Article The Sousa March: A Personal View

Image: Sousa Marching
Sousa marching with sword, ca1917, Music Division, Library of Congress.

I heard the first performance of John Philip Sousa's The Black Horse Troop when I was eleven years old. My father had taken me to a concert by Sousa's Band at the Public Auditorium in Cleveland, Ohio. At the end of the concert Sousa turned and faced the audience. This was obviously a signal, for the whole of Troop A of the Ohio National Guard Cavalry--The Black Horse Troop--walked their horses up the aisles and onto the stage. Standing at attention behind the Band, they faced the audience as Sousa led his musicians in the first performance of the march. Their reception as they made their way to the stage was wild enough, but the tumultuous applause for all at the conclusion of The Black Horse Troop was like nothing I had ever heard. It was probably Sousa's 125th march.

By the time that I--and about 699 other high school students--had the privilege of playing two concerts which he conducted with the National High School Band and Orchestra at the Bowl at Interlochen, Michigan, in July 1931, Mr. Sousa was no longer the exceptionally gifted physical conductor who had once ignited audiences everywhere to flaming acclaim and of whom no less a judge of performance than his contemporary, the distinguished actor Otis Skinner, declared that he was "the best actor America has ever produced."[1]

But the mere fact that he was John Philip Sousa was sufficient to mesmerize us all and draw the largest crowd imaginable to the National Music Camp's Interlochen Bowl. Those of us there who did the playing at the rehearsals and concerts had not the slightest interest in, let alone any real ability to judge, his conducting technique. He made what we thought were the right motions, and when he did we played our hearts out for him. In this last summer of his life he was seventy-seven years old and comparatively frail, but he was "Our Sousa," the "King of the March."[2]

The youth of America became very involved with band performance during the last years of Sousa's life. He was their obvious idol. We young school musicians were beneficiaries of the great band movement's desire to follow Sousa's example. We had the benefit of good instruction and public support, could play in a good group at an early age, and our instruments were provided by the school we attended--all of which did not exist when John Philip Sousa was a lad. But there it was, the great bursting forth of all those school bands as the result of the labors of so many.

Sousa was drawn inevitably into all of this as the honored guest conductor of enormous bands massed in his honor. He gave his name to causes that would enhance musical opportunities for young people. Among those exemplary leaders within music education who were drawn to him was the Director of Bands at the University of Illinois, Albert Austin Harding (1880-1958). He took what Sousa had done to make the indoor sit-down concert band artistically acceptable, expanded it, and eventually thrust that concept throughout schools in most of the forty-eight states. Sousa responded to Harding's devotion to bands and to his expertise and musicality by visiting the Urbana campus and guest conducting Harding's superb Illinois Concert Band.

Their friendship--together with the impact on music education that Joseph E. Maddy had made with the National High School Orchestra and the summer music camp that was built to house it at Interlochen, Michigan, where Harding was conductor of the band--led to two visits to Interlochen by Sousa. I was there for the second visit, described above, and for this occasion he honored all Interlochen campers with a march written just for us; number 136, his last. He called it The Northern Pines (1931). The preparation that preceded his arrival for dress rehearsals was done by Harding who was quick to notice several details in style, so well known to him, to be in need of adjustment, such as dynamic shadings and ensemble accents. These were subsequently approved by Sousa and incorporated into the printed edition. One time, Mr. Harding also suggested that it was more in the Sousa style to have the trombones join the solo cornets at the octave for the melody in the first half of the second strain rather than to play their inactive harmonic role. When he went back to the trombone section and picked up somebody's instrument and played the suggested change, Sousa smilingly approved. Sousa conducted the premiere of The Northern Pines on Sunday afternoon, July 27, 1931. Harding had assigned me the honor of playing bass drum for the occasion.

Such are my personal and youthful observations of Sousa. Much has been written about him by others, and Sousa's autobiography was published in 1928, four years before his death. Aptly titled Marching Along,[3] it is a rambling account of a fascinating life, somewhat frustrating to one awaiting any words from Sousa on how he wrote marches. The book is 365 pages long, 357 of which have passed before he ever mentions the subject. Then, however, he provides the following statements:

Marches, of course, are well known to have a peculiar appeal to me... the march speaks to a fundamental rhythm in the human organization and is answered. A march stimulates every center of vitality, wakens the imagination... but a march must be good. It must be as free from padding as a marble statue... how are marches written? I suppose every composer has a somewhat similar experience in his writing. With me the thought comes, sometimes slowly, sometimes with ease and rapidity. The idea gathers force in my brain and takes form not only melodically but harmonically at the same time. It must be complete before I commit it to paper.[4]

At age seventy-four and with 115 of his 136 marches already written, Sousa's manifesto is a statement by a man totally in control of the medium that suited him best. Benevolent circumstance had placed him in a time and society where his gifts could make it all happen.

But his words, however candid, are no match for his marches--except, perhaps, for that single phrase that a march "must be as free from padding as a marble statue."

The style of his marches was singular. The time which Sousa had spent as a violinist with touring companies and in theater pits in Washington and Philadelphia had brought him into the closest kind of contact with the popular music of his youth. A seven-year slice of that time had been spent first as an apprentice and then as a musician in the U.S. Marine Band.[5] The sounds of marches had been all about him, perhaps since the time he could remember having heard anything. But it does not seem that he fell under the spell of any particular international style as a result of his early days in the military; nor does it seem that the ceremonial routine of that life left any strong marks on his earliest march compositions.

Once he was freed from his military commitment, Sousa was drawn to the theater, the leading musical activity of the day. He had been "moonlighting" there during his time off from the Marine Band.

Sousa's basic training in violin, piano, and composition while in Washington[6] provided him with the tools he would use eventually in the theater. Songs were among his first compositions,[7] and words had always interested him too. Because of the innate flair for showmanship that would soon make him and his Band a top international attraction, theater and Sousa made a superb match.

How all of those early professional experiences found their way into Sousa's marches is, of course, impossible and unnecessary to trace by specific example. But it is reasonable to assume that as he played he sorted what worked from what did not and made more than a mental note, for instance, of the charm and clarity he surely heard in the scores of Arthur Sullivan, and of the effervescence and drive he must have experienced while playing for Jacques Offenbach in the orchestra at Philadelphia's Centennial Exhibition.

High among Sousa's gifts were his obvious talents as a composer and conductor. It is here, perhaps, that his theater experiences were to serve him most directly. His work at the podium, beginning at age twenty, offered the priceless opportunity to hear everything from that most desirable and productive elevation. He could choose the best of what he saw and heard, carefully avoiding imitation; he was an original and he knew it.

