Heartrending Antiwar Songs

What makes for a heartrending antiwar song? Is it a doleful poetic and folkloric lament, or is it a driving martial beat with piercing raging lyrics of protest? Does it need a woman’s plaintive voice to make your heart ache with pain, or a man’s fierce growl to give you that gut-wrenching sinking feeling? I suppose it all depends on your kind of musical ear, and on your own situation with regard to the hazards of war.

I will offer a sequence of antiwar songs here, which for one reason or another have given me pause. Why do this?: because I like music, and because I think it important that none of us ever forget the proper attitude towards war and the prospect of war: rejection and rebellion. Peace is emotionally and politically turbulent when you are stubbornly antiwar, because war is the grease of imperialist capitalism.

The nuclei for this project are the first two songs listed, which both pull on my heartstrings. High Germany is a Celtic song where a Scottish lass laments the loss of her soldier lad to the First World War. This particular song really gets me because the lyrics are so poignant, and because the singer — my younger daughter — does such a good job of conveying the emotion that was very real 100 years ago in Scotland, and, sadly, remains just as real all over the world today.

High Germany
https://youtu.be/2QybAQVv6jE

Soldier, We Love You is an original composition by Rita Martinson, who performed it so eloquently and memorably in the 1972 movie F.T.A. (officially “Free The Army,” and understood to be “Fuck The Army”). F.T.A. starred Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and a collection of performers and musicians banded together in a touring satirical revue performing at coffeehouses and parks near American army bases, for G.I.’s opposed to the war in Vietnam. Though I was never a soldier (by pure luck) I have been so touched by Rita Martinson’s performance, and I gratefully wish her a happy life and satisfying career, wherever she is.

Soldier, We Love You
https://youtu.be/7iMusPYq83g

As you will see below, I quote some of the commentary on these songs by people I found on the Internet, many of them veterans, who had offered their suggestions.

“The Robert Shaw Chorale sing Shenandoah, a heartrending soldier’s lament from the American Civil War. The very first, and among the very best of antiwar songs ever… We lost a lot of relatives and close family friends in WW1, WW2 and in Vietnam.” — Fred Wilson

Shenandoah – The Robert Shaw Chorale
https://youtu.be/IBH2QrUyz7o

Eva Cassidy was a gift to us from the universe, of pure soulful heart through song. She left us far, far too early. Her rendition of Danny Boy unfolds the sheer tragedy carried by the lyrics with a radiant vocal eloquence (self accompanied on guitar), and most admirably without any showy attention-seeking bombast. The lyrics present a dead soldier’s call for remembrance and love, from his grave, and Eva had the grace and the perception to honor that sentiment.

“As a full blooded Irish man who has heard this song sung hundreds of times by family and friends at weddings, funerals and every other occasion when Irish people gather together to sing, I can honestly say I have never heard it sung better and with more feeling than sung here by Eva.” — Belfastsoul

Eva Cassidy – Danny Boy
https://youtu.be/oSKM0YiU8LU

War rips apart families, and mothers, who are the hub of their family wheels, are heavily burdened with those painful losses. So it is natural for a woman’s voice to express that universal pain, and to this Joan Baez has lent her beautiful artistry and passion.

Joan Baez – Weary Mothers
https://youtu.be/hqQcaWpwCrM

If war is so bad why does it exist? Why does anyone allow themselves to become a soldier, a lethal tool and sacrificial victim in the war-schemes of the Big Money? Who, ultimately, is responsible for inflicting the scourge of war on humanity? Buffy Sainte-Marie plunges to the core of this question, and arrives at the painful truth (Pogo’s realization).

Buffy Sainte-Marie – Universal Soldier
https://youtu.be/VGWsGyNsw00

Many of the antiwar songs here are from the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, “a time I remember oh so well” since I was nearly swallowed up in it. The songs of that time which I list either had a sound or some turn of phrase that imprinted on my mind either because I heard them so many times during those bright days of hopeful youth, and stoned drunk nights of dreams or despair, or because hearing them coincided with moments of incredible euphoria or tension. Basically, this song-listing exercise is neither a scholarly assemblage of the historically significant, nor a production based on logic. It’s about visceral memories and their reverberations in songs.

Barry McGuire and Buffalo Springfield gave us clues, in 1965 and 1967, of what we high school boys in those years were in for. I was not looking forward to facing the draft when I reached 18.

Barry McGuire – Eve Of Destruction
https://youtu.be/qfZVu0alU0I

Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth
https://youtu.be/gp5JCrSXkJY

Country Joe McDonald spelled out rather explicitly why I did not like being 1A during 1969. The Doors punctuated that feeling of dread all too perfectly.

