Friday, July 3, 2015

turn it up, that's enough, so you know it's got soul

"Onstage, you don't think, you feel."
> Keith Richards

------------------------- [excerpts, Sweet Soul Music, by Peter Guralnick] -----------------

[from author's introduction]

Here is what I thought soul music was when I first started writing this book.  "Soul music," in British writer Clive Anderson's orthodox and not imperceptive formulation, "is made by black Americans and elevates 'feeling' above all else. 

It began in the late fifties, secularized gospel embracing blues profanity, and dealt exclusively with that most important subject, the vagaries of love.  The sound remains in church.  More often than not soul is in ballad form and employs certain gospel and blues techniques -- call and response patterns, hip argot and inflection, melismatic delivery. 

It is a completely vocal art. . . . Soul assumes a shared experience, a relationship with the listener, as in blues, where the singer confirms and works out the feelings of the audience.  In this sense it remains sacramental."

[excerpt 2]

It is not, however (contrary to most received opinion), a music of uninhibited emotional release -- though at times it comes close.  What it offers, rather, is something akin to the "knowledgeable apprehension," in Alfred Hitchcock's famous definition of suspense,

that precedes the actual climax, that everyone knows is coming -- it's just nobody is quite sure when.  Soul music is a music that keeps hinting at a conclusion,

keeps straining at the boundaries -- of melody and convention -- that it has imposed upon itself.

[excerpt 3]

Unquestionably the racial turmoil of the south was a factor, and the rapid social upheaval which it foreshadowed;

in fact, the whole tangled racial history of the region, the intimate terms on which it lived with its passions and contradictions,

played a decisive role in the forging of a new culture, one which the North's polite lip service to liberalism could never have achieved.  Ultimately soul music derives, I believe, from the Southern dream of freedom.


{Sweet Soul Music.  Peter Guralnick.  1986, Back Bay Books / Little, Brown and Co.  New York, NY.}


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