Sousa discovered very early in his life as a composer that what he had to offer through his marches was a music that people really wanted to hear and sometimes to dance to and for which they were ready to pay; these were to remain inseparable touchstones to success throughout his life. Once his marches in their basic pattern had established him as the March King,[8] he chose to reign in this realm only, in spite of his long interest and initial success in musical theater.[9]

Sousa's mature description of a good march as being "as free from padding as a marble statue" fits the exemplary ones we know from France, Italy, Germany, England, Norway, or Austria. And while his gift and its fruits were unique and extraordinary he must have assimilated a broad range of what had gone before and what was happening all around him as well. From among all the possible influences I have always sensed the presence of the lighter character of Austrian marches from pit or parade ground to be present in his early achievements, notably Our Flirtations (1880) with which it may also be said that the Sousa march was born. It was also the year he became leader of the Marine Band,[10] a very significant event in his life.

From the outset of his career as a composer of memorable marches he obviously lived up to his later specifications for the writing of something "as free from padding as a marble statue." Our Flirtations was followed chronologically by Sound Off (1885), The Gladiator (1886), and The Rifle Regiment (1886), three of his very best achievements. Each of these continued to reveal a composer with something to say that was worth "marching" to.[11]

The Gladiator was Sousa's first real hit and he knew it; it is a fabulously swinging march that has everything. He was to borrow from it for the rest of his life. A few of its very attractive resources include an introduction and first strain in the minor mode (as does Sound Off from 1885), great use of the reeds throughout, a judicious piccolo concept in the trio, a break strain in the minor, and a rousing finale with all the melody brass in unisons or octaves--and no stinger (final chord). Sousa was obviously headed in the direction of the street.

Semper Fidelis (1888), unquestionably one of the greatest of all regimental marches, leaves no one in doubt as to its purpose: it is for marching and it is Sousa's perfect "marble statue." It is the ideal march for the street or for regimental review. He had been conducting for eight years when he wrote it "one night, while in tears, after my comrades of the Marine Corps had sung their famous hymn at Quantico"[12]

Providing appropriate music for the parade ground has long been the principal purpose for the existence of the military band and those units of fifers, drummers, pipers, and buglers attached to it in military establishments throughout the world. Regimental review calls for a no-nonsense, solid, one-two cadence undergirding simple tunes that are usually orchestrated in equally no-nonsense, block-buster fashion. The object of the regimental march is to move lots of organized pairs of feet forward and at a pace and with a spirit that elevates the occasion to those moments of pride and purpose without which probably no unit can function as intended.

In the overview of his enormous output it is obvious, however, that Sousa conceived the majority of his marches for sit-down performances, for toe tapping rather than foot marching while, at the same time, it is unmistakably clear that Sousa's music is for the feet rather than for the head.[13]

In the last decade of the nineteenth century the full force of Sousa's musical personality extended to its international dimension. He had two years left with the Marine Band, during which David Blakely came into his life as manager for two important tours. At the end of the second tour Sousa was ready to leave the Marines and reach for the money Blakely offered him to form his own band.

Up to this point Sousa was anything but a good business man. He had the poorest kind of contract with his first publisher, Harry Coleman, making Coleman rich while accepting a meager outright payment of thirty-five dollars for each of his early marches. His financial success only began with the Blakely contract and the astute and experienced management it provided. Their brief but highly productive time together ended with Blakely's sudden death in 1896. The contract caused Sousa the anxiety of a court suit that ruled mostly in favor of Blakely's widow.[14]

Sousa's marches and his personality as a conductor, however, had altered his status completely. Sousa was obviously very good for business, management notwithstanding, for it was he whom the people came to see and hear, no matter how good the Band was. Sousa's day was band day in the United States. It was the time of the horse-drawn vehicle and the electric street car, of the amusement park and the seaside pier, of the railroad and the side-wheel steamer. Everything that was John Philip Sousa could be considered a fair representation of what America was--or thought it was--to a large part of the world.

His marches, generously sprinkled throughout his programs as encores to the mostly light music he chose to play wherever he went, became what can easily be assumed to be an honest reflection of the taste of the general public in our country during the first three decades of the twentieth century. His was the pop music of his day; he was the rock super star; his Band was the big money group that the people lined up to hear and paid top dollar just to be near. They were probably the only first-class musical group that performed in some of the places where they traveled. But he went everywhere as an entertainer to carry out that demanding, rewarding, and (to him) necessary pursuit. The symphony orchestra and the opera company would wait their turn to dominate the musical scene and the entertainment world as had the bands in Sousa's time.

His Band also flourished because, it is said, he always paid the highest wages and, therefore, could hire the best musicians. In securing such services, in some instances for several seasons, he was buying more than mere technical expertise. He was also acquiring high professionalism, expert musicianship, artistic loyalty, and, most of all, experience. He depended on these men to bring to his Band their superior tonal quality and a sympathetic expressiveness in their playing, to grasp immediately the stylistic character of the music as played by the Sousa Band--especially his marches. Rehearsals, we are told, were rare after the few that launched a new season.[15]

Sousa frequently mentioned in press interviews that contact with the public was critical to creativity as he knew it. The next two of his marches to be considered here both evolved from extended visits to very public places. I can well imagine that the great man--however sophisticated at this point--was often very excited before he met the Band at the train that took them where they were going. Frequently, this is still the case for those who make their living as twentieth-century troubadours.

The first of these marches is Manhattan Beach (1893). It was the money--obviously very good money--that was available to be earned at such a facility and at exciting gatherings like the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta that kept Sousa's Band together in its earliest days. And while the receipts guaranteed his survival it was the presence of all those people and what their enthusiasm for him fed back to his creative juices that kept him composing march after march, each one as logical a link in a chain of musical pleasure as one can imagine.

In its late nineteenth-century heyday, New Yorkers flocked to the Manhattan Beach Hotel, a nearby and well-known Brooklyn summer resort. Foremost among the musical attractions appearing in concert at the amphitheater there in the summer of 1893 was the brand new John Philip Sousa Band. The hotel has long been gone but the spirit of what must have been quite a place lives on in this exciting Sousa march.

And while the Band's players were probably enjoying the diversions of Manhattan Beach, Sousa was busy composing the march he would take with him to their next engagement that same fall at the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta; the score of King Cotton is dated "28 July 1895 Manhattan Beach, N.Y." The business of having a group that people really wanted to hear, together with his great acceptance as a leading musical personality could only have urged him on in his endless quest to please. He did have a seemingly endless reservoir of smashingly simple musical ideas which flowed from him on call. King Cotton, for instance, has that same infectiously happy sounding drive which makes The High School Cadets and Manhattan Beach such successful pieces of music, as well as that vital added ingredient for many listeners as it swings along in the six-eight meter. Each of his marches had its own individual character, its own musical personality. By now Sousa had really hit his stride; the next two marches would be El Capitan and The Stars and Stripes Forever (both in 1896).

