From Banned to Band: A Historical Analysis of Vincent Persichetti's "A Lincoln Address"

Few American leaders have been chronicled as extensively as our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln. His life and presidency have been interpreted in many media including art, film, literature, and music. When asked by conductor Andre Kostelanetz in 1941 during the midst of World War II to set a text by an “eminent American,” Aaron Copland looked to the words of Lincoln as his inspiration. Thirty years later, during the Vietnam War, when asked to compose a work for the 1973 inauguration of Richard Nixon, Vincent Persichetti also reached for the speeches of Lincoln and set them within parts of his Seventh Symphony. Although the performance of the resulting A Lincoln Address was cancelled as the text was deemed “not in the spirit” following Nixon’s authorization of an intensive bombing of North Vietnam, Persichetti felt content with his decision to keep his work “a peace piece, not a war piece.” During national strife, Lincoln’s words have been revered as a source of wisdom and art. Within Persichetti’s body of works, A Lincoln Address is a unique piece. Compiled within two weeks at the request of the Nixon administration, it is the only one of Persichetti’s pieces to include narration. Its transcription for band adds to its originality as his transcriptions are very few. The musical content, while extracted from Persichetti’s Seventh Symphony, Liturgical, is ultimately based on his own Hymns and Responses for the Church Year, which add an extra layer of underlying text. In addition, the publicity surrounding the cancellation of the piece from Nixon’s second inauguration thrust Vincent Persichetti and A Lincoln Address into the national spotlight, sparking debate and outrage at the elimination of Abraham Lincoln’s speech at the ceremony. This paper seeks to analyze A Lincoln Address and discuss the historical events surrounding the piece using original manuscript materials available from the Vincent Persichetti Papers in the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

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Work Title From Banned to Band: A Historical Analysis of Vincent Persichetti's "A Lincoln Address"
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Penn State
Creators
  1. Audry E Thompson
Keyword
  1. Vincent Persichetti
  2. Nixon
  3. A Lincoln Address
License Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Work Type Masters Thesis
Deposited June 04, 2018

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