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Jank0614  (Level: 67.1 - Posts: 4593)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 5:11 AM


Hmmmm. Can't sleep. Watching swim relays. U.S. guys smash the world record by 4 seconds, yet barely winning by a touch.

It's really the first I've had a chance to watch this year. I usually get goosebumps of pride at the presentation of gold medals and the playing of the National Anthem.

But then they play a version of the Star Spangled Banner that is, in the most PC words I can think to say, not the proudest arrangement I've heard, for sure. Way too low a key. Lots of regressive chord structure. Those U.S. swimmers were standing there bursting with pride, while being honored by a regressive, touchy-feely, non-powerful version of their country's anthem.

Don't get me wrong. I have no problem with musicians rearranging the song. It just seems like at the Olympics where strength is rewarded, the medalists' national pride, unity, honor, and accomplishment should be reflected by the most inspiring of versions of their country's anthem. Instead of that joyful feeling, I felt distracted and disappointed by the music.

Anybody else notice the National Anthem?

Larefamiliaris  (Level: 135.2 - Posts: 877)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 6:31 AM

Didn't actually see that, but understatement can be good. Maybe the redoubtable and reserved Chinese authorities were going for quiet pride rather than something more noisy?
Was there a band playing? As I remember, at swimming medal ceremonies it's usually a recorded version of an anthem - could be that.

Papermanbill  (Level: 41.3 - Posts: 1312)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 8:17 AM

Janice. I didn't hear the playing you are talking about, but in the past I have heard some trying arrangements. I personally have participated in hundreds of colors ceremonies while in the Navy. The U.S. national anthemn is a trying piece of music to play or sing. I'm not a traitor, but I'll take the Canadian anthemn over ours, especially when it is sung by that cop in Ottawa.

Donleigh  (Level: 156.3 - Posts: 5461)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 10:02 AM

As rousing as your national anthem can be, I think you should change it to America the Beautiful. It is more representative of the American people and much easier to sing.
You haven't heard O Canada til you've heard it mumbled in French and then shouted in English.

Smoke20  (Level: 62.6 - Posts: 2815)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 10:06 AM

Amen to that. Give me the spacious skies, amber waves and fruited plain and skip the rockets and bombs and glare.

Smoke20  (Level: 62.6 - Posts: 2815)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 10:26 AM

However, as a race fan I've been subjected to many renditions that make Roseanne's version sound not so bad. This is a result of incestuous media cross-promotions that give the job of trying to sing the song to some demographically-selected, budding young star of the network mogul's record label. Who has a new CD just out, no doubt. Often these are pretty young things who sound pretty good in a studio but don't have anything like the pipes to do the live anthem justice. I feel sorry for them; it's pitiful when they fall off a big note and try to fake it by "making it their own". Even worse are the ones who lose the tune and warble around looking for it. You can see the drivers wince and fight smiles. Instumental versions are usually a welcome relief.

Too bad we don't have a song people can enthusiastically sing along with. Who tries to sing along with TSSB? I was raised and schooled in Baltimore, been on a dozen trips to Ft McHenry, got a local-pride refresher course on the anthem in every grade, know all the words of all the verses, and I never try to sing it.

Who does get to choose the version played for the games? Seems like that would be a choice made by the US, rather than the host country. Anyone know?

Revdodd  (Level: 68.7 - Posts: 775)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 10:39 AM

The host country makes the arrangements.

If they had a lick of PR sense, they'd run their selection past someone on the team...but no one ever accused China of being PR savvy.

Smoke20  (Level: 62.6 - Posts: 2815)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 11:05 AM

Thanks - that's interesting to know. Is it live musicians, do you know? A recording? Played with traditional Chinese instruments or something? Wonder where they get the orchestrations for all those anthems?

Bbear  (Level: 168.0 - Posts: 2297)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 11:20 AM

Our national bird was supposed to be the wild turkey rather than the carrion crow we currently have as well.

If you look at it, the 2nd and 3rd verses (betcha don't know the words) of the Star Spangled Banner are fabulous and I think the 3rd should really be our national anthem, or anything rather than the war mongering, unsingable thing we are currently stuck with.

You are right abou the version of the SSB the Chinese have chosen to use. Rather poor choice, but it is theirs to make.

NOTE: Snookerballs, what is the new avatar??????

