A New Perspective for the Use of Dialect in African American Spirituals: History, Context, and Linguistics investigates the use of the African American English (AAE) dialect in the musical genre of the spiritual. Perfect for conductors and performers alike, this book traces the history of the dialect, its use in early performance practice, and the sociolinguistic impact of the AAE dialect in the United States. Felicia Barber explores AAE’s development during the African Diaspora and its correlations with Southern States White English (SSWE) and examines the dialect’s perception and how its weaponization has impacted the performance of the genre itself. She provides a synopsis of research on the use of dialect in spirituals from the past century through the analysis of written scores, recordings, and research. She identifies common elements of early performance practice and provides the phonological and grammatical features identified in early practice. This book contains practical guide for application of her findings on ten popular spiritual texts using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). It concludes with insights by leading arrangers on their use of AAE dialect as a part of the genre and practice.
Felicia Raphael Marie Barber is director of choral activities at Westfield State University.
Preface: An Introduction in Purpose
Foreword by Dr. Andre Thomas
List of Figures
List of Tables
Chapter 1Sociolinguistics: It is a Matter of Perception
Chapter 2Acquisition of Languages Established as a Result of the African Diaspora
Chapter 3Establishing Performance Practice Part I: Researchers
Chapter 4Establishing Performance Practice Part II: Dialect Employed in the Text
Chapter 5Establishing Performance Practice Part III: Aural History – Transcriptions of Early Sound Recordings
Chapter 6Trace History of Dialect in Four Specific Scores
Chapter 7Research Findings Regarding Use of AAE Dialect in Spirituals: A Practical Application
Chapter 8Moving Forward: Insight from Modern Arrangers and Next Steps
About the Author
About the Contributors
This unique and critically important text offers the sociocultural context needed for understanding dialect and its use in African American Spirituals. Barber describes the painful reality of the acquisition of African American English through the African Diaspora, while also presenting the language as “a beautiful marriage of features found in both African and English languages.” The author de-politicizes the use of dialect in song by situating it in the study of linguistics while simultaneously keeping central the inherent political and social implications for racial equality, inclusion, and diversity in our musical landscape. Barber’s approach sheds a bright light on linguistic biases and the profound impact they have on the way we hear, select, perform, and study music. This text is an invitation to all who wish to engage in thinking critically about race, language, and the African American Spiritual.