Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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AFRO-AMERICAN FOLKSONGS
the two which give out the strange, wild notes A and B. How these tones were melodically introduced only a musi­cian hearing the instrument played by a native could tell.
In an article on Scottish music in Grove's "Dictionary of Music and Musicians" Mr. Frank Kidson observes that "whether this pentatonic series was acquired through the use of a defective instrument, or from the melodic taste of a singer or player, must remain mere matter of conjecture." Scarcely, so far as its hypothetical instru­mental origin is concerned. The first melodies were vocal, and among primitive peoples instruments are made for the music—not music for the instruments. Defects in instruments are the results of faulty adjustments of mechanical means to desired ends. Prehistoric whistles, with finger-holes to produce five tones only, were made so that melodies with five tones might be played on them. The melodies were not invented because the makers of the whistles neglected to make a larger number of finger-holes or to dispose them differently.
Many years ago the Rev. Dr. Wentworth, the editor of "The Ladies' Repository," a magazine published by the Methodist Episcopal Church, who had been a missionary in China, told me that he had observed that his congrega­tion became singularly and unaccountably dissonant at certain places in every hymn-tune adopted from the Methodist hymnal. When I told him that the Chinese, while admitting the theoretical existence of the fourth and seventh intervals of the diatonic scale, eschewed them in practice, and asked him whether or not they had been the troublesome tones, he expressed the opinion that I had explained a fact which he had looked upon as inexplicable. Not having made the experiment myself, I could not say whether or not he was right; but it is certainly conceivable that centuries of habit might atrophy the musical faculty of a people so as to make the production of a tone as part of an intervallic system difficult and lead to its modification when occasion called for its introduction. In some such manner it is not unlikely that the flat seventh of the major scale in the music of the American negroes may be ac-
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III