Honors | Gershwin and his Era (HON)
H203 | 16918 | David Hertz


TuTh 7:15-8:30pm
MUSLIB 267

Was George Gershwin the most talented composer this country has
produced to date? Of all the American composers, Gershwin (1898-
1937) was the most able to move effortlessly between “popular”
and “classical” genres, to experiment with new combinations of
indigenous American and European musical styles. He is the
quintessential modernist, at the center of the Jazz Age and even
composing the music that perhaps represents it best. Starting on Tin
Pan Alley as a “songplugger,” Gershwin soon became known as a
natural piano virtuoso, with unique gifts that set him apart from
his contemporaries. Gershwin burst on the scene with a string of
hits during the golden era of Broadway. He was among the first to
use radio and film as new media for music, writing innovative new
works for each. His popular songs, written with his remarkable
brother, lyricist  Ira Gershwin,  have turned into standards, the
heart of the repertoire of the “American songbook.”  We will study
many of these songs with equal attention to the word and the music.
Gershwin also could use the American jazz idiom to write in European
genres, experimenting with the rhapsody, the concerto, the ballet,
and the opera. All of this was accomplished in a very short span of
39 years. Why does Gershwin have such staying power, even in the
twenty-first century? Was he a musical genius on the level of Mozart
or Schubert, Europeans who also accomplished so much in such a short
time? We will study a list of important recent research on
Gershwin,  including a new biography by Howard Pollack. Survey of
selected materials from the Gershwin archives at Library of Congress
in Washington DC.  No musical background is required for this class,
but singers and instrumentalists are welcome. Performance of various
Gershwin works and other composers of the era in class.