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On September 14th, 1814, Francis Scott Keys wrote “The Defense of Fort McHenry”. Key was inspired to compose this poem after witnessing the Royal Navy’s unsuccessful attempt to conquer Fort McHenry. Keys poem represents freedom of expression and tolerance. His poem later became the lyrics to the United States national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
In 1812 America declared war against Great Britain over trade disagreements. In 1814, British troops invaded US soil. British troops first attacked Washington DC and burned down the White House, Library of Congress and Capital Building. After conquering Washington, Great Britain targeted Baltimore. On September 13th, the Royal Navy laid siege on Fort McHenry. Keys watched from a British where he was being held at the time. Fort McHenry was bombarded through the night. Early the next morning Keys witnessed an American Flag flying high over the fort. The British were unable to destroy the fort and gave up. Inspired by the sign of the flag flying high over the fort, Keys wrote the “The Defense of Fort McHenry.” The poem was printed in the newspaper after the battle. “The Defense of Fort McHenry” became very popular amongst American citizens. Over time the lyrics were sung to the tune from “To Anacreon in Heaven” a song composed by John Strafford Smith. Americans referred to the song as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“The Star-Spangled Banner” has monophonic texture. It is performed in triple meter, which mean every third beat is emphasized. This song can be performed by one or many people. If it is performed by many people who sing the melody together the musical texture can be referred to as unison. “The Star-Spangled Banner” originally was sung mainly by one boy with some lines being supported by many people. This piece can be performed with any instrument so long as the melody is being played. The trumpets have become common when “the Star-Spangled Banner” is being played. The melody in this piece is disjunct. This piece has a range of an octave and a half, so if performed in the key of ‘B flat’ the range would be from ‘B flat’ to high ‘F’. “The Star-Spangled Banners” triple meter along its parallel structure makes it rhythm unique.
“The Star-Spangled Banner” lyrics include historic facts which occurred during the war of 1812 and important qualities which America was built upon. In the first verse Key explains how Americans bravely defended Fort McHenry from British Cannon Fire. He reflects upon seeing the American flag still standing at daybreak and the British Navy giving up. In the second verse Key describes what he sees from his perspective on the ships. The lyrics also mention how he wishes for the flag to wave over the land of the brave for a long time. In the third verse Key describes his dislike for the British and reflects upon how the flag hung high above the fort represents Americans ability to triumph through difficulty. In the final verse, Keys explains how he will be proud to be an American no matter what. Key also mentions his belief for god in this verse a well. After being published this piece became very popular throughout America.
In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson declared that “The Star-Spangled Banner” would be performed at all official events. Key’s poem spread pride throughout America and gave people hope for a bright future. “The Star Spangled Banner” was later adopted as the United States National anthem.
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