David and Art

Monday 4:44am, 6:44am, 8:44am and 5:44pm

Art reveals the world to us in new ways.  On KWBU, we have a new weekly feature focusing on art.

The module is hosted by David Smith, an American historian with broad interests in his field.  He’s been at Baylor University since 2002 teaching classes in American history, military history, and cultural history.  For eight years he wrote an arts and culture column for the Waco Tribune-Herald, and his writings on history, art, and culture have appeared in other newspapers from the Wall Street Journal to the Dallas Morning News.

The very first record he remembers listening to when he was little was Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic’s recording of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and that set him on a lifelong path of loving music and the arts.  He’s loved history for almost as long, and finally saw them come together in his career.  He believes that history illuminates the arts and the arts illuminate history—that they co-exist and are best understood together.

Follow David on Twitter @DavidASmith12

David and Art - Musical Theater’s Greatest Lyricist

16 hours ago

One of the true architects of the Broadway musical leaves us with a rich legacy of deep, personal, and moving songs.

“We have lost a giant.”  That was pretty much the consensus a couple of Friday evenings ago as word began to circulate that famed composer Stephen Sondheim had died.  Almost at once, social media came alive with memories and tributes.  People who knew him personally spoke of his friendship and the way he mentored and supported younger composers.  People who knew only his music spoke of him in terms hardly less personal.  His songs were like that:  personal, intimate, and open.

When I heard the news, I took solace in listening to singer Melissa Errico’s wonderful collection of his songs called Sondheim Sublime.  A better collection of music you won’t find.  Start there.

Stephen Sondheim was born in New York City in 1930.  His father was a dressmaker and his

John Coltrane's 1965 masterpiece has new life thanks to a 56 year old recording.

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David and Art - John Coltrane Pt. 2

Nov 22, 2021

John Coltrane's story in the 1950s and early 60s led to the creation of a profound work of art.

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David and Art - John Coltrane Pt. 1

Nov 15, 2021

The story of American musician John Coltrane is one in which music is transformative.

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Art critic  Clement Greenberg coined the term "Middlebrow" - that midway point between highbrow and lowbrow. 


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David and Art - Hooked on Something

Nov 1, 2021

Is putting a disco beat really a good way to appreciate a symphony?

I don’t know if you have this tucked away in your memory like I do, but back when I was in high school there was a particular kind of contraband that quietly circulated among students. You never quite knew who had one unless you happened to catch a glimpse at a friend’s locker or hanging out of a notebook. “Don’t tell anyone,” was the panicked response if someone saw yours.

I’m talking about those little yellow and black booklets that were the key to not having to read all those ponderous novels and plays in English class. They were called “Cliffs Notes” and if you were caught with them, you were in trouble. But we thought the risk worth it: in just a few pages they gave you all you needed to know about the

The more you learn about art, the more rearranging you may have to do, but that’s a good thing.


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Even after his passing, a prominent artist is still giving us the chance to see beauty by shrouding the familiar.

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David and Art - "In Search of Live Music"

Oct 11, 2021

Musicians alone can’t call an art scene into existence. 

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David and Art - "Artists and our Money"

Oct 4, 2021

Giving consideration to artists could be easy if we always had them close at hand.


A cathedral in Washington DC was once thought of as being the resting place for the country’s greatest luminaries.

On a cool sunny Saturday in March 1925 a small procession moved through the Washington DC streets toward the National Cathedral from across the Potomac. Once again, Admiral George Dewey was on the move. It had been eight years since huge crowds lined the streets to watch solemnly as his body carried from the Capitol building to Arlington National Cemetery. Now, his widow and son wanted his body relocated to the Cathedral, of which he had been an ardent backer in

David and Art - "An American in Paris"

Sep 20, 2021

A jazz age dancer and singer will soon be in the company of famous French philosophers and novelists.

One of the most famous sites in Paris is a Roman style temple called the Pantheon.  When construction on it began in the mid-1700s it was intended to be a church. But, by the time it was finished, the French Revolution was going, so it was repurposed as a final resting place for French luminaries from the worlds of politics, science, and the arts.

The philosophers Voltaire and Rousseau are there; novelists like Victor Hugo and Emile Zola; key politicians like Leon Gambetta and Jean Jaures; scientists like Marie Curie.  On  

Introducing younger people to classical music is a way to build future audiences.

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David and Art - “The Return of the Orchestra”

Sep 6, 2021

As orchestras prepare for a new season, the audiences of the future are somewhere out there too.

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Thinking about a style of music that reminds us that we're all in this together.

Last week we talked about the wonderful singer songwriter Nanci Griffith who died earlier this month in Nashville.  While many other people have described her music as being country or even shading over into pop, I’ve always thought of her first and foremost as a folk singer.

I think my favorite recording of hers is a 1994 album called Other Voices, Other Rooms for which she won a Grammy award for Best Contemporary Folk album.  It’s a collection of cover tunes – it’s her playing songs from other artists:  Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Janis Ian, John Prine, and 

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