May 06

Great American Art: The Broadway Musical, by Bill Messenger (Teaching Company) ★★★

Bill Messenger did another Teaching Company series on the history of jazz, which I liked considerably. Though I was not terribly interested in the broadway musical (far preferring “classical” music), I thought this would be an interesting series to hear out. Messenger starts with the minstrel format, showing how it was a parody of a parody of whites imitating negroes imitating whites. This evolved eventually into ragtime, vaudeville and tin pan alley, now considered to define American music. Eventually, through the work of various greats as Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein, the full-blown American musical emerged. Messenger follows the broadway musical all the way up to the turn of the century, showing how the genre has changed over time. He offers many musical examples, often performing himself on the piano. This is a fun and informative series, even for a person not terribly interested in Broadway.

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