Psychological Keys in the Study of African American Religious Folk Songs in the Early Work of Howard W. Odum (1884–1954)

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This study focuses on the analysis of the early work of Howard W. Odum (1884–1954) and the examination of the psychological aspects that marked his reflection on African American music. This analysis reveals many of the aspects that were generically shared by the psychological agenda of the period when analyzing aesthetic experience and activity. Outstanding among these are the relationship of the musical phenomenon with very basic or primary affective-emotional dimensions, the conception of the musical phenomenon as an indicator of the cognitive-affective development of human groups, its expression in the form of cultural and complex intersubjective products, or its possible participation in the technoscientific design of social reform and progress. The simultaneous treatment of all of these aspects in Odum’s work brings to light the interdisciplinary framework in which early psychology moved, while revealing the theoretical and ideological contradictions and controversies that enveloped the discipline, above all, at the point where it attempted to place itself at the service of the constitution of self-governed individuals. All in all, Odum’s work also reflects the crucial role that early psychology attributed to art as a privileged medium to give meaning to experience and the human being’s vital purposes.

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