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In Afro-American Folksongs, published in 1913, ,Henry E. Krehbiel describes an African instrument called a zanze as follows:

"The zanze is a small sound-box...hollowed out in the form of a round gourd to the upper side of which, over a bridge, are tightly affixed a series of wooden or metal tongues of different lengths. The tongues are snapped with the thumbs...and give out a most agreeable sound. I find out no records in the accounts of travellers as to any systematic tuning of the instrument, but a specimen from Zululand in my possession is accurately tuned to the notes of the pentatonic scale.with the addition of two erratic tones side-by-side in the middle of the instrument..." [Afro-American Folksongs, p. 68]

Krehbiel continues at another opening:

"I have mentioned a Zulu zanze which is in my possession--. It has pentatonic tuning down to two middle tongues, which emit strangely aberrant tones. The key is D-flat. The tongues on one side emit the descending order, D-flat, E-flat and B-flat; on the other B-flat, F, D-flat and A-flat....Between the right and left rows of tongues lie the two which give out the strange, wild notes A and B." [Afro-American Folksongs, p. 74]

The instrument Krehbiel describes sounds like a thumb piano in today's terms. Other than saying the instrument came from Zululand, he provides no other idea of its origin. Assuming the instrument is authentic, the question came to me as to whether the tuning he describes, especially the aberrant notes, belong to a natural scale. Krehbiel assumes that the tuning is diatonic. I'm not sure that is a good assumption for a genuine folk instrument. For one thing, the pentatonic tuning could as well result from the gaps in a natural scale.

Assuming Krehbiel's description of the pitches is accurate, I transposed them down a half step to C and fitted them to what appears to be an approximation of a natural scale. Does anyone in OMN have a take on this?

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Aindrias Hirt said:
'Looks spot on. I'll have to read the reference. I will also have to reinterpret the "ordinary" modes since the non-natural scale notes probably fall on unstressed beats. This is problematic since Afro-rhythms can be quite complex. Stress often falls on upbeats. So what is disregarded/marginalized might shift. With indigenous (IE?) European music transcribers only made mistakes on the upbeats/unstressed beats. With African music transcriptions, the mistakes may have been made on the downbeats with the upbeats (which may have been stressed) being accurate. So you need to know the rhythm first, and then diminish the importance of pitch on unstressed beats which are different than where stress occurs in indigenous European music. In short, what is stress and I stress and how did that inform (subconsciously) the musical transcription?

If you could supply a link to the work you cite, I can ponder the classification system and see any systematic error. Personally, I've turned my back on academia for awhile and don't have much time to read and think. So it may be a while until I can think on this. Still, if you can give me an online link to this, I'll glance at it and my subconscious will sort it out. It takes a while, much to my PhD advisers found to their chagrin...

Aindrias,

Here's a link where you can download a copy of Krehbiel: https://archive.org/details/afrofolk00kreh

The table in question is on page 43. He says that his compilation included 527 songs. Now, the first four lines of the table add up to 527, so they must be the full complement. I think Krehbiel's "ordinary major" and "ordinary minor' mean pieces with heptatonic scales with and tonics you would expect. His "mixed and vague" mean pieces in which the tonic could be, for instance, C (major) or A (minor). Apparently everything else was [major?] pentatonic. The last six lines of the table, as I understand them, elaborate on the "ordinary" major and minor pieces.

I've been thinking more about Krehbiel's zanze (zanze or zanza is its correct name, by the way). It seems likely that its tuning was common. The two "aberrant" tones A and B assigned to the middle tines were there for a reason. My question is whether they were used melodically or as harmony. The B (flat 7th in D-flat) I would say was used melodically. The A (flat sixth) I'm not so sure.

Thanks for taking any time on my question. I've been turning this over in my head (not just Krehbiel, but the whole subject of African retentions in slave songs) for several years--like a 5,000-piece puzzle that I keep coming back to. Your article on the European folk scale struck me as one of the missing pieces.

Regards,

Bob


Aindrias Hirt said:
Should be "what is stress and unstress"

Aindrias,

(Hopefully) I have attached an article by John Garst on the origin of African-American spirituals, which I think rings true. It will be helpful if you get around to thinking further about Krehbiel's ideas.

Bob
Attachments:
Hi.

I’ve got some time to look at this now. The hard part is deliberately making yourself ignorant (become a child) in order to understand a different system. Academics are loathe to do this since their value is in what they know, not in what they don’t know. It takes a great deal of courage and sacrifice to deliberately wipe away your understanding of things in order to see a different way of looking at the world. However, if it’s worthwhile, it’s worth the pain.

I’ll take a look at this in the next few weeks, but it will take a lot of thought and confusion to find the pattern inherent in the music. So I’ll fail a lot. That’s just the nature of it. Thanks for the link.

Andy


Aindrias Hirt said:
Hi.

I’ve got some time to look at this now. The hard part is deliberately making yourself ignorant (become a child) in order to understand a different system. Academics are loathe to do this since their value is in what they know, not in what they don’t know. It takes a great deal of courage and sacrifice to deliberately wipe away your understanding of things in order to see a different way of looking at the world. However, if it’s worthwhile, it’s worth the pain.

I’ll take a look at this in the next few weeks, but it will take a lot of thought and confusion to find the pattern inherent in the music. So I’ll fail a lot. That’s just the nature of it. Thanks for the link.

