A Louisville Orchestra documentary worth seeing.


I’m eternally fascinated by this story. A Louisville mayor looking to Confucius for advice; an ambitious young conductor, Robert Whitney; a Louisville Orchestra in search of an identity; and the weird and wonderful result of their collective efforts, called the Commissioning Project, which thrust Louisville’s musical scene into avant garde consciousness. It was like a post-war WPA for composers.

Yes, it was a different age, although probably some of the orchestra’s patrons at the time considered closing their checkbooks unless the primacy of the romantic era composers was restored and buttressed against the intrusion of modernism. Whatever. I can’t wait to view the film.

Music Makes a City: The Film

In 1948, a small, struggling, semi-professional orchestra in Louisville, Kentucky began a novel project to commission new works from contemporary composers around the world.

The Commissioning Project grew far beyond anyone’s expectations. In 1953, the orchestra received an unprecedented $400,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to commission 46 compositions a year for three years. The new works were to be performed in weekly concerts and recorded for sale by subscription. The international music world was astounded at both the recipient of the grant and the scope of the project.