Folk and Traditional Music of the Western Continentsby Bruno Nettl

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  • Folk and Traditional Music of the Western Continents by Bruno NettlReview by: Thurston DartFolk Music Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2 (1966), pp. 110-112Published by: English Folk Dance + Song SocietyStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4521748 .Accessed: 12/06/2014 16:37

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  • the "Ramsay" reference from the Bodleian. The last appendix com- prises the directions for four dances given in the "Lansdowne" Ms. in the British Museum bearing simi- larities to certain dances in the 1st and 3rd editions of The Dancing Master.

    The dance historian, as in 1962, has reason to be grateful to the author for his research however briefly recorded, and for bringing the mss. material together in such accessible form. Incidentally, he concludes with a 1623 quotation (a favourite of Melusine Wood's, but frequently overlooked) from the French book of de Lauze in which is affirmed the English origin of the measures and country dances now compared and discussed. Would that Mr Cunningham could also trace the lost collection of dance tunes from Hengrave Hall.

    EDWARD NICOL

    the "Ramsay" reference from the Bodleian. The last appendix com- prises the directions for four dances given in the "Lansdowne" Ms. in the British Museum bearing simi- larities to certain dances in the 1st and 3rd editions of The Dancing Master.

    The dance historian, as in 1962, has reason to be grateful to the author for his research however briefly recorded, and for bringing the mss. material together in such accessible form. Incidentally, he concludes with a 1623 quotation (a favourite of Melusine Wood's, but frequently overlooked) from the French book of de Lauze in which is affirmed the English origin of the measures and country dances now compared and discussed. Would that Mr Cunningham could also trace the lost collection of dance tunes from Hengrave Hall.

    EDWARD NICOL

    Folk and Traditional Music of the Western Continents By BRUNO NETTL, Prentice-Hall Inc., Engle- wood Cliffs, N.J., 1965 (x + 214 pp., illus., 17s. 6d. (paperback), 48s. (cloth). Part of a nine-volume history of

    music, this is a valuable introduction to its wide-ranging subject. The series, under the general editorship of H. Wiley Hitchcock, has been newly commissioned from a group of younger American scholars, and it is very welcome-not least because perspectives of musical history are nowadays changing so fast. In music as in other disciplines there is a great deal to be said for cheap up-to-date textbooks that can be used up and set aside after students have done with them. Many clothbound trea- tises turn out to be not windows but shutters that can narrow one's out- look for decades, perhaps even for a lifetime. The extreme difference in cost between the paper-back and cloth-bound versions of the present series is an indication of this changing

    Folk and Traditional Music of the Western Continents By BRUNO NETTL, Prentice-Hall Inc., Engle- wood Cliffs, N.J., 1965 (x + 214 pp., illus., 17s. 6d. (paperback), 48s. (cloth). Part of a nine-volume history of

    music, this is a valuable introduction to its wide-ranging subject. The series, under the general editorship of H. Wiley Hitchcock, has been newly commissioned from a group of younger American scholars, and it is very welcome-not least because perspectives of musical history are nowadays changing so fast. In music as in other disciplines there is a great deal to be said for cheap up-to-date textbooks that can be used up and set aside after students have done with them. Many clothbound trea- tises turn out to be not windows but shutters that can narrow one's out- look for decades, perhaps even for a lifetime. The extreme difference in cost between the paper-back and cloth-bound versions of the present series is an indication of this changing

    attitude towards The Book, though we are still very far from realizing its implications for all students and teachers.

