Alan Jabbour, founding executive director of the American Folklife Center, hypothesizes that late 18th-century fiddlers in Virginia blended British and African American musical idioms into a hybrid style. The African American influence, a type of syncopation, was subtle but pervasive. (He also suspects Cherokee Indian influence in the contour of fiddle tunes that begin with the high course and go to the low course in the B part -- e.g. "Cripple Creek." Which isn't as off-the-wall as it might appear, when you consider Cherokee elder Walker Calhoun's clawhammer banjo playing, etc.) Jabbour doesn't use the word "creole" but he says the southern Appalachian style was different from the Irish and Scottish styles being developed at much the same time.
Jabbour's hypothesis in outline form: "Characteristic American bowing pattern: sixteenth-note grouping of two groups of three followed by two notes - produces shifting syncopation, occurs from Texas to Virginia, considered Appalachian but is used in both black and white fiddling and is African American contribution" [from notes to an interview with Alan Lomax, cited and quoted at greater length below].
Question: How does this pattern relate to Jean Ritchie's "bum ditty" and the Nashville shuffle?
Alan Jabbour: Fiddle Tunes from the Old Frontier. Video of a presentation in Washington, D.C. Jabbour talks about syncopation from 58:00 to 1:02:10.
"Irish, Scottish and Appalachian Fiddle Music: Talk and Demonstration." There is also a fascinating panel discussion on Appalachian, Irish and Scottish fiddle traditions in which he goes over some of the same territory with an Irish and a Scots fiddle player (he gets into his ideas on syncopation around 5-7 minutes).
Alan Lomax interviewed Jabbour for his Cultural Equity website. Here are unedited program notes, including the passage quoted above (which I'll put in itals):
:: Description :: Conversation between Alan Lomax, Alan Jabbour, and others about American fiddle music and dance in Upper South :: Project :: American Patchwork :: Date Range :: 01-01-1987 to 12-31-1987 :: Particpants :: Lomax, Alan Jabbour, Alan :: Subjects :: Fiddle playing in the Upper South Fiddle playing, Anglo-American - African American contribution of shifting syncopation to Fiddle playing, Anglo-American, possible American Indian influences on Solo dancing - Amerindian influences on dance in Anglo-America and the Upper South Cajun music - American Indian influence in Scots Irish Culture in the American Upper South Fiddle playing, importance of bow in
From notes, this excerpt gets into the creolization bit, although once again Jabbour doesn't call it that:
Alan Jabbour on the uniformity of American fiddle music and its origin in the upper South. Developments in fiddle playing occurred in the English speaking world in the late eighteenth century make its fiddle styles cousins with a common ancestor. Bow is key element in fiddling. Change of direction after each note (can appear virtuosity when done extremely rapidly) versus grouping of notes on the same bow (requires more skill). Characteristic American bowing pattern: sixteenth-note grouping of two groups of three followed by two notes - produces shifting syncopation, occurs from Texas to Virginia, considered Appalachian but is used in both black and white fiddling and is African American contribution. Occurs sporadically in Irish fiddling, predominates in America. Possibility of Native American contribution. Melodies in older repertoires typically have two parts, high and low. ...[and so on w/ Jabbour's theory about the high course leading in Appalachian idiom (Cherokee?), etc. ...].
See also my post "Blacks, whites and Southern old-time music" on Hogfiddle Sept. 27, 2009.