Florence Price was a composer in the early 1900s in the United States. She is often remembered for persevering against prejudice (being a black female composer), working to find her niche in the post-Dvorak American Music scene, composing along side peers such as Dawson, Burlesque, and others.1
As seen in this clipping from the Plaindealer (an African American newspaper from Kentucky) from 1934, Price enjoyed a fairly high deal of synchronic success2
. Marion Andersson famously sang one of her arrangements of a spiritual on the steps of the Lincoln center in front of an audience of thousands.3
While it is true that Price’s existence as a black female composer put her in the face of a considerable deal of adversity (Price at one point had to write letters that explicitly asked conductors to evaluate her music without regards to her race or sex), it is also important to evaluate her objectively as a composer and see in what ways her work fit into the pattern of composition surrounding her time4
. Just as composers like Mussorgsky or Stravinsky were drawing on folk traditions from their own countries, so too was Price using the American folk tradition she knew as a launch point for her own idiosyncratic style. In terms of harmonic style and phrasing, her first symphony is compared to Tchaikovsky and is dripping with 19th century European tropes.
So as we appreciate the unique position of Price, one of a few— if not the only notable female composer of color from her time, we must be careful not to over-essentialize her position, and do as she says: evaluate her objectively and appreciate her position among her contemporaries.
1 Davis, Lizzie. “The Inspirational Life of Composer Florence Price – and Why Her Story Still Matters Today.” Classic FM, Classic FM, 2 Feb. 2022, www.classicfm.com/discover-music/florence-price/.
2 “Mme. Evanti Praises Race Composer.” Plaindealer (Kansas City, Kansas) XXXVI, no. 41, October 12, 1934: 6. Readex: African American Newspapers. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=EANAAA&docref=image/v2%3A12ACD7C7734164EC%40EANAAA-12C188C7B81DCC88%402427723-12C188C8027A3378%405-12C188C9427D9E78%40Mme.%2BEvanti%2BPraises%2BRace%2BComposer.