Folk Music in The United States


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Folk Music in the Metropolis                                                    67

tially, usually do not participate in the musical folklore of both groups. Apparently they tend to take part in the folk music of the foreign-language group more commonly than in the Anglo-American material.

What kind of fate may the folk songs of the foreign ethnic groups expect in the future? It is possible that the songs will share the fate of the ethnic groups themselves. The latter have been decreasing in size and strength.

We can examine this same question from the point of view of individual informants. It appears, for example, that the oldest child in a family of Polish settlers knows more folk songs than the younger children. The extent of ethnic knowledge a Polish informant has seems to correlate with the amount of Polish he speaks. Doubtless the amount of music known by native members of the ethnic groups is smaller than that of their immigrant parents, and recent arrivals (as among the Puerto Ricans) are better versed than old-time United States residents. However, there is no doubt that some types of folk music, especially those associated with functions that remain in practice, such as dancing, survive for several generations.

The question also arises whether the new interest in folk music on the part of students and intellectuals is about to provide our cities with a new folk music. Certainly this interest is laudable, but if the essential components of folk music are kept in mind — oral tradition, development of variants — it is obvious that this new practice bears little relationship to folk music as classically defined. But the widespread singing of folksongs from the Anglo-American tradition in our cities is certainly affecting the people's attitude toward music, and while folk music itself may not strictly speaking be involved, there is no doubt that our musical culture as a whole is being vitally affected.

My final question, then, is: Is there any true city folk music in America? There seems to be little or none. Some institutions try to foist their songs on the population in order to achieve material results. For example, some labor unions try to fuse such songs as "Joe Hill," "The Union Maid," and "UAW-CIO" into oral tradition. Such attempts are usually failures in creating folk songs,

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