PERFORMING ARTS

The Heart of a Woman: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price

Univ. of Illinois. Jun. 2020. 336p. ed. by ed. by Guthrie P. Ramsey Jr. ISBN 9780252085109. pap. $29.95. MUSIC
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The music of African American composer Florence B. Price (1887–1953) has experienced a rediscovery after decades of obscurity. Brown, who died in 2017, worked on Price’s biography for most of her academic career; the book, edited by Ramsey (music, Univ. of Pennsylvania; Race Music), is based on her dissertation. Yet the time she devoted to uncovering the often sparse details of Price’s life on the one hand and to musicological analysis of her work on the other (Brown guided the definitive publications of Price’s First and Third Symphonies) substantively enrich the volume. These examinations are at the core of Brown’s work, detailing measure by measure, and sometimes note by note, how Price incorporated influences ranging from Dvorák’s Ninth Symphony to the characteristic rhythms of the Juba dance to the poetry of Langston Hughes. There are lacunae in the book as well: Price’s Fourth Symphony is described as lost—and so it was, its score literally turning up in Price’s abandoned summer home in 2009—its debut performance having taken place after both Price’s and Brown’s deaths. The disappearance and reappearance of Price’s work, and the reasons for it, are as critical to Brown’s treatment of the composer as are the works themselves. Whatever Price’s legacy turns out to be, this book will play a substantial role in securing it.
VERDICT An important contribution to the study of African American composers and musicians. For scholars and listeners alike.

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