Country Joe McDonald – I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag
https://youtu.be/3W7-ngmO_p8

The Doors – The Unknown Soldier
https://youtu.be/6LSCoBk8hgU

“I remember the nightly ‘kill’ numbers on the news.” – Andre R. Newcomb. The evening television news broadcasts would give the awful weekly totals of U.S. soldiers killed. Totals of enemy dead issued by the U.S. military were complete fabrications, but the unknown quantities of Vietnamese dead were definitely very very high; America had the most superior firepower. Three Five Zero Zero, a song from the musical, Hair, takes off from its initial reference to a body count. Have you heard as scathing an antiwar song in recent years? And it no, why do you think that is?

Hair – Three Five Zero Zero
https://youtu.be/FAdq3Z-9bsg

As we know from President “Bone Spurs” Trump, Dick “Too Busy Four Deferments” Cheney, George “AWOL” W. Bush, and others of our immune ‘privilatti’ class who breezed past the Vietnam War, “getting out of the draft” in a culture dedicated to materialism and the instinctive worship of power is more easily arranged the more elevated your association to the economic and political hierarchy. Creedence Clearwater Revival give a spirited expression of this class-war truth.

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Fortunate Son
https://youtu.be/ec0XKhAHR5I

For the callow petit bourgeois youth of the time, like me, who felt a continuous sinking feeling of “circling the drain” before ever really stepping into adulthood and savoring the sweet fruits of life, there arose an intense desire to find somebody to love and be loved by, at least for a while before “the end.”

Jefferson Airplane – Somebody to Love
https://youtu.be/5Jj3wZVc7nw

Phil Ochs was a songwriter and political activist of sharp wit, sardonic humor and earnest humanism, whose songs were graced by insightful lyrics of literate elegance. He wrote hundreds of songs in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1976 at the age of 35 he succumbed to his own demons, and left us. Phil Ochs was a man of very keen perception, and immersed in the bubbling cauldron of intense antiwar activism during the Vietnam War, I think his psyche was eventually overwhelmed by that searing experience. I think the reason more of us “ordinary people” — those with reasonably decent moral character — don’t go completely mad over the poisonous nature of American politics and national character is because we are shielded by duller wits from perceiving the full reality of the kind of society we live in. There are hazards to being a seer.

Phil Ochs – Draft Dodger Rag
https://youtu.be/tFFOUkipI4U

“Funny thing is I’m in the Army and I don’t know anyone in my unit over 30 years old who doesn’t know all the words to this song [I Ain’t Marching Anymore]” – ‘Joe Blow’

Phil Ochs – I Ain’t Marching Anymore
https://youtu.be/gv1KEF8Uw2k

Phil Ochs – The War Is Over
https://youtu.be/ZOs9xYUjY4I

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on 4 April 1968, and many large, deadly and terribly destructive urban riots broke out and continued for weeks. Federal troops were called out, and the television images of them patrolling the streets of burning cities was a hellacious realization of “bringing the war home.” Up to 1968 half of the American casualties in the war were made up of ethnic minorities, mainly Blacks and Latinos, despite their much lower proportions of the national population. This was a rather ugly manifestation of America’s formative — and apparently forever — race and class war. Edwin Starr gave voice to the deep resentments by Blacks over their exploitation as cannon fodder, in his song War.

Edwin Starr – War
https://youtu.be/dQHUAJTZqF0

On 4 May 1970 the Ohio National Guard, called out to Kent State University during a mass protest by unarmed college students against the bombing and invasion of neutral Cambodia by United States military forces, fired approximately 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds at the demonstrators, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Ohio (1970, Kent State University)
https://youtu.be/68g76j9VBvM

The Vietnam War ended with the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. The Vietnamese would then continue to sort out their politics without the overt highly destructive interference of the United States (the covert interference would continue). What did any of all this mean to a young American war widow? Was it worth her pain and sacrifices? Of course not, but this was always a knowable truth. So where was justice?

Steve Goodman – Penny Evans
https://youtu.be/K0I59AN_z2k

It is important to realize that the most significant reason the American government withdrew from its Vietnam War effort was because of the widespread and persistent rebellion against it by active duty military personnel, and the ferocious activism of the antiwar veterans who had returned from that war. The civilian antiwar activism and public demonstrations helped to increase a public consciousness in sympathy with the military rebellions, most ad hoc and personal. Rank-and-file soldiers who had come face-to-face with the realities of that war, and who took their Soldier’s Oath seriously, realized that their duty to protect and defend the United States was actually at odds with the dictates from their military chains of command and from their country’s political leadership. Their duty was to the people of the United States, not to one of its transitory government administrations whose policies were clearly not in the interests of the American people, even though there were special interests who profited from them.

