Alison Saar hosts a listening party, 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 27,

Landis Cimena, Buck Hall, Refreshments will be available at the Grossman Gallery after the Listening Party/

Join Alison Saar as she shares historic recordings from the 1920s including songs by blues musicians responding to the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927. The music will be accompanied by historic photographs, archival material, and  maps.

The 1927 Flood was a landmark moment both in American history and in American music history. Delta blues musicians responded to the flood and its aftermath with at least 25 to 30 songs, and there were probably an equivalent number of gospel songs. Musicians joined the Northern Migration bringing the blues to Kansas City, Chicago and beyond and the resulting collision of Southern blues with the first electric guitars, which would eventually lead to rock ‘n’ roll.

A few examples include Bessie Smith’s “Backwater Blues” (1927), Charley Patton‘s “High Water Everywhere, Part 1” (1929), Lonnie Johnson’s “Broken Levee Blues” and 1929’s “When the Levee Breaks,” by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy. 

A number of the songs have been re-presented or adapted by more recent artists including “When the Levee Breaks” covered by Led Zeppelin in 1971, Bob Dylan, “High Water (For Charlie Patton). Songs by Randy Newman, “Louisiana 1927” and Terence Blanchard’s “Ghost of 1927”  performed after Hurricane Katrina drew connections between the 1927 flood and Katrina.

Alison Saar’s residency and exhibition is supported by an arts infusion grant made possible by generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Richard A. and Rissa W. Grossman Visiting Artist Series (department of Art), the David L., Sr. and Helen J. Temple Lecture Series (Africana Studies), The Experimental Printmaking Institute (EPI), the Lafayette Art Galleries, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.