I Hear America Singing
After listening to this week’s Exploring Music programs, the poet Walt Whitman decides he would like to literally hear America singing in election week. He invites seven American composers - past and present – to sing a stirring concert of choral music. Ives, Copland, Amy Beach, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Irving Berlin, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, and Missy Mazzoli all accept Whitman’s invitation.
On arrival, the composers arrange themselves left to right according to their voice types, with the four women taking soprano and alto, and the three men tenors and basses. Initially, Whitman is unhappy with this line-up and proclaims: “No, this won’t work. Copland, you go on the left...” He continues to assign each composer a specific position in the chorus from left to right. When finished, he announces triumphantly: “Now I will hear America singing!”
In what order did Whitman place the composers from left to right, and why did this satisfy his desire to “hear America singing?”
Answer: From left to right: Copland, Mazzoli, Zwilich, Seeger, Berlin, Ives and Beach.
“Initially, Whitman is unhappy....”
Whitman’s order is based on the initial letters of each composer’s first name: Aaron, Missy, Ellen, Ruth, Irving, Charles and Amy. Combined together from left to right, they spell AMERICA. Whitman can now literally hear AMERICA singing.
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