Category Archives: Black studies

Anne Brown and “Porgy and Bess”

Anne Brown literally put the Bess in Porgy and Bess by inspiring George Gershwin to expand the character’s part in an opera that was originally to be called Porgy.

Brown was the first person Gershwin heard singing the role of Bess, who was a relatively minor character in the original 1925 DuBose Heyward novel. As he composed the opera, often with Brown at his side, Gershwin added more and more music for her. Because Gershwin died at 38 in 1937, she was the only Bess he ever knew.

Brown was in her second year of graduate studies at Juilliard when she read that Gershwin was writing his opera. She wrote to ask for an interview, which his secretary granted. She sang music by Brahms, Schubert, and other classical composers; then he asked her to sing a Black spiritual. Brown hesitated at the racial stereotyping, but finally sang an unaccompanied spiritual. Gershwin was silent after she finished; then he told her that it was the most beautiful spiritual he had ever heard, and they hugged.

In the last days of rehearsals, Gershwin told Brown that he was expanding the title of the opera to include Bess, her part. Though critics initially weren’t sure what to make of the work, her performance in it received wide acclaim.

This according to “Anne Brown, who was Gershwin’s Bess, dies at 96” by Douglas Martin (The New York times 18 March 2009; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2009-633).

Anne Brown would have been 100 years old this month! Above and below, a filmed excerpt from her performance.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Black studies, Opera, Performers

Mingus and group oneness

In the mid-1950s Charles Mingus embraced the collective improvisation of early New Orleans jazz and the ecstatic worship and singing rituals of the Black Pentecostal church— two historical African-derived approaches that emphasized group expression.

Mingus used these two approaches to advance both musical expression and political and spiritual ideas, charting a trajectory toward group oneness. His recordings from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s progressed from short sections of collective interplay and group improvisation reminiscent of early jazz to longer forms of ecstatic ritual. This latter practice—in the form of solos, band, and audience participation—was a direct invocation of the spiritual communion or Holy Spirit possession that he had witnessed in Pentecostal church services as a youth.

This according to “Mingus in the workshop: Leading the improvisation from New Orleans to Pentecostal trance” by Jennifer Griffith (Black music research journal XXV/1 [spring 2015] 71–96; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2015-87883).

Today is Mingus’s 100th birthday! Below, Wednesday night prayer meeting (1959), one of the recordings discussed in the article.

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Filed under Black studies, Jazz and blues, Performers

Shine and the Titanic

Religious African Americans saw the sinking of the Titanic as an example of God’s intervention in human affairs, as a divine overriding of the advantages conferred by wealth and mastery of technology.

Their secular songs about the disaster either nihilistically stress the fact that terrible things can happen at any time and when they are least expected, or take up the trickster theme. This latter type, which implies that blacks can survive in the white man’s world even when whites do not, often features Shine, a trickster figure created by blacks for blacks.

Shine—a derogatory form of address invented by whites—is the first to warn the captain of the ship of impending disaster, but is ignored. As the ship is sinking, desperate white women offer him sex or money if he will save them, but he determines to abandon ship at once and save himself—a mocking comment on the white supremacist fantasy of the black man always ready to ravish white women.

This according to “The Titanic: A case study of religious and secular attitudes in African American song” by Chris Smith, an essay included in Saints and sinners: Religion, blues and (d)evil in African-American music and literature (Liège: Société Liégeoise de Musicologie, 1996, pp. 213–27).

Today is the 110th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic! Below, Willis Lonzer performs a comparatively chaste version of the classic tale.

Related article: The Britannic organ (sister ship of the Titanic)

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Filed under Black studies, Humor

Joe Wilder, barrier breaker

Distinguished for his achievements in both the jazz and classical worlds, Joe Wilder performed as lead trumpet and soloist with Lionel Hampton, Jimmy Lunceford, Dizzy Gillespie, and Count Basie.

He was also a pioneer who broke down racial barriers. Wilder was a founding member of the Symphony of the New World, the first racially integrated orchestra in the U.S., where he played first trumpet; the first African American to hold a principal chair in a Broadway show orchestra; and one of the first African Americans to join a major network studio orchestra

Wilder’s modesty and ability to perform in many musical genres may have prevented him from achieving popular recognition, but his legacy and contributions to music and culture are far-reaching.

This according to Softly, with feeling: Joe Wilder and the breaking of barriers in American music by Edward Berger (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2014).

Today is Wilder’s 100th birthday! Above, performing in 2006 (photo by Professor Bop, licensed under CC BY 2.0); below, playing the jazz standard Cherokee in 1956.

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Filed under Black studies, Jazz and blues, Performers

Toyi-toyi’s African journey

The toyi-toyi is a high-kneed, foot-stomping dance, rhythmically punctuated by chants and call and response. It can be observed at almost any kind of protest in South Africa and Zimbabwe today.

Many people associate it with the South African township protests of the 1980s, when young men toyi-toyied as they confronted police or attended political funerals and protests. But its origins are in fact much further away, and they tell us about a much longer, global history of political and military struggle. This story played out across Africa, moving from north to south, all the way from Algeria to South Africa, with stops in Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, and Zimbabwe along the way.

This according to “The incredible journey of the toyi-toyi, southern Africa’s protest dance” by Jocelyn Alexander and JoAnn McGregor (The conversation 2 February 2021; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature no. 2021-485).

Below, a performance from 2015, with some historical footage.

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Filed under Africa, Black studies, Dance, Politics

Mahalia Jackson and the Black gospel field

Nearly a half century after her death in 1972, Mahalia Jackson remains the most esteemed figure in Black gospel music history. Born in the backstreets of New Orleans in 1911, during the Great Depression Jackson joined the Great Migration to Chicago, where she became a highly regarded church singer and, by the mid-fifties, a coveted recording artist lauded as the world’s greatest gospel singer.

This “Louisiana Cinderella” narrative of Jackson’s career during the decade following World War II carried important meanings for African Americans, though it remains a story half told. Jackson was gospel’s first multi-mediated artist, with a nationally broadcast radio program, a Chicago-based television show, and early recordings that introduced straight-out-of-the-church Black gospel to American and European audiences while also tapping the vogue for religious pop in the early Cold War.

In some ways, Jackson’s successes made her an exceptional case, though she is perhaps best understood as part of broader developments in the Black gospel field. Built upon foundations laid by pioneering Chicago organizers in the 1930s, Black gospel singing, with Jackson as its most visible representative, began to circulate in novel ways as a form of popular culture in the 1940s and 1950s, its practitioners accruing prestige not only through devout integrity but also from their charismatic artistry, public recognition, and pop-cultural cachet. These years also saw shifting strategies in the Black freedom struggle that gave new cultural-political significance to African American vernacular culture.

 This according to Mahalia Jackson and the Black gospel field by Mark Burford (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019).

Today would have been Jackson’s 110th birthday! Below, performing in 1962.

