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j 1 i Folk music has been defined and redefined. The definitions differ so widely that it seems necessary for anyone dealing with the subject to explain what he means by the term. After long deliberation I have come to the following conclusions: Folk music is music which bears the characteristic imprint, not of any single individual , but rather of the thoughts and emotions of a people united by such ties as language, religion, nationality , and residence. This usually involves circulation by ear for a period long enough to insure participation by many individuals in the creation of the preserved versions of the music which has attained a certain age. Constant change (a product of aural transmission) of both words and music is the rule rather than the exception . It is even difficult to get the same person to sing the same song twice in the same way. Through faulty memory or the desire to improve, the singer usually makes some changes each time he sings. The result is that each folk song collected is to some extent unique. Actually, one of the most reliable indications that a song is a folk song and has been appropriated by the folk is the existence of a number of different variants of the same text or tune. Folk song is also the product of a musically untrained people, for people with musical training rely on musical notation and therefore interrupt the process of change which makes folk music what it is. Written music may, without disrespect and for the purpose of comparison, be called “frozen” music and folk music, “liquid” music. Where the influence of foreign music or of what we may call “art” music (that is, music composed by trained musicians) is too evident, the music involved cannot be regarded as true folk music. Folk music in its purist form is usually found in rural districts where there is less contact with foreign or art music and where new and popular elements operate less rapidly and with less force. Folk music is more often sung by old men and women than by the young, for the former have a much greater tendency to cherish the old melodies. When an old man states that he learned a certain song in early youth, there is in that fact certain evidence that the song has circulated for a considerable period of time. Old, dated notebooks containing texts of folk songs also supply evidence of a minimum age in the case of certain texts. These notebooks, however, do not give much help in establishing the age of the melody, for so far (with one exception) I have yet to find a real folk musician of New Mexico who, to my knowledge, was capable of writing down or reading a melody in musical notation. The exception referred to is Nieves E. Martínez, a violinist of Arroyo Seco, near Taos. There are, of course, a few collections of musical arrangements of folk songs of the Southwest. The most notable is Father Juan B. Ralliere’s Cánticos espirituales, a group of religious song texts of the Hispanic people of the Southwest collected in the nineteenth century and published in several editions by the Revista Católica of El Paso, Texas. The 1944 edition contains simple harmonizations of three hundred melodies. Although there has been some speculation as to the communal origin of folk songs, each song is in the first instance, no doubt, spontaneously created by some individual whose name has usually been forgotten. Hence folk songs are said to be anonymous. The subsequent discovery by scholars of the composer’s identity does not mean that the song ceases to be a folk song. The test is whether the folk by appropriating it and changing it have made it their own. Often the words, and more often the music, have been so profoundly changed as to bear little or no resemblance to the original. There is, however, no easy and automatic test. The scholar must, in classifying the songs collected, bring to bear all his knowledge and judgment. introduction from the 1954 edition of hispanic folk songs of new mexico Hispanic Folk Songs of New Mexico contained this introduction by John Donald Robb. Because of its valuable content and information, for the reader’s convenience we have included it in this publication.—Eds. robb_cancionero_txtfnl_fa15_rev2.indd 1 8/25/15 10:45 AM j 2 i The line between popular and folk music is tenuous. Folk music...


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