Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

While less known today, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was a prominent and influential English composer of the early 20th century. His works were so well received in both Europe and America that New York orchestral players described him as the “Black Mahler.” Although this comment is slightly problematic, the point it makes is easily understood. His most famous work, Longfellow’s Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, has been described as “haunting melodic phrases, bold harmonic scheme, and vivid orchestration.”

However, how does an English Composer fit in with a class focused “American Music”? In part it has to do with his collection of African melodies entitled Twenty-four negro melodies transcribed for the piano by S. Coleridge-Taylor. Op. 59. The work also includes a preface written by Booker T. Washington, a prominent American Educator and Leader in the African American Community in the early 20th century. In Washington’s Preface, he talks extensively on how much of relates back to slave music of American, and in turn, to Africa.  In particular this quote stood out,

Negro music is essentially spontaneous. In Africa it sprang into life at war dance, at funerals, and at marriage festivals. Upon the African foundation the plantation songs of the South were built.

Not only does this sound very similar to jazz, but it is a spontaneous character that gave Coleridge-Taylor’s music its character.

His work, moreover, possess not only charm but distinction, the individual note. The genuineness, the depth and intensity of his feeling, coupled with his mastery of technique, spontaneity, and ability to think in his own way, explain the force of the appeal his compositions make.

While this can be applied to all of Coleridge-Taylor’s works, Washington is of course referring to the 24 melodies Transcribed for piano. Something we have talked extensively in our class has been issues with authenticity. Something unique to this book is that Coleridge-Taylor address this in his forward. Instead of maintaining their authentic forms and sounds, he states that he is simply trying to elaborate on already pretty melodies, and while doing so, he clearly states that they are not true representations of the music and do loos some of their value when being removed from their cultural context. However, again related to topics discussed in our class, he makes these transcriptions in order to elevate and celebrate African music. By treating the music in this manner, I would consider Coleridge-Taylor as American of a composer as any American-born composer.



Coleridge-Taylor, Washington, Tortolano, Washington, Booker T., and Tortolano, William. Twenty-four Negro Melodies. Da Capo Press Edition / New Introduction by William Tortolano. ed. Musicians Library (Boston, Mass.). New York: Da Capo, 1980.

Stephen Banfield and Jeremy Dibble. “Coleridge-Taylor, Samuel.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed November 16, 2017,

The Bromance of Carlos Chávez and Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland (back) and Carlos Chavez (front).

Aaron Copland and Carlos Chávez have an odd relationship, most notably in the similarities with their education and career paths. Robert L. Parker states in his article Copland and Chávez: Brothers-in-Arms, “there is no logical reason why their careers should have been so alike,”1 however alike they were and because of those similarities it seems they became each others best friend, at least in their respective music circles. After their initial meeting in the early 1930’s, the two exchanged many letters as well as promoted each others works in their respective  countries. It began with Copland through his ten concerts in the Copland-Sessions where Chávez’ works were performed in New York, London, and Paris. Soon after, Chavez accepted a post in Mexico as music director of the Orquesta Sinfónica de México where he was then in the position to return the favor to Copland.

However, for the purposes of this class, the importance of this friendship is about more than their similarities in character, education, and career. In 1934, Chávez wrote the following to Copland,

We had this summer a lot of Honegger, Hindemith, etc. etc. stuff here, and let me tell you that there are simple unbearable for me, that are artificial, full of literature, bad literature, and worse possible taste, I cannot stand them any more, they should shut up for ever, so much the better…

I find this personal comment on European literature rather funny. So much of our conversations in class contribute the sense of “high class” music to European culture and styles. Yet, here Copland and Chávez are seeing it as bad, almost grotesque by Chávez’ description. Chávez goes on to say the following:

… I got the Little Symphony [sic]; and let me tell you what I thought: well, here is the real thing, here is our music, my music, the music of our time, of my taste, of my culture, here it is as a simple and natural fact of my own self, as everything belonging to oneself is simple and natural.2

From this I was able to conclude on two things. One, that Coplands and Chávez’ musical tastes derive from their sense of “American Music.” (I am using this term to categorize both North and Central American Music) Although they live in two different countries, they both derive their music from folk traditions that are geographically very close to one-another. This likely contributed to their distaste in the aforementioned composers pieces.

Two, Chávez makes a very conniving argument on the authenticity of music. So much of our class is trying to define authentic music, understanding that we likely never can. However, when music is composed with respect to the origins of its inspiration, the music belongs to itself, simply and naturally. The physical, educational, or cultural background of the composer is less important when he or she is composing out of respect to their sources. If we can allow of that mindset, then the music begins to define itself, not the composer.


