Sousa's Sen - Sen March [cover] , 1900.
by Neil Harris
John Philip Sousa and his America seemed made for each other. Their love affair, particularly during the Indian summer years preceding World War I, was neither coy nor covert, but entered into demonstratively and exuberantly by both sides. To later generations, caught up in waves of nostalgia and curious about a national mixture of assertion and self-confidence that seems impossible to recapture, Sousa continues to epitomize a whole way of life. His image evokes strutting drum majors, band concerts on soft summer nights, strolling couples, playing children, tranquil and reassuring evocations of a time of well-ordered pleasures. The marches remain a major national treasure, disciplined statements of national exuberance as unmistakably American as the Strauss waltz is Viennese. Sousa has become, in short, a perfect textbook tag, a cigar-box label guaranteed to produce the proper associations. He is as useful an historical resource as, in his own day, he was a national possession whose presence immediately produced attention, respect, and patronage.
The creation of this spectacular success story, undarkened by all but the smallest cloud, poses problems for subsequent biographers. There seem to be no hidden corners in Sousa's life, no buried secrets, no squalid episodes to shock admirers or provoke defenders. In countless interviews, in articles and columns, in autobiography and public statements he acknowledged his ambition and his success openly; he refused to be intimidated by either. His political opinions resembled those held by most of his countrymen, nor was he swayed by particular emotion for any special cause or social reform. He was what he appeared to be: a hard-working, prolific, and energetic musical genius who marketed his special talents effectively (and profitably) for more than forty years. His compositions stir us, as they moved his contemporaries, for understandable reasons. His conducting technique, while not uncontroversial, employed established conventions. Examining the Sousa image then, seems doomed to footnoting the obvious generalizations: the story is too clear and uncomplicated to repay lengthy investigation.
But there may be some reasons for exploring Sousa more carefully; they lie in the very intensity and longevity of his success. The Sousa career was a managed one, created to stimulate and satisfy consumer interest and oriented to marketplace approval. Skillful publicists fashioned the Sousa image, appealing to the mass market created by modern journalism. Musical history contains many instances of masters writing on demand for fame or income. The impresario-performer, brought to prosperity by clever promotional techniques, was well established long before Sousa's birth. But rarely before had a composer-conductor so clearly identified himself with the cultural needs and public taste of his day. Seldom had an artist more easily made his peace with the commercial ethos surrounding him, or become so unambiguous a symbol of community ambition. And, in America at least, never had anyone achieved this for so long a period of time, basically unshaken in prestige by otherwise comprehensive changes.
American monarchs, royalty in a republican society, tend to reign in performing arenas--acting, sports, and music. The March King was, in his own way, as popular a figure as the Sultan of Swat. The fact that Sousa determined to document this role, in the eighty-five volumes of newspaper extracts which inform this essay, indicates a concern with reputation and a willingness to keep his clipping-service busy recording it. Sousa sensed, along with his audiences, that he had assumed a set of crucial cultural roles--pedagogic, patriotic, and paternal. His band and his music were unrivalled because they captured in sound the values official spokesmen celebrated verbally. Sousa's success built upon a formula. The repeated conventions of a Sousa march, or a Sousa band performance, along with their timely adjustments to meet important events, were not entirely original. But the close fit they achieved, and never lost, owed much to Sousa's public personality.
In a country where artistic talent had generally been segregated from the active, practical skills of business and the professions, Sousa brought them together. During his lifetime the world of the performer became a highly specialized one, demanding the talents of managers, press agents, programmers, tour managers, theatre owners, and advance men. Sousa was a careful student of managerial skills; by his later years he had become a master strategist. The sense he had of American musical culture and his functions within it, the response of critics and audiences to his marches and audiences, both say something about the way this culture functioned. Sousa was an authentic cultural hero. His work reassured his countrymen about the essential benevolence of their national task, their political beliefs, and the vitality of their creative life. Courting the great middle classes who were his sponsors, Sousa realized that his strength lay in the close connections forged between performance and social confidence in Victorian America. Both the image and the image making deserve some further attention.
Just as Edison did not invent electricity, Sousa did not invent the band. Two generations of Americans had been enjoying band music by the 1860s, the decade during which young John Philip grew up in Washington. As historians of American music have shown, there were several traditions to choose among. During the 1840s and 50s small groups of brass and reed instrumentalists performed assorted airs, waltzes, schottisches, two steps, ballads, and polkas for enthusiastic if informal audiences. This repertoire, popular and unself-conscious, was obviously not competing with the more complex compositions published in contemporary Europe which were rapidly assuming classic status. There were, in any event, few American ensembles capable of performing major symphonic works before the Civil War, although several orchestras had been organized.
But the popular bands shared attention with another variant, the military band, normally created by militia groups to provide music for social festivities and training exercises. The relationship between the wind band and the military band was centuries old by this time in Europe, and in one or another form it had existed in America since the eighteenth century. However, the absence of a standing army (or indeed of almost any type of uniformed service) and the unwillingness of public authorities to pay for such luxuries meant that support of military band music depended on the ambitions and self-respect of individual regiments, or occasionally on townships with a tradition of sustaining a musical organization. On the eve of the Civil War there were several reasonably accomplished such bands, the best of them being the group led by a young Irish-born musician who had emigrated after serving in the British Army in Canada, Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore.
The bands, military and civil, were numerous and popular, but hardly dominated American musical life in the ante-bellum period. The paying public divided into two parts: first, a select group of subscribers to opera or symphony concerts, confined to the large cities and ritualistically maintaining a tradition of middle-class patronage modeled on Europe's. The other sector, more heterogeneous and spasmodic, flocked to great discoveries and performing celebrities, also European imports, like Jenny Lind, Alboni, and the bandmaster Jullien. These performers were the sensations of their age, centerpieces of elaborate and faddish worship, but their vogue usually ebbed in a short time and they returned home. So loose and ill-defined was national musical life that immigrant groups, Germans in particular, found it necessary to establish their own musical organizations, singing clubs, tournaments, festivals, and music halls. German orchestras, choral societies, Saengerfest, Harmonieverein, Saengerbund, developed in cities like Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and St. Louis, but this active approach to performing was more an ethnic possession than an American characteristic. With a small elite supporting the opera and symphony, a larger group dogging the footsteps of imported celebrities, and a set of people who simply enjoyed informal ensembles playing tunes of the day, the American public was served oh the whole by small, badly equipped and poorly trained bands, the largest of which had no more than fifteen or twenty members. And, according to touring artists and native critics, it was an audience prepared to accept poor musicianship and naive programming in return for a little showmanship and diversion.
Before the Civil War no great conductor had emerged in America, at least no one whose name alone could attract crowds. It was not very different in Europe. Historians argue that it was only in the 1840s and 50s, with Musard in Paris, Jullien in England, and Strauss in Vienna, that the first celebrity conductors appeared, "able to draw audiences to the concerts. . . . quite independently of any other attractions that were offered or of any other influences that were in operation." And these three conductors featured dance music. Soloists and composers remained the dominant draw.
But the American band received a boost in popularity from the Civil War. Especially active in the early days of recruiting rallies and mass enlistment, military bands to accompany the troops were created in such numbers that Congress passed bills limiting their growth and forcing some reduction. Bands had traditional roles in warfare: the drum and bugle corps met important signaling needs, organizing the training camps and punctuating daily activities with their distinctive calls. In battle they relayed commands and, on occasion, bolstered morale; on the march they provided indispensable accompaniment and relief from the prevailing monotony. Above all the war evoked a spirit of patriotism which vented itself in patriotic music, rousing martial tunes superbly suited to the military band along with mournful ballads which they could also perform.
This growth of military ceremonial and patriotic sentiment provided a new base for American instrumentalists; while many new bands did not survive the war a taste for band music did. And a few conductors, notably Patrick Gilmore, developed enthusiastic followings. Gilmore became involved with several extravaganzas bringing him further publicity, his concerts in occupied New Orleans and two massive Peace Jubilees in Boston being the most memorable. By the late 1870s he had settled down to a career of national tours and extended stays at important resorts and major municipal expositions. His dynamic personality and vivaciousness on the platform, along with the professionalism and discipline of his bandsmen, made him a significant American ensemblist for almost twenty years. Gilmore supplied a diet of popular marches, operatic medleys, patriotic airs, and favorite songs of the day; he claimed few educational objectives, and was not noted for any off-stage antics.
His one rival for American affections, however, had a very different set of goals. Theodore Thomas was six years younger than Gilmore and like him had been born abroad, at Esens, the son of a musician. He studied the violin, and for a time served in Jullien's orchestra while the French showman was touring America. After stints in the Philharmonic Society of New York and more touring, he began his conducting career at the Academy of Music, launching his own orchestra (1864-65) at Irving Hall in New York. Thomas competed with the New York Philharmonic and introduced serious symphonic music to audiences that still preferred waltzes, galops, and popular medleys. Thomas played almost everywhere: in Central Park, for a series of summer night concerts; at music festivals; at fairs and expositions; and in concert halls, lecture rooms, and auditoriums all over the United States. After holding a succession of major conducting posts and teaching positions, by the 1890s Thomas finally arrived at a secure professional home in Chicago with the Symphony Orchestra that he founded, but his career had been filled with frustrations, bitter defeats, and financial hardships. Acknowledged almost universally as the major figure in serious American performance, he suffered the fate of a pioneer, struggling simultaneously to instruct, entertain, and refine audiences; attempting to instill a sense of concentration, discipline, and decorum while he introduced Americans to a range of contemporary music. Befriended and idolized by many of the country's major political, literary, and artistic figures, Thomas was identified with the self-conscious didacticism and moralism that dominated American high culture during the late nineteenth century.
Between the world of Gilmore and the world of Thomas there appeared to stretch an impassable gulf--on the one side the high-spirited, unpretentious Irish bandmaster, with few illusions about the ennobling impact of his performance, and on the other the serious-minded, disciplined German conductor, intent upon transforming American musical taste and musicianship. It was into this gap that Sousa would move, subject to the criticism of partisans in both camps, the popular and the serious, attacked either for trying to highbrow public taste, subjecting it to implausible and unsuccessful manipulation, or for pandering to public sentiment by filling his programs with light, unseemly musical ditties. Sousa, in fact, served a large middle-class audience which was growing progressively more knowledgeable and even experimental about its music, but which continued to enjoy popular works that made few demands on patience or understanding. Expectations about levels of musicianship rose through the 1870s and 80s, fed by an increasing frequency of musical performance, wider travel, urbanization, tours of foreign bands, and the American love for festivals--industrial, patriotic, and civic--which, as in Victorian Britain, supported professional musicianship. A prospering middle class, enjoying the pleasures of summer vacations and savoring the advantages of musical educations for their children, could be expected to attend concerts more regularly.
Prescient promoters (and musicians also) sensed in the 1880s that profits and fame awaited those who could satisfy this new market. This required, on the one hand, new levels of quality and technique, and on the other, music that did not unduly challenge public tastes. David Blakely, Sousa's future manager, experienced in the arts of promotion and printing, was one of those who realized what the audience wanted. In the early 1890s, as rumors began to circulate that Blakely would enter the market with a band of his own, backed by the fabulous wealth of a Chicago syndicate, musicians begged for his attention. From Elgin, Illinois, in the fall of 1891, the musical director of the Elgin Military Band asked Blakely, as "the most successful manager of the present time," to take over the administration of his outfit and create a permanent Chicago band. That same year, as hints of Patrick Gilmore's impending retirement began to spread, Jules Levy shot off an importunate series of letters to Blakely, pleading with him to "take my fortune in your hands. . . . There must be a great Band in America," Levy argued; he could be its bandmaster. "I will bind myself to you, I will follow your advice in all things," he swore. But Blakely had already begun his association with Sousa, managing a tour of the Marine Band in 1891, as he would again in 1892. He sensed that it was Sousa, not Levy, Liberati, or F. N. Innes, who would take over Gilmore's title as America's most popular musical figure.
The first tours, certainly, were not easy ones. Sousa had already achieved some reputation as a composer of marches and he had transformed the Marine Band from a lackluster and little known ensemble to a popular and well-supported group, at least in Washington, presiding over a broad range of official ceremonies. Indeed, Sousa's increasing dissatisfaction with the restrictions of governmental employment, and the publicity given his move to private management, mirrored the growing presence of a federal bureaucracy in the 1880s and 90s. Sousa had to press to get permission for his Marine Band to tour under Blakely's management; general competition between military and civilian bands was a source of bitterness, not only in America but in Germany and Great Britain as well. Military musicians, underpaid but also underworked, grabbed concert jobs at rates lower than those demanded by civilian bandsmen. In St. Louis, in the 1880s, five private bands were driven out of business when the cavalry department's recruiting band transferred there from Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Although Sousa got the pay for Marine bandsmen raised in 1891, there was no question that military musicians suffered from official niggardliness. Sousa's departure from government symbolized the attractions of private capital, "Chicago gold," according to the New York Evening Journal, the same gold that allowed William Rainey Harper to raid the faculties of Europe and America for his new University of Chicago. "The East is becoming more and more disgusted every day with Chicago's way of doing things."
Dreams of wealth appealed to Sousa; Blakely increased his income several-fold, and sales of his marches swelled agreeably. But Sousa was also attracted by the idea of creating a new kind of musical organization, one that would compete artistically with the greatest European bands, like the Garde Républicaine, but would also, with a newly arranged instrumentation, present a novel repertoire to popular audiences. In later years Sousa was asked why (as a former violinist) he did not become an orchestra conductor. His response was that the orchestra represented too confining a tradition. With no wish to perform "ponderous symphonies" or "massive preludes," and believing that "entertainment is of more real value to the world than technical education in musical appreciation," Sousa sought an alternative. The cabaret orchestra, one possibility, was too limited and the military band "too vague in its instrumentation." But "a new combination, unhampered by tradition, which could get at the hearts of the people was my desideratum." If his autobiographical reflections are to be believed, Sousa sought an original, innovative approach to performance and programming, and a special place for himself and his musical organization in the public heart. "I wanted to avoid those musical combinations governed by certain laws as enduring as those of the Medes and the Persians, and institute one which I felt would cater to the many rather than the few." Innovation and popularity, these two goals would dominate his activities.
