Afro-American Folksongs - online book

A Study In Racial And National Music, With Sample Sheet Music & Lyrics.

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out a clamor from one class of critics which disclosed noth­ing so much as their want of intelligent discrimination unless it was their ungenerous and illiberal attitude toward a body of American citizens to whom at the least must be' credited the creation of a species of song in which an un­deniably great composer had recognized artistic poten­tialities thitherto neglected, if not unsuspected, in the land of its origin. While the critics quarrelled, however, a group of American musicians acted on Dr. Dvorak's sug­gestion, and music in the serious, artistic forms, racy of the soil from which the slave songs had sprung, was produced by George W. Chadwick, Henry Schoenberg, Edward R. Kroeger and others.
It was thus that the question of a possible folksong basis for a school of composition which the world would recog­nize as distinctive, even national, was brought upon the carpet. With that question I am not concerned now. My immediate concern is to outline the course and method to be pursued in the investigations which I have under­taken. Primarily, the study will be directed to the music of the songs and an attempt be made by comparative analysis to discover the distinctive idioms of that music, trace their origins and discuss their correspondences with characteristic elements of other folk-melodies, and also their differences.
The burden is to be laid upon the music. The poetry of the songs has been discussed amply and well, never so amply or so well as when they were first brought to the attention of the world by a group of enthusiastic laborers in the cause of the freedmen during the War of the Re­bellion. Though foreign travellers had written enthusias­tically about the singing of the slaves on the Southern plantations long before, and though the so-called negro minstrels had provided an admired form of entertainment based on the songs and dances of the blacks which won unexampled popularity far beyond the confines of the United States, the descriptions were vague and general, the sophistication so great, that it may be said that really nothing was done to make the specific beauties of the unique
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