By Bob Seay and James David Jacobs | Sunday, February 19, 2012
|Abraham Lincoln, by Alexander Gardner [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons|
Written in 1942, Lincoln Portrait, by Aaron Copland, is a rare musical tribute to an American President. It played an inspirational role when it was written, during the dark, early days of World War II.
But it continued to inspire over the decades, with countless notable narrators giving voice to the words by Abraham Lincoln that Copland chose for his tribute.
Those words, though, were chosen from within a surprising cultural context, as Bob Seay explains:
If Lincoln's words express the highest ideals of American democracy, Copland's music expresses the diversity of sources that have combined to create an American music and culture, as James David Jacobs writes:
|Aaron Copland (source: AP)|
It’s hard in 2012 to appreciate just how original Copland’s Lincoln Portrait was in 1942. There had been other works that combined spoken text with orchestra, but the combination of serious public statement and serious artistic statement, with ceremony, history, and politics coexisting with music, was, and remains, rare.
The music Copland wrote isn’t mere backdrop for the words, the narrator not even speaking until the piece is about half over. That music tells a story, a story of both an individual life and of a nation. It’s also a story of diverse musical influences, reflecting the diverse musical strands that have come together to create an American music.
The beginning of the work is typical Copland, with woodwinds uttering soft three-note mottoes in intervals of fourths and fifths. That serenity, however, is answered by unsettling chords. It’s not unlike Ives’s The Unanswered Question and its dialogue between a stark, angular statement and its muddled response.
By Phil Redo & Bob Seay | Monday, March 26, 2012
March 27, 2012
BOSTON — Early last century, health care entered the modern era and started the long debate on national health care policy. The American Medical Association became a powerful national voice. Surgery was becoming more commonplace and the leading industry of the day, railroads, were among the first to develop extensive employee medical programs.
By Sarah Birnbaum | Monday, March 5, 2012
Mar. 6, 2012
BOSTON — Massachusetts Republicans have the reputation of being different from Republicans around the country.
“Massachusetts Republican voters are more moderate on social issues for sure," said Tim Vercolatti, director of the Western New England University Polling Institute. "Now, you’re going to find exceptions to the rule, you’re going to find pockets of folks who are going to be more conservative socially. But in the aggregate, Massachusetts Republicans are still very different from Republicans in the South or in the West, in areas that are still pretty conservative."
Vercolatti said the campaign rhetoric tends to be less about abortion rights and gay marriage, for instance, and more about fiscal responsibility: “Sort of the Main Street Chamber of Commerce Republican versus the evangelical Republican you’d find in the church pews in some other parts of the state."
In that respect, observers said, the state GOP hasn’t changed all that much from the last presidential primary four years ago.
> > Here's how Massachusetts Republicans voted in the 2008 primary.
But what has changed, according to long-term State Rep. Bradford Hill, a Republican from Ipswich, is the level of excitement.
"I think having Scott Brown get elected enthused a lot of Republicans here in Massachusetts," he said. "The fact of the matter is that once they saw we can elect Scott Brown to the United States Senate, they said if we can do it for Scott, we can do it for president, we can do it for the Senate, we can do it for the House."
Registered Republicans make up only 11 percent of the electorate in Massachusetts. But in addition to electing Brown to the Senate, they’ve also elected three out of the last four governors.
The Polling Institute's most recent results, released on Mar. 5, found Mitt Romney leading the GOP pack in popularity, with 74 percent of registered Massachusetts Republican voters viewing him favorably. That's compared to a 33 percent favorability rating for Rick Santorum and 32 percent for Newt Gingrich. Read the findings.
By Phillip Martin | Thursday, February 16, 2012
Feb. 17, 2012
BOSTON — The Kennedy name evokes a legacy of public service, tragedy and scandal. While the family's influence has waned over the years, lingering veneration of the Kennedy past continues to make the members of that lineage formidable political opponents in spite of well-publicized scandals over the generations. Joseph P. Kennedy III is the latest scion to run for political office. His competitors will join a long list of individuals who have tried to best Kennedy family members — with mixed results. We look into WGBH's archives for an answer to the question many have asked: How can you effectively challenge a Kennedy?
Archival co-production by Elizabeth Deane.
By WGBH News | Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Jan. 24, 2012
BOSTON — On Tuesday, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum released the final 45 hours of White House recordings from the end of the president's life. The tapes, which have been digitized and can be downloaded in full, cover topics including the war in Vietnam, relations with the Soviet Union ... and Kennedy's never-to-be-realized re-election campaign. WGBH News' Jordan Weinstein talked to JFK Library declassification archivist Maura Porter about the historical significance.
A few excerpts from the recordings:
On Nov. 12, 1963, the president meets with a team of political advisors for several hours to discuss details of the 1964 convention and the issues that might define the upcoming campaign.
Undersecretary of state George Ball tells Kennedy, "We don't want to be bogged down in Southeast Asia forever."
In the final seconds of taping, on Nov. 20, Kennedy talks about his plans for after he returns from Dallas.
By WGBH News | Monday, January 23, 2012
Jan. 26, 2012
BOSTON — President Barack Obama did his best to convince the American public of his vision going forward. You gave him ... mixed grades. Here's the rundown as of Jan. 26, 5:30 p.m.
A 66.7% - B 15.2% - C 3.9% - D 4.8% - F 9.5%
And some extra calls and comments:
An A from East Falmouth: "It was positive, hit on most important issues, very little bashing of other side, progressive, spoke to problems with divided Congress and country."
A from Somerville: "Energizing; optimistic; combined immediate and longer-term goals for growth."
From Boston, B: "Strong words and good delivery, but lofty ideas for problems 3 years old; passing buck to Congress."
Another B from Boston: "Where was this forceful Obama the last three years. Yet the fed. should get out of education and let the states decide what is needed."
C: "Too many hollow promises, more government involvement in our lives."
From Brewster, F: "Repeat of former State of the Union address speeches. All he can do and has done is talk!"
F: "Total bs. What has he done to improve unemployment??? Just more government."