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Gunther Schuller

Publisher: AMP

The Black Warrior (1998)
Text Writer
based on texts by Martin Luther King
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Chorus and Orchestra/Ensemble
Year Composed
25 Minutes
SATB chorus
Programme Note
Gunther Schuller The Black Warrior (1998)
The Black Warrior

The Black Warrior is in effect an oratorio, involving a large orchestra plus spoken as well as sung narrations, two vocal soloists (soprano and baritone), chorus, and a quartet of singers sitting in the orchestra, vocalizing as ‘instrumentalists’. It was inspired by the remarkable words of Martin Luther King embodied in a text known as the Letter from Birmingham City Jail. It is the extraordinary document in which King first articulated (and defended to a group of clergy) his philosophy of non-violent action.
In my composition I have distributed King’s text more or less equally among the various vocal forces listed above, sometimes singly, sometimes in various combinations and interrelationships.
I think of my work as a tribute to the great civil rights leader and superb orator, and hope that The Black Warrior will complement meaningfully the magnificent but controversial heritage of King’s contribution to the profound social and historic changes for and to which he gave his life.

Gunther Schuller

Schuller’s oratorio plays with contrasts and sudden shifts between voice and instrument, between harsh and soothing, building an electric tension throughout. Towards its conclusion, the sound grew more triumphant, soaring while remaining somewhat discordant; as if to suggest that King’s words and legacy would have their power, but realizing that much remains still to be done. As it drew to a close, a slow drum pulse built toward a brassy crash as celebratory as its opening was startling. This concert was billed as looking at the past, present and future, with Schuller’s oratorio intended to carry on. In its immediacy and emotional urgency, “The Black Warrior” touched the present, as well.
Mark Hughes Cobb, The Tuscaloosa News,19/01/1999
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