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George Walker: A Twentieth Century Black American Composer

            Black composers have made significant advances in gaining acceptance in the field of classical music in the twentieth century. Many became innovators by combining some of the traditional styles associated with Blacks in their classical music and by exploring twentieth century compositional techniques. Living American composers, such as George Walker, are the product of the Black innovators of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This synthesis and exploration can be seen in most of Walker's works, specifically his three songs "I Went to Heaven,"" "Leaving- and "Mother Goose."".
             Throughout the twentieth century, music in America has played a significant role in defining its culture, and Black composers have made significant contributions towards shaping American music.1 Beginning in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Black composers produced primarily ragtime, jazz, spirituals and blues rather than classical compositions because Whites considered Blacks to be inferior and undereducated.2 These ideas could be seen in reviews of newspapers and magazines that discussed Black performances. One example is an article in an 1873 issue of the Dwight's Journal 3 which discussed the performances of the Fisk Jubilee Singers: .
             They have also received considerable musical instruction, and have been made familiar with much of our [white] best sacred and classical music, and this has modified their manner of execution. They do not attempt to imitate the grotesque bodily motions or the drawling intonations that often characterize the singing of great congregations of the colored people in their excited religious meetings. It is true, however, both of the words and the music, that whatever modification they have undergone, have been wholly in the minds of the Singers under the influence of the training and culture they have received in the University of which they are members.

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