War in Western Music June 01 2012, 0 Comments

Contributed By: Jack Kopstein The spectacle and political importance of war have made it a popular subject of music for the purposes of simple entertainment or the expression of deep sentiments. Long before recorded history, past combat has been celebrated or lamented in song. In such works the reality of the narrative was probably, on occasion, reinforced by the inclusion of war cries, war songs, and the formation of words whose sound is imitative of the sound of the noise or action designated, such as hiss, buzz, and bang, representing the noises of fighting. In the last case, vocal effects are known to be supplemented by instruments and even the clatter of actual weapons. European battle music as a written genre seems to have originated in Italy in the fifteenth century. The most famous example of Renaissance battle music was La Bataille de Marignan by Clement Janequin (1485-1558), a four-part vocal piece published (music publishing was evident in 1458) in 1528, that contained evocative imitations of trumpet powers, they were not remembrances but in the style of bugle calls and fanfares as well as drum patterns. It commemorated the ferocious engagement between the Imperial and French armies at Marignano near Milan. In 1673, Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644-I704) composed what is probably the most interesting battle piece of the baroque era, Battalia. This work described a generic battle by using a number of unusual techniques, such as dissonance to represent the rough singing of soldiers; paper was placed over the strings of the string  bass to produce sounds that approximated those of a military snare drum; highly chromatic writing evoked the cries of the wounded. As musical instruments began to improve, the sounds of battle where possible and could be duplicated. In the eighteenth century, the Sinfonie, La Bataille, of Franz Christoph  Neubauer (1760-I795), a forerunner of the tone poems of the nineteenth century, took advantage of rich orchestration to re-create sonically the victory of a Russo-Austrian army over the Turks in July 1789 in Romania at Fokshani.  Neubauer was outdone, however, by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 -1827), whose Wellington's Victory, which celebrated the British defeat of the French in Spain at the Battle of Vitoria (June 1813), required muskets and cannon as well as a large orchestra. The use of ordnance was exploited even more effectively by Peter Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) in his 1812 Overture, which recalled the destruction caused by Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. In the twentieth century, the musical battle piece was displaced by cinema as a means of providing entertaining battle commemoration. Serge Prokofiev (1891-1953), however, produced a vivid sound depiction of the Russian defeat of the Teutonic knights at the Battle of Lake Peipus in 1242. In his film score to Sergei Eisenstein Alexander Nevsky(1938), the materials of which became "The Battle on the Ice " movement in a cantata of the same name(1939). In the first movement of Dmitri Shostakovitch's (I906-I975) Seventh (Leningrad) Symphony (1941), musical portrayal of the German invasion of the Soviet Union is obvious. Screen music of the 1930’s through the present provided a vehicle for the host of thematic that have become a major provider of concert program music. Many of the well-known compositions have been included in movie themes about military life. Movies like Black Hawk Down, Glory, Gettysburg and Top Gun are represented  in music. Check out Battle Music from Naxos featuring world-class orchestras performing some of the greatest Battle Music ever composed in the classical music repertoire. Great War Themes contains 17 great movie themes. Hear samples:
1. Spitfire Prelude and Fugue
2. Dam Busters
3. Cockleshell Heroes
4. Reach for the Sky
5. Colonel Bogey
6. Longest Day
7. Lawrence of Arabia
8. The Great Escape
9. 633 Squadron
10. Battle of Britain
11. Aces High
12. Where Eagles Dare
13. The Pathfinders
14. A Bridge too Far
15. Force 10 from Navarone
16. Schindler's List
17. Band of Brothers