Archive for December, 2011

In Praise of America

December 7, 2011

I don’t know how to speak of America.  How to feel proud of it or ashamed of it.  Though I strive to be a good citizen, I don’t know what it means to be a patriot.  But, earlier this week, I understood something of what it means to believe in America.  I enjoyed a performance of Dvořák’s New World Symphony and was, to my utter surprise, stirred deeply as an American.  I was surprised to discover that it was exciting and diverse in ways I’d never realized before.  Previously, I experienced the piece as a monolith, a single extraordinary composition.  This time I heard snatches of British folk music, German classical conventions, American Indian strains and that stubborn, utterly Slavic melody that Serge Gainsbourg memorably sampled in his ode to Brigitte Bardot.  But most lovely and most spiritual was the English horn solo at the beginning of the second movement.  I first learned this melody in elementary school as “Freedom Land, Glory Land” and it sounds like the promise of America, the best America possibly envisioned.  As played by Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia it was impossibly beautiful and I can’t believe there is a more wondrous America than the one pictured in the imagination of a smitten foreign visitor.