GRE General Test: RC-844374 GRE Reading Comprehension

This is not to deny that the Black gospel music of the early twentieth century differed in important ways from the slave spirituals. Whereas spirituals were created and disseminated in folk fashion, gospel music was composed, published, copyrighted, and sold by professionals. Nevertheless, improvisation remained central to gospel music. One has only to listen to the recorded repertoire of gospel songs to realize that Black gospel singers rarely sang a song precisely the same way twice and never according to its exact musical notation. They performed what jazz musicians call “head arrangements” proceeding from their own feelings and from the way “the spirit” moved them at the time. This improvisatory element was reflected in the manner in which gospel music was published. Black gospel composers scored the music intended for White singing groups fully, indicating the various vocal parts and the accompaniment, but the music produced for Black singers included only a vocal line and piano accompaniment.
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