Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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

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French folk music shows the tremendous impact that art music through the centuries must have had. The typical tunes are iso­metric, they have major or (much less commonly) melodic minor tonality, they are monophonic or accompanied by chord or drones, and they move briskly in strophic forms. Singing is with relaxed voice and with little ornamentation. The fact that some of the French forms can be related, whether through the etymology of their names or through their structure, to some of the genres of music (such as the dances) of the Renaissance and Middle Ages should prove to us the close kind of contact extant between art and folk music. In the last three or four centuries, this relationship can again be shown in the diffusion of the quadrille and its relative, the square dance. This type of dance evidently originated in France some time before the eighteenth century and was a sort of transition between round and couple dances. It became a dance popular in the cities and at the courts, had a period of being stately and dignified, and then was again accelerated. In the nineteenth century it gradually declined as a dance of the city folk but found its way again into folk culture, eventually becoming the typical folk dance of the English-speaking world. Similarly, remnants of medieval forms of troubadour song seem to have found their way into contemporary folk culture. Thus, Carlos Vega1 believes that he has found variants of medieval trouba­dour melodies from Provence in Argentine folk tradition. Accord­ingly, French folklore is one of the best examples of the occasional validity of the theory of gestmkenes Kulturgut.
Polyphonic Italian folk song
For several decades in the twentieth century it was widely be­lieved that Italy had no folk music, that the country had been in the grip of musical sophisticates for so long that no folk heritage with its characteristic traits—oral tradition, communal re-creation, and the like—still remained. In the 1950's, however, through the collecting efforts of several scholars including Diego Carpitella and Alan Lo-max, a great treasure of folksongs relatively uninfluenced by art music and exhibiting great variety of style and forms was uncovered.
1 Carlos Vega, in a paper read at the First Inter-American Conference on Musicology, Washington, D.C., May, 1963.

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