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CBMR Digest is a publication of the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago

Columbia College Chicago

CBMR Digest

Latest Issue: Fall 2013

ISSN # 2168-3301spring 2013 | Volume 26, No. 1

CBMR Travel Grants

In spring 2013, the CBMR awarded CBMR Travel-to-the-Collections grants to Thomas L. Riis and TsiTsi Ella Jaji to support week-long residencies at the CBMR to use the CBMR’s Library and Archives to support personal research projects.

Tom Riis is the Joseph Negler Professor of Musicology and the Director of the American Music Research Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder College of Music. Riis is the immediate past president of the Society of American Music and is a specialist in musical theater. His book Just Before Jazz (Smithsonian, 1989) received an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award, and his latest book, Frank Loesser (2008), was published in the Yale Broadway Masters series.

Riis used his travel award to be in residence at the CBMR in May 2013. His project, titled “Paul Robeson to 1940: An Artist-Activist Emerges,” is in support of a new Robeson biography which will significantly augment existing Robeson scholarship by focusing on Robeson’s performance, recording, and film careers (particularly in his early developmental years), including an examination of Robeson’s relationship to and consciousness of recording technology, the rapid development of which parallels his life. Riis states “Though Robeson recorded more than 200 songs in at least a dozen languages, no systematic study has ever been applied to this body of work, and even less notice has been paid to his eleven films—most of which feature Robeson singing at one point or another.” Riis continues “Robeson is rarely if ever discussed in music history courses, which seems to be a serious omission worth correcting. The musical path that took Paul Robeson to fame in the first place has never been fully assessed in all its dimensions. Robeson’s music and his activism became more intimately fused and was the linchpin guaranteeing that the power of his words would transcend any single performance or repertory, platform or ideology, time, or place.”

TsiTsi Ella Jaji is assistant professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is also associated with Africana Studies, and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. Her dissertation in comparative literature (Cornell University, 2009) was titled “Africa in Stereo: Comparative Black Acoustic Imaginaries in Poetry and Film from Ghana, Senegal and South Africa.” Her book Africa in Stereo: Music, Modernism and pan-African Solidarity is forthcoming from Oxford University Press, and two other book projects are in progress—“Cassava Westerns: U.S. Frontier Myths, Indigeneity and Global Black Imaginaries” and “Classic Black: Art Songs and the Poetics of the Black Atlantic.” Her CBMR residency will be in support of the latter.

In addition to the book in progress, her project, titled “Art Songs of the Black Atlantic,” will also support performances, articles, and conference papers. Jaji will explore “how composers of African heritage have approached setting poetry by black poets to music in Western art music idioms.” And while her primary interest is in art songs for solo voice and piano, she will also study related vocal genres such as cantatas, oratorios, and operas. She writes “I believe the rigorous approach to classical compositions by black musicians will be an important contribution to the interdisciplinary work between music and literature that has enriched African-American and Africana studies for so long. This project is committed to thinking about the relationships among global black cultures comparatively.” Jaji’s interest is in not only African-American, but also Afro-European, continental African, and Caribbean authors. This will be her second extended research visit to the CBMR; she has also won a fellowship from the Black Metropolitan Research Consortium, which will further extend her work at the CBMR.

CBMR travel grants of up to $1,000 are awarded on a competitive basis to applicants who demonstrate the ability to launch and complete a scholarly or performance-based research project based on the CBMR’s collections. The grants are supported with funds that have been given to the Center in honor of CBMR founder and director emeritus Samuel A. Floyd Jr. and in memory of Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson. Scholars, composers, conductors, and musicians, educators, graduate students, and independent researchers residing or attending school beyond commuting distance of the CBMR (more than 100 miles) are eligible to apply for this grant. Researchers in all genres of black music are encouraged to apply; interests ranging from concert music to gospel to jazz criticism have been explored through this grant. Applications are accepted twice yearly and must be postmarked or received by September 1 and February 1. Additional information and application forms are available at the CBMR's website, or by calling 312.369.7559.

More from spring 2013