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Society of Black Composers [SBC]locked

  • Eldonna L. May

African American composers collective, established in 1968 and dissolved in 1973. Believing that black music was a catalyst for social change and community coalition building, an eclectic, politically active, visionary group of young composers came together in New York in 1968 to found the Society of Black Composers. Their agenda was tripartite: to develop their composition skills, to promote the work of black modern and classical composers, and to enrich the cultural life of black communities. In addition to supporting the work of African American composers, the collective sought to increase musical, political, and cultural awareness. It presented concerts, colloquia, and lectures to perform and discuss the music of its members. The society also broadened the scope of contemporary musical composition by incorporating elements of other cultural traditions.

The society’s members hailed from diverse musical backgrounds, ranging from jazz to classical to avant-garde, and included Talib Rasul Hakim (Stephen Chambers), William Fischer, Carman Moore, Dorothy Rudd Moore, John Price, Alvin Singleton, Roger Dickerson, Primous Fountain, James Furman, Adolphus Hailstork, Wendell Logan, and Olly Wilson. Support from the Ford, Fulbright, Guggenheim, and Whitney foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities enabled members to study and perform in Europe and Africa.

Similar to other ephemeral cooperative efforts of black artists, creative projects and professional careers compelled society members to take different paths. The society suspended operations around 1973. Many members continued to perform while others pursued careers in academe. The society remains noteworthy for accepting and experimenting with all genres of African American music.

Bibliography

  • Society of Black Composers Collection (MS, 1968–73, 1978, Center for Black Music Research, Columbia College, Chicago)