Activity - Race and Identity in Music (Sp20 Andre - AAS 354 / RCHUMS 354 / HONORS 354 / WOMENSTD 354)

Welcome to the UMMA module for Race and Identity in Music. This lesson focuses on:

- the figure of Carmen from Bizet's opera

- European visual and musical stereotypes of "others"

- Race, music, and gender in the Harlem Renaissance

We will be using a three-step process of visual analysis for these activities: See - Think/Feel - Connect

See - What do we see? We will describe what we are looking at.

Think/Feel - What does it makes us think about? How does it make us feel? There are no right answers here and responses don't need to be fully formed or complete. Be speculative. Go with what you're thinking and feeling. 

Connect - What connections can you make between the art, our discussion, and material from your class? What are you reminded of? What themes/questions from class can we bring into the discussion to get meaning out of the image?

European Music, Manners, and Decorum:

Describe / Interpret / Connect

Connection Question: How can we interpret this image as a statement about the gender, race, and class of European music? 


Discussion Google Doc

Discussion Google Doc

Connection Question: How can we compare and contrast these images with the figure of Carmen as you've discussed it in class? Are there similarities between these images that we can also relate to the depiction of the character of Carmen?

Racist Visual/Musical Stereotypes:

Connection Question: What does each of these images say about the race, class, and gender of the music of "others?" By contrast, what do these images attest about European race, class, and gender.

 Can we find any significance in the choice of Polka as the musical style references in the title of this piece? Compare a waltz by Johann Strauss with a polka by the same artist. What did the new popular style of polka represent in European music? How can we relate to the depiction of gender, class, and race in this piece?

  How might a European in the late 19th century have misunderstood Chinese music? How does that misunderstanding inform this image. Here is a sample of traditional Chinese music.

Harlem Renaissance - music and gender:

Google doc for Perspective-Taking exercise

Connection Questions: What does each of these images say about the race, class, and gender of music associated with the Harlem Renaissance?

Compare and contrast the depiction of the woman in Covarrubias's piece to the figure of Carmen in the images above and in the opera.

Free association: Listen to Duke Ellington's Drop Me Off at Harlem (1933). Put the song and the Johnson artwork in dialogue with one another for a few sentences. This is an open question with no right answers. Does listening to the song bring up any new observations about the artwork? Does looking at the artwork while listening to the song bring up any thoughts?

A woman dances in the middle of a room with musicians and observers seated behind her and two standing on a balcony. 
Max Slevogt
etching and drypoint on paper
12 9/16 in x 9 3/8 in (31.9 cm x 23.8 cm);22 1/16 in x 18 in (56.1 cm x 45.7 cm);21 in x 16 1/2 in (53.3 cm x 41.9 cm)
Museum Purchase
Arthur Heintzelman
Spanish Dancer
etching on paper
21 in x 15 3/16 in (53.34 cm x 38.58 cm)
Gift of the Family of Albert Kahn: through Dr. Edgar A. Kahn; Mrs. Barnett Malbin; Mrs. Martin L. Butzel
James Jacques Joseph Tissot
The Parable of the Prodigal Son (set of 4 prints and title page)
etching and drypoint on paper
19 3/4 in. x 24 7/16 in. ( 50.1 cm x 62 cm )
Museum Purchase
Honoré Victorin Daumier
Voyage in China: The Music Lesson
lithograph on newprint
9 5/8 in x 5 1/8 in (24.45 cm x 13.02 cm)
Gift of Mrs. John Alexander
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
lithograph on paper
8 ¾ in x 8 ¼ in (22.23 cm x 20.96 cm);8 ¾ in x 8 ¼ in (22.23 cm x 20.96 cm);19 ¼ in x 14 ¼ in (48.89 cm x 36.2 cm)
Museum Purchase
This is an abstract face of a figure looking to the right. The head is divided into compartments of varying textures by several straight lines. There are piano keys are on the left side of the head, and a cigarette at top left. 
Sargent Claude Johnson
Lenox Avenue
lithograph on paper
12 ½ in x 8 9/16 in (31.75 cm x 21.75 cm)
Allocated by the U.S. Government Commissioned through the New Deal art projects
This print shows two figures dancing in front of three musicians by the water with a moon in the sky and reflected in the water. A far away seaside fort is visible in the upper left corner. 
Miguel Covarrubias
Afro-Cuban Dancers and Percussionists
lithograph on paper
9 1/4 in x 13 1/2 in (23.5 cm x 34.29 cm);11 15/16 in x 16 1/16 in (30.32 cm x 40.8 cm);22 1/16 in x 28 1/8 in (56.04 cm x 71.44 cm)
Museum Purchase
A panel portrait of two men and two women. One man plays a mandolin while the other watches one of the women. The woman he is watching is standing by the table and holding a dog. The second woman is sitting next to the mandolin player and reading.
Caspar Netscher
The Music Lesson (Musikalishe Unterhaltung)
oil on panel
31 1/4 in. x 27 1/4 in. ( 79.38 cm x 69.22 cm )
Gift from the Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Heydon


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