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America's Music: A Film History of Our Popular Music from Blues to Bluegrass to Broadway: Country & Bluegrass

Your Project Scholar

 Richard Mook, Ph.D.

Contact Info

Arizona State University
Herberger Institute
for Design and the Arts
School of Music

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Printable Essay: Country and Bluegrass

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Session 3

Saturday, October 19, 1 p.m.
Maricopa County Library District
Southeast Regional Library, Assembly Room
 775 N. Greenfield Rd., Gilbert, AZ 85234



Featured Film

Country and Bluegrass
Traces the emergence of bluegrass from Appalachian descendants of Scotch-Irish settlers into a popular subgenre of country music.
Film: High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music
Rachel Liebling, 1994

Film Discussion Points

1. What are some of the traditional values celebrated in bluegrass music? What musical traditions shaped its origins? How did the music change as the rural South became more industrialized? What other cultures and musical traditions influenced bluegrass as it developed?
2. Why do you think “lonesome” is such an important concept in bluegrass music—its sound, its lyrics and its packaging?
3. Why would you want a new musical form to come across as old?
4. As rural folk made their way to cities for work, pushed out by harsh conditions and attracted by the promise of a better life, they idealized the life they left behind.
How is work represented in bluegrass songs? What sorts of jobs tend to be portrayed? How do the narrators feel about their work? In addition to work, what other themes are often heard in bluegrass songs? What historical events might these be connected to?
5. Bluegrass musicians sought musical innovation and seldom hesitated to re-tool older music into new form. What are the most important instruments in bluegrass? Where did they come from? What does their union represent?
6. How did the development of communications technology (first the phonograph, then the radio and later television) affect the growth of bluegrass music? How did it impact the career of Bill Monroe?
7. What was the earliest audience for bluegrass performances? How about later bluegrass performances? Were these audiences the same people? What diverse groups does bluegrass appeal to now?

Your Librarian

Christopher Mehrens's picture
Christopher Mehrens
Music Library



Printable Film Discussion Points: Country and Bluegrass

America's Music

“America’s Music: A Film History of Our Popular Music from Blues to Bluegrass to Broadway” is a project by the Tribeca Film Institute in collaboration with the American Library Association, Tribeca Flashpoint, and the Society for American Music.  “America’s Music” has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor.

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