MUSIC INSPIRED BY THE GREAT WAR

Hello reader, and welcome to beethoman.com. Today, I will talk about music that is inspired by the Great War. 102 year ago this day marked the end of the bloodiest war until that moment. The war to end all wars, as German and Austro-Hungarian war commands called it. One YouTube user commented in one of the songs: “It ended nothing” . And that is such a sad truth. Because of that, this article will be more biographical than analytical.

We all should pay our respects to those who suffered through the years of madness. To those who died physically and those who died mentally. However, I will talk about some songs and compositions that are not generally known. Since I come from Serbia, the country that suffered the most in the Great War by percentage of people lost compared to the whole population of the nation, I will also mention some of the songs inspired by the Great War written by Serbian composers or just ordinary men.

Songs and Composition Inspired by the Great War

Besides generally known composers and compositions inspired and influenced by the Great War, such as Britten’s War Requiem, Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand and Le tombeau de Couperin there are many more. In fact, one blog article probably would not be enough for listing and analyzing all of them. A book would be far better. Having said that, I will list some of them I think are important, yet, they are not globally known.

Stanislav Binicki – March to the Drina

March to the Drina is probably one of the first compositions directly inspired by the Great War. It was composed in the autumn of 1914, almost immediately after the Battle of Cer in August 1914. Battle of Cer was the first major battle in WWI in which the Serbian army successfully defended its country against the Austro-Hungarian army. Stanislav Binicki, a prolific Serbian composer, conductor and pedagogue was exhilarated. Shortly after his march was finished. Moreover, it was dedicated to his favorite Serbian commander, Colonel Milivoje Stojanovic Brka. Stojanovic fought bravely on Drina in the Battle of Cer, but died in the next major battle later that year.

What is interesting about this composition is that different parts of it represent both Serbia and Austro-Hungary. Their differences and fight. Binicki used folk rhythm patterns and scale characteristics to paint Serbia and Austro-Hungary respectively. Moreover, the most popular segment of this composition has strong characteristics of kolo, Serbian folk dance, which is part of every celebration here in Serbia. It serves as a great musical gesture depicting Serbian victory. Interesting fact – when, after the war, one Serbian soldier met Binicki, he told him that he had this March in his head playing over and over along the entire Thessaloniki front offensive. That is quite possibly the best way to describe how spiritful this composition is for my people.

The French ship is departing

The French ship is departing is one of the songs which was composed on the actual front. Serbian officer Colonel Branislav Milosavljevic was a poet and amateur musician. After the Serbian army retreated to Greece in 1916, many soldiers died from the consequences of diseases mixed with fatigue and bad nutrition. These deaths of his countrman deeply touched him. However, the song was composed in 1917 near Thessaloniki, where the center of the front was. French ships trasported wounded men far from the Thessaloniki every day, and these events inspired Milosavljevic to write and compose this song. You can turn on English translation in the YouTube video.

There, Far Away

There, Far Away is a folk song also written and composed on the war front somewhere in Greece, near Thessaloniki. However, there is no official record of who composed it, so it is considered as a folk song. It is to this day the unofficial hymn of the Serbian soldier. Many authors agree on that the lyrics, melody and overall expression of the song are by far the most representative of a Serbian soldier soul. The last wish of Nikola Tesla, one of the greatest scientists that ever lived, was to be buried with this song. You can turn on English translation in the YouTube video.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields is wonderful poem by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrea. The horrors of the Western front, and death of his close friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer led him to write this beautiful, yet deeply disturbing song. Many different performers tried their best to turn this poem into song throughout the last 105 years. However, Sabaton’s version from the album The Great War is by far the best one in my opinion. The amount of tragic expression will bring tears to your eyes immediately.

The End of the War to End All Wars

The End of the War to End All Wars is the 11th song from the album The Great War. Quite convenient, isn’t it? This song pretty much depicts the entire Great War in a nutshell. The whole album is absolutely ingenious, but for today’s purpose this song may be the best representative of them all. What is striking is lyric-dramatic dualism which perfectly reflects the madness of the World War I. I strongly recommend you to listen to this album if you haven’t done it already. Even if you don’t particularly like heavy metal music. It is a great testimony about how many innocent people can lose everything because some of the big guys cannot communicate like normal human beings.

That’s all for today. I hope you gained some new insights from this article. Also, I am pretty sure that there are many, many more compositions inspired by the Great War. Please write them down in the comments. Moreover, if you would like to read about Sabaton’s use of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 motive in their song Fields of Verdun, please click here. Until next time, stay safe and enjoy music.

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