Folk Music in The United States


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The many groups of non-British immigrants to the United States have had a profound influence on our folk music culture, by diversifying the picture by the addition of new styles and the adaptation of their own aesthetic principles to British-American folk music. From a consideration of the ways their traditions have behaved, these immigrants can be divided into two groups: the Negro and the European.

Negro folk music, as well as some of the forms of popular music related to it, has commanded much attention among scholars, and the degree of relationship between the American Negro music and that of their African ancestors has been widely discussed and argued. Some students have asserted that American Negro music is simply African material,^ while others have argued that it is an integral part of the British tradition.^ One side maintains that it was borrowed from other cultures, and another that it has sprung from the unique position and history of the American Negro. Today it is generally believed that both of these views are at least partially right.^

The styles of African Negro music, although extremely varied, share a few general features. This is particularly true of West Africa, from which most of the slaves were brought. Much of their material is performed antiphonally, in call-and-response patterns, usually by a leader and a group. The phrases tend to be short, and the over-all forms of the songs are also short and simple but augmented by variations. Melodic development is not


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