Music and the Black Church

Course Description

The sound of music, often associated with the voices of deities, was a medium for personal and communal religious expression in traditional African societies. During this time, the drum, also known as an “acoustical seducer of the spirits,” assembled the community and summoned the spirits. Today, Black religious music is still known for assembling a community, both inside and outside the church, with songs such as “We Shall Overcome,” a staple of the Civil Rights Movement. In this course we will immerse ourselves in the music of the Black church, from melodies predating the transatlantic slave trade and Negro spirituals to contemporary gospel sounds and their use in social activism.

Topics Covered

  • The Origins of Negro Spirituals
  • Hymns of the Civil Rights Movement
  • The “Gospel” Sound and its evolution
  • Intersections between Secular and Gospel Music
  • Appearances of Music of the Black Church in Popular Culture
  • Leading and Accompanying: the Musician’s Role in Service
  • Additional Topics TBD

Grading Policy

15%1st Writing Assignment 
20%2nd Writing Assignment
25%3rd Writing Assignment
25%Homework
15%Participation

Late Assignments
Writing assignments may be turned in one day late with a single letter grade deduction (10%). Except under extenuating circumstances or when otherwise specified, assignments will not be accepted after 24 hours of the due date.

Inclusive Learning

Middlebury College supports an inclusive learning environment where diversity and individual differences are understood, respected, appreciated, and recognized as a source of strength. It is expected that students in this class will respect differences and demonstrate diligence in understanding how other people’s perspectives, behaviors, and world views may be different from their own.

Learning Accommodations

Students who have Letters of Accommodation in this class are encouraged to contact us as early in the semester as possible to ensure that such accommodations are implemented in a timely fashion. For those without Letters of Accommodation, assistance is available to eligible students through Student Accessibility Services . Please contact Jodi Litchfield or Courtney Cioffredi, the ADA Coordinators, for more information: Courtney Cioffredi can be reached at ccioffredi@middlebury.edu or 802-443-2169 and Jodi Litchfield can be reached at litchfie@middlebury.edu or 802-443-5936. All discussions will remain confidential.

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