This article is over 6 years old

Classical Music

Music In The Making: Election Blues

Even if you’re Red, you’ll like these Blues. From liberal to conservative, we’ve got American music for all tastes.


To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code:

<iframe src="" style="height: 115px; width: 100%;"></iframe>

On this week’s episode, music by American composers from both sides of the aisle. From John Philip Sousa to Joan Tower, Music in the Making offers bipartisan musical selections.

John Philip Sousa in 1909
Elmer Chickering, U.S. Library of Congress
John Philip Sousa in 1909

John Philip Sousa: The Fairest of the Fair
Moores School Symphonic Winds
Moores Opera House

Known as “The March King,” the music of John Philip Sousa is synonymous with the sound of American patriotism. Responsible for the composition of 137 marches as well as numerous overtures, dances, and operettas, his legacy lives on in the huge repertoire he produced. His impact on American music is obvious; his “Stars and Stripes Forever” remains the National March of the United States, and “Semper Fidelis” is the official march of the United States Marine Corps. The “Fairest of the Fair” is a march inspired by a pretty girl Sousa saw at a Food Fair in Boston. It also likely describes the latest election, which despite concerns to the contrary, seemed to run smoothly.

Joan Tower: No Longer Very Clear
Melvin Chen
Moores Opera House

Recognized as one of the foremost American contemporary composers, Joan Tower is noteworthy for her myriad musical accomplishments, but also for her efforts to break the glass ceiling that still remains in the Classical world. She is well known for her set of five pieces called “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman,” and dedicated to women who, as Tower describes, are adventurous in their actions and risk-taking in their endeavors. This description could very well be applied to the composer herself, and extended to all the women who fought for their beliefs during this election.

John Adams, x 2
John Trumbull & Public Domain
John Adams, x 2

John Adams: Short Ride in a Fast Machine
Texas Music Festival Orchestra; Franz Anton Krager, conductor
Moores Opera House

Since the theme this week is Capitol Hill, talking about John Adams is an obvious choice. Not the second president of the United States, though; instead, we’ll hear from the contemporary minimalist composer. His orchestral piece “Short Ride in a Fast Machine” is an exhilarating and spirited rhythmic race, making use of the orchestra as a percussive instrument, but also drawing on a harmonically consonant musical language. Of the title, Adams jokes, “You know how it is when someone asks you to ride in a terrific sports car, and then you wish you hadn’t?”

George Gershwin: The Original "American in Paris"
George Gershwin: The Original “American in Paris”

George Gershwin: An American in Paris
Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra; Larry Rachleff, conductor
Stude Concert Hall

American composer George Gershwin stands out in the American musical world, equally comfortable with traditional genres (like his orchestral compositions) as well as his popular tunes. He was influenced by jazz, other composers, and his surroundings, as is evident in his symphonic tone poem, “An American in Paris.” Gershwin famously brought back taxi cab horns from his own travels in France to simulate the Parisian environment. Of the program, the composer commented, “An American visitor strolls about Paris and absorbs the French atmosphere.” He later succumbs to homesickness, as heard in the wailing blues of the trumpet. Finally, though, “the street noises and French atmosphere are triumphant.” This performance of George Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” is dedicated to all those U.S. citizens considering emigrating elsewhere in the wake of last week’s election.