folk music

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Cecil Sharp (1859—1924) collector of English folk-songs and dances


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Term covering folk‐songs and folk dances. Folk‐songs are songs of unknown authorship passed orally from generation to generation, sung without acc., and often found in variants (of words and tune) in different parts of a country (or in different countries). Folk‐songs were generally found among the country‐dwellers, but with the increase of urbanization and industrialization they spread to the towns and factories. In the 19th and early 20th cents. the fear that with the advance of modern life the old customs were dying out led to a major campaign of song coll., in Eng. by Cecil Sharp, Vaughan Williams, Maud Karpeles, Mrs Leather, Anne Gilchrist, Frank Kidson, and many others; in Hungary by Kodály and Bartók, and similarly in other countries. Many composers have made use of folk‐songs in their comps., from Renaissance times to Haydn, Grieg, Dvořák, Tchaikovsky, Bartók, Vaughan Williams, and others. Although folk‐songs enshrine the nat. characteristics of their country of origin, they have int. similarities. Most of them are modal. Like every generic term, folk‐song is susceptible to many conflicting interpretations, and readers are referred to several important books on the subject. It is also impossible to predict how folk‐song may develop in future centuries. It may well be that the popular songs of the 20th cent. by named composers may become (indeed already have become) the folk‐songs of a new age. Folk dance is a type of dance which has developed by itself without aid from choreogs., is connected with traditional life, and is passed from one generation to the next.

Subjects: Music.

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