BLACK SONG: The Forge and the Flame by

BLACK SONG: The Forge and the Flame

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A lengthy but otherwise unimpressive discussion of the origin, influence, and general significance of the Negro spiritual. The ideological issues -- such as whether they were corruptions of current white music or genuine original creations of an oppressed slave group -- are not many or complex, but the author makes the most of them, even to the extent of sending questionnaires to 28 ""highly respected"" (naturally he includes their dossiers) experts, when all else fails. The book is ""well-researched"" -- i.e. padded with references and quotations from all and sundry, and rather patronizing as well in its obsequious attempts to ""prove"" (by historical testimony, no less) the worth of something whose value is generally assumed. Perhaps the most interesting parts of the book are those which discuss the slave culture, where the author makes a good case for the secularity rather than the religiosity (insofar as these are separable) of the spirituals, viewing them as ""freedom songs"" for this world rather than the next. There is an excellent extended bibliography but before you reach it he has belabored the obvious and near-obvious in what is meant to pass for comprehensiveness and profundity.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1972
Publisher: Macmillan