About this work
Musical artillery written literally overnight for a patriotic World War II radio broadcast, Morton Gould's American Salute is a short set of variations on the Civil War song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." A sputtering, machine-gun fanfare subsides into a quiet woodwind statement of the theme over a staccato accompaniment that evokes Morse code. The theme is restated with different timbres more than varied, always with that quick, ostinato rhythm, until the brass section breaks out with its own bombastic, syncopated treatment halfway through. The frenzy subsides into a Taps-like approach, with the woodwinds and strings then interjecting a bit of humor before the full orchestra revs up with an energetic statement leading to a rapid-fire finale. The work was premiered in 1943 on the radio show, "Cresta Blanca Carnival," with Gould conducting. Gould himself did not consider this piece to be anything special. Late in his life, the composer stated that "it was just a setting. I was doing a million of those things." The composition has endeared itself to many, though, due to Gould's creativity in producing an inspiring orchestral work from a folk melody.