How Music Responds on WRTI

In these extraordinary times, music and music makers have something to say about Black Music and the Black Experience. Check out these meaningful, inspiring conversations with a wide variety of guests about the power of music to transcend our differences and bring us closer together. Also included are stories that deepen our knowledge of Black Music from recent days and the past.

August 24, 2020. Fire up the time machine and let’s go back to November 1934. It was a troubling time, and Americans were enduring the depths of the Great Depression and Winston Churchill’s chilling observations about the “rapidly darkening European scene” were foretelling the WWII horrors to come. Yet, even against this worrisome economic and sociopolitical backdrop—artistically—New York City was still alive.

University of Pennsylvania: Marian Anderson Collection of Photographs, 1898-1992

One of America’s most admired civil rights icons, though she disliked the label, wasn’t a political or religious figure—she was a singer with a “rich, vibrant contralto of intrinsic beauty," in the words of opera critic Alan Blyth. She was Marian Anderson (1897-1993), and she called Philadelphia home. 

As America and the world reexamine race and equality, creatives are addressing these issues by producing art and music. NPR Music stations invited artists to join the the national discussion—and Philadelphia-based Vocussionist Bethlehem Roberson responded with her piece, "Evolution."

Two controversies broke out this week regarding accusations of anti-Black racism in classical music. One involved two high-profile international soloists, pianist Yuja Wang and violinist Leonidas Kavakos. The other features less prominent individuals — a group of academics — but it also points to the slowness of the classical music community to take up difficult conversations about race and representation.

How does music help us find our identity and also bring people together with different backgrounds? Candace Allen—a contributor to the BBC and The Guardian, and author of Soul Music: The Pulse of Race and Music—shares her thoughts on recent events, and how music can respond, in a conversation with WRTI's Susan Lewis.

In the liner notes to John Coltrane's 1964 album Live At Birdland, Amiri Baraka (then writing as Le Roi Jones) contemplated the gift the saxophonist and his band offered with this music inspired by the horrific deaths of four Black girls in a Birmingham church bombing inspired by white supremacist hatred. "Listen," Baraka wrote. "What we're given is a slow delicate introspective sadness, almost hopelessness, except for Elvin [Jones], rising in the background like something out of nature... a fattening thunder, storm clouds or jungle war clouds.

On Nov. 20, 1934, a brand new symphony brought a Carnegie Hall audience to its feet. The concert featured the Philadelphia Orchestra, led by its star conductor Leopold Stokowski. The music was the Negro Folk Symphony, by the 35-year-old African American composer William Dawson.

Joseph Conyers is acting associate principal bass of The Philadelphia Orchestra, founder and executive director of Project 440, and music director of Philadelphia's All-City Orchestra. He spoke with WRTI's Susan Lewis about guiding young musicians in ways to deal with these difficult times. 

Juneteenth is a holiday when Black Americans commemorate the end of slavery, and WRTI is responding with an all-day salute to Black classical and jazz artistry—sharing the work of many Black composers, men and women, as well as Black soloists, conductors, and performers.

A Juneteenth Message from WRTI 90.1

Jun 18, 2020

As a mission-driven station, WRTI champions music as a vital cultural resource to move and inspire, educate and entertain, all while reflecting the community we serve.

Pages