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"Florence Price’s Dream Variations"

Abstract: This paper examines depictions of dreaming in four songs by Florence Price. All these songs have texts by Langston Hughes, and all were composed between 1935 and 1945. Drawing on work by Saidiya Hartman, I argue that Price’s songs are more than passive, optimistic imitations of Hughes’s poems. Her songs reveal a complex and multifaceted perspective on dreaming that is grounded in her positionality as a multiracial female composer.

Bio: Rachel Lumsden is Associate Professor of Music Theory. Her research interests include experimental music, music by women composers, and issues of gender, race, and sexuality in contemporary British and American concert music and musicals. Her peer-reviewed articles have been published in American Music, Black Music Research Journal, Feminist Studies, Music Theory Online (2017 and 2020), and Studies in American Humor. Her article “Music Theory for the ‘Weaker Sex’: Oliveria Prescott’s Columns for The Girl’s Own Paper” won an Outstanding Publication award from the Society for Music Theory. Her essays appear in numerous edited collections, including the Oxford Handbook of Public Music Theory, Oxford Handbook of Variation and Variation Techniques, Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers, Here for the Hearing: Analyzing the Music in Musical Theater, and more.

Her work with the SMT includes serving as co-chair of the Committee on Race and Ethnicity, co-chair of the Work and Family Interest Group, and as member of the Committee on Feminist Issues and Gender Equity, Committee on Race and Ethnicity, and Student Presentation Award Committee.

Lumsden earned the Ph.D. in music theory and the doctoral certificate in women’s and gender studies from the CUNY Graduate Center, and M.M. degrees in music theory and flute performance from Queens College. She previously taught at Brooklyn College and the University of Oklahoma.

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