Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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

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to have disappeared and can be traced only through old documents or through the music of Germans whose ancestors emigrated from their homeland centuries ago. This is analogous, of course, to the study of British folk music through American folk song. Germany does, however, have a body of folk songs rather similar in content to the English-medieval ballads, work songs, sailors' shanties, dances, year- and life-cycle songs, and so forth. In Germany proper, the vo­cal music seems to have developed much more strongly than the in­strumental. But in Switzerland and Austria, instruments as well as special forms of singing have flourished. In the period since World War II, the emigrants from German-speaking communities in Hun­gary, the Balkans, and parts of Russia who returned to West Ger­many after centuries of isolation have produced singing informants with a knowledge of many older songs thought to have disappeared from the tradition.
The influence of the church on German folk song is of early medieval origin. Many of the German ballads with medieval themes have words of partly or entirely religious character. There are folk-loric descendants of mystery plays in the modern moralities and in children's religious pageants. Much of the music fits in with the sys­tem of church modes as well as with the rhythmic structure of the early Lutheran hymns. The singing style is more frequently tempo-giusto than it is in the oldest British ballads. Typical of German bal­lad plots is the story of the merchant who gambles his son's life away. The boy's sister is told by the judge that she can redeem him by running around the gallows naked nine times, and she does this and saves her brother. We are reminded of "The Maid Freed from the Gallows'' (Child 95), in which the maid's parents refuse to pay the maid's fee to redeem her, but her true love finally comes and does.
v If the music of some of the old German ballads has medieval roots, the majority of extant German folk songs seem to stem from a later period, from the time-beginning in the seventeenth century —when the German countryside was dotted with minor courts each of which had a sophisticated musical life, with court composers, or­chestras, and opera. In this way even the smallest hamlets and the most remote farms began to have contact with art music, and the result seems to have been the assimilation of elements of the art styles into folklore. The folk music from that period, typically, is in major

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