Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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learn songs; how they compose; who the good musicians are, and what makes them good musicians; what kinds of songs the culture has (according to the tribe's own classification); what kinds of terms they use, if any, to talk about music; what kinds of music out­side their own they have had contact with; what activities each song is designed to accompany, if any; what the status of the musician in the society is; and so on. The field worker may have to use special eliciting techniques. For example, David McAllester,1 widely known for his collecting of Navaho music, says that he persuades the Indians to sing for him by singing folk songs or even Indian songs to them. It may be useful to find an informant who will assume the role of teacher to the field worker. It is necessary to record the same song as it is sung by different people in a community, or by the same per­son at different times, in order to find out what aspects of a song remain stable, which ones are subject to change by improvisation, and also how much a song changes in a given period of time. Thus, the task of the ethnomusicological field worker is a fascinating but certainly also a difficult one.
Transcription and analysis
Arriving back at his office with a collection, the ethnomusi-cologist must set about analyzing and describing the music. He may do this simply by listening, with techniques something like those described in the first pages of this chapter. More likely he will want to set at least some of his music down on paper, with notation. This process is called transcription.
Since our ordinary system of notation was devised essentially for the music of Western civilization, and since its purpose is to help a performer carry out the composer's intentions rather than to de­scribe the musical actions of the performer, it is not surprising that the system is rather imperfect for the descriptive use to which it must be put in ethnomusicological transcription. The fact that the rhythms and scales of non-Western and folk music may not fit into the Western system makes it all the more difficult to reproduce the music of other cultures in conventional notation. Various special
1 David P. McAllester, Enemy Way Music (Cambridge, Mass.: Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, 1954).

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