Chariot: (n) a two-wheeled horse-drawn vehicle used in ancient warfare and racing.

“Negro spiritual. “

It’s not exactly an oxymoron, but within the two words there seems to be a contradiction of purpose.

After all, if you were a Negro, you might find it difficult to be spiritual to those who decided to know you only by that term.

Yet a race of people who were beaten, subjugated, raped and sometimes nearly starved managed to get around a fire late at night when their persecutors had retired to the Big House, and come up with songs which we now display in our religious catalogues today.

  • “Let My People Go”
  • “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”
  • And of course, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”

Even though the songs are melodic, harmonic and perhaps even rhythmic, they all carry a central theme: “Dear God, I hope they stop beating me and if they won’t, I hope you kill me soon.”

You can be sympathetic to their plight.

“Swing low, sweet chariot,

Comin’ for to carry me home…”

A pretty simple passage: “Since there’s no solution here on Earth, since the Massa has the whip and since my family can be sold at a moment’s notice, maybe it would be wise to begin Eternity really soon.”

Negro spiritual–a music that tells us where people find solace when other humans abandon and mistreat them.

It is soulful, it is seeking and it is sad.

I can’t listen to the song about the chariot without realizing that my ancestors made the singer want to die.




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by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

Absonent: (adj.) discordant or unreasonable.

Actually, my “discordant brothers and sisters” in music thought I was the unreasonable one. Almost universally, they decided to pursue a life of making absonent compositions that were completely atonal and vacant melodic and harmonic tenderness. They contended that all the possible linkage of notes had already been achieved, and anything done now would simply be a rehashing of former inspiration.

I just found it sad. It’s very similar to going to a meeting and having the moderator inform all those attending that it was decided not to do much of anything because everything that was brought up seemed to be either impossible or just a remake of old ideas.

When did we become so cynical? When did we discover we lacked faith in the abilities that pulsate through our bodies–so much so that we can’t take the chance that something original could spring through our gray matter? Why do people feel intelligent nowadays by finding reasons that things should not work instead of taking the time to champion a cause and risk trying something that could be beneficial?:

I don’t know.

But in a six-year period, I sat down and wrote twelve symphonies. I did. I don’t know if they’re great. I don’t know if someone would listen to them and insist they heard hints of “this and that” and garnishes of “whatever.” In the moment I composed them, they were original to me, and they thrust my soul light-years ahead in awareness and jubilation. That can’t be bad, right?

So the next time you get around someone who insists that the intellectual approach to any situation is to be discordant or nasty, just quietly slip away to your room, write a melody that comes from your heart, and sing it with the confidence that it is yours and yours alone.

For after all, in that moment … it truly is.