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Excerpts%20from%20Virgil%20Thomson

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Title: Revolutinary Music: The Role of Radiacal Politics Author: Owner Last modified by: cmalebranche Created Date: 11/29/2010 10:26:16 AM Document presentation format – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Excerpts%20from%20Virgil%20Thomson


1
Excerpts from Virgil Thomsons Score to the Plow
That Broke The Plains
  • Full Orchestra
  • Texture light and harmonies clear and diatonic
  • 72 min documentary about Dust Bowl
  • Tells same story as So Long Its Been Good to
    Know You, by Woody Guthrie
  • Meant to gain support for Resettlement
    Administration

2
Overview of Music Plot
  • Prelude Narrator introduces geography and
    history of Great Plains
  • Sections describe poor management ruined land and
    caused farmers to migrate
  • Section Pastorale (Grass)
  • In major key
  • Rising, diatonic motives and robust brass
    orchestration brings optimism

3
More Sections
  • Cattle
  • Thomson borrowed 2 cowboy tunes I Ride an Old
    Paint, and, Get Along Little Doggies.
  • The Homesteaders, Warning, War and the Tractor,
    Speculation (Blues), Bought, and Wind and Dust
  • Conclusion Devastation

4
Image and Sound
  • Recurring Images
  • Horse drawn wagons crossing plains
  • Winds sweeping across sand dunes
  • Broken fence
  • A desolate building
  • Blades of grass bending in the wind
  • Slow paced visual change puts responsibility on
    script and music

5
Audience Response
  • George Stony (Farm Security Administration
    Officer)
  • Traveled the Southeast (1936) showing film and
    answering questions
  • Viewers respected and understood the struggles of
    rural Americans

6
Other Government Documentaries
  • The River of 1937- government film that justified
    construction of massive river dams
  • Aaron Copland did The City- documentary promoting
    green towns
  • Built by New Deal to give working class an
    alternative to city living

7
The Composers Collective (1933-38)
  • American Communist Party
  • Associated with Workers' Music League
  • Create appropriate music for working class

8
Members
  • Members Henry Cowell, Aaron Copland,Marc
    Blozstein, Charles Seeger, Ellie Siegmeister,
    Norman Cazden
  • Inspired by 2 German Composers linked to German
    communist movement
  • Were Kurt Weill Hanns Eisler
  • Believed modernist music was elitist
  • They were creating music for common people

9
Communist Collective
  • Originally wanted to create bold new musical
    style
  • Vigorous rhythms and unapologetic dissonances
  • Portray rejection of elite values

10
Folk Music
  • Communist in Russia encouraged national folk
    traditions
  • CC turned to folk tunes and harmonic system to
    apeal to working class
  • Folk music every mans music
  • Modernism bourgeois elite
  • Charles Seeger was leader in change
  • Many modernist composers began using Folk music
  • Ex Aaron Copland, Charles Seeger,
    VirginlThomson, Ellie Siegmeister

11
The Cradle Will Rock
  • Music theater work with lyrics and music
  • By Marc Blitzstein
  • Articulates the central dilemma to composers
  • What role should they play in the helping of
    their country to recover from its economic
    collapse?

12
Plot
  • Set in Steeltown, USA
  • Steelworkers vs Wealthy magnate Mr. Mister
  • Mr. Mister creates Liberty Committee
  • Anti-union organization that suppresses freedom
  • Steelworkers union leader Mike Foreman
  • Central tension lies on who middle class sides
    with

13
Blitzstein
  • Modernist Composer until 1930s
  • Changed after hearing Hanns Eisler at C.C meeting
  • Used urban source Broadway and American popular
    songs

14
The Cradle Will Rock
  • Founded by Federal Theatre Progect (FTP)
    adminstrated by WPA
  • John Houseman Producer
  • Orson Welles Director
  • Meant to comment on present day struggles

15
Dilemma
  • June 16, 1937 date of scheduled premiere
  • Year that US experienced most violent labor
    unrest (centered with steal industry)
  • FTP postponed premier since it may cause riots
  • WPA closed theatre
  • Houseman and Welles looked for other theater
  • Actors/Musicians would not perform unless HW
    promised Union Wages

16
Night of Premiere
  • Actors do routines in front of theatre to gain
    crowd
  • 20 min later someone finds theatre 21 blocks away
  • Blitzstein on stage with piano and plays all
    parts
  • Actors sing/act from their seats in audience due
    to union rules

17
Film
  • Made Theatre Legend
  • 1999 Film about Premiere Cradle Will Rock
  • Directed by Tim Robbins

18
Scene Seven
  • Liberty Committee arrested at labor rally
  • Spying for Mr. Mister
  • Members Doctor, Lawyer, Newspaper Man, College
    Proffesor
  • In jail with Molly the prostitute and Larry
    Foreman (union organizer)

19
  • All are middle class but with our eyes open
  • Foreman believes they are pampered and ignorant
  • Foreman sings Cradle Will Rock
  • Meant to stir up anger of oppressed and inspire
    action against the status quo.
  • Its march-like bass line, strong rhythms, and
    emphatic beat workers chorus

20
Workers Songs
  • Not written for everyone to sing
  • For workers with musical interest and ability
    sign up to sing with chorus
  • Met regularly and performed for larger audience
    of workers at various labor events
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