Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Shupe, Abigail. “War and the Musical Grotesque in Crumb’s ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home.’” Music Theory Online 27 (June 2021): 205-28.

George Crumb’s setting of When Johnny Comes Marching Home in his 2004 Winds of Destiny: A Cycle of Civil War Songs, Folk Songs, and Spirituals can be understood in the context of memorialization as a manifestation of public memory that challenges some aspects of war remembrance. When Johnny Comes Marching Home was written in 1863 by Union army bandleader Patrick S. Gilmore and has functioned as a musical memorial and vehicle of critique long before Crumb’s setting. Winds of Destiny was composed during a wave of memorialization in the early 2000s, and combines Civil War imagery with recent American history. The opening verse of Crumb’s setting evoke the belliphonic sounds of military parade with a variety of percussion instruments, and the singer ends the verse with an excited shriek. The second and third verses share the same orchestration with the addition of tubular bells, a significant part of the sonic landscape of the Civil War. The fourth verse starkly contrasts the celebratory mood of the first three with a grotesque, ironic affect. During this verse, the piano plays a quotation of the funeral march from Mahler’s First Symphony, which evokes nostalgia for a (tonal) past in addition to the ritual funeral procession. With his grotesque final verse, Crumb satirizes the established meaning of the song and negates its patriotic glorification of war. Crumb laments rather than valorizes those who die in war, and his use of the grotesque resists the normalization of war by exposing its long-term impact.

Works: George Crumb: Winds of Destiny: A Cycle of Civil War Songs, Folk Songs, and Spirituals (1.1-8, 2.6-8, 3.1-10, 4.1-7, 5.1-5); Morton Gould: American Salute (1.7); Jerry Bilik: Civil War Fantasy (1.7).

Sources: Patrick S. Gilmore: When Johnny Comes Marching Home (1.1-1.8, 2.6, 3.1-10, 5.1-5); William Steffe (composer) and Julia Ward Howe (lyricist): Battle Hymn of the Republic (2.7-2.8); Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D Major (4.1-7).

Index Classifications: 1900s, 2000s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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