The UIP catalog includes an immense store of knowledge about American music. We don’t publish blog posts on Sunday morning, so we’re taking this beautiful Thursday to point the way to some offerings on sacred music–the practitioners, history, and theory, and the ways people both create it and love it every day of the week.
Singing in a Strange Land: C. L. Franklin, the Black Church, and the Transformation of America, by Nick Salvatore
Singing in a Strange Land tells the story of C. L. Franklin (1915-1984), one of the greatest black preachers in American history. The father of Aretha Franklin, C. L. was a spellbinding preacher who channeled his charisma into his gospel music and compelling sermons which spoke through faith to the personal and social problems rural African Americans encountered in their migration north.
Stressing unity between the sacred and the profane allowed him to embrace all aspects of African American culture, and jazz, blues, and gospel performers mingled in his Detroit home. Franklin also embraced the night life that surrounded his musician friends, even as he served on the Executive Board of the Southern Christian Leadership Council and organized the 1963 “Walk Toward Freedom” march with his close friend, Martin Luther King, Jr. In June of 1979, Franklin was shot during a robbery of his home, and died five years later. Over 10,000 people attended his funeral at the Detroit church he made famous, the New Bethel Baptist Church.
Black Women and Music: More than the Blues, by Edited by Eileen M. Hayes and Linda F. Williams
This collection is the first interdisciplinary volume to examine black women’s negotiation of race and gender in African American music. Contributors address black women’s activity in musical arenas that pre- and postdate the emergence of the vaudeville blues singers of the 1920s. Throughout, the authors illustrate black women’s advocacy of themselves as blacks and as women in music. Feminist? Black feminist? The editors take care to stress that each term warrants interrogation: “Black women can and have forged, often, but not always—and not everywhere the same across time—identities that are supple enough to accommodate a sense of female empowerment through ‘musicking’ in tandem with their sensitivities to black racial allegiances.”
Individual essays concern the experiences of black women in classical music and in contemporary blues, the history of black female gospel-inflected voices in the Broadway musical, and “hip-hop feminism” and its complications. Focusing on under-examined contexts, authors introduce readers to the work of a prominent gospel announcer, women’s music festivals (predominantly lesbian), and to women’s involvement in an early avant-garde black music collective. In contradistinction to a compilation of biographies, this volume critically illuminates themes of black authenticity, sexual politics, access, racial uplift through music, and the challenges of writing (black) feminist biography. Black Women and Music is a strong reminder that black women have been and are both social actors and artists contributing to African American thought.
Traveling Home: Sacred Harp Singing and American Pluralism, by Kiri Miller
A compelling account of contemporary Sacred Harp singing, Traveling Home describes how this vibrant musical tradition brings together Americans of widely divergent religious and political beliefs. Named after the most popular of the nineteenth-century shape-note tunebooks—which employed an innovative notation system to teach singers to read music—Sacred Harp singing has been part of rural southern life for more than 150 years.
In the wake of the folk revival of the 1950s and ’60s, this participatory musical tradition attracted new singers from all over America. All-day “singings” from The Sacred Harp now take place across the country, creating a diverse and far-flung musical community. Meanwhile, the advent of internet discussion boards and increasing circulation of singer-produced recordings have changed the nature of traditional transmission and sharpened debates about Sacred Harp as an “authentic” form of southern musical expression. Blending historical scholarship with wide-ranging fieldwork, Kiri Miller presents an engagingly written study of a musical movement that some have christened “a quintessential expression of American democracy.”
The Sound of the Dove: Singing in Appalachian Primitive Baptist Churches, by Beverly Bush Patterson
Beverly Bush Patterson explores one of the oldest traditions of American religious folksong: unaccompanied congregational singing in Appalachian Primitive Baptist churches. Using interviews, field observations, historical research, song transcriptions, and musical analysis, Patterson explores the dynamic relationship between singing and theology in these churches, the genesis of their musical practices, and the unexpectedly significant role of women in their conservative congregations.