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Filed under Black studies, Performers

Cuba’s tonadas trinitarias

The tonada trinitaria is an Afro-Cuban musical genre native to the town of Trinidad de Cuba.

The city became one of the Caribbean’s foremost sugar exporters in the early 19th century, and thousands of African slaves were brought to work in the neighboring Valle de los Ingenios. It was here that the local musical practices of African slaves, their descendants, and white peasants meshed, producing an environment conducive to the creation of creole musical forms, of which the tonada trinitaria is a prime example.

The tradition took shape among the Black urban population following the collapse of the city’s sugar-based economy in the late 1840s. The first tonada groups appeared during the first war of Cuban independence (1868–78), propagated by musicians of the Cabildo de San Antonio de Congos Reales. a cultural and religious center of Bantu-derived Christian traditions.

The tonada groups consist of a chorus, a lead singer, three small drums, a güiro (gourd-scraper), and a hoe blade struck with an iron beater. The guía, or lead singer, begins by introducing the tonada (a two-to-four-line text). The percussion joins in, providing a steady rhythmic accompaniment, followed by the chorus, which repeats the tonada. In call-and-response style, the guía improvises his text based on the theme of the tonada. These themes include love, social commentary, patriotism, and puyas, which poke fun at a certain person or situation.

The tonada groups represented certain barrios (marginal neighborhoods) and performed during all-night transits through the city streets, stopping to give serenades at homes or meet with each other in competition. The tradition evolved as new generations took over and elders retired.

This according to History and evolution of the tonadas trinitarias of Trinidad de Cuba by Johnny Frías (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2010; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2010-50525).

Above and below, the contemporary group Tonadas Trinitarias.

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Filed under Black studies, West Indies

Philip Ewell: Erasing colorasure in American music theory, and confronting demons from our past

Photo by Pascal Perich

Introduction: Dr. Philip Ewell, Associate Professor of Music at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, posted a series of daily tweets during Black History Month (February 2021) providing information on some under-researched Black composers and musicians under the rubric Colorased. These tweets contain names and basic information about each neglected figure. In keeping with RILM’s mission to document and disseminate writings about music, we wanted to preserve and share these tweets, and asked Dr. Ewell if he would be willing to re-post them, along with some text framing his project, here on RILM’s blog. 

We are delighted that Dr. Ewell accepted our invitation. Below are his text and his Colorased tweets. RILM Assistant Editor Michael Lupo has added the number of times (if any) the names are represented in each of RILM’s resources as of this date to aid further research. (Where a product is not listed, it means the name was not present at all.) The dearth of references highlights the fact that more research is needed. We hope this proves to be fodder for the scholarly music community.

-Barbara Dobbs Mackenzie, Executive Director, RILM

This past Black History Month, 2021, I undertook a Twitter project, Erasing colorasure in American music theory. In the history of American music theory, and American classical music, Whiteness has consistently erased nonWhiteness from existence as unimportant in a process I call colorasure, which I based on Kate Manne’s useful concept of herasure when the same happens with women.1 In order to shine a light on notable colorased Black musicians, every February morning I sent out a tweet of a Black African musical figure, usually American, who has been colorased by American music theory—this list of 28 figures appears at the end of this post. 

Many such figures are now being (re)discovered. While some are more famous—e.g., Joseph Bologne, Scott Joplin, Yusef Lateef, Vicente Lusitano, Charles Mingus, Florence Price, or George Russell (none of whom I listed for Erasing colorasure)—others never broke through. Importantly, Black women have been both colorased and herased from existence, which has made it nearly impossible for them to break through in the history of American classical music.

Of the many hundreds of important Black musical figures out there, I tried to stick with music theorists and composers who may have been of interest to American music theory, had American music theory ever truly been interested in Blackness. This public music-theory project followed in the footsteps of pioneer scholars who know infinitely more about these figures than I do, scholars such as Samuel Floyd, Tammy Kernodle, Horace Maxile, Emmett Price, and Eileen Southern, and many others, and I was deeply indebted to such scholars with this simple project.2 

Two aspects of Erasing colorasure need to be highlighted, one easier to absorb, one harder. One simple reason that Erasing colorasure was lauded both on Twitter and Facebook, and elsewhere as well, is that the addition of Black musicians to our general music conversation, and to any American music curriculum, does not really threaten the White-cisgender-male power structure of the field in 2021—this structure remains intact and, more important, in control. Consequently, White-male power in academic music actually loves this type of work. This easier unthreatening work generally falls under the rubric of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity (DEI), which is now being strongly emphasized in music institutions across the country.

The harder aspect relates to what I call the “three legs” of American music theory’s stool, namely, Whiteness, maleness, and cisnormativity. Examining and exposing how and why White cisgender men, both subconsciously and, frankly, consciously, colorased Blackness and other forms of nonWhiteness from the conversation is what represents true antiracist work in the academic study of music. This much harder work relates to how and why those Black composers and musicians were colorased to begin with. The work is arduous, and exhausting, but ultimately rewarding and emancipating. However, this work directly challenges and threatens the White-cisgender-male power structure of what we do in the United States as musicians, and this is why true antiracist work in academic music is often met with angry, bullying, and gaslighting responses.3

In a response to a 20-minute lecture that I gave in November 2019, music theorist Timothy Jackson wrote:

“As for Black composers, they have had to overcome unbelievable prejudice and hardships, yet there have been many talented and technically competent Black composers in the past hundred years. We can certainly listen to their music with pleasure, even if they are not ‘supreme geniuses’ on the level of the very greatest classical composers.”4

With this jarring statement, Jackson was only saying out loud what, sadly, many senior colleagues still believe: that the musical work by Blacks and Blackness exists, overall, on an inferior level to that of the so-called “masterpieces” by the “supreme geniuses” of the White Western canon. Clearly, in Jackson’s interpretation the 28 musicians I name below from Erasing colorasure, though “competent”, would not qualify as “supreme geniuses” like the composers—Johann Sebastian Bach, Johannes Brahms, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, etc.—of the White Western canon.

To underscore his belief in Black inferiority, Jackson alleged that I, Philip Ewell, am “uninterested in bringing Blacks up to ‘standard’ so they can compete.”5 I suppose Jackson is correct in one sense—I am uninterested in bringing Blacks up to standard, but our reasoning is quite different. I believe that Blacks, Whites, and all other races are on the same standard, and thus Blacks need no bringing up to begin with, while Jackson clearly believes that Blacks are substandard, and that Blacks, and other nonWhites one presumes, should aspire to Whiteness.

In a fallacy of White supremacy, and of antiBlackness in the case of Erasing colorasure I hasten to add, music of the White Western canon is still thought to be superior to other nonWhite musics of the world. Perhaps most important, Timothy Jackson only wrote down that which many senior figures in music theory, and in academic music, actually believe. Many have tried to cleave themselves from the egregious antiBlack statements that appear in Jackson’s now infamous response, and in the other antiBlack responses in the symposium in Volume 12 of the Journal of Schenkerian studies, but his comments actually represent deep-seated beliefs held by the field of American music theory itself since its inception in the 1960s.6 That is, Jackson’s musical beliefs are not at all uncommon among senior music theorists, musicians, and music pedagogues in our American music institutions. To argue otherwise would be less than candid.

