Folk Music in The United States


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90                 An Introduction to Folk Music in the United States

Western culture, they first thought of using the music in their own tradition, such as English and Scottish. But this did not distinguish them from their European colleagues, since this music is basically a European importation; so the American composers turned to those bodies of folk music which the United States shares with no other countries, American Indian and Negro songs. It is this material which predominates in American compositions.

One of the first among the composers interested in Indian materials was Edward MacDowell, often considered the greatest American composer. His Indian Suite, first performed in 1896, was, in the composer's own words, "suggested for the most part by melodies of the North American Indians."^ The titles of the movements indicate some aspects of Indian culture: I. Legend, II. Love Song, III. In War-time, IV. Dirge, V. Village Festival,

Other composers who used Indian material are Arthur Farwell, Arthur Nevin, who composed an opera, Poia, based on a Black-foot legend, Charles Ives, who experimented with many other stylistic innovations and folk styles as well, Frederic Jacobi, Charles W. Cadman, and Henry Cowell. The use of Indian elements is usually limited to certain simple melodies whose scales coincide with those of cultivated music. The rhythms and the over-all forms of Indian music are rarely used so that few of the compositions are in the first of the three categories of the cultivated use of folk music.

It was the Czech composer Dvorak who first popularized the idea of using Negro folk songs, especially spirituals, in cultivated music; and he had many American followers. The Negro songs combine the virtues of being fairly close to the style of cultivated music, having been derived from the white spirituals, and yet of being a unique American contribution to music literature. Before Dvo'tak, French Creole music from Louisiana was incorporated in the pieces of a Creole composer, George Moreau Gottschalk, who gained a considerable reputation in Europe. The English-language Negro songs have recently been the basis of arrangements for vocal soloists and choirs and as parts of instrumental pieces. The Negro composers, William Grant Still and Henry Thacker Burleigh, the latter a pupil of DvoY^k's, are important

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