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Music

African American Music is such a rich and diverse area that it's subdivided for your convenience. I cross list resources where categories overlap:

Sacred Music (spirituals, gospel, hymns, etc)

Secular Folk Music (blues, jazz, work songs, protest songs, games, etc)

Classical Music (concert works, choral works, musical theater, etc)

1 General Music Lesson Plans & Teacher's Guides

2. General Music Web Sites: Grants, online exhibits, sources for recorded and printed music, major organizations.

3. General Music Books

4. General Music CDs and Tapes - Anthologies / Music Participation and Instruction

5. General Music Posters: African American musicians, past and present. (opens a new page)

6. General Music Sheet Music Download digital sheet music instantly!

7. "How To" Instructional CDs and Video

8. Lift Every Voice and Sing: Also known as the "Negro National Anthem." (History, recorded sources, biographies. Opens a new page)

9. Video Documentaries

10. iTunes Store Music has an extensive introduction to Black Music by genre and region. It's linked from their start page in June, use "search" during other months.

 

Lesson Plans & Teacher's Guides

In My Dream - An Online Lesson Plan Resource
U.S. Army Field Band
Elementary through College Level
The CD In My Dream is available free to educational institutions upon request. (Sorry, this item is not for sale to the general public)

The U.S. Army Field Band has compiled a series of lesson plans to accompany the CD In My Dream: An African-American Legacy ."Written by band members who have teaching experience at all levels from elementary to college, these lessons use selections from the recording as a departure point for multi-cultural and interdisciplinary classroom activities. Relevant musical and graphic examples are included within each lesson, which can be viewed in HTML or downloaded as a PDF for ease of printing. At the end of each lesson is a list of standards specific to the concepts addressed in that lesson. These standards are taken from the National Standards for Arts Education."

 

Websites

NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education Grants & Programs

Innovation grants, fine arts grants for teachers of at-risk students, awards and more. "Think Big!"

African-American Sheet Music at the Library of Congress (1850-1920)

Special Presentation: The Development of an African-American Musical Theatre 1865-1910

Over 1,305 pieces of African-American sheet music, digitized for viewing and printing. Includes: songs of antebellum black face minstrelsy, abolitionist movement, songs associated with "Uncle Tom's Cabin," African-American soldiers and the newly emancipated slave, Reconstruction and the Great Migration.

"African-American popular composers include James Bland, Ernest Hogan, Bob Cole, James Reese Europe, and Will Marion Cook. Twentieth century titles feature many photographs of African-American musical performers, often in costume."

Archives of African American Music

"Established in 1991, the Archives of African American Music and Culture (AAAMC) is a repository of materials covering musical idioms and cultural expressions from the post-World War II era. The AAAMC supports the research of scholars, students, and the general public from around the world by providing access to oral histories, photographs, musical and print manuscripts, audio and video recordings, and educational broadcast programs, among other holdings."

Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians

Formed in 1965 as a musicians cooperative, the AACM promotes "Great Black Music." The AACM has continuously achieved international recognition for its contributions in modern music, and the site provides images and sound files for many members of the group.

Center for Black Music Research

"The CBMR is devoted to research, preservation, and dissemination of information about the history of black music on a global scale." It includes a musician's database and information about research fellowships, events and more.

Document Records

This site is more than just the world's largest (800 titles) catalogue for Vintage Blues, Gospel, Spirituals, Jazz and Country Music, with a little bit of World Music and Soul thrown in. It's also one of the biggest blues (and related music) projects around, with articles, search facilities and more.

Archeophone

"The company was founded in 1998 with the aim of preserving public-domain recordings of the acoustic era of the recording industry on digitally remastered media, together with extensive annotations, discographies, and rare graphics in attractive, modestly priced packages. "

International Association of African American Music

" For over 14 years, IAAAM has led the cause in promoting, perpetuating and preserving America's indigenous music." Offers workshops and conferences for those "in the business."

National Association of Negro Musicians

Founded in Chicago in 1919, the NAMN is "the oldest organization dedicated to the preservation, encouragement and advocacy of all genres of the music of African-Americans in the world." Marian Anderson was their first scholarship recipient. Membership information, plus some biographical information, can be found here.

 

Books

Southern, Eileen. The Music of Black Americans: A History, 3rd edition. New York: W.W. North, 1997. Read More at Amazon.com (High School - Adult)

First written in 1971 and now in it's 3rd edition, this is a wonderful, readable textbook on all aspects of African American music.

