How Sweet the Sound: Music in the Spiritual Lives of Americans

Front Cover

Musical expression is at the heart of the American spiritual experience. And nowhere can you gauge the depth of spiritual belief and practice more than through the music that fills America's houses of worship. Most amazing is how sacred music has been shaped by the exchanges of diverse peoples over time. How Sweet the Sound traces the evolution of sacred music from colonial times to the present, from the Puritans to Sun Ra, and shows how these cultural encounters have produced a rich harvest of song and faith.

Pursuing the intimate relationship between music and spirituality in America, Stowe focuses on the central creative moments in the unfolding life of sacred song. He fills his pages with the religious music of Indians, Shakers, Mormons, Moravians, African-Americans, Jews, Buddhists, and others. Juxtaposing music cultures across region, ethnicity, and time, he suggests the range and cross-fertilization of religious beliefs and musical practices that have formed the spiritual customs of the United States, producing a multireligious, multicultural brew.

Stowe traces the evolution of sacred music from hymns to hip-hop, finding Christian psalms deeply accented by the traditions of Judaism, and Native American and Buddhist customs influenced by Protestant Christianity. He shows how the creativity and malleability of sacred music can explain the proliferation of various forms of faith and the high rates of participation they've sustained. Its evolution truly parallels the evolution of American pluralism.

 

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Contents

Introduction I
1
O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing
17
Singing Independence
41
Marching to Zion
64
Holding the Fort
91
Dances with Ghosts
117
Onward Buddhist Soldiers
146
Yossele Yossele
171
Come Sunday
196
From Ephrata FRaTa to Arkestra
220
The Nation with the Soul of a Church
248
Coltrane and Beyond
272
Epilogue
293
Note on Method
301
Index
331
Copyright

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2004)

David W. Stowe is Associate Professor of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures and director of American Studies at Michigan State University.

David W. Stowe is Associate Professor of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures and director of American Studies at Michigan State University.

Bibliographic information