Friday, July 13, 2012

John Philip Sousa's America: A Book Review

John Philip Sousa's America: The Patriot's Life in Images and Words
John Philip Sousa IV with Loras John Schissel
GIA Publications
214 pages $34.95 ($26.00 at Amazon)

My interest in John Philip Sousa has only marginally to do with his work at the leader of the Sousa Band. I know many of his more famous marches, and even some of his more obscure ones (as many Americans do), but my real interest in him is as a novelist. Several years ago I enjoyed reading his novel The Fifth String (that link went to a free e-book), a delightful piece of fiddle fiction that Sousa wrote in 1902. I found it very interesting that Sousa, who spent all of his professional time as the leader of a wind band, still had a soft spot for the violin, which was the instrument he played.

I hoped to read something about this in John Philip Sousa's America, but was disappointed to find that this 214-page book of captioned photographs, quotations, and informative anecdotes mentioned nothing about Sousa's life as a fiddle player or even as a novelist (though I might have missed a reference since the book doesn't have an index).

The photographs in the book are stunning, and they are printed on high-quality paper. They are reproduced the way they were taken, so the sepia photographs are boldly and brilliantly sepia, and the black and white photographs are crisply and clearly black and white. Music covers are reproduced in color, and the pages are set up beautifully. It's clear that a great deal of time, care, and money went into this publication, and it is a pleasure to spend a lot of time studying the photographs.

The book comes with a 77-minute CD of marches played by "The President's Own" United States Marine Band, conducted by Colonel Albert F. Schoepper and Colonel John R. Bourgeois.

You can learn more about Sousa and the Sousa Band here, but the photographs do look much nicer in the book, which, considering all the work that went into making it, is a bargain.

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