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        #184: From Great Depression's Depths, Creativity Reached New Heights

        作者:David Jarmul 發布日期:8-14-2013

        An art class organized by the federal government's Work Progress Administration
        An art class organized by the federal government's Work Progress Administration

        STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION - American history in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember. This week in our series, Bob Doughty and I tell about American arts and popular culture during the nineteen thirties.

        Hard economic times and social conflict have always offered a rich source of material for artists and writers. A painter's colors can show the drying of dreams or the flight of the human spirit. A musician can express the tensions and uncertainty of a people in struggle. The pressures of hard times can be the force to lift a writer's imagination to new heights.

        So it was during the nineteen thirties in the United States. The severe economic crisis -- the Great Depression -- created an atmosphere for artistic imagination and creative expression. The common feeling of struggle also led millions of Americans to look to films, radio and other new art forms for relief from their day-to-day cares.

        BOB DOUGHTY: The most popular sound of the nineteen-thirties was a new kind of music -- "swing" music. And the "King of Swing" was a clarinet player named Benny Goodman.

        (MUSIC: Benny Goodman Orchestra)

        Benny Goodman and other musicians made swing music extremely popular during the nineteen-thirties. Swing music was a new form of jazz. Many of its first players were black musicians in small, unknown groups. It was only when more well-known white musicians started playing swing music in the middle nineteen-thirties that the new music became wildly popular.

        A young girl listening to the radio
        A young girl listening to the radio

        STEVE EMBER: One reason for the popularity of swing music was the growing power of radio during the nineteen thirties.

        Radio had already proven in earlier years that it could be an important force in both politics and popular culture. Millions of Americans bought radios during the nineteen twenties. But radio grew up in the nineteen-thirties. Producers became more skillful in creating programs. And actors and actresses began to understand the special needs and power of this new electronic art form.

        Swing music was not the only kind of music that radio helped make popular. The nineteen thirties also saw increasing popularity for traditional, classical music by Beethoven, Bach and other great musicians.

        In nineteen thirty, the Columbia Broadcasting System began a series of concerts by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra on Sunday afternoons. The next year, the National Broadcasting Company, NBC, began weekly opera concerts.

        BOB DOUGHTY: In nineteen thirty-seven, NBC asked Arturo Toscanini of Italy to lead an orchestra on American radio. Toscanini was the greatest orchestra leader of his day. Millions of Americans listened at Christmas time as Toscanini and the NBC Orchestra began playing the first of ten special radio concerts.

        It was a great moment for both music and radio. For the first time, millions of average Americans were able to hear classical music by great musicians as it was being played.

        STEVE EMBER: Music was an important reason why millions of Americans gathered to listen to the radio during the nineteen thirties. But even more popular were a series of weekly programs with exciting or funny new actors.

        Families would come home from school or work and laugh at the foolish experiences of such actors as Jack Benny, Fred Allen, George Burns, Edgar Bergen, and WC Fields. Radio helped people forget the hard conditions of the Great Depression. And it helped to bring Americans together and share experiences.

        BOB DOUGHTY: Swing music. Classical music. Great comedy programs. The nineteen thirties truly were a golden period for radio and mass communications. But it was also during this period that Hollywood and the American film industry became much more skilled and influential.

        In previous years, films were silent. But the "talkies" arrived in the nineteen thirties.

        (MUSIC)

        Actress Vivien Leigh in
        Actress Vivien Leigh in "Gone with the Wind"

        STEVE EMBER: Directors could produce films in which actors could talk. Americans reacted by attending film theaters by the millions. It was a great time for Hollywood. The films had exciting new actors. Spencer Tracy. Bette Davis. Katharine Hepburn. The young Shirley Temple.

        The most famous film of the period was "Gone with the Wind" with Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, in the starring roles of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara.

        CLARK GABLE: "No, I don't think I will kiss you, although you need kissing badly. That's what's wrong with you. You should be kissed, and often. And by someone who knows how'"

        VIVIEN LEIGH: "And I suppose you think you're the proper person."

        CLARK GABLE: "I might be, if the right moment ever came."

        Directors in the nineteen thirties also produced such great films as "It Happened One Night," "Mutiny on the Bounty," and "The Life of Emile Zola."

        BOB DOUGHTY: The success of radio and films, as well as the depression itself, caused problems for many Americans newspapers during the nineteen thirties. The trouble was not so much that readers stopped buying newspapers. It was that companies talked about their products through advertisements on radio instead of buying advertising space in newspapers.