The British Soldier is a “song about the troubles in Northern Ireland. It was written and performed by folk singer Harvey Andrews, and banned when it was released. It is based on an actual event which occurred in the early ’70s.” — SuperNutty23. “Remember Sgt Michael Willets GC of 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment whose sacrifice inspired this song.” — Archie Carter

Harvey Andrews – The British Soldier (1972)
https://youtu.be/8NpaT5LDFgM

Eric Bogle wrote and performed the song My Youngest Son Came Home Today. “When I played this during an interview on Cairns FM89.1, Eric asked me if I had heard Mary Black sing the song. When I said I hadn’t he said her version was far better, as a woman can put more emotion into a song.” — Johnson28316

Mary Black – My Youngest Son Came Home Today
https://youtu.be/1H6-OrLpiPk

99 Luftballons is a German protest song against nuclear war, written in 1983. “The premise was that 99 balloons crossing over the Berlin Wall would be mistaken by radar as an attack, causing jets to scramble, starting a war that would leave both sides in ruins. The singer, walking through the ruins, finds one balloon, is reminded of her lover and lets it slowly fly away.” – TheJenr8tr

This song, band and performance are from before the Berlin Wall fell (9 November 1989), when tactical nuclear-tipped U.S. missiles stationed in Western Europe, and similar Soviet Russian missiles poised in Eastern Europe, had Germany between them under the potential arcs of their flight paths, and also very obviously in the crosshairs of their targeting in the event of a boiling over of the Cold War.

An English translation of the German lyrics of 99 Luftballons is given immediately below; it was made by my wonderful daughter-in-law, Sabrina García, from the Black Forest.

Nena ‎- 99 Luftballons
https://youtu.be/La4Dcd1aUcE

99 Luftballons
(translation by Sabrina García)

Do you have some time for me?
Then I’ll sing a song for you
About 99 air balloons
On their way to the horizon
Do you perhaps think of me just now?
Then I’ll sing a song for you
About 99 air balloons
And how one thing comes from another

99 air balloons
On their way to the horizon
Mistaken for UFOs from space
Therefore a general sent
A squadron after them
To raise the alarm if they had to
Yet there on the horizon were
Just 99 air balloons

99 fighter pilots
Each one was a great warrior
Regarding themselves as Captain Kirk
There were great fireworks
The neighbors didn’t understand anything
And thought they were under attack
Yet there on the horizon they fired
At 99 air balloons

99 War Minister
Matches and gasoline cans
Regarding themselves as smart people
Already smelling a big fat prey
Crying “War!” and wanting power
Man, who would have thought
That it would ever get this far?
Because of 99 air balloons
Because of 99 air balloons
99 air balloons

99 years of war
Left no room for winners
There are no more War Minister
And no fighter pilots either
Today I’m doing my rounds
I see the world in ruins
I’ve found a balloon
I think of you and let it fly….

A classic antiwar song is Where Have All The Flowers Gone?, by Pete Seeger. Marlene Dietrich, who was deeply and very visibly committed to antifascist activity during World War II, included Seeger’s song in her one-woman musical show, which toured the world. Burt Bacharach had arranged many songs of interest to Marlene, to accommodate the limited vocal range of her contralto voice. This enabled Marlene to continue as a singer during her later years, and she was quite open about gratefully giving Bacharach credit for this.

“Marlene Dietrich performed a German language version of Where Have All the Flowers Gone? during her 1960s tour of Israel. She sang in German only after receiving the consent of the audience, thus breaking the unofficial taboo against the use of that language in Israel. Many in the audience were German expatriate Holocaust survivors.” — Hollie Willetts

Marlene Dietrich – Sag Mir Wo Die Blumen Sind – with English Subtitles
https://youtu.be/YIoF-Q6yGpk

Well, the political management class of the United States managed to survive the “Vietnam Syndrome” years of popular distaste for war and opposition to foreign adventures that might require the use of military forces, mainly from 1975 to 1979, during the Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter administrations. But Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor from 1977 to 1981, was able to convince Jimmy Carter to initiate the first action of what would become our current Forever War in Central Asia: the covert arming of the mujahideen in Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion there in January 1980. And so Osama Bin Laden got his start.

As the US and allied wars of the 1980s and 1990s metastasized into our Forever Wars, new antiwar songs sprouted from the dragon’s teeth of pain and death sown in the wake of those wars.

Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms (1985)
https://youtu.be/Dqok5m4lqeE

Scorpions – Wind Of Change (1990)
https://youtu.be/n4RjJKxsamQ

“The video of ‘Smile Empty Soul – This Is War’ hits me very hard. I am a combat veteran who now advocates for peace. I took part in the bloodiest battle of the Iraq War, Fallujah 2004. My heart broke in that place, though it took me years to realize it.” — Lucas B.

