Mid-Century Modern Music

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

In the mid-20th Century there were unprecedented modernist influences on the fields of architecture, and furniture, graphic, and industrial design. Designers such as Eero Saarinen, Alvin Lustig, and Charles and Ray Eames created chairs, films, and homes that combined innovation, practicality, and beauty. What is the musical equivalent of mid-century modern design? David Garland finds it in the jazz compositions of George Russell, a "Third Stream" piece for electric guitar and strings by Jim Hall, John Cage's serene "In a Landscape," Miles Davis' collaborations with arranger Gil Evans, Elmer Bernstein's music for the films of Charles and Ray Eames, and more. Your suggestions of Mid-Century Modern Music are welcome in the comments below.



The design genius of Charles + Ray Eames - a TED talk by Eames Demetrios


Kaleidoscope Jazz Chair (excerpt) - Charles and Ray Eames


The Eames' Do-Nothing-Machine


Eero Saarinen, Cranbrook


The Future of Jazz (1958): Gilbert Seldes - Billy Taylor/George Russell/Bill Evans


Design for Dreaming (1956)


House of the future - part 1


Limbo, by Jim Henson and Raymond Scott

Comments [15]

Trevor from Los Angeles

Found this page on a search for more on Robert Graettinger because I am so blown away by Kenton's "conducts This Modern World" / "City Of Glass" material ...

Wow. I really like this show. Haven't even finished the show yet ... I couldn't wait to write.

As Victor wrote, I too think you've really captured the optimistic/experimental feel of the progressive music of this time. In my opinion, that is completely gone now. Experimental music after this is so different. I really wish that I could have experienced this time. It really fascinates me.

Gil Evans is huge for me. I was introduced to him through the Miles stuff years ago. Jazz composers like Gil Evans and John Lewis are so good and so overlooked today. Moondog should definitely be in here. He was an absolute genius. I agree with the Elmer Bernstein suggestion as well. I would also suggest some Dick Hyman stuff, possibly Enoch Light, as well and maybe other material on his Command label, and this Claude Thornhill ( from "The REAL Birth Of The Cool". For me it bridges the "swingin' years" into the "cool". Found this record a few months ago at a record store and the owner was surprised how excited I was...

Thank you for this amazing show.

Dec. 11 2011 09:15 PM
CarlE from NYC

Another "hoo-ray!" for a super-fine show and another vote for Sauter and Finnegan in this category. But especially Eddie Sauter's collaboration with Stan Getz; "Focus". I very much agree that John Cage should be seen in this light (maybe even more than as a classical composer).

Other composers that come to mind are other third-streamers (like George Russell): Andrew Hill and Bill Russo (and of course) Gunther Schuller. I'd include Sonny Clarke, Ahmad Jamal, Fred Katz, and maybe even Art Van Damme.

A lot of early synthesizer explorers could be included, too. People like Mort Garson, Gershon Kinsley, Jean_jaques Perrey, and Delia Derbyshire.

Thanks again for another wonderful show!

May. 12 2011 11:51 PM
olivier from Paris

God, I love Jimmy Giuffre so much! I always get back to his trios with Jim Hall. There's often an airy, almost spiritual quality in his recordings, like "Green country".

Here in Europe we didn't have Eames but people like Charlotte Perriand or Le Corbusier, and avant garde music was more serialist than jazzy…

Apr. 22 2011 07:54 AM
Nick from Brooklyn

Wonderful show! When you described the concept, my mind immediately went to Jimmy Giuffre's recordings with Tony Schwartz. I think that another of Schwartz's affiliates, Moondog could also fit the bill.

Apr. 20 2011 09:04 PM
Javier Garcia from California

Great post. Love all the music played. One Artist I would add is Esqiuvel. I would pair him with Saarinen.

Apr. 20 2011 04:02 PM
David Garland

Thanks for your comments and recommendations! Here's the playlist, showing artist - song - album:

John Cage - In a Landscape (1948); Stephen Drury, piano - In a Landscape: Piano Music of John Cage

George Russell - Knights Of The Steamtable (1956) - The Complete Bluebird Recordings

Jim Hall - Piece For Guitar And Strings - John Lewis Presents Jazz Abstractions (1961)

Jimmy Giuffre - The Sheepherder - The Jimmy Giuffre Clarinet (1956)

Miles Davis & Gil Evans - Blues For Pablo - Miles Ahead (1957)

Miles Davis - Max is Making Wax - performed on WNYC, February 18, 1950

Elmer Bernstein - House: after five years of living (1955) - Music for the Films of Charles & Ray Eames

Monsanto Plastic's Home of the Future - Disneyland

Jim Henson and Raymond Scott - Limbo: The Organized Mind (1966) - Manhattan Research Inc.

Stan Kenton/Robert Graettinger - Modern Opus (1952) - City of Glass

Apr. 18 2011 11:12 AM
Jennie Livingston from Brooklyn

Fun show.

Here is the song that most exemplifies the period for me!

Apr. 17 2011 09:05 PM
Jennie Livingston from Brooklyn

Fun show.

Here is the song that most exemplifies the period for me!

Apr. 17 2011 09:04 PM

I would love to hear something by Ernest Bloch. I had his wedding marches played at my wedding, 25 years ago, because of his mid-century modernity.

Apr. 17 2011 08:59 PM
victor h from Farmingdale

Great show! You've really captured the optimistic/experimental feel of the '50s.

Apr. 17 2011 08:49 PM
annie from Marble Hill

wow, love mid-20th century furniture & design and love your show tonight!

Apr. 17 2011 08:28 PM
billy p from brooklyn

I really love this show. One of the best ever - don't want the hour to end.

Apr. 17 2011 08:24 PM

man, you have some excellent shows! i was listening to this and wanted to tell you that you gotta fit in some elmer bernstein, that he is soundtrack musician in all of the shorts of the greatest philosophical modernists ever! and then i opened your show page. right on!

Apr. 17 2011 08:23 PM
April from Manhattan

My beloved, extremely wicked, stepmother was trained as a classical musician, and played cello in a marvelous string quartet. One of her aunts was Rebecca Clarke, the British composer. After she developed dementia, I mentioned that some people think jazz is America's classical music. Her reply, "I believe you're right!"

Apr. 17 2011 08:13 PM


Apr. 17 2011 06:54 PM

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