2011 Rock and Roll Night School

Season 7

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Women Who Rock: Exploration and Exhibition

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power is the first exhibit of its kind to explore the history of women in rock and roll. This Rock and Roll Night School, the first of a multi-part series, will provide an overview of the exhibit and introduce key issues concerning the history of women in rock and roll: What roles have women played in the music industry, and how have these roles changed throughout the history of rock and roll?  How have women artists pushed the boundaries of what was considered an “acceptable” musical sound in their performances?  How do the lyrics of rock and roll frequently objectify women, or conversely allow for a space to exercise a new voice and political action?  How do women choose to visually represent themselves through fashion and image?  And finally, how does the way that rock and roll history is typically told shape our understanding of women’s contributions throughout the twentieth century?  Throughout the series of classes, we will watch and listen to key performances and contextualize the music in the cultural, political and social changes of the times.
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The Big Bang: Women and the Birth of Rock and Roll

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Although many women performers came to prominence in the 1950s, women are not typically remembered as the instigators of rock and roll’s “big bang.”  While women performers  like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey were some of the most successful recording artists in the era before rock and roll, the early days of rock and roll are typically characterized by the rebellious exploits of male artists like Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley.  This class will explore the many women who were crucial to the rise of rock and roll including Ruth Brown, LaVern Baker, Wanda Jackson, Janis Martin, The Chantels, Etta James, and Big Mama Thornton – and consider how their musical sounds and performances contributed to the formation of rock and roll.
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Women Rock the 1960s

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

In the 1960s, the music and performances of women rockers paralleled the diverse and changing world around them. This Rock and Roll Night School will examine women musicians’ shifting roles within the music industry throughout 1960s America.  From the behind the scenes songwriting and polished performances of the girl groups early in the decade to the personal and authoritative sound of the singer-songwriters and counterculture rockers by the end of the sixties, artists like Carole King, Cynthia Weil, Ellie Greenwich, The Ronettes, The Supremes, The Crystals, The Shangri-Las, Grace Slick, Janis Joplin, and Joni Mitchell sought out new musical possibilities in the world of rock and roll and claimed it as their own. This class will consider sound, lyrics, and performances as evidence of the changing social and cultural standards for women in this dynamic time period.
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In the first of this series, we explored the roles that women played in the music industry, including that of legendary producer, Florence Greenberg.