ON THE TRAIL OF NEGRO FOLK-SONGS

A Collection Of Negro Traditional & Folk Songs with Sheet Music Lyrics & Commentaries - online book

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Shopping Discounts



Share page  Visit Us On FB


Previous Contents Next
every day speech now as much as it always has been. There is a mystique to language, especially to local utterance. Setting down verbal expression in the meaningful combinations which have achieved identification with the people through use, through tradi­tion, is to capture this mystique, or at least to utilize it.
We see this in the works of the Lomaxes, Dobie, and Boatright so clearly. Expression will speak for itself, carry its own message. The folklorist only has to arrange it, present it, so that message will be clear. Why bother to analyze traditional verbal expressions from the point of view of how many times and in what variant forms they have been found elsewhere, when what is important is life as it is lived here in Texas.
With- the Lomaxes, we see the horizons enlarging beyond the boundaries of Texas, but the technique remaining the same. The Texas mystique becomes the American dream, but the songs and the stories, artfully programmed, remain the center of importance. Out of the anecdotal quotational method of the collaborations of John and Alan Lomax grew the idea of the great folk biographies, Leadbelly, (New York, 1936) Jelly Roll Morton, (New York, 1950) and those in The Rainbow Sign (New York, 1959).
In a sense, Dobie's books are one immense folk biography of himself and of Texas. Though he may be talking of the coyote, the longhorn, the rattlesnake or some of his other friends, human or otherwise, the thing that shines through in his writings is his identification with the land and people of Texas and the strange internal, self-fulfilled life lived there. His catalogs (that's what his major works are) capture the sweep of the land and the hardi­ness of the people living there in a way that lesser accumulations could never do. For one thing, the abundance of material insists upon the identification of the man with the lore, and it is through his personal power that we begin to understand this mystique of Texas life.
Not only are folklore and life as one, but there is no division between folk literature and belles lettres. As Gene Bluestein has shown in relation to the works of the Lomaxes5, the vision of the Texas folklorist is that the words of the people is the literature of the people, the true rendering of American national expression, directly in the tradition of Emerson and Whitman's pronounce­ments. Emerson, echoing Herder, saw that a truly national liter­ary expression must be based on the oral literature of the people of that country. He and Whitman set out to rid the country of the stultifying effects of foreign forms.
*Gene Bluestein, "The Lomaxes' New Canon of American Folksong," Texas Quarterly, Vol. V, No. 1, (Spring, 1962) pp. 49-59.
UiU