Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Coupon Codes

Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
counted for. This, however, is~a mere hypothesis. Though not a common feature of the folksongs of other peoples, it" does occur here. It is found in a Servian kolo dance printed by Engel in his "Introduction to the Study of National Music," and also in some Arabic tunes. Students of the old ecclesiastical modes recognize it as an element of the Mixolydian mode, with its intervals G, A, B, C, D, E and F-natural.
Whether the employment of the flat seventh is due to an innate harmonic sense on the part of its users, which sometimes discloses itself very markedly in an evident feeling for the subdominant relationship, or is a purely melodic factor (as in Gregorian music), is a question which I shall not undertake to determine. In the case of a very stirring hymn, "Dere's a Great Campmeetin' " (see page 78), the harmonic impulse seems to me most obvious, though there is no other song which I have found in which the flat seventh strikes the ear with such barbaric force as it does in this. Here the first section of the melody closes with a perfect cadence in the key of E-flat; the second section begins abruptly with an apparently unrelated shout on D-flat—"Gwine to mourn, and nebber tire"— which leads directly, as the effect shows, into the key of A-flat, the subdominant of E-flat. The transition has a singularly bright and enlivening effect and the return to the original key is easy and natural.
The specimen illustrating the use of the flat seventh given in the examples of African prototypes in the pre­ceding chapter was noted at the Chicago World's Fair by Heinrich Zoellner, the German composer. I was neve; fortunate enough in my visits to the Dahoman Village to hear the dancers sing. Mr. Zoellner witnessed two choral dances and wrote down the vocal music, which he placed at my disposal. In the first dance the Dahomans sang a slow phrase of two measures in C major without the seventh over and over again, while the band drummed in double time and the dancers advanced and retreated without particular regard to the rhythm, some individuals indulging in fancy steps ad lib. Then there came a change
[ 77 ]
Previous Contents Next