Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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mouth, he can vary the overtones brought out. The upper voice in Example 7-2 is produced by overtones, and it, of course, is varied; but the piece consists of the manifold repetitions of this phrase.
example 7-2. South African musical bow melody, from Charles M. Camp and Bruno Nettl, "The Musical Bow in Southern Africa," Anthropos L (1955), 75.
Solo performance is common enough in Africa, but the most characteristic African music is performed by groups and gives occa­sion to the use of alternating performance techniques of various kinds. We say "characteristic" because this kind of performance is more developed in Africa than elsewhere, and because it is this ele­ment which, more perhaps than any other, has been retained in the Negro cultures of the New World. The simplest of these alternating techniques is responsorial singing, the alternation between a leader and a group which is sometimes also called the "call-and-response" technique. Example 7-3, from the Republic of the Congo (Brazza­ville), shows what may frequently happen in such a form. Drums and an iron bell provide a constant rhythmic background whose gen­eral outline and meter remain the same, but whose accent patterns and specific note values vary somewhat. A female soloist sings a two-measure phrase alternating with a two-measure monophonic phrase sung by a group of women. The two phrases are different in content, but are similar at the cadence.
Improvisation is an important feature in some African styles. Evidently there is some real improvisation: that is, the creation of music without the use of pre-existing models as the basis. But this seems to be rare. More common is improvisation in the form of varying a tune as it is being performed. The forms consisting of short phrases that are repeated many times lend themselves especially well to this kind of improvisation, since it is possible for a singer to begin with the standard version of a tune and then to improvise variations

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