diaspora Festivals Music


The following is the announcement and obituary released by the Center for Black Music Research on the occasion of the death of the Center’s founder – Dr. Samuel Floyd Jr.

Dear CBMR friends and associates:

With great sadness, I write to inform you of the passing of the CBMR’s Founder and Director Emeritus, Dr. Samuel A. Floyd, Jr., who died on Monday, July 11, in Chicago, following an extended illness.

Please see the attached obituary, which was written by former colleagues Suzanne Flandreau, Morris Phibbs, and Rosita M. Sands. It will also be posted on the CBMR web site, at I know that all of us who knew Sam personally or had the opportunity to work with him professionally, profoundly mourn his loss. Yet we are grateful for the rich legacy of work he leaves behind that has forever changed the landscape of musicological research.

Dr. Rosita M. Sands, Interim Director, CBMR; Chair, Music Department, Columbia College Chicago
Dr. Monica Hairston O’Connell, former Executive Director, CBMR
Morris Phibbs, former Deputy Director, CBMR
Suzanne Flandreau, former Archivist and Head Librarian, CBMR

Dr. Samuel A. Floyd, Jr.
2/1/1937 – 7/11/2016

Dr. Samuel Floyd Jr.

Samuel A. Floyd, Jr., educator, musician, scholar and champion of black music research died in Chicago on Monday, July 11, after an extended illness. Dr. Floyd was born in Tallahassee, Florida, on February 1, 1937. He received his bachelor’s degree from Florida A & M University and later earned a masters (1965) and Ph.D. (1969) from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He began his music career as a high school band director in Florida before returning to Florida A & M to serve as Instructor and Assistant Band Director under legendary band director William “Pat” Foster. In 1964 he joined the faculty at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and in 1978, he began a faculty position as Professor of Music at Fisk University, where he founded and served as Director of the Institute for Research in Black American Music. In 1983 he moved to Columbia College Chicago to found the Center for Black Music Research (CBMR), which became an internationally respected research center under his leadership. Critical to the creation of the CBMR was the establishment of the CBMR Library and Archives, which has grown to be one of the most comprehensive collections of music, recordings, and research materials devoted to black music. At Columbia College, Dr. Floyd also served as Academic Dean from 1990 to 1993 and as Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost during 1999–2001. He retired as Director Emeritus of the CBMR in 2002.

At the CBMR Dr. Floyd devoted himself to discovering and publishing the information that would allow black music to receive its rightful recognition from audiences and scholars. His early publications (with Marsha Heizer) were bibliographies of research materials and biographical resources. Later he edited a collection of essays, Black Music in the Harlem Renaissance (1990), which won the Irving Lowens Award for Distinguished Scholarship in American Music from the Society for American Music. He also edited the International Dictionary of Black Composers (1999) a reference book that won several awards from the library community, including an honorable mention for the American Library Association’s Dartmouth Medal in 2000.

While still at Fisk, Dr. Floyd founded Black Music Research Journal, a juried scholarly journal which moved with him to the CBMR in 1983; it has been published continuously since its founding in 1980. He also founded and edited a grant-funded journal, Lenox Avenue: A Journal of Interartistic Inquiry, dedicated to exploring the role of music within the broader arts of the African Diaspora, the Music of the African Diaspora book series, which is published by the University of California Press, a monographs series, and several newsletters. Under his direction, the CBMR held numerous national and international conferences highlighting scholarly research, sponsored a series of postgraduate research fellowships funded by the Rockefeller Foundation for scholars studying the music of the African Diaspora, and taught two seminars for college teachers on African-American music, under the auspices of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He also established the Alton Augustus Adams Music Research Institute in St. Thomas (2000–2006), U.S. Virgin Islands, to study and document black music throughout the Caribbean.

Performance was another important aspect of the CBMR’s programming. Dr. Floyd created four professional ensembles at the CBMR: the Black Music Repertory Ensemble, devoted to music by black composers; Ensemble Kalinda Chicago, which performed African-influenced music of Latin America and the Caribbean; Ensemble Stop-Time, which concentrated on African-American popular music and jazz; and the New Black Music Repertory Ensemble, which combined the performance capabilities and repertoires of the previous three ensembles. The ensembles, which introduced audiences at every level to black music, produced recordings, performed nearly 200 concerts locally and on national tour, recorded eight nationally broadcast radio shows, and presented lecture-demonstrations in schools.

