Folk Music in The United States


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Defining Folk Music                                                                   5

hand, this theory does not admit that folklore and folk music could be created by the unsophisticated members of folk cultures. Like communal creation, it does not credit the individual in a folk community with any creativity.

The relationship between true folk songs, created by members of folk groups, and cultivated songs which pass into oral tradition has been used by Franz Magnus Boehme, an important pioneer in folk music research, to formulate a universal series of stages in the history of folk song.*^ He believes that true folk songs were created only before cultivated music came into existence. Later the sophisticated began to create songs which resemble folk music in their simplicity and their general appeal; these are called ''volkstumliche Lieder' (popular or folk-like songs), and their appearance coincides with the division of society into cultivated and folk segments. Finally, in the third stage, even the folk have assimilated a good deal of sophisticated civilization. The true folk songs disappear and are entirely replaced by the folk-like songs. This theory is interesting and certainly contains some truth, especially if applied to German culture, but whether it is indicative of the history of folk music everywhere is something which we will never learn, just as a great many other questions basic to the entire field will always remain unanswered. One fundamental difBculty is that one can only rarely separate the true folk songs from the folk-like songs; for this reason we shall call both folk music without distinction.

There are no essential differences between the way cultivated music is composed and the methods used to create a folk song for the first time. The basic difference appears only after the initial creative act, when the task of the original composer himself is accomplished. A piece of cultivated music, for instance a symphony by Mozart, was performed in about the same way 150 years ago as it is today. True, changes in taste concerning tempo (speed) and size of the orchestra, etc., have taken place, but there would be no difficulty in identifying the two performances as interpretations of the same piece of music. The reason for this is that the symphony was learned by musicians then and now from the same printed sources, and thus both were equally close

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