The Music of Freedom Deferred

Today, we remember the heroic sacrifice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his pursuit of economic and social justice.

The author Richard Wright noted that songs, work chants, and spirituals took the place of freedom for African Americans. Following centuries of cultural dislocation, these songs are filled with sadness and longing for home:

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
A long way from home, a long way from home

These songs gave rise to the blues, with its distinctly melancholy “blue” notes. We hear this evolution in Water Boy, another song of resistance which emerged from the cotton plantation call, “Water boy, where are you hidin’?”

The Don Shirley Trio recorded this version of Water Boy in 1961. We explored more of Shirley’s music, popularized by the recent film, Green Book, in a post earlier in the month.

Blues Dialogues

Recently, violinist Rachel Barton Pine released her newest album, Blues Dialoguesfeaturing music by black composers. Pine grew up listening to the blues in her native Chicago. She talks about the project in this interview with Mike Goldberg on Richmond’s WCVE Music. The album’s blues-inspired music is a virtual dialogue across time. It includes the world-premiere recordings of Noel Da Costa’s A Set of Dance Tunes for Solo Violin and Billy Childs’s Incident on Larpenteur Avenue, written in response to a fatal police shooting, as well as Wendell Logan’s violin and piano arrangement of Duke Ellington’s 1935 ballad, In a Sentimental Mood. 

Filter for Unaccompanied Violin by Daniel Bernard Roumain (b. 1970) suggests the soulful, screaming distortion of Jimi Hendrix:

The album opens with the gospel strains of David N. Baker’s Blues (Deliver My Soul):

Jungle Blues

Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton, recorded in 1927:

Everything comes out in blues music: joy, pain, struggle. Blues is affirmation with absolute elegance. It’s about a man and a woman. So the pain and the struggle in the blues is that universal pain that comes from having your heart broken. Most blues songs are not about social statements.

-Wynton Marsalis

Recordings

  • Don Shirley Trio: Water Boy Amazon
  • Blues Dialogues: Music by Black Composers, Rachel Barton Pine, Matthew Hagle Amazon
  • Jungle Blues, Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton Amazon

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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