Folk Music in The United States

The British Tradition

Home Main Menu | Singing & playing Contents Page | <Previous Next> Search Voucher Codes

Share page  Visit Us On FB

52                 An Introduction to Folk Music in the United States

tion over wide spaces. In some of them, the stanzas are followed by a falsetto refrain with meaningless syllables for a text. Others have no strophic structure but simply an alternation of a falsetto phrase with one sung with a normal voice.

Especially well collected are the coal miners' songs of Pennsylvania. Their subjects reflect pride in the mining trade and, frequently, discontent with the hard life and bad treatment of the miners in the late nineteenth and early twentieth cenuries. Musically, they exhibit many styles, some tunes being sung to the tunes of British ballads, others to modern broadside tunes especially composed for them, and still others to tunes brought from eastern and southern Europe by men who came to America to work in the mines and who sing (often in their native languages) of their homes, the families they left behind, their hopes and disillusionments in their new country, as in Example 28.

The love songs of the Anglo-American tradition are relatively few in number, compared to the other traditions of western Europe, and they are mostly sad songs of complaint, of lost love, or of anger at the beloved's infidelity. Some of their tunes are especially interesting examples of the old English ballad style, A common feature of the texts is the repetition at the end of the first stanza in a closed, cyclic form. Also relatively small in number are lullabies, whose musical material is sometimes identical with that of some love songs. Larger in number, and more lively in tradition, are children's game songs and counting-out rhymes, many of which go back to the play-party songs of Puritan New England, where they served as substitutes for dancing.

Previous Contents Next