The one would bring him fame, lasting and unlimited, establishing an indelible association with the American people and those high principles on which the republic was founded. This would extend beyond any geographical center. The Stars and Stripes Forever would also far transcend the borders of the customary five-by seven-inch march-size paper on which it was printed, reaching out beyond those confinements to touch the heart and spirit of each succeeding generation. It has its own special consideration in this volume through the penetrating study written by James R. Smart, "Genesis of a March: The Stars and Stripes Forever."

The operetta El Capitan (1896) marked Sousa's return to the theater, a triumphant rejoining of that natural combination. And for our purpose in this march overview, the El Capitan March--like all the marches that precede it--is just a little different, though positively out of the same Sousa march mold. This was another vital factor in his galloping conquest of the public. A new Sousa march was always new, although to some listeners it might have sounded at first like something they had heard before; as it played on it would grow less familiar but they would still find those satisfying characteristics that had made the other marches so memorable.[16]

By the time that Sousa had seen the beginning of the twentieth century he had produced a mountain of marches--fifty-seven by exact count--and he was only forty-six years old. His touring had become international, and his literary and theatrical projects also consumed much of his time. March production held at about one a year, and in 1906 he produced The Free Lance. His leanest year ever was 1908 in which The Fairest of the Fair was his only composition in any form. But, if it was to be that kind of year, Sousa could not have come up with a more perfect example of his view of the march at any time in his career than is this single gem.[17]

He wrote the march for the Band's engagement that fall at the Boston Food Fair.[18] The holograph score's final page was signed: "John Philip Sousa, Camp Comfort, Saranac Lake, Adirondack, New York, July 8, 1908."

Another year passed before The Glory of the Yankee Navy (1909) was written to the same high standards, if not to the acclaim, of The Fairest of the Fair. Then there is a lull in top-notch creativity lasting for about six years. But when the First World War reached out to involve the United States Sousa volunteered his services to train bands for the Navy in which he served as a dollar-a-year officer until the armistice.

The exemplary march to come from this period was The U.S. Field Artillery March (1917) written at the request of artillery officer Lt. George Friedlander, whom Sousa had met at lunch in company with Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels. This unusual combination of diners provided Sousa with the chance to take a very good tune that was not his and to make of it one of his greatest marches. What neither Sousa nor Friedlander knew about the artillery song suggested to Sousa and presumed by all to be a traditional song, was that it had been composed in 1908 by another artillery officer, Lt. Edmund L. Gruber. Liking the tune, Sousa simply gave it his treatment and the result, far beyond what Lt. Friedlander had hoped for, was another booming Sousa success![19]

A new publisher appeared in the Sousa repertory just before the twenties when he entered into a contract with the Sam Fox Publishing Company. Since the Blakely contract of 1892, Sousa's principal publisher had been the John Church Company (now Presser). As a newcomer to the Sousa success, Mr. Fox was the lucky recipient of a series of vintage marches, beginning with Sabre and Spurs (1910) and moving on to The Gallant Seventh (1922), the best regimental march Sousa had written since Semper Fidelis.

This was followed by the concert-oriented and novel Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (1923), which is unique in that it has a part for the harp and its introduction and entire first strain are in the key of B-flat minor. There are violent outbursts of sound in keeping with the "Turkish music" character of its intent. Percussion instruments, the triangle, and the tambourine are integral to the music's texture as all such colorful oriental sounds are part of Shrine marching music. Sousa wrote this for his fellow Shriners of Almas Temple.

He also contributed two of his best "equestrian" marches to this series, The Black Horse Troop (1924) and Riders for the Flag (1927). The horse lover in Sousa was a vein that ran very deep,[20] and when he could no longer ride after he broke his neck in 1921, he could still pour his affection for the animal into these two outstanding examples of a march for riders. The Black Horse Troop is a classic among Sousa's 136 marches. It possesses a great dignity that belongs to it alone, and its proportions are as gracefully balanced as the beautiful black steeds for whom it was written and who stood at attention behind the Band at the march's premiere performance. It is vintage Sousa with characteristics that hark back to Semper Fidelis and The Washington Post, but its own bold profile is there for all to hear.

Having completed this brief survey of Sousa's career and marches, I would like to discuss some of his works in greater detail from a conductor's point of view.

How does one write about a Sousa march? The idea has baffled me for years as I have strived, futilely I fear, to provide reading guides to record listeners.

While Sousa was fully aware of his credibility as a writer, he mostly avoided--save for The Stars and Stripes Forever[21]--any discussion of the creative process. When in his autobiography, Sousa asks how marches are written, the conductor and the scholar have to respond in genuine desperation by asking how marches are studied. I have seen but two full scores of Sousa's marches, photocopies of the holographs of The Black Horse Troop and The Fairest of the Fair.[22] While they are treasures to see, all of us who seek to conduct, edit, or talk about them would be able to do our work quickly and more fully if printed copies in full score had been published as has been true for any other piece of music worth considering in the first place. Lacking this, I have long resorted to distributing on my living room floor a single copy of each part arranged in ensemble formation. Moving about from one part and section to the next, with a small stool for resting, I can study the music both from an overall view and by detailed observation of each part. It is a tedious but necessary business which the full score obviously provides with such ease for all other musical forms, including today a growing amount of concert band music.

Those of us who conduct Mr. Sousa's "marble statues" have also tried to absorb them through repeated performances and rehearsals; by listening to them at concerts, parades, reviews, and on recordings; and by practicing the individual parts for the instruments we play. All of these are experience, to be sure, but within them lie that incompleteness of information, those seeds of bad performance habits, and that certain dullness of routine that frequently rob these wonderful little pieces of their emotional and stylistic potential as music.

