Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Richard King: 'symphonic tradition' of Still and Dawson Missing from 'The New Negro' Anthology

[Afro-American Symphony; William Grant Still; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Karl Kruger, conductor; Bridge 9086 (1999); The Spirituals of William L. Dawson; The St. Olaf Choir; Anton Armstrong, conductor; Marvis Martin, soprano; St. Olaf Records 2159 (1997)] 

H-Net is an online journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences published by In H-Southern-Lit and H-Net Reviews, December 2008, Richard King reviews The New Negro: Readings on Race, Representation, and African American Culture, 1892-1938, edited by Henry Louis Gates and Gene Andrews. “The pride of place enjoyed by literature here, especially poetry, does jar with the widely accepted claim from figures as diverse as Du Bois and Amiri Baraka, that music represents the major contribution of African Americans to American and world culture. And, in fact, the selections on music seem limited in range and depth. It is not what they say so much as what they fail to cover. Hurston’s essay on 'Spirituals and Neo-Spirituals' (1934) distinguishes the raw, unvarnished spiritual from what happens when they are domesticated, arranged, and performed in concert: 'There never has been a presentation of genuine Negro spirituals to any audience anywhere'; rather, what people hear are 'works of Negro composers or adaptors based on the spirituals' (p. 473). There are also essays on Black folk music. But there is nothing about the emergence of an African American symphonic tradition as represented by the work of William Grant Still and William Dawson.” [Full Post]  [William Grant Still (1895-1978) and William Levi Dawson (1899-1990) are profiled at Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma, Professor of Music, Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin, has contributed his research, including Works Lists and Bibliographies, on both composers.] 

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