Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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cally, we should say that the question of the origin and development of the Negro spiritual's style has not been answered in a satisfactory way, for the white spirituals are also frequently sung in a very vigor­ous and rhythmically un-hymn-like way-whether through Negro influence or not, we don't know.
George Pullen Jackson (1874-1953)7 assembled a large number of parallels between Negro and white spirituals. These are taken largely from nineteenth-century collections; and while the tunes of the songs are presented, we have no information about the style of singing used in these early notations. Nevertheless, Example 9-2 shows one time used as both a white and a Negro spiritual; it is the famous "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," which is similar in melodic content to a white American hymn tune entitled "Gaines."
The United States Negroes have many other kinds of folk songs: work songs, love songs, ballads, children's songs and lullabies, and so forth. Many of these are simply taken over from the heritage of the whites, and some, though originated by Negroes, are never­theless patterned after the music of the Anglo-American community. The Negro tradition has always been influenced by the whites, and much of the basic material in it is essentially of European origin; only in the style of performance can we detect definitely African roots. One exception to this tendency is the blues, a type of song best described as a lament.
Possibly the blues are related to those spirituals which, as a sign of protest and of discontent, identify the American Negroes with the Jews in Egyptian slavery. The term "blues" actually applies to songs with many different forms. The so-called field blues are simply short calls and wails, frequently with indefinite pitch, repeated sev­eral times, perhaps originally by field hands in the cotton fields com­municating with each other; sometimes they are sung alternately by two persons. As in Africa, the Negroes in the United States have developed individual song makers who composed or improvised songs, or who created material out of songs already in existence, and who became masters recognized by the community- These are pre­sumably the individuals who created new songs in the Western style.
Probably the most famous of these U.S. Negro singers was
7 George Pullen Jackson, White and Negro Spirituals (New York: J. J. Augustin, 1943); also his White Spirituals in the Southern Uplands (New York: J. J. Augustin, 1933).

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