Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

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Number and Classification.
"The object of music is to strengthen and ennoble the soul."
F EOM the nature of the case it is impossible to state definitely the number of these songs; impossible even to approximate it. That they reach well up into the hundreds is evidenced by the books that have been published by Fisk, Hampton, Calhoun, and by indi�viduals connected with no institution of learning. That their num�ber is even larger is shown by the numerous "new" songs and frag�ments which we are continually discovering. There are songs which are practically never heard outside of the localities where they were born. Those interested in collecting this music, go into these locali�ties and gather them. Collections of these songs are continually in�creased by the following contributing agencies:
(1) Students, new and old, coming to our schools year by year, bring them to us, (2) we, ourselves, passing from state to state fall�ing in with older members of our race, and attending our churches which are still influenced by ante-bellum life, and find many a song we have never heard before. Many a time we find a song which we call "new," thinking that it was more lately born than those we know so well, but in most cases we find some person whose grandmother or grandfather used to sing it all the time, and sometimes we even find that very old grandmother or grandfather whose favorite it was. So now we never call a song "new" in point of its birth, but from the point of our acquaintance with it. After what deserves to be called a thorough investigation, we are led to the conclusion that practically all, if not absolutely all, of the best and most interesting of these songs were born in slavery*days; the songs of the Negro produced since those days bear the marks of attempted composition, usually called "ballads," and are generally poor imitations. Some�times we find one song to be practically two, which is a result of de�velopment or of mistaken interpretation, sometimes the same words to different tunes, or the same tune used with different words. The following are examples: