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Research Colloquium with Leah Broad & Samantha Ege (online)

November 10, 2020 @ 5:15 pm - 7:45 pm


Leah Broad & Samantha Ege | I Had A Mother Too: Or, Reassessing Rebecca Clarke/ Composing a Symphonist: Florence Price and the Hand of Black Women’s Fellowship

The Colloquia feature leading figures, as well as younger scholars, from across the world. They present their research in papers on all kinds of music-related topics. Graduate student George Haggett organises the series. Presentations are followed by a discussion and virtual drinks reception. Free and open to all Music Faculty students and members. Please email George at george.haggett@magd.ox.ac.uk to sign up for the colloquium.

Dr Leah Broad (Lecturer in Music, Christ Church College):

“I Had A Mother Too”: Or, Reassessing Rebecca Clarke

As both composer and violist, Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979) was a significant figure in twentieth-century British musical life, and her many career highlights have been acknowledged: most notably the success of her Viola Sonata in the 1919 Berkshire Music Festival competition, her catalogue of over 100 compositions, and her establishment of the all-woman English Ensemble in the 1920s. However, interpretative biographical writing on Clarke has focused predominantly on the restraints and limitations that were placed on musical women of this period, resulting in an image of Clarke as being moulded by the constraints of the patriarchal society in which she lived.

This paper presents a reassessment of Clarke’s personality and significance in early twentieth-century Britain. I argue that the positive criticism that Clarke received, the significance of all-women networks in her life, and her supportive relationship with her mother and sister all nuance previous framings of Clarke as under-confident and accepting of the gender-based limitations placed on her by others. I reframe Clarke as a way of opening avenues to discuss the relationship between music, gender, sexuality, pleasure, and desire in a more positive way in writing on women in music. This paper suggests that at least in Clarke’s case, these were not aspects of patriarchal structures of coercion and control, but integral to the ways in which Clarke asserted her own agency and individuality.


Dr Samantha Ege (Lord Crewe Junior Research Fellow in Music, Lincoln College):

Composing a Symphonist: Florence Price and the Hand of Black Women’s Fellowship

Florence Price (1887–1953) is often described as the first African-American woman to achieve national and international success as a composer. However, this deserved accolade tends to exceptionalize her achievements as a female composer of African descent and thus to obscure or negate the rich context in which she worked. “Composing a Symphonist: Florence Price and the Hand of Black Women’s Fellowship” resituates Price in the dynamic cultural movement of the Chicago Black Renaissance and recognizes how a number of African-American women played diverse and crucial roles within it.

I illuminate Price’s Chicago, in which a female-led community shaped an American art music that uplifted black musical idioms. Positioning Price’s transition from Little Rock, Arkansas, against the backdrop of the Great Migration, the unfolding narrative explores the first six years in which she lived in Chicago (1927–1933); it delves into the community that awaited her and the particular influence of Nora Douglas Holt, Estella Conway Bonds, and Maude Roberts George in her ascent to become the first nationally-recognized black female symphonist. The result is a geographical and socio-cultural mapping of Price’s Chicago that reveals the clasped hand of black women’s fellowship.


November 10, 2020
5:15 pm - 7:45 pm
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