Sousa's talents obviously impressed Blakely, despite the problems that his advance men were having publicizing the Marine Band's two early tours. J. H. Laine, one of them, wrote to Blakely from Indianapolis in 1891 that "the Marine Band did not take with the public so well in advance work as Gilmore or Strauss," and found it "dam [sic] hard work to boom or work up" the group. The second tour, with better routing, tripled the profits, and Blakely's five-year contract practically guaranteed him a financial windfall. With his pick of potential attractions, the business manager determined that it was Sousa who had the brightest future.
Some of this appeal was highly personal. In the late nineteenth century the musical world contained more than its share of temperamental personalities, alternating bouts of romantic self-celebration with periods of guilt and depression. Many performers, moreover, had few attractions or accomplishments beyond their musical skills. Sousa, with only a limited formal education, somehow managed to acquire a certain polish and a set of broader interests, which he tied to a clearly stable and rather optimistic temperament. In mid-1892, when Blakely was still trying to put together a syndicate by selling shares, he wrote to a prospective purchaser, Hobart Weed of Buffalo, that Sousa would soon be appearing there. Invite Sousa to your club, he urged Weed; here was a "thoroughly polished gentleman, a magnificent musician, a remarkable composer, and a devilish good fellow generally," who would cause his host no blushes. Sousa's carriage and self-discipline, combined with his gift for self-command, would make him a good gamble for the ambitious businessman.
There remained, to be sure, the unknown quality of his public charm. When Sousa began, the band field was dominated by the vigorous presence of Patrick Gilmore, now in his sixties and possibly on the eve of retirement, but certainly the most popular conductor ever to perform in America. Sousa would have to communicate some special excitement to be fully successful. J. H. Johnston, manager of the Pittsburgh Exposition, a lucrative engagement for a touring band, protested Blakely's demand for a $3,l00-a-week contract. This was higher than he had paid Gilmore, and "it was Gilmore's strong personality that carried the day" rather than "his Band." Pittsburgh, with broad exposure to a number of musical organizations, might be difficult. "Of Sousa's personal characteristics I know absolutely nothing," Johnston wrote, but "everything depends upon the personal magnetism of the leader. . . . he has to prove his worth in this respect."
The test would be met by Sousa's assembling a band to rival the best competition, and by Blakely's arranging for maximum possible exposure and publicity. About the first, the Musical Courier was not optimistic. Reacting, in July 1892, to the announcement that Sousa's new band would perform at the dedication of Chicago's Columbian Exposition in October under the contract arranged by Blakely, the Courier described this New Marine Band as "a travesty," a "blaring, glaring noise producer, and its success, wherever it had any, was due to the lack of discernment on the part of the public." Exaggerating the Marine Band's faults, probably under the influence of rival bandmasters, the Courier argued "a brass band is not created by special design; it is a matter of evolution, even if all the material is acceptable. It takes a long time to make a brass band a musical organization. Mr. Sousa may be a genius, but thus far he has not demonstrated it."
Sousa set about with characteristic energy to gather his musicians. Letters of application poured in, most from candidates expecting Chicago to be the new permanent home of the organization. Some players listed their varying engagements on their stationery, summoning up the fairs, resorts, and settings that Sousa would dominate in coming years: the Manhattan Beach Hotel; the Congress Hall at Cape May; the St. Louis, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh Expositions. Blakely's management record, Sousa's fame as composer, legends of the limitless wealth of the Chicago backers, and the assistance of friendly instrument makers permitted Sousa to get his pick of fine musicians. Several were willing to leave well-established posts, because of the new group's promise.
Sousa was further aided by the death of two principal rivals, within months of his signing the contract. In September 1892 Patrick Gilmore, visiting St. Louis to fulfill an engagement for the city's annual exposition, suddenly died. And in early 1893 the leader of New York's famous Seventh Regiment Band, Carlo Alberto Cappa, a noted innovator himself, also died unexpectedly. Sousa was suddenly the major figure of the band world, able to draw on members of these older organizations.
The weeks of drill and rehearsal that preceded the band's premiere in the fall of 1892 were accompanied by careful planning on its manager's part as well. Besides Patrick Gilmore, no bandmaster had led an independent (and profitable) band, at least not for more than a year or two. Some thought the new venture was impossible. There had been earlier failures. The most notable was that of Frederick N. Innes, who abandoned his Great Band, after just a couple of years, for the security of regimental sponsorship. But Innes did not have the services of an expert manager like Blakely. "I think I know exactly what to do to make the people feel, when one of my organizations comes to their city, that they simply must hear it; they cannot afford to remain away," Blakely told a potential backer in 1892. Publicity, publicity, and more publicity got Sousa before the public eye; interviews, photographs, magazine articles, planted newspaper stories, all helped. "There isn't a book or stationery store that has not one or more of Mr. Sousa's pictures in his show window," Emily Howard wrote Blakely from St. Louis in October 1893, "and the handsome white uniform on the handsome brunette man shows off in great shape. There is always a crowd around these windows!" Sousa was entertained "royally" by local figures in these first trips, again establishing the personal contacts that helped produce favorable newspaper reviews and crowded audiences.
But there were many uncertainties. Profits at first were slim. Despite Blakely's conviction that his new contract was a "valuable plum," Sousa remained an unknown quantity as a star. Inevitably he was compared with Gilmore, and in some cases found wanting. Thus the Hartford Times in 1893 praised Sousa's performance but found the band still far "from that notable unity and solidarity of retention, and that wonderful success in expression and beauty of shading which made Gilmore's band . . . famous." During the same tour the Lowell Journal lamented that Sousa did not possess "the personal presence and ability of the matchless Bandmaster," Patrick Gilmore. The New York World complained that the reeds were rough and the brass blared. However intelligent and agreeable, Sousa lacked "the indescribable gift of personal magnetism. . . of placing himself en rapport with his auditors." Some quarreled with the name--Sousa's New Marine Band--or took issue with the number of encores. And audiences were smaller than expected.
Still, critics agreed, it was an impressive achievement. In a matter of weeks Sousa had trained an ensemble to produce sounds that more experienced bands had not achieved in years of practice. There was "a neatness of attack, a certainty and precision" more characteristic of string organizations, said the Chicago Record, calling this "the best military band in the nation." The Hartford Times, despite its qualifications, dubbed it "the foremost military band in the world." Sousa's recruiting ability, according to the Philadelphia Times, was as impressive as his musicianship; now that he could select his own musicians, he surpassed all he had done before.
Despite newspaper references to a military band, this seemed a novel organization, "a compromise between an orchestra and a field band. There is not the loud twanging that has made the indoor playing of the old organization objectionable." The much larger proportion of reeds, part of Sousa's plan for creating a new ensemble, permitted a wider repertoire. "In making reeds do the concert work of strings and yet retain the effectiveness and beauty of the orchestral score," the Kansas City Star explained, "Mr. Sousa has undertaken a big work." So respectful grew the Boston Herald that it was drawn to a local comparison. Sousa's Band and the Boston Symphony were created by similar methods, "ample financial means" placed "at the disposal of a thoroughly competent musician." But Sousa's outfit demanded a special classification. It was basically "a military orchestra, that is, a body of the usual instruments included in the makeup of a military band but capable of producing the effects commonly confined to the players of a concert orchestra." The brass sections, noted another newspaper, were subordinated but not put out of hearing. Just as the beer in a shandy-gaff cut the acerbity of the ginger ale and the ale sweetened the bitterness of the beer, "so here the reeds temper the blare of the brass, and the brass spices the reeds." In an era when the New York Times could argue that American brass bands were Bedlam and Pandemonium combined, and suggest arranging bandstands on a pivot at seaside hotels "so that when the terrible creature within begins to lash himself into fury" the stage be turned to the sea "and the horrid voice of the monster poured out upon the illimitable ocean," this was high praise. Here was a new sound developed by a "man of brains," and audiences were impressed.
During the first year or two of touring, observers raised themes which would continue to surface as responses to Sousa during the next three decades. One of them concerned his physical skill as a leader. Orchestral tone depended not only on practice, but on Sousa's capacity to direct it during performance. The "simple lash of his eye, the motion of his little finger," wrote an awed critic in the Worcester Telegram, "were sufficient to control the melodious noise of the hushed harmony of one of the finest bodies of instruments in the world." Sousa "woos the harmony out of the men with the air of a master,'' a Midwestern newspaper agreed. He had "such perfect control over his magnificent organization," the Williamsport News reported, "that every effect was brought out without any apparent effort." "No conductor ever seen in Corning had his men under better or more complete control," ran another conclusion, a compliment whose sincerity compensated for its rather limited sphere of comparison.
The conductor's magical control excited considerable comment during the late nineteenth-century performances. Sousa's concert band was not huge by orchestral standards--containing nearly sixty men during a normal concert--but Americans were accustomed to the sloppy, ragged playing of much smaller amateur groups. And they were caught up by the subservience of this musical mammoth to the baton's movements. The posture and bearing of the conductor were important parts of any effective concert and the carefully groomed Sousa, clad in tight-fitting uniform and spotless white gloves, acted out the maestro for his audiences. Compared to the great and furious movements favored by some older leaders, his conducting style, at first, seemed modest and restrained. Sousa offered an intriguing but well-controlled set of motions, meticulously analyzed by music critics and journalists at a level of detail that reveals the importance of the concert's visual features.
The Saginaw Globe, for one, was impressed by the economy of his gestures. Holding his men "as under a spell," every baton motion brought a response. "Unlike the great Gilmore, Sousa does not make himself conspicuous by his vigorous work, but is very quiet and unassuming. Yet the result is the same." The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, writing in the summer of 1893, shortly after David Blakely had invited several hundred connoisseurs to watch Sousa perform, apparently agreed. Gilmore, of blessed memory, the Eagle wrote, was a passionate, spectacular conductor who employed energy and "snap" to intensify effects. "Gilmore wore the awful front of angry Mars when he worked up a crescendo. He rode the harmonious storm as furiously as the wild huntsman rides his phantom steed, dominating it and spurring it on to the climax." Organizing a diminuendo Gilmore was a different person, "smiling above his men like the white winged cherub of peace." The terrible warrior could suddenly become an angel of light.
Sousa was something else. Apparently not a creature of moods he was "a small man with a natty figure and a black beard. He is the quietest conductor ever seen in these parts. He is not at all spectacular." But if the fire did not get into the conductor, it got into the music. And audience responses grew stronger. The Duluth Herald labeled Sousa "an ideal leader. He is not overly demonstrative and no violence characterizes his movements, but every motion is graceful and expresses exactly what the music conveys. A deaf person might almost watch Sousa and understand the music." The Syracuse Standard described him as "the very personification of masculine grace," the Lewiston Journal applauded this "masterly yet modest way" of conducting, a baton with "magic in it," vigorous yet with a "refined musicianly manner," and to the Duluth Herald Sousa's directions were so graceful that he seemed to be "waltzing with the music." A Syracuse critic applauded Sousa's avoidance of whole arm movements, and his apparent reluctance even to use half arm gestures. He possessed, instead, "a wrist made flexible by long practice with the violin bow and it is with graceful wrist movements that he does most of his directing. He adds force to any passage by movements of the body and the waist. His feet are seldom moved."
The combination of discipline and languor--in the same paragraph the Buffalo Enquirer invoked gestures from a "lady-like shrug" to "the vigorous action of a baseball pitcher"--was new and exciting. It was an arresting synthesis of military precision and balletic grace. While one critic could liken Sousa's conducting to "the sheer delight of a little girl playing mother with her dolls," another described him as "a consummate general . . . alert, active, watches every man." Sousa's vigor, his energy, his masculine appeal rescued him from charges of affectation and effeminacy, charges which some American musical artists faced at the turn of the century. Sousa's visual impact was as powerful in its own way as the arrangements his band played.
Yet his methods did arouse controversy. Debate mounted in subsequent years, when Sousa's conducting gestures grew more animated and more sweeping, but even in the first stage a few dissenters grumbled. A Buffalo newspaper found Sousa to be "almost as much of a poseur as Nikitsch of the Boston Symphony Orchestra." Some of his attitudes "were 'very fetching.' " But clear admiration formed the consensus, approval for the precise, non melodramatic motions exerted by the band conductor. The military metaphors embedded in the descriptions reflected contemporary respect for organization. The 1890s, the decade of Sousa's commercial debut as his own bandmaster, hosted a series of organizational expansions--in commerce, education, transport, and manufacturing--and the management of complex human enterprises like world's fairs and international trusts. Historians have suggested the many influences exerted by these revolutions in scale, and the evolution of the new bureaucracies. Master executives, bringing comprehensive order from this potential chaos, were heroes of the age. Industrial magnates, railroad masters, department store owners, and financial wizards had as counterparts the new executives of performance culture, from baseball managers and football coaches to circus owners and theatrical agents. Sousa's tours were as intricately managed as his musicians were drilled. But the bandmaster had a special capacity for symbolizing the control, the disciplining of powerful forces. This small man could, with one baton movement, draw forth enormous sound; or as quickly, with a single gesture command silence. Sousa's popularity reflected his ability to synthesize powerful archetypes of his day--artist and general, bureaucrat and athlete, pedagogue and matinee idol--but at its heart lay this sense of total control. He was trying, he told a reporter a decade later, to make his musicians and himself into "a one-man band. Only, instead of having actual metallic wires to work the instruments, I strike after magnetic ones. I have to work so that I feel every one of my fifty-eight musicians is linked up with me by a cable of magnetism. Every man must be as intent upon and as sensitive to every movement of my baton, or my fingers, as I am myself."
