Although the February 20th concert will feature many of today’s talented first-generation American composers, the concept of American music being redefined by immigrants is far from a modern phenomenon. Antonín Dvořák, a Czech composer, is a prime example, coming to American around 1892. Upon coming to the United States, Dvořák was a pioneer in defining American music (years before the discussions and writings of some of the most prominent figures related to this topic, such as Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland). He wrote many articles discussing the importance of African-American and Native American musics in defining American musical identity. Though this song Když mne stará matka zpívat učívala (Songs My Mother Taught Me) was composed prior to his move to America, it is a poignant example of how Dvořák uses his cultural depth and understanding to inspire his compositional style. The clear Czech influences in this song can be heard later in his American compositions, where he mimics the elements of American spirituals. He is an early example of cross-cultural composing, as well as an influential artist in defining American music from an objective outsider perspective.
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