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MUSIC 35N: Black Music Revealed: Black composers, performers, and themes from the 18th century to the present

Meet the Instructor | General Education Requirement

Course Description

This IntroSem will examine the achievements of Black composers and performers, with emphasis on music for the concert hall and theater. We will explore the historical roots of Black music and styles that include spirituals, ragtime, jazz, blues, and art/classical music. Students will learn about the lives and careers of many Black musical artists, from the 18th-century French-Guadeloupean composer/violinist Joseph Bologne, known as the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, whose music influenced Mozart, and the 19th-century Afro-European violinist George Bridgetower, for whom Beethoven composed his “Kreutzer” Sonata, to many of the great Black composers and musicians of the 20th century and up to the present. A prominent theme in the course will be stage works by Black composers, such as Treemonisha (Joplin), Shuffle Along (Sissle & Blake), and operas by Anthony Davis (winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Music), including X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X and The Central Park Five. Additionally, we will examine shows by White creators that deal with Black themes, including Showboat and Porgy and Bess, and the issues of cultural borrowing and appropriation associated with such works.

There are no prerequisites for this course other than an interest in the subject. Although musical training may enhance the ability to understand certain specific musical issues, students are not required to know how to read music and should be able to participate fully in all aspects of this course.

General Education Requirement

Meet the Instructor

Paul Phillips

Paul Phillips

"I am a conductor, composer, author, pianist, and professor who joined the Stanford faculty in 2017 as the Gretchen B. Kimball Director of Orchestral Studies and Associate Professor of Music. I conduct the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, Stanford Philharmonia, and Stanford Summer Symphony, and teach conducting, interdisciplinary courses, and several courses that I designed, including “Black Music Revealed” and “Russian Modernists: Stravinsky and Shostakovich”. My motivations for creating “Black Music Revealed” in 2020, when I first taught it, were outrage over racial discrimination and oppression, and its role in suppressing the achievements of major Black composers and performers, combined with a deep affection for this music dating back to my teenage years as a ragtime pianist and jazz trumpeter/pianist. I am chair of the Music Department’s Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and co-organizer of the Black Lives Matter Fundraising Concert taking place in May 2022.

"My longstanding interest in music’s relationship with literature and other fields led to extensive research into the British composer-novelist Anthony Burgess (best known as the author of A Clockwork Orange) and publication of my book A Clockwork Counterpoint: The Music and Literature of Anthony Burgess. It also resulted in the creation of a course titled 'Harmonic Convergence: Music’s Intersections with Science, Mathematics, History, and Literature', which I’ve offered at Brown University (where I taught previously) as well as at Stanford."