An Examination of Folk Songs of Various Cultures for Classroom Use

July 23, 2010 / By: Douglas J. Beam

The aim of this thesis was to examine the folk songs of various cultures for features that can be pedagogically adapted for use in a music classroom.  Achieving this aim required the research to (1) identify pieces of music as culturally significant, and (2) analyze these pieces for musical features that can be applied in a pedagogical situation. In order to understand the issues related to such an endeavor, a review of related literature was completed. This review examined the ethnomusicological work of Kodály, the musical and extra-musical features and performance descriptors associated with folk songs, multicultural education, multicultural music education, child folk songs, the cultural significance of songs, and the collection, transcription and analysis of folk songs.

The folk songs used in this study were collected from the parents of British, Korean, Israeli, and Australian students enrolled in first and second grade at the American Embassy School, New Delhi. Using a questionnaire, parents were asked to list child folk songs that they remember from childhood or that they have sung to their children. After compiling the lists of folk songs for the four largest non-American populations enrolled in first and second grade, the song titles were examined for to determine which songs were listed most frequently. Eight songs—two from each nationality—were thus determined to be culturally significant and were collected. Several subjects volunteered to serve as informants. The informants’ performance of the songs were recorded and subsequently transcribed into master copy format. These master copies were then analyzed for musical features suitable for use in a Kodály-inspired classroom. The analysis revealed seven different scale types, twenty-nine different extractable melodic patterns, seventeen extractable rhythmic patterns, and a variety of forms, meters, and time signatures.