A Musical Companion: A Guide to the Understanding and Enjoyment of Music

By John Erskine | Go to book overview

FOLK-SONG

CHAPTER I
THE BRITISH ISLES

THE term "folk-song" connotes the melodies sung by the peasant class in any country. These melodies are a spontaneous expression of the musical feeling of the people. The tunes are anonymous and traditional, and in any region there will be found groups of songs conforming to a pattern as well as variants of individual melodies, since the songs have been preserved by oral tradition, not fixed by publication. Yet such is the strength of oral tradition among an illiterate people and a naturally conservative class that Cecil Sharp found songs and dances in the Appalachian Mountains of America differing hardly at all from those persisting in England, despite the lapse of several centuries since the ancestors of the present inhabitants left England. Indeed, according to Sharp, the traditions have been preserved more strictly in those remote places than in their native land, where contacts with modern developments are more easy. Although it is still possible to find in England villages where some of the inhabitants have never been in a train nor gone farther afield than their own feet or a horse could take them, the motor-omnibus is rapidly abolishing such isolation, and the ubiquitous radio and gramophone are bringing symphony and fox-trot without discrimination into every cottage. Folk-music, spontaneously created, is, at any rate in England, a thing of the past, superseded by the popular music of the cinema and the dance-hall, written according to stereotyped patterns, just as smock and kerchief have been superseded by town-made shirt and trousers. Even its spontaneous performance is rare. It belongs now to the antiquities--a thing to be revived, to be preserved by societies, to be discussed at meetings of connoisseurs.

Some of the songs that have survived are of great antiquity, as is

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A Musical Companion: A Guide to the Understanding and Enjoyment of Music
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Music *
  • Title Page i
  • Acknowledgment iii
  • Introductory Note v
  • Contents ix
  • Book I - The ABC of Music 1
  • Musical Notation 3
  • The Fundamentals of Music 19
  • Form 27
  • The Orchestra and Other Instruments 39
  • Book II - The Orchestra and Orchestral Music 53
  • The Rise of the Orchestra 55
  • The Expansion of the Orchestra 78
  • The Orchestra as Instrument 93
  • Orchestral Music; "Absolute" Music and the Symphonists 130
  • Orchestral Music of Mantkinds 174
  • Book III - Opera 189
  • How Opera Arose 191
  • The Eighteenth Century 207
  • From Mozart to Wagner 223
  • From Verdi to the Present Day 241
  • Book IV - The Human Voice 259
  • By Way of Introduction 261
  • The Polyphonic Period 268
  • English Song 284
  • Folk-Song 294
  • Oratorio and Other Choral Music 301
  • European Song in the Nineteenth Century 314
  • Vocal Music in the Twentieth Century 330
  • Book V - Chamber Music 341
  • Before Beethoven 343
  • From Beethoven to Brahms 364
  • National Schools 382
  • Britain 405
  • Modernism 421
  • Book VI - The Solo Instrument 431
  • Keyboard Instruments 433
  • Pianoforte and Violin Sonatas and Duets 468
  • The Violin in Solo and Concerto 477
  • The Violoncello and the Viola 490
  • Glossary and Index 501
  • A Short Glossary of Musical Terms 503
  • Index 517
  • A Note on the Type In Which This Book is Set 552
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