Folk song style and culture

American Association for the Advancement of Science Washington DC Published In Pages: 170-203
By Lomax, Alan


A large-scale comparative study of folk songs around the world employing systematic measures (cantometrics). The aim was not just to describe variation but to test hypotheses about the relationships between song style and societal structures. Dance was also considered.

Hypotheses (9)

"Game producers, irrigationists, and nomadic pastoralists seldom sing cohesively. Some incipient producers, collectors, and plow agriculturalists employ good blend some of the time. The gardeners . . . usually sing cohesively" (176)Supported
"A . . . strong relationship exists between the percentage of stable [work] teams found in a culture and the incidence of cohesive vocalizing per culture" (183)Supported
"Solo singing . . . and diffuse choral performance . . . are likely to be found in cultures where unstable [work] teams are the rule" (184-185)Supported
"Cohesive singing . . . occurs . . . more frequently . . . in stable and 'non toppy' communities than elsewhere" (187) Note that 'toppy' communities are those "in which either a complex or elite caste system or many levels of extra-local governmental authority split the community."Supported
Stable settlements are more likely to sing together cohesively (188)Supported
"Ayres found a significant relation between childhood training for compliance and cohesive singing and the contrastive correlation of assertiveness with individualized singing" (191)Supported
"Increasing complexity tends to normalize voice qualities. . . . Nasalized tone and narrow . . . tone . . . [have a strong] negative relationship to good vocal blend" (193)Supported
"Where feminine premarital sexual activity is severely restricted or santioned, narrowing and nasality, both signs of tension become prominent. . . . Relaxed vocalizing is relatively uncommon" (195-196)Supported
"Vocal tension (narrow, nasal vocalizing) is far higher in non-complementary societies, where men perform all or most of the main subsistence tasks" (200)Supported

Documents and Hypotheses Filed By:mas