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Arabesque Podcast cover

Audio Series: Arabesque: Music of the Arab World
A 3-part audio series that explores different aspects of Arab music: the musical instruments of the Arab World; what makes Arab music unique; and the styles of music in the Arab World
Africa, Geography, History, Musical Instruments, Music, World Cultures

Abraham Lincoln

Audio Series: Abraham Lincoln and Music
Abraham Lincoln was one of America's most unmusical presidents - he could neither play an instrument nor carry a tune
History, Music, Presidents, Theater, America, Opera, Musicals

Red curtain

Audio Series: Musical Theater in America
Through examples of the best that Broadway musicals have to offer, explore the history of musical theater in America; its structure and elements of a musical; musical theater's role in making social commentary, and its legacy.
Broadway, Musicals, America, Jobs in the Arts, History, Theater, Young Artists

Jazz In DC

Audio Series: Jazz in DC
Take a tour through jazz history in Washington, DC! Pianist Billy Taylor and saxophonist and flutist Frank Wess lead listeners through their hometown's music scene in this six-part audio series.
America, History, Jazz, Music, Geography, Art Venues, Music Legends

Greece

Audio Series: Music of Greece: Past is Present
Discover how incomplete fragments of papyrus and stone can provide clues to recreating music that has not been heard in thousands of years, explore the far-reaching influence that ancient Greece has had on modern music, and experience the numerous cultural and historical influences that have contributed to the music of today’s Greece.
Opera, Greece, History, Music, World Cultures, Musical Instruments

Violin head

Audio Series: Classical Music in America
Follow the course of classical music in America from colonial times to the present in a series of NPR podcasts.
History, Music, America, Composers, Orchestra

Audio Slideshow: Beethoven: Listening to Symphony No. 9
Part 4 of the Beethoven Rocks series: Ode to Joy
Musical Instruments, Music, Orchestra, History, Composers, Music Legends, Europe

Audio Slideshow: Beethoven: Listening to Symphony No. 6
Part 3 of the Beethoven Rocks series: The Pastoral
Musical Instruments, Music, Orchestra, History, Composers, Music Legends, Europe, Nature

Audio Slideshow: Beethoven Rocks!
Part 1 of the Beethoven Rocks series: Get to know Classical music's biggest star
Musical Instruments, Music, Orchestra, History, Composers, Music Legends, Europe

Audio Slideshow: Beethoven: Listening to Symphony No. 5
Part 2 of the Beethoven Rocks series: The Riff Heard ‘Round the World
Musical Instruments, Music, Orchestra, History, Europe, Composers, Music Legends

Marian Anderson singing at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, 1939

Audio: Marian Anderson: Of Thee We Sing
The road to racial equality was a long one and the battle for equality had many heroes; some of them made history just by opening their mouths to sing.
America, Controversial, History, Music Legends, Opera

Sputnik replica

Audio: Sputnik: Art/Space
The space age began on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik-the first artificial satellite. Around the world, millions of people tuned their radios to hear it beeping or waited outside to watch it pass overhead.
Music, Space, Science, History

voyager record

Audio: Voyager: Art/Space
There's music floating in Outer Space--two disks filled with songs that are floating out beyond the planets that are most distant to Earth. The disks are strapped to the sides of the Voyager probes which were launched to explore the outer edges of our galaxy and whatever lies beyond them.
Music, Space, Science, History, America

USA flag

Audio: Unpacking our National Anthem
Examine the history of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the countless ways it has been adapted by musicians
Military, Music, America, History

US Air Force buglar Jari Villanueva

Audio: Ceremonial Brass
Musicians have always played an important part in the military. This series explores not only the history of military music, but also the diverse ceremonial and entertainment roles of musicians in the military.
Jobs in the Arts, Military, Music, America, Musical Instruments, History

JFK in Berlin

Audio: Cultural Diplomacy
Even while the United States was entering the Cold War with the Soviet Union in 1961, the Kennedy administration strengthened their commitment to cultural diplomacy. This audio story highlights some of the important ways President Kennedy used the arts to help improve the image of the United States around the world.
Presidents, Music, Military, History, America, Europe

arts quote

Arts Quotes: George Jellinek
"The history of a people is found in its songs."
Music, History, Folklore

arts quote

Arts Quotes: John F. Kennedy
"We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth."
America, Controversial, History, Presidents

