Still life in black and white: An intertextual interpretation of William Grant Still's "symphonic trilogy."

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William Grant Still's musical achievements are legion. Because he was the first African American to break the color line in America's concert halls, Still earned the sobriquet "Dean of Negro Composers." Paradoxically, Still's reception suffers from this list of "firsts." The unintended consequence of cataloging his achievements venerates his position as an iconoclast while detracting critical attention from his music. Conversely, if we ignore the social context in which Still produced his music, we risk misinterpreting his compositional choices or trivializing the significance of his accomplishments prior to the Civil Rights Movement in America. Still's so-called symphonic trilogy-Africa, Symphony No. ... continued below

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Lamb, Earnest August 2005.

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  • Lamb, Earnest

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Description

William Grant Still's musical achievements are legion. Because he was the first African American to break the color line in America's concert halls, Still earned the sobriquet "Dean of Negro Composers." Paradoxically, Still's reception suffers from this list of "firsts." The unintended consequence of cataloging his achievements venerates his position as an iconoclast while detracting critical attention from his music. Conversely, if we ignore the social context in which Still produced his music, we risk misinterpreting his compositional choices or trivializing the significance of his accomplishments prior to the Civil Rights Movement in America. Still's so-called symphonic trilogy-Africa, Symphony No. 1 ("Afro-American"), and Symphony No. 2 ("Song of a New Race")-is the subject of an intertextual analysis that demonstrates how extra-musical concerns, such as race, and musical elements can be brought into alignment. Chapter one discusses black music scholarship in general and Still scholarship in particular by tracing the development of black music historiography. The second chapter explores one of the various modes of inquiry used to study black music-intertextuality. The context for Still's self-titled racial and universal periods is the subject of chapter three. For the first time, arguments from both sides of the racial divide are reconsidered in the debate about what constitutes American music. The fourth chapter is devoted to an intertextual interpretation of Still's symphonic trilogy. Each work is subjected to an anterior, interior, and posterior intertextual reading. An anterior reading takes into account how context determines perception. The interior reading examines the inter-play of topics and texts that are created as the work is experienced. The posterior reading is concerned with the relationship between the work and its audiences and any new texts that are generated from this interaction. The final chapter challenges the notion that the three works discussed form a trilogy. In the process, the differences between criticism and interpretation are reconsidered.

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  • August 2005

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  • May 14, 2008, 9:08 p.m.

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Lamb, Earnest. Still life in black and white: An intertextual interpretation of William Grant Still's "symphonic trilogy.", dissertation, August 2005; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc5578/: accessed October 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .