Recently I have been listening to national anthems of various countries. One reason I became interested in this was because I started to realize how musically boring "O Canada" is. Having spent a chunk of this past summer practicing piano and studying music, I found it interesting to listen to various national anthems, try and figure out which I liked/didn't like and figure out what was happening musically that might cause me to like/dislike them.
For a while I have always found the USA's national anthem, "Star Spangled Banner", very exciting. Something that "O Canada" lacks. The reason for this, I realized recently, is because "O Canada" spends a lot more time going down (pitch wise), than going up, and often stays within a small pitch range. In contrast Star-Spangled Banner goes down right away but then rockets right up at the start with> Oh say (down) can YOU SEEEEE!? (huge movement upward to compliment the increase in loudness). But then goes down restfully with> By the dawn's early light. THEN after it rests for a brief second it goes down and then rockets back up again. The sound follows this kind of pattern for the rest of the song, almost like waves of energy rising and falling, until it reaches the climax.
The lyrics are another matter entirely. How many times can I possibly say "O Canada" without it getting boring? Ummm.. not a lot. The lyrics of Star Spangled Banner create movement by themselves, even when spoken normally. Also O Canada is essentially about standing still in respect of the land, while Star Spangled Banner is about admiring a flag waving in the midst of an intense war battle.
As I was listening to other national anthems including those from Britain, Australia, Afghanistan, Croatia, France. I began to realize that most of the anthems that I "liked" were military marches of proud, positively energetic character. Currently my favorites are the Star Spangled Banner and La Marseillaise (France). The Chinese national anthem is alright too. =P
But only today did it occur to me to listen to the Japanese national anthem. Before today I had NEVER heard their national anthem. When I think of a national anthems I think of something like a military march, something patriotic and energetic. So listening to the Japanese national anthem was very surprising to my ears:
The Japanese anthem is a song written in 1880 over the lyrics of a VERY short waka poem written some time between 794 AD-1185 AD. Musically speaking, "Kimi ga yo" is the most solemn national anthem I have heard so far. It's not energetic or ostentatious, but somehow calm, proud and respectful. But calm, proud and respectful in a way that is totally different from O Canada or any other national anthem. I don't particularly "like" the Japanese anthem, but I find it very interesting, and it's growing on me each time I listen to it!
Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment! Do you have a favorite anthem, what's your opinion of your country's national anthem? Some of the stories behind each anthem's creation, and it's lyrics can be fun to look into.
P.S. Unlike some national anthems, this blog post does not work its way to an energetic climax and conclusion. xD