Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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nothing but triumph in the next. Sometimes the present predominates, sometimes the future; but the combination is always implied."1
"Though the words are sometimes rude and the strains often wild, yet they are the outpourings of an ignorant and poverty-stricken people, whose religious language and ideals struggled for expression and found it through limited vocabularies and primitive harmonies. They are not merely poetry, they are life itself—the life of the human soul manifesting itself in - rude words, wild strains and curious, though beautiful harmonies," says Robert R. Moton, commandant of Hampton Institute. Booker T. Washington bears this testimony: "The negro folksong has for the negro race the same value that the folksong of any other people has for that people. It reminds the race of the 'rock whence it was hewn/ it fosters race pride, and in the days of slavery it furnished an outlet for the anguish of smitten hearts. . . . The plantation songs known as the 'spirituals' are the spontaneous outbursts of intense religious fervor, and had their origin chiefly in the camp-meetings, the revivals, and in other religious exercises. They breathe a childlike faith in a personal Father and glow with the hope that the children of bondage will ulti­mately pass out of the wilderness of slavery into the land of freedom."
Writing in "The Century Magazine" for August, 1899,
Marion Alexander Haskell said: "The musical talent of
the uneducated negro finds almost its only expression in
religious song, and for this there is a simple explanation.
A race strongly imbued with religious sentiment, one rarely
finds among them an adult who has not gone through that
emotional experience known as conversion, after which
it is considered vanity and sinfulness to indulge in song
other than that of a sacred character. The new-found child
1 Concerning the prevalent mode of the songs Colonel Higginson is in error; they are predominantly major, not minor. The mistake is a common one among persons who have no technical training in music and who have been taught that suffering always expresses itself in the minor mode. A great majority of those who write about savage or primitive music generally set it down as minor whenever it has a melancholy cast.
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