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Hugh Davies and Susan McClary

(b Chicago, IL, June 5, 1947). American performance artist, composer, and instrument innovator. Although she played the violin from childhood, she received her formal training in the visual arts (Barnard College, BA 1969; Columbia University, MFA 1972). During the 1970s she became one of the most celebrated practitioners of performance art. Her work has incorporated graphics, lighting, sculpture, mime, slides, film, speech, music, and many electronic devices, some of her own design. By 1976 her performances were featured prominently in museums and concert venues across Europe and North America.

Anderson has achieved great visibility, in part because of her originality: coming to music from the visual arts, she was free to manipulate sounds as she liked. Her unexpected crossover into the popular domain brought her a degree of fame and influence usually unavailable to avant-garde artists.

Since the mid-1970s Anderson has developed several instruments for use in her performances and exhibitions. A typical programme for one of her live shows includes all or part of her large-scale music theatre work ...

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(b Troy, NY, 1833; d New York, April 10, 1875). American minstrel performer and manager. He began as a performer in the late 1840s, and made his first New York appearance with Charley White’s Serenaders in 1851. From 1852 to 1854 he and his brother Jerry performed with Wood’s Minstrels in New York, and late in the 1854 season he formed Bryant and Mallory’s Minstrels with Ben Mallory. By this time he was being advertised as ‘the unapproachable Ethiopian comedian’. In February 1857 he formed Bryant’s Minstrels with his brothers Jerry and Neil. As a versatile and brilliant performer, Bryant quickly became a public idol; the troupe performed with great success in New York until Bryant’s death in 1875, and also toured in California and elsewhere in 1867–8. Bryant’s Minstrels excelled in the portrayal of black ‘plantation life’, marking a return to the classic type of minstrelsy of the 1840s; they were also innovators, placing a greater emphasis on burlesque skits. Bryant engaged Dan Emmett in ...

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Robert B. Winans

(b 1808; d New Orleans, 1861). American minstrel performer. He was most famous for his entr’acte performances of Coal Black Rose, the first blackface comic lovesong, and Long Tailed Blue, the first song of the black dandy; both of these song types later became standard in the minstrel show, and both songs are in a simple musical style that was thought (mistakenly) to represent African American music. Dixon claimed authorship of these songs (and, less credibly, of Zip Coon), and is credited as the first to perform them; he presented Coal Black Rose as early as 1827 in Albany and in 1828 brought it to New York, where he became highly popular. Capitalizing on this success, in 1829 he expanded the song into two comic skits (an interlude and an afterpiece), The Lottery Ticket and Love in a Cloud; the latter has been cited as the first ‘negro play’. Dixon performed throughout the 1830s, but by the 1840s he had been eclipsed by other minstrel performers; he went on to gain notoriety as a filibuster in Yucatán and as the editor of a New York scandal sheet. ...

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Robert B. Winans

[Rice, Thomas Dartmouth]

(b New York, May 20, 1808; d New York, Sept 19, 1860). American minstrel performer. He trained to be a woodcarver, and occasionally performed small parts at the Park Theatre in New York. He then became an itinerant player, and it was probably in Louisville in 1828 that he created his famous ‘Jim Crow’ act, the first solo act by a blackface performer (see illustration). His first performance as Jim Crow was an instant sensation, and Rice rose from obscurity to ever increasing success in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston, New York (in 1832) and even London (1836). Rice’s popularity was unprecedented, and Jim Crow was the first American song to become an international hit. The tune resembles Irish and English tunes, but the lyrics are purely American; many verses are crude attempts at satirical and topical humour. Jim Crow was the first example of what became a stock character in minstrelsy, that of the southern plantation field hand, who was not only naive and fun-loving, but also boastful, like the frontiersman or river boatman. Dance was an essential part of the act, and it has been claimed to be the first clear use of African American dance on the popular stage. Rice also added other blackface songs to his repertory, such as ...