"The most distinctive and promising American symphonic proclamation"
September 21, 2019 6:12 PM   Subscribe

 
Would Impromptu for Violin, Viola, and Beatbox count?
(From the ever dope Black Violin.)
posted by bartleby at 6:52 PM on September 21, 2019 [6 favorites]


maybe african americans figured they had their own damn music to do - why should they bend to the "common practice"?
posted by pyramid termite at 7:01 PM on September 21, 2019 [10 favorites]


While perhaps peripheral to the historical focus of the piece, it seems like a missed opportunity not to mention Julius Eastman.

But then, I think pretty much any discussion of classical music is a prime opportunity to mention Eastman.
posted by multics at 7:23 PM on September 21, 2019 [3 favorites]


> maybe african americans figured they had their own damn music to do - why should they bend to the "common practice"?

The thing is, when you have two music systems or traditions in close proximity to each other, it is very much usual for there to be cross-fertilization among them.

Yes, 99.9999% of musicians keep on doing their own damn music however they like and see fit, but there is always that 0.00001% that is interested in putting two different systems together and seeing what happens.

Well, not "always" apparently--because here we are and not much of it has happened.

But it probably says a lot more about American social culture than the music itself. There is nothing in the music itself stopping it from happening.

Probably somewhat the same reasons that 99.9% of our neighborhoods in the U.S. are still completely segregated despite the fact the segregation was officially over 50 years ago.
posted by flug at 9:27 PM on September 21, 2019 [7 favorites]


maybe african americans figured they had their own damn music to do - why should they bend to the "common practice"?

Ron Carter and Charles Mingus, and, I am sure, other African-American musicians wanted careers in classical music. Carter went to Julliard, iirc. At some point, it was made clear to him that he was not going to be getting hired by a major symphony.
posted by thelonius at 11:35 PM on September 21, 2019 [20 favorites]


Jazz is America's classical music
posted by quazichimp at 1:31 AM on September 22, 2019 [27 favorites]


Nina Simone was also classically trained.
posted by bardophile at 4:56 AM on September 22, 2019 [7 favorites]


I have disjointed thoughts about this.

I think Scott Joplin's contribution to piano repertoire is outstanding, and it's great fun to play. And I guess they found his opera at some point (it had been lost for decades, feared forever), and that's being performed.

But I find it odd that the most famous meldings of jazz with classical music were created by George Gershwin. Rhapsody In Blue is an incredible piece, and Porgy And Bess is outstanding.

I don't know how many compositions by black composers we might have had if white supremacy weren't in play. I remember listening to Performance Today while out on delivery routes and them devoting entire episodes to African-American composers, trying to highlight them.

But that was rare, and none of the pieces have been featured enough for me to recognize them.

This feels like a truly systemic problem based in white supremacy in which nearly the ideal has been achieved. I hope that can be changed across the coming generations.
posted by hippybear at 5:14 AM on September 22, 2019 [12 favorites]


Thanks for the link. Great article
posted by eustatic at 5:19 AM on September 22, 2019


In fact, you know, fuck it. I'm going to do my own research and find really great pieces by black composers to feature here on MetaFilter. I post a lot of music here, and when I find something worth sharing, I'm going to feature it here. I'm going to make it a deliberate search to seek out this stuff and share it.
posted by hippybear at 5:57 AM on September 22, 2019 [24 favorites]


Carter went to Julliard, iirc. At some point, it was made clear to him that he was not going to be getting hired by a major symphony.

It was Eastman; I remembered where I heard him speak of this: it is from about 12:00 to 16:00 in this master class.
posted by thelonius at 6:14 AM on September 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


After 136 years: The Met Will Stage Its First Opera by a Black Composer
posted by Omon Ra at 6:20 AM on September 22, 2019 [6 favorites]


I recommend James Weldon Johnson's great novel of 1912, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (wikipedia link). It shapes into a story the reasons for Dvorak's prophecy not quite coming true.
posted by homerica at 7:00 AM on September 22, 2019 [3 favorites]


I was glad to see the amazing Florence Price was posted to the Blue previously and previously.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 7:21 AM on September 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


In Detroit, it feels there's been a somewhat greater effort to support and make visible African-American classical musicians. (Along with other efforts to meld classical and soul/pop music.)

The Detroit Symphony has a celebration of Classical Roots every year. The Michigan Opera Theatre has performed works by African-American writers. And the Sphinx Competition encourages classical musicians of color.

