In recent years, two books, especially The Trouble I've Seen: The Big Book of Negro Spirituals by the late Bruno Chenu (Judson Press, June 2003, $20., ISBN 0-817-01448-9) and Deep River: Music and Memory in Harlem Renaissance Thought by Paul Allen Anderson (Duke University Press, June 2001, $79.95, ISBN 0-822-32577-2), are adding to the public discourse on the historical importance of elevating spirituals.
The exhaustive, well-researched book chronicles the origin of Negro spirituals from the slave trade during the 17th to 19th centuries, the biblical passages that slave owners used to justify slavery, the conversion of slaves to Christianity and their co-opting of Christianity to suit their spiritual needs.
From Spirituals to Symphonies is very well organized.
Despite the generous amount of information in From Spirituals to Symphonies, this superb book probably will leave the reader wanting more.
But none who cared for the life of the spirit--or the spiritual questions....But in the heartless days of winter...Mahalia's soul visited me on several occasions....Her scripture of song was enough; she seemed to reach me in a profound way as I raced around my labyrinth of dislocation, through her song "How I Got Over"....Mahalia seemed to move over mountains and reintroduce me to the motherlode and the mother tongue of folk culture....Mahalia's music seemed to evolve me out of my condition.
Through Mahalia, Forrest was reminded that most great literature deals with spiritual agony and the hero's attempt to transcend it.
The account of African enslavement begins with a disturbing rendition of "Amazing Grace" accompanied by an excerpt of a "slave preacher's" sermon instructing his audience to obey their masters at all times and followed by a sampling of "shouts" and early spirituals. Two of the shouts ("Knee-bone Bend" and "Yonder Comes Day") and one spiritual ("Prayer") are exquisitely rendered by Bessie Jones, whose Georgia Sea Islands community was still singing songs and hymns of slavery in the fashion of their ancestors when these recordings were made.
WHILE SHOUTS AND EARLY SPIRITUALS expressed the hopes and prayers of enslaved Africans, the men and women living in captivity soon learned that they also needed an encoded musical language with which to communicate their plans for escape and freedom.
Also, in 1981, The Episcopal Church published Lift Every Voice and Sing: A collection of African-American Spirituals
and Other Songs (The Church Hymnal Corporation, June 1981).
Interrogations: Culture, Gender, and Community in Early African American Women's Writing.
were chosen from a highly selective group of sources: fifteen collections of spirituals
, one slave narrative, one journal article, four publishers of sheet music, and the editor's memory.
This religious music - later known as the folk spirituals
, and commonly referred to as the "Negro Spirituals
" - was the 18th-century creation of African American slaves who sought to express their religious beliefs in a way that was uniquely meaningful to them.
, in turn, became the wellsprings of the concert music of African American composers such as Margaret Bonds, Undine Moore, Nathaniel Dett, Clarence Cameron White, and many others.
Following the chapter on conjuration, Roberts focuses on spirituals
. He argues that even turning to Christianity did not obliterate the slaves' African-influenced tradition of either aggressive action or trickster-like behavior.
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