Last month the Classics a Day team made #BlackLivesMatter the theme. Systemic racism in classical music has limited exposure to composers of color. So for August, the team opened up the focus even further.
#WeWriteSymphonies is a hashtag used by composers of color, and it seems like a logical extension of #BlackLivesMatter.
For my contributions to the feed, I found examples throughout music history. The problem isn’t new. There are talented composers of color underrepresented in every era — not just in contemporary music. Here are my #ClassicsaDay posts for the first week of #WeWriteSymphonies
08/03/20 Clarence Cameron White (1880-1960) – Lament, Op 12, No 2 “I am troubled in mind”
White was considered one of the most talented violinists of his day. And he headed the Hampton Institute’s music department in the 1930s.
08/04/20 Chinary Ung (1942 – ) – Water Rings Overture
Cambodian composer Chinery Ung uses both traditional and Western elements in his music. He currently teaches both compositions and Southeast Asian music studies at UCSD.
08/05/20 Cacilda Borges Barbosa (1914-2010) – Estudo brasileiro No. 1
Barbosa was a Brazilian pianist and composer. She worked with Heitor Villa-Lobos in the 1930s. Many of her works have strong folk elements in them.
08/06/20 Blind Tom (1849-1908) – Battle of Manassas
Thomas Wiggins was blind and an autistic savant. Born in slavery, Blind Tom spent most of his career making money for the family that owned him. After the Civil War, the exploitation continued as Wiggins’ legal status changed from slave to “ward.”
08/07/20 Silvestre Reveultas (1899-1940) – Sensemayá
“Sensemayá” by Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén describes an Afro-Caribbean ritual. Mexican composer used the poem as the basis for his composition of the same name. This 1937 work became Revueltas’ most-performed composition.