|Give Me the Banjo|
It’s official—on 5/10/11, The New York Times’ “Arts, Briefly” column announced that its Fall 2011 line-up will include The Banjo Project documentary, henceforth to be known as Give Me the Banjo. It will be one episode in the new mini-series, “PBS Arts Fall Festival,” for national prime time broadcast. The banjo doc’s PBS incarnation will be 82 minutes, with Steve Martin narrating and as many of the players and commentators as will fit. The DVD/home video is currently being negotiated.
The Banjo Project is a cross-media cultural odyssey: a major television documentary, a live stage/multi-media performance, and a website that chronicle the journey of America’s quintessential instrument—the banjo—from its African roots to the 21st century. It’s a collaboration between Emmy-winning writer-producer Marc Fields and banjo virtuoso Tony Trischka (the Project’s Music Director), one of the most acclaimed acoustic musicians of his generation.
Narrated by Steve Martin, The Banjo Project television documentary brings together contemporary players in all styles—Earl Scruggs, Pete Seeger, Bela Fleck, Taj Mahal, Don Vappie, Cynthia Sayer, Ralph Stanley, among many others—with folklorists, historians, instrument makers and passionate amateurs to tell the story of America’s instrument in all its richness and diversity.
What will happen to the wealth of musical and historical content that won't fit into our broadcast program? It becomes the foundation for a web-based archive and cultural gathering place for exchanging knowledge and news about the banjo, thanks to a new media grant from Mass Humanities! Over the next 18 months, The Banjo Project website will expand to include interactive features like a timeline and map of banjo history, searchable video interview and performance clips, and user-generated content.
"The piano may do for lovesick girls who lace themselves to skeletons, and lunch on chalk, pickles, and slate pencils. But give me the banjo... When you want genuine music—music that will come right home to you like a bad quarter, suffuse your system like strychnine whiskey…ramify your whole constitution like the measles, and break out on your hide like the pin-feather pimples on a picked goose—when you want all this, just smash your piano, and invoke the glory-beaming banjo!"
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