Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Tone Poem Tuesday

Last week I featured a work by Florence Price, and this week I'm going to do it again, because Price was a fascinating composer whose work is increasingly captivating me. This is a three-movement orchestral transcription of an earlier piano work of Price's, called Dances in the Canebrakes. From what I have been able to piece together, Price wrote the piano version not long before she died, and the work was then later orchestrated by friend and fellow composer William Grant Still.

The work is not long, and its three movements abound with dance and jazz. I had to look up the word "canebrake", and it turns out to be a thicket of particular kinds of grass that grow tall and thick -- over two feet tall, actually. It's the kind of thicket that grows at the edges of ponds or slow-moving streams, and they are apparently quite common the southeastern United States, where Price spent a good deal of her life.

Now, why would one dance in a canebrake? I honestly don't know, but the image suggests a certain degree of abandon and a picture of summery heat as one dances. To be willing to dance in thick tall grass in an uneven spot where there may be water lurking beneath, one must be quite happy indeed, and this is a purely happy work. Price isn't doing any brooding here; there's dancing to be done!

Here is Dancing in the Canebrakes by Florence Price.

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