Folk Music in The United States


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18                 An Introduction to Folk Music in the United States

should add a fourth, counterpoint, in which the voices perform different musical material. Counterpoint is not as common, however, as those types in which the same music appears in all of the voices.

Polyphony in which one voice predominates is also found in three main forms: one voice performs a melody while the other holds a single tone, called a drone, as with bagpipes; one voice performs a melody of some elaboration while the other repeats a short bit many times, called an ostinato; and one voice is accompanied by an instrument which produces a harmonic background, as in folk singing with guitar accompaniment.

Most, but not quite all, folk and primitive cultures have some musical instruments, and a few have a great wealth of them. The most common instruments are percussive; rattles and drums, notched sticks, buUroarers and buzzers are almost universal in their distribution. The melodic instruments are often exceedingly simple. The ancestor of all string instruments is the musical bow, shaped simply like a hunting bow whose string is plucked or struck and whose changes in pitch are produced by shortening the string. Some Pygmy groups in Africa use pipes which produce only one pitch each; the melodies are produced by having each player blow his pipe when its pitch is called for. There are single-keyed xylophones which evidently preceded the instruments with many keys.

Other instruments may be compounds of the simple ones. Panpipes, for examples, are series of simple flutes, each of which produces only one pitch, but which are arranged together so that melodies can be produced. The xylophone is a compound percussion instrument, as are panpipes, and, in a way, so are instruments with many strings. Many folk and primitive instruments, rather than being simply compounds of the simplest ones, are complex and rival those of urban cultures in technical perfection and beauty of sound. The harps and horns of Africa, the bagpipes, flutes, fiddles and dulcimers of Europe, the panpipes and mouth organs of East Asia are examples of this vast world. And although there are only a few basic categories of instruments, their va-' rieties and sub-types throughout the world are innumerable.

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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III