When I learned that Smokey Robinson would be the next recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, I was thrilled.
The Gershwin Prize honors a living musical artist’s lifetime achievement in promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of cultural understanding; entertaining and informing audiences; and inspiring new generations.
I first stumbled across an image of Tom Wiggins when looking for images of African Americans during the Civil War, but I didn’t pay much attention to him until two days later when I saw the same piece of sheet music displayed at the National Portrait Gallery.
When I came across the Library’s digitized Audubon prints, I began to think about the many ways a teacher could use the same images in other fields.
Folklife – songs, stories, jokes, crafts, and dances which have been handed down from generation to generation – are the unwritten history of the American people, and they help us understand what it is like to belong to a group, whether that group is a family, an ethnic group, a regional group, or a group of workers in the same occupation.
One of the biggest reasons I love working at the Library of Congress is that my curiosity is sparked on a daily basis. Most recently, I have been fascinated by the music manuscripts of the early American composer Anthony Philip Heinrich (1781-1861). He was one of the first professional composers in the United States and was known as the “Beethoven of America.”
Throughout history, music has been used for celebrations and for memorial events; to sway opinion or highlight a specific point of view; or to encourage people to vote for a particular political candidate.
The strategy of reading portraiture encourages the visual analysis of a piece of art, similar to closely reading a document. The visual clues found in portraiture may be decoded to learn about the individual featured in the artwork.
It is difficult to miss talk of the upcoming presidential election. Speeches, debates, and soundbites fill television screens, newspapers, and websites. But unless you attend a live event for a presidential nominee, you may not hear his or her campaign song, typically a familiar, popular song selected to shape how voters perceive the candidate. Campaign songs from long ago, original scores or popular songs with rewritten lyrics, did the same.
Why is something funny? Comedy stories can often be a reflection of an aspect of society. These simple narratives often present us with a funny scenario while social commentary lies underneath.
Enduring themes, characters, and images from Shakespeare’s writing have long been woven into the fabric of other media and popular culture. Examining relevant primary sources from the collections of the Library of Congress may strengthen student connections to a particular work.