Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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SONGS OF THE AMERICAN SLAVES
That there should be resemblances between some of the songs sung by the American blacks and popular songs of other origin need surprise no one. In the remark about civilized music made by Mr. Allen, which Dr. Wallaschek attributes to Miss McKim, it is admitted that the music of the negroes is "partly actually imitated from their music," L e., the music of the whites; but Mr. Allen adds: "In the main it appears to be original in the best sense of the word, and the more! we examine the subject, the more genuine it appears to be. In a very few songs, as Nos. 19, 23 and 25, strains of familiar tunes are readily traced; and it may easily be that others contain strains of less familiar music which the slaves heard their masters sing or play." It would be singular, indeed, if this were not the case, for it is a universal law. Of the songs singled out by Mr. Allen, No. 19 echoes what Mr. Allen describes as a familiar Methodist hymn, 'Ain't I glad I got out of the Wilderness/ " but he admits that it may be original. I have never seen the song in a collection of Methodist hymns, but I am certain that I used to sing it as a boy to words which were anything but religious. Moreover, the second period of the tune, the only part that is in con­troversy, has a prototype of great dignity and classic ancestry; it is the theme of the first Allegro of Bach's sonata in E for violin and clavier. I know of no parallel for No. 23 ("I saw the Beam in my Sister's eye") except in other negro songs. The second period of No. 23 ("Gwine Follow"), as Mr. Allen observes, "is evidently 'Buffalo,' variously known as 'Charleston' or 'Baltimore Gals.'" But who made the tune for the "gals" of Buffalo, Charleston and Baltimore? The melodies which were more direct progenitors of the songs which Christy's Minstrels and other minstrel companies carried all over the land were attributed to the Southern negroes; songs like "Coal-black Rose," "Zip Coon" and "Ole Virginny Nebber Tire," have always been accepted as the creations of the blacks, though I do not know whether or not they really are. Concerning them I am skeptical, to say the least, if only for the reason that we have no evidence on the sub-
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III