MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

When the Federal Government Was Serious about Arts Funding

The Great Depression has been repeatedly invoked of late as we try to gauge the enormous impact of the current pandemic and the related economic crisis. But in the 1930s, Americans had a government in place that recognized the importance of the arts through the Works Progress Administration. These programs employed massive numbers of artists, writers, musicians, actors, dancers, and photographers.

On 5 July, together with Naxos and The American Interest, PostClassical Ensemble (PCE) presents the next installment in its More than Music series: Behrouz Jamali’s documentary on The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936), which focuses on the Dust Bowl, and The River (1938), a modern ode to the role played by the Mississippi River. With scores by Virgil Thomson, both were the first-ever films created by the federal government for commercial release (i.e., not merely informational or educational films). Both champion a distinctly anti-Hollywood aesthetic.

There will be a follow-up Zoom chat on 9 July at 3pm EST. A panel will explore government funding for the arts during the pandemic: conductor Angel Gil-Ordóñez, PCE Executive Producer Joseph Horowitz, historian David Woolner, and film historians Neil Lerner and George Stoney. Also on the agenda is a discussion of how Roosevelt’s New Deal addressed issues of race in the era of Jim Crow. To register, click here.

See also Joseph Horowitz’s blog post “The New Deal, the Arts, and Race — and Today”.

Filed under: American music, history, PostClassical Ensemble, social justice

Porgy and Bess Roundtable from PostClassical Ensemble

Following up on my post from the beginning of the month, here’s a distillation of PostClassical Ensemble’s 10 June zoom chat titled “Porgy and Bess Roundtable: What’s It About and Who’s Singing It?”

The panelists include George Shirley, the first African-American tenor to sing lead roles at the Metropolitan Opera, the bass-baritone Kevin Deas, one of the leading Porgys on today’s scene, Conrad Osborne, an expert in opera in performance, will also join in, and PCE founder Joseph Horowitz, with Bill McGlaughlin hosting. They also sample some historic Porgy recordings.

For more on this topic, here is Horowitz’s recent post: “Porgy Takes a Knee — Porgy and Bess and the American Experience of Race“:

“It’s interesting that Gershwin chose as his protagonist a person who’s on his knees. ‘Taking a knee’ has never been more relevant.”

continue

Filed under: African-American musicians, American music, George Gershwin, PostClassical Ensemble

PostClassical Ensemble’s More than Music Turns the Spotlight on Gershwin

PostClassical Ensemble — the “experimental orchestral laboratory” founded in 2003 by Joseph Horowitz and Angel Gil-Ordonez — has been reflecting on music’s role in society through a series called “More then Music,” which presents audio/video webcasts and associated zoom chats.

With the new challenges it poses to institutions we’ve taken for granted, the coronavirus pandemic has intensified the urgency of thinking about these issues of music and its social function — as opposed to abstracting the art into a “purely” aesthetic construct.

The latest edition of PCE’s More than Music series focuses on George Gershwin and a time of creative ferment that was tearing down conventional walls around self-described “serious” music.

PCE has just released the video linked above, The Russian Gershwin, featuring commentary by Joseph Horowitz (PCE Executive Producer) and Angel Gil-Ordóñez (PCE Music Director), with Bill McGlaughlin as the host.

There will be two follow-up zoom chats free and open to the public, both from 6 to 7pm EST. The first one, on 4 June, “A Gershwin Roundtable,” will be a discussion with Horowitz, Gil-Ordóñez, the pianist Genadi Zagor, and Mark Clague, director of the Gershwin Initiative at the University of Michigan. It will also include a live performance by the jazz artist Karrin Allyson.

The 10 June chat is titled “Porgy and Bess Roundtable: What’s It About and Who’s Singing It?” Along with Horowitz, Gil-Ordóñez, and Clague, special guests will include two pre-eminent singers who are authorities on Porgy and Bess: George Shirley, the first African-American tenor to sing lead roles at the Metropolitan Opera, and the bass-baritone Kevin Deas, one of the leading Porgys on today’s scene. Conrad L. Osborne, an expert in opera in performance, will also join in, and there will a discussion of historic Porgy recordings. Bill McGlaughlin hosts both zoom chats.

More details and sign-up links to the free zoom chats here.

Filed under: African-American musicians, George Gershwin, PostClassical Ensemble

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

RSS Arts & Culture Stories from NPR

  • Bob the Drag Queen
    Bob the Drag Queen discusses his wig-filled basement drag closet and his HBO docuseries We're Here. Then, Bob takes on a quiz tailored specifically to his interests, from Kesha to Whoopi Goldberg.
  • Funky Stuff, Part 2
    Cristin Milioti and Camila Mendes join house musician Jonathan Coulton for a game where funky songs are rewritten to be about things that smell funky.
  • Hallmark Holidays
    Cristin Milioti and Camila Mendes (Palm Springs) compete to see who can identify holidays based on the text of Hallmark cards.
  • In A Hurry
    Comedians Erin Jackson and Laurie Kilmartin work together to answer questions about some of the world's fastest things.
  • Foley Moley
    Comedians Laurie Kilmartin (writer for CONAN) and Erin Jackson (Last Comic Standing) face off in a game about the strange noises that go into creating movie sound effects.
  • Actor André Holland Explores: 'Where I Fit, How I Fit, If I Fit'
    Best known for his roles in Moonlight and Castle Rock, Holland has a starring role in a new radio version of Shakespeare's Richard II. Originally broadcast in 2018.
  • You May Be In Sweatpants, But COVID-19 Hasn't Stopped Haute Couture
    In a fashion first, this season's collections were presented digitally, rather than in-person, in-Paris. The virtual venue was an opportunity for designers to experiment in the online space.
  • World War II Naval Drama 'Greyhound' Charts A Trim, Efficient Course
    Tom Hanks stars in, and wrote the screenplay for, this familiar but effective tale of a Navy captain leading a convoy of merchants ships through U-boat-infested seas.
  • Dawn Wacek: How Can Libraries Be A Path Toward Inclusivity And Forgiveness?
    Are overdue library book fines necessary? Librarian Dawn Wacek wants all libraries to do away with overdue fines to make library services more inclusive and welcoming to all readers.
  • No Reading, No Peace: The Power Of Black Stories Out Loud
    The difference between owning a book by a Black author and experiencing its power lies in reading it aloud — particularly for kids' books, which can help kids speak up about their own experiences.