24. May 2010 · 3 comments · Categories: Videos

In 1944, a version of the anthem reharmonized and orchestrated by Stravinsky (a dutifully patriotic act by the Russian emigre composer) got banned in Boston. Stravinsky’s modernist retouchings ran afoul of Massachusetts law, and after the first performance, which left the audience “stunned into bewildered silence,” Boston cops showed up at a later concert to make sure he didn’t repeat the offense.

“Let him change it just once and we’ll grab him,” a Capt. Thomas Harvey told a Boston newspaper. According to musicologist Michael Steinberg, at some point Boston cops seized the music.

Read here.

I also saw this link that says

On April 15, 1940, Stravinsky’s unconventional major seventh chord in his arrangement of the Star-Spangled Banner led to his arrest by the Boston police for violating a federal law that prohibited the reharmonization of the National Anthem.
(Thanks to Raycurt Johnson for the photo and info)

So is this the horribly offensive version? I wonder:


  1. Did he get beat up by the police? Looks like a black eye and some marks on his cheek! Unless that’s just a bad photo, and he has moles or something.

    It seems like a beautiful arrangement.

  2. I wonder, dk. I didn’t do a lot of searching on this … maybe I’ll try to find out more this evening.

  3. That doesn’t sound much like Stravinsky. Try this story on NPR where you can hear some short samples: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1320489

  4. Pingback: More On Stravinsky at oboeinsight