THE PLAY-PARTY IN INDIANA - online book

Folk-Songs and Games with Descriptive Introduction, Notes, Sheeet music & Lyrics

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The Play-Party in Indiana.                        109
the music to the play-party games, Sailor and King William. It was a common characteristic in the English folk-songs that the first stanza would end upon some tone other than the tonic; each succeeding stanza of the song merely repeated this until the last stanza concluded the piece by ending on the tonic. The theory is that the repetition of the former ending fixed it in the minds of the singers while the tonic ending, being less used, tended in time to fade from memory. So there remain many English songs which have lost the final ending and the music has no point of rest. The following play-party tunes seem to belong to this peculiar class and indicate a close relation to this type of English folk-music. "What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor?" "King William," "Itiskit" and "Down in Jay Bird Town."
We find, also, one tune, that to "Old Chimney Sweeper," which seems to indicate a fundamental connection with the old folk-music of Scotland and Ireland. It was formed on the scale of five tones, corresponding to our tonic, second, third, fifth and sixth. This pentatonic scale can still be seen in old popular songs of Scotland and Ireland, as, for instance, in an early form of Annie Laurie. The fact that this same sort of scale lives in an Indiana play-party game leads us to the same conclusion as that stated with regard to modal music. It is probable that this tune came from Scotland or Ireland, or that music based on the pentatonic scale was familiar enough in America to influence new composi­tions.
As Mr. Sharp sees in the folk-music of England the themes for her future composed music and the possibility of a school of music which will be truly national, so Mr. Barrie anticipates the great value of American folk-music to the American composers. He says, "The melodies to which folk-songs are sung in America are of infinite variety, and in many instances rarely beautiful. To this source the composer of the future, who shall found a school of American music, will turn for his inspiration."89
89 Jour. Am. Folk-lore. vol. XXII, pp. 72-81.
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III