Banjo ProjectGAMBIER, Ohio (April 16, 2007) Marc Fields, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, speaks at Kenyon this week about the history and cultural importance of "America's instrument," the banjo.
His lecture takes place at 11:10 a.m., during Common Hour, on Tuesday, April 17, in Olin Auditorium and is titled "Picking on the Banjo: Disses, Duels, Lessons, and Other Representative Scenes from The Banjo Project."
Fields is the project director, writer, and producer of The Banjo Project, a documentary film that chronicles the development of the banjo from its African roots to the present. The film is part of a wider project embracing performances, a Web site, and interviews with celebrated musicians, folklorists, historians, and instrument makers.
At Kenyon, Fields will draw on this material to discuss the banjo's relationship to American identity and history. Created by slaves who brought similar instruments to the New World from Africa, the banjo has shaped most American musical forms: the minstrel show, ragtime and early jazz, old-time folk, and the folk revival, as well as blues, bluegrass, and country. In these many forms, banjo music has been entwined symbolically with a range of trends and conflicts related to race, class, region, gender, political persuasion, folk culture, and popular culture.
A Princeton University graduate who holds an MFA in film production from New York University, Fields is a noted documentary filmmaker whose work has won five Emmy awards. His most recent film, Willie the Lion, a one-hour musical biography of jazz piano legend Wjillie "the Lion" Smith, aired on more than fifty PBS stations nationwide and received a regional Emmy for Outstanding Cultural Program as well as a CINE Golden Eagle Award.
Fields wrote two episodes of the PBS series Broadway: The American Musical, broadcast in 2004. He is coauthor of the book From the Bowery to Broadway: Lew Fields and the Roots of American Popular Theater, which won the first Kurt Weill Prize for scholarship in the field of musical theater and opera.
Fields has taught at Concord Academy and in the graduate film program at New York University. He is currently an associate professor of video and television production at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. Fields's lecture is sponsored by the American Studies Program and the Rural Life Center.