Dr. Floyd was a prodigious grant-writer who won significant funding to help support the CBMR’s public programming and the development of the CBMR Library and Archives. Among the most supportive agencies were the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Illinois Arts Council, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the Chicago Community Trust, and the Sara Lee, Joyce, Ford, John D. and Catherine T. Rockefeller, MacArthur, and Fry foundations, among many others.

Samuel Floyd was a true visionary. Through the CBMR he was able to realize his concept of black music as a totality expressing African Diasporic culture across genre and time. His book, The Power of Black Music, published by Oxford University Press in 1995, epitomized his ideas. It was one of the first scholarly studies to transcend historical reporting and synthesize the information he had founded the CBMR to discover and preserve. In his retirement he was engaged in further studies intended to carry his synthesis even further. Two new books are scheduled to be published by Oxford University Press.

Among the awards received by Dr. Floyd in recognition of his vision, service, and contributions are: the National Association of Negro Musician’s Award for Distinguished Contributions to Music, the Pacesetters Award in recognition of Outstanding Achievement in Higher Education from the American Association of Higher Education Black Caucus, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for American Music. Floyd was a Fellow at the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities, and was twice a Fellow at the National Humanities Center, Research Triangle, North Carolina, including a term as the John Hope Franklin Senior Fellow. He was also Scholar-in-Residence at the Bellagio Student and Conference Center (Italy), a Robert M. Trotter Lecturer for The College Music Society, and was named an Honorary Member of the American Musicological Society.

Dr. Floyd is survived by his wife of over 50 years, Barbara, and their three children—Wanda, Samuel Floyd III, and Cecilia. No formal memorial has been planned by the family and services will be private. Expressions of condolence may be sent to Mrs. Barbara Floyd, 2960 North Lake Shore Drive #408, Chicago, IL 60657. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to benefit his alma mater at the FAMU Foundation, 625 East Tennessee Street, Suite 100, Tallahassee, FL 32308-4933.


The Music of Ulysses Kay

The following is the link to a pdf version of my essay on aspects of the compositional style of the late African-American composer, Ulysses Kay.

The Music of Ulysses Kay

Festivals Music

The Music of Ulysses Kay – 2.

This essay examines two of Kay’s compositions: his Scherzi Musicali (1968) written for chamber orchestra, and First Nocturne for piano, which was composed in 1973. In analyzing these two pieces I aim, firstly, to show that Kay progressed stylistically to be worthy of the classification “full-fledged modernist” and reveal some of the twentieth century Art Music compositional procedures that Kay utilized. In doing so I rely primarily on the tenets of post-tonal musical analysis as outlined in Introduction to Post-Tonal Theory[7].


First Movement

Kay wrote this work in 1968 for chamber orchestra of flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon, and strings. The Chamber Music Society of Detroit commissioned it on the occasion of its Twenty-fifth Anniversary. Scherzi Musicali is atonal in its entirety and it shows that Kay had fully embraced twentieth-century techniques of composition. This piece is aggregate-based in which the composer ensures the circulation of all twelve tones of the chromatic scale throughout most of the work. It also presents and develops the all interval heptachord (0123456).


The first movement is AB in form with and introduction and coda. The introduction is distinguished by a static texture created by the superimposition of the notes of the heptachord [B, C, Eb, D, C#, E, F] on each other. This heptachord is transposed at rehearsal marking 1 (mm. 7), but the texture remains the same (see ex.1).

Ex.1 shows the title page of Scherzi Musicali.

Section A begins in measure 13 with the P designation in the flute. This section presents a linear, contrapuntal working out of thematic ideas and it is characterized by the triplet rhythmic pattern, which is featured in the upper woodwinds throughout. During measure 13-19, the flute carries the triplet pattern and it is taken up by the oboe and clarinet in measures 22-26. The triplets then return to the flute in measure 33.

In this section, each instrument is given its own melodic line but there are imitative passages as well. Imitation is heard in measure 13 where the cello is answered by the viola and double bass respectively, and in measure 22-23, where the clarinet answers the oboe. The melody that begins in the second violin is answered by the cello, first violin, and double bass in succession (see ex. 2). Section A ends with a brief return of the introductory texture in measures 38-40.

Ex.2 shows measures 21- 23.

Kay_ex2.2There is a change in tempo to poco piu mosso to mark the beginning of the B section. This section commences with the violins in unison, the only unison passage in this first movement. This passage, which spans measures 41-45, provides rhythmic contrast to the preceding triplets and possesses a proliferation of sixteenth notes (see ex. 3).

