Gun Song – Sousa – Man Behind The Gun

Seems like a good day for a march, even if it’s April.
John Phillip Sousa wrote a LOT of military / march music, and like them or not, he had quite an influence on the popular music at that time. He and his band actually toured and played for large crowds. He also didn’t write ALL his music down – that is to say, his music as published and sold was often not how he had his band played it. The performance that people paid to come and listen to had some subtle details changed to make them better – people always said that they never sounded the same when he played them than when other bands of similar size and skill played his purchased sheet-music. He knew how to protect his franchise. This particular march isn’t a lot better or worse than any of his other works, but was selected because of the title. Enjoy

The Man Behind The Gun

John Philip Sousa, 1852 – 1932
He was a US Marine, one of the all-time best trap shooters, a writer, opposed the mechanical recording of music, and overall was an interesting guy. If you liked military / march music, he’s an icon. If you don’t, and claim he only wrote two marches in a hundred variations each, you still cannot deny his popularity and influence in his day.



3 thoughts on “Gun Song – Sousa – Man Behind The Gun

  1. “two marches in a hundred variations each.”
    My father claimed the same of Scott Joplin, the Ragtime King, and no one dares say it of Mozart, but I can recognize Mozart as the composer of a piece, although occasionally I am fooled by Hayden.
    Souza is pretty uplifting, and I just realized I have nothing in my enormously eclectic collection by him.

    • WHAT?! No Sousa! Oh, the horror! Hie thee to a music shop, young lady! 🙂
      Of course, you need things like Tuvan Throat Singing to be REALLY eclectic.

      Yes, I have the disk; it includes a duet with Willie Nelson.
      Several great composers, like Vivaldi, have a lot of, ahem, variations on a theme.

  2. “The mechanical recording of music.” Yep, it certainly started out that a way, though by the 1930s it was electrified so as to become “electro-mechanical” recording. In the beginning, the whole band played into one big horn that funneled the sound right to the phonograph cutting head. It made for some interesting technical challenges and even for some re-designed instruments. IIRC, the Sousaphone, in addition to being a marching tuba, is the result of the need for getting more of the tuba sound into the horn, and so it uses a front-directed bell instead of the more typical tuba bell that faced straight up. Well anyway there were tubas made as “recording” models that have the forward facing, and sometimes very large, bells, and the sousaphone is one that fits that description. The “resonator guitar” is another example of an instrument designed for increased sound projection, for recording and for studio bands in live radio if I’m not mistaken.

    I maintain that recorded music has led to improved live performance. Though I can’t prove it, such has certainly been my experience. The group works hard to produce the best possible recording, which may require several takes and several mixes. That recording then becomes imprinted on the performers’ minds as the gold standard, and later performances are much improved. It works for the sound engineers as well as the performers. Bio-feedback if you will, and it works on the whole gamut of the performance including instrument and related equipment choices. Further, the highly “perfected” recording has led to a listening audience having higher expectations. Though again I can’t prove it, examples abound of live performances that just don’t quite live up to the popular recording of the same piece by the same group. The Holy Grail of live performance and live sound reinforcement has always been that “recorded album played on a good stereo” sound.

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