THE MUSIC OF
Langston Hughes’ impassioned texts beautifully matched to powerful and moving music.
American poet Langston Hughes used the force of language to speak out against injustice, racial divide, freedom and truth. His impassioned poems have been adapted to equally compelling and potent music by well-known composers who have been inspired by his words.
The Words of Langston Hughes Inspire Generations
The concise and modest poetry of Langston Hughes aimed to subtly break down stereotypes about African American working-class people. His poetic writings acknowledged their struggles and desolation, but simultaneously emphasized his people’s tenacity and wrote of optimism with the conviction that a better future is ahead.
André J. Thomas “Hold Fast To Dreams”
Acclaimed choral composer and conductor André J. Thomas unites Langston Hughes’ Hold Fast to Dreams poetic text to music. This piece, which encourages follow through on your goals and dreams, is am excellent performance selection for middle school, high, school and adult mixed choirs.
Hold Fast To Dreams
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
“All you who are dreamers, too,
Help me to make our world anew.”
Rosephanye Powell’s Tribute to Langston Hughes All Who Dream
In I Dream A World, Rosephanye Powell uses the verse from Hughes’ poem “To You” to craft a majestic musical statement. Hughes text opts for the belief that there will be an improved society where all people share the same freedoms and advantages, he dreams of a world filled with love and peace, a future where racism and prejudice are no longer present. Powell has composed an inspiring piece of music, ode to all the dreamers, with a dream-like piano beginning, metrical tension within the vocal and piano parts, and climactic vocal assertion underlined by adamant piano chords.
Rollo Dilworth draws inspiration for his music from his love of Hughes’ poetic words.
African-American literature and poetry, as well as classical music and African-American folk music, are all influences on Rollo Dilworth’s musical style. The song In Time of Silver Rain celebrates the new vitality that spring provides. This captivating piece features a call and response between upper and lower voices, a baritone soloist and the dancing sounds of fresh falling rain that grows new life in spring.
In Time Of Silver Rain
In time of silver rain
The butterflies lift silken wings
To catch a rainbow cry,
And trees put forth new leaves to sing
In joy beneath the sky
As down the roadway
Passing boys and girls
Go singing, too,
In time of silver rain When spring
Composers Influenced By The Optimistic Writings of Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes was masterful at shaping his poetry in an almost musical fashion to convey his inspirational messages. In a most befitting way, prominent composers who have been influenced by his words have set his eloquent texts to equally moving and powerful music.
John Musto’s “Shadow of the Blues”
Master of concert song and pianist John Musto sets four of Langston Hughes’ poems, “Silhouette,” “Litany,” “Island,” and “Could Be,” to music in the song cycle “Shadow of the Blues” which is part of his “Collected Songs for High Voice” series.
Wave of sorrow,
Do not drown me now:
I see the island
Still ahead somehow.
I see the island
And its sands are fair:
Wave of sorrow,
Take me there.
“Hello, sailor boy,
In from the sea!
Come with me!”
Jan Meyerowitz & Langston Hughes’ “Port Town: An Opera in One Act”
German–American conductor, composer, pianist and writer collaborated with African-American poet and playwright Langston Hughes on a number of projects, including the opera “Port Town” based on Hughes’ 1926 poem “Mulatto.” The plot centers on a mixed-race son who approaches his white father only to be turned away. The son challenges his father’s denial that he is his child. Audiences were drawn to the play’s tragic theme of racial conflicts in the American south.
Gwyneth Walker Places Hughes’ Powerful Poetic Message Center Stage
The renowned poem by African-American playwright and poet Langston Hughes is given a stirring orchestral backdrop with narration in “Let America Be America Again.” Gwyneth Walker uses Hughes’ dynamic and poetic words, which span from dreamlike verse to passionate eruptions, over her composed musical setting that continues throughout until the hymn’s climactic soaring pitch take center stage.
Let America Be America Again
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
“This is a song for the genius child.
Sing it softly, for the song is wild.”
Ricky Ian Gordon’s Modern Musical Interpretation of Langston Hughes’ Poetry
Ricky Ian Gordon’s musical rendition of Langston Hughes’ poetic verse in the song cycle, “Genius Child,” were written for American soprano, Harolyn Blackwell. This musical work is a cycle of ten songs for voice and piano using Hughes’ poems: Border Line, Genius Child, Joy, Kid In The Park, My People, Prayer, Strange Hurt, To, Be Somebody, Troubled Woman and Winter Moon.
THE MUSIC OF
About This Website
This Music of Langston Hughes website has been developed by the Fred Bock Publishing Group to highlight musical arrangements from notable composers who have been inspired by the written words of poet, playwright, novelist and activist Langston Hughes.
Fred Bock Publishing Group
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