Soldier Plays 'Ashokan Farewell'

Before getting on a flight to Afghanistan, a Soldier plays a stirring rendition of 'Ashokan Farewell'. The tune was used as the title theme of the 1990 PBS television miniseries, The Civil War, as well as the 1991 compilation album, Songs of the Civil War. In 1984, filmmaker Ken Burns heard "Ashokan Farewell" and was moved by it. He used it in two of his films: The Civil War, which features the original recording by Fiddle Fever in the beginning of the film, and his 1985 documentary Huey Long. The Civil War drew the most national attention to the piece. It is played 25 times throughout the eleven-hour series, including during the emotional reading of Sullivan Ballou's letter to his wife in the first episode; it underlies almost an hour of film. Viewers of The Civil War frequently and erroneously believe the melody is a traditional tune that was played at the time of the Civil War. In fact, it is the only modern composition on the Burns documentary's soundtrack; all other music is authentic 19th-century music.

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