In support of JAM (Jazz Appreciation Month) I’ve selected two scripts from the Federal Theatre Radio Division of the Federal Theatre Project (FTP) to highlight in this update on reprocessing the FTP.  In the radio script series we have over 200 original scripts used for radio productions. These productions are arranged alphabetically by title. Found within overarching titles are often multiple broadcasts.  Examples include stories of Detective O’Malley, the Federal Theatre of the Air, the Ibsen and Oscar Wilde cycles, and many non-fiction themes such as History in Action, Pioneers in Science, and Portraits in Oil. One theme that dealt with contemporary history is the set of broadcasts called “The Story of Swing”.  Two of the scripts housed at George Mason Special Collections and Archives are “Harlem in the 30’s” and “White Jazz and the Commercial Era”.

First page of the radio scripts “Harlem in the 30’s” and “White Jazz and the Commercial Era” from the Federal Theatre Project Collection C0002. Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

These shows featured conversations on the history of jazz and the popularity of swing at the time.  As the announcer says at the beginning of “Harlem in the 30’s”:

And so throughout the length and breadth of America, today modern music …SWING music… has become the most talked-of topic in every walk of life. Some shudder at this new trend…others glory in rhythm that spreads from the bistros of 52nd Street to the sanctified concert hall.

Even Gilbert and Sullivan have fallen under the spell of glorified swing…as witness the current Federal Theatre hit – THE SWING MIKADO.

But whether you consider swing music to be a meaningless jumble of noise, or something beautiful and original…the fact remains that swing comes from jazz…and jazz is America’s own folk music.

As one can see in the above photograph the theme music for the show is denoted – Duke Ellington’s “Daybreak Express” was used for both productions. Here is clip by Gira78giri on YouTube of that song.

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