March of the (Nasty) Women

January 21, 2017 at 12:48 pm

As I write this, hundreds of thousands of people are filling the streets of major US cities for the Women’s March on Washington, to protest the Great Farce which began yesterday. It was only a century ago that women in the US were fighting for the right to vote; just like today, protest songs were written and sung.

Ethel Smyth was a Nasty Woman. She was a lesbian who not only wanted to be a composer, but also to vote. Born in England in 1858, her envisioned life was not one to be easily won. She had to keep her homosexuality hidden, and her career in music was suppressed by sexism; her father strongly discouraged her from pursuing music, and Smyth had to forge her own way. She became very involved in the Women’s Suffrage movement, and ultimately did see English women win the right to vote when she turned 70.

Progress is slow, but it can happen, thanks to Nasty Women like Smyth. Here is her “March of the Women“, written in 1910.

While this piece is fitting for this post, I’d recommend digging a little deeper and listening to some of Smyth’s other compositions, which better show her compositional personality. You can start here.

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Grieving with Grieg

September 25, 2016 at 6:25 pm

Before Edvard Grieg became Norway’s main musical man, there was a guy named Rikard Nordraak who was in the running for the position. Nordraak is the composer of the Norwegian national anthem, but sadly died when he was only 23, leaving behind only a handful of works. Saddened by the sudden and untimely death of his friend (they were only born a year apart), Grieg wrote a Funeral March in his honor. He was so fond of the work that he asked it to be played at his own funeral (which it was.) This slow, heavy music can help to express and relieve the pain that we feel when someone we love dies too soon.

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Independence Day

July 4, 2016 at 10:30 am

You might recognize this march as the theme music to Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It’s actual title is The Liberty Bell March, one of the most famous works of the march master John Philip Sousa. And it is the perfect way to celebrate the American Independence Day.

On the actual Liberty Bell are these words: Proclaim Liberty thro’ all the Land to all the Inhabitants thereof.

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