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Sir Winston Churchill
"We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us."
Architecture, History

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Marcus Aurelius
"Anything in any way beautiful derives its beauty from itself and asks nothing beyond itself."
History, Europe

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Ulysess S. Grant
"I know only two tunes; one of them is "Yankee Doodle", and the other isn't."
America, History, Music, Presidents

John Steinbeck

Arts Days: October 25, 1962: Voice of the Common Man
The Nobel Prize Committee was clear in its reasons for honoring American author John Steinbeck: “…for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humor and keen social perception.” When asked by a reporter whether he believed he deserved the Nobel Prize, Steinbeck said he did not.

His modesty notwithstanding, Steinbeck’s contributions to American literature is considerable. In works like The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and East of Eden, he captures in plainspoken language the trials and triumphs of his characters. The writer imagined men and women who sought to make better lives for themselves and their families; they struggled in demeaning, demanding jobs, and they coped with events like the Great Depression.
Literature, America, Folklore, Geography, History

Fiddler on the Roof

Arts Days: September 22, 1964: Mazel Tov! It’s a Hit!
It was just a simple story of a Russian Jew with five daughters, based on a book by Joseph Stein. But thanks to Jerry Bock’s music, Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics, and Zero Mostel’s unforgettable turn as Tevye the milkman, Fiddler on the Roof became one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals. Tevye tries hard to preserve the traditions of his childhood, but as his daughters grow up, fall in love, and leave the family’s village, he struggles to accept change.

In songs like “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset,” Tevye’s family’s life is recounted with both hilarity and poignancy. Fiddler would go on to be the first musical to break the 3,000-performance mark on Broadway.
Broadway, Musicals, Europe, Folklore, History, Theater, World Cultures

Francis Scott Key standing on ship

Arts Days: September 14, 1814: O Say Can You Sing?
Key was watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore by the British when he wrote a poem he called “Defence of Fort McHenry.” An important battle in the War of 1812 was raging, and Key was among those aboard American ships in the Chesapeake Bay. Rockets rained down all night on the fort, and Key wondered whose flag would be flying in the morning light.

Imagine his relief to see that “Star-Spangled Banner” waving above the fort the next day—tattered but proud. The poem was set to an existing tune and printed in several newspapers. It became very popular and was often played at public events. In 1931, President Hoover signed a law designating the song as our national anthem.
America, History, Military, Music, Poetry

Cave Painting of a Horse

Arts Days: September 12, 1940: The Writing on the Wall
Estimated to be about 16,000 years old, the paintings in a network of caves found by four teenage boys are rare examples of art from the Upper Paleolithic era. Here in a region called Lascaux, hundreds of painted animals are visible on the caves’ walls, ranging from bison to stags to horses.

There are also geometric figures and patterns of dots that some say correlate with constellations. Some of the paintings show a sophisticated grasp of concepts like perspective and depth, too. Art historians say that the paintings indicate some of our oldest ancestors’ ability to express themselves in art.
Folklore, Geography, History, Europe, Visual Arts, World Cultures

Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind

Arts Days: August 24, 1938: Gable Becomes a Goner
It’s said that actor Clark Gable didn’t even want to play Rhett Butler—the very role with which he will forever be synonymous. This Hollywood heartthrob of the 1930s was the person the film’s producer David O. Selznick wanted to play Butler from the start, but it took Gary Cooper turning down the role for Gable to become a serious contender.

Gable had starred in successful films like Mutiny on the Bounty and It Happened One Night, but Gone With… forever cemented him in the public’s mind as a leading man without peer: dashing, handsome, sophisticated.

The epic Civil War drama, based on the book of the same name by Margaret Mitchell, is routinely cited as one of the greatest movies of all time.
Movies & Movie Stars, Literature, America, History

Schindler's List

Arts Days: December 15, 1993: Angel in the Darkness
People who went to see director Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List were surprised to find the movie about the Holocaust was filmed in black and white. But the surprise gave way to deep emotion as the story unfolded. Spielberg wanted to shine a light on the little known story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman active in the Nazi party, who saved as many as 1,100 Jewish people from death in German concentration camps by hiring them to work in his factories.