As for other classical pieces by black composers, off the top of my head I can think of Duke Ellington's jazz/classical fusion. A number of other "jazz" musicians have also tried to bridge that gap.

(And I remember performing that Dawson work mentioned above decades ago at Interlochen. It's a cool piece.)
posted by NorthernLite at 7:46 AM on September 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


I am PoC, and worked with a classical music nonprofit. For the anniversary of the Selma walk, people at the rehearsal showed up wearing confederate flag shirts. After Charlottesville, they engaged in "people in bottwo sides" narrative. I was one of four minority members, in a place where white people are only 65% of the population.

My ideas would go dismissed, ignored or simply challenged, but when the exact same idea came from a white man, two years later, was hailed as prodigious, a stroke of genius, a brilliant addition.

I quit shortly after a board member wanted me to apologize to the person stonewalling and sabotaging a major fundraising effort, for which I was responsible.

So, yeah, seeing how PoC are treated today, how even successful musicians are ignored in mainstream pop, I can't even imagine how it was been for classical musicians that have been ignored, disqualified and actively forgotten and erased by the mere fact that their origins are not as white as those embraced in the American Odeon.
posted by kadmilos at 7:58 AM on September 22, 2019 [34 favorites]


The Life of Charlie Burrell: Breaking the Color Barrier in Classical Music is a book about one of the many musicians who have played both jazz and classical music. (He has been called "the Jackie Robinson of classical music.") Still around, although not playing much at 95, Charlie is a very funny guy. The book is a hell of a read, and very frank about race.

The merging of jazz and classical in written music is the main topic here, with an emphasis on classical music with jazz inflections. Its merits come down to matters of taste, an area of aesthetics which can be discussed but not judged, ultimately.
posted by kozad at 8:18 AM on September 22, 2019 [3 favorites]


For the anniversary of the Selma walk, people at the rehearsal showed up wearing confederate flag shirts.

Holy shit. The musicians did this? Or was it open to the public?
posted by thelonius at 8:45 AM on September 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


"Black people chose otherwise" narratives always make me wince. The first answer is always, always racism, white supremacy. There's no gene for music, and plenty of people of color have fallen in love with "classical" music in the European tradition and wanted to pursue it.

Sure, lots of people would *rather* play in the vernacular, but we don't have the counterfactual to know what those choices would look like in the absence of what actually happened. Which was white supremacy.
posted by allthinky at 8:58 AM on September 22, 2019 [15 favorites]


Wynton Marsalis has speculated that one reason there was such an abundance of talent in jazz was that racism and segregation prevented many brilliant people from having non-musical careers, as doctors or engineers or professors, as well as careers in other kinds of music. Did you ever notice that mid-century blues guitarists sound like they are playing as if their life depends on every note, whereas white blues-rock imitators sound like they are saying "oh I know this trick, I know that move, wow I'm good, this is easy"? If things hadn't worked out for Albert King, he would have spent his life driving a bulldozer.
posted by thelonius at 9:17 AM on September 22, 2019 [12 favorites]


Or: What we call `classical music’ is a totemized subset of what Dvorak was talking about. I expect jazz would satisfy Dvorak, and movie scores and video game music. And music I don’t know anything about; the living strain of classical music has been regularly refreshed by pop music that gets retroactively claimed as Classical.

Two odd factlets: Strauss Jr was rumored in his lifetime to be part African because his waltzes are so irresistibly seductive. There is no evidence of this, and my reference isn’t online, but while looking for it I discovered that Karl Wittgenstein, the incredibly rich terrible father steel magnate in late 19th c Vienna, ran away from home in his teens, got himself to the States with nothing but a violin, and played for a while in a minstrel band, later working in an African-American bar.
posted by clew at 12:04 AM on September 23, 2019 [2 favorites]


I am not gonna link anything because my internet connection is steaming crap at the moment, but check out the series of three CDs called African Heritage Symphonic Series on the Chicago non-profit label Cedille. (The label's president is James Ginsburg; you may have heard of his mom, Justice Ginsburg, well-known classical music lover.) Anyway these CDs will demonstrate that there's excellent orchestral music by African American composers. Paul Freeman, conductor for this series, was also involved in the Black Composers series done by Columbia Masterworks in the 1970s, and Sony has recently (or will very soon) reissue those records on CD/download. All this stuff is probably on Spotify, btw.
posted by in278s at 10:37 AM on September 23, 2019 [4 favorites]


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