Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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Dr. Dvorak's contention that material for music in the highest artistic forms might be found in the songs of the American negroes, which was derided by quite a number of American musicians, was long ago present in the appre­ciative and discriminating mind of Mrs. Kemble, who, in her life on a Georgian plantation, wished that some great composer might hear the "semi-savage" performances of the slaves, and said: "With a very little skilful adaptation and instrumentation I think one or two barbaric chants and choruses might be evoked from them that would make the fortunes of an opera." The opera is not yet forth­coming, but Dr. Dvorak's "From the New World," which drew its inspiration from Afro-American songs, is the most popular of his symphonies, and his American quartet has figured on the programmes of the Kneisel Quartet oftener than any other work in its repertory.
In the sense which seems to be playing hide and seek in the minds of the critics and musicians who object to the American label, there is no American music and can be none: Every element of our population must have its own characteristic musical expression, and no one element can set up to be more American than another. But sup­pose the time come when the work of amalgamation shall be complete and the fully evolved American people have developed a fondness for certain peculiarities of melody and rhythm, which fondness in turn shall disclose itself in a decided predilection for compositions in which those pe­culiarities have been utilized; will that music be American? Will it be racy of the soil? Will such compositions be better entitled to be called American than the music of Dr. Dvorak, which employs the same elements, but con­fesses that it borrows them from the songs of the Southern negroes? The songs are folksongs in the truest sense; that is, they are the songs of a folk, created by a folk, giving voice to the emotional life of a folk; for which life America is responsible. They are beautiful songs, and Dr. Dvorak has shown that they can furnish the inspira­tion for symphonic material to the composer who knows how to employ it. To use this material most effectively
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III