Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Right to the Source

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Right to the Source

Article excerpt

Exploring Science and History With the Library of Congress

Songs for a Changing World

When America entered World War I in 1917, popular song writing and sheet music publishing were at their height. Music of the period often appealed to patriotism, urging support for the war. As primary sources, songs--their subjects, lyrics, and imagery--can provide unique insight about how people grapple with concerns of the day and rapid changes in the world, including advances in science.

For example, the World War I song "Camouflage" was a tribute to the colored patterns borrowed from nature and used on a large scale for the first time to hide soldiers, equipment, and fortifications from the enemy. Until then, bright, regal uniforms were the norm. From the French word camoufler, meaning "to disguise," camouflage is a survival tool for animals, allowing them to avoid predators and sneak up on prey. When effective, camouflage can disrupt how our brains perceive objects, thus providing an advantage on the battlefield, which had expanded exponentially in World War I with the advent of tanks, airplanes, and more sophisticated munitions. As green and khaki uniforms helped soldiers blend into the environment, equipment and fortifications were draped in camouflaged nets or chicken wire. …

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