Leeds School of Arts presents Professor Gayle Murchison discussing #BlackMusicMatters and the work of five twentieth-century black musical figures.
Gayle will examine the selected works of five composers: Scott Joplin, W.C. Handy, William Grant Still, Mary Lou Williams and Samuel Taylor-Coleridge.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the United States experienced a period of racial reckoning following the shootings of unarmed black men and women at the hands of law enforcement and vigilantes. The subsequent calls for social justice, diversity and inclusion reached leading cultural, art and educational institutions and sought to diversify performance programming and other forms of public outreach. With respect to music, this included the programming, performing, and commissioning of Black and BIPoC composers and the booking of soloists and ensembles as #BlackMusicMatters responded to #BlackLivesMatter.
Examining selected works of the five composers—four African American, one British, and one woman—can serve as case studies. Challenging racism and segregation, sometimes acting as entrepreneurs to overcome racial barriers to performances, publication, and recording of their music. Discussions of the compositions by these musicians serve to illustrate the kinds of hard questions programmers, artistic directors, critics, educational institutions, performing arts organisations, performers, and audiences can, and should ask about #BlackMusicMatters.
Gayle Murchison is Associate Professor of Music at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, USA.
Her research interests focus on African American and African diasporic music, ranging from Mary Lou Williams, William Grant Still, and the music of social and cultural movements. Examples of these are the Harlem renaissance and civil rights movements, the music of Zap Mama and Afro-European studies.
Murchison is the author of the American musical Stravinsky: The style and aesthetic of Copland’s new American music, the early works, 1921-1938. Gayle also served as editor of Black Music Research Journal 2014-2019 and is currently writing a book on Mary Lou Williams in Europe, 1952-1954.
Gayle’s most recent publications include a chapter in a book on Nadia Boulanger in the US, music for Harriet Jacob’s incidents in the life of a slave woman and for Mary Lou Williams’s Girl Stars.