Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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ing some of these aberrant intervals be heard. As I have set them down, the flat seventh in the major and major sixth in the minor are more or less approximations to the tones as they are sung; but the circumstances justify the classifications which I have made. In my own defence, though it may not be necessary to make one, I may say that here I am entirely dependent upon the evidence adduced by others; I did not hear the songs sung in slavery, nor did I come in closer touch with the generation which made them generally known than many of my readers who heard the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University on their first concert tour. It was their singing which interested me in the subject, and it was forty years ago that I began my observations, which I was not permitted to extend personally into the regions where research should have been made, and where I vainly tried to have it made through other agencies, v "It is difficult," said Miss McKim,1 "to express the entire character of these negro ballads by mere musical notes and signs. The odd turns made in the throat and the curious rhythmic effect produced by single voices chiming in at different irregular intervals seem almost as impossible to place on the score as the singing of birds or the tones of an seolian. harp."
"Another obstacle to its rendering is the fact that tones are frequently employed which we have no musical characters to represent. Such, for example, is that which I have indiĀ­cated as nearly as possible by the flat seventh in 'Great Camp Meetin', 'Hard Trials/ and others," says Thomas P. Fenner, in the preface to "Cabin and Plantation Songs," and he continues: "These tones are variable in pitch, ranging through an entire interval on different occasions, according to the inspiration of the singer. They are rarely discordant, and even add a charm to the performance." Miss Emily Hallowell's "Calhoun Plantation Songs" bear evidence of having been more carefully noted than the Fisk or Hampton collections, though made at a much later date. In her preface Miss Hallowell says: "I have tried
1 "Slave Songs," page 6.
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