National anthem

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A national anthem is a generally patriotic musical composition that is formally recognized by a country's government as their state's official national song.

During the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, with the rise of the national state, most countries adopted a national anthem, which in some cases coexists with other commonly sung patriotic songs. The oldest song purporting to be a national anthem is the "Wilhelmus" from The Netherlands, it was written between 1568 and 1572 during the Eighty Years' War. It is unusual among national anthems, in that it that it does not refer to a country but to a national founder hero. More typically, anthems seek to reflect the unity of a nation by galvanizing the history, traditions and struggles of its people.

As anthems first rose to prominence in Europe in the nineteenth century the style of music common then has continued to be used in almost every national anthem. Even in nations of Africa and Asia, where western orchestral music was a foreign notion, the national anthem is still usually in European style. Only a handful of non-European countries have anthems rooted in indigenous traditions, most notably Japan (whose lyrics are the oldest anthem lyrics in the world, Kimigayo), Costa Rica, Iran, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar

Some other countries have challenged the dominance of dated orchestral music. In Australia, for instance, the official anthem since 1984 has been "Advance Australia Fair", but there is much support for the folk ballad "Waltzing Matilda" as a national song, even a candidate for the national anthem.

The majority of national anthems are either marches or hymns in style. The countries of Latin America tend towards more operatic pieces, while a handful of countries use simple fanfare. Anthems by their nature need to be brief (the average is about one minute in length), yet many, if not most, manage to make them musically significant, and a true representation of the nation's musical character.

Few anthems have been written by notable composers. The French anthem "La Marseillaise" was written by the otherwise unknown Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle; the tune of "The Star-Spangled Banner" was taken from "To Anacreon in Heaven" by the otherwise unknown Englishman John Stafford Smith; and "God Save the Queen" was written by a composer whose identity to this day is not known with any certainty at all. While the music to the German anthem was written by Joseph Haydn to the words "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser," it became notorious during the Nazi era as "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles."

Amongst the very few countries to have an anthem written by a world renowned composer are: Germany, which uses one by Joseph Haydn; the Austrian national anthem which is believed to have possibly been written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (though there is not a lot of evidence) and the Vatican City, whose anthem was written by Charles Gounod. Similarly, few anthems have been praised for having lyrics of great poetry, although the noted poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote the lyrics both for the Indian and for the Bangladeshi national anthems.

National anthems are used in a wide array of contexts. Universally they are played on national holidays and festivals. They have also come to be closely connected to sporting events. At the Olympics the national anthem of the gold medal winner is played at each medal ceremony. National anthems are also played before games in many sports leagues. In some countries the national anthem is played to students each day at the start of school. In other countries the anthem is played in a theatre before a play or in a cinema before a movie. Many television stations have adapted this and play the national anthem when they sign on in the morning and again when they sign off at night. On most occasions, only one stanza of the anthem is played (usually the first, although Germany uses the third).

Many states also have unofficial anthems, and countries may also have royal anthems, presidential anthems, state anthems, or anthems for sub-national entities that are also officially recognized.

Larger entities also sometimes have anthems. There are a hand full of multinational or international anthems. The tune of the Ode to Joy from Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 is the official anthem of the European Union; the United Nations and the African Union also have unofficial anthems. The home nations, when represented as a single entity, (with Ireland referring to both the North and the Republic), use The Power of Four as their anthem.

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