Ex.3 shows the first four measures of section B.

kay_ex3These sixteenth notes constitute the composite rhythm of the B section. After the strings, the oboe and then the clarinet carry this sixteenth-note figuration in measure 50-54. It is presented in a linear fashion until rehearsal 8 (mm. 55). At this juncture, the static texture of the opening returns and all the instruments of the chamber orchestra share the sixteenth-note figuration. At measure 61, the first violin takes up the figuration for one measure.

The coda is preceded by a measure of rest and marked by a return to the original tempo – tempo primo – in measure 68. It possesses the static texture of the introduction, which it imitates in “spelling out” set class (123456).

Click to view the entire essay

[7] Joseph N. Strauss. Introduction to Post-Tonal Theory, Prentice Hall: Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1990.


The Music of Ulysses Kay

kay8Today I commence the serialization of some aspects of my work on the music of African-American composer Ulysses Kay, which I have engage since 1995. In this post I present a brief biographical overview of Kay as a composer.

Click to view the entire essay


The passing of African-American composer, teacher, and scholar Ulysses Kay, on May 20th 1995, marked the end of an illustrious career. Born on January 7th 1917, his musical education commenced at the tender age of six, when he began the study of the piano. Study of the violin was added in the ensuing years and he began to play the saxophone at age fourteen. It was around that tine that the young Kay became involved in a neighborhood combo and his interest in composition and orchestration was kindled.

In 1934 Kay entered the University of Arizona as a liberal arts major. He soon chose music as his major and graduated with his Bachelor of Music degree in 1938. He then pursued a Master’s degree in composition at the Eastman School of Music. Scholarship grants allowed him to study with the renowned German composer, Paul Hindemith, first at the Berkshire Music Center and then at Yale University.

Kay enlisted in the United State Navy in 1942 and played saxophone, flute, and piccolo in the Navy Band. He also played the piano in a dance orchestra. This period of military service (1942-46) proved to be extremely fruitful for Kay as a composer. Some of his compositions written during this period include: Flute Quintet (1943), Of New Horizons (1944), and Suite for Orchestra (1945), which received the B.M.I Orchestral award in 1947.
After the war, Kay studied at Columbia University on an Alice M. Ditson Fellowship. He was the recipient of numerous other fellowships: a Fulbright Scholarship, two Prix de Rome (scholarship awarded for study at the American Academy in Rome), a Julius Rosenwald fellowship, and grants from the National Institute of Arts and Letters. These allowed Kay to travel and study in Europe. During this period ne produced his Piano Quintet (1949), String Quartet No. 1 (1949), Brass Quintet (1950), Fugitive Songs (1950), and a film score: The Lion, The Griffin and the Kangaroo (1951), for a documentary filmed in Italy.

After returning from Europe, Kay became music consultant for Broadcast Music. He has been honored with prizes from the American Broadcasting Company and the New Jersey Council of the Arts. He has received commissions from symphony orchestras and universities, and has been the recipient of honorary degrees from Lincoln College (1963), Bucknell University (1966), the University of Arizona (1969), and Illinois Weslyan University (1969). In 1968, Kay was appointed Professor of Music at Lehman College, City University of New York, and became Distinguish Professor of Music at the university in 1972.

Kay’s offering to the twentieth century’s pool of music has been plentiful. As Hobson and Richardson point out, Kay produced mote that 135 compositions representing a tremendous outpouring of diverse forms[1] . His works include five operas, over twenty large orchestral pieces, fifteen chamber pieces, a ballet score, and numerous other compositions for voice, solo instruments, film, and television. Throughout his career, which spanned five decades, Kay’s music has received tremendous acclaim. Performances of his compositions have been reviewed in many literary publications, including the New York Times and the American Composers Bulletin. In fact, following his death, obituaries appeared in major print media such as: New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, and Amsterdam News. These obituaries all testify to the high regard with which Kay’s work had been held, and point to his significance as a twentieth-century composer.

Kay’s music has also been the subject of scholarly study. His choral works received the scholarly attention of Donald Armstrong, who in 1968 critiqued Kay’s compositions for women choruses, together with the works of other contemporary composers such as Elliot Carter, William Schumann, and Virgil Thomson[2] . And in 1972, Richard Hadley presented an analysis of Kay’s published choral music[3] . In his article Kay’s Fantasy Variations, Lucius Wyatt writes that the composer’s ingenious handling of the resources of the orchestra and his skillful organization of the harmonic, formal, rhythmic, and textural details, show Kay’s appreciation and understanding of the past, although he employs compositional techniques of the twentieth century[4] .

