Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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CHAPTER VII
MINOR VARIATIONS AND CHARACTERISTIC RHYTHMS
Vagaries in the Minor ScaleThe Sharp StxthOrientalismThe "Scotch" Snap—A Note on the Tango DanceEven and Uneven Meas­uresAdjusting Words and Music
The frequent aberrations from the major scale in the songs of the American negroes, which I have pointed out, serve effectually to disprove Wallaschek's contention that they are nothing more than imitations of European songs— "unmistakably arranged" or "ignorantly borrowed" from the national songs of European peoples. There is but one body of specifically national song with which the slave of the United States could by any possibility have become familiar—the Scottish, with its characteristic pentatonic scale and rhythmical snap; but the singing of Scottish ballads was not so general in the South that their pecu­liarities could become the common property of the field hands on the plantations. The negroes in the Antilles and South America were in a very different case. Reci­procal influences were stronger there, where social lines were more loosely drawn and where the races amalgamated to an extent which threatened the institution of slavery itself; but even there the impress of African music is unmistakable and indelible' Spanish melody has been imposed on African rhythm. In the United States the rhythmical element, though still dominant, has yielded measurably to the melodic, the dance having given way to religious worship, sensual bodily movement to emotional utterance.
The demonstration of independence of European in­fluence is still more striking in the case of the minor songs and those of mixed or vague tonality. The variations from the minor scale which I have classified are those dis-
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III