English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians

122 Songs and Ballads, and 323 Tunes With Lyrics & sheet Music - online book

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Introduction
xv
countries like England, a condition that would inevitably lead to the discontinuance of seasonal and other communal festivals. This latter reason may also account for the decadence of dancing amongst the mountaineers, although I have no doubt that religious scruples have also been a contributory cause-—I noticed that in reply to my enquiries on this subject the euphemism "playing games" was always substituted for "dancing" by my informants.
Scales and Modes. Very nearly all these Appalachian tunes are cast in "gapped" scales, that is to say, scales containing only five, or sometimes six, notes to the octave, instead of the seven with which we are familiar, a "hiatus", or "gap", occurring where a note is omitted.
To trace the history of this particular scale is to venture upon controversial ground. Personally, I believe that it was the first form of scale evolved by the folk which was in any way comparable with our modern major or minor scale. Originally, as may be gathered from the music of primitive tribes, the singer was content to chant his song in monotone, varied by occasional excursions to the sounds immediately above or below his single tone, or by a leap to the fourth below. Even­tually, however, he succeeded in covering the whole octave, but, even so, he was satisfied with fewer intermediate sounds than the seven which comprise the modern diatonic scale. Indeed, there are many nations at the present day which have not yet advanced beyond the two-gapped or pentatonic scale, such as, for instance, the Gaels of Highland Scotland; and, when we realize the almost infinite melodic possibilities of the 5-note scale, as exemplified in Celtic folk-music and, for that matter, in the tunes printed in this volume, we can readily understand that singers felt no urgent necessity to increase the number of notes in the octave. A further development in this direction was, however, eventually achieved by the folk-singer, though, for a long while, as was but natural, the two medial notes, required to complete the scale, were introduced speculatively and with hesitation. There are many instances in Irish folk-music, for example, in which the pitch or intonation of these added sounds is varied in the course of one and the same tune. This experi­mental and transitional period, however, eventually came to a close and the final stage was reached, so far as the folk-singer was concerned, when the diatonic scale, i.e. the 7-note scale represented by the white notes of the pianoforte, became definitely settled. And this is the scale which is commonly used by the English folk-singer of the present day. But even then, and for a long period after, the mediate sounds remained " weak "






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