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Blackness in Opera$
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Naomi Andre, Karen M. Bryan, and Eric Saylor

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780252036781

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252036781.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Illinois University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ISO for personal use.date: 13 August 2020

New Paradigms in William Grant Still’s Blue Steel

New Paradigms in William Grant Still’s Blue Steel

Chapter:
(p.141) 7 New Paradigms in William Grant Still’s Blue Steel
Source:
Blackness in Opera
Author(s):

Gayle Murchison

Publisher:
University of Illinois Press
DOI:10.5406/illinois/9780252036781.003.0008

This chapter examines the aesthetics underlying William Grant Still's Blue Steel and contextualizes it as a Harlem Renaissance work engaged with the African past and Still's diasporic present. Composed in 1934, Blue Steel was envisioned by Still as an African American opera—one that not only treated an African American subject, but was also rooted in African American and African diasporic culture—namely, its syncretic religion, voodoo or voudon. The chapter first takes a look at Still's first exposure to and early attempts at opera before discussing his collaborators in the creation of Blue Steel. It then provides a summary of Blue Steel's plot and characters as well as its use of African music for conceptual approaches to representing Africa and Africanness through musical signifiers. It also examines how voodoo became a means for Still to express himself as a Harlem Renaissance artist by functioning as a multifaceted signifier of African identity within the New World.

Keywords:   aesthetics, William Grant Still, Blue Steel, Harlem Renaissance, voodoo, voudon, African music, Africa, Africanness, African identity

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