Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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of my C up and down an octave like the voice of a siren. Why savages who have never developed a musical or any other art should be supposed to have more refined aesthetic sensibilities than the peoples who have cultivated music for centuries, passes my poor powers of understanding. But the contemplation of savage life seems to have a tendency to make the imagination (especially that of sympathetic people) slip its moorings. My own experience with Indian music has convinced me that the red man is markedly unmusical. That appears to me to be amply proved by the paucity of melody in the songs of the Indians, their adherence to a stereotyped intervallic formula, regard­less of the use to which the song is put, and their lack of agreement in pitch when singing. To the Indian music is chiefly an element of ritual; its practice is obligatory, and it is not per se an expression of beauty for beauty's sake or an emotional utterance which a love for euphony has regulated and moulded into a thing of loveliness. It reaches its climax in the wild and monotonous chants which accompany their gambling games and their ghost-dances. There is a significance which I cannot fathom in the circumstance that the tones which seem rebellious to the negro's sense of intervallic propriety are the fourth and seventh of the diatonic major series and the fourth, sixth and seventh of the minor. The omission of the fourth and seventh intervals of the major scale leaves the pentatonic series on which mof the 527 songs analyzed are built. The fact is an evidence of the strong inclination of the American negroes toward this scale, which is even more pervasive in their music than it is in the folksongs of Scotland, popularly looked upon as peculiarly the home of the pentatonic scale. On this imperfect scale the popular music of China, Japan and Siam rests; it is common, too, in the music of Ireland, and I have found many examples in the music of the American Indians .and the peoples of Africa. The melody of the "Warrior's Song" in Coleridge-Taylor's fine book of pianoforte tran­scriptions entitled "Twenty-four Negro Melodies,"1 is a 1 Boston: Oliver Ditson Company.
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III