Folk Music in The United States


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86                 An Introduction to Folk Music in the United States

posers, either from the point of view of the folklorist interested in presenting folk tradition in a pure form or from that of the music critic.

Historically speaking, the earliest type of relationship between traditional and cultivated music is probably that between the folk and the cultivated in an individual ethnic or national group. Professional composers seem to have begun using traditional elements unconsciously, without feeling that they were dealing with something foreign to their usual musical experience. They simply combined the similar styles used by the two groups without feeling that they were borrowing from one and adding to the other. The background for this similarity is usually the common musical heritage and experience of the two levels of the population and the existence of a common culture and possibly of similar personality types among both cultivated and folk composers. But the basic reason for this close relationship is probably much deeper and more elusive and cannot be described here any more than the question, why a given national group should have a particular musical style at all, can be fully answered. An historical approach to our problem would point to the fact that the cultivated music in a given country is descended from the same undiflFerentiated tradition as the folk music, which may be behind the relatively free and informal use of folk music by professional composers before the nineteenth century, composers who evidently considered folk music a part of their own tradition rather than a related but basically foreign one. Although the interest in folk music grew tremendously in the nineteenth century, at least on a conscious level, traditional material began to be set apart, so to speak, and treated in a special way, which was not the case in earlier centuries.

Since roughly 1800, professional composers have used folk and even primitive music, but they have viewed it as something exotic. They have not always really integrated such materials into their styles, but have simply added it as if it could be removed again without disturbing the results of their own personal inspiration. Their use of folk music can be arranged in three categories:

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