Folk Music in The United States


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Immigrants from Europe and Africa                                         59

There are some instances of European songs merging with, or becoming incorporated in, the Anglo-American tradition. The German song, Du, du, liegst mir im Herzen, has become a part of the general American repertory, as have the French Alouette and Frere Jacques. Light, short children's songs or lyrical songs lend themselves easily to this inter-lingual exchange; ballads, because of their verbal complexity, usually do not do so, though isolated examples such as Stenka Razin do appear.

There are also some instances of melodies passing from one ethnic group to another. For example, the tune of a Pennyslvania German song about a house spirit, Marjets wann ich uffschteh,^ is the tune of the children's song "Go tell Aunt Nancy the old grey goose is dead." There is a trend towards exchanging folk songs, towards the acceptance of English songs by ethnic groups, and the penetration of the British tradition by a few songs in foreign languages and styles.

It is impossible to go into the individual musical styles of the various ethnic groups in this short space; and such a procedtnre would not be proper here, since the musical styles of the ethnic groups are essentially those of their home countries. Thus, the best way to become informed on these styles and bodies of folk song is to study the music of the original homes of the various groups. For this purpose, a number of representative collections and studies of European folk styles are given in the bibliographical aids. In summary, however, we may be justified in saying that there seem to be at least three different modes of behavior among the folk styles which were brought to America by non-British immigrants. First, there are repertories in which the original stylistic elements alone survived and were imposed on a part of the British tradition. This mode obviously takes in the Negroes. In the second we include those repertories in which the European songs were brought over and which live side by side with the British songs, some individuals knowing songs from both traditions. Here the ethnic group retains some contact with a style existing in the Old World. The third mode are marginal survivals of styles which have completely disappeared in Europe or which are so different from the American development that the relation-

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