“Go Preach My Gospel, Saith the Lord”

William T. Dargan

in Lining Out the Word

Published by University of California Press

Published in print June 2006 | ISBN: 9780520234482
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520928923 | DOI:
“Go Preach My Gospel, Saith the Lord”

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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

Chapter.  11381 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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