Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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VARIATIONS FROM THE MAJOR SCALE
of tempo and rhythm, and also in the manner of singing and dancing. The drummers changed from double to compound-triple time, the singers separated into two choirs and sang the antiphonal Allegro phrase printed in the table of examples, and began to keep step with absolute precision.
In what key is this phrase? Not in C minor, as the prevalence of C, E-flat and G would seem to suggest at first sight; the A is too disturbing 'for that. But if one should conceive the phrase as being in F, the explanation is at hand. Then it will be seen that the phrase illustrates the use of the flat seventh. This E-flat is now felt as the essential element of the dominant seventh-chord of the subdominant key, B-flat. In "A Great Campmeetin'" the corresponding tone leads into this key as the song is sung and as it appears in the books; but it must be observed that the harmonization was made by Mr. Fenner, who has not told us to what extent he received hints from his singers. The Dahomans seemed satisfied to treat the E-flat as a grace-note and found gratification for their sense of repose in the F major triad suggested by the concluding C. When I consulted Mr. Arthur Mees, who gave parti­cular attention to the ecclesiastical modes when a student of Weitzmann, in Berlin, as to his opinion on the subject under consideration, he wrote me: "The use of the flat seventh seems to be quite common to old melodies. Just such a one as you quote as being Dahoman I found in an attempted deciphering of Hebrew melodies from Hebrew accents. It is, I think, true that the dropping into the subdominant is a sort of relaxation of musical fancy (For-stellung), while modulation into the dominant is a climb­ing up process, which can be accomplished by not less than two chords. (I mean two different roots.) I do not feel a modulation with the introduction of. the low seventh, but a melodic peculiarity which is enforced and made piquant by the mental effort (unconscious) to retain the original tonality after the flat seventh has been heard." Mr. Mees added that he felt the scale of the phrase just as he felt the scale of the Mixolydian mode.
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III