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  • Chicago, the "City We Love to Call Home!":Intersectionality, Narrativity, and Locale in the Music of Florence Beatrice Price and Theodora Sturkow Ryder
  • Samantha Ege (bio)

You may sing of your cities, so fair o'er seaOf your Paris and Florence and Rome,But there's one that is dearer and fairer to me,It's the city we love to call home!

Chicago, Chicago our love is for thee,We'll sing loud thy praises wherever we be,We'll sing of your beauty, your power, and your mightChicago, Chicago, Chicago.

—Theodora Sturkow Ryder, William Lester, and Edward Clarke, "Chicago," Stockyards Sally (1922)

Florence Beatrice Price (1887–1953) and Theodora Sturkow Ryder (1876–1958) were prominent composers in interwar Chicago.1 Both wrote works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, solo instruments, and voice that transformed Chicago's concert culture and brought both women national renown. They belonged to wider networks of female practitioners and were affiliated with both local and national music clubs.2 However, the color line delimited their careers: Price largely operated in Chicago's Black classical music scene, while Sturkow Ryder belonged to the white [End Page 1] mainstream. Today Sturkow Ryder's compositions are less well known and out of print; there are, as yet, no readily available commercial recordings. Conversely, advances in Price scholarship have brought landmark works into publication and recorded media.3 As Price scholarship continues to grow, I seek to explore her broader milieu and further detail the historical portrait of women composers in interwar Chicago. I thus present a comparative study of Price and Sturkow Ryder, two women whose craft as composers absorbed and reflected the world around them.

I examine four works: Sturkow Ryder's solo piano and orchestral arrangements of Fantasie Pastoral (1919–21) and Price's Fantasie Negre no. 1 in E Minor for solo piano (1929), which were two of their most performed and high-profile compositions; and Sturkow Ryder's jointly composed operetta Stockyards Sally (1922) and Price's Chicago (ca. 1939) for orchestra.4 While Stockyards Sally was not widely performed, and Chicago exists in the University of Arkansas's Florence Beatrice Smith Price Papers as an incomplete score, both pieces nonetheless reinforce the significance of locale for Sturkow Ryder and Price. I offer analyses of Fantasie Pastoral, Fantasie Negre, Stockyards Sally, and Chicago that consider how their contexts, contents, and (where applicable) performances and receptions interacted with the city. I argue that these four works illuminate the realities of racial difference, class constructs, and other sociocultural facets both within the intragender dynamics of women composers and within Price's and Sturkow Ryder's Chicago. In considering their output, I apply an intersectional feminist framework that is grounded in three centuries of Black feminist discourse and that engages gender, race, class, and the spaces in between and beyond.

Much like Kimberlé Crenshaw's treatment of race and gender, this comparative study similarly rejects the idea that these are the only means by which women's experiences can be explored and understood. Rather, my goal is, like Crenshaw's, to highlight "the need to account for multiple grounds of identity when considering how the social world is constructed."5 With music being, as Marcia J. Citron asserts, "socially contingent" and participatory "in the dynamics of culture," my application of an intersectional feminist framework serves to foreground the oft-unspoken identity politics embroiled in the word "composer."6

There is a silent "male" that precedes the word "composer" and generates the need for scholarship to voice what Ellie M. Hisama describes as "the conditions of gender and politics" that underlie women's contributions—gender as it relates to "the social organization of sexual difference" and politics as it relates to "the network of relations between people in a society."7 However, there is also a silent "white" that usually precedes the word "women" and, consequently, the phrase "women composers," particularly in US-centric discourse. The silent "white" is inherent today in the commonly used phrase "women and people of color," as Kirsten [End Page 2] Pai Buick demonstrates: "Almost without fail when the discussion is 'race' the subject is usually 'black,' with 'black' meaning 'race...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-2349
Print ISSN
0734-4392
Pages
pp. 1-40
Launched on MUSE
2021-06-05
Open Access
No
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