Music News & Info: Classical

Musical “Fourth of July plumes” for Independence Day 2020

Happy Independence Day, everyone.

I usually spend this most patriotic of American holidays immersed in the kind of music that reminds me of time spent in uniform: standing in formation, marching in parades, and passing in review. Famous cadences by Henry Filmore, E. E. Bagley, Karl King, and of course, John Philip Sousa bring up memories and images for me, as well as evoking the spirit, optimism, and unabashed pride about which Americans normally revel, and for which we are typically famous (infamous?) worldwide.

But this isn’t a normal or typical year, is it?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still playing my favorite military marches (C. E. Duble’s “Bravura” being a particular treat). But I feel we need to mix it up a little.

So for starters, here’s Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” the official national march of the United States of America, played not by an American band or orchestra but rather by the Vienna Philharmonic . . .

It’s beautiful, but something’s not quite right. Maybe it’s just the sights and sounds of rotary trumpets playing the most ‘Merican of marches. Maybe it’s the way the violins dominate the finale instead of the brass as I’ve come to expect. Maybe it’s the lack of fireworks. Regardless, it’s a little odd, right?

But even that is not enough. Not this year, with America and Americans facing the most complex challenges we’ve seen since the 1970’s when the simultaneous scourges of the Vietnam War and Watergate wreaked havoc on the collective national psyche. I think Independence Day 2020 needs a bigger tweak to the soundtrack to match this rather twisted year.

And with that in mind, I bring you an amusing if oblique Independence Day story spoken to music, coming from the same era of the previous two crises: it was written in 1975 and first shared publicly in July 1976, a few weeks after the US Bicentennial. The story goes as follows:

“I was in this prematurely air-conditioned supermarket, and there were all these aisles, and there were all these bathing caps that you could buy
which had these kind of Fourth of July plumes on them.
They were red and yellow and blue.
I wasn’t tempted to buy one, but I was reminded of the fact that I had been avoiding the beach.” (Lucinda Childs)

Perhaps you’ve heard it already. If not, here’s Kate Moran sharing it with all of us . . .

If you’d like to see Ms. Moran perform it in context, click HERE.

All these are the days, my friends. And these are the days. My friends. Happy 4th of July. Stay safe, healthy, and in good spirits. God bless America.



Photo credit:  Three Flags, Jasper Johns (Whitney Museum of Art)

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