THE GENERAL CHARACTER OF EUROPEAN FOLK MUSIC

by Bruno Nettl


Each country in Europe—in some cases each region, each district, and each community—has its own folk music and its own style. But the various traditions also have much in common; in some ways, European folk music is indeed a single corpus of musical style. In this article we will explore the unity of European folk music.

We have pointed out that it is very hard to state concretely just how much difference there is between one kind or style of music and another. One way of telling that a musical style is similar to another one, the second of which you already recognize, is that the first of the styles also appeals to you. If this is true, and a person who is acquainted with British folk music finds Russian folk song more appealing than the music of Polynesia, then Russian and English folk song are indeed more similar to each other than are the English and the Polynesian. This has to do with the fact that folk music styles, like languages, exhibit greater or lesser degrees of relationship. Just as it is usually easier to learn a language that is closely related in structure and vocabulary to one's own, it is easier to understand and appreciate a folk music style similar to one that is already familiar. (Of course, this hypothesis does not explain the fascination that an utterly strange music may immediately hold for a previously unexposed listener, but obviously there are many things that determine what kind of music will speak to an individual. Familiarity, however, is one of the strongest criteria.)

If we use this only very moderately reliable measuring device, we find that most of the European styles are rather similar to each other. And, on the whole, those that are geographically close to each other are also the most closely related in terms of musical style. There are a number of characteristics which we find to be present throughout Europe—with the usual pockets of exception, of course—and throughout that part of the world inhabited by descendants of Europeans.

We really know very little about the history of European folk song. We have little evidence as to the age of individual songs, although some idea can be gained from the notations of folk songs made by composers from the Renaissance on. But in such cases we don't know as a rule whether a song was really part of the folk tradition, or whether it was an art or popular song that later moved into the realm of folklore. We also know little about the age of the various styles of folk music in Europe. Still, we are sure that for centuries there has been a close relationship between the art music of the continent and its folk music. How could it be otherwise? Villages and cities could not live without some mutual contact. In the early Middle Ages, wandering minstrels carried their tunes from court to village and from country to country. The villagers of the Middle Ages attended church and heard plainsong. The composer at the court of a minor duke in seventeenth-century Germany drew his performers from the village musicians living on his lord's estate. We have ample evidence for assuming a constant relationship between folk musicians and their counterparts.

Contact among musical styles was accelerated by the invention and rapid dissemination of printing after the fifteenth century, especially in Western Europe. We tend to think of the folk and the art music traditions as living essentially separate lives, but this is surely erroneous not only in a consideration of European culture but also in the case of those Asian civilizations that have similar stratification. The folk musics of China, India, the Islamic world, and elsewhere all bear important similarities to the art musics of their countries. And in Europe, where printing provided a particularly good and rapid method of dissemination, especially of the words but to an important extent also the music of song, the relationship has been especially close.

Of course, one can speak about the effects of art music on folk music only for those periods in which a well-developed fine-art tradition in music existed. Such a tradition evidently did not exist to a large degree before the Middle Ages, and it did not come to Eastern Europe until even later. There are those who believe that the styles of European folk music evolved to a state similar to their present one before the time (perhaps a thousand years ago) when art music composers first began to influence folklore, and that the folk styles are an invaluable remnant of precultivated times, even of prehistoric eras. This belief can be neither substantiated nor negated. But we are probably safer in believing that the styles of European folk music developed sometime in the Middle Ages, and that this happened to some extent under the influence of the art music that was also developing at the time. This, after all, might account for the rather considerable degree of homogeneity in European folk music.

 

THE STROPHIC FORM

The most characteristic trait of European folk songs is their strop/lie structure. We tend to accept as normal a structure in which a tune with several lines is repeated several times, each time with different words. But this kind of arrangement is not so common elsewhere in the world, and it ties the European nations together as a musical unit. The length of a strophic song, or a song with stanzas can vary greatly, from a short bit to a relatively elaborate piece.

It is important to realize, however, that strophic songs are found also in other parts of the world. They appear in some North American Indian cultures, in the Middle East, and in Asia and Africa. Their basic principle is that a tune, or a portion of a tune, can be sung more than once, with different words. This principle is accepted at various levels in a multitude of musical styles. Indeed, in some of the world's simplest styles, the repetition of a single musical motif, with slightly or completely different words, is common. But the more or less exact repetition of a fairly detailed musical organism with several different sets of words as the basic and by far predominant type of organization sets Europe apart, and, interestingly, it is important in all types of European music—folk, art, and popular music, and in all areas—East and West, North and South.

