Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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

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a rather politically nationalistic view of folk music. Unfortunately, folk music has at times been made the tool of aggressive and racist policies. This was to an extent the case in Nazi Germany, where the high quality of German music was extolled and the poorer stuff of the Slavic folk song was denigrated, and in the Soviet Union during the 1950's, when traditional folk tunes of all peoples, including the non-Slavic minorities in Soviet Asia, were fitted with words praising Stalin, collective farms, and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Of course, such use of folk music has no place in the world of scholar­ship.
But there is an element of truth in the notion that the folk music of a nation or a tribe has a special relationship to its culture. We have spoken of the need for general acceptance of a song if it is to be remembered. There are other points. For example, it seems likely that the general characteristics of a language, its stress patterns, its patterns of intonation, and of course the structure of its poetry, are reflected in the music of its people. Moreover, if we plotted the char­acteristics of the folk music of each people—the characteristics of its scales, its melodic movement, its rhythm, and so on—and if we fed this information, nation bv nation, into a computer and examined the re­sults statistically, we would problably find that no two peoples have identical characteristics, or identical styles of music. Thus, while each musical characteristic, by itself, would be present in the music of many peoples, each people has its own particular proportion and combination of musical traits and these interact in a unique way. Of course some musical styles are similar to each other while others di­verge greatly. Thus we are right in believing that the character of a people's folk music is unique. On the other hand, it has been shown many times that melodies and songs travel from people to people. A tune may appear as a ballad in Germany, as a Christmas carol in Po­land (in slightly different form), as a dance song in Slovakia, and so on. It is possible, of course, that the same tune was made up sepa­rately in each of these countries, but this is not likely. The more complex an idea or a cultural artifact is, the less likely is it that it was invented more than once by different people. And a song, even a very simple one, is, after all, a fairly complicated creation. Very likely the song found in several countries was simply taught by peo­ple on one side of the border to friends on the other side, or taught in many communities by a wandering minstrel. The tune could be

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