Happily, there are strong currents in the academic study of music in our country that are countering this fallacious and harmful belief in White-male musical superiority. Hardly a week goes by without another source or website being released by mid-career and junior scholars that counters academic music’s false belief in a meritorious White-male exceptionalism.7 These sources underscore the simple truth that music of the White-male Western canon—itself a mythological human construct meant, in very large part, to enshrine White-male dominance in the academic study of music in the U.S.—is not superior (nor inferior) to other musics of the world.8  These sources show the richness of the many musics of our planet for all to see. 

To be clear, there is far more activity in the realm of DEI in music, that is, the unthreatening additive activity that I describe above. There needs to be more honest antiracist appraisal with respect to how we got to where we are in the academic study of music in our country, one in which the “core” of study still sits squarely on the exclusionist three-legged White-cis-male stool of academic music, one in which assimilating to White-cis-male beliefs, methods, and mythologies remains paramount. Both paths, that of DEI and of antiracism/antisexism, are important to pursue but, currently, DEI work is far more common, for obvious reasons. It is my hope that the harder path of antiracism/antisexism, especially, is pursued with an even greater intensity in the near future, which will help everyone understand that all musics of our world are worthy of our consideration, in the classroom, on the concert stage, and beyond. 

Erasing Colorasure in American Music Theory: Twitter Project, Black History Month, 20219

1. Colorased 1: John T. Douglass (1847–86), violinist, composer. Born in U.S. of slave mother. Studied in Dresden with Eduard Rapoldi, and in Paris. Composed three-act Virginia’s ball, premiered Stuyvesant Institute, 1868, probably the first opera by an African American composer. Taught David Mannes violin, NY, 1870s. Also a pianist, cellist, guitarist. 

Items about John T. Douglass in:

  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 1

2. Colorased 2: Julia Perry (1924–79), composer, educator. Studied at Westminster Choir College, also with N. Boulanger and L. Dallapiccola in France/Italy. Awarded Boulanger Grand Prix for her Viola Sonata. Composed four operas, 12 symphonies, concertos, etc. Received two Guggenheims. 

Items about Julia Perry in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 7
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 13
  • Index to Printed Music: 7

3. Colorased 3: Valerie Capers (b. 1935), pianist, composer. Father was a professional jazz pianist. Blind since the age of six. Got BA and MA degrees from Juilliard, where she was the first blind graduate. Formed her own trio and in 1966 recorded her first jazz album, Portrait in soul. 

Items about Valerie Gail Capers in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 3
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 6
  • Index to Printed Music: 7 

4. Colorased 4: José White Lafitte (1836–1918), composer, violinist. From Cuba, concertized with L.M. Gottschalk. Studied at the Paris Conservatory, Grand Prize winner, 1856. Owner of the “Swansong” Stradivarius. Composed some 30 works, including the F#-minor concerto, recorded by Rachel B. Pine, 1997. 

Items about José White Lafitte in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 10

5. Colorased 5: George Walker (1922–2018), composer. First African American to win a Pulitzer Prize (Lilacs, 1996). First Black graduate of the Curtis Institute (1945), First Black doctorate from the Eastman (1955). Nearly 100 compositions, symphonies, concertos, songs, piano, etc. Studied at Fontainebleau, 1947. 

Items about George Theophilus Walker in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 89
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 44
  • Index to Printed Music: 4

6. Colorased 6: Undine Smith Moore (1904–89), professor, composer, music theorist. Attended Fisk U, Juilliard, Columbia (MA), and workshops at Eastman. In 1969, cofounded Black Music Center at Virginia State College, and wrote music theory textbook featuring music by Black composers. 

Items about Undine Smith Moore in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 16
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 13
  • Index to Printed Music: 10

7. Colorased 7: Horace Boyer (1935–2009), professor, music theorist. Published more than 40 articles in major journals. His 1973 Eastman music theory PhD on Black church music may be the first such PhD awarded to African American Black. Theory professor for 26 years at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 

Items about Horace Clarence Boyer in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 41
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 60

8. Colorased 8: Zenobia Powell Perry (1908–2004), professor, composer. BA Tuskegee Institute, 1938, MA Colorado St. College, 1945. Piano studies with Robert Dett. Composition studies with Darius Milhaud, Charles Jones. Faculty/composer at Central St. University, Ohio, 1955–82. Opera, Tawawa house, 1985. 

Items about Zenobia Powell Perry in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 7
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 6
  • Index to Printed Music: 2

9. Colorased 9: Henry Williams (1813–1903), violinist, composer, educator. Played with Francis Johnson’s band in Philadelphia. Composed Lauriette, 1840, and Parisian Waltzes, 1854. Member of the National Peace Jubilee Orchestra in Boston, 1872. 

Items about Henry F. Williams in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 3
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 5
  • Index to Printed Music: 7

10. Colorased 10: Margaret Bonds (1913–72), pianist, educator, composer. Composition studies with Florence Price. BM/MM Northwestern (1933–34). Juilliard comp studies with Roy Harris, Emerson Harper. Theater/song composer, collaborated with Langston Hughes. First Black to perform with Chicago Symphony Orchestra. 

Items about Margaret Bonds in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 27
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 15
  • Index to Printed Music: 12

11. Colorased 11: William Marion Cook (1869–1944), composer, violinist, conductor. Studied violin, Oberlin. Studied composition with A. Dvořák, 1894–95. Studied violin, Berlin Hochschule, with Heinrich Jacobson and Joseph Joachim. Composed/staged many Broadway musicals in New York City. 

Items about Will Marion Cook in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 68
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 53
  • Index to Printed Music: 4
  • MGG Online: 1

12. Colorased 12: Carl Rossini Diton (1886–1962), pianist, composer, educator. Graduated University of Pennsylvania, 1909. Studied in Munich, Germany, 1910–11. Certificate, voice, Juilliard, 1931. Taught at Paine College, Wiley University, and Talladega College (1911–18). Accompanied Marian Anderson and Jules Bledsoe. 

Items about Carl Diton in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 3
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 12
  • Index to Printed Music: 1

13. Colorased 13: Calvin Bernard Grimes (1939–2011), professor, music theorist. 1974 University of Iowa music theory PhD, “American musical periodicals, 1819–52: Music theory and musical thought in the U.S.” Chair, Division Dean, Music Theory Professor, Morehouse College (his alma mater, ’62). Choir director. 

Items about Calvin Bernard Grimes in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 1

14. Colorased 14: Francis Johnson (1792–1844), composer, bandleader, bugler, violinist. Collection of new cottillions, 1818. Wrote more than 200 compositions. First African American composer to have music published as sheet music. Active in Philadelphia. 