1 Robert L. Parker, Copland and Chávez: Brother-in-Arms (Illinois, University of Illinois Press, 1987), 433.

2 Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Life and Works of an Uncommon Man (New York, Henry Holt and Company, 1999), 222.


  1. Parker, Robert L. “Copland and Chávez: Brothers-in-Arms.” American Music 5, no. 4 (1987): 433-44. doi:10.2307/3051451.
  2. Pollack, Howard. Aaron Copland : The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man. 1st ed. New York: Henry Holt, 1999.
  3. Schaal, Eric. Aaron Copland and Carlos Chávez. , . Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, (Accessed November 06, 2017.)

Jazz as a Diversifier at St. Olaf

Benny Goodman

Knowing little about past artists St. Olaf has brought to campus, I set about my research seeing if any of the few jazz artists I know had ever performed on campus. One of my favorite being Benny Goodman, I began there. Although he never did perform on campus, and his name did not result in many articles, I did find a few important ones that expand on previous posts in this blog. In this post in particular, I will be adding to what Noah Livingston discussed this week as well on diversity within the music department at St. Olaf College.

Kristi McGee, a senior in 1989-90, wrote a strong letter explaining her reasoning for St. Olaf desperately needing a Jazz program in its curriculum. Whereas Noah’s found article seems to have a focus on the lack of diverse students at St. Olaf, McGee focuses on the musical and political benefits in relation to the college that a jazz program would bring.

Politically, McGee states that it is odd that the college does not have a jazz program implemented:

It seems ironic that an institution such as St. Olaf with high aspirations, and goals of diversification has not implemented a formal Jazz program. The emphasis on sacred and choral music and the disregard of other important musical genres, mainly Jazz, perpetuates St. Olaf’s image as a homogeneous, conservative, and conformists institution.

Any college cannot advocate for diverse student body while maintaining a conservative mindset on any matter, and although the college today is very open to dialogue, discussion, and change, it is evident through many of this blogs post that St. Olaf was not always accepting of opposing viewpoints. It appears that in the late 80’s and early 90’s, St. Olaf was in flux as it seeked to gather a larger diverse student body. Though it wished to accept new perspectives, it was not ready to let go of more traditional views on western music forms and what was considered art music and popular music.

To support her argument that jazz music is just as influential as other traditional musical genres, McGee list many influential artists and composers of jazz, and then proceeded to

Copland Clarinet Concerto, preformed by Benny Goodman, conducted by Aaron Copland, 1963.

explain how contemporary composers such as Ravel and Stravinsky had jazz influence their work. The example I will be using is Benny Goodman and how he influenced Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto.

Goodman is a jazz and clarinet legend, and is considered the “king of swing.” His style and work as a clarinetist and as a band leader went on to influence a multitude of other artists and composers. This includes Aaron Copland and his Clarinet Concerto. Although it is now a standard of the classical clarinet repertoire, Copland’s Concerto was inspired by jazz techniques and Benny Goodman’s own playing.

McGee goes on to describe, in her own way, that to acknowledge jazz in an academic way would be to elevate it to a similar status that the school holds its coral and traditional western music to, which would then better acknowledge the work of the African American and other diverse American population that were instrument in creating and defining the one music style that is original to the United States, jazz.


Copland, Warfield, Goodman, Warfield, William, Goodman, Benny, Copland, Aaron, and Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Performer. Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra : With Harp and Piano. Old American Songs [sets 1 and 2]., 1963.

McGee, Kristi. “Jazz program desperately needed in music department.” Manitou Messenger, 06 Oct. 1989, pp. 5.

jazclarinetist. “Benny Goodman – Copland Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra.” YouTube, YouTube, 28 Mar. 2012,

Sergei Rachmaninoff, an American Pop Influencer

I am, I believe, about to further complicate the question “what is American music?”

“Full Moon and Empty Arms,” 1946

Having just performed Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony, I thought it would be interesting to look into how his music influenced popular music from the mid to late 20th century after being informed by my parents about Eric Carmen’s “Never Gonna Fall In Love Again” using Rachmaninoff’s theme from the third movement. There are, of course, many other songs that are based on works by other famous composers, but I wanted to focus on Rachmaninoff in particular.

Looking through UCLA’s Sheet Music Consortium, I was not able to find anything on Eric Carmen, however. But, I was able to find a work by Buddy Kaye and Ten Mossman titled “Full Moon and Empty Arms” (1945) that was popularized by Frank Sinatra. It is based on a theme from the third movement of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto.

