Black Sounds Matter


Thursday, March 31, 2022 at 4:30pm

FREE! Reservations required.

Neely Bruce
John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Wesleyan University
Some Thoughts about African-American Composers in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries

Rashida Z. Shaw McMahon
Associate Professor of English, Affiliated Faculty of African American Studies and Theater, Wesleyan University
Black Gospel Musicals: The House that Langston (Hughes) Built

Moderated by Professor of Music Jay Hoggard.



Neely Bruce is the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music at Wesleyan. His compositions include three full-length operas; five one-act operas; works for orchestra and band; about 300 solo songs; chamber music; documentary film scores; and a choral setting of the Bill of Rights. Recent major works include the dramatic oratorio Circular 14: The Apotheosis of Aristides for eight soloists, two choruses, and large orchestra. His performances of his complete works for solo piano can be heard on SoundCloud. The West End String Quartet recently premiered his 21 Lines: Pulse Music for Sol LeWitt at the New Britain Museum of American Art. A scholar of American music, his interests include Anthony Philip Heinrich; Arthur Farwell; music by American women; and Sacred Harp singing. Currently he is investigating music in the life and work of Sol LeWitt. He has been involved in several major premieres, including HPSCHD by John Cage and Lejaren Hiller; Meteor Farm and other spatial works by Henry Brant; and unpublished songs of Charles Ives. Bruce came to Wesleyan in the fall of 1974.

Rashida Z. Shaw McMahon is an Associate Professor of English and an Affiliated Faculty of African American Studies and Theater. Her research agenda is motivated by a commitment to understanding the role of theater, drama, and performance within Black lives and an enduring curiosity about how both textual and embodied artistic forms express what it means to live as Black across and within local, national, temporal, and global frameworks. Through multi- and interdisciplinary perspectives and methodologies, her research pays critical attention to the ways in which race, gender, and sexuality, as well as politics, place, and popular culture, inform the lives, histories, and imaginings of Black people as expressed through theatrical performance and dramatic literature. Professor Shaw McMahon’s monograph, The Black Circuit: Race, Performance, and Spectatorship in Black Popular Theatre (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2020), is a study of contemporary Chitlin Circuit theater and its historical antecedents, including explorations of theater history, theater criticism, performance studies, ethnography, social theory, and culinary history. Her current projects include an investigation into the public exhibition of children from the Danish West Indies (referred to today as the United States Virgin Islands) in early twentieth century Denmark, investigations into the hypervisibility of African American women characters within the plays of August Wilson, and examinations of the politics of Black pleasure and Black joy as presented within African American drama and performance.


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