Labor Day

September 5, 2016 at 10:30 am

There’s a handful of pieces that would be good for Labor Day: there’s the musicians’ walkout of Haydn’s “Farewell” Symphony; there’s the joy of the workers in the Anvil Chorus; and of course there’s the Fanfare for the Common Man to cheer on the proletariat.

But I want something that really captures the down-and-dirty manual laborers of the early 20th century. The Plow that Broke the Plains was a 1936 short movie, sponsored by the US government, which linked the dust bowl to uncontrolled farming. While not specifically about the labor movement, the film does demonstrate how greed in high places can displace and destroy the workers in the low places. The score, by Virgil Thomson, incorporates hymns, American folk tunes, and cowboy melodies.