2022: Kira Thurman, Singing Like Germans
Kira Thurman, Professor at the University of Michigan
Singing like Germans: Black Musicians in the Land of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms investigates the history of Black classical musicians in German-speaking Europe across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A study of musical interactions and transnational collaborations between Black performers and white Germans and Austrian listeners, the book explores the tension between the supposedly transcendental powers of classical music and the global conversations that developed about who could perform it.
Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, audiences assumed the categories of Blackness and Germanness were mutually exclusive. Yet on attending a performance of German music by a Black musician, many listeners were surprised to discover that German identity was not a biological marker but something that could be learned, performed, and mastered. While Germans and Austrians located their national identity in music, championing composers such as Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms as national heroes, the performance of their works by Black musicians complicated the public's understanding of who had the right to play them.
"I am so deeply honored to be the recipient of The George L. Mosse Prize in 2022. Like many historians, I became enamored with Mosse's writings as a young student seeking answers to some of our most fundamental questions about the conjoined nature and function of racism and culture in European history. Reading Mosse for the first time felt like a relief. I'd found a guide who could shepherd me through histories of fascism, nationalism, and modernity, and whose thinking could push me to improve my own. Mosse was and remains the model of a scholar and a teacher whose work not only interrogates the past but also transforms our present."