Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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MODAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SONGS
song always ended with a laugh, and he concluded from this that the negroes themselves regarded it as mere non­sense.
Not much else are the words of two Mississippi River songs, which are printed herewith, the music of which, however, has elements of unique interest. "Oh, Rock Me, Julie," (seep. 52) and "I'm Gwine to Alabamy" (see p. 53), are singularly alike in structure, with their exclamatory cadenza. They are also alike in bearing a resemblance to the stereotyped formula of the music of the North American Indians, with its high beginning and the repeti­tion of a melodic motif on lower degrees of the scale. But "Rock Me, Julie," is unique in being built on the whole-tone scale, which has caused so much comment since De­bussy exploited it in artistic music.
There is nothing in either words or music necessarily to connect a "Cajan" boat-song in my manuscript collection (see page 54) with the folksongs of the negroes, but the song is intrinsically interesting as a relic of the Acadian period in Louisiana. It was written down for me from memory a generation ago by Mrs. Wulsin, mother of the late Lucien Wulsin, of Cincinnati, a descendant, I believe, of one of the old couriers des bois. It is a canoe, or paddling, song, and there is no trace of the Creole patois in its text.
Les marenquins nous piquent—
II faut pagayer; L'on ne passe sa vie
Toujour* en pagayant. Pagaie, pagaie, pagaie, mon enfant.
(The mosquitoes sting us; we must paddle. One's life is not all passed in paddling. Paddle, paddle, paddle, my boy.)
The lines in the second verse as they remained in Mrs. Wulsin's memory do not adjust themselves to the melody, but they, no doubt, preserve the sense of the old song:
Toute la semaine L'on mange de la sacamite, Et le Dimanche pour se regaler L'on mange du gombo file. Pagaie, etc.
(All the week we eat sacamite, and on Sundays, for good cheer, we eat gomb* file. Paddle, etc.)
I 51 1
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III