In 1904, Black British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor set six poems from the œuvre of white British poet Christina Georgina Rossetti to music. The songs, which he titled Six Sorrow Songs, Op. 57, include themes of love, death and spirituality. Coleridge-Taylor grouped these art-songs under the title “sorrow songs” — a genre of slave songs. This fusion of art-song and slave song opens up room for examinations of cross-genre relations, which result in complexity of meaning and textual changes when interpreted and performed.
Serge Lacasse’s model (2018) for intertextuality offers a framework for considering the cross-genre relations that emerge in this song cycle. This paper will focus on the emergence of “sorrow songs” at this point in time in the composer’s life, which will enable me to consider the intertext of Western classical and slave songs in this composition as well as the creation of a story in this musico-literary hybrid. I will also discuss his trips, experiences, the socio-political events of the time, and the influential black artists to understand how Coleridge-Taylor’s musical path was reshaped with this song cycle.
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