Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

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CHARACTERISTICS AND PECULIARITIES.                      37
and verse containing the scriptures which bear out what happens to be their views. They always have "views," and are always ready to defend them. In preaching a sermon they take their text, sometimes reading it from the Bible, sometimes reciting it, then close the Bible and proceed to the argument. This sermon, delivered without hesi�tation and without notes, is often a strange blending of imagery, poetry, and oratory, glowing with religious fire. The peroration of this sermon is intoned or "moaned." In other words, it is sung, and the effect upon the audience is visible. This moaning, singing or as the Negroes themselves call it, "giving gravey," is quite natural to the Negro. His proneness to sing shows itself in his every activity. Nothing is more to be expected than that when his activity is re�ligious, in which above all activities he is most interested, he should throw away all restraint and conventionalities and be his natural self, which is a musical self.
This manner of preaching is not at all approved of by the later generation of Negroes; that is, the educated class, because it is a mark of the lack of intelligence. That is true, but it is a mark of naturalness. Education and civilization, along with the many good things they bring, bring also an unnaturalness.
The reason wliy the Negro songs are so full of scripture, quoted and implied, is that for centuries the Bible was the only book he was allowed to "study," and it consumed all his time and attention. This reason finds added strength in the Negro's religious nature.
Another characteristic of the Negro song is, as has been stated before, that it has no expression of hatred or revenge. If these songs taught no other truths save this, they would be invaluable. That a race which had suffered and toiled as the Negro had, could find no expression for bitterness and hatred, yes, could positively love, is strong evidence that it possesses a clear comprehension of the great force in life, and that it must have had experience in the fundamen�tals of Christianity. "One shriek of hate would jar all the hymns of heaven.
The rythni of this music is the element which has been most gen�erally imitated and. appropriated by the composers of to-day. Espe�cially is this true of those who write popular music, both secular and sacred. This rhythm is a distinguishing feature of many of our most effective gospel hymns, and with heightened syncopation, another idiomatic peculiarity of Negro FOLK Song, it gives "ragtime" its cur-








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