The special character of the strophic song is derived from a peculiar trait of European poetry—folk poetry as well as that of the more learned poets. This is the tendency for poems to consist of units of two, three, four, five, six, or more lines. Such units, called stanzas or strophes, have a form that is repeated; the interrelationship of the lines is repeated, but the words—or at least most of them—are not. The lines may be interrelated by the number of syllables or of poetic feet in each, or, more commonly,by a rhyme scheme. But in any event, some sort of structure is given to the stanza quite aside from the meaning of the words. Whereas the words themselves progress through the poem, telling a story or expressing the poet's feelings about practically any subject, the structure of the stanza is repeated. We don't know whether a strophic structure in the poetry inspired a corresponding structure in the music, or whether the reverse occurred. But logically, it is a simple transition from a repeated poetic structure to a repeated melody, with the words and their content changing from stanza to stanza.

The following stanza of the famous English ballad, "Barbara Allen," shows us some of the traits of the poetic unit typical in European folklore:

Oh yes I'm sick, I'm very sick And death is in me dwelling;
No better, no better I ever shall be If I can't have Barb'ry Allen.

Even if we saw the complete poem without music and without the printer's divisions into stanzas, we could easily figure out that it is arranged into stanzas, because (1) lines 2 and 4 rhyme at least approximately (also lines 6 and 8, lines 10 and 12, and so on), and (2) every fourth line ends with the words "Barb'ry Allen." In other songs and in other languages, there are different characteristics of the stanza, different ways of identifying the stanza as a unit. But the same kind of musical structure, strophic, with its repetition of a few musical lines, is found throughout Europe (if not in all songs) and is an accompaniment to and analogue of the poetic structure.

The close relationship between the words and music of European folk song is exhibited in other, more intimate ways as well. The lines of music and text usually coincide, and the points at which the music comes to a temporary rest are also those at which a sentence, phrase, or thought in the text is completed. There is, moreover, a close relationship between the smaller segments of musical and linguistic structure, for example, between stress and accent, and between the length of tone and of syllable, although the nature of this relationship varies from nation to nation because of the differences in structure among the various languages. In art song, this relationship has often been refined, and rough edges of the sort that may result from oral tradition are smoothed out.

 

CHARACTERISTICS OF EUROPEAN SCALES

We have mentioned the basic strophic structures of European folk music as a reason for our belief that it is essentially a stylistic unit. Let us also briefly discuss the unity of these styles with regard to individual elements of music — scales, meter, intervals, and manner of singing.

The scales of European folk song exhibit great variety. Most typically, there are songs with only two or three different tones (these are most frequently children's ditties or game songs), there are songs with five tones (pentatonic scales), and others with six or seven tones. But the kinds of intervals (the distances in pitch) among the tones are not quite so diverse. The tendency is for European folk songs to use intervals that fit into the diatonic system, a system of tones that we can hear by playing the white keys of the piano. The diatonic system consists of major and minor seconds and of intervals produced by adding seconds. Throughout Europe, it seems that the most common intervals in folk music are the major seconds and the minor thirds. Unfortunately, we do not yet have statistics to prove this definitively, but a thorough inspection of a few representative song collections would be convincing. Other intervals are also found, of course, and occasionally there are intervals that do not fit into the diatonic system and which could not even be reproduced approximately on the piano. Also, in folk singing the intervals generally are not sung with the degree of precision found on the piano, and deviation from a standard norm seems to be somewhat greater in folk than in concert music. Nevertheless, adherence to the diatonic intervals seems to be one of the great general characteristics of European folk music.

Of course, other cultures also use scales which fit into the diatonic system. In some Asian civilizations, music theory that is almost parallel to that of Europe (so far as the arrangement of pitches in a scale is concerned) has developed, and intervals approximately the size of a major second are probably found in the vast majority of world musics. Nevertheless, the almost perfect adherence of European folk song to this diatonic system is one of its chief characteristics.

