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The Gift to Be Simple: Songs, Dances and Rituals of the American Shakers
The Gift to Be Simple Songs Dances and Rituals of the American Shakers Author:Edward Deming Andrews This is the only full and authoratative account of Shaker music, a curious phenomenon that was partly traditional, partly inspirational. Through an examination of the quaint and colorful songs sung by these fervent men and women and a discussion of the highly imaginative rituals and dances they performed, the book successfully recaptures the sp... more »irit of these humble and devout people.
A short introduction shows the development of the movement from its beginning (about 1750) through the time of its greatest influence (the 1840's), to its decline after the Civil War. Then the author discusses the verses of the Shaker songs, where they came from - many were supposedly received through heavenly visions for example - and what sort of rituals and gestures were performed as the songs were sung. Many of the actual texts of the songs are printed here arranged in categories such as hymns and anthems, dance songs, ritualistic and gestural songs, songs in unknown tongues, songs of humility, etc.
The author turns next to the melodies to which the verses were sung, presenting about 80 of them in musical notation and explaining also the eccentric music theory that the Shaker musicians developed (staffless tunes, strange modalities, curious notation system, etc.). The chapter that follows on the numerous kind of Shaker dances - ring, wheel and circular dances, hollow square and square order shuffles, marches - reveals how the dances originated, how the Shakers justified the use of danaces in the worship service, and how the dances changed form over the years. The book ends with a brief note on the extremely infrequent occasions when Shaker music has been performed in public.
Simple in style as its title implies, this book demands no special knowledge or training of any kind in order to be understood and enjoyed. It will be read with keen interest by musicians, hymnologists, religious historians, students of American culture and history and by anyone who is simply interested in reading about an unusual group of people and their highly original way of worship.« less