The Kennedy Center

The Syncopated Clock

About the Work

Leroy Anderson Composer: Leroy Anderson
© Richard Freed

All of Leroy Anderson's training was on his home ground. He studied composition with States entered World War II his proficiency in French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Icelandic enabled him to serve with distinction as an Army translator and interpreter. Before the war, though, he became conspicuously active as a musician: conducting the Harvard Band, teaching at Radcliffe College, becoming known around Boston as an organist, conductor, and performer on instruments as numerous as the languages he mastered.

In 1936 Arthur Fiedler, in his seventh season as conductor of the Boston Pops, was impressed by Anderson's Harvard Fantasy, a potpourri of university songs, and asked him for some new pieces for his orchestra. Fiedler's recordings of the Jazz Pizzicato and Jazz Legato broad Anderson a great deal of attention, and he was established as an orchestral arranger before he put in his wartime military service. After the war he became a regular with the Pops, as both composer and arranger; every Pops season through 1965 saw the introduction of new Anderson pieces. In addition to his dozens of elegant independent ones, he created arrangements of well known Irish tunes to form an Irish Suite, and in 1958 his musical comedy Goldilocks (with text by Jean and Walter Kerr) began a run on Broadway. Over the years some of Anderson's pieces were fitted out with words to become songs; the songs did not survive, but the music has held on firmly through various changes in public taste.

Leonard Slatkin points out that the three Anderson pieces he has selected for this concert celebrate "three items that do not really exist any more": the typewriter, analog wind-up alarm clocks, and the coin-operated public record-player once found in popular restaurants and ice-cream parlors and known as the jukebox. CLASSICAL JUKEBOX is based mainly on the Stephen Weiss/Bernie Baum song "Music, Music, Music" ("Put another nickel in"), itself adapted not too loosely from Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, and made popular by the singer Teresa Brewer in 1950. Anderson's fantasy on it is framed with the exultant fanfares of the "Festmarsch" from Tannhäuser, and in its three-minute course it touches on and relates to other familiar classical works—with the needle skipping occasionally on a scratched surface.

THE SYNCOPATED CLOCK, which appeared in 1945, and THE TYPEWRITER, introduced in 1950, are musical fantasies on two somewhat more personal utensils of mid-twentieth-century life.