The University of Mississippi

Music 516: Sacred Song in America

Review outline

A. Background
    1. Definitions of religion, cult (Geertz)
    2. Ancient antecedents: 
        a. Hymn to Aten by Akhnaton
	b. Vedic hymns, sung by priests, including musical specialists 
	     udgatr, at sacrifices. Hymns to soma plant.
	c. Hebrew psalms (tehillim) sung by Levites. Greek word psalm means 
	d. Homeric hymns and other ancient Greek hymns.
    3. Interaction between art (elite), folk, and pop cultures.

B. Latin Christian hymnody 
    1. Prose psalms, with antiphons, form a major part of office
    2. Prose hymns: Gloria in excelsis (from Greek), Te Deum (Latin)
    3. Office hymn: created by Ambrose, incorporated into monastic office
	a. A few meters prevail,,,, etc.
	b. Tunes usually 1-3 notes per syllable.
	c. End with single stanza doxology in same meter.
	d. Some long hymns divided among offices.
    4.. Other strophic forms: sequence, prosula (troped Kyrie), processional 

C. Native American sacred song: some examples
    1. Pueblo and Hopi: agricultural, polytheistic mythology
	  Performances by clan and society affiliation
	  Kiva (private), plaza (public) reenactments of myth
	  Clowns: provide comic relief, but enforce social rules (scare children)
	  Kachinas (Hopi and Zuni), benevolent spirits visit part of the year,
	   impersonated by masked dancers
	  Sound: low-pitched, powerful male unison
    2. Navajo: pastoral, related to Apache, northern tribes, 
          entered late, strong but superficial Pueblo influence.
          Concern with healing, psychological repose, harmony, free of ghosts
          Very long song cycles recount myths, must be correct to heal.
    3. Eastern tribes: Iroquois, Choctaw: songs mainly vocables
    4. Plains: several innovative intertribal ceremonies, song types
	  19c. Sun dance (blood sacrifice at tree of life), Ghost dance,
	  20c. Powwow, secular ceremony created in Oklahoma from Kiowa roots
	    Grand entry: clockwise procession, eagle staff, flags
	    Veteran observances, eagle feather, giveaway
	    Vocal style: high, cascading contour, multi-player drum
	    Song form: lead, tail, repeated pushup, honor beats
    5. Peyote (Native American Church): Sacramental gatherings in small 
            hut around a fire. Rattle, water drum; Songs easy to recognize, 
            limited note values, syllables

D. Hispanic America 
     1. Very early musical institutions, composers, hymns in native languages	
     2. Guadalupe 1531 cult, pilgrimage, Mañanitas	
     3. Chimayo, NM: miraculous cross, sacrament hymns, pilgrimage songs,
          Penitentes brotherhood, alabados repertory  
     4. Las Posadas: Reenactment of Joseph and Mary seeking shelter, 
          neighborhood procession, piñata party.
     5. Puerto Rico: sacred villancicos, aguinaldo Christmas songs

E. The African Diaspora
  1. West African ceremonial life survives in Brazil and Caribbean: drum 
      ensembles, dancing, tunes with short refrains attract a specific god 
      to ride worshiper in trance state: candomble, santería, vaudoun. 
      African gods often identified with Catholic saints. Creolized religious, 
      musical forms.
  2. In U.S., drums often banned. Ring shout a Christian religious 
      dance, short call and response, hand and body rhythms encouraged 
      similar trance state, survives in St. Simon Island, GA, and (without 
      dance) in Sea Island spirituals.

F. Reformation psalmody and hymnody in Europe
    1. Luther: used existing German and Latin hymns, created congregational 
         hymns (chorales), allowed secular contrafacta ("Innsbruck, ich muss 
         dich lassen"), allowed polyphonic settings, choirs, instruments, 
         but added a vernacular layer.
    2. Calvin: church music limited to congregational unaccompanied unison 
         vernacular strophic psalm paraphrases. Melodies flexible, 
         resembling, but not derived from, Parisian chanson melodies.
    3. Anglican settlement resulted in elite institutions with choirs, 
         anthems, service music, chanted prose psalmody; ordinary parishes 
         had only unison metrical psalmody (Old Version 1562). Both styles 
         of worship excluded hymnody.
    4. Westminster 1644: Puritans established lining-out, by 1680s grew 
         into ornamented, heterphonic oral tradition criticized by musicians 
         and clergy alike.  
    5. John Playford's efforts to improve psalmody: smaller number of tunes; 
         tunes in 2, 3, and 4 parts; use FSLM letters under notes to identify 
         hexachord syllables; introduced G clef for tenors to encourage 
         octave doubling by men and women, established practice sessions 
         for London parish-clerks.
    6. In 18c. singing schools, West Gallery choirs (with instruments), 
         fuging tunes, many regional composers, Tans'ur, Williams, Knapp, 
         Stephenson, etc. London parishes and charity hospitals developed 
         children's choirs and theatrical style tunes with trebles and 
         keyboard. Rise of hymnody (though still avoided in formal worship) 
         by Watts, Wesley. New Version supplement had a few hymns.

