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Rethinking American Music$
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Tara Browner and Thomas L. Riis

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780252042324

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252042324.001.0001

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Bodies of Music / Songs of Magic

Bodies of Music / Songs of Magic

(p.185) 8 Bodies of Music / Songs of Magic
Rethinking American Music

Guthrie P. Ramsey

University of Illinois Press

Rev. John F. Watson published a tract in 1819 meant to discourage black Methodist congregants from musical practices that they obviously enjoyed but that he loathed. Despite Watson’s bias, his words provide modern-day readers with a sense of how the music sounded, its communal nature, and its in-real-time compositional techniques—with striking clarity. Unbeknownst to him, these qualities would constitute foundational principles for future music-making in black communities. Drawing on modern theorists, the Fields’s study of “racecraft,” and Sylvan’s on “the religious dimensions of popular music,” Ramsey examines a range of archival documents and images from the nineteenth century to illustrate how fresh readings can provide useful reinterpretations of what was seen in an earlier era as negative assessments of black artistry

Keywords:   Rev. John Watson, Racecraft, African American music, black exceptionalism, religious dimensions, archival documents

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