Tag Archives: Black studies

Gandy dancers

Before the 1950s, all railroad tracks in the U.S. were laid and maintained by hand labor. In the segregated South, this work was mainly done by Black men.

The section crews responsible for maintaining the tracks were sometimes known as gandy dancers, probably because of the coordinated rhythmic movements required for repositioning tracks that had become misaligned. They synchronized their movements with call-and-response singing of improvised couplets and stock refrains.

The tradition is documented in Gandy dancers by Maggie Holtzberg and Barry Dornfeld (Cinema Guild, 1994; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 1999-38971).

Below, the trailer for the film; the complete 30-minute film can be viewed here.

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Filed under Black studies, North America

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