Items about Francis Johnson in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 28
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 29
  • Index to Printed Music: 53

15. Colorased 15: Joseph Douglass (1871–1935), violinist, conductor, educator. Grandson of Frederick Douglass. First violinist to record for Victor recordings. Studied at Boston Conservatory. First Black violinist to tour Europe. Taught at Howard University. 

Items about Joseph Douglass in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 1
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 11

16. Colorased 16: Mary Lou Williams (1910–81), composer, educator. Guggenheims 1972 and 1977. Taught at Duke University, 1977–81. Wrote hundreds of compositions. Worked with and/or mentored most jazz greats of the twentieth century. Wrote Zodiac suite, Mary Lou’s Mass, and Black Christ of the Andes

Items about Mary Lou Williams in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 110
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 31
  • Index to Printed Music: 15
  • MGG Online: 1

17. Colorased 17: Roland Wiggins (1932–2019), professor, music theorist. PhD, Combs College of Music. Studied with V. Persichetti, H. Cowell. Taught J. Coltrane, T. Monk, Y. Lateef, B. Taylor. Used Schillinger System. Director Center for Aesthetics, University of Massachusetts. Professor at Hampshire College and University of Virginia. 

There are no items about Roland Wiggins in any RILM product.

18. Colorased 18: Olly Wilson (1937–2018), composer, pianist, musicologist. BM, Washington University, St. Louis; MM, composition, University of Illinois; PhD University of Iowa (1964). Taught Florida A&M, Oberlin, UC-Berkeley. Commissions by Chicago and Boston symphonies and NY Philharmonic. Guggenheim, 1971. Rome Prize, 2008. 

Items about Olly Woodrow Wilson, Jr. in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 50
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 14
  • MGG Online: 1

19. Colorased 19: Harry Lawrence Freeman (1869–1954), composer. Composed 23 operas, the first of which, Epthelia, was premiered in New York in 1891. Papers housed at Columbia University. Unpublished manuscript entitled The negro in music and drama. Wrote of other Black composers as “our musical cousins”. 

Items about Harry Lawrence Freeman in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 6
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 4

20. Colorased 20: Jewel Thompson (b. 1935), professor, music theorist, Hunter College CUNY. PhD, Music Theory, Eastman, 1981, “Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: The development of his compositional style”. Probably first African American woman to earn music theory PhD in U.S., and likely first music theory dissertation on a Black composer. 

Items about Jewel Thompson in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 4

21. Colorased 21: Clarence Cameron White (1880–1960), violinist, composer. Studied at Oberlin, Howard University, and with Samuel Coleridge-Taylor in London. Compositions include a violin concerto, operas, and ballets. Composed the opera Ouanga!, 1932.

Items about Clarence Cameron White in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 9
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 6

22. Colorased 22: James Reese Europe (1881–1919), composer, bandleader. In 1910, organized Clef Club Orchestra, first group to play early jazz at Carnegie Hall. Played music solely by Black composers. Europe’s orchestra included Will Marion Cook. 

Items about James Reese Europe in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 65
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 29
  • Index to Printed Music: 2
  • MGG Online: 1

23. Colorased 23: Hazel Harrison (1883–1969), pianist. Studied with Hugo van Dalen in Berlin, soloed with the Berlin Philharmonic and performed recitals there. Also studied with Ferruccio Busoni. Taught at Tuskegee Institute and Howard University. 

Items about Hazel Harrison in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 6
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 8

24. Colorased 24: Robert Nathaniel Dett (1882–1943), professor, composer, pianist. Performed at Carnegie Hall and Boston Symphony Hall as pianist and choir director. Studied at Oberlin, with A. Foote at Harvard (1920–21), and N. Boulanger at Fontainebleau (1929). MM, Eastman, 1932. 

Items about Robert Nathaniel Dett in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 73
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 28
  • Index to Printed Music: 46
  • MGG Online: 1

25. Colorased 25: Dorothy Rudd (b. 1940), composer, educator. Cofounder of Society of Black Composers. Graduated Howard University, 1963, Studies with N. Boulanger, Paris, 1963. Chamber works, symphony, song cycles, and three-act opera Frederick Douglass (1985). 

Items about Dorothy Rudd Moore in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 8
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 10
  • Index to Printed Music: 2

26. Colorased 26: Lucius Wyatt (b. 1938), professor, music theorist. 1973 Eastman PhD, “The mid-twentieth-century orchestral variation, 1953–1963”. Former chair, music department, Prairie View A&M. Director Prairie View Symphonic Band. Published more than 25 articles in major journals. Director of bands at Tuskegee University. 

Items about Lucius Wyatt in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 11
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 7

27. Colorased 27: Hale Smith (1925–2009), composer, pianist. BM/MM, Cleveland Institute of Music. Compositions include band, choir, orchestra, chamber, and song. Taught at Long Island University and University of Connecticut, Storrs. Honorary Doctorate, Cleveland Institute of Music, 1988. Worked with Eric Dolphy, D. Gillespie, and others. 

Items about Hale Smith in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 28
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 13
  • Index to Printed Music: 4

28. Colorased 28: Kermit Moore (1929–2013), cellist, conductor, composer. Studied Cleveland Institute of Music, Juilliard, NYU, Paris Conservatoire. Cello teachers: F. Salmond, P. Bazelaire, G. Piatigorsky, P. Casals. Composition with N. Boulanger. Conducting with S. Koussevitsky. Compositions include film scores and chamber music.

Items about Kermit Moore in:

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature: 5
  • RILM Music Encyclopedias: 10 

1 See Kate Manne, Down girl: The logic of misogyny (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017) and Entitled: How male privilege hurts women (New York: Crown Publishers, 2020). 

2 See, for example, Samuel A. Floyd, Jr., International dictionary of Black composers (Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 1999-5098); Tammy L. Kernodle, Horace J. Maxile, Jr., and Emmett G. Price, III, eds., Encyclopedia of African American music (Santa Barbara: Greenwood, 2010; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2011-1135); and Eileen Southern, Biographical dictionary of Afro-American and African musicians (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1982; RILM Abstracts 1982-44).

3 The angry response from conservative forces in music theory to my antiracist work in the field closely resembles the angry response from those same forces to the antisexist work by Susan McClary in her landmark Feminine endings: Music, gender, and sexuality (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1991; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 1991-2755). I am proud to be mentioned in the same breath as a pioneer such as McClary.

4 Timothy L. Jackson, “A preliminary response to Ewell”, Journal of Schenkerian studies XII (2020) 165; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text 2019-20465. 

5 Jackson, 163.

6 For more on the controversy that this volume issue instigated, see the “Media” tab of my website, philipewell.com, where I have linked many feature stories that explain some of the issues surrounding this controversy.

