Fellows' Presentation

Art Songs of the Black Atlantic: A Lecture-Recital

Photo by Tony RinaldoPhoto by Tony RinaldoTsitsi Jaji will present a lecture-recital from her new book project, "Classic Black: Art Songs and Poetry in the Black Atlantic," which examines composers of African descent setting poetry to music for solo voice and piano.

Jaji will discuss and perform songs by Ignatius Sancho (c.1729–1780), Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875–1912), Shirley Graham Du Bois (1896–1977), and one of her own compositions, accompanied by her research partner, Harvard student Cansu Çolakoğlu '16. None of these songs has been commercially recorded, and all are rarely performed. Challenging some common assumptions about classical music, Sancho, Coleridge-Taylor, and Graham Du Bois all engaged in progressive politics, advocating causes that included the abolition of slavery, racial uplift, pan-Africanism, and communism. Jaji used Radcliffe's Schlesinger Library collection of Shirley Graham Du Bois's papers extensively, consulting three manuscript versions of Du Bois's setting of Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem "Compensation" to prepare a performance score.

Jaji will draw attention to a body of textual commentary (in music) that literary scholars could examine to gain a richer sense of the life of poems in their historical context, and the way that musical settings encourage fresh readings of both canonical poets like Dunbar, and contemporary poets, like Lucille Clifton.

During the lecture-recital, Tsitsi Jaji will play "A Corn Song" by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: