Afro-American Folksongs: A Study in Racial and National Music



Afro-American Folksongs: A Study in Racial and National Music

This edition

"Afro-American Folksongs: A Study in Racial and National Music" . By Henry Edward Krehbiel. New York: G Schirmer, 1914. xii+176 pp.

Other editions, reprints, and translations

• Repr. New York: F. Ungar, 1962. xii+176 pp.
• Repr. Portland, ME: Longwood, 1976. xii+176 pp.
• Repr. Intro. W. K. McNeil. Baltimore: Clearfield, 1993. 176 pp.

Online access

Internet Archive has two digitized copies of the 1914 edition available:

Table of contents

Folksongs in general -- Songs of the American slaves -- Religious character of the songs -- Modal characteristics of the songs -- Music among the Africans -- Variations from the major scale -- Minor variations and characteristic rhythms -- Structural features of the poems ; Funeral music -- Dances of the American Negroes -- Songs of the Black Creoles -- Satirical songs of the Creoles.
Appendix. Weeping Mary -- Some come cripple -- Neve' a man speak like this man : "O! look-a death" -- Jesus heal' de sick -- Opon de rock -- Nobody knows the trouble I see -- Roll, Jordan, roll -- Ma mourri -- Martinique love-song -- Emgann Sant-Kast = The battle of St. Cast -- Rhyvelgyrch Cadpen Morgan = Captain Morgan's march.

Anthology editor(s)' discourse

• Excerpt from Preface: "This book was written with the purpose of bringing a species of folksong into the field of scientific observation and presenting it as fit material for artistic treatment. It is a continuation of a branch of musical studv for which the foundation was laid more than a decade age in a series of essays with bibliographical addenda printed in the "New York Tribune", of which journal the author has been the musical reviewer for more than thirty years. The general subject of those articles was folksongs and their relation to national schools of composition. It had come to the writers knowledge that the articles had been clipped from the newspaper, placed in envelopes and indexed in several public libraries, and many requests came to him from librarians and students that they be republished in book- form. This advice could not be acted upon because the articles were mere outlines, ground-plans, suggestions and guides to the larger work or works which the author hoped would the be the result of his instigation. Folksong literature has grown considerably since then, especially in Europe, but the subject of paramount interest to the people of the United States has practically been ignored. The songs created by the negroes while they were slaves on the plantations of the South have cried out in vain for scientific study, though ragtime tunes, which are their debased offspring, have seized upon the fancy of the civilized world. This popularity may be deplorable, but it serves at Ieast to prove that a marvellous potency lies in the characteristic rhythmical element of the slave songs. Would not a wider and truer knowledge of their other characteristics as well lead to the creation of a better art than that which tickles the ears and stimulates the feet of the pleasure-seekers of London, Paris, Berlin and Vienna even more than it does those of New York The charm of the Afro-American songs has been widely recognized, but no musical savant has yet come to analyze them. Their two most obvious elements only have been copied by composers and dance-makers, who have wished to imitate them. These elements are the rhythmical propulsion which comes from the initial syncopation common to the bulk of them the snap or catch which in an exaggerated form lies at the basis of ragtime and the frequent use of the five-tone or pentatonic scale. But there is much more that is characteristic in this body of melody, and this more has been neglected because it has not been uncovered to the artistic world. There has been no study of it outside of the author's introduction to the subject printed years ago and a few comments, called forth by transient phenomena, in the "Tribune" newspaper in the course of the last generation. This does not mean that the world has kept silent on the subject. On the contrary, there has been anything but a dearth of newspaper and platform talk about songs which the negroes sang in America when they were slaves, but most of it has revolved around the questions whether or not the songs were original creations of these native blacks, whether or not they were entitled to be called American and whether or not they were worthy of consideration as foundation elements for a school of American composition. The greater part of what has been written was the result of an agitation which followed Dr. Antonin Dvořák's efforts to direct the attention of American composers to the beauty and efficiency of the material which these melodies contained for treatment in the higher artistic forms . . ."

Reviews and notices of anthology

• n/a

Commentary on anthology

• The work is a study, but the appendix consists of an anthology of African American folk songs.

Cited in

• [not in Kinnamon 1997]

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