An evening of folk melody

All from the companion CD set to Kingman’s “American Music”. The folk songs, “Gypsy Davy”, “John Hardy”, the fiddle tunes, “Soldier’s Joy”, “College Hornpipe” and the country ragtime “Dill Pickles Rag”, the play-party song “Old Man At The Mill”, the protest songs “Farmer Is The Man” and “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around”. Folk melody hymns – “Amazing Grace”, and “Wondrous Love”. William Billings’ famous patriotic song, “Chester”, a religious canon of his “Jesus Wept” and popular fuging tune, “Amity”, by Daniel Read.

Strikingly almost all of these performances are for voice alone, or for voice as the prominent carrier of the melody. The few instrumental tunes for violin are ‘vocal’ in sound, with a tone that hews close to vocalising. The vocal music is clearly Corporeal as defined by Partch, falling into the class of story or drama. Only with the canon and fuging tune do we get any hint of the Abstract, but even here the words and their meaning are uppermost. In “Genesis Of A Music”, Partch states that all purely instrumental music is Abstract, and so, on the face of it, the fiddle tunes should be grouped here (but then hedges by stating that program music tends towards the corporeal). The style and the melodic content of these folk melodies are so suggestive of drama that I prefer to group them as Corporeal, particularly in the light of Partch’s later statements on Corporeality (see “Magical Sounds” and other comments below).

These are all good tunes and generally emotive performances (even if some are irritatingly truncated on the CD). But by the end I was hankering for something else – something Abstract.

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