Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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Besides, the utterance is illogical. Similarities exist between the folksongs of all peoples. Their overlapping is a necessary consequence of the proximity and intermingling of peoples, like modifications of language; and there are some characteristics which all songs .except those of the rudest and most primitive kind must have in common. The prevalence of the diatonic scales and the existence of march-rhythms, for instance, make parallels unavoidable. If the use of such scales and rhythms in the folksongs of the American negroes is an evidence of plagiarism or imitation, it is to be feared that the peoples whose music they put under tribute have been equally culpable with them. Again, if the songs are but copies of "the national songs of all nations, military signals, well-known marches, Ger­man student songs, etc.," why did white men blacken their faces and imitate these imitations ? Were the facilities of the slaves to hear all these varieties of foreign music better than those of their white imitators ? It is plain that Dr. Wallaschek never took the trouble to acquaint himself with the environment of the black slaves in the United States. How much music containing the exotic elements which I have found in some songs, and which I shall pres­ently discuss, ever penetrated to the plantations where these songs grew? It did not need Dr. Wallaschek's con­fession that he did not think it necessary to make a thorough examination of even the one genuine collection which came under his notice to demonstrate that he did not look analytically at the songs as a professedly scientific man should have done before publishing his wholesale charac­terization and condemnation. This characterization is of a piece with his statement that musical contests which he mentions of the Nishian women which are "won by the woman who sings loudest and longest" are "still in use in America," which precious piece of intelligence he proves by relating a newspaper story about a pianoforte play­ing match in a dime museum in New York in 1892. The truth is that, like many another complacent German savant, Dr. Wallaschek thinks Americans are barbarians. He is welcome to his opinion, which can harm no one but himself'
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III