Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

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soul alone? When we see a flower with all the characteristics of the rose, and with those of no other flower, we never trace its source to the sunflower, but to the rose seed. When we see a magnificent tree, with growth, body, spreading boughs and leaves of an oak we never trace its source to the elm seed, but to the acorn. So the con�clusion is irresistible that the music which expresses the character�istic of the Negro's soul alone, was produced by the Negro alone. It would be 2l miracle if such a soul as his did not produce a music all its own. "Of all the undeveloped races, the Negro seems to be the most gifted musically/' says one notable musical authority. Hist emotional soul possessed of melody expresses itself in those unmis�takable terms which portray the Negro as nothing else can.
Dr. Henry E. Kiehbiel, in an article upon the subject of Negro Spirituals, written for the New York Tribune September 12, 1909, makes the following statement: "Very slowly the study of folk song in its musical and literary aspects is acquiring scientific value as a sub-division of Folk Lore which in turn is a branch of the science of Ethnology. To this study America's most interesting contribu�tion has been derived from the black people who tilled the fields of cotton and of rice in the days of slavery. This peculiar interest comes from two sources, the songs of the slaves are practically the only American products of their kind which meet the scientific defini�tion of Folk Song; that is to say, they are the only songs of which we possess a significant number, which were created by an ingenious people, to be an expression of their feelings, as a whole. Nowhere, save on the plantation, could the emotional life which is essential to the creation of true Folk Song be developed. Nowhere else was the necessary meeting of the spiritual cause and the simple agent and vehicle/'
More than a quarter century of study has given Dr. Kiehbiel, one of the very few men whose opinions can be profitably sought regard�ing Negro Folk Song, a deep and comprehensive knowledge of the subject, such a knowledge as to render him an authority. Facts bear out the statement of Dr. Kiehbiel that the songs of the slaves are practically the only American product of this kind which meet the scientific definition of Folk Song. These songs certainly express the feelings of the Negro "as a whole/' and these "feelings" are just as certainly expressive of the life of the Southern States of America.