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URAC Presenter: Hering explores Langston Hughes' jazz poetry

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Posted on Friday, April 16, 2021

Timothy Hering, one of the eight select podium presenters to be featured at this year’s Undergraduate Research and Arts Celebration (URAC) on Wednesday, April 21, will discuss his senior honors capstone project, “Jammin’ with Langston Hughes: A Symphony of Truth in Black America.”

Hering’s combined English and music project explores how Langston Hughes—an American writer, a leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance and innovator of jazz poetry—integrates jazz into the sociopolitical discourse in his poetry, not only as a lyric but through the jazz aesthetic and as a recognizable form of music.

The project traces Hughes’s evolution as an art poet from the 1920s through the civil rights movement by looking at his works “The Weary Blues,” “Montage of a Dream Deferred,” and “Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz” using a cultural frame.

Hughes often wrote about lynching, oppression and white supremacy, and the creative portion of this project uses his life and his works as inspiration. It explores themes of ageism, racism and homophobia in works of poetry, prose, a screenplay that envisions a world where Hughes had been born in the 21st century and a multimedia presentation inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement that includes a flugelhorn performance of Billie Holiday’s song “Strange Fruit.”
“I was inspired to choose this topic while studying some of Hughes’ works in one of my classes at Westminster. One of the poems, 'Theme for English B,' had a bluesy feel to it and I set it to a blues track for the class and that was the start of the project,” Hering said. Dr. Timothy Winfield, associate professor of music, and Dr. Deborah Mitchell, professor of English, served as faculty sponsors for his project.
Hering, of New Galilee, Pa., is an honors student with a double major in English and music. He plans to pursue a Master of Music degree in trumpet performance following graduation.

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