But the control itself required amplification. Like other contemporary business masters, Sousa readily accepted the customer's presence. He admitted the need for pleasing his audience, which meant salesmanship and advertising. Showmanship, he commented later in his autobiography, was effective "in every walk of life. Men may object to being called showmen, but the history of mankind is a record of continual showmanship from the very beginning. The Queen of Sheba's appearance before Solomon was showmanship of the cleverest sort." And so, Sousa added (this in the late 1920s), was Henry Ford's sense of drama in introducing the new Model A.
Sousa's interest in pleasing his audience showed up in many ways besides his dramatically designed gestures and military posture. His composing and his programming bore evidence of his search for popularity. In his first few seasons, for example, he developed a series of musical narrations, easy to follow and based upon contemporary interests. His suite, The Chariot Race, exploited the popularity of Lew Wallace's Ben Hur. A New Britain newspaper commented that what Wallace had done in words--painting the Roman scene--"Sousa has done in music and with greater effect." The Chariot Race introduced "as realistic effects in music as ever did M. Zola bring into literature," the Middlesex Times argued. "The tap of the horse's hoofs, the rattle of harness, the clash of the chariot wheels, the snap of whips. . . .This was not exactly music," the newspaper admitted, "but it was fun." And so was In a Clock Store, a descriptive piece by another composer, in which an apprentice wound up a series of ticking and striking clocks, producing a series of noises appropriate to alarms, cuckoos, and chimes. Sousa's Last Days of Pompeii drew on Bulwer-Lytton's novel, and the program notes included lengthy quotations. Indeed, these descriptive numbers were all accompanied by extended program comments enabling the audience to follow the narrative. During the nineties Sousa also featured other descriptive pieces like Sheridan's Ride, humoresques like The Band Came Back, in which the musicians entered, individually or in groups, playing their instruments, Good-Bye, and a whole series of variations on popular tunes of the day, snatches from musical comedies, or, in later years, movie music.
The inclusion of these numbers and of popular songs like Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow-Wow (often, to be sure, as encores) led to considerable debate from the outset about Sousa's programming philosophy and his impact upon national musical taste. For decades reviewers in major American journals like Harper's, the Century, the Atlantic Monthly, and Lippincott's, had been anxiously examining American taste for signs of increasing refinement. Among all the arts, musical judgment appeared to show the most progress. A public was now apparently prepared to accept serious music on its own merits, with enthusiasm and discrimination. In the seventies and eighties particularly, many critics argued that Americans made more demanding listeners than Europeans, able to distinguish good from mediocre performers, and capable of absorbing complex and difficult music.
Nonetheless, there were frequent admissions that this sensibility was still confined to a fairly small portion of the national audience. And by the nineties, there was less confidence in its continuing growth. It was up to conductors and managers to reach out and educate a broader mass, encouraging them to support the orchestras, opera companies, chamber music groups, and composers that a great civilization should possess. According to theorists of genteel improvement, serious-minded musicians had an obligation to raise the level of their audiences' musical desires, to instruct as well as to entertain. Certainly Theodore Thomas, in his tireless crusades to popularize European symphonic music, accepted such a role. Indeed he pursued it with such energy and single-mindedness that there were occasional complaints about his didacticism. Critics and musical educators argued furiously, of course, about the means of improvement. Some insisted that people who listened to music, any music, however common or popular, would gradually seek a higher standard. Others urged, from the outset, that trivial and trashy tunes be barred from performance in favor of higher standards. Pedagogues and promoters divided.
It was into this climate of anxiety about public taste, hope for improvement and concern with contemporary programming, that Sousa introduced his touring band. Bands had, traditionally, belonged to a lower part of the musical hierarchy than serious soloists, orchestras, chamber groups, and choral societies. They were identified with a more limited repertoire and with a performance style that exaggerated the vulgar, favoring flashy overtures, blaring marches, sentimental ballads, and incongruous pastiches. Even Patrick Gilmore disdained portions of the band repertoire. He upbraided David Blakely for trying to get him to perform a "false" and "inartistic . . . circus of war songs" in 1891. "I have fired the public beast through cannon and anvil," Gilmore admitted, "but I gave them great music withal. I would not touch the War Song Panorama for any amount of gold."
Nonetheless, despite this protest Gilmore was widely identified with a relaxed and tolerant approach to programming. Gilmore's fame, the New York World explained, "was not based upon the satisfaction he gave our intellect; it rested upon the gratification he furnished to our senses. He played the simple melodies of our homes, and the tears filled our eyes." Gilmore knew public sentiment; he combined it with his own magnetism to fill men with "good nature" and make them "more contented, more cheerful and happier." Gilmore, wrote the Kansas City Journal, "was more a caterer than a teacher," although he may well have been justified by the primitive level of national taste that existed when he began his conducting career.
Sousa was harder to analyze. Articulate and aggressive about marketing his musical philosophy, certainly much more vocal and self-conscious than Gilmore had been, he gave concerts which appeared to be too heterogeneous and even volatile in quality for critics to take any clear line upon them. From the start he seemed more serious than previous band conductors, in part because of his heavier reliance upon winds and his concern with arranging more accurate and evocative transcriptions of orchestral compositions. Where Gilmore had sown, ran the refrain, Sousa would reap, appealing to and sustaining a more serious level of musical knowledge. This band leader "is not catering to popular taste," insisted the Elmira Star in early 1893. "He prefers a better quality of music than brass bands usually play or brass band audiences care to hear." The playing of Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite, of Wagner's Lohengrin, of Schubert, Rossini, and Tschaikowsky revealed sophistication and skill. Even in lighter portions of the program, the Kansas City Journal wrote, there was a "dignity of treatment" which removed it from vulgarity.
But most early comments about Sousa focused on his programming breadth and his playing of popular music. They did so, approvingly or disapprovingly, pondering the point of organizing a band so skillful and disciplined in order to play this more common range of tunes. Those who accepted Sousa's tributes to mass taste as a basis for programming agreed with him that there was nothing wrong with popularity. And a band was no fit interpreter of serious music anyway, some of them continued. "Mr. Sousa's excellent sense is shown in bowing to the popular will and giving the people what they want and what they pay for," a New York newspaper commented. Sousa had been advised to depart from the Gilmore tradition and emphasize classical music more, the paper admitted, but he realized his audiences did not come to be educated but to be entertained.
The Chicago Herald agreed. Applauding Sousa's enormously popular performances at the Columbian Exposition, it attacked the Fair's musical directorate (including Theodore Thomas), who sought a means of "educating" the public. Many people, the Herald argued, found it "almost a punishment to hear classical music, while all their senses rejoice at listening to a simple and familiar melody." Sousa's open air concerts, on the Grand Plaza of the fairgrounds, were an unexpected 1893 sensation and helped establish his early reputation.
But some reviewers were appalled by the heavy proportion of popular tunes and dismayed by the missed opportunities. The Duluth Daily Commonwealth detected a disproportion of "coconut dance and clog dance and Salvation Army parody" in Sousa's program, even while admitting that the audience seemed to love it. The "thousand people who heard with delight the overture to the Flying Dutchman and the Hungarian Rhapsodie" departed feeling "partly degraded" by this cheaper music. "A conductor should try to give his audience as much music as they can hold, and a Duluth audience has a better capacity than Mr. Sousa supposed."
Other newspapers, reflecting the ambitions of the musically literate, voiced similar concerns. The Springfield Republican praised the fine musicianship, but regretted to see "such superb material wasted upon such empty and meaningless music." Nonetheless, it accepted the fact that "people who attend band concerts do not go to hear Beethoven." In the end the journalists were realistic. Their complaints were temperate, and several, like the Evening Wisconsin in Milwaukee, advised Sousa to stay within his orbit and not get too fancy or "usurp the field of the symphony orchestra." It is very doubtful, the Syracuse Standard concluded, "if anybody cares to have strings emulated by brass." The "brass band will never be the equal of the string band for concert work any more than the orchestra will ever rival the brass band in the martial music of the street parade."
Sousa himself explained his philosophy of programming in a series of interviews, beginning during his first tours. He disliked making hard and fast distinctions between educating and entertaining the public, although he attacked those who insisted that reliance upon strictly classical repertoires was the only way to proceed. While popular taste was improving--"I believe a programme composed entirely of so-called popular music would now be as dismal, a failure as one wholly made up of classical pieces"--he insisted it was foolish "to try to play above the heads of one's listeners. The audience at big out-door concerts is composed largely of the masses. . . . They don't care for what some folks are pleased to call classical music. ... I have always believed in playing airs that I found everybody likes."
In any event, Sousa went on, the term classical was used too arbitrarily. Any tune was classical, he insisted, that had "achieved a lasting popularity and become a standard. 'The Swanee River' I call classic." If critics were patient they would find public appreciation of "high class" music increasing, particularly if it was "mixed judiciously with favorite tunes and dealt out in small doses." Finally, Sousa suggested that performance style itself could aid public refinement. When he played "Molly and I and the Baby," a popular tune that some found particularly offensive when it was juxtaposed with Wagner or Grieg, instead of presenting Molly as "a frowzy-headed girl," he dressed her up "in a clean white frock" and had her "washing up the baby." Sanitized, the music was entertaining and refining.
The burden on the band conductor was heavy, because most observers agreed that band music, by reason of its popularity, was the music of the people. It could "be made a stepping stone to something higher." Sousa's own special mix was a strategy for such advancement. His secret, according to the Chicago Herald in 1892, was a "tacit promise" to his audience that if they were patient through the serious numbers, they would get the "sweetmeats that are presented as encores. . . . Just as in the circus the buffoonery of the clown amuses as much as the daring feats of the acrobat, so here also the musical joke is appreciated not less than the serious composition." Sousa himself, in an interview the following year, argued that through "some mysterious mesmeric process which is beyond my power of analysis" he could tell when the audience was with him. If interest lagged in a certain number, his next selection would "be something totally at variance with the one that preceded it." Writing his autobiography he tried to provide a long pedigree for his mix and match procedure. In the theater, he argued, it was not unusual to see comic scenes following immediately upon tragic ones. Shakespeare was noted for such contrasts. And in romantic drama laughter frequently followed tears. "So it is that I have no hesitation in combining in my programme tinkling comedy with symphonic tragedy or rhythmic march with classic tone-picture."
One device Sousa employed to introduce these lighter notes (and his own marches) excited special attention. Although they would occasionally be scheduled as part of the program, his vast repertoire of popular numbers entered the concert hall through unannounced encores. But the encores became so invariable a part of his presentation that they soon were expected. Indeed they often made up more than half of the actual performance. Using the encore in this fashion served several needs. For one, it involved the audience more actively in the creation of the concert. Sousa, keenly interested in listener reaction, enjoyed widening the area of participation. One of the reasons for his brilliant success at Chicago's Columbian Exposition was having the audience sing along. According to Sousa it was the vocal director of the Exposition who made the actual suggestion. Sousa invited the audience to join in, and thousands sang while he played old favorites and hymns, giving the open-air performance the mixed flavor of a patriotic ritual, a concert, and a church meeting.
The encore also became an instrument for shifting some responsibility onto the audience. In return for its enthusiasm would come a display of generosity on the part of the band and its conductor. Reviewers continually thanked Sousa for his encores, for gratifying the audience's wishes, despite the fact that the encores were planned and without them the performance would have been very short indeed. Some critics still objected that the encores shifted the balance too heavily in favor of merely popular and transient tunes. But they permitted Sousa to play his own marches without having to fill the printed program with his own name.
Sousa's authority and popularity then, rested on a set of accomplishments which were almost fully mature by the time he finished his first season with his own band: a reputation for training musicians and selecting soloists to achieve harmonic precision and tonal balance; a capacity, semimilitary, semimagical, to coax delicate and disciplined performances from his men; a genius for gentlemanly celebrity; a dramatic yet restrained platform manner; an articulate philosophy of musical composition and performance which supported the varied programming plans; and a set of devices, most notably the encore, for encouraging audience enthusiasm and allowing an immediate response to public preferences.
In addition to all this there was one final aspect to Sousa's career which brought him the personal power required by a great conductor. And that was his own massive contribution to musical composition, most particularly the Sousa marches that had begun to appear with regularity in the 1880s and continued to augment the American band repertoire for the next four decades. The marches were liquid bliss to expectant Americans, who were hoping for a native composer with an international reputation. Critics made extensive and repeated attempts to analyze the basis of their appeal, their capture of something incarnate in the national life. Almost from the first Sousa's marches were seized upon as quintessentially American in their bounce, their liveliness, their jaunty discipline. But the structure of the Sousa march and the mystery embedded in its evocation of national character are less relevant here than the authority they transferred to the conductor. Sousa's fame came through creation rather than performance. Even without the thousands who watched and listened to him, he had become a celebrity by the mid-nineties. Composition brought the Sousa on the podium an additional source of magnetic appeal, a hint of personal genius which demanded audience attention. It was rare to see a genius in action, and a genius who so actively eschewed the affectations of the artist. Wearing "long hair, goggles, an air of mystery and. . . always smelling of Dutch cheese," Sousa told an interviewer for the New York Advertiser in August 1893, did not necessarily mean talent. He contentedly obeyed the obvious conventions. Exuding a common-sense patriotism, Sousa differed from most of his audience only by his grander style of life, the material emblem of growing wealth. In place of his meager governmental salary, the rewards of private industry brought the musician the luster of financial success. By 1894 or 1895 he stood alone, setting the standard at which others aimed.
