Tone Poem Tuesday

 Edward Bland (1926-2013) was a composer and filmmaker who may be best known for a film he made in 1959, The Cry of Jazz, which has been deemed sufficiently significant in the history of Black filmmaking that it has been named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. (You can watch the film on YouTube, here.)

I haven’t been able to find a whole lot of biographical information on Bland, but he grew up in interesting circles: his father was a postal worker who moonlighted as an amateur literary critic, and thus knew such luminaries as Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks. Bland himself would study music at the American Conservatory before going on to a lengthy career as a composer and teacher.

This work, Piece for Chamber Orchestra, is an interesting work of stark modernism. Bland apparently described it as “the piece I wanted to write after I heard The Rite of Spring,” and the debt to Stravinsky can definitely be heard in the demanding rhythms and harmonic language. The piece is strongly rhythmic and consists of a lengthy conversation between the instruments of Bland’s orchestra. Listening to it, I can just imagine the level of musical awareness this piece demands of its performers, as the individual voices are almost improvisatory in nature, and yet everything has to mesh together. If you respond to Modern music at all, you will surely find Piece for Chamber Orchestra by Edward Bland a fascinating listen.

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2 Responses to Tone Poem Tuesday

  1. Roger Owen Green says:

    The Wikipedia says his father died in the Battle of the Bulge!

  2. Kelly Sedinger says:

    I know! It seems so weird that there's more biographical info about his father on HIS Wiki page than his own. Strange!

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