Florence Price, Composer
The purpose of a biography is to enhance the readers knowledge about a particular persons life, in this case, Florence Beatrice Price, and offer a sort of historical background focusing on significant events, accomplishments, and personal aspects of that particular individuals life. Ideally, the writer molds complex biographical factsbirth and death, education, ambition, conflict, milieu, work, relationship, accidentinto a book or article that has the independent vitality of any creative work but is, at the same time, “true to life.” Barbara Garvey Jackson, author of the biography on Florence Price chosen for this class, has noted that the purpose of her article is to assess the cultural world in which she Florence grew up, her own life and professional career in Little Rock and Chicago, and the present states of study about her. In my opinion, Jackson does an exceptional job in providing the type of information that she purposely set out to offer such inquisitive readers like myself.
Let me begin by offering a tidbit of biographical information about Florence Price. Florence Beatrice Smith Price was born April 9, 1888 in Little Rock, Arkansas. She was the third child born to Dr. James H. Smith, a dentist, and Florence Irene Gull, a schoolteacher. Previous to studying composition and organ at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Florence received her first musical training from her mother at age four. After much musical education, she was soon found teaching in the music departments at Shorter College in Arkansas (1906-1910), and Clark University in Georgia (1910-1912). In 1912, she married Thomas J. Price and together they had three children. Florence successfully established herself as a concert pianist, church organist, composer, and teacher, which soon became her claim to fame. A prominent composer of the Harlem Renaissance, Florence Price published her first composition at age eleven, and at age sixteen began receiving modest fees for her publications. Among her most famous compositions is the Symphony in E Minor, which received its world premiere at a performance by the Chicago Symphony in 1933.Florence died on June 3, 1953 of a stroke in Chicago, Illinois. It wasnt until after her death in 1953, that she became well known for her miraculous musical talent.
Being that Jacksons article is relatively lengthy, compared to other biographies written about Price, I seemed to have gathered a better understanding about her personal and professional life and of whom she truly was. Jacksons article seemed to portray Price as more than just a composer, but rather as a woman who successfully and honorably acquired a special talent music. Her knowledge about Prices life and the events that occurred during that particular era seemed to be extremely abundant. There were several mentions of historical events such as the great Chicago fire of 1871, political references, and World War I, which enhance the ambiance. Unfortunately, it seemed to me that she over did it a bit. I realize that her objective is to assess the cultural world in which she Florence grew up, her own life and professional career in Little Rock and Chicago, and the present states of study about her, but during the course of the article, I found myself straying away from the main idea. As if I were loosing track of the importance if the musician herself, and focusing more on the intimate details that Jackson described. I assume that her purpose for inserting such irrelevant points or topics and then elaborating on them is to capture a sense of reality and cultural sympathy. Which, in a way did exactly that, but I soon became uninterested and had to force myself to continue reading.
Within this article, there is a wealth of both personal and professional information. Much of the information was on Price herself, but there were moments that Jackson elaborated on rather insignificant topics or people. For example, when Jackson would mention someone who had made an influence on Prices life or musical career, she would go into information overload about that person. I can understand that she may want to make the biography seem more personal, but there is no need to give a mini-biography on every person who was of some importance in Prices life. It is understandable and expectable that the writer provides historical background on Prices parents and relatives, but not necessarily specific details on the life attributes of a school friend or teacher. It takes the focus away from the primary object of the article Florence.
Jacksons emphasis is mainly on the life and attributes of Florence Price in conjunction with what is going on within the cultural world that she was raised in. At the start of her article, Jackson formulates a foundation that allows for the reader to be able to get a sense of the Smith familys personal history as well as a general historical background. Following these important facts about her familys upbringing was the introduction of Florences outstanding accomplishments in music, beginning with the print of her first composition at age eleven. From there on, the article was filled with references about her educational background, jobs she acquired, prizes won and received, performances of her music, and personal quotes about where she got the inspiration for her music. Jackson includes personal incidents that had a huge effect on Florences attempt to gain educational knowledge of music. One particular incident had to do with the unfortunate problem of racism in America. Jackson acknowledged that, Mrs. Smith, in an apparent resolve to protect her talented daughter as best she could from racism, decided to have Florence pass as a Mexican when she entered the New England Conservatory and gave Florences home town as Pueblo, Mexico.There is much to be learned about Florence Price, and Jackson did a tremendous job at making sure that she did not miss any part of her extraordinary life that would be considered essential to the biography.
In order to attain a solid biography, the writer must obtain her information from sources that are deemed reliable. In this case, Jackson formally presents her sources when she knows them to be concrete. For example, the quotes from Florence herself are taken from letters she had written, manuscripts, diaries, newspapers, etc. These articles had been kept by her own daughter, Florence Price Robinson, and had been sent to the University of Arkansas, were Jackson was preparing this biography. Other more questionable bits of information that Jackson inserts into the biography, facts that she is not completely sure about, she follows with, these documents on Florence and her work have not been found, or have not been located. By adding these little clauses, she gives the reader the notion that although most of what she writes is true, some facts may be questionable. This gives Jackson some sort of safety cushion and back up just incase the information is indeed false.
As far as biographical stories go, this one is particularly informative. Having included numerous facts that reveal Florence Prices remarkable life and her extraordinary accomplishments, Jackson makes you yearn for more. This biography has more than one could ask for. Because this biography is quite a bit longer than any of the others, I found that there is really nothing missing from it. It contains personal stories, actual quotes, real life occurrences reported by her own daughter, facts about her prize winning music, relations with others, and how she is to be remembered. Compared to other biographies I read about Florence, this one is by far the most complete. It is clear to me that Jackson did a tremendous amount of research on Florence and her family, and looked deep into finding out the most prominent facts about her life in order to write this biography. To make this biography work, Jackson acknowledged every aspect of what is known to be included in a good quality biography, molding complex biographical factsbirth and death, education, ambition, conflict, milieu, work, relationship, accident making sure she did not miss a thing.
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