Many aspects of the Sousa legend, then, were firmly in place by the end of one or two years of independent touring. The search for Gilmore's successor was a short one; the gamble of establishing the new band seemed in hindsight nothing short of a sure thing. The nineties would be rich in band performance: Victor Herbert, Frederick Innes, Giuseppe Creatore, Thomas Brooke, Alessandro Liberati, Patrick Conway, and others provided stern competition. Some of Sousa's own instrumentalists would soon leave to found their own bands. Several of these leaders were brilliant musicians, a few were capable composers, and their tours often earned heady tributes from newspaper reviewers. But it proved impossible to pass Sousa once he had hit his stride with the public. By the late nineties his energies overflowed into many aspects of creation and production, from musical comedy and light opera companies to writing fiction. "If there is any limit to Sousa's success as leader and composer," the Musical Courier wrote in 1896, it was not yet apparent. For four years he had continually been touring and giving concerts; "his face is probably more familiar to the people of the United States than that of any other public man in the country." "Sousa earns over $100,000 a year!" exclaimed H. M. Bosworth in the San Francisco Examiner. "What fact can instance more emphatically the elevation of musical art in popular estimation?" He received more money than the president of the United States. That same year, in 1899, the Wilkes-Barre Daily News argued that "we can now look upon a tradition of Sousa compositions and Sousa concerts. . . . There's hardly a way now of comparing Sousa's Band, except with itself." Sousa "is omnipresent," the Dayton News enthused. "In the military camp, in the crowded streets of the city ... in the ball room, in the concert hall, at the seaside and on the mountains, go where you may, you hear Sousa, always Sousa. ... It is Sousa in the band, Sousa in the orchestra, Sousa in the phonograph, Sousa in the hand organ, Sousa in the music box, Sousa everywhere," the man "not of the day, or of the hour, but of the time."
Sousa furthered his reputation by extending the techniques he developed during his first tours. He was continually posing for newspaper photographers, interviewed on his love for horses, his bicycle riding, or his trap shooting, invited to judge contests and to offer opinions on the major controversies of the day. New York newspapers showed photographs of the conductor taking boxing lessons at Manhattan Beach. "Here, then, you see bared before the camera the muscular right arm that has wielded the baton to the delight of millions, the sturdy fist that wrote 'El Capitan.' " "Within a few years of hard training," his teacher, Jock Cooper, manager of the Manhattan Beach Race Track insisted, "Mr. Sousa could easily develop into a world beater." His reading habits provoked observation; so did his views on cultural patronage, foreign music, national character, and international relations. Those who know Sousa only from his conducting podium, one critic wrote in 1901, "know only half the man. The Sousa of keen insight, the Sousa of discriminating fancy, the student of musical tradition and of musical development; the man of affairs able to take up any of the questions of the day and dissect them; able to take his side of an argument and hold his own; the man of refinement and toleration, the patriotic American, the husband and father," here was the Sousa who was always "an inspiration to meet. . . . His intellectuality glimmers from as many sides as the facets of a diamond."
The reputation was abetted, moreover, by a squad of press agents, who fed descriptions of the musical master to a squad of hungry journalists. Year after year the same anecdotes, the same descriptive phrases, the same metaphors appeared among the dozens of reviews Sousa received in an average week. The concerts were often covered by reporters better equipped to analyze a baseball game. They were grateful for the publicity suggesting just which musical virtues to emphasize, which conducting skills to ferret out. Old interviews were unearthed. Stories about couples filing for divorce because of a spouse's passion for Sousa music surfaced in time to catch local interest. Successful formulas were forged in the publicity campaign no less than in the concert programs.
But Sousa's own beliefs and public pronouncements also helped. They were such as to please middle-class Americans, conservative in their political orientation, fiercely patriotic when cultural comparisons were made, supportive of home, family, and active citizenship. Invited by American Commissioner-General Ferdinand Peck of Chicago to be the official American Band at the Paris 1900 Fair, Sousa undertook his first European tour. He seized the occasion to write articles condemning the effect of state subsidies on art. National theatres, orchestras, bands, and conservatories were destructive. "An artistic organization that is fostered by State aid is like a hardy plant brought up in a hot-house. It may keep on living, and that's all you can say about it." Sousa's conviction that real art needed no public support suited domestic suspicions of public expenditures for culture. "If a musician, a writer, or a painter, has anything in him," Sousa wrote in his auto: biography, "he will dig it out of himself, if the State will only let him starve long enough."
Such sentiments did not, of course, please all Americans. But when one wrote to a European newspaper, complaining about Sousa's super-patriotism, and his attack on official subsidies, Sousa went even further. America, he insisted, had invariably improved upon European ideas. Europe presented the "tallow candle, but like grateful children we sent in return the electric light; Europe gave us the primitive hand-power printing press of Gutenberg and in our simple-hearted way we showed her the Goss perfecting press. . . . Europe put the bare needle in our fingers and we reciprocate with the modern sewing machine." "My sin," Sousa concluded, if it was a sin, "lies in my not accepting everything in Europe, including the people, customs and arts, as superior to what we have at home. Gentle stranger," he begged his critic, "do not decry the McCormick reaper because they use a sickle in the grain fields of Europe ... do not decry a Hudson River steamer because it would not have room to turn in the Seine! Be big-hearted; be without prejudice; see good in all things, even if they are American."
Such spread-eagle boasting was normally the realm of the politician. When a certified artist took it up, a musician and composer with an international reputation, there was bound to be approving editorial comment. Sousa's cultural nationalism fit a long-established groove, its origins going back to the early nineteenth century. His sink-or-swim philosophy of musical survival fit easily, as well, into a vulgarized Spencerianism, which frowned upon special favors shown any group of people, artists or not.
Sousa's published fiction carried forward, less effectively perhaps, a set of views quite consonant with orthodox Republicanism. In Pipetown Sandy, a novel he published in 1905, Sousa created a highly sentimental and melodramatic story based upon his boyhood memories of Washington. Reviewers of the book were not uniformly impressed. "It would be very disconcerting to the rank and file if clever people could do everything well," the Buffalo News admitted, before going on to characterize the book as "altogether harmless" and "without much claim to distinction." The New York Evening Sun found it "childlike and harmless and altogether pointless," while the Denver Republican placed it back "with the old style of Sunday school library book of the ever triumphant poor boy who saves the sister of his rich young patron. ... it is of the good old time of our fathers' boyhood, when wrong stalks openly through boys' books to be mocked by virtue equally openly tagged and classified and not to be confounded." It was "Back to the music rack, Sousa."
But Pipetown Sandy not only permitted Sousa to express his love for exercise, shooting, and fishing, his affection for funny stories, and his delight in comic lyrics. It allowed him to exalt clean-living American virtues and to condemn complaining radicals who did not fit easily into American life. The chief villain, Dennis Foley, was "a self-elected Ishmaelite, his hand against every man and every man's hand against him. He was of the lowest stratum of that peripatetic community that sprang into existence after the Civil War, now known as 'tramps.' In the case of some of these aimless wanderers there may have been extenuating circumstances, for perhaps, through no fault of their own, they found themselves out of tune with the new conditions. But Foley was a vagabond, bummer, and thief from choice." And he was an army deserter as well.
Too embarrassing to be taken seriously, the book suggested the sincerity of Sousa's own prejudices and the simplicity of his political views. His beliefs were a disarming reflection of what most in his middle-class audiences believed also. "Bohemianism has ruined more great minds then any one other thing in the world," he told the Oakland Enquirer in 1899. "The greatest thing and the most beautiful thing about this great American nation is its home life. . . . The whole language of the Frenchman does not contain the word 'home' in its meaning to us. ... Get the American home life into your music and into the life of the musicians, and we will have the greatest musical community, in God's good time, that the world has ever known."
In later years, also, Sousa identified more fully with the American businessman. His organizational gifts were evident from the start but some obstacles stunted his claims for commercial genius. In 1897, during the legal disputes that followed upon David Blakely's death, newspapermen stared at the earlier contracts in disbelief. "It looks as if Sousa had practically given the Blakely people something like an independent fortune," the Wilkes-Barre Evening Leader commented, "and as if his leg has been pulled to the stretching point." Why had Sousa made such a contract, giving away 80 percent of the profits and 50 percent of the march royalties? "There is hardly a record of such a gigantic swindle." The only easy answer was that "Sousa, like many another genius, hasn't got the band business head that looks out for his own interest," and so had permitted himself to be robbed by his ingenious manager.
Of course this image of a bumbling businessman may have been spread by Sousa and his agents, to appear more favorably amidst the suits and counter-suits that developed when Mrs. Blakely sought to impose the contract's terms and Sousa refused. But after the flurry had died down, Sousa devoted himself more emphatically to a business philosophy. "The organizing and maintaining of a superior band I regard in the light of a calm, calculative, business proposition," he wrote in the Criterion during 1900; the task was as practical as the selection of a bank teller. "As the head of a counting-house exercises powers of selection in gathering about him a staff as nearly perfect as possible, so is the bandmaster untiring in his search for the best available talent. . . . the principle of the survival of the fittest is strong." Sousa's use of commercial similes, his friendship with entrepreneurs, his insistence upon established business practices, testified to his confidence in the marketplace.
His autobiographical reflections also emphasized a firm and practical approach to problem solving, particularly when dealing with dishonest, incompetent, or unrealistic promoters. During a 1911 tour of South Africa he was startled by the naiveté of the arrangements. The Sousa Band was to give its concert in a public park "with no way of controlling the ingress or egress of the audience. That honest-hearted South African representative believed that the dear public would hunt up the ticketseller, buy tickets and wait in line to pass the proper entrance," even though no fence surrounded the park. Sousa immediately engaged the only hall in town, and filled it with an audience of 1,100. Thousands who had come to hear the band were disappointed. "But, since our expenses were $2,500 a day on the tour and we were certainly not touring for our health, we felt no compunction."
Indeed, Sousa confessed that no less an authority than the great Theodore Thomas had warned him to be careful about business matters. "Managers will stick close when you are making money," Thomas supposedly told him, "but they'll desert you without a qualm when the first squall blows up." Sousa distinguished himself from his great hero by his more diplomatic and prudent response to the opinions of others. While he admitted many parallels between Thomas and himself, Sousa felt less "given to irrevocable dicta. I would listen to advice, and if I knew it was no good, would quietly say, 'I'll think that over,' leaving the other fellow with no ammunition to discuss the matter further." Despite some unparalleled gifts, Thomas was "primarily an educator." Tenacious of purpose, he lost his sense of proportion and came into occasional but sharp conflict with the public, who resented being told what they were meant to admire. Sousa's style better suited a country coming to value the power of salesmanship, and the stern but self-restrained consistency of a successful business leader.
Sousa's assurances that American politics, values, and social habits were fundamentally healthy and not at all antagonistic to the arts gained in persuasiveness when he extended his foreign tours after 1900, and achieved, in effect, a conquest of European audiences. The Musical Courier, the premier professional periodical of the day, excitedly reprinted newspaper reports from the ancient cities of the Old World, attesting to his extraordinary popularity. Fannie Edgar Thomas sent back a description of the Paris Fair Concerts in 1900 which was a veritable paean to Sousa's Americanism and his spirit of system. Even the very preparations stood out. When the trunks full of chairs and stands and platforms arrived on the scene in a cart, "instead of a regiment of useless and snarly old people surrounding" it, screaming themselves "hoarse and wearing themselves out in gesticulation, one very quiet young man in uniform was there . . . and without seeming to speak a word had the trunks unloaded and placed beside the place in a few seconds." French observers, according to Fannie Thomas, were amazed at the speed and silence with which a few Americans arranged the chairs and stands. The flag bearers "bore the pride of youth and health, and fearlessness of carrying the big flag of a big nation," and then came the bandsmen well groomed, well dressed, "straight, healthy, happy, clean and polished looking. . . . Without being rigidly disciplined, they have the impression of uniformity of movement. Without special grace, they were also without awkwardness." Most of the men, Fannie Thomas admitted, were in fact foreigners, German-born, but apparently that did not dampen their American appearance of sensible, well-organized, good humor. And finally there appeared the "quick, neat, fresh" and "radiant" Sousa himself, handsome and even exotic looking, his uniform "the perfection of fit and finish," who proceeded, on schedule, to dazzle his vast audience.
The European triumphs underscored what many Americans already believed and what Sousa told them tirelessly: that human beings were, fundamentally, everywhere the same, and responsive to beauty, good will, and disciplined effort. He played his music for the people, not attempting to "stuff things down their throats, or rather into their ears," according to Fannie Thomas, but simply to please. "He chooses his music pure and simple because it is always and everywhere and with all people--attractive." This confidence in popular taste was the cultural counterpart of an age-old commitment to the spread of democratic values, and the conviction that in time all people would agree on the nature of government and social order, an agreement that Americans felt they had worked out in final form in the late eighteenth century. Political developments in the early nineteenth century challenged Enlightenment optimism about the diffusion of democracy, but this cultural universalism was in some ways a legacy of the older hopes. And no American before Sousa had so successfully translated this impulse into a palpable reality.
Just as his world tours demonstrated the organic connections binding peoples everywhere together, Sousa's domestic appeal built upon the appearance of unity. Sousa "is peerless because he plays the music of the people," wrote one newspaper; all classes enjoy his music, wrote another. His audience, "so diversified in its parts, yet brought together as one in enthusiasm," formed his proudest laurels. American cities actively supported or sought sponsorship for municipal band concerts as a social therapy; increasing social tension which accompanied industrial growth, the more violent confrontations between labor and capital in the last years of the century, underscored the value of communal occasions to demonstrate the placid good will of the majority. Reviewing the history of music in Baltimore, one chronicler gauged the importance city fathers attached to band music from the "alertness" with which they "produced the cash whenever the musicians balked." City after city featured summer meccas in electric parks, some developed by streetcar companies. And resorts existed just outside the city limits, to which local and imported bands repaired with regularity. Estimates ran that there were an many as 10,000 bands in America, amateur and professional, by the century's end; supplementing them were touring Canadian Kilties, British Grenadiers, German, Hungarian, Filipino, Mexican, Italian, Russian, and Irish groups. The band concert became, as it were, a ritual testifying to the unspoiled benevolence of national life, free of charge in the new park bandshells, or modestly priced accompaniments to fairs, industrial expositions, and summer hotels. A good band frequently made the difference between financial profit and disaster for promoters. Sousa's broad appeal made him a particularly attractive feature for periods of several weeks at major expositions and vacation spots. Although Sousa refused to play for dancing, he happily appeared at trade fairs or the newly popular food fairs, providing background music for the exchange of commercial and consumer information.
