O Star Spangled Stripes

piano and percussion (2004)

Duration: 10:00

Recorded on i need no words Neuma 450-109

View Score

Purchase Score

Program Note

The e.e. cummings poem “next to of course god America i” sourced O Star Spangled Stripes, which begins from parodies of American patriotic songs (including Stars and Stripes Forever, Johnny Comes Marching Home, It’s a Grand Old Flag, and The Star Spangled Banner). In the piece, I created a system for performers to progress through the musical material based in oppositional ideas of “democracy” and “advancing freedom,” two terms touted by the George W. Bush administration as hallmarks of US foreign policy. “Democracy” in its Greek origins translates loosely to “people working together,” while “advancing freedom” seems to me to be completely individualistic, perhaps even narcissistic, in pursuing a definition of freedom with disregard for others. To begin the piece, each player decides whether he will begin by cooperating with the other player (“true democracy”), or by disregarding the other player—exhibiting a self-involved narcissism (“advancing freedom”). The performers change their modes of ensemble playing asynchronously throughout the piece, and, in an ultimately non-utopian gesture, create a chaotic mix reflecting the American political system and its potential impact on world events.