June 17. Stravinsky and Gounod’s Birthday

Today is the birthday of the French composer Charles Gounod, (1818 – 1893) and Igor Stravinsky ( June 17, 1882 – April 6, 1971.)

The Funeral March is probably one of the first pieces of classical music I ever heard.  In the 1960s, when I grew up, the US was in still in the midst of the Golden Age of television.   It was still a fairly new medium, and it brought a whole world of art and culture into small, backwater towns like my own, Mishawaka, Indiana.  Shows like The Man From Uncle, The Ernie Kovacs Show, The Invaders, I-Spy, Westinghouse Theatre, Saturday Night at the Theatre, The Jackie Gleason Show, and The Twilight Zone let us experience, in our own living room, drama, comedy, music, dance,the supernatural and life in the old west and modern Manhattan.  Every night after dinner we gathered around the TV as a family and watched our favorite program chosen from only one of the three channels we received.  I remember sitting with my parents, watching Sing Along With Mitch (Miller), which commanded us to sing the lyrics that appeared on the screen in time to a white ball that hopped from syllable to syllable along with the music. I’m feeling a bit nostalgic now for that.  What family sings together any more?

One program we loved was “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” whose short murder mysteries were introduced by the director himself.  He performed his plummy, congested monologues in a perfect deadpan British accent while acting out absurd and macabre skits.  The theme music to the show was Gounod’s Funeral March of a Marionette.  We only knew it as the “Funeral March,” and as soon as we heard it, we’d come running to the living room to watch.  I still think of the pudgy director whenever i hear it.

Here’s his wikipedia entry.

Igor Stravinsky’s fascinates me more than just about any other composer.  I’ve written about him a lot on this blog, here, here, and here for example.  He wrote Tango for piano in 1940 and later participated in turning it into a chamber piece.

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