Category: Internationalism

  • The Sadness of the New World

    In 1893, Dvorak and his family traveled from New York to Chicago by train to visit the World’s Fair. From Chicago, they went to Spillville, Iowa, a farming community of Czech immigrants. While in Spillville, Dvorak met and heard the music of Native Americans for the first time. As his son described it, they were: […]

  • The DNA of American Folk Music

    Engraving of Pocahontas (1595-1617). In 2018, in response to pushback against her longtime claims of Native American ancestry (including from President Trump, who refers to her mockingly as “Pocahontas”), Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren had her DNA tested, and made the results public. The test indicated that Warren had a Native American ancestor […]

  • Classically Black, part II: The Songs of Black Volk Playlist

    W.E.B. Du Bois (above), who spent several years studying in Germany in the 1890s, greatly admired German classical music, and considered it a repertoire full of freedom and possibility for black performers. He especially loved the operas of Richard Wagner (1813-1883), and in 1936 he made a pilgrimage to Bayreuth, the opera house in Bavaria […]

  • Calinda

    The earliest-known published book of African-American music, the 1867 Slave Songs of the United States, is primarily devoted to the religious vocal music of the slaves of the eastern seaboard. However, there are several songs at the end that are of a very different nature. These songs are in French and were collected in Louisiana, and […]

  • Can A White Girl Sing Selena?

    April 16 is a state holiday in Texas: Selena Day. Who was Selena? Selena was, is, and, were I to guess, will remain for eternity the most beloved female of all time in the Latino community. (Second place is the Virgin Mary, if you’re looking for context.) . . . She looked like (a more attractive […]

  • From Black Nationalism to Black Intergalacticism

    The visionary free jazz musician and Afrofuturist Sun Ra was a visiting artist and professor at the University of California-Berkeley in 1971. Here is fascinating audio from a lecture he gave in his Spring course, “The Black Man in the Cosmos.” The reading list for his course: The Egyptian Book of the Dead The Radix: […]

  • Poem: “Black Boys Play the Classics”

    (Photo: Johannes Brahms, 1833-1897.) Another example of “complicating” the repertoire. Is this poem about cultural appropriation or cross-cultural encounter? Black Boys Play the Classics BY TOI DERRICOTTE The most popular “act” in Penn Station is the three black kids in ratty sneakers & T-shirts playing two violins and a cello—Brahms. White men in business suits […]