Anne Harley

Anne Harley
2012 Hearst Fellow
Musician, soprano
Claremont, CA

Research at AAS

Two poems. Freedoms Battle by Francis Watkins and Parody on Red white and Blue by Charlotte Forten

When I arrived at the AAS August-September 2012 for my creative artist fellowship, I had some idea of the breadth and unique profile of the musical manuscripts in the AAS collection (over 70,000 scores, some of which are unique copies). I could not have known, however, about the incredibly helpful and knowledgeable archivists, librarians, and program coordinators, with whom I would work every day. Within days of my arrival, I immediately realized that I should take advantage of the remarkable access to the archive and sources of expertise, and extend my investigations into the AAS collection well beyond the scope of my original project. What started as an investigation of early Shaker texts, and of historical performance in music in early America, became more far-reaching. That month of daily work at AAS has repaid my efforts many times over: the sources that I discovered at AAS have had a profound impact on what I have been able to offer my audiences, my artistic collaborators, fellow faculty, and students in the intervening 7 years at Scripps College, where I am now tenured.

Closely following my arrival, I inquired of everyone I met at the AAS if they had any knowledge of texts or music in the collection by African American women. In conversation with AAS's Caroline Sloat, I located two poems by African American women poets. Thanks to Ms. Sloat's help, which immediately followed upon my presentation of my research goals to the librarians, I found exactly what was needed in record time. These poems by Charlotte Forten, which were sung to popular hymns during abolitionist activist gatherings in the 1850s, then inspired the Scripps college commission of a new civil rights cantata. Composer Jodi Goble used excerpts from Forten's texts, and recycled their original musical setting, in the first movement of this choral cycle, intended to mark the Emancipation Proclamation 150th anniversary, in 2013.

PDF to True Witness ProgramPDF to Proclamation Score

Click the images above to read the booklet from the 2020 performance of True Witness as well as the score of the first movement.


The Forten text is one of the central inspirations for True Witness, a multi-choral civil rights cantata commissioned from Jodi Goble, which was premiered at Scripps in 2013 to an audience that included Myrlie Evers Williams herself. The cantata, conducted by Scripps associate professor Charles W. Kamm, brought together many choirs, each from a different part of society, including the student choirs of the Joint Music Program at the Claremont Colleges, the Los Angeles Children's Chorus, and the Crossroads Inside-Out Choir, from a local post-incarceration transitional residence for women. This last group worked with us again in 2019-2020 to create a second performance of True Witness that toured to the local community college and included their choir. My Scripps humanities students worked during the semester in rehearsals with women from the Inside-Out choir, and in learning about the history of the historical texts that form the basis of the work, they learned about each other. Students and Crossroads participants reported that this experience was transformational for them.


Live performance at Scripps College in 2020 of the first movement from True Witness by Jodi Goble, inspired by the texts of Charlotte Forten.


The most obvious challenge facing a researcher in the music collections at MWA is well known by all the librarians: there are some 70,000 pieces of music, and many of those pieces are not in the digital catalog. I believe that many of the pieces I found, and hope to perform and record, will be significant modern-day premieres, but the AAS collection holds interest beyond the discipline of music. In combing through the volumes of bound sheet music and manuscripts, I found pieces that were of interest to my fellow scholars Andrea Zittlau and Maureen Santelli who are researching the pathologization of race and US reception of the war in Greece at the beginning of the 19th century. In both cases, I had spoken to them casually about their research over breakfast at the fellow’s residence and then happened upon pieces of music that related to their research goals. I am still in contact with Dr. Zittlau, have given an invited presentation at her university, and am now collaborating on a scholarly investigation with her into the vocalism and celebrity of Jenny Lind, for an article and conference presentation in Europe.

As another fellow, John Demos and I discussed in 2012, musical archives are traditionally quite intimidating to other scholars in other disciplines, because of the notational barrier, but there are valuable intersections for those who dare cross that bridge. To facilitate the work of researchers from other disciplines, as well as in music, when the catalog is established for these pieces of music, catalogers may wish to consider including extensive keywords from other disciplines, as well as the information about who performed the song (often a well-known singer appears in the subtitle) and the dedication, as well as an estimated date based on method of printing. These last three would make the AAS collection unique among other collections of American music that I have researched online during my fellowship.

I would like to thank especially AAS archivists Andrew Bourque, Caroline Sloat and Laura Wasowicz, without whom, my work would never have been able to proceed to bear fruit.


About the Fellow

Anne Harley is a prize-winning Canadian performer-scholar, director and educator based in Claremont, CA. She specializes in performing and recording music from challenging and groundbreaking contemporary composers, as well as researching and recording music from early oral and written traditions in Europe, North America and Russia. Her solo performances are available on Hänssler Profil, Naxos, Sony Classics, Canteloupe, Musica Omnia, einKlang and BMOP/sound, among others.

Harley is recognized internationally as a specialist in contemporary classical music and extended voice techniques. Over the course of the last two decades, she has premiered, performed and recorded works by contemporary composers Evan Ziporyn, John Adams, Ralf Gawlick, Lee Hoiby, Louis Andriessen, Peter Eotvös and John Harbison, Jodi Goble, Christine Southworth, Moshe Shulman, Yii Kah Hoe and Chaipruck Mekara, among others. In 2012, she founded the new music project Voices Of The Pearl, which transmits, in newly commissioned song cycles, texts by and about female spiritual practitioners from all world traditions. She also performs internationally in the area of historically informed performance, in medieval, baroque, early American, early Russian and Russian Roma music. She leads the pioneering early Russian music ensemble, TALISMAN with Dr. Oleg Timofeyev. Since 2009, she is on faculty at Scripps College (Claremont, CA), teaching voice, music history and interdisciplinary humanities and in 2015, became Chair of the Music Department.

In 2015, Anne Harley, along with Olav Chris Henriksen and Na’ama Lion, returned to AAS to perform music held in the society's collections for a public program titled “‘Mild Melodious Maze’: Songs and Instrumental Music from Early America (1770-1830)”.

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