AMS - Library of Congress Lecture Series

The American Musicological Society and the Music Division of the Library of Congress are pleased to present a series of lectures highlighting musicological research conducted in the Division’s collections.

Upcoming Lectures

On paper George Gershwin remains the sole “composer” for Rhapsody in Blue, but the compositional history and cultural iconicity of the work emerges only over time and through the contributions of a multitude of musicians, specifically arrangers. Using documents held in the Music Division of the Library of Congress, my talk begins with an exploration of the complex creative origins of the work. A newly considered fair-copy manuscript recasts our understanding of the compositional contributions of arranger Ferde Grofé to the Rhapsody—a debate that has occupied critics and scholars since the Rhapsody’s 1924 premiere. This source document affords insight into the individual creative processes of Gershwin and Grofé, their collaboration, and the significantly larger role of Grofé in the genesis of the work. It also establishes the Rhapsody as an arrangement from its point of origin. The second part of my talk illuminates the ongoing contributions of Grofé and countless other arrangers to the Rhapsody into the present day. In particular, I focus on the role of a little-known arrangement prepared for summer camp musicians by a teenaged Leonard Bernstein—also a part of the Music Division holdings—on the larger reception of Rhapsody in Blue. Ultimately, this talk elucidates the significant role of musicians beyond Gershwin in the lifespan of the Rhapsody, prompting the question of who is ultimately responsible for one of the best-known “compositions” of the twentieth century.

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Past Lectures

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