Smile Empty Soul – This Is War
https://youtu.be/-PFk4SXpb-8

And so it goes. There will certainly be antiwar songs from other times, from many cultures and in other languages, which I would not know about. I am sure that the fundamental sentiments of all such songs are universal, because they spring from the deepest and most fundamental aspirations and disappointments of the human experience.

The antiwar songs of the pop music supernovas Bob Dylan (Blowin’ in the Wind, Masters of War, The Times They Are A-Changin’) and John Lennon (Give Peace a Chance, Imagine, Happy Christmas, I Don’t Want To Be A Soldier) are so well known that I feel no need to say more about them.

Every instance of war is a failure of political leadership. Good antiwar songs can help us all see this, and motivate us to find better leaders, to devise better politics, and to reawaken feelings in our hearts of genuine human connection to everyone.

<><><><><><><>

Niña de las Dunas — Español-English

Español • Literal • English:

Niña de las Dunas es una canción, en estilo flamenco moderno, de María José Llergo del año 2017.

Niña de las Dunas
María José Llergo (2017)
[Guitarra · Marc López]

Español:

Madre dijo una vez
Que naciste del cielo
Que una estrella blanca bajó
Derritiendo el hielo
De su corazón.

Padre viejo miró
Esa noche a la luna
Y en la estepa nocturna escribió
Con navaja
Esta oración.

Niña de las dunas
Duerme tranquila
Llevas en la frente
Marca divina.

Niña de las dunas
No tengas miedo
Yo estaré contigo
En tu oscuro vuelo.

Y arena de mi reloj
Volverás a la tierra
Donde el agua te moldeo
Nunca más el hierro
Será tu prisión.

Niña de las dunas
Duerme tranquila
Llevas en la frente
Marca divina.

Niña de las dunas
No tengas miedo
Yo estaré contigo
En tu oscuro vuelo.

(Le lele le lele le le lele le le
Le lele le le lele lele lele lele
Le lele le lele le le lele le le
Le lele le le lele lele lele lele)

La luna se hizo cuchillo
Y en su pecho se clavó
Manchando de rojo sangre
Su vestido de algodón.

Con ella se la llevó
La hizo su compañera
Unos la llaman Venus
Pensando que es una estrella.

(Le lele le lele le le lele le le
Le lele le le lele lele lele lele
Le lele le lele le le lele le le
Le lele le le lele lele lele lele)

(Lele lele lele lele
Lele lele lele)

Niña de las dunas
Duerme tranquila
Llevas en la frente
Marca divina.

Niña de las dunas
No tengas miedo
Yo estaré contigo
En tu oscuro vuelo.

<><><><><><><>

Niña de las Dunas es una canción, en estilo flamenco moderno, de María José Llergo del año 2017.
[Girl of the Dunes is a/one song, in style flamenco modern, of/by María José Llergo of/from year 2017].

Niña de las Dunas
María José Llergo (2017)
[Guitarra/Guitar · Marc López]

Literal translation:

Madre dijo una vez
[Mother said one time]
Que naciste del cielo
[That you-born from sky/heaven]
Que una estrella blanca bajó
[That one star white below(o)/descended(ó)]
Derritiendo el hielo
[Melting the ice]
De su corazón.
[Of your heart.]

Padre viejo miró
[Father old looked]
Esa noche a la luna
[That night at the moon]
Y en la estepa nocturna escribió
[And in the steppe nocturnal wrote]
Con navaja
[With razor]
Esta oración.
[This oration.]

Niña de las dunas
[Girl of the dunes]
Duerme tranquila
[Sleep tranquilly]
Llevas en la frente
[Takes/carries on the front/forehead]
Marca divina.
[Mark divine.]

Niña de las dunas
[Girl of the dunes]
No tengas miedo
[No/don’t have fear]
Yo estaré contigo
[I will-be with-you]
En tu oscuro vuelo.
[In your dark flight.]

Y arena de mi reloj
[And sand of/from my watch/clock]
Volverás a la tierra
[You-will-return to the earth]
Donde el agua te moldeo
[Where the water it-you molded]
Nunca más el hierro
[Never more the iron]
Será tu prisión.
[Will-be your prison.]

Niña de las dunas
[Girl of the dunes]
Duerme tranquila
[Sleep tranquilly]
Llevas en la frente
[Takes/carries on the front/forehead]
Marca divina.
[Mark divine.]

Niña de las dunas
[Girl of the dunes]
No tengas miedo
[No/don’t have fear]
Yo estaré contigo
[I will-be with-you]
En tu oscuro vuelo.
[In your dark flight.]

(Le lele le lele le le lele le le
Le lele le le lele lele lele lele
Le lele le lele le le lele le le
Le lele le le lele lele lele lele)

La luna se hizo cuchillo
[The moon itself-> <-made knife]
Y en su pecho se clavó
[And in its chest/breast itself nailed]
Manchando de rojo sangre
[Staining with red blood]
Su vestido de algodón.
[Its dress/clothes of cotton.]

