Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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one. Yet a few scores or hundreds of phonographic records hi music would be worth more to science and art to-day than a thousand stuffed skins of animals robbed of life by the bullets of a Roosevelt.
It is unfortunate that musical scholars are unable, for want of material, to deduce a sound theory concerning the origin of the scale; it is also unfortunate that a knowl­edge of African languages and dialects does not come to our assistance in accounting for the most marked rhyth­mical characteristic of the songs of the American negroes-This characteristic is found in the use of a figure in which the emphasis is shifted from the strong to the weak part of a time-unit by making the first note of two into which the beat is divided take only a fraction of the time of the second. This effect of propulsion when frequently repeated becomes very stirring, not to say exciting, and, as has been disclosed by the development of "ragtime," leads to a sort of rhythmical intozication exemplified in the use of the device not only in the first beat of a measure, but in the other beats also, and even in the fractional divisions of a beat, no matter how small they have been made. When this species of syncopation, known as the Scotch, or Scot's, snap, or catch, became popular in the Italian opera airs of the eighteenth century it was held to be the offspring of a device commonly found in the popular music of Scotland. It is a characteristic element of the Strathspey reel, and the belief has been expressed that it got into vocal music from the fact that Burns and other poets wrote words for Scottish dance-tunes. "It was in great favor with many of the Italian composers of the eighteenth century," says J. Muir Wood (writing in Grove's "Diction­ary of Music and Musicians") "for Burney, who seems to have invented the name, says in his account of the Italian opera in London, in 1748, that 'there was at this time too much of the Scotch catch, or cutting short of the first two notes in a melody.' He blames Cocchi, Perez and Jommelli, all three masters concerned in the opera 'Volo-geso,' for being lavish of the snap." Adding to his article on the subject in the second edition of Grove's work, he
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