        Nearly half of the nation's independently published newspapers either stopped publishing or joined larger companies during the nineteen thirties. By World War Two, only one hundred twenty cities had competing newspapers.

        STEVE EMBER: Weekly and monthly publications faced the same problem as daily newspapers -- increased competition from radio and films. Many magazines failed. The two big successes of the period were Life Magazine and the Reader's Digest.

        Life Magazine had stories for everyone about film actors, news events, or just daily life in the home or on the farm. Its photographs were the greatest anywhere. Reader's Digest published shorter forms of stories from other magazines and sources.

        BOB DOUGHTY: Most popular books of the period were like the films coming from Hollywood. Writers cared more about helping people forget their troubles than about facing serious social issues. They made more money that way, too.

        But a number of writers in the nineteen thirties did produce books that were both profitable and of high quality. One was Sinclair Lewis. His book "It Can't Happen Here," warned of the coming dangers of fascism. John Steinbeck's great book "The Grapes of Wrath" helped millions understand and feel in their hearts the troubles faced by poor farmers.

        Erskine Caldwell wrote about the cruelty of life among poor people in the southeastern United States, and James T. Farrell about life in Chicago.

        Detail from a Ben Shahn mural from the Depression era
        Detail from a Ben Shahn mural from the Depression era

        STEVE EMBER: The same social concern and desire to present life as it really existed also were clear in the work of many American artists during the nineteen thirties. Thomas Benton painted workers and others with strong, tough bodies. Edward Hopper showed the sad streets of American cities. Reginald Marsh painted picture after picture of poor parts of New York City.

        The federal government created a program that gave jobs to artists. They painted their pictures on the walls of airports, post offices and schools. The program brought their ideas and creativity to millions of people.

        At the same time, photography became more important as cameras improved in quality and became more moveable. Some photographers like Margaret Bourke-White and Walker Evans used their cameras to report the hard conditions of the Depression.

        BOB DOUGHTY: All this activity in the arts and popular culture played an important part in the lives of Americans during the nineteen thirties. It not only provided relief from their troubles, but expanded their minds and pushed their imaginations.

        The tensions and troubles of the Great Depression provided a rich atmosphere for artists and others to produce works that were serious, foolish, or just plain fun. And those works, in turn, helped make life a little better as Americans waited, worked, and hoped for times to improve.

        (MUSIC)

        STEVE EMBER: Our program was written by David Jarmul. I'm Steve Ember with Bob Doughty. You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and pictures at www.squishedblueberries.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- an American history series in VOA Special English.

        ___

        This is program #184

        經濟困難和社會沖突時期,常常為藝術家和作家們提供豐富的創作源泉。畫家用色彩表現夢想的破滅或人類的戰斗精神。音樂表現出拼搏中人們的緊張和不安。艱苦時期所帶來的壓力也使作家們的想象力實現了飛越。

        所以,在上世紀三十年代的美國,大蕭條為藝術家們營造了一個刺激想像力和創造力的難得氛圍??嗳兆右沧尦砂偕锨f美國人在電影、廣播和其他新的藝術形式中尋找短暫的歡娛,擺脫日常生活的苦惱。

        上個世紀三十年代最受歡迎的音樂是一種新的音樂,叫搖擺樂。搖擺樂之王是一位單簧演奏者,名叫班尼.古德曼。古德曼和其他一些音樂者們使搖擺樂成為20世紀三十年代最受歡迎的音樂形式。

        搖擺樂是爵士樂的一種新形式,最先演奏搖擺樂的都是些不知名小樂隊的黑人音樂人。直到1930年代中期,一些著名的白人音樂家開始演奏搖擺樂,才讓搖擺樂開始風行一時。

        搖擺樂流行開來的一個重要原因是這個時期廣播的力量越來越大。在此之前,大家已經知道,廣播在政治和流行文化上能夠發揮重要作用。二十年代時,數百萬美國人開始收聽收音機,但廣播發展的旺盛時期則是在三十年代。

        廣播節目制作人的節目制作技巧更加精湛,演員也開始了解這種新傳媒方式的特性和力量。廣播僅僅推動了搖擺樂的流行,同時也讓貝多芬、巴赫等一些偉大音樂家的傳統古典音樂加倍受到廣大聽眾的喜愛。

        1930年,哥倫比亞廣播公司在每周日下午,舉辦由紐約愛樂樂團演出的系列音樂會。次年,全國廣播公司也開始舉辦每周歌劇音樂會。1937年,全國廣播公司邀請意大利著名指揮家阿爾圖羅.托斯卡尼尼指揮交響樂隊在廣播中播出。

