The rest is noise



A new world discovers its voice

One of the century’s dominant stories was the emergence of America as a world power – in music, culture and world politics.

The fascinating story of America finding its voice takes in the Jazz Age, the Wall Street Crash, the Great Depression and the New Deal, in a heady mix of race, culture and politics. The world would fall in love with America’s spirit and culture but this young nation had a glaring contradiction at its heart. The tension between the democratic ideals of America as a nation and its history of slavery would soon demand resolution.

When Dvořák predicted the emergence of an American classical tradition in 1890, he could scarcely have foreseen the extraordinary explosion of creativity during the first half of the 20th century.

By the end of the Second World War, America was host to a wealth of musical innovators creating radical, internationally renowned music that was completely American in spirit and could thrill and move audiences in equal measure. These innovators were not writing classical music however – they were blues, jazz and swing musicians, and more often than not, they were African-American.

Visit ITunes to explore related music, podcasts, iBooks and more.

Weekend events from 10.30am

America: the land of opportunities. During the first half of the 20th century, America became a major player in the fields of politics, finance, music, fashion and art. It was also a destination for millions of European immigrants.

This weekend of talks and conversations reflects the huge variety of fields in which Americans innovated and excelled. We explore how the changing American population helped to define its cultural voice.

View the Full Weekend Listings for a detailed timetable for Saturday 23 and Sunday 24.

See a full map of the site here

There are over 40 talks and film screenings to enjoy throughout the weekend including:

Geoff Dyer: American Photography
A discussion of work by photographers such as Walker Evans, Paul Strand and Dorothea Lange. This event examines how the great migration from the American South, the Gold Rush and the rise of a consumer culture were captured by the camera lens.

Julian Joseph and Mike Phillips: Shadowball
The jazz opera Shadowball combines stories of Black baseball players and jazz musicians from the 1930s and ‘40s. Composer Julian Joseph and librettist Mike Phillips discuss the themes and inspirations of the opera with images and music extracts.

Keynote science: Marcus Chown
Marcus Chown, cosmology consultant of New Scientist, takes us on a mind-expanding tour of the universe. How did we ever discover that the universe had a beginning, and how can we see direct evidence of the big bang today?

Bonnie Greer: Rise of Black Music
As a writer and critic, Bonnie Greer has explored the history of Black migration, art and music in America. In Obama Music, Greer traced her family’s journey from the American south to Chicago, uncovering the heart of jazz, blues, gospel and soul in the process.

Invisible Men: African-American Composers with Paul Gambaccini and Candace Allen
Radio and TV presenter Paul Gambaccini chairs a panel with writer Candace Allen, composer Philip Herbert and conductor Scott Stroman. They looking at hidden stories of American music: African-American classical composers, jazz musicians and Jewish immigrants.

The Harlem Renaissance
We examine the cross-cultural legacy of The Harlem Renaissance, centred on the poetry of Langston Hughes, with musicians Cleveland Watkins and Byron Wallen. Plus readings of some of Hughes’ poems from actor Ray Shell.

The Rest Is Noise Bites give you an intense, whistle-stop tour through the need-to-know topics from this weekend.

-  Henry Ford – a man who personified the confidence, innovation and ambition of the new America.
-  The New Deal on film – a chance to see a unique take on this era-defining policy.
-  Racial segregation split America in two for decades. What were its effects and legacy?
-  Dutch painter Mondrian and his iconic representations of New York.
-  The event that brought the US into the Second World War – Pearl Harbor.

Breakfast With... Duke Ellington
Even though he may not have often been up in time for breakfast, this weekend you can grab a coffee with the Duke. This fun, informal and practical session is led by Fraser Trainer on Sunday.

Listen To This
Don’t know where to start? Let our top music experts bring music to life in these beginner’s guides.

See early American short films, documentaries on music and dancer Martha Graham, plus The Cotton Club, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1984 film. It looks back to the peak of the legendary Harlem nightclub where only blacks performed and only whites listened. Set in the 1920s and ‘30s, it features Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane and Nicolas Cage.


Image gallery



See all images from the America weekend on Flickr


The Guardian

Gillian Moore introduces the America 1900-1950 weekend

From Dvořák to Duke Ellington to Charles Ives to Copland, Gillian Moore looks at how music took shape in the US in the first half of the 20th century

America 1900 - 1950: reviews from the archive

How the Guardian and the Observer reported the emergence of new music in America in the pre-war years

America, Dvořák and the struggles of black musicians - video preview

US conductor Marin Alsop and the Guardian's Tom Service discuss the African-American inspiration for Antonín Dvořák's New World Symphony

William Grant Still: penny from heaven

This weekend's Rest Is Noise festival features the first symphony of William Grant Still. Sophia Lambton looks into the life and times of the little-known African-American composer

American literature 1900-1950

The Southbank Centre's festival of music turns its thoughts to the great American writers of the early 20th-century. Who would you include on an ideal programme?

The Rest Is Noise festival

All video and articles at The Guardian.



The Open University

If you have been inspired by one of the many events taking place at The Southbank centre for The Rest is Noise festival, you can take your interest further with the Open University.

The Rest Is Noise at The Open University


Concerts and events

American Mavericks - Friday 22 February 2013. How composers developed an American sound.  Featuring London Philharmonic Orchestra, Marin Alsop and Garrick Ohlsson. 


Imagining America - Wednesday 20 February 2013. European composers celebrate the world. 

Hidden Voices - Sunday 24 March 2013. Still's Symphony was the first by a black American composer to be performed by a major orchestra.  

Kurt Weill: from Berlin to Broadway - Friday 12 April 2013. Kurt Weill fled Nazi Germany in 1933 and became a Broadway composer.  

Europeans in New York & Hollywood - Saturday 13 April 2013. As persecution continues in Europe, the USA becomes a safe haven. 

The Songs That Lasted: America Friday 22 March 2013.  Royal Academy of Music's Musical Theatre Company perform works by iconic American songwriters of the early 20th Century. 

Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times Friday 22 March 2013. Chaplin's biting but darkly funny critique of the effect of industrialisation and the human cost of the Great Depression. 

The Michael Nyman Band- Wednesday 27 March 2013.  A special evening of critically acclaimed works from one of the world's leading composers.

Twelve Bar Blues: Southbank Centre Book Club-Tuesday 30 April 2013. Patrick Neate's 'Twelve Bar Blues', a tale of fate, family, friendship and jazz  

For more information, visit the Southbank Centre ticketing website