Folk Music in The United States


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Folk Music and Cultivated Music                                            89

those countries whose contribution to cultivated music had hitherto been small: Russia (whose composers Moussorgsky and Rimski-Korsakav along with many others, participated in the folk music movement), Denmark (Gade), England (Vaughan Wil-Kams, Britten), Spain (De Falla, Albeniz), Rumania (Enesco), Bohemia (Smetana, Dvorak), Hungary (Liszt, Bartok, Kodaly), and others; but it applies less to the centers of Western musical culture, Germany, Austria, Italy, and France. In the latter group, folk music was often used to illustrate the rural aspects of culture and to symbolize the foreign or exotic, a practice which has more recently become widespread. Thus we have the Cappriccio Es-pagnol of Rimski-Korsakov (which shows that he did not use Russian folk music alone), the use of Negro and Indian themes by Dvorak to show his reaction to America, and the use of Indian themes by American composers of English descent, and of Indonesian elements by Colin McPhee, an American.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries some composers used traditional music because it gave them opportunities to find new structural features and entire systems. Here the music itself often does not sound the least bit like folk music, but some folldoristic features are incorporated, as it were, abstractly. Modem composers, like the Czech Alois Haba, who use micro-tones and quartertones, were influenced by the small intervals of Near Eastern music. Bart6k's compositions, again, contain some structural principles found in many Hungarian tunes, such as a characteristic type of symmetry in the tonal structure, even when the folk style is otherwise not evident.

Whereas European folk music, whose styles are closely related to Western cultivated music, has had an influence over tihe latter for centuries, the more remote styles of primitive and oriental music have become available to Western composers only recently. Nevertheless, they have exercised a considerable influence during the last few decades.

American composers have been concerned with the use of indigenous material because of their attempts to create some kind of national American music, a musical style which would distinguish them from the European composers^ As members of a

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