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America's Music Film Series and Talk by Dr. Ted Olson at the Bristol Public Library — Bluegrass

August 05, 2013

The Bristol Public Library is hosting a new six-week program series entitled “America’s Music: A Film History of Our Popular Music from Blues to Bluegrass to Broadway.” The series features documentary film screenings and scholar-led discussions of twentieth-century American popular music. The series allows audiences to focus on uniquely American musical genres including blues and gospel, Broadway, jazz, bluegrass and country, rock n’ roll, mambo, and hip hop. The next session—Bluegrass—will take place Saturday, August 10 at 11:00 AM in the J. Henry Kegley Meeting Room at the Library. It will focus on High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music. Dr. Ted Olson, professor in the Department of Appalachian Studies at East Tennessee State University and two-time Grammy nominee for the Bristol Sessions Recordings, will speak at 2 PM after the film screening.

The BPL is one of fifty sites nationwide selected to host this program series and has partnered with Believe in Bristol, The Birthplace of Country Music, and Virginia Intermont to build on the rich music scene in downtown Bristol and our region with this series.

“America’s Music” is designed for a general audience and will introduce genres of twentieth century popular music that are deeply connected to the history, culture, and geography of the United States. Older and younger Americans alike will have the chance to recognize how the cultural landscape that they take for granted today has been influenced by the development of popular music forms discussed in this series. Showing how modern music has been shaped by older styles, the series seeks to enrich, entertain, educate and bridge the gap among generations.

High Lonesome; The History of Bluegrass is an award-winning documentary that lovingly presents the story of bluegrass through the story of Bill Monroe, considered the father of bluegrass. Weaving haunting archival footage and photographs from the 1930s and 40s with top-tapping live performances, the film traces the origins of bluegrass music from the Kentucky hills of Appalachia through the innovations which shaped its current form. The film provides on-camera commentary by bluegrass greats including Mac Wiseman and Jimmy Martin, as well as rarely seen tapes of Flatt and Scruggs, both of whom played in Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys.

The history of bluegrass is inseparable from the history of Appalachia and the agricultural South in the 20th Century. Painting a poignant picture of the importance of traditional music in the lives of isolated rural southerners, the film recounts the social changes that shaped their music in modern times: the coming of the railroads, which brought contact with black laborers and their music; the growth of mass market catalogues selling exotic instruments like the mandolin and Hawaiian steel guitar; traveling shows which introduced Tin Pan Alley songs and ragtime and early jazz from the cities; the new media of radio and phonographs; and the Depression, which forced young men to leave the farms to see work in the cities.

Monroe’s musical genius responded to the pressures of modernity and dislocation. His music melded the Scots-Irish traditional melodies he heard as a child with new instrumentation, driving contemporary rhythms and a unique high-pitched vocal style that became known as the ‘High Lonesome” sound.

America’s Music is a project of the Tribeca Film Institute in collaboration with the American Library Association, Tribeca Flashpoint, and the Society of American Music. America’s Music has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring Human Endeavor to these organizations.

The final session is:
Saturday, August 17: Latin Rhythms from Mambo to Hip-Hop
Latin Music USA Episode 1: Bridges
From Mambo to Hip-Hop A South Bronx Tale