Sousa's ability to create what amounted to aural icons for the era's patriotism and commercialism, his capacity to fuse the popular with the classical and to reassure his vast, middle-class audiences that they deserved respect for their aspirations as well as their achievements, was paralleled in the 1890s by the growth of a sophisticated graphic art in the service of American advertising. Two of the men most closely connected with Sousa's management were themselves deeply into the mysteries of printing publicity. David Blakely's interests included ownership of a large printing company specializing in advertising. And Everett Reynolds, a director of the Long Island Railroad, who took over management of the Manhattan Beach Hotel after Austin Corbin's death and managed tours for Sousa and De Wolf Hopper, was also president of the Metropolitan Printing Company and helped amalgamate theatrical poster companies under the title of the Consolidated Lithograph Company.
Thus Blakely and Reynolds were adept at distributing the new, colorful, technically advanced advertising which helped in the 1890s to support a revolution in American graphic design. The same decade that Sousa launched his band saw the rise of a generation of American poster artists--Will Bradley, Edward Penfield, Will Carqueville, Ethel Reed, Frank Hazenplug, and J. J. Gould among them. Contributing to the "poster craze" of the nineties, this new corps of commercial artists represented an impulse not so very different from Sousa's--the attempt to synthesize popularity with sophistication and create a novel medium for public communication. The broad, flat strokes many poster designers relied upon, their references, sometimes ironic, to the artistic traditions of the higher arts, their semihumorous and usually benevolent treatment of their fellow Americans-- on bicycles, on streetcars, reading magazines, strolling through city crowds, on holiday, at work in the office--flattered and amused simultaneously. Like Sousa, the images many of the poster artists created rested on exaggeration and burlesque. Sousa's fiery marches, after all, were enjoyed by audiences seated pacifically in band-shells or auditoriums, while his popular musical comedies were set in exotic, even fantastic surroundings. Both the new illustrators of the nineties and Sousa exploited mass production, knowing their creations would be available in thousands and even tens of thousands of copies. And they relied upon the newest technologies, often adding technical innovations of their own.
Sousa, however, offered one dissent here, producing a rare moment out of step with his public. Infuriated by the popularity of the phonograph he coined the term "canned music" to express his dissatisfaction. More specifically he was incensed by the failure of the recording companies to pay composers royalties on their music. This seemed like simple theft, and he was an active force in the creation of ASCAP to protect and define the rights of creators.
But Sousa's dislike of the phonograph was greater than simply economic. He realized that it threatened the monopoly of the performance as a musical medium. His own concerts were visual displays as well as musical renditions; the uniforms, the movements, the bearing of conductor and musicians added decisively to the impressiveness of the music. Sousa's is a pantomimic art, a Philadelphia paper commented. "At one of his concerts it is not alone the ear that is pleased and charmed, it is the eye also that is captivated and satisfied." The New Haven Leader in 1899 used the phrase "see the original" in urging audiences to attend the concerts. "One does see Sousa's music; you see it grow under the magic of his baton, every note brought to life at its command as a picture grows under the artist's brush." Sousa, wrote H. M. Bosworth in the San Francisco Examiner, was not so much a metronome as an expression. "What the physical illustration by face, attitude and gesture is to the spoken words of an orator the graceful attitude and gestures of Sousa are to the combined musical utterances of his executants." They helped the audience enjoy the music. "Is there not possibly some occult power, some hypnotic spell, existent in that peerless back?" asked the Chicago Tribune. "And that matchless left hand, immaculate in purest white--what mystic magic lies concealed within it that it thus should set a-sway humanity's inmost being?" If Sousa were placed behind a screen or made in some way invisible, the newspaper mused, the music could not possibly be as impressive. Sousa knew, then, that recorded he would lose much of his power, and it was as a performer that he received his fullest satisfactions.
Nonetheless, newspapers and magazines repudiated his assault on the phonograph. It was bound to improve public taste in the long run. "John Philip Sousa overindulges in mince pie, his dreams are filled with contorted talking machines and 'canned music' assumes the aspect of an ogre." "Sousa should be the last one to complain of mechanical music, however applied," another critic objected. For once the bandmaster had miscalculated.
But with this exception, Sousa managed to affirm the taste and judgment of his audiences. "All the way through a Sousa program you can see the old flag waving, hear the clothes flapping on the line in the back yard, and smell the pork and beans cooking in the kitchen;" these homely metaphors were offered by the Topeka Daily Capital in 1902. "The principal soloist was born in St. Joseph, Mo., and the average man can pronounce the names of the members of the organization as they appear on the hotel register." There was admittedly, here and there a suggestion of "Die Wacht am Rhein" and a whiff of macaroni. "But Sousa's band is for Tom Jones and John Smith and their families." The Springfield Republican, in 1897, acclaimed Sousa's sway. "It seems as if he always gives just the thing that the audience is in the mood for . . . the delight he gives people is rather more unrestrained and unaffected than one ordinarily notes in audiences. Sousa and his hearers are thoroughly en rapport."
So powerful was the conductor's presence by the late nineties that sermons were preached and poems written as testaments to his power of inspiration. In May 1898, a Baptist minister used a Sousa concert as his text in a sermon that newspapers happily reprinted, "Spiritual Suggestions from Sousa." The conductor was transformed into a symbol of purity and leadership, a bringer of order from chaos, And his musicians represented the discipline of a well-run church, obedient and responsive. "The performers were content to play the score as it was given to them. They did not rewrite, compose a new one, or strike out in a few new lines. ... If only the church and its preachers could be content with the faith once delivered to the saints." Each man played his own part, without worrying whether another's was better. There was variety to the music Sousa scheduled, a reminder that "in salvation's song something can be found fitted for every feeling, taste, aptitude." And the leader, controlling his men with "no contortion, no violent motion, no mighty sweep of his arm" recalled Christ's presence, quiet and continuing, even without obvious miracles or transfigurations.
The conservative implications of a Sousa performance were complemented by its patriotism. The Sousa Band received many of its most tumultuous ovations during the war fever of the 1890s. "If the present Administration ever takes action against persons who arouse public patriotism," one newspaperman wrote, "John Philip Sousa should be selected as the first victim to be punished." Sousa insisted upon playing the "Star Spangled Banner" at his concerts, producing frenzied reactions among normally staid listeners. Some of the excitement was caused by the stirring themes of Sousa's new march, perhaps his most enduring one, The Stars and Stripes Forever. If war came Sousa deserved government employment, argued one reporter. "One blast upon his bugle-horn would be worth 10,000 men." Adapting himself to the bombastic rhetoric, Sousa created a new piece, The Trooping of the Colors, grouping the flags of friendly foreign powers to the tunes of their anthems, and swaddling it all in patriotic melodies. The Chicago Times-Herald, a frequent critic of Sousa, was repelled by the promotional rhetoric of his management and worried about its injudicious advertisement of patriotism. It was a wonder that "the stars on the flag have not been transformed into boxes of soap, bicycles, and the photographs of political candidates," while the employment of patriotism as "a marketable ware is certainly not commendable, especially at the present time when cool-headed judgment is the better part of valor."
Sousa himself was no master prognosticator--"There will be no war with Spain," he told reporters after the Maine explosion-and his jingoism continued to meet opposition. The Mirror found his Stars and Stripes meretricious. "It is riotous and stormy, but it does not represent the deeper emotions of patriotism which one finds in 'My Country, 'tis of Thee.' There is no trace of solemnity or of reverence." Its chief quality, as in the rest of Sousa's music, was a "tonic flashiness," appropriate for a piece that was "loud and vulgar. Its effects are crude... It is good music for the crowd... but... its educative tendencies are directly opposite to those which true lovers of music would like to see encouraged."
But then Sousa's cultivation of mass emotion during the war was simply one example of a larger stance that irritated cultural conservatives. "Mr. Sousa aims only at popularity," the Chicago Times-Herald warned. The Washington Post and the Syracuse Standard isolated Sousa's descriptive music as particularly unfortunate panderings to modern taste. It was, they insisted, impossible and implausible to use music to describe horse races, thunderstorms, or picnics; even Wagner, "the greatest of all the masters of harmony and musical effort" would not attempt such absurdities without the aid of "a mise en scene which helped materially to tell the story." Sousa continued to be fond of visual effects to emphasize a composition's argument, but this violated the integrity of the musical form. In March 1901, the Chicago Post, whose critic felt that Sousa had received far too little criticism for his own good, printed several hostile evaluations of the Sousa "fad." One of them found the interest in his performances "less musical than pathological," feeding the nervous excitement and noise of modern life. The band's discipline had all the precision "of a Turkish rug made in New Jersey," and stood on a par with "the quick, ordered tumult of a business lunch. As is Grand Rapids to furniture, so is Sousa to music. He represents the complete negation of dignity, leisure, feeling, temperament." Looking over a Sousa program was to enter "the bargain counter of a department store."
The debate, once again, was an old one. Sousa had managed to identify his band and his music with fundamentally popular forces. Meliorists, insisting that the artist's task was to reveal and then refine the discordant aspects of contemporary civilization, found Sousa's popularity disturbing. He was not fulfilling a critical role, the function of a serious performer. He mixed vaudeville airs with serious music, pandering to crowd emotions rather than warring upon them in the interest of a higher cause. He accepted his audience's values; he did not try to remold them.
And yet, he was a serious composer and an accomplished musician; he had to be taken seriously, for there was no denying his native powers. The problem was that he employed them in the interest of entertainment, grafting on to the formal setting of a concert selections more properly hummed in a burlesque house or community sing. Sousa caused further stir by his vigorous adoption of ragtime, and his incorporation of ragtime arrangements into many of his concerts. Ragtime, he argued, was "an established feature of American music. It will never die any more than Faust and the great operas will die." Suspicious of the claim, and outraged by the comparison, critics took issue. To treat ragtime as a distinctive national contribution was to demean the achievement of serious composers like Edward Mac Dowell and George Chadwick, who had been working for years to develop a national school. Sousa was charged with self-interest, because the "ragtime encore" had become so regular a part of his performance. So closely had Sousa "identified himself with ragtime," the St. Paul Globe wrote in 1903, that "were the syncopated music to lose in popularity, perhaps the conductor would lose, also."
But the defenders again were numerous. "An element of the public goes to hear music when Sousa plays that would not otherwise go to a concert--no, not for Weingartner, not for Mottl, nor for Richter," the Rochester Post-Express argued. Sousa delighted crowds with showman tricks, bringing instrumentalists up to the front of his band and marching them back after their spectacular solos were finished. But in return for this histrionic appeal the "non-musical public allows itself to be lured into hearing music which it would vote a bore, if anybody else played it. Such 32 is the magic of personality." And when Sousa tried to become too highbrow, to create programs that featured orchestral music transcribed for the concert band, he was condemned by other critics for being overly ambitious and failing to recognize his natural level and his audience's taste. Thus there was no absolutely safe harbor for the bandmaster.
The continuing popularity of his organization and his drawing power rested on his ability to walk the line between mass idolatry and critical rejection. The athletic matinee idol of the nineties was succeeded by a somewhat more restrained conductor, less given, apparently, to mannerisms, graver, more dignified. But Sousa had also gained immensely through the associations and world fame he had acquired. Seeing the conductor, American audiences beheld a world traveler, a celebrity whose decorations testified to the respect of foreign potentates. He had been called by command performance to play before the king of England, and every detail of this royal honor was devoured by newspaper readers, anxious to catch a bit of the reflected glory. His marches had joined the repertoires of bands in Manila, Constantinople, Berlin, and Paris. One visiting Englishman confessed that he did not realize that the Washington Post was a newspaper as well as a musical composition. Sousa was linked to a great cosmopolitan world, proof that American genius could win laurels on the concert stage as American athletes were winning medals at the newly organized Olympic Games. He was conqueror, athlete, businessman, and sportsman, as well as genius.
The Sousa Phenomenon inevitably also became an anniversary event, just as the programs tended to repeat their formulas from year to year--the mixture of operatic medleys, popular tunes, classical excerpts and Sousa marches serving his Band as it would most of his competition--so the Sousa visits became devices to measure the passing years and the changing seasons. The annual stays at the Manhattan Beach, or the Willow Grove concerts near Philadelphia, were symbols of continuity in a civilization where so much else was changing. There was a certain irony in this, for Sousa's Band and its style were labeled, at various times in the nineties, a fad, a passing fancy which could be outgrown like so many other crazes. And Sousa did try to capture contemporary songs and events. Yet his band performances became a symbol of stability, of constancy, of predictability. As his conducting career became longer, observers loved to chart subtle differences in his appearance and technique--the figure growing stockier, the hair grayer, the gestures more languid and restrained--reluctant tributes to approaching age, or, in the case of the conducting techniques, signs of a new maturity and ever-increasing mastery. The nostalgic aspects of the Sousa cult developed, in fact, within only a decade or so of the Band's actual premiere, so strong was the need for recurrence and so few the major entertainers with such staying power. Sousa continued to pour out marches and musical compositions right up through the year of his death, although his most popular compositions had been published, for the most part, by 1910. However, his gift for catching the public temper during moments of crisis remained, and the Sousa Band acted almost like an official representative for national spirit.
Into the teens and twenties Sousa remained an imposing figure. After American entry into World War I he assumed the task of training a band for the Great Lakes Naval Station, and his Jackies, as they were called, appeared at the band rallies which were a crucial part of the ongoing propaganda effort, along with movie stars, opera singers, and political personalities. Sousa no longer stood unrivalled as a stimulant to crowd emotion. Tin Pan Alley, through Irving Berlin and George M. Cohan, produced a series of songs that came to symbolize the American military commitment. But Sousa's U.S. Field Artillery March, based on a song written by an army lieutenant, sold hundreds of thousands of records, and became as indelibly associated with the Army as Semper Fidelis, written almost thirty years earlier, came to symbolize the Marines.
