Folk Music in The United States


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Folk Music and Cultivated Music                                            91

in this field. The significance of Negro folk music in the development of popular music and jazz is obvious. Indirectly it has also been used by many prominent composers who assimilated the elements of jazz into more sophisticated compositions. George Gershwin is the most prominent American to have done so; Europeans, including such twentieth century greats as Igor Stravinsky and Darius Milhaud, have also contributed.

Anglo-American folk songs have not been entirely neglected. Charles Ives quoted them as themes in a number of his works, including his symphonies. He tried in several instances to convey the feelings and sounds of the simple musical performances which took place in his boyhood home in Danbury, Connecticut. Daniel Gregory Mason, too, experimented with folklore in some of his pieces, notably in a Folk Song Fantasy, which is based on the song "Fanny Blair." In more recent years, Aaron Copland and Roy Harris have used the British folk song style and incorporated some songs directly into their works. Their motive was, again, the creation of a distinctly American music. The folk music of other ethnic groups, however, has only rarely been absorbed into American cultivated music.

The United States has participated in the general revival of folk music as a source of inspiration for the composers of modem civilization. To be sure, a new, American style has not emerged from the revival, and it is unlikely that such a style could have been created simply through the use of folk music in a country whose musical traditions are so diverse and new. Nevertheless, the movement has contributed to the American people's awareness of their folklore, Indian, Negro, and British, and as such it deserves the attention of the student of folk music.

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