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Tin Pan Alley’s “Hawaiian Craze” of 1916

In 1916, during Tin Pan Alley’s “Hawaiian Craze”, Mele Kalikimaka was indeed the thing to say!  George Gershwin spent his teenage years, from 1914-1917, cutting his teeth as a song plugger for the publisher Jerome H. Remick & Co. in Tin Pan Alley.  In the early twentieth century, Tin Pan Alley was the hotbed of American popular song composition, churning out hit after hit by composers Gershwin admired. Many successful composers, like Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern, had similarly begun their careers as song pluggers or house pianists. Tin Pan Alley songs are notorious for their use and appropriation of […]

The Blues in Spring: Gershwin’s Rhapsody and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring

Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was a smashing success, even though many musicians and critics were aware of its composer’s inexperience writing more substantial orchestral works. So what might its warm reception be attributed to? More often than not, context is everything. . . Rhapsody in Blue has been memorialized as the piece in which George Gershwin broke the mold by merging popular idioms with an exploration of art music’s longer and more substantial form. What many don’t realize, however, is that his premiere’s considerable success may have largely been thanks to its timing, for when should Rhapsody in Blue have […]

Gershwin & Counterpoint: Jazzing It Up

Intent on studying the art of composition, Gershwin sought out lessons in harmony, orchestration, and counterpoint from some of the renowned composers of his time. What did some of those lessons really look like? George Gershwin may have been determined to develop into a well-rounded composer, but his path was by no means easy. His early career in popular songwriting and explorations of jazz made learning the notoriously strict rules of counterpoint and harmony tedious at best. Gershwin’s one-time teacher Henry Cowell recalled that the young composer “thought the rules of counterpoint were just about the silliest things he had […]

George Gershwin, Futurist Composer?

George Gershwin’s career was concurrent with several bold Modernist movements, one of which was Futurism. On December 4, 1926, composer and movement had a moment of overlap, as Gershwin premiered his piano preludes at a “futurist” recital. Was this “futurist” concert just a bit of press hype, or did Gershwin really belong in this group of composers? By Sarah Sisk George Gershwin, composer: modern, daring, innovative, bursting with new traditions for a new age of music. But did that make him a Futurist? The headline for a December 5, 1926 New York Times review concerning a recital at Roosevelt Hall […]

Fascinating Woman: George Gershwin’s Friend, Lady Mountbatten

George Gershwin rubbed elbows with some interesting personalities throughout his rise to stardom. Few, however, were quite as compelling as the London socialite and heiress, Lady Edwina Mountbatten. By Sarah Sisk It was 1925, and a particular Gershwin tune was looking to be in pretty sad shape. “The Man I Love,” a George-and-Ira collaboration, began life as a misfit a few years prior. It eventually found a home in their 1924 musical Lady Be Good!, only to be promptly dropped due to lack of audience response. But “The Man I Love” was soon gifted a second chance when a friend […]

An Introduction to An American in Paris

An American in Paris: The George and Ira Gershwin Critical Edition from U-M Music, Theatre & Dance on Vimeo. Love An American in Paris? Check out this new video from the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance and the Gershwin Initiative about our new critical edition!

Behind the Critical Edition: What Does The Gershwin Initiative Do?

You’ve seen us hard at work on Instagram and Facebook, and may have even heard a recent test performance or a premiere of one of our critical editions. But what exactly does the Gershwin Initiative do? Today, we talk about the behind-the-scenes work of creating a critical edition that’s both scholarly and playable. By Allison Chu     The Gershwin Initiative is an ongoing scholarly effort charged with creating the first critical editions of George and Ira Gershwin’s works. Typical editions of a musical work may have changes that are rarely explained or made explicit, and may be made without consideration […]

An American and Hairless

In 1937, George Gershwin bought himself a Crosley XᐧERᐧVAC, the latest mechanized innovation in hair-growth technology. Indeed, he had always been interested in trying out “new principles.” This appetite for the cutting-edge may have gotten him a name as a modern and uniquely American composer, but it had little effect on his receding hair line. By Ellen Sauer On April 20th, 1937, George Gershwin mentioned a strange device in a letter to his dear friend Mabel Schirmer: “I am lying comfortable on a chaise lounge with a new gadget, which I have just bought, on my head. You would probably […]

Second-Rate Rhapsody

Unrefined brilliance may be a thousand times more striking than uninspired finesse, but such realities are not always obvious to the artist at work. How did George Gershwin’s opinions of his Second Rhapsody measure up to those of the public? Read on to find out! By Cassidy Goldblatt “Second-rate: adj., of mediocre or inferior quality.” Applied to George Gershwin’s Second Rhapsody (1931), it’s only a halfway accurate description, applicable more to public sentiment than to the work’s compositional coherence. George described the piece as, “in many respects, such as orchestration and form, . . . the best thing I’ve written,” […]

“But Not For Me” On The Silver Screen

Did you know that “But Not for Me” has been used in many popular films? This song was originally written by George and Ira Gershwin for the 1930 musical Girl Crazy and sung by Ginger Rogers. Judy Garland later sang “But Not for Me” in the 1943 film adaptation of Girl Crazy. Ella Fitzgerald also recorded a cover of this song for her album Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Songbook. Her rendition took home the 1960 Grammy Award for Best Female Vocal Performance. “But Not for Me” has also been featured in many popular movies, including Manhattan (1979), […]

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