Watch: Nicholas Cook: The Imaginary African: Music, Race, Identity

Presented to the Faculty of Music Colloquium, 20th January 2016

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), now forgotten but in his time an outstandingly successful British composer, was the illegitimate child of a West African medical student and an English mother. His father returned to Africa before his son was born: Coleridge-Taylor was brought up in an entirely white environment. It was only in early adulthood that he became involved with African and African American issues: he incorporated spirituals into his compositions, and was involved in the early development of pan-Africanism. The dissonance between his black skin and English upbringing, together with his subsequent engagement with his racial patrimony, make his life and career an unusually rich example of the purposeful reconstruction of identity. The aim of this chapter is to investigate the role that music played in this process, and to use music as a means of understanding it.

You can read Nick’s article on Samuel Coleridge-Taylor for the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Network here.

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