Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

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clubs, it is possible to make them see and understand the minutest point which makes for perfection.
Forty-five years have naturally made some changes in the ren�derings of certain songs, not so marked, however, as is sometimes supposed. These changes have come about in different ways. The idea, which is now regnant in singing these songs, that of using har�monies of close chords, was first brought forward by some boys in Livingstone Hall, Fisk University, who were whiling away the time between supper and study hour one spring evening. They were mem�bers of no organization whatever, but had good voices. The song they liked and were singing was "Golden Slippers," and they were great in making "snakes," their word for close chords, which were so successfully accomplished and which sounded so rare and accept�able that the idea was adopted at once by the folk song organization at Fisk and has now become a fixed part of the folk music.
In addition to this, there has been a studied endeavor at develop�ment which has produced some new harmonies and arrangements much preferable to the old ones. In truth, the general adaptability of this music to a high degree of development is its hope of gaining artistic recognition. It deserves to be put into a finished form; it lends itself admirably to such a purpose; and those who would keep it as it was first reduced to writing, in their mistaken zeal would doom it to stagnation and to the contempt of highly musical people.
Where we find these songs there is no harmony, nothing but melody and words. The harmony is a matter of individual taste. That is why there is a difference in rendering.
Undoubtedly the best results in singing, in point of nuance, are obtained in a musical organization; but for striking down deep into the soul and stimulating every lofty emotion, for arousing men's hearts to action, the singing of these songs by a large congregation is as indescribable as melodious thunder or as the rushing of many �waters.
We sometimes hear this lamentation, "It is too bad that the old plantation melodies are dying out." Such laments are felt more keenly and expressed more fully by the Southern white man who was a part of the system of slavery, than by any other class. It is no sickly sentimentality but a deep feeling for a life, the memory of which is dear. For these 'old songs'7 link the Southern white man