Folk Music in The United States

The British Tradition

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The British Tradition                                                    '            43

second and fourth stressed styllables, which occupy final and semifinal positions in the line, may have their accompanying notes

lengthened as follows: Examples 2a and

2b also illustrate this point. A third common rhythm accommodates songs whose words are cast in dactyllic meters.

Some singers of old English ballads in America use a highly ornate and embelUshed style of singing, which is evidently more common among men in the North, and predominates among older persons. The ornaments occur mostly on stressed or long tones, as in Example 7. They consist of short, rhythmically insignificant tones, and correspond to the "grace notes" of cultivated music, But they are an essential part of the slow, declamatory way of singing which America shares with several European folk music styles and which is called the ' parlando-rubato" style.^ Resulting in part from the tension on the vocal chords which some folk singers produce consciously or unconsciously, this parlando-rubato style is definitely a part of the older ballad style since it occurs in that body of song frequently but only rarely in newer material, even when both are sung by the same singer.

In the United States most ballad singing is unaccompanied. The use of instruments is not nearly so common as is generally supposed, but some accompaniment does exist in genuine folk cultures. In some regions, indeed, accompaniment is taken for granted in some parts of Kentucky, for example, while in others, such as the neighboring southern Indiana, it is quite rare.

The most common instruments in the United States are, of course, the guitar, the banjo, and the dulcimer. Fiddles are used for solo playing, and other plucked string instruments, such as the mandolin, are frequently found. Since they are shared with urban culture, most of these instruments are well known. The dulcimer is perhaps the only one which has not penetrated cultivated music to any extent. It appears in various forms, but its simplest and most characteristic shape is that of an elongated, thin violin which lies on the player's lap or on a table while its strings are plucked

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