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October 20, 1957 - Image 16

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Michigan Daily, 1957-10-20
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- p .9. ~

Ten

THE MICHIGAN DAILY MAGAZINE

.

Sundy October 20, 1957

Sunday, October 20, 1957

kr

,THE MICHlGAN DAILY MAGAZINE

- ;

THE

FOLK

SONG:

At Michigan and Elsewhere,
The Ages-Old Entertainment Form
Is Undergoing New Interest and Popularity

By ROSE PERLBERG
Daily Activities Editor
S WING LOW, sweet chariot,
Coming for to carry me
home . ...
You sit elbow to elbow in the
dim, smoky Fireside Room of Lane
Hall, with the melancholy strains
of the Negro Spiritual swelling
around you.
A fireplace at one end casts the
only light - a flickering, eerie
light-on you, your fellow sing-
ers and the half dozen guitarists
hunched over their instruments.
It's hot and stuffy, but you don't
feel it. People stumble over you
in an effort to find a square foot
of floor space, but it doesn't bother
you. Outside, ping pong players
shout, laugh, and shuffle noisly,
but you don't hear them. You're
caught up with the music and the
enthusiasm of those around you.
You sing and sway with them.
The refrain is over. A young
guitarist, who seems to be the
leader, breaks the sudden silence
with a cheery call for song re-
quests.
"Eating Goober Peas," cries an
attractive coed sitting next to
you.
AND THE somber mood instilled
by the Spiritual changes to
gay hilarity. You find yourself
clapping, tapping and shouting
your way through the nonsense
verses of 'Goober Peas.'
The young man with the guitar,
you learn, is Art Saxe. He's presi-
dent of a fairly new campus or-
ganization, the Folklore Society-
started last spring-which spon-
sored the little gathering you're so
wrapped up in.
What was this gathering, a
friend asks you later in the eve-
ning? '
You say it was a folk sing and
that you had a good time. But
can you tell him more specifically
what folk singing really is?
Club president Saxe doesn't
claim to be able to answer the
$64,000 Question on folk singing,
but after 'almost decade of inten-
sive study on folklore and folk

(Continued from Page 10)
discusses two: Negro and Southern
Mountain Ballads.
Negro music finds its roots in
West African culture. The banjo-
essential to Negro folk instru-
mentation-is a supposed descen-
dent of a primitive African instru-
mient.
From Negroes imported for slav-
ery came different musical and
philosophic traditions. They took
English as a common language,
but environment and background
marked their folk music.
IN NEW ORLEANS we found a
tendency for jazz, which Saxe
labels a form of folk song; in
other parts of the South, planta-
tion melodies. Jamaica, where
Spanish; French and South Amer-
ican influence was strong, pro-
duced today's rage: calypso.
Southern Mountain ballads, on
the other hand, have a distinctly
Old English flavor. Even today in
the more remote areas the resem-
blance to the era of. cockney ac-
cent, three-cornered hat, music-
hall singing is striking.
Why old ballads long dead in
their native land survive here is
an easy question for the history
student. Englishmen settled here
when such songs were popular.
Some moved to the mountains,
where they were cut off from cul-
tural progress. Through genera-
tions they perpetuated their own

The folk singer is r eally a par
of his art. It's th.ough his ow
feeling and interpretation that th
tradition continues.
Accomplished on the guitai
banjo, and harmonica, performe
Saxe always tries to "give an hon
est show." That is, he makes a
effort to present the folk musi
true to its idiom. If his numbe

THE SINGERS .. .

music, Saxe has uncovered some
interesting data. He's also decided
to make it a career, with graduate
work in folklore after he receives
a B.A. in anthropology this June.
Although we may not be aware
of it, we've always had folk song
in one form or another, Saxe
points out.
BEFORE MASS communication
with the phonograph made
widespread entertainment possible,
folk songs were the property of
individual, culturally i s o 1 a t e d
groups.
Especially in 1 e s s accessible
places like the southern Appala-
chian and Smoky Mountains, or
New York's Catskill Mountains,
weekly sings and dances were very
common. Some of the country's
more rural spots, still unspoiled
by radio and television, continue
the tradition today.
Sings weren't planned, Saxe says.
They arose spontaneously out of a
natural need for entertainment
and self expression. Song gave
people a chance to blow off steam
on politics, hard times, anything
that griped them at the moment,
or made them happy.
There were no words or , music.