Con ella se la llevó
[With her it her took]
La hizo su compañera
[Her-> <-made her companion]
Unos la llaman Venus
[Some her they-call Venus]
Pensando que es una estrella.
[Thinking that she-is a star.]

(Le lele le lele le le lele le le
Le lele le le lele lele lele lele
Le lele le lele le le lele le le
Le lele le le lele lele lele lele)

(Lele lele lele lele
Lele lele lele)

Niña de las dunas
[Girl of the dunes]
Duerme tranquila
[Sleep tranquilly]
Llevas en la frente
[Takes/carries on the front/forehead]
Marca divina.
[Mark divine.]

Niña de las dunas
[Girl of the dunes]
No tengas miedo
[No/don’t have fear]
Yo estaré contigo
[I will-be with-you]
En tu oscuro vuelo.
[In your dark flight.]

<><><><><><><>

Girl of the Dunes is a song, in modern flamenco style, by María José Llergo, from the year 2017.

Girl of the Dunes
María José Llergo (2017)
[Guitar · Marc López]

English translation:

Mother once said
You were heaven-born
And a white star fell
To melt your icy heart.

Old father gazed
At the moon that night
And with his razor
This oration scribed
Upon the night-time steppe.

Girl of the dunes
Sleep tranquilly
Your forehead is marked
By divinity.

Girl of the dunes
Don’t be afraid,
I will be with you
In your darkness flight.

And my hourglass sands
Will fall back to earth,
Whose waters molded you,
So iron nevermore
Can imprison you.

Girl of the dunes
Sleep tranquilly
Your forehead is marked
By divinity.

Girl of the dunes
Don’t be afraid,
I will be with you
In your darkness flight.

(Le lele le lele le le lele le le
Le lele le le lele lele lele lele
Le lele le lele le le lele le le
Le lele le le lele lele lele lele)

The moon became a knife
And stabbed her own breast
With red blood staining
Her white cotton dress.

Away with her she’s taken
Her lover now to be,
And some would call her Venus
Thinking she’s a star.

(Le lele le lele le le lele le le
Le lele le le lele lele lele lele
Le lele le lele le le lele le le
Le lele le le lele lele lele lele)

(Lele lele lele lele
Lele lele lele)

Girl of the dunes
Sleep tranquilly
Your forehead is marked
By divinity.

Girl of the dunes
Don’t be afraid,
I will be with you
In your darkness flight.

<><><><><><><>

Niña de las Dunas – María José Llergo
25 September 2017
https://youtu.be/lKWvTkeG7NI

Agradecemos a Urknor por haber subido la letra.
Urknor (10/07/2019), Valencia (España)
<>
We are grateful to Urknor, from Valencia, Spain, for posting the Spanish lyrics.
https://www.musica.com/letras.asp?letra=2426757

<><><><><><><>

My Friend Stan

Natural Images of a Partial Annular Eclipse

Natural Images of a Partial Annular Eclipse, 20 May 2012

Today (5 July 2018) was an interesting day for me. The part I will share here is the following:

An Abundance Of Love
(song by Ella Solana García)
5 July 2018
https://soundcloud.com/ellasolanagarcia/an-abundance-of-love

I first heard this song in the morning, and liked it. By late evening, the words took on a deeper meaning that seemed designed just for me. Between morning and evening, I was gifted with the help from one of the few friends I have. Acquaintances I have many, critics I can have legion, but friends are very few. Let me explain. This man (my friend Stan), older than I, survived three helicopter crashes during the Vietnam War, as well as the siege known as the First Battle of Khe Sanh (greater than 72 incoming artillery barrages – he lost hearing in one ear). Between that and his subsequent career in the tree business – also the falling out of tree business (80 ft.) – he has managed to break just about every bone in his body. With advancing age all those breaks are becoming more arthritic and consequently nearly continuously painful. He’s one of the most cheerful, even-tempered people I’ve ever met, and a gnarly anti-war feral cat rescuer. It is from him that I learned the essence of a true friend: “someone you’d be glad to share a foxhole with.” I can’t think of a higher aspiration for one’s own personal character development. I’ll make sure to rate as one of his foxhole friends. That’s my definition of socialism. I (we) had a spot of car trouble today, and I called Stan from the side of the road (on my antique cellular communicator) to inquire about a lift. We were lucky, he had his car out of the shop and it was sort-of working, and he was actually driving home to his apartment (in a decaying building but nicely located) from the laundromat with the clean clothes for both he and his wife (who was probably at work), and detoured to get us. He pulled up, with his low-key wisecracking way brightening up my mood, with his mostly salt with pepper bushy hair and craggy face, and a soprano’s lush opera aria gushing out of the dashboard, and a big laundry basket full of folded clothes, which he tossed in the trunk to make room for me and my gals (I’ll get two lectures later for “gals”). This was not the first time Stan and I have gotten and given rides to each other, and there will undoubtedly be more such exchanges in our futures. Sometimes it’s the little things that are everything. I have few friends by choice, because I don’t want distractions from the real thing. Not that I ever want to be in a foxhole, but it’s good to know who I would rather share one with. “An abundance of love…”

I also described Stan in an earlier post

https://manuelgarciajr.com/2015/02/22/haunted-by-the-vietnam-war/

in the section that begins with “For Ella’s benefit.”

