Francis Johnson (1792-1844): Chronicle of a Black Musician in Early Nineteenth-century Philadelphia
Nineteenth-century musician Francis Johnson (1792-1844), a free black Philadelphia native, lived at a fortunate confluence of musical traditions that abounded in the rich cultural life of post-Revolutionary War Philadelphia. He absorbed it all: traditional European music, local white and black folk music, dance and theater music, religious and martial music, and added his particular stamp of genius to achieve unsurpassed popularity in his time. A quarter-century's research into primary nineteenth-century American and European sources yields this portrait of a man of talent and enterprise who flourished artistically and professionally at a time of relative racial tolerance in what was then the nation's cultural capital. Johnson's genius for experimentation was recognized early by music publisher George Willig. Over time Johnson was musical director of nearly every militia unit in the city, often composing original music for performances. His military music was innovative and he was the first to write for the new keyed Kent bugle. The late Charles K. Jones was a leading authority on Early American music, culture, and history. This work is well illustrated.
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