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John Sousa Essay

  • John Sousa


    John Sousa
    Artists do not create in a vacuum. They reflect their times or at the very least
    are affected by the lives they lead which are also influenced by the public
    sphere. The term for this reflection is "Zeitgeist." It literally means"spirit of the
    times." John Philip Sousa and his works can be classified

    under this term of "Zeitgeist." Most of Sousa's music was composed during
    a period known as the gilded age. This period is known for its gross materialism
    and blatant political corruption in the United States. However, Sousa's music
    does not seem to reflect this corruption, but rather it reflects a way to deal
    with the corruption and mishaps of the times. John Philip Sousa, also known as
    the "March King," was born on November 6,1854, in Washington D.C., near the
    marine barracks where his father, Antonio, was a musician in the marine band.

    He received his grammar school education in Washington and for several of his
    school years enrolled in a private conservatory of music operated by John Esputa,

    Jr. . There he studied piano and most of the orchestral instruments, but his
    main passion was the violin. He became very good at the violin, and at age 13 he
    was almost persuaded to join a circus band . As a young boy, the martial music
  • of army bands in the streets of Washington during and immediately following the

    Civil War had a profound effect on him. When he was not yet fourteen he enlisted
    in the Marine Corps and succeeded in becoming a member of the marine band . This
    is where he picked up a liking for marches. After being discharged from the

    Marine Corps, Sousa toured with several traveling theater orchestras and in 1876
    moved to Philadelphia. There he worked as an arranger, composer, and proofreader
    for publishing houses . While on tour with an opera company in St. Louis, he
    received a telegram offering him leadership of the Marine Band in Washington. He
    accepted and reported for duty on October 1, 1880, becoming the band's 17th
    leader . The marine band was Sousa's first experience conducting a military
    band, and he approached it unlike most of his predecessors. Rehearsals became
    exceptionally strict, and he shaped his musicians into the country's premiere
    band . The military was important to Sousa's music style. His main musical
    compositions were marches, which were the most widely used form of music in the
    military. His first two marches that he wrote as leader of the band, "The

    Gladiator" and "Semper Fidelis," were received with great acclaim in
    military band circles and from that time on he received ever-increasing
    attention and respect as a composer . Both of these marches were high-spirited
    and uplifting, just the thing to raise moral among the troops as well as promote

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