Going into a bit more detail, we find that a great many of the songs that use seven tones can be explained, as far as their tonal material is concerned, in terms of the modes (Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian, and Ionian) that are used to classify Gregorian chant (in slightly different form) as well as other medieval and Renaissance music. This fact has led some scholars to believe that the styles of European folk music actually originated in the music of the church, and indeed we must concede the possibility of a great deal of influence of church music on folk song. But quite apart from that, these modes are useful as a system for classifying folk music. As such, it can be used to classify only those songs and pieces which actually have seven tones. For instance. Example 3-3 could be considered a Mixolydian tune transposed up a fourth.

We might be tempted to classify tunes that have only five tones according to the same system of modes, pretending that two tones of the mode are simply absent. The trouble is that we could not prove which tones are lacking. A song with the scale A-C-D-E-G that ends on A could be considered Aeolian (or minor), if the missing tones were B and F. But if they were B-flat and F the tune would have to be classified as Phrygian. And if the missing tones were B-flat and F-sharp the scale would not 6t any of the above-mentioned modes at all. (See Example 3-4 for the various modes that can be fashioned out of a nucleus of five tones in the diatonic system.) Thus we can hardly accept the blanket statement that frequently has been made that folk music is modal in the sense of the Gregorian modes. But a great many European folk songs do fit into that system.

Pentatonic songs make up a large proportion of the European body of folk song; their scales are usually composed of major seconds and minor thirds, as in Example 3-5. Pentatonic songs cannot, however—even with the special kind ofpentatonic scale illustrated here—be considered as primarily a European phenomenon. This type of scale is one that Europe shares with a large part of the world, particularly with Northern Asia, with the American Indians, and with sub-Saharan Africa.

The same is true of the songs with two or three tones, illustrated in Example 3-6. This very limited kind of scale is found in repertories throughout the world. There are some tribal cultures, particularly in the Americas and in Northern Asia, whose music hardly goes beyond it. This is true, for example, in the music of the Vedda of Ceylon (a people whose traditional music is now extinct, but whose songs were recorded, in rather small number, around 1900), and the songs of the last member of the Yahi Indians, the famous Ishi. In these cultures, however, an occasional fourth or fifth tone appears as well. Of course, musics using a limited number of tones need not be simple in every way. The songs of Ishi, for example, exhibit considerable sophistication in other respects.

Cultures with more complex scale systems also tend to have some songs with only two or three tones, and this is true of European folk cultures. In most cases (in Europe and elsewhere) these are children's songs, game songs, lullabies, and old ritual melodies. The melodies of epic poetry also frequently have few tones. The widespread geographic distribution of these scales, coupled with the simplicity of the songs which they usually accompany, has led some folklorists to believe that in Europe they constitute a remnant of an ancient musical culture. These scholars believe that all music must at one time have been as simple as this, and that such songs were driven into a corner of the repertory, just as those cultures which use only such songs were driven into the geographical corners of the world as newer, more complex music was invented. But this is only one of several possible explanations. The simple children's ditties of Europe may have nothing to do with the limited scales of the Yahi Indians, whose history may have included, in earlier times, more complex scales which gradually become more and more restricted in order to make possible the greater development of other aspects. It would be a mistake to take for granted the assumption that music everywhere moves consistently from simple to more complex forms. Thus the simplest songs of Europe may be the most archaic, but they are probably not representative of a stage in world music in which all music was based on two-tone and three-tone scales. If ever there was such a stage, it must have occurred many millenia ago, for we know that human culture, in many varieties, has been present in sophisticated forms for that long.

In summary, then, the seven-tone scales, with their modal arrangements, are a hallmark of European folk music, but they are not really limited to Western culture. The pentatonic scales are important in most if not all European traditions, but they are equally important in a large variety of non-Western cultures and constitute the dominant scale type in some of them. The restricted two- and three-tone scales are found throughout the world, but except in a few isolated cultures, they constitute a small minority of the repertory.

 

METER AND SINGING STYLE

Most European folk music adheres to the concept of meter. This means that there is some regularity of recurrence in the accent pattern of the music, though such regularity does not by any means imply the predominance of common or triple meters without deviation. A large proportion of European folk songs and pieces can indeed be classed as isometric, that is, dominated by a single metric pattern, such as 4/4, 3/4, 6/8 (or even 5/8, 7/8, etc.). When several meters are used, these tend to appear in recurring sequences; thus a song, particularly one in Eastern Europe, may have a meter consisting of the regular alternation of 3/8, 4/8, and 5/8 measures (see Example 5-3). Music in which no metric pattern can be detected is not common in European folklore. Deviations from a metric pattern—for example, the elongation of tones at points of rest, near the endings of lines or of phrases—are common, but these deviations tend to reinforce the metric character of the music rather than to negate it. Thus another trait, found also, to be sure, elsewhere in the world, ties European folk music into a homogeneous unit.

