I’m very pleased to share that Oxford University Press has selected my post on United Airlines and Rhapsody in Blue for their “Best of Blog” eBook.   The publication celebrates their 34 favorite (out of 8000+) posts over the past 10 years of the blog’s existence.

Anna-Lise Santella, Senior Editor for Music Reference at OUP wrote the very generous introduction to my essay:

Ryan’s blog post is a microcosm of his book Arranging Gershwin, which explores ways in which arrangements of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue define and redefine nationalist associations, taking it from a New York soundscape to an American icon to a corporate logo to an international anthem. Like most of my favorite posts on the OUPblog, Ryan discusses a work familiar to many and points out aspects you might not have noticed, broadening your interpretation and enriching your experience of the work.

See all the other selections, as well as find out how to acquire the free eBook at: http://blog.oup.com/2015/07/best-oupblog-articles-ten-years

UC Berkeley talk and some nice mentions

Three brief items of note:

1) On Friday, May 1, 2015 I’ll be giving a talk at UC Berkeley as part of their Music Studies Colloquium.  The title of the talk is: “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed: Rhapsody in Blue.”  Morrison Hall, 4:30 pm.

2) In an interview with Music Tomes about his recently released The Country Music Reader, my all-around respected colleague, Dr. Travis Stimeling had a few nice things to say about Arranging Gershwin:

Ryan Banagale’s Arranging Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue and the Creation of an American Icon is a remarkable work of reception history that presents a treasure trove of new archival evidence to demonstrate how musicians have constantly arranged and rearranged Rhapsody in Blue to suit their specific musical, economic, and social purposes.

3) In the May 2015 issue of Jersey Jazz,  Jazz historian, Donald Clarke, provided a nice write-up of the book–including reference to a performance of an Ellington arrangement of the piece that I prepared several years ago:

Bañagale’s book tells the whole story of everything the piece has been through, from the first Whiteman recording to United Airline’s use of it in their commercials, including Larry Adler playing it on the harmonica and Woody Allen and even Disney using it in movies. There are musical illustrations and analyses of arrangements, but even if you don’t know much about the nuts and bolts of music (like me) the book is fascinating. Duke Ellington played two arrangements of “Rhapsody In Blue” — the second, in 1967, was probably by Strayhorn; the first, in 1932, was never recorded, but the arrangement still exists and was performed in 2009 by the Harvard Dudley House Big Band, with Bañagale on piano.

First Amazon Review: “Splendid — solid research, imaginatively elaborated”

I recently received my first Amazon review and it is a real stunner:  Five Stars!

It begins as follows:

THE last word on Rhapsody in Blue. Written for non-music-techies and the general public alike, Banagale traces the route of the Rhapsody from novelty to iconic piece of Americana. It’s a combination of history, musical analysis, and really imaginative research.

You can read the review in full here.

I have no idea who the reviewer is, but they are apparently a member of “Vine Voice,” a program created by Amazon to “provide customers with more information including honest and unbiased feedback from some of Amazon’s most trusted reviewers.”  Lucky for me he liked the book!

I welcome additional reviews and feedback here, on Amazon, or wherever else readers may wish to share their thoughts, splendid or otherwise!

Write-up in The Boston Globe

Matthew Guerrieri, author of the excellent, The First Four Notes: Beethoven’s Fifth and the Human Imagination, included a nice write-up of the book in today’s issue of The Boston Globe as part of a concert preview for a performance of the Rhapsody this weekend.  It can be read in its entirety here.

Or, here is the excerpt that draws on the book:

In fact, one distinctive aspect of “Rhapsody in Blue” is the impossibility of definitively pinning it down. The most commonly performed versions — the piano duet, Gershwin’s later arrangement for piano solo, Grofé’s jazz-band arrangement, and his 1942 version for full orchestra — differ in ways small and large. Such fluidity was introduced even as “Rhapsody” was being written. Ryan Raul Bañagale, in his 2014 study “Arranging Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue and the Creation of an American Icon,” analyzed a previously overlooked source — the ink copy of Gershwin’s two-piano score, from which Grofé worked — finding that, as copyists transferred Gershwin’s pencil manuscript into ink, Gershwin himself would step in, making further revisions and emendations while continuing to compose.

