Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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

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archeological investigation of instruments, and from the observation of change as it is occurring in the present. But the lack of evidence among, say, Hungarian peasants of an earlier kind of music than the parlando-rubato style would not allow us blandly to state that this style has been with the Hungarians from the dawn of human history. It is quite possible that the ancestors of these people learned and for­got various other kinds of music, either more or less complicated than that which they sing today. We can make no general statements about the history of folk music except that there must be a history, and that the kinds of changes in orally transmitted music are prob­ably not too different from the kinds of changes that make up human history at large.
The foregoing paragraphs may give the impression that we re­ject the concept of authenticity outright. To be sure, there seems to be little to justify some of its implications. We are approaching the study of folk music with the assumption that we are studying the musical expression of many people. And we cannot neglect any as­pect of this expression simply because it is not ancient, or because it was brought from the outside, or because it does not seem to reflect the personality of the culture. On the other hand, the concept of authenticity has its uses. We are, after all, interested in the musical expression of large numbers of people, and in forms that are accept­able to everybody in a tribe or a folk culture and which would be considered by such people as their own. This interest makes it neces­sary for us to omit consideration of much music usually called folk music. For example, we will not consider the arrangements of folk songs made by trained composers, great or minor, or by the folk singers of our campuses and cities. This kind of music, although it represents an interesting and aesthetically appealing development, is not relevant to our interests here because it is not the music of the whole folk culture. The songs may be the same in some cases, but the way they are sung is not.
Music as an aspect of culture
We are interested, then, in the music of a particular group of people. Those classified as nonliterate or tribal cultures can be de­fined with no great difficulty. Until recent times, for instance, there

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