Smoke20  (Level: 62.6 - Posts: 2815)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 11:25 AM

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Pennwoman  (Level: 163.1 - Posts: 2476)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 11:37 AM

I still get chills and goosebumps when the Star Spangled Banner plays --
My favorite memory was when we were attending the opening game for the Pirates.
(its such a nice field tho!)
in April 2002, there was a huge flag that covered the entire fied --and was opened by Emergency Response personel from NYC - those who had responded to the Twin Towers.....
It was chilly, overcast day -- jet planes zoomed overhead in the missing man formation and then the flag was opened -- just as it opened the sun came out and just flooded the flag with its rays -- a sight I will never forget.

Smoke20  (Level: 62.6 - Posts: 2815)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 12:04 PM

You bet, that would make me misty too, but thank goodness it wasn't being sung by some little gal in a cowboy hat who wasn't up to the task. I'm just saying that when you have an anthem that's so hard to sing, you have to listen to a lot of people butcher it, and you may not sing it yourself. I find most instumental renditions very stirring, but I find too many vocal performances distract and detract from the dignity of the song.

Pennwoman  (Level: 163.1 - Posts: 2476)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 1:16 PM

you are right --although its a very well known to be a difficult song to sing -- and you would expect the very best effort put into it, especially in a world wide venue like the Olympics

Jank0614  (Level: 67.1 - Posts: 4593)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 1:37 PM

If I had known the arrangement would be so "interesting" I would have paid more attention to the announced introduction. But I believe in my tired, half-asleep memory, they said the national anthem performance was live. The instrumentation was beautiful, it was perfectly played and it was not sung unless by the unmiked. But the most beautifully played instruments can't fix that regressive mess.

For those who don't know what "regressive mess" means, it's kind of like this. In music, certain chords lead to certain other chords that sound beautiful and resolved. They lead you to comfort, or regress to a negative feeling, according to what the composer wants you to feel.

Regressive means rather than the next chord leading to that comfort sound, it leads to a chord that doesn't resolve to the tonic chord of the piece (tonic chord in the key of C is the C chord - it's like coming home at the end of a busy day).

Regressive is the musical equivalent of "2 steps forward, 3 steps back" and is unsettling in an anthem.

For anyone who listened to Dallas Holmes music in the 80s, think of the song "Against the Wind." The regressive chords actually make you feel like you're forced backward, waiting for resolution. (

As far as America the Beautiful, it's a very inspiring and singable piece. But to me, the Star Spangled Banner was written amidst the chaos of war, and the intricacy of the structure portrays that and resolves to national pride. Of course, I make $50 a pop for 2 minutes of singing it, too, so I don't mind that not everybody can do it! I've also had students sing it at Ranger games in Arlington, TX. (I sang at construction machinery auctions - but hey, they're patriotic and profitable! ha)

I can't find a link to listen to the Chinese Olympics version online, but I hope it shows up eventually.

Trivial note. The melody to "Star Spangled Banner" is just an old wine-drinking song.

Larefamiliaris  (Level: 135.2 - Posts: 877)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 2:05 PM

I'm prayin' for rain in California.
And I've asked the man behind the bar for the jukebox many times.

Maybe there's an idea here for better anthems all round. I know the (supposed) British one is fairly unpopular if you live in Wales or Scotland - particularly if you're a Rugby fan, where the UK nations tend to use adopted anthems rather than the British standard. The original even included a verse about 'crushing the Scots', although that hasn't been used for a couple of hundred years.
Mind you, the adopted Scottish anthem - Flower of Scotland - makes reference to kicking the backside of a certain Englishman and his army.

I tend to agree with Smoke about the rockets and bombs etc. Pride in your country is one thing, but I find the wording of many anthems - including the two which are mine - that glorify blowing things up as something to be lauded pretty tedious and borderline offensive.

An alternative...

Eesusbejesus  (Level: 75.0 - Posts: 3641)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 2:11 PM

Jank0614  (Level: 67.1 - Posts: 4593)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 3:03 PM

May I lead you to the following:

Star Trek TOS: The City on the Edge of Forever

Fictional character Edith Keeler taught peace, love, work, and did I say peace, before WWII.

Her message was so strong and so widely accepted in this fictional United States that the U.S. did not enter WWII, and was taken over by the Third Reich. All Jews are dead. All freedom is dead. Hitler is king of the world.

Peace is a wonderful thing and was bought by the blood of many who believed in freedom and the fight against those who would murder the freedom of others.

Sometimes war, though ugly and painful, is a necessary thing to protect the innocent victims who have no power.

Not that every anthem that has rockets and red glare doesn't offend some on the planet.

But the people who lived in the time those words were penned certainly would have plenty to argue against today's offended who stand on the outside looking in.