As an old-time banjo-player once
said when asked what notes he
played: "Hell, you don't play
notes, you just pick at it!"
Folk songs passed from genera-
tion to' generation by word of
mouth. With changing eras the
singers fitted topical words to the
lyrics, words that expressed the
way they felt at the time about
things around them. In most cases,
however, the music remained the
same.
TODAY, MORE than ever, folk-
lore student Saxe reports, peo-
ple are taking up folk songs. Some
of it may be in commercialized
Tin Pan Alley guise, but it's still
plucked out of folk idiom. More
of it is the same folk music that's
been handed down for years -
with one difference: it's often
associated with a certain person-
ality in the field, and formalized
to follow his personal style.
"True" folk song, Saxe explains,
is never sung the same way twice.
It changes continually to fit the
singer's mood and the occasion.
Why do people sing folk songs
today when there are so many
other forms of entertainment?

Saxe runs ,a t a h n e d hand
through close-cropped curly black
hair and laughs. "You could make
the list as long as your motiva-
tions, aspirations or feelings."
MORE SERIOUSLY, he lists six
of the "obvious reasons:"
1) Political. During the 1930's
when unions were struggling for
recognition, their proponents put
new words to old music. To famil-
iar Negro Spirituals they would
sing:
Would you be free from Wage
Slavery?
Then join in the grand indus-
trial band...,
2) Religious. Both church and
living room still ring with such
Negro Spirituals as "Old Black
Joe" and white counterparts like
"Go Down Moses."
3) For fun, or to make fun of
a prominent figure. When psy-
chology first came into popular
thinking, folksingers offered this
satire:
Then along came Jung and
Adler
And said there's gold in them
thar ills... -
4) Back Room Ballads. These so-
called off-color songs or bawdy

ballads were being passed down in
the old-time oral tradition until
recent recordings. As such, Saxe
remarks, they're noted for their
catchy s a y i n g s and rhythm.
Throughout their evolution, only
the "catchy" ones survived.
5) Children's songs. Handed
down in the same way as bawdy
ballads, these pieces like "The Fly
and the Bumble-Bee" are light
and entertaining for the younger
set:
Fiddle-de-dee, Fiddle-de-dee
The fly has married the bumble-
bee... .
6) To be different. With many
other media for amusement at
their fingertips, some people take
to folk singing because it's "so
quaint." They think it makes
them stand out from the ordinary
and gain some sort of recognition.
WHERE DOES the music for all
these songs originate? Actu-
ally, Saxe explains, "it's an infu-
sion of many, many different na-
tional traditions: English, Span-
ish, French, West African, Negro,
Scandinavian-the list is endless."
If you want to trace a broad
field of American folk music, Saxe
(Continued on Next Page)

... AND THE PLAYERS

group and songs. Handed down
orally, lyrics of songs were brought
up to date, but the music remained
the same.
SAXE GOES on to correct the
"hillbilly misconception." This
music, which many of us consider
true mountain folk song, is just
a commercialization or "jazzing

up" of the real tradition, he con-
tends.
Saxe is not only a folk song
student, he's a performer and he
takes this role just as seriously as
the other..
He defines the folk artist as "a
vehicle of his own expression and
a means of carrying on the deep-
rooted folk sing tradition."

