Music Appreciation 11-8-2006
Cultural Perspective 12
Antonin Dvorak was a Bohemian composer who was inspired by traditional music of the “New World.” He was influenced specifically by spirituals, Creole tunes and dances, as well as what he perceived as music of Native Americans. Dvorak was especially fond of spirituals sung to him by his student, Henry T. Burleigh. Burleigh published a collection of spirituals arranged in an art music style in efforts to bring the genre to the concerts stage. Two of Dvorak’s students followed his suggestion to issue a challenge to American composers to throw off the domination of European music and form a path of their own. Another student of Dvorak’s composition class, Will Marion Cook, began an opera on Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Composers of the era were influenced by Dvorak, such as a woman by the name of Florence Price who became the first African-American woman to be recognized as a distinguished composer. Price is believed to have drawn inspiration for a work called Symphony in E minor directly from Dvorak’s New World Symphony. Price and Dvorak both include original themes that make reference to characteristic African-American rhythms and melodies. William Grant Still was a nationalist who drew musical inspiration from African-American works and spirituals in a wide variety of genres and wanted to demonstrate the elevation of the blues to the highest music level with a symphony which was still firmly rooted in the music of his heritage. These examples of musical nationalism were products of a movement referred to as the Harlem Renaissance which saw the rise of black performers and Dvorak can be credited with the influential drive behind the originality of African-American art music.