Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

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Coledridge-Taylor has set a fine example in his transcriptions of Negro melodies. In fact, his example is worth more to the Negro race than what he accomplished in a musical way. His productions, based upon these melodies thematically, are most assuredly artistic. For one who knew nothing of the life and conditions of those who created these songs, he expressed their spirit remarkably well. This spirit is American, generated on the Southern plantations, and these melodies breathe out Southern life just as truly as the magnolia sheds its fragrance, or the mocking bird flutes his song. Again, let it be repeated that Coleridge-Taylor has given inspiration, a powerful force for progress, and this will certainly lead some Negro composer, possessed of the same spirit that vitalizes the Negro Folk Song, to give to the world productions throbbing with our own life forces and worthy to be bound in gold. "God hath given to every people a prophet in their own tongues/' states the Koran. The spontaneous birth and consequent growth of this music are decidedly distinguish�ing features. It bursts out of hearts in a state of almost religious frenzy. At such times only the theme and probably a stanza were born; afterwards there are some developments as the new song is sung in different localities. In this spontaneity, the Folk Song of the American Negro stands preeminent. Go out among the rural churches to-day and attend the "Big Meetings," and there will spring up before your very eyes the first fresh shouts of songs which are soon to flourish and fructify. During slavery in some localities it was a custom to require each new convert, before allowing him to "join the church" to sing a new song, and many a passion flower of the slave cabin smiling through dewey tears, raised up its face, greet�ing the "brightness of the sun.
Finally, the very foundation of this music is of the Negro's build�ing. The scale is peculiarly his own, and consequently satisfies his nature. Through it this nature manifests itself to the world. Th^ spirit of music is a common possession which takes outward form according to the nature of the possessor. The Negro in his primitive nature expressed his musical scale 1-2-3-5-6. Why? That was all the world meant to him. But the American Negro has gone one step further and added one more note, flat seven, an addition which goes a long way toward expressing the effect of added experience brought to him by a new life in a New World. This flat seven ex�presses a wild and overwhelming surprise at the utter strangeness