Singing Like Germans Black Musicians

Tuesday 12 October 2021

How have constructs of Blackness and whiteness been created, maintained, or challenged via classical music? In this talk, Professor Kira Thurman explores the long history of Black musicians from the United States and beyond who performed in Germany and Austria in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Performing the music of Schubert, Brahms, and other German composers, Black classical musicians challenged audiences’ expectations of what a black performer looked and sounded like in the Jazz Age. Audiences labelled musicians such as Marian Anderson and Roland Hayes ‘negroes with white souls’, and marveled at their musical mastery. If the listener closed his or her eyes and listened, these African American musicians, many remarked, ‘sounded like Germans’. How had they managed to accomplish this feat? By exploring the German reception of Black musicians, Thurman’s talk finds a new way to answer the question, ‘Can someone be Black and German?’ by instead asking another: ‘What has it meant to be Black and to perform German music?’


Kira Thurman, Assistant professor of History and German Studies, University of Michigan.

Kira Thurman is an assistant professor of History and German Studies at the University of Michigan. A winner of the Berlin Prize among other awards and fellowships, she is the author of several award-winning articles on music, the Black diaspora, and German-speaking Europe. Her book, Singing like Germans: Black Musicians in the Land of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, just appeared with Cornell University Press (September, 2021). New Yorker music critic Alex Ross praised it as ‘one of the most original and revelatory books to have been written about classical-music history in many years…An instant classic that deserves the widest possible audience.’

More Southampton Listings MORE

Southampton Saturday 30 October 2021

Lord Apex

Hailing from White City, West London, 22-year-old rapper Lord Apex (AKA Sensei, Yardie Miyagi, or AP) has become…

Southampton Sunday 31 October 2021

The Greatest Love of All

Fresh from her show-stopping Britain’s Got Talent semi-finals appearance, Belinda Davids returns to the UK with her acclaimed…

Southampton Saturday 27 November 2021

Roni Size x LTJ Bukem

Two absolute legends in the game, LTJ Bukem and Roni Size, join forces for a double headline show…

Southampton Wednesday 16 February 2022


Olajide “JJ” Olatunji, better known by his YouTube username Ksiolajidebt or simply KSI, is an English video game…

Southampton Sunday 22 May 2022

Oti Mabuse: I Am Here

Strictly Come Dancing and The Greatest Dancer reigning champion Oti Mabuse is creating a show like no other…