Reflections on the contributions of African American artists in early American music.
The term “early music” conjures many thoughts. Whether these involve specific
composers, genres, or places, it is not often that African-American musicians
are in the forefront. Broadly speaking, early music refers to music of the
Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. On a general scale, we associate
the field with such performers as conductors John Eliot Gardiner and Nikolaus
Harnoncourt, soprano Emma Kirkby, and countertenor Alfred Deller. In this vein,
it is possible to play a proverbial game of “connect the dots” and bring into the
conversation the careers and work of African-American artists who have enjoyed
success as performers of early music.