The history of the planets many past and present countries would be totally wiped out if every offensive thing were erased. We are who we are because they were who they were..

Jank0614  (Level: 67.1 - Posts: 4593)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 3:05 PM

Martin - that wasn't personal against you. I'm sure many on the planet have those same thoughts.

Revdodd  (Level: 68.7 - Posts: 775)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 3:49 PM

Sorry for the delay in responding...

They're using pre-recorded the first rendition of the star-spangled banner sadly showed.

Sounded a lot better for the 4x100 swim relay last night.

Smoke20  (Level: 62.6 - Posts: 2815)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 5:22 PM

Whoa. I didn't say it offended me. It does not offend me. It's my national anthem, too, even if that proud, noble lilt did start out as a men's club drinking song saluting a dead Greek who wrote raunchy poems, even if it is virtually unsingable by the average untrained patriot, even if it does seem overly martial to some modern ears. I'm sorry if it seems insufficiently appreciative or respectful or whatever, but when I'm feeling proud and loving toward my country (which might be more often than you think), rockets and bombs are not what come to mind.

I said I like other songs better for the reasons I mentioned, but I do revere and respond emotionally to the tradition and symbolism surrounding the anthem, believe me; it was pounded into me with the multiplication tables. I stand a little taller when the Marine Band or a symphony orchestra plays it; the tune is wonderfully inspiring with our beautiful flag floating on the wind, but as vocal music, I like it less for the reasons I said. Even when it's sung reasonably well by the fortunate few who can make a profit from managing it, I can't help but listen for the disapproving crack of my music teacher's yardstick whenever someone sings "ba-an-ner-er" instead of the purist ""baaan-ner-er". I do understand the political moment in time in which Key wrote "The Defense of Fort McHenry", I get why it caught on with the public of that day and age, why it was set to that tune, why it remained popular and eventually became traditional, but there are other beautiful patriotic songs. I mean, really, it wasn't handed down from a cloud by George Washington or Abe Lincoln, it was rubber-stamped in smoke-filled rooms by congressmen during the Hoover administration. Mistakes were possible.

Smoke20  (Level: 62.6 - Posts: 2815)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 6:08 PM

Smoke20  (Level: 62.6 - Posts: 2815)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 6:10 PM

Bbear  (Level: 168.0 - Posts: 2297)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 6:26 PM

Smoke: coolness. Does a local orchestra alway provide the anthems for the games? I think that's really neat.

Pennwoman  (Level: 163.1 - Posts: 2476)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 7:03 PM

nice healthy discussion! you guys rock! ( forgive the wee tiny pun there)

Oldcougar  (Level: 229.6 - Posts: 1935)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 7:27 PM

Interesting indeed, I always thought Oh Canada was quite hard to sing & boring & The Star Spangled Banner, much more rousing. Though, I like America the Beautiful better. We used to sing God Save The Queen, which I like, at the beginning of an assembly & Oh Canada, at the end, or maybe it was reversed & I miss it. No matter how you slice it, the grass is always greener I'll continue to stand & sing our proudly, whatever song they throw at me, but if you happen to be standing near, plug your ears. Peace

Bradd  (Level: 204.2 - Posts: 43)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 7:59 PM

I love the Star Spangled Banner. The rendition played (no voices) at the swimmer's Gold was beautiful. I thought, at the time, that's the best damn rendition I've heard in a long time. I don't know about "regressive" music and chords, I just listen.

Jank0614  (Level: 67.1 - Posts: 4593)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 8:01 PM

If we were allowed to vote on it, I'd vote for America the Beautiful for national anthem because it is beautiful and more people can sing it comfortably.

Even if I CAN sing the Star Spangled Banner, I don't in public audiences, because people turn around and stare and don't pay attention to the flag or the reason we do the national anthem in that setting.

Smoke20  (Level: 62.6 - Posts: 2815)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 8:03 PM

Agreed. I love them both.

Smoke20  (Level: 62.6 - Posts: 2815)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 10:46 PM

After waiting all day I just heard the anthem played for Mike Phelps, and I must say I thought it was grand.

Jank0614  (Level: 67.1 - Posts: 4593)
Mon, 11th Aug '08 10:58 PM

I'll probably end up being the only one who doesn't like it! ha

Slowpokecat  (Level: 67.1 - Posts: 17)
Tue, 12th Aug '08 3:30 AM

I didn't notice the music but I did notice the way Dubya/Bush was using the flag to bang against his leg in a disrespectful way.

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