Music History

Beyond Category: The Life and Music of Duke Ellington

Edward Kennedy Ellington was born on April 22, 1899 and was the most prolific composer of the twentieth century in terms of both number of compositions and variety of forms. His development was one of the most spectacular in the history of music, underscored by more than fifty years of sustained achievement as an artist and entertainer. He is considered by many to be America’s greatest composer, bandleader, and recording artist.

This program will trace Ellington’s musical life from his beginnings in 1920′s Harlem and the Jazz Age to his death in 1974. Audio and video footage, in addition to musical examples, will illustrate the magnitude of Ellington’s contributions to the American aesthetic.

Michael Conklin
Brookdale Community College, Department of Music

A projector and audio system are necessary for this presentation.

Jazz and the American Spirit: Swing, The Great Depression and WWII

When the stock market took a dive on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the country was unprepared and the resulting economic devastation was a key factor in beginning the Great Depression. In 1933, at the worst point in the Great Depression years, unemployment rates in the United States reached almost 25%, with more than 11 million people looking for work. Americans were searching for an escape for their hardship and they found it in the music of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and others. Jazz was the antidote to the waking spirits of the American public.

Although the country was facing unprecedented hardship, Swing music elevated jazz to new heights — making it the first and only time jazz was America’s popular music. This talk will illuminate the origins of the Great Depression and the key musicians who helped revive the American spirit. Music of the 1930s and 1940s will illustrate the importance of this uniquely American art form and the cultural significance it has played in our country’s history. From the advent of V-Discs (victory discs) and the USO, evidence will be provided on music’s ability to heal a nation through economic devastation and the turmoil of war.

Michael Conklin
Brookdale Community College, Department of Music

A computer projector is required for this program.

Fiddle and Tradition in America: A History and Demonstration

Until the early twentieth century, the fiddle was the centerpiece of American folk music and folk culture. Since then it has been the focus of a musical preservation impulse and a search for authentic folk expression, often referred to as “traditional” music. This presentation explores the dynamic role of fiddle music in American life from the eighteenth century to the present.

Historian and working musician Matthew Backes discusses the origins, styles, and interrelated histories of a range of fiddle traditions while providing demonstration of technique and repertoire. The presentation begins as an interactive introduction to the fiddle and ends by raising big questions about the meaning of tradition itself and the place of music in the making, recording, and understanding of cultural change.

Matthew Backes, Ph.D.

Tuneful Felicity: Francis Hopkinson and Musick

Francis Hopkinson is best known as an ardent patriot, one of New Jersey’s Five Signers of the Declaration of Independence, Delegate in 1778 to the Continental Congress and later an active member of the Constitutional Convention of 1787.  Like his friends Franklin and Jefferson, music and the social harmony it engendered held pride of place. Hopkinson, who maintained residences in Philadelphia and Bordentown, was a proficient harpsichordist and is credited as the first native born composer in America. The program will survey Hopkinson’s musical world and will draw specifically on printed  music he is known to have purchased in Philadelphia and from London publishers and from his ca. 1764 manuscript volume of music for [or arranged for] the harpsichord.

John Burkhalter
Independent scholar and lecturer

Program not available in Cape May county. A computer projector and microphone are required for this program.

Jane Austen: An Innocent Diversion & Delight

2013 marks the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice and Jane Austen’s own view of music is well evidenced in the novel. In fact music was of significant importance both in the life of Jane Austen and in her novels – whether she was practicing sonatinas or country dances on her spinet harpsichord or square piano for the amusement of family and friends or recording the delight music held for her characters as nearly  all of her heroines were musical.  The program will include an illustrated survey of Jane Austen’s holiday spa city of Bath the setting of a number of her novels and choice selections of music from the Austen family music collection.

John Burkhalter
Independent scholar and lecturer

Program not available in Cape May county. A computer projector and microphone are required for this program.

New Ragtime Guitar: A Musical and Historical View of America’s First Popular Musical Fad

Allan Jaffe will explore the musical and social origins of piano ragtime, focusing on the music of Scott Joplin, Joseph Lamb and James Scott, among others. He will next introduce the audience to the music of three great ragtime guitarists, Arthur “Blind” Blake, Mississippi John Hurt, and the Reverend Gary Davis, showing how these artists incorporated techniques from piano ragtime into their own particular form of acoustic blues. The third part of the presentation deals with his own rags, which effectively fuse the two styles of ragtime together, while incorporating elements of more contemporary forms of American music, i.e. Jazz, Funk, and Blues. The result is a new form of acoustic solo guitar music.

Allan Jaffe
Composer/Guitarist

Program requires a microphone for larger audiences.

All Over This Land: American Regional Folk Music

Though society is becoming increasingly homogeneous, regional expressive variation still exists and reflects the strength of our cultural differences. Through live performance (and occasional tapes of “the real thing”), Saul Broudy presents grassroots songs from various regions, such as Louisiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, California, the Appalachians, and Canada, and discusses how these songs help us identify who we are and where we came from.

Saul Broudy, Ph.D.
Folklorist and Performer

This program requires a microphone for larger audiences.

Oh, You Saigon Girls, Can’t You Dance the Polka!: Folksongs of Americans in the Vietnam War

Few are aware of the large body of songs that grew out of the American presence in Vietnam. Vietnam vet Saul Broudy, who collected songs from helicopter pilots during his Army tour of duty and went on to analyze them at Penn’s graduate program in folklore, will talk about the role songs and other folklore played in military life in Vietnam and how they reflect everyday life “in country.” He will present them both through live performance and tape-recordings actually made in Vietnam.

Saul Broudy, Ph.D.
Folklorist and Performer

This program requires a microphone for larger audiences.

Singing Workers: American Occupational Folksong

Before modern mass-media and widespread literacy, workers in various occupations made their own songs to express emotions, convey information, tell stories, solidify group identity and help them make it through the day. Through live performance, Saul Broudy presents the songs of railroad workers, coal miners, farmers, hobos, truck-drivers, pilots and other workers, and discusses the role this music played in the workers’ lives.

Saul Broudy, Ph.D.
Folklorist and Performer

This program requires a microphone for larger audiences.

Oldies but Goodies: Music of the Early 1960s

This walk down memory lane concentrates on the music of the beginning of the decade of massive cultural change prior to the “British Invasion.” The discussion will include America’s emphasis on its youth through the music of: The Beach Boys; Bob Dylan; James Brown; The Righteous Brothers; The Ronettes; etc. Included are audio and video examples of the above-mentioned artists plus early newsreels.

Stephen F. Marcone, Ed.D.
Professor of Music and Chairperson, The William Paterson College of New Jersey

Program available in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren counties. Program requires a computer projector and amplification.

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