Three on a Theme: Music Documentaries on Kanopy

The library has always had great resources for music buffs, but lesser known among these are the many documentaries about music, musicians, and musical history that are available on our video streaming services. Often, these include both great insights into the works of famous musicians or hidden gems that tell a particular story about music history that is not necessarily well-known in the mainstream. If you are interested and want to learn more, here are three excellent documentaries about musicians and musical history that are available to you for free on Kanopy with your library card.

Nas: Time is IllmaticThis documentary, subtitled “The Making of a Groundbreaking Hip Hop Album,” is a little over an hour long and tells the story behind influential 90s rapper Nas’ breakout hit album. It also treats the early personal life of Nas himself.. The film includes interviews with musicians Nas influenced, worked with, and/or was influenced by, including Pharrell Williams, Alicia Keyes, and Busta Rhymes. It is also beautifully filmed, and this has been recognized critically as it has also been nominated for a few awards. It’s a real treat that it is available for free via Kanopy. Continue reading “Three on a Theme: Music Documentaries on Kanopy”

The Art of Protest: The Language, Music and Images of Civil Discontent

Joining a protest is personal and a public event. People from all ages and all walks of life take to the streets calling for societal change. Throughout history worlds of people have marched, from handfuls to millions with voices raised, through cities and towns.

When The People Speak, heads turn. Everybody is filled with a heightened awareness. What message is being sent? Who is speaking as a shouting crowd of onlookers responds? From a singular voice to multitudes, the sounds of a protest command attention. There is more than one way, however, to be heard.

Artists speak through their work, seeking to capture the tenor of their times. A protest march can be a dramatic affair incorporating music, chants, costumes and signs. A throng of people stride through the center of town, disrupting business, blocking traffic, calling attention to a cause. How do you know they’re coming? Drumbeats and chants sound through the air long before the first row comes into view. Continue reading “The Art of Protest: The Language, Music and Images of Civil Discontent”

Hello from the Center of the Universe!

Your Fremont Branch team misses seeing you at the Center of the Universe and hearing about your latest Library discoveries. Here’s what we’ve enjoyed lately and think you might like, too.

While you’re waiting for the Seattle Reads There There events to happen later this year, try reading Lot by Bryan Washington. It’s also a set of interconnected stories, set in the sprawling neighborhoods of Houston. I’ve been reading up on all things Texas recently, partially because of idle thoughts of moving there, but mostly because you can’t really understand America’s future without coming to grips with it. Texas, and Houston in particular, is far more complicated and diverse than the caricature version you see in pop culture. Lot is a staccato blast of fiction. Its cast of young characters reflects its tangle of heritage in short set pieces that mix bravado and despair. ~ Daniel S. Continue reading “Hello from the Center of the Universe!”

Escapism Through the Documentary

Documentaries gives us a peek into the window of someone else’s reality, and in these very unusual times, a glimpse into a place where the real world is not upended and devastated by a global panic sounds quite comforting. While during “normal” times, one might escape through fantasy, sci-fi, or a very engrossing drama, during the era of COVID-19, why not try the documentary?

Nanook of the North movie poster

Documentary film first began as the creation of brief, informational videos and has evolved over time to become more observational, expository, and entertaining. One of the most significant early documentaries is Nanook of the North , a 1922 chronicle of an Inuit man and his family in Northern Canada. Often hailed as a significant cultural achievement, Nanook is an excellent example for critically thinking about the art of documentary filmmaking. Who is controlling the narrative, and how has the filmmaker influenced the audience’s response to what they’re seeing on screen? Continue reading “Escapism Through the Documentary”

Jazz in Seattle?! Jazz in Seattle!

While jazz has well-established reputations in New Orleans, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, you might be surprised to find that Seattle has long been a part of this rich music tradition. In an effort to capture and preserve this history, the Special Collections department of the Seattle Public Library created the Seattle Jazz Archive, which contains oral history interviews with many influential members of the community.

portrait of Overton Berry

Seattle Times ad for Overton Berry Trio, December 15, 1972From musicians who played in the 1940s to those still playing today, the Jazz Archive covers a deep range of his compelling history. Hear Overton Berry describe his experience of the racial integration of the AMF Local 76 and AMF Local 493 in 1958 or about his seminal extended stay at the Doubletree Inn, which produced the album, The Overton Berry Trio At Seattle’s Doubletree Inn, a classic in its own right but also a sought after “crate-digger” record for hip-hop and rap producers. Evan Flory-Barnes shares developing musically through Garfield High School’s nationally recognized music program to his experience as a constantly “gigging” artist, often playing with his band Industrial Revelation, winners of The Stranger’s Genius Award. Continue reading “Jazz in Seattle?! Jazz in Seattle!”