The metric character of European folk music is closely related to the metric organization of much of the poetry. Those peoples that have well-developed metric poetry are also those whose music most typically adheres to a simple meter. Those peoples in Europe (mainly in Eastern Europe) whose poetry is organized in terms of syllable count rather than metric-foot count are also those that have a certain amount of nonmetric music and more complex and more varying metric patterns in their folk music.

The manner of singing—use of the voice, movements and facial expressions, types of tone color—is another important feature. We have few guidelines for describing this phenomenon. Alan Lomax is one of the few scholars who has paid attention to this important aspect of music. Lomax has claimed that it is possible to divide the world into relatively few areas, each of which has a particular manner of singing that exists independent of the geographic distribution of other aspects of musical style such as melody, rhythm, and form. Europe, he has found, is rather complicated, for it possesses a number of singing styles that do not have contiguous distribution.

What we are interested in assessing, in a discussion of singing style, are those things that go into the singing of almost every tone, the things that make the sound of a singer and of the entire culture distinctive and recognizable immediately. Among the parameters of singing style are: (1) degree of tension, or its opposite, called by Lomax "vocal width"; (2) amount of ornamentation; (3) raspiness; (4) accentuation, that is, degree of strength with which individual tones are attacked, and degree to which stressed tones are distinguished in loudness and sharpness from the unstressed ones; (5) nasality; (6) pitch level, that is, the level of singing within the singer's natural vocal range; (7) vocal blend, that is, the degree to which singers in a group blend their voices; and (8) ornamentation. Before Lomax, the Hungarian composer and folk song scholar Bela Bartok divided Hungarian and other European folk singing into two basic singing styles, parlando-rubato and tempo giusto. The first of these is a singing style in which emphasis is on the words, there is not much strict adherence to tempo and meter, and there is a substantial amount of ornamentation. Tempo giusto implies greater stress on musical meter and tempo, and less on the words. Bartok found both of these singing styles in Hungarian folk music, and both appear to be present in many European countries, although their definition must generally be adjusted for each culture. According to Lomax, however, there is in each culture one dominant singing style, and it can be identified rather easily in any small sampling of singing. Moreover, the main singing style of each culture is determined by the character of that culture, and in particular by the types of relationships among people that are typical of that culture.

Lomax assigned three singing styles to European folk music: " Eurasian," "Old European", and "Modern European". The Eurasian style, which is found primarily throughout most of the high cultures of Asia, is represented in Europe in parts of the British Isles and France, in southern Italy, and in the Mohammedan parts of the Balkans. The singing is high-pitched, strident, and harsh, and the singers* facial expressions are rigidly controlled or sad. The style lends itself well to long, ornamented tones and passages, and the character of the music is sweetly melancholy. As for Lomax's characterization of social structure, the Eurasian area is one in which the position of women is below that of men; they may be put on a pedestal, but they do not have equality.

The Old European style is found in the Hebrides, northern England, Scandinavia, the Pyrenees, Czechoslovakia, western Yugoslavia, northern Italy, Germany, parts of the Balkans, the Ukraine, and the Caucasus. Here singing is done with the throat relaxed, and the facial expressions of the singers are lively and animated. The tunes are simple and unornamented, and group singing is common. Cooperation among the singers in a chorus seems to have allowed polyphony to develop, and possibly some of the polyphonic types of folk music antedated the development of polyphony in European cultivated music. In these areas, in any event, harmony was easily accepted. The idea of cooperation in music seems to have something to do with social cooperation, for the position of women in the Old European areas, according to Lomax, has been one of equality with men.

The Modern European style is a later layer which seems to have been superimposed on some of the other styles, perhaps as a result of urban influence. It is found in most of England and France, in Hungary, central Italy, and colonial America. This is the area of ballads and lyrical love songs. Singing, in contrast to the Old European style, is normally done by soloists or in unblended unison. The vocal quality is harsh and strained, and interest is more in the words than in the music.

