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Classical Breakdown

38. The life of Florence Price

February 23, 2021

Dr. Karen Walwyn, a leading figure on the life of Florence Price and her music, discusses Price's life, challenges, and unique musical characteristics. Price was the first woman African American composer to have her symphony played by a major orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. But her music was excluded by every other major orchestra, as shown in Dr. Walwyn's readings of letters between Florence Price and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Show Notes

Dr. Karen Walwyn

Karen Walwyn

Dr. Walwyn is an award-winning pianist, composer, and Steinway artist. She is also an Albany Recording Artist and teaches at Howard University, learn more here.

Reflections on 9/11 by Dr. Karen Walwyn

The concert premiere on the Millenium Stage at the Kennedy Center.

Florence Price Piano Concerto in One Movement

Dr. Karen Walwyn with the Colorado Springs Chamber Orchestra.
 

Plagal cadence? Deceptive cadence?

You don't know them by name, but you certainly know them by sound. Cadences, described simply, are the final resolutions you hear at the end of musical sections, movements, and works. The most familiar is the Perfect Cadence (resolving from V to I) and really makes the end of a piece or movement feel final.
 
A Plagal Cadence resolves from IV to I and is what you hear in the final Amen of hymns, or famously, at the end of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. 
 
A Deceptive Cadence, as the name describes, is deceptive! You'll hear that strong V chord, but instead of resolving to I, it goes to a minor chord (V - vi). This isn't a cadence you'll find at the end of movements or symphonies, but rather somewhere in the middle as a transition to a new section.

Recommended listening from Dr. Karen Walwyn

tanya León (1943)

Born in 1943, León is an award-winning Cuban-American composer. Learn more here.

Undine smith more (1904-1989)

Moore, also known as the "Dean of Black Women Composers, was known especially for her vocal works. Learn more here.

Margaret bonds (1913-1972)

Bonds was an American composer and student of Florence Price. She became the first Black woman to perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and is known for her vocal works and collaborations with Langston Hughes. Learn more here.

Lettie beckon alston (1953-2014)

Alston was an American composer and known for her piano works. Learn more here.

delores white 

White is an award-winning American composer known her piano works, and currently teaches at Kent State University. Learn more here.