Her Career in Music
“[T]hough I have been ‘making up’ and creating music all my life, in my childhood or even in college I would not have thought of calling myself a composer.” ~Undine Smith Moore
During Undine Smith Moore’s lifetime, she composed and wrote over 100 pieces which range from spirituals and traditional songs that she was taught as a child. Although she has written many different pieces only 26 of them were published by the time of her death. One of her most famous works is “Scenes From the Life of a Martyr” a 16-part cantata to pay homage to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The piece used syncopation, harmony, call-response, and a little bit of hollering to emote the feeling of when Martin Luther King Jr. died. This piece went on to be nomiated for a Pultitzer Prize. Though Moore’s piece sounds more European than spiritual she was focused on incorporating the both of them together. So, her piece will have sections where she took verses from the bible & they have a double meaning and apply to the song “Scenes From the Life of a Martyr.” Another one of Moore’s pieces “Many Thousand Gone” is a piano piece that is based off the slave song “No More Auction Block for Me.”
The Detroit Michigan Symphony Orchestra playing an Exert from Undine Smith Moore’s “Scenes From the Life of a Marty”.
Moore’s piano piece titled “Many Thousand Gone” which is bases of the slave song “No More Auction Block for Me”
Moore was focused on integrating black music into European music so it wasn’t segregated and also have the music be more inclusive. She also wanted to highlight black music and black artist, and while that was her goal in life by doing that she also exposed the world to her compositions. Some refer to her as the “Dean of Black Women Composers”, but I think she was just a person who loved to share her gift of music with others and to help those learn more about it.