Barkley, Elizabeth. Crossroads: The Multicultural Roots of America's Popular Music with Audio CD (2nd Edition). Prentice Hall, 2006. (High School - Adult)

This lively and accessible book explores the musical traditions of five broad groups - Native Americans, European Americans, African Americans, Latino Americans, and Asian Americans - with particular interest in how those multicultural roots have intermingled to create contemporary American music. Along the way, author Elizabeth Barkley achieves a near impossible feat: presenting concise and candid histories of each cultural group, in addition to equally concise and clear explanations of the stylistic elements of their music. These elements are reinforced by the companion CD, which provides 18 listening examples with commentary.

My only criticism is that the book suffers from inattentive editing. For example, the first citation in Chapter One is "Ibid." Several photo captions apparently include layout notations not intended for readers' eyes, sometimes to a mildly humorous effect. The content deserves better.

Though designed for college students with no prior musical training, this book will be invaluable to high school and college music teachers wanting to infuse more diversity into their coursework, or for social studies teachers wanting to infuse more popular culture. I would also recommend it to those specifically interested in African American music since - not surprisingly - about half the chapters touch on it in one way or another. Highly recommended!

Hine, Darlene Clark and Kathleen Thompson. Facts on File Encyclopedia of Black Women in America, Volume V: Music. New York: Facts on File, 1997. (Middle School - Adult.) Read more at Amazon.com

Floyd, Samuel A. The Power of Black Music: Interpreting its history from Africa to the United States. Oxford University Press, 1996. (Adult) Read More at Amazon.com

Brooks, Tim. Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry 1890-1919. University of Illinois Press, 2004. (High School - Adult) Read more and Order at Amazon.com

The book documents more than 40 artists chronologically, assessing their work and skillfully placing their biographies within the context of a complex and tumultuous era. It covers the famous (Bert Williams, Eubie Blake, Fisk Jubilee Singers) and a host of lesser-knows. The Discography provides a listing of CD reissues (if available) for each chapter, plus web sites where you'll most likely find them.

While seemingly an exhaustive tome, the author himself reminds us it's intended to stimulate preservation and future research: the final chapter "Miscellaneous Recordings" examines unissued recordings, "custom" noncommercial recordings, rumored but unconfirmed recordings, records by artists sometimes misidentified as black and more, in the hopes that future research will turn up more information.

Though massive at 656 pages, the book is highly readable and entertaining, very well organized and indexed making it easy to zoom in on particular aspects of interest. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the era of early recording in general, or African American studies in particular, and feel no library shelf should be without it. It's a wonderful resource for interdisciplinary studies.

White, Shane and Graham White. The Sounds of Slavery: Discovering African American History through Songs, Sermons and Speech. Beacon Press, 2005. Includes 18-track CD. (High School - Adult) Read more and Order at Amazon.com

In West African tradition, sound making is functional, part and parcel of daily life, integral to most activities: working,, celebrating, praying, mourning, placating, criticizing or just passing time. It's a tradition that was carried to the New World on slave ships, a tradition which enthralled, amused, repelled or even terrified white listeners...often simultaneously. This book goes beyond the music created by enslaved Africans/African Americans (such as work songs and spirituals) to explore other forms of sound expression (including sermons, drumming, field hollers and storytelling) placed within a historical context to create a soundscape of African American slave life from the 1700's to the 1850's.

The written sources generally fall into two broad categories: the written observations of whites (letters, journal entries, and newspaper articles by travelers, missionaries, even slave owners themselves) and the testimony of former slaves collected by the WPA Federal Writer's Project during the 1930's. With only three exceptions, the sound sources on the 18-track CD are field recordings by John, Ruby and/or Alan Lomax from the late 1930's. By that point, the sounds had been "tainted" by pop culture (many are the times I have tracked down one of my father's rural childhood favorites from the 1920's, only to discover that this "old folk song" his grandma sang was actually an 1890's parlor tune) but alas, this is as close as we're going to get to listening in on a time which preceded sound reproduction devices. And as there are few things more frustrating than trying to understand sound by reading about it, the CD alone would be worth the price of the book.

