Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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

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Not only are the folk musics of the various Negro communities in the New World intrinsically interesting and alive, but they have in­fluenced the folk music of the whites as well, to the extent of having played a major role in the development of some of the typical North and Latin American musical forms; they are responsible for the character of a good deal of Western popular music; their importance in the development of jazz is well known; and their effect on the composers of art music, beginning with Dvorak (1841-1904) and Gershwin (1898-1937) all the way to William Grant Still (1895-1964) and Ulysses S. Kay (b. 1917), is considerable.
The origins of the New World Negro styles
The origin of the New World Negro styles has been a subject of much debate over the past century. Extreme views—the music is actually African, unchanged by migration; or the music is simply a copy of Western form and style; the American Negro is a superla­tively creative individual; or he is capable of creating nothing but the simplest spontaneous musical utterances—have frequently been published. A more moderate view is now generally accepted. Ac­cording to the kind of thinking to which American anthropologists of the 1960's subscribe, the slaves did indeed bring their African songs and pieces. In those areas in which they outnumbered their white neighbors and masters, and where they were isolated from the whites, they retained this African music with relatively little change. Elsewhere they actually learned the songs of the whites. Every­where, however, they were influenced by the music of the whites (and in cases by that of the Indians), and they modified their own way of singing to some extent in accordance with that of the whites. Thus their musical acculturation takes three possible forms: they may simply learn the songs of the whites with their performance practices; they may learn the performance practices of the whites and superimpose these on their own songs; or, conversely, they may learn the songs of the whites and superimpose on them the African performance practices.
All of these things happened to some degree. The Negroes of the United States learned songs from their white masters, from mis­sionaries, and from neighbors in the cities. Some of these songs were

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