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Archive -> Autobiography -> ‘As a Tale That is Told’ Extract 49 Pages 167-168

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‘As a Tale That is Told’ Extract 49 Pages 167-168

Religious ceremonials, ‘pyschology of darkie music’, jazz and ‘creative forces’

Another reason for associating the Morris dance with an early religious ceremonial is the appearance in different forms of the King and Queen, the Lord and Lady, the Mayor and Squire. The figures link up the dances with those ceremonies attending the crowning of the King of the Wood, who, representing the life of the Earth’s vegetation, was yearly slain lest his vigour might wane and all the green life of the Earth perish with it.

And gradually there entered into my consciousness a realisation that here was no dead ceremonial but that overlaid as it was by modern ideas, by a mechanised way of living, this was still a live vibration, a vehicle for cosmic forces, a channel down which life giving creative power could flow. A power to create by dance and gesture, a vortex of power which, if misused, could become evil and destructive.
It was a long time before I let myself believe this but as I recollected things that had happened it grew more and more clear. I remembered that when I stayed with the late Stanley Hall, the author of “Adolescence”, at the Clark University, he was studying the psychology of darkie music. I had then never heard or had never realised syncopated or jazz rhythm. He put on a gramaphone record and asked me to

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tell him what I thought of it, how it affected me. In about ten minutes I said: “take that off or I shall go mad.”

Then we talked and I recalled the lovely healing effect of the rhythm of folk dance and song. I said: “I feel that jazz rhythm is centrifugal, it shatters the personality and sends it out in all directions, but the folk rhythm, founded in nature, in wind and wave, the moving of the sun and moon and stars is centripetal. It gathers in the personality to a centre and so enriches and vivifies.” I think he agreed. I recalled the effect of folk music I had seen on the members of my Club, young men and girls as they danced and sang. How they would come tired out from work, shut in in factory and workshop, and how I had seen them coming alive and harmonious as the evening wore on.
I recalled the little tailoress who, quite musically unlettered, said when we had been singing “The Bold Fisherman” with it’s (sic) irregular rhythm: “Ain’t it just like the little waves a turning over.” Something of quiet and life-giving force did get into them as they sang and danced.
 



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