From Spirituals to Hip Hop:
American Music of the African Diaspora
(MUS 113)
SUNY Broome Department of Music
and Theater Arts
Dr. Julia Grella O’Connell

  • Affrilachian Banjo and Pre-Blues Traditions

    Dink Roberts (1894-1989). John Snipes (1899-1983). Elizabeth Cotten (1893-1987), who was left-handed, adapted both banjo and guitar by simply turning them upside-down. Rhiannon Giddens’s version of “Georgie Buck”: Giddens’s mentor, banjo player Odell Thompson (1911-1994), with his cousin, fiddler Joe Thompson (1918-2012). For more, browse here: The banjo as a genteel parlor instrument: Plink-a-Pong, […]

  • Black Woodstock and the Opposite of Woodstock

    New York City Mayor John Lindsay, the “blue-eyed soul brother,” arriving at Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park) for a July 13, 1969 concert, escorted by Black Panthers. UPDATE, June 2021: A documentary about “Black Woodstock” is about to be released based on original footage of the concerts, Summer of Soul! Here’s the trailer: […]

  • Clara at 200

    A clever student-created animated bio, “The Wild Life of Clara Schumann.” Clara’s beautiful Lied “Beim Abschied.” The poem, by Friederike Serre, translated by Richard Stokes. On departing A purple glow shines from afar,Golden now the bright day sinks,One by one the silver starsAwaken in the skies.And the Queen of the DayBows her head and goes […]

  • To the Distant Beloved

    Read the score here: Translations are here. The cycle performed by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore. Read the texts and see facsimiles of the “Immortal Beloved” letters here. Canadian composer James K. Wright composed a cycle of three songs based on the letters for voice and piano trio. The piece, Briefe an die unsterbliche Geliebte […]

  • Black Country

    This seems to be the summer that country trap reached the mainstream. Where does country trap come from? Maybe we should be asking why we think of country music as a white genre in the first place. One of the reasons that we think of country as a white genre is that country music has […]

  • Back (and Forth) to Africa

    As Michael Rosenwald observes in the Washington Post, the recent eruption of the disquieting chant “Send her back!” has a long history. Read the article and all the links. In 1972, singer-songwriter Randy Newman wrote an ironic song from the perspective of an eighteenth-century slave merchant trying to convince a little boy on the west […]

  • Classically Black VI: A Few String Virtuosi

    George Bridgetower, Beethoven’s friend and the original dedicatee of the “Kreutzer” Sonata (Beethoven dropped him because they quarreled over a woman. As portrayed in the Beethoven biopic Immortal Beloved. Sheku Kanneh-Mason: Robert C. Fisher: The young prodigy Ifetayo Ali-Landing: And the late Draylen Mason (2001-2018):

  • Classically Black, V: Playlists for “Playing Beethoven in the #BlackLivesMatter era” by Kira Thurman and”Home” by Langston Hughes

    Read Kira Thurman’s article “Playing Beethoven in the #BlackLivesMatter Era” here (also in your course reading packet). Below you will find videos of the pieces Dr. Thurman references in her essay. 1. Johann Baptist Vanhal’s Concerto in D Major, which Kira Thurman imagines Draylen Mason playing: Two of the pieces Kira Thurman played for her […]

  • X, UnNaming, and the Cowboy Blues

    You all know this song. When Lil Nas X became a household name, I started thinking about that name. “Lil” like Lil Wayne, or like so many other rap artists? “Nas” like . . . Nas? “X” like DMX? Or even Malcolm X? Apparently not. But words and names mean things. Here, Malcolm X — […]

  • No to Joy

    The fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the “Ode to Joy,” was adopted as the anthem of the European Union in 1985, no doubt as much for the utopian vision of universal brotherhood presented in the text of the poem by Friedrich Schiller as for its rousing tune: Joy, beautiful spark of God,Daughter of Elysium,We […]