 7 See, for example, Black opera research network (blackoperaresearch.net); Composers of Color Resource Project (composersofcolor.hcommons.org); Cora S. Palfy and Eric Gilson, “The hidden curriculum in the music theory classroom”, Journal of music theory pedagogy 32 (2018; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2018-52605); Dave Molk and Michelle Ohnona, “Promoting equity: Developing an antiracist music theory classroom”, New music box 29 January 2020 (https://nmbx.newmusicusa.org/promoting-equity-developing-an-antiracist-music-theory-classroom/); ÆPEX Contemporary Performance (http://aepexcontemporary.org); Engaged music theory (engagedmusictheory.com); Music by Black composers (musicbyblackcomposers.org); Institute for Composer Diversity (composerdiversity.com); Expanding the music theory canon (expandingthemusictheorycanon.com); Project spectrum (projectspectrummusic.com); Rachel Lumsden and Jeffrey Swinkin, eds., The Norton guide to teaching music theory (W. W. Norton & Company, 2018; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2018-52608); and Robin D. Moore, ed., College music curricula for a new century (Oxford University Press, 2017; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2017-25093). Finally, see Rosa Abrahams, Philip Ewell, Aaron Grant, and Cora S. Palfy, The practicing music theorist, a new modernized and inclusive undergraduate music theory textbook (W.W. Norton, projected release 2023).

8 For more on the many mythologies of “Western civilization”, see Kwame Anthony Appiah, “There is no such thing as Western civilization”, The guardian, November 9, 2016.

9 I’ve written out the many abbreviations I used in my original tweets here. 

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Capoeira’s hidden history

Capoeira, a Brazilian battle dance and national sport, was brought to Brazil by African slaves and first documented in the late 18th century. The genre has undergone many transformations as it has diffused throughout Brazilian society and beyond, taking on a multiplicity of meanings for those who participate in it and for the societies in which it is practiced.

Three major cultures inspired capoeira—the Congolese (the historic area known today as Congo-Angola), the Yoruban, and the Catholic Portuguese cultures. The evolution of capoeira through successive historical eras can be viewed with a dual perspective, depicting capoeira as it was experienced, observed, and understood by both Europeans and Africans, as well as by their descendants.

This dual perspective uncovers many covert aspects of capoeira that have been repressed by the dominant Brazilian culture. The African origins and meanings of capoeira can be reclaimed while also acknowledging the many ways in which Catholic-Christian culture has contributed to it.

This according to The hidden history of capoeira: A collision of cultures in the Brazilian battle dance by Maya Talmon-Chvaicer (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2008-708).

Above, capoeira performers in São Paulo (photo by Fabio Cequinel licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0); below, capoeira performers in Salvador, Bahia.

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Filed under Black studies, Dance, South America, Sports and games

The Music of Black Lives Matter

Following is a timeline of writings on the relationship between music and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. This timeline is selective–sourced from various scholarly writings and music journalism currently included in RILM Abstracts of Music Literature. We encourage the reader to add additional relevant readings, and links to other sources, in the comments section. We hope that this compendium of readings, with textual extracts entirely in the authors’ own words, can serve as a jumping off point for anyone interested in learning more about the crucial relationship between BLM and music. Again and again, authors and activists have observed the undeniable power of speaking, chanting, and singing the names of lives lost to human rights violations and encounters with the police. Links to additional information about the named victims–there are unfortunately far too many to include here–and the music made in tribute to them, are included throughout.

July 13, 2013

“The twenty-first-century Movement for Black Lives began to stir in 2013 after a jury acquitted George Zimmerman of the murder of Trayvon Martin. In reaction to the acquittal, Alicia Garza wrote a love letter to Black people, and she ended the letter by writing, “Black people. I love you. I love us. We matter. Our lives Matter.” Patrisse Cullors, her friend, put a hashtag on it, and Opal Tometi helped to build a network of folks who wanted to unite under that message: #BlackLivesMatter.”

Stay Woke: A People’s Guide to Making All Black Lives Matter by Tehama Lopez Bunyasi and Candis Watts Smith

December 4, 2013

“When Anthony D.J. Branker heard about Trayvon Martin, he could not help but think of an experience he had in his early 20s, just after graduating from Princeton University. “I was stopped by police at gunpoint because it was believed I broke into someone’s home”, he said. “I fit a profile. Police surrounded my car”. Branker, who celebrates his 25th anniversary this year as founder and director of the program in jazz studies at Princeton, has composed a piece of music that draws on Martin’s story, which he said “moved me to the core”. Ballad for Trayvon Martin for Orchestra and Jazz Quartet, written in honor of the 17-year-old who was shot in 2012 in Sanford, Florida, by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman, will receive its world premiere tomorrow.”

”Princeton Jazz Professor Composes Ballad for Trayvon Martin by Ronni Reich, The Star-Ledger

March 4, 2014
The Department of Justice today released its investigation of the Ferguson [Missouri] police, which found a pattern and practice of discriminatory policing. The report includes seven racist emails sent by Ferguson officers. In its review, the Justice Department also found 161 use of force complaints against the Ferguson police from 2010 to 2014. Only one case was founded and no officer was disciplined…The conclusions come nearly seven months after a confrontation with officer Darren Wilson left 18-year-old Michael Brown dead. In the wake of the controversial slaying of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, Brown’s death reignited a national debate over race in America and sparked protests across the country. Separately today, the DOJ announced that Wilson will not be charged in Brown’s death.”

”Ferguson Report: Rampant Racism and Other Scathing Findings From Probe”, ABC News

October 6, 2014
“It was a protest of an altogether different sort. Rather than take to the streets of Ferguson, these demonstrators took their demands to the seats of the symphony. As the St. Louis Symphony returned from intermission Saturday night and readied to launch into Brahms’ ‘Ein deutsches Requiem’ (A German Requiem), two audience members stood up and began singing an old protest song–modified for a new cause. “Justice for Mike Brown is justice for us all, Which side are you on friend? Which side are you on?” Then, others slowly joined in–in the balcony, on the floor, in various parts of the auditorium. The protesters unfurled banners. “Mike Brown 1996-2014”, said one. “Racism lives here”, said another. The reaction was mixed. There was applause among many in the audience. Other patrons remained unimpressed. “He was a thug”, a man was captured on camera saying.

Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African-American, was shot to death by a white police officer in August, fueling protests and spurring a debate on police use of force.”
”Ferguson Flash Mob Disrupts St. Louis Symphony with Michael Brown Requiem” by Saeed Ahmed, CNN

March 2015

“Sometimes a piece of music waits for its moment. Heroes + Misfits, the rock-and-R&B-steeped debut by pianist Kris Bowers, was released on Concord last March, and for a while I regarded it a bit warily: Though I admired its clarity of purpose and execution, I couldn’t fully embrace the album’s urgent, portentous air. Then I saw Bowers and his band at the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park. More to the point, I heard them play an electrifying version of “#TheProtester,” track three on the album, with an imploring ad-lib vocal by Chris Turner. “Who are we?” Turner sang plaintively. “What are we?/What are we to do?” He repeated those questions as a refrain, making meaningful tweaks-like “Who are we to you?”-before lowering the boom, with anguished allusions to the situation on the ground in an American city. It was late August, and I’m certain that no one in that age-diverse Harlem crowd needed to be told that Turner was invoking Ferguson, Mo., where citizen protests had been going strong in the wake of a police shooting, two weeks earlier, that took the life of an unarmed 18-year-old African-American, Michael Brown. Poignant and raw, the performance resonated with the national mood-and altered my perception of Bowers’ album, which no longer felt quite so overdetermined. By almost any measure we’ve been living through an era of deep tensions in this nation, driven in large part by institutionalized racial injustice. The slaying of Michael Brown came only weeks after Eric Garner, another unarmed black man, was choked to death by a New York City police officer. Mass protests across the country, sparked by a grand jury’s decision not to indict Garner’s killer, found a rallying cry in ‘Black Lives Matter.’”

