Resound – “Black History”
Black History, a compelling medley in the unique Resound style, tells a story of struggle and hope, from slavery through civil rights, to the present day. The songs are deeply spiritual, overtly Christian in tone, yet sung with an intention for universality. Resound is coming from the African-American community of Richmond, a city with past and present systems of racism, in a country with past and present systems of racism, with the knowledge that their experience will speak to the struggles of all humanity.
The whole purpose of Black History is for us to touch the world. Our videos often show us singing, arranging, laughing, and joking, but we are very aware of what’s going on, and we want to show the world that we see, we’re here, we got it, shedding light on it, spreading hope, spreading unity. We can’t call ourselves Christians if we don’t do that. We don’t want to be Christians who ignore our problems.
– Mariah Hargrove, Resound
Selecting certain significant titles was itself a political statement: the struggles facing the black community in America today are real and as important – and in some ways exactly the same – as those addressed by the Civil Rights Movement, and the political and religious histories of the movement are inextricably linked: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Christian pastor. Gospel songs have a double impact and carry political and spiritual weight.
Resound took a chronological approach, not necessarily in order of composition date, but a thematic progression for narrative effect. The track opens with a few hummed lines of Lift Every Voice and Sing, the Black National Anthem, a cornerstone of this spiritual and political tradition. The humming is intentional, to reference the quietness of slaves in many situations, undergoing the repression of music and soul. I Want Jesus to Walk With Me was picked out of a hymnbook when the group was on the road, a traditional spiritual to represent the darkness of slavery as a whole, in my trials, in my sorrows, in my troubles. The stomps that introduce the transition to Lay Down My Burdens carry multiple meanings, echoing the chain gang rhythm, and creating the atmosphere of an early church service. The song’s message and its uplifting melody offer a sign of hope, but by a future event, not a present reality.
Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand declares the roots of gospel music, the three vamping and expanding on the melody, clapping added both for syncopation and sound effect. Now we’re really in church. The medley is threaded throughout with dazzling individual performances, but the strength of Resound is always in the whole, the sound of three in one. Glory, the John Legend song from the film Selma brings us to the present, the present where the past is always with us. The men and women of the Civil Rights Movement were American heroes, a truth which can still be lost even at the highest level of government today. The song is mournful and aching, a declaration of hope colored by the stains of history. It’s a moment that shows Resound’s ability to transcend technical prowess and achieve an emotional communication that is timeless and rare. The journey closes with that February staple, a statement of power that is frustratingly as relevant as ever, We Shall Overcome.
There wouldn’t be a Spacebomb without gospel music. Its historical significance and direct role in the development of pop and rock has been well documented, but still underappreciated. Both in bigger genre progressions down to specific details like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a Gibson SG-wielding gospel guitar hero who directly influenced the Beatles. Gospel’s continued presence as a vibrant and complete music is remarkable. It has everything: melody, harmony, rhythm, form, improvisation, arrangement, an incredibly wide range of emotion and dynamics, it can be very complicated or very simple, it can contain experimentation, it has a sense of history, but is not held down by the past. Other kinds of music don’t have that range, that ability to facilitate technical prowess and still communicate pure emotion.
– Matthew E. White, Spacebomb