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Use of call and response 9 crossroads music of

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Unformatted text preview: rofessional musicians, there was not the strong separation between musician and audience. The master musicians might provide the drumming or singing leads, but everyone else participated in the musical performance by singing choral parts, dancing, or adding to the general rhythmic texture with their own drums or handclapping. (Roberts, p. 7) 7 Crossroads: Music of American Cultures (Barkley) Kendall Hunt Publishers, 2013 Based in Oral Tradition and Improvisation Most Africans depended on oral and aural tradition for the transmission of music. This means that the music is taught through performance and learned through hearing, as opposed to taught and learned through notation. This method of transmission encourages change. As the music passes from one generation to the next and is transported from one locale to another, the probability increases that song lyrics are misunderstood, melodies mis- remembered, or there are conscious attempts to change the music to make it more locally relevant. Perhaps more important in the context of African music, however, is a different concept of the function of performance and methods for creating music. The European tradition values composition of "masterpieces" with precise directions conveyed in notation that ensure that the music can be accurately reproduced in the future and in different geographic locations. In West African traditions, oral transmission was used to preserve the general elements of the music but the highest value was awarded to the "master" improvisations that appropriately fulfilled the function and met the aesthetic needs of the particular moment. Hence, unlike Westerners, Africans had no intention of reproducing precisely that specific music or performance at another time or in another location; it was expected that musicians and participants would improvise melodic ornamentation, rhythmic accompaniment, song forms, and dance movements that reflected the inspiration of the moment. Importance of Text African languages are tonal, based on inflection and requiring a specific relation of pitches for correct communication. The importance of language was reflected in African drumming. Indeed, there is a Dogon legend that it was through the drum that God gave man the gift of speech. (Roberts, p. 6) Drum idioms imitated speech patterns through the use of high and low drum timbres performed on female and male instruments whose relative size produced different levels of pitch sounds. In this manner, drums could convey something as complex as a poem or as simple as a warning that a lion was near. For example, the phrase "Wo ho te sen?" (How do you do?), which consists of four tone levels in a specific rhythmic pattern, could be conveyed as follows (Roach, p. 10): Tone Levels: Wo ho te sen? Low High Low High Short Long Short Long In this manner, rhythm and pitch were used to effectively convey messages, and these messages then served as the basis around which were formulated other musical elements such as harmony, form, and timbre. COMMONALITIES AMONG AFRICAN MUSIC TRADITIONS 8 Crossroads: Music of American Cultures (Barkley) Kendall Hunt Publishers, 2013 The Essential Role of Rhythm Rhythm provided the very foundation for African music, and it flowed out of the words and the movement of human activities. Consequently, it was very fluid and could be either simple or complex. On a simple level, the short- long combination evident in the "Wo ho te sen?" example was a favored rhythmic pattern. But these and other patterns could be combined in such a manner as to create richly complex rhythmic textures. Following are examples of some of the most common rhythmic devices familiar to African...
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