Folk Music in The United States

The British Tradition

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48                 An Introduction to Folk Music in the United States

is an octave lower than the others. The verbal stanza is also divided into four lines whose contents can be interpreted in several ways, each with its parallel in the music: 1) The last line is the dramatic climax of the stanza, and its music is set off from the rest by being pitched an octave lower than the other lines. 2) The text can be divided into two equal parts, the first dealing with *last night," the second with "tonight." The music is also symmetrical, the second half being a repetition of the first, modified only by the octave transposition. 3) Lines 1 and 3 are united by describing the place in which "she" sleeps, lines 2 and 4 by indicating with whom. Again, this division is observed in the music, lines 1 and 2 being identical (A^), and lines 2 and 4 being at least very close (A^). Although this kind of integration of text and music must have been created unconsciously, it may nevertheless have been a factor in the survival of the ballad. While it is not evident in detail to the listener until after a detailed analysis, its effect may be felt subconsciously, and there may be aesthetic factors which direct a song towards this kind of integration. I should point out, however, that the parallels in this example occur only in the first stanza (which is repeated at the end) and that they are not followed through in subsequent ones.

Although the ballads are perhaps the most popular and best-known songs in the Anglo-American tradition, there are a great many other kinds, some brought from Britain, others native American, which live on in American folk culture. Many are associated with various occupations such as sailing, lumberjacking, cow-punching, mining, and farming. There are dance songs, play-party songs, and religious folk songs. All of these are closely related in musical style to the ballads, as are the love songs and the humorous songs which especially typify American folklore. Samuel Bayard"^ believes that most of the songs in the Anglo-American tradition are descended from about fifty-five tunes and thus belong to fifty-five "tune-families." If this is correct, American tradition has benefited enormously from communal re-creation, for the number of variants — some close to the original, some changed almost beyond recognition — of these few original tunes

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