Actor Liam Neeson brought Schindler's character to life on screen, and the film went on to win seven Academy Awards®, including Best Picture and Best Director. The movie—including its final scene, in which real-life people saved by Schindler’s actions, place rocks upon his grave—is deeply moving and has captured the attentions of millions of viewers worldwide.
Movies & Movie Stars, History, Controversial, Europe, Military, Tragedy

Fox Film using Movietone

Arts Days: July 23, 1926: Breaking the Sound Barrier
It only costs $60,000 to turn the page in the movie industry. That was the amount the Fox Film Corporation plunked down to buy the equipment to record sound onto film. Noises like bells ringing, car horns beeping, or birds squawking could be added with this kind of technology. This Movietone sound system created a sound track that matched the visual “track” of the film.

The first movie produced this way was in 1927. Though it was the first commercial film released with music and sound effects (like a trolley car rumbling by) to accompany the action, the actors spoke just a few words, none of them synchronized to the soundtrack. The technology that supported that kind of synchronization would come later.
Movies & Movie Stars, History, Art Venues

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Arts Days: March 20, 1852: The Little Lady's Big Book
During the entire 19th century, only one book sold more copies than the Bible. That book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly, changed countless minds about the then-accepted practice of slavery or forcing people against their will to perform manual labor in Europe and the United States. Author Harriett Beecher Stowe was a preacher and an abolitionist: someone who believed that slavery was immoral and worked to end it everywhere.

Her book contains the message that Christian love can overcome the evils of slavery, which had such an impact on readers that it’s widely considered to have advanced the long-simmering feud between the northern and southern states toward the Civil War. In fact, when Abraham Lincoln met Stowe at the time the fighting began, he is reported to have said, “So this is the little lady who made this big war.” The power of Stowe’s words helped dismantle the cruelty of slavery.
America, History, Literature, Controversial

Masks

Arts Days: March 05, 984 B.C.E.: Party Hearty
If you ever go back in time, ask the ancient Greeks to throw you a crazy party.  For example, the Greeks spent every spring celebrating their god of fertility, Dionysus, in a festival called—you guessed it—the Dionysia, which was especially big in Athens. Entire towns would drop everything to dance, tell stories, and drink lots of wine.

Somewhere along the way, a man named Thespis thought it would interesting to act out the stories that were always told at these gatherings; he is thought to be the first person to ever appear on a stage pretending to be someone else and speaking lines of a play. In other words, he may well have been history’s first actor, though we will never know for sure. In time, the Dionysia was a place where both sad plays (tragedies) and funny ones (comedies) were performed for and enjoyed by a crowd of thousands.
Greece, Theater, Tragedy, History, Geography

Uncle Sam

Arts Days: March 13, 1852: Say Uncle
Within the printed pages of the daily New York Lantern, a certain patriotic fellow made his debut on this day. You know the guy: wears a tall hat printed with stars, a pair of red-and-white striped pants, a white beard, a somber expression. Give up? We’re talking about Uncle Sam, who in editorial cartoons and advertisements over the years has come to be the personification of the United States. Here’s the back-story: A man named Frank Henry Temple Bellew was the first to draw Uncle Sam for the Lantern.

Bellew’s drawing was based on a real person named Samuel Wilson, who helped feed U.S. troops during the War of 1812 with meat packed in barrels bearing the initials “U.S.” It was meant to indicate government property, but the folks unloading the beef joked about “Uncle Sam’s” latest shipment. Later, a political cartoonist named Thomas Nast conceived of the stars-and-stripes outfit in which we are most accustomed to seeing Uncle Sam today.
America, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Folklore, History, Military

King David Kalakaua

Arts Days: February 12, 1874: The King of Aloha
Before Hawaii became America’s 50th state, it was a monarchy ruled by King David Kalakaua I. Kalakaua is credited with helping to revive and support Hawaiian art forms like hula dancing; instruments like the ukelele; and martial arts, like Lua.

You see, some religious missionaries on the Islands thought these activities were improper. They had spent years before Kalakaua was elected to the throne trying to suppress various elements of Hawaiian culture, including its languages and art customs—even surfing!

But Kalakaua believed that these traditions and activities were important for native Hawaiians to learn, enjoy, and share with others to help keep Hawaii’s unique cultural history alive.  For his efforts, he was nicknamed “the Merrie Monarch.”
Dance, America, Geography, History, Musical Instruments, Music, Folklore, World Cultures

Roots

Arts Days: January 23, 1977: Rooted in Front of the TV
Nearly 100 million television viewers tuned in to ABC's Roots, a miniseries based on the autobiographical novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley.

