Individual articles from this issue of Black Sacred Music are available for purchase at read.dukeupress.edu/black-sacred-music.
This volume presents the collected writings of American composer William Grant Still. In the critical works, as in his music, Still offers a perspective on American music and society informed by a diversity of experience and associations that few bothers have enjoyed. That diversity, evident in a career that encompassed jazz, traditional African-American idioms, the European avant-garde, and a range of compositions including chamber music, ballet, symphonies, and opera, was marked by a central concern and guiding principle. In addressing the problem of race, Still considered the sacred task of his music, its power and duty, to serve in the quest for an ideal society. As prophetic model and inspired medium, music, much like religion, was to assist others to attain this goal. Whether providing insight into both the pain and exhilaration of the African-American creative experience, probing questions of the universality of music vs. the cultural identity of the composer, paying tribute to the fallen black soldiers of the Second World War, or offering a view of the interdependence of all people, Still’s work, his life, writings, and music shared in this higher purpose.