Colorado College Assistant Professor of Music Ryan Bañagale ’00 will give an honorary lecture at the Library of Congress Oct. 14 as part of the “Concerts from the Library of Congress” series. The title of Bañagale’s talk is “The Ongoing Composition of ‘Rhapsody in Blue’.”
Bañagale notes that on paper, George Gershwin remains the sole “composer” for “Rhapsody in Blue,” but the compositional history and cultural iconicity of the work emerges over time and through the contributions of a multitude of musicians, specifically arrangers.
Using documents from the music division of the Library of Congress, Bañagale will begin with an exploration of the complex creative origins of the work. A newly considered fair-copy manuscript recasts the understanding of the compositional contributions of arranger Ferde Grofé to “Rhapsody” —a debate that has occupied critics and scholars since the premiere of “Rhapsody in Blue” in 1924. This source document offers insight into the individual creative processes of Gershwin and Grofé, their collaboration, and the significantly larger role of Grofé in the genesis of the work. It also establishes the piece as an arrangement from its point of origin.
The second part of Bañagale’s talk illuminates the ongoing contributions of Grofé and countless other arrangers to “Rhapsody” into the present day. Bañagale will focus on the role of a little-known arrangement prepared for summer camp musicians by a teenaged Leonard Bernstein—also a part of the Library of Congress’s music division holdings—on the larger reception of “Rhapsody in Blue.” Bañagale’s talk examines the significant role of musicians beyond Gershwin in the lifespan of “Rhapsody,” prompting the question of who ultimately is responsible for one of the best-known “compositions” of the 20th century.