Kira Thurman is Assistant Professor of History and Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Michigan. A classically trained pianist who grew up in Vienna, she earned her PhD in histo...
Anna-Maria Kellen Lecture
Singing Brahms, Performing Race: Black Musicians and the German Lied in Interwar Germany and Austria
In this talk, Kira Thurman will explore the rise in popularity of African American classical musicians in interwar Germany and Austria. Singing lieder by Schubert, Brahms, and other German composers, they challenged audiences’ expectations of what a black performer looked and sounded like in the Jazz Age. Audiences labeled singers 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 concert-singers, 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?”