Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

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38                      FOLK SONG OF THE AMERICAN NEGRO.
rency and popularity. "Bagtime" is an ingenious and fitting appella�tion for the music to which it giyes a name, for it is time torn to tatters, but in such rhythmically fascinating manner as to arouse every single motor nerve of our being. That is why we like it, say what we may. The element of ragtime which makes it objectionable is the language and thought, not the vehicle, for were the vehicle objectionable we would discard some of the choicest music we now possess and cherish. Against the words and moral ideas of ragtime songs all respectable people, those who love aright, have just com�plaint; but let the spirit of ragtime be changed and let the writers of it express high ideals, instead of the low ones they now use, and the public, all, would welcome it, and hail it as a new development of the musical art. In the simple ^music of ragtime is a natural�ness which appeals to nature. This rhythm in folk music, as hinted before, is idiomatic and is as essential to the body of our music as pure red blood is to the human body. A fresh, vigorous flow carries the life-giving forces to all parts of the system. In the Negro's char�acter there is a quality which rhythm alone expresses. This quality is as striking and as characteristic as rhythm is in his music, and, fur�thermore, it is as evident in his life as rhythm is in his songs. When the Negro sings with the "Spirit and the understanding"7 not only with his voice does he sing, but with his body as well. This body or corporeal accompaniment is contagious, and audiences often pat the feet, sway the body or move the head "in time." Some instances have been very noticeable and amusing. At a concert given by a company of Fisk singers in a Kentucky town, the audience was com�posed of students and teachers of a certain academy. The contagion of rhythm was so general that the concert was almost "broken up," because the singers could scarcely withstand the sight of almost the whole audience swaying in perfect time to their songs. Bhythm arouses emotion and emotion arouses motion. That is the explana�tion of the Negro's keeping time with his body while he sings. Im�perfect rhythm he abhors quite as profoundly as nature abhors a vacuum and he has interesting and effective means of avoiding such a fault. Long holds are not natural to this music; and whenever they occur they indicate a development of the years subsequent to the days of Folk Song creation. The movement in this music, which largely contributes to what Dr. Krehbeil calls "Moving beauty," de�mands short notes and short syllables. To gain this effect, the








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