Music in the Black Religious Experience and Rena Smart Book Review (video)

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R.M. Simmons presentation, Rena Smart book review

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Society for the Study of Black Religion Collection

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R.M. Simmons of the Gospel Music Workshop of America gives a presentation on the African influence in the African American religious experience. He explains how African slaves brought to America their concept of music (utilitarian concept of music). Simmons further discusses the fusion between the utilitarian concept and the Western concept of religion resulting in spirituals. He also describes hymn categories in early forms of formal African American worship experiences. Simmons takes questions from the audience among which is Dr. Riggins Earl Jr. Video concludes with a book review on Christian Theology and Ethics by Rena Smart.

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00:00:36 Unidentified man greets those in attendance. Announces the occasion and the guests of honor. Introduces R.M. Simmons, Betty Forbes and company.

00:03:02 R.M. Simmons greets those in attendance and talks about his background in education and his introduction in the Gospel Music Workshop of America.

00:04:35 Talks about what is going on in the Gospel Music Workshop of America and its academic division. The division concerns itself with making observations, classifications and descriptions through empirical studies and data collection.

00:08:00 Talks about the African influence in gospel music. Slaves and even freed men when they came to America brought with them their concept of music, usage of music. This includes music to work by and music to play by and ceremonial dances. Terms it “Utilitarian concept of music”.

00:08:59 Talks about with the Utilitarian Concept of Music came the Western influence and the notions of Jesus, Lord, Christ and or Western concept of religion. The two influences in the face of oppression brought about first tier in the development of music which is called spiritual. Argues spiritual is only true and first form of American music.

00:09:49 Choir sings.

00:13:07 Talks about line hymn category as a part of the growing formal worship among African Americans. Talks about the various structures of the line hymn resulting in many names such as line hymn, call hymn, raised hymn, meter hymn and Dr. Watts hymn.

00:17:38 Talks about concern that the art form is going to be lost and the trouble finding those in younger generation who are comfortable in performing.

00:18:41 Talks about the devotional hymn.

00:21:41 Talks about shape note and syllable singing and plays tape.

00:26:04 Talks about Euro-American hymn and Jubilee singing.

00:31:32 Talks about African American music during 1920’s and 1930’s.

00:46:23 Talks about historical review of sacred music in the Black religious experience and the 5 broad implications that are psychological, social, evangelistic in nature. Talks about how sacred music has been and emotional outlet for psychological frustration brought about through oppressed social situations and conditions of poverty.

00:48:49 Questions and singing from choir.

01:20:41 R.M. Simmons choir and those in attendance sing.

01:31:50 Announcements and prayer.

01:35:16 Rena Smart gives book review discussing the form and content of religious ethics.

01:38:42 Talks about Christian Theology and Ethics.

01:53:57 Video Ends.


The Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library acknowledges the generous support of the National Endowment for Humanities - Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Implementation Project Grant in supporting the processing and digitization of a number of its major archival collections as part of the project: Spreading the Word: Expanding Access to African American Religious Archival Collections at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library.


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