Skip to main content
Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

This program has been postponed. Once more information is confirmed, ticket holders will be notified about any rescheduled dates and times.

New York Rising: Music From the 1930s

All-Day Program

Friday, May 15, 2020 - 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Code: 1M2088

Cab Calloway, ca. 1933, by Carl Van Vechten (Library of Congress)

In defiant answer to the Crash of 1929, New York City produced a spectacular decade of music. In a lively and engaging day, music expert Saul Lilienstein, a born-and-bred New Yorker, leads a musical journey that encompasses the emotion-filled sounds of the Great Depression to Gershwin and Copland shaking off the blues; extravaganzas at the Cotton Club in Harlem to the avant-garde of Greenwich Village; the optimistic joy of Swing to Arturo Toscanini in residence at Carnegie Hall and NBC’s fabled Studio 8H in Radio City. Over the airwaves, the sound of music from New York spread across the nation, defining the era for all of America.

9:30 a.m.–12 p.m.  Escaping the Realities

Uptown, music of the Harlem Renaissance survived and thrived under Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway.  Broadway rebounded with fascinating rhythms from George Gershwin and Cole Porter. Aaron Copland invented an American sound for the concert hall, while below 14th Street a bohemian hothouse was created by Henry Cowell, center of a circle of notable proteges and friends that would include fellow composers John Cage and Lou Harrison and dancer Merce Cunningham.

12–1 p.m.  Lunch (participants provide their own)

1–3:30 p.m.  The Sound of Optimism

It was a golden age at the Metropolitan Opera, and America’s own opera, Porgy and Bess, premiered on Broadway. Though most of film industry had decamped to Hollywood with the talkies, the New York–based Fleisher Studios run by brothers Max and Dave created a series of sound films that merged jazz with comic and ribald results. Everyone had a radio now: Paul Robeson’s bass voice was as familiar as Cosby’s baritone, and Count Basie, Benny Goodman, and Arturo Toscanini became household names.

S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)