Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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example 7-5. Yoruba drumming in honor of Ogun (god of war). The top part is the smallest and highest drum, the lowest part, the largest and lowest drum. From Anthony King, "Employment of the 'standard pat­tern7 in Yoruba Music," African Music II, no. 3 (1960), 53.
follow each drum individually. In music using several melodic instru­ments, or voices and instruments, the structure of the rhythm is as complex as it is in the drumming, and the various voices often per­form in different meters. To what extent the performers are listening to each other cannot always be ascertained, and to what degree a listener perceives the total rhythmic structure is also unknown.
Closely related to the rhythmic polyphony and to the question of perception of a group of individual rhythmic lines as a unit is the field of polyphony at large, and the question whether in Africa sev­eral voices are perceived independently or as a single vertical har­monic structure.
Whether it is polyphony or really harmony, it is very well de­veloped in African Negro music. And it appears in many media. There is choral singing, usually in the responsory form. There is instrumental music of an orchestral nature, with a number of instru­ments of the same type playing together. And there is something similar to chamber music—instruments of different types playing to­gether, alone or along with singing. Drumming and other percussion may of course act as accompaniment. Finally, there is also the con­cept of accompanying singing. There is polyphony of many types, and it seems to be present throughout the African Negro area, al­though it is concentrated in the Eastern cattle area and the Congo or Central Africa.

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