Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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environment and language. Some of these elements, the spiritual, are elusive, but others can be determined and classified.
Though the present purposes are almost purely musical, it will be well to consider that in the folksongs of the world there lies a body of evidence of great value in the study of many things which enter into the science of ethnology, such as racial relations, primitive modes of thought, ancient customs and ancient religions. On this point something shall be said later.
Folksongs are echoes of the heart-beats of the vast folk, and in them are preserved feelings, beliefs and habits of vast antiquity. Not only in the words, which have almost monopolized folksong study thus far, but also in music, and perhaps more truthfully in the music than in the words. Music cannot lie, for the reason that the things which are at its base, the things without which it could not be, are un­conscious, unvolitional human products. We act on a recognition of this fact when we judge of the feelings of one with whom we are conversing not so much by what he says to us as by the manner in which he says it. The feel­ings which sway him publish themselves in the pitch, dynamic intensity and timbre of his voice. Try as we may, if we are powerfully moved we cannot conceal the fact so we open our mouths for utterance. Involuntarily the muscles of the vocal organs contract or relax in obedi­ence to an emotional stimulus, and the drama of feeling playing on the hidden stage of our hearts is betrayed by the tones which we utter. These tones, without purpose on our part, have become endowed with the qualities of gravity and acuteness (pitch), loudness and softness (dynamics), and emotional color (timbre), and out of the union and modulation of these elements comes expressive melody. Herbert Spencer has formulated the law: "Feel­ings are muscular stimuli" and "Variations of voice are the physiological results of variations of feeling." In this lies the simple explanation of the inherent truthfulness and expressiveness of the music which a folk creates for itself.
"The folksong composes itself" {Das Folkslied dichtet sick selbst), said Grimm. This is true despite the obvious
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