Harmonica History — Live!

For Kim Field and Randy Weinstein, the biggest challenge of Saturday’s performance and presentation at the East Hampton Library will be to pack as much information, and wailing, bluesy sounds, into a single hour.

Mr. Field and Mr. Weinstein, both celebrated musicians and authors, will present “Harps, Harmonicas, and Heavy Breathers,” a history of “the people’s instrument,” in the next installment of the Tom Twomey Series of lectures. It begins at 5 p.m.

The harmonica is unique in that professional-quality models are extremely affordable, and anyone who can breathe can play one. On the other hand, to really make the instrument “speak” — or howl, cry, and moan — or to play sophisticated music like jazz, the same dedication as required for other instruments applies.

“The way the instrument was designed, you can play a lot of melodies by opening your mouth and blowing and drawing,” said Mr. Weinstein, who is the author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Playing the Harmonica.” “That was the target audience, how they were going to sell massive amounts. But people figured out how to do other stuff, and the blues and rock techniques, even at a rudimentary level, are relatively advanced. It takes a while to bend or to single out notes.”

Mr. Weinstein was influenced to take up the instrument by his elder brother, a “harmonica-playing hippie,” he said. He attended college in Chicago, home of the gritty electric blues and players like Little Walter, Paul Butterfield, and Charlie Musselwhite, and there “I started encountering really great blues players.”

Mr. Field, who is from Seattle, is the author of “Harmonicas, Harps, and Heavy Breathers: The Evolution of the People’s Instrument,” which Billboard called “a loving celebration both of the players and of their instrument.” Originally a trumpeter, he looked to pop and rock ’n’ roll sounds while in high school. “I saw James Cotton when I was 17,” he said, “and went out and bought a C Marine Band,” a Hohner diatonic harmonica and a staple among blues and rock ’n’ roll musicians.

Mr. Field would later perform with Mr. Cotton, who served as Muddy Waters’s bandleader for a decade, and other blues giants including Mr. Waters himself, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and “Big” Walter Horton. “My trumpet teacher had already imprinted on me the need to focus on a big sound, a big tone.” That, he said, is a primary challenge the instrument presents: “It has a tendency to sound thin and a bit weak. But there are ways, and Cotton figured it out more than anybody.”

Saturday’s event will be a first for both musicians. Mr. Field has given presentations and workshops, but “in a lot of those instances, I used recordings,” he said. “We only have an hour but will put in a lot of playing. We will have a guitarist with us, and will demonstrate older styles that people maybe aren’t familiar with. I think we’ve got the right blend of talking and playing.”