Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

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American Folk Song.
"Z sang, and singing, forgot the wrongs Of Mind fortune and cunning foes."
C IVILIZATION wears away the spirit and conditions which give birth to Folk Song. Bearing this in mind, it is not difficult to understand why there is no folk song which expresses the soul of America. America was settled by people who came from countries whose civilization was centuries old and who brought their institu�tions, customs, literature, and music with them. They were stronger than their surroundings. They had developed strength building na�tions which they had now abandoned. This strength was success�fully used in fashioning and moulding their new surroundings after their own ideals. Their work was to build a new nation, by felling the forests, tilling fields, building roads, cities, harbors, and making laws. They came, the Englishman, the Scotchman, the Frenchman, the Scandinavian, the German, and the Spaniard. Common interests with wondrous power welded them into one. But the beginnings were too far advanced, the surroundings too conventional for folk song creation. Each brought his own song from his fatherland. So, strictly speaking, there is in the comprehensive acceptation of the thought, no American Folk Song. There is, however, a real indis�putable folk song in America�an American production. It was born in the hearts of slaves and consequently expresses the life, not of the whole, but of a part, of our country.
From the very moment of his arrival, all conditions were favor�able to the Negro's producing a folk song. Heaven and nature worked in harmony with the soul of the simple heathen to generate the spiritual atmosphere: the man-directed forces of the new world fur�nished the stimulus, and the emotional and musical soul of the simple heathen accomplished the rest. The African was vastly differ�ent from the other men who came to America. He was not fresh from a civilization which had lived through centuries, he had not been the builder of a mighty nation, he had not the means of con-