Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

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118                  FOLK SONG OF THE AMERICAN NEGRO,
To the musician, these songs furnish both a keen intellectual and a deep emotional enjoyment. He sees their idiomatic features, their characteristic originalities, their smooth exquisite melodies, their thematic values, and their possibilities. He enjoys the wonder of it, that untutored slaves could produce such music, that they could give forth such rhythm, such well balanced periods, such lofty sentiments. He loves to take these old songs and build them into something new without destroying their individuality. He loves to select from them his themes, to be adorned in classic vestments. He loves to build harmonies congenial to their characteristics. He loves to feel that he is working with something original, separate and apart, all his own; he loves to contemplate the future life of this music, which he believes will be a glorious transformation.
The author generally regards this music from an historical and psychological viewpoint. To him it is a reliable account of oui* people's past. It tells of their suffering and how they bore them, of their joys and how they expressed them, of their lives and how they lived them, how deep and dark were the depths into which they sank, what obstacles they had to surmount. It describes the very tissue of their souls. In short, it tells the stuff of which the Negro is made. With this as a source of facts and inspiration, the author is conscious of a power enabling him to present effectively the cause of his people before the bar of humanity.
Those of the second generation of freedom who have lived in the North, have been more positively and deeply affected in their regard for their racial possessions and characteristics than any other class. They have come nearer experiencing civic and political freedom than their brothers in the South, and have had their racial bonds greatly weakened. They simply hate the thought of slavery, despise any reference to it, and turn away from anything that reminds them of it. They naturally care nothing for the songs born in slavery. They see no beauty in them, nothing commendable, nothing worth while. They do not study them, because obviously they are not fit subjects for serious thought. Among this group, Negro Folk Music finds least favor.
There are some schools attended largely by northern Negroes where the students flatly refuse to sing these songs. This is due to the fact that these students have the idea (which is often correct) that white people are looking for amusement in their singing. Some