The Salt Lake City Public Library and Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) will host noted music historian Michael Lasser for two separate lectures in early November.
The talks are free and open to the public and will encourage attendees, according to Library officials, "to experience America through the revealing sounds and inspiring music of key historical moments. Each lecture will provide unique content connected to visual art exhibitions at both venues."
Lasser is a lecturer, writer, broadcaster, critic and teacher. He is co-author of the recent book, America’s Songs: The Stories Behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley, along with author Phillip Furia. Since 1980 he has been the host of the nationally syndicated public radio show, Fascinatin’ Rhythm, winner of a 1994 Peabody Award. He is currently preparing a 2-CD set of the early songs of Irving Berlin and is working on a new book, The Song Is Us: Love, Lyrics & American Life, 1900-1950.
Nov. 5: “Till We Meet Again: The Songs of World War I” at Salt Lake City’s Main Library
At 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 5, Lasser will present the lecture, “Till We Meet Again: The Songs of World War I” at Salt Lake City’s Main Library.
Songs written between 1914 and 1917 reveal distinct changes in values, beliefs and attitudes of the time. Lasser will discuss these shifts using a variety of examples, from the song “I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier” to heart wrenching love ballads about separation to the abruptly different sound of music at the end of World War I.
Lasser’s lecture is presented in conjunction with the Main Library’s Winds and Words of War exhibition in the Gallery at Library Square. On view through November 30, this exhibition comprises significant World War I posters and prints from the San Antonio Public Library Collection. Winds and Words of War is made possible through the support of the San Antonio Public Library Foundation; the Stumberg Foundation, San Antonio, Texas; the Tobin Endowment, San Antonio, Texas; the City of San Antonio Veteran's Affairs Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, D.C.
Nov. 6: “Let’s Go Slumming, Nose-Thumbing at Park Avenue” at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts
At 1 p.m. on Sunday, November 6, Lasser will present the talk, “Let’s Go Slumming, Nose-Thumbing at Park Avenue” in the Katherine W. and Ezekiel R. Dumke, Jr. Auditorium at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. This program is funded by the American Express Charitable Fund. A signing of Lasser’s book, America’s Songs: The Stories Behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley, will follow the lecture.
In this talk, Lasser will examine popular songs written during the Great Depression in America. Tin Pan Alley cranked out its full quota of love songs during the darkest days of the era, but there were also popular tunes about unemployment and social unrest. Songs ranged from the desperate confusion of “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” to the insistently optimistic “Happy Days Are Here Again” to the satiric “Let’s Have Another Cup of Coffee.” Even “Over the Rainbow” was a quintessential Depression anthem.
“Let’s Go Slumming, Nose-Thumbing at Park Avenue” is presented in conjunction with LeConte Stewart: Depression Era Art, currently on view at the UMFA. The exhibition showcases more than 100 defining works created during the 1930s, when beloved Utah artist LeConte Stewart painted the “raw side of life.” Stripped to the essential, paintings from this period evoke the loss felt by the entire nation. The UMFA thanks exhibition sponsors the S.J. and Jessie E. Quinney Foundation and the Ray, Quinney & Nebeker Foundation. A companion exhibition, LeConte Stewart: The Soul of Rural Utah, is currently on view at the LDS Church History Museum in Salt Lake City.