-STATE STREET SURGE

A Nostalgic View of Cam pustown Face-Liftin

Chicago and Its Race Problems

By JOHN WEICHER
Daily Staff Writer
SHORTLY BEFORE the Supreme
Court's desegregation decision,
an elderly Negro wrote a letter to
one of the Chicago papers. In this
letter he recalled his family's mov-
ing into a predominantly white
neighborhood when he was a boy,
around 1900. People were friendly
then. he said; when his mother
was sick, the neighbors, both white
and colored, took turns keeping
house for the children. Without
drawing any parallels, he asked
simply, what happened?
Chicago, at the time he wrote,
already seethed with racial ten-
sions. A large part of the city's
police force was engaged in keep-
ing ordercin the Trumbull Park
housing project, where six Negro
families lived in an otherwise all-
white development.
"Neighborhood commis s i o n s"
were beginning to appear, seeking
to preserve and maintain residen-
tial districts, particularly those
threatened with Negro occupancy.
The city's Negro population was
rapidly increasing, with new im-
migrants arriving daily.
rTHE NEGROES - and the po-
lice - are still at Trumbull
Park; the neighborhood commis-
sions are gathering momentum;
the i m m i g r a n ts continue to
stream in. The ingredients for an
explosion are present; last sum-
mer, a riot on the Calumet Park
beach, near the steel mills, al-
most set things off.
Housing is the, crucial issue.
Job competition between races is
almost negligible, since Negroes
are filling jobs in industries in
which whites do not seek employ-
ment in large numbers.
White people are willing to shop
with Negroes and share public

The City Knows What Happened,
Now Wonders What To Do

amusements, but they generally
draw the line at "living with
them." Their reason is chiefly
economic. Property values de-
cline, white Chicagoans believe,
when Negroes move into a neigh-
borhood. They refute statistics in-
dicating the reverse by their own
experience; they know what they
have seen.
IT IS clear to any white citizen
of the city that the neighbor-
hoods which were white and are
colored have gone downhill rap-
idly. In some cases, these areas
have simply changed from white
slums to colored slums, but in
others a real depreciation cannot
be overlooked.
The Kenwood area, for instance,
was regarded as one of the city's
"nice" districts, up until about ten
years ago. Since then Kenwood
has changed from all-white to
mostly Negro. The results of this
process have badly hurt the Ne-
groes' claims to being able to
"keep up" a good neighborhood
when given the -chance.
Kenwood was really the first
"nice" district to become a Negro
neighborhood. Prior to that, 'Ne-
groes had expanded from their
original area chiefly into second-
rate and slum districts; they had
had no chance to prove them-
selves. Kenwood was their chance,
but with the whole white com-
munity watching, the Negroes
missed their opportunity.
THE DISTRICT is a little on the
shabby side now; the homes
have become virtually apartment

buildings in many cases, housing
two ard three families where one
lived before. The buildings are
rundown, the lawns unkept in
many places. Perhaps there were
just too many people moving in,
trying to better themselves, for
Kenwood to hold. Perhaps it
would have gone downhill any-
way; it was an aging neighbor-
hood before. But whatever the
reason, however legitimate it is,
the deterioration is there; it is
constantly pointed to as "what to
expect if they move in here."
"What happened in Kenwood"
was one of the worst things that
could have happened to the Ne-
groes. It has been a major cause
of the determination of other
neighborhoods to kelp them out.
That determination is expressed
in the formation of the neigh-
borhood commissions. Officially,
these groups are concerned with
keeping housing and zoning stan-
dards high; they are neutral con-
cerning Negroes who might move
into the districts, and they wor-
ry only about "blight" in an area.
But, to many of their members,
"blight" and Negroes are synony-
mous, and the commissions study
the "weak spots," the houses and
blocks where Negroes might move
in. Some are organized down to
the block level.
PRECISELY WHAT they are or-
ganized for is nebulous. Indi-
cating zoning infractions and pro-
moting improvenient campaigns
have been their major accomplish-
ments in most cases. A few have
studied, and in one or two neigh-

