Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Voucher Codes

Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
tunes found in several nations are indeed wandering melodies or, rather, variants of a single wandering melody. Whether or not the three tunes in Example 3-8 are genetically related we cannot say. Curiously, the variants of a tune found in separated countries are usually accompanied by widely varying verbal texts. An English bal­lad tune that has related forms in other countries will hardly be found outside England with a translation of the same ballad story. This very fact may lead us to suspect that the existence of similar tunes in different countries is not always—and perhaps not even fre­quently—simply the result of a tune's migration. In any event, we cannot prove in most cases that the tune has actually migrated. It is likely that traveling singers of the early Middle Ages (their existence is documented) taught to the peoples of many lands the original forms of many songs which developed into groups of melodies re­lated in the manner of Example 3-8.
Another way of explaining the phenomenon of "wandering melodies" is that the musical characteristics of European folk song have been so homogeneous and have developed so much in the same direction throughout the continent that similar tunes were composed independently in several countries. Given a certain re­stricted set of musical characteristics—for the sake of argument, let's assume melodies composed of five tones with seconds and thirds predominating, regular metric structure, the tendency for the final sections of songs and of phrases to be lower in pitch and more drawn-out rhythmically than the rest, and a range of about an oc­tave—it might be possible and even necessary for similar tunes to spring up independently in several places at various times. Thus the fact that there are some obvious similarities among the tunes in the foregoing Examples does not prove that all of them are descended, through the use of communal re-creation, from a single parent tune. But whichever explanation is the correct one (and we may never know in many specific cases), the existence of similar tunes through­out the continent again shows us that Europe is an entity as far as its folk music is concerned.
Some song types found in Europe
Europe is a unit not only in the purely musical aspects of folk song. The cultural background and context as well as the words of

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