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Development of the African American Gospel Piano Style (1926-1960): A Socio-Musical Analysis of Arizona Dranes and Thomas A. Dorsey

Johnson, Idella Lulamae (2009) Development of the African American Gospel Piano Style (1926-1960): A Socio-Musical Analysis of Arizona Dranes and Thomas A. Dorsey. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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DEVELOPMENT OF THE AFRICAN AMERICAN GOSPEL PIANO STYLE(1926-1960): A SOCIO-MUSICAL ANALYSIS OFARIZONA DRANES AND THOMAS A. DORSEYIdella Lulamae Johnson, PhDUniversity of Pittsburgh, 2009African-American gospel music has long been recognized as a vocal music, and its piano accompaniment has also been an indispensable and important component in shaping and defining the genre. This dissertation traces and examines the historical and stylistic development of the gospel piano style from 1926 to 1960. Arizona Dranes and Thomas A. Dorsey are highlighted as two of the earliest and formidable practitioners who aided in codifying and promulgating the gospel piano style. The four primary areas of investigation include: 1) explicating the musical development of the piano style from 1926 to 1960 through the pianistic styles of twenty-three gospel pianists; 2) providing biographical information on over twenty-five gospel pianists; 3) examining the sacred versus secular dichotomy through musical similarities and differences that exist between the gospel piano style and other popular, African-American piano styles; and 4) presenting an ethnographic exploration of the musical and sociohistorical roles of gospel pianists. Each area of inquiry is informed by methods in Ethnomusicology and Musicology, and augmented by methodologies in African-American Studies, Anthropology, and Sociology. Wilson's work on conceptual approaches to African and African-American music-making (1974, 1984, 1992), and Gates' work on Signifying (1988) provide the major theoretical framework for the musical analysis.Fifty-five recordings of various gospel pianists, representing nine sub-styles, are transcribed and analyzed in order to define and delineate established practices, techniques, idiomatic harmonic movement, and shared motives, riffs, and "fill-ins" -- all which are important in establishing a stylistic and performance canon for the gospel piano style. Eleven motivic techniques that are endemic and idiomatic to the foundation and development of the gospel piano style are identified. The gospel piano style is grouped into three historical periods. Dranes and Dorsey define the first period with twenty-six musical characteristics, thirteen musical characteristics define the second period, and ten musical characteristics define the third.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Johnson, Idella
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairDavis, Nathan
Committee MemberEuba, Akin
Committee MemberWeintraub, Andrew
Committee MemberGlasco, Laurence
Date: 1 October 2009
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 8 June 2009
Approval Date: 1 October 2009
Submission Date: 14 August 2009
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Music
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: american history; black studies; music analysis
Other ID:, etd-08142009-114258
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:59
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:49


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