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Dvorak’s Prophecy — A “Systematic Curatorial Effort”

The author most recently interviewed by Richard Aldous, in his always lively “Book Stack” series for The American Purpose, happens to be me, talking about Dvorak’s Prophecy and the Vexed Fate of Black Classical Music. You can hear our 30-minute chat here.

At one point, 22 minutes in, Richard in a surge of effusion pronounces: “Your time has come.” He references the new Philadelphia Orchestra recording of two Florence Price symphonies, and other evidence that American orchestras are finally attending to music forgotten and otherwise overlooked.

Not so fast, I reply. The rush to perform music by Black composers is more than welcome – but “we need a more systematic curatorial effort” based “on an informed overview.” In particular, I continue (casting further aspersion on Richard’s optimism), if American orchestras are to enjoy a “formidable future” they must once and for all embrace “our greatest composer” of concert music: Charles Edward Ives.

Ives, I opine, is not only a victim of a modernist “standard narrative” into which he does not fit; he is also an object of prejudice – that his music is “difficult.”

Of the six Dvorak’s Prophecy films just released by Naxos in tandem with my book, “Charles Ives’ America” is an impassioned act of advocacy. It maintains that Ives should become known as a member of the same supreme New World cultural pantheon as Walt Whitman and Herman Melville – and that, moreover, “he can become known.” His music is in fact “readily appreciable.” Here’s the trailer to the Ives film, with fabulous visual treatments by Peter Bogdanoff:

For more information on the Dvorak’s Prophecy films, click here.

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