MEMETERIA

THOMAS MAY on the arts

America’s Shape-Note Tradition Remade

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Will Robin traces the remarkable impact of the rediscovery of shape-note customs by American composers in the 1930s and also points to how today’s young generation of composers — Sam Amidon, Sufjan Stevens, Gabriel Kahane, Matt Marks, and David T. Little — is adding their own perspective to this legacy:

Today’s young musicians don’t seem particularly interested in the Billings strain or the patriotic fervor of the Yankee tunesmiths and the Bicentennial that renewed them. They are, instead, children of the 1970s revivalists… In absorbing the style and sound of Sacred Harp as sung today, [this] generation recasts a vibrant tradition for a new audience, pointing towards a true style for the 21st century.

Filed under: American music

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