In 1933, the Chicago Symphony performed the Symphony in E Minor by Florence B. Price. It was the first time a major American orchestra played a composition by an African American woman. Despite her success, Price sank into obscurity after her death in 1953. Dr. Rae Linda Brown spent much of her career researching and writing about Price’s life and music, as well as advocating for African American representation in academia and in the concert hall. Three years after her death, University of Illinois Press published the manuscript she left largely complete at her passing: Heart of a Woman: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price
(University of Illinois Press, 2020). Two guests join this podcast to talk about the biography—Dr. Carlene Brown, Rae Linda’s sister, and Dr. Guthrie Ramsey, who edited the book and prepared it for publication. Heart of a Woman
places Price’s life and music within the context of genteel middle-class African American culture and the active black classical music scene in Chicago in the 1930s and 40s. Brown also analyzes Price’s major pieces, teasing out the ways the composer embedded influences from black musical traditions into her concert music. Today Florence Price’s music is experiencing a resurgence in popularity, due in no small part to the work of Dr. Rae Linda Brown. G. Schirmer Inc.
has acquired the rights to Price’s catalog and has been publishing her music (some pieces for the first time). In the 2019–2020 season alone, the Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Seattle Symphonies, among others, performed her work.
Rae Linda Brown
was the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Pacific Lutheran University at her death in 2017. Her research and publications focused on African American concert music and Florence B. Price.
Carlene J. Brown
is Professor of Music and Director of the Music Therapy Program at Seattle Pacific University. Her research and clinical work centers on the use of music for pain management.
is the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor of Music at the University Pennsylvania. A musicologist, pianist, and composer, Ramsey has published extensively on African American music including two books. He has also released three recordings with his band Dr. Guy’s MusiQology and directed the documentary Amazing: The Tests and Triumph of Bud Powell
(2015) among other projects.
Kristen M. Turner is a lecturer in the music and honors departments at North Carolina State University. Her research centers on race and class in American popular entertainment at the turn of the twentieth century.