Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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Comparative analysis of the folksongs of widely distri­buted countries has shown that some peoples are predis­posed toward the minor mode, and in some cases explana­tions of the fact can be found in the geographical, climatic or political conditions under which these peoples have lived in the past or are living now. As a general rule, it will be found that the peoples of high latitudes use the minor mode rather than the major. A study of one hundred songs from every one of twenty-two countries made by Carl Engel,1 discloses that of the six most pre­dominantly minor countries of Europe five were the most northern ones, his figures being as follows:
Melancholy is thus seen to be the characteristic note of Scandinavian music, which reflects the gloom of the fjords and forests and fearful winters of the northern peninsula, where nature makes human life a struggle and death an ever-present though not necessarily terrifying contemplation.
That geographical and climatic conditions are not the only determining factors in the choice of modes is evident, however, from the case of Russia, which extends over nearly 30 degrees of latitude and has so great a variety of climate that the statement that the mean temperature varies from 32 degrees Fahrenheit at Archangel to 58 de­grees at Kutais in the Caucasus, conveys only an imperfect notion of the climatic variability of the country. Yet the minor mode is dominant even in the Ukraine.
If an attempt were made, therefore, to divide Europe into major and minor by drawing a line across the map from west to east along the parallel of the 50th degree of latitude the rule would become inoperative as soon as the Russian border was reached. Thence the isomodal line would take a sharp southward trend of no less than 15
1 See his "Introduction to the Study of National Music."
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