Music Makes a City - An American Orchestra's Untold Story
Documentary Chronicling Largest Classical Music Commissioning Project in American History
DVD Video - 2 discs
In stock - usually despatched within 1 working day.
Directed by Owsley Brown III and Jerome Hiler
“A singular harmonic convergence is recounted in Music Makes A City, Owsley Brown III and Jerome Hiler’s enlightening documentary about how Louisville, KY., became a locus for contemporary music in the mid-20th century. In striking synchronicity, a mayor, a conductor, and a robust postwar generation of composers intersected to make the city a hub for visionary composition” New York Times
On May 23, Music Makes a City, will be released on DVD. The feature-length documentary film tells a tale of civic aspiration, cultural ingenuity and how Louisville, Kentucky became the world's unlikely capital of new music in the 1950s. According to Sedgwick Clark, of MusicalAmerica.com, “anyone interested in classical music should see this uplifting story of American ingenuity at its best.”
In 1948, a small, struggling, semi-professional orchestra in Louisville, Kentucky began a novel project to commission new works from contemporary composers around the world. The project grew far beyond anyone's expectations. In 1953, the orchestra received an unprecedented $400,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to commission 52 compositions a year for three years. The new works were to be performed in weekly concerts and recorded for sale by subscription. The architect of this ambitious artistic venture was Louisville Mayor Charles Farnsley who had a deep love of cultural expressions of all kinds as well as boundless enthusiasm and an inexhaustible bank of new ideas. Farnsley, professing to be guided by the philosophical principles of the Chinese sage Confucius, found a willing partner for his plans in Robert Whitney, the young conductor who had arrived in Louisville in 1937 to lead the fledgling orchestra. Over the years, nearly every living composer of note would be commissioned and recorded by the Louisville Orchestra.
Music Makes a City is a wonderful weave of archival footage and anecdotes from veteran Louisville musicians and civic figures. The film features interviews with some of the project’s key participants: iconic American composers Ned Rorem, Lukas Foss, Chou Wen-chung, Harold Shapero and Elliott Carter – the last of whom gave an extensive interview (at the age of 100) expressly for the documentary, recalling his experience of composing for Louisville a piece that remains one of his most popular: 1955's Variations for Orchestra.
Runing time 100 minutes + over 2 hours of features with composers, musicians and related personalities.
“The narrative begins slowly...but once the commissioning programme begins (1947), you're happily in the film's grip...Suavely produced, the film's value is magnified by the two hours of DVD extras, including further reminiscences from the American musicians and composers. Carter is very good-humoured; Schuller is sensible. Best of all is the garrulous Harold Shapero - a rising neo-classical star in the 1940s”
The Arts Desk
29th October 2011
“Owsley Brown III and Jerome Hiler’s film is a delight – an unfussy, informative documentary with a fascinating narrative. There are no dramatic reconstructions, no trendy graphics; the only vaguely contemporary note is having Louisville’s Will Oldham (better known as Bonnie Prince Billy) narrating...And do watch the bonus footage of Elliott Carter on the bonus DVD; I can only hope that I’ll be as articulate should I ever reach 100.”
“an interesting tale that unfolds at a leisurely pace...[The] music provides an almost continuous soundtrack, with some lengthier excerpts illustrated by sensitively edited footage of the Ohio River.”