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In this short paper, you will compare three symphonic “depictions” of America wr

by | Apr 27, 2022 | Music

 

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In this short paper, you will compare three symphonic “depictions” of America written in the late 19th and early 20th century: one by a European (the Czech composer Anton Dvořák’s 1893 “New World” Symphony) and two by African American composers: William Grant Still’s 1930 “Afro American” Symphony and Florence Price’s 1932 First Symphony.
The Still is discussed in the book (pp 337-338), which also streams the fourth movement. I’ve given you his entire symphony as a video file on the drive, where you’ll also find the Dvořák and Price symphonies as audio files.
First, listen to all three works in whatever order you choose. You may want to listen first to the Dvořák, as it was written first and was certainly known by Still and Price when they wrote their compositions, but it really doesn’t matter what order you use. As you listen to each of these three works, think first and foremost about how they sound.
After you’ve listened to all three symphonies you may choose to learn more about each: the information in the book on the Still; the genesis of the Dvořák (how much Native American and African American music he actually knew; how much the composition may just as much refer to Europe as it does America); or the story behind the Price (the competition she entered and won; the references to church music and African stomping dances). But you do not need to look beyond what you hear! You can write a very good, very musically-informed paper simply by responding to what’s in the recordings.
Once you’re ready to start writing, choose two movements from each symphony and write down your observations. Describe what you hear: what worlds are being created or evoked? What does America, or the New World, or an “Afro-American” world, sound like in these representative movements?
Your paper does not need to be a competition, in which one composer captures America, or part of America, better than the others do. But you should also feel free to let us know how these works resonate with you, and your experiences, in this country. Obviously they were written decades ago—the Dvořák more than a century ago—but they still engage important questions about how this country can be depicted in sound. You don’t need to shy away from exploring this music through the lens of your own understanding of what this country is!
A reminder: you do not need to consult any outside sources to write this paper. But if you do, make sure that they are cited and quoted properly. Remember that all of your written work will be submitted through Safe Assign….
Finally: in your discussion, be precise. Refer to specific moments by giving the timings, and make sure to indicate which movement of which piece you’re referring to along with the timing.
Please keep in mind the following guidelines:
The due date and time is not flexible. Each weekday late will incur a drop of one letter grade.
You are expected to edit your work thoroughly. This means no typos! Use spell-check. Have a friend proofread the paper. Shoddy editing is disrespectful to your readers, and will result in a lower grade.
All work should be composed in a standard font (such as Times New Roman), 12 point, with double spacing and standard margins.

 

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