Library grant to provide six-week American music program

The Fayetteville Public Library is one of 50 organizations to be awarded a $2,500 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to host a six-week program featuring documentary film screenings and scholar-led discussions of 20th century American popular music.

The series, “America’s Music: A Film History of Our Popular Music from Blues to Bluegrass to Broadway,” is a project of the Tribeca Film Institute which aims to enlighten audiences about uniquely American musical genres including blues, gospel, jazz, country, rock, mambo, and hip hop.

Programming, which also includes film discussions and live music, will be offered during the library’s 2013 summer reading program beginning in June.

Dr. Robert Cochran, chair of the University of Arkansas American Studies program and director of the Center for Arkansas and Regional Studies, will facilitate the film discussions. Live music will coincide with the library’s 5th Annual Mountain Street Stage concert series.

From the library:

The onset of the twentieth century brought pervasive changes to American society. During the early part of the century, these social changes combined with new technologies to create a mass market for popular music that evolved over the next hundred years. Each of the six programs in the America’s Music series will examine an important American musical genre in the context of key social and historical developments, with events in American music history acting as a catalyst for that examination.

“We are thrilled to participate in this exciting program that will help introduce different
types of music, show how modern music has been influenced by older styles, and bridge
gaps among generations,” said Willow Fitzgibbon, the library’s adult service manager.

Session information

Session One: The Blues and Gospel Music (PDF)
“If American music is unique, it is largely due to its bedrock foundation of blues and gospel music, two forms of music that emerged in the late 19th and early 20th century. Anchoring the sounds of African America, these styles underlay the musical innovations of the century: jazz, rhythm and blues, rock, soul and hip hop.”

Session Two: Broadway and Tin Pan Alley (PDF)
“Broadway in the 1920s was a showcase for the sweeping changes transforming American culture in the early 20th century, including new roles for women, the mixing of social classes in new settings like Prohibition-era speakeasies and creative innovation by African Americans in jazz clubs and music halls.”

Session Three: Swing Jazz (PDF)
“By performing their music with increasingly complex arrangements for ever larger orchestras, Swing musicians helped erode the wall between our definitions of popular music and the art music generally labeled “classical.”

Session Four: Country and Blue Grass (PDF)
“Although for purposes of radio airplay bluegrass songs were programmed on country music stations beginning in the late 1940s, bluegrass as a musical form did not develop directly out of the generation of recorded commercial country music that preceded it.”

Session Five: Rock (PDF)
“The music we know as rock and roll emerged in the mid 1950s, although its advent had been on the horizon for at least a decade.”

Session Six: Latin Rhythm From Mambo to Hip Hop (PDF)
“In the latter half of the 20th century, with immigration from South America and the Caribbean increasing every decade, Latin sounds influenced American popular music: jazz, rock, rhythm and blues, and even country music.”

Films included in the series

Broadway: The American Musical
This six-part series from PBS tells two stories: the 100-year history of musical theater and the story of its relationship to 20th-century American life. It begins with the immigrant experience at the turn of the century, when a melting pot of voices and styles gave rise to a popular new form of entertainment, and ends with today’s Broadway, where big-budget new productions and revivals of classic favorites compete side by side for box office success. The program will focus on Episode 2: Syncopated City.

From Mambo to Hip-Hop: A South Bronx Tale
From Henry Chalfant (co-director of Style Wars), this hour-long documentary tells a story about the creative life of the South Bronx, beginning with the Puerto Rican migration and the adoption of Cuban rhythms to create the New York salsa sound; continuing with the fires that destroyed the neighborhood, but not the creative spirit of its people; chronicling the rise of hip-hop from the ashes.

High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music
This 1991 doc frames its historical survey around Bill Monroe, the father of Kentucky bluegrass. As Monroe visits his old Kentucky home, now dilapidated and full of memories, the film traces the emergence of bluegrass from Appalachian descendants of Scotch-Irish settlers, and a variety of bluegrass greats (including narrator Mac Wiseman) offer informative anecdotes, accompanied by evocative archival footage and concert performances from the bluegrass festival circuit.

The History of Rock and Roll
Executive produced by Quincy Jones and respected writers Peter Guralnick and Greil Marcus listed as consultants, this series, first presented in 1995, serves as an introduction for neophytes and a refresher course for experts. Beginning in the pre-rock days of bluesman Muddy Waters and boogie woogie master Louis Jordan and continuing through the death of Kurt Cobain and the birth of the Lollapalooza festival in the mid-1990s, along the way dozens of big-name performers are on hand to lead us through the story. The program focus on the Plugging In segment from the series.

International Sweethearts of Rhythm
From the Piney Woods School in the Mississippi Delta to the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York City, this toe-tapping film tells the story of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, America’s first integrated all-women swing band. A 16-piece band with a strong brass section, heavy percussion, and a deep rhythmic sense, the Sweethearts were not just a novelty but featured many of the best female musicians of the day.

Ken Burns’ Jazz spans nearly a century of jazz styles, from the martial rhythms of James Reese Europe to the soul-jazz of Grover Washington Jr. It includes time-tested classics like Benny Goodman’s 1938 "Sing, Sing, Sing"; John Coltrane’s chanting 1965 immortal track, "A Love Supreme"; Billie Holiday’s blue-ember ballad, "God Bless the Child"; and Ella Fitzgerald peeling off "A-Tisket A-Tasket" just to name a few. The program will focus on Episode 6: Swing, The Velocity of Celebration.

Latin Music USA
This fresh take on American musical history reaches across five decades to portray the rich mix of sounds created by Latinos and embraced by all. See the rise of Latin jazz with the great Machito and the explosion of the mambo with Pérez Prado. And watch as Latin music infiltrates R&B and rock throughout the 1960s, from the Drifters to Santana up to today. The program will focus on Episode 1: Bridges.

Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues
Executive Produced by Martin Scorsese, these seven approximately 90-minute films follow the blues—the foundation of jazz, soul, R&B, and rock & roll—from its African roots to its Mississippi Delta origins, up the river to Memphis and Chicago, then to New York, the United Kingdom and beyond. The program will focus on the Feel Like Going Home segment from the series.

Say Amen, Somebody
This 1982 documentary by director George T. Nierenberg breaks down the roots of gospel music as he examines the lives and careers of a handful of since-departed gospel stars, who helped create the genre from which so many other forms of music flowed.