Check out this YouTube done by a former professor of mine:
The part I want to draw your attention to is at the end. Note where Dr. Boyer discusses the differences in black vocal expression and white expression of music. He states the use of simpler scales, saying that complex scales are not necessary. He says that the more important aspects are not complex scales, but other expressive elements. He states that black people of African descent usually produce their voices differently from whites of European extraction. Whites usually speak more nasally, seemingly from the front of the mouth, while black voices sound more soft because the vocal sound is produced differently. You can see how he changed his voice to mimic the white voice, then back to the softer black voice, pointing out the difference. He states that this difference is tone quality is an essential element of Gospel music.
He also states the nature of personal expression. That you put yourself into it. I can look back upon my schooling, when I was learning memoir, and realize that when I started out, my writing was stiff and unemotional. This is because I saw writing as a mathematical puzzle. Later, I realized that writing is something you read aloud, that you perform, that you say and must express in a way that is convincing. So I must write convincingly, too.
The Torah is read, or, rather, chanted aloud.
Boyer suggests that personalization is so deeply ingrained in the black music experience that it cannot be separate from it. I wonder how much of this is history, that is, historical memory.
The Seder prayers are spoken and sung aloud, and these are stories passed on from generation to generation.
Check out this other YouTube where Boyer explains the history of the slaves usage of music:
Wicked amazing, eh?
Thinking about historical memory and slavery, and also, actual memory, we who were incarcerated in mental hospitals also have memory of being locked up in horrible places. How did we survive being locked up?
Sometimes, we smoked cigarettes to pass the time. We joked around. We laughed about the staff. Some of our jokes were pretty bad ones, I admit. We shared stories. We even sang. Some patients wrote poems.
The night I spent in restraints, I sang for most of the night. I sang German lieders. I sang Amazing Grace. Then I said the Shema. That is a Jewish prayer. It’s very short and simple. Just one sentence.
Later, years later, the staff decided that certain activities calmed us. I was handed a pencil and a notebook (not a spiral one) and told I could write if I wanted. They noticed this calmed me so I was finally encouraged to write. Ah, that, they realized, would silence me and keep me out of trouble. Little did they know I was writing down every little thing that happened. My words gave me power. I saved those notebooks. Samson’s hair gave him his power. Little did they know.
We survived those places. We managed, didn’t we? May the walls come tumbling down, and they will someday, because we shall overcome.