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Theology, Aesthetics, and CultureResponses to the Work of David Brown$
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Robert MacSwain and Taylor Worley

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199646821

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199646821.001.0001

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Were We Ever Secular? Interrogating David Brown on Gospel, Blues, and Pop Music

Were We Ever Secular? Interrogating David Brown on Gospel, Blues, and Pop Music

(p.169) 13 Were We Ever Secular? Interrogating David Brown on Gospel, Blues, and Pop Music
Theology, Aesthetics, and Culture

Judith S. Casselberry

Oxford University Press

This chapter engages Brown's work through ethnomusicological, performance, and black feminist theories; it argues for 1) reevaluating the significance of gospel and blues in pop/rock musical genealogy; 2) rethinking the relationships between raced and gendered bodies and significations of sacred and secular (profane) in popular cultural production and critique; and 3) critiquing epistemology — how we know what we know. This chapter posits that African American music(s), which evolved from religious contexts, blur boundaries between sacred and secular realms in both musical structures and performance processes, providing ‘musico-sacred gateways’ for ongoing engagement with the sacred. At the same time, African American music that developed in ‘secular’ contexts employs a blues metaphysics, which engages the spiritual in sonic and lyrical content. If a portion of pop music's foundation never completely ridded itself of the Divine — and thus was never ‘secular’ — how might we read its transformations?

Keywords:   African American performance, blues metaphysics, gendered bodies, musical genealogy, musico-sacred gateway, gospel, blues, pop music, David Brown

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