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  • If you've ever tried to sing the star spangled banner,

  • You seeYou know it's not easy.

  • And the rockets' red glare.

  • Can't go that high.”

  • The lowest note and the highest note are an

  • octave and a half apart.

  • That's 12 full notes.

  • For comparison, God Save The Queen spans seven notes.

  • Oh Canada?

  • It's nine.

  • Yes exactly Estelle, this is why we need a new national anthem.

  • What?

  • No.

  • Joss, This is why the national anthem is so great.

  • Nonono theFfrench anthem is great.

  • And it's got a range of nine notes.

  • Nine notes is enough to make Yvonne cry in Casablanca.

  • Viva La France!!”

  • But 12 notes?

  • That just feels like failure.

  • I know the words to it but I'm so aware of how bad I sound that I have to stop right now.

  • Ok so it's not just the overall range, The whole song feels like it's trying to

  • lose us, starting with the first line.

  • So you go "Oh say can you see."

  • I've already traversed an octave from "say" to "see"

  • That's music theory expert Paula Telesco.

  • But from "see" I have to go up to "by the."

  • So now I've traversed a 10th, and we're only in the second measure.

  • And then right here, you're also hit with a chromatic note, which means it's not in

  • the same key that the rest of the notes are in.

  • And that comes right after this dive.

  • AnIntervalis the distance between two notes.

  • If they're right next to each other, they're calledsteps.”

  • Most music moves by step, meaning a smaller percentage of skips.

  • But the star spangled banner is full of skips, including fourths,

  • fifths, sixths,

  • a tenth!

  • So you know it's kind of treacherous.

  • That's why music teachers in the 30s opposed the law that officially made the star spangled

  • banner our national anthem.

  • And a writer in the 1920s said thatNo one with a normal esophagus can sing it without screaming.”

  • And in 1906 the Washington Post called itperhaps the most ...unlovely tune that

  • was ever wrung from the quivering bowels of a horn.”

  • Are you done?

  • Yes.

  • I'm just saying..

  • Shouldn't the national anthem be something we can all sing?

  • Exactly.

  • Ok but how often do you really need to do that?

  • I mean consider the context where most Americans even hear the song.

  • The super bowl, NBA finals, the World Series.

  • Why shouldn't the national anthem performance be just as challenging and anxiety ridden

  • as whatever sporting event it's commencing?

  • What happens when you start too high?

  • You're screwed.

  • You're totally screwed.

  • That's Matt Farnsworth.

  • He's a vocal coach and teacher in New York City.

  • People think I should just start in a comfortable range, likeoh say.”

  • That would be my comfortable range.

  • But really I need to start down here.

  • Oh sayOtherwise, I'm going to be very very high by the time I get to the end

  • of the song.

  • Land of the free

  • And the vowels in these lyrics make it even

  • harder.

  • “O'er the land” — open vowel.

  • Of theand then all of a sudden you have to go to a closed vowel, which is i:

  • — i: and u: are closed vowels.

  • Free.”

  • So you got to figure out how to sing the e vowel with an open throat, but close it on

  • top.

  • Talented singers pull this off by mixing their chest and head voice.

  • So chest voice is like your Ethel Merman.

  • Give my regards to Broadway.”

  • Head voice is when we think of like opera singers.

  • If you're just using your chest voice atthe land of the freeIt'll sound like

  • this.

  • Land of theand then you feel thefreeand it just feels like it's not going to

  • go.

  • But if you incorporate your head voice just a little,

  • it's like hitting a game winning fadeaway jump shot.

  • And notice how Jennifer Hudson went up even more onFree

  • That's not just an octave and half, that two octaves.

  • There's one person who did it so well that a recording of the song peaked at 20 on Billboard

  • Hot 100.

  • Land of the free.

  • And the home of the brave.”

  • If our anthem was easy to sing, Joss, we would not get these moments.

  • Ok I'm not saying I don't have goosebumps, but let the record show that that microphone

  • was not on.

  • Wait wait wait wait wait.

  • That was pre-recorded?

  • You're killing my heart right now.

  • Are you positive?

  • But let's talk about the lyrics, which were written by a slaveholder and, in the 3rd stanza

  • they celebrate the death of slaves who sided with the British in the war of 1812.

  • But the song is about Fort McHenry in Baltimore, which withstood a 24 hour attack from the

  • British navy.

  • So the big inspiring idea here is that the country …. still exists.

  • Is it the ramparts yet?

  • I keep going to the ramparts.

  • Oh.

  • Whose bright stripes.

  • Perilous...night?

  • Um.

  • Brave.

  • These words are more descriptive than motivating.

  • They're also phrased really awkwardly, so it's no wonder that they just don't

  • stick in our brains.

  • Whose bright stripes and bright starsand the heavenly light.”

  • [checks hand] “Were so gallantly” “You know I had a really good laugh about

  • it and you know you get over things and you know you get back up again.”

  • Christina you deserve better.

  • No no no.

  • Hold up.

  • America loves watching people publicly fail.

  • And the rocket's red glare.”

  • Written by Francis Scott off-Key.”

  • We should be grateful that the Star Spangled Banner gives us those moments.

  • Banner yet wave

  • Yeah I don't know quite what it was I was

  • watching, but I think that's another example of I think she really tried to do something

  • new with it and it just wasn't as successful as she hoped it would be.

  • Yes, it's risky to for performers to try something new.

  • But when they do it well, it's amazing.

  • Let's rewind back to 1968.

  • It's game 5 of the World Series and José Feliciano, a 23-year-old blind Puerto Rican

  • folk singer is there to do the anthem.

  • Oh say can you see

  • Now it's immediately apparent this doesn't

  • sound like the star spangled banner.

  • It's the height of the Vietnam War, and our national anthem sounds like a peaceful

  • folk tune.

  • And the home of the braveHe finishes it and then listen closely.

  • There are boos.

  • One woman was so angry she said she was going to write a letter to her senator to complain.

  • But RCA released the the live recording as a single.

  • And it was the first time the national anthem made it on the Billboard charts.

  • Fifteen years later Marvin Gaye walked up to center court at the 1983 NBA Allstar game with

  • a shocking amount of swagger, and took a cue from Feliciano.

  • By the dawn's early lightBy the end the crowd was clapping with him.

  • “O'er the land of the freeWe don't need a different National Anthem

  • to feel something.

  • We just need the right singer.

  • Like maybe these singers?

  • Of the coming of the lord

  • Oh beautiful for spacious skies

  • May we forever stand, true to our god and true to our native land.”

  • Oh so you want one of those to be our national anthem?

  • To be honest they're a little religious for my taste.

  • See!

  • People have tried, in vain, to replace the star spangled banner for a really long time.

  • It's not going anywhere anytime soon.

  • So just enjoy it when it's good.

  • And enjoy it when it's bad too.

If you've ever tried to sing the star spangled banner,

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Why the US national anthem is terrible — and perfect

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    Evangeline posted on 2018/07/06
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