Folk Music in The United States


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62                 An Introduction to Folk Music in the United States

folk music in American cities and those of Europe, for in the answer might lie a key to understanding some of the essentials of American civihzation. I should like to discuss some of these questions and to suggest some possible answers which are based, however, only on material from Detroit and which cannot be considered definitive even for that city.

Whereas Detroit is a metropolis in the real sense of the word, it has become one only recently. As little as fifty years ago, its population was only one-tenth of its present two million.^ This rapid growth is the basis of a specialized composition of the population, which is certainly a factor in the development of the musical folk culture a rather different one from that of the countryside. In contrast to most large European cities and, to a smaller extent, cities of the Atlantic seaboard, which have grown more slowly and gradually, the new American cities have populations of which only small segments are descended from urban residents of long standing. By far the majority of the population is composed of individuals who themselves came from elsewhere to live in the city, or whose parents originated elsewhere. Thus the Detroiters have come from many different parts of the world, but most of them have come from the countryside of Europe or America.

I have already pointed out that folk music is usually considered essentially a rural product, and that some students of folklore do not admit the possibility of genuine folk music flourishing in the city. Accepting this statement, we can still consider the folk music of an American city genuine because the folk are only slightly removed from their rural roots. To be sure, most of this material was brought from the country in ready-made form, There is relatively little, if any, which actually originated in the American cities. But the rural music, once arrived, undergoes some important changes.

Again, using Detroit as an example, the native American population which brought the Anglo-American tradition to the city has not kept this heritage as well as the later arrivals to America have kept theirs. Here Detroit contrasts with rural America. The English-speaking community from the South, composed of whites,

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