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Series Features Programs with Blondie's Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, A Celebration of Women in Hip-Hop, Plus Special Screenings, Performances and Presentations


Tune in Wednesday, March 27, at 6pm for a live stream from the Library for the Performing Arts! 

February 21, 2013 - This spring, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts presents Rhapsodic City: Music of New York, a new six-week long interdisciplinary series exploring the city's distinct role in the formulation, emergence, and legacy of some of the most exciting music movements in the 20th century.

Tackling a different music style or subject each week -- hip-hop, punk, the folk music revival, Prohibition-era jazz, Mambo and Salsa, and the Brill Building's heyday -- Rhapsodic City: Music of New York features panel discussions with icons and experts, performances by leading artists, special film screenings and presentations of the Performing Arts Library's remarkable collections.

Highlights from the series include a discussion of punk style and sound with Blondie's Debbie Harry and Chris Stein; performances by Jazz Age Lawn Party founder Michael Arenella, Grammy-nominated bandleader Bobby Sanabria, and Joe McGinty from the Losers Lounge Band; a celebration of women in hip-hop; and an exploration of Greenwich Village in the '50s and '60s led by Elijah Wald, author of the book that served as source material for the Coen Brothers' latest film.

"At The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, we are deeply aware of how vital music is to this city's cultural fabric," said Jacqueline Z. Davis, Barbara G. and Lawrence A. Fleishman Executive Director of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. "Using our vast archival materials -- including sheet music, films, recordings and more -- Rhapsodic City: Music of New York provides an opportunity for us to illustrate some of the most compelling examples of how New York inspires new genres of music, and how musical styles from around the world have become part of the city's own cultural narrative, creating a distinctly New York story."

All events included in the Rhapsodic City: Music of New York series take place at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts (40 Lincoln Center Plaza) unless otherwise noted below, and are free and open to the public.


Nearly 40 years ago, hip-hop started in the Bronx during one of the lowest points of the borough’s history. Counteracting the urban decay, violence, and corruption, hip-hop culture emerged as a musical nexus, emanating creativity and liberating struggle. Today, the now global movement transcends race, gender, and socioeconomic status.

Wednesday, March 20 @ 6pm
A 30th Anniversary celebration of Style Wars
With Henry Chalfant, Carlos "Mare139" Rodriguez, and iona rozeal brown
Style Wars is regarded as the indispensable document of New York street culture and subway graffiti art of the early '80s, Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant's filmic record of a golden age of youthful creativity that exploded into the world from a city in crisis. In partnership with the Tribeca Film Institute and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, this event will feature a screening of Style Wars followed by a discussion of the documentary's enduring influence with Chalfant and a panel of artists and scholars, including sculptor/painter Carlos “Mare139” Rodriguez and moderated by painter/DJ iona rozeal brown.

Saturday, March 23 @ 4pm Reception, Program Begins at 5pm
Fresh, Bold, and So Def Women in Hip-Hop
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm X Boulevard (advance registration recommended)
As part of Women's History Month and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture's Hip-Hop 4.0 Initiative, this program highlights the contributions and achievements of women in hip-hop. The event features

  • Performances by Genesis Be, Ebonie Smith, and FM Supreme
  • Screening of Nuala Cabral's Who's That Girl: Women of Color & Hip Hop (17 min)
  • Sneak peek preview of Breaking Silence: Passing the Mic to Our Daughters Project, a forthcoming documentary exploring how Black and Latina teenage girls today respond and relate to hip-hop culture
  • Panel discussion with guests including Nuala Cabral; Dr. Brittney Cooper; Autumn Robinson; Beverly Bond; Ebonie Smith; Piper Carter; and moderated by The Schomburg Center's Hip-Hop Scholar In Residence Martha Diaz


Haunting a handful of clubs in downtown - and downtrodden - Manhattan, the gritty and fertile 1970s New York Punk scene, with its anti-establishment ethos, was an amalgamation of music, style, attitude, and above all, personalities that influenced a worldwide movement. At the center of New York Punk was the club CBGB. Bands and artists such as The New York Dolls, Suicide, Blondie, the Ramones, and Patti Smith all graced the stage with a particular message to share.

Tuesday, March 26 @ 6pm
The Blank Generation
This evening features a collection of short films that focus on the experiences of young Punks in New York. Works to be screened include:

  • Punking Out, 1979. Directed by Maggi Carson, Juliusz Kossakowski, Frederic A. Shore. Shot in 1977, this 25-minute film features performance and interview footage of the Ramones, The Dead Boys, and Richard Hell and the Voidoids at CBGB.
  • Jane, 1974. Directed by John Rosen. A mini-portrait of Jane Barrington, a self-proclaimed groupie.
  • Kidnapped, 1978. Directed by Eric Mitchell. The director's first film, shot in super-8, stars Mitchell, Anya Phillips, Patti Astor, and Duncan Smith among a crowd of hip "poseurs," talking sex, manners and politics.

Wednesday, March 27 @ 6pm
Platinum Punk
With Debbie Harry, Chris Stein and Will Hermes
Music icons Debbie Harry and Blondie co-founder Chris Stein join Will Hermes, senior critic for Rolling Stone and author of Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever, for a discussion of the style and sound of the New York Music scene in the 1970s and the personalities that influenced a worldwide movement.