I begin my study with Our Flirtations (1880), which was composed in the year-that Sousa became Leader of the Marine Band and is one of his most charming marches--light in character, transparent in texture, captivating in its rhythmic swing. It is a model for the many that were to follow. It is theater pit Sousa,[23] more Austrian than German in character. The lightness of the first strain's melody invites appropriate counter figures borrowed rhythmically and melodically from the final bar of the introduction:

Sousa: example 1

Sousa's marches begin by getting everybody's attention, and Our Flirtations sets that pattern, too. These solidly scored attention getters were no place for the safe-minded Sousa to take chances, for he almost always began his marches squarely on the first beat of the first bar. The prebar flourish would come later, but for now he was consistently given to downbeat introductions in multiples of the two-pulse. This beginning is a solid four-bar, four-octave fortissimo statement that leaves nothing in doubt:

Sousa: example 2

As the quiet first strain unfolds past its middle, listeners are led carefully where the composer wants to take them and where, it is assumed, they are happy to go. This fundamental observation of one aspect of his technique in writing these miniature essays states, as well, one of the basic reasons for his immense success with his general public. He gave them what they had grown to expect. And as the first strain of Our Flirtations moves toward its twelfth bar Sousa raises the listener's attention to his enriching harmony, to be followed by a vitally rhythmic and highly dynamic conclusion to the march's initial statement:

Sousa: example 3

The graceful melodic figure which skips along in the reeds of the band marks the music as conceived for them. Sustaining harmonic trombones, countering euphoniums, rhythmic horns, and tubas with quiet percussion lead to the conclusion already described and dominated by the brass. In these sixteen bars Sousa has provided a tune, a counter tune, simple yet rich harmony, rhythmic-harmonic accompaniment, and an interesting crescendo to contrasting new material in a convincing climax--sixteen bars any composer might well have been pleased to write. They look and sound composed, the result of a combination of talent and intellect--and inspiration.

In addition to leading the listener in the manner described, the composer has also knitted a single rhythmic figure (a) into the fabric of the first strain and has then made it the principal idea (b) of the second strain:

Sousa: example 4

Whether known to them or not, average listeners cling to these tonal-rhythmic consistencies as they hear their way through the music, and these are the people for whom Sousa wrote his marches.

The second strain of Our Flirtations is in deliberate contrast to the first, for it plays at the fortissimo dynamic all the way, that being the nature of the material with its simple and effective imitation between the upper brass and reeds and like instruments of midrange. It would eventually become his style sometimes to write second strains with contrasting dynamics:

Sousa: example 5

The trio's subdued first strain, like the airiness of the first strain of the march, is in contrast to the music that precedes it and is, as well, a continuation of his theater pit experiences heightened here by extensive use of trills (harmonized) in the melody and given, of course, to the reeds of the band:

Sousa: example 6

Trills and ornaments of this nature are characteristic of Sousa's early marches, those before 1910, including that most famous trill trio of them all, The Stars and Stripes Forever.

The initial strain and first trio of Our Flirtations are definitely indoor sit-down music, their essentially delicate character not being rooted in the parade ground. This primary element of band music was to become a part of the Sousa style in marches up ahead.

The break strain[24] in Our Flirtations is sixteen forceful bars of contrast to the trio's beginning:

Sousa: example 7

Its tune, solidly blocked in bass line octaves while others accompany and counter it in mostly afterbeat patterns, is aural preparation for the all-out final fortissimo statement combining the trio material with an attractive arching countermelody on euphoniums and trombones:

Sousa: example 8

Sousa's choice of the six-eight meter for Semper Fidelis guaranteed it a certain swing,[25] but when that meter becomes the drive for his attractive use of what appears at first to be the key of G major in solid harmony, aided by repetition, and capped by the white-key scale on G, the swing gains its remarkable momentum in a big hurry. Listeners are actually ten bars into the piece before the composer offers them a C-major chord--the key of it all. It all seems very simple and it is very effective:

Sousa: example 9

The music that follows in contrast to this makes marchers and listeners comfortable while the composer readies his repeated offering of the main tune topped off with a trumpetlike flourish that happily surprises the first time it is heard. Any portion of the trumpet's (or bugle's) functional harmonic series that is employed in music of the genre usually brings instant identity with things military. Again, Sousa leads his listeners and in this instance focuses their attention on the military purpose of this march:[26]

Sousa: example 10

And when strain one has run its second playing, Sousa picks up on the spirit of the trumpet flourish to take the marcher-listener into the second principal idea (second strain) by way of those secure and effective devices known as a crescendo and a rising C-major scale. We may have heard or played these measures hundreds of times but, in my case, they never fail to cause me to rise to Mr. Sousa's attractive aural bait; it must be the same for others. One can only assume that it is the combination of talent, musical intellect, and an innate sense for balancing variety that tells a Sousa that his second musical idea in a march like this one is more effective when it is in contrast to the first than when it is either similar to it or the same. Here, when the initial contrast is paced to longer note values, equal and driving--set in solid bedrock pylons of harmony--the listener and marcher are treated to every security, dressed up in the best Sousa fashion. It, too, then has its contrasts and restatements (including a reminder of the trumpeting idea) leading to a primary Sousaism: one strategically and startlingly placed chord to surprise the average listener. This occurs in Semper Fidelis as the second strain is about to be concluded:

Sousa: example 11

Using the ancient and effective device of deceiving listeners momentarily by (in this case) slipping the A-minor chord under the melody (to which it is compatible) he then "startles" them with the immediately louder and very forcefully executed harmonic combination described above. This kind of harmonic "exoticism" obviously became an audience pleaser and he set it up for them by framing it within music's most effective ally--silence. This attempt at a nontechnical description of how Sousa wrote one segment of a march may further be portrayed as "momentarily deceiving" so as to then "comfort and satisfy."[27]

Sousa was very adept at this basic process in writing the music he chose to compose for the audience he obviously lived to please; the device may be found in almost every Sousa march.

To conclude the first half of Semper Fidelis, he continued to be a good composer in his reuse of familiar material by returning again to the trumpet flourish, this time played going down instead of up in continual fulfillment of his regimental march commitment.

Sousa's most original contribution to the march idiom comes next by way of the content, form, and character of the trio of Semper Fidelis. He began it in the most effective manner, devoting its introduction entirely to an eight-bar cadence for the snare-field drums alone:

Sousa: example 12

It is a marvelously simple idea! It spawned a variety of other similar and anonymous drum cadences--some still developing--sometimes called "street beats," but to the writer's knowledge, this is the first one to have been written down, generally accepted, and incorporated into a military band march.[28] He borrowed it from a book he had compiled and composed two years earlier to aid in the training of players. He called it The Trumpet and Drum.[29]

When he adopted this music as the first half of the Semper Fidelis trio he obviously thought the top-line melody could stand alone. The trumpet's part as the principal musical idea in this music used only the four notes that are the easiest to blow on a natural trumpet (no valves) pitched in the key of F:

Sousa: example 13

Sousa then began to construct his unusual march edifice above and below it, first adding this foundation of scales in the tubas with rhythmic punctuations from the drums:

Sousa: example 14

These lines then became the bottom layer of a delicious four-layer musical cake.[30]

On top of this and above the trumpet tune he added this intriguing layer of offbeat sounds from the clarinets:

Sousa: example 15

The whole fabric of the music was then interlaced by this compellingly powerful counter tune in the trombones:

Sousa: example 16

When put together this is what a slice of this layer-cake march looks like:

Sousa: example 17

For the final strain, with its composer still "Always Faithful" to the regimental purpose of this really great march, he provides yet another compelling and appropriately simple tune that allows his buglers to trumpet away at their fanfares (now expanded to a fifth partial above the four used in the first half of the trio); the trombones scale their way throughout this simplest, this minimal harmonic material. While the drums beat their way into the first trio, the music employs only two chords, but in no way does it seem to be as uninteresting as that low chord count might suggest. Much has been accomplished with the triads of F and C major (with the seventh of the C major added to the second half of the trio).

