Florence Price was a composer, pianist, organist, and music teacher who was born in Little Rock, Ark., and spent much of much of her career in Chicago. She is famous for being the first Black woman to have a symphony premiered by a major U.S. orchestra—her Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, which was performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1933. But she was also a prolific composer of piano music and songs, many of which mingle the styles of European classical music, jazz, and African-American spirituals. Price wrote over 300 works, most of which remain unpublished. Thanks to the work of many scholars and performers, her music has finally moved into the limelight, after decades of neglect—but her vast output of songs still contains treasures waiting to be unearthed.
The writing on Florence Price and her music is growing by the day, thanks to the work of scholars such as Douglas Shadle and Samantha Ege, who have written extensively on Price and are currently co-authoring a Price biography for Oxford University Press. (Ege, a pianist as well as a musicologist, has also released a wonderful album of Price’s piano works.) The most thoroughgoing study of Price’s life and work is Rae Linda Brown’s The Heart of a Woman: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price (University of Illinois Press, 2020). Price’s papers—including correspondence, photographs, and musical scores—can be found in the Florence Beatrice Smith Price Collection of the University of Arkansas. For useful commentary on her songs specifically, see these sources:
- Carter, Marquese. “The Poet and Her Songs: Analyzing the Art Songs of Florence B. Price.” D.M.A. thesis, Indiana University, 2018.
- Smith, Bethany Jo. “‘Song to the Dark Virgin’: Race and Gender in Five Art Songs of Florence B. Price.” M.M. thesis, University of Cincinnati, 2007.
- Resources (including recordings) related to Price’s songs at Song of America.
- Resources (including recordings) related to Price’s songs at the African American Art Song Alliance.
- My podcast episode about Price’s song “To My Little Son.”