    Two volumes in the series are of special interest to us. The other one is by William P. Malm, who has already made a name for himself with his excellent book on Japanese music; this will deal with music cultures of the Pacific, the Near East and Asia, and it is planned as the complement to the subject of this review. Mr Nettl has divided his vast topic into ten chapters: a general introduction; a short study of methods of analysis; Europe as a whole; three separate chapters on the Germanic peoples, Eastem Europe and Latin Europe; African music south of the Sahara; three final chapters for the Americas (Indian Music, Negro Folk Music, Westem and Westem-descended Folk Music). The chapters flow naturally into one another; they are well organ- ized intemally, with no more than a handful of essential footnotes; each ends with a short bibliography and discography; and the music examples and line-drawings are well-chosen and neatly executed. The book is pleasant to handle and well-printed, though the type-face used (for photo- setting?) is of a dazzling sharpness that can be tiring to the eyes.

    In general there is much to com- mend and little to criticize. I should have preferred a more sociological viewpoint for some chapters. Music has a disconcerting habit of evapora- ting entirely if it is examined in total detachment from the social matrix out of which it springs. Some aspects of the study have had to be over- simplified, though the author is well aware of this; for instance, I found that his discussion of Rumanian folk music did not do justice to its quite extraordinary richness and diversity. But in such fields each reviewer will want to lead out his own hobby-horse for a prance, and one sign of a good book is the cavortings

    attitude towards The Book, though we are still very far from realizing its implications for all students and teachers.

    Two volumes in the series are of special interest to us. The other one is by William P. Malm, who has already made a name for himself with his excellent book on Japanese music; this will deal with music cultures of the Pacific, the Near East and Asia, and it is planned as the complement to the subject of this review. Mr Nettl has divided his vast topic into ten chapters: a general introduction; a short study of methods of analysis; Europe as a whole; three separate chapters on the Germanic peoples, Eastem Europe and Latin Europe; African music south of the Sahara; three final chapters for the Americas (Indian Music, Negro Folk Music, Westem and Westem-descended Folk Music). The chapters flow naturally into one another; they are well organ- ized intemally, with no more than a handful of essential footnotes; each ends with a short bibliography and discography; and the music examples and line-drawings are well-chosen and neatly executed. The book is pleasant to handle and well-printed, though the type-face used (for photo- setting?) is of a dazzling sharpness that can be tiring to the eyes.

    In general there is much to com- mend and little to criticize. I should have preferred a more sociological viewpoint for some chapters. Music has a disconcerting habit of evapora- ting entirely if it is examined in total detachment from the social matrix out of which it springs. Some aspects of the study have had to be over- simplified, though the author is well aware of this; for instance, I found that his discussion of Rumanian folk music did not do justice to its quite extraordinary richness and diversity. But in such fields each reviewer will want to lead out his own hobby-horse for a prance, and one sign of a good book is the cavortings

    110 110

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  • it encourages from the neighbours. Some points of detail may be

    worth touching upon. A good example of a song that travelled over half Europe (pp. 7 and 46) is the lovely tune Smetana used in "Ma Vlast", which can be traced back to an Italian calypso-singer of 1620 or so. The influence of Gregorian chant (p. 34): I have not often seen it remarked that mediaeval monastic carillons pealed out fragments of the chant all day long across the fields, just as processions made it familiar to the artisans of the town. It was as hard to get away from as transistor radios are today. "Curiously", writes Mr Nettl on p. 46, "the variants of a tune found in separated countries are usually accompanied by widely varying texts". Why "curiously" ? Closely corresponding texts would force one to hypothecate music- lovers with a profound knowledge of two languages, and the ability to write verses in both. Commonsense argues against such phenomenal folk. "The folk-cultures of Europe have frequently taken over instru- ments from urban civilizations" (p. 51); of course they have, not least for the simple economic reasons that an urban mass-produced fiddle or clarinet can always be picked up cheaply secondhand, whereas the number of rural craftsmen able to make their own can never have been high. Pp. 60-61: on rhythm and metre in ballads with English words, I should have liked to see some reference to the standard tunes and metres used in the metrical psalms, which must have played a major part in the formation and dissemin- ation of the Anglo-American ballad tradition. P. 83: a printer's devil has malevolently inverted the music block for example 5-3, and jumbled the footnotes to example 5-5 on the next page. Perhaps he was prompted by the absurdity of the long copy- right notices needed for the two or three line- of Bart6k's transcriptions.

