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Columbia College Chicago
Opera and Concert Music

Opera and Concert Music

Definition of Style

Black composers and musicians have impacted styles and genres normally associated with the music of Europe, such as opera and concert music, from the sixteenth-century to the present. This broad category includes symphonies, chamber works, operas, art songs, experimental and electronic works from the fringes of the avant-garde, and other forms of "classical" music. Among the few elements able to tie this large category together are the use of Western instruments and compositional forms and an emphasis on the creation of musical works, primarily for contemplative listening. Among the principal African-American composers who have worked, and still work, in this category are William Grant Still (1895?-1978), Ulysses Kay (1917?-1995), George Walker (born 1922), Hale Smith (born 1925), T. J. Anderson (born 1928), Olly Wilson (born 1937), and Anthony Davis (born 1951).


Musical Examples

Black Music: The Written Tradition, an album of performances by the Black Music Repertory Ensemble.


"Rondeau," from Violin Concerto in G Major, op. 2, no. 1. (Chevalier de St. Georges), New Black Music Repertory Ensemble. Unreleased recording.

Introductory Bibliography

Handy, D. Antoinette. Black Conductors. Metuchen, N.J. : Scarecrow Press, 1995. Biographical articles.

Smith, Eric Ledell. Blacks in Opera: An Encyclopedia of People and Companies, 1873-1993. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 1995. Alphabetical listing of artists and companies, with bibliography.

A more extensive bibliography can be found in the library services section of this site.


Selected Discography

Barton, Rachel. Violin Concertos by Black Composers (Cedille CDR 90000 035)

The Black Composer Series (CBS P9 19424) 9-LP box set

Hinderas, Natalie. Piano Music by African-American Composers (Composers Recordings CD 629)

Kaleidoscope: Music by African-American Women (Leonarda LE 339)

Kronos Quartet. Pieces of Africa (Elektra/Nonesuch 9 79275-2)

Symphonic Brotherhood: The Music of African-American Composers (Troy 104)