Classical; A Genre of More Than Just White Men

When many people hear the words classical music, they think of composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach. However, the classical genre consists of a history long before the lives of those composers and hosts a variety of styles and artists. The classical genre dates as far back as the 12th century.  There are several styles of classical music including baroque, romantic, and modern. The baroque style has an orchestral timbre with winds, harpsichord, and string instruments. The romantic style includes more lyrical melodies while the modern style has more of an impressionistic sound.

Besides Mozart and Bach, there is an abundance of African American classical composers and singers. Todd Duncan was a baritone singer and Gershwin’s choice to play Porgy in the Opera Porgy and Bess. Duncan is also a representation of the social implications that came with being an early Black classical artist; He wished to perform in venues where Black people were allowed to enter and enjoy the performances. In addition to Todd Duncan, Mattiwilda Dobbs is another key artist in the classical genre. She was a highly skilled vocalist and a Spelman alumna. Matilda Sissieretta Jones was a soprano singer nicknamed “The Black Patti” after the Italian singer Adelina Patti.

The more recognized success of white classical composers and performers has caused an overlook of the work of the Black community within the genre, when in reality, there is more to classical than just Fur Elise and Ave Maria.

The classical genre mostly influences different styles within itself such as the styles mentioned above. However, many artists are incorporating other musical genres into classical songs and creating something completely different. I believe that the work of African American classical artists deserves more recognition so that the default faces of the genre aren’t necessarily white males.


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