Online Academic Enrichment lecture
6 October 2020
Academic Enrichment lectures are now online and this week Mr Danny Keen, Chair of Norfolk Black History Month, very kindly joined us to talk about ‘Black History – The Modernising Force’. This was an extremely interesting and enlightening discussion about the black cultural influence on modern poetry and music.
Mr Keen introduced himself as an artist and amateur musician and mentioned three OGs whose work he had studied at college: Ben Nicholson, WH Auden and Benjamin Britten. Mr Keen had discovered that their work had been heavily influenced by jazz and cabaret culture alongside many other artists and writers such as Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian, Burra and Isherwood.
By showing film clips and demonstrating elements of blues on the piano, Mr Keen was able to illustrate how Boogie-woogie and Rock and Roll influenced modernism in poetry and the arts in general.
He used Auden and Britten’s collaboration on ‘Night Mail’ as a specific example of work that had been shaped by the blues and the freight train sounds that were hugely important in the Black American psyche.
It became quite clear that jazz was also a guiding force in its rhythm, energy and creativity during the beat generation and onto the Beatles, and that ‘the well of black history is there… to dip into and influence.’
During the Q & A session, Mr Kinder, Head of History, commented that the School archives showed that the cakewalk was performed at School in 1917 and that in 1929, when Britten attended Gresham’s, dozens of Gresham’s students visited Berlin on an exchange and listening to Weimar jazz was a highlight, which surprised and pleased Mr Keen!