A Song’s Role

Both the Times Free Press and Florida Theater On Stage articles detail a performance put on by M Ensemble of James Weldon Johnson’s God’s Trombones, a book of poems influenced by traditional African American religious rhetoric. They both make some important points that make you wonder about the role that music plays in the black church. In general music conveys emotion, insights imagination, and triggers memories. Some might even call it a universal language because of peoples ability to infer about a song based on its base elements and structure. African American gospel is meant to attract, unite, and serve as a vessel for spiritual transportation. The songs are simple, easy to learn, and covey a message.

Death’s Black Train is Coming – Reverend J.M. Gates

Original I interpreted Death’s Black Train is Coming as a warning telling why you should prepare for death. After reading the articles I’ve come to a different understanding. The moving train represents your life’s journey and the stopped train is death. There are 2 trains, 1 going to heaven (God’s train) and 1 going to hell (the devil’s train). People are all sinners and they are all on the devil’s train until they repent which grants them a ticket onto the morning train (God’s train). So the song is not just a warning of why you should prepare for death it’s a revelation of how to break free from the Devil’s train.

1 thought on “A Song’s Role

  1. Excellent work describing the symbolism of the trains! It’s easy to see how what was such a powerful and striking image in its time was even able to motivate congregations and audiences spiritually.

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