I'm in Europe at the moment, so last night I joined some friends to watch the European Cup final between Spain and Italy.
I was struck by the fact that, like most national anthems, the Italian Il Canto degli Italiani has words, while the Spanish, Marcha Real, does not.
Needless to say, both anthems carry significant meaning for their respective nations. Surely there's no stronger indicator of music's ability to carry meaning, not through words or purely musical elements (most national anthems, it seams, a built on common practice harmonic and melodic vocabulary) but through how that piece is positioned in a society's psyche and how it is associated with the defining elements of a society, or in this case, country.
During the opening ceremony of the game, I must admit thinking that the Italians looked more passionate (practically) screaming their hearts out, while the Spanish team stood their motionless. Striking also, were the contrasting ritualistic aspects: the Italian crowd were (I assume) deafening, and a choir stood and sang behind the players, while the Spanish stood motionless, accompanied by no-one but the recording.
Spain trounced the Italians, 4-nil. A victory for the social standing of word-less song?