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Lining Out the WordDr. Watts Hymn Singing in the Music of Black Americans$
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William Dargan

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780520234482

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520234482.001.0001

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“Go Preach My Gospel, Saith the Lord”

“Go Preach My Gospel, Saith the Lord”

Words as Movers and Shakers in African American Music

Chapter:
(p.140) Chapter 6 “Go Preach My Gospel, Saith the Lord”
Source:
Lining Out the Word
Author(s):

William T. Dargan

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520234482.003.0007

Musicologists have acknowledged the importance of speech rhythms to black music from the blues forward, but the focus of the analysis has not explained their primacy. The obscurity of the hymns—despite their affinity to the spirituals that have been reinvented as a concert form—typifies the hidden significance of speech to black music. Proceeding from an English tradition that was no less oral in derivation, the performance tradition of Dr. Watts hymns brought to an African oral inheritance a heightened awareness of English poetic meters and rhyming patterns, along with a racialized theology, which slaves revitalized and subverted as their own voice of liberation. As sermons unfold the scriptures in black worship, hymns and songs freight spoken symbols with the burden of human thoughts and feelings. This chapter examines the musical implications of words as shapers of pitch, rhythm, and timbre.

Keywords:   Dr. Watts, speech rhythms, black music, hymns, spirituals, sermons, words, worship, pitch, timbre

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