The book is written in a nonlinear style, perhaps reflecting the subject matter which is itself quilt-like: slaves were constantly creating and recreating from the sound materials at hand, materials which often were not even recognized as such by white listeners. This nonlinear style could make the book a bit difficult to use for reference purposes, but fortunately it is well indexed. This fascinating soundscape is recommended for anyone interested in African American music in general, or the era of slavery in particular.

 

CDs & Tapes

In My Dream: A Celebration of African-American Music. U.S. Army Field Band, 2004. Available free to educational institutions upon request. (Sorry, this item is not available to the general public)

This CD is a goldmine for educators. Its 27 tracks provide examples of spirituals, chants, ragtime, jazz, bebop, blues, R&B, traditional and contemporary gospel, trombone shouts...the only thing it lacks is a sample of classical composition by a great such as William Grant Still. The program notes included with the CD are outstanding, and include historical photos of 2 black military bands; if that's not enough, you'll find more lesson plans at their web site. Highly Recommended!

Every Tone a Testimony: A Smithsonian Folkways African American Aural History. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2001. 2 CDs, plus booklet with extensive notes. Read more at Amazon.com or Download this album or individual songs free at eMusic!

Highly Recommended! 59 tracks (nearly two and a half hours) of material drawn from the Smithsonian Folkways archive, organized to create a history of African American life and culture in sound. Music, poetry, oratory and prose by historically renowned African American musicians, writers and activists spanning two centuries.

Includes Langston Hughes, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B.Du Bois, Margaret Walker, the Fisk Jubliee Singers, Gwendolyn Brooks, Paul Robeson, Muddy Waters, the SNCC Freedom Singers , Martin Luther King, Jr, Angela Davis, Nikki Giovanni, and Arrested Development. Writers who predate recorded sound are also represented by historical recordings; for example, Arna Bontemps reads writings of Lucy Terry, Ruby Dee reads Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells-Barnett. (I was impressed with the equal representation of women throughout the project.)

Folk tracks trace the development of African American music: for example, there's a "field call" by Annie Grace Horn Dodson, and a "complaint call" by Enoch Brown. Percy Randolph performs a shoe shining song, and the Inmates Of Ramsey Retrieve State Farms perform a work song.

As if that's not enough for under $25, it also includes an extensive booklet with supplemental material. See also link to Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Say It Loud: A Celebration of Black Music in America. Various Artists. 6 discs with notes. Rhino Records, 2001. New and used copies also available at Amazon.com where you can also see all the tracks and listen to samples of many.

Roughly chronological, this collection covers many genres and includes sound bites from luminaries such as Booker T. Washington and Paul Robeson. Ragtime, pop ballads, big bands, bop, gospel, doo-wop, rock & roll, soul from Motown, Memphis, and Philly, civil-rights-era jazz, funk, and rap...it's all here. My one gripe is the same with every collection of African American music: no representation by classical composers such as William Grant Still. To address this omission, I've devoted and entire page in my web site to Black classical composers.

The Long Road to Freedom: An Anthology of Black Music. Harry Belafonte (and 50 other musicians!) Buddah, 2001. 80 tracks on 5 CDs, a bonus DVD, and a 140 page hard-bound book. Read more at Amazon.com or Download this album or individual songs free at eMusic!

Researched and recorded between 1961 and 1971, this collection traces the history of black music from the late 1600's to the 20th Century. It covers the roots of African music, chants, shouts and early spirituals, Louisiana Creole music and a re-creation of a slave Christmas, songs from the Underground Railroad and Civil War era, rural and urban roots music, game and children's songs, work songs, minstrel songs and more

These are not field recordings: they are contemporary recordings made based upon field recordings. As one who has spent innumerable hours straining to decipher those old recordings myself, I must say that Belafonte and crew have done a fantastic job of bringing the music to life, creating a sound that is both satisfying to the modern ear, yet authentic and respectful to the original material. (The music has NOT, for example, been modernized stylistically. Hurrah for that!) Belafonte simply captured in a modern era what might have been captured in, say, 1866 had modern recording equipment been available. And he prepared himself for this task by speaking with the then modern practitioners of the art: sharecroppers, men in chain gangs, blacks whose parents had been slaves.

White, Shane and Graham White. The Sounds of Slavery: Discovering African American History through Songs, Sermons and Speech. Beacon Press, 2005. Includes 18-track CD. (High School - Adult) Read more and Order at Amazon.com See my full review under Books

Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration - Various Artists, CD, Warner Bros. 1995 Order at Amazon.com or Download this album or individual songs free at eMusic!

