Re-Searching Black Music

  • Author(s): Spencer, Jon Michael
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 1996-10-21
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Paper: Price $24.95 | Buy Now


“Because of its strong argument for philosophically rethinking black music, I find this work to be a welcome addition to music and culture criticism, and I would highly recommend Re-Searching Black Music as an essential text for scholars and students of black culture studies.”—Cheryl L. Keyes, University of California, Los Angeles


In this provocative book, Jon Michael Spencer offers a new paradigm for the study of African American music. Proceeding from the proposition that black culture in America cannot be considered apart from its religious and philosophical roots, Spencer argues that “theology and musicology serving together” can form the basis of a holistic, integrative approach to black music and, indeed, to black culture in all its aspects.

As he shows in his opening chapters, Spencer’s scholarly method– theomusicology—derives from two fundamental, intertwined attributes of African American culture: its underlying rhythmicity and its thoroughly religious nature. The author then applies this approach to the folk, popular, and classical music produced by black Americans. Finally, he considers the ethical implications that his “re-searching” of black music uncovers. “[A] spiritual archaeology of music leads to a recognition that we are estranged from ourselves,” he writes. “This estrangement has occurred by virtue of our maintaining a doctrine of belief that sides the sacred, spiritual, and religious in respective opposition to the profane, sexual, and cultural. The recognition of this estrangement should propel us toward reconciliation, for it is the natural impulse of the ethical agent to resolve life’s tensions in pursuit of human happiness.”

While Spencer’s own focus is on music, he argues persuasively that theomusicology can serve as a “common mode of inquiry” for all African American cultural studies. Thus, Re-Searching Black Music is certain to stimulate discussion, debate, and further study in a broad range of scholarly arenas.


Jon Michael Spencer (renamed Yahya Jongintaba) is Professor of Religion and Humanities in the School of Religion at Bethune-Cookman University, in Daytona Beach, Florida.  He is the author of several other books.