Music is a subject that has been in a continuous state of flux with numerous evolutions leading to a mega log of changes to the existing musical genres of a time. As such, certain musical genres are known to have existed only at a time before they became overshadowed by relatively emergent genres. Such is the case with the opera genre of music preceded the inception of popular culture genres, which sprouted a little later. It follows, therefore, that music is a time-specific phenomenon whose popularity comes to prominence at a point in time but wanes and loses significance before becoming replaced by relatively newer musical genres. That is the trend that is observable in the rise of the Gothic musical genre around the 1970s and on the other hand, the rise of African American Christian musical genre following the existence of more-white-oriented musical genres in the United States following the end of the World War with that distinction becoming the point of departure in this paper, it becomes crucial to pinpoint that while
The diverse variations noticeable in certain musical genres makes it relatively easier to identify particular musical genres with particular historical periods due to the distinctiveness of the socio-cultural contexts of distinct historical epochs. It is in that light that a musical genre such as Gothic movement era music becomes distinct from such musical genres as punk and among others, the more traditional African American Christian gospel music whose conceptual foundations stretch back to 1920
An examination of the African American Gospel musical genre of reveals characteristics distinct from those that led to say, the rise of the Gothic movement musical genres. Essential to be taken cognizance of is the fact that the cross-cutting theme of the music of the time manifests characteristics that shed light on the plight of the Black community suffered during the recalcitrant period of domination of slavery when Africans were usually sold as commodities to produce for the white plantation farms in places as far as the Americas. Due to the fact that they were more detached from their homeland and more integrated into the European acquired culture, it follows that Blacks both form the Southern and Northern states became incorporated into the Christian religion though they tended to devise their very own musical test that identified with the Black community in a way that would rally them toward a common history, identity and culture as well as plight. That is the reason flattened why flattened tones common to the African American vocal traditions dominated Thomas Dorsey’s music beyond his, “The Lord Will Make a Way” (Legg 54) which is compared against Dracula, a Gothic era song by Bram Stocker (2010).
Comparing and Contrasting Gothic Era Musical Genre and African American Gospel Musical Genre
The “Gothic” movement as the name suggests seems to have a rooting in the term “ghosts”-a feature that dominates the film as well as the music produced at the time. It is a musical genre that is depicted by often if not always somber and despondent moods in what appears to be an affinity for “ghost figures”-which could be unreal and intangible but feared and portrayed as real and existent especially in the movies of the time. It is in that light that Carpenter (13) postulates that Gothic music is usually depicted as not only somber and sadistic but also sinister, moody and melancholic. Such prominent characteristics appear throughout Gothic music and film in, what appears to be a trait that makes the genre relatively distinct from other musical genres. That is in contrast to the relatively more flamboyant African American gospel music, which is in most cases characterized by a tendency towards incorporating ululations into the dominant modes of praise and worship.
A common denominator in Gothic music revolves around the fact that both its producers, composers, distributors, and fans regard it as being of a “dark” (Van Elferen, 14) context-signifying that the domain revolves around a relatively terrifying subject matter that not only appears as frightening but also threatening in some way. Taking cognizance of a similar observation is Carpenter (12) who contends that the evocation of sound and music within the parlance of Gothic culture usually serves a variety of objectives such as accompanying the distortion of time besides giving audibility to the Gothic Ghosts. That seemingly contrasts with African American Gospel music, which is seemingly tied to a perceived Supreme Being invisible to humankind but who deserves to be worshipped as well as obeyed as per the biblical teachings of “the Word” of God. That is why Dorsey’s (2013 n.p) lyrics, which capture the essence of the former plight of African Americans as a people redeemed by God contrast with those in the Dracula by Stocker (2010 n.p), which project an affinity towards Ghosts and the feared world of mystery as is thought of the proverbial “Dracula”. In that essence, the two Genres-Gothic eras musical genre on the one hand and the African American gospel musical genre on the other, which comes out as being relatively older when juxtaposed to the former come out as two contrasting genres of music. However, the most illustrious aspect of their distinctiveness is the fact that their themes contrast with each other. While Gothic musical genres capture a world ridden with ghosts, African American musical genres appear to be revolving around a religious and more precisely on the power of a perceived All-Knowing and all-powerful God.
Narrowing down to the lyrical aspects of African American musical genre music by Dorsey as evinced in his song– “The Lord will make a Way,” and Stocker’s Gothic musical genre christened, “Dracula,” it becomes manifest that further contrasts manifest albeit with compendious differences if such exist. In that respect, it is worth observing that Dorsey’s lyrics connote the use of more-relatively easy-to-comprehend and follow tessitura as well as the use of pentatonic scale for even an average worshipper to follow through as compared to the lyrical aspects manifest in Stocker’s song-Dracula.
Another critical aspect of Dorsey’s musical composition is the fact that his lyrical composition’s content reveals assimilated aspects of not only a textual and rhythmic nature but also of a harmonic orientation that is as well melodic
Bram, Stoker. “Dracula (Love Song for A Vampire).” YouTube, Uploaded by Jeeves and Glory, 11 November 2010, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMaZa1rR6fI
Carpenter, Alexander . Reviewed Work(s): Gothic Music: The Sounds of the Uncanny by Isabella van Elferen. New York: Music Library Association, 2014.
Legg, Andrew John. The Trans-culturalization of African American Gospel Music: The Context and Culture of Gospel Traditions in Australian Gospel Music. Hobart: University of Tasmania, 2017.
Thomas, Dorsey, A. and Marion, Williams. “The Lord Will Make A Way Somehow.” YouTube, uploaded by Pannellctp Traditional Gospel Music, 7 Jan 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JOv9mTCl7k.
Van Elferen, Isabella. Gothic music: The sounds of the uncanny. University of Wales Press, 2012.