Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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AFRO-AMERICAN FOLKSONGS
has had nothing to do with influencing the forms of Afro-American folksong. The drum has received such extended attention only because it plays so predominant a role in the music of America as well as Africa. As the rhythmical figure which is characteristic of the Habanera (which dance Friedenthal asserts is indubitably of African origin) domin­ates the dance-melodies of Spanish America, so the "snap" which I have found in 315 of the 527 melodies analyzed, in its degenerate form of "ragtime" now dominates the careless music of two great countries—the United States and England.
Two instruments which would have been of incalculable value in determining the prevalent intervallic systems of African music, had the travellers who have described them been musically scientific enough to tell us how they were tuned, are the marimba and the zanze, both of which are found widely distributed over the Dark Continent. In these instruments the tone-producing agency is fixed when they are made and remains unalterable. The marimba, which has become a national instrument in Mexico, is an instru­ment of the xylophone type, the tones of which are struck out of sonorous bars of wood and intensified by means of dry calabashes of various sizes hung under the bars. The accounts of this instrument given by travellers do not justify an attempt to record its tunings. The zanze is a small sound-box, sometimes reinforced by a calabash or a block of wood hollowed out in the form of a round gourd, to the upper side of which, over a bridge, are tightly affixed a series of wooden or metal tongues of different lengths. The tongues are snapped with the thumbs, the principle involved being that of the familar music-box, and give out a most agreeable sound. I find no record'in the accounts of travellers as to any systematic tuning of the in­strument, but a specimen from Zululand in my possession is accurately tuned to the notes of the pentatonic scale, with the addition of two erratic tones side by side in the middle of the instrument—a fact which invites speculation.
In the table showing the results of an analysis of 527 songs, seven variations from the normal, or conventional,
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III