‘I’m a white composer, living in white privilege, setting the poetry of Langston Hughes’

In 2009, composer Laura Karpman unveiled a new work, Ask Your Mama, during Carnegie Hall’s HONOR! Festival that celebrated African American music and culture. Inspired by Langston Hughes’s poem of the same name, Ask Your Mama is a multimedia exploration of the black experience. But Karpman herself is not black. “I’m a white composer, living in white privilege, setting the …

Signifyin’ in Song: How the Sounds of Slavery Changed Music Forever

African-American spirituals are not just a cornerstone of the American choral tradition, they have impacted countless genres of music heard everywhere from saloons to symphony halls. Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World,” borrows heavily from African-American musical traditions and spirituals in particular. The composer once said: “I am convinced that the future music of this …