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Music of the African Diaspora #8: Lining Out the Word: Dr. Watts Hymn Singing in the Music of Black Americans


Music of the African Diaspora #8: Lining Out the Word: Dr. Watts Hymn Singing in the Music of Black Americans Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

This book, a milestone in American music scholarship, is the first to take a close look at an important and little-studied component of African American music, one that has roots in Europe, but was adapted by African American congregations and went on to have a profound influence on music of all kinds—from gospel to soul to jazz. “Lining out,” also called Dr. Watts hymn singing, refers to hymns sung to a limited selection of familiar tunes, intoned a line at a time by a leader and taken up in turn by the congregation. From its origins in seventeenth-century England to the current practice of lining out among some Baptist congregations in the American South today, William Dargans study illuminates a unique American music genre in a richly textured narrative that stretches from Isaac Watts to Aretha Franklin and Ornette Coleman.

Lining Out the Word traces the history of lining out from the time of slavery, when African American slaves adapted the practice for their own uses, blending it with other music, such as work songs. Dargan explores the role of lining out in worship and pursues the cultural implications of this practice far beyond the limits of the church, showing how African Americans wove African and European elements together to produce a powerful and unique cultural idiom. Drawing from an extraordinary range of sources—including his own fieldwork and oral sources—Dargan offers a compelling new perspective on the emergence of African American music in the United States.

Copub: Center for Black Music Research


A definitive study of the influence of hymnody on the history of African American music.

About the Author

William T. Dargan is Professor of Music at Saint Augustines College.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations




Part I. The Proverbial Trees: Patterns of Change in African American Music Making

1. “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”: Part I: Congregational Singing as a Worship Ethos for Dr. Watts Hymns

2. “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”: Part II: Regional Style Traditions of Dr. Watts Hymn Singing

3. “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past”: The Tradition of Dr. Watts in English Historical Perspective

4. “Father, I Stretch My Hands to Thee”: The Tradition of Dr. Watts in African Historical Perspective

5. “I Love the Lord, He Heard My Cries”: The Role of Dr. Watts Hymns in the Musical Acculturation of African Americans

6. “Go Preach My Gospel, Saith the Lord”: Words as Movers and Shakers in African American Music

Part II. The Proverbial Forest: Webs of Significance in African American Music Making

7. “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say”: The Singing Life of the Reverend Doctor C.{ths}J. Johnson (1913–90)

8. “Come Ye That Love the Lord”: The Lining Out–Ring Shout Continuum and the Five-Key Sequence

9. “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”: The Lining Out–Ring Shout Continuum beyond Church Walls


Appendix A. Selection of Transcribed and Discussed Performances

Appendix B. Partial Annotated List of Recorded Lining-Out Performances Held in the Archive of Folk Culture, Library of Congress





Product Details

Dargan, William T.
University of California Press
Church music
Hymns, English
Ethnic Studies - African American Studies - Histor
History & Criticism - General
Religious - Hymns
African Americans - History and criticism
Hymns, English -- Southern States.
General Music
Music-Religious and Gospel
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Music of the African Diaspora
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
Professional and scholarly
2 halftones, 25 music examples, 9 tables
9 x 6 x 1 in 1.07 lb

Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Music » Genres and Styles » Religious » Hymns
Arts and Entertainment » Music » History and Criticism
History and Social Science » African American Studies » General
History and Social Science » World History » General
Religion » Comparative Religion » General

Music of the African Diaspora #8: Lining Out the Word: Dr. Watts Hymn Singing in the Music of Black Americans New Hardcover
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Product details 337 pages University of California Press - English 9780520234482 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , A definitive study of the influence of hymnody on the history of African American music.
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