Returning to Eric Carmen, another popular American singer, he had two popular songs based on themes by Rachmaninoff; “All By Myself” (1976) and “Never Gonna Fall In Love Again” (1976). The first song is another piece that is based on a theme of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, while the second piece is based on the third movement of Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony. I will focus on the second piece as I am more familiar with Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony than his Second Piano Concerto.

Rachmaninoff’s theme from the third movement first shows up at 0:32 of the above recording of “Never Gonna Fall In Love Again.” The reason being that Eric was classically trained and was a fan of Rachmaninoff. Thinking his music was in the public domain, he used that theme to create his song.

Returning to the original question, “What is American Music?”, this crossover music helps identify what I consider to be “American Music.” Looking at Frank Sinatra and Eric Carmen’s careers, they are easily identifiable as Popular American Singers, with her music defining “American: popular music of their time. However they both drew on themes composed by a Russian composer, and on top of that, much of Carmen’s style is based on those of the British Invasion of the 1960’s, evident from his time with The Raspberries.

Finally, I will actually ask the question: What is American music?

Like many things regarding identity today, there is no singular answer as it lies on a spectrum. For me, it is the curation (appropriation could be another way of describing it) of cultural and racial identities into ones own “authentic” voice. America is known as the “melting pot”  or the “salad bowl,” and although today those references are often scene as a negative way of describing it, America is a center (not the only one) of culture and ethnic diversity. With regards to the music of Eric Carmen, Buddy Kaye, and Ten Mossman, credit is given to Sergei Rachmaninoff which sets an example for how one should borrow from other influences other than your own, while still creating a new and authentic form of that music.



Ankeny, Jason. “The Raspberries | Biography & History.” AllMusic. Accessed October 23, 2017.

Kaye, Buddy and Mossman, Ted, “Full Moon And Empty Arms : Based on Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2” (1946). Vocal Popular Sheet Music Collection. Score 856.

“Rachmaninoff: How Russian Romanticism Inspired 1970s Hits.” WDAV: Of Note. August 7, 2014. Accessed October 23, 2017.
“Sinatra meets Rachmaninoff.” Full moon blog. November 7, 2011. Accessed October 23, 2017.
“Thread: Modern popular songs based on classical music.” Magle International Music Forums RSS. August 14, 2005. Accessed October 23, 2017.

Elton John, King of Pop?

Growing up, Elton John was a common name in my household while growing up and so made an easy, but interesting subject to search in both databases.

Elton John, 1974 North American Tour.

Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, John has become one of the top-selling artists of his time, having Top 40 singles for 26 years, four years with 16 Top 20 hits, and seven consecutive No. 1 Albums. But his success was not immediate. John, Reginald at the time, first formed his band in 1961, and began touring

Elton John (left) and Bernie Taupin (right).

professionally in 1965 when acquired work opening for American artists. However, soon after Reginald was looking for more control in his performing life. He auditions for the groups King Crimson and Gentle Giant. And it was around this time that he started communicating with composer Bernie Taupin. It was during their initial communications that Reginald switched his name to Elton John. This pair is what eventually led John to his success that began in 1970 with the release of Johns second album titled Elton John.

In an article from the Chicago Defender, Elton explains their process from writing songs:

“‘People find it hard the way we work,’ John Commented, discussing his partnership with Taupin. ‘I don’t interfere with Bernie’s words because I couldn’t write them, and he won’t dream of writing a melody. It works, though, because we both dig what the other is doing.'”

At the time, their method seems unorthodox, being so separated, but for them it obviously proved successful. John goes on to say, “If it weren’t for Bernie, there wouldn’t be any songs.” He doesn’t attempt to interfere with Bernie’s process because his words “draw the melodies right out of me.”

Now why give John the title of Kong of Pop when it has been considered Michael Jackson’s for so long (I am, in no way trying to diminish Jackson’s influence or importance, only acknowledge someone else)? In part it is due to his success listed above, but it is also due to his theatrical stage presence in all of his concerts, his eccentric and flamboyant attitude, as well as his current position within pop culture. Alongside Rolling Stones and The Beatles, he is one of the top-selling British Artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. And still performing today, he is a testament to the growth and development of pop culture.

Another reason I find that John could be considered another King of Pop is because of the style of his music. In the same article linked above, John and Taupin’s music is described as “[looking] longingly back to an older America of Country Gospel songs… and of headliners of the thirties, fours, and fifties.” This musical connection to the past makes his music very accessible to older generations, the lyrics connect primarily with people of his and younger generations, and lastly his costumes, in ways, pay tribute to the flair of early musicals.

All in all, John’s stage presence, his music, and Taupin’s lyrics create a unique repertoire within the standards of Pop music that, like many of the great “classical” composers, have become timeless to me.



