William Grant Still’s First Symphony

For day 3 of Black History Month, enjoy this excerpt from William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American Symphony). Since he worked in the classical music tradition, Still isn’t as much of a household name as some of the jazz composers that were his Harlem Renaissance compatriots (Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, etc), but he was a big deal.

Among other things, he was the first American composer to have an opera produced by the New York City Opera. Not first African-American composer – first AMERICAN composer. (The opera is called Troubled Island, and is about the Hatian slave uprising.) If you like the work of Edgard Varèse, you’ll like him. Beautiful music. And there’s lots of it to dive into – he was prolific without being repetitive. One of the great American composers (and conductors), though currently out of fashion.

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