Soulful, joyful - gosh, there aren't too many CDs in my collection I play as often as this one! The overture offers "A partial history of black music" and sets the stage for the various interpretations of Handel's masterpiece created by a veritable Who's Who of contemporary black artists from all genres: Stevie Wonder, Al Jarreau, Patti Austin, Tramaine Hawkins, Dianne Reeves, the Harlem Boys Choir, just to name a few. The"Hallelujah Chorus" includes Stephanie Mills, Johnny Mathis, Joe Sample, Gladys Knight, Linda Hopkins, Andrae Crouch, Clifton Davis, and Chaka Khan and more.

Paul Robeson - The Peace Arch Concerts, Freedom Train and more! See all his titles available at Amazon.com or Download albums or individual songs free at eMusic!

Paul Robeson (1898-1976) was the first black man to present a concert program consisting entirely of African-American spirituals. Joseph Kern wrote "Old Man River" for him to sing, and he was the first black man to portray Othello on Broadway. Both albums feature extensive liner notes telling Robeson's story, and the story behind the music on the albums. "These albums are more than just music. They are living, singing history."

 

Singing in the African American Tradition - Ysaye Barnwell (CDs or Cassettes) Amazon.com

You'll learn how to sing multiple parts-melodies, harmonies, rhythms and counter-melodies-to more than 20 inspiring songs: African chants, spirituals, gospel songs and anthems of the American civil rights and South African freedom movements. Ysaye Barnwell, of Sweet Honey In The Rock, teaches the vocal parts one at a time. Then, you can choose whether to sing along with the melody or one of five or six distinct harmony parts. These lessons are wonderful for individuals, choirs, church, camp and community groups who want to participate in this powerful and uplifting singing tradition.

Learn to Play Gospel Piano. Taught by Ethel Caffie-Austin. DVD or VHS. Homespun 2003. Read more at Amazon.com

Ethel teaches the basic melody of a hymn or spiritual, and then adds the chords and bass lines that will give the song a solid rhythmic foundation. Finally, by adding intros, runs, harmonies, fills and turnarounds, you'll create a complete piano arrangement in true gospel style.

The well-known hymns and spirituals you'll be playing include "When the Saints Go Marching In," "Standing in the Need of Prayer," "Angels Keep Watching Over Me," "Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus," "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," "Show Me The Way," "Study War No More," "Jesus is on the Mainline," "Amazing Grace" and other beloved gospel standards.

Learn to Sing the Blues. Gaye Adegbalola (80 min Video) Read more at Amazon.com

W. C. Handy Award-winner Gaye Adegbalola's vocal workshop identifies 17 key points to help a singer put a song across, and provides technical instruction in breathing, vibrato, the "growl," the octave slur and other elements of singing. Songs include "Fishing Blues," "Hear Me Talkin' To Ya," "Down Home Blues," "Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On," "1-800-799-7233," "Dirty Sheets Blues," "Blues is in the House," "Sweet Black Angel," "Coat Hanger Blues," "Staggerlee," "Don't You Feel My Leg" and "C. C. Rider."

Ella Jenkins. Songs, Rhythms & Chants for the Dance. CD. Smithsonian Folkways 2000. Includes booklet with lyrics. Recommended for ages 6-11. Read more at Amazon.com. or Download this album or individual songs free at eMusic!

For more than forty years Ella Jenkins has brought traditional music of all kinds to children and adults. This is a reissue of the historic 1977 recording celebrating all forms of dance - a tribute to Ella's own childhood fascination with music, rhythm and movement. It features 21 tracks of spirituals, chants, blues, and folk songs, plus 9 interview segments with members of Chicago's dance community, including a choreographer and Afro-Cuban dance specialist, a dance therapist and a dance student.

Ella Jenkins and the Goodwill Spiritual Choir of Monumental Baptist Church. African American Folk Rhythms. CD. Smithsonian Folkways 1998. Reissue of Scholastic Records Album No SC7654 1960. Includes booklet with lyrics, notes. Read More at Amazon.com or Download this album or individual songs free at eMusic!

Though she is perhaps best known for her recordings of folk music for children, this CD presents songs that highlight the hardship, struggle, work and religious experience of African Americans. Some are new songs with traditional arrangements, others are very old but newly arranged (such as Maya Angelou's two arrangements of familiar children's songs.)