But as the march is drawing to its close Sousa reaches back to the exactly comparable spot in its second strain to serve up, one last time, his favorite chord for harmonic emphasis. And when he is done he is finished-- no break strain, no stinger or repetition of the final chord being any part of his concept of this superbly constructed piece of music. It is, as he must have known, "a really inspired march" and it speaks with glowing eloquence for the whole Sousa output.

Had he stopped here he would surely have had an unquestioned high place among the composers of music on-the-march. Happily, there would be so many more, such as The Thunderer, or The Washington Post which turned out to be Sousa's double-edged essay in the form--popular as a march, of course, but almost equally so for a time as dance music for the two-step.

Among Sousa's continuing developments in march composition is a noticeable variety in texture, The Washington Post being as different from The Thunderer as that march is from Semper Fidelis. Even more different from all of the marches he wrote between 1880 and 1890 is The Corcoran Cadets (1890). It is Sousa's eighth-note march, more for sit-down playing than for the field or street and certainly not for the dance floor. It is as though he set out deliberately to compose a piece in duple time that would be produced with absolutely minimum resources, yet be rhythmically neat, texturally clean, harmonically and melodically satisfying, and (for him) stylistically unique. He succeeded.

The High School Cadets (1890) is as contrasting a kind of march from The Corcoran Cadets as Sousa would write in a single year. The contrasts are stylistic and, like Corcoran, it is fashioned from very simple rhythmic and melodic elements. By them he leads listeners through two fetching strains to a quiet and sonorous trio in G-flat. The whole of its form is uncomplex; imitation is basic; there is no introduction to the trio, no break strain, no stinger, and the trio's second strain winds up with some of the most wide-open, free-swinging band music I know. Sousa's use of the trombones to intone the first three notes only and then other fragments of the melody while the rest of the tune keepers carry on with the melody makes all the difference. The simplicity of this final strain simply gets to me, and its appeal to everything in me that made me feel that--somehow--I had to become a conductor will always reaffirm that critical decision. It is a feeling I got in high school; the realization that the two great upbeats to every phrase in the last strain were made for percussion!

On one vividly memorable occasion it struck again and with a big impact. In the fifth week of Serge Koussevitzky's private class in conducting at the 1942 session of the Berkshire Music Center, I had just finished a busy week of lessons with the maestro during which I had filled my head with an exciting study of Stravinsky's Histoire du Soldat, conducted Haydn's Symphony no. 88, and played percussion along with my classmates and the Berkshire Music Center Orchestra in the first U.S. concert performance of the Shostakovitch Seventh Symphony. Pretty heady stuff, and I was into it all the way.

It was Sunday and my wife, Dorothy, our close friend, Robert L. Swan, and I ventured up the highway toward Pittsfield stopping at a restaurant that looked inexpensive yet inviting. The heady conversation continued over the sounds of a pop tune coming from the then inevitable jukebox. But suddenly there came from it--of all sources--the unmistakable and arresting opening bars of The High School Cadets. As the end of the record approached, with the sounds I knew were coming, dining ceased while Mr. Sousa moved into my head in company with Stravinsky, Haydn, and Shostakovitch. I fed a dime into the slot and pushed the button for two more plays; it was nothing less than terrific. The feeling has never really left me.[31]

Sousa: Example 18

The introduction to the Corcoran Cadets, like that of Our Flirtations of a decade earlier, is eight bars of octaves-unisons that also establish a simple rhythmic premise that is then projected into the first strain. The five-note figure with which this begins is that rhythmic premise, and it appears there in various guises eleven times to set the scene for what is perhaps Sousa's most tightly knit, rhythmically integrated, and sparsely conceived piece, from the first note to the last:

Sousa: example 19

Sousa's second idea is similarly compact and repetitious:

Sousa: example 20

Three literal statements of this idea drive home rhythmically a simply repetitive point. The harmonic and dynamic contrast expected in the trio is fulfilled, but it, too, is ruled by the march's integral concept, this identical eight-bar figure consuming twenty-four of the strain's thirty-two bars:

Sousa: example 21

Still concerned with his introductory rhythmic idea, Sousa's break strain, though moving the rhythmic motive:

Sousa: example 22

from the first beat of the bar to the second, uses it five insistent and extremely effective times to conclude the bridge leading to the final statement, thus bringing to a climax the composition's impressive rhythmic unity. Like every piece of music, it is meant to be heard, not written about, but if heard with some awareness of its simple yet superb construction within the four-square confines of the traditional march form, listening to it may be just that much more rewarding. It is very unusual Sousa.

Manhattan Beach is a mere sixty-eight bars long without repeats. Lean and driving, it is almost brash for Sousa. With brevity ruling its very concise form, he needs only the minimum four-bar introduction, two sixteen-bar highly complementary strains, no introduction to the two-part trio, no break strain, and a very convincing no-stinger ending! The tune of the trio is utterly plain rhythmically and is one of Sousa's simplest, its harmony hovering continually around the subdominant G-minor triad and darting off to wherever seems appropriate. Its Alberti basslike insides given to the clarinet section is a striking feature, one he used again twenty-nine years later in the first trio of The Gallant Seventh.

Both strains of the Manhattan Beach trio are fashioned from large note values. These, together with the forward-thrusting action of the introduction and the spritely character of the first strain, make this sit-down march take right off. Each march has its own tempo, especially those marches not specifically intended or used for regimental review, which this one was not, and thus as it moves along it fits the gay character of the kind of place for which it was named, and very probably reflects a happy personal relationship with Sousa's Manhattan Beach audiences.

El Capitan (1896) is a fair compendium of already familiar Sousaisms run through the creative sieve and set down with evident discipline. His loyal toe-tapping, two-pulse appreciators marching down familiar streets in the first two strains are suddenly introduced, and with no warning, to one of Sousa's rare switches in a basic march rhythm. The lilt of the triple pulse in the six-eight meter with which the march begins simply gives way to the duple bounce of two-four. When heard for the first time, an intriguing rhythmic reaction is the result. The march could well have ended with the full cadence of the second ending that precedes it with its forceful fortissimo termination. Slipping this change in under the cover of the starkly reduced pianissimo dynamic, Sousa has as effectively deceived his listeners as he had faithfully led them on so many other occasions. He did it again ten years later in another great march, his longest, The Free Lance, (1906).