Andy

Hi Andy,

I'm in sympathy with your "childlike" approach to things. My primary background is engineering, where such an approach is called "thinking outside the box." I need to go back and review our previous exchanges and re-read Krehbiel to get back up to speed. Since I contacted you last, I did some reading on the African kakaki, which is a metallic horn of three to four meters length. It seems that it could have served the same function as the shepherd's trumpet in your theory of the natural scale in European music.

Bob


James Robert Hester said:


Aindrias Hirt said:
Hi.

I’ve got some time to look at this now. The hard part is deliberately making yourself ignorant (become a child) in order to understand a different system. Academics are loathe to do this since their value is in what they know, not in what they don’t know. It takes a great deal of courage and sacrifice to deliberately wipe away your understanding of things in order to see a different way of looking at the world. However, if it’s worthwhile, it’s worth the pain.

I’ll take a look at this in the next few weeks, but it will take a lot of thought and confusion to find the pattern inherent in the music. So I’ll fail a lot. That’s just the nature of it. Thanks for the link.

Andy

Hi Andy,

I'm in sympathy with your "childlike" approach to things. My primary background is engineering, where such an approach is called "thinking outside the box." I need to go back and review our previous exchanges and re-read Krehbiel to get back up to speed. Since I contacted you last, I did some reading on the African kakaki, which is a metallic horn of three to four meters length. It seems that it could have served the same function as the shepherd's trumpet in your theory of the natural scale in European music.

Bob


James Robert Hester said:


James Robert Hester said:


Aindrias Hirt said:
Hi.

I’ve got some time to look at this now. The hard part is deliberately making yourself ignorant (become a child) in order to understand a different system. Academics are loathe to do this since their value is in what they know, not in what they don’t know. It takes a great deal of courage and sacrifice to deliberately wipe away your understanding of things in order to see a different way of looking at the world. However, if it’s worthwhile, it’s worth the pain.

I’ll take a look at this in the next few weeks, but it will take a lot of thought and confusion to find the pattern inherent in the music. So I’ll fail a lot. That’s just the nature of it. Thanks for the link.

Andy

Hi Andy,

I'm in sympathy with your "childlike" approach to things. My primary background is engineering, where such an approach is called "thinking outside the box." I need to go back and review our previous exchanges and re-read Krehbiel to get back up to speed. Since I contacted you last, I did some reading on the African kakaki, which is a metallic horn of three to four meters length. It seems that it could have served the same function as the shepherd's trumpet in your theory of the natural scale in European music.

Bob

Hi Andy,

The argument between African and European origins of slave songs has been going on now for at least 135 years. The closest approach I have been able to discover is John Garst's 1986 paper on mutual reinforcement of the two genres. Garst stops short, however, of specifying what particular elements African music contributed to the mix. Like others, such as Dena Epstein, he marks it down to performance practice. The contribution of African rhythm to the mix seems fairly clear, at least to me. The African contribution to melody seems less so. I have come to think is is possible that some of the African influence id due to their use of the natural scale with its "distorted" pitches. What Krehbiel calls pentatonic in the slave songs could actually be due to a penchant for the natural scale. Such an view would reverse Krehbiel's assumption that primitive music is vocally derived rather than instrumentally derived. The African kakaki (very long horn) might be the source for Africans use of the natural scale, if indeed that's what they used. What do you think?

Another question for you: The Wikipedia article on the kakaki claims that the instrument can play the note a fifth below the fundamental. This seems contrary to the physics of sound to me seeing that the generating tone is the lowest tone possible. Am I missing something?

Best,
Bob


Aindrias Hirt said:
Hi.

I’ve got some time to look at this now. The hard part is deliberately making yourself ignorant (become a child) in order to understand a different system. Academics are loathe to do this since their value is in what they know, not in what they don’t know. It takes a great deal of courage and sacrifice to deliberately wipe away your understanding of things in order to see a different way of looking at the world. However, if it’s worthwhile, it’s worth the pain.

I’ll take a look at this in the next few weeks, but it will take a lot of thought and confusion to find the pattern inherent in the music. So I’ll fail a lot. That’s just the nature of it. Thanks for the link.

Andy

Hi Andy,

I don't know if you found any remnants of the natural scale in any African tunes. I have your summary instructions for screening tunes that I plan to apply to apply to the tunes in Slave Songs of the United States. I approach the task with trepidation.

Bob Hester

Andy,

I did more thinking about Krehbiel's African thumb piano (zanze) tuning as described in Afro-American Folksongs. Krehbiel's description of the instrument and its tuning is found on pp. 74-76 of his book. He also provides a pentatonic scale without two "aberrant" notes on p. 61. The attached score contains four measures that sum up my thoughts to date. I am keen to know what you think. The first measure in the score is Krehbiel's pentatonic scale expressed in ascending, rather than descending, order. I added the two "aberrant" notes (A natural and B natural) to Krehbiel's scale in the second measure. The third measure is the full scale transposed down a half step from Db to C for convenience. Finally, I tried to match up the partials of a natural scale produced by some sort of horn with the tones of the thumb piano. As you can see, all the tones except A natural are partials. The "aberrant" tones (Ab and Bb transposed) being the 13th and 14th partials. Does any of this make sense to you?Zanze%20Tuning.jpg

Andy,

Here's an interesting tidbit. Attached is a version of O're the Crossing from Slave Songs of the United States (No. 93). William Allen, the chief editor of Slave Songs, opines, for undisclosed reasons, that, "O're the Crossing" may very well be purely African in origin. I transposed the attachment from the original key of Ab to C, and as you see, the transposition contains the same "aberrant" notes Ab and Bb as the transposed version of Ore%20the%20Crossing.jpgKrehbiel's zanze.

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