Folk Music in The United States


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Collecting and Studying Folk Music                                         83

can and New World Negro music, and there are smaller collections at various other institutions, including the Universities of California, Washington, and Michigan, and the Chicago Museum of Natural History. There are also some specialized archives such as the collection at Wayne State University, which is devoted exclusively to material collected in the Detroit area. All of these collections, however, share the job of preserving the folk music heritage of the world for times when it will have disappeared or will have changed beyond recognition. I should point out that they contain, for the most part, recordings which have never been duplicated in quantity or published. Since they often exist only in the original, they are usually not available to the public but only to students and researchers.

The analysis of folk and primitive music is a complex and difficult matter which requires much knowledge of basic music theory and which would take up more space in this book than can be allowed, were we to discuss it in detail. Among the basic principles involved, however, the following distinguish folk music research from that in other kinds of music. The scholar who analyzes folk music is usually working in a medium relatively distant from the music most familiar to him. Therefore he must be extremely careful, just as in transcribing, not to impose his own ideas and experiences on the music he is analyzing. He must not give way to the temptation of calling unusual intervals simply out-of-tune equivalents of their Western counterparts, or of calling complex rhythmic patterns "free" or "chaotic." He should abstain from criticizing and evaluating his material from an aesthetic point of view, since this is likely to distort the analysis and to produce an ethnocentric and thus irrelevant judgment. Finally, since most folk and primitive music consists of short, simple pieces whose structure does not approach the complexity of even the simple songs in Western music history, their description usually can and should go into greater detail than an examination of cultivated music. Analysis of folk and primitive music is expected to be more accurate and more objective than that of cultivated music.

The various fields of American folk music have not been evenly

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