Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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produced nothing to compare in artistic interest with the harmonious drumming of these savages. The fundamental effect was a combination of double and triple time, the former kept by the singers, the latter by the drummers, but it is impossible to convey the idea of the wealth of detail achieved by the drummers by means of exchange of the rhythms, syncopation of both simultaneously, and dynamic devices. Only by making a score of the music could this have been done. I attempted to make such a score by enĀ­listing the help of the late John C. Fillmore, experienced in Indian music, but we were thwarted by the players who, evidently divining our purpose when we took out our notebooks, mischievously changed their manner of playing as soon as we touched pencil to paper. I was forced to the conclusion that in their command of the element, which in the musical art of the ancient Greeks stood higher than either melody or harmony, the best composers of to-day were the veriest tyros compared with these black savages.
It would be easy to fill pages with travellers' notes on the drum-playing and dancing of the African tribes to illustrate their marvellous command of rhythm. I content myself With a few illustrative examples. African drums, are of many varieties, from the enormous war drums, for which trunks of large trees provide the body and wild beasts the membranes which are belabored with clubs, down to the small vase-shaped instruments played with' the fingers. The Ashantees used their large drums to make an horrific din to accompany human sacrifices, and large drums, too, are used for signalling at great distances. The most refined effects of the modern tympanist seem to be put in the shade by the devices used by African drummers in varying the sound of their instruments so as to make them convey meanings, not by conventional time-formulas but by actual imitation of words. Walla-schek1 says:
"Peculiar to Africa is the custom of using drums as a means of communication from great distances. There are two distinctly different kinds of this drum language,
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