Protest & Praise: Sacred Music of Black Religion

Protest & Praise: Sacred Music of Black Religion

Protest & Praise: Sacred Music of Black Religion

Protest & Praise: Sacred Music of Black Religion

Synopsis

Here is a skillful tracing of two tracks in the evolution of musical genres that have evolved from black religion. Songs of protest developed from the spiritual through social-gospel hymnody to culminate in songs of the civil-rights movement and the blues. Born in rebellion, they envision the Kingdom of God.Songs of praise, by contrast, express adoration. Beginning with the "ring-shout," Spencer follows the history of intoned declamation through the tongue song, Holiness-Pentecostal music, and the chanted sermon of the black preacher. Spencer's approach, termed theomusicology, unlocks the wealth of African-American sacred music with a theological key. The result is a fascinating account of a people's struggle with God in history.

Excerpt

The ten chapters that comprise this book are divided into two parts—“Protest Song” (Part One) and “Praise Song” (Part Two). Insofar as the spirituals are the prototypical music of black religion, and black religion and the black church evolved out of black rebellion, it is fitting that this corpus of song constitutes the first part, “Protest Song” (Chapters 1– 5). While the spirituals (Chapter 1) document the inside of slavery looking out, antislavery hymnody (Chapter 2) chronicles the outside of slavery looking in. In order not to interrupt the kingdom of God motif that connects antislavery hymnody (Chapter 2) to social gospel hymnody (Chapter 3) to civil rights song (Chapter 4), the segment on early blues closes Part One (Chapter 5).

Scholars have always concurred that antislavery hymnody, social gospel hymnody, and civil rights song were vehicles of protest. However, whether black spirituals were songs of empirical or spiritual liberation has been the subject of long-standing controversy. In telling the exodus story through the spirituals and the story of the spirituals through the exodus, I maintain that the spirituals were unquestionably the archetype of protest seen later in antislavery, social . . .

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