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Florence Price: A Distinguished Composer

Many contemporary scholars in the Arts of Music recognize the situation that African music became popular in the music industry for its historical lyrics and the message it convey strikes the audience heart. Most of this song is communal activity. Most African-American easily learns the chants and rhythm handed down from one generation to the next. African tribal singing is first and foremost polyphonic. African musical life with its Afro- American links is interesting and significant where no other part of the continent can offer as much.

The artifacts found by archeologists and anthropologists as stone tools for music from East and South Africa are believed to be a million years ago which traces the oldest evidence of human activity in music. True music of Africa through its tribal song and dance belongs from the South Saharan Desert. Today, the Afro-ethnic musicianship, skillful improvisations and quick wit has emerged in the 21st century genre of music and dance, such as depicted by the West Indian calypso, reggae and rap (Zick, 2006).

The same tradition is evident in the ebullience of such musicians, like Florence Price (1887-1953) who like many other African artists have emerged in the industry and became popular for their unique style. This paper will discuss and examine how Florence Price has contributed to African music and the instrumentation of the piano. The review of several literatures and other information will be the method used and guided the overall findings of this research paper. Literature Review Overview: the early life

Florence Beatrice Price (1887-1953) is an African-American woman artist who historically recorded to have the first symphony she had composed and performed the ‘Chicago Symphony Orchestra’ that achieved fame in classical music. Florence Price was born on April 9th 1887 in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to James Smith and Florence Gulliver Smith. She learned to play piano through the supervision of her mother, a school teacher and a business woman. Her mother was her musical influence. Another influence was her elementary school teacher; Charlotte Andrews Stephens.

She graduated as a valedictorian at Capitol Hill Little Rock School. She studied conservatory of music at New England Conservatory of Music in Boston where she graduated as an organist and pianist which she dedicated her profession as a music teacher (Southern, 1982). After graduation at Cotton Plant Arkadelphia Academy in Cotton Plant (Woodruff County), Florence Price taught music for one year and left to teach at Shorter College in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) where she stayed until 1910 and became the head of music department at Clark University until 1912 (Southern, 1982).

On September 25th 1912, Florence Price married to Attorney Thomas Jewel Price where they had two daughters and one son who died at birth. Florence Price founded a music studio and started to conduct and teach piano lessons, and started to write short piano pieces. Although she possessed good and authentic credential, she was not granted a membership into Arkansas State Music Teachers Association because of her race for being African-American. She became a subject of discrimination, but it did not stop her and moved to Chicago to pursue her career.

She studied music again at American Conservatory of Music and Chicago Musical College, wherein her first composition ‘At the Cotton Gin” was published by G. Schemer which was a major publishing firm that made the composition very popular. Subsequently, Florence Price was encouraged to compose a lot of classical music which made famous the ‘Chicago Symphony Orchestra’. On June 3rd 1953, Florence Price died in Chicago while planning a trip to Europe. Contribution to Music

Florence Price influence in music is unique. The harmony and melodic lines on her pieces mirrored the traditions and culture of Africa. The rhythmic pattern of her composition is recognizable which depicts the tribal African traditions. Florence Price is widely respected by African American artist and scholars as one of the best African artist. Among the classical piano compositions of Price was “Symphony No. 1 in E minor” where she entered in Wanamaker music competition in 1932.

Price’s symphony was adopted by Frederick Stock and became part of the program in the concert held at the Century of Progress Fair in 1933. The concert set as a stepping stone for black African women to be known in music industry and marked the first time African-American major concert performed with orchestra (Zick, 2006). Florence Price’s success was overflowing which followed by a successful concert of her soloist piano performance in one launching activity of an African Movement.

Eventually, Price’s compositional reputation continued to spread in the late 1930s, like the accompaniment of several ensembles of musicians from Michigan WPA Symphony, the Brooklyn Symphony, the Bronx Symphony, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, the New York City Symphonic Band, and the US Marine Band to name a few. Florence Price continued to write music through the 1940s and early 1950s. John Barbirolli creates a suite for string from Price and showcased it with the famous Halle Orchestra and gained recognition in England.

