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Marching . . . To a New Tune

We have all heard John Philip Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever," but you have probably never heard Sousa's last composition, "The Library of Congress March."

"The Library of Congress March,"performed for the first time on May 6, 2003, is a bit of American history brought to life. Based on manuscript sketches and orchestrations from the Library's John Philip Sousa Collection, this new work was reconstructed by Stephen Bulla, a leading American composer and arranger of concert band music, under the supervision of Sousa authority Loras John Schissel. It was the last work Sousa began and remained incomplete -- largely in details, not in overall conception -- at the time of his death in 1932.

John Philip Sousa, head-and-shoulders portrait Stars and Stripes Forever

An American musical icon and an important ambassador for American culture, John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) -- "The March King" -- is remembered as the greatest of American bandmasters, whose "The Stars and Stripes Forever," is perhaps America's best-known musical composition, recognized officially by Congress in 1987 as the National March of the United States of America. Sousa was also an important and prolific composer of operettas, including "El Capitan" and "The Glassblowers"; 12 symphonic suites; songs, piano music and programmatic pieces like "Sheridan's Ride" and "The Last Days of Pompeii."

A native Washingtonian who was born on Capitol Hill in 1854, John Philip Sousa was the son of a musician in the Marine Band, was enlisted himself at the age of 13 and became the band's leader in 1880. Sousa's long professional association with the Library of Congress began at that time, with his scholarly research in the extensive collections of the Library's Music Division. But Sousa was not just interested in music. He also had a baseball team, for which a song was dedicated, "The Three Strikes Two-Step."

You can listen to an unusual version of "The Stars and Stripes Forever," played by the Imperial Marimba Band, or hear a more traditional rendition performed by Sousa's Band from the Library's American Memory Web site of 8 million digital items.

There is an extraordinary panoramic photograph of Sousa conducting at a Chautauqua gathering, ca. 1925, and if you go to the American Memory Search page and type in "Sousa," you will find nearly 200 items relating to this quintessentially American composer.

The Library of Congress music collections are among the most comprehensive in the world, and cover music from its beginnings to the present, in America as well as worldwide. An illustrated guide to these remarkable materials can be seen online.

The music of Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Woody Guthrie, and other Americans can be studied and heard at American Memory. Just go to the Search Page and type in a name or subject of interest.

A. E. Chickering, photographer, [John Philip Sousa, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left, wearing band uniform with medals], c1900. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: Reproduction No. LC-USZ62-104651 (b&w film copy neg.).

B. John Philip Sousa, "Stars and Stripes Forever," published in Cincinnati, Ohio, 1898. Reproduction No.: Music B-367; Repository: Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collections Library, Duke University. This item is not in the Library of Congress collections. For additional information about reproductions, contact the Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collections Library of Duke University.

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