Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Voucher Codes

Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
1)   The Northwest Coast-Eskimo area contains, besides the areas mentioned, the Salish Indians in the interior of British Columbia and in the state of Washington. While these groups have little in com­mon culturally, they seem to be among the most recent immigrants from Asia. Their music is characterized by nonstrophic forms, by complex and sometimes nonmedical rhythmic organization, by the prominence of small intervals such as minor seconds, and by a rela­tively small range in the melodies. The melodic contours in Eskimo music tend to be undulating, while they are more frequently of a pendulum type in Northwest Coast and Salish music. One important characteristic is the use of rhythmic motifs in the percussive accom­paniment. Generally, in Indian music, drums and rattles follow a simple pulse. But in the Northwest Coast-Eskimo area, simple de­signs such as J) J) J) £ or J) J J) are found. In spite of the unity, how­ever, the Eskimo music is generally simple while that of the North­west is complex and, in its relative wealth of instruments, indicates some relationship to the culture of the Mexican civilizations.
2)  The California-Yuman area, consisting of tribes in Central California and of the Yuman-speaking tribes of the extreme South­western United States, is characterized by singing in a relatively re­laxed manner. Most Indian tribes use a tense, harsh vocal technique, but here the singing is more in the style of Western or Central Euro­pean folk singing. The songs are not in strophic form, that is, they consist not simply of a repetition of the basic form, but rather of two or more separate sections or phrases which are repeated, alternated, and interwoven without a predetermined pattern. The most charac­teristic feature of this area is the so-called rise, a form discovered and labeled by George Herzog.3 The rise itself is a section of a song that is slightly higher in pitch than the rest of the song. Its average pitch or tessitura is higher, but sometimes not very obviously so. Yet the Yuman Indians recognize this feature and use a word roughly translated as "rise" to indicate it. The rise is found in most songs of the Yuman-California area, but it is also found elsewhere, mainly along the coasts of North America. Thus, it is found in some 20 or 30 per cent of the songs of some Northwest Coast tribes, and in those of the Southeastern Choctaw; in 10 to 20 per cent of the songs of the
3 George Herzog, "The Yuman Musical Style," Journal of American Folk­lore LXI (1928), 183-231.

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