Zeitgeist John Philip Sousa

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Zeitgeist John Philip Sousa




Zeitgeist: John Philip 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 nationalism within the states.
In 1889, Sousa wrote a march called “The Washington P

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