Folk Music in The United States


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Collecting and Studying Folk Music                                        79

their compatriots, makes them superior. He should get information about musical instruments, their construction, use, and tuning. For the latter, the recording machine can again be used. It takes no technical knowledge of music to ask a performer to play all the possible tones on a given instrument, and to record them; but this procedure can be of tremendous importance to the musicologist who studies the recordings. Other items could be added, but let it sujBSce to say that any statements about music made by native informants are welcome, important, and relevant.

Once the recordings are made, they pass into the hands of the ethnomusicologist. His first job is to transcribe them into notation, and sometimes this is his only objective — one valid task is simply to present the raw material in notated form and make it available for others to study. This transcribing of a piece of primitive music into notation is a diflScult job, and folk music is not much easier. It is sometimes so time consuming that it is not uncommon for a song which takes one minute to perform to be transcribed only after an hour or more of work. Why should it take so long, if, after all, first-year college music students can learn to write down what they have heard repeated three or four times, in exercises called "dictation"? The reason points up one of the most important and interesting facts about primitive and folk music, and about the methods of studying it.

We should first realize that there are at least two ways of reducing what one hears to notation. One can expect to hear music in a preconceived pattern, to which the music will adhere, as in classes of music theory, where students are taught what to expect and then to supplement what they have actually heard with what they know should and will be played by the instructor. But the student of primitive music has a diflFerent point of view. He must try to write down exactly what occurs in the music; he must not allow his hearing to be diverted by preconceived ideas of what should take place. Otherwise what he writes down will be subjective, influenced by the kind of music he has been used to hearing, and he will "correct" what he hears in the light of his previous listening, creating a transcription which would obviously not tell us about the music itself, only about the stu-

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