Although Lomax's observations are controversial, they are certainly stimulating. They are based on the assumption that the way in which people sing is more likely to remain constant than the musical content of their songs, and on the belief that a small sample of singing from a particular area or country will indicate the total singing style of that area. Lomax's approach seems to imply, accordingly, that each culture can sing in only one way (a theory that has been proved incorrect in various cultures, as for instance among the North American Indians). His observations lead us to conclude that Europe is not a unit as far as singing style is concerned, but that two or three styles of singing and voice production are found, and that each of these is supranational in character and cuts across the boundaries of politics, culture, and language. He also shows that the two main European singing styles are not found to a great extent on other continents (except among descendants of Europeans).

 

WANDERING MELODIES

Quite aside from the characteristics of the elements of music, the actual tunes found in different parts of Europe indicate that Europe is a historical unit. In the nineteenth century, some scholars began to be intrigued by what they came to call "wandering melodies," that is, by tunes whose variants were found in the folk traditions of widely separated countries. The existence of these melodies, or melody types, is also proof of the close relationship of art, church, and folk music. Melody types found in European folk music are also frequently found in hymns and art songs, particularly of the periods before 1700. They are probably not simply quotations of folk songs, in the sense of "quoting" something strange or exotic, as in nineteenth- and twentieth-century art music, but part and parcel of the basic material of art music.

Extensive examples of of wandering melodies and related tunes found in larger numbers of countries, and including art music, can be found in various publications, particularly in Walter Wiora's Europdischer Volksgesang.  In a good many cases, it is quite likely that the similar tunes found in several nations are indeed wandering melodies or, rather, variants of a single wandering melody. Whether or not the three tunes in Example 3-8 are genetically related we cannot say. Curiously, the variants of a tune found in separated countries are usually accompanied by widely varying verbal texts. An English ballad tune that has related forms in other countries will hardly ever be found outside England with a translation of the same ballad story. This very fact may lead us to suspect that the existence of similar tunes in different countries is not always, and perhaps not even frequently, simply the result of a tune's migration. In any event, we cannot prove in most cases that the tune has actually migrated. It is likely that traveling singers of the early Middle Ages (their existence is documented) taught peoples of different lands the original forms of many songs which developed into groups of related melodies.

Another way of explaining the phenomenon of wandering melodies is that the musical characteristics of European folk song have been so homogeneous and have developed so much in the same direction throughout the continent that similar tunes were composed independently in several countries. Given a certain restricted set of musical characteristics—for the sake of argument, let's assume melodies composed of five tones with seconds and thirds predominating, regular metric structure, the tendency for the final sections of songs and of phrases to be lower in pitch and more drawn out rhythmically than the rest, and a range of about an octave—it is conceivable that similar tunes might spring up independently in several places at various times. Thus the fact that there are some obvious similarities among the tunes in the forgoing examples does not in itself prove that all of them are descended, through the use of communal recreation, from a single parent tune. But whichever explanation is the correct one (and we may never know in many specific cases), the existence of similar tunes throughout the continent again shows us that Europe is an entity as far as its folk music is concerned.

 

SOME SONG TYPES FOUND IN EUROPE

Europe is a unit not only in the purely musical aspects of folk song. The cultural background and context as well as the words of the songs also indicate the essential integrity of the continent. There are certain types of songs that are found throughout Europe, though they are not present everywhere in the same proportion of quantity and importance.

One important song type is narrative song. Two main styles of songs that tell a story have been developed in Europe: epics and ballads. Narrative songs, particularly epics (distinguished from ballads by their length and heroic quality), are found outside Europe, in areas as divergent as the Great Basin of North American Indian culture, Iran, Borneo, and Japan, but only in Europe do they constitute one of the most important, perhaps the preeminent, folk song type.

The ballad was developed in Europe in the Middle Ages—first, presumably, by song composers of city and court—and evidently passed into oral tradition and the repertories of folk cultures thereafter. The musical characteristics of the ballad are not different from those of most other kinds of folk song. Usually there are three to six musical lines and a number of stanzas. The ballad tells a story involving one main event. In contrast to the ballads, the epic songs are long, complex, and involve several events tied together by a common theme. Typically, the epic, as exemplified perhaps by the heroic songs of the southern Slavs, does not have a strophic arrangement but tends rather to use a line which, with variations, is repeated many times. But there are subtypes of these genres and it is at times difficult to distinguish between them.

