Michael Cooper

Professor of Music Michael Cooper gave a virtual presentation titled “Freedom, Justice, and Jazz: An American Odyssey” for the New Horizons International Music Association. The presentation began with a cursory review of Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs and proposed that the creative urges that resulted in the musical revolutions of jazz were able to achieve extraordinary prominence not only as an art form, but also as a sonorous expression of the forces that underlay and are embodied in the fifth level (self-actualization) of Maslow’s hierarchy. Using guided questions and assigned listening, the presentation applied this thesis to Langston Hughes’s iconic poem “The Weary Blues” (both in its original 1925 literary guise and in his own televised reading with a jazz ensemble in 1958), the televised performance of Max Roach’s and Abbey Lincoln’s “Triptych” from the Freedom Now Suite, and Bob Kaufman’s poem “Walking Parker Home.” The presentation was adapted from a class assignment in Cooper’s fall 2021 course, Music and Poetry from the Harlem Renaissance to #BlackLivesMatter. 

—May 2022

Professor of Music Michael Cooper taught a class and delivered a public preconcert lecture at the University of Missouri–Kansas City Conservatory on the occasion of a performance of the Margaret Bonds/Du Bois Credo by the conservatory’s combined choirs (150 voices) and orchestra in the world-renowned Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Titled “FLEX: The Life, Death, and Resurrection of Margaret Bonds and Her Credo,” the class and lecture adduced unpublished correspondence between Bonds and Shirley Graham Du Bois to illustrate how the political economy of classical music and music publishing works to erase, tacitly but potently, the presence of women, Black folk, and their art in musical life and narratives of music’s history. 

—May 2022

Professor of Music Michael Cooper was guest musicologist for a two-day Florence Price Festival at Bowling Green State University. In addition to meeting with musicology and other music students, Cooper delivered two lectures as part of his visit: “Hear Her Voice: On Knowing Florence Price, Pianist, Today” and “’With Love, Devotion to the Negro Race and Humanity …’: Margaret Bonds and the Social Work of The Montgomery Variations.” Both talks were updated versions of lectures previously given virtually, now incorporating new information and issues raised by archival sources. In addition to aspiring to keep his audiences only minimally vegetative through 45 minutes’ worth of musicological droning, Cooper strove above all in these two talks (which were addressed to audiences comprised primarily of younger individuals beginning careers that may enable them to make the world a better place) to convey a sense of the courage and hope that motivated both Price and Bonds in their work as they challenged an unjust system and used art not as entertainment, but as an agent of social change.

—April 2022

Professor of Music Michael Cooper gave a presentation titled “The Prophecies Fulfilled: Margaret Bonds and the Sacred Social Work of The Montgomery Variations and the Du Bois Credo” at Georgetown University. The presentation explored how Margaret Bonds’s work in celebrating Black vernacular music in genres traditionally reserved for Euro-American classical repertoires was a 20th-century enactment of ideas first proposed in the 19th and early 20th centuries by Frederick Douglass, James Monroe Trotter, Frédéric Louis Ritter, Antonin Dvořák, and W. E. B. Du Bois. The presentation was followed the next day by a preconcert lecture (also at Georgetown University) for the first performance since 1973 of the orchestral version of the Bonds/Du Bois Credo and Bonds’s orchestral magnum opus, The Montgomery Variations (both recently discovered and published by Cooper), along with excerpts from her recently published cantata Simon Bore the Cross. 

—April 2022

Professor of Music Michael Cooper was interviewed on historian Pamela Toler’s blog, “History in the Margins,” about his work in excavating and bringing back into public life the music of Florence B. Price and Margaret Bonds, including his motives, hopes, and trepidations. As is customary on the blog, Cooper asked a question of Toler after answering her questions to him. Read the complete interview

—April 2022