Bañagale goes on to survey the work’s mutable adapted afterlife: interpretations by Hollywood and Leonard Bernstein, arrangements by Duke Ellington and for harmonica player Larry Adler, appropriations by Woody Allen and United Airlines. Even academic treatment of the piece has changed, tracking the evolution of Gershwin biography: When the dominant image of Gershwin was that of a prodigious but unschooled and naive talent (an image Gershwin himself abetted), “Rhapsody” was considered little more than an effective potpourri of pop themes (Bernstein himself notoriously described it as “a string of paragraphs stuck together”). More recent studies, by Arthur Maisel and Susan Neimoyer, for instance, have emphasized the piece’s ambitious intent and structural unity, reflecting increasing evidence that Gershwin knew (and studied) more than he let on. It illustrates what Bañagale calls the work’s “inherent malleability” — and suggests the possibility that the multiplicity seeded in “Rhapsody in Blue” from the beginning helped make it a uniquely American icon. Like the country, the work is both brashly evident and purposefully protean.

Fall Talks 2014

Hello All,

In the hubbub that followed the official release of the book, I neglected to post about my talks at University of Michigan, Princeton University, and the Oxford University Press headquarters in New York City.  Each of these were outstanding opportunities to share my work with a broader audience.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my time at U Mich coincided with the premiere of the draft of my critical edition score of the first Grofé arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue.  It was an incredible thrill to introduce this piece to the 3000+ members of the audience as well as to hear the solo performed on one of Gershwin’s own grand pianos.

The talk at Princeton was equally as enjoyable.  This was my first trip to the campus and it really was stunning, especially amidst the fall foliage.  The talk was for a group of graduate students and faculty.  I particularly liked the more informal conversation about academic life with the students that followed the talk.  I was as surprised as anyone that I made the “Featured Events” section on the university’s homepage:

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The best part about talking at the OUP headquarters was the opportunity to meet in person the many many many people that helped bring this book to publication.  This was a lunchtime talk to an eager and attentive audience of staff members from all levels and divisions of the press.  After the talk, a rousing set of questions was followed by a book signing–both are always so much fun!

Book Release Party

If you happen to find yourself in the Colorado Springs area next Wednesday (October 8, 2014), I hope you’ll join me for party to celebrate the official release of the book.  This will take place in Packard Hall on the Colorado College campus at 4pm.

I will give a short talk on the book as a whole (no more than 20 minutes!) and then the reception will begin.  Copies of the book will be available for the rock-bottom price of $10–and I’ll sign it for free. 🙂

More information can be found here.

Rhapsody in Michigan

Next Friday, October 10th, I will be participating in a special event at University of Michigan.  One of Gershwin’s own grand pianos has been donated to the school of music.  There will be a dedication concert that evening (8:30 pm), preceded by a pre-concert talk (7:30 pm) given by myself and Gershwin guru, Richard Crawford.

Here is a short video on the instrument itself, which features the pianist (Gil Scott Chapman) who will perform Rhapsody in Blue–in a newly prepared edition (by yours truly):

In addition to the concert and pre-concert talk, I will be participating on a panel discussion (2:30 pm).  As the Gershwin Initiative website reveals, I’ll be amongst great company:

Join members of the families of George and Ira Gershwin, and Gershwin experts, for a discussion of America’s legendary composer/lyricist duo. Participants include Marc George Gershwin, Todd Gershwin, Mike and Jean Strunsky, Ryan Banagale, Mark Clague, and Robert Grijalva.

If you are in the vicinity, I hope you’ll come by and say hello!