Awake My Soul

Awake My Soul

Awake My Soul

Original Soundtrack

Awake Productions

Finally, the sacred and the profane share common ground in joyful noise! I was heartened to receive a copy of the new documentary on Sacred Harp singing, Awake, My Soul, and this accompanying two-disc (!) soundtrack. Sacred Harp, or shaped note, singing is one of the oldest enduring forms of American music — over 200 years — making its way from England, to New England, and finally the American South, where it found a home in Southern churches. Despite the name, there are no instruments involved in Sacred Harp singing: it is an a capella singing style built around four-part vocal harmonies. More communal than traditional forms of gospel and choral singing, it does not require a director or leader; when a church congregation sings the Sacred Harp, everyone in the building enthusiastically participates, getting caught up in the waves of loud, boisterous, reverberating sound.

The first time I heard Sacred Harp music, I was fucking floored. This was like no staid church music I had ever encountered before! This was an alien/outsider sound, completely bucking traditional notions of dynamics and choral techniques for a rousing, rough-hewn cacophony that is as ecstatic and strong as it is tremendously sad. More Phil Spector than the Gaither Family, more Velvet Underground than Mormon Tabernacle Choir, this is a wall of human sound, all booming, discordant exuberance. The imperfections in one human voice could be turned into a thing of sanctified beauty when belted out unabashedly and multiplied by the many. If enough people are singing together wrong, it can suddenly become so right.

The first disc is full of authentic recordings captured at various churches by the filmmakers, Matt and Erica Hinton. It’s immaculate. The recordings and performances are every bit as good as those captured by Alan Lomax for his Southern Journey series. The second disc, a collection of modern artists adapting songs from the Sacred Harp songbook, captures the gravitas and dirt-stained dignity of the music, but somewhat misses all of the raucous din and discordant ecstasy that is the essential ingredient. Though tracks by Danielson (surely the inheritor of the spirit of the Sacred Harp, if there ever was one), Doc Watson and Woven Hand come close to the energy and sound. A very worthy package for an almost forgotten American song craft.

Awake My Soul:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band
    Preservation Hall Jazz Band

    So It Is (Legacy). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • From Montenegro to Moldova: The Best of SEEFest 2017
    From Montenegro to Moldova: The Best of SEEFest 2017

    For the twelfth year, the South East European Film Festival (SEEfest) in Los Angeles showcased an impressive lineup of new features and shorts. Lily and Generoso Fierro provide a festival wrap up and their picks for the films that you cannot miss.

  • Justin Townes Earle
    Justin Townes Earle

    Kids In The Street (New West Records). Review by James Mann.

  • Christian Scott
    Christian Scott

    Rebel Ruler (Ropeadope / Stretch Music). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Kivanç Sezer
    Kivanç Sezer

    Turkish director Kivanç Sezer’s powerful debut feature, My Father’s Wings, puts the spotlight on the workplace safety crisis that is currently taking place in his homeland. Lily and Generoso Fierro spoke with Sezer at SEEFest 2017 about his film and his need to draw attention to this issue.

  • Temples

    Supporting their just-released sophomore record, UK synth-pop poster boys, Temples, attracted an SRO crowd to one of Orlando’s premier nightspots.

  • Rat Film
    Rat Film

    Baltimore. Rats. A match made in Maryland.

  • Bishop Briggs
    Bishop Briggs

    Bishop Briggs brings a stacked bill of up and comers to Orlando for a sold-out party at The Social. Jen Cray joins in the fun.

  • Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World
    Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World

    There’s more than black music influencing the evolution of Rock and Roll. Native American rhymes and ideas are every bit as significant, once you know to look for them.

  • Keith Morris
    Keith Morris

    Ink 19 slings a few questions to the punk rock pioneer Keith Morris on Trump, Calexit and looking back.

From the Archives