Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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

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is the alternation of melodic movement among the voices. While one voice sings a bit of melody, the other one remains sustained; in the next phrase, the previously sustained voice becomes the carrier of the melody, and so on in alternation. The use of different kinds of rhythmic structure in each voice is also typical; one voice may carry the main tune, another may sing sustained notes supplying harmony, while a third may sing a rapid rhythmic figure on one tone, with meaningless syllables, perhaps imitating a drumbeat. Polyphonic singing is found in various kinds of Italian song—shepherds' songs, songs of dock workers and sailors. Some of the polyphony makes use of instruments as well as of singing; in such cases the singers are often accompanied, again, by instruments that can produce a drone-bagpipes, a small organ, or the launeddas, which is discussed below. The influence of cultures outside Italy on Italian polyphony may explain some of the regional differences. The North of Italy, which is dominated by the more modern style of folk song and by singing in parallel thirds and sixths, has had close contact with the Alpine musical cultures with their love of triadic structures. The South has had less contact with Europe and has preserved older forms. Influences from Africa and the Near East can perhaps also be felt in the South. According to Carpitella,3 a type of song sung in the tunny-fishery areas near North Africa is characterized by the kind of call-and-response patterns common also in African Negro music and found sometimes in North Africa as well. If he is correct in his belief that this song type actually came from Africa, he has come upon an interesting early example of the kind of influence that African music, in the last two centuries, has exercised so strongly on Western folk music, for it is precisely this call-and-response pattern which has been the cornerstone of the various Afro-American styles in folk and popular music.
Some other aspects of Italian folk music
The instruments most evident in Italian folk music are those which have been taken over from the cultivated tradition: violin, guitar, mandolin, clarinet, accordion. But there are also much older instruments, some of which seem to have remained relatively un­changed since classical times, in the more isolated parts of the nation.
3 Carpitella, "Folk Music: Italy," p. 140.

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