Friday, January 23, 2009

inauguration music

I missed the music before the inauguration proceedings. On the American Musicology Society E-list, Alexandra Amati-Camperi says that the Marines were joined by the San Francisco Boys and Girls Choruses to sing six songs, included a world premiere of a piece by David Conte. This new work, called "An Exhortation," uses words from President Obama's victory speech on November 4th:
America, we have come so far.
We have seen so much.
But there is so much more to do.
Let us ask ourselves:
If our children should live to see
The next century
What progress will we have made?
This is our chance to answer that call.
This is our time
To reaffirm that fundamental truth
That out of many, we are one;
That while we breathe, we hope;
And where we are met with doubt,
We will respond with that timeless creed
That sums up the spirit of a people:
Yes We Can.

I don't know when these performances occurred exactly. I started watching CNN at 11:15, and they were only showing all of the muckity-mucks processing along.

At first I was disappointed to see that John Williams' new piece was an arrangement of the Shaker tune "Simple Gifts." I wished that it would be a completely new piece. But then I started thinking about the many "occasional" pieces that exist in history. Handel stole from himself in writing birthday music for Queen Mary. Johann Schein composed pieces for 'various occasions' that had been 'completed in haste'. People like Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms composed variations on themes by other composers. So why not have John Williams pick a quintessentially American tune (thanks to Copland) to make a lighter occasional piece. There were some nice gestures in Williams' composition, especially the quiet ending. I wonder if it will have legs, I kind of doubt it.

Back to the American Musicology Society List (AMS-L), another (Canadian!) music historian (Jim Deaville) pointed out that Vincent Persichetti was commissioned to compose a work, Lincoln Address for Nixon's second inauguration. Persichetti set words from Lincoln's second inaugural address, including the reference to the Civil War as a "mighty scourge." The Presidential Inaugural Committee felt this could be interpreted as an allusion to the ongoing Vietnam War, and therefore replaced Lincoln Address with Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. So, replacing reference to one war with another war. Ah well.


Dan B. said...

I have always marvelled at the 1812 Overture's popularity at the 4th of July, but this is even weirder. We're fighting the Soviets over a formerly French colony, and we choose a work about Russia triumphing over the French?

Hucbald said...

And, let's not forget, JS Bach ceaselessly recycled himself for his Church services, which is one of the things that allowed him to polish his music to such a high degree. But, it was himself that he was recycling, and not Aaron Copland. LOL!

I was more put off by the fact that the quartet played outside to tape, instead of performing in the Rotunda and producing a real, live performance, though. And I still think a jazz piece would have suited the mood and circumstance better, but that's just me.