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Friday, January 15, 2010

Report from NY: Ann Street

Ann Street, one of lower-Manhattan's oldest byways, first appeared on a map of the city dating back to 1728.

Singers, musicians, and music connoisseurs know Ann Street an early 20th century song by Charles Ives. Ives based his short but catchy piece on lyrics by poet Maurice Morris dating from 1921:


Quaint name Ann street.
Width of same, ten feet.
Barnum's mob Ann street,
Far from ob-solete.
Narrow, yes Ann street,
But business, Both feet.
Nassau crosses Ann Street!
Sun just hits Ann street,
Then it quits Some greet!

Rather short, Ann Street

The poem's mention of circus entrepreneur P.T. Barnum relates to Barnum's "American Museum" which once stood at the corner of Ann Street and Broadway

Perhaps Ives is making light of societies' misguided obsessions. After all, in 1842 Barnum had gotten rich by exhibiting the midget "General Tom Thumb" and other side-show oddities. In the world of show business, how is a composer to stand out when "mob" mentality prevails?

Or maybe Ives is commenting on the circus-like atmosphere of the music business itself, and how short and narrow the streets can be.

Ives was a man of integrity.

Today, people still walk up and down Ann Street mostly oblivious to its' history and what it means.