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February 20, 2007

Newspaper Marches

Bridgette Redman

The most common reaction I got to that phrase was, "What's a newspaper march?"

It's a reaction I could relate to--I certainly hadn't heard of one before, and I was a member of a marching band for three years. What I discovered was a pretty fascinating piece of cultural history. The most famous march of the genre was the one written by John Phillip Sousa for the Washington Post in 1889. Since then, composers have created more than 300 marches named after and dedicated to newspapers in towns across the country.

The Advocate Brass Band has researched some of the history of newspaper marches, digging into the Library of Congress to find scores. They've put together several CDs of them that they offer for sale.

What I find most fascinating about this piece of cultural history is the intensely local nature of the composition. It's music written for a particular place and for a particular organization. It's music that has meaning for a group of people because it is about their hometown, about the newspaper that comes to their doorstep every morning.

While most of these were written in the late 1800s and early 1900s, they've continued to be produced throughout the years. The newspaper I write for commissioned composer John Moss to write one for its 150th anniversary. It premiered at Michigan State University which was also celebrating its 150th anniversary. You can read what I wrote about the Lansing Concert Band's recent performance of it here. The Lansing Concet Band's director talked about how important it was for that march to become a part of their repertoire. Aside from it being a great concert march, it was something that uniquely belonged to their city.

For me, it was yet another confirmation that art, good art, happens everywhere. Site-specific art doesn't have to belong only to the metropolitan areas. It can belong wherever people create.

Posted by Bridgette Redman at February 20, 2007 4:58 PM

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