Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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

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6 FOLK AND TRADITIONAL MUSIC IN ITS CULTURAL SETTING
Chopi of Southeast Africa. We have reports of American Negro slaves in the nineteenth century making up songs by calling to each other and gradually arriving at a song-like formula. But this kind of "communal creation" is rare. Nevertheless, those who formulated the theory that folk songs are the product of the communal mind were not unwise, for they must have realized the importance of the con­tributions of generations of singers, players, and listeners in deter­mining the final (or is it ever really final?) form of the song. Of course, folk songs are normally composed by individuals, and in the case of Western European folk music, these may be professional composers, popular song writers, churchmen, and sometimes even the great masters of music. There are many instances of tunes from the classics—Schubert's "Linden Tree" and Papageno's aria from Mo­zart's "Magic Flute" come to mind—which have been taken over by the folk tradition.
The idea that folk music is closely associated with a people, a nation, or a culture and its characteristics has long been widely ac­cepted. In some languages, the words for "folk music" and "national music" are the same. This popular notion is, of course, quite opposed to that which deems music a "universal language." Neither is really correct nor objective. Of course, it is possible to identify music as music, whether it is in a style known to us or not. Music is a universal phenomenon, but each culture does have its own, and learning to un­derstand another culture's music is in many ways like learning a for­eign language. No culture can claim a body of music as its own without admitting that it shares many characteristics and probably many compositions with other, neighboring cultures. Balancing the idea of traditional music as a national or regional phenomenon against the concept of folk music as a supranational kind of music is one of the fascinations of this field.
Folk music as national expression
At the root of the problem of uniting nation and musical style is the idea that a nation's folk music must somehow reflect the inner characteristics of that nation's culture, the essential aspects of its emotional life—its very self. This feeling has at times given rise, among the general population as well as among folk song scholars, to







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