A 19th century Guitar-strumming Social Activist

February 23, 2016 at 11:00 am

Sorry, hippies. Somebody beat you to it.

Justin Holland (1819-1887), was a civil-rights activist, moving around the same circles as Frederic Douglass. He worked with whites to free slaves in the Underground Railroad. Oh yeah, and he also played a mean guitar.

He became nationally known for his guitar method books – his approach to teaching was considered very conservative for the time (sorry, hippies; I guess he was a square). And, while not a composer himself, he was famous for arranging famous works of other composers, including this one, which includes some popular tunes from Carl Maria von Weber‘s opera, Oberon.


Baby Bach ribs

February 22, 2016 at 7:19 am

No BBQ here. Just a really stupid joke.

All the Bach children were musical, and probably not by choice. Most musicians agree that Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was the best composer among them. After all, when Mozart said “Bach is the father, and we are his children,” he was not referring to J.S., but C.P.E.

C.P.E.’s music is a perfect midpoint between the Baroque and Classical musical eras, combining the ornateness and richness of the baroque with the transparency and grace of the classic. This isn’t the heavy, confusing sound of his father’s late compositions, nor is it the mindless, simple noodling of Scarlatti.

Shortly after graduating with a degree in law (like any good musician does), he was appointed a musical post in the court of Frederick the Great, who was known as a great patron of the arts, and was himself a flutist. It’s easy to imagine this flute concerto being performed by Frederick, with C.P.E. conducting and playing the keyboard, as is portrayed in this painting.




NOT vice versa

February 21, 2016 at 10:00 am

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor – not to be confused with Samuel Taylor-Coleridge. They’re both English. They’re both artists. But SCT was a black composer, and STC was a white poet.

Coleridge-Taylor’s musical career was skyrocketing when he died (like so many great composers) in his 30s. Thankfully, in his 37 years, he left a legacy of works that have earned him his nickname, “The African Mahler.”