The instruments which constituted the Sousa Band (basic to what we use today) and for which he wrote his marches have proceeded in their evolution to the high level of today's mass-manufactured and well-produced machines of music.

The Band's principal instrument seems always to have been the cornet, the evolutionary tale of which is too long to relate.

The three-valve cornet, with its power to project the sound of its chromatically negotiated two-and-a-half-plus octaves, was the inevitable carrier of the tune for music played mostly in the open air. A long line of virtuosi, who emerged as its premier players, became the public's darlings in the era of bands such as Sousa's. The lyricism and musical pyrotechnics displayed by the featured cornet soloist were expected by the public, and Sousa always tried to satisfy his audience with the best available performers.

Before the obvious need for the publisher to provide something more was satisfied, it was the part written for the solo B-flat cornet from which all of us were expected to conduct, and the printed music so specified. This impossible condition is far from totally relieved in this eighth decade of the twentieth century.

The B-flat cornet's predecessor among the brass melody instruments was the shorter high-ranging cornet in E-flat that led and topped the sound of the American brass band instruments played over the shoulder at the time of the Civil War. Later, when the bell of the instrument was repositioned up and in front during the post-Civil War silver cornet band era, the E-flat instrument lived on briefly in Sousa's and other composers' marches but disappeared when Sousa abandoned it.

By the time he scored El Capitan, the solo B-flat cornet was king among his brasses and, when joined by a second and third voice playing triad harmony, the customary functions of the cornet section were clearly established as joint tenancy of melody and harmony. A more rhythmic role was assigned to the trumpet in Sousa's concept of that instrument as a counter soprano to the cornet among the Band's brasses. It differs from the cornet (supposedly of conical bore) as to its cylindrical tubing, the character of the mouthpiece cup, and the tonal concept and playing style provided by the performer. Its sonority, contrasted with the cornet's may be considered as more brightly projected. It has always been a fanfare instrument, serving royalty and enjoying that patronage. Coupled with kettledrums it has always enjoyed its role in the orchestra.[32]

It was the trumpets' fanfare function that Sousa liked. Their appropriate use in rhythmic figuration was what set them apart from his three-voiced melodic and harmonic lines for cornets. El Capitan's cornet and trumpet parts in the final strain of the trio demonstrate these differences:

Sousa: example 23

As the nineteenth century was winding down, Sousa composed another of his great marches and fashioned a catchy title to go with it. Hands Across the Sea (1899) was a good and welcome idea, since the Spanish-American War had recently become history.[33]

It has been selected for comment because of its strong rhythmic vitality. Its introduction is a vivid example of explosive Sousa:

Sousa: example 24

After this everything continues to go someplace and keep moving with great vigor. That carefully planned repetition of an idea (frequently observed) is here, too, and it leads listeners harmonically through Sousa's first ideas, even deceiving them as to where he is by avoiding all the chords they expect to hear until he finally provides them as he plunges into the second strain. It, too, keeps driving ahead with enormous rhythmic thrust avoiding any letup in the solid fortissimo dynamic which has ruled since bar one; but here the listener is on solid Sousa soil.

That strong two-beat attention getter which so swingingly marks the last strain of The High School Cadets is here, too, used just a bit differently to lead the music to its trio. Here the dynamic has changed for the first time to piano as Sousa begins to spin out a very simple tune, seemingly designed to grow:

Sousa: example 25

After thirty-two bars of this quiet contrast, he comes at the listener with a solid break strain that is as effective as it is simple,

Sousa: example 26

leading to this simple bit of contrapuntal play that he so frequently built into these musical bridges:

Sousa: example 27

The final strain is a happy mélange of compatible musical ideas, all in fortissimo, that continues to build and to carry the march's excitement to the end. Sousa is true to his simple imitative material in the final two bars of the bass line:

Sousa: example 28

In its dynamic proportions it is not the usual Sousa; of the 150 measures in Hands Across the Sea, 119 are fortissimo. Something is lost when these balances are changed.

The Fairest of the Fair (1908) is among the very best of Sousa's pieces--mature, inspired, positively composed, revealing not only his expected melodic gift, but displaying as well genuine craftsmanship in its composition. The introduction's four very attractive bars (beginning with a prebar flourish) are such a good idea that he uses them five more times, twice to conclude the first two strains, then once again to end the twenty-bar break strain in a novel setting for reeds and percussion:

Sousa: example 29

As we have seen was his fashion, all of this transpires within the simplest of harmonic means supported by engaging rhythmic energy and solid orchestration. Here he displays that remarkable sense of pacing that seems to be the special gift of the writer of ballads. We hear again that Sousa knows just where to arrest or to activate the tapping toe. His change of pace at the trio when the busy activity of the march to that point gives way to the larger note values is just the change that is needed. The sonorous A-flat major tune with its expressive ornamentation and rich supporting harmonies carries the listener willingly through a series of rises and falls. And when he has come to the end of these musical elevations, the composer returns his listener safely to the solid finish which then invites the attractive interlude between the trios.

The U.S. Field Artillery march is set in duple time, beginning with another of those Sousa explosions in A-flat that get everybody's attention and let them know from the first note that they are about to hear something they will want to remember. The most intriguing factor in the evaluation of this march masterpiece is how perfectly the Sousa in it fits the Gruber which it surrounds, as I mentioned earlier. All of it simply belongs together, Sousa rising so remarkably to the vitality and drive that both the words and music of "The Caisson Song" (as it is properly called) so effectively generate. The first strain's unrepeated thirty-two bars contain unusual harmonic and rhythmic variety for an initial Sousa statement:

Sousa: example 30a

Sousa: example 30b

Then, as if to gather listeners after this (for him) rambling excursion, the second strain is solidly simple, rhythmically contrasting, and the ideal bridge to the featured song in the trio. Inasmuch as it is a song, Sousa had the words printed beneath the music of the solo cornet part. Their performance at top voice by all in the band except those playing a minimum accompaniment adds an important performance dimension to this initial setting of the song. Then the master of the break strain goes to work on a compatible rhythmic figure:

Sousa: example 31

and develops it for twelve bars of gathering harmonic and rising dynamic excitement until the whole thing explodes with one of Sousa's most effective uses of that favorite "surprise" chord:

Sousa: example 32

He likes the idea so much that after stretching it out twice he then hits the listener with six short bursts of the same chord and works his way right back to "The Caisson Song" for its final full-throttle conclusion by the whole band. Marches more wide open or exciting than The U.S. Field Artillery are not easy to find.[34] Once again, as in that other swinging finale of The High School Cadets, when Sousa is through he has no need for that traditional final note and it should never be added.

