Summer of Music: Concert Films 1959–2020

Jun 10 – Aug 26, 2023

Since the dawn of cinema, live musical performances have been captured on film. Among the first silent moving images there are dancers, musicians, and stage performers. Early sound cinema techniques also gravitated toward performance capture, though almost always stage-bound due to the limitations of early recording equipment. But as sound and camera technology evolved and grew lighter in weight and more amenable to location shooting, filmmakers gained more freedom to realize their cinematic visions. By mid-century, a new wave of direct, unvarnished documentary filmmaking crossed currents with the rising counterculture of music festivals and the concert film was born.

This summer, the Academy Museum presents perhaps the first-ever retrospective of this magnificent hybrid form—musical spectacles with the high-wire immediacy of documentary. Spanning seven decades and several continents, genres, styles, and locations, Summer of Music ranges from dizzyingly eclectic festival bills to immersive single artist showcases, from crowd-pleasing classics to deep-cut discoveries. Beginning with Jazz on a Summer’s Day (1959) and concluding with Metallica: Through the Never in 3D, Summer of Music will showcase the Beatles and Stones, Ozzfest, Beychella, and beyond. Let’s rock!

Please note: Many films in this series feature strobe lighting effects.

Programmed by Bernardo Rondeau.
Notes by K.J. Relth-Miller and Bernardo Rondeau.