“War and the Musical Grotesque in Crumb’s ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home.’”

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Abigail Shupe


This analysis interprets Crumb's setting of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" as a musical memorial. I situate this song within larger memorial culture, Civil War memory, and musical memorials to show how it commemorates and criticizes official narratives of the Civil War. While the initial verses present an earnest version of the song that celebrates military power, the fourth verse quotes Mahler to transform the song into an ironic funeral march. I draw on scholarship on the musical grotesque to show how this grotesque funeral march critiques conventional perceptions of the Civil War, and how Crumb extends this critique to more recent American wars. 

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