November marks Music Month for University

By John McDermott

Celebrating his bicentennial a year early, the University’s Sousa Archives and Center for American Music will center American Music Month on Abraham Lincoln and his impact on our musical heritage.

American Music Month’s activities include a series of concerts, lectures, master classes and exhibitions aimed not at celebrating Lincoln as a statesman or politician, but focusing on the music he surrounded himself with.

“Throughout his tenure as president, Lincoln heard music of every variety in the White House, in the military camps he visited and in the concert halls of Washington, D.C.,” said Scott Schwartz, Sousa archivist and event organizer.

“Lincoln really loved the music around him and that really influenced his social behaviors and helped him create the country that he wanted,” said Allissa Carter, junior in FAA.

Festivities began Nov. 1 with Sousa’s exhibition “Creative Industry Forging New Music Horizons.” Featuring historical documents, photographs, music manuscripts, sound recordings and artifacts, the exhibit displays the relationship between technology and music.

“We’re focusing on how different technological developments in instrument design or in music and computers and in business management have shaped the way music has been created,” said Adriana Cuervo, assistant archivist for Sousa.

One of the exhibit’s highlights is the inclusion of the original score of “Sheridan’s Ride,” an incredibly rare composition created by John Philip Sousa, the museum’s namesake. Recreating the Oct. 19, 1864 Battle at Cedar Creek, a turning point in the Civil War, “Sheridan’s Ride” features cannons, horses and other war sounds. The piece has only one known arrangement.

Schwartz is using computer composition software to recreate “Sheridan’s Ride” so the University band can perform the piece Dec. 5. This will be one of only several recorded performances of the piece in history.

The exhibition also features a recording and reviews of composer Salvatore Martirano’s “L’s G.A.” The “masterpiece” consisted of the performer, called “The Gas Mask Politico”, inhaling helium and performing choreography while delivering Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address.

Performance-wise, the most notable event will be Anthony Brown’s Asian American Jazz Orchestra concert. Featuring a blend of African-American rhythm and blues, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Western European and Eastern musical styles, Brown’s orchestra plays a unique form of jazz that embodies the diversity of the American musical landscape.

“The blending of cultures and seeing all the beauty that can come through so that each cultural identity remains intact, but when they come all together they influence on another,” Schwartz said. “The very strength of American music is its diversity.”

Despite the emphasis on Lincoln, Schwartz said he hopes American Music Month will open students up to other areas of music.

“Even Jimi Hendrix listened to Bach,” Schwartz said. “If Jimi Hendrix can do that, why can’t we? Why do we have to lock ourselves into one particular style of music and say that’s the only thing we listen to?”

“As students, even from elementary school, we learn basic math, science and history but we don’t necessarily learn the social history in terms of music and how much that influenced everybody,” Carter said.

Organizers also hope that the event will bring attention to the vast amount of resources the Sousa archives offer.

“Some time people think of archives as old, dusty places where if you’re good enough or qualified you can’t just go in touch … and that is so not true,” Cuervo said. “We welcome everyone and anyone.”