Thursday, October 13, 2016

"It Happened in Brooklyn" and Tin Pan Alley: 20th Century Music from New York

Our current exhibitions "Icon of Modernism: Representing the Brooklyn Bridge 1883–1950" and "Man's Canyons: New York City on Paper" show visual representations of the bridge and New York during a period of changing social attitudes and perceptions; music was another creative discipline that reflected those times.

Of course, you wouldn't think times had changed all that much based on this studio take of "The Brooklyn Bridge" from 1947. Performed by Frank Sinatra, this song was featured in the film "It Happened in Brooklyn," which is screening for free tonight as part of our Brooklyn Bridge film series at 7 p.m. in the M. Smith Griffith Auditorium.

The writers and producers of this light-hearted musical comedy were aware of the growing generational gap between those who remembered how things were and those who saw only modern life, and they used music to contrast the old and the new. Check out two versions of the same song, also featured in "It Happened in Brooklyn."

Outside the film, New York City's contributions to musical history in America has been incredibly rich and diverse. The city is the birthplace of hip hop, doo woo, new wave and salsa, and two of America's most celebrated composers, George Gershwin and Aaron Copland, were born in Brooklyn. For those interested in hearing more of the music created contemporaneously with the paintings featured in "Icon of Modernism," here are a few select playlists of music from Tin Pan Alley, which was the name given to the row of music publishing houses in New York on West 28th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue, where popular music flourished from about 1885 through the 1950s.

This first playlist features 80 tracks, some of them the same songs with different arrangements, for a broader view of songwriting during this period.

Gershwin got his musical career started in Tin Pan Alley, eventually moving on to writing Broadway theatre tunes, classical music, and Hollywood movie scores. Some of his most recognizable works include "An American in Paris," "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Porgy and Bess." This particular playlist features his early songs from Broadway and Tin Pan Alley.


Have a favorite song from the early 20th century? Be sure to share with us in the comments!

No comments: