Perry, Julia (1924–1979)

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Perry, Julia (1924–1979)

African-American composer who wrote 12 symphonies and several operas. Born Julia Amanda Perry in Lexington, Kentucky, on March 25, 1924; died in Akron, Ohio, on April 29, 1979; studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris and Luigi Dallapiccola in Italy.

Julia Perry studied at the Westminster Choir College in Princeton and then took courses in composition at Tanglewood. She was also a student of Nadia Boulanger , the foremost teacher of composition of the 20th century. In 1957, Perry organized and gave a series of concerts in Europe sponsored by the U.S. Information Service. She was awarded an American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letters fellowship, the Fontainebleau award, and the Boulanger Grand Prix for her Violin Sonata in 1952. At the beginning of the 20th century, percussion and rhythm did not play a large role in Western European music. During the past few decades, however, their roles have been expanded thanks to composers like Perry. In her Homunculus C.F., she wrote a composition for harp, celesta-piano and an ensemble of eight percussionists. Her work creates a "precarious balance between pitch (melodic and harmonic) and rhythm." Perry also wrote two operas and an opera ballet as well as 12 symphonies. She meshed the neoclassic white European tradition with music from her African-American heritage. In 1973, Perry suffered a series of strokes which left her right side paralyzed. She taught herself how to write with her left hand so she could continue to compose.

suggested reading:

Smith, Jessie Carney, ed. Notable Black American Women. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1992.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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Perry, Julia (1924–1979)

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