Field holler

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Field holler is a type of vocal musical creation closely related to work songs. It is usually associated with African American music and spirituals from before the American Civil War, but had prevalence among whites in the southern United States too.[1]


Some hollers are wordless, like the Field Call by Annie Grace Horn Dodson (1950, Negro Folk Music of Alabama, Folkways); others combine improvised lines concerning the singer's thoughts, with elaborated syllables and melismas, such as the long example recorded at the Parchman Farmpenitentiary in Mississippi in 1947, by "Bama", of a Levee Camp Holler (1947, Negro Prison Songs, Tradition). An unidentified singer of a Camp Holler was urged on with shouts and comments by his friends, suggesting that the holler could also have a social role (1941, Negro Blues and Hollers, Library of Congress). Some street cries might be considered an urban form of holler, though they serve a different function; an example is the call of ‘The Blackberry Woman’, Dora Bliggen, in New Orleans (1954, Been Here and Gone, Folkways).


It is believed that Holler is the precursor of the blues, though it may in turn have been influenced by blues recordings. No recorded examples of hollers exist from before the mid-1930s, but some blues recordings, such as Mistreatin' Mama (1927, Negro Patti) by the harmonica player Jaybird Coleman, show strong links with the field holler tradition. A white tradition of "hollerin'" may be of similar age, but has not been adequately researched. Since 1969 an annual National Hollerin' Contest has been held in Sampson County, North Carolina.


  1. ^ Browne, Ray B. (1954-01-01). "Some Notes on the Southern "Holler"". The Journal of American Folklore 67 (263): 73–77. doi:10.2307/536810. ISSN 0021-8715. JSTOR 536810. 


  • Charlton, Katherine (2003). Rock Music Styles - a history. Mc Graw-Hill, 4th ed., pp. 3. ISBN 0-07-249555-3. 
  • Oxford Music Online: Grove Music
  • Southern, Eileen. The Music of Black Americans. 3rd. New York London: Norton, 1997. Print.

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