For at least six hundred years, composers have been borrowing the melodies of folk songs and incorporating them into their compositions. And there’s a good reason: they’re good melodies; they’re melodies that have stood the test of time—that have never lost their hold on people.
And even when composers haven’t borrowed actual folk melodies, they’ve often borrowed the style of folk melodies. In 1884 the composer Max Bruch, famous for his beautiful melodies, wrote a letter to his publisher, Fritz Simrock. Bruch wrote, “As a rule a good folk tune is more valuable than 200 created works of art. I would never have come to anything in this world, if I had not, since my twenty-fourth year, studied the folk music of all nations with seriousness, perseverance and unending interest. There is nothing to compare with the feeling, power, originality and beauty of the folksong…”
This has been A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.