Songs by Ella Solana García
(at Soundcloud)
https://soundcloud.com/ellasolanagarcia

Enjoy,

“As the bee takes the essence of a flower and flies away without destroying its beauty and perfume, so let the sage wander in this life.”
— The Dhammapada, 49

Message #1 to a Young Artist

I want to commend you (give you praise) for your resolve to study deeply, even if that means taking “hard classes” with “lots of work.” Any creative person who produces worthwhile work is a person who has studied deeply, whether formally at a school or independently and intuitively by conscientious practice (or both). Good and great work comes out of a prior build-up of deep study. On a simple and practical level it is best to get as much “learning” as you can out of a school you are paying to attend. But beyond that, it is artistically and intellectually most beneficial to gain as much information, insight and understanding as possible about your chosen craft, and about the history of the culture you come from and the society you are living in, so your knowledge has depth, which will be the well from which you will draw the elements of your future creative works. When you remain committed to this “career” of study, and focussed on your personal artistic (and intellectual) vision, you will be able to move through your schooling (and life) with greater ease even as friends and acquaintances drop in and drop out of your social circle: you will be able to navigate beyond others’ dramas with less distraction and damage to yourself, and you will find that there will always be new and delightful people who can come into your life without being clingy drags. Over time, the experiences (both good and bad) you gain from your self-motivated course of study and practice build up as a growing fund of wisdom, which improves your ability to continue navigating your voyage through life, and improves your ability to create finer art. I am writing you this because I do not want you to get discouraged by the loss of friends, and the fleeting nature of many seemingly close friendships. There is no blame, just the unknowable chaos of the flow of life. Be happy in being immersed in your learning and in doing well in your creating. Love.

<><><><><><><>

For Message #0 to a Young Artist, see:

Art versus Stomach
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2018/01/29/art-versus-stomach/

<><><><><><><>

Spanish Guitar Music

This essay is at best only a fragment of the enormous topic of “Spanish Guitar Music.” I wrote it for the benefit of two music college students: “Mister Iceland,” a guitarist, and Ella García, a classically trained soprano who is also a student of song-writing and arranging. This is not a scholarly article, just my own thoughts about music I have heard and enjoyed. First, I will describe a few of what I consider to be the essential pieces and forms of the Spanish guitar repertoire, then I will describe a modern American composition that I see as having many features of classical Spanish guitar music. I refer to examples posted on YouTube as music videos. Enjoy.

Romance de Amor – Vicente Gómez
https://youtu.be/rf3MLp98J_c

“Romance de Amor” is anonymous, and the best known Spanish guitar piece. Vincente Gómez added a slower intermediate section (or, an introduction), making for a better piece. The sheet music for this piece is in his book of 14 guitar pieces, “Vincente Gómez Guitar Album,” published by Belwin Mills Publishing Company (Melville, NY), 1980. A number of the pieces in Gómez’s book have a flamenco sound, all are pure Spanish and very good. I highly recommend this book to any serious student of the guitar, especially any student of classical guitar music and playing technique.

Leyenda (“Asturias”) by Isaac Albéniz – Andrés Segovia
https://youtu.be/lCeebWgjrrU

Segovia is the founder of modern classical guitar. He made many transcriptions of Baroque and Classical pieces for the guitar. He used to say that J. S. Bach really “intended” his pieces for guitar; Segovia’s way of saying the guitar was a natural instrument for contrapuntal music. “Asturias,” by Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) was originally written for the piano. Asturias is a province on the north coast of Spain (where my paternal grandfather came from), and this piece, “Leyenda” (Legend), was one of a number of pieces in Albéniz’s piano suite evoking the different regions/provinces of Spain.

Recuerdos de la Alhambra, played by Andrés Segovia
https://youtu.be/sdaPoUNk5R8

“Recuerdos de la Alhambra” (Memories of the Alhambra), by Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909), is my favorite Spanish guitar piece. Tárrega was 44 years old when he wrote Recuerdos de la Alhambra in 1896, 3 years after Andrés Segovia (1893-1987) was born. Tárrega was a master guitarist and composer who (like Segovia later) elevated guitar music and guitar playing to a sophisticated and refined “classical music” form of art. To many in the 19th century, guitar music was considered only peasant and street music. Francisco Tárrega, Fernando Sor (1778-1839), and perhaps a few others championed the guitar as an instrument of refined art, and Segovia carried on that effort after Tárrega.

