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Word Count: 2,367
It is almost impossible to identify the author of a spiritual or to pinpoint its original form Typically spirituals are created by nonprofessional musicians changed by other singers and passed along from one generation to the next As the song is passed along it starts to change The changes that take place become a part of the original song and eventually the music takes on a different form Over the span of years the authors names are forgotten The composer who wishes to create a new spiritual has three main choices in creating it Consciously or unconsciously he or she may 1 improvise upon a song already in existence 2 combine material from several old songs to make the new one or 3 compose the song entirely of new materials The African tradition favours the first process Improvisation is a big factor in this tradition that changes are made with each new performance The melody of a song often serves as ever changing structure for the text Slave spirituals were included in the African tradition of improvisation Much of the evidence indicates that a large number of the slave songs represent variations upon a theme Many spirituals are all combinations and variations of other songs No doubt many of these songs were brought over from Africa and passed down from parents to children Almost every contemporary source contains references to slaves born in Africa who helped to keep African traditions alive in their communities Moreover the fact that new slaves were continuously being brought over into the 1860s helped to revive traditions that were in danger of dying out To return to the choices available to the spiritual composer it seems that the black composer might often used the first technique in producing the spirituals Which consisted of taking a spiritual and improvising to create a new spiritual When the Africans were brought over into slavery they were forced to take on their masters religion
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