J. Marshall Bevil, Ph.D.
Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, International, 1985 (UMI No. 8423854, "Dissertation Services"); Microfiche/-film of Ph.D. - Musicology dissertation, University of North Texas, 1984. Known locations of copies: author; University of North Texas; University of Texas, Austin; University of California (Los Angeles and Berkeley campuses); University of Washington (State); Brown University; Princeton University; Welsh Folk Museum, Sain Ffagan, Glamorganshire, U.K.; U.S. Library of Congress.
This study presents a theory of
melodic creation, transmission, memory, and recall within the Anglo- and Celtic-American
cultures of lower Appalachia, from the time of the earliest European settlers until around
1935 and, on a more limited basis, from the mid-thirties to the present. The various
aspects of this theory and its attendant hypotheses are based upon 1) consideration of
earlier published ideas, 2) currently accepted theories of perception, storage, and recall
of information, and 3) the results of applying an analytical system based in part on
indigenous concepts of scale and formal structure in the folk tune. The analytical
procedure, which is supported by a set of computer programs written by
the investigator, yields information concerning both the behavior of the individual melody
and the relationships between tunes. Basic principles and practices of
generative-transformational linguistics were adapted and melded with recognized,
established views of oral-aural musical transmission in the formulation of the
present corpus of theories and hypotheses.
Sources utilized in the research for the dissertation included published studies of folksong melody, reliable tune collections, and previous examinations of the the psychological bases of learning and recall. Also important was an early treatise pertaining to scale in traditional Celtic music, with a modern interpretation of that document. A final body of source material was a small group of sound-recordings that were transcribed by the investigator.
Theses and Conclusions
The primary thesis of this
study is that the centonate, or oral transmittive, process in the species of
folksong under consideration is controlled by both an
morphological norm and a gamut
of five overlapping anhemitonic octave divisions. Most melodies within the genres examined
in this study (mainly ballads and folk hymns, with some examples of other folksong species)
are essentially variants of the broad pattern formed by the interaction of those two
A secondary thesis is that the creation, transmission, and refashioning of a tune is subject to the Gestalt Law of Closure, an important axiom of cognitive psychology. In sum, that theorem holds that the memory trace of a perceived entity (in the present instance, a complete melody or dual-phrase melodic strain, or period) is most accurate at its beginning and ending points. Other cognitive concepts, including that of functional mapping, underlie much of the present theory of melodic fashioning, transmission and perception, assimilation and recall, preservation, and decay.
Another secondary thesis is that melodic transmission, preservation, and change within a musical oral tradition parallels in many respects the processes of oral language in a pre-, non-, or minimally literate culture. For that reason, the analytical procedure developed for this investigation draws on linguistic principles, especially those of the generative-transformational school, as cited above ("Introduction").
Within the behavioral constraints
outlined above, both variation and preservation occur in two interdependent spheres, the
first of which comprises the formulaic motifs that open and close strains and specifically
define melodic contours. Many of those patterns, known as primary cells, are organized
around blocks of mostly adjacent tones in the anhemitonic gamut. Both direct
and mutated anticipations and restatements of the formulas within the melody often provide
much of the material that fills the spaces between the initial and terminal points. Every transcribed melody that was examined in this study had the
pitch, rhythmic, and durational sequences of each of its primary cells encoded and placed
in an array that was stored as a textfile. That file was read later by a programmed computer as part
of the mechanically-assisted phase of the comparative analysis.
Overall Contour Correspondence
The second area of preservational and variational activity is overall melodic contour, which includes and is in part defined by the primary cells. Contour exists at a large number of structural and perceptual levels. For convenience and in keeping with established principles of layer analysis, they are grouped into three strata. The first of those, known as the elemental level, is based on the opening and closing notes of strains and the primary stressed beats of all intervening measures. The second, or broadly-detailed, level encompasses the first and last three different notes of each phrase (except in a few relatively rare instances), together with primary and secondary stressed beats of internal measures. The third, or specifically detailed, level also includes unstressed beats and the sounding afterbeats of stressed notes and rests, along with the three-note openings and closings of internal phrases and the primary cells that open and close the strains. An important difference between the specific details and the broad details is that the former group consistently includes repeated notes that occur within primary cells while the latter group normally does not. Like the primary cells, each of the three layers was encoded, and the codes for its sequence of sounding events were placed in an array that was stored as a textfile and later accessed by the computer.
Analytical Procedures Employed
Seventeen sets of parameters
were formulated prior to the actual testing process by performing numerous comparisons of
both actual and contrived melodies representing the full range of kinship and disparity.
Following the breakdown of transcribed tunes into their structural-pereptual layers,
preliminary manual comparisons were made of both primary-cell and contour sequences in
order to estimate the nature of the melodic relationship in each individual case.
Kinship then was measured by the computer according to tonal and rhythmic correspondence
between primary cells alone and in combination, contour correspondence at both
corresponding and non-corresponding levels, and various combinations of those
concordances. The pre-determined seventeen sets of parameters were applied near the
end of each computer-assisted phase of melodic comparison, and one or more conclusions
were printed along with a data table of primary-cell and contour concordances.*
Both preliminary analyses and final determinations were made independently
of the computer, which was used to expedite the handling of the large volume of data and
to reduce clerical errors. A second set of computer programs was used in the same way to
process the results of all the comparisons in a group. That procedure was performed both
to assess the idiosyncratic differences between individual singers and to determine the
ways in which those individuals adhered to prevailing regional norms of
melodic preservation and change.
Near the end of the dissertation research, a new program was created
by the investigator to generate comparative graphs based
on the data in the stored contour arrays. No computer-generated graphs appear in the dissertation, but they have been used in
several subsequent investigations.
Abstract of "Scale in Southern Appalachian Folksong: a Reexamination"
Abstract of "A Paradigm of Folktune Preservation and Change within the Oral Tradition of a Southern Appalachian Community"
Abstract and Full Text, "And the
Band Played On: Hypotheses Concerning What Music Was Performed
Near the Climax of the Titanic Disaster" (application of theories of oral-aural musical processes)
Dr. J. Marshall Bevil
is a native of
END OF DOCUMENT