She wrote music that was played in radio station WGN in piece for chorus which was aired throughout Chicago. After Price’s death, her music echoed the music industry and was rediscovered by the investigators who researched on African Music and was instantly appreciated by the audience. Price composed almost 300 pieces for piano and suites. Her compositions range for small teaching from scale for piano lessons to large scale composition, large scale symphony to concerto, chamber music and vocal compositions.

To cite, some of her works were also heard in radio, like the (1) Symphony in E minor, 1932; (2) Sonata in E minor, for piano, 1932; (3) Piano Concerto in F minor, 1934; (4) Symphony No. 3 in C minor, 1940; and (5) Songs to the Dark Virgin (song cycle) texts by Langston Hughes, 1941 (Southern, 1997). Florence Price’s music reveals her tradition and uplifts the recognition of African-American music industry to African American artist like her.

The unique style of Florence Price was through using dark melodies and “juba” rhythmic pattern which made her music different and original from other musicians and composers. Accordingly, religious songs that were used in their church were also published and became popular in much church worship, such as (1) Fantasie Negre (Sinner, please don’t let this harvest pass), 1929; (2) My soul’s been anchored in de Lord, 1937; (3) Nobody knows the trouble I see, 1938; (4) Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

, 1942; (5) Variations on a Folksong (Peter, go ring dem bells), 1946; (6) I am bound for the kingdom, 1948; (7) I’m workin’ on my building, 1948; (8) Heav’n bound soldier, male chorus, 1949; (9) I couldn’t hear nobody pray, 1949’ ave me, Lord, save me, 1949; and (10) Trouble done come my way, 1949 (Zick, 2006). Findings/Data Analysis The gathered facts of data about the life and contribution of Florence Beatrice Price accounted that she became an icon for African-American Artist and the industry. Her music inspired a lot of people to be heard and to be recognized.

All of her works are widely and deeply appreciated by people. Racial discrimination did not stop Florence Price to let her music be heard and be accepted in the industry. The works of Florence Price gained much recognition and fame all through the era of music. Classical pieces and radio station is a place for her music. She wrote different genres and successfully gained the heart of the listener. The music of Florence Price is played in churches and other gatherings. Her influence in music and unique style and pattern of harmony made her different to other composer.

Her compositions gain a lot of respect and admiration. Her works are widely play in the world and still continues to emerge. Researchers who research on African music discovered the hidden stories about Florence Price and were widely discussed by the scholars. The discovery of her work by the researchers who wishes to learn more about African music pave a path for us to appreciate more the African-American artists. She was considered as one of the influential artists that made the African-American artist became known for the people and industry. Conclusion Florence Price contribution to classical music is really big.

She opened new doors for African American Artist who also wants to become a part of this industry. Her works inspired African American Artist. Florence Price Musical theme reflected her influence and roots. The culture of Africa can be felt in her music and you can see in her music her love for her country. Criticism never became a hindrance for her success, as well as the racial discrimination which become a symbol of struggle in her music career. Being the first African-American to perform with an orchestra, the performance of piano in concert has made Florence Price a legendary pianist and composer.

The historical life of Florence Price has inspired many African-American musicians and other artists to persevere amidst racial discrimination. The remarkable work of Florence Price has emerged the African music and musicians into an industry which became a cornerstone of the African culture to achieve freedom, cultural respect and identity. Thus, the passion of Florence Price in music has surpassed a craftsmanship in the Arts for being a distinguished African-American composer. References Southern, E. (1982). ‘Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians’.

Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN: 0-313-21339-9. Retrieved 24 July 2009 from http://www. greenwood. com/catalog/SOD%252f. aspx. Zick, W. J. (2006). ‘African American Composer, Arranger & Teacher’. AfriClassical. Com. Retrieved 24 July 2009 from http://chevalierdesaintgeorges. homestead. com/price. html Southern, E. (1997). ‘The Music of Black Americans: A History (Third Edition)’. W. W. Norton and Company, Inc. , ISBN: 0-393-03843-2. Retrieved 24 July 2009 from http://www. amazon. com/Music-Black-Americans-History-Third/dp/0393971414#reader.

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