Please join us this coming Thursday, 4/14/2016 for a presentation by Braxton Shelley, a PhD candidate in the Department of Music. His presentation is titled “A Sacred Symbol: The Gospel Vamp’s Divine Choreography.” Braxton will introduce his dissertation chapter, which you can find here. Please focus on pages 17-27 in particular.
As usual, the workshop will be held at 4:30pm in Room 205, Goodspeed Hall (1010 E 59th St), and light refreshments will be served.
In this chapter, I develop a theory of the relationship between the gospel vamp and “shouting,” a referent for holy dancing among many African American Christians. After contextualizing the brand of movement that is often coincident with gospel performance historically and culturally, I shape an understanding of “shouting” as the embodied performance of transcendence. Analyzing the interpenetration of music and movement in a communion service at Chicago’s Greater Harvest Missionary Baptist Church, I will point out the “theology of sound” that underpins these practices, reading these phenomena through the work of theologians ranging from Thomas Aquinas, Louis Marie Chauvet and Yves Congar to J. Kameron Carter and Ashon Crawley. The pneumatology implied by gospel performance will come into sharper relief through analyses of performances of Lashun Pace’s “In Everything Give Thanks” and Glenn Burleigh’s “The Name.” In these performances, I am interested in the ability of the vamp, when modified, to substitute for shouting music. Building on Lawrence Zbikowski’s work in cognitive musicology, I will propose that the gospel vamp functions as a sonic analog to “shouting.” I will argue that through its relationship to these transcendent movements, the vamp accrues for itself something of the sacred: it becomes a kind of sonic sacrament by choreographing physical encounter with the divine.