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A taxonomy of musical gesture in African American gospel music


Legg, AFJ, A taxonomy of musical gesture in African American gospel music, Popular Music, 29, (1) pp. 103-129. ISSN 0261-1430 (2010) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright © 2010 Cambridge University Press

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DOI: doi:10.1017/s0261143009990407


African American gospel music seems without obvious parallel as a musical and social phenomenon of the twentieth century. It is a powerful musical and ‘spiritual’ expression that is to a larger extent defined by the musical style, vocal techniques and performance practices of one of it’s central figures; the gospel singer. Although these originally African American gospel vocal techniques and practices have now also significantly influenced the development of contemporary popular music and the broader gospel vocal style, the specific terminology used to describe them lacks precise definition, and also highlights the failure of conventional notation in successfully capturing or representing them. This article seeks then to firstly define and annotate some of the key descriptive terms commonly applied to African American gospel singing techniques in order that greater consistency and clarity can be achieved in relation to their usage within contemporary popular music research. Secondly, it will also introduce an analytical notational system, accompanied by a series of annotated musical transcriptions, that forms the basis of the author’s taxonomy of musical gesture for African American gospel music, and which may provide a framework for comparative analytical research within the field of gospel-inspired contemporary popular music.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Taxonomy, African American Gospel Music, Southern Gospel Choir
Research Division:Creative Arts and Writing
Research Group:Music
Research Field:Musicology and ethnomusicology
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Arts
Objective Field:Music
UTAS Author:Legg, AFJ (Associate Professor Andrew Legg)
ID Code:67616
Year Published:2010
Web of Science® Times Cited:4
Deposited By:Conservatorium of Music
Deposited On:2011-03-05
Last Modified:2015-02-10
Downloads:3 View Download Statistics

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