Folk Music Origins in Europe

Folk music resides in oral tradition; consequently, its history is best learned through the study of its relation to other genres. Literary sources have allowed for the gathering of a vast chunk of folk songs gathered in oral tradition; usually of significant antiquity.


Under the growth of Christianity, efforts were made to contain folk music owing to its association with infidel rites and traditions; still, various elements of European folk music were absorbed into middle-ages Christian ceremonial music and vice versa. Contemporary European art music has incorporated aspects of folk music throughout its existence particularly during times of renewal starting with the Renaissance.

In the late 16th century, the urban scholarly classes appreciated folk music more than their earlier counterparts of the medieval times. The liberal mindset during the Renaissance brought about the pedestalization of antiquity and nature which spurred the adoption of folk music. Some music found in Renaissance manuscripts is assumed to be folk by its simplicity and rural and early evocations of its wording. Renaissance writers used popular and folk music extensively. Typically, genres include folk song quodlibets and the polyphonic folk song or a blend of well-known songs. Folk melodies were used as motivic and structural raw material for masses and motets; furthermore, Protestant Reformation music borrowed heavily from folk music.


During the Baroque period (1600-1750) the adoption of folk music diminished, but the adoption of folk tunes to art music grew into a point of interest towards the end of the 18th century as Western scholars started to exalt peasant and folklife. Over the time, folk music became revered as an impulsive formation of persons free of aesthetic theories and artistic self-consciousness and was thought to epitomize the day-to-day experience of dwellers of the locality.

Such characteristics render folk music a source of art primarily when it’s designed to elicit a specific ethnic group or nation. Patriot campaigns of the 19th to early 20th-century music art made use of folk dances, tunes, and themes from fables and village lifestyle, to develop unique repertoires. Pioneers included; Modest Mussorgsky (Russia), Mikhail Glinka (Russia), Edvard Grieg (Norway), Georges Enesco (Romania), Bartok (Hungary), Roy Harris and Aaron Copland from American customs.

Study of folk tunes

Folk music scholarships reflected the efforts towards the search for inceptions and development processes in the 19th to the late 20th century. Some academics saw folk music as an archive of antiques – a heritage from which the annals literature, language, music, and other cultural attributes could be cited. Even though scholars later conceded that a few characteristics of folk music were hundreds of years old, they are unwilling to weigh on the dotage of ancient aspects of folk tunes or submit historical reconstructions besides tracing modifications of particular songs or kinds of songs.

Preservation of folk music

We began preserving folk music in the late 19th century. Recording and print technology have evoked considerable interest towards folk music allowing for the rebirth of folk music mainly where folklore and folklife are dying. Folk songs and dance make up a huge part of music curricula in public schools, and the trend will continue for some time.