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No. 3164:

by Andy Boyd

Today, great fanfare. The University of Houston presents this series about the machines that make our civilization run, and the people whose ingenuity created them.

The fanfare is a style of music designed to evoke emotion and grab our attention at the same time.

[Ruffles and Flourishes]

That's Ruffles and Flourishes, announcing the arrival of the U.S. President before the playing of Hail to the Chief. And that's really the role of the fanfare - to make an announcement. The start of a hunt. The arrival of a king or other dignitary. Fanfares are typically played on brass instruments, frequently accompanied by percussion. Fanfares aren't too common in this day and age, but some are etched in our memories.

Military Band, San Diego 2011
Military Band, San Diego 2011   Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Take, for example, Leo Arnaud's Bugler's Dream. The work was commissioned in 1958 for a vinyl record of military themed songs compiled to rouse a listener's emotions. Few in the U.S. realized it was based on a French composition dating back to the time of Napoleon. Bugler's Dream largely went unnoticed by the public until it was used as the U.S. theme for the 1964 Winter Olympics.

[Olympic Fanfare 1]

When the summer Olympics came to Los Angeles in 1984, the venue inspired change. Organizers turned to John Williams, legendary composer of such hits as the Star Warssoundtrack, to score a new, unique Olympic fanfare.

[Olympic Fanfare 2]

Both fanfares continue to be used in U.S. coverage of the Olympic games.

Olympic Torch Tower of the Los Angeles Coliseum
Olympic Torch Tower of the Los Angeles Coliseum   Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Arguably the most critically acclaimed fanfare was scored for the Cincinnati Orchestra in 1942. The U.S. had just entered the Second World War, and people throughout the country were doing what they could to support the war effort. Cincinnati music director Eugene Goossens contacted several prominent composers asking if they'd write patriotic fanfares to open the orchestra's performances that season. Among the alts he received: A Fanfare for AirmenA Fanfare for the Medical Corps. And one very special Fanfare for the Common Man.

[Excerpt from Fanfare for the Common Man]

Aaron Copland drawing
Aaron Copland drawing  Photo Credit: Flickr

From its haunting, solemn opening to its majestic, triumphal conclusion, Fanfare for the Common Man was Aaron Copland doing what he did so well - writing music in the vernacular of the people; announcing their contribution not just to the war effort, but to the common good and to the common goodness. As the music soars, it's a testament to the human spirit.

[Excerpt from Fanfare for the Common Man]

Veteran   Photo Credit: Military News

I'm Andy Boyd at the University of Houston, where we're interested in the way inventive minds work.

Theme Music

Leo Arnaud. From the Wikipedia website: Accessed February 20, 2018.

Fanfare. From the Encyclopedia Britannica website: Accessed February 20, 2018.

Janelle Gelfand. Copeland's Fanfare: The Making of a Musical Monument. From the website: Accessed February 20, 2018.