The Twenties’ Roaring: Deafening Developments in Classical and Popular Music and a Century’s Societal Reverberations
Dr. Nadine Hubbs, Professor of Women’s Studies and Music, University of Michigan
In phrases like Roaring Twenties and Jazz Age, we recall the U.S. 1920s as a racially, socially, and sonically charged moment. In addition to the global ascent of American jazz, this era saw the rise of gay composers in U.S. concert music and the racial segregation of working-class southern music by the dawning U.S. music industry, via “race" (R&B) and "old-time" (country) marketing categories. What produced these potent social-sonic conjunctures, and how do they continue to resonate in our own time?
Black & Tan Fantasies or Harlem Realities?: African American Popular Dance and Early Sound Film
Dr. Christi Jay Wells, Assistant Professor of Musicology, Arizona State University
An exploration of three pivotal short films from 1929 that feature jazz music and African American social dance: "Black and Tan Fantasy" and "St. Louis Blues," which were vehicles for Duke Ellington and Bessie Smith respectively, as well as "After Seben" which features the first depiction of the lindy hop on film. The three provide a particularly poignant road map to the shifting urban geography of Harlem nightlife in the late 1920s as it influenced music and dance in spaces such as the Savoy Ballroom and the Cotton Club as well as informal "rent parties" held in residential spaces.
Theatre of Pleasure and Excess: Making Modern American Theatre
Dr. Harvey Young, Dean – College of Fine Arts, Boston University
The 1920s witnessed the evolution of an array of dynamic performance forms—vaudeville, variety shows, cabarets and musicals—that would serve as the foundation for a new American theatre. From Bert Williams to George Gershwin to Eugene O’Neill, innovators employed the stage to question ‘What it Means to be an American?’ in an increasingly global world. They also imagined the possibilities of a new century. Skillfully balancing serious topics with fun and whimsy, theatre makers transformed popular entertainment throughout the decade.
Dr. Nadine Hubbs is a professor of women’s studies and music and faculty associate in American culture, as well as director of the Lesbian-Gay-Queer Research Initiative (LGQRI) at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. Her research focuses on gender and queer studies, 20th- and 21st-century U.S. culture, and social class in popular and classical music. Her writings have treated topics including Leonard Bernstein, tonal modernism, 1970s disco, Morrissey, Radiohead, and country music. Hubbs’s award-winning first book, The Queer Composition of America’s Sound, asks how a circle of gay composers around Aaron Copland and Virgil Thomson managed to become architects of American identity during the nation’s most homophobic period. Her latest book, Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music, combines musicological, social, and historical perspectives on American country music to historicize and challenge current constructions of the working-class homophobe. She teaches women’s studies courses on gender, LGBTQ, and class studies, and on gender and sexuality in popular music.
Dr. Christopher J. "Christi Jay" Wells is assistant professor of musicology at Arizona State University's School of Music and affiliate faculty with ASU’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy. They received their PhD in musicology in 2014 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where their dissertation on drummer/bandleader Chick Webb and swing music in Harlem during the Great Depression received the Society for American Music’s Wiley Housewright Dissertation Award and UNC’s Glen Haydon Award for an Outstanding Dissertation in Musicology. They have also received Videmus’s Edgar A. Toppin Award for Outstanding Research in African American Music, a Morroe Berger/Benny Carter Jazz Research Fellowship from the Institute of Jazz Studies, and the Irving Lowens Article Award from the Society for American Music. A social jazz and blues dancer for over a decade, Wells is regularly a finalist (and occasionally a champion) in blues dance competitions and is a frequent lecturer and clinician at national and international events, having recently taught blues and jazz dance classes and lectured on dance history in Seoul, South Korea, and Hong Kong. Professor Wells is currently writing a book about the history of jazz music’s ever-shifting relationship with popular dance and has published in the journals Women & Music, Jazz & Culture, and Daedalus as well as providing multiple chapters on jazz dance history topics for the Oxford Handbook series.
Dr. Harvey Young’s research on the performance and experience of race has been widely published in academic journals, profiled in the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal and the Chronicle of Higher Education. As a commentator on popular culture, he has appeared on CNN, 20/20, and Good Morning America as well as within the pages of the New York Times, Vanity Fair and People. He has published seven books, including Embodying Black Experience, winner of “Book of the Year” awards from the National Communication Association and the American Society for Theatre Research. His forthcoming edited collection (with Megan Geigner) Theatre After Empire will be published in 2021. In January 2018, he became Dean of the College of Fine Arts at Boston University. Between 2002 and 2017, Dr. Young was a member of the faculty of Northwestern University, where he was Professor and Chair of Theatre and held appointments in African American Studies, Performance Studies, and Radio/Television/Film. He is Immediate Past President of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and has served as Trustee/Board Member of the African American Arts Alliance of Chicago, American Society for Theatre Research, Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra and Yale Club of Chicago. A former Harvard and Stanford fellow, Dr. Young graduated with honors from Yale and holds a M.A. from the University at Buffalo (SUNY) and a Ph.D. from Cornell.