Folk Music in The United States

The Ethnic Backgrounds of American Folk Music

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22                 An Introduction to Folk Music in the United States

mule calls. This change of function may change the character of the music and have a profound effect on its very existence.

The fact that the United States is largely an urban country also causes special problems for those dealing with its folk music. In most European countries, especially those of the eastern, central, and southern portions, the difference between urban and rural populations is considerable. But in the United States even the rural inhabitants share many of the urban culture elements, such as radio and television, newspapers and nationally circulated magazines, machinery, mechanical devices, and motion pictures. In contrast to most of Europe, the American rural population is quite mobile. People travel in automobiles much more than in Europe, and the migration between farm and city is steady and strong. There are relatively few individuals who have never lived in a city. Consequently we cannot, in this country, consider a rural environment as the chief feature of folk music, something which was often done by European students of folklore. American folk music lives at least partially in urban areas, and, in some cases, even in large cities, especially where Exiro-pean peasant groups have settled in industrial cities and have kept part of their heritage.

The concepts of nationality and national spirit, ethnic and cultural groups, social classes, and the rural and urban aspects of folklore show that American folk music is in many ways a very different phenomenon from its European counterpart, and that, from the point of view of some persons oriented towards Exiro-pean folklore, the American material is not folklore at all. Instead of taking such a point of view, however, let us simply say that these differences between American and European folk music are largely due to the different historical developments and contrasting cultural composition of the two hemispheres, and that both continents have a heritage which can be considered genuinely within the scope of folklore.

Besides indicating the basic differences between American and Old World folk music we must emphasize their common features. The United States is fertile soil for studying European folklore, and European folk song collectors have often come to America

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