Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

The folk & traditional music of Europe, Africa & the Americas explored.

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2 FOLK AND TRADITIONAL MUSIC IN ITS CULTURAL SETTING
pie who were not professional musicians, and that it consisted of mu­sic that all of the people in a culture could understand and in which many could participate. Then, among some peoples there must have taken place the development of a separate musical culture for the sophisticated segment of the population, while the unsophisticated segment held onto the old musical tradition. In our Western civiliza­tion we tend to be dominated by this sophisticated musical culture, and in spite of the proliferation of folk singing in our cities and on our campuses, we tend to know very little about the uncultivated, origi­nally rural musical tradition in our own individual backgrounds.
We are concerned, then, with two kinds of music, the folk and the so-called primitive, which really—when they are first heard by the novice—have very little in common. European and American folk music is, after all, part of our own cultural tradition as members of Western culture. The traditional music of the American Indians and African Negroes is generally quite outside our experience. More­over, each nation, each tribe, has its own music, and one kind of folk music may sound quite unlike another; Indian and African music are quite dissimilar, and Australian aboriginal music and the songs of the Micronesians are as different as two kinds of music can be. Our only justification for including such a large group of music in a single dis­cussion is the fact that in each culture in the Western half of the world this is the music that is used by a large number of people. Our contemporary musicians usually tend to concentrate on the degree to which a piece of music is unique, and the complexity of its struc­ture and texture, and they do not care particularly whether—in our classical music-the material is understood by many people, or by a professional few, or even by just the composer himself. Our interest in folk and traditional music revolves around the fact that here is music that is accepted by all or most of the people in a cultural group as their own. Of course the picture is not so simple every­where. In some African tribes, professional musicians are indeed found, and different kinds of music exist for different groups of the population. In some Eastern European countries, certain songs are normally sung and heard only by men, and others only by women. We find that there is not the homogeneous mass of songs that early students of folklore sometimes envisioned for the simple community. And there are many borderline cases between folk and sophisticated music in all continents, especially those included in this volume. But







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