Music History

Book cover showing a young Earl Scruggs with playing a banjo.
Courtesy of University of Illinois Press

Two minutes and 40 seconds of lightning-fast picking propelled bluegrass music into the mainstream. "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" written by Earl Scruggs and first recorded by Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys in 1949 helped bluegrass move from a subgenre of country to a popular and recognizable sound for American audiences.

MITTO SettembreMusica / Wiki Creative Commons

Musical performances aim to engage audiences and evoke emotions. But how does the message of art change when it is commemorating specific historical incidences of trauma and suffering? The conference “Performing Commemoration: Musical Reenactment and the Politics of Trauma” will examine how art channels memory, re-enactment and commemoration, and how audiences should interpret specific works.

Writers and artists: James Boyle, Keith Aoki, Jennifer Jenkins / Creative Commons

For centuries, musicians have borrowed and sampled from each other, creating musical evolution as they advance their own styles and careers. However, with each cycle of musical cross-fertilization comes attempts to police it.

A new comic book, “Theft! A History of Music” (James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins/2017), dissects 2000 years of music history and its legacy of copyright and control.

Actors from Raleigh Little Theatre's "Memphis"
Curtis Brown

Dewey Phillips made history in the 1950s as one of the first white radio disc jockeys to play music by black artists. He was opinionated, eclectic, and gained notoriety for being the first DJ to play Elvis Presley’s music on the radio.

Image of blues musician Scott Ainslie
Scott Ainslie

When Scott Ainslie was just three years old, his mother found him sitting at the piano playing melodies from records she played around the house. His proclivity toward music seemed innate, and his musical career evolved from there. He went on to learn every instrument he could get his hands on from flute to guitar, fiddle, and banjo. But he has also devoted his career to learning the deep history of American music and translating those stories to a public audience.