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Magazine Articles on Country, Western and Gospel Music Since 1904
SOME REAL AMERICAN MUSIC
Emma Bell Miles
It is generally believed that America has no folk-music, nothing distinctively native out of which a national school of advanced composition may arise. The commercial spirit of the age, and our conventional mode of existence, have so far effaced original types of character and romantic phases of life that the folk-song seems already a thing of the past.
Dvorak and a few other composers have indeed made use of negro themes, and the aboriginal Indian music has been seriously treated more than once. But these compositions, however excellent, are no expression of American life and character; they fall as strangely on our ears as any foreign product.
But there is hidden among the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Carolinas a people of whose inner nature and its musical expression almost nothing has been said. The music of the Southern mountaineer is not only peculiar, but, like himself, peculiarly American.
Nearly all mountaineers are singers. Their untrained voices are of good timbre, the women's being sweet and high and tremulous, and their sense of pitch and tone and harmony remarkably true. The fiddler or the banjo-player is well treated and beloved among them, like the minstrel of feudal days.
The mountain fiddler rarely cuddles his instrument under his chin; he sets it against the middle of his chest, and grasping his bow near the middle, wields it with a juggling movement quite unlike the long sweep of the ac-
"Reprinted by permission from Harper's Magazine, Vol. 109, No. DCXLIX, June, Copyright 1904."