The Kwanzaa Album. Women of the Calabash. Bermuda Reefs Records, 1998. Madeleine Yayodale Nelson, Marsha Perry Starkes, and Mayra Casales, all vocalists and percussionists. Order or listen at Amazon.com or Download this album or individual songs free at eMusic!

Music inspired by and based upon the ideals, stories and history of Kwanzaa. In addition to a wide range of instrumental pieces, the album features eight specifically chosen vocal performances, ranging from traditional African songs to contemporary composed pieces. A standout for me is "Mya Si Grei", a traditional song which originated in Guyana, sung by enslaved Africans and passed down to their children. The lyrics roughly translate into "Even though we are here in these terrible conditoins, we are still the same proud, noble people we always were." I also enjoyed Jody Gray's a capella arrangement of "Lift Every Voice" performed with the Free Voices of Praise Choir. This is a dynamic, beautiful CD, one I highly recommend to celebrate Black History any time of year.

Sheet Music

Sheet Music Plus - Over 350,000 sheet music titles, digital music, songbooks, scores, tabs, instructional videos and more. Search by artist, title, composer, instrument and more

Lift Every Voice And Sing Arranged by Allen Pote. For Choir. (2-part). Print Music Single (SAB Divisi). Published by Hope Publishing Company. (AG7297) You can listen to a sample online, too.

Lift Every Voice and Sing SATB By Johnson; Lloyd A. Larson. For SATB Choir. Sheet Music. Published by Shawnee Press.

"How To" Instructional CDs and Videos

Singing in the African American Tradition - Ysaye Barnwell (CDs or Cassettes) Amazon.com

You'll learn how to sing multiple parts-melodies, harmonies, rhythms and counter-melodies-to more than 20 inspiring songs: African chants, spirituals, gospel songs and anthems of the American civil rights and South African freedom movements. Ysaye Barnwell, of Sweet Honey In The Rock, teaches the vocal parts one at a time. Then, you can choose whether to sing along with the melody or one of five or six distinct harmony parts. These lessons are wonderful for individuals, choirs, church, camp and community groups who want to participate in this powerful and uplifting singing tradition.

Learn to Play Gospel Piano. Taught by Ethel Caffie-Austin. DVD or VHS. Homespun 2003. Read more at Amazon.com

Ethel teaches the basic melody of a hymn or spiritual, and then adds the chords and bass lines that will give the song a solid rhythmic foundation. Finally, by adding intros, runs, harmonies, fills and turnarounds, you'll create a complete piano arrangement in true gospel style.

The well-known hymns and spirituals you'll be playing include "When the Saints Go Marching In," "Standing in the Need of Prayer," "Angels Keep Watching Over Me," "Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus," "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," "Show Me The Way," "Study War No More," "Jesus is on the Mainline," "Amazing Grace" and other beloved gospel standards.

Learn to Sing the Blues. Gaye Adegbalola (80 min Video) Read more at Amazon.com

W. C. Handy Award-winner Gaye Adegbalola's vocal workshop identifies 17 key points to help a singer put a song across, and provides technical instruction in breathing, vibrato, the "growl," the octave slur and other elements of singing. Songs include "Fishing Blues," "Hear Me Talkin' To Ya," "Down Home Blues," "Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On," "1-800-799-7233," "Dirty Sheets Blues," "Blues is in the House," "Sweet Black Angel," "Coat Hanger Blues," "Staggerlee," "Don't You Feel My Leg" and "C. C. Rider."

 

Videos

Sweet Honey in the Rock: Raise Your Voice (American Masters) Stanley Nelson, Director. PBS 2005 Purchase at PBS

This Grammy Award-winning, all-women, African-American a capella group has been spreading joy, hope, and inspiration through harmonious performances for the past 30 years. Capturing the complex sounds of spirituals, gospel hymns, African chants, and jazz, six accomplished singers combine their voices in heartfelt song. Rooted in the Civil Rights movement, Sweet Honey's music is stepped in the call for justice and messages of peace. More about the show at PBS

I'll Make Me A World. Executive Producer Henry Hampton. 6 Videocassettes, 60 minutes each. PBS Video, 1999.

Profiles African American musicians, artists and authors throughout twentieth century America. Each segment is 60 minutes. Out of print, but widely available at libraries.

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