Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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canon (the most common manifestation of which is the round), the same tune performed at different time intervals; or parallelism, the same tune performed at the same time at different pitch levels; or heterophony, something like variations of the same tune played or sung simultaneously. At this point, also, we would like to know how much of the music is planned, and what aspects of it, if any, are im­provised. Of course it would also be important to know what as­pects of the music must be performed the way they are, and on what matters the performer would have had a choice and the right to make changes on the spur of the moment.
Rhythm and tempo
Moving to smaller units in the music, we can learn a good deal about the rhythm of a song or piece simply by listening. One way is to tap one's foot or clap hands in rhythm with the piece. We want to know, for example, whether the music is organized in measures that recur, more or less regularly, throughout, and where exceptions oc­cur. This can be ascertained by the regular recurrence of stressed beats, or of louder taps or claps. We also want to know whether the drum or rattle accompaniment, if any, coincides with the rhythmic units of the melody. Then, quite aside from the meter, we could also describe rhythm in terms of the lengths of the notes found in a piece. This is something that cannot be found out quite so easily by listening, but which can be more easily described with the use of written notation. We want to know, for example, whether most of the notes are of one length-say, quarter notes-(as in Example 2-4, a North American Indian Peyote song), or whether perhaps there arc notes of all sorts of lengths-from half notes to sixty-fourths.
The tempo of the piece is also relevant here. We want to know whether it is fast or slow, but our intuitive judgment cannot always be trusted. A piece that a Western listener considers fast (perhaps because of the speed of the drum accompaniment) may be considered slow by a person from the culture that produced it. One way to find an objective measure of tempo is to divide the number of notes m the melody by the number of minutes the piece takes; this would express the tempo in terms of average number of notes per minute.

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