Mark Burford, Professor of Music at Reed College, presents “Performing Preservation: White Women’s Voices and Old South Black Song,” in the School of Music's 2023 THEME lecture series.
Dr. Buford’s talk is the School of Music's 2023 Lecture in American Music, made possible by the Wilberforce and Myra D. Hanford Endowed Program Support Fund in American Music, made possible by a generous gift from John Hanford - a former longtime lecturer in Music History who earned his PhD in Music History from the UW School of Music.
This talk considers inscrutable contradictions in the reception of three early twentieth-century white southern women expressly committed to preserving antebellum Black vernacular song by performing the voices of their childhood “mammies.” Even as their blackvoiced commemoration consolidated the national project of nostalgic Old South vindication, these women were also legitimized by alliances with the nascent scholarly discipline of folklore studies and, more unexpectedly, by the implicit endorsement of such African Americans as John Wesley Work, Harry T. Burleigh, and W. E. B. Du Bois, who—perhaps strategically—championed the cultural-political significance of Black folk song. The talk will assess the meanings emerging from this busy intersection of postbellum personal memoir, cross-racial folkloric preservation, Lost Cause propaganda, and vocal performance.
Mark Burford is R. P. Wollenberg Professor of Music at Reed College. A music historian, his scholarship and teaching focus on twentieth-century African American music and long-nineteenth-century European concert music. His published writing for both academic and general audiences includes articles on Johannes Brahms, Alvin Ailey, gospel music, and opera, and his article “Sam Cooke as Pop Album Artist—A Reinvention in Three Songs” received the Society for American Music’s 2012 Irving Lowens Award for the outstanding article on American music. He is the editor of The Mahalia Jackson Reader and author of Mahalia Jackson and the Black Gospel Field, which in 2019 received the American Musicological Society’s Otto Kinkeldey Award for the outstanding book in musicology by a senior scholar. In 2022, he was awarded the Dent Medal by the Royal Musical Association for outstanding contribution to the field of musicology. His current research project is a book on W. E. B. Du Bois and music, focusing on coverage of music in the NAACP magazine The Crisis during Du Bois’s twenty-three-year editorship.
THEME, an annual colloquium of UW faculty and students of Theory, History, Ethnomusicology, and Music Education, is held on select Friday afternoons during Autumn Quarter. All talks are at 4:30 p.m in the School of Music Fishbowl unless otherwise noted. Admission is free.