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On Beethoven, blackness, and belonging: debating classical music in the black atlantic

On Beethoven, blackness, and belonging: debating classical music in the black atlantic

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  • Date 24 Nov 2020
  • Time 4-5.30pm
  • Category Seminar

On Beethoven, blackness, and belonging: debating classical music in the black atlantic

Music Research Seminar: Kira Thurman (University of Michigan)

What has classical music meant to black people? Why have African Americans listened to and performed a genre of music that many Americans now consider to be white, elitist, and Eurocentric? Such accusations aren't inaccurate: for example, African Americans represent only 1.8 percent of all orchestra musicians today. In this presentation, Kira Thurman turns to the past to consider how African Americans made classical music a meaningful part of their lives. Examining the lives and careers of intellectuals such as W E B DuBois and classical musicians such as Marian Anderson, she argues that African Americans incorporated art music into their black international and black diasporic politics. Looking beyond America's shores, they found a larger and vibrant black history of classical music that they could also claim.

Kira Thurman is Assistant Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures and History at the University of Michigan. A classically-trained pianist who grew up in Vienna, Austria, Thurman earned her PhD in History from the University of Rochester with a minor field in musicology from the Eastman School of Music. Her research, which has appeared in German Studies ReviewJournal of the American Musicological Society (JAMS), Opera Quarterly, and Journal of World History, focuses on two topics that occasionally converge: the relationship between music and German national identity, and Central Europe's historical and contemporary relationship with the Black diaspora. Her book, Singing Like Germans: Black Musicians in the Land of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, is forthcoming with Cornell University Press.

All welcome but booking is essential.

Kira Thurman.jpg

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