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Meet Amazing Americans Musicians & Composers John Philip Sousa
Sousa's original score for “The Stars and Stripes Forever”
Sousa's original score for "The Stars and Stripes Forever"

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Imperial Marimba Band playing "The Stars and Stripes Forever"

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The Stars and Stripes Forever

Sousa had natural talents that helped him when he was writing music. He could imagine what a song would sound like just by reading the musical score. Many musicians and composers need a piano to help them hear a song, but Sousa could hear it in his head. He called it his "brain-band." He also had what is called perfect pitch, because he could recognize any note played. And Sousa was hard-working and focused. He would write music almost anywhere: on a train, between band rehearsals, or in a hotel room.

Sousa believed that in order to write inspiring music--music that would "make goose pimples chase each other up and down your spine"--he had to be inspired when he wrote it. Some of his inspiration came from a "higher power" and some of it came from his imagination. When composing a march, Sousa would often "turn my imagination loose among scenes of barbaric splendor. I picture to myself the glitter of guns and swords, the tread of feet to the drum beat, and all that is grand and glorious in military scenes." Sousa also found inspiration in everyday life. The inspiration for "The Stars and Stripes Forever" came while Sousa was traveling home to the United States.

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CREDIT: Sousa, John Philip. "The Stars and Stripes Forever" Holograph score for band, April 26, 1897. Music Division of the Library of Congress.
AUDIO CREDIT: Sousa, John Philip (author). "The stars and stripes forever march / J. P. Sousa ; [performed by] Imperial Marimba Band." Orange, N.J. : Edison, 1918. Early Motion Pictures, 1897-1920 from the Library of Congress.