Sunday, August 16, 2009

Howard Hanson's Musical Dam

So, the day after I made the post updating the news about the Howard Hanson Dam, we got our informational packet from the King County Flood Control District, warning us about the possibility of "several feet" of flooding if we get a lot of rain this autumn. They provided a checklist (buy emergency kit. buy flood insurance NOW. purchase a battery-operated radio. study the evacuation routes. learn how to use sandbags. &c) and warned of possible evacuations. The areas affected include "Auburn, Kent, Renton, South Seattle, and Tukwila". Those interested can see some of this information at a website they recommend we monitor: Luckily, the local paper continues to reassure us, recently stating that fixing the dam was among the Army Core of Engineers' top projects. Perhaps they've forgotten about the fish tower.

So, while we're being told on the one hand that flooding is really, really, really unlikely, on the other hand we're being told to learn the evacuation routes and be ready to head out at a few hours' notice. Mixed messaging, methinks.

That same day I came across the name again in a totally unrelated context. I was returning some cds of old music from the 1920s and 1930s to the local library when I saw an album devoted to the work of composer Howard Hanson, recorded by the Seattle Symphony. What's more, one of the works featured on the cd was "Lament for Beowulf". So I checked it out. After a few listenings and having read through the liner notes, I don't think Hanson had any connection with this area and think his piece being recorded locally might just be coincidence. Still, I wonder if the dam could have been named after him, or if it was some other Howard Hanson. As for the music itself, one piece here (Symphony No. 4, "Requiem") sounds in places very like THE RITE OF SPRING, while "THE LAMENT FOR BEOWULF" (Opus 25, 1925) turns out to be a nineteen minute piece for orchestra and chorus based on the Wm Morris translation, part of which is reproduced in the liner notes, complete with glosses explaining what the archaic words Morris made up for his "translation" mean.

In any case, juxtaposition of the two Howard Hansons, or the two v. different tributes to the same Howard Hanson, amused me, so I thought I'd share.


current reading: THROWN TO THE WOOLFS by John Lehmann [1978/1979]

1 comment:

David Bratman said...

Different Howard Hanson. The dam is named for a Seattle area state legislator who championed it; nothing to do with the composer, who came from Wahoo, Nebraska, and Rochester, New York.

I've heard the composer Hanson's "Lament for Beowulf" - a bit modernist for Tolkien; he might have enjoyed some of Hanson's later music better - and mentioned it in my forthcoming Tolkien and music article.