Some of Sousa's patriotic gestures were, of course, less successful. Sharing the fierce revulsion to things German, Sousa announced a substitute for the German wedding marches that traditionally had accompanied American couples on their stroll down the aisle. After enormous publicity the American Wedding March appeared in 1918, but it failed to create a place for itself and like Sousa's fierce rejection of German music, proved a transitory event. The Oklahoma City Oklahoman pointed out that assigning Sousa to rewrite Mendelssohn and Wagner was "about as apposite as would be, that of Bud Fischer to do a Mona Lisa." Sousa's patriotism had become shrill, in keeping with the national mood. And given his earlier popularization of German music, and the large number of German musicians in his organization, his exaggerated rhetoric about the war may have expressed a desire for expiation.
While he remained a figure of influence then, Sousa's most important years were probably the first two decades with his Band, before live performance was challenged so successfully by the new electronic media; and before he was challenged, as well, by the steady growth of the two cultures he had attempted to straddle. Motion pictures, jazz, radio, comics, dance bands, automobiles, all represented forces paying little heed to many older cultural verities that Sousa, despite his quest for popularity, believed in. And on the other end of the creative spectrum, American poets, painters, museums, orchestras, were now engaged in an international dialogue, achieving levels of performance, exhibition, and execution of serious art that were available in the America of the 1890s to only a few.
Sousa was in fact unhappy with the trends of modern music. Like the other arts, by 1910 it had borne aggressive rebellion against formal conventions. To Sousa music meant melody, rhythm, good humor, and sentiment. Like the older academic painters, angered and bewildered by the apparent defiance of craftsmanlike canons, he refused to accept the new trends. "The real development of music," he told a Spokane reporter in 1915, "will come no more through the efforts of the modern French school or strivings of Schoenberg and his class, than the real development of painting has come through futurists, cubists and all the other 'ists' of art." All of them, composers and painters alike, were "seeking a short and easy road to Mount Olympus, and it does not exist." The Musical Courier, reprinting the interview, vigorously agreed. "Tunes-real tunes, good honest tunes--that is what the public demands, and with absolute right." Honest labor, evident in the score, without flimflam or cute tricks, not the lazy deceptions of the new Bohemians.
Ironically, in view of the earlier fears of vulgarization, Sousa became an ideal to some conservative critics. Sousa's marches, wrote D. C. Parker in the Musical Courier, several years later, were a corrective "to all the vague syncopisings and sophisticated hesitations of the extreme anemic aesthetes. They said 'Yes' to life with unmistakable emphasis." Some had labeled Sousa's music "vulgar," but it was not; vulgarity "consists in a discrepancy between a thing and its surroundings, and if anything is comfortably at home in the world of 1917 it is Sousa's music. By the cynic, popularity has been called an insult." But it was no insult to label Sousa's music popular. Instead it gave "documentary evidence of important phases of the modern world."
In concentrating upon the issue of popularity, Parker focused upon a key aspect of Sousa's achievement. The composer-conductor created a repertoire and performance style to integrate broad portions of the population and various ranges of musical experience. The hodgepodge of numbers that made up his program, from the comic to the solemn and the serious to the trite, were meant to demonstrate that audiences otherwise separated into the baseball park, the opera house, the vaudeville show and the movie palace, could here share a common ground. The symphonic band, with its expanded repertoire, claimed special national status because of its more inclusive capabilities. Sousa found popularity worth aiming at, and made it a test for his own programs. As music "is universal," he told an Australian newspaperman in 1911, "it becomes necessary to heed the wishes of the masses if one hopes to succeed."
Sousa's identification of entertainment with education mirrored a larger cultural conviction that artistic progress occurred by exposing any taste, however primitive, to art. Refinement grew from familiarity. In this view there were no fundamental antagonisms cleaving the popular from the classic. Sousa's cultural meliorism, his conviction that one great audience could subsume most contemporary contrasts, mirrored the middle-class view of social consensus. The reassurance he offered, verbal and musical, expressed his personal conviction rather than a manipulated posture designed to win applause.
But the America that was growing older along with Sousa was also becoming more specialized, subdividing into cultural subgroups whose age, education, or needs for diversion determined their recreational patterns. The concert band's audience, at the turn of the century, included thousands of amateur musicians serving in municipal, lodge, ethnic, corporate, and veterans' bands scattered across the country. Small, amateur, often casually trained and led, these bands had little in common with the size and splendor of the Sousa establishment. But in dozens of small towns to which orchestras and professional opera troupes never found their ways, bandsmen and their families felt a kinship with Sousa, and his band represented for them the acme of polished performance.
After World War I, however, bands developed other associations. The expansion of America's educational system, in particular the growth of the public high school, produced a new set of adolescent rituals and a series of institutions designed to occupy and socialize teenagers. That range of extra-curricular activities which now form the staple of the high school experience--debate clubs, athletic teams, fraternities and sororities, student newspapers, drama societies, and school bands--soon developed. Many were modeled on their collegiate counterparts, but the much larger number of high schools meant that imitation would parody rather than replicate the originals.
In the 1920s then, on both a collegiate and a high school level, music instruction and performance multiplied, school systems began to purchase instruments and costumes, to hold competitions and public concerts. Although orchestras were included in this expansion, it was the school band that became the most visible and most glamorous symbol of national attachment to musical training. The band appealed on the grounds of its athleticism and marching, the colorful uniforms, the somewhat repetitive character of its repertoire, its patriotic associations, and the fact that its audiences, expecting a good deal of noise, were not particularly upset by any failure to achieve total precision, or by a loss of subtlety in rendering its boisterous music.
Increasingly it was this kind of band, playing in holiday parades, at pep rallies and football games, at picnics and political meetings that came to represent the Sousa tradition. University bands--and others--gave formal concerts, and creative bandmasters like Edwin Franko Goldman attempted to expand the repertoire of original compositions and special transcriptions. Several composers volunteered with interesting new pieces. But to a larger extent than its serious leaders wished, the band became identified with a youth and school culture. This represented considerable shrinking of the popularizing, integrating role that Sousa hoped for when he first organized his own organization.
Sousa died on the eve of an artistic movement which sought to reassociate indigenous cultural motifs with the institutions of high culture. There had been many preparations and intimations during the 1920s, but in the thirties composers, print-makers, painters, sculptors, and craftsmen, along with literary critics, historians, and anthropologists turned back into American history for folk motifs, mythic heroes, icons, and rituals which formed the usable past that could anchor a drifting society. In the W.P.A. Murals, the Index of American Design, the Farm Security Administration photographers, the folk music project of Alan Lomax, and the music of Randall Thompson, Roy Harris and Aaron Copland, one finds efforts to reattach the popular to the classic, to legitimize the vernacular and acknowledge the staying power of ordinary experience. Like Sousa, many of these artists and composers employed a light touch, occasionally indulging their sense of humor. But unlike him, they were both more self-conscious and more critical in their deployment of native materials, exploiting them frequently in the interest of reform. They held contemporary life up to other standards, contrasting the doubts of their day with the expansive force of another.
Sousa's was not a critical philosophy. He projected a supportive vision of national destiny that mingled folksiness, martial arts, gallantry, and commerce. To extract simply the marching tunes from his rich contemporary reputation is to lessen his impact and to dilute his goals. He took himself seriously (and so others took him) as a bridge between cultural communities. And as an instrument to lessen the forbidding awe felt for creative genius. The Sousa performance did more than merely display his marches to advantage. It was an occasion on which to reassure and conciliate an ambitious if unsophisticated public. We no longer have the performances; we do have the marches. If the legacy is reduced, it is no less real.
- Comparisons between Sousa and Strauss have been numerous, both in the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. See Wilfrid Mellers, Music in a New Found Land (London, 1964), p. 257; Paul E. Bierley, John Philip Sousa: American Phenomenon (New York, 1973), p. 5. Bierley's book is the most detailed study of Sousa's career. Sousa received the title of "March King" because a British author argued that if Johann Strauss, Jr., could be called the "Waltz King," Sousa deserved this new title (Bierley, American Phenomenon, p. 50). [back to article]
- As the notes will make clear, most of the citations for this essay are based on the Sousa Band press books, more than eighty volumes of clippings covering the Sousa Band between 1892 and 1931. The volumes are on deposit in the U.S. Marine Corps Museum in Washington, where I inspected them. Microfiche copies have been made, however, and I worked from these. I determined, therefore, to cite the sources according to the microfiche cards. These are numbered. The first number represents the series, usually coinciding with a date or season, and moving in roughly chronological order; the second number corresponds to the card number within the series. Each microfiche card is so identified. Although many of the clippings are identified, so far as date and newspaper are concerned, others are not. I will cite the newspaper and date when available, along with the fichecard; when I have not been able to identify the newspaper or date, I will merely cite the card, although the date (and often the place of publication) can usually be approximated. The citation for the scrapbook collection will be JPS. [back to article]
- For background on the nineteenth-century American band I have relied upon Jon Newsom, "The American Brass Band Movement," Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress 36 (Spring, 1979): pp. 114-39; Richard Franko Goldman, "Band Music in America," Paul Henry Lang, ed., One Hundred Years of Music in America (New York, 1961), pp. 128-39; Alberta Powell Graham, Great Bands of America (Toronto, New York, Edinburgh, n.d.); and a series of articles in the Journal of Band Research. For interesting comparative material see E. D. Mackerness, A Social History of English Music (London, Toronto, 1964), chaps, iv-v; and Ronald Pearsall, Edwardian Popular Music (Rutherford, N.J., 1975), chap. 8. Kenneth Young, Music's Great Days in the Spas and Watering-Places (London, 1968), contains fascinating material on another aspect of popular musical performance, again for Great Britain. [back to article]
- Matwood Darlington, Irish Orpheus: The Life of Patrick S. Gilmore Bandmaster Extraordinary (Philadelphia, 1950) covers Gilmore's impressive career. [back to article]
- The early pages of John H. Mueller, The American Symphony Orchestra: A Social History of Musical Taste (Bloomington, Ind., 1951); and Philip Hart, Orpheus in the New World (New York, 1973), contain some background on American symphonies. John Erskine, The Philharmonic Symphony Society of New York, First Hundred Years (New York, 1943); Edward Henry Krehbiel, Philharmonic Society of New York (New York, 1892); Max Maratzek, Revelations of an Opera Manager in 19th Century America (New York, 1968) also contain relevant information. For comparison see William Weber, Music and the Middle Class: The Social Structure of Concert Life in London, Paris and Vienna (New York, 1975). [back to article]
- There is an enormous literature on many of these celebrities, the Jenny Lind bibliography alone being quite extensive. Milton Goldin, The Music Merchants (New York, 1969) contains sketches of some of the famous touring artists. Ivor Guest, Fanny Elssler (Middletown, Conn., 1970); Gladys Denny Shultz, Jenny Lind: The Swedish Nightingale (Philadelphia and New York, 1962); Adam Carse, The Life of Jullien: Adventurer, Showman-Conductor ... (Cambridge, 1951), are among other useful texts here. [back to article]
- The immense German contribution to American musical life is recorded in a series of local studies like Bayrd Still, Milwaukee: The History of a City (Madison, 1948); F. Karl Grossman, A History of Music in Cleveland (Cleveland, 1972), among many others. Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Notes of a Pianist (Philadelphia, 1881), remarked in 1863 that a volunteer military band was assembled in Williamsport, Pennsylvania on the major square. Is "it necessary for me to say that it is composed of Germans (all the musicians in the United States are Germans)?", p. 202. [back to article]
- Gottschalk was one of those offering severe comments about American audience taste. See Gottschalk, Notes of a Pianist, p. 17. [back to article]
- Carse, Life of Jullien, p. 11. [back to article]
- See Jack Felts, "Some Aspects of the Rise and Development of the Wind Band during the Civil War," Journal of Band Research III (Spring, 1967): 29-33; William Carter White, A History of Military Music in America (New York, 1944; Westport, Conn., 1975). Another important study, published after this essay was written, is Kenneth E. Olson, Music and Musket: Bands and Bandsmen of the American Civil War (Westport, Conn., 1981). [back to article]
- Gilmore did attempt to persuade Congress to adopt his hew National Anthem, "Columbia," which he first presented Christmas Day, 1879, and whose words, he claimed, were dictated by an angel. However, it was his performing, rather than his composing or philosophizing that earned him his popularity. See Darlington, Irish Orpheus, passim. [back to article]
