Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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

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24 STUDYING THE STRUCTURE OF FOLK MUSIC
tribe, sound so harsh. Of course, all non-Western and folk music is not alike, so that learning one musical language, say that of the Plains Indians, does not by any means assure knowledge of another, such as West African. But as in learning languages, so in learning musical styles, each succeeding foreign style is easier to assimilate than the previous one.
Other aspects of music
A final point to consider in describing for oneself the music of a folk song is the tone quality and manner of singing. Although we have only very rudimentary terminology (words such as "harsh," "tense," "ornamented,") to deal with this important aspect of music, it is one of the most essential for distinguishing tribe from tribe and area from area, and one of the most immediately obvious to the listener. Moreover, most of the music of a culture is performed with the same tone color. Thus North American Plains Indians sing in a tense, harsh manner, while Bulgarians may sing with many trills, turns, grace notes, and other ornaments. It was thought, at one time, that each culture had a manner of singing that was biologically in­herited. This now seems unlikely, but the theory is obviously related to the fact that even though a culture may have many different kinds of scales and rhythms, it is likely to have only one way of producing vocal sound, one manner of singing. (For a discussion of classification and methods of description for musical instruments, see William P. Malm's volume in this series, Music Cultures of the Pacific, the Near East, and Asia).
Description of a culture's music
Having described for ourselves one piece or song, we would like to describe the style of a whole body of music—all Sun Dance songs of one Plains Indian tribe, or all music of the Basongye tribe, or even the whole body of music in the Plains, or of one European folk cul­ture such as the Rumanian. Of course, we cannot assume that all music in a culture will sound like the one example included on a record, or even that all songs of a given tribe exhibit some of the same characteristics. Nevertheless, we frequently hear statements







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