GLAM Collaboration Spotlight: Morehouse Art Song Project – Aaron Carter-Ényì, Ph.D.

GLAM Collaboration Spotlight: Morehouse Art Song Project – Aaron Carter-Ényì, Ph.D.

GLAM Collaboration Spotlight: Morehouse Art Song Project – Aaron Carter-Ényì, Ph.D. 2560 1920 aucwoodruff

The GLAM Center for Collaborative Teaching and Learning aims to simulate teaching and learning across multiple disciplines through innovative engagement with archival material and artifacts. This month’s spotlight features Morehouse Professor Aaron Carter-Ényì, PhD and his MUS 351/352 Advanced Theory of Music students. Dr. Carter-Ényì students developed original musical compositions based on poetry written by former AUC students found in the AUC Archives Research Center, Atlanta University Printed and Published Materials.


About the Project:

This assignment first developed in Fall 2016, my first semester of teaching at Morehouse. One of the most memorable experiences of project-based learning from my undergraduate education was writing an art song using advanced harmonic vocabulary. Given autonomy for revising the curriculum for MUS 351/2 Advanced Theory of Music, I immediately decided to include a similar assignment, with a few modifications. The most important were: (1) students were encouraged to select a Black poet, in line with the Morehouse mission; (2) completed compositions would be given a public performance. The first year we focused on major poets in the public domain, from Pushkin to Langston Hughes (in 2016, several of Hughes’s poems entered the public domain). In 2017, a student requested that he base his composition on a poem by a friend which begin to change the dynamic from renowned, canonic (“great”) poets to poets of the AUC community (who may also be “great” but we won’t know if we ignore them!).

In 2018, after attending the GLAM Session hosted by Martina Dodd, I decided to add the requirement that the poetry be sourced from the AUC Archives Research Center and the students responded enthusiastically to this. Because of the extraordinary quality of the art songs composed in the Fall of 2018, I asked professional vocalists on the faculty of Morehouse (Tim Miller, tenor) and Spelman (Hanan Davis, soprano) to perform the student works. Art songs by five students were premiered to a large audience during “Students in Recital” on April 17, 2019 at the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center.


Ordered Process of Student Learning Objectives and Outcomes:

  1. Select a thematic area for poetry you are interested in (e.g. romance; activism)
  2. Learn about and discuss concepts related to intellectual property issues with poetry and song composition (including “public domain” and “fair use”)
  3. Conduct archival research to find poetry in Atlanta University Center publications
  4. Apply existing knowledge of advanced harmonic techniques (e.g. tonicization, mode mixture) and art song forms (strophic, modified strophic or through-composed) in a composition based on poetry found in the AUC Archives Research Center
  5. Prepare a performance-ready score using professional engraving software (e.g. Finale or Sibelius) and responding to revisions suggested by the instructor
  6. Attend and critique rehearsals with performers, providing guidance on interpretation
  7. Select images and create a multimedia presentation to accompany the musical performance
  8. Record verbal program notes for the composition
  9. Edit a video integrating verbal program notes and the live performance

ArtSongsFlyer (pic)

Final Projects:

Click links below to watch the performances and hear each student discuss their process of selecting a poem from the AUC Archives Research Center and developing it into an art song.

Donovan Polk (b. 1997)
“Loves Reflection” by Don Gilbert

Tyler Baker (b. 1997)
“Waves” by Grady Farley

Linton McNeeley (b. 1997)
“I Climbed Too” by Fannie Franklin

Kaleb Lewis (b. 1997)
“My Sin” by the Enigma

Ridge White (b. 1998)
“Come Toast Joe Dope” by Cpt. Nathaniel Tillman Jr.