The Preservation and Development of Black American Folk Music and of the Exodus Emblem in R. Nathaniel Dett’s the Ordering of Moses
AuthorFord, Donté Alexander
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractBlack American composer R. Nathaniel Dett (1882–1943) is a pioneering figure of American classical music composed by Black musicians. During his career—as a composer, performer, and educator—Dett advocated for the preservation of Black American folk music and its development via its use in “serious” classical music. While initially not interested in doing so, after hearing the masterful use of Black American folk music in Dvořák’s American Quartet during his student years at Oberlin College, Dett’s perspective changed; Dvořák’s composition provided a conceptual foundation for this fusion. In light of this, Dett’s career is defined by his mission to preserve and develop Black American folk music, of which his oratorio, The Ordering of Moses (1937), represents this fulfillment. This dissertation asserts that R. Nathaniel Dett’s The Ordering of Moses embodies his distinct views on preserving and developing Black American folk music, as demonstrated through his utilization of Negro Spirituals as thematic material within this work. Similarly, this dissertation holds that Dett’s symphonic work preserves and develops broader Black American idioms on account of its use of the Exodus emblem as its narrative focus, consistent with its use in the cultural expressions of Black arts, letters, and religion (Christianity).
Degree ProgramGraduate College