Afro-American Folksongs - online book

A Study In Racial And National Music, With Sample Sheet Music & Lyrics.

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FOLKSONGS IN GENERAL
Intervallic peculiarities are more difficult to explain than rhythmic, and are in greater likelihood survivals of primi­tive elements. Despite its widespread use, the diatonic scale is an artistic or scientific evolution, not an inspiration or a discovery in the natural world of sound; and though it may have existed in primitive music before it became the basis of an art, there was no uniformity in its use. The most idiomatic music of the Finns, who are an older race in the northern European peninsula than any of the Ger­manic tribes which are their rulers, is confined to the first five tones of the minor scale; old Irish and Scotch songs share the familiar pentatonic scale (by which I mean the modern diatonic series omitting the fourth and seventh steps) with the popular music of China, Japan, Siam and other countries. It is of frequent occurrence in the melodies of the American negroes, and found not infrequently in those of North American Indians; it is probably the oldest tonal system in the world and the most widely dispersed.
Cesar Cui remarks the prevalence in Russia of two major scales, one without the fourth and the other without the third and seventh. Hungarian melodies employ largely the interval called an augmented, or superfluous, second, which is composed of three semitones. The Magyars are Scythians and racially related to the Finns and Turks, and not to their neighbors, the Poles and Russians; yet the same peculiarity is found in Slavic music—in the songs of the Serbs, Bulgarians, Montenegrins and all the other mixed peoples that inhabit the Balkan Peninsula. The idiom is Oriental and a marked feature of the popular and synagogal music of the Jews.
Facts like these indicate the possibility of employing folksong as an aid in the determination of ethnological and ethnographical questions; for its elements have a marvellous tenacity of life. Let this be remembered when the specific study of American folksong is attempted. The persistency of a type of song in spite of a change of environment of sufficient influence to modify the civilization of a people has a convincing illustration in Finland. Though the Finns have mixed with their Germanic neighbors for many
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III