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, in successive chapters, to the folk, popular, and classical music produced by black Americans. Finally, he considers the ethical implications that this "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."