“What Are We To Do?” by Nate Chinen, JazzTimes magazine

June 21, 2015

“Last year the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presented research demonstrating that “youth living in inner cities show a higher prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder than soldiers”. The report estimates that 30% of young people in urban “combat zones” suffer from some form of PTSD. When I mention this to Kendrick Lamar, he nods and says: “That’s real”…One reason that To Pimp a Butterfly [released on 15 March 2015, Top Dawg Entertainment] has resonated so powerfully is timing. Its complex reflections on identity and racism landed in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and a string of cases in which unarmed black men died at the hands of the police. “The timing of both was kind of uncanny”, the R&B singer D’Angelo said recently, comparing it to his own similarly weighty and panoramic Black Messiah album. “It was almost a sign: motherfuckers are making some shit that’s relevant to the times”. But Kendrick started plotting the angriest song, “The Blacker the Berry”, long before his last album and wrote the first draft in a furious burst after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot dead by vigilante George Zimmerman in February 2012.”

”Kendrick Lamar: ‘I Am Trayvon Martin. I’ll All of These Kids’” by Dorian Lynskey, The Guardian

August 14, 2015
“During a company conference call with financial analysts last week, Tom Brown, the chief executive of LRAD, a military contractor, informed investors that sales were rolling in, not just from Chinese government agencies and the U.S. Navy, but also from American law enforcement. LRAD manufactures an acoustic cannon that can be used either as a mounted loudspeaker or as a weapon to fire deafening noises at crowds of people. Over the last year, following a wave of protests over officer-involved killings of black Americans, LRAD has seen an uptick in inquiries from police departments around the country…Videos of the NYPD using the LRAD cannon to manage the demonstrators were widely circulated on YouTube, company officials boasted. “So we have been getting good press”, Brown noted, adding, “depending on which side of the press you’re looking at, but we’ve been getting very strong press from law enforcement”. Notably, the LRAD-100X was deployed against Ferguson protesters last year, and has made appearances at other Black Lives Matter events over the last 12 months. In Ferguson, the LRAD cannon was fired on protesters who had assembled in the street. The LRAD device can reach 152 decibels, a level that can cause permanent hearing damage.”

”Acoustic Cannon Sales to Police Surge After Black Lives Matter Protests” by Lee Fang, The Intercept

August 14, 2015

“After leading a Philadelphia march against police brutality on August 12th, one-time Atlantan Janelle Monáe has released a moving new #BlackLivesMatter protest song through her label Wondaland Records. In the song, “Hell You Talmbout”, Monáe and her label mates (Jidenna, Deep Cotton, St. Beauty, Jidenna, Roman GianArthur, and George 2.0) invoke the names of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, Sean Bell, and Emmett Till, among others. The track, which implores listeners to “say his/her name!” is a “vessel”, said Monáe on her Instagram: “Silence is our enemy. Sound is our weapon. They say a question lives forever until it gets the answer it deserves…Won’t you say their names?”

Jennifer Rainey Marquez in Atlanta magazine

October 13, 2016

“The arts scene in Baltimore is really rich and very vibrant. It’s one of the untold stories of the city. Trauma takes away people’s power, and part of our collective work is to help people reclaim their power at the individual level and restore power at the system level. Art and music has a role to play in that. I think about so many people for whom music is one of the ways that they process the world, the way they’ve understood their own gifts, the way they’ve relearned or learned anew how to believe in themselves, or how they’ve been exposed to new ideas and new perspectives. In liberation work, it’s a conversation about how we process the world to make it better.”

–DeRay Mckesson, Black Lives Matter organizer, quoted in ”Black Lives Matter’s DeRay Mckesson on the Power of Protest Music”, pitchfork.com

November 2016

“Race is a visual phenomenon, the ability to see “difference”. At least that is what conventional wisdom has led us to believe. Yet, this book argues that American ideologies of white supremacy are just as dependent on what we hear–voices, musical taste, volume—as they are on skin color or hair texture. Reinforcing compelling new ideas about the relationship between race and sound with meticulous historical research, the author helps us to better understand how sound and listening not only register the racial politics of our world, but actively produce them. Through analysis of the historical traces of sounds of African American performers, Stoever reveals a host of racialized aural representations operating at the level of the unseen–the sonic color line–and exposes the racialized listening practices she figures as “the listening ear”. In the process, the author radically revises the established historiography of sound studies, and sounds out how Americans have created, heard, and resisted “race”, so that we may hear our contemporary world differently.”

–Book summary for The Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening by Jennifer Lynn Stoever

June 13, 2017

“Algiers are releasing a new album, The Underside of Power, on June 23 via Matador. They have previously shared the album’s title track. Now they have shared another song from the album, “Cleveland”. The song references Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old African American boy who was shot to death by police in Cleveland in 2014 because he was playing with a toy gun in a playground. The song also mentions other “victims of state sanctioned violence” as a press release puts it, including Kindra Chapman, Andre Jones, Lennon Lacy, Sandra Bland, Roosevelt Pernell, Keith Warren, and Alfred Wright.”

Christopher Roberts in Under the Radar magazine

July 26, 2017

“Baltimore’s Lafayette Gilchrist is a jazz pianist, but when his band the New Volcanoes backs him up, listeners also get something different: a go-go beat. Gilchrist describes go-go, a style native to Washington, D.C., and its environs, as “almost like a slowed-down James Brown, but you have a combination of African rhythms”. Blended with his jazz piano playing, that’s the sound of Gilchrist’s latest album, New Urban World Blues, released this May. The album’s powerful leading track is “Blues For Freddie Gray”, dedicated to the young West Baltimore man who died in 2015 of severe spinal injuries sustained while in the custody of the Baltimore City Police. Gilchrist is from the part of Baltimore where Gray was arrested.”
”Lafayette Gilchrist plays the ‘Blues for Freddie Gray’” by Phil Harrell, NPR Music