Folk Music Revival

Folk music and its revival in New York during the 1950s and '60s owed as much to collectors, archivists, and audiophiles who populated Greenwich Village as it did to the performers, artists, and club owners who gravitated there. Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music served as the founding "text" for a whole generation of Folkies, while Vanguard Records took a chance on Paul Robeson, The Weavers - both blacklisted - and Joan Baez to become a major voice in the movement during one of America’s most politically and socially-charged eras.

Tuesday, April 2 @ 6pm
Sing Out!
With Elijah Wald
Writer and musician Elijah Wald -- co-author of Dave Van Ronk: The Mayor of MacDougal Street, a memoir that serves as source material for the upcoming Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis -- presents a history of Greenwich Village in the 1950s and 1960s. This program will also include a performance by Wald and rare audio recordings from the NY Folk Singers Guild archive.

Wednesday, April 3 @ 6pm
Rakes and Revolutions
This program features screenings and discussion of several short films from the Library's Reserve Film and Video collection.

Music of the Prohibition Era

While the rest of the country was singing the “Prohibition Blues,” inundated in an era of sobriety and restraint after the ratification of the 18th Amendment, New York City was roaring. Inside the city’s thousands of speakeasies, a spirited generation cried “Let’s Misbehave,” dancing their way into the Jazz Age.

Tuesday, April 9 @ 7:30 pm
Live Radio Broadcast: Prohibition
With Antique Phonograph DJ MAC
Join antique phonograph DJ MAC aka Michael Cumella for a live radio broadcast of his weekly show, The Antique Phonograph Music Program on WFMU, featuring Prohibition-era 78 rpm records from the Library's Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound played on original horned crank-up phonographs.

Wednesday, April 10 @ 6pm
To Be Danced and Romanced
Hosted by composer, bandleader, and founder of the famed Jazz Age Lawn Party Michael Arenella, this evening explores the spirited nightlife and aesthetic of the Jazz Age in 1920’s New York City and its resurgence today among a new generation of flappers.

American Sabor: From the Palladium to the Bronx

In the mid-20th century, the Mambo and Salsa became international dance and music sensations. But their emergence is a true New York City melting-pot phenomenon. The growing Cuban and Puerto Rican populations of the South Bronx, each with their own musical styles and flavor, intermingled and experimented with stylistic diversity, fueling the development of a musical blend of Afro-Cuban forms and rhythms with big-band jazz instrumentation.

The programs in this installment of Rhapsodic City: Music of New York are presented in conjunction with the exhibition American Sabor: Latinos in US Popular Music, on display in the Donald & Mary Oenslager Gallery, April 20 through July 13, 2013. For more details on this exhibition, please visit

Wednesday, April 17 @ 6pm
Salsa: A New York Mixture
Grammy-nominated bandleader Bobby Sanabria leads his ensemble in a performance and presentation that traces the musical history of Latinos in New York, from Mambo to Latin jazz to Salsa, and much in between.

Thursday, April 18 @ 6pm
Machito: A Latin Jazz Legacy
For this event, ethnomusicologist Dr. Peter Manuel provides live commentary to accompany a screening of Carlo Ortiz's 1987 documentary Machito: A Latin Jazz Legacy. A biographical documentary on the life and achievements of the Cuban-born singer, jazz musician, and composer Machito (real name Frank Grillo, 1908-1984), Machito traces his musical roots in Cuba, then examines his contributions to the development of Afro-Cuban music.

The Brill Building

New York’s famed Brill Building on West 49th Street and Broadway was the epicenter for some of the greatest pop songs of the 1950s and 1960s. Major songwriting teams of that era such as Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, turned out songs by the hundreds, often working for $50 per week. The Music Division’s collection of more than 400 lead sheets provides a glimpse into the offices from which hits like “Calendar Girl” by Neil Sedaka and “Some Kind of Wonderful” by Carole King were written, recorded, and published.

Monday, April 22 @ 6pm
Grace of My Heart
Set in the early 1960s, Allison Anders' 1996 film - starring Illeana Douglas, John Turturro, Eric Stolz, and Matt Dillon - tells the story of an aspiring singer sacrifices her own singing career to write hit songs that launch the careers of others.

Saturday, April 27 @ 7pm
Sounds of the Brill Building
With Joe McGinty of the Losers Lounge Band, and George Boziwick
In this program, Joe McGinty of the Losers Lounge Band performs selections from the Music Division's vast historic Brill Building lead sheet collection, with commentary by division chief George Boziwick.

About the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts houses one of the world’s most extensive combination of circulating, reference, and rare archival collections in its field. These materials are available free of charge, along with a wide range of special programs, including exhibitions, seminars, and performances. An essential resource for everyone with an interest in the arts — whether professional or amateur — the Library is known particularly for its prodigious collections of non-book materials such as historic recordings, videotapes, autograph manuscripts, correspondence, sheet music, stage designs, press clippings, programs, posters and photographs.

About The New York Public Library
The New York Public Library was created in 1895 with the consolidation of the private libraries of John Jacob Astor and James Lenox with the Samuel Jones Tilden Trust. The Library provides free and open access to its physical and electronic collections and information, as well as to its services. Its renowned research collections are located in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street; The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem; and the Science, Industry and Business Library at 34th Street and Madison Avenue. Eighty-seven branch libraries provide access to circulating collections and a wide range of other services in neighborhoods throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Research and circulating collections combined total more than 65 million items. In addition, each year the Library presents thousands of exhibitions and public programs, which include classes in technology, literacy, and English for speakers of other languages. All in all The New York Public Library serves more than 18 million patrons who come through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at