        托斯卡尼尼是當時世界上最偉大的指揮家。他與美國國家廣播公司交響樂團合作演出了10場特別廣播音樂會,數百萬美國人在圣誕期間聆聽了這一系列音樂會的第一場。這是音樂和廣播的一個偉大時刻。數百萬普通美國人第一次通過廣播聆聽偉大音樂指揮家現場指揮的古典音樂會。

        音樂是20世紀30年代讓無數美國人聚集在收音機前的一個重要原因,但更受歡迎的是當時每周播出的新喜劇系列節目。孩子放學、大人下班后,回家一起聽杰克.班尼、佛瑞德.艾倫、喬治.卑爾根和菲爾德斯等演員的喜劇節目。

        廣播讓人們忘卻了大蕭條所帶來的痛苦,讓美國人團結在一起,分享他們的經歷。搖擺音樂、古典音樂和喜劇節目使1930年代成為廣播和大眾傳媒的一個黃金時期。而好萊塢和美國電影業也在這一時期更加嫻熟并發展壯大。在此之前,美國只有無聲電影。1930年代出現了有聲電影。

        有聲電影的出現,把無數美國人吸引到電影院里看電影。對于好萊塢來說,這是一個偉大的時期。無數的新演員粉墨登場:斯賓塞.特蕾西、貝蒂.戴維斯、凱瑟琳.赫本和小演員秀蘭.鄧波兒,數不勝數。

        這一時期最著名的電影是克拉克.蓋博和費文麗演繹的《飄》,他們在電影中分別出演白瑞德和斯嘉麗。上世紀三十年代其他的著名電影包括《一夜風流》、《叛艦碟血記》和《左拉傳》。

        這一時期廣播和電影的成功使美國報業面臨困境。問題不是沒人買報紙了,而是企業開始選擇在廣播里做廣告,而不再通過向報紙買版面做廣告了。20世紀30年代,將近半數獨立發行的報紙要么停發,要么加入大型報業集團。到二戰爆發時,美國只有120座城市擁有彼此競爭的報紙。

        與日報一樣,周刊和月刊也受到來自廣播和電影的沖擊,許多雜志社倒閉了。但也有兩家雜志社取得了成功,一是《生活》,一是《讀者文摘》?!渡睢冯s志主要向大家介紹電影演員、新聞事件和人們日常生活或在農場的生活,它的照片是最棒的?!蹲x者文摘》則從別的雜志和其他刊物中摘錄文章。

        這一時期的暢銷書籍與好萊塢的電影一樣,作家們更關注如何讓人們忘卻痛苦,而不是敘述此刻嚴重的社會問題。也只有這樣他們才能賺錢。但有一些作家也創作了高質量的暢銷作品。

        其中之一是辛克萊.劉易斯,他的小說《不能發生在這里》,警告人們即將來臨的法西斯的威脅。約翰.斯坦貝克的著名小說《憤怒的葡萄》讓無數的美國人理解和感受到貧窮農民所面臨的困難。厄斯金.考德威爾的作品真切地反映了美國南方窮人的生活,還有詹姆士.法雷爾的小說向人們介紹了芝加哥人的生活。

        上世紀三十年代,許多美國藝術家的作品也同樣反映了他們對當時社會生活的關切。托馬斯.本頓描繪了強悍、粗獷的工人。愛德華.霍珀的繪畫則反映了美國城市中令人心碎的荒涼街道。

        聯邦政府推出一項計劃,為這些藝術家提供工作,讓他們在飛機場、辦公樓和學校的墻壁上繪畫。這個項目把這些藝術家們的思想和他們的創造力傳達給無數的美國人。

        與此同時,照相機質量不斷提高,攜帶起來也更加方便,攝影也就越來越重要了?,敻覃愄?伯克-懷特和沃克.埃文斯等攝影師,用他們手中的照相機向人們展示了大蕭條時期人們處境的艱難。

        20世紀30年代,藝術家們的創作活動在美國人生活中扮演了重要角色,它不僅讓人們從苦難中獲得新生,而且還啟發了人們的心智,拓展了人們的想象空間。

        大蕭條所帶來的緊張和苦難為藝術家們提供了良好的創作氛圍,藝術家們創作了大量作品,有的嚴肅,有些僅僅為博人一笑。但這些作品,為那些在苦難中等待、努力和期待復蘇的美國人或多或少帶來了一絲歡樂。

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