- Thomas's career is examined in Ronald L. Davis, A History of Music and American Life, vol. II, The Gilded Years, 1865-1920 (Huntington, New York, 1980), chap. I; and Rose Fay Thomas, Memoirs of Theodore Thomas (New York, 1911). Theodore Thomas, A Musical Autobiography (Chicago, 1905), 2 vols. George P. Upton, ed., remains a major source, and so does Charles Edward Russell, The American Orchestra and Theodore Thomas (Garden City, 1927). [back to article]
- J. Hecker to David Blakely, Elgin, September 26, 1891; Blakely Papers (hereafter BP), Band Correspondence, New York Public Library. [back to article]
- Jules Levy to Blakely, New York, May 8,1891; Jules Levyto Blakely, Weehauken Heights, N.J., August 13, 1891; and Jules Levy to Blakely, Weehauken Heights, August 26, 1891, BP, Band Correspondence. [back to article]
- This subject is treated extensively in Martin J. Newhouse, "Artists, Artisans, or Workers? Orchestral Musicians in the German Empire" (Ph. D. diss., Columbia University, 1979); and Abram Loft, "Musicians' Guild and Union: A Consideration of the Evolution of Protective Organizations Among Musicians" (Ph. D. diss., Columbia University, 1950), chap. V. [back to article]
- Loft, "Musicians' Guild and Union," pp. 314-15. [back to article]
- New York Evening Journal, June 11, 1892, JPS 938-6. [back to article]
- John Philip Sousa, Marching Along (Boston, 1928), pp. 274-75. [back to article]
- J. H. Laine to Blakely, Indianapolis, April 13, 1891, BP, Band Correspondence. [back to article]
- Blakely to Hobart Weed, New York, June 23, 1892, BP, Band Correspondence. [back to article]
- J. H. Johnston to Blakely, Pittsburgh, January 5, 1893, BP, Band Correspondence. [back to article]
- Musical Courier, July 27, 1892, p. IS. By October 8, p. 15, the Courier was congratulating Sousa and looked ahead to a bright future. By February 1893 (Gilmore and Cappa were now dead), the Courier was calling him the most conspicuous figure in the band world. Musical Courier, February 2, 1893, p. 23. [back to article]
- Cappa had begun a series of Saturday and Sunday concerts in Central Park Mall, performing Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Wagner, Schubert, Bizet, Verdi, Gounod, etc. Born in Sardinia, Cappa enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the 1850s; went with Grafulla, another famous conductor, to the 7th Regiment Band when Grafulla became its leader, and conducted the 7th Regiment Band himself for twelve years. [back to article]
- Blakely to Elias Lyman, New York, June 18, 1892, BP, Band Correspondence. In the letter Blakely reviewed the profits he had made from the tours of the Gilmore Band, the Strauss Orchestra, two small tours by Theodore Thomas, and two tours by the U.S. Marine Band, led by Sousa. Between 1886 and 1892, Blakely told Lyman, he had made some $234,228 in profits. [back to article]
- Emily Howard to Blakely, St. Louis, October 1, 1893, BP, Band Correspondence. [back to article]
- Hartford Times, JPS 937-2. [back to article]
- Lowell Journal, JPS 937-2. [back to article]
- New York World, July 9,1892, JPS 938-4. The World called Sousa's personality "intelligent and agreeable but severe and scholarly." However, it admitted there was great promise. The Wilkes-Barre Record was another newspaper arguing that "Sousa is not as magnetic as Gilmore," although it too appreciated his skillful training of the ensemble. JPS 937-3. [back to article]
- Both the Chicago Inter-Ocean and the Chicago Times were among those suggesting a name change. The Chicago Times, in a generally favorable review, wrote "The Marine Band of Washington has been so long famous that it would have been in better taste to have chosen an original name for the new organization. The encores were altogether too numerous and made the performance tiresome toward the end." JPS 937-2. [back to article]
- Chicago Record, JPS 937-2. [back to article]
- Hartford Times, JPS 937-2. The newspaper's comment here came in the context of describing the backing of "Chicago capital and all that money could do." [back to article]
- Philadelphia Times, JPS 937-2. The newspaper was commenting on an 1892 concert in Philadelphia's Academy of Music. [back to article]
- Philadelphia Enquirer, JPS 937-2. This newspaper, among many others, was still referring, in 1892 and 1893, to the inadequate salaries the government paid its musical artists. [back to article]
- Kansas City Journal, May 15, 1893, JPS 938-3. The Kansas City Times, May 15, 1893, JPS 938-3, complained about the small crowds coming to hear the Sousa Band on a Sunday, and also complimented Sousa for leading "the greatest military band in the country." [back to article]
- Boston Herald, JPS 937-2. "It will no longer be necessary to hold up the playing of the famous Garde Républicaine band of Paris as a standard of excellence." [back to article]
- Wilkes-Barre Truth, JPS 937-3. [back to article]
- "Coney Island," New York Times, July 18, 1880, p. 6. For some reason, during the summer of 1880 the Times was engaged in a campaign against brass bands, whose popularity it blamed on the Civil War's demoralization, long years of depression and poverty which had led many to "drown their miseries in brass" and the pernicious influence of bandmasters like Jules Levy. See "The Brass Instrument Habit," New York Times, July 28,1880, p. 4; and "The American Brass Band," New York Times, August 25, 1880, p. 4. [back to article]
- Worcester Telegram, JPS 9S7-3. [back to article]
- This was a newspaper in Rockford, Illinois. JPS 937-2. The comment was made in 1892, while Sousa was making his first tour and expected to settle in Chicago. [back to article]
- Williamsport News, JPS 937-1. [back to article]
- Corning Morning-Democrat, JPS 937-1. In a similar genre, the Altoona Tribune observed of the Sousa Marine Band, "its superior has never been heard in Altoona." JPS 937-2. [back to article]
- One fascinating commentary on this was William F. Apthorp, "Orchestral Conducting and Conductors," Scribner's Magazine XVII (March, 1895): 384-92. The orchestra "has been converted into a great, composite musical instrument on which the conductor actually plays," and a generation of conducting virtuosi have sprung up, "exercising the same fascination over the great crowd of music-lovers that other virtuosi have, time out of mind." p. 387. [back to article]
- Saginaw Globe, JPS 937-1. [back to article]
- Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July IS, 1893, JPS 938-4. [back to article]
- Ibid., JPS 938-4. [back to article]
- Duluth Herald, May 20, 1893, JPS 938-S. [back to article]
- Syracuse Standard, May 9, 1893, JPS 938-2; Lewiston Journal, JPS 937-3; Duluth Herald, May 20, 1893, JPS 938-3. [back to article]
- Syracuse Standard, JPS 937-3. The Standard believed that Sousa was at heart "a leader of strings and his ideal in brass band music is not blare and a great volume of sound but true harmony. He is the Theodore Thomas of band leaders." This was said during the first tour of the independent band, 1892-93. [back to article]
- Buffalo Enquirer, May 10, 1893, JPS 938-2. [back to article]
- Syracuse Standard, May 9, 1893, JPS 938-2; a Rockford newspaper in 1892, JPS 937-2. Countless reviewers likened Sousa to a general, emphasizing his qualities of leadership. "To be able to command men is a gift possessed by comparatively few, and the great general is no more difficult to discover then the great conductor. ... Not the least enjoyable thing about a Sousa band concert is the masterly control of the leader over the human instrumentality before him." Detroit Tribune, April 6, 1899, JPS 944-23. [back to article]
- For more on this subject see "Music and Manliness," The Nation LXXV (July 24, 1902): p. 66, which refers mainly to the English situation; and Edith Brower, "Is the Musical Idea Masculine?" Atlantic Monthly LXXIII (March, 1894): 332-39. "In the practical business world generally music has not been reckoned one of the manly arts," Edith Brower wrote, p. 333, but at the same time the vast majority of composers had been men. [back to article]
- An unidentified Buffalo newspaper in the summer of 1893, commenting on a Sousa concert at the Buffalo Music Hall, JPS 938-5. [back to article]
- A considerable literature has been devoted to this theme. See, among others, Robert H. Wiebe, The Search for Order, 1877-1920 (New York, 1967); Burton Bledstein, The Culture of Professionalism (New York, 1976); Samuel Haber, Efficiency and Uplift: Scientific Management in the Progressive Era, 1890-1920 (Chicago and London, 1964); Jerry Israel, ed., Building the Organizational Society (New York, 1972). [back to article]
- Musical Courier, February 8, 1905, p. 23. This was a reprint of an interview Sousa gave to the London Daily Express. In it, Sousa went on, "I know precisely what every one of my musicians is doing every second or fraction of a second that I am conducting. I know this because every single member of my band is doing exactly what I make him do." [back to article]
- Sousa, Marching Along, p. 153. There were limits, of course, to Sousa's showmanship. For a contemporary bandmaster, John S. Duss, who built his career primarily on showmanship and the work of a clever publicity agent, R. E. Johnston, see Richard D. Wetzel, Frontier Musicians on the Connoquenessing, Wabash, and Ohio: A History of the Music and Musicians of George Rapp's Harmony Society (1805-1906) (Athens, Ohio, 1976), chap. 6. [back to article]
- Unidentified New Britain newspapers, 1892, JPS 937-3. [back to article]
- Middlesex Times, 1892, JPS 937-2. [back to article]
- For an extended discussion of these issues see Joseph A. Mussulman, Music in the Cultured Generation: A Social History of Music in America, 1870-1900 (Evanston, 111., 1971). See also Arnold T. Schwab, James Gibbons Huneker: Critics of the Seven Arts (Stanford, 1963), for the development of a new kind of musical criticism and musical philosophy in America. [back to article]
- Gilmore to Blakely, St. Louis, October 18, 1891, BP, Band Correspondence. [back to article]
- New York World, July 9, 1893, JPS 938-4. [back to article]
- Kansas City Journal, May 15, 1893, JPS 938-3. [back to article]
- Elmira Star, undated, but during the first touring season, JPS 937-1. [back to article]
- Kansas City Journal, May 15, 1893, JPS 938-3. [back to article]
- Unidentified New York newspaper, July, 1893, JPS 938-5. Sousa was playing at the time at the Manhattan Beach Hotel which was not, this newspaper continued, "a conservatory of music where taste is to be cultivated and people to be educated, but a pleasure resort where they come to be entertained." [back to article]
- Chicago Herald, June 28, 1893, JPS 938-4. [back to article]
- Duluth Daily Commonwealth, May 20, 1893, JPS 938-3. The St. Paul Pioneer Press, May 21st, also found the program weak in places, arguing that Sousa's Salute of the Nations to the Columbian Exposition "is of the claptrap variety, and did not succeed in evoking much enthusiasm." JPS 938-3. [back to article]
- Springfield Republican, undated, but during the first touring season, JPS 937-3. [back to article]
- Evening Wisconsin, May 22, 1893, JPS 938-4. [back to article]
- Syracuse Standard, May 9, 1893, JPS 938-2. The brass band's function, the newspaper concluded, "is to play what Gilmore always called 'masculine music'" And the Buffalo Enquirer, May 10,1893, agreed that the band should play more military numbers and not try to imitate orchestral sounds. JPS 938-2. [back to article]
- Sousa interview in New York World, August 6,1893, JPS 938-6. In this interview Sousa used medical analogies, arguing that the result is "being reached by homeopathic doses, so to speak; the allopathic treatment would not do at all in this case." [back to article]
- Sousa in Chicago Herald, June 27, 1893, JPS 938-4. [back to article]
- Chicago Herald, undated/during the first touring season, JPS 937-2. The Herald hoped that Sousa would bear in mind "that upon him, in a measure, devolves the responsibility of educating the taste of the people so that they may eventually learn to appreciate the higher forms of orchestral music. For band music always appeals to the masses and can thus be made a stepping stone to something higher." [back to article]
- Sousa in New York Advertiser, August 27, 1893, JPS 938-6. Here again, Sousa used the analogy of a skilled physician, saying he covered his pills with sugar. [back to article]
- Sousa, Marching Along, p. 275. [back to article]
- Ibid., p. 133. [back to article]
- Sousa in New York Advertiser, August 27, 1893, JPS 938-6. "The people who frequent my concerts are the strong and healthy," Sousa told an interviewer. "I mean the healthy both of mind and body. These people like virile music. Longhaired men and shorthaired women you never see in my audience. And I don't want them." Houston Post, May 17, 1903, JPS 951-11. This interview was given in Paris. [back to article]
- For more on Sousa's rivals in the late nineteenth century see H. W. Schwartz, Bands of America (Garden City, 1957). Schwartz treats Gilmore extensively, and devotes space to Liberati, Innes, Brooke, Creatore, Conway, Pryor, and Kryl. [back to article]
- Musical Courier, May 20, 1896, p. 23. In reprinting an article by W. S. B. Mathews, two years earlier, the Courier wrote, "The Sousa Band stands alone. It is at the head as much as the Boston Orchestra under Gericke was alone, or the Chicago Exposition Orchestra under Thomas was alone. Nothing has been heard better. . . . That is the beauty of Sousa. You can take culture from him without fatigue." Musical Courier, February.28, 1894, p. 21. And the same journal noted, in 1897, "Probably were men empowered and determined to plan an individual to fill the present position of John Philip Sousa invention would fall short in the detail of equipment which the brilliant leader so lavishly enjoys." Musical Courier, April 21, 1897, p. 26. [back to article]
- J. M. Bosworth, "Musical Comment," San Francisco Examiner, March 12, 1899, JPS 945-8. [back to article]
- Wilkes-Barre Daily News, April 19, 1899, JPS 944-18. "Gilmore's, Victor Herbert's," they are either past or "they never get close enough to the American people to make a comparison direct enough, generally speaking.'' [back to article]
- Dayton News, September 29, 1899, JPS 945-7. [back to article]
- New York World, August 18, 1899, JPS 945-3. [back to article]
- Wilkes-Barre Sunday News, no date indicated but probably April 1901, JPS 948-10. The article was an attack on critics who were hard on Sousa. [back to article]
- See, for example, the story in an 1898 New York newspaper about a local Richmond Hill lawyer, Darmstadt, who blackened his wife Martha's eye because she continually whistled the "Liberty Bell" march. He hit her and made slighting remarks about Sousa. Their case went to court. JPS 942-19. The Rochester Democrat Chronicle, November 17,1897, reported that a Mr. Godfrey Warburton of Tenafly, New Jersey, smote his wife in the eye because she kept whistling Sousa's "Liberty Bell." Curiously, Mmes. Darmstadt and Warburton whistled the march continuously for the same period of time, four days and four nights. The Sousa press agents had a stock of phrases, anecdotes, and observations, which they presented to the local press. [back to article]