borhoods actually started, rede-
velopment projects. They operate
on the ounce -of prevention theory
-"Let's keep the neighborhood up
to now, and not have to tear
things down later." What one of
them would do if a Negro family
moved into its area is problemati-
cal. The best guess, and it is no
more than a guess, is that the
commission would become a "pres-
sure group" asking the family to
leave. What it would do if it
failed is another question.
The racial problem in its pres-
ent virulent form is compara-
tively new to Chicago. Before
World War II, Negroes formed a
small minority of the population,
concentrated on the central part
of the South Side. However, dur-
ing the war, high-paying jobs
were plentiful in northern war
industries, and southern Negroes
flocked north- to get them. Chi-
cago, unfortunately, drew most of
its immigration from among the
poorer, less literate Negroes of
the central Deep South, and drew
them in larger numbers than oth-
er cities, due to its easy accessi-
bility by rail. The more people
who heard about the fine jobs, the
more came north after them.
There were jobs enough and more
during the war; afterwards, there
was always relief for the lazier
ones if they couldn't find a job.
But there was never enough hous-
ing.
T FIRST the Negroes simply
utilized the space in their old
neighborhood to the utmost, pack-
ing the families in by illegal con-

versions of houses and apart-
ments. When this was insuffi-
cient, they began to expand into
the adjacent districts. This was
acceptable; the white people liv-
ing, in these areas were them-
selves making enough in war in-
dustries to move into other, bet-
ter neighborhoods.
The resistance came in these
better neighborhoods, such as
Kenwood. White property owners
signed agreements pledging them-
selves not to "sell colored." They
had noticed already the decline
in the original colored district
from overcrowding. But the City
Council declared the agreements
illegal; Negroes who could afford
to, could and did move into the
good districts.
Here prejudice combined with
economics. Once one colored fam-.'
ily was in an area, few white fami-
lies were interested in buying
property there; future sales al-
most always meant a change of
race. This selling and buying pro-
cess still continues; it shows no
signs of stopping or being stopped.
A SOLUTION to this racial
problem is one of Chicago's
most pressing needs. It is made
doubly necessary by the expected
expansion wlfen the St. Lawrence
Seaway is completed, since new
docks and plants will be con-
structed in sections of the city
most afflicted with racial prob-
lems.
One answer, and the most com-"
mon among whites at present, is
following what might be 'termed
a policy of containment; it is
generally called "holding the line,"
meaning separate white and col-
ored neighborhoods along the
same lines as now exist. The trou-
ble with this, from the white
point of view, is that. "the line"
See RACE, Page 19

By JO ANN HARDEE
SWHEM' THE world is shaken by
some minor change such a
the invention of gunpowder, man
proceeds with all deliberate speed
to adapt himself to an interrup
tion of the norm. He learns to giv
up his life more rapidly, if not sc
romantically as by the sword.
But the mind of man can cope
with only so much. There are up
heavals in his universe whic
necessitate remoulding the very
foundations upon which he stands
Such an upheaval has shaken
more than 23,000 people to thei
sneaker-covered roots. Sacrileg
has been committed against tha
most sacred of institutions, tradi
tion.
They have remodeled a book
store.
Where once there was cheerfu
clutter, there now reigns unin
spiring order. Where once ther
was challenge and a sense of ac
complishment, a feeling of prid
in a battle well fought, there nou
is only dull routine.
From merely glancing at th
new facade, one knows that th
old atmosphere is gone, never t
be recaptured. The U-shaped con
versation area in front of the doo
is gone. The window filled feet
deep with multitudes of soon-to
be-discontinued books is gone.
UPON ENTERING, an already
disheartened student is faced
with insensitively colored cubby
holes into which, for his "con
venience" he must place any arti
cles he has with him. Gone are th
days when a personable youn
man was stationed on the land
ing of the stairs leading to the toy
shop to see that the customer wa
not inconvenienced by carrying ou
any articles for which he had n
receipt.
Forgotten soon will be the thril

"WHAT OCCUPIES the polished shelves and glass cases? Radios. Cameras. Binoculars. Clocks.
Typewriters. Pipes. Tobacco. Records. Why not just put in a soda fountain and electric toasters and
call it a, drug store?"

Jo Hardee, a sophomore plan-
ning to major in English and a
member of Student Government
Council, once wanted to be an
actress. "Now Im practical and
hardheaded -I want to be a
writer." This is her first ap-
pearance in the Magazine.

r,
I
t

"MORE SERIOUS are the changes in the drug store, which has minimized the thrill of the search
by placing merchandise In reachable locations and installing mid-twentieth century lighting."

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