Roots traces four generations of Haley's African American family, beginning in 1767 with the character Kunta Kinte, who is captured by slave traders in Gambia, Africa, to the author himself in 20th century America.

The show ran for eight consecutive days and became the most watched program in American television history, captivating audiences across all racial, gender, and ethnic lines. This landmark television event has been called "the single most spectacular educational experience in race relations in America."
Innovators & Pioneers, Television, Popular Culture, Africa, Geography, History, Literature

Arthur Miller

Arts Days: June 21, 1956: Just Said “No”
Sitting in the hot seat before the U.S. Congress’ House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), playwright Arthur Miller was pressed to reveal his alleged ties to Communists. Or at least to name people Miller considered sympathetic to Communism and the Soviet Union.

Miller’s 1953 play The Crucible, ostensibly about the 17th century Salem witch trials, raised eyebrows among senators like Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy was also suspicious of where Miller’s sympathies lay, knowing that the playwright had attended several meetings of the Communist party in the 1940s. McCarthy and others were on high alert for Communists thought to have infiltrated the government, the arts, and other institutions in the U.S.

Miller, one of numerous writers, actors, and others suspected of having Communist ties, refused to identify anyone and was ultimately convicted of holding Congress in contempt.
Controversial, Playwrights & Plays, History, Theater

Kodachrome

Arts Days: June 22, 2009: Photo Finish
Kodachrome was the favored film of many a photographer over the course of its 74-year history, but it simply could not compete with the rise of today’s digital media and development. When the company pulled the plug on Kodachrome, it accounted for only one percent of sales of all the film Kodak sold. Until then, it had been famous for the richness of color it imparted to photos and for the ability of images to retain their deep hues, even decades after they had been taken.

However, using the film meant you had to engage in a special, complex development process, or hire someone to do it for you, which made using Kodachrome more expensive for the photographer than other types of film. Still, many thought the extra cost was worth it.
Visual Arts, Inventions, History

Jester Sommers

Arts Days: June 15, 1560 : A Motley Fool
When you’re the guy charged with making the King of England laugh, you’d better bring your A-game to work every day (the king was known for ordering jail time or even execution for pals, servants, and wives who displeased him).

Jester William Sommers evidently knew how to tickle the king’s funny bone by entertaining him with jokes, stunts, and gossip. The court jester’s role was part stand-up comedian, part confidante; a good “fool” could also share bad news with the monarch that no one dared to for fear of being punished. It’s believed that Sommers had, by royal decree, a lot of leeway with Henry VIII. You see, he might be performing a skit for the king, but would tuck in a useful tidbit, sometimes in the form of a riddle, about something going on behind the king’s back.
Comedy, History

Anne Frank

Arts Days: June 12, 1942: History in Her Own Words
Anne Frank’s diary, kept while her family was in hiding from the Nazis during World War II, is one of the most heartbreaking narratives to emerge from the Holocaust. Her journal is by turns funny, sad, and hopeful.

She received the diary on this day, her 13th birthday, and immediately began recording her innermost thoughts, as well as the astonishing story of her family’s hidden apartment in a building in Amsterdam. Through the unbearable tension of nearly two years, when the hidden occupants had to stay utterly quiet so the workers below would not grow suspicious, Anne Frank’s diary was a rare source of comfort for her.

She and her family were discovered in August 1944; all but her father perished in Nazi concentration camps.
History, Literature, Europe, Playwrights & Plays, Theater

Selma

2700 F St.: Selma: A Film and Live Music Event with the NSO, Jason Moran, and Others
Experience Ava DuVernay’s film on a big screen with Jason Moran’s acclaimed score for the film performed live by a full orchestra conducted by Ryan McAdams. This event coincides with the one-year anniversary of the opening of the National Museum of African American History & Culture.
Music, History, America

Bernstein! Inside the Music

Multimedia Series: NSO Young People's Concert - Bernstein! Inside the Music
As an equally-famous conductor, composer, and musician, Leonard Bernstein not only conducted music by the world’s greatest composers, he also wrote many important works for orchestras.
Composers, History, Musical Instruments, Music, Orchestra, Music Legends

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