|A survey of the lives and creative activities of some Negro composers|
Coleridge Alexander Braithwaite
Uploaded by: Pocket Masters
Pockets: Gottesman Libraries Archive, Historical Dissertations
Tags: African American composers, African American musicians, Bio-bibliography, music
This survey is the outgrowth of a desire to uncover the accomplishments of some Negro composers and to organize the material into an orderly, understandable form. There is no attempt to make a technical study of the music, for such an analysis is beyond the scope of this endeavor. It is believed, however, that the first approach to an investigation of this music consists of an inquiry into the lives of the composers and the extent of their creative activities. This survey is confined, therefore, to this initial step.
In considering the usefulness of this work, one must make clear the purposes it proposes to serve. There are four: to fill a gap in music education and literature; to provide a source of reference for educational institutions, commercial agencies, and the general public; to become a practical tool for an understanding of Negro composers; and to establish a basis for further research about Negro composers.
In the first instance, a gap exists because the sources are widely scattered. They have provided evidence that a compilation of biographical, musical, and bibliographical materials is needed. Further investigation shows that these materials should be gathered because they are abundant, interesting, and educationally helpful.
Secondly, it is hoped that schools, colleges, conservatories, libraries, and other educational agencies interested in the cultural life of the Negro can consider this survey as a valuable source of reference. Particularly does it aim to serve students, teachers, and administrators in the Negro schools and colleges. Eight years of teaching in the Negro colleges have furnished reasons for knowing that material in this form can fulfill a long-felt need.
Commercial agencies such as publishers, radio stations, and recording companies can find use for this survey in their work. There is no desire to state what music ought to be published, performed, or recorded; this is merely an objective account of what has been done by some Negro composers and desires to facilitate an appraisal of the music by directing the agencies to it.
The general public, too, can secure information that will provide pleasure and education. The non-technical language of the text encourages the attention of the layman.
Thirdly, the survey proposes to become a practical tool for an understanding of Negro composers. This intention motivates the inclusion of biographical data which are important. Not only can an understanding be fostered by a knowledge of their lives, but an interest in their music can also be aroused by showing that their works are accessible by means of publications, recordings, and performances. Especially significant are the contemporary composers whose works represent a part of present-day culture.
Fourthly, as a basis for further research about Negro composers, this survey represents a beginning. It is not all-inclusive, nor is it exhaustive on the composers selected. Enough material is provided, however, to lay the groundwork for further investigation from the standpoint of biographical data, creative activities, and bibliographical sources. A technical analysis of much of the music is also a possible extension. Enlargement of this survey is believed to be desirable in addition to being possible because of the limited scope of this material and because of the greater number of educational values inherent to a broader study of this nature.
The eighteen composers in this survey have been selected for the variety of their activities, the availability of material about them, and their educational importance. In fact, one-third of the composers - Dawson, Dett, Dorsey, Hall, White, and Work - can be classified as full-time educators because of their academic positions. Bland, Burleigh, Ellington, Hall Johnson, John Rosamond Johnson, and Schuyler belong to the category of full-time performers on the theatrical and concert stage. Four men - Coleridge-Taylor, Kay, Still, and Swanson - are grouped as composers who have devoted their lives primarily to creating music rather than subordinating composition to other forms of livelihood. Handy is a composer primarily concerned with the publication of music, and Margetson represents a composer devoted to church music.
The accessibility of material was another criterion. Because of temporal and financial limitations, this survey had to limit itself to material that could be obtained expeditiously at a minimum of expense. The fact that nine of the fourteen living composers resided in New York City was a happy coincidence that contributed largely to the progress of the work. The remaining five were among a larger number reached by correspondence, but for reasons such as their modest reluctance to furnish sufficient information, delays in communication, and the like, almost a dozen other composers have been omitted.
The criterion of accomplishment, too, was considered. Each composer has been included on account of his contributions to musical culture.
In addition to the personal interviews with the composers in New York, correspondence was conducted with four in this country - Still in California, Dorsey in Texas, Dawson in Alabama, Work in Tennessee - and one in Europe - Kay in Italy. But in every instance it was necessary to augment the data with material from college and public libraries, publishers, and musical organizations. Personal music and literature likewise contributed to the survey, especially in connection with the four deceased composers - Bland, Burleigh, Coleridge-Taylor, and Dett.
The organization of each chapter has been restricted to a simple pattern - a biographical sketch, a photograph, a list of creative activities in music and literature, and a bibliography pertaining to each composer. A brief epilogue - Chapter XX - summarizes the purposes and their fulfillment. Salient facts, such as differences and similarities between the composers, bring the body of the survey to a conclusion.
The first appendix includes a few definitions of terms; the second consists of an explanation of the abbreviations used; and the third comprises the names and locations of the publishers of music listed in the survey. The composers, activities, bibliographies, definitions, abbreviations, and publishers are all alphabetically arranged.
On the whole, it is hoped that the purposes, criteria, sources, and organization of this survey are clear. Its development from the stage of germination to its present size has been interesting, and its contents are offered as a musical and educational contribution.