May 5, 2018
“I happened to listen to “This Is America”, the new single by Childish Gambino, a.k.a. Donald Glover, before I saw the eloquent, ultra-violent accompanying video concocted by Glover and the director Hiro Murai. One of the song’s three strands is set to a benign Afrobeat rhythm, with Glover and a backing choir echoing old, edifying dogmas of black striving (“Grandma told me / Get your money, black man”); in another, Glover assumes the tempo of a jazz poet as he declares, “This Is America”; in the third, the familiar voices of Quavo, 21 Savage, and Young Thug are incorporated into the song as ambient reverberations, rather than as discrete guest features. The song, which Glover performed during his hosting gig on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, seemed like a portal into a successful black man’s psyche, consumed as it is by guilt and by vanity. I liked it. The video, which was released online as Glover performed the track on live television, turned the single into a pessimistic statement on American entertainment–both the making and consumption of it…With the 2016 release of Awaken, My Love!, the funk album released under his Childish Gambino moniker, and the premier of the FX television series Atlanta that same year, suddenly Glover was being called the lodestar of a consciousness, with an uncanny insight into what it is to be young and black and uncertain. Rather than simply becoming a spokesman, however, Glover the musician has found ways to point to the absurdity of the celebrity worship that attends his fame. In his new video, he is the executor of carnage and chaos. “This Is America” is being analyzed on Twitter as if it were the Rosetta Stone. The video has already been rapturously described as a powerful rally cry against gun violence, a powerful portrait of black-American existentialism, a powerful indictment of a culture that circulates videos of black children dying as easily as it does videos of black children dancing in parking lots. It is those things, but it is also a fundamentally ambiguous document.”
”The Carnage and Chaos of Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” by Doreen St. Félix, The New Yorker

August 2018

“In these perilous times, a new age of injustice, African American musicians in the blues scene are singing out louder than ever through verse and song lyrics. Given the current backlash against Black Lives Matter on social media, even by a few misguided people professing to be blues fans, it is important that a new wave of protest and social change songs has emerged. Protest songs are examined by Brooklyn-based singer Hubby Jenkins (formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops), deep roots banjoist and fiddler Rhiannon Giddens (former bandmate and current collaborator with Jenkins), Scandinavia-based acoustic blues musician Eric Bibb, and blues harmonica player, teacher, and songwriter Phil Wiggins.”
”Outrage Channeled in Verse” by Frank Matheis, Living Blues magazine

10 August 2018

“[I]n a forum at the 2015 annual meeting for members of the Society for Ethnomusicology [w]e held a roundtable discussion titled “Black Music Matters: Taking Stock” to consider the threats and challenges to black music scenes as well as the strength of black music and its ability to serve as an expression of black life in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement. Since that moment, many other African Americans have died, many at the hands of police, but the killing of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014, a significant tipping point, catapulted the Black Lives Matter movement into plain view on social media sites and news networks. At the same time, musicians started releasing songs in tandem with the movement’s development. Songs like J. Cole’s “Be Free” (2014), D’Angelo and the Vanguard’s “The Charade” (2014), The Game’s “Don’t Shoot” (2014), Janelle Monáe’s “Hell You Talmbout” (2015), Usher’s “Chains” (2015), Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” (2015), and others provided a thematic soundscape the panelists could analyze and critique–activist music flooding the airwaves and heralding a new period of activism for the second millennium.

[…]

The Black Lives Matter movement is not the civil rights movement. It is something else. It is a motivating, dynamic movement still developing in the second millennium, mobilizing similar programs, organizations, and interested allies protesting racial injustice today to work together. Because black music and vernacular forms frame much of Black Lives Matter and Music, we strive to bring to light not just the unfinished narratives that are yet to be realized but rather the recurring or revitalized narratives that have been pronounced in epochs since enslavement, Jim Crow, the civil rights movement, and the Los Angeles uprising of 1992. From Trayvon to Mike Brown to Sandra Bland to Freddie Grey to Alton Sterling to Philando Castile to Stephon Clark, these are just a few names that have become shorthand points of reference, flash points created from grand juries’ nonindictment for the killing of black men and women in the early years of this new millennium.”

–from the Introduction to Black Lives Matter and Music: Protest, Intervention, Reflection by Fernando Orejuela

June 3, 2020

“BBC Radio 1 presenter Clara Amfo delivered an emotional anti-racism speech on Blackout Tuesday (2nd June), an industry-wide initiative demanding racial justice and structural change in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Amfo, who presents the mid-morning show on BBC R1, explained that she didn’t have the ‘mental strength’ to come into the station to broadcast on Monday (1st June), following the death of George Floyd. ‘I was sat on my sofa crying, angry, confused… stuck at the news of yet another brutalised black body. Knowing how the world enjoys blackness, and seeing what happened to George, we, black people, get the feeling people want our culture, but don’t want us’. She added that ‘One of my favourite thinkers is a woman called Amanda Seales, and she says this and I feel it deeply when she says, ‘You cannot enjoy the rhythm and ignore the blues’. And I say that with my chest’”.

”Clara Amfo: ‘You Cannot Enjoy the Rhythm and Ignore the Blues” in DJ Mag

June 4, 2020
“In the wake of George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, 2020, streaming numbers for protest songs have soared. Vintage tracks like N.W.A’s “Fuck Tha Police” that specifically call out police violence serve as a reminder that our current national crisis is nothing new. As Black Lives Matter resistance continues across the country, artists have channeled their anger and sadness into new protest anthems, directly inspired by Floyd’s death and its aftermath. Here’s how artists including YG, LL Cool J, Teejayx6, Terrace Martin, Conway the Machine, Hiss Golden Messenger, Wyatt Waddell, Trey Songz, and Nnamdï have responded to the latest chapter of an age-old crisis.”
New Protest Anthems: Songs of the Uprising for George Floyd” by Jonathan Bernstein, Kory Grow, and Hank Shteamer, Rolling Stone

7 June, 2020

“This year’s seniors are leaving academia amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and a global uprising against police brutality toward black people, and through it all, Beyoncé wants you to know: You’re already doing great. “Thank you for using your collective voice and letting the world know that black lives matter”, the singer tells students during YouTube’s Dear Class of 2020 streaming special, headlined by the Obamas. “The killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others have left us all broken,” she explains. “Real change has started with you, this new generation of high-school and college graduates who we celebrate today.”
”Beyoncé Thanks Black Lives Matter Protestors, Talks Music-Industry Sexism in Commencement Speech” by Halle Kiefe, Vulture

June 8, 2020
“For those who are new to K-pop fandom, a fancam is a video closeup filmed by an audience member during a live performance by a K-pop idol group. Fancams have been the bane of many Twitter users, however, who often find their own viral threads hijacked by users posting fancams to capitalize upon the thread’s popularity. Following the murder of George Floyd by members of the Minneapolis police force, K-pop “stans” redirected their energies to posts on Twitter and Instagram made by police departments seeking to identify protestors against police brutality–jamming them instead with videos of K-pop stars. Other strategies used to subvert such efforts, and to promote Black Lives Matter, are described–including hashtag derailment, Rickrolling for justice, and weaponizing Disney’s heavy-handed copyright policing.”

