Thursday, June 30, 2011

Music for July 4

Patriotic music goes with the July 4 celebration.  There are songs and instrumental pieces in all genres, as well as narrated pieces.  Many communities have a town band that performs an annual July 4, pre-fireworks concert.  Muncie's town band performs at Minnetrista.  Larger cities boast of symphony orchestras that perform much of the same repertoire, usually ending with Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.  Fireworks begin during the final segment, which was scored for cannon blasts.

I have set up a Naxos Music Library playlist of classic patriotic music for the holiday, which can be found here.  The playlist includes almost two hours of famous marches, the National Anthem, classic songs celebrating the country, and the fireworks portion of the 1812 Overture. (Ball State log-in required from off-campus)  Any Ball State user can create their own playlist on Naxos Music Library for private or shared listening.

If you want to perform some live music rather than listen, but you can't remember the words to The Star Spangled Banner, feel free to print this scan from the Music Collection's copy of National Patriotic and Typical Airs of All Lands, edited by none other than John Philip Sousa, director of , the Marine Corps band, also known as "The President's Own" from 1880 to 1892 and the composer of famous marches such as The Stars and Stripes Forever.  The Music Collection's copy of this collection of songs was published in 1890:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Music for the Summer Solstice

Stonehenge at Solstice
June 21st is the Summer Solstice, also known as Midsummer, Litha or St. John's Day in English-speaking countries. It is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and to ancient people the sun seemed to stand still on that day.  "Solstice" comes from the Latin for sun (sol ) and to stand still (sistere ).

In pre-Christian Europe, the solstice was considered the middle of the summer, the time when the sun was at the height of its power before fading back to be reborn at Yule, the Winter Solstice.  The stones of the famous Stonehenge ruins in England line up with the solstice, one of many ancient sites that do.  Later, the Christian Church allowed celebrations during this time in conjunction with the feast (festival) celebrating the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

Prehistoric Germanic and Nordic people believed that during the Summer Solstice fey or fairies were most active. This idea survived into the Christian era and took root in many traditions and works of art. The most famous of these is Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." (DVD Video 61) Composers have also been influenced by the idea that magic and fairies are afoot at the Solstice. 

Two famous composers were inspired by Shakespeare's play.  Felix Mendelssohn composed a set of incidental music for the play (Ein Sommernachtstraum in German), (CD 6693 or CD 17368).  The second is a full opera adaption by Benjamin Britten (CD 5092 and DVD Video 2037).

More recent composers have also been inspired by legends of Midsummer. William Alwyn used the legend that Midsummer's Eve increases passion in the aria "Midsummer's Night" from his only opera, Miss Julie, where the title character whips herself into a sexual frenzy as she begins an illicit affair. This aria can be found in the Music Collection on Kate Royal's CD, Midsummer Night (CD 18622).Sir Michael Tippett combines elements of Shakespeare's play with Welsh legends about Midsummer in his Opera, The Midsummer Marriage (CD 7448).

Musicians from other genres besides classical music have also been inspired by the Summer Solstice. American Jazz saxophonist Paul Winter has released a recording, Celtic Solstice (CD 6335), from his annual Solstice Concert series at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (left) in New York City.

Come to the Music Collection to check out any of these Summer Solstice inspired recordings.  DVDs are available for check-out from the Educational Resources Collections counter.