The UCLA Robert U. Nelson Lecture Series, hosted by the Center for Musical Humanities, presents a talk by Dr. Kira Thurman, "On Beethoven, Blackness, and Belonging: Debating Classical Music in the Black Atlantic."
What has classical music meant to Black people? Why have African Americans listened to and performed a genre of music that many Americans now consider to be white, elitist, and Eurocentric? Such accusations aren't inaccurate: for example, African Americans represent only 1.8 percent of all orchestra musicians today. In this presentation, Professor Kira Thurman turns to the past to consider how African Americans made classical music a meaningful part of their lives. Examining the lives and careers of intellectuals such as W.E.B. DuBois and classical musicians such as Marian Anderson, Thurman argues that African Americans incorporated art music into their Black international and Black diasporic politics. Looking beyond America's shores, they found a larger, vibrant Black history of classical music that they could also claim.
Kira Thurman is an assistant professor of History and German Studies at the University of Michigan. A winner of the Berlin Prize among other awards and fellowships, she is the author of several award-winning articles on music, the Black diaspora, and German-speaking Europe. Her book, "Singing like Germans: Black Musicians in the Land of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms," is forthcoming with Cornell University Press (Fall 2021).
This program is made possible by the Joyce S. and Robert U. Nelson Fund. Robert Uriel Nelson was a revered musicologist and music professor at UCLA, who, together with his wife, established a generous endowment for the university to make programs like this possible.