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Author Topic: Ken Burns Country Music series in the works  (Read 607 times)

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Offline TenBrook

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Ken Burns Country Music series in the works
« on: May 29, 2018, 06:07:17 AM »
Hi all,
This weekend I stumbled on the news that Ken Burns is working on a multi-episode series on the history of Country music.

There's more info here. Looks like it's set to be released sometime next year.
http://kenburns.com/films/country-music/

Offline Rivers

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Re: Ken Burns Country Music series in the works
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2018, 06:35:07 AM »
Quote from the link:

Quote
"All the while, we will note the constant tug of war between the desire to make country music as mainstream as possible and the periodic reflexes to bring it back to its roots"

Well alrighty then. That would be a topic well worth exploring. I'll go out on a limb here and suggest money may have something to do with mainstreaming, and music being the reflex driving a return to the roots.

Offline Stuart

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Re: Ken Burns Country Music series in the works
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2018, 01:04:26 PM »
Thanks for the heads up, Lew.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Ken Burns Country Music series in the works
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2018, 06:51:26 AM »
If this series ends up anything like the one that Ken Burns did on Jazz, I'm not awaiting its release with bated breath.  If it is like the Jazz series, be prepared for shocking revelations like the news that Earl Scruggs was an innovator on the banjo, Hank Williams wrote songs that touched people and he died young and the Carter Family was first recorded in Bristol, Tennessee.

Offline Mike Billo

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Re: Ken Burns Country Music series in the works
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2018, 08:02:59 AM »
Well said, John. Bravo. My sentiments exactly

Offline CF

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Re: Ken Burns Country Music series in the works
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2018, 10:40:18 AM »
I wonder if there's the audience for this stuff like there was from the 1990s to 2000s. I think the American Epic folks were disappointed in the success of their doc and CD release ventures . . . Tefteller says his sales are shrinking every year . . . I'm not sure the young adult audience or "novice" audience is very large for period music anymore. JAZZ may have been a bore to folks who knew the difference but it was a kind of revelation for relative interested newbies like myself. I know I've seen many Country music docs since the 1990s and I've heard all those cliche' points John listed, over and over. But has a younger (even older) interested audience heard this stuff? Is there much of an interested audience? The American Epics had new and previously unseen footage to  impress the established fanbase, I wonder if Burns will have any revelations 
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline banjochris

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Re: Ken Burns Country Music series in the works
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2018, 10:55:15 AM »
I think the audience is still there for period music, but it's so easy for young folks to listen to Spotify (or Apple Music or Pandora or Amazon Music) or what have you they're mostly content to do that. My niece loves music from the '20s to the '40s but that's all she does, and doesn't ask me to loan her CDs or anything like that, although she knows I have a ton of stuff. Easier just to punch a few buttons and get it basically for free.

The thing that annoys me in "roots" music documentaries the most, and especially annoyed me in American Epic (although I enjoyed quite a bit of it as well), is the in-built notion that these earlier music forms are ONLY interesting because they led to modern music and rock, etc. I get tracing the historical development, but Son House didn't only exist to pave the way for The White Stripes.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Ken Burns Country Music series in the works
« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2018, 01:16:58 PM »
I agree that that reasoning is irksome, Chris--that the music of the past is significant only insofar as it led to the wonderful music of the present.  Another factor in the Ken Burns Jazz series that I found even more exasperating was his choice to turn many musicians who were/are wonderful players in their own right into talking heads, without ever acknowledging or featuring their own music and playing in the series.  I was spitting bullets when they interviewed the great pianist Jimmy Rowles at some length, because all they wanted to hear about was his accompanying Billie Holliday and Marilyn Monroe.  It evidently never occurred to them that it might enrich context to let Jimmy Rowles actually play some piano!  When was he going to get another chance to appear on national TV?  I read at the time that the Jazz series came out that Ken Burns acknowledged that he knew nothing about Jazz.  It seems like that might disqualify a person from doing a multi-part documentary on the subject.  Jazz is great subject for a multi-part documentary, as is Country Music--but not made by someone who knows nothing about the music.  Someone who knows about the music is more likely to do something other than drive down the center of the informational highway.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: June 19, 2018, 06:32:33 AM by Johnm »

Offline Stuart

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Re: Ken Burns Country Music series in the works
« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2018, 03:29:26 PM »
Yeah, the  people who are experts at getting the funding aren't necessarily experts in the subject area--and vice versa.

I agree with Chris that when a lot of music is only a click away, actually putting in the time to seek out and learn about something other than what is being served up is a less convenient and desirable option. And there's also saturation to contend with.

And then there's neophilia. But if one hasn't heard a song before regardless of when it was recorded, then it's new, right?--or is it?

The music was and is great and shouldn't be viewed as a historical curiosity or precursor. It should be understood and appreciated in its own right. IMHO.

Offline TenBrook

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Re: Ken Burns Country Music series in the works
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2019, 07:54:50 AM »
Just an update that the first episode in this series premiered last night. I have not had a chance to watch yet but it should be available to stream on your local PBS site.

Offline Stuart

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Re: Ken Burns Country Music series in the works
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2019, 08:41:31 AM »
I thought episode one was pretty good, bearing in mind it's a made for TV series that will attempt to cover a lot of ground. Obviously, they can only do so much and being overly critical is unfair since it doesn't pretend to have the breadth, depth and detail of the writings on the subject that some of us have read.


Offline TenBrook

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Re: Ken Burns Country Music series in the works
« Reply #11 on: September 17, 2019, 09:34:12 AM »
I watched the first episode last night and really enjoyed it. Though it obviously did not touch on or go in depth into all of the threads that joined to form the roots of country music it did tie many of the major ones together. When I first started delving into the early history of country/American music (not that many years ago) I found myself consulting multiple books, articles, liner notes, interviews, etc to get a grasp on the various contributing factors. Watching the main points I gathered from that research get summed up in two hours was actually somewhat of a relief in a way. There was also some great footage and photos, some of which I'd seen and others that were new to me as well as some stories and bits of history I had not heard. While I'd love to watch a full 16 hours devoted to just the roots, Ken Burns and his team are of course making documentaries for the "public" and based on some comments I've seen online, including one despairing that, "after an hour the documentary had yet to get to Hank Williams", I don't think the majority of the public would be as gung ho for a deep dive into the roots as some of us. Anyway, that's my 2 cents. I look forward to watching the rest over the next few weeks.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2019, 09:41:43 AM by TenBrook »

Offline Stuart

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Re: Ken Burns Country Music series in the works
« Reply #12 on: September 17, 2019, 03:16:49 PM »
One of my concerns is that in spite of the fact that very little is known about the specifics of the "pre-history" of what would come to be known as "Country Music" (or "Blues," for that matter) simply because little or nothing was recorded or documented, this is never really stated up front. I enjoy listening to the stories about how things came to be, but I'd wouldn't mind if someone said that this is our "best guess."

There's an old TIC joke among historians that the farther we are removed from an event, the clearer it becomes--and the more certain we are in our knowledge of it. 

Offline Rivers

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Re: Ken Burns Country Music series in the works
« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2019, 09:15:42 PM »
That was my reaction to Western Swing while living in Austin. It sounded better from half a world away. Maybe I just plain OD'd on it. I never had the same feeling about Tex Mex though, on the contrary.

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