Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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

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music which act as mnemonic devices. A drone (as in the lowest pipe of the bagpipes), the use of the same musical material in each voice of a part-song (as in a round or in polyphony consisting of parallel fifths), and the reappearance of a musical motif at different pitch levels throughout a song are devices that are arrived at unconsciously but which are eagerly accepted by the folk community, help the folk singer and his audience to organize the material in their minds, and clarify the structure for them.
Most of the music with which we deal in this volume is mono-phonic, which means that only a single tone is heard at a time, and there is no accompaniment except that of drums, rattles, or other percussive sound. But there is a good deal of European and American folk music, and a great deal of African music, that has more than one tone heard at a time, or more than one melody at a time, or per­haps accompaniment with chords. Several terms have been used to describe all of this music; perhaps the most satisfactory one is "po­lyphony," which we will use here to include all music that is not monophonic, whether it consists of a singer's own simple accom­paniment with his guitar, or of a chorus, or of a group of different instruments playing a complex interrelationship as in chamber mu­sic. In a style of music that is strange to one's own ears it may be difficult to decide just what is going on in a polyphonic piece. Cer­tainly there is not much point, when describing folk music from Russia or music from South Africa, in trying to apply labels used for Western music such as "organum," "fugue," "conductus," and the like, to music that developed quite outside Western European musi­cal culture. One way to begin describing a polyphonic piece is to de­cide whether the various parts being sung or played at the same time are of equal importance, or whether one stands out as the leading or solo part. Then we could try to find out the melodic relationship among the parts. For example, do they use material based on the same tune or theme, or do they use more or less independent tunes? If the latter is the case, we could decide whether the relationship among the different voices or instruments produces imitation or

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