Aug 25, 2010

New Deal for the New Deal
September 16 | 7:00 p.m. FAC Music Room
American Music and the New Deal Film
Admission: Free

Professor Curtis Smith, Music Faculty, UCCS, will discuss the important role that film music played in the early careers of two American composers, Aaron Copland and Virgil Thompson. Two New Deal films, “The Plow That Broke the Plains” and “The City” will be shown.

The City, an unique documentary film by Ralph Steiner and Willard Van Dyke, was created for the 1939 New York World's Fair, its theme the contrast in living conditions and possibilities between a grim milltown and frantic city with the possibilities of a better life in a planned "new town", Greenbelt, Maryland. The score is unusual in its continuity and ironic commentary on the visual message, at its height in the city scenes, most especially commenting on rush hour traffic and hectic lunch breaks, the idyllic life near nature at Greenbelt counterpointed with beautiful music.

Los Angeles Times music critic, Mark Swed, called Aaron Copland’s score to The City “an astonishing missing link not only in the genesis of Copland’s Americana style, but in American music and cinema.” Made for the 1939 World’s Fair (”The World of Tomorrow”), The City is a classic documentary film distinguished for its organic integration of narration (scripted by Lewis Mumford), cinematography (by Ralph Steiner and Willard Van Dyke), and music (by Copland).

Pare Lorentz's The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936) and The River (1937) are landmark American documentary films. Aesthetically, they break new ground in seamlessly marrying pictorial imagery, symphonic music, and poetic free verse, all realized with supreme artistry. Ideologically, they encapsulate the strivings of FDR’s 'New Deal'.

Virgil Thomson's scores for both films are among the most famous ever composed for the movies. Aaron Copland praised the music for The Plow for its "frankness and openness of feeling", calling it "fresher, more simple, and more personal" than the Hollywood norm.

Program is free and open to the public. For additional information, contact New Deal Board member, Judith Rice-Jones, or 473-2154

Local branch of the National New Deal for the New Deal; Local chapter sponsored by the Pikes Peak Arts Council)

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