Folk Music in The United States

The British Tradition

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The British Tradition                                                                51

have made them essentially a Negro product, but the original material was usually taken from the folk hymns of the whites.

Among the religious folk songs we must also mention the carols, although the most popular ones ("Silent Night," "Adeste Fideles,'' etc.) should probably be excluded because they have become standardized and associated with school and church. In the areas where the British heritage is still living, there are also some folk carols which are generally unknown in the cities, such as "The Seven Joys of Mary," and the apocryphal ballad, "The Cherry Tree Carol" Many of these carols were discovered and championed by John Jacob Niles. Musically they tend to have the same features as the older songs in the Anglo-American tradition: they are modal or pentatonic, having relatively large ranges and sometimes irregular metric patterns.

Somewhat outside the Anglo-American tradition proper are a number of song types which are not very common in Britain but which have become typical of American folklore. Although their style is still close to the British, their content may be uniquely American, or at least it corresponded so well to the American culture patterns that it experienced a much greater degree of growth and diffusion here than in the Old World. The physical environment in America and the combination of the British and other cultures are responsible for some of the special American features in these songs.

Humorous songs are common in the American heritage, and they often follow the tradition of tall tales, which are regarded as the outstanding feature of American folk narrative. Some are about animals, such as the "Ram of Darby," which is as tall as the moon, one of whose locks is sufficient wool to make a gov^ni, and whose butcher is drowned in its torrents of blood. Animal songs are generally popular in American folklore, with the animals the subjects of human-like exploits, being subject to praise or censure and giving advice to humans. Their tunes are also part of the same stylistic body as the ballads.

Unique among the occupational songs are the cowboy songs, many of which are partially sung in a falsetto voice and with yodeling of a sort. They serve as cattle calls and for communica-

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