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To a soundtrack of patriotism, Mark Tully ponders the function and future of National Anthems.

He wonders why so many of them sound so similar, and why countries often rely on militaristic bombasts, or hymn-like dirges, rather than drawing from the variety of their own indigenous musical traditions. He discovers the oldest - and the newest - anthem, stumbles across the allegedly disreputable origins of the Star Spangled Banner, and uncovers some rather famous foreign fans of the British National Anthem.

But is it time for less jingoism in the music which nations play in celebration of themselves. In the 21st century, do we need anthems which inspire us to be patriotic citizens of the world, rather than stressing our identity as members of different nations?

Producer: Adam Fowler
A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Release date:

30 minutes

Last on

Sun 20 Jan 2013 23:30