Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

William Grant Still Bio-Bibliography

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

William Grant Still Bio-Bibliography

Article excerpt

William Grant Still Bio-Bibliography. By Judith Anne Still, Michael Dabrishus, and Carolyn Quinn. (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1996. Pp. 352. Preface, acknowledgments, works and performances, general bibliography, discography, appendices, index. $79.50.)

The name William Grant Still may not garner a response from many; however, the composer's impact on the development of the American classical tradition is significant. The publication of the William Grant Still Bio-Bibliography may now solidify the composer's place in American music history. As an African-American composer at a time when serious musicians and composers of color were limited to popular music forms, Still scored major firsts and paved the way for successive black composers. In 1931 his Afro-American Symphony became the first work by an African American performed by a major symphonic organization. In 1949 Troubled Island, his collaboration with Langston Hughes, became the first opera by an African American to be performed by a major opera company. Despite Still's success in film and television music, operas, piano works, songs, and symphonies, his name is often excluded from American music discussions, and when he does appear, the treatment is very limited.

While American music history has excluded the composer, Arkansas history has not. Although a Mississippian by birth, many consider the composer one of Arkansas's many famous sons. After all, it was in Little Rock that the composer's pioneer spirit was nurtured. His mother, a public school teacher, opened the first library for African Americans in the city, and his musical education included productions that frequented the city and his first violin lessons (p. 16).

Since Still's death in 1978 and the subsequent passing of his wife, Verna Arvey, in 1984, scholars and Still enthusiasts have faced the difficult task of locating literature on Still and his compositions. Although there are many vital sources on the composer, such as Verna Arvey's memoir, In One Lifetime, Robert Haas's William Grant Still and the Fusion of American Culture, and the recent Jon Michael Spencer publication, The William Grant Still Reader, all have failed to provide scholars with a thorough bibliographic survey.

Now, with the appearance only one year after the Still Centennial (1995) of the William Grant Still Bio-Bibliography, an in-depth discussion of the life and compositional output of the composer is available. …

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