”How K-pop fans are weaponizing the internet for Black Lives Matter” by Aja Romano, Vox

June 9, 2020
Rachel Berry, a 28-year-old from New Jersey, described the fears she often feels as a black woman at country shows and festivals: Being worried that if she stands up to dance, someone will yell a racial slur. The uneasy feeling walking through parking lot tailgates and seeing Confederate flags. Sometimes, she declines to go to concerts because she Googles the city’s name and “racism” and the search reveals racist incidents…Although the popular image of a country music listener is a white person from the South, and concert crowds are overwhelmingly white, the genre’s popularity has expanded from coast to coast in recent years; a 2016 Country Music Association study found that nonwhite and Hispanic fans were the format’s fastest-growing audience. Country music’s roots are also in black history: the banjo originated in Africa and was played by slaves when they came to America. Eventually, white artists started to use the instrument…Country music fans know that, for a lot of artists, speaking up does not come naturally. Nashville singers are frequently encouraged to stay quiet about topics deemed controversial, such as gun control or politics, so they don’t alienate fans or risk backlash (see: Dixie Chicks, March 2003). But the killing of George Floyd, who died 25 May 2020 in Minneapolis police custody after an officer knelt on his neck, sparked an unusually large public outpouring from country singers, labels and organizations…Mickey Guyton, who just released a powerful song called “Black Like Me” has faced racism at her own concerts; she said she was called the n-word in a meet-and-greet line and was told not to talk about it. Last week, Guyton participated in a Zoom call titled “A Conversation on Being African-American in the Nashville Music Industry.”
“How the Country Music Industry Is Responding to George Floyd’s Death–and Facing Its Own Painful Truths” by Emily Yahr, Washington Post

June 9, 2020

“A collective of senior black music industry executives from companies including Warner, Sony, Universal Music Group, BMG, Live Nation, Spotify, and the Music Managers Forum has published an open letter to business leaders calling for immediate action on racism and marginalization within the sector. The newly formed Black Music Coalition welcomed industry statements of support on last week’s #BlackoutTuesday, a music industry-endorsed day of reflection during the ongoing global Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death in police custody of George Floyd in Minneapolis, but said that it was time to transform that support into “tangible changes”. The letter states: “The music industry has long profited  from the rich and varied culture of black people for many generations but overall, we feel it has failed to acknowledge the structural and systematic racism affecting the very same black community and so effectively, enjoying the rhythm and ignoring the blues”. Following #BlackoutTuesday, Republic Records, home to Ariana Grande and Drake, pledged to stop using the term “urban” to describe music made by black artists. The coalition’s signatories called for music companies across the board to cease use of the term and replace it with ‘black music’”.

”’Urban’ No More: Black British Music Execs Call for Industry Reforms” by Laura Snapes, The Guardian

June 9, 2020

“The British rapper, author, and podcast host talks to <NME> about education, solidarity, widespread activism, his recent BBC interview, and creating a level playing field for all–specifically, in relation to racially-based police brutality in the United Kingdom, and the nation’s legacy of colonialism. George Mpanga, a.k.a. George the Rapper. is a former schoolmate of Julian Cole, a man left brain damaged and paralyzed by British police after being “taken to the ground” by officers outside a Bedford nightclub in 2013.”
”George The Poet on Black Lives Matter: ‘This Is Our Opportunity to Reassess Our Story” by Sarah Jenkins, NME

June 9, 2020
Just as activists have raised their voices demanding justice for George Floyd and the many killed by police violence, the police have met them with their own sound: the LRAD. These audio devices, colloquially known as “sound cannons”, can be used either as conventional public address speaker systems or to generate extremely loud high-frequency sounds specifically intended for the dispersal of crowds, which can also cause pain, disorientation, and injury to those exposed to them. Genasys, manufacturers of the LRAD, issued a press release touting its use by police departments in seven cities during the protests of the last week, including Portland, Oregon, Colorado Springs, San Jose, and Fort Lauderdale. Protesters and journalists have reported their use in cities like Chicago and New York on social media. [This article] compile[s] a guide to the history of the LRAD, its capabilities, and best practices for protecting yourself in the event of its use and aftercare treatment if you are exposed.”

”Understanding the LRAD, the ‘Sound Cannon’ Police Are Using at Protests, and How to Protect Yourself From It” by Daphne Carr, pitchfork.com

June 10, 2020
The demonstrations against the killing of George Floyd have brought a wave of powerful protest music, with new tracks and revisited classics–including tracks by YG, Che Lingo, Kendrick Lamar, Terrance Martin, Keedron Bryant, Beyoncé, Bashy, and Dua Saleh.”

”YG, Che Lingo, Kendrick Lamar: The protest songs of Black Lives Matter 2020” by Joseph Chanté, The Guardian

June 10, 2020
“George Floyd was buried in his hometown of Houston, Texas, this week. Floyd left his mark on the city through his friends and family, but also through the music he made under the name Big Floyd. George Floyd grew up in Houston’s Third Ward–the home of the city’s hip hop and rap scene. Floyd used to spend hours in producer DjD’s home studio, making the kind of slow-the-music-down form of rap made famous by the late DJ Screw, who also knew and worked with Floyd. Houston’s chopped and screwed scene, as the genre is called, is a lesser-known but proud one. It seems like everyone who’s part of it loves to rep their city, including Houston’s most famous native, Beyoncé. Music played a huge role in Floyd’s life: There was the chopped and screwed music, but also Christian hip hop, which friends say Floyd listened to a lot. The news of his death was particularly devastating for people around the Houston rap music scene because of how much loss they have experienced already, including the premature death of DJ Screw.”

”Houston’s hip-hop scene remembers George Floyd” by David Greene, NPR Music

June 15, 2020

“If there’s a music video that captures the Black Lives Matter demonstrations of June 2020, it’s YG’s “FTP”–which, obviously, is an abbreviation of “f— the police”. The song and the clip are an homage to N.W.A’s legendary 1988 song of the same name as well as “FDT (F— Donald Trump)”, YG’s 2016 collaboration with the late Nipsey Hussle. The “FTP” clip–filmed in Los Angeles on June 7 at a demonstration that saw Black Lives Matter, with YG and the BLD PWR organization, drawing a crowd that BLM estimated at nearly 100,000 people, one of the largest in the city’s history–also features several notable figures, ranging from academic and Black Lives Matters’ Los Angeles Chapter cofounder Melina Abdullah and actor Kendrick Sampson to Justin Bieber/Ariana Grande manager Scooter Braun…The video was directed and turned around quickly by Kariuki (who prefers to go only by that name), founder of Denied Approval, which is also a YouTube channel and a clothing line. Variety caught up with him about how the clip came together–and how he feels about criticism from rapper Chika and others who felt that YG exploited the march to make a video, and more.”
”Behind the Scenes of YG’s Black Lives Matter-Themed ‘FTP’ Video” by Shirley Ju, Variety

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