Love songs are important in many European countries (they are relatively rare in the folklore of other continents). They are more common in Western Europe than in the East, and characteristically they express love for another person in a melancholy or tragic setting. The music of love songs does not, on the whole, differ in style from that of other folk songs.

A number of ceremonial song types are common throughout Europe. Of course, the use of folk songs in an ecclesiastical setting is found. There are areas in which genuine folk hymns are sung; in Germany, a body of spiritual folk song became a partial basis of the Lutheran hymn, and the singing of'Kyrieleis" (a corruption of'Kyrie Eleison") in the rural communities was reported in medieval sources. But more typical are songs involving ceremonies that may have been practiced long before the advent of Christianity in Europe. Thus there are songs which revolve around important events or turning points in a person's life: birth, puberty, marriage, and death.

In some countries these proliferated, as in France, where special songs for various events in a child's life (first words, first walking, etc.) were developed. The French have songs to urge a child to eat, to teach him to count, and so on. These are songs accompanying the so-called rites of passage which are important in practically every culture.

There are also songs involving the turning points in the year, such as the advent of spring, the summer and winter solstices, and the equinox. These have frequently been associated also with agriculture, and some have been attached, since the introduction of Christianity, to Christian festivals. Thus some pre-Christian winter solstice songs have become Christmas songs, as may have been the case of the popular German "0 Tannenbaum." Pagan spring songs have sometimes become Easter or Whitsuntide songs. These calendric song types are common in several nations of Europe.

Songs involving agriculture are also common, more so in Eastern than in Western Europe. Perhaps these songs should be generally regarded as work songs, because some of them actually aid in the rhythm of work, whereas others, such as the short tunes used by the Lapps to call reindeer, are functional in labor but not in a rhythmic sense. Another type of agricultural song, simply describing the work, is not sung during work but perhaps at social gatherings in the evening. Again, work songs are found also on other continents, but they are more common in Europe than in most other areas. As before, we cannot say that their style differs appreciably from the styles of European folk songs at large, although a few types of work songs do have special musical styles. Thus the tribbiera of Corsica (Example 3-9), a type of song sung while driving oxen around a small enclosure in which threshing is done, always has a form consisting of two sections with words, followed by a long, melismatic call (that is, with several tones sung to each syllable).

Another characteristic type in European folk music is the humorous song. Musically this type does not differ especially from other songs, and of course humorous words can be associated with all sorts of songs—ballads, work songs, children's songs, and so forth. One special type of humorous song found in many countries is the cumulative song. These are songs in which each stanza, while presenting something new, also incorporates elements from the previous stanzas. Although they are not always uproariously funny or even mildly amusing, some elements of humor are usually found, and perhaps even the process of cumulation can be considered as having a humorous effect. Among the best known songs are "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and "Alouette."

Dance music is one of the main types of traditional music throughout the world. In Europe it is an important genre, and accompanies two main types of dance. It has been assumed that the older dances are those involved with rituals and ceremonies (round dances are especially characteristic here); these tend to be accompanied by relatively simple music. Dances that came into the European folk repertory at later times-and these include most couple dances and many of the other kinds of social dances—have more complex music which shows, as does the dance itself, the influence of more sophisticated musical cultures. However, although we can in good conscience make such broad generalizations about folk dance and dance music, we must also stress the tremendous variety of European dances. The dance seems to be one area of culture in which European trends are similar or closely related to those in other continents. Possibly this means that the older layers of European culture, those which antedate the introduction of Christianity and stem from a time when the European folk cultures would have been classed as primitive or nonliterate, have remained present in the dance more than in some other aspects of culture.

At any rate, mimetic dances (those which choreographically represent actions, events, feelings, persons, or animals) are found throughout European folk culture and in other continents as well. The same is true of dances with weapons (sword dances, for instance, performed in Scotland, Central Europe, and India), dances having sexual symbolism, and acrobatic dances, to name just a few. Gertrude Kurath4 made a survey of European folk dances and divided the vast array into several types, according to the form and style of dancing. For example, she distinguished among circle, longway (line), and quadrille (square) dances, according to the formation used by the dancers. The point is, again, that each of these forms is found all over Europe, and that similar dances are performed in areas and countries with sharply contrasting cultures. The maypole is used in dances of Spain, England, Germany, and Hungary; the "hey," a technique in which two lines of dancers wind in and out of a circle, is found in England, Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Spain. Thus, in spite of national and regional peculiarities, we see again the basic unity of European folklore.