G. Psalmody in English colonies and early U.S.A. 
     1. Colonists brought Old Version, other psalters with tunes, but adopted 
          lining out, forgot note reading, developed oral "Old Way of 
          Singing"; also created Bay Psalm Book (words only) in 1640.
     2. Lining out survives today as an oral tradition in Isle of Lewis 
          (Scotland), some Appalachian churches, and very widely among 
          African Americans (Dr. Watts singing) 
     3. Singing schools developed by 1700: short course in sight reading, 
          sing from written pitches and note values, in 2 or more parts. 
          "Regular singing" controversy in New England, 1720-30. Increased 
          musical literacy resulted in demand for more varied, more engaging 
          music. Rise of separate seating for singers, i.e. choirs.
     4. Publications: Bay Psalm Book, 9th ed. (1698), Tufts (letter notation), 
          1721, and Walter (regular notation), 1721, Urania (1761). Only a few 
          American tunes.
     5. "First New England School" 1770-1810. 250 American composers, 
          thousands of tunes published. Billings, New England Psalm Singer, 
          1770. Daniel Read, Stephen Jenks, Andrew Law.
     6. Publications: tune supplements, oblong tunebooks with instructional 
          rudiments, printed from engraved plates or (after 1786) movable type.
     7. Compositions: plain tunes, tunes with extension, fuging tunes, set 
          pieces, anthems. By 1780s, many composers chose evocative texts, 
          set them expressively. Core Repertory reveals 101 most popular 
          tunes, both European and American.
     8. Shape notes: arose in Philadelphia in 1790s along with Adgate's 
          "badona" system. Connelly invented four shaped notes, sold to 
          Little and Smith, who published The Easy Instructor in 1801. 
          Several imitations, including Andrew Law"s staffless system, but 
          John Wyeth used EI system in Wyeth's Repository, 1810, and 
          this system dominated in rural Pennsylvania, Ohio Valley, and South, 
          but not in New England or the eastern seaboard.

H. Vernacular hymnody, U.S.A., 19th century.
     1. Shakers (Society of Believers) sang monophonic hymns, anthems, 
          laboring (dance) songs, many delivered in dreams and visions; 
          developed "letteral" notation.
     2. Camp-meeting revivals, from 1800 (Cane Ridge, Ky.): camp-meeting 
          spiritual songs often consisted of well-known hymns set to secular 
          melodies, or original hymns by American preachers; occasionally 
          employed refrains (choruses). African Americans shared musical 
          leadership. Repertory survives in:
		a. camp-meeting songsters (text only) 
		b. tunebooks, often in shape-notes, 2-4 voice settings: 
		    e.g. Supplement to the Kentucky Harmony (1820), 
		    Christian Lyre (1830), Southern Harmony 
		    (1835), Sacred Harp (1844).
		c. "Negro spirituals" in oral (congregational) form, collected 
		    from 1867;  later in concert form as choral or solo 
		    setting (Fisk Jubilee Singers, Harry T. Burleigh).

I. Reformed or cultivated hymnody, 19th century
     1. Revival of "ancient" psalm and hymn tunes as models for new 
     2. Lowell Mason. Handel and Haydn Society Collection (1822). 
          Introduction of seven syllables (in round notes), soprano melody, 
          close harmony, simple "devotional" style, music normal schools 
          (institutes). Thomas Hastings, Dissertation on Musical Taste (1822). 
     3. Sunday school hymns. Often in small oblong volumes. W.B.Bradbury. 
     	  Fresh Laurels (1867).
     4. Urban revivals (Moody) and Gospel Hymns (1875-1892) by Bliss, Sankey 
          et al. Upbeat songs with refrains, major keys, lively rhythms.

J. Hindu sacred song.
     1. Vedic chant. Sung by ritual specialists, learned with special 
          mnemonic tools. 
     2. Brahmanism produced mythical epics: Mahabharata and Ramayana, 
          both portrayed in dance-dramas from India to Indonesia and 
          Southeast Asia.
     3. Bhakti -  personal faith, devotion; arose in Middle ages, still 
          popular today, de-emphasizes caste and gender. Pooja - worship; 
          Bhajan - devotional song. Mirabai (1498-1547) composed 1200 bhajans. 
          May be simple, repetitive (Hare Krishna), strophic with refrain 
          (Raghupati Ragava raja Ram), or more complex.

K. Jewish hymnody and sacred song
     1. Cantillation (musical reading of mainly prose scriptural text)
     2. Piyyutim: liturgical strophic Hebrew hymns dating to Middle Ages: 
          Adon 'Olam (Master of the universe), Yigdal (Magnify the Lord).
     3. Pizmonim: extraliturgical Hebrew songs for special occasions, 
          Syrian preservation project in New York.
     4. Specific songs: Lecha Dodi (preceded Sabbath service); Chad gadya 
          (one ram), Aramaic cumulative song for Passover; Echad mi yodea, 
          another cumulative Passover song, sung in several languages.
     5. Hasidic Judaism: mystic revivalism from 18th century, traditional 
          in Eastern Europe, now in U.S. and Israel. Non-liturgical tish 
          (rabbi's table or reception): teaching, food, songs, sometimes 
          dances. Niggun - Song led by rabbi, often with vocables, may be 
          improvised, danced.

L. Islamic song.
     1. Conventional prohibitions on music: halal/haram. Association of 
          music with "mocking" scripture, pagan music, wine, sexual license, 
          urban corruption. Prohibition excludes recitation of scripture, 
          adhan - call to prayer (by muadhin in minaret).
     2. Middle East, Persia, India had long-standing music cultures - these 
     3. Nasheed: sacred song in most Islamic countries.   
     4. Sufi tradition, ghazal: poetic form, intricate structure, erotic 
     5. Qawwali: Urdu (or Panjabi) song, Hindustani (North Indian) style, 
          often extended into suites containing these and other genres: 
          hamd (praise God); naat (prophet); manqabat (saint); marsiya 
          (Shia lament), ghazal (love song, wine).
     6. Dhikr (zikr), repetitive songs of mevlevi Sufi order (dervishes), 
          for circular dance.

[ Warren Steel | Music Department | UM Home ]