VARIATIONS IN FOLK SONGS

by Dr. László Vikár


One of the most striking differences between melodies preserved in written form and the songs handed down by word of mouth lies in the fact that while the former have only one authentic form, the songs of the folk tradition may be encountered in many authentic versions. Individual compositions receive their ultimate form right in the moment of their creation and should be respected as such from that time on by every performer. There is, however, no restriction of this kind in the world of folk songs. In the intact surviving folk tradition songs may change apparently freely, but as a matter of fact they are modified according to specific inherent rules, by a lot of people and in many directions. Thus it can be claimed with good reason that a melody more deserves to be called folk song, the more variants it has. Any existence confined to an unchangeable state bears in itself the signs of fading. Accordingly, it seems a pity to capture, perhaps for all time, the shape and spirit of folksongs in a printed collection. Wherever songs still form an organic part of the life of individuals and communities, where they go through continuous changes to a smaller or greater extent, where they are revived in occasional improvisation, folk tradition is very much similar to a giant tree with immense roots and tremendous foliage.

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