Thursday, 3/29, 4:15 p.m., “God Ble$$ Ameri©a: Contested Ownership of an Iconic Song”

March 26th, 2012

“God Ble$$ Ameri©a”: Contested Ownership of an Iconic Song

Sheryl Kaskowitz, Visiting Lecturer in American Studies, will discuss her new book from Oxford University Press and the history of the song “God Bless America.”

“God Bless America” may have attained the status of an unofficial national anthem, but its roots in Tin Pan Alley tie it inextricably to the world of commerce. Written by Irving Berlin, it has earned millions of dollars in royalties since it was first published in 1938. This talk uses these hidden economics as a framework for examining parallels in the song’s reception during two distinct periods when “God Bless America” was embraced as the anthem of choice by the public: just before the U.S. entry into World War II, and just after the September 11th attacks.

Slosberg 212
Thursday, March 29 at 4:15 p.m.

Co-sponsored by the American Studies Program and the Department of Music.

RSVP to mzoltan@brandeis.edu and simeone@brandeis.edu


Professor Tom Doherty on “The Last Bow for 35mm Film”

March 1st, 2012

Professor Tom Doherty, currently in Singapore teaching, wrote a timely piece for the History News Network that focuses on the Oscars, film history, and the end of 35mm film:

For a medium born in the nineteenth century, 35mm motion picture projection has had a remarkably long run. The system was initially fired up in 1895 in Paris, when the pioneering filmmaker-entrepreneurs Auguste and Louis Lumiere first projected 35mm celluloid onto a screen in public space for money, which is a pretty good definition of the movies. Throughout the twentieth century, the 35mm format remained the standard gauge for filming and exhibition. The Kodak film stock got more sensitive, the resolution sharper, and the light cast on the screen more powerful, but the size of the strip remained the constant gold standard for the spectacle of cinema, the difference between a big night out at the Bijou and a mere home movie, the latter being shot in formats of 16mm, 8mm, and super-8mm, before videotape cameras deep-sixed the lower film gauges.  Practically every director in Hollywood had to pose for the same publicity shot: unspooling a strip of 35mm at an editing board, he narrows his eyes and pretends to inspect the image on the frame.

After a century of unquestioned hegemony, however, 35mm is being wiped off the screen. Perhaps not coincidentally, the close of 2011 witnessed this pair of heartfelt elegies for the old medium: Hugo, a love letter to early cinema and film preservation, and The Artist, a homage to the silent era and an argument for the superfluity of spoken dialogue. Both, appropriately, have deep-French connections, both luxuriate in all things filmy, and both showcase protagonists who get literally entwined and almost consumed by strips of 35mm celluloid.


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