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Friday, January 11, 2008

Dvořák in America

Okay, and I had to say something about this nightmare—great to see Dvořák gettin' good press, but why so snide? Whence this weird superiority towards those benighted fools who failed to recognize the vitality of African-American folktunes back in the 1800s? How many classical music lovers today have any patience for contemporary pop music? Are we really supposed to believe that, after giving this lecture, Joseph Horowitz went straight home and listened to the new Mary J. Blige? (How is that, by the way. Anybody? I thought her last one was kinda brilliant.) And how is it that this entire lecture on Dvořák and African-American music manages to name exactly zero African-American musicians? For all the White composers mentioned who are supposed to have been influenced by jazz music, not one jazz musician merits a name-check? Not to mention Black classical musicians. Where is Scott Joplin? Where, more to the point, is Harry Burleigh (pictured)—Dvořák's copyist on the New World Symphony, one of his chief influences, and a successful artsong composer in his own right? (Fun fact! Apparently he was also the first Black singer at Temple Emanu-El.) Anyways, I'm not buyin' it. Methinks this is a big, empty balloon of generalization, begging for a pinprick.

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