ON THE TRAIL OF NEGRO FOLK-SONGS

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

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272
NEGRO FOLK-SONGS
something of the feeling of inequality of justice as between the black man and the white. He calls it Aunt Hagar's Children's Blues. "You know what I mean by that?" he asked.
"Oh, yes, I remember Ishmael," I assured him.
"I would n't wish to say anything that would reflect on my race," he said with a reverent pathos. "This is written to express what every Negro will understand, but which white people of the North could not. You know we sometimes speak of our race as Aunt Hagar's children."
It is not often that a student of folk-songs can have such authentic information given as to the music in the making, for most of the songs are studied and their value and interest realized only long after those who started them on their path of song have died or been for­gotten. Rarely can one trace a movement in folk-song so clearly, and so I am grateful for the chance of talking with the man most re­sponsible for the blues.
Even though specific blues may start indeed as sheet music, com­posed by identifiable authors, they are quickly caught up by popular fancy and so changed by oral transmission that one would scarcely recognize the relation between the originals and the final results — if any results ever could be considered final. Each singer adds some­thing of his own mood or emotion or philosophy, till the composite is truly a communal composition. It will be noted in this connection that one of the songs given above announces of itself that, while it is first published in seven verses, people wiU soon be singing it in one hundred verses. (Negroes ordinarily speak of a stanza as a verse.) The colored man appropriates his music as the white person rarely does.
Blues also may spring up spontaneously, with no known origin in print, so far as an investigator can tell. They are found everywhere in the South, expressing Negro reactions to every concept of ele­mental life. Each town has its local blues, no aspect of life being without its expression in song. Here, as in much of the Negro's folk­song, there is sometimes little connection between the stanzas. The colored mind is not essentially logical, and the folk-song shows con­siderable lack of coherence in thought. Unrelated ideas are likely to be brought together, as stanzas from one song or from several may be put in with what the singer starts with, if they chance to have approximately the same number of syllables "to" the line, Even that requirement is not held to, for a Negro in his singing can crowd several syllables into one note, or expand one syllable to cover half-a-dozen notes. The exigencies of scansion worry him but slightly.







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