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

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The Negro's interest in the creation of his own literature and music is quickening, too. Recently I served as a judge in a short-story contest held by the Negro magazine Opportunity for the benefit of young Negro writers. About one hundred and twenty-five stories were submitted, coming from all parts of the country, many of them excellent in material or treatment. Among young Negroes of to-day there are capable novelists, poets, short-story writers, editors, as well as gifted musicians. Now that they have received a chance at technical training, the Negroes — who have produced the largest and most significant body of folk-song created in America — are writing their own poetry and music of a high order. They are genuine poets — "makers." We should encourage their newer art, as well as help to preserve the precious folk-songs of the past.
The songs in this collection have aroused interest among many types of people. Europeans, who are closer to folk-art than are Americans, have been enthusiastic about them. Zuloaga was so pleased with them when he heard Miss Gulledge sing some of them one afternoon at my apartment, that he sat down on the piano bench beside her to follow them more closely, while Uranga smiled his pleasure. Stefannson said of the music, "It's a good show."
I have given informal talks on my quest for songs before various bodies — the Modern Language Association, the Poetry Society of America, the Graduate Women's English Club of Columbia Uni­versity, the Dixie Club of New York City, the Texas Club of New York, and others. The audience is always vastly more interested in the songs themselves, as sung by Miss Gulledge, than in my report of them, which is as it should be. The songs are the vital things.
My friends and acquaintances recognize that my particular form of insanity is on the subject of Negro folk-songs, and so they amiably humor my aberrations. Some of them are interested themselves, and when we get together we make ballads hum. Not long ago a group of us were together in Constance Lindsay Skinner's apartment, dis­cussing the topic. Margaret Widdemer and Louise Driscoll had sung some of the old English ballads, and I mentioned the Negro's part in transmitting the traditional songs. Muna Lee gave me a variant of the Hangman's Tree, as sung by the Negroes in Hinds County, Mississippi. Her poet-husband, Senor Louis Marin, laugh­ingly contended that she had only one tune, to which she sang all the songs she knew. I confess that the tune she used was not the traditional one, but the words were in the line of tradition.

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