L. M. Hayes recognizes three stages in the development of Kay’s musical style. He points out that in the 1940s Kay produced music that contains a strong harmonic base with mild dissonances. In the 1950s his work becomes more contrapuntal, harmonies are more dissonant but tonality remains secure, although clouded by more active chromaticism. At the beginning of the 1960s, according to Hayes, Kay’s musical style crystallizes into a music that is articulate, expressive, moderately dissonant, lyrical, and predominantly contrapuntal [5].

Hayes goes on the note that Kay’s musical style has been termed neoclassical on occasion, and neo-chromatic at other times. He attributes this inability to firmly categorize Kay’s style to the fact that the composer successfully assimilated the styles and forms of past eras. Hayes concludes that the most accurate classification of Kay’s musical style should be that of eclectic modernist, since his music has a personality of conservative yet modern [6].

[1] See Hobson, Constance Tibbs, and Deborra A. Richardson. Ulysses Kay: A Bio-bibliography, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 1994, 3.

[2] Donald J. Armstrong. A Study of Some Important 20th Century Secular compositions for Women Choruses, with a Preliminary Discussion of Secular Choral Music from a Historical and Philosophical Viewpoint, D. M. A. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1968.

[3] Richard Hadley. The Published Choral Music of Ulysses Kay, Ph. D. dissertation, University of Iowa, 1972.

[4] See Wyatt, Lucius. “Ulysses Kay’s Fantasy Variations: An Analysis”. Black Perspective in Music 1 (1977): 75.

[5] See Hayes, Laurence M. The Music of Ulysses Kay, 1939-63, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1971, 332-334.

[6] See Hayes, 337-40.


Gandy dancers

Posted in Bibliolore, May 31, 2013

gandy dancers

Before the 1950s, all railroad tracks in the U.S. were laid and maintained by hand labor. In the segregated South, this work was mainly done by black men.

The section crews responsible for maintaining the tracks were sometimes known as gandy dancers, probably because of the coordinated rhythmic movements required for repositioning tracks that had become misaligned. They synchronized their movements with call-and-response singing of improvised couplets and stock refrains.

The tradition is documented in Gandy dancers by Maggie Holtzberg and Barry Dornfeld (Cinema Guild, 1994). Below, the trailer for the film; the complete 30-minute film can be viewed here.

For the original post: Gandy dancers | Bibliolore.



Event:  Why We Sing: Indianapolis Gospel Music in Church, Community and Industry

Location: Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, Indiana University Bloomington

Date: November 12, 2011

Time:  9:00 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.

On Saturday, November 12th, Indiana University Bloomington will host the conference Why We Sing: Indianapolis Gospel Music in Church, Community and Industry. Why We Sing is a one-day conference which explores how the city of Indianapolis has served to inform, enrich and distribute this uniquely African American religious music expression both locally and globally. The conference will consist of three roundtable discussions featuring eight prominent Indianapolis gospel music icons: Al “The Bishop” Hobbs (Aleho Records, former Chair and current board member of the Gospel Music Workshop of America); Dr. Leonard Scott (Tyscot Records); recording artists Lamar Campbell, Rev. A. Thomas Hill, and Rodnie Bryant; Liz “Faith” Dixson (Radio Announcer, WTLC AM 1310); Tracy Williamson (TRE7, Inc. Artist Development, Marketing and Production Company), and Sherri Garrison (Director of Worship, Eastern Star Church; Former Director, Gospel Music Workshop of America Women of Worship).

Doors for the conference open at 9:00 am at the Indiana University, Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center. The conference will culminate with an evening concert emceed by Al “The Bishop” Hobbs starting at 7:30 pm at the Fairview United Methodist Church. Performers include Sherri Garrison, who will be directing the Bloomington Community Chorus, and recording artists Rodnie Bryant and Lamar Campbell.

All events are free and open to the public. A related exhibit in the Neal-Marshall Center’s Bridgwaters Lounge is open to the public through mid-December and features biographies of the participating artists as well as recordings, photographs, and other memorabilia from the Archives of African American Music and Culture.

The conference, concert, and exhibit have been organized by Dr. Mellonee Burnim, Raynetta Wiggins, and Tyron Cooper of the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology and the Archives of African American Music and Culture at Indiana University Bloomington.  For more information, visit the conference website.

For original posting: WHY WE SING |