Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A dissonant and wonky "America"

No doubt this Fourth of July will bring "America," or "My Country Tis of Thee," as it's more commonly called, to your ears. You may not get a chance to hear what I consider its greatest rendering, though, unless you plan to spend some time in the presence of a pipe organ, which, admittedly, isn't the setting most of us imagine for our country's birthday.

American composer Charles Ives' work "Variations on America" presents the patriotic tune in a range of ways, some playful, some jubilant, some sarcastic, some dismal. As a person who experiences a wide spectrum of feelings and thoughts about my country, I find this version of patriotic music much more accommodating--it's less dependent on my good opinion and pride; it allows me to acknowledge the positives without feeling fake for ignoring the negatives.

You've got to listen. I know the video is nine minutes long, but start it and listen while you ice your American flag cake.

"Variations on America" by Charles Ives (1874-1954)