Regional traditions of hymn singing continue in the hallowed places of black worship, under the cloak of autonomy and outside the domain of what some observers—and many of the participants—consider to be “music.” As a ritual agent of both alignment with and autonomy from the larger society, Dr. Watts hymn singing has played a quiet yet persistent role in the deep cultural ambivalence of African Americans. This book is a first step in what should be an ongoing study of lining out and the congregational singing tradition. The author has begun with a genre study instead of a specific ethnographic instance because, without such a study, the gaps between the conceptual frames provided by existing studies of black sacred music, his own comparisons of regional styles of lining out, and the issue of interrelations between lining out and other black music genres seem too wide. In the lining-out hymns, African Americans received and developed a worship form that has acquired cultural agency in communities.
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