Evan Williams: Dead White Man Music, II: Flow (My Tears)

Daniel Walden, harpsichord

Urban Playground Chamber Orchestra
Thomas Cunningham, conductor

06 October 2017 | 8 PM

Evan Williams | Dead White Man Music

The great man theory was a view of history popular in the nineteenth century that posited that society was advanced by a succession of “great men,” who influenced history through the centuries. It may come as no surprise that the majority of these men (besides notable exceptions, such as Jesus or Mohammed) were White. In recent decades such views of history have been criticized, and the contributions of women and people of color have been studied in greater detail.

However, even today, there is perhaps no better field of study to see the great man theory at work than in the classical canon. The music of long-deceased White male Europeans reigns supreme in concert and recital halls, and these men are credited with all of the stylistic progressions of Western art music. To put it bluntly, the performance and study of the canon is the performance and study of dead White man music, and that fact often feels like a barrier for female composers and composers of color.

Dead White Man Music serves as a personal reflection on this issue, and my own contribution to classical music as a young Black composer. This concerto for harpsichord draws on inspiration and influences from across the centuries: from Bach and Dowland to Julius Eastman and Nina Simone, from the baroque Folia to postminimalism and rock. Through the work I ask, What music am I called to write and who should be my models?

Dead White Man Music was commissioned by Urban Playground Chamber Orchestra with the generous support of over sixty donors through a crowdfunding campaign. The concerto was written for harpsichordist Daniel Walden.

Category: Performance