Adam Matthews Digital, 2011. “Elton John.” Popular Culture in Britain and America, 1950-1975. Accessed October 16, 2017.
“Elton Looks Back in Time.” 1975.Chicago Defender (Big Weekend Edition) (1973-1975), Aug 02, 1.
Keno. “Elton John.” Elton John Bio. 2001. Accessed October 16, 2017.

Henry Edward Krehbiel

While browsing the African American Newspapers database, I came across a short article  talking about a Mr. Krehbiel’s recent lecture on “Folk Music. ” Published in 1897, this article caught my eye because the subject matter – folk music in general but occasionally discussed southern black folk music – present was described as “new.” The fact that Mr. Krehbiel was talking about African-American folk music in an educational setting (implied by the text of the article) prompted me to search for more about him.

Henry Edward Krehbiel.

Henry Edward Krehbiel was an American music critic and musicologist who lived from 1854 to 1923. Although he studied law, he went on to become a music critic with the New York Tribune, where he stayed until his passing. For more than forty-three years, he was considered the leading music critic in America, analyzing all facets of music composed in America, including works by Richard Wagner, Johannes Brahms, Antonín Dvořák, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (composers he supported before they became popular), and African-American Folk Music. This, in particular, is important as it indicates that Krehbiel was one of the earliest researchers to go beyond recording or transcribing Black folk music and study the characteristics in relation other folk music (Russian, Swedish, etc…).

Henry Krehbiel’s “Afro-American Folksongs.” St. Olaf Libraries call number: ML3556.K9 1914

In 1914, Krehbiel published a book entitled Afro-American Folksongs with the following intention:


“This book was written with the purpose of bringing a species of folksong into the field of study of scientific observation and presenting it as fit material for artistic treatment.”

In part, Krehbiel is acknowledging the lack of study on African American Folk Music and, by doing so, is giving it and the black community more credibility than what was not common in that era. When searching St. Olaf’s database, I was pleased to find that the school did own a copy of the (I believe) original book! As mentioned earlier, this book is one of the first scientific studies into African American Folk Music and sought to compare the characteristics (rhythm, intervals, and structure) of that music with folk music of other regions.

Returning back to the original article, Henry Krehbiel held lectures on “Folk Music” before and after the publication of this review in the New York Tribune. It is indicated in the text that this article followed the third installment of his “Folk Music” lecturesThe significance of thesis lectures, articles, and of Krehbiel’s book is it provides insight into how people first viewed African-American folk music as research began on it.



The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “Henry Edward Krehbiel, 1854-1923.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed October 10, 2017.

Krehbiel, Henry Edward. Afro-American Folksongs : A Study in Racial and National Music. 4th ed. New York: G. Schirmer, 1914.

“Mr. Krehbiel On Folk Music.” New York Tribune. Mar 2, 1897: African American Newspapers, Readex. 9 Oct, 2017 <>

Rhythm, Drums, and Quills

Through class discussion and our readings in Crawford’s America’s Musical Life, it’s well established that rhythm and percussive sounds were important elements of African-American and slave music. However, its well documented that slaves were banned from making drums and other percussive instruments. Although banjos and fiddles were common examples of instruments mentioned in the text, I was curious to know about less common ones that were created and used as well.

Folk musical instruments including homemade horns, captured sometime between 1934 and 1950, Lomax Collection.

Looking through the Lomax Collection of the Library of Congress, I came across several images of homemade instruments. They appear, and this is only my best guess from analyzing the image, to be crude trumpets. Unlike the rhythmic instruments described in the Crawford, the significance and history with slave music of these instruments is less obvious to me, so I searched for instruments that have a more solid history with the African culture of the slaves.

From this idea, I was able to find the Afro-American Folk Music from Tate and Panola Counties, Mississippiedited by David Evans. This was a wonderful resource providing many musical examples for each topic it covered, and it also covered many different kinds of instruments. The one I would like to talk about is the Quill.

Quills, a type of pan flute, Tom Leonardi.

The quill is a pan pipe instrument made from  bamboo rods. This instrument is not unique to American culture alone, many variations are found in history all over the world. Specific to the slaves, the quill was a common instrument found in southern Africa today, and when slaves were brought to America, the instrument came along (Leonardi, The Quills…). However, what caught my interest was they way it was described being played in the aforementioned article by Evans.  “The Devil’s Dream” was performed by Sid Hemphill, and recorded by Alan Lomax. The quill used as a 10-note quill, but only the four lower notes were played. The scale of the quill is described as “an unusual hexatonic scale lacking the fourth and the fifth.” The reason being that the octave was stretched by a semitone, roughly, according to Evans. Along side the four notes that were used in the piece, whooping produced the remainder of the sounds.  It is this technique that primarily ties the pan flutes to African traditions, where it was common to alternate between blowing and whooping notes.

