About the Project

Sounding Spirit: Scholarly Editions from the Southern Sacred Music Diaspora will make available connected open access digital editions and companion print editions of five widely influential but currently inaccessible books of Protestant music. The intermingling of black, white, and Native American populations in the southern United States dispersed the music presented in these once-popular songbooks across the country. In critical editions richly annotated with text and multimedia, joined with in-depth introductions, Sounding Spirit engages an era of dramatic change in American religious song. Supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Scholarly Editions and Translations program, and published in state-of-the-art digital as well as hardcover print volumes by Emory Center for Digital Scholarship and the University of North Carolina PressSounding Spirit offers scholars of history, musicology, folklore, regional studies, and religious studies access to key texts and appeals to a general audience, including contemporary populations engaged in similar sacred music making.

Work on three Sounding Spirit volumes is currently underway:

  • Jubilee Songs (1872), edited by Sandra Jean Graham
  • Class, Choir, and Congregation (1888), edited by Kevin Kehrberg and Stephen Shearon
  • Original Sacred Harp (1911), edited by Jesse P. Karlsberg

Read more about the editions in the Sounding Spirit initiative.

Sounding Spirit focuses on gospel music, spirituals, shape-note music, and lined-out hymn singing before and after the turn of the twentieth century, a time of great dramatic demographic and cultural change that shaped intersections of race, religion, region, and music in the United States. These genres refracted these issues and comprise the roots of popular music in the twentieth century. These songbooks, part of the Pitts Theology Library English and American Hymnody and Psalmody Collection, are drawn from different religious groups, include the work of black, white, and Native American contributors, and each represent music using different music notation and book designs, shedding light on the relationship of music forms to identity.

Sounding Spirit’s digital and print scholarly editions will be produced by an expert team, with an editor or pair of coeditors responsible for each of the five featured volumes. Jesse P. Karlsberg, series editor-in-chief, supervises a full editorial board of leading scholars, as well as each individual editor. A project management and technical support staff led by Karlsberg in conjunction with ECDS will support the editors’ work. The University of North Carolina Press will partner with ECDS in publishing, promoting, and disseminating the editions. Read more about the Sounding Spirit staff, editors, board, and institutional partners.