Monday, July 20, 2009

Fly Me to the Moon

On this, the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the man's first step on the moon, we're all still a bit Moonstruck (1933, by Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow). We've learned that the 1953 Academy Award nominee and best selling record, The Moon is Blue, was wrong, at least up there. And that because there are polar ice caps on the moon, the Johnny Mercer/Henry Mancini song from Breakfast at Tiffany's, Moon River could in fact be true.

Even though Fly Me to the Moon was written by Bert Howard in the 1954, prior to Sputnik and the space race, it was a best selling record in the sixties for several major artists. That is, it became somewhat of an anthem for the Apollo space program. Apollo 8 actually did a lunar orbit and return to earth in 1968, as did Apollo 10 just a couple of months before Apollo 11's landing and that first Moonwalk. The Apollo program continued through Apollo 17 in 1972.

We've not yet made the Hoagy Carmichael/Johnny Mercer song from 1934, Moon Country (Is Home to Me) a reality, but space exploration continues. And just last week I heard talk of the possibility of moon flights to look at the possibility of settlement of the moon. Who knows what is in our futures as we look up at the moon in wonder.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

La Marseillaise

Happy Bastille Day! This is the 220th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille Prison in Paris during the French revolution. In France, today is a day of national celebration. The storming of the Bastille was an important marker in the development of the modern French nation.

The storming of the Bastille predates the composition of the Marseillaise by three years. The song was written by Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle, a supporter of the monarchy, at the behest of the mayor of Strasbourg after France declared war on Prussia and Austria. War song for the Rhine army was written on April 25, 1792. The song was soon published as Border armies' war song. A group of revolutionaries who had gathered in Marseille adapted the march and sang it as they entered Paris on July 30, 1792. It was called La Marseillaise by Parisians after those revolutionaries from Marseille.

On July 14, 1795, La Marseillaise became a national song of France. It was banned during the Empire, but came back with the July revolution of 1830. Berlioz made a well-known arrangement of the song. An "official version" was adopted in 1887. La Marseillaise was recognized as the national anthem in the constitutions of the 4th and 5th Republics.

Like the American national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, La Marseillaise celebrates war. But the French anthem also celebrates a citizen's call to arms in defense of the nation. The two anthems also share a sometimes call for a less bellicose song to replace each one. But both songs represent important parts of the nations' histories.