Taken from the text of “Afro-American Folk Music…” Image depicts an approximation of the whooped and blown notes of the Quill.

Sadly, today the quill has phased out of use in the United States and replaced by the harmonica, which was due to it being more flexible in sound production and inexpensive to purchase. However, the technique of whooping is still used on the harmonica today in many forms of folk music.

To connect this with our class readings, our class has discussed how rhythm has been important in aiding and defining slave and African-American music. This has primarily been due to our focus of spirituals, work songs, and other folk songs of the 19th center that all include text, we have not talked about purely instrumental music or instrumental sections of songs to any length. By looking at quills, I have not only found other musical resources of folk music that are not focused purely on text, but have found another source that emphasizes the importance of rhythm and percussive sounds. The whooping, due to the change in tone, sounds more percussive. Additionally, it was rare for much more than drums to be played with a quill, showing who folk music used percussive accompaniment with other instruments instead of harmonica or melodic accompaniment. While I can’t verify that the following recording is the one talked about in the Afro-American Folk Music archive, I believe it to representative of the quills sound.

Recording of Sid Hemphill and of the quill.


  • Leonardi, Tom. “The Quills, an American folk instrument.” American Pastimes | KZFR 90.1 FM CHICO. May 7, 2013. Accessed October 02, 2017.
  • Lomax, Alan. Folk musical instruments including homemade horns, between 1934 and 1950. Lomax Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs. Accessed October 2, 2017.
  • “Sid Hemphill – Old Devil’s Dream”. YouTube. November 30, 2010. Accessed October 02, 2017.
  • Wright, Josephine, David Evans, Glenn Hinson, Charles Ellertson, and North Carolina Museum Of History. “Afro-American Folk Music from Tate and Panola Counties, Mississippi.” The Black Perspective in Music 8, no. 1 (1980). Accessed October 2, 2017. doi:10.2307/1214524.

The Lakota Flute

In September of 1896, The periodical The Musical Visitor, a Magazine of Musical Literature and Music includes an article titled “The Indian Flute.” While short in length, the article discusses briefly the sound and look of the flute, as well as compare it to the western flute and clarinet. While not necessarily attempting to undermine the importance of the Lakota Flute, the editor of the article does not seem to understand the full history and use of the instrument.


Throughout the article, there is no indication that author attempted to talk with a Dakota tribal member except in attempting to trade for one of their flutes. To play the flute, the only prerequisite is to “is to have a melody in the heart through the performance,” beyond that there is not indication that research was conducted of the tribe and its uses for the flute, only what appear to be assumptions made through observation. I make his conclusion because the author, in describing a general instance of a person playing the flute, said, “when the Indian begins to play in the tepee right after a hearty supper, you may be sure that he is going to continue until after breakfast.” This comment makes no culture references or gives a reason as to why the person is playing the flute, besides enjoyment.

Because of the age of the article, I read the comments and conclusions presented with a bias that they were made by a western man through primarily observation and with very little contact with the native tribe of the Lakota Flute.  To identify the biases observed in the 1896 article, I searched for more recent articles written by or about a Native American who knows the history of the Lakota Flute from an internal perspective. By doing so, I discovered Mat’o (also knowns as Jack Cardinal). Mat’o explanations expand on the rather minimal descriptions presented in the periodical. The flute is traditionally performed, according to Mat’o, during “the season of the popping trees,” meaning February when  men would try to court women. Beyond that, Mat’o uses the instrument to help tell stories of “the old ways.” In this regard, the periodical could be correct in assuming the playing of the flute with pleasure.

Although “The Indian Flute” does not seek to attempt to undermine the history of musical instruments with native American Tribes, the article does provide a glimpse into the way 19th century settlers attempted to understand their musical traditions in a western context, and in doing so miss the importance of these instruments to their tribes.


Article Sources

  • Fajardo, Renee. 2003. “A Maker of Flutes, a Weaver of Tales.” La Voz Nueva, Aug 20, 15.
  • “THE INDIAN FLUTE.” 1896.The Musical Visitor, a Magazine of Musical Literature and Music (1883-1897), 09, 258.

Image Sources

  • Russ, George. “Jack Cardinal Indian Logger Who Blamed Me When He Could No Longer Bear To Hear The Trees Scream – Russ George.” Last modified September 1, 2015.
  • Zimny, Michael. “Master Dakota Flute Maker Bryan Akipa Never Stops Exploring His Art Form.” South Dakota Public Broadcasting. Last modified November 4, 2015.