Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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CHAPTER III
RELIGIOUS CHARACTER OF THE SONGS
The Paucity of Secular Songs among the SlavesCampmeetijtgs, "Spirituals" and "Shouts"Work-Songs of the Fields and RiversLafcadio Hearn and Negro MusicAfrican Relics and Voodoo Cere­monies.
Having looked into the genesis of the folksongs of the American negroes, I purpose now to lay a foundation for examination into some of the musical idioms which charac­terize them, so that, presently, their origin as well as their effect may be discussed. Before then, however, something must be said about the various classes of songs and their use. Here the most striking fact that presents itself is the predominance of hymns, or religious songs. The reason for this will readily be found by those who are Willing to accept Herbert Spencer's theory of the origin of music and my definition of folksong. Slavery was the sorrow of the Southern blacks; religion was their comfort and refuge. That religion was not a dogmatic, philosophical or even ethical system so much as it was an emotional experience. "These hymns," says Mr. Allen in his intro­duction to "Slave Songs of the United States," "will be found peculiarly interesting in illustrating the feelings, opinions and habits of the slaves. . . . One of their customs, often alluded to in the songs, . is that of wandering through the woods and swamps when under religious excitement, like the ancient bacchantes." "Al­most all their SQngs were thoroughly religious in their tone," says Colonel Higginson, "and were in a minor key, both as to words and rusic. The attitude is always the same, and, as a commentary on the life of the race, is infinitely pathetic. Nothing but patience for this life—
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III