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Veteran Poster
Username: Steve_s

Post Number: 437
Registered: 04-2004

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Votes: 0

Posted on Friday, February 27, 2009 - 09:56 pm:   

Thumper and Cynique,

I disagree about "Of Our Spiritual Strivings" (Chapt. 1 of "The Souls of Black Folk") which I just happen to have re-read a few days ago because the Du Boisian trope of double-consciousness appears to be a central conceit of Colson Whitehead's new novel and I can't believe how superficially he seems to use it!

Anyway, if I remember correctly (or maybe I just dreamed it!) Du Bois spent his twenty-fifth birthday in Berlin where he was invited to a concert performance of Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony, a soulful piece in a minor key which may have reminded him of the "sorrow songs" he wrote so eloquently about in Chapt. 14. Apparently his thoughts kept returning to Josie in the one-room schoolhouse in Tennessee (Chapt. 4) and he was full of regrets that such beautiful music was so inaccessible to someone like her.

So upon returning to his room he may have first conceived the idea of double-consciousness in music, which, although noble in sentiment, is at best lacking in clarity, and at worst doesn't really stand the test of time.

Here's what he wrote:

"The innate love of harmony and beauty that set the ruder souls of his people a-dancing and a-singing raised but confusion and doubt in the soul of the black artist; for the beauty revealed to him was the soul-beauty of a race which his larger audience despised, and he could not articulate the message of another people."

Starting at the end, the idea that black artists "could not express the message of another people" wasn't even true back then when you had opera performers like Sissieretta Jones, Shakesperian actor Ira Aldridge, classical musicians and composers like Will Marion Cook and Harry Burleigh, and on and on. Then in the decades that followed, Roland Hayes, Jules Bledsoe, and Marian Anderson, culminating in the opera singer from Laurel, Mississippi about whom Time music critic Michael Walsh said:

...for my money, the lady you want to hear in the big Italian (read: Verdi and Puccini) repertoire when the money is on the table. The finest Ada of our time, the best Leonora (in Forza), the quintessential Tosca...Well, you get the idea.

Also performing by the date of publication of "Souls" were musicians as diverse as James Bland, Buddy Bolden, James Reese Europe, Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, and you name it...and not a one of them gave a damn what anybody thought!

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