Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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South are to conform to the scientific definition of folksongs as I laid it down in the preceding chapter, they must be "born, not made;" they must be spontaneous utterances of the people who originally sang them; they must also be the fruit of the creative capacity of a whole and in­genuous people, not of individual artists, and give voice to the joys, sorrows and aspirations of that people. They must betray the influences of the environment in which they sprang up, and may preserve relics of the likes and aptitudes of their creators when in the earlier environment from which they emerged. The best of them must be felt by the singers themselves to be emotional utterances. The only considerable body of song which has come into existence in the territory now compassed by the United States, I might even say in North America, excepting the primitive songs of the Indians (which present an en­tirely different aspect), are the songs of the former black slaves. In Canada the songs of the people, or that portion of the people that can be said still to sing from impulse, are predominantly French, not only in language but in subject. They were for the greater part transferred to this continent with the bodily integrity which they now possess. Only a small portion show an admixture of In­dian elements; but the songs of the black slaves of the South are original and native products. They contain iciioms which were transplanted hither from Africa, but as songs they are the product of American institutions; of the social, political and geographical environment within which their creators were placed in America; of the in­fluences to which they were subjected in America; of the joys, sorrows and experiences which fell to their lot in America.
Nowhere save on the plantations of the South could the emotional life which is. essential to the development of true folksong be developed; nowhere else was there lie necessary meeting of the spiritual cause and the simple agent and vehicle. The white inhabitants of the continent have never been in the state of cultural ingenuousness which prompts spontaneous emotional utterance in music.
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