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The Sacred Harp: A Tradition and Its Music

Overview

On any Sunday afternoon a traveler through the Deep South might chance upon the rich, full sound of Sacred Harp singing. Aided with nothing but their own voices and the traditional shape-note songbook, Sacred Harp singers produce a sound that is unmistakable—clear and full-voiced. Passed down from early settlers in the backwoods of the Southern Uplands, this religious folk tradition hearkens back to a simpler age when Sundays were a time for the Lord and the “singings.”

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Overview

On any Sunday afternoon a traveler through the Deep South might chance upon the rich, full sound of Sacred Harp singing. Aided with nothing but their own voices and the traditional shape-note songbook, Sacred Harp singers produce a sound that is unmistakable—clear and full-voiced. Passed down from early settlers in the backwoods of the Southern Uplands, this religious folk tradition hearkens back to a simpler age when Sundays were a time for the Lord and the “singings.”

Illustrated with forty-one songs from the original songbook, The Sacred Harp is a comprehensive account of a unique form of folk music. Buell Cobb’s study encompasses the history of the songbook itself, an analysis of the music, and an intimate portrait of the singers who have kept alive a truly American tradition.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Never again should we allow to stand uncorrected the statement that jazz is the only truly indigenous American music.”—Chattanooga Times

"Cobb presents a thoroughly researched 'inside' view of the performance practice and cultural context of Sacred Harp folk. The media that severed Americans from oral tradition and developed a national culture at the expense of indigenous local practice has induced a rootless and nostalgia-seeking generation to return 'home' to warm themselves in the glow of traditional community singing.”—American Music

"This volume studies a southern musical tradition less well known than jazz but equally important, and emphasizes that [Sacred Harp] represents a social experience as well as a musical one for its participants."—Alabama Review

"To Buell Cobb and the University of Georgia Press goes the gratitude of fasola singers throughout the nation for their printing of this significant volume.”—Southwestern Journal of Theology

"An ‘inside’ history of the movement . . . Cobb describes in detail the tradition as a whole, its music, its early history, the editions of The Sacred Harp, and the rise and decline of the big singing conventions."—American Historical Review

"[A] definitive history . . . Buell Cobb is an authority on Sacred Harp and an enthusiastic member of the singing community."—Southern Living

"Cobb's study deserves to be included on the growing bookshelf of American musical studies. We are, perhaps, past the time when we can give Sacred Harp singing the recognition it deserves. Cobb has adequately preserved much of the meaning of that music in the lives of those who sang it.”—Ethnomusicology

"Cobb's study aims at a comprehensive presentation of the contents, history, and use of The Sacred Harp. He slights no aspect of the book and in many areas makes contributions that are fresh and important. . . . One of the few authoritative studies of a southern vernacular institution."—Journal of Southern History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820323718
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 10/10/1989
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 844,126
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface to the Brown Thrasher Edition vii
Preface xv
1 The Tradition 1
2 The Music 30
3 The Background and Early History 57
4 The Revisions 84
5 The Conventions 128
6 The Outlook 149
Appendix A Traditional Sacred Harp Singings: Dates and Locations 163
Appendix B Selected Songs from the Sacred Harp 187
Selected Bibliography 229
Notes 232
Index 237
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