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THE GENERAL CHARACTER OF EUROPEAN FOLK MUSIC 47
the songs also indicate the essential integrity of the continent. There are certain types of songs that are found throughout Europe, though they are not present everywhere in the same proportion of quantity and importance. Take the area of narrative song, for example. In Europe there are two main types of songs that tell stories, the ballad and the epic. Narrative songs are found here and there in the traditional music of other continents, but they are not common. In Europe, on the other hand, they occupy a position of preeminence, although they are more important in some countries than in others.
The ballad was developed in Europe in the Middle Ages—first, presumably, by song composers of city and court—and evidently passed into oral tradition and the repertories of folk cultures thereafter. The musical characteristics of the ballad are not different from those of most other kinds of folk song. Usually there are three to six musical lines and a number of stanzas. As far as the words are concerned, the ballad tells a story involving one main event. In contrast to the ballads, the epic songs are long, complex, and involve several events tied together by a common theme. Typically, the epic, as exemplified perhaps by the "guslar" epics of the Southern Slavs, does not have a strophic arrangement but tends rather to use a line which, with variations, is repeated many times. But there are sub-types of these genres and it is at times difficult to distinguish between them. (See Chapter 4 for more detail about ballads, Chapter 6 for epics.)
Love songs are important in many European countries, and they are relatively rare in the folklore of other continents. They are more common in Western Europe than in the East, and characteristically they express their feelings of love for another person in a melancholy or tragic setting. Again, the music of love songs does not, on the whole, differ in style from that of other folk songs.
A number of ceremonial song types are common throughout Europe. Of course, the use of folk songs in an ecclesiastical setting is found. There are areas in which genuine folk hymns are sung; in Germany, a body of spiritual folk song became a partial basis of the Lutheran hymn, and the singing of "Kyrieleis" (a corruption of "Kyrie Eleison") in the rural communities was reported in medieval sources. But more typical are songs involving ceremonies that may have been practiced long before the advent of Christianity in Europe. Thus there are songs which revolve around important events or turning points in a person's life: puberty, birth, marriage, and death. In some countries these proliferated, as in France, where special