Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

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AMERICAN FOLK SONG.                                      29
Negro has picked up and served up again, with slight variations"? What compositions ? What variations ? Let us look into this. [ "Over�rated." If overrated in the point of originality, it is in the claim that they bear no trace of any other influence outside the character of the American Negro. Of course, this is not a fact, for the songs of the Negro can be unmistakably and plainly traced to African tribal songs. In scale, intervallic relations, rhythm, construction of melody, pieturesqueness; in short, in vehicle, in frame work, there is very little difference between African tribal songs and the songs of the American Negro. To be sure, America has added something, and in some places pressed a stamp, but the dominant features are African. Again "Overrated!" If in the claim to the possession of real value, then Dr. Wallaschek certainly cannot have made any adequate study of these songs. "Value!" Why, the value of such songs as "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "Steal Away to Jesus," "Lord, I Want to be Like Jesus," can no more be overrated than the beauty of the distant "Jung Frau," or that of a moonlight night of south�ern June. In the presence of either, the soul is helpless to express itself.
"Imitations!" It would be folly to attempt to deny the fact that the American Negro's music shows some resemblance to the music of other peoples. This is natural, since all races have certain points of resemblance. But to assert that he has found any greater resemblance between the Negro's music and European music than would naturallv result from the oneness of human nature, lavs the writer open to the suspicion that he is uninformed, misinformed, superficial, unscientific, or all of these.
A study will reveal the fact that the Negro music is more un�mistakably stamped with the Negro's character than is the music of any other people stamped with the character of the race which pro�duced it. The characteristics and peculiarities of this music are dis�cussed in another chapter. "Variations!" To this there is one very good explanation. It may be that Br. Wallasehek has heard the Negro sing the "long meters" of Dr. Watt and other hymn writers. If so, he certainly heard such variations as never man heard before! For the Negro is able to take one of these hymns and sing it in such voice that it will seem more than an "European composition, picked up and served up again with slight variations," for he can run up and down the scale, make side trips and go off on furloughs, all in