Academic journal article Notes

Music Reviews

Academic journal article Notes

Music Reviews

Article excerpt


John Philip Sousa. Six Marches. Edited by Patrick Warfield. (Recent Researches in American Music, 69.) (Music of the United States of America, 21.) Middleton, WI: Published for the American Musicological Society by A-R Editions, Inc., 2010. [Foreword, p. ix; acknowledgments, p. xi-xii; The Sousa March: From Publication to Performance, p. xiii-xli; 9 plates, 5 p.; score, p. 3-93; apparatus, p. 95-133; bibliography, p. 135-40. ISBN 0-89579-675-9, ISBN-13/EAN 978-0-89579-675-2. $166.] Contains: The Washington Post, The Liberty Bell, El Capitan, The Stars and Stripes Forever, Sabre and Spurs, George Washington Bicentennial.

No one has had a greater influence on wind band music than John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). Under Sousa's baton, the United States Marine Band -- "The President's Own" -- became the gold standard for concert bands around the globe. Those of us in the field today still marvel at his innovations in scoring and his dramatic approach to concertizing. For years Sousa's band gave exceptionally well-received performances in the Washington, DC, area and on their extensive United States and European tours. Developing and maintaining this hectic concert schedule required a level of promotional acumen and logistical organization never before engaged for a wind group.

Patrick Warfield gives us a superb introductory study in addition to a meticulously researched performance edition of these six marches: The Washington Post, The Liberty Bell, El Capitan, The Stars and Stripes Forever, Sabre and Spurs, and George Washington Bicentennial. These marches were selected out of Sousa's total output of 130, because they span his entire career:

  The Washington Post was composed just as he began to
  achieve national fame; The Liberty Bell dates from
  Sousa's transition from military to civilian life;
  El Caption was derived from his most successful
  operetta; The Stars and Stripes Forever was composed
  on the death of his manager; Sabres and Spurs is
  representative of Sousa's reaction to World War
  I; and (Gorge Washington Bicentennial was written
  at a time when Sousa was an icon who had turned
  almost exclusively to march composition, (p. xxiv)

Warfield's edition provides copious front material, meticulously cited, with generous bibliographical references for both Sousa and American musical culture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Warfield states that the purpose of this edition is "to reproduce each march's blueprint as it was originally published and to show how Sousa himself adapted that blueprint in performance" (p. xxvii).

Sousa was, first of all, an accomplished and experienced musician. From a young age he played violin and conducted in the orchestra pits of local theaters in Washington, DC, and apprenticed in the Marine Band. He was exposed to many different kinds of music, and early on he composed operettas, songs, dance pieces, and instrumental solos as needed for an array of venues. By the 1880s, as Warfield remarks, Sousa was "Washington's most prominent musician" (p. xvi), and he was in demand as a conductor of orchestras, choral groups, and the Marine Band itself. Sousa was one of the charter members of ASCAP, and he later became one of the most vocal proponents of royalties for sound recordings, testifying before congress on this topic in 1906.

Unlike today, at that time the Marine Band did not have government funding for tours, and the military musicians were available only a few weeks a year when they had leave, greatly limiting travel plans. By 1892, Sousa had left the Marine Corps, taking many players with him, to form a professional band that went on to play at the Chicago World's Fair and the St. Louis Exposition (in 1893), the Paris Exhibition (in 1900), followed by a tour of Great Britain in 1901. Sousa joined the navy during World War I, and although he continued to wear his officers uniform when he conducted, after the Great War the band was never quite the same. …

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