbery. New York: Macmillan, 1988. "A Reminiscence," in Homage to Frank O'Hara. Edited by Bill Berkson and Joe LeSueur. : Big Sky Bolinas, 1988. Reported Sightings: Art Chronicles, 1957-1987. Ed- The Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, is currently cataloging Ashbery's manuscripts and correspondence through 1985.

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An Introduction to Folk Music in the United States by Bruno Nettl


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