In The Black Horse Troop, after the solid introduction, the first strain, and the first half of the second episode he offers--for the only time this way--a charming eight-bar bridge:

Sousa: example 33

It is quietly scored (piano) to feature his trio of mellow cornets and to expose as well the lyric quality associated with the Sousa Band reeds. The percussion, save for the quiet chinging sound of cymbals, is absent until the whole band joins again for a truncated statement of the opening of the second strain. It is the work of a skilled and inspired sculptor of those pad-free "marble statues." So, too, is the singing quality of his melody for the trio. It is one of his most expressive melodic lines, dynamically subdued and harmonically rich.

The connecting bridge between the two final playings of the trio that follows the beautiful initial exposition of that melody is more than a break strain in its character. It does fulfill the function described throughout this paper as a break strain, but its content, its musical energy, and--again--its functional dignity grant it a dimension that its composer seems to have reserved for this very special march. Here are sixteen bars of mature band music as good as Sousa ever wrote, providing the listener and the player with all of those individual dividends I have attempted to isolate in these observations of his marches:

Sousa: example 34

He had one more for horsemen; Riders for the Flag is the lighter counterpart to the solid dignity of The Black Horse Troop. It combines the bounce of The Washington Post with the layer-cake construction of Semper Fidelis, a fair distillation of both. And, of course, there is the constant undercurrent of that riding rhythm of horses' hooves that the six-eight pattern matches so effectively. Riders for the Flag has regimental march characteristics from its trio onward, beginning with cavalry bugle call figures joined by euphonious countermelodies and an unusual use of the reeds of the band in the trio's first playing. Sousa gives their chordal punctuations the rhythmic spacings usually reserved for the cymbals and bass drum:

Sousa: example 35

When the final statement of all the elements in this very convincing mixture of sounds is concluded, Sousa closes the march with a four-bar tag that always surprises everybody. His humorous and appropriate quote here from the last four bars of the old bugle march "You're in the Army Now" is the only coda Sousa added to any of his marches.

Throughout our view of the Sousa march we have seen that its composer was a strict observer of custom and order. Rarely did he attempt to color his marches with props or borrowed tunes. But when he decided to shed his traditions, he went all the way--to New Mexico. The march he wrote for that state begins like many other Sousa marches, but that is the end of tradition in this piece. What follows is a musical history of New Mexico (recently granted statehood) embracing with appropriate effects the music of the Indian, the cavalry, and the Mexican. All of these diverse elements are then joined in happy fusion until the finale, the state's official song, 'O, Fair New Mexico."

Some might call it camp, but I am sure that its composer was serious about every note. Among its departures from usual Sousa are odd-numbered phrases and unpredictable musical lines. These, together with the use of nonmilitary band percussion add to the novelty. The first strain, for instance, has thirty-six bars (not thirty-two) and it is strongly two-part with its first twenty bars devoted to materials I have never seen in any of his marches. The second strain, though in the thirty-two-bar pattern, somehow registers as apart from the customary results of that order.

Next comes Sousa, Indian style, in a sequence lasting a rare forty-two bars in which all the clarinets of the band play the jagged, non-diatonic tune, punctuated by war drums:

Sousa: example 36

Finally, when "O, Fair New Mexico" brings all together, the most unusual and different of all the Sousa marches is finished.

With the fourteen marches selected for this discussion of some aspects of his work, Sousa is revealed as a composer who was absolutely serious about composition in the march form. He composed to entertain, not to educate. The legacy of the march as he found it in the street and on the parade ground is what he chose to live with. Enriching its body and content he otherwise left it pretty much as he found it. He had not one hair of the experimenter in the moustache he wore to his grave; his marches reveal a constant outpouring of ingenuity, presenting a variety of approaches to a positively four-square form.

The cramped confinement of march-size paper, originating in the five-by seven-inch format to fit a soldier's music pouch or the pocket of his tunic, has dictated every element in a march ever since the military band began. Function, function, function--this is what Sousa patiently accepted, inasmuch as he seems to have found it a very adequate means of expression.

The obvious paper limitation does raise this question: Why did Sousa not adopt the continental practice with its return to the beginning and termination at the trio, just to gain more playing time? A probable answer might be that he just did not hear his marches that way, as a look at the end of almost every second strain will show. His final strains are final. I cannot imagine a da capo in The High School Cadets or The Stars and Stripes Forever. Clapping the palms together as frequently as possible was also another design in Sousa concerts; 2 3/4 minutes were long enough for a march.

These creations had to sell for him on the street and band stand, and in the ballroom, the parlor, the amphitheater, and the concert hall. In his world of performance there was no room for the cerebral development of abstract musical ideas; these he left to others while he was busy entertaining a waiting public that obviously adored everything he did.

Human as he was he made his share of miscalculations, too, such as his view of jazz and its future.[35] He lived to see his Band die--to see all such bands die--and there is no recorded observation known to me of his reaction to this. The development of the motor car, the rise of jazz, the financial depression, the perfection of the vacuum tube, and the coming of radio are among the principal causes for the demise of the professional concert band as Sousa and others knew it. Difficult though it would be to fortify the statement with the customary mountain of data, it seems fair to say that the bands of America, for the seventy-five-year period that brought us from the Civil War to the Great Depression, made pioneer and positive contributions to the growth of music up to the present. Sousa, the great catalyst, came and passed; his marches remain.

Yes, John Philip Sousa was an American phenomenon, a composer with the gift to write simple music that, whatever else it may or may not be, is a music of anticipation--anticipation and fulfillment. That is what The Stars and Stripes Forever is all about--the anticipation in the second break strain and then the fulfillment of the great final trio. It is a measure of the man and his belief in himself as well as an indication of his devotion to the art, that he continued to produce march after march, never fearing that the next might fail.

