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2012 Master's Level Graduate Research Conference

Session I - Session II - Session III - Session IV

The Art Music of Jamaica, West Indies

Art music of . . . Jamaica? When one thinks of the music of Jamaica, the popular genres of mento, ska, rock steady, and reggae, all of which have been given much attention, come to mind. But there is a body of serious music by Jamaican composers stemming from the eighteenth to twenty-first centuries which has largely been overlooked. This study contends that the islandís contribution to the Western music tradition deserves consideration, and seeks to show how imitation, hybridization, assimilation, and innovation have played a role in the development of art music by composers of Jamaican birth and descent. To that end, this paper considers performance practices, reception history, and published criticism of art music in Jamaica and abroad. From slavery through emancipation to independence, the music of Jamaican-born composers Samuel Felsted (1743-1802), Frederic H. Cowen (1852-1935), Oswald Russell (1933-), and Peter Ashbourne (1950-) represent a wide spectrum of Jamaican art music. Their music incorporates elements indigenous to the musical styles of the Caribbean, the West, Jamaica, and Africa. Examination of several selected vocal works of these composers is used to show how music of these composers compares to that of contemporaries in the broader Western art music culture. Personal interviews with Peter Ashbourne, Jamaican pianist Dr. Paul Shaw, and ethnomusicologist and flautist Dr. Christine Gangelhoff have provided much support and insight to the results of this study.

Presenter: Natalee Burke (Greatbatch School of Music, Houghton College) --
Topic: Humanities/Music Studies
Location: 214 Hartwell
Time: 3:35 pm (Session IV)