American Epic: The Big Bang

    • Bernard MacMahon
    • United States, England
    • 2015
    • 53 min
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    In 1926, the music industry was in crisis. The new medium of radio had become established, meaning that people who had a set could receive music for free in their living rooms. As a consequence, they were buying fewer records. Producers from the big record companies like Columbia and Victor relocated to the less affluent south of the United States, where people didn’t own radios in large numbers yet. There, they made field recordings using the latest electric recording equipment (see The American Epic Sessions), and then sold these locally. Ninety years later, many of these 78-rpm recordings (“the first time America heard itself”) act as the musical memory of the country. The first episode of the three-part TV series American Epic centers around two influential acts: the Carter Family and the Memphis Jug Band. Hailing from the Appalachian Mountains, the Carter Family laid the foundation for the country music genre. The music of the Memphis Jug Band, who performed on the famous Beale Street in Memphis, is rooted in the blues. Their music was rougher, often played on cheap, homemade instruments such as washboards and jugs. The rapper NAS compares them to the rappers of today, with their provocative texts about the wild lives of urban street kids and gangsters.

    Credits

    • 53 min
    • color / black and white
    • DCP
    Director
    Bernard MacMahon
    Production
    Allison McGourty for Lo-Max Films, Bernard MacMahon for Lo-Max Films, Duke Erikson for Lo-Max Films, Bill Holderman for Wildwood Enterprises
    Executive producer
    Julie Anderson for Thirteen/WNET, Robert Redford for Wildwood Enterprises, T Bone Burnett, Jack White
    Cinematography
    Vern Moen, Richard Henkels
    Editing
    Dan Gitlin
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