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Featured Composer: Undine Smith Moore

Undine Smith Moore (1904-1989), is perhaps best known as an educator and as a co-founder the of Black Music Center at Virginia State College, where she spent much of her career, retiring in 1972. Her passion and promotion for a greater recognition for music by black composers through many lecture series and performances led to many awards, including a Candace Award and an honorary doctorate from Indiana University.

Her compositions focused largely on vocal music, and she described her influences as only "black folk music and Bach." While her art songs are by and large tonal, her piano music is characterized by more avant-garde compositional techniques. Her most famous piano work, Before I'd Be a Slave, features tone clusters, bitonality, and quartal harmonies, combined with a highly contrapuntal writing.

Moore believed that art was a vehicle for social change, and both her music and philosophy deserve our attention today.


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