Notes

  1. Paul Bierley, John Philip Sousa: American Phenomenon (New York: Appleton, Century, Crofts, 1973), p. 133. Paul Bierley has assembled the most comprehensive overview of Sousa the conductor and all who wish to know this in detail are referred to this book, particularly Chapter IV, "Sousa's Philosophy of Music." [back to article]
  2. We did not know it then, and neither did his public, but Sousa had suffered a broken neck in 1921 when he was thrown from a horse. Recovery was limited and so, too, was his conducting style after this accident which immobilized his left arm for any action resembling the former colorful Sousa style; he could swing the arm but not lift it. At the outset of my career as a conductor well-meaning advisors always informed me that I should be much less active in my motions: "After all, Frederick, Sousa hardly moved at all!" [back to article]
  3. John Philip Sousa, Marching Along (Boston: Hale, Cushman and Flint, 1928). [back to article]
  4. Ibid., pp. 358-59, excerpted by the author. [back to article]
  5. Bierley, Phenomenon, p. 33. [back to article]
  6. Ibid., pp. 28, 29, 34. [back to article]
  7. Paul Bierley, John Philip Sousa: A Descriptive Catalogue of His Works (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1973), p. 172. [back to article]
  8. He said he had been crowned by an anonymous writer in "some obscure Brass Band Journal, published in England." [back to article]
  9. Bierley, Phenomenon, pp. 45, 62, 64-65. [back to article]
  10. He was the Band's seventeenth leader, 1880-92. All dates for Sousa's marches are based on the Paul Bierley Catalogue. [back to article]
  11. The Rifle Regiment was a very successful extension of form for him with its twenty-bar introduction that was incorporated into the first strain. Both were repeated; one of the few times Sousa went back to bar one. On Parade (1892) is among his very best, too, in every way, and like the customary continental march it makes the full da capo, repeating the introduction and the first and second strains to be completed where the trio begins. This, to me, is Sousa's most underrated march. Guide Right (1881) is known to me only from the Eastman Wind Ensemble-Hunsberger recording (Philips 9500-151). It has echoes from the brass band era and hints from Vienna as equal parts of its charm. [back to article]
  12. Bierley, Catalogue, pp. 69, 70. [back to article]
  13. I owe the source of this oft-used phrase to Deems Taylor, able and articulate observer of the musical scene, in Of Men and Music (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1944), p. 59. Paul Bierley, Phenomenon, p. 154, states that the Sousa Band marched only seven times during the thirty-nine years of its existence, and on those occasions some significant national event was celebrated. Sousa obviously worked very tirelessly to promote the Band as a concert-giving ensemble equal to any, while ironically achieving his fame through the writing of music inseparably associated with the Band's other and original function--moving marching units down streets and across parade grounds. Except for The Stars and Stripes Forever, American school bands rarely play his marches today, indoors or out. [back to article]
  14. For a detailed account see Margaret L. Brown, "David Blakely, Manager of Sousa's Band," Perspectives on John Philip Sousa (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1983), pp. 121-133. [back to article]
  15. Bierley, Phenomenon, p. 162. [back to article]
  16. Another American composer who was a master of music in the lighter vein was Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) whose similarly inexhaustible connection with the muse also produced music that invariably struck the listener as familiar on the first hearing. [back to article]
  17. Bierley, Catalogue, p. 174. [back to article]
  18. Ibid., pp. 42, 44. [back to article]
  19. Ibid., pp. 76-77. [back to article]
  20. "A horse, a dog, a gun, a girl, and music on the side. That is my idea of heaven." A quote from Sousa in Bierley, Phenomenon, p. 110. [back to article]
  21. For this see James R. Smart, "Genesis of a March: The Stars and Stripes Forever", Perspectives on John Philip Sousa (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1983), pp. 105-119. [back to article]
  22. Courtesy University of Illinois Bands and the Music Division, Library of Congress. [back to article]
  23. The march was written for a musical comedy which Sousa conducted. He was with the company in St. Louis when he received the invitation to become leader of the Marine Band. [back to article]
  24. The term, known to bandsmen, might also be called a bridge or interlude. [back to article]
  25. Duple-and triple-metered marches both swing but there are those who feel that the six-eight gait has the more effective projection of the pulse for a large number of marchers, mostly because its third and sixth beats are just that much closer to beats one and four when the marcher's foot touches the ground. But more important than the meter is the number of pulses per minute that establishes a marching cadence which drill instructors and marchers can live with. Invariably, it is too fast for a comfortable stride (104 steps per minute). [back to article]
  26. Beethoven's dramatic focus of attention, using the trumpet call on these same notes in Fidelio, is a classic use of the trumpet's functional harmonic series. [back to article]
  27. The technical harmony term for the chord is the German sixth which always resolves to the tonic chord in its second inversion. [back to article]
  28. F. E. Bigelow's classically simple march, Our Director, is one that follows this pattern. It dates from 1895. [back to article]
  29. John Philip Sousa, The Trumpet and Drum (Washington: 1886), pp. 114-17; reprinted 1954 by W. F. L. Drum Co. (Chicago, Illinois). [back to article]
  30. The trio of The Stars and Stripes Forever is also a layer-cake construction. Its melody, however, includes all of the notes of its A-flat major scale plus some notes that are altered, whereas the Semper Fidelis melody resource was dictated by those four "easy-to-play" notes on the natural trumpet (or bugle). [back to article]
  31. The performance was by the American Legion Band of Hollywood, California, on a ten-inch, 78 rpm Decca record. [back to article]
  32. The cornet's disappearance from most bands in the United States is probably the result of the trumpet's preeminence as the great horn for jazz. [back to article]
  33. Sousa felt inspired to write this march at this time in history as he was living it and gave it this title after reading a play in which he "came across this line--'a sudden thought strikes me--let us swear an eternal friendship.'" See Bierley, Catalogue, p. 50. [back to article]
  34. Mayhew Lake scored it for Sousa and the march was a brilliant commercial success. In his reluctance to accept first the phonograph and then the radio Sousa missed his greatest financial bonanzas, but reject them he did. His tardy move to radio is one I remember. His Band was sponsored by the Hoover Vacuum Cleaner Company; using The U.S. Field Artillery trio as one of the early singing commercials the voices sang along. All I remember of the words were those sung to the last nine notes, "for it beats, as it sweeps, as it cleans" in substitution for the "Caisson" words "that those caissons go rolling along." For a thorough review of Sousa and the phonograph see: James R. Smart, The Sousa Band: A Discography (Washington: Library of Congress, 1970). [back to article]
  35. Sousa, Marching Along, pp. 357, 358. [back to article]

About this Item

Title
The Sousa March: A Personal View
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Fennell, Frederick (author)
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-  Songs and Music
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article
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Article. Article. Yes, John Philip Sousa was an American phenomenon, a composer with the gift to write simple music that, whatever else it may or may not be, is a music of anticipation--anticipation and fulfillment. That is what The Stars and Stripes Forever is all about--the anticipation in the second break strain and then the fulfillment of the great final trio. It is a measure of the man and his belief in himself as well as an indication of his devotion to the art, that he continued to produce march after march, never fearing that the next might fail.
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