Folk Music in The United States

The British Tradition

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The British Tradition                                                                47

tends to be a change to 4/4. Irregular musical meters, which we find in older songs, do not often appear in the broadsides. The poetic meters, however, exhibit more variety in the broadsides than in the Child ballads. Tlie melodic contours and the over-all forms are more varied, and instrumental accompaniment is also more common. Indeed, the broadside tunes are constructed in the eighteenth and nineteenth century styles of popular music, which include an innate feeling for harmony, so that accompaniment is definitely called for.

Words and music in the ballads are not wedded to each other. DiflFerent texts may be found with a single tune, and one text is often sung to a number of unrelated tunes. If the singer forgets the tune of a song but knows the words, he may substitute another tune with the same rhythm^ This is facilitated by the simple and stable patterns of ballad poetry. Sometimes a part of a tune is taken and given new words. This happened in the case of "The Pretty Mohee" (Example 9), originally a British broadside with four lines. The last two lines of the tune were separated and fitted to the text of "On Top of Old Smoky," an American folk song which subsequently became popular in the semi-folkloristic hillbilly tradition.

The specific relations between the words and the tune of a song are often intriguing. It goes without saying that the music must to some extent parallel the metric, rhythmic, and linear structure of the verbal stanza. The relationship often goes even further, however, to the extent of establishing parallels between the musical form and the content of the words. This should not be construed to mean tone-painting, or the use of musical imagery to represent words and ideas. Example 4, a version of "The Gypsy Laddie" collected in southern Indiana, shows what may occur in some cases. But other ballads have different kinds of text-music relationships, and we certainly cannot consider this example a representative one of general trends since this entire area of ballad study is still quite unexplored.

The musical form of this song could be described by the letter-scheme A^ A2 A^ A^L. The second and fourth lines are almost identical, the chief dijfference being the fact that the fourth line

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