- Sousa, Marching Along, pp. 187-88. [back to article]
- Ibid., p. 196. [back to article]
- Buffalo News, September 17, 1905, JPS 1018-2. [back to article]
- New York Evening Sun, September 2, 1905; and Denver Republican, September 11, 1905, JPS 1018-2. The Cleveland Plain Dealer noted, "One would as soon expect a Sunday school library story from D'Annunzio or a ragtime from Puccini as a novel by Sousa," objecting that the story was too ordinary. September 14, 1905, JPS 1018-2. Another Sousa novel, The Fifth String, received somewhat better reviews, but got its share of spoofs. [back to article]
- John Philip Sousa, Pipetown Sandy (Indianapolis, 1905), p. 253. [back to article]
- Oakland Enquirer, March 18, 1899, JPS 944-14. And newspapers echoed this thought. Sousa "has none of the musical crankiness, none of the intolerance and rabid jealousy that are quite too familiar," a Wilkes-Barre newspaper wrote in 1905. "He does not affect 'airs' or wear his hair in such a shape as to decorate his coat collar. He is a manly, healthful, wholesome American, loaded with genius. ... Work is his delight." JPS 953-10. [back to article]
- Wilkes-Barre Evening Leader, April 9, 1897, JPS 942-1. [back to article]
- John Philip Sousa, "The Business of die Bandmaster," Criterion, August, 1905, JPS 946-6. In the article Sousa insisted: "After twenty years of organization and hard training, entailing the personal examination of more than fifty thousand musicians and the training of perhaps five thousand of them, I have no hesitation in affirming that I have approached the ideal standard." [back to article]
- Sousa, Marching Along, p. 266. [back to article]
- Ibid., pp. 131-32. [back to article]
- Fannie Edgar Thomas, "John Philip Sousa in Paris," Musical Courier, June 13, 1900, p. 16. [back to article]
- Ibid., p. 17. The European triumphs added immeasurably to Sousa's reputation. In December 1901, after Sousa had been decorated by King Edward, the Brooklyn Eagle wrote, "The fact that Sousa and his band played for the birthday celebration of Queen Alexandra . . . will give to his concerns an enhanced value in the eyes of the multitude when he comes back to Manhattan Beach." JPS 948-40. Or the Hutchinson Daily News, November 17, 1904, "Sousa and his band have come and gone and the only American bandsman who has been able to make kings and queens tremble at will has made Hutchinson another visit." JPS 951-31. [back to article]
- Unidentified Duluth newspaper, 1897, JPS 942-2. [back to article]
- Kansas City newspaper in 1897, commenting on a concert at the Auditorium, JPS 942-3. [back to article]
- Lubov Keefer, Baltimore's Music: The Haven of the American Composer (Baltimore, 1962), p. 272. Note the Atlanta Journal, April 7,1899, quoting one local figure that Atlanta must have band music in her parks. "Band music refines the people, it charms them ... it whiles away the dull hours. It keeps people out of idleness." JPS 944-14. For more on music in the parks see Galen Cranz, The Politics of Park Design: A History of Urban Parks in America (Cambridge, Mass., 1982), pp. 10, 13, 258. [back to article]
- Everett Reynolds died in December 1905, and obituaries can be found in JPS 953-7. Reynolds's brother, Melville C. Reynolds, was business manager for the actress, Helen Modjeska. And see the obituary for David Blakely, Inland Printer XVIII (December, 1896), p. 321. [back to article]
- For more on the poster movement two contemporary works, Charles K. Bolton, The Reign of the Poster (Boston, 1895), and Charles Matlack Price, Posters: A Critical Study of the Development of Poster Design in Continental Europe, England and America (New York, 1913), are helpful, as are two later books, Victor Margolin, American Poster Renaissance. The Great Age of Poster Design, 1890-1900 (New York, 1975); and Patricia Hills, Turn-of-the-Century America (New York, 1977). See also Broadway Quarterly, May 1901, JPS 948-7, for an interesting juxtaposition of Sousa's band and the magazine revolution. [back to article]
- JPS 953-11 contains many details on Sousa's statements. For a brief discussion of his attitudes see James R. Smart, The Sousa Band: A Discography (Washington, 1970), pp. 2-5. Sousa's hostility was extensive. He suggested that sales of musical instruments would lessen and that the vocal chords might become useless. "Wherever there is a phonograph the musical instrument is displaced. The time is coming when no one will be ready to submit himself to the ennobling discipline of learning music, whether instrumental or vocal. Everyone will have their ready made or ready pirated music in their cupboards." Sousa in New York Morning Telegraph, June 12,1906, JPS 953-11. This was a period when canning was becoming an effective (and negative) metaphor. In 1906 "The Can Age" ran as an editorial in a New York periodical, treating illustrated books, slot machines, motion' pictures, and simplified spelling. "If we can just crowd everything we want into a can and walk away with the original package, we are perfectly happy.'' JPS 153-14. And see "Canned Speeches," Nation LXXXVI (January 16, 1908): 53-54, an editorial commenting on a new book Ready-Made Speeches. Sousa's most complete statement on the subject was "The Menace of Mechanical Music," Appleton's Magazine VIII (September, 1906): 278-84. There were strong replies to this in Appleton's VIII (November, 1906): 638-40. For Sousa's extensive written work see Paul E. Bierley, John Philip Sousa: A Descriptive Catalogue of His Works (Urbana, Chicago, London, 1973), pp. 150-69. In his articles Sousa wrote on everything from baseball and horses to trap shooting, patriotism and, of course, music. [back to article]
- Unidentified Philadelphia newspaper, in early 1899, JPS 944-3. The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 15, 1899, conducted an imaginary dialogue between Sousa's body and the band, JPS 944-3. [back to article]
- New Haven Leader, May 8, 1899, JPS 944-20. "The conviction always presents itself afresh that if he laid down that stick the music would stop. Either he illustrates the music, or the music illustrates Sousa, one hardly knows which. When this original conductor turns his head on one side and gently trills the air with the left hand it really seems as though the sound was made by the motion." [back to article]
- H. M. Bosworth, "Musical Comment," San Francisco Examiner, March 12, 1899, JPS 945-8. "Call this del Sarte or what you will, I call it genius. . . . Whatever he 'conducts' his gestures convey to the audience the proper acceptance of the musical intention." [back to article]
- Chicago Tribune, September 19, 1903, JPS 951-20. See also Portland (Me.) Advertiser, April 1904, "Sousa's band couldn't be what it is without Mr. Sousa's curving figure, the graceful swing of his arms, his delightful nonchalance." JPS 951-27. There are hundreds of comments, scattered through the reviews, on Sousa's postures, gestures, mannerisms; vaudeville artists made their living imitating Sousa, notably Walter Jones. The Burlington Hawkeye, February 15,1898, wrote "Half the expressiveness of the Italian tongue, if one may venture an Irish bull, is in the gesticulation of the hands, and Sousa employs his after a very fascinating fashion." JPS 942-5. [back to article]
- Both quotations from unidentified newspapers, JPS 953-13. The Joplin Globe, September 18, 1906, insisted that mechanical music was "merely the instrument of awakening--just as great musicians have in childhood been roused to an ecstasy of delight and aspiration by the music of a humble street band." JPS 953-13. [back to article]
- Topeka Daily Capital, November 8, 1902, JPS 951-5. Some of the language employed by newspapers objecting to foreign bandsmen was nasty. A Newton, Kansas, newspaper wrote, November 17,1904, that Sousa's Band contained only a "small number of foreigners of swarthy countenance, as was the case with Banda Rossa . .. most of them smoked cigars and not the nasty little cigarettes the foreign bandsmen seem to take to." JPS 951-31. The Bloomington Pantograph, August 4, 1906, warned that the importation of Italian musicians threatened the existence of local musical organizations, and quoted a bandsman who prophesied that the local band would soon be a "crew of dark-skinned men from the country made famous as the home of Rome." JPS 953-13. [back to article]
- Springfield (Ohio) Republican, January 29, 1897, JPS 942-2. [back to article]
- Rev. M. F. Johnson, "Spiritual Suggestions from Sousa." A Sermon Preached in the Central Baptist Church, May 16,1898, JPS 942-11. For an example of the Sousa-inspired poetry see "How John Philip Sousa Impressed the Gallery," originally in the Detroit Journal, reprinted by the Toledo Blade, July 16, 1899, JPS 944-23; and "Uncle Silas Hears Sousa's Band Play," Kalamazoo Morning Gazette-News, March 23,1901, JPS 948-8.
An example of the latter:
So I went down to the opery house an' got a fust class seat--
There wuz music in the atmosphere an' music in my feet,
An' when the band come on the stage an' Sousy, too, no doubt,
I jined the folks around me an' jest stamped for all git out.
I had that happy feeling' that I feel onct long ago,
Being' when I got religion over at East Alamo,
When Elder Higgins come to me an' prayed, he did, that night,
An' we kneeled around the altar an' I saw I "saw the light." [back to article]
- Unidentified newspaper, JPS 942-26. [back to article]
- Unidentified newspaper, JPS 942-26. There was considerable surprise expressed by journalists at the enthusiasm of audiences at these concerts. The "conservative people of Pittsfield involuntarily rose to their feet and waved hats and handkerchiefs in a perfect furor of patriotic enthusiasm," while the band performed the "Star-Spangled Banner." The same thing happened at New Haven in the spring of 1898. In late March, 5,000 at the Metropolitan Opera House rose to their feel during the "Star-Spangled Banner." "It was as if a current of electricity had passed from stage through stalls, boxes and galleries to the very roof of the auditorium. Everyone jumped to his feet. Hats were waved and handkerchiefs fluttered." JPS 942-26. [back to article]
- Chicago Times-Herald, April 20, 1898, JPS 942-28. [back to article]
- New York Mirror, September 15, 1898, JPS 943-2. [back to article]
- Chicago Times-Herald, May 1, 1898, JPS 942-28. "Slam-bang eccentricities in band play may tickle for a time, but one cannot live perpetually on red pepper and musical fireworks." [back to article]
- The Syracuse Standard, August 18, 1899, in an editorial, "Brass Bands and King Sousa," quoted the Washington Post and added its own comments. JPS 945-5. [back to article]
- Chicago Post, March 16,1901, JPS948-10. "Anything so trivial as a Sousa concert ought not to be considered seriously," the newspaper began, acknowledging, however, that Sousa took himself so seriously that he forced some kind of rigorous response. See also Frederick Stevenson of the Los Angeles Examiner, October 26,1907, who called Sousa the "Harriman of the Music World," one who knew advertising better than music. His band was fine, but played too much trash, Stevenson argued. JPS 95S-21. [back to article]
- The Sousa interview which incorporated this remark was made in September 1903. It attracted widespread comment. See JPS 951-23. For more on the complex relationships among Sousa, ragtime, and jazz, see Edward A. Berlin, Ragtime: A Musical and Cultural History (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1980), and William J. Schafer, Brass Bands and New Orleans Jazz (Baton Rouge and London, 1977). [back to article]
- St. Paul Globe, September 1903, JPS 951-23. [back to article]
- Rochester Post-Express, April 3, 1906, JPS 956-1. The following day the Geneva Times, April 4,1906, condemned Sousa for playing common music like "Everybody Works But Father." It "seemed a prostitution and profanation of the art of music. This abominable song is such in itself.. . . But still greater was the disgrace that the people actually liked it." JPS 956-1. [back to article]
- "For Sousa has lost his gestures, his poses, his delsarte. No longer in great circles does his baton scrape the proscenium arch. The baseball swat and the ping pong volley are things of Sousa's past." San Francisco Examiner, October 17, 1904, JPS 951-30. "He is a subdued Sousa compared to what he used to be. Not that he was ever a contortionist.. .. He does not hump; he undulates." Irish Independent, February 16, 1911, JPS 966-5. "Perhaps the Sousa nonchalance is a bit accentuated; certain it is that he presents a more passive figure before his instrumental cohorts than of yore." Riverside Press, November 1, 1904, JPS 951-30. [back to article]
- "A band that has won such laurels in every great city of the world, and among foreigners jealous of and prejudiced against everything American, is something that does not come to Bakersfield every year." Bakersfield Californian, November 3, 1904, JPS 951-30. [back to article]
- "The Washington Post," New York Times, November 2,1907, p. 8. The visitor was Arthur Walkeley, a drama critic for the London Times. [back to article]
- See New York Herald, June 29, 1918, JPS 979-2. [back to article]
- Oklahoma City Oklahoman, June 29, 1918, JPS 979-5. [back to article]
- Sousa indulged in attacks on various aspects of German culture during the war. At Willow Grove he announced, in the summer of 1918, "The greatest ambition of my life is to lead my band down the Wilhelmstrasse in Berlin playing 'The Star-Spangled Banner' for the delectation of the Hohenzollerns--or what is left of them." Philadelphia Record, August 19, 1918, JPS 979-5. On another occasion he declared, "The pro-German in America is the lowest, most sneaking, most cowardly thing on earth--he is even worse than a German in the German army, and that's about the limit of condemnation." Baltimore News, October 2, 1918, JPS 979-9. It should be pointed out that these remarks were not much different from many uttered by American cultural leaders at the same time; Sousa, once more, was quite representative. [back to article]
- Musical Courier, August 19, 1915, p. 22. Sousa was speaking to a reporter on the Spokane Chronicle. [back to article]
- And honest tunes, provided another margin of safety in the postwar world. "If every Bolshevik were made to attend a week's course of concerts played by this famous band, the chances are that at the end of the week he would have caught the contagion and become a loyal citizen of these United States. You cannot think mean thoughts when you hear good music, and you cannot see Red Russia when you hear the 'Stars and Stripes Forever' or 'Who's Who in Navy Blue.'" Portsmouth (NH) Times, August 13,1920, JPS 983-1. [back to article]
- D. C. Parker, "Sousa, Philosopher," Musical Courier, August 16, 1917, p. 32. [back to article]
- Sousa's interview with the Adelaide Advertiser was reprinted in the Musical Courier, September 9, 1911, p. 31. [back to article]
- For more on high school music programs, see Edward Bailey Birge, History of Public School Music in the United States, new ed. (Philadelphia, 1928, 1937). [back to article]