Listening Lesson: America
Target age range: All ages
Great for Independence Day or Memorial Day. Listen to four pieces written by American composers.
1. Composer Florence Price (1887-1953) was inspired by the American landscape. She wrote a lengthy piece called the Mississippi River Suite, inspired by the great river that runs through the country. Here is a short piece, called The Oak, by Florence Price:
2. Composer Augusta Read Thomas (b. 1964) wrote Fanfare of Hope and Solidarity with the intention of having it performed during celebrations like Memorial Day and Fourth of July. The piece had its premiere, of first performance in May of 2020, during a time of quarantine and social distancing.
3. Lou Harrison (1917-2003) was a composer who was very connected to the west coast of the United States, living in Portland, Oregon, and various places around the Bay Area in California. He was influenced by music Asia and incorporated a wide variety of instruments into his music. Listen to his Homage To Pacifica. Harrison was very politically active. In the piece below, you can hear parts of We Shall Overcome, a famous civil rights anthem.
4. Composer William Grant Still (1895-1978) wrote many pieces inspired by and influenced by the American landscape. Take a look at the picture of the Grand Teton mountain range in Wyoming.
Now listen to William Grant Still's musical depiction of these mountains, in The American Scene (The Southwest)–Grand Teton.
5. Reflection questions:
• Which piece do you like best? Why?
• Can you describe some musical characteristics of each piece?
• What music sounds like America to you?
Have a question or suggestion? Contact Katie Condon, music education specialist.