1st Edition Illustrations of Huck Finn

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Shaped-Note" Singing or "Fasola" Singing

During yesterday's meeting we touched briefly on music. We spoke about O Brother Where Art Thou and the influence music held over that movie. I couldn't help but be reminded of a piece I sang 3 years ago in choir entitled, "David's Lamentation" by William Billings. The piece featured a style of singing called "shape note" singing.

"Shape note" singing is a style which stems from the deep colonial south. The style is based on a way of composing music. In it, notes are given a different shape based on where they are located on the scale. Here is an example:
The style was developed as a way for music students to learn to read music more easily. Although this is often confusing for people who already know how to read music, studies have shown that the form actually does work. (McGill, Lynn D. 1968. A Study of Shape-Note Music as a Resource and as a System of Teaching Music. M.A. thesis, University of Tennessee at Knoxville.)

The piece Idumea is a traditional piece for members of the Sacred Harp Singers to participate in. I say participate, because most of the events today are not in fact performances, but what they call "singings" in which members sit in a square, and each member is invited to take a turn choosing a song and leading the choir. These singings can last anywhere from an hour to all day. In colonial times, these songs would have been sung in singing schools with the express use being to teach members of the community to read music and sing.

You may have heard Shape-Note singing before in the movie Cold Mountain.
Here is the piece shown above:

Here is another piece from the a congregation in Michigan, in which you see that the congregation has been centered around the preacher, and are all pumping their arms up and down to keep time. The piece is sung with enthusiasm and in the traditional square assembly.

For more information, please visit http://fasola.org/, hosted by the Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association.

or look for the movie which was released this year:

and to hear the piece I sang with my choir click here.


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Fiction By Mark Twain

  • A Burlesque Autobiography (1871)
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  • The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873) Co-Authored by Charles Dudley Warner
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  • The Mysterious Stranger (unfinished)
  • The Prince and The Pauper (1881)
  • The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
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Non-Fiction By Mark Twain

  • Following The Equator (1897)
  • Life on The Mississippi (1883)
  • Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant (1885)
  • Roughing It (1872)
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  • The Innocents Abroad or The New Pilgrims' Progress (1869)

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