Would Dvořák Have Wanted the Music of African American Composers Programmed Instead of the “New World” Symphony?

  • 06 Jan 2021
  • Events
  • 5 minute read

Date of event: 2021/1/18 A conversation and book launch in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This is an event organized by the Dvořák American Heritage Association.

A panel discussion with Marcus Pyle, NYU/Davidson University; Douglas Shadle, Vanderbilt University, and Michael Beckerman, New York University.

This event will take place via zoom HERE. For full zoom dial-in info click HERE.

Dvořák was a famous champion of the idea of an American music based on African American sound. Further, he was a great supporter of his African American students, including Harry Burleigh and Will Marion Cook. But as the “New World” is performed over and over again, the music of African American composers like Florence Price and William Grant Still is still ignored. It was suggested that the best way to celebrate Beethoven’s 250th anniversary would be by not performing his music for an entire year. In that spirit should we propose that in 2023, the “New World’s” 130th anniversary, we honor the composer’s progressive vision by replacing all performances of his symphony by the music of African American composers?

Michael Beckerman is Carroll and Milton Petrie Professor and Collegiate Professor at New York University where he is chair of the Department of Music. He is the author of seven books including New Worlds of Dvořák, Janáček as Theorist, Dvořák and His World, Janáček and His World, and Martinů’s Mysterious Accident, and has written widely on Czech topics, film music, Mozart, orientalism, music of the Roma, and most recently, composition in the camps and the question of the relationship between form and musical meaning. Beckerman has been a regular contributor to The New York Times, has appeared on many episodes of Live From Lincoln Center, and has lectured nationally and internationally. He has been the recipient of many prizes and honors, including two ASCAP Deems Taylor awards; an honorary doctorate from Palacký University in the Czech Republic; the Janáček and Dvořák medals and other awards from the Czech government; a Distinguished Alumni award from Hofstra University; and a Golden Dozen teaching award from NYU. He was recently made an honorary member of the Czech Musicological Society and will receive the Harrison Medal from the Irish Musicological Society in 2021. He was the Leonard Bernstein Scholar in Residence of The New York Philharmonic from 2016-18.

Marcus R. Pyle is Assistant Professor of Musicology at Davidson College. He has also served as Visiting Scholar on the Faculty of Music and Theater Arts at MIT, musicology lecturer at Tufts University, is a recipient of the Howard Mayer Brown Fellowship from the American Musicological Society, and a recipient of the Dean's Dissertation Award from NYU. His research centers on depictions of femmes fatales in French and German fin de siècle opera, intersections of gender and sexuality, continental philosophy, and African American lives and music.

His dissertation is titled, “Deconstructed Divas: Deconstructed Divas: Philosophy and the Operatic Femme Fatale.” Pyle studied Viola Performance at the Juilliard School (M.A.) and at the Royal Academy of Music in London (B.A.), Comparative Literature at Dartmouth College (M.A.), and Historical Musicology (PhD) at NYU. His article, “The Rhetoric of Seduction; or, Materiality under Erasure,” is published in 19th-Century Music. His article, “Nina Simone as Poet and Orchestrator,” is forthcoming in the Journal of Popular Music Studies.

Pyle is also Founder and CEO of ChamberWorks (est. 2010), a music institute for beginning to intermediate string players in Dallas. He was awarded the "Making a Difference" prize in 2020 for his work with ChamberWorks.

Douglas Shadle is Assistant Professor of Music and Chair of the Department of Musicology and Ethnomusicology at Vanderbilt University. As an advocate of historically marginalized composers, Shadle is a leading voice in public discussions about the role of symphony orchestras and orchestral music in American life. His first book, Orchestrating the Nation: The Nineteenth-Century American Symphonic Enterprise (Oxford University Press, 2016), will be followed shortly by Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony (Oxford, 2021), which recontextualizes Antonín Dvořák’s iconic New World Symphony within the complex landscape of American culture at the end of the nineteenth century. Shadle is also a highly-regarded expert on fellow Little Rock native Florence Price (1887–1953), the first African American woman to win international acclaim as a composer.

Shadle’s works and research have been covered in major press venues, including the New York Times, The New Yorker, Washington Post, and Boston Globe, as well as on radio broadcasts and podcasts around the world. In December 2018, he wrote a teaser for the New York Times to mark the 125th anniversary of the “New World” symphony’s Carnegie Hall premiere. His publications have won two ASCAP Deems/Taylor Virgil Thomson Awards (2015, 2017), the Society for American Music Irving Lowens Article Award (2016), the inaugural American Musicological Society H. Robert Cohen/RIPM Award (2018), and the Vanderbilt Chancellor’s Award for Research (2018).

Shadle joined the Blair School faculty at Vanderbilt University in 2014 and has served as the chair of the Department of Musicology and Ethnomusicology since 2019. He holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a B.M. in viola performance, summa cum laude, from the University of Houston.

This event is also a “book launch” for Prof. Shadle’s forthcoming Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony (Oxford University Press, 2021).

Supported by Bohemian Benevolent & Literary Association.

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