NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. XXIII, March 1967
AN ETHNOMUSICOLOGICAL SURVEY AMONG THE PEOPLE
OF THE RAMAPO MOUNTAINS
Charles H. Kaufman
AT THE lowest level of highly stratified societies there is
frequently found the pariah group or “third caste.” The
social levels above this group impute to it all of the vices
and none of the virtues of the society. Such a group has existed less
than 50 miles north of New York City from the late 18th century
until the recent past in an unbelievably high state of insularity
in an area that is, otherwise, strongly affected by the metropolis
to the south. This group is known as “The Mountain People or,
more commonly, the “Jackson Whites,” a designation offensive to
the people so identified.
This discussion examines the musical practices of this subsociety
and is composed of musical examples collected among
those people during the period from September, 1964, through
July, 1965. The attempt was made to determine if an independent
musical culture was maintained and, if so, to what degree. External
influences moulding the musicality of the people were also
sought. The function and purpose of music among the people
were investigated and some of the more technical aspects of performance
practice were examined. The study includes both sacred
and secular music. Examples of church music were collected only
in those circumstances in which detachment or other infiuences
have created a situation meriting specific interest and investigation.
The geographical area in which the subject group is concentrated is bounded, approximately, on the east by Haverstraw, on
the north by Ellenville, on the west by Haskell, New Jersey, and
on the south by Waldwick, New Jersey. The area, which encompasses
the Ramapo Mountains, was studied in two sections: from
Haverstraw west to Suffern, and from Suffern west to Haskell.
This division presented itself since one sub-group of mountain
people is concentrated in each section although some overlapping
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