 

INSTRUMENTS AND INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC

Although singing accounts for a preponderance of music making, formal and informal, in the European folk music tradition, musical instruments are important, and instrumental music is of very great interest. The participation of a population in singing is quite general, that is, most people in a folk culture can sing some songs and recognize many more, but instruments are to a much larger extent the property of specialists. As we have pointed out, professional musicians, who have theoretical training and who make their living entirely through music, are not common in folk cultures. When they are found, they are usually instrumentalists. Instruments are typically played by only a small number of persons in a folk community, and these are usually professionals at least in the sense that they are recognized for their skill and called upon to perform on special occasions.

According to Curt Sachs and others, the primitive instrumental styles of the world did not come about through simple imitation, on instruments, of vocal melodies. To be sure, vocal music must have come into existence before instrumental. But instrumental music presumably came about through the elevation of noise-making gadgets to really musical artifacts, through the coincidences of accidentally discovered acoustic phenomena, and through visual criteria used by craftsmen. For example, the maker of a flute may, in positioning the finger holes, be guided by the visual effect of the design more than by the pitches and intervals which a particular arrangement of these holes will produce. This line of reasoning could, in fact, help to explain the fact that the instrumental music of European folk cultures often seems quite unrelated to the songs found in the same area and sung by the same people. Also, there seems to be more stylistic variety in the instrumental music of Europe than in its vocal music, perhaps because of the limitations of human voice and ear as compared with the relative freedom allowed instrumentalists who need to know the right motions to make, but not necessarily how the music will sound before they play it. Random improvisation and toying with an instrument may have a considerable effect on developing the styles of instrumental folk music.

Regarding the instruments themselves, we can make very few generalizations. They vary enormously in type, design, and origin, to say nothing of the sounds they produce. Insofar as their origin is concerned, we can divide them roughly into four classes.

(1) Among the simplest instruments are those which European folk cultures share with many of the simplest tribal cultures throughout the world, including rattles; flutes (with and without finger holes) usually made of wood; the bullroarer, a piece of wood or other material tied to a string and whirled in the air; leaf, grass, and bone whistles; and long wooden trumpets such as the Swiss alphorn. These (like the songs with the most restricted scales) tend to be associated with children's games, signaling practices, and remnants of pre-Christian ritual. Many of them actually function as toys, much as do their counterparts in simpler cultures. They are evidently archaic and became distributed throughout the world many centuries ago, but the fact that they are used as toys and for pre-Christian ritual does not necessarily mean that these rituals were, in earlier times, accompanied only by the simplest of musics.

(2) A second group consists of instruments that were brought to Europe from non-European cultures in more recent times. They are much more complex, and evidently many of them were changed substantially after they were brought to Europe. Among them are bagpipes, simple fiddles such as the Yugoslav one-stringed gusle, the folk oboes and double-oboes, of the Balkans, the banjo, and the xvlophone. In general, the sources of these instruments were the Middle East and Africa.

(3) Another group consists of instruments developed in the European folk cultures themselves, usually made from simple materials. A characteristic example is the dolle, a type of fiddle used in northwestern Germany, made from a wooden shoe. A more sophisticated one is the bowed lyre (sometimes also called the bowed harp), once widespread in Northern Europe and the British Isles, but now mainly confined to Finland.

(4) A final, and perhaps the most important, group includes the instruments that were taken from urban musical culture and from the traditions of classical and popular music, introduced into folk cultures, then sometimes changed substantially. Prominent among these are the violin, bass-viol, clarinet, and guitar. Some instruments used in art music during the Middle Ages and other early periods of European music history continued to be used in folk music into the twentieth century. Examples are the violins with sympathetic strings, related to the viola d'amore and still used in Scandinavia, and the hurdy-gurdy, related to the medieval organistrum and still played in France.

We cannot even give samples of the music of each nation. All we can do is to give some examples of what is typical, what is common, and what is particularly noteworthy, and then hope that you will continue delving into the specialized literature and, above all, proceed with listening in order to gain a broader understanding of this fascinating area of European culture.