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Joel Roston Composer | Instrumentalist
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The Horse’s Tail Tale

05 Jul 2021

I’m psyched to have had the chance to compose and arrange a custom score for the newest episode of the podcast, Ben Franklin’s World.

Episode 306: The Horse’s Tail: Revolution & Memory in Early New York City,” catalogs the destruction of the statue of King George III on Manhattan’s Bowling Green in 1776 and paints a vivid picture of the lives, attitude(s), influences, affinities, alliances, and struggles of the humans living in NYC at that time.

The score for the episode, essentially, is woven out of three pieces of music:

1. “Chester,” a pro-colonial/anti-British jam

2. “The Liberty Song,” another pro-colonial joint with a fascinating history worthy of its own rabbit-hole (long-story-too-short: it uses the melody from the pro-British “Heart of Oak“)

3. An original melody I wrote, [mostly] in the style of the time, which, more often than not, represents England (though, I considered it to be something like an all-purpose kind of theme).

I was happy to have another chance to check in with musician/historian David Hildebrand—a co-founder of the Colonial Music Institute—and learn what, exactly, was what, musically speaking, in New York City from roughly 1760 to 1800.

[Note: While David explained that “Yankee Doodle” would’ve been the perfect song to use in the episode, I didn’t want to feature it for fear of things sounding too over-the-top. For people who are into this sort of thing, however, the first half of the main melody to “Yankee Doodle” makes exactly ONE secret, five-second-long appearance in the score.]

In advance of composing, I read historian Dr. Wendy Bellion’s book, Iconoclasm in New York: Revolution to Reenactment, which, apart from cataloguing the aforementioned events surrounding the destruction of the statue of King George III, served as a light introduction to the work she does over at the Center for Material Culture Studies down there in The First State. Dr. Bellion is interviewed throughout the episode—about both her book and, more generally, how the things/objects we create interact with and/or modulate our world and our experiences.

Essentially, I put her book down a few weeks ago and am still re-packing my brains into my head.

In assembling this project, I also encountered the work of Dr. Leslie Harris and Professor Arthur Burns, who were also interviewed for the episode.

Dr. Harris’s book, In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626 to 1860 instantly leapt onto my to-read list and Professor Burns’s work in digital humanities is an ENTIRE FIELD that I’m only just learning about.

Thanks to Dr. Liz Covart, the entire Ben Franklin’s World team, the Omohundro institute, and Humanities New York for giving me yet another opportunity to learn a ton, create/compose/discover/arrange/reawaken/present some super fun music, and help contribute to another important—and fascinating—conversation!

In Actual News, Blog, Work

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