    I know their length would have tempted me. In a scholarly book such niggles from copyright-owners are deplorable and must be firmly resisted. "By permission" will do quite well enough; it has an honour- able history of service during the last two or three centuries. P. 92: "[In Klephtic songs] the musical line ordinarily covers one and a half textual lines": this also happens in, of all unlikely musical forms, Dunstable's isorhythmic Motets. Here and elsewhere I should have liked Mr Nettl to try to stitch his topic more firmly into the tapestry of historical music. Thus (p. 131) these complex metrical schemes in African drumming remind one of the almost unbelievable intricacies of Ganassi's 16th-century treatises on extem- porized ornament; the Festival held at Gallup, New Mexico (p. 167), chimes with the annual get-togethers of minstrels at Bruges and elsewhere during the Middle Ages; the very slow singing of the old Amish hymns (p. 195) surely records the steady pace at which 16th-century Protes- tants sang the psalms of Luther or Calvin.

    The techniques of setting words in a tonal language (p. 123) have a continuously documented history of upwards of a thousand years in China. Perhaps a comparison may fortify the analysts of Ibo songs from Nigeria. It would be sad if the admirable work of ethno-musicolo- gists led them to separate themselves too far from the musical archaeolo- gists who work on high cultures. On p. 203 Mr Nettl mentions, among other folk instruments, the American mountain dulcimer of the eastern States; did this originate in Playfoid's ingenious 17th century invention of "The Psalmody" (a kind of fretted monochord used to teach psalm- tunes)? Judging by the precedents of mediaeval Europe or China it is unsafe to assume (p. 163) that "pictorial representations of groups

    III

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  • of instrumentalists indicate that playing together in ensembles was a common practice" in pre-conquest Central and South America. The wonderful 14th-century carvings on the mediaeval organ-loft (miscalled "Minstrels' Gallery") of Exeter Cathedral, or the musical angels in the roof of St Wendreda's Church, March, or the celestial ensembles seen in many miniatures cannot be interpreted as evidence for the existence of similar mediaeval orches- tras. They are no more than para- digms of heavenly perfection and joy. The same may well be true of the Maya and Aztec representations.

    These comments on detail may serve to illustrate some of the ways in which Mr Nettl's book can instruct, stimulate and provoke a reader. It is warmly recommended.

    THURSTON DART

    of instrumentalists indicate that playing together in ensembles was a common practice" in pre-conquest Central and South America. The wonderful 14th-century carvings on the mediaeval organ-loft (miscalled "Minstrels' Gallery") of Exeter Cathedral, or the musical angels in the roof of St Wendreda's Church, March, or the celestial ensembles seen in many miniatures cannot be interpreted as evidence for the existence of similar mediaeval orches- tras. They are no more than para- digms of heavenly perfection and joy. The same may well be true of the Maya and Aztec representations.

    These comments on detail may serve to illustrate some of the ways in which Mr Nettl's book can instruct, stimulate and provoke a reader. It is warmly recommended.

    THURSTON DART

    Songs of the Newfoundland Outports Collected and Edited by KENNETH PEACOCK (3 vols.), National Museum of Canada Bull. 197, Ottawa, 1965, xl+1035 pp., $15. This is a fascinating collection,

    and could only have been culled from a people with the historical and geographical background so suc- cinctly, but so vividly outlined by Kenneth Peacock in his introduction. That such a rich and varied store has survived in the island is undoubtedly due to the isolation of these outports, not only from any large centre, but also from each other. The indivi- duality engendered by such isolation has ensured the purity of the tradi- tional songs and also the true folk background of modem ballads. The range is enormous, both in respect of the nationalities whose folk songs are now integrated into the life of the Newfoundlander, and in the structure of the tunes.

    The general lay-out of the three volumes needed to present ne...

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