Sounding Spirit

sounding spirit

Project Overview

The Sounding Spirit project focuses on sacred music before and after the turn of the 20th century. Expressive of broad social politics, sacred music was wracked by the era's debates over genre, notation system, and the place and purposes of music in worship and public life. "Sounding Spirit" delves closely into songbooks containing the music of Native Americans, European Americans, and African Americans and explores the diverse and changing music genres, bibliographic forms, and notation systems then in use.

"Sounding Spirit: Scholarly Editions from the Southern Sacred Music Diaspora, 1850 - 1925" will make available in open access digital editions and companion print editions currently inaccessible books of highly significant religious music in the United States from an era of dramatic change in American religion, music, and culture that has previously escaped scholarly editing and critical scrutiny.

These widely influential texts representing popular religious music genres will be edited, richly annotated with text and multimedia, and paired with in-depth critical introductions. Sounding Spirit editions will be published by the University of North Carolina Press in state-of-the-art, open access, digital scholarly editions using the Readux platform and hardcover print editions.

Planned volumes include:

  • Words-only hymnal Nakcokv Esyvhiketv: Muskokee Hymns (1851)
  • Spirituals collection Jubilee Songs (1872)
  • Gospel songbooks Class, Choir, and Congregation (1888) and Soul Echoes, No. 2 (1909)
  • Shape-note tunebook Original Sacred Harp (1911)

Each volume will be complemented by dozens of related works presented as digital facsimile editions and available for print on demand.

Project Highlights

Emory Partners

Library and Information Technology Services (LITS): Software Development Team

Pitts Theology Library

Robert W. Woodruff Library: Digitization and Digital Curation

Additional Partners University of North Carolina Press
Funding Mellon Foundation
Project Contacts Sounding Spirit website

ABBYY FineReader


Key Contributions

ECDS projects advance Emory University's mission through research, pedagogy, publishing, and public scholarship.


The site provides scholars of history, musicology, folklore, regional studies, and religious studies with access to key texts. Its emphasis on genre, race, region, and denomination facilitates comparative analysis of primary sources that are largely inaccessible today.

Pedagogy Sounding Spirit offers insights into intersections of race, religion, region, and music in the United States at a time of dramatic demographic and cultural change.
Public Scholarship As open access digital editions, Sounding Spirit volumes are accessible to contemporary communities of practice engaged in singing spirituals, lined-out hymns, and from shape-note and gospel songbooks.