Black Magic is a musical response to the research found in my dissertation study––Tone Parallels in Music for Film: The Compositional Works of Terence Blanchard in the Diegetic Universe © 2017. The through-composed piece is written in three movements for a studio orchestra. It is an homage to the musical, cultural, and entertainment contributions of African Americans in the magical realm of Hollywood cinema. Rather than starting randomly with the abstract nature of absolute music, I imagined a certain set of life circumstances and then chose titles to represent them. In lieu of making a film, I chose several leading African American literary and art champions that exemplify various dynamics in black culture and the human condition (Ralph Ellison, Shirley Horn, Ossie Davis, and Dudley Randall). The titles represent stories that I have read, heard, and/or experienced in life. Special thanks to Terence Blanchard, Rich DeRosa, Eugene Corporon, Tanya Darby, Brad Leali, John Murphy, the University of North Texas Jazz Studies Department and College Of Music faculty, and the student body for their support and encouragement in this musical endeavor. Enjoy.

BLACK MAGIC, composed and arranged by Brian Horton                                                                                          Performed and recorded Monday, March 20th, 2017                                                                                                    Voertman Hall, University of North Texas

Movement I: One Thousand, Three Hundred And Sixty-Nine Illuminations

The opening movement is influenced by Ralph Ellison’s novel, Invisible Man (1952) in which the protagonist, an unnamed narrator, realizes that his blackness during 1930s America renders him invisible to the outside world as they fail to see him as he truly is––a human being. Thus, he goes underground, living in a forgotten basement where he siphons free electricity from the city power company to illuminate his one thousand, three hundred, and sixty-nine bulbs arranged meticulously on his ceiling. They fill his space with light and warmth as he recollects his tumultuous past and contemplates his newly reinvented future.

Movement II: All You Give Is All You Get, So Give It All You Got

The second movement is inspired by jazz vocalist and pianist Shirley Horn. Her performance of Artie Butler’s “Here’s To Life” is one of her stellar recordings of the early 1990s. The entire record by the same title is a testament to love and perseverance. I was influenced by the maturity, texture and character of her voice and applied it with all the compassion and emotional diversity of the orchestra. 

Movement III: Here In This Quiet Place At This Final Hour, I Heard The Lamentations Of A Million Hearts

The final movement’s title is taken from two sources of inspiration. The first half, “In this quiet place, at this final hour,” is the opening remarks from actor and human rights activist Ossie Davis in his eulogy at Malcolm X’s funeral in 1965. Rather than mourn in sorrow, Davis’s speech uplifts and celebrates a man who inspired many. The second phrase “I heard the lamentations of a million hearts” comes from the opening of Dudley Randall’s poem, “Roses and Revolutions.” The narrator looks out over a city that is tormented by a million sorrows of civil unrest, but is promised hope in the dawn of a new day.


Winds: Flute/Piccolo, Daniel Pardo • Oboe, Ha Eun An • Clarinet, Chris McGuire • Alto Saxophone, Kyle Bellaire  Bassoon, Martin Wells • Bass Clarinet/Baritone Saxophone, Brendon Wilkins 

Brass: French Horn, Eric Hessel • Trumpet, Luke Wingfield • Trombones, Brian Woodbury and Abdullah Ebrahim • Bass Trombone, Kenny Davis • Tuba, Mark Jeffrey

Rhythm: Piano, Nicholas Olynciw • Bass, Aaron Holthus • Drum Set/Percussion, Matt Young

Strings: Violins: Elijah Jacob, Phoenix Abbo, and Katie McCoy • Violas: Isaiah Chapman and Valeria Osuna Yrizar    Cellos: Terrence Brown and  Maria Foltz Baylock • Harp, Ula Rucka