Folk Music: The Foundation of Famous Classical Music Pieces

April 23, 2023 1:11 am53 commentsViews: 148

Many of the most famous classical music pieces have their roots in folk music. The first folk dances and songs were not written down. They were played by ear and passed down from generation to generation. Every kind of human feeling is expressed in folk music. Folk music expresses the daily lives of common people. It is as diverse in sound as the language, culture and history of the nationality the music represents.

Folk Music: The Foundation of Famous Classical Music Pieces

Common Ties in Folk Music

Although each culture has a distinct flavor to its folk music, there are certain characteristics that are common to every nationality. Every culture’s folk music uses scales and modes in different ways. A scale is the “do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do” made famous in the song “Do, A Deer” from the movie musical, Sound of Music. Scale modes have a few tones changes in the scale. The most common scale mode “change” is from a major key to a minor key. This has the effect of changing a “happy” sounding piece to a dark or exotic one. This mix of major and minor keys is also a common denominator in all folk music.

In addition to the scales and modes used in folk music, there is also a universal emphasis on rhythmic variety. The rhythm is extremely important in folk dances. Numerous percussion instruments may be unique to a specific region, such as castanets used in Spanish folk music. Finally, folk instruments of all kinds are used, from bagpipes to the didgeredoo.

Folk Music and Patriotism

European countries wove folk music into the great classical music compositions. Often folk music tunes were used in battle hymns or turned into songs about war heroes. National pride was stirred as certain beloved folk tunes appeared in compositions. Some national anthems began as popular folk songs. In the “1812 Overture,” by Tchaikovsky, the national anthems of the warring countries are heard above the explosions of real cannon fire.

Listening to Folk Music

Classical music appreciation students can listen and study a great deal of folk music online. For a taste of Irish folk music, a student may enjoy The Chieftans and Sinead O’Connor performing “Foggy Dew.” Liu Fang is a master of the Chinese traditional instrument called a pipa. The mournful “Dance of the YI Tribe” is a beautiful tribute to the people of China. A Spanish dance that includes a heavy use of castinets is called “Rondena de Nalvacan.”

Jeremy Donovan is an accomplished Australian aboriginal artist and didgeredoo musician. Ravi Shankar is famous for his polished performances on the traditional Indian sitar. Students may enjoy hearing him perform “Gat Kirwani.” There is also regional folk music within the borders of the United States. Cajun music called zydeco has French and Carribean roots and is played in almost every restaurant in Louisiana. An example of zydeco is Beausoleil playing “Zydeco Gris Gris.”


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