Thursday, November 15, 2018

Sergio Mims: A Rediscovered African-American Female Composer

The composer Florence B. Price, whose catalog has been acquired by the music publisher G. Schirmer.  
(Credit University of Arkansas Libraries Special Collections)

Sergio A. Mims writes:

In a  major announcement the international music publisher G. Schirmer has announced that it has acquired the worldwide publishing rights to all of Florence Price's music.

Michael Cooper

November 15, 2018

A Rediscovered African-American Female Composer Gets a Publisher

In 1933, the composer Florence Price became the first African-American woman to have a symphony performed by a major American orchestra. But her work faded from concert halls over the years.

Her music has been rediscovered recently, particularly after a trove her manuscripts was discovered in 2009, in her former summer home outside Chicago. And, on Thursday, the music publisher G. Schirmer announced that it had acquired the worldwide rights to her catalog.

“It’s my hope that Florence Price’s contribution to the canon of American music will finally be recognized and properly assessed,” Robert Thompson, the president of G. Schirmer, wrote in an email. “She has been neglected for too long.”

Price, who was born in 1887 to a middle-class family in Little Rock, Ark., became a prominent member of the African-American intelligentsia, corresponding with W.E.B. Dubois and setting poems by Langston Hughes and Paul Laurence Dunbar to music.

But she faced many obstacles getting her music played in a more sexist, segregated era, which she addressed in a 1943 letter that she wrote to Serge Koussevitzky, the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, asking him to consider performing her music.

“Unfortunately the work of a woman composer is preconceived by many to be light, froth, lacking in depth, logic and virility,” she wrote. “Add to that the incident of race — I have Colored blood in my veins — and you will understand some of the difficulties that confront one in such a position.”

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