Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/745

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NEGRO MUSIC.
729
 

the flight of time or by lapse of memory, as they were handed down from father to son or carried across the country. The tunes are sometimes minor (generally without a sharp seventh) and sometimes major; occasionally a mixed mode is employed, beginning in a major key, and ending in either the relative or tonic minor; or the contrary course may be followed. And there are tunes which end on the subdominant or anywhere but on the tonic or the dominant. The negroes are very sensitive to rhythm. As one dances a jig, his companions gather about him and furnish a percussive accompaniment with bones (played after the manner of castanets) or roughly made tambourines, or, wanting instruments, by alternately slapping their hands together and on their knees, keeping excellent time. They have songs for all occasions where they move in concert, such as loading or unloading ships, or working at the pumps of a fire engine. Their rhythmic sympathies are most strongly active on these occasions. Often one of a gang acts as a precentor, giving a line or two by himself, and the chorus coming in with the refrain. This leader, when his supply of lines gives out or his memory fails, resorts to improvisation. A similar practice obtains with them at their religious and social gatherings. Sometimes the improvised lines will be given in turn by different ones in the company who have the faculty of inventing them. The women's voices have a peculiarly pathetic timbre within their natural range, which is narrow, rarely reaching farther than from A below the treble stave to D (fourth line). When forced they are harsh and strident. As a rule the tenor voices are dry, but the basses are generally rich and sonorous. A quick ear is more common than tunefulness among the race, but the effect produced by the singing of a great number, always in unison, so quickens the hearer's pulse or moves him to tears that defects are forgotten. Their time is sure to be accurate. Of instruments in use among them the variety is small. Bones and tambourines are common, but the banjo is not so generally used by them as has been thought, and fiddlers are very rare. Some of the slave songs, especially those that may be classed as hymns, were made known in the Northern States for the first time by small bands of singers of both sexes who gave concerts in the principal cities in 1871 and subsequently. One troupe (the 'Jubilee singers') came from the Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee, and in the course of its tours, which included two trips to Europe, raised over 150,000 dollars for the University, which was established especially to educate those who had been born in slavery. Another came from a similar institution at Hampton, Virginia. One effect of their tours was the introduction of some of the songs into the religious services of the Northern negroes. It is observed, however, that the songs are everywhere gradually disappearing from use as the negroes become better educated. Their imitative faculties lead them to prefer music exactly like that which is performed in churches where the worshippers are white. Some of the secular songs of the negroes have acquired peculiar distinction. 'Jim Crow'—the name both of the song and of the negro whose performance of it had a local reputation in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1830—was, indirectly, the origin of the negro minstrel show, the most familiar example of which in England was that long known as Christy's. Many of the plantation songs were introduced into these shows, 'Coal-black Rose,' 'Zip Coon,' and 'Ole Virginny nebber tire' being the most familiar among them. A plantation song, 'Way down in Raccoon Hollow,' enjoyed a wide popularity set to words beginning 'Near the lake where droops the willow.'

A few examples of the negro melodies and verses are appended. They are taken from the collection 'Slave Songs of the United States.' The reader must understand that all of these are sung much faster than either the tunes or the words would seem to warrant, the rapid pace being a result of the negroes' strong rhythmic instincts. The first example shows a pentatonic scale, and the use of the 'Scotch snap.'

{ \time 2/4 \key g \major \override Score.Rest #'style = #'classical \relative b' { \autoBeamOff b8. a16 g8 a | b16 a8. g8 r | d d e g | a16 b a8 r a | a a a g16 a | b8 a g g | d d e g | g16 a g8 r4 \bar "||" }
\addlyrics { In de morn -- in' when I rise, Tell my Je -- sus hud -- dy, oh; I wash my hands in de morn -- in' glo -- ry. Tell my Je -- sus hud -- dy, oh! } }


The following is an illustration of the use of an unconventional ending:—

{ \time 4/4 \key g \major \relative d'' { \autoBeamOff d4 b8 b a b g4 | b b8 b c b4 r8 | d4 b8 b a g fis4 | a a8 a b a4 r8 \bar "||" }
\addlyrics { Turn, sin -- ner, turn to -- day, Turn, sin -- ner, turn O! Turn, sin -- ner, turn to -- day. Turn sin -- ner, turn O! } }


A very popular tune, and full of pathos when sung by a large company, is the following:—

{ \time 4/4 \key bes \major \override Score.Rest #'style = #'classical \relative f' { \autoBeamOff \repeat volta 2 { f4 bes8 bes bes4. c8 | d d d4 d r | f, bes8 bes bes4 bes4 | g f r2 | f4 bes8 bes bes4. c8 | d d d4 d << { d4 } \\ { r_\markup { \smaller "(Sing)" } } >> | f4. d8 c4 c | bes2 r4 } \repeat volta 2 { d4 | f f f d8 d f4 f d r | f2 d | c r4 d | f f f d8 d | f4 f bes, r | d2 c | bes r4 } }
\addlyrics { No -- bo -- dy knows de trou -- ble I've had, No -- bo -- dy knows but Je -- sus. No -- bo -- dy knows de trou -- ble I've had, Glo -- ry hal -- le -- lu! One morn -- in' I was a -- walk -- in' down. O yes, Lord! I saw some ber -- ries a -- hang -- in' down. O yes, Lord. } }