Flamenco – Manitas de Plata (1955?)
https://youtu.be/TtRPIdfLlTA

Manitas de Plata (1921-2014) (Little Hands of Silver) was a Roma (“Gypsy”) flamenco guitarist born in Southern France. This video of his first TV appearance shows him before his subsequent international fame and pop-star status. This short video (which has too long a gap of silence at the start) shows several flamenco guitar techniques: four-sequential-finger strums, arpeggios, and drumming by tapping the guitar top. It is evident that Manitas de Plata had great facility and a fluid style of playing. This guitar music is improvisational within a variety of general forms, some “fast” and some “slow.” On one occasion in 1964, Pablo Picasso heard him play and afterwards took Manitas de Plata’s guitar and drew pictures of a picador on it (raising the value of that guitar considerably!). I noticed that there are no pictures on Manitas de Plata’s guitar in the video linked above, but there are on the video linked below.

Manitas de Plata (on TV), 1967
https://youtu.be/JgXAffJs_fU

Manitas de Plata (born Ricardo Baliardo) was a phenomenon on the Riviera, and he gained worldwide fame with the release of his 1963 recordings in Arles, France, produced by the Phillips label and distributed in America in 1967 by the Connoisseur Society (of New York). These recordings preserve the sound of authentic flamenco musical performances (“unplugged”) as had been heard for centuries, before the advent of elaborate studio electronics and recording professionalism. The Connoisseur Society double album of Manitas de Plata’s live open-air recordings included selections with vocals, the canto hondo (deep song) of flamenco music. Here is one example of these Manitas de Plata sessions.

Manitas de Plata, 1963: Malagueñas Flamencas – Recorded at Arles, France, October 1963
https://youtu.be/QKrmbrnvgXM

La Verbena de la Paloma – En Chiclana me crié
https://youtu.be/U7JaUH8uxDg

This video (just above) has no guitar, but the piano music heard at the beginning could easily have been performed by a guitarist in real life. This scene is from a 1960s Spanish movie of one of the most famous and popular Zarzuelas (Spanish operettas), La Verbena de la Paloma (a feast day for the Virgin Mary, which is also an occasion for festivals). This scene evokes the type of gathering, with music (usually guitar), dancing, singing, and food and wine, that was “of the people,” that is to say popular, not theatrical (in real life). This scene is set in the 19th century, and shows how most people of the time – who were workers and peasants, not wealthy, nor city sophisticates – actually made and enjoyed music.

The woman lead performer singer and dancer (Concha Velasco) is playing an unmarried and very popular young woman who is pursued by a handsome, young and poor man, and also by an old druggist (apothecary) with “plata” (silver = money); and she sort of plays one against the other (a conflict of: love in poverty versus amicable loveless security).

Her song “En Chiclana me críe” (I Was Raised in Chiclana) is about her pride of being from her native village and region (near the ancient city of Cádiz). This song has the intensity of flamenco song but without the roughness of pure street flamenco; it is more polished here as a musical theater/operetta song. Much of flamenco and Spanish-style guitar music originates from this type of popular entertainment. The rough equivalent today would be acoustic guitar music with a beat that could simultaneously be sung to and danced with. The young ladies (and the hapless man-hero) in the video have operatic voices, while the old folks are invariably vocal music comics, who are always included in Zarzuelas, which were from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Fernando Sor (1778-1839) – Seguidillas
https://youtu.be/QGrtstwp8Qk

This video shows the performance of three seguidillas by Fernando Sor (1778-1839), who was 22 years younger than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). The performance duo are one guitarist and one soprano who, in this case, were students at the San Francisco Conservatory in 2017. This is genteel music of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, yet it still “moves” as you can easily hear in the guitar accompaniment. Segovia played and championed the music of Sor as part of his promotion of “classical” guitar. The major progression of such well-known classical guitar players/champions being (from the 18th to 20th centuries) Sor, Tárrega, and Segovia.

Infinitesimal – Perfect Aquarium
https://youtu.be/pruWXs6ckak

To my mind, the 2015 American song composition, “Infinitesimal,” is a modern version of seguidillas. Liam Hardison (the Spanish-style guitar player) uses numerous features of Spanish guitar music, and techniques of Spanish guitar playing: flamenco strums, classical style arpeggios, and the counterpoint of a thumb-played bass-line accompanying the four-finger plucking of a treble line with arpeggios and tremolo.

The vocals on Infinitesimal are in a classical (Bel Canto/operatic) style, but with also a small hint of canto hondo, the flamenco “deep song” vocalization style that originally came from the Moorish-Arabic influence on Spain during the 8th to 15th centuries, of long unbroken lines of melismatic chants, which in flamenco are sung extremely emotionally, roughly and horsely, something like melodic primal scream.

What is not included in this particular recording of Infinitesimal is the guitar-drumming that is typical of flamenco, and is also used in Cuban country-style guitar playing (used to great effect by Rafael Cueto of the Trio Matamoros – described elsewhere on my blog). Another excellent feature on this recording of Infinitesimal is the percussion, which adds an exotic flavor that I think of as a mix of Arabic-Moorish and African spicing to a Spanish musical broth.

I don’t know if the young people who composed and performed Infinitesimal knew of the Spanish forms and influences I have mentioned here, but there is no question in my mind that Liam was throwing in all the idioms of Spanish classical guitar music that he had learned in his musical education up to that point. This song is the only one of its kind on the album, “Perfect Aquarium,” which is otherwise a contemporary Art-Rock album. So, I think Infinitesimal is a modern accidental seguidillas, a composition formulated by osmosis from what the band members had heard and played during their prior schooling, and not as a product of their intentional musicological research.

Also, I think Infinitesimal is very good in every way.

<><><>

About Perfect Aquarium:

“Perfect Aquarium” album (9 songs) released on September 3, 2015
https://perfectaquarium.bandcamp.com/album/perfect-aquarium

Perfect Aquarium (the band):

Liam Bernard: Lead & Classical Guitar
Ben Saldich: Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
Isaac Roth: Bass, Vocals
Frank Klopotowski: Drums, Vocals

Vocals on “Infinitesimal” by Ella Garcia

<><><>

<><><><><><><>

Maybe “Mister Iceland” and Ella will come up with their own seguidillas, as music for our time.

<><><><><><><>

ALSO:

27 January 2018 is the 262nd birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the most sublime personifications of the voice of the Universe, and a gift from it to the Ages.

<><><><><><><>

Old Songs of Youth’s Promise

Anthony Tarrant reminded me of Wooden Ships by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, from long ago, and it got me thinking of the past. I shared Anthony’s post (on Facebook) because it moved me, and commented on it. So, further below are two responses in kind: music of unadorned art and sincere feeling far, far beyond the simplistic garish bombast of corporate “music” today.

Wooden Ships – Crosby Stills Nash and Young
https://youtu.be/3Q3j-i7GLr0

Takes me back to a lost world, lost dreams, and a different kind of people, both men and women. There was still the same kind of superficiality, the same kind of selfishness and venality as today, but I remember a much greater sense of optimism and even brotherhood (prompted mainly by anti-war sentiment) than I see today. Back then, it seemed evident that society would continue to improve, perhaps too slowly but inexorably. For me, that dream died on election day, 1980 (and then December 8 of that year). That’s why I had such resurrected hope in 2016 with Bernie Sanders, and was so angered by the petty and ignorant criticisms of him by idiot right-wingers and effete self-important and disconnected boutique leftists. This, and songs like this were like the aroma and pleasurable smoke on the breezes wafting a lovely girl’s hair as we looked with dancing eyes and knowing smiles out a big open window onto the springtime of our Sentimental Education (Flaubert) not knowing of dark chapters and separating currents to come far later. And here I am, marooned on a island of memories none now knows the language for understanding.

Don McLean – Vincent ( Starry, Starry Night) With Lyrics
https://youtu.be/oxHnRfhDmrk

Soldier, We Love You (Rita Martinson)
https://youtu.be/7iMusPYq83g

<><><><><><><>

Anthony Tarrant
https://anthonytarrant.wordpress.com/

Anthony also maintains a presence on Facebook.

<><><><><><><>

ADDENDUM, 15 January 2018

I just took a trip back to 1969, here it is:

Crosby, Stills, & Nash, CSN (1969 Complete 1st L.P./Classic Vinyl)
https://youtu.be/fM8hpsrmUe0

I heard this album about 10,000 times back when. The first two songs in particular are icons, hits, and paint a sound picture of some of the living in those times. Actually all of the songs on this album blend into one complete work, like the movements of a symphony. Back then you could walk past a college dorm and hear this album pouring out of one open window after another. Quite a reality.

<><><><><><><>

America United, A New National Anthem

America United

O beautiful for spacious skies
And amber waves of grain,
With purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
United people we,
In brotherhood
With worldwide good,
Our solidarity!

O beautiful for glorious tale
Of liberating strife,
When valiantly for love’s avail
Some gave up precious life!
America! America!
United people we
Till selfish gain
no longer stain
The banner of the free!

 

<><><><><><><>

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America_the_Beautiful

<><><><><><><>