Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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

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STUDYING THE STRUCTURE OF FOLK MUSIC 25
such as "the Ibo have this kind of music" or "Spanish folk music sounds like that." Fortunately for the serious scholar in our field, there is a good deal of stylistic unity in the folk music of each cul­ture. The unity is probably greatest in the world's simplest cultures and gives way to increasing diversity as the cultures get more com­plex. The description of the musical style of a whole culture is bound to be essentially a statistical statement. There are few traits of music that don't occur at least to a small degree in many cultures, but the extent to which they occur varies and is important. When we say, for example, that most of the scales of the Arapaho Indians are tetratonic, that is, they have four tones, we must add that there are also many songs with five or six tones, some with three, and a few with seven. When we say that English folk songs are essentially modal, which implies seven tones to the scale, we must realize that all sorts of other scales also appear. Of course, here again we come upon the problem of distinguishing among several kinds of music: the true, essential, integral music of a people, the recent imports and the results of outside influences, and the atypical creations which don't really belong. Or can we make this distinction?
In the other chapters of this survey, we will be describing musi­cal styles—along with their cultural background. We should admit at the outset that we don't really know enough about the folk music of Europe, Africa, and the Americas to give a reliable description. Many songs have been collected, many recordings are available; but the job of analyzing the songs and of describing the styles in schol­arly terms has actually just begun. The statements that will be made in this volume will sometimes have to be impressionistic, based on knowledge of only a segment of a people's music.
We can only indicate examples of the kinds of things that occur. We cannot give a complete picture, but we hope that the partial picture presented will stimulate the reader to strike out on his own in order to learn more.
Research in traditional musicethnomusicology
Perhaps a few words about the way in which research in folk and non-Western music is done will help the reader to understand some of the procedures and statements in the following chapters.







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