Addressing the subject of race and classical composers

Posted on: August 11, 2014

In Friday’s (8/8) New York Times, William Robin speaks to several African-American composers on the subject of race in classical music. “ ‘We’ve been invisible,’ the composer T. J. Anderson declared…. Anderson invoked the harsh legacy of segregation as continuing to divide the concert hall.… Jonathan Bailey Holland, 40, writes bright music in a post-Copland, Americana tradition.… In March, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra performed Dr. Holland’s ‘Shards of Serenity’ as part of the New Music Readings for African-American Composers, an initiative organized by the American Composers Orchestra program EarShot.… His similarly radiant ‘Halcyon Sun’ is available on a 2011 ‘American Portraits’ album by the Cincinnati Symphony. Since the Detroit Symphony began its Classical Roots series in 1978, it has advocated for African-American composers.… [Composer and scholar George] Lewis’s career has gotten a second wind recently, with commissions by youthful groups like the International Contemporary Ensemble. His latest work is ‘Memex for orchestra, based on a proto-Internet information system theorized in 1945.… ‘If there is a definition of an African-American composer, there isn’t a single profile, there isn’t a single mold,’ Mr. Lewis said.” Also discussed in the article are composers Tyshawn Sorey, Daniel Roumain, Jessie Montgomery, William Dawson, and Florence Price, the first black woman to have a work played by a major American orchestra.

Posted August 11, 2014

Pictured: The International Contemporary Ensemble performs works by Beethoven and George Lewis at the 2013 Mostly Mozart Festival. Photo by Hiroyuki Ito for the New York Times