Cover image for International dictionary of black composers
International dictionary of black composers
Floyd, Samuel A., Jr., 1937-2016.
Publication Information:
Chicago ; London : Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999.
Physical Description:
2 volumes : portraits ; 29 cm
General Note:
At head of title: Center for Black Music Research.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML390 .I58 1999 V.2 Adult Non-Fiction Grosvenor Room-Reference-Music
ML390 .I58 1999 V.1 Adult Non-Fiction Grosvenor Room-Reference-Music

On Order



First Published in 1999. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Worldwide in scope, this handsome two-volume set profiles composers of African heritage on several continents. Both those who composed for the concert hall as well as composers of popular and vernacular forms are included. The preface lays out the criteria for inclusion: classical and theater composers are covered if they have a substantial body of work that has been published or recorded. Composers of vernacular or popular music are included if they have composed music that has "circulated within performing repertories and had a substantial impact on the elaboration of the traditions of blues, ragtime, jazz, gospel" and other popular genres. Although all genres of music are represented, close to half of the 185 entries are on classical composers. This is one of the strengths of the set because black composers of popular forms are more widely represented elsewhere. Eileen Southern's Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians (Greenwood, 1982) includes many composers, but the entries are much briefer. Her Music of Black Americans: A History (3d ed., Norton, 1997) has some detailed discussion of prominent African American composers and their work but not the detail or breadth of this collection. Other reference works, such as Afro-American Vocal Music: A Select Guide to Fifteen Composers (Van de Vere, 1991), Spreadin' Rhythm Around: Black Popular Songwriters 1880^-1930 [RBB Ag 98], and String Music of Black Composers: A Bibliography (Greenwood, 1991) are more narrow in scope. The set is edited by Samuel A. Floyd, Director of the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College in Chicago and author of several books on black music in the U.S. The list of 105 contributors includes many distinguished scholars and musicians. Some, like William C. Banfield, are the subjects of entries themselves. Entries are substantial, often accompanied by a photograph. Brief biographical paragraphs are followed by a music list by medium, including a selected discography and a publications list of selected printed works about (or by) the composer. Major archival holdings are noted. The long, signed essay on each composer (500^-1,000 words) provides critical evaluation of both the composer and some individual works. The essays are intended for educated lay readers, so notation examples are limited, but the commentary is not elementary. A reference list follows. Both the references and publication lists seem up-to-date, including works from the late 1990s. The wide variety of black contributions in musical composition is in evidence, from jazz greats Ornette Coleman and Dizzy Gillespie; to ragtime's Scott Joplin; to gospel composer Dorothy Love Coates; to William Grant Still, the art music composer of the Harlem Renaissance. Leafing through the volumes, one finds prolific Afro-British classical composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor precedes John Coltrane; following Duke Ellington is the Nigerian composer of "neo-African art music," Akin Euba. Vernacular music composers from the Americas and Africa, such as Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, Thomas Mapfumo, and Bob Marley, are included, not for their fame and talent as performers but for their compositional impact on the traditions in which they work. The essays focus primarily on the music and influence of the subjects but provide fascinating glimpses into the lives and context in which the work was done. The work does cry out for indexes by place and by genre. Very highly recommended for any library, high-school, public, or academic, with any interest in music.

Library Journal Review

Offering biographical data, bibliographies, discographies, and critical essays, this ambitious two-volume set provides information on composers of African heritage from around the world. Nearly half of the artists included are classical composers, but the volume also covers some popular composers (in particular, those whose work engages ragtime, jazz, or gospel) and concert and theater composers who have written a substantial amount of published music. Organized alphabetically, entries cover two and a half centuries of musicians, from Ignatius Sancho, born in 1729, to William Cedric Banfield, born in 1961. And although there are some frustratingly glaring absences (blues giant Muddy Waters doesn't appear anywhere in the set, for example), the Center for Black Music Research has assembled an impressive roster of capable contributorsÄmusicologists, music professors, authors, and musiciansÄto write the entries. The result is a truly indispensable resource for both comprehensive music collections and libraries that need to cover a lot of ground with one purchase.ÄDan Bogey, Clearfield Cty. P.L. Federation, Curwensville, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

An outstanding compilation, this dictionary consists of 185 entries for living or deceased composers of African descent, 87 of them "classical" musicians, the others working in popular, jazz, or vernacular idioms. Coverage is international. For each person there is a biography, list of works, bibliography, and discography, with long critical essays on selected compositions. The dictionary was prepared at the Center for Black Music Research of Columbia College Chicago, which is directed by Samuel Floyd; both the Center and Floyd are renowned for their contributions to the scholarly literature. Black Music Biography: An Annotated Bibliography, compiled by Floyd and Marsha J. Reisser (1987), may be considered the predecessor of the present work. About 100 specialists wrote the articles, assisted by staff from the Center. Questionnaires were sent to living composers, who had an opportunity to edit their entries. A useful alphabetical list of entries is provided, but no index. Every academic library that supports a music program will need this superb dictionary. It represents better than any other publication the state of black music at the end of the century, as well as the high level of scholarship that has emerged to describe it. G. A. Marco; Rosary College