New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music Now in Asbury Park

As part of Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service “Museum on Main Street” series the “New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music” exhibit will be at the Asbury Park Library, 500 First Avenue, Asbury Park, March 12 to April 17.

Summary from Museum On Main Street

Listen to America’s music and hear the story of freedom. It’s the story of people in a New World places they have left behind, and ideas they have brought with them. It is the story of people who were already here, but whose world is remade. The distinct cultural identities of all of these people are carried in song — both sacred and secular. Their music tracks the unique history of many people reshaping each other into one incredibly diverse and complex people — Americans. Their music is the roots of American music.

The music that emerges is known by names like blues, country western, folk ballads, and gospel. The sounds are as sweet as mountain air, and as sultry as a summer night in Mississippi delta country. The instruments vary from fiddle to banjo to accordion to guitar to drum. But a drum in the hands of an African sounds different from one in the hands of a European. And neither is the drumbeat of an American Indian. Yet all the rhythms merge, as do the melodies and harmonies, producing completely new sounds — new music. The musics merge because this is America. New waves of music ride ashore in the hearts and heads of new immigrants and they create still new sounds from what they have brought with them and what they find here. And nothing expresses the tensions — or the triumphs — of this journey into democracy quite like the music that it spawns.

The main beat of the exhibition is the ongoing cultural process that has made America the birthplace of more music than any place on earth. The exhibition provides a fascinating, inspiring, and toe-tapping listen to the American story of multi-cultural exchange. The story is full of surprises about familiar songs, histories of instruments, the roles of religion and technology, and the continuity of musical roots from “Yankee Doodle Dandy” to the latest hip hop CD.

A walking tour of Asbury Park’s musical landmarks, including those connected to Bruce Springsteen, is scheduled for April 2. Tickets for the walking tour, $10, can also be bought at the Asbury Park Library.

This Associated Press article sums the exhibit up quite well.  A lot of work has been put into fund-raising and preparing for the arrival of this exhibit to celebrate Asbury Park’s rich musical heritage. For more information on all of the events planned to surround New Harmonies, visit Asbury Park


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