Folk Music in The United States


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Immigrants from, Europe and Africa                                        57

in spite of their traditional background, composed songs and created unique, individual styles. These singers, although members of a folk culture, took on the specialization and professionalism characteristic of cultivated music and thus are in an intermediate position. It was through such in-between musicians that jazz rose to be a combination of folk and urban musical culture.

The older jazz, like Negro folk music, has some of the characteristics of African music. The emphasis on rhythm and rhythmic instruments, the theme-and-variation structure reminiscent of call-and-response patterns with variations, the improvisation of variants by individuals in the ensemble; all these tie jazz closely to Africa. And even though jazz is no longer folk music, even in the wider sense of the word, it can be understood only in its relationship to the folk music of the Negroes, both African and American.

The Negroes contrast with most other non-British groups in America because they introduced their native style into the songs of the British tradition. The immigrants from Europe, on the whole, brought their own songs from the old countries and kept them separate from the English ones. They learned English songs in addition to their own, but the two kinds of music usually did not mix. The musical elements of continental Europe, the complex rhythms of the Balkans, the polyphony of Russia, the florid style of Italian songs were not superimposed on British ballads and other music.

Most of the immigrants from Europe, especially those who arrived during the last eight or nine decades, settled in the cities. Some groups, however, settled in rural areas, especially the western and northern Europeans; Germans, Swedes, Irish, and French. And we must not forget the rich Spanish tradition which is centered in the American Southwest, a tradition which goes back several centuries before American domination of that region. We can mention only a few examples from many possibilities.

Some ethnic groups, the Amish, for example, live in virtual musical isolation, practicing ways of singing which seem to be totally difl:erent from those of other groups in their vicinity. The Amish are a Swiss-German religious group related to the Men-

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