4. Lament. Frank Bridge (England, 1915)
The demise on the battlefield of young talented composers like Cecil Coles and George Buttersworth was a great blow to the British musical community. The music of soldier musicians like Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams would soon echo their traumatic experiences on the front. However, Frank Bridge did not enlist. He was a pacifist like Bernard Shaw and Bertrand Russell—who was incarcerated for lecturing against the U.S. participation in the war and other pacifist activities. Through his music, Bridge lamented the loss on the battlefield of his friend Ernest Farrar as well as the death of Catherine Crompton, a 9-year-old girl who died on board the Lusitania. Bridge’s Piano Sonata and this Lament were dedicated to their memories respectively. It is unknown if Bridge knew Catherine’s family personally, or if he learned of her death from other sources such as photographs or newspapers; nor do we know if there was a specific objective for composing this piece. However, intentionally or not, these pieces became part of a media campaign that used the sinking of the Lusitania to convince the still-neutral American public of the urgency of siding with the Allied powers against Germany. This pivotal event inspired the film that accompanies Bridge’s music here: The Sinking of the Lusitania by Windsor McCay. Considered history’s first animated documentary, it took two years to be produced and wasn’